Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer - Part 2

In last month’s newsletter, we began to look at the characteristics that should be seen in the life of a true believer in Christ. In someone who has been born again by the Holy Spirit and has been made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). One of the biggest scandals today are those who claim to be a Christian but demonstrate no fruit of having an actual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who, as Paul warned Titus about, “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). So, we would do well to look at the characteristics that God gives us in His Word that we should expect to find in the life of one who has been saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

1 John is a great book to turn to for this since his specific purpose in writing his letter is to give assurance to believers that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). He does this by pointing out the characteristics of one who has been given a new life in Christ. We have already examined two of these characteristics: being obedient to Jesus’ commands and having a genuine love for other believers. Now, we will look at three more characteristics that John points out to us.

John tells us that a true believer can be seen in their denial of the world. He states, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). Now what does it mean to love the world? Steven Lawson describes it well when he states, “To love the world is to seek the world’s applause, adopt its values, crave its pleasures, and follow its philosophies.” The true believer should not buy into the world’s system. They should be more concerned about the things of God than the things of the world. More concerned about seeing God’s kingdom built instead of establishing their own kingdom. Seeking to store up treasures in heaven instead of those on earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Actually, whether the treasures that one desires are on earth or in heaven demonstrate where one’s heart truly lies. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). In fact, John goes so far to say that if one does love the world, that it is evidence that they do not possess the love of God. One cannot love both. As James puts it, “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). It should be found in a Christian a heavenly mindset instead of a worldly mindset.

Another evidence that John provides in his letter of one who has been born again and is a true believer in Christ is that they remain in Christ. In describing the group of those who had left the church and began to teach false doctrine, he says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Read this carefully. John tells us that the group that left the church never really belonged to the church. The reason he knows that they actually were not part of the body of Christ through faith is because they left. In fact, it was their leaving that demonstrated the truth that they were never truly a part of the church in the first place. In other words, those who are in Christ will remain in Christ. They are the one in whom the seed of the gospel has been sown upon good soil and who do not fall away when the affliction or persecution for their faith comes (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23). John presents a nice contrast in his second letter where he says, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9). This means that those that we know who have left the church and renounced the faith, according to Scripture, never actually had faith in the first place. Their leaving revealed that they lacked true saving faith and hence never truly were a part of the church. As the saying goes, “Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed at the first.” A true believer in Christ will remain in Christ through thick and thin because God will be working in them to keep them (John 6:39; Philippians 2:12-13). A fair-weather Christian, one who is a Christian in fair weather only, proves themselves to not be a Christian at all. But a Christian which perseveres in the faith shows the reality of their conversion and of the ongoing work of God in their life.

So here we have two other characteristics that should be expected to be present in a believer’s life. Not perfect but present. In fact, we will fall short of these every day in our lives but we should at least notice them there. Along with a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands and having a genuine love for other believers, do you see in yourself a love for God or a love for the world? Are you continuing in the faith and growing in your walk with Christ? Rejoice if you are and give God the glory for His ongoing work. Keep relying on Him to continue such a work in your life. We’ll come back next month and look at a few more evidences of God’s work in a believer’s life in order to provide assurance to those who have truly repented and trusted in Christ that they indeed have a new life in Him.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer-Part 1

The Bible could not be any clearer that those who have truly repented and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation are not the same person that they once were. Things which once characterized them should characterize them no more (Ephesians 2:1-3). They have been given new spiritual life by the Holy Spirit with a new will, new desires, and a new purpose (Ezekiel 36:25-27). What Jesus refers to as being “born again” (John 3:1-8). As Paul stated, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A saving encounter with God’s Holy Spirit changes one’s life from the inside out.

The question is then, what does this new life look like? What should one expect to see in their lives if they are truly a Christian? The Apostle John helps us out with this in his first letter. He gives the characteristics of those who are “the children of God,” “born of God,” “have come to know Jesus,” “have passed out of death into life,” are “in Jesus,” and “know the truth” and of those who are “the children of the devil,” “liars” (false professors), and deceived. He seems to be dealing with a case in a church where a group from within them left, began teaching false views of Jesus, and claimed that they were in the truth while the remaining ones could be found to be in error. John pens this letter to comfort the remaining believers that they can be assured that they have eternal life through their faith in Jesus Christ while the others would be outside of the truth. He shows how such faith inevitably is demonstrated from the new life that the Spirit gives. I think that it would be helpful to look at some of the evidences that John provides of someone who has been born again and truly trusted in Christ for their salvation. The following are just two of several that are given in this letter. We will look at a few more next month.

One evidence is a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (I John 2:3-6). The word “keep” conveys the idea of “keep in view,” “take note,” and “watch over.” Jesus also pointed out that obedience to His teaching proved one to be a true disciple of His (John 8:31) and that those who love Him WILL keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21-24). A true believer will not just throw Christ’s commandments under the rug or ignore them but seek to be obedient to them, putting them into practice in their life. This flows from their love of Him that results out of the new birth.

Another evidence is genuine love for other believers. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (I John 3:14-18). Notice the contrast that John makes here? One can know that they have spiritual life imparted by the Holy Spirit by their love for other brothers and sisters in Christ. The one who fails to show love to others within the church are still spiritually dead and do not have eternal life. And this love for the brethren is demonstrated in action. They will give of themselves for the needs of others, just as Christ laid His own life down for the benefit of His followers. Hatred of a brother or sister in Christ is not a characteristic of a true believer who has been born again. Jesus also stated that this serves as proof that one truly is a disciple of His. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Now these characteristics that John gives will not be perfect in a believer’s life but they should be present and something that one continues to see growth in. Do you notice them in your life? Is there evidence that the Holy Spirit has been working with you in these areas; taking Jesus’ commandments seriously and loving your brothers and sisters in the church? If so, rejoice in the reality of God’s grace in your life. Praise Him and ask Him to continue to work in you to become even more obedient and loving as each believer still has a way to go. More of these characteristics will be discussed next month.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lessons From September 11


Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
~Luke 13:1-5

Today thousands in the nation take time out of their busy schedules to commemorate and remember those who lost their lives in the horrible tragedy which occurred the morning of this day thirteen years ago.  Many of us remember how that day changed the way we thought about the country, our loved ones, and even our lives.  Many still are struggling with what they have seen, or with those they have lost in the tragedy.  Some lives may never be the same again.  While not belittling the victims of the tragedy, I want to look at what those who are still living can learn from this event.

The days following the 9/11 attacks brought several questions.  Several of these questions concerned God and His role in the event.  People struggled with trying to grasp any reasons God may have allowed or permitted this to happen.  Some wondered if the people who went for what they thought would have been a normal day at work deserved to play the victims of such a horrible scenario.

Clearly God was in control of that day and is still in control of our world today.  Scripture tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  Through Amos God communicates, If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? (Amos 3:6) and Jesus says that a sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29).  Even Satan himself is under the sovereignty of God.  Jesus acknowledged to Peter that Satan could not test the disciples' faith without God's allowance.  Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31).  Likewise, Satan could not tamper with Job without God's permission and He set clear boundaries where Satan would not be able to trend.  In the first meeting with Satan, God agreed to let him test Job but would not allow him to put forth your hand on him (Job 1:12) and the second time God gave Job into his control but would not permit him to kill His righteous servant.  Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6).  This is a very comforting truth.  Our lives may seem like they are spirling out of control, but the truth is that we are still in God's hands and He is working to bring things to His ultimate purpose.  You may be down at your lowest, but we have hope that God IS in control and causing all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Even in the worst of times, we have comfort knowing there is a loving and good God in control who has a purpose in the suffering.  God was there that day on 9/11 and, even amist the sorrow, several testimonies to His goodness have been proclaimed.  His sovereign hand never left the situation!

The second major question the World Trade Center attacks spawned is one which is a common response to every huge natural disaster or catastrophe:  "What did this group do to deserve this?"  This was seen after the tsunami in India as well as New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, Jesus was asked a similar question about 2000 years ago.  While speaking to a large crowd, a group informs Jesus about an atrocity which Pilate had committed.  The exact situation is unknown to us today but we can infer that it had something to do with a slaughter of Jews during their sacrifices.  Not only was this a terrible occurrence, but it took place during worship which made it even more horrendous.  Jesus realized right away the question that they had concerning this issue.  They thought that this plight was the result of them being greater sinners than all others.  However, Jesus sought to turn their perspective completely around.

Instead of agreeing with their assumption, Jesus took the focus off the victims and placed it on the questioners.  The reason this group was slaughtered was not because they were greater sinners.  The ones who were killed were no more sinners than the ones commenting concerning them.  (Note: This does not necessarily mean that the events God permits to occur are punishment for specific sins.  John 9 makes it clear that, while a result of the curse of sin, not all infirmities and incidents are due to specific sins.)  Those who died in the tsunami, in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and with Hurricane Katrina were no more sinners than those of you reading this note as well as the one writing it.  We deserved the same!  I will never forget a powerful sermon my pastor preached right after the tsunami a few years ago.  He told us that the question is not "why them?" but should be "why not us?"  We didn't deserve God's mercy to not have the tsunami happen in America, or to not have been in the Pentagon or World Trade Center on that day, as well as having the hurricane wreck havoc on the NorthEast or MidWest.  As Scripture tells us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  We get so used to God's mercy we have problems when He shows us His wrath.

Jesus actually warns the crowd of an even greater fate, much worse than what happened with Pilate and the later example of the falling of the tower of Siloam.  Unless they repent of their sins, they will perish (Luke 13:3,5).  This is Jesus' urgent plea to those who are lost in sin.  Repentance means a turning from sin.  It is the flip side of faith.  One turns from sin in repentance and then turns toward Christ by placing their faith in Him.  The likewise may refer to the sudden and unexpected death of those in the Temple and at Siloam.  Those who went to the Temple that day to offer their sacrifices did not realize that they would not be returning home.  The possibility of the tower falling on the group in Siloam probably never occurred to them.  Likewise, if the crowd does not turn from their sins and turn to Christ they will suddenly and unexpectedly (to them) experience the punishment for their sins.  The author of Hebrews tells us that it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

No one is guaranteed of their next heartbeat or breath.  If we should learn something from modern headlines, it is that death is no respecter of age.  If you have not turned from your sins and placed your faith in the Lord Jesus, then Jesus' plea for repentance is for you.  Like those in the Temple and at Siloam, you do not know when the day will come and it will be too late.   Many who left for work that morning of 9/11 did not know that they would not leave the building.  Several wives did not know that they would not see their husbands again.  I am not attempting to scare anyone, I just want to point out reality.   For us who are Christians, this is a reminder that life is too short to waste!  Let us give out Jesus' plea to those who need to hear it in our families, schools, and at our places of employment!

Praying for those involved with the attacks in any way as well as us who can learn from God's mercy,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

False Profession or True Possession?

Is it possible for someone to think that they are a Christian but in actuality not be one? For someone to believe that they are saved but be just as lost as the atheist next door? According to the Bible it is quite possible for someone to profess Christ without truly possessing Christ or to play church without really being a part of the church. After all, Jesus Himself said that: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23).

While there are those who profess Christ as their “Lord” who are genuinely saved, Jesus shows that “not everyone” who does really is. The group of which He speaks both professed His name and even had works they had done which they could report. They bring up the facts that they prophesied, casted out demons, and performed many miracles. They emphasize that they did all of this in Jesus’ name. In fact, these were the same works that His closest disciples did during His earthly ministry. However, notice Jesus’ response. He says that “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Jesus states that He never knew these ones in spite of their profession and works. This group may have been baptized, had their name on the role of a church membership roster, and even had served in some office. Yet Jesus says that none of that guarantees their entrance into heaven nor will He recognize them on account of it.

Now when Jesus states that He does not “know” this group, He does not mean that He didn’t know of the existence of these people. Jesus knows everyone and everything. John tells us that Jesus “knew all men” and that “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). As God in the flesh, Jesus is omniscient, meaning that He has “all knowledge.” Rather, the idea is that He does not acknowledge them. He does not have a positive intimate relationship with them. I have heard it said before that perhaps the question we need to be asking ourselves is not whether we know Jesus but does He know us. This group that Jesus talks about thought they knew Him to find out that He didn’t know them.

So, why is it that Jesus does not acknowledge this group? Why does He not count their profession and service to their credit? Simply because they do not do the will of God the Father. It is only “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” that Jesus says will enter the kingdom of heaven. Their mere profession is not enough. The works mean nothing if they are not done in obedience to Christ. This is because a true profession is proved by a proper practice. Scripture is clear that a connection exists between a genuine believer who has repented of their sins and placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation and their living a life in the direction of obedience to Christ’s commands. Jesus had just mentioned earlier how a false teacher can be known by his fruit or actions (Matthew 7:17-128); He says that those who continue to walk in obedience to His word prove to be true disciples of His (John 8:31); and Paul reminds Timothy that “the Lord knows those who are His,’ and “everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19). True faith in Christ that saves is demonstrated by a life that seeks to be obedient to God’s will. In fact, if there is a consistent lack of concern of being obedient to Christ with the motive to glorify God (not to earn salvation as that is a gift to those who look to Christ alone for that) and a constant wayward attitude towards sin in their practice, then their very profession of faith in Christ may be called into question. Their profession then would prove to be nothing more than empty words with their actions just going through the motions.

What Jesus finally says to this group is horrifying. On the day of judgment, “that day,” He will declare to them “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” They are to “depart” from Him for all eternity. Since they never truly belonged to Him through faith, they will spend eternity forever without Him. The “practicing lawlessness” indicates a consistent working of lawlessness in one’s life; not the case of occasional moments of disobedience to God’s will but of ongoing disobedience (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5).

If one has been born again and placed their faith in Christ, then there should be evidence of it in their desire to be obedient to God’s will. (They will not be perfect at it but their life should be directed at walking in obedience.) Does your life point to an empty profession of Christ? Do you desire to be obedient to Christ or could you care less about your sins? Those who come to Christ through faith alone will want to be obedient to His commands. Is this true for you? Does Jesus know you?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Cost of Discipleship

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
~Luke 14:26-27

Being a disciple or follower of Christ comes at a great cost. It certainly is not an easy calling. Jesus could not be any clearer concerning this. Throughout His ministry, He continued to remind the crowds surrounding Him the full weight of what being a follower of Him entailed and even going so far as to push away those who were not willing to pay the cost.

Jesus first tells the crowds that to come to Him to be His disciple entails having Him as their greatest love. This is what it means when He says that one cannot be His disciple unless he would hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life. This is not a call to literally hate our relatives but that the true disciple’s affection for Christ must be so much greater for Christ than all others that in comparison to Him, all other affections would seem as hatred. Jesus must be the disciple’s highest love. He or she should not place anything in their lives above Him, whether that would be another person or themselves. The psalmist had the right attitude when he wrote, Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth (Psalm 73:25). A cost of following Christ is to love Him the most. To have Him serve as your greatest treasure and nothing or no one else.

Another cost of following Christ is your very own life. Jesus goes on to state that whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. A cross represents death. It was the common form of torture for criminals among the Romans. It would be the equivalent today of the electric chair. For someone to carry his own cross would for them to put themselves to death. Basically, to deny themselves. As Paul proclaimed, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). This means to surrender yourself fully to Christ. To no longer be concerned about what you want, what you will, and what you think best but rather to yield to what Christ wants, what Christ wills, and what Christ knows best. It is not adding Jesus to an already busy life but having Him become our very life. The very One we are living for. The reason for everything that we do. There is no possibility of turning to Christ and yet holding fast all of the rights to your life. To continue to live for yourself, doing as you please. In fact, if such an attitude persists in your life, you may need to evaluate whether you truly are one of His disciples.

I look at myself and shamefully notice how much of my life I appear to hold on to. How little I sacrifice for Christ and His kingdom. I would suspect the same would be true for you if you are honest with yourself. Have we become more concerned with our comfort and material possessions that Christ has become secondary? What do the things which we spend our money on indicate about where our treasure really lies? (Matthew 6:19-24) What would it really look like for us to radically abandon our lives for the sake of Christ? To be more occupied with Him and His Kingdom than us and our kingdoms? Are we really truly following Jesus as He has called us to?

The real cost of discipleship is giving up everything. Our allegiances to anyone or anything other than Christ and the claims to our own lives. But Jesus Christ is well worth this cost! As Jim Elliot, a man whose commitment to Christ literally cost him his life as he was martyred seeking to share the gospel with a hostile foreign tribe, stated, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Yes, following Jesus will cost us everything but He is worth that cost. Is He worth that much to you?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

"God's Not Dead" Regardless of How He Is Presented

I just came back from seeing the new movie, "God's Not Dead." I was blessed with free tickets for the show and was interested in seeing it based on the previews. I know that many will go out to see this movie and while it has many positive elements, it contains areas that believers need to be concerned about. So if you will, you can consider this my "review" of the film. (I guess I should place a warning that there may be some spoilers here but mostly a general discussion of the characters and plot.)

At the outset, I must confess that I resonate with the lead character, Josh. In some ways I was that student in a college philosophy class with a professor seeking to demolish my faith in Christ and trust in His Word. In fact, I had a philosophy professor much like Professor Radisson. He even said some of the same things concerning his goal in liberating his students. (I laughed to myself when my college professor said such a thing at the irony that he was doing the opposite in persuading them to think like him, which is not being "liberated" to think for themselves.) I remember my peers chastising me for invoking religion in a speech I gave for my speech class as they thought it was not necessary and I should be more mindful of my audience. Of course I was being mindful of my audience as many of them were lost and needed to hear the gospel message that I incorporated in that speech. Of course the saddest thing is that this all occurred for me in a so-called "Christian" college. (Well, okay, the chaplain pointed out to me that it did not claim to be a "Christian" college but a college with "Christian values." But I digress . . . This post is actually about the situation portrayed in the movie.)

There is a lot to commend about this movie. I really liked how all of the different characters and storylines were weaved together and conveyed a powerful message of the importance of not being ashamed of Christ. This really serves as encouraging for college students who may be faced with similar situations. It was so great hearing Jesus Christ's name mentioned other than being an obscenity and even Scripture quoted. I rejoice in all of this. However, my issue concerns HOW this young man went about to defend the faith and provide a strong witness.

First off, in beginning his defense of the faith, Josh actually argues for what is called "theistic evolution." This is the idea that God serves as the one behind the Big Bang Theory and Darwinian evolutionary processes. He even goes so far to claim that the "Big Bang" serves as evidence of God saying "let there be . . ." He speaks of how God "governs" the evolutionary process. The irony of it all is how he then wound up contradicting himself when he quoted Genesis 1. As I have argued in a previous post (http://energeticexegete.blogspot.com/2013/01/creation-controversies.html), there is no way to reconcile Darwin's view of creature evolution from one common ancestor with the biblical account of creation. I will be frank here, you cannot believe the Bible's account of creation and also believe in evolution as Darwin has defined it since the two views are at odds with each other. It surprised me that the film had him go there. Or perhaps that might just go to show how so many are compromising Scripture these days.

Also, his argument for the existence of evil was very weak. The phrase "free will" does not suffice for a response. Time does not allow me to go in more detail pertaining to this at the moment but the way it was presented was far too simplistic and not persuasive. It winds up leaving one with more questions than providing any answers. You still have to deal with why God didn't end evil right away after the "free will" decision of Adam and Eve in the garden or why God even permitted Satan, the grand persuader of the Fall, to fall and rebel in the first place. A solid discussion of the existence of evil must go far deeper.

Perhaps the biggest issue in the entire film was the main character's position. He appealed to reason to present his case for God more than God's Word. Paul did not say that he was not ashamed of reason because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes but rather that he was not ashamed of the GOSPEL, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). The problem with the professor was not that there was not enough evidence for him to believe in God but that he didn't want to believe in God. Romans 1:18-23 makes this explicitly clear about all men. Everyone suppresses the truth of the existence of God in unrighteousness because in our sinful nature we do not want to acknowledge Him. In fact, it wasn't until the climax in the film that the student finally confronted the professor biblically when he asked him, "Why do you hate God" and the professor finally admits that is the reason he CHOOSES not to believe in God. It wasn't because of the evidence but because he hated Him! Oh, how I wish that Josh would have confronted him like this earlier on instead of wasting his time trying to tie evolutionary claims with biblical truth.

We should keep this in mind when witnessing to an atheist that their issue is not a lack of evidence of God but their unwillingness to believe in Him and surrender to Him. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (John 3:19-20). It is not because there is no evidence for the Light but because they hate the Light and love the darkness instead. Is that not the heart of the issue that needs to be addressed?

Also, the premise that "God was on trial" in the classroom with Josh as His defense attorney, the professor the prosecutor, and the students as the jury really should rattle us if we think about it. Who are WE to put God on trial? Is He not the Creator and us His creation? The makers of the film obviously knew the book of Job as they had the professor quote it out of context in defense of His hatred towards God. So they should have been aware of God's response to Job desiring to put "God on trial" for His suffering and how God basically sits him in his place reminding him of Who He is as God and who Job is as man at the end of the book. Josh should have started with God and presented what God has said about Himself in His Word and then called the professor to repentance and trust in Christ. After all, the Bible even begins by identifying God as the Creator and us as His creation who should submit and worship Him. You see, the real issue is do we take God at His Word or not. Do we believe Who He claims to be or wind up denying Him and substitute our worship of Him for something created, including our own image of Him or even ourselves? Again, this brings us back to Paul's point in Romans 1:18-23. (Please read and study this passage if you have not already.)

I could add to all of this the issue of a "watered down" gospel but I fear that is becoming so common place that it really didn't surprise me. I just will point out that when the apostles gave the gospel, they did not say phrases such as "accepting Jesus into your heart" but instead called all men to "repent and believe in Christ." I don't remember the word "repent" being in the movie at all; especially when one of the characters was giving the gospel.

Now I know that there will be some reading this who are complaining that I am just being too nit picky about things. Why can't I just look over these things and enjoy the movie? Well, my friends, I am convinced that theology matters. That how you understand God and His Word affects everything in your life. That just as God does not overlook strange fire offered to Him (Leviticus 10:1-3) or meaning well by touching His forbidden holy ark to keep it from falling (2 Samuel 6:6-7) that He does not turn a blind eye to these things either. Whether they are portrayed in a movie or worse yet, practiced in real life. We must be discerning with what we listen to and what we watch. I had similar issues with the popular book (and I found out last night now movie) "Heaven Is For Real." (http://energeticexegete.blogspot.com/2011/07/heaven-is-for-real-but-not-because-of.html)

Yes, this was an enjoyable movie with some wonderful points, but let's make sure that we don't fail to see the problem areas. All of us would do well to work at better understanding and articulating the gospel. This movie serves as a reminder of that. The writers and producers of this movie were given a stewardship to honor God and present the gospel through this medium and honestly they could have done a much better job of it. Every believer is instructed to always be ready to make a defense for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15) but we want to make sure that we are articulating that hope properly. The great news is that God is not dead regardless of how He is presented and argued.

In Christ,
Lee
Soli Deo Gloria

PS. Turns out that I am not the only one when these concerns. Here are some much better written reviews of the film addressing the same issues I have raised:
http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2014/02/25/review-gods-not-dead-movie
http://creation.com/gods-not-dead-review

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What Is Your Hope Built On?

One of my biggest concerns today is people's salvation. That they truly know Who Christ is and that they have a genuine faith in Him to save them. As a minister of the gospel I labor at this very thing. I fear that there are far too many who think or assume that they are saved who have not actually embraced Christ by faith but are essentially relying on their works to have a right standing before God. Scripture could not be any clearer that in no way will our works justify or declare us righteous before God. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight (Romans 3:20). nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Galatians 2:16). In fact, it is our sinful deeds that condemn us and incur God's wrath upon us.

Our only hope to be saved from God's wrath that we deserve lies not with what we do but with what Christ has done. In His work of living a life of obedience and experiencing God's wrath when He died upon the cross in the place of sinners who repent and look to Him alone as their only hope to be seen as righteous before God. Knowing that we have no righteousness of our own to stand upon but can only stand upon the righteousness of Christ. That since God treated His Son as guilty of our sins and punished Him for them, in turn He views the repentant sinner as being as righteous as Christ is, instead of the unrighteous sinner that they are. Paul summarizes this point well in 2 Corinthians 5:21, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Isaiah communicates Christ's substitution for believers in his description of the Suffering Servant. Of the One who was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). The healing, our salvation, is brought about BY His scourging which was received FOR our transgressions and FOR our iniquities. The basis of our salvation must be in Jesus' death for sin and following resurrection.

However, many who claim that they do hold fast to this blessed truth of the salvation that can only be found in Christ and what He accomplished on the cross wind up communicating something different; that their hope actually lies in themselves and in something that they have done. In asking someone how do they know that they are saved, a popular response is that I came forward to the altar at a revival meeting and prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into my heart. Do you notice a problem with this? The basis for their salvation in reality is not the shed blood of Jesus Christ in their place, experiencing God's wrath so that they may be pardoned and seen as righteous but works that THEY have done. Their act of responding to an altar call or praying the words of a prayer. In fact, Jesus and His work is not even mentioned in such a statement. Their hope for their salvation essentially lies in themselves and what they have done instead of in Christ and what He has done.

Now am I saying that it is not necessary to approach God through prayer to admit your need of Him and call upon Him to save you? Absolutely not! The prophet Joel provides us with the precious promise that whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved (Joel 2:32). We must realize that this calling on the name of the LORD to save us is a request that He would save us on account of His acceptance of Christ's death in our place, not because of who we are or the sincerity of our request. That the very reason that we call upon Him with certainty to save us is because of the mercy He demonstrated at the cross and Christ turning away God's wrath from us. In fact, we would have no reason to ask God to forgive us if it wasn't for Christ's atoning death.

I want to encourage you to examine yourself. Is your hope of salvation from sin and God's wrath found in Christ and His death ALONE or on a decision that you have made or the prayer that you prayed. Is it because of something that you have done or based only on what Christ has done? Can you truly say the words of the beloved hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less; Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name"? If not, then repent and truly look to Christ and His work alone to save you. Resting in Him and the sufficiency of His grace.

In Christ,
Lee Smith
Sola Gratia (Grace ALONE)
Sola Fide (Faith ALONE)
Solus Christus (Christ ALONE)
Soli Deo Gloria (To the glory of God ALONE)