Love for my local church

Many people do not understand God’s institution of a local church. I’m not sure I do either. It’s one of those things that when I hear something that’s right, I can “Amen” it, or easily assent to it in my mind, but if I had to explain it or teach it I’d feel ill-prepared. That’s one of the reasons I’m very excited that the next Sunday school series we’re having at my church, Berean Baptist Church, is about the local church.

But for tonight, I just want to enjoy the peace and love I find there. Tonight my church moved into our new building. For some people there, it was a wait of over 35 years. For me, it was bittersweet. I found my church, by the grace of God in December of 2007. Fresh off a divorce from a failed marriage, I was also divorcing the church I attended when I was saved. I was scared and lonely and had know idea what to expect. I found a church that proclaimed God’s Word and didn’t mix worldly sentiments or behaviors with church. I didn’t care how old the building was. I didn’t care how long they’d waited for a newer, cleaner, prettier building. I found a home where I could be taught God’s Word by people who really understood it. I could be discipled by men who had followed Christ for many years. I admit, I cared little for the comfort of the chairs, the lighting or acoustics, or how many empty seats there were between me and the next person. Funny, if we want space between us, why not just separate the chairs a little.

So am I happy about our move? Sure I am. I know to a lot of people in our local body this is a real big deal. And I know a lot of people put a lot of work into it. Some men worked at our church more than most people on fulltime jobs. And I know there’s families in our church who’ve put their gift to our church in a plate every week for over 1500 weeks now to pay for the building I will now enjoy. I know it will be more comfortable and inviting to guests, and we should be able to do more of our ministry with the extra space. But one other thing I know for sure is that if a tornado blew through between now and Sunday and took it all away, I’d be there, and I’d expect the rest of my church family to be there praising the Lord Sunday, celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ. Not looking for colored eggs or bunnies, but focusing on Christ’s triumph over death and sin, once and for all.

But the real reason I wanted to write this note was not about buildings, and certainly not my feelings about buildings. This note is about the same thing that Jesus was about in his earthly ministry, the same thing he left Peter to “be about,” and what I hope I am “about,” PEOPLE. Tonight I was blessed to serve with 40-50 people who I think I don’t deserve to be around. I was there a little early with my wife and oldest daughter. I really wanted to get a head start on the work to be done because I felt there was a lot and we didn’t have much time and I thought I could move some chairs before anyone got there. This is not really a credit to me, the fact is I work better alone because I like to do things my own way because I’m immature…it just so happens it worked out tonight to be helpful to people I think. But at one point I looked at my wife who had just cleaned the whole church. I was finishing moving the final chairs and my daughter had moved all the hymnals and chorus books. I looked at her and said, “Do you believe we get to do this?” All I could think of was the efforts I’d made to disgrace the name of Jesus in my life. The constant thievery of my youth…how many Christians had I stolen from that may have prayed for my salvation? I couldn’t believe that God in His Grace had chosen me for this service tonight. Then the people showed up. We ate pizza and breadsticks and talked and laughed and worked hard together. Every few minutes, people would be stopped standing around a little, chatting about life, work, the church or the Lord. We enjoyed the “new building smell,” which I suppose will last as long as new car smell does. In a few weeks, we won’t even remember it probably.

I don’t feel like there’s much of a point to this right now. Sometimes I ramble. But I love these people so much I just wanted to share that with you, my reader. Maybe you are one of my church family already. Maybe you will be someday! =^) Maybe never.
Either way, I want you to be able to sense my respect for my brothers and sisters, my love for their kids and their souls and my desire to see them grow closer to God, every day. My trust that they’d take care of my family if needed. My hope that I’d be willing to do the same if called upon. I hope the men there know that I am watching them. I watch the way they treat their wives and their kids and I learn. I watch the way my pastor preaches and teaches and wish to someday be like that, to love Jesus as much.

 24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

 25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

What is the gospel?

Many bloggers have noted that they see a lot of “man-centered” gospels. I agree. What is meant by this is that so many gospel presentations today are centered on man getting something, not centered on God’s Power and Glory. Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;

But what is the gospel, truly? If it is to be translated as “good news,” isn’t there to be some relation to a provision for the man hearing it for it to be good news? I mean, to approach another and tell them you have good news, and then relate your car insurance savings…well, it’s clear that’s not necessarily good news to the hearer! Of course the good news must be good to the hearer as well, in some cases whether he knows/believes it or not.

So the question becomes, what is the good news? Is it good news to you for me to tell you that I’ve found a solution to an obscure problem of mathematics? Doubtful…it wouldn’t matter to you anyway since you neither knew nor believed there was a problem in the first place. The fact is that the good news of the gospel makes no sense to the hearer if they do not believe they have a problem; because the gospel is the solution to a problem.

What is that problem? The problem is sin. According to the Scriptures, man was created Good, (Genesis 1:31). Adam was created sinless and holy, set apart by God, for God. Adam was able to enjoy perfect fellowship with his Creator. But He chose to disobey the commands of God. Death entered the world (Romans 5:12) as the result of Adam’s sin, and now he was hopelessly separated from God. You can read in Genesis 3 of his attempts, by the works (or deeds) of his hands that he did what he thought he could to cover his sin, and his wife’s. But all that was a precursor to a pattern that all mankind would follow. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is true in some cases…and we have all inherited Adam’s sin nature that has been passed on since the beginning. As well, we all have a self-righteous desire to cover our sin, to somehow hide it from the Creator. We go so far as to deny the Creator entirely, if it allows us to keep on sinning while disturbing our consciences less and less, until maybe we are so hardened we don’t even care anymore. (Romans 1:18,21,22,25)

How do we know if we’ve sinned?

That’s a question a lot of “evangelists” avoid today. Sin is not as common a word as it once was. I think there was a time it was well-understood, at least better than today. But our culture has become so estranged from the concept of a Creator God to whom we are all accountable, that denial of the existence of sin has become the primary method of “suppression of the Truth in unrighteousness.” Let me explain as well as I can from the scripture, as my opinion is unimportant anyway. 1 John 3:4 (KJV) Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. According to the scripture, sin is a violation of the law, God’s law to be precise.

What is God’s law? God’s law can be summed up by the two greatest commandments, mentioned clearly in Matthew 22:37-39 (KJV) 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. This was in response to a pharisee’s question in MT 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Sin is also “not doing good” when you ought to, James 4:17, and anything not done out of faith, Romans 14:23. This is devastating! EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER DONE ANYTHING BAD, you are a gulity sinner if you haven’t always done everything that is good, as well as done EVERYTHING out of faith! All your life is to be for God’s glory.

As an aside: The Old Testament is made up of 39 books, written by men, breathed-out by God. We must presuppose this to explain the gospel. If anyone ever tries to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to you without arguing from scripture, you can rightfully ignore him and go about your way.

The point is, the OT contained the “law” as the pharisee’s knew it. God’s moral perfection and glory is exhibited through His law. God’s perfect attributes are manifested in a list of commandments for His chosen people, the people known as the Jews at the time. The most famous example of the Law is the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20 for reference. The idea is that God allows us to see His standards! If you want to fulfill the two greatest commandments mentioned above, then you must obey the detailed commandments perfectly. Perfect obedience to the law would theoretically allow you to inherit you eternal life (if it were possible). Read Luke 18:18-24 and Luke 10:25-37. Thou shalt not lie! Thou shalt not commit adultery! Thou shalt not steal! Love your neighbor as thyself! So the question is this, have you broken God’s law? Jesus claimed that to even (MT 5:27-28) look upon a woman with lust is equivalent to having committed adultery with her in your heart in God’s Holy eyes. Even hatred for another person (made in God’s image!) is punishable the same as murder! And how about blaspheming God’s name…God’s name is Holy! It’s not to be used for any reason but praising and worshiping Him and teaching others of His Goodness and Grace. How about idol worship, commandment 2? Forget golden calves and statues of Baal…admit it; you idolize celebrities or athletes, money or things, power or prestige, or a combination thereof. Watch this thought-provoking video if you don’t believe me.

Uh oh, therein lay the problem. The gospel, to this point doesn’t sound like good news. What I’ve told you so far is that you’re guilty of breaking God’s Holy Law. James 2:10 says if you’ve broken it in only one point you are guilty of all. It’s an all-or-nothing deal, a pass-fail test if you will allow that analogy. So when you or I stand before God in judgment, where will He rightfully send you? Heaven or Hell! WHOA!? DID YOU JUST SAY JUDGMENT? “I don’t believe in a God that judges,” you say. Let’s look at that.

1. Your belief in anything, doesn’t make it real; just as your unbelief doesn’t make it unreal or nonexistent. Your belief is irrelevant to reality. If you think your belief is relevant to reality, then my belief which states that your belief is irrelevant to reality is just a valid as your belief which states the opposite. Since that’s absurd, that argument is finished.  Sinners do not like to hear that God will one day judge every man according to his (man’s own) works (Rev 20:11-15), and you are no exception.  The Bible declares it, your denial isn’t sufficient reason to believe the Bible is not true on this point.  That’s called an arbitrary argument.

2. God is Holy and Righteous, and He loves goodness. God hates sin. He hates sin because it is rebellion against Him, His holiness, His goodness and His provisions toward you. He hates sin because it hurts people and causes death. Just like you hate sin, when it is committed against you or your family. Just like you’d demand justice for a person that molested your kid, raped your wife, or killed your father, God loves justice as well (Isaiah 61:8). Just like you would NOT consider a judge a good judge if he let the guilty free, you would not like a God that did not punish sin, and thus, sinners. In fact, a God like that is not worthy of our praise or worship, but only our pity and avoidance.

3. Let’s assume you now agree God can and will judge you, but you’ve decided your strength, your goodness, your righteousness and good works will impress him and overshadow or cover your transgressions. Ahhhh, here is where we started. God is not, and cannot be, impressed by YOU. He is not impressed by ME, or anyone, except Himself. Since God is infinitely perfect and Holy, and He is, (by the way, a God who is not infinitely perfect and holy, again, is not worthy of respect or even the title God, truly), then it must follow that absolutely NOTHING can impress him that mere creatures present to Him. For He is the Creator and Owner of all anyway! Is 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” In God’s eyes, our attempts to impress Him with the works of our hands are like “filthy rags.” This is what Adam tried to do as well. He attempted to cover his sin by making a fig leaf covering. But sin brings death, and God showed us in His Word that at that time an animal was sacrificed to provide a covering for sin. This would continue until ….

About 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ entered this world via a virgin birth, as predicted by the scriptures. He did not have an earthly father (biologically); he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and thus, did not inherit our sin nature. As an aside, the earthly vessel who bore him, Mary, was a sinner, just like the rest of us and needed salvation. She was born a sinner, and went on to have other children, according to the scriptures. He lived a sinless life; being fully God, he was able to accomplish this. In fact, it would have been impossible for him NOT TO ACCOMPLISH this, since He cannot sin. But he was tempted in every way, to be an example for us. When he fulfilled the scriptures and was crucified, He paid the penalty for the sins of all who would believe in Him as Lord and savior from Adam to the last man or woman who is saved. His Father in Heaven poured out His wrath for sin upon Christ. 2 Cor 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus became sin for sinners; He took on the sin of His people on that cross and paid the penalty for sin, once and for all, purchasing His people from the bondage and slavery to sin, and redeeming them to a new life, a new birth! No additional work could have been done, or needs to be done to improve upon His work.

Christ’s Righteousness is imputed to all those that He redeems. Impute, in law means “to ascribe to or charge (a person) with an act or quality because of the conduct of another over whom one has control or for whose acts or conduct one is responsible.” Romans 4:24 “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” This means you can be made righteous by the imputing of Christ’s righteousness, and through His substitutionary atonement on the cross for your sin you can be justified in God’s sight. Made right. You can be seen by God as though you’d never sinned, if you repent of your sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness and trust Him alone for salvation. (Acts 4:12) For there is no other name under Heaven by which men can be saved and (John 14:6) He is the way the Truth and the Life, no man will come to the Father but by Jesus. To repent of your sin is a complex concept. It means to change your mind about sin. Have a desire to NOT sin. Wish in your heart that you wouldn’t sin, couldn’t sin. Hate your sin. It does not mean that you must stop sinning in order to come to Christ for forgiveness. You cannot stop. You are a sinner. Only the power of Christ, given to you through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit at conversion will allow you freedom from sin. Don’t turn repentance into a work. You must be granted repentance as you are granted faith, by grace. Simply cast yourself upon the mercy of Christ, bring nothing but a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

I’ll guarantee you will still sin at some point after conversion. And anyone who tells you you have to stop sinning to be saved, you can ignore that…that’s called works. You cannot add to Christ’s work, and you can’t take away from it. You cannot improve it, just trust in it, please. Do not add baptism or penance or the Roman Catholic eucharist or last rites or religious rituals or a change in your lifestyle. Come to Christ and trust Him to provide the needed transformation. This is called the grace of God. God’s pleasure in granting forgiveness to lowly lost sinners, poor souls who realize their ineffectiveness and the utter uselessness of trying to impress God. Souls who desire mercy, not the just reward of their deeds.

That’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s the good news: salvation for lost sinners, for the humbled and weak. Glory and praise for the Creator, and (Hebrews 12:2) author and perfecter of all believer’s faith! So cast your sin on Him today and trust Christ alone for your righteousness before God!

And please, if you are granted this free gift from God, if He graciously and mercifully selects you to be saved, (Ephesians 2:8-10) do not boast, and do not use His amazing grace as a license to sin!

Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

True repentance will be known by the fruit. Do not be deceived that you can simply say a prayer to “ask Jesus into your heart” or anything like that. You must be born-again from above, and you will be made holy by God and turn from sin. As a corollary, once you are born-again, Jesus promised to never leave you nor forsake you. No one can pluck you out of God’s hands if you are His child. Any gospel presentation which instructs you otherwise is not good news, and will only lead to damnation.

If you are the benefactor of the grace of God that leads to salvation, do as Jesus commands the rich young ruler in Luke 18. Give your entire life to Jesus. Hold onto nothing, especially the sin that so easily ensnares! Follow Him, taking up your cross daily and allow His love, grace and mercy shine like a light in and through you every day, so they (Mt 5:16) will see your good works and glorify the Lord!

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24

My first Blog Post!

Welcome to my blog.  I’m super new at this and hoping to make this worthwhile.  Please forgive me as the site is under construction!!

I have some old stuff I’m going to be moving to here, as well as regularly adding articles, I hope.

Click below to see me Open Air Preaching for the first time on Hollywood Blvd