Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Blog Site

I have finally made the switch to a new blog on Wordpress. Please start following me at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Real Hope

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

13 Οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων, ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα.

I think it is pretty obvious that Paul uses "asleep" as a euphemism for "dead." Paul uses the subjunctive mood with the phrase ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε. This is the mood of possibility. It is not something that has happened yet, but it might happen. That is why it is translated as "may not grieve." This is one of the instances where it has a weak imperatival force to it. Paul is telling them not to grieve. He contrasts them with οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα. This could be thought of as "the remaining." In other words, this is everyone else. Everyone who is not a Christian goes through life μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα. Note that ἔχοντες is a participle. This gives a continuous force to it. He is saying that everyone who is not a believer goes through life in a continuous state of hopelessness.

Of course, hope is big business. That concept got someone elected president. But if our hope is in any person then we are closer to this.I don't care if that person is a Republican or Democrat. There is no hope is a person apart from Christ.

This is a truth that we need to believe deeply. We say we do, but the way we live indicates otherwise. How zealous are we for evangelism? If our zeal is weak then it is because we do not believe this deeply. Do we despair when a brother or sister in Christ dies? We should be sad and miss them, but we should never despair because if they are in Christ then they have real hope. It's the same hope we have if we are in Christ.

But where this gets really tricky is the other side. Every funeral I've ever attended has promised that the deceased is in heaven. But how can someone say that unless he is sure that the person trusted Christ for his salvation? Otherwise, that person was living in hopelessness and will continue to do so for eternity.

It all begins and ends with Christ. He also is everything in between. You want real hope? It's in Christ and nowhere else.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How We Live

 1 Thessalonians 3:8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

8 ὅτι νῦν ζῶμεν ἐὰν ὑμεῖς στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ.

Paul is writing about how he was concerned for the Thessalonians. He was afraid that they had fallen to the temptation that Satan threw at them. This is how he sums it all up. The word he uses in hope is στήκετε. This word is derived from a word derived from ἵστημι, which indicates strength. That is why it has the sense of standing firm or persevering. In other words, the Thessalonians' perseverance was life to Paul.

I had a hard time relating to this until I got involved in a church plant. The more I interact with people the more I appreciate this. I didn't go to seminary for my sake. I went to seminary so that I could more accurately preach and teach God's Word and help people. I do not exist for myself either. No Christian does. My job is to die to myself daily to help others live. There is nothing so encouraging as trying to help someone and see the good effects of that help.

Of course, this also  means that we need to be ready for the converse. There will be times when people do not stand fast and that will be like a slow death to us. Sometimes it will be like a punch in the stomach. You can't have the good without the bad. Nevertheless, I think that Paul clearly emphasizes the positive here. Seeing the Thessalonians live served as a great encouragement to him.

Hopefully anyone out there reading this loves his pastor and wants to serve him. We cannot manufacture obedience to the Word, but when it is manifested in our lives it most certainly is an encouragement to your pastor.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pleasing Preaching

1 Thessalonians 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

4 ἀλλὰ καθὼς δεδοκιμάσμεθα ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πιστευθῆναι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, οὕτως λαλοῦμεν, οὐχ ὡς ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκοντες ἀλλὰ θεῷ τῷ δοκιμάζοντι τὰς καρδίας ἡμῶν.

I don't really have a ton of deep exegetical insight about this. This is just a verse that struck me today. I do think that the word πιστευθῆναι is translated "to be entrusted with." This word is πιστεύω, which typically means something like "to believe" or "to have faith in." I don't want to make too big of a deal about it as this would preach really well and I'm not sure it is valid, but you could almost say that God had faith in Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. But isn't that what "entrusted" is all about? God trusted them. Why could He do that? He is the one who gave them new hearts so that they would be worth trusting. It's not about their inherent character and it's not something that they can manufacture. I fear that would how this could be preached and I would hate to do that.

What is their response? They speak so as to please God rather than man. They are not so concerned about making man happy as they are about making God happy. If you read the rest of this chapter you will see that this is not a license to bring out the big gilded pew bible and use it as a sledgehammer. However, it is a clear call to faithfulness in gospel ministry.

Frankly, that is the call that we all have. Want to make God happy? Preach the gospel. It seems that we look for hoops to jump through. God is not happy with you simply because you dress a certain way, avoid certain movies, and don't drink beer. In this case, Paul emphasizes that his preaching the gospel makes God happy.

Let's focus on that, amen?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Knowing the Elect

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

4 εἰδότες, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ, τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν, 5  ὅτι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν οὐκ ἐγενήθη εἰς ὑμᾶς ἐν λόγῳ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν δυνάμει καὶ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ [ἐν] πληροφορίᾳ πολλῇ, καθὼς οἴδατε οἷοι ἐγενήθημεν [ἐν] ὑμῖν δι᾽ ὑμᾶς.

One fairly common criticism of Calvinism is that it squelches evangelism. The argument goes that if God elects people from before the world began why bother with evangelism? Won't He save the people He means to save no matter what?

The short answer to that is of course a simple "yes," but that is woefully inadequate. This verse gives a little more insight into the issue. The phrase τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν is translated "he has chosen you," but technically it is "your election" or "your choosing." Verse 5 explains this. How do we know about your election? It is because the gospel came to them ἐν δυνάμει καὶ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ [ἐν] πληροφορίᾳ πολλῇ. What Paul means is that the gospel was not mere words to the Thessalonian believers, but it had true power to them.

How do we know who the elect are? They are the ones who respond to the gospel. It is our job to pray, preach, persuade, and do whatever we can to clearly communicate the gospel to people. But we cannot save anyone. All we can do is put the gospel out there. Their acceptance is between them and the Lord. We know the elect by the fruit of the gospel in their lives?

Does that mean that everyone who appears to live a godly lifestyle is saved? No. But we can be pretty sure that anyone who is not changed by the gospel is not saved. We can never be certain about anyone's future state. This is why we keep preaching the word. We put it out there. My prayer is that my preaching today would fall on fertile soil and produce fruit.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Walking Evangelistically

Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

5 Ἐν σοφίᾳ περιπατεῖτε πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι.

I know that I tend to gloss over some of these short exhortations near the end of Paul's epistles. I feel like I got most of the meat earlier and now I'm just getting bits of potato with gravy. But I think we make a big mistake if we overlook this short verse. The verb περιπατεῖτε is in the imperative and while it technically does mean "walk," it has the sense of lifestyle. In other words, Paul is telling the Colossians that their lifestyles should be wise toward outsiders. I also take τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι to mean that we should seize any opportunity to show or share Christ with τοὺς ἔξω, or "those who are outside." The word ἐξαγοραζόμενοι is a present participle, so that gives a sense that it is something we should routinely do.

I think about how I interact with my neighbors. Do I take care of my house? That's part of my witness toward them. How do I interact with my coworkers? Do I do the best job I can? That's part of my witness. Do I tip well at restaurants? Am I polite with people who help me at restaurants and stores? That doesn't necessarily mean that I get to a gospel presentation every time, but I want my way of life to be wise toward outsiders.

Do we really believe the second half of this verse? It is not hard to imagine seeing a bunch of cars outside a neighbor's house one day only to find out that someone died. Did I share the gospel with that person? Or maybe a coworker quits or gets fired before I can share the gospel with him. Am I looking for opportunities and making the best use of the time or am I being lazy?

This is really convicting for me. It is one more reason why I need to work as hard as I can at the office. It is something I am prayerfully improving upon lately, but there is still room to grow. Ultimately it comes down to the gospel. Do I believe it enough to prayerfully change my life so that I can share it effectively?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pursuing Holiness

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

1 Εἰ οὖν συνηγέρθητε τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε, οὗ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενος·

Paul follows up his argument from chapter 2 by starting another one. He uses a first-class condition. Basically he is asking the reader to assume that he has indeed been raised with Christ. If this is indeed true, and let's assume it is, then you should seek the things that are above. He then goes on to explain more about that.

I think that we can safely turn this around. If we seek the things that are above we have probably been raised with Christ. However, if we do not seek the things that are above then we likely have not been raised with Christ.

I am all for preaching grace. In fact, I hate the non-gospel of legalism that pervades so many churches. Most churches in America are basically centers for moralistic therapeutic deism. They have a vague sense of who God is, but they think that they get to Him by behaving better. The answer is not to do better.  The answer is to repent and believe.

But this verse shows us where that should go. If we have been raised with Christ then He should be our chief pursuit. There is nothing else for us to pursue as important as pursuing Christ. This should consume us and be the focus of our lives.

Is it for you? It is for me, though I fall short more than I'd like to admit. Yet I take solace knowing that the pursuit of Christ is the deepest desire of my heart. And when I waver I know that I can go back to Him and He will get me back on the narrow path. This is not something I do, but something He does in me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pursuing Holiness

Colossians 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

23 ἅτινά ἐστιν λόγον μὲν ἔχοντα σοφίας ἐν ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ καὶ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ [καὶ] ἀφειδίᾳ σώματος, οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινι πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκός.

Paul is finishing up his argument about true holiness. He spends a lot of time talking about Christ and then he finishes with a series of verses about those who advocate various forms of asceticism as a means of godliness. This verse concludes that argument.

Why do I bring this up? It seems that as people we have a tendency to either license or legalism. The circles I run in tend more toward legalism, and I am as guilty of that as anyone. This is particularly prevalent in Independent Baptist churches. I've met some folks from this world who are assured of their salvation because they do not drink beer or wine. They would claim that they are saved by grace and not by works, but their attitude clearly indicates the contrary.

I am not advocating any use of Christian liberty. That is a matter for personal conscience. But as someone who served in a ministry helping people find freedom from besetting sins, I can tell you that there is a very fine line we must walk. Legalism is easier than grace. It is easier to discern a rule than to follow conscience informed by the Word and the Spirit.

My prayer is that those of us who love the Lord would follow Him based on the clear teaching of Scripture. Any pursuit of holy living must be the result of His grace working in our lives. Let's live accordingly, amen?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Two Kingdoms

 Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins

13 ὃς ἐρρύσατο ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους καὶ μετέστησεν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ, 14  ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν·

This is one of those passages that I tend to read through fairly quickly, but don't stop to ponder. Something made me slow down a bit this morning and I am glad. The word ἐξουσίας is translated "domain," but it also has the idea of authority. Of course, the word βασιλείαν means kingdom. We are accustomed to seeing reference to the "kingdom of God," which I believe is synonymous with the kingdom of His beloved Son. Verse 14 tells us that in Christ we have redemption, that is to say the forgiveness of sins.

Sadly, I think that we often neglect the truth that this implies. Most faithful gospel presentations in America will talk about how we are subject to the wrath of God because of sin. That is certainly true and it is something we must understand. But what we also need to emphasize is that we belonged to a completely different team. It's not that we were indifferent to God we He saved us, but we were hostile to God.

If you like sports metaphors think Yankees and Red Sox. Or think Cowboys and Redskins. Ohio State and Michigan. There is no middle ground when we talk about these kingdoms. We are either loyal to τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους or to τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ. We can't have it both ways.

So how are you living? If someone examined your life and had to guess which kingdom you were in, what would he say? If you're abroad and you see a big guy with a thick Brooklyn accent wearing a NY Giants jersey and another guy with an English accent wearing a Manchester United jersey, you can safely guess who is from England and who is from America. How we live and act belies our ancestry.

But let's not be double-agents either. There are many who go through the motions of the kingdom of God, but their hearts are still in the kingdom of darkness. American fundamentalism breeds folks like this with its cultic manipulation tactics. Let's live as citizens of heaven, but with pure hearts that only come from regeneration, amen?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Where I've Been

As you can see, blogging has been on the back burner for me lately. This is due to a number of factors. One is that I'm using my morning time for reading my Bible instead of blogging. From a pure GTD perspective, I should do my Bible reading at lunch, but I'd rather start with Scripture. I'm still doing Professor Horner's plan and I still really like it.

Another reason is that I have little time in the evenings. Since graduating from seminary I have tried to spend more consistent time with my wife. Lately that means the hyper-spiritual activity of watching every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with her. We're halfway through season 3 of 7 now. We're enjoying it, but that does detract from my free time. I think I will plan on one or two nights/week where we don't do it going forward.

The biggest reason is that I haven't had to. I've now preached two Sundays at Piney Plains Christian Church. I will be preaching this Sunday, Lord willing as well as next Sunday. I have used this blog as an outlet for my need to teach. Preaching fulfills that nicely.

So let me ask you, dear reader (if any are out there), does it matter to you if this blog stays alive? I will write if anyone is out there to read it, but I am not going to worry so much about it if nobody cares to read what I'm writing. I do like having this blog as a devotional exercise to journal about what I read each day, so I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons.

Does anyone care? Leave a comment. I realize that this is basically a plea to see if I'm one of the cool kids. I won't ever be Tim Challies nor do I want to be. But I'm just curious if anyone is out there.