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.

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)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

God's Profound Providence in the Journey of Joseph

The Lord was with Joseph
Genesis 39:2

We currently are studying the book of Genesis in the Sunday School class that I have been blessed with the privilege to teach. As we have traced the coming of God’s promised seed in Genesis 3:15 throughout the entire book, something really struck me when we came to the account of Joseph; one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Towards the end of the book, Moses shows us how young Joseph goes from pasturing the flock (Genesis 37:1-22) to being thrown into the pit (Genesis 37:23-28) to serving Potiphar (Genesis 37:36; 39:1-18) to prison (Genesis 39:19-40:23) to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1-37) to the palace (Genesis 41:38-57) to become the preserver of his family (Genesis 42:1-47:28). While we follow Joseph on this journey, Moses wants to make sure that we do not forget something very important. The fact that God guided and directed Joseph the entire way to accomplish the great purpose that He had planned.

Twice the narrator of Joseph’s life explicitly informs us that the LORD was with Joseph. The first time when he finds himself as a slave to Potiphar (Genesis 39:2) and then again when he sits in prison for a crime he was falsely accused of (Genesis 39:21). Moses also tells us that the LORD was with him during these situations as well (Genesis 39:3, 23). And when it may not be pointed out to us in words, we cannot deny God’s invisible hand in how things play out for Joseph. When his brothers plan to kill him, Reuben speaks up and persuades them against their intention (Genesis 37:20). The Midianite traders pass by the area at just the right time (Genesis 37:25, 28). Had they came by sooner or later the brothers might not have encountered them. It cannot be said to be mere coincidence or fortune that Joseph meets the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and interprets his dream in prison (Genesis 40:1-22). Even more so the fact that the cupbearer completely forgets about Joseph until two years later after the Pharaoh’s dream brings him to mind (Genesis 40:23-41:13). God clearly stood in control of each of these things in order to bring Joseph to Egypt and to meet Potiphar where he would wind up being placed in charge of just about everything in the country (Genesis 41:38-44).

This is a grand illustration of what we call providence. Providence is God working through ordinary means to accomplish His extraordinary purpose. In the case of Joseph, God used the desires, decisions, and deeds of his brothers, the Midianites, Potiphar’s wife, and the cupbearer for the sake of a greater purpose none of them could ever realize. That purpose was the salvation of His people. In fact, Joseph later does discern God’s hand in everything that brought him to the palace in Egypt. He tells his brothers after their reunion, Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5). God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:7-8). Think about what would have happened had Joseph not been sold to the Midianites. If he never was in the prison to meet the cupbearer. He then would have remained in the land of Canaan with his father and his brothers. When the famine struck the land, Jacob and all of his sons would have died of starvation. This would mean that the promised One who would defeat the devil (Genesis 3:15) and would come through the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18), Isaac (26:4), and Jacob (28:14), would be gone as the family had died out. Through these various means of bringing Joseph to the palace in Egypt and making him the preserver of his family, God ensured that the promised seed would come, through Jacob’s son Judah and on through the line of Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38).

We should be thankful for God’s invisible hand of providence in our lives as well. Using the ordinary means of everything in our lives, including our heartaches, disappointments, difficulties, and trials for His greater purpose. And His purpose is to direct us to that seed that He preserved through the workings of His providence in the life of Joseph. That seed being the Lord Jesus Christ who came to give His life in place of those who repent from their sins and embrace Him in faith. Far too often we get too caught up with the world and God needs to bring us to a place where we are reminded that Jesus MUST serve as our only treasure, as our “all in all.” Such is why Scripture instructs us to rejoice in our trials and in whatever God does in His providence in our lives (Romans 5:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; James 1:2-4). Are you looking and relying upon Him? Perhaps that could be where God is directing you in the troubles that you currently may be facing. Keep looking to Him throughout whatever you may be going through. As William Cowper wrote, “behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Monday, December 2, 2013

Preparing For Advent

As we prepare for the Advent season, the time when we celebrate the coming of the Messiah, I thought it might be helpful to take a moment to look at how those who were present at His birth viewed the event. I fear that if we are not careful, we can easily get so caught up with all of the commercialism of the holidays that we lose sight of the real reason that we as Christians celebrate.

With the shepherds we notice that Christ served as the reason for their rejoicing. After the angel appeared to them to tell them the wonderful news of the Savior who had been born that day (Luke 2:8-14) and when they had found the baby lying in the manger as the angels stated, we read that The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them (v. 20). The arrival of the Messiah led them to worship God. They responded in praise and adoration.

For the magi, Christ served as the object of their search. They followed the star that indicated that His birth had come (Matthew 2:2). Perhaps they were thinking of the prophecy uttered through Balaam recorded in Numbers 24:17. A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel. They “traversed afar” (as we often sing) to finally reach the promised Christ child. And we witness further rejoicing by them and their worshiping of Christ Himself. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him (Matthew 2:10-11).

Luke highlights two individuals that come in contact with Jesus in the Temple. Their names are Simeon and Anna and Christ served as their hope. The Messiah was what Simeon had been waiting for. We are told that he was looking for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25). He was hoping for this One to come to comfort and deliver his people and God revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen Him (v. 26). He even points out that the Messiah would be the hope for all the nations, both the Gentiles and the Jews (v. 32). Anna also was in the Temple and upon seeing the Messiah, was giving thanks to God (v. 38).

There are a few things we notice with all of those who first witnessed this monumental event in the course of history (really His-story). They all were centered on Christ. The shepherds rejoiced on account of Him, the magi sought after Him, and Simeon placed his hope in Him. It was all about Him. Also, they worshiped God on account of Him. This worship also can be seen with several others who had the special privilege of coming in contact with the Messiah such as Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph. And I think that it is very important to note that their celebration was not merely over the fact that God came to earth in the person of Christ but in what that Messiah would accomplish. It was not about the manger that cradled the baby as it was the cross that He would grow up to hang upon. The shepherds were rejoicing over the truth that the angel conveyed that this Messiah is the Savior (Luke 2:11). Simeon exclaimed that my eyes have seen Your salvation (Luke 2:30). Anna continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). Mary exclaimed, My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47). Zacharias likewise praised God for the salvation that this Messiah would bring. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant (Luke 1:68-69).

So let’s not lose our focus this Christmas season. While the “most wonderful time of the year” often becomes the “most stressful,” may we keep Christ at the center of our celebrations, worship and praise God for Him, and look past the “away in a manger” that we sing about to the purpose of His birth, salvation through His death in the place of repentant sinners and His resurrection three days later. In fact, it is because of Christ’s death on the cross that gives us the reason to sing of His birth. As one song properly puts it, “The beginning of the story is wonderful and great, But it's the ending that can save you and that's why we celebrate.” And this focus and celebration should not be limited of course to this time of Advent but one that we should have year round for the glory of God.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Reformation Day!


For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. ~Romans 3:28

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the work of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

This doctrine [Justification by Faith] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. ~Martin Luther

Wherever the knowledge of it [the doctrine of "Justification by Faith"] is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. ~John Calvin

Tonight many will spend their evening "trick or treating," celebrating a so-called holiday called Halloween and not realize an event that transpired 496 years ago on this day that marked a major turning point in the history of the church. October 31, 1517 marks the day the German monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, an event most scholars identify as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. These "theses" called the authority of the Pope in matters of salvation into question and sought to expose how the "treats" of the indulgences that were sold were actually "tricks" with no real significance except for making the pope and those who sold them very wealthy. An indulgence was a letter the Catholic church sold that promised forgiveness of sin and an early release from purgatory (a place the Catholic church conceived of where one would stay after death but before heaven which length of stay was based on the number of sins one committed in their earthly life). Luther's posting of his theses on "All Hallow's Eve" was instrumental. The next day the church would celebrate "All Saints Day" so they would see these as they walked in. Luther's students actually took the list and made copies with the aid of the new printing press creating quite a stir. The first ripple of Reformation fervor had been struck and would gain in momentum as God enlisted others such as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin to join the cause. Several current protestant denominations are products of God's work through them.

Many may question why such an event is a big deal. Why would a man complaining about certain teachings in the church be something to celebrate? People do this all the time. However, I think the celebration really is about God and how He used this man with his many, many, many flaws (he clearly had an anger problem and appeared to promote some wayward morals) to call His Church back to the truth. The Catholic church had repudiated the Bible's teachings on salvation by creating a synergistic economy of grace where man cooperated with God for his salvation. The selling of indulgences was a form of works-righteousness where the church taught that one could earn their salvation by paying a certain price for an indulgence. The sacraments became viewed as works that one must do in order to receive God's grace. In the Pope claiming the authority to grant the remission of sins based on a sale of an indulgence, he placed himself above both God's Word and Christ Himself. Many were blinded by such teaching (and some still are today) thinking that they could earn their own salvation.

The Reformers combated such views and practices. They claimed sola scriptura, that Scripture alone was the only authority for the believer. This led Luther to translate the Bible into German so people at the time could have a personal Bible and be able to study it on their own instead of relying on the false teachings of the priests who were the only ones who could own and read one. The Reformers called the people back to the truth taught in Scripture that one was justified (declared righteous in God's sight by God Himself) through their faith in Christ and not by any works that they could do. They rightly stated that salvation was by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (sola Christa) for the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria) as Scripture taught. Paul explicitly states 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). Salvation is a gracious gift given by God and received through the means of placing one's faith in Christ. The Lord used Luther as well as the other Reformers to call the church back to this truth, a truth foundational to the gospel.

Let's celebrate God using such men with their numerous flaws (much like we each have) to call the church back to the truth of His Word, especially with the central doctrine of "Justification by Faith," as well as pray that God would continue to raise people up with a passion for His Word and boldness for His truth to continue to reform His Church as to where He would have it to be.

Blessings,
Lee
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Does It Mean to Address God As Father

Following Jesus’ teaching on how to pray, we rightfully address God as our Father (Matthew 6:9). But have we taken the time to reflect on what it actually means to call God our Father? What are the implications of Him relating to us as our Father?

God serving as the Father of believers means that He will take care of His children. The reason why Jesus tells us that we are not to be worried about our life is because the same God who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers will take care of our needs as well. for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things (Matthew 6:32). The remedy to our constant worrying is to remind ourselves that we have a Father who cares for us and will provide for our needs. To worry is in all actuality to distrust our heavenly Father. It indicates that we doubt His care and provision and think that we need to rely on ourselves or something or someone else. We can confidently ask God to give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11) since He is our Father. Because He has promised to meet our needs (not our wants mind you). True rest for the weary can only be found in recognizing God as our Father.

The same is true in regard to our trials. When the most awful affliction or the most turbulent tribulation comes upon us, we have strength to bear it, understanding that our heavenly Father has ordained and arranged it. He does nothing intended for our ill but only for our good. As the author of Hebrews points out in relation to our earthly fathers, For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:10-12). The discipline of our trials are for our good, serving to grant us the privilege to become holy. So know that while you may not understand the pain of the trial you currently experience, you have a Father who knows what is best and intends it for your good. He loves us so much that He is willing to make us experience some of the most difficult seasons in order to teach us to trust Him more (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) and for us to have a greater understanding of Him (Job 42:5). What a great comfort to have such a Father in control!

It is because God serves as our Father that we can move forward with great confidence when our plans fail, when the “yes” we were hoping for turns into a “no,” or when our dreams may shatter. There is no such thing as coincidence and ultimately we do not chart our own course in life (Proverbs 16:9, 33; 21:1; Daniel 4:34-35; Ephesians 1:11). When a door closes, knowing that God is our Father softens the blow because we then realize that He knows what is best and promises to give us what is best. That those who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing (Proverbs 34:10). The closed door signifies that whatever it was, was not good or the best for us at the moment. Oh, how often we fret when things don’t go our way when really we should rejoice that our Father is looking out for us and seeking only to give us what is best for us. Since we don’t know what is best for us (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25), it is such a blessing that we have a Father Who does and gives what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 6:11). These are things that God knows is good, not necessarily what we may falsely think is good for us.

Let’s not take for granted the privilege we have to call God our Father nor forget what that actually means. Thomas Watson was right when he said, “There is more sweetness in this word ‘Father,’ than if we had ten thousand worlds!” And this is not a privilege that everyone in the world shares but only those who have been born again by God’s Spirit and placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13). Do you have this privilege to address God as your Father? And if you do, are you resting in it?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee