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Archive for November, 2008

What’s Missing?

living-water

I feel like in many Churches and with many Christians today there is a power and contentment missing in our lives. When Jesus saved us He did so with intention so that we could have an abundant spiritual life. Do you see yourself as a person who has the life that Jesus talked about? Is there an inner peace with God in your life? Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.” Powerful words! He also said in that same sermon that those who would “seek his Kingdom and righteousness” first would find have what they really needed in this lifetime. I wonder sometimes how seriously we take these words from the one we claim to be the Savior of our lives. Maybe Jesus is just another category in our life and not our life right now. Perhaps we are just counting on an entrance into Heaven and so to grow closer to God is only for the few strange people in our Church who seem to want to do that.

There is a life that Jesus promised to us that we forget about most of the time. It is a life that entails a dynamic relationship with God. It is not a life of ease or a life that is without pain, but it is a dynamic life and many are not finding it today. Maybe our problem is that we forget about the promises of God in His word because we are not into the word like we should be to see those promises. In John 7:37-38 it says;

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

I believe in that promise with all of my heart. But it has to start somewhere. It has to be practical enough for us to attain it. It starts with a steady diet of prayer and the word. That diet must be steady and we must not let anything hinder our time with God each day. If you are to ask any Christian about their spiritual life with God you will find that prayer is the main thing lacking in individual lives and as the Church comes together. Jesus gave this promise to everyone who would become His disciple. Are we thirsty enough to see how real this promise is?

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justified

When someone becomes a Christian they are considered righteous in the sight of God based on the finished work of the Cross of Christ. We call this being justified in the sight of God. We attain this standing by the work that Jesus accomplished on the Cross once we place our faith in Him. Placing our faith in Christ is not just some mental ascent, but a giving of oneself over to God with an understanding that we are completely sinful (repentant heart) and need to be saved from our sins. When someone gives themself over to Christ they are agreeing that He is the Savior of the world and the only true way in which they can be saved. They are accepting Jesus for who He truly is by faith alone. At the moment of placing our faith in Christ we are taken from a life of darkness and put into a life that is now illumined by the Holy Spirit of God. The moment you placed your faith in Christ you were justified by God. This is a legal declaration that we do not always take seriously in the Church today. You now have a right standing before a Holy God who sees you as completely righteous before Him. In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul draws all of this out clearly in Chapters 3-5.

So why talk about justification and salvation by faith alone? Because there have been and will always be those who want to add to the Gospel of Jesus things that God has never intended. Because the Gospel must be proclaimed for what it is. It is a free gift of grace from the hand of the Creator of the heavens and earth. In our land today there are those who will say that you are not saved until you have been baptized, but that is not what the book of Romans teaches us. It clearly and simply teaches us that it is by grace through faith that we are saved with nothing else added to the equation. Placing our faith in Christ is a complete and total trust in the work of the Cross and who Jesus really is. He is the Son of God and came as God in the flesh. If you go to a Church and do not understand what they believe and teach about salvation then you need to ask. Make sure you are a part of a Church that teaches and proclaims salvation by grace through faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.     (Romans 5:1-2)

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The Country Church

country-church

Since the beginning of November I have been preaching at a Country Church outside of the town my wife is from. This is the area that I am from and I have enjoyed my time with this group of believers who have an appetite for the Word of God. When I was approached about preaching for them I was hesitant for the first time in my life. After the first Sunday had concluded (first time preaching in 3 1/2 months) I felt much better than I had expected. What I have noticed is that the more thoughtful a group of believers are I find myself gaining more passion as well.

This time with preaching has been more of a blessing than at any other time in my ministry. I know that is due to my theological change and the freedom that I experience in the pulpit. I have discovered in all of this that people in any Church have an appetite for the Word of God. Some have not heard the straight forward truths of Biblical Doctrine in a long time. Preaching to any group of people who are thirsty for every passage of scripture is refreshing. The Reformation took place through good Biblical preaching that taught basic truths of the faith and doctrine. What changed the world so long ago still has the same power for today.

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tulip

This past Sunday I preached through Ephesians 2:1-10 which is a mainstay of Reformed theology. In this text Paul tells us that when we are outside of Christ we do nothing but follow our own sinful nature/desires of the flesh. We clearly see in this text that God moves within us and gives us a desire to seek Him out. Once we place our faith in Him we are saved by the grace of God alone. This passage of scripture has become very dear to me over the past 12 months as I was looking into the Doctrines of Grace more closely not ever imagining that I would end my journey by giving myself over to them completely. While Paul discusses our regeneration and salvation in this text for the first 9 verses he ends the text in an interesting way.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

There was a distinct reason for our being saved. God saved us out of love and by grace but with the intention that our salvation would shine through what is produced for the Kingdom. Not too long ago I ran into a man who attended the Church where I met and married my wife at. He told me he no longer attended their because they were not fundamental enough (he didn’t like that they had no set doctrinal statement) and now he is attending a different Baptist church. I asked him how he liked his new Church and he said; “They don’t have enough programs for kids!” No matter where we are we need to be fulfilling the “good works” that have been laid out before us by our Lord. It’s easy to complain about the Church and what it lacks and much harder to be a person who helps it improve in areas that are lacking. If any local Church is going to see improvement it will take those who cherish the Doctrines of Grace and their salvation working to make it better each week. Any Church is only as strong as its disciples. If you are in awe of what God has done by saving you from a life that runs toward sin then take seriously what it says about the work to which you have been called.

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Authentic Faith

authentic-faith

This fall I picked up a copy of Authentic Faith by Gary Thomas at the suggestion of a friend. I had never read a book by this author, but was familiar with him through his successful book Sacred Marriage. As I began to read this book deep conviction came that I was not expecting. This was one of those books that I could not put down. This book discusses the basics of being a Christian, but not in a way that you would expect. Thomas goes deeper than most Christian literature does and needs to. If you need to work through some areas of your life with God and want to be challenged then read this book by Thomas and you will see how serious you are about Jesus being Lord.

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Baptists and Sound Doctrine

american-baptists

Last month I was accepted into the American Baptists as a Pastor. This is a radical shift from the Independent Christian Church in both structure and in Doctrine. My turning from the Independent Christian Church to the American Baptists came through my theological shift over the past 18 months. For that period of time I have continually questioned the doctrinal beliefs of the Independent Christian Church and its overall structure of Church Governance. My questioning of my own tradition lead to months of deep study of theology and comparing 2 different vantagepoints. This study forced me to look much closer at “Free Will” theology and take a closer look at classical Baptist Doctrine which would be called Calvanism or Reformed Theology. Through this journey that was done prayerfully I discovered that Free Will Theology has many holes in its basic framework. As I dove into Reformed Theology I found a framework that matched up more closely with the biblical text than any other doctrinal stance that is in our culture today.

Since going through this shift and becoming a part of a denomination as a Pastor I have found a greater assurance of what I believe and a contentment that cannot be found in Free Will Theology. When anyone who is a Christian begins to understand what it means to be “saved by grace through faith” without any works playing a part of our salvation they should find a comfort and a joy that can only come from being as Christ-centered as one can be in this lifetime.

So much of the time people in the Church do not understand where their church stands when it comes to the area of Doctrine. What a church believes will affect everything they do and how they approach each other and God. Without a good understanding of who God is and how He works with those who are His you can easily find yourself frustrated with the Christian life. knowing good Christian Doctrine can be a liberating experience and give you a greater sense of peace. If you have no idea where your church stands then find out and see if it matches up with what the New Testament teaches. I believe with everything in me that Reformed Theology is proper Christian Doctrine. Whether you agree with that statement or not you need to have some type of doctrinal foundation that directs your relationship with God.

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