Archive for January, 2011

Speak Up!

January 26, 2011

Title: Speak Up!

Text: Matthew 14:1-12

Time: January 22nd, 2011

Today is the day after the 38th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court Row v. Wade abortion decision, legalizing the murder of unborns.  Today as we stop and reflect on this dark event that has changed our nation for the worse all of these years, we must recommit to speaking out against this evil in still stronger terms. Looking back, I remember in Wheaton College speaking out against abortion – and that was over twenty-five years ago. Sadly, not much has changed; abortions continue as usual. Supreme Court justices have come and gone; conservative majorities have come and gone – yet still, abortions continue. Is the fight against abortion a lost cause? Has the argument against abortion played itself out over these many years? Is anyone seriously discussing it anymore? Or is it now simply an accepted part of American culture, a more or less permanent fixture in Western society? I don’t have the answers to all these questions, because for one, I’m not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. But in a very real sense, these questions are totally irrelevant to our opposition to abortion. Abortion is wrong, it’s murder, it’s evil, its a sin. Need there be anything more than that to continue the protest? In today’s overly politicized culture it’s natural to be drawn aside to make political calculations – is the cost of fighting against abortion worth the odds of winning the battle? This is how we have all grown to think growing up in a hyper-political and economic society. But I’d like to say that it’s not the way Christians are supposed to make decisions, especially moral choices. Abortion is wrong; it’s murder. The Bible is abundantly clear on that. Right is right and wrong is wrong. As Christians we need to promote what is right and protest what is wrong, whether our labors are rewarded or not. I don’t know ultimately if abortion will ever be defeated here in the United States, or if it is, how long it might take to defeat it. But that really doesn’t matter. As Christians we need to continue to press the argument against abortion for as long as it takes, and if it takes forever, then protest it forever. Of course, as Christians we know that this issue won’t go on forever, because we know from the Bible that eventually Christ will return to the earth and set things right during his reign. But hopefully, we won’t have to wait until even that time, but see something in the way of progress before that ultimate solution. I’m encouraged when I look to the New Testament, particularly in the actions of John the Baptist. Now John is most famous for being the forerunner of the Messiah Jesus, but he’s also known as a prophet who spoke out against immorality in his own day. On one occasion, we read about his prophetic voice against the immorality of King Herod. The King had married his brother’s wife, something both illegal and immoral according to Jewish law. John confronted Herod and said, “It is not lawful for you to have her,” Matthew 14:4. This criticism triggered John’s arrest and imprisonment. Eventually, John the Baptist was executed in Herod’s cold, dark prison. He died a martyr’s death. Now my point in bringing this account up is this – we need to continue to speak out against abortion, against its immorality, no matter what the consequences. Let me explain. (more…)

The Promises Came First Before the Law

January 11, 2011

Title: The Promises Came First

Text: Galatians 3:14-18

Time: January 9th, 2011

We’re examining the difference between faith and works, between grace and payment, and between promise and law in God’s plan of salvation. Today, We continue further where we left off last Sunday, because if you remember last time I didn’t actually finish explaining the last verse dealing with the blessings of Abraham that are received by faith in God’s promises. In order to understand this we have to back up and look again at what God said to Abraham and the faith Abraham had in order to receive the promises. Here’s last week’s verse that I failed to explain, Galatians 3:14, “He redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” This verse makes a lot more sense when we read the next few verses, which will serve as the basis for this week’s message. Galatians 3:15-18, “Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: the law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.” Now what’s all this about and why does it matter? We’ve still got an economic recession going on it our nation, people are still unemployed, some are losing their home through foreclosure, and others are struggling to make ends meet each month. Families are suffering through marital breakup and divorce. We’ve got enough problems to deal with in our daily lives, why focus our attention on what may seem to be abstract theology? I could hear someone say, “What does all this talk about Abraham’s promise, God’s law, faith and blessing have to do with me and my life today?” Well it all has something to do with you and me today because it deals with the very meaning and purpose of life – why it matters to keep on persevering and struggling in life. God’s Word doesn’t tell us how to do everything in life, but it tells us why life is important. It doesn’t tell us “how to” in every instance, but it tells us “what for” to life in general. Why carry on? Why bother trying? What’s the point of life? Where is life – my life in particular and human life in general – where is it going? What’s the meaning and purpose of life? The Bible gives us answers to these questions. Now you may not think these issues are important right now, but I can guarantee you that such questions will present themselves to us at different times in our life. Will we have the answers when we need them? That’s how God’s Word can help us ask and answer the biggest questions of existence. So just because every lesson isn’t strictly or immediately practical to your everyday life, don’t reject it. There are some truths that we need to know, not because we’ll use them right away, but because we need to have them on hand. It’s like a fire extinguisher. How practical normally is a fire extinguisher in your house? Typically it just sits there taking up space, doing nothing. But it sure is useful when you need it, when there’s a fire. So it’s not very practical every day or most of the time, but when there’s a fire, it’s the most important thing around. That’s a lot like biblical truth – it may not seem very practical, not something you can use all the time, but when you really need it, you’d better have it. So with that in mind, let’s look at a few “impractical” truths that we need to know to understand God’s work of salvation in our lives. (more…)

The Law Curses, Faith Blesses

January 8, 2011

Title: The Law Curses, Faith Blesses

Text: Galatians 3:10-14

Time: January 2nd, 2011

Well, the Christmas season is over, it’s a New Year, and we’re back into studying the Book of Galatians. It seems like forever ago that we were working our way through the Apostle Paul’s Book of Galatians, but it was only a month and a half ago! I took a brief departure for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then also a longer departure for Christmas, but now we’re back in Galatians to hopefully finish by Easter of this year. The Book of Galatians is one of the best descriptions and explanations of the gospel message found in the whole Bible. Probably the Book of Romans is the very best account of the gospel in the New Testament and Old Testament, but Galatians probably comes second. To really understand and grasp the Gospel of Jesus Christ you can’t do better than by reading Romans and Galatians. In my pastoral ministry I preached through almost the entire Book of Romans about five years ago in New York where I lived and worked, but this is the first time I’ve ever preached through the Book of Galatians. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far, although I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy to follow – that’s because the Apostle Paul isn’t the easiest person to follow along after! He sometimes gets pretty heavy into theological material and stretches our minds to keep up with him. But I guarantee you that if you stay with it, Paul will reward you with a greater understand of the will of God for your life. Now one of the biggest challenges to me as a pastor is to take theological material in the Bible and make it accessible to everyone of every kind of background. The New Testament was written in koine Greek, which is the common Greek for the common people, as opposed to the Classical Greek. The presumption is that God wants everyone, not just the scholars, to read and understand it. So whenever I begin to wonder if this material is suitable for the wide range of individuals in the church I’m reminded that God through his providence made the New Testament available in the koine or common Greek so that everyone could understand it. I’ll try my best to not confuse things by trying to go too fast or get too technical. God wants to teach us things from the Book of Galatians, so let’s pray that he does so today. Now if you remember, the main theme of Galatians so far is to teach us about salvation by faith alone — as opposed to attempts that seek salvation by our own good works. Why is salvation so important? Because it’s only the most important thing in the whole world! What could be more important than securing one’s eternal happiness? Think about this. The Bible teaches that everyone will live forever because the soul cannot die, only the body. Now if our soul or spirit will live on forever, then the next issue or question is, where will our soul live? The Bible answers that we’ll live forever in one of two places: either in eternal happiness or in eternal misery, either in heaven or hell. Today, it’s common to meet people who refuse to believe in either of these two destinations, because they prefer to believe when the body dies nothing is left. They deny there is a soul at all! They have no future hope. They believe the last place you live is in a coffin six feet under. They deny there is any future life after death, no heaven, no hell. But the Bible teaches the opposite; it teaches our soul goes either to heaven or hell after this life. So then the next question is, how does one get into heaven and avoid hell? I presume that in choosing between the two everyone would choose heaven over hell. That may not be the case in every instance, but I’ve only met one person who actually said he’d rather live forever in hell. He said that’s where all his friends will be so that’s where he wants to be. I think he was joking of course, so everyone would rather go to heaven than hell. So then the question becomes, “How do I get to heaven?” That’s what the Apostle Paul spends time explaining in the Book of Galatians. It’s important that we listen to what he has to say because he was a prophet and apostle of God, and because we want to know how to live forever in eternal happiness in heaven. So let’s pick up where we left off in Paul’s teaching. Galatians 3:10-14 (read). (more…)