One Glorious Promise from God

The promise found in Hebrews 10.17 that our God will remember the sins of those in the new covenant “no more” is an incredibly glorious thing.

It is one thing to say that our sins are forgiven, but it is an even more glorious thing to know that our God has forgiven our sins and remembers them no more!

He doesn’t bring up the past over and over again. He doesn’t hold our failures of the past against us today. He doesn’t remind us over and over again of just how far we miss the mark.

He forgives and forgets. But we say, “How does he do that?” He chooses to do that. He is God and when He chooses to do something it happens.

He doesn’t struggle at anything. He doesn’t struggle with deciding not to remember. He is God. He decrees that He has forgiven us in and through His Son and the matter is settled.

What a model.

This is a model I must emulate. This is an example I must follow. When I forgive others I must choose to forget.

But this will not be an easy thing for me; I will not be able to do it on my own. I will need the grace of God—the God who does this will need to give me strength to do the same.

But you say, “I can’t forget the hurt; I can’t forget the pain.” To which I say, “Yes, you are correct. You can’t forgive and forget outside of the grace of God.”

This is your chance to prove God—this is your chance to assure yourself that you are a child of God.

Fall before Him on your knees and layout your case before the King. Tell Him you want to forgive like He forgives but you need His help. And watch Him prove Himself to be all that you need to forgive.

You know that it is His will for you to forgive and forget; therefore, you can ask this in His Name and boldly expect that God will answer your earnest petition for help.

But after you ask for help and seek His assistance, speak no more of the issue. It is settled. His grace is sufficient and you must be obedient.

Bringing the matter up again makes a mockery of your petition to forgive and forget. When you open your mouth to utter a complaint or grievance you must not truly want to forgive like God forgives or you wouldn’t open your mouth.

But you ask about your mind—what about my mind?

When this memory of hurt comes flooding into your mind—change your mind. Think on different things. Think about your morning devotion, think about your things to do list, think about Hebrew 10:17, think about the cross—reject your thought. Determine that this isn’t your thought and take no ownership of it. Reject it like an arrow from the enemy and send it back where it came from.

Announce for all to hear in the spiritual world that you have forgiven and will remember no more through the power of the blood that was shed for the sins of the whole world and reassert your victory over the matter.

He remembers our sins no more! What a gospel. What a glorious gospel. What a magnificent, glorious gospel.

Pause for a moment and think about how churches would be different if we remembered no more.

Coed Nakedness

I have a simple question:

How do ladies who call themselves Christians who love their brothers-in-Christ, take pictures of themselves in bikinis and intimate apparel and post them on a website for all to see without being convicted by the Holy Spirit of the need to be modest at all times?

The Internet, more specifically My Space, Facebook, chatrooms and other websites have created an entirely new way helping men and women fall into sin.

Ok, I have more than one question.

How does a sister-in-Christ who says she loves her brothers-in-Christ, swim with other young men in a pool, lake or ocean when she is barely covering her nakedness and not be prompted by the Holy Spirit that this isn’t right?

Does she really think any guy can swim next to her, talk to her, bump into her and keep his thought life pure?

What are we doing?

Female nakedness promotes thoughts of immorality and sets the conditions for behavior and actions that the Bible calls fornication—sexual immorality.

Does any female in a church really expect a guy to forget how much he saw of her the day before at the beach or the lake when he is sitting next to her in church?

Jesus is very clear that any male or female who dwells on what a sexual relationship would be like with a person of the opposite sex is committing adultery unless they are married.

This isn’t an old-fashion Baptist thing (unless you are going back to John the Baptist!).

This isn’t a legalistic, fundamental, baptistic kind of a standard. This is Jesus’ clarification to some self-righteous dudes who thought as long as they didn’t go “all the way” they were not violating the Mosaic Law. BUT that is NOT what Jesus clarified! (See Matthew 5:27-30).

Jesus made it clear that He expects His followers to have clean thought lives and the ladies of the church have a God-given, moral responsibility to help others keep their thought lives PURE by not showing off their nakedness. Every female must understand that there are several parts of her body that evoke thoughts which are inappropriate and those parts must be properly covered at all times-unless she is with her husband, having a baby, seeking medical care or ALONE!

This pastor doesn’t see how young men and young women swimming together, bumping into each other, getting semi-physical as they “play” in the water—can keep their thought life pure and avoid the appearance of evil!

Does anyone really believe they have arrived at such a level of sanctification that they can stare at nearly naked, well developed, beautiful woman and not think un-pure thoughts?

The time is NOW and the message is clear—it’s time to REPENT.

Praise God He is faithful and promises to forgive us of our sins if we confess them. Its time to confess the sin that I have not been concerned about the appearance of evil, I have not been concerned about my Christian brothers, I have not remained modest at all times and I am going to change this part of my life by God’s grace.

Paul's Prayer Life

Colossians 1:3-6

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

I want you to notice in verse three as you look in your Bible that he says “we give thanks to God praying always.” So his thanksgiving is a part of his private prayer time. A portion of Paul’s prayer time was consumed with expressing thanksgiving. Now don’t miss that. Don’t jump over that. Look at your own individual prayer time and ask yourself “am I more thankful for possessions or people?” Think about that. Think about what you articulate in your own private prayer time. Everyone, consider your own private prayer time. Everyone consider what you pray about on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Do you find yourself expressing more thanksgiving over possessions or people? Think about this idea: Am I more concerned over that which is temporal or that which is permanent? Do I thank God for Who He is? Do I say “God, You are awesome; You are incredible. You are worthy. I just want to thank You, God.” Do you articulate personal thanksgiving to God about these things: your property, your home, your possessions, and your health? All those are fine, and you should thank God for those things. But fortunately our health is temporary. If you have arthritis, you are thankful that it is temporary. If your grandmother or grandfather have Alzheimer’s, like mine do, you are thankful that it is temporary. You are thankful that they are not going to have to deal with that the rest of their lives, that when God gives them that resurrected body, they’ll be done with that.

So I want to make sure that if I look at my own private prayer time, if Sean Harris analyzes his own private prayer time, I make sure that it is more time thanking God for Who He is and for His work in and for God’s people.

Paul’s concentration in his prayer time was always what God had done for others followed by his continual thanksgiving for God’s grace. Paul never got over the fact that God saved him. He never got over that. If you know anything about the Apostle Paul, you know that on a regular basis in his letters to the churches he continually expressed how thankful he was that God saved him. Paul did not come from a self-righteous perspective that,” God, You got it right when you saved me.” Paul always put things in perspective, and he could not get over the fact that a rebel like him, a person who persecuted Christians, who fought the Gospel, who just was out to destroy the Kingdom of Christ was instead radically changed by the power of the Gospel. And so on a regular basis, Paul would pour out his heart to God and thank Him for saving his soul. So I want to ask you when was the last time you got on your hands and knees before God and said, “God Almighty, thank You for saving me from my sins?” When was the last time you said “Jesus, I can’t believe You saved me?” When was the last time you said, “You are awesome, God?” When was the last time you poured out your heart and said, “God, You are incredible? You didn’t have to save me. You didn’t have to send Your Son. You could have let it all go, but You took the initiative! God, I just want to tell You that I love You.” Do you know that will do your heart good? If you start your daily devotional and prayer time like that, if you just start praying and naming off people, I promise you if you get down on your hands and knees, (if you are still able to and praise the Lord if you still can), it will change your focus for the day. Because when we pray about possessions we start a possession focused day. But when we begin our day focused on people and God’s work in people, it will change your day. You will have a much harder time gossiping about your preacher if you pray for him. That is a fact. It won’t come natural.

Several lessons can be learned from Paul’s prayer life.

He had a regular prayer life. It was a continual part of his life.
The church was regularly in Paul’s mind.
It involved thanksgiving.
He interceeded for others on a consistent basis.

Finish this sermon at http://bbcfnc.org/docs/Harris052409[1].pdf

Camp Anchorage

Wow! I had an incredible time at Camp Anchorage on Lake Waccamaw, NC last week. Six days of Senior Youth Camp with Pastor Sammy Frye and the entire staff at the camp was outstanding. What a pleasant combination of lots of great activities with a good emphasis on the Word of God. The music was off the chain in an especially God-honoring way. By the end of the week the young people were praising God in song with lyrics that were chalked full of truth.

The days were full with fishing for some starting as early as 6.15 and the final evening devotions occurring as late as midnight.

The food at the camp is terrific served family style with enough to leave every meal stuffed. The kitchen staff is exceptionally pleasant and really seemed to enjoy the ministry. My personal favorite was the Wednesday night chicken meal, but every meal was great. You really don’t think you are eating camp food. I ran several days and enjoyed the water recreation daily so I felt a bit more liberty to eat well.

The camp is small so you really feel like one big family enjoying camp together but the Lake is huge providing lots of room to ski, tube, fish and swim. They have a large soccer field behind their field house so there is sufficient room to do all you would like at camp.

A new deck area over Lee’s Creek provided a great place to hang out, read, and relax. The deck is shaded very well with a great breeze coming off the Lake.

Every day the campers enjoyed various indoor games with creative twists like playing dodge ball with a medic. Austin especially enjoyed the evening time of skating and the food.

I listened to several God and I times led by the camp counselors and it was very apparent these young men and women have a genuine heart for the campers.

Every day the sponsors met for prayer and it was awesome to see God answer our prayers in the lives of the campers. At the evening worship and preaching service decisions were made for Christ. One night Sammy preached on bitterness and the response was overwhelming with young people seeking counsel for hours into the night.

We saw several campers from BBC make decisions to follow Christ. We now pray they will have the discipline to follow their decisions.

We will use the camp again in August for our school “Get Acquainted Days” and then we will enjoy the camp again for Men’s Retreat on Oct 8-10th. If you are not registered for the Men’s Retreat you need to do so now. Get a brochure at the church.

BBC needs to increase its support of this great ministry led by David and Jeannie Ulrich and Aaron and Whitney Burke; learn more about the camp at http://www.anchoragecamp.org/.

I wish I had the power to make more of your sophomores and juniors attend camp.

This year one of our student members worked at the camp and I hope more will consider this great summer ministry. Its a little like being a missionary all summer long.

What was your favorite part of the camp? Do you have any favorite camp memories?

Gracious Election

Jesus said: Many are called, but few are chosen in Matthew 22:14. Many commentators skip right over this verse in their analysis of Matthew 22.

Here is one author's opinion.

22:14 many are called, but few are chosen. The call spoken of here is sometimes referred to as the “general call” (or the “external” call)—a summons to repentance and faith that is inherent in the gospel message. This call extends to all who hear the gospel. “Many” hear it; “few” respond (see the many-few comparison in 7:13, 14). Those who respond are the “chosen,” the elect. In the Pauline writings, the word “call” usually refers to God’s irresistible calling extended to the elect alone (Rom. 8:30)—known as the “effectual call” (or the “internal” call). The effectual call is the supernatural drawing of God which Jesus speaks of in John 6:44. Here a general call is in view, and this call extends to all who hear the gospel—this call is the great “whosoever will” of the gospel (cf. Rev. 22:17). Here, then, is the proper balance between human responsibility and divine sovereignty: the “called” who reject the invitation do so willingly, and therefore their exclusion from the kingdom is perfectly just. The “chosen” enter the kingdom only because of the grace of God in choosing and drawing them.

What do you think?

What was Jesus' point?

Prophets and Pastors: A Change Agent

There are innumerable examples of why positive change is an absolute necessity of life. Throughout the Bible, God continually calls upon people to effect positive change both individually and corporately. The word repent is a call for change. When God called Abram to relocate and become a follower of the one true God, Abraham had to make effect positive change in his life. On a continual basis, prophets call upon God’s people to change. Jesus called upon the Jews to radically change in their understanding of the law and the prophets. The Apostle Peter had to change his way of thinking about Gentiles and the gospel. Each of Paul’s epistles is a call for change. In fact, it is fair to say that pastors continually call upon their people to change; and the pastor who does not learn how to effect positive change in the church he is called to lead will greatly struggle at accomplishing God’s will. Therefore, it is critical that all leaders, including and especially pastors, understand the dynamics associated with creating an environment for change in their own life and the life of an organization.

In Developing the Leader within You, John C. Maxwell, presents twelve characteristics of a leader in trouble. Characteristics like, “fights change, stays inflexible, will not take a risk, lacks imagination, and is insecure and defensive” and others will significantly hinder a pastor’s effectiveness as the leader of the church (Maxwell 1993, 56-57). Change individually or corporately is not natural. Maxwell presents several pointed case studies which illustrate the negative consequences of a business man’s lack of ability to change. For example, Ford’s unwillingness to change the model T put case market shares at stake, which is significant in the corporate world (Ibid.). The Lord Jesus pointedly reminded his followers that gaining the world is nothing if a man loses his soul (Mk. 8:36). When souls are at stake, it is critical that spiritual leaders understand the importance of being willing to change themselves or the organization when the Spirit of God calls for change. Once Paul personally changed His view on the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, he was then able to become God’s agent of change in a very significant way to most of the known world of the first century.

Maxwell presents a quote from the chairman of Deere Company as a means of being willing to change. Hewitt states, “To be a leader, you must preserve all through your life the attitude of being receptive to new ideas” (Maxwell 1993, 52). With the exception of receptiveness to heretic doctrine, every pastor would do well to embrace a positive receptivity to new ideas. Far too many churches are empty, not making budget, struggling for existence, void of male leadership and overall failing to engage the next generation with the gospel because the congregation is not willing to change and the pastor is not willing to be an agent of change. Because the pastor is often the single significant leader in the church, it is critical that he at a minimum understand “the attitude and motivational demands for bringing about” change (Maxwell 1993, 52). In Pastor Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, John MacArthur advises pastors to “relentlessly force your ministry to conform to the Word” (MacArthur 2005, 299). Essentially, MacArthur is suggesting that the pastor must be an agent of change anytime the ministry he leads has a facet that is not aligned with the will of God as revealed in His Word.

People resist change because man is fallen and is inherently a selfish being that has a significant propensity to rebel against all forms of authority. Maxwell suggests that change is hard because “the leader has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and only lukewarm defenders in those who do well with change” (Maxwell 1993, 53). Although not mentioned by Maxwell, his premise is best illustrated by the resistance Christ received by the Jewish leaders who were doing well under the old system when He hinted at the need for change. When anyone suggests the need to change something, they are putting themselves in a position of authority. This may not sit well with most people. Independent Baptists still use a Bible translation that is 250 years old because the vast majority of God’s people are just as generally resistant to change as unbelievers.

Maxwell presents fourteen reasons why people resist change. Each of these reasons is reflective of just how fallen man is. Maxwell appeals to the natural man and writes to the leader who cannot appeal to the spiritual side of man. For example, in Maxwell’s fourteen reasons the discussion concerning God’s will in change is not even mentioned. Again, this may be fine for effecting change at McDonalds, but the local church is substantially different from a fast-food enterprise whose bottom line drives the need for change. Therefore, when Maxwell discusses the difference between changes that are self-initiated or not—this is a partially reasonable consideration in building an environment for change. If the pastor does not teach his people the necessity of change when God is leading or conformity to the Word of God is required, all change in his church will be an uphill battle for the duration. When Maxwell states that “change creates fear of the unknown,” he is right; therefore, there is a necessity to trust God. God’s people need to be taught to trust in His Sovereignty.

Spiritual leaders desiring to be agents of change must examine each of Maxwell’s points carefully to ensure that they are appealing to a biblical worldview and not appealing to the flesh. When Maxwell presents the necessity to motivate people to change using rewards, the pastor needs to appeal to eternal rewards for Kingdom work. Concerning being satisfied with status quo, Maxwell presents an interesting story about the Swiss watch company and their failure to adapt to change. Every pastor should give serious consideration to examining if the church they lead is identical in its perspective to the Swiss watch company which refused to go digital in its watch production. Christ has promised that His Church will not die, but the local church that refuses to change may very well die (Maxwell 1993, 58-59). “Change may mean personal loss” (Ibid.) Correction- change does mean personal loss. Jesus told His followers to deny themselves. Change requires additional commitment; again, yes it does. This is the message of the gospel. The gospel requires change. Spiritual leaders should not allow their people to create compartments for change where they refuse to allow spiritual influence to affect their behavior. Although it is critical that spiritual leaders lead in such a manner that they are respected, it should not be necessary to effect change because the spiritual leader needs to appeal to Jesus as the Head of the Body of Christ. Now, in those cases where the change is not clearly established as Biblical, the leader must be open to the reality that his change may not be necessary.

Finally, Maxwell’s creating a climate of change contains many practical solutions, but all of it must be shrouded in a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His Revelation to the church. Within the section on creating a climate for change, Maxwell presents ten tasks/ questions the leader must ask about making change. For example he writes: “1. List the major influencers of the major groups within your organization. 2. How many will be affected directly by this change? 6. Which group is the majority?” (Maxwell 1993, 69). Maxwell’s questions are good questions, but certainly the goal of any pastor is not to create an environment where God lead and God necessary change requires working through “which group is the majority, which group is most influential?” etc. Although there is a significant degree of practicality in Maxwell’s advice to leaders, clearly the goal is to change the environment within the church to the point that the influencers are not asking who is stronger but what is God’s will. All this is not to say that the spiritual leader should not follow the advice Maxwell gives. For example, the eight ways in offering “ownership of change to others” but this must be tempered, at all times, with a continual call to ask: “What would God have us to do? Is this something that I can live with or without? Can I trust in God’s Sovereignty through the leadership of the church?” and other similar questions.

Change is necessary because change is expected by the Sovereign God of the Universe. The pastor who does not learn to be a change agent will not be an effective pastor. When the church is taught that it must be continually conforming itself to the leadership of the Christ through the God-ordained officers of the church, change will not be difficult. When Jesus is Lord of the church, instead of tradition, a matriarch or the chairman of the deacon board, the environment will begin to be set to accept change well. This does not mean that wisdom will not be necessary when implementing positive change, but Spirit-lead change will more readily be accepted by Spirit-filled followers of Christ. Paul instructed others to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). If the church is filled with followers of Christ, they will willingly embrace change by God’s Grace, once they are fully convinced that the agent of change is following Christ. Then the agent of change can seek to know how he should implement the practical guidance Maxwell provides within the framework of a biblical worldview.


References

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

Maxwell, John C. 1993. Developing the Leader within You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.