BEWARE: God's Mercy in a Unique Way

Just the other day I learned a great lesson and saw the hand of God working in a unique and merciful way. Let me tell you about it. My son and I were driving to Mt. Holly for a day of skiing and a local pastor friend of mine came up on the Gmail instant messaging on my smart phone. We exchanged pleasantries and then he told me he was vacationing in London and had the unfortunate event of being robbed. He described in detail the event and we went back and forth in discussion. He said that they took all his cash and he was in need of $400. He is a fellow pastor and I know him well enough to trust him. He asked if I would Western Union the cash to help him out of a bind and promised to repay when he and his wife were stateside again. I made a phone call and asked someone at church to help this fellow pastor out. The staff person began working on setting up a Western Union account and getting the help to this pastor he needed. I let my friend know we were working on it and making it happen. While the staff member was working on the computer our Internet connection went down and all the work was lost. My friend was asking me what was taking so long and I explained we were working on it. After the Internet came back up the staff member went back to work and then sent me all the data so I could relay it to my friend on the Gmail instant messaging feature.

The Gmail instant messaging was going in and out so we were having trouble communicating. The necessary data to make a Western Union cash pickup was not getting through so I decided to send it to both of the email addresses I have for my friend.

To be frank I was trying to ski and my fingers were freezing every time I had to chat with him on my blackberry. Don’t misunderstand I wanted to help my buddy out in London but I also had already paid for my ski ticket and was ready to enjoy the snow and the skiing.

My friend got the email I sent on his smart phone and realized that someone was fraudulently using his Gmail account and we were about to get ripped off. He immediately called the church and told the staff to stop the transaction; it was all a fraud. He was not in London; he was in Virginia driving back from Christmas vacation. My staff called Western Union to stop the transaction and we were able to do so.

Now is where I get to tell you about the sovereign mercy of God. If the Internet had not went down the first time during the initial setting up of the account it is doubtful we would not have been able to realize we were being scammed and stop the transaction.

And if I had not sent the email out to get back to skiing my friend might not have called the church and we would not have caught the scam soon enough. Isn’t God good!

And I certainly learned an awesome lesson! Yes, I know you are saying I can’t believe you fell for that. But I must tell you; it never crossed my mind even for a moment that the person I was chatting with wasn’t my friend. The idea that someone could hack into his Gmail account and begin instant messaging was beyond my comprehension. Yes, I know that email accounts get compromised, but that’s for famous people like Sarah Palin. Until this event it just never crossed my mind that the average guys email account could be hacked into and data compromised. I have changed the complexity of my password and do not have it written down anywhere.

I know after reading this that you, like me, will verify and verify if anyone ever comes up on email or chat asking for anything. And I again am so thankful for God’s mercy in this situation.

How Can the Bible Affirm Both Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom?

God is most glorified when men wrestle with deep things like this. Enjoy.

by William Lane Craig

The biblical worldview involves a strong conception of divine sovereignty over the world and human affairs even as it presupposes human freedom and responsibility (cp. the accounts of Saul’s death in 1 Sm 31:1–6 and 1 Ch 10:8–12). An adequate doctrine of divine providence requires reconciling these two streams of biblical teaching without compromising either. Yet this has proven extraordinarily difficult. On the one hand, the Augustinian-Calvinist perspective interprets divine providence in terms of predetermination, God choosing in advance what will happen. It is hard to see how this interpretation can preserve human freedom or avoid making God the author of sin, since (for example) it would then be He who moved Judas to betray Christ. On the other hand, advocates of revisionist views (e.g., open theism) freely admit that as a consequence of their denial of God’s knowledge of future contingent events a strong doctrine of providence becomes impossible. Ironically, in order to account for biblical prophecies of future events, revisionists are often reduced to appealing to the same deterministic explanations that Augustinian-Calvinists offer.
Molinism offers an attractive solution. Luis Molina (1535–1600) defined providence as God’s ordering of things to their ends, either directly or indirectly through secondary causes. In explaining how God can order things through secondary causes that are themselves free agents, Molina appealed to his doctrine of divine middle knowledge.

Molina analyzed God’s knowledge in terms of three logical stages. Although whatever God knows, He knows eternally, so that there is no temporal succession in God’s knowledge, nonetheless there does exist a sort of logical order in God’s knowledge in the sense that His knowledge of certain truths is conditionally or explanatorily prior to His knowledge of certain other truths.
In the first stage God knows all possibilities, not only all the creatures He could possibly create, but also all the orders of creatures that are possible. By means of this so-called natural knowledge, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs that could possibly be actual and of what any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs.

In the second stage, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions (statements of the form “If x were the case, then y would be the case”), including counterfactuals about what creatures would freely do in various circumstances. Whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second stage God knows what any free creature would freely do in any set of circumstances. This so-called middle knowledge is like natural knowledge in that such knowledge does not depend on any decision of the divine will; God does not determine which counterfactuals are true or false. By knowing how free creatures would freely act in any set of circumstances He might place them in, God thereby knows that if He were to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would be actual as a result. For example, He knew that if Pontius Pilate were the Roman procurator of Judea in A.D. 30, he would freely condemn Jesus to the cross.
Intervening between the second and third stages of divine knowledge stands God’s free decree to actualize a world known by Him to be realizable on the basis of His middle knowledge. By His natural knowledge, God knows the entire range of logically possible worlds; by His middle knowledge He knows, in effect, the proper subset of those worlds that it is feasible for Him to actualize. By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. In so doing He also decrees how He would freely act in any set of circumstances.
Given God’s free decision to actualize a world, in the third and final stage God possesses so-called free knowledge of all remaining propositions that are in fact true in the actual world, including future-tense propositions about how creatures will freely behave.

Molina’s scheme effects a dramatic reconciliation of divine sovereignty and human freedom. In Molina’s view God directly causes certain circumstances to come into being and brings about others indirectly through either causally determined secondary causes or free secondary causes. He allows free creatures to act as He knew they freely would when placed in specific circumstances, and He concurs with their decisions in actualizing the effects they desire. Some of these effects God desired unconditionally and so wills positively that they occur. Others He does not unconditionally desire but He nevertheless permits due to His overriding desire to allow creaturely freedom, knowing that even these sinful acts will fit into the overall scheme of things, so that God’s ultimate ends in human history will be accomplished. God thus providentially arranges for everything that happens by either willing or permitting it, and He causes everything that does happen, yet in such a way as to preserve freedom and contingency.

Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1850–1851.

Christmas Offering for Youth

I hope you are getting as excited as I am about giving our Youth the Christmas present of a new place to worship and enjoy God and God’s people.

The youth building will soon be a completely new building from the ceiling to windows to bathrooms to carpet to kitchen area to flat screens for PowerPoint songs.

The men are making great progress and I believe if everyone does their part in the Christmas offering we can give to our youth for years and years a great place to worship and grow as Christians.

Pastor Joe was out early Friday taking advantage of some very good sales making the most of the limited resources we have to dedicate to this project.

In the end, I know we will hardly be able to recognize what the old building looked like.

I have been quite bogged down in a church administration class thus by absence on the blog.

One more thing, are you going skiing with us this year? I am really looking forward to a great day of skiing on the Mountain this year.

Christian First American Second

Most recently we have heard quite a bit of criticism suggesting that citizens of America must be citizens of their country first and religious (Christian, Muslim, etc.) second. This is unacceptable for me. I am a Christian first and foremost. I am a citizen of this great nation second and that priority cannot change. The reason this is not an issue is because Christ never suggested for even a moment that violence would be necessary to be a good Christian. In fact, I can be a fanatical, religious right kind of a guy and this is no threat to the society at all. Moreover, the more I am bananas for Jesus the better for the nation because Christ has called me to be a model citizen.

I am to pray for my President, vote, obey those appointed over and pay my taxes and all of this does not conflict with my service to my King! My fellow Christians do not allow anyone to suggest to you that you can be religious as long as you keep it separate from your politics. I don’t separate it; I can’t separate it; the Bible does not allow for it to be separate. The idea of creating a duplicite life where I am separate in my thinking between God and the Nation is unacceptable. Stay focused; remember you will only be a citizen of America for a few years, but you will be a citizen of the Kingdom of God for all eternity—keep your priorities where they need to be.

Is Bible Burning Really Peacemaking?

An amazing thing actually happened last night, October 31st, in Canton, NC. On Saturday, I was driving back from our Fall Festival and the local radio station reported this event as national news. A Baptist church full of Christians intentionally destroyed the Word of God. Copies of the Word of God were destroyed by cutting them to shreds. (The intent was to burn them but they got rained out). Christians destroying the Bible—how is that God-honoring or God-glorifying? Bibles which contained the gospel and the message of God’s redemption were destroyed. Bibles which told of God’s love for man and the story of salvation were destroyed. This event was billed as that which is pleasing to God—was it?

When has the destruction of His Word, or books that contain His Word, ever been pleasing to God?

The defense from Amazing Grace Baptist Church is that these Bibles only contain a perverted version of the Word of God because they are NOT the Word of God. In their opinion, only KJV Bibles are the Word of God. All other English Bibles translated into language that is less archaic are not acceptable. The old English must be preserved; anything less is not God-glorifying.

But why is this? Why did God choose to do something for English speaking people that He didn’t do for Hebrews, or Greeks, or those who speak Latin? Why did He do it only for English speaking people?

Why didn’t He do it for the Germans or the French?

Where is the prophetic promise to English speaking people that God would inspire an English translation that would be superior to all other translations?

God’s promises of the preservation of His Word are not unique only to a particular culture or language. Has not God preserved His Word in German? Has not God preserved His Word in Korean? The answer is YES—unequivocally YES!

But there is NO indication that God has chosen to stop permitting the translation of His Word.

Some ridiculously suggest: Only one of these renditions is the Word of God and it is the rendition that preserves the whosoever not whoever or the one that preserves the “th” in believeth instead of believes.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Is there a difference between eternal and everlasting? Or do both communicate the same truth? If both are acceptable words indicating life without end, then are both the Word of God when describing the life we receive from God to those who believe upon the name of Christ Jesus?

Now this does NOT mean “any old (or new) Bible will do,” but that certainly doesn’t mean I must burn anything that doesn’t meet my standard.

If you prefer the KJV, praise the Lord—but is it really God’s will to see less than KJV Bibles burned?

Since Roger Williams founded the first Baptist Church in Province, Rhode Island, Baptists have consistently stood for religious freedom.

If another Christian, who is a priest unto themselves before God and man, chooses to read a book from Pastor Rick Warren or do their devotions with the New International Bible, what right do I have to condemn them—isn’t that the role of the Holy Spirit to guide them in all truth?

Likewise, if I choose to bring to someone’s attention the failure to properly translate a verse in the TNIV, what right does someone else have to condemn me, in the execution of my pastoral responsibilities, before the flock that is called Berean Baptist Church?

If a precedent is set for burning books we don’t agree with, as an act that is pleasing to God, where does it end and who will ultimately make the final decision on what books are permitted in America and which ones are not permitted? Will we have a book czar?

I really don’t think anyone wants to go down that road, do we? I think the Book of Mormon is pure fiction having no value whatsoever—however, I am willing to fight for a Mormon’s right to have and read the Book of Mormon because I recognize that same right also preserves my right to have and to read the Bible (in any and all translations) as I am led by God the Spirit.

Baptists who burn Bibles and books, as a religious ceremony, are only one or two steps away from much more violent acts which surely could not be pleasing to our Lord who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

You can be sure of one thing; no one thinks of burning books as an act of making peace.

There are some still alive today who can remember the first news reports of Germans burning Bibles in the months before the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II—what, my friends, is the difference?

Why was it wrong for Nazis to burn books before World War II, but today it is an act of worship, pleasing to the Lord, begun with prayer, associated with the body of Christ, done in a church and accompanied by hymns of worship and much rejoicing—how is that?

See for yourself how the pastor is promoting this church service on his website and is quite frustrated with other Baptists who chose not participate in such an event.

He even laments, why is it that Baptists will unite against the liquor industry but will not unite against the perversions of the Word of God—how is that?

Am I to compare a bottle of Jack Daniels to the NIV and have just as much a passion to destroy both? Is that how I am to think? I think not.

If I could only see the same definitive prohibitions against the ESV as I see against drunkenness, I would consider taking such a stand.

Ask me to show you where drunkenness is prohibited in the Bible, and that is easy to do.

If you prefer to show me a passage where the ESV translation committee did not do justice to the text, I will gladly listen to such an opinion and evaluate your position—but burn the entire book—is that really the correct solution?

If there was just one Bible verse that says God loves the KJV better than other translations—if there was just one Bible verse that indicates He prefers Elizabethan English to contemporary English--but the opposite is found to be true with the reality that the New Testament was written in common Greek. Jesus spoke to the common people in a way that the common person could understand what He said.

The preacher who uses the KJV will, throughout His sermon, seek to help the congregation understand what the Bible is saying to the people and he, the preacher, speaks in the language of his people. He doesn’t seek to preserve the Elizabethan English with the way he speaks. And when there is a word like “concupiscence” in the text he is preaching from, notice how he stops and explains the word often using words found in other translations—indirectly, what is the difference?

Passages from the Psalms, originally written in Hebrew, are quoted to justify God’s love for Elizabethan English—how is that? I believe God is well pleased anytime a group of translators assembles with the primary purpose of giving a people the very Word of God in their own language beginning with the Septuagint and moving forward today.

If you prefer the Elizabethan English, Praise the Lord, I will fight for your right to love, cherish and use the KJV Bible with the exact same energy I will devote to preserving another brother in Christ’s right to use his ESV for which he has the same right to love, cherish and use.

That is precisely the religious freedom this great country we call America was founded upon, and we must fight to keep those precious rights with our very blood if that becomes necessary.

Dunk'in Booth at the Fall Festival

As I prepare for another hour at the dunking tank, at Fall Festival, I can’t help but to wonder if the desire to dunk someone is further proof of the need for redemption from a sin nature.

Why is it, that, someone would desire to throw a ball at a target, which causes a lever to drop someone into the water—in a way, that isn’t refreshing?

Yet amazingly people will spend money for such an event. They will line up. Why is that? Can anyone help explain this from a theological perspective? Or is this just fun? I guess it depends on whether you are on the seat or on the ground throwing and if the weather is warm and the water is warmer or not. Today it appears God has been gracious to me with the sun that is occasionally shining down on our parking lot and perhaps even into the water…And someone suggested that this is fun…

Ladies Retreat in May 2010

We did it. We locked in May 7-8, 2010 for our first ladies retreat at Camp Anchorage. I know this is going to be an awesome time for the ladies to get away and enjoy God, His Word, and each other.

Please mark your calendar and send me an email if you would like to help plan for this weekend retreat.

Elijah Speaks in the 21st Century

In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah asks a question that needs to be asked and answered by every "so-called Christian" in America today.

Here is his question: If the Lord be God [and He is], how long will you go on halting between two opinions?

You see the people were not sure if Jehovah was the only God or were there multiple gods that could be worshipped and be petitioned to obtain favor.

Baal, thought to be associated with fertility, was a god to worship for your crops to do well.

So Elijah asked a simple question: How long are you going to go through life limping between serving God and serving others gods (like yourself)?

You see if God is really who He says He is [and He is] then we had better get fully behind that truth, the truth (John 14:6), and begin to show it with our lives. Halting or limping between sometimes serving God and sometimes distracted and serving anything and everything else is not what Jesus had in mind when he said, “take up your cross and follow me!” (Mark 10:21).

“Follow God!” is exactly what Elijah said and it is still expected today. This prayer a prayer gospel and then go back to living like a child of the devil has never been acceptable in the Word of God.

It wasn’t acceptable when Elijah was alive and it wasn’t acceptable when Nicodemus met with Jesus at night for fear of having to choose between being a Pharisee in good standing or a disciple of Christ (John 3).

Nic left that night still halting between two opinions. How long will you halt between two opinions?

Elijah said: If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal be god, follow him. Elijah the prophet said it right.

The call of salvation is not a call to get someone to raise a hand and pray a prayer; the call of salvation is one of a lifetime of following the one true God perfectly revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

America is full of “so-called Christians” who need to stop hedging their bets and commit to following God with their heart, mind, soul and body!

Great Job Youth and Sponsors

Watch this youtube clip of our Berean Youth Group. This past Sunday they did an incredible job!

A Day at the House of God

Psalms 84:10

For a day in thy courts is better
than a thousand.
I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,
than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness

What an amazingly awesome cry from the psalmist.

He would rather spend one day in the court of the Lord than a 1000 days on the lake or golf course or at a ballgame or in the woods hunting.

This man is in love with the Lord—he is bananas for God.

He would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to dwell inside a tent with wickedness.

This man is in love with the Lord—he would rather suffer the cold or heat outside the tent of the Lord than to be inside out of the weather but in with the wicked.

This man or woman of God is in love with God.

He serves as an usher or greeter. She is in love with being a church and serves as the keeper of the door—ready to greet all who come to the House of God.

As men, woman, and children approach for worship he or she extends to them a greeting in the name of the Lord, to the glory of the Lord.

He or she is standing by ready to show them the location of the nursery, first class, crown room, chapel or restroom. This doorkeeper in the house of the Lord makes being at a new place much easier.

Being in the court of the Lord, at the house of God, is a JOY to this person.

Getting up for worship is what he was created for and it is his joy to extend to God songs of love and adoration.

Would to God that every member, of every Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, God-glorifying, and Bible-believing church, would exclaim, with all their heart, that a day with the body of Christ is better than 1000 days elsewhere!

Would to God that every Christian would find a church to be a doorkeeper at—this moving from place to place and half-hearted commitment to the local church is not what is pictured in this Psalm.

In this psalm, the psalmist knows where he is going to worship each Lord’s day—do you?

Something Super Practical--How to get to Church on Time!

Being on time and faithful to church on Sundays begins the night before. Being present and present early must be a priority for every Christian on Sunday mornings. Praise God for those who arrive late as we would rather have them late than absent. However, those who arrive late are missing some very important fellowship time: five to ten minutes early is some quality time to connect with other brothers and sisters in Christ and to greet those who are new to Fayetteville and Berean. Arriving to church early sets the conditions, ever so well, to hear from God—it allows everyone to enter church without the hurriedness that distracts us from worship and hearing from God. We are uncomfortable and embarrassed stepping into class late.

So let me give you some very practical ways you can be on time and make the most of your attendance at Berean. First, lay the clothes that you intend on wearing out the night before. Don’t go to bed until everything that everyone is going to wear is laid out. This may sound old-fashioned, but it works so well it is still something that should be done in the 21st century. Think from head down to shoes. Pick out everything that the children and yourself are going to wear, get into the weeds, lay out socks, pans, dresses, belts, purses, stockings, undergarments, ties, jewelry, handkerchiefs—everything. Make sure you don’t have to iron in the morning. Check fingernails and anything else that previously has distracted you from departing on time. Second, put the Bibles, journals, and pens in the car or next to the door you will use when you leave. Pack the diaper bag the night before. Third, don’t go to bed until the kitchen is clean. A dirty kitchen in the morning could easily delay your departure. Plan ahead and know what you are going to feed the children for breakfast. Fourth, check out the inside of the car—if it is too cluttered or messy it could become a point of contention or embarrassment on the way to church—eliminate that by taking a minute to quickly straighten the car out on Saturday. Fifth, set an alarm clock and don’t hit the snooze button. Place the alarm clock across the room if you need to. Resolve the night before that when the alarm goes off you will get out of bed. Everyone is tired in the mornings, but Sunday mornings are not to set aside for sleep. It is the Lord’s Day; you can take a nap in the afternoon between lunch and evening choir practice. Resolve the night before that you will not sleep in.

Then close Saturday night out with a prayer that God will awaken you even before the alarm goes off for some quiet time. Ask Him to help everything to go smoothly in the morning as everyone prepares for church; tell Him you desire to be faithful and need His help. Then in the morning work as though everything depends on your effort and praise Him on the way to church for helping everyone get out of the house on time.

Finally, something is wrong if are deciding on Sunday mornings if you are going to go to church—it should be just the opposite. Of course, we are going to church; we made that decision a long time ago. If you think these old-fashioned suggestions are a bit too much, let me challenge you to try them one Saturday and see if God doesn’t honor your preparation.

A Suffering Servant

A Suffering Servant
July 19, 2009
Pastor Sean Harris

Colossians 1: 23-25
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

This is quite a text. So I hope that God has given you ears to hear. The title of the sermon is “A Suffering Servant.” Those are two words that we probably don’t like much, “suffering servant,” and yet they are right there in our text.

This passage addresses two things that 21st century Post-Modernism despises: Serving others and suffering. In fact, I would suggest to you that we do everything we can to avoid these two things. I am going to tell you right now the entire American dream about earning all you can in a 401K Plan is all about making sure that you can be served and you don’t suffer. I want to make sure that I have the best medical insurance in the world and the biggest 401K Plan, so that I don’t have to suffer and everything is going to be good when I retire. We really see quite the opposite in the Word of God. The question is: Isn’t it the goal today to make enough money or to get to a position where others serve you? Isn’t that being encouraged in the world that we live in? And yet we have to ask ourselves is that biblical? Paul says I am a minister. Over and over again Paul reminds us of that. He reminds us over and over again “I am a servant.” I am here to tell you right now, if you are in a position of leadership anywhere, in a school, in a community, at work, on Ft. Bragg, you are in that position of leadership to serve, not to be served. Paul was the chief Apostle. Paul was the boss. Paul was given special revelation from Jesus Christ, and he actually set Peter straight on the grace of God. And yet he doesn’t describe himself as that—it’s just the opposite. Over and over again in the Word of God, he reminds us that he is a servant, a minister, the servant of the King. Christians, if we don’t get our head straight on that single issue we will never make it to what God has for us. If you are looking for a position of preeminence in this church you are not at the right place. If you are an adult Bible fellowship teacher in this church, if you are a deacon in this church, it is not so that you can call the shots. It’s so that you can serve the body of Christ. Paul as an Apostle strived to be the greatest servant of the church. He lived for others. How can I serve you is the issue?

Colossians 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you,

He is writing to Christians at the church at Colossae, and he is saying I am suffering and he really meant that when he said it. We’ll look at that in just a moment. And he says, I am rejoicing in suffering. Now let me tell you right now, it takes a unique and special relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ to rejoice in suffering. That doesn’t come natural. The natural man does not rejoice in suffering. It is just the opposite. We avoid suffering with a passion. And yet he says, I am rejoicing in suffering for the body of Christ. Now this is not a new concept. Paul was not the originator of this. In Acts 5, the Apostles were called in and rebuked to their face; they were told to stop preaching Christ. You shut your mouths about Christ. We don’t want to hear any more about this. And after they had received this harsh rebuke, were confronted to their face, and called all kinds of names, look what it says, they were rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. Now that is a completely different perspective. They walked out of an oral thrashing rejoicing that they were able to take some abuse for the Savior. They were not popular. They weren’t being commended. They were being encouraged. And they came out of that rejoicing. I wonder if we are any where near that in the 21st century. When you take a hard stand for Jesus at work and you know that you are ridiculed and you are not part of the in group any more and you are not popular because you take a hard stand for Jesus, do you find yourself rejoicing? You know Paul was promised suffering.

Turn to Acts 9 in your Bibles please. Paul was promised suffering. I want you to see this. Paul’s conversion experience occurs here. The Lord Jesus Christ meets him on the road to Damascus, and really rebukes him to his face. He knocks him off his horse and gets him straight and focuses him on Who Jesus is. Then Ananias gets this mission in verse ten that he is not too fond about

Acts 9:10-16 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

So here is the Gospel presentation, Hey, I’d love for you to receive Jesus, but in receiving Jesus you need to know that you are going to suffer. I’d love to tell you about the Gospel and reconciliation, I love to tell you about forgiveness of sins, I’d love to tell you about a home in heaven that God has prepared for you, I’d love to tell you about a God of mercy, grace and forgiveness, but I also need to tell you that you are going to suffer for Jesus. Preacher, I don’t know if that Gospel would go over too well in the 21st century. That is right. That is why what we have in the 21st century is kind of a half Gospel. When was the last time you heard the preacher talking about taking up your cross, denying yourself and following Him? Well, Preacher, I don’t know if any one will receive Christ. Oh, so we have a politically correct Gospel in the 21st century. Folks, we are killing ourselves in the body of Christ because we are not setting people for the future. I am here to tell you that we are living in a day and age in which you can expect persecution to increase and increase. It is not going to get any better. If you think that we are going to be able to turn back time and go back to the happy days of Leave it Beaver, it is not happening.

Let’s hear about Paul’s life. Let’s see how much we would like his description. You see, we all want to be the chief Apostle, but not too many of us want to suffer like the chief Apostle suffered. It is easy to say, Boy, I want that position of preeminence, but now when the suffering comes with the position of preeminence, how many of us want or are interested in that? Let’s look at Paul’s rendition of his life as he sums it up in a few verses.

2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Are they ministers of Christ?( I speak as a fool) I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

In the 21st century we are doing everything to make sure that we do not have that kind of suffering in our life. With a passion we want to make sure we have no suffering. If I have to take a stand for Christ, that might make me unpopular at work; I don’t want to make that stand. If I have to make a hard decision with my young people, with my teenager, with my daughter and I know that I am going to suffer abuse, emotional scars from her, then I don’t make that tough decision as a parent because I don’t want to deal with the suffering or repercussions of it. Paul suffered emotional, psychological and physical suffering in every shape, form or fashion. And suffering does not always mean that there is sin in your life. Sometimes you may suffer because of the passion for doing the right thing. You are a leader out at Ft. Bragg and taking a hard stand doesn’t make you too popular. When you go into these functions and you are the only one that doesn’t drink, you don’t fit in quite too well. And so you say you know what, I’m going to compromise my stand and I’ll walk around with something in my hands so that it looks like everyone else. Why? I don’t want to suffer.

Notice what he says, there. Looking in your Bibles we are going back to Colossians 1:24. He says, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.

Now listen. Christ suffered on the cross for the redemption and the reconciliation of the body of Christ. But wait a minute. Paul says, I am continuing in the suffering. Not to redeem anyone. Not to reconciliation. That is not why Paul was suffering. He wasn’t lacking or adding to what Christ did on the cross. That is not what the Word of God is teaching. But what the Word of God is teaching is that more suffering and tribulation must occur as a result of the ministry of the Gospel. Now listen to me very closely. If this side of the stage represents the cross, the time in which Christ was crucified, now we begin moving forward in time, 1st century, 2nd century, 3rd century, 4th century and eventually we are over here in the 21st century. The Word of God says someday the Lord Jesus is coming back to establish a kingdom on this earth. We call that the Millennial Kingdom. Between this point in which the Millennial Kingdom is established and going back to the cross in which Christ suffered, this entire period of time is characterized by suffering and tribulation. You see, I think that sometimes our theology gets a little off because we think about the Great Tribulation, which is true there will be 7 years of tribulation. But there is nothing in the Word of God that says God has the “traveler’s umbrella” over the church, and there is going to be no tribulation for the church. You know what I mean by the “traveler’s umbrella” right? That is that commercial where they walk around it blocks cars and nothing happens because you are under that umbrella. Well, we kind of feel like as a church, we are under this traveler’s umbrella. Well, Paul was in the church and Paul was a wreck. Why are you telling us this, Pastor? Because how am I going to equip you to get ready for the tribulation that is going to happen in America? Oh, are you one of those doom and gloom preachers? No. But please listen. You have to be stupid not to see what is going to happen to the church in America. You have to be living with your head in the sand. Hey, the ACL will let you pray in Muhammad’s name all day long. You can pray in Buddha’s name all you want. But now you pray in Christ’s name at a public function, and they are ready to issue a lawsuit against the city, the state and everyone they can sue. You don’t understand how much this is changing the world that we are living in. Hey, I have a question for you. When was the last time you heard someone hit their thumb hard and say, “Buddha!” I have never heard that. I was in the Army for 20 years, and I heard all kinds of colorful words. I have never heard someone get hurt and go, “Muhammad!!” We are living in an Anti-God, Anti-Christ era. And I am going to tell you right now, we can expect some suffering if the Lord tarries.

1 Corinthians 9:12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
Now listen, very closely to what the Word is teaching us. If you refuse to suffer for Christ by saying, I’m not suffering for Christ; I am not taking a stand in the classroom. I’m not taking a stand in my neighborhood. I am not going to take a stand. I am afraid of the suffering that is going to occur with that—you are in fact, hindering the Gospel. You are personally hindering the Gospel. You take a platoon of soldiers out at Ft. Bragg; the leader is a Christian, but he won’t take a hard stand for Christ. He is hindering the Gospel witness in that platoon. Alright, you take a classroom. Praise God for all the teachers, but you take a teacher who refuses to take a hard stand for Christ because they don’t want to suffer the consequences. They know that they could be made fun of. They could not be in the “in” group. They might not get promoted so you know what? They are going to keep their Christianity on the down-low. You know kind of under wraps. You are hindering the Gospel in the classroom. Alright you take a neighborhood and you say, I don’t think I’d be too popular in my apartment complex or my neighborhood if I take a hard stand for Christ. Then, you personally, are hindering the Gospel in your apartment complex or your neighborhood.

Let me show you what I mean in the Word of God. John chapter 21 is the chapter in which He confronts Peter for his denial. Three times He asked him if he loves Him. Three times Peter says he loves Him. He tells him, feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. Save your place in John 21 and please turn to 2 Peter 1 because I want you to be able to turn to them quickly. I am going to read verse number John 21:18. Now Jesus has just asked him three times do you love Me, feed My lambs, feed My sheep.

John 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither though wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. Now let’s make sure what we are talking about—death. Look at verse number 19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow Me. Don’t miss this now. What did Peter understand this to be?

2 Peter 1:12-15 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things. So the preacher that does not remind his people of these things is a negligent preacher. And be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

Now I want you to get this. This is so important. Please listen. How many in this room would say, Pastor I am about 25 years old, plus or minus a year or two? Imagine getting word at 28 or 25 or 30 years old that you are going to die the death of crucifixion. Don’t miss this. Please stay with me. Not terminal cancer and in a year, you are going to die. You are a young, healthy male about 30 years old, and you get word from the Lord Jesus Christ that you are not going to have a natural death. You are not going to die of a heart attack. You are going to die by being crucified. What do you think you would think about for the next 2 or 3 or 4 decades? Wow. The Lord Jesus Christ has prophesied that you are going to die by being nailed to a cross. You are going to die the same death that the Savior died. You see, because of how the 21st century culture has infiltrated our thinking, we think that God’s goal for my life is to have a boat on the lake and spend the rest of my life on the golf course. And everything is supposed to be awesome. What if you understood that the way you would glorify God is in death by being crucified? Wow. Preacher, are you kidding? No. I am not kidding. I am telling you right now that suffering like that can be God glorifying and God honoring.

Now, wait a minute, you say, Preacher that everyone didn’t get crucified. You’re right. In fact, there isn’t any equality in this. Because Peter says, I got that. Now what about John? And you know what Jesus said to Peter? Peter, mind your own business. That is exactly what He says in John 21; that is a small paraphrase. It is not quite like that in the King James Version but that is essentially what He says. In other words, within the body of Christ, this pew may suffer immensely, and this pew might not suffer a bit. Why does one family get a child that is healthy and naturally compliant, and another family gets a child that is in a wheel chair and struggling? That is not the same. Why does one child grow up in home with two wonderful and loving parents who show them Christ, and another child grows up in a home in which Mom and Dad hate each other and they have duplicity and hypocrisy in effect? That is not the same. Why is it that one child grows up in Afghanistan and doesn’t have an ounce of chance of hearing the Gospel except for God’s Sovereignty and providential intervention through a missionary or something and another grows up in America and hears the Gospel so much they are oblivious to it? It might be God’s will that you suffer for Jesus. It may very well be God’s will that you suffer for Jesus. Now, this isn’t a popular message. If you are a first time visitor, you might never come back to this church. You can hardly preach a message like this with a Joel Olsteen smile. You can’t. We are talking about a day and age in America where being a Christian is not a popular thing, and you work with a bunch of unsaved people who hate Christ and to take a hard stand for Christ may cause you to suffer emotional or psychological abuse. You might get turned over on a promotion. You might not get invited to the party. But you have to do it; you don’t have a choice.

There is an incredible preacher in Acts 6; his name is Stephen. This is the early church, now. I would like you to see it in your own Bibles even if you are familiar with the text.

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain people of the synagogue…And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

So you have Stephen confronting Jews on the fact that they have crucified the Messiah. And because of his ability to call out the Old Testament and show then the truth, they cannot resist His wisdom. And so they paid off or they bribed men and this is what the bribe was: Say that this guy is blaspheming against Moses and against God. So wait a minute, you have a preacher who is filled with faith and power, doing a great work and men are lying against him. That is what is happening now. And God’s not intervening.

Acts 6:12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: People are going to lie about you if you take a hard stand for Christ. For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

And then Stephen gets up in the beginning of Acts 7 and delivers an incredible sermon. There was no 12 o’clock deadline for this preacher. I mean he goes! And at the end of the sermon, he doesn’t go back and shake the people’s hands and get words like, “Great sermon, Preacher. See you tonight.” That is not what happens during this invitation time. And million of souls aren’t saved during this invitation time. And they don’t go out to Ryan’s and eat a big, huge meal after this preaching time. Instead, he stands there and gets stoned to death. And God Almighty did not keep it from happening. The Sovereign God of the Universe that has endless power to send down legions of angels and put a halt to it did not put an end to the suffering that was happening. We have hundreds, perhaps thousands of Christians in Fayetteville that are bitter against God because God did not answer their prayers to keep them from suffering. God, I was praying that the suffering would stop, and You didn’t answer my prayers. What kind of God are you? We have a God that permits suffering to glorify His name. Do you understand that Stephen glorified God in his death? Standing there getting stoned to death for the name of Jesus was a God-honoring, God-glorifying event. Taking the abuse, being railed upon, spit upon, wicked things said about you, calling you a blasphemer, lying against you, stone hitting you in the face and behind you. I cannot even imagine a more miserable way, other than crucifixion, to die than to be stoned to death. I am talking about one after another after another and then to get knocked unconscious and then you are bleeding and your bones are broken. I am telling you right now: we are not preparing ourselves for the future with our half Gospel. Listen, we are not trying to build a mega church here. If you are trying to build some massive mega church, you don’t tell them about suffering. What you tell them is that God is a cosmic Santa Claus standing by to deliver whatever you want like ebay. And I am here to tell you that it may be God’s will that you suffer for His names’ sake.

In theory, we would not have the Christian church today if the apostles and early church were not willing to suffer persecution for His name’s sake. So here is my question: Is today’s generation still willing to suffer for His name? Are we preparing our 4th graders, our 5th graders, and our teenagers, are we preparing today’s generation to suffer for His name sake? Are we getting them ready to suffer in the 21st or the 22nd century if the Lord tarries? Here is my answer. Consider the reality that most Christians will not even suffer with 10% less of their income for the proclamation of the Gospel. That is my proof in the pudding. I don’t mean to call anyone out today, and I am not going to, but half the church doesn’t tithe. Statistically, well over half the church does not tithe. Do you know why? They are not willing to suffer. No way, Preacher, I am not giving up that kind of money. Are you kidding me? That is a car payment. That is five trips to the movies. That is the GameBoy.

I am telling you right now, we are sick. There is a cancer in the body of Christ. I am going to stay here for just a minute. You walk into homes where they say I can’t afford to tithe. Of course you can’t afford to tithe; you have a flat screen television bigger than my arms, you have every Nintendo system in the world and 4,000 dollars worth of games. It’s no wonder you can’t afford to tithe. I am not kidding. You walk into the home of a typical Christian today and the television fits up there between those two black speakers. And you walk over here and there is this and this and this. Now let me tell you something, if you have that and you are being faithful and God has blessed you, then bless God He has blessed you with that business. I am talking to people who say, I can’t afford to tithe. Of course you can’t afford to tithe with two car payments and a mortgage that is over the top. Try driving a used car. I am not going to suffer with a used car. What will people think? That is your refusal to endure psychological and mental suffering. What will people think? And so when you say, what will people think, what you are saying is I am not willing to suffer. That is exactly what you are saying. Don’t try to ignore me right now. Don’t try to argue with me right now. There is no winning this argument. Every Christian who says, I am not giving up 10% of my income is saying, I am not willing to suffer for Jesus. Do you understand how many more missionaries we could send out of this church if all of you would tithe?

Do you understand that every single week we turn away missionaries? Do you understand that Camp Anchorage needs several thousands of dollars to do repairs down there so that they can keep the Gospel going forward? Did you know decisions were made every single night; souls were being saved and lives were being changed. Do you understand that there were counselors working down there for nothing? They don’t make any money all summer long. But they are doing it for Jesus. And we ought to be wrapping our arms around that ministry, but the reason we can’t is that we have families on top of families who say, I am saved, Glory to God, I’m going to Heaven, but don’t you dare ask me to give up a penny for the proclamation of the Gospel. Some of you have wills and you ought to take that and give it to the church, but instead you are going to give it to your young people. I am going to tell you right now, your descendants are going to burn through that money. They are going to fly through that money. You have unsaved sons and daughter that are adult heathens, and when you pass away, they can’t wait to sell your home and they are going to burn through the profits. I hope that is not too personal, but I know that is right on the money. And I am going to tell you right now that you would do a lot better for yourself to give that money to a Christian college, camp, missionary organization or your local church. Oh, boy, that preacher is only after money. No. It is not that way at all in this church. No one can say that about this church. I don’t make any more money when we have a big offering. It is nothing like that. We are trying to do everything we can and be as wise as we can with everything that God has provided through your faithfulness. No one is making outrageous salaries on our staff, driving used cars, serving Christ for His honor and His glory. I have a question. How is it that you can come out for Monday night basketball but you can’t ever come out for Monday night soul winning? Well, Pastor, I enjoy basketball. Ah. I got it. So it is all about you. How can we have a softball team, there is nothing wrong with having a softball team, but let’s make sure that softball team is a Gospel witness. Let’s make sure that that softball team has a purpose of seeing souls saved and Christians grow closer. We are not here to play softball for the sake of softball.

I am going to wrap it up on this point right here and then we will be done. I want you to follow me for the next two or three minutes, please. I am going to prove to you that the collective church, the body of Christ, cannot grow without suffering. And I am going to try to prove to you in the next 2 or 3 minutes that if we are not willing to suffer for Christ, the church will not grow. Now I am not talking about building mega churches where you pack the stadium, I am talking about real conversions. I am talking about authentic Christianity that radically changes lives. Here it is.

What is the biggest hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel in America? I am going to tell you what it is. I was counseling with a young lady on Monday night down at Camp Anchorage and this young lady was really struggling with salvation. Praise God she has been in our school for a while, and God is doing a tremendous work in her life. I am so thrilled to see God doing a work, but the reason she was struggling with Christianity and God was that, as she described it, there were two lives going on. My mom and dad went to church on Sunday, but I couldn’t see any correlation between Monday and Friday. This is what she was addressing right here: hypocrisy and duplicity. That is what she was addressing. She said, Preacher, what I see is a bunch of hypocrites. Is any one real? Does any one really believe it? I am here to tell you right now we have soldiers in this church that have two lives. They have a Sunday life, and they have a work life; and there is such a disconnection between the two, you can’t even tell it’s the same person other than the uniform and the name. Some of you men have some private lives that happen between 1 o’clock and 4 o’clock in the morning. It has to stop; our children are seeing the hypocrisy. Do you know why? We are not willing to be real with them. We are not willing to be transparent with them. They have to see us as sinners, saved by grace, who still sin and need the forgiveness that Christ provides who are struggling with living out the Gospel. We want to act this way on Sunday. We go to the church to check the box, and we act all so and so; and when we get home, the Bible gets put up, the prayer closet gets shut up, devotions never happen and we live a certain way over here.

Alright, Pastor, can you prove this? Yes, I can. Here is the proof text right here. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Paul said that in 1Timothy 3:12. There is my proof. I rest my case. The Word of God says if you are going to be committed to living a godly life, you will at some point suffer some kind of persecution. So here is how it happens. It’s cut and dry, there is no arguing with this. This isn’t a situation where you can say, well I don’t agree with the preacher on that one. No, then what you don’t agree with is the Word of God. So just call it the way it is. Don’t disagree with me. Say, you know what, I don’t agree with the Word of God on that one. I think Paul was wrong. Because what Paul said was any family, any individual, any soldier, any college student, any husband, any wife, any mother, any father, or any teacher who strives to live a godly life at work will in fact, suffer some type of persecution. So here is what you have to decide. Am I willing to suffer persecution for His name’s sake? Or am I going to be a fraud? It is that simple. Am I willing to suffer persecution for His name’s sake? Am I willing to take hard stands for His name’s sake? What if I don’t get promoted? Is God Sovereign? What if they don’t like me? Is God your Friend? That is what it comes down to. Stop living the duplicitous life. Repent of the sin of duplicity and commit yourself that, by God’s grace, you are going to live a godly life in spite of persecution.

The Perserverance of True Believers

The Perseverance of True Believers
July 12, 2009
Pastor Sean Harris

The title of this message is The Perseverance of True Believers. If you believe that you are converted and born again, this sermon will be of utmost importance to you. Now when we begin reading in verse 21, I want you to recognize that there is one long, continuous sentence going through verses 21, 22 and 23. Paul, like myself, had a tremendous fondness for run-on sentences. He could just go on and on, and he does that in this text.

Colossians 1:21-23
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Do you remember when you were an enemy of God? Do you remember when you were alienated from God? Do you remember when you had no confidence in your eternal security? Do you remember the time when you had no confidence in your eternal forgiveness of sins? Can you remember that time? Do you remember when the glorious God of mercy shined the Gospel down deep in your soul, converted you, and made you a new creature in Christ? God has a plan for your life. God has a distinct and individual plan for your life, and the plan is to present you as a case, bride, cleansed from your sins, holy, righteous, beyond reproof. Don’t allow yourself to drift away from the hope of the Gospel. Don’t allow yourself to move away from the power of the Gospel. Don’t allow your mind to creep away from the centrality of the Gospel. Keep yourself focused on the Gospel. Keep your marriage focused on the Gospel. Keep the church focused on the Gospel.

Baptists communicate a confidence that the Word of God teaches that we are eternally secure in Christ. Sometimes Baptists will say, “Once saved, always saved.” And we use that affirmation and the confidence that we are born again and as such we cannot lose our salvation. In fact, that is one of the things that would distinguish this church from a Free Will Baptist Church. A Free Will Baptist Church would affirm that they can lose their salvation. Let’s ask a couple of questions.

Question Number 1: Is it possible for someone who has been radically changed by the power of the Gospel into a new creature in Christ to lose their salvation? Preacher, do I have to worry about losing my salvation? Preacher, is it possible that I could repent of my sins and put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and enter into a relationship, but because of my sin, I drift so far away that I am cut away from God? And I think that I’m a Christian, but along the way I lost my salvation.

Question Number 2: Does the Bible give instructions to the believer concerning persevering in the faith? Does the Bible teach anything about continuing in the faith? Or does the Bible just kind of give me an assurance that once I’m saved I can just kind of relax and say, “Good for me”. Or does the Bible have some really specific teaching about after I’ve been converted there are some things that God expects me to do? Well, that is what we are going to cover today. We are going to do two things from the Word of God: Number One: We are going to comfort ourselves. We are going to get assurance. We are going to say, “Man, I’m glad that is in the Word of God.” I need to know that. I am comforted by that. And then, Number Two: We are going to get challenged. We are going to get some solid exhortation. I am not just going to walk out of this room and say, “Whew, I’m good to go” but you will also say “the Word of God challenged me in my walk.”

So here is the comfort. You didn’t have to reconcile yourself. God reconciled you to Himself through Jesus Christ. You don’t have to work your way to Heaven. You don’t have to say so many “Hail Mary’s”. You don’t have to confess your sins to a priest. You don’t have to do the sacraments. You don’t have to do those kinds of things. Jesus Christ has bought your salvation. He has redeemed you. He has justified you. He has forgiven your sins. Look what God has done for us. True Believers have been: regenerated, justified, adopted, reconciled and sanctified. Regenerated: do you know what regenerated means? That means you have been made anew, made alive. We call that born again. Justified: that means your sins are no longer held accountable to you. You have been made the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Adopted: you are a member of His family. You are brought in as a son or daughter. You have been reconciled. The differences between you and God the Father, the sin that separated you from the Father, has been removed and now you can climb up on His lap and say, “Daddy, I need to talk to You.” You can go in your private prayer closet and get down on your knees and say, “Father, I am hurting today.” And He says, “Come talk to Me, My son or daughter. I love you.” Isn’t that encouraging? Yes, it is. You can know that if anything happens to you, downrange or overseas, that you are eternally secure in Jesus Christ. You have been sanctified. That means that you have been set apart. You have been made His own. He bought you with a price. You are becoming more like Christ every day. So the question is: Can a creature in Christ become irreconcilable?

When someone says, “Hey, you Baptist: What do you preach about that eternal security?” You can tell them it’s not a Baptist thing. It’s a Bible thing and then you take them to John chapter 10. It describes the rescue of a sinner and it talks about the sinner becoming a sheep and it talks about what that is like.

John 10:27-30
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I am my Father are one.

Now that is some pretty incredible assurance. I have asked little Christian to help us here in this illustration. Would you come up here please, Christian? I want to communicate what the Word of God says here. John 10:28 says they shall never perish. So what is being described is God and how He rescues us and He takes us and He scoops us out of sin into deliverance. And the best illustration I can give you is how I can just reach down and grab this little boy and just pick him right up. That is what God does with you. Let me tell you something: He doesn’t need your help to save you. You don’t have to give Him your little two cents worth. It is an easy thing for Him to save you. Now, I didn’t pick a big guy. I picked a light guy because I know my own strength. But God can deliver any of you, and He doesn’t have to have your help. Christian can’t resist me—there is nothing this little guy can do to keep me from snatching him up. That is John chapter 10. Now is that comforting to you? You don’t have to worry about the Father losing you. You don’t have to worry about the Son saying, “Wow, this is getting to be too much.” This is a light thing. He has got you right here. And then Jesus said if this isn’t enough, the Father has got Me, and We are One. You are not going to lose your salvation. So what you should be concerned about is “Am I saved?”

I want you to see our text. Let’s work our way through this. You see, we believe in eternal security in this church. And our Articles of Faith say that we believe in the eternal security and everlasting blessing of the saved and the eternal conscious punishing of the lost. The preservation of all believers rests upon the finished work of Christ, the promises of God, gracious election and the Sovereign predestination of God. Did you notice that nowhere in there is human needs? God can rescue you without your assistance. Christ did it all on the cross. It was the finished work. So let’s ask ourselves, Should this security in Christ, independent of my actions and life, create indifference toward the moral and spiritual demands of the Gospel in the life of the believer? Since I know the saying “once saved, always saved,” should this give me a lackadaisical attitude where I can just prop my feet up and say “Man, I’m saved. I’m good. I can relax.”? Or should I take something from this passage and apply it to my life? Let me ask you something, is there anything God glorifying in the attitude that says, “I’m saved; now I can live like I want?” Is there anything God glorifying in the scenario in which I kick back and say “Whew, I’m good to go”? Does that fit into the character of God? In that scenario, let’s ask ourselves Who is God? I am God in that scenario. I am the idol because I choose the actions; I don’t obey, I don’t listen. I do what I want, and I can relax because I’m saved. How does that reflect the grace of God and the power of the Gospel? You see, I thought the power of God was supposed to make me a new creature in Christ. I thought the power of the Gospel was supposed to reconcile marriages and friendships. I thought the power of the Gospel was supposed to impact my life every single day. I thought the power of the Gospel was supposed to make me a new creature in Christ and you could see that I am radically changed because of the power of the Gospel. So if I am over here living like the devil, how in the world does that look like the Gospel in any way, shape or form? If there are irreconcilable differences in my marriage and it cannot get healed, how in the world does that look like the Gospel? If two church members cannot get along and so they sit on opposite ends of the church, how does that look like the Gospel? If one church member cannot say to the other, “I was in the flesh. Please forgive me,” what does that look like?

So are you going to Heaven or to Hell? Paul answers how a person can know if they have been reconciled unto God. Look at what Paul does not say as you look at the text. Look in your own Bibles because I do not want you to think that this is a Baptist thing. I want you to know that this is a Bible thing. While we are a Baptist church, first and foremost the Authority is the Word of God. Notice in verse 23 that these people that have been reconciled continue in the faith. They are grounded and settled. They are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel. They are not out there flapping. They are continuing in the faith. Paul doesn’t ask if they were sincere, if they really mean it, or if they were baptized. I am talking to counselors, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, deacons, and to my fellow preachers. He doesn’t take them back to a previous time. He asks them, what are you currently doing with Christ? Why are you so hard on this, Preacher? Because in this church that I have been a part of for 20 years, I know there are families that have worked in teaching or as deacons in the church for many years, and now they are not a part of any church anywhere in Fayetteville. Every Sunday morning, they are home and are not connected to a local church in any way. That just can not happen. You have a responsibility before God to continue in the faith.

We are not to use this confidence and run out here and ignore the Master. So there is the challenge. The doctrine of eternal security of the believer is a comfort to me in knowing that Christ has rescued me, but in the same sentence, the same doctrine also challenges me to continue in the faith. Remain grounded, remain settled, and don’t you dare be moved away from the hope of the Gospel. You stay with the Gospel. One of the most troubling things in my own personal life is the fact that I have no confidence whatsoever that my father is in Heaven. You see during the last two or three years of my father’s life, he began to drift away from the Gospel to the point that he was into Native American Mysticism and all kinds of nonsense. I would love to know that I am going to spend an eternity with my father. The problem is when I read a verse like this I say “You didn’t continue, Dad. You didn’t stay with the hope of the Gospel. You moved away and so you leave me with no assurance. There is no comfort. I don’t know.” And so now I’m hoping that he was backslidden, and I’m hoping there was that period of repentance, but I don’t have any assurance. Moms and Dads you have a responsibility to stay the course. Don’t allow yourself to leave the hope of the Gospel. When a young person doubts their salvation, do not take them back to when they were three years old. Ask them where they are right now in their faith. Tell me where your hope is right now. If what you did in the past in fact converted you, then your feet will be planted right now because the power of the Gospel is sufficient to keep you in the faith. You have to stay the course. I want to do that for my son more than anything in the world. God, keep me right here on the course, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now. God you keep me on the course. Be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel. Close the church doors when we are no longer a Gospel-centered ministry. Close the Christian college when we are no longer a Gospel-centered ministry. The Gospel is the good news that God Almighty through His Son Jesus Christ is reconciling people each and every day so that they do not have to experience the wrath themselves. This should really challenge you.

We already got the comfort from chapter 10. Let’s get the challenge. Don’t just give someone the comfort. Give them the challenge. If you are going to preach the Gospel, then preach the whole Gospel. Give them the entire Truth. That is why you very rarely hear me say, “Once saved, always saved,” because that is not giving them the entire story. Because verse 27 says, my sheep hear my voice. And what else do my sheep do? They follow me. Sheep are characterized by listening to the Master. This is why I am so broken about my own father’s eternal security because he stopped listening to the Master. And oh, how I would love to ignore all that and oh, how I would love to go back to a place where he asked Jesus in his heart. But that would be ignoring all these numerous exhortations in the Word of God, to stay the course, to listen to the Master, to follow Him. And you say, Preacher, do we get off course? Yes, we get off course sometimes. Preacher, are there people that are backslidden? Yes, there is no question there are those who are backslidden. Can you identify who there are? No. And I don’t want to put my son and my wife through turmoil by getting off course. That’s assuming I die before her and get into a mess and then she is wondering, “Was I married to a hypocrite? Was he really converted and got into sin or what happened here?” You should not want to put your children through that. You want to leave a legacy. You should want to leave a legacy that you stayed the course, by the grace of God. What do your kids think when Dad is here, there, here, there? Your sons and daughters are depending on you to stay the course.

So let’s get Christian up here to look at the illustration of this concept one more time. Now if, in fact, you see Christian running away from me, do you think that he wants to be rescued? When I tell him, “Christian, lift your arms up” and he refuses, does he want to be rescued? When he is not following instructions, does he want to be rescued? No. I want to be the disciple that follows instructions so that when the Master says lift your hands up, I do it. Alright, let’s turn Christian around. Now, Christian, turn your eyes on me and keep your eyes on me the whole time. Now, if you see his little head turning all over and drifting around, does that keep me from rescuing him? No it doesn’t, but it sure does call into question whether he wants to be rescued or not. When you see him flailing around out there, and making it difficult for me to rescue him, do you think he wants to be rescued? So when I tell Christian to look at me, follow me and he does and I can pull him right up here, isn’t that sweet? Isn’t that awesome? That is what God the Father does to us and expects us to do: listen to the Son, obey the Master, and follow instructions. Listen to me very closely. The reason we don’t follow instructions well is because we have forgotten the pit of hell is hanging underneath us.

Niagara Falls is a pretty impressive thing. You certainly would not want to fall over the side. If you could understand that you are hanging over Niagara Falls, I bet you would listen to the rescuer. I bet when he said, “Cross your legs and look right at me,” you would cross your legs and look right at your rescuer. I bet you would not take your eyes off the rescuer if you understood that below you, the pit of Hell was hanging. The eternal security of the believer does not give me the license to look like the devil, act like the devil, and live like the devil. Do I drift away sometimes, yes, I do, but by God’s grace He snatches me up, reels me in, gets my attention and says, “Look right here. Listen to me.” What we don’t have is little Christian doing his thing, and God the Father is trying to jerk him back, and there is this huge competition. That is not what is happening here. That is not very God honoring. What is God honoring and God glorifying is when I say, “Master, You tell me where to stand, and You tell me how to stand and I will follow Your instructions.” The way we make our lives God honoring, God glorifying, and Gospel centered is by obeying Him. You see, this snap link is awesome because it’s secure, and you are secure in Christ. But you do not take that security as a license to live like the devil. We are challenged today. Listen to me. Do what I tell you. This is performance oriented training. We understand that in the secular world; move it to the spiritual world and we will do well. There is no assurance of eternal life for those who don’t hear the voice of the Master and obey His Word unless they are being chastised. (Hebrews 12:8) So counselors, teachers, ask them, have you ever experienced the chastisement of God? Do you understand what it is like to be convicted of your sin when no one else knows about your sin? Have you repented of a situation from which you were not threatened by punishment and you just repented because repenting was the right thing to do?

Acts 11:23
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.[or] to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,

Just like Paul did back then, I am doing it now. I am exhorting you, Berean Baptist Church, to stay with the stuff. I am encouraging you. Turn to 1 John 2:19. I want everyone to see it in their own Bibles, please. This is one of the most troubling texts to me. This bothers me. This verse cannot be cut out of the Bible, and I cannot ignore it. It is in the Word of God. It is all inspired, all preserved and in verse 19, the Apostle John writes, they went out from us. There was a group of people that were part of the body of Christ and they went out from us. Wait a minute, look what he says, but that is a strong contrast, they were not of us. Wait a minute. You mean you can be in the church, look like the church, smell like the church, walk like the church, get baptized in the church, have your membership in the church and not actually be part of the church? Notice what he says please, for if they had been of us they would no doubt have continued with us. It says no doubt and that is why I say this is troubling to me. Because I look at my father’s life and I say, No doubt he should have stayed the stuff. And godly people who want to encourage me say, No, he was probably just backslidden. And oh, how I wish I could just grab a hold of that. But I am here to tell you that everyone is not backslidden. In Matthew 7, someone was never known of God. The Bible doesn’t say wide is the path that goes to Heaven and narrow is the path that goes to destruction. It is just the opposite. So what is the exhortation to every dad? What is the exhortation to every spiritual leader? You stay with the stuff. Don’t you dare allow yourself to drift away!

Look at Acts 14:22.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

He exhorted them in the faith. You see when I hear the flippant, “Once saved, always saved” I don’t hear the exhortation to continue in the faith. Where is the exhortation in that phrase to stay the stuff? It is not there. I am here to encourage every single adult believer, every single teenager to stay on the course.

Fact: It is unbiblical to give someone assurance of their salvation if they are not presently living in the faith and hope of the Gospel. It doesn’t mean that they cannot be saved. I am not suggesting that because you do not know the heart. All you know is what the Word of God says. And the Word of God says that they continue in the faith. You say, Pastor, are there backslidden people? Yes. There are backslidden people. But backslidden people are characterized by returning to the faith. Why? Because God chastises them, pulls at them and draws them in. Why? Because they are His own. If there is no chastisement in your life and you are backslidden, you are in fact a bastard according to the Word of God. And so, if I am in sin and I do not feel any chastisement, that should be of tremendous concern to me. Men, if you are in deep, dark sin and no one knows about it and you are not feeling chastisement about it, don’t dare have a confidence in your eternal life.

BBC Article of Faith #12
We believe in the eternal security and everlasting blessedness of the saved, and the eternal conscious punishment of the lost. The preservation of all believers rests upon the finished work of Christ, the promises of God, the gracious election, and the sovereign predestination of God.

We are not working our way to Heaven with this. No one is suggesting this in any way, shape or form. But what we are suggesting is that people of the faith are characterized by godly living.

Turn to Acts 27: 22, 31. God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility are both presented in this passage. Let’s put this together: God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility. Up here on this platform, God is Sovereign. God snatches Christian up; God rescues Christian. God doesn’t need Christian’s help one bit. God has already determined that Christian is reconciled. He is being reconciled, and he will continue to be reconciled. There is no need to help Him, God can do it all. That is Sovereignty. What is human responsibility? ”Turn around. Look at me. Put your hands up. Do what I tell you to do.” It’s not so that you can help God save you. It is because you have a responsibility to obey the Master. If the Master says to cross your legs because that is better for the rescue attempt, then you cross your legs. If the Master says to look right here, then you look right here. Okay, so let’s see this in the text. Acts 27 is the story of Paul getting ready to go to Rome. He is on his final journey, and he is being held captive. He has a centurion and a guard of soldiers guarding him. They have rented or leased a ship to move this prisoner back to Rome. So there are soldiers on the ship as guards, there are sailors on the ship to take care of the ship and there is a centurion as a guard. They get into a tremendous storm. They should not have set sail. Paul had told them not to set sail. They ignored him, and they moved forward. Lives are being threatened and people think that they are going to die. In verse 22, Paul gets word from the Angel of God that everyone is going to make it. No one is going to die. I have already ordained that this ship is going forward. So at that point, does that give everyone the freedom to rest? No. In verse 31 the sailors don’t believe in the promise of God. And they get really nervous and they begin to abandon ship. They are sneaking off into these little small boats to let the ship crash. And please notice what verse 31 says. Paul says unless you abide on the ship you are going to perish. Do you know what that was? That was human responsibility. What was the means whereby God had ordained to save the crew? The sailors were. Don’t allow the doctrine of eternal security of the believer to lull you into a false sense of security where you can live like the devil and act like the devil.

2 Peter 1:10
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

You give diligence. Do you know what that is? That is a challenge from the Word of God. You make sure that your election is sure. You stay by the stuff. These hit and miss devotions, this hit and miss church attendance, every now and then showing up to the house of God does not sound like diligence to me. Diligence is staying by the stuff, focusing on the Word of God, listening to the Master. That is giving diligence. Now here is the promise for those that give diligence: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Did you get that? There is the comfort right there. I’m challenged to give diligence, and I’m comforted to know that He has got me in His hands. While little Christian is commanded to look this way, if he drifts away and gets off course, the Master can turn him around. And if he drifts off course, the Master can pull him back in. But we are instructed clearly from the Word of God to stay the course.

A Short Examination of Discipleship Options

A Google search of discipleship materials available to the church is overwhelming. Clearly the church is hungry for anything that can be marketed as “proven successful.” According to Barna, even though the resources now may be better than any time in the past, the results are pitiful at best. Baptists, Methodists, Assembly of God and others have all created a variety of curriculums that focus on doctrine or spiritual disciples or spiritual gifts or a combination of all three. Curriculums vary tremendously from DVD series, lecture series, small group discussion programs, and teacher-pupil methods. The purpose of this short paper is to articulate and evaluate what is available for discipleship and indicate what a pastor should use.

The huge array of choices for discipleship programs available for purchase through the Internet eliminates any excuses for not having resources available for church members to disciple new converts. Moreover, conferences full of vendors are held all over the world trying to market their resources with glossy-color photos, bright colors and huge selections of curriculum. Of the choices, a DVD series is probably the worst choice. First, the pastor (or disciple-maker) who purchases a DVD series or curriculum series will not facilitate the series with the same passion he would if he had prepared the lessons himself—passion is important in discipleship. Second, pastors must remember that resources that discipled converts well in Miami, Florida may not work quite as well in Boise, Idaho. While the biblical truths will remain the same, the articulation and application of those truths in a culture that is remarkably different may need to be different. Third, in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, by John MacArthur, S. Lance Quinn emphasizes that preaching or teaching is not sufficient to make disciples. He says, “[Discipleship] finds its real fruition across the entire spectrum of the shepherd’s work: feeding, leading, cleaning, bandaging, protecting, nurturing, and every other aspect of a tender shepherd’s loving care. This is the process of discipling.” The guy on the DVD will have a hard time doing what Quinn insists is necessary for spiritual formation in the life of the disciple. There is no digital substitute for the disciple-maker.

All programs that work well have one thing in common, they have a teacher behind them that is utterly committed to the truth and wants to see that truth applied in the life of the disciple. The Lord Jesus modeled this perfectly in the embryonic church, and the apostles followed His lead. Jesus is the Truth, and they preached Him. Passing the responsibility to disciple a convert to a man or woman on a plastic disc or an author of a book was not an option. For eighteen plus centuries, it is fair to say, discipleship consisted of a man (or woman), a convert(s) and the Word of God. That model is biblical and still must be the foundation to all discipleship regardless of the supplementary materials used. Nothing can replace a passionate disciple-maker who earnestly desires to see Christ formed in the life of his converts.

Curriculum choices must be carefully evaluated against two criteria: first, the Word of God; and second, the church’s doctrine. A curriculum produced by an Arminian Charismatic fellowship will not work for a Reformed Baptist. However, the more the curriculum focuses on the person and work of Christ, the more effective it will be. Jesus said if the church would lift Him up He would draw people to Himself (John 12:32). Converts need to be using their Bibles throughout the lessons. The curriculum must cause them to read and articulate an understanding and application of truth. The “so what?” question must be asked over and over.

Barna’s research in Growing True Disciples clearly demonstrates that if a discipleship culture is going to develop in a church, the Senior Pastor has to be the champion of this cause. Barna believes the senior pastor must be “an irrepressible advocate of discipleship” and should create a “hybrid model” of discipleship from the best of all other sources for his church. No one is going to say it the way he wants it said, and he will not be near as passionate about something created by someone he has not met in Miami, Florida when his ministry is in Boise, Idaho. In Miami, Florida, the Baptist pastor is receiving former Catholics into the church; and in Boise, Idaho, the Baptist preacher is hoping that Mormons are being reached with the true gospel. The pastor does not have to start from scratch; two or three good discipleship curriculums should be purchased and then church specific discipleship courses must be developed.

In Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren uses a baseball diamond to communicate the need for a series of training experiences in order to grow a convert into a disciple-maker. From the pulpit, the convert must be continually challenged to grow and the church must have a plan. Nothing beats one-on-one mentorship, but this may not always be possible. Those apt to teach must be involved in teaching with a passion. Perhaps a simple new convert course, followed by a church membership and then an advanced discipleship course would be sufficient initially. Then additional courses in stewardship, parenting, apologetics etc. can supplement the best expository preaching the preacher can produce. The church must track converts moving through these gates and continue to improve its culture of discipleship until it sees converts becoming disciple-makers. Finally, when the church assaults the very gates of hell with a combined, synchronized discipleship effort, it can expect spiritual assault proportional to the manner in which it is pursuing authentic discipleship.


Barna, George. Growing True Disciples. Colorado Spring, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2001.

Barna, George. The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What they Believe and Why They Matter. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005.

Warren, Rick. Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

A Ministry of Reconciliation

June 28, 2009
Pastor Sean Harris

Colossians 1:19-22
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Please notice verse 19, for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Once again we are reminded of the significance of the Deity of Christ. Paul wants to bring this to our attention one more time. The church of Colosse needs to be reminded that Christ, the body of Christ, the Man Christ Jesus has every ounce of Deity within Him. He is the walking, talking, breathing, living God. Why is this so important? Why must we put such emphasis on this? Salvation is in Him and Him alone, and you can’t make up your own “Him.” You cannot decide what attributes you would like Him to have. The Word of God has already made that clear. You can’t pick and choose your Jesus. Your Jesus has every ounce of Godhead in Him.

Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Every ounce of the Godhead, everything that God the Father had, God the Son had—all of it. Paul is communicating that Jesus is completely God. Everything that God is, Jesus is. God is more than Jesus. God includes the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Jesus is only one aspect of God, but He is every bit God. You might be called upon to give an answer at any time, and when you are supposed to give an answer, you want to know how to give the right answer. How pitiful it is for you to say “let me get my preacher”. Every single Christian is called to be able to explain the Person and Work of Christ. Everyone should be able to do that. What a pitiful thing it is if the preaching ministry of the church doesn’t develop God’s people to be able to defend their faith. This is not a social gathering. This is a time of instruction. This is a time of development. This is a time of discipleship. Again and again, I am going to say this: You shouldn’t have to come out to a private class on a Monday night to grow in Christ. You ought to be able to grow in Christ through the preaching and teaching of His Word in Sunday school, Adult Bible Fellowship, Men’s Ministry, and other ministries. Everything that we do ought to be teaching you and encouraging you to grow in Christ. You say that the Father is God, but the Father is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. But they are all God. You say I don’t understand that. Me neither. That is our premise. We just take the Word of God at face value. We just believe that all sixty-six books are divinely inspired and have been preserved by God for our edification. And we are not here to do anything other than present the truth.

1Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

There is only one mediator. The Godhead determined that the man Jesus, who would reconcile the world to God, would be God, sharing all the properties, characteristics, and prerogatives of God Himself. Of course, the movement of incarnation was that God took flesh, not a human became divine (New American Commentary). This is so important for you to understand. A church member sent me an email this week about how she was confronted by a Jehovah Witness and how she needed to be able to articulate her faith. I am telling you right now it is pitiful when a Jehovah Witness comes and knocks on your door, and you find yourself nervous and shaking in your boots and wishing you didn’t have to defend your faith. Something is wrong there. When a Mormon or a cultist knocks on your door, you ought to be able to say “Let me tell you something right now. I believe that Jesus is God and that He is the Son of God.” Just get to the heart of the matter right away. Cut them right off! It is pitiful that they are more articulate than we are. Those who have the truth are less articulate than those who are deceived. Something is significantly wrong there.

Colossians 1:20 And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Peace. That means we were at war. You don’t go to having peace without having war. Everyone understands that. There was a war. God hates sin. There is a war against sin. There is a war against the unbeliever. There is a war against children of disobedience. We are going to talk about the wrath of God. He made peace through the blood that was shed on the cross. The consequence of disobedience is enmity or hostility between God and man. Last week, we had the privilege of dedicating a baby. There are many cute babies, but the reality is outside of Christ Jesus there is an enmity between that little innocent baby, from our perception, and a holy and righteous God. And that is why the ministry of reconciliation, the goal of the Gospel is to get that baby reconciled to God. If we are not committed to that, we might as well just be a club. You know we do some good deeds, we hang out a little bit, we fellowship a little bit, play softball, and have a cute little club. That is not why we are here.

Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Let me tell you something, if you start a Gospel presentation out by letting that sinner know that they are an enemy of God, they might feel more of a need to repent. That is too confrontational, Pastor. Which is more confrontational—tell them the truth or let them die and go to Hell? Which is more loving? You see, if I understand that I am an enemy of God, there is a necessity to figure out that problem. I have got to figure out if I’m an enemy of God. I don’t like that idea; how do I fix that? That is when the soul winner can tell them about the Gospel. But if they don’t understand that their sin separates them from God, God hates that sin, and His wrath abides on that sin, then you are in no position to tell them about the awesome love of God. Verse 20 says that by him to reconcile… Reconcile is this incredible, awesome word that describes the restoration of a friendship. We love the idea of being reconciled. Husbands and wives, when you get into a little tiff, isn’t it awesome to be reconciled? When someone takes the spiritual leadership (and it should be the father, it should be the husband, but sometimes we are too weak to do that, so the wife steps up) and begins to iron through the difficulty and you get honest and transparent one with another, there is a little bit of repentance that goes on inside of that marriage. Then all of a sudden, the joy and love that was there prior to this alienation is now brought back together. That is reconciliation. And reconciliation is awesome in a marriage. Now, you think about two sinners being reconciled, how much more awesome is it to be reconciled to the God of the Universe, the Holy, Sovereign, Perfect God of the Universe. This message of reconciliation is awesome.

So what are the reasons unbelievers don’t think very much of Christ’s work of reconciliation? Why is it that the co-workers, neighbors, students at your college, and people that you associate with that are lost, don’t get excited about the reconciliation of God? Why isn’t that important to them? There are three reasons. Let’s look at them.

Number One: They honestly do not believe that there is a God. They have been duped into believing that evolution is a fact; they were once a blob or they came from a monkey, and there is nothing after death. So they live life with all they can for a few years, and they believe a lie that they are going to decompose in a pine box and that is it. And they love that lie because they love their immorality, and if you love your immorality, you don’t want any accountability. That is the fact.

Number Two: They don’t know that sin has alienated man from God. They believe that they are morally good people, and that as a general rule, God loves me. How in the world wouldn’t God love me? I help my neighbor, and I am a good person. And really, please don’t tell me that God doesn’t love me. You really don’t know me. Don’t judge. That is the world we are living in right now. That is the culture in which you are called to minister. We cannot go back to “Leave it to Beaver.” Those days are over with; we are not going back. We live in a post-modern world in which absolute truths are completely denied, and if we want to get outside of our bubble and start reaching people with the Gospel, we have got to know the people that we are going to encounter. When you engage these people, recognize that they don’t see themselves as alienated from God. They think only Hitler and a few other men like that are alienated from God. For the most part, they can justify their sin. That is exactly what South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford thought when he brought to our attention what happened with David. That was all justification. That is exactly what it was. If it was good enough for David, it was good enough for me. Don’t throw me out of office. God didn’t throw David out of office, so don’t throw me out. That is exactly what he was saying. By the way, he was a Republican so I am an equal opportunity preacher when it comes to that. It doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or a Democrat; you are both going to get it.

Number Three: Misperception. They can’t imagine that God sees them as an enemy; they underestimate God’s wrath. The entire world is in love with the love of God, and we should be in love with the love of God. But what makes the love of God so awesome? It’s the understanding that God is a vengeful, wrathful God Who sets that aside in His mercy and grace. That is what makes it so awesome. If there is no concern for punishment, mercy isn’t that big of a deal. There is no concern. But when all of a sudden, life is on the line and the consequences are over the top and you get mercy, then mercy is a big deal. All you have to do is think about your own life, either as a child or as a parent. When you see Dad explode over something and He sends you to your room, you know the consequences are going to be over the top. You know that you are going to get it. And then when Mom and Dad say I love you. That love is awesome, and that love is magnified. Because you understood that you deserved the punishment. You understood that you were dead to rights. You should have gotten the ticket. You know what I mean. There isn’t anyone that hasn’t sped. You’re driving down the road going way too fast; you know you are guilty there is no way around it. The speed limit is clearly posted. You looked at your speedometer a few minutes earlier. You know you were taking a chance. And you get pulled over. When you know that you are caught dead to rights, and you deserve the ticket but get some mercy, isn’t that mercy awesome?

In the Gospel presentation, you must first address the wrath of God against sinners. You are dead to rights. You deserve the wrath of God. You have to look at the wrath of God (John 3:36, Romans 1:18, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6).

Colossians 3:6 for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.

If they don’t see themselves as a child of disobedience, the Gospel is meaningless to them. If they do not see themselves as alienated and an enemy of God, you don’t have good news for them. And so we have got to establish that first and foremost. Secondly, we need to show that outside of God, there are some irreconcilable differences. We have got to show them that there isn’t a Plan B or Plan C. There’s no way they can be morally pure enough. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All are sinners. I am a sinner. I am the chief of sinners. I lead the way in sinning. And then the mercy of God is magnified. Let me give you a word of caution, please. Do not attempt to defend the love of God by denying the wrath of God. Do not do that. When someone says to you, I do not understand how God can be a loving God and a wrathful God, don’t deny the wrath of God. Don’t try to minimize the wrath of God to magnify the love of God because you are doing just the opposite. When you communicate how holy God is, how just God is, how perfect God is, then that helps you to better understand His mercy and grace. Recognize that God’s wrath toward sinners magnifies His love, mercy, and grace when He extends reconciliation to sinners. Recognize that according to verse 21, before being born again, we were in fact alienated from Christ. Yes, even you. You were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.

I want to pause for just a minute. I want you to think about the parable of the two sons. One son stays home. He is the good son; he doesn’t go out and spend all of the inheritance. The other guy goes out and lives it up. He gets way down in the pig pen of life and asks to be brought back. Now which son more clearly understood the love of the Father? It was the one who thought he wasn’t going to be reconciled, the one who thought that he was going to have to live in the pigpen. He couldn’t get over the fact that his father still loved him. Now don’t misunderstand. I am not encouraging you to run out there and sin. That is not what I am saying. I am saying let’s make sure that we clearly understand how much our sins offend the Holy and Righteous God. Let’s not bring God down to our level. Let’s not try to get God to understand us so He can justify us and wink at our sin. Let’s recognize that ungratefulness is a sin. Let’s recognize that a failure to be content is a sin. Let’s recognize that a failure to recognize God’s goodness is a sin. Let’s recognize that we still have a problem with sin. Self-righteousness kills the church. That is why Christ went after self-righteousness. Look at your Gospels and you see Him going after self-righteousness with a passion. Who gets called vipers? Who gets called snakes? The self-righteous do; the hypocrites do. It is those that recognize that they have a need for a Savior that embrace Christ. So that is our first step. The issue is with man, and most importantly the issue is in the mind. So let’s talk about this—enemies in your mind.

1. It all begins in the mind. You need to be concerned about your thought life. You need to be concerned about your attitude. It starts in your mind.

2. Sinners engage in evil deeds because they are hostile in their minds. That is why I need a new mind. I need a new heart. I need the stony heart removed, and I need fresh flesh put in. I need God to do an work on my whole body. That is exactly what Paul was talking about when he said he couldn’t wait to be delivered of this flesh.

3. Faulty thinking leads to faulty behavior. It starts in the mind. Counselors, this is so important for you to remember when you are dealing with someone. You have to address thinking in the campers. Get into their minds. It is easy to get them to conform to a known set of works. We have to get deeper than that. We have to get into their minds. What were you thinking? It is easy to tell Christians to dress this way, look this way, and walk this way; that is easy. Everyone can conform to a known set of standards. You have to peel that back and get inside the thinking process.

4. Every single thought needs to be taken captive to obey Christ. So let’s be really pointed one more time. Eight years ago: that is when the thought needed to be taken captive for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. That is when he should have grabbed that very first immoral thought and said, “This thought will be taken captive right now. This thought is not okay. This thought is immoral. This thought is sinful. This thought must not go on.” Husbands, do you want to protect your marriages? I want to protect my marriage. I want to go the distance. Then keep a hold of your thought life. Do not allow your thought life to get out of control. When your thought life gets out of control, your behavior gets out of control. Everyone believes somehow that they are strong enough to have a thought life which is immoral but behavior which is moral. It never works that way. This governor attributes the entire affair to the first email. That is one of the problems of the 21st century. We are texting things and typing things that we would never ever say in person. Young people, do not allow yourself to type something or text something that you would not say in person. Do not allow yourself to go down that road because there is no end to it. Your morality is at stake. Eight years ago the affair began in a simple little email. And it started in his mind. Men, our relationship with ladies should be above reproach. Ladies, I know from a pastoral perspective sometimes you think that I am exceptionally short with my emails to you. I am going to tell you right now. That is an intentional decision on my behalf. I don’t ask you how your day went. I don’t ask you how you are doing because I am not to have that kind of relationship with you. Your husband is to have that kind of relationship with you. If I am responding to a lady in an email, they are going to get “just the facts, Ma’am”. I am not going to go any deeper, because I don’t want an email relationship with you. It is the reality. Who does Satan go after? He goes after leaders. He goes after Senior Pastors. Sure, you can email me and I will answer your question, but I should never type something that I am not more than willing to cc my wife on. Here, Sweetheart, read this email. There is something seriously wrong in your marriage if you have a private email account to which your wife does not have access. I know there are some guys that have to have some separate things like that because of the military. I’m not talking about National Security; I am talking about personal accounts. You have your work email and you have your little personal hotmail that no one knows about. There is something wrong that. Take that into captivity right now, Men.

Matthew 12:34-35 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

So the question is “How did the God-man Christ Jesus reconcile man to God? What did Christ do to reconcile you to God?” The Scripture is very clear on that. Look at Colossians 1:20 and 22. He tells us two key elements. Number 1, He shed His blood. The Bible makes it very clear that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Every single lamb, goat, pigeon, and every single thing in the Old Testament that was shed blood was all picturing the Perfect Lamb of God Who would shed innocent blood. And Number 2, He died on that cross. Paul delivers a parallel dissertation on reconciliation to us. We will move through these Scriptures, and then we will wrap it up.

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

That is the issue right now. There is no fear of God in our country. The fear of God is gone. We are not concerned with our immorality. How in the world do you carry on an affair for eight long years and call yourself a Christian? Something is wrong there. Where is the fear of God? Where is the fear of God’s judgment on my life, on my ministry, on my office, and on my state? Where is the fear of God? It is gone in America. That is why there is such a need for pulpits that preach the Word of God, the Truth. I am not mad. I know sometimes it looks like I am mad, but I am honestly not angry. I am passionate about this Truth. I don’t know how to tell you with a million dollar smile on my face to guard your marriage. I can’t do that. Because when we are talking about adultery, when we are talking about destroying families, I feel like that needs a wake up message! I don’t know how to do it any other way. When Paul says, “We have fear of God” he is concerned that some day he is going to stand before a holy and righteous God and account for his life. Yes, his sins are forgiven. That is a true statement. But he still knows that he is going to account for his life, the choices he made, the priorities he had, and the sacrifices he made. He is going to account for that and so he says, we persuade men.

So let me just talk to the Anchorage counselors for a minute. When Monday afternoon comes and those campers come piling off the bus, that is your objective. You are there to persuade men and women. That is it. You are not there to entertain them. You are there to persuade them of the Truth. You want to passionately persuade them of the Truth. That is the goal. If I didn’t think that you were committed to that, I wouldn’t support your ministry. I wouldn’t love you guys the way I do. I am crazy about the Anchorage. I am crazy about the entire ministry because I believe that for 12 weeks during the summer, you are committed to persuading men and women, boys and girls of the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. And Berean Baptist Church is not going to partner with any one that isn’t committed to that.

2 Corinthians 5:14. For the love of Christ constraineth [controls] us; because we thus judge [conclude], that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

So you don’t live for yourself any more. You don’t live for your children. You don’t live for your wife. You live for Him and Him alone. You don’t live for the United States Army. You don’t live for the corporate dollar. You don’t live for the state. You live for Him and Him alone. He alone constrains you. He controls you. Every decision you make is based on what would the Lord have me do? You are not concerned with what you want to do in life. You are concerned with what He has for you to do. Not what college do I want to go to, but where does the Lord want me to go to college? Not what occupation do I want, but what occupation does He want me to have? Not what wife do I want to marry, but what wife does He want me to marry? Not who I want to date, but who does the Lord want me to date? God, please get a hold of every aspect of my life. Will that change you? Yes, it radically changed Paul. The Gospel is supposed to impact my current life so that I no longer live for myself. I live for Him Who died and reconciled me.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliation.

Us: not the preacher, not the deacons, not the Sunday school teachers. Us, all of us, the entire body of Christ; we all have a ministry of reconciliation. The entire church has a ministry of reconciliation. Not only those who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. No, that is not what Paul said. Paul said every one has a ministry of reconciliation. In verse 19, notice that not only do we have a ministry of reconciliation, we have a word of reconciliation. Our message is one of reconciliation. Verse 20 says, we go forward with the message of be ye reconciled to God. Be restored. Our message is not to pray this prayer to avoid Hell. Our message is not an intellectual ascent to the existence of Christ. Our message is not bring your sins up to this bar and exchange it for a suit of asbestos. Our message is not a “health and wealth” Gospel. Maybe you don’t understand what I mean, so let me give you a similar illustration. What would you do about a guy who said, “Do you know what? I don’t want to be by myself when I’m old and gray, so I am going to go find me a wife? I’m tired of doing my own laundry and I would really like for someone to cook for me so I am going to go find me a wife.” What would you think about that? You would say that is ridiculous. That is not why you get married. You get married because you love someone and you adore them and you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Well, that is the Gospel message. The Gospel message is “it’s time to stop adoring yourself and start adoring the Creator God of the Universe.” The Gospel message is “now it’s time to start serving God and God alone.” We don’t come from a message to get out of Hell and go back to your own life living it any way you want. That is not our message. Our message is that it’s time to be reconciled to God. You have been living for yourself long enough. It is time to restore your relationship with God. And so our message of reconciliation comes from Acts 20 and 21: It is a message of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every single counselor has to talk about repentance. That is the true Gospel. That is the only Gospel. You cannot waver from that. That is the message that the Apostles gave, and we must continue to preach that message. God is not reconciling people unto Himself so that they don’t go to Hell. He is restoring them to a place of harmony and friendship with Himself so that they might glorify Him. He is restoring a people who are righteous and who are being made righteous by a sanctifying grace of God. That is why we are saved—to glorify His holy name. We do that through holy living. Let’s compare 2 Corinthians 2:21 to Colossians 1:22.

2 Corinthians 2:21 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.

Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Why is reconciliation so important? Why isn’t justification enough? Why does He redeem us? Why does He do all that for us? So that He can present us holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: The message is that He delivered you to the light. The message is you were a sinner, and He took the righteousness of the Son and put it on your account. The message is that you were enslaved, and He bought you off the block. The message is you were way out there, and He set you apart. The message is you were alienated from God, and He took that enmity. He got it out of the way and said “Let’s get the friendship back in place”. He is literally moving us back to a pre-Fall day. He wants to walk and talk with you in the cool of the Garden. He wants to have an intimate, personal, close relationship with you. He wants you to get up in the morning and start your devotion time saying “God, I just want to be close to You.” And He says, Not only have I justified you, not only have I redeemed you, not only have I delivered you out of darkness, but I have reconciled the harmony that is supposed to be there so that we can have a friendship. This is what you have going on. You have the judge of the county forgiving your debt and inviting you over to his house for a barbeque. And you say, Man, you are the judge that just forgave my sins. He says “yeah, not only am I going to forgive them, but come on over. Let’s grill some burgers together. Let’s sit by the patio and enjoy some fellowship together.” And God says “let’s get close and personal. I want you to know me. I don’t want you to be way out there in the distance. No, I am going to come in with you, sup with you, and be with you. I am going to fill you with my Spirit so that you can have a close and intimate relationship with the God of the Universe.” Now do you understand why it’s important to preach a ministry of reconciliation? Can you see how awesome that is?

So let’s wrap it up with what the application to God’s people in the 21st century is. We go with the message of reconciliation. No one has a message of reconciliation like we do. No one talks about the intimacy that the Word of God communicates. No one talks about being filled with the Spirit of God and having a close and personal relationship with the Creator God of the Universe. No one talks about that. Christianity is alone in that teaching. Christianity is alone in communicating that you can have a personal relationship with the Sovereign God of the Universe. Let’s take it really personal. How in the world could any of us not be reconciled one to another? How can it be that I enjoy reconciliation with God the Father, and you enjoy reconciliation with God the Father, but you and I can’t? How can that be? You are a new creature in Christ. I am a new creature in Christ. I have been reconciled. You have been reconciled. How in the world can you and I hold any animosity toward each other insomuch as we love the reconciliation that God the Father has done for us through Christ? Counselors, are you getting it? The children and the teenagers that you engage with need to be reconciled to someone. I promise you. If they are hurting, if they are distraught, if they are in rebellion, if they are having difficulties, there is someone to whom they need to be reconciled. Often it is going to be a mother or a father or the authority figure in their life. So once you get this reconciliation done, you have to start working that lateral reconciliation. Who do you need to forgive? Let’s make it really personal. How could a husband who loves Jesus and a wife who loves Jesus have irreconcilable differences between them? It should never happen. How in the world would a marriage end up in divorce if the father has been reconciled and the mother has been reconciled? How can that happen when they enjoy the reconciliation that the Father has provided? That should never ever happen in the body of Christ. And when two Christians are refusing to be reconciled, when two counselors are refusing to be reconciled, when two students are refusing to be reconciled, that is sin. Sin which must be confronted and dealt with through what: the power of the Gospel. The same Gospel that saves a soul from Hell is the same Gospel that has the power to reconcile two individuals who believe they have irreconcilable differences.