The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Bittersweetness of Sin

Consider sin to be but a bitter sweet. That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish, and lasting shame, sorrow, horror, and terror will come in the room of it: Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue, though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth, yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him (Job 20.12-14). Forbidden profits and pleasures are most pleasing to vain men, who count madness mirth. Many long to be meddling with the murdering morsels of sin, which nourish not, but tear and consume the belly, and the soul that receives them. Many eat that on earth which they will digest in hell. Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those that devour them. Adam’s apple as a bitter sweet; Esau’s mess was a bitter sweet; the Israelites’ quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan’s honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah’s dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. They cannot feed on the poison of asps, and yet avoid having the viper’s tongue not slay them.

When the asp stings a man, it first tickles him so as it makes him laugh, till the poison, by little and little, gets to the heart, and then it pains him more than ever it delighted him. So does sin; it may please a little at first, but will pain the soul with a witness at last. Yea, if there were the least real delight in sin, there could be no perfect hell, where men shall most perfectly be tormented with their sin. Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Friday, July 10, 2015

Yo! Russ Moore's Rap Debut

I just had to quickly post this music video to my blog. Rap artist Flame is a fellow alum of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I love the message of this song. But the best part of the video is the preaching cut of my former seminary professor and current President of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore. The clip is a window into why he’s one of my favorite preachers and why he impacted my homiletical theology more than anyone in my life. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Even So Come

My parents came to Christ in 1980, which means I spent approximately half my childhood and initial teen years in a decade in which the tribe of Christianity we identified with at the time focused incessantly on the “end times.” There were ridiculous rapture predictions (I vividly remember my aunt reading aloud to my mom the book “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988” while we were at the swimming the pool that same summer), and there always was some preacher holding the congregation in rapt attention with his “newspaper eschatology” (does anybody remember them saying that the Soviet Union was “Gog, of the land of Magog,” from Ezekiel 38, like I do?). Those memories still elicit a strong, “Oy vey!” from my soul. I think that’s why many evangelical gen-Xers who grew up amidst this hysteria have absolutely no interest in conferences and books that continue this trend of reading Revelation in one hand and the New York Times in the other.

Yet, we have to be careful. It’s easy to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” and fall into a doctrinal amnesia that fails to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ’s return is supposed to be a means of sanctification in our lives (Titus 2.11-14; 2 Peter 3.11-12; Jude 21). To recover this precious doctrine, pastors must first and foremost proclaim once again from their pulpits, “The King is coming! Let us prepare to receive Him with holy lives and eager hearts!” followed by robust teaching that explains from the biblical text the evidence for Christ’s return while simultaneously exhorting their people to spurn the men and ministries who make money from scintillating predictions (cf. Matthew 24.36ff.).

Second, I think we need to begin singing about Jesus’ return again. Yes, God revives old, forgotten doctrines primarily through expositional preaching. But second to this — and flowing from it, God revives His truth among His people through music that carries “holy words long preserved for our walk in this world.” I think this is why the greatest Reformer of the sixteenth century, Martin Luther, said, “Next after theology I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.”

I think a new song, Come Lord Jesus (Even So Come) — recently released by Chris Tomlin — has the potential to catalyze a new generation in imploring their Messiah to tear open the skies through His second advent. As you listen below to a goose-bumps inducing rendition by producer/songwriter Tommee Profitt and (the up-and-coming) Brooke Griffith, may your heart be recaptured by the majestic anticipation of our Sovereign Savior coming back for His bride, the Church. No matter your eschatological stripe or conviction, this song ought to make every Christian respond to Jesus’ last recorded words in sacred Scripture, “Surely I am coming soon,” as John did: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Seven Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today -- at this exact moment that I now write -- I was preaching my very first sermon as a “pastor.” On March 30, 2008 New Covenant Community Church launched its first church service. Three decades of divine preparation led up to that moment, and God’s grace has sustained me and the precious congregation I shepherd in the years since. God has been faithful and good.

Many in Christianity today define success -- first and foremost -- numerically. The size of a congregation is the immediate litmus test whereby we gauge whether a minister and his church has “made it.” Additionally, denominational brass and nay-saying critics often marginalize those churches that haven’t performed many baptisms. I’m glad God’s opinion -- found in His Word -- doesn’t parallel these superficial perspectives. I’m also thankful that church history -- and some of the more significant ministries in the story of world missions -- doesn’t completely agree, either. I opened my sermon yesterday with the following quote:

It was seven years…
…before Carey baptized his first convert in India.
…before Judson won his first disciple in Burmah.
…that Morrison toiled before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ.
…declares Moffat, that he waited to see the first evident moving of the 
              Holy Spirit upon his Bechaunas in Africa.
…before Henry Richards wrought the first convert, gained at 
              Banza Manteka. 
                                        A.J. Gordon in Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill (p. 130)

Immediately following this quote I said, “I would like to add to A.J. Gordon’s list. Seven years ago New Covenant Community Church had its first church service. May it be said about us one hundred years from now that seven years after we began...revival broke out." A resounding, “Amen!” followed.

But whether that happens or not is not the main point. I’ve come to learn over the last seven years that numbers, financial health, or numerous conversions does not define the success of a local church. It is defined by faithfulness. In the early years of planting New Covenant Community Church, I read a book written by a seasoned pastor that laid out the biblical case for this, entitled Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent Hughes. With a providential timeliness that can only come from a kind and gracious God on this seven year anniversary, one of my congregants sent me an email this morning entitled “For your encouragement” with the notation, “I think you will be blessed by this series. It is by Kent Hughes on success in ministry.”

As I listened to one of the messages of the series this morning, I couldn’t help but respond in gratitude for this fortifying reminder, and I’d like to share it with you. Whether you are in full-time ministry or not, it will encourage your heart if you consistently battle Western society’s constant definition of “success” -- which is not only propagated outside the church, but also, sadly, from within its own walls. As you listen, may your heart be sweetly drawn back to the clarity of God’s Word.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Though You Slay Me

Ten years ago this week, I lost one of the most significant individuals in my life. My mom. Even though a decade has passed, the weeks leading up to her home going is still etched upon my memory -- a season filled with soul-tearing grief and gospel-saturated joy. To watch someone you love stripped of external dignity as the consequence of Adam’s original sin becomes painfully visible -- yet hear a final appeal from dehydrated lips, “You have to let me go to be with my Savior,” is  bittersweet. Death -- yet Christ. A grave-sealed goodbye -- to be eclipsed one day by a resurrection reunion. The gospel steadies us in our anguish in such times, empowering the dying Christian and their loved ones to confess together...

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to the cross I cling
Naked come to Thee for dress
Helpless look to Thee for grace
Foul I to the fountain fly
Wash me Savior or I die

While I draw this fleeting breath
When mine eyes shall close in death
When I soar to worlds unknown
See Thee on Thy judgment throne
Rock of Ages cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee

Suffering is one of life’s greater hardships -- yet it is also one of God’s greater instruments to make us like His Son. What enables a Christian in the valley of suffering to survive is faith -- not mysticism -- but faith that’s grounded in the unchangeable truths of Scripture. There we read of someone who suffered immensely -- Job. And his story teaches us what it means to suffer difficult providences, yet cling to what we know about our God. After losing all his assets, all his children, and then his health -- he makes this remarkable statement…

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.

Though a tsunami of tragedy had just carried away his comfort, joy, and security -- there was still standing the immoveable foundation of His trust in God. As one commentator says about the verse above, “Job reasoned that though God might consider him presumptuous [for questioning His ways] and slay him, Job would wait in hope, trusting him to do otherwise(Alden, R. L. (1993). Job (Vol. 11, p. 160).

Job ultimately reminds us of the One Who suffered unfathomably. Knowing what was before Him -- drinking the cup of our eternal wrath in order to purchase our eternal liberation -- He still prayed in faith, “Father, not My will, but Your will be done.” Praise the Lord He did. Praise the Lord for a Savior Who knows acutely our dark nights of suffering.

One of my congregants introduced me to the following song. Music has a profound way of sowing truth into our soul. May its words strengthen your faith today in God's faithfulness.

Though You Slay Me

I come God I come
Return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
With my eyes with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high upon that day
Behold the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still more than I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me
Beth Barnard | Brian Woods | Josh Moore | Lauren Chandler | Shane Barnard © 2013 River Oaks Music Company (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Waiting Room Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Fair Trade Global Songs (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)