Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Courage to Resist

This week Hebron has the privilege of welcoming the Reverend Dr. William R. Glaze to our pulpit. Bill is the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Homewood, and he has been a great friend of mine for many years.

Bill is the host and preacher of the Word FM program, “Anchored in Jesus,” heard nightly Monday through Friday. He is also the Founder and Dean of the Pittsburgh Laymen’s Bible Institute, Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry, and Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Point Breeze.

Recently, during a series of radio broadcasts that we did together, Bill offered to come to Hebron and take part in our series on Living the Transformed Life – and Sunday, April 29 is the day!

Bill will preach a message from Jeremiah 12:1-5 and Daniel 3:13-18 entitled, “Weariness Weakens the Courage to Resist.” The principle feature of Sunday’s message is to reveal ways Christians can combat weariness in resisting the world, ourselves, and the devil and thereby, demonstrate clear evidence of a transformed life. The following Sunday I will pick up where Bill leaves off and focus our attention more on the Daniel 3 text where the Holy Spirit details the power He gives us to resist even the most powerful assaults.

In preparation for both weeks it’s critical to review the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and see again how antithetical it is to what most of us believe.

It’s a word that’s rarely used these days, but it perfectly describes the charge many Christians level against other Christians without even knowing it. Indeed, it is the same charge the Pharisees leveled against Jesus.

The word is antinomianism. It literally means to stand in opposition to the law. It is the charge of all who trust in their own goodness, merit, repentance, etc., to insure their standing with God.

It’s not an official survey. The margin of error is probably as wide as the Allegheny River. But my findings reveal that what’s true of the pagan is often true for many Christians. When you ask them to describe the foundation of their justification before God, they site their works. I remember one guy, a Christian and a frequent Bible study attendee, who claimed that, if he died with one unconfessed sin, he’d be in danger of hell. The sad fact is - if you place your trust in your own doings – even your own repenting, it’s not only tragically misplaced; it’s outside the bounds of the Gospel and a major impediment to living a transformed life. The truth is, all aspects of transformed living – love, hope, forgiveness, power, courage, and community - flow from a right understanding of law and grace within the Gospel.

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon says in his comments on Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

We go to Christ for forgiveness, and then too often look to the law for power to fight our sins. Paul thus rebukes us, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth? This only would I learn of you, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” Take your sins to Christ’s cross, for the old man(human nature) can only be crucified there: we are crucified with Him. The only weapon to fight sin with is the spear that pierced the side of Jesus. To give an illustration, suppose you want to overcome an angry temper, how do you go to work? It is very possible you have never tried the right way of going to Jesus with it. How did I get salvation? I came to Jesus just as I was, and I trusted Him to save me. I must kill my angry temper in the same way. It is the only way in which I can ever kill it. I must go to the cross with it, and say to Jesus, “Lord, I trust you to deliver me from it.” This is the only way to give it a death blow. Are you covetous? Do you feel the world entangle you? You may struggle against this evil as long as you please, but if it is your besetting sin, you will never be delivered from it any way but by the blood of Jesus. Take it to Christ. Tell Him, “Lord, I have trusted You, and Your name is Jesus, for You save Your people from their sins; Lord, this is one of my sins; save me from it!” Ordinances are nothing without Christ as a means of mortification. Your prayers, and your repentance, and your tears – the whole of them put together – are not worth anything apart from Him. None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good; or helpless saints either. You must be conquerors through Him who loved you, if conquerors at all. Our laurels must grow among His olives in Gethsemane.
Rather than being a means to rid the Christian of sin, the law is the mirror for sin. The law is that which underscores the trouble and should drive us not to ourselves, and our own efforts, but to Christ and all His efforts. Do you see this? It’s the principle on which Martin Luther stated his claim that we Christians have an insatiable need to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to us.

The great D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones understood this principle well. In commenting on Romans 5 and 6 he says:

The true preaching of the Gospel…always leads to the possibility of the charge of antinomianism. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament Gospel than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it’s not the Gospel.
This was precisely the charge the Roman Catholic Church brought against Luther. It’s the exact charge some in the church brought hundreds of years later against George Whitefield. Why? Because the true Gospel of grace is a razor’s edge away from antinomianism. Being saved, staying saved, growing as saved people, living a transformed life, hinges not on our virtue, but Jesus’ finished, all-sufficient, all-powerful work.

It takes courage to resist the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It takes courage to resist the charges of the carnal church. It takes courage to stand for the Gospel. It takes a courage that is willing to “take on” not only the charges of the Pharisees and the Roman Catholics, it takes the courage to resist our own sinful selves that wish to justify ourselves, by ourselves. We see it in Jeremiah. We see it in Daniel. May we see it in us!

See you Sunday.

Here are some reflection questions for Jeremiah 12 and Daniel 3 that may assist you in “digging in.”

Jeremiah 12:1-5

1.According to some sources, Jeremiah 12:1-4 is the earliest Old Testament passage in Hebrew literature to raise the question, “Why do
the wicked prosper?” What are some similar texts?

2.What’s the context for Jeremiah’s lament?

•Eight things are revealed about Jeremiah in his prayer:
1)He talks to God about his problem.
2)He’s resolutely committed to the fact that God will only do right.
3)He’s frustrated by the happiness of the wicked. (v.1)
4)He’s committed to God’s sovereignty. (v.2)
5)His own heart doesn’t commend him. (v. 3)
Can you find the other three?

3.What do you make of God’s response beginning in verse 5?

4.How does God demonstrate His understanding of Jeremiah and his weariness?

5.What does God remind Jeremiah to remember?

6.According to God, what is the source of all courage?

Daniel 3:13-30

1.What do you know of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians?

2.What is their relationship to Israel?

3.Why were Daniel and the other Hebrew youth taken to Babylon?

4.How old was Daniel when he got there and how long did he stay?

5.How true is this statement? A proper view of God’s sovereignty is the gateway to courage. Why?

6.How do you explain Nebuchadnezzar’s contrasting behavior in 2:45 and here in 3:19?

7.What do you think of this definition of blasphemy? “When more is made of the man than the God.”

8.On what grounds can Daniel and the others say to Nebuchadnezzar what they do in verse 16?

9.What is at the heart of their message in vv. 16 & 17?

10.How does what Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar about God in 2:44-45 relate to his answer in vv. 16 & 17?

11.Is Daniel courageous because he knows the outcome or because he knows the One who will determine the outcome?

12.Look at James 1:2; Isaiah 43:2-5; I Peter 4:12-14; Hebrews 4:16, and compare to Daniel’s experience.

13.How are Nebuchadnezzar’s words in verse 28 a kind of Mission Statement for all believers?

14.Do Daniel and the others believe that seeing is believing or the opposite?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Courage to Fight

The Courage to Fight

I Samuel 17:31-49
Ephesians 6:10-18

"I'm a lover, not a fighter" would seem like a Christian motto. However, the Bible teaches us that sometimes Christians need to get into fights! Paul testified "I have fought the good fight" in 2 Timothy 4:7. What are the good fights? I'm sure many of us would fight for the oppressed, our country, our families, and even our own lives. So what does the Bible indicate about good fights for the Lord? Paul speaks of our "struggle" against spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12), "beating" our bodies into spiritual submission (1 Cor. 9:27) and Jude talks of "contending" for the faith (Jude 3). Even the Lord Jesus talks about "fighting" false doctrine (Rev. 2:16). These fights aren't emphasizing physical force but rather times when we need to stand up, speak up, and show up for biblical teaching and behavior!

In our well-known text this week, David fights Goliath. This physical battle teaches us spiritual truth like Paul uses the Roman military of his day to teach us to be good Christian soldiers (Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Tim.2:3,4). David shows courage against a favored opponent by remembering past victories, choosing a weapon he is comfortable with, and relying on the name of the Lord. We, too, can be transformed into courageous Christians as we read of victories in the Bible, learn to express God's truth in ways that work for us, and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and Scripture.

Sometimes folks get so into the "fight" that they get a "chip on my shoulder" attitude. Please remember that David was not only a fighter but also a lover, a man of music and meditation, soft hearted, and sensitive. But when there was a cause, he didn't back down but went into battle full force. ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS!

See you Sunday.

1. One of the great Old Testament military leaders was Joshua. How many enemy kings
did he defeat? Joshua 12:7-24

2. What was the war cry of Gideon? Judges 7:20

3. In Sunday's text what past victories gave David confidence? To whom did he give
the credit for those victories? I Samuel 17:34-37

4. What can we learn from David's choice of weapons in I Samuel 17:38-40?

5. Who were some of John the Baptist's followers? Luke 3:14

6. Who is considered by some as the first Gentile convert in Acts? What was his
occupation? Acts 10:1

7. In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul describes our struggle against evil spiritual forces.
Describe what that struggle might entail. What piece or pieces of the armor of
God are particularly meaningful to you?

8. How would we "beat" our bodies into spiritual submission? (I Corinthians 9:27)
List some of the spiritual disciplines.

9. What did Jude originally plan to write about in Jude 3a?
What changed his mind? Jude 3b-5

10. Can you name some hymns or spiritual songs that might be considered "fight songs
of the faith"?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Power of Provision

"Where God guides He provides." Sounds trite, but ‘tis true! The Bible is full of examples of the Lord's provision for His people, the wilderness wanderings of Israel, Elijah the Prophet, the crowds who followed Jesus and the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys - just to name a few! I love Abraham's testimony in Genesis 22:14 "The Lord will provide".

The Lord Jesus teaches us to trust in the Heavenly Father's provision in Matthew 6:25. He is not suggesting that we fail to plan ahead, work hard, or save for a rainy day. He is teaching us that our ultimate focus is not on earthly provisions but on the Lord who in love and power provides for His own. Even the Apostle Paul didn't have God plopping his food on a plate directly from Heaven but worked as a tentmaker as well as receiving gifts from God's caring people and a miracle or two along the way.

For the transformed believer what a joy it is to know that in this life we can look to our Lord for His provision for faith, food, and our future - provision from groceries to guidance to guarding us. Confidence in His supply can lead us to abundant giving, greater ventures for the Kingdom, and peace about the daily needs of our lives and families.

See you Sunday!

1. What is the prayer for provision that Jesus teaches us? Matthew.6:11

2. What is the promise of provision from Paul in Philippians 4:19?

3. What principle of provision brings balance to our understanding of God's
provision? 2 Thessalonians 3:10

4. How is the Provider of provision described in James 1:17?

5. Consider a psalm of provision - Psalm 23. Compare the descriptions there to
earthly and spiritual provision.

6. What comfort and challenge do you find in Proverbs of provision? Prov. 3:5, 6

7. Consider your own praise for provision that God has supplied through ability to
work, gifts from others, and miraculous supply. Lamentations 3:22, 23
(Remind you of a hymn?)

8. What is the pinnacle of provision? John 3:16!!!