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.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Be A Berean!

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.~Acts 17:10-12

During his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul faced opposition from the Jews in the city of Thessalonica. Due to their jealousy of the Greeks receiving the Gospel there and joining Paul and Silas, they created a riot that disrupted the city (v. 5). They even attacked a man named Jason whom they assumed was housing Paul and his companions. The group handed many of the believers over to the authorities, accusing them of going against Caesar in proclaiming Jesus as king (vv. 6-8). This persecution led the believers to send Paul and Silas away from there to a place called Berea for their safety. While there, Paul went to the Jewish synagogue to explain from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah that God had promised would come.

Luke in his recording of this incident commends the Jews in Berea for their eagerness in receiving the word that Paul preached. He called them noble minded for this trait. Unlike the Jews in Thessalonica who rejected the message and basically ran Paul out, the Bereans considered what Paul was saying and even checked the Scriptures that he was preaching and teaching from to make sure that what he was saying was true. The Greek word here for examine is often used in the context of someone being evaluated in a judicial trial. Just as the detectives on the popular television show Law and Order labor at thoroughly searching crime scenes and interviewing witnesses to discover the truth of what really happened, these Jews searched the Old Testament prophecies to verify that the claims that Paul made about Jesus being the Messiah were true. In fact, this examination of the Scriptures was done daily. They were constantly evaluating Paul’s message with the truth of Scripture. This eagerness to listen to Paul’s message and to check it with the teaching of Scripture led many of them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In making this statement pertaining to the Berean Jews and how noble they were, Luke presents them as a model for us to follow. We would do well to approach God’s Word eagerly in anticipation for what God is saying; to allow our hearts to be receptive of its truth. We also would do well to emulate their example of searching the Scriptures to verify what we are taught. Knowing that the Bible is God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and thus true (John 17:17), we need to evaluate any message we hear in light of what Scripture teaches. We need to make sure that the claims of any teacher or preacher line up with the Scriptures. Are you being a Berean?

Therefore, let this remain as a sure maxim, that no doctrine is worthy to be believed but that which we find to be grounded in the Scriptures.~John Calvin

Love in Christ,

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Disappearance of Depravity

If you would ask someone today whether or not there is some goodness in man, you would probably receive an answer in the affirmative. The response would be the same whether the person was in a liberal church, a conservative church, or no church at all. It is not uncommon to hear people say that "all men are good" or "deep down inside they are a good person." This idea grew popular during the Enlightenment with the emphasis on man's reason. Man became viewed as the center of the universe and capable of just about anything. In fact, many philosophers of that time held a very diminished view of God since they concluded that man could accomplish so much with the power of his reason that he did not need God. However, this view of an innate goodness of man or that everyone has an "island of righteousness" goes back even farther than the Enlightenment. A British monk in the 400s, named Pelagius, also had a very high view of man. He even believed that man was capable of being perfect in and of himself. Again the clear implication of this sort of thinking would mean that man would not need God and was fine on his own. Such a view is antithetical to Scripture.

In contrast, the Bible presents a very low view of man. When God decides to punish humanity with the flood, it is due to man's wickedness which Enlightenment thinkers and Pelagius denied existed in man. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Notice that this wickedness of man was great and not small. In God's view, man was not good but evil at the root of his very being; the heart. His heart did not contain goodness but only evil. This evil was not occasional but continual (literally all the days in the Hebrew). It was not just a few intentions of his heart that were evil but every intention. God later says through the prophet Jeremiah that The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus affirmed the wickedness of man's heart when He stated that It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person (Matthew 15:10). His point was that it is not certain foods that one eats that would make them unclean but instead what they would say since this reflects the thoughts and desires of their heart. Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes through the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matthew 15:17-19), None of this list of what comes out of the heart could be described as good. In the depths of man's heart, we do not find an "island of righteousness" but an ocean of depravity.

The doctrine described in these verses has been known as "Total Depravity" (the "T" of the TULIP in Reformed Theology). "Deprave" means "To debase, especially morally; corrupt" ( and "total" indicates that this debasement extends to every part of the person. There is not one area of our lives that has not been tarnished by sin due to the Fall. This does not mean that man is as wicked as he could be. Only that man is wicked at the core of his being. In fact, theologian and author R. C. Sproul would rather call the doctrine "Radical Corruption" in order to better communicate this truth.

Enlightenment thinkers and modern day Pelagians may argue that such corruption is due to nurture and not nature. They may claim that man is born basically good but becomes corrupted by the conditioning of society. However, the Bible teaches the opposite. One is born a sinner by nature. David declared that Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive. (Psalm 51:5). Paul tells us that the Ephesians were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3). This is universal as Paul stated the condition being like the rest of mankind. Man has inherited Adam's sin nature so he is born a sinner. Due to Adam's disobedience, he and the entire human race became slaves to sin. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Since sin is a part of man's innate nature, he cannot help but sin. Jeremiah puts it this way: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13:22). Just as it is impossible for an Ethiopian to "choose" to change the color of his skin and a leopard his spots, it is impossible for man to do good because he is accustomed to doing evil due to his sin nature. The only way man could quit doing evil would be for his nature to be changed. Something he can't do himself.

Now the accusation may arise that certainly man does do some good and is not totally evil. Afterall, several unbelievers give generously to the poor and some treat their neighbor better than Christians do. Are these not good things? Wouldn't this rule out the argument that man in his depraved nature is evil continually? However, we are not the standard of what is good to make such judgments. God is the One who determines what is good or evil. When the rich young man approached Jesus seeking the good deed that he must do to have eternal life, Jesus reminded him that the one who determines what is good is God Himself. Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17). He then points to the Law that God gave that reveal His holy standard. While the man thought he had kept the commandments that related to relationships with one's neighbor, it became clear that he was in violation of those that concerned his relationship with God. His refusal to part with his possessions revealed that he had erected another god whom he worshiped in place of the true God. He had clearly fallen short of God's standard by violating the first of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments.

For God, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. God is concerned with the motives that underlie the reason that one does what he does. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). One can do the right thing but if it is done with the wrong motives it is still wrong in God's eyes. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is that You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). If someone does something for any other reason than love for God, then the action would not be viewed as good in God's eyes because it was not done in His honor and out of love for Him. This would make even the most pious acts wrong if they are not done for God. Since man by nature does not seeks for God (Romans 3:11), he would not be doing a "good" deed in honor of God. In fact, quoting from Psalms, Paul states All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:12). The Psalmist describes no one as doing good. To clairify he states not even one. Man universally does not do good in God's eyes.

The Enlightenment and Pelagian denial of depravity proves detrimental to one's understanding of salvation and evangelism. Ignoring Scripture's teaching on the "total depravity" of man leads to one believing that man is good enough to play an active role in his salvation. Some may erroneously be misled to believe that salvation depends in part on them. If man has the ability to do good on his own and even be perfect as Pelagius claimed, then why would he need God? Furthermore, if man is not viewed as depraved, then the question would arise as to why he even would need to be saved. Man is good in God's eyes so what would be the problem?

This heretical view also greatly effects the way that one evangelizes. Since the perception is that man is able to obey God's commandments on his own, evangelists shift from faithfully teaching and preaching the Bible for God's Spirit to work through His Word to convict and regenerate sinners (Romans 1:16; 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Acts 2:37) to working to manipulate emotions through several different gimmicks just for them to simply raise a hand or say a prayer; promising their salvation based on their actions instead of God's work. This is a shift from the strong biblical preaching of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards to the theatrics and psychological tactics of Charles Finney. This Pelagian style of evangelism has created dozens of self-proclaimed "Christians" who have never been converted or even know that such is necessary because they never heard Jesus tell Nicodemus that he must be born again (John 3:3).

Several theologians have described the current era as the "Pelagian Captivity of the Church" and it appears with the Enlightenment and Pelagian emphasis on man's goodness and ability that they unfortunately might be right. The only thing that can break this type of captivity would be to go back to the Scriptures and boldly proclaim its message that man is by nature a sinner in desperate need of the Savior and whose salvation depends solely and completely on Him.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things to Remember When Experiencing Trials

One thing that we all experience in life are trials. We all have seasons of pain and sometimes go through the “dark night of the soul.” It is easy to develop the wrong perspective in the midst of undergoing a trial. The following are some things to remember during the darkest of times.

1. God is Sovereign and in Control

Scripture is clear that God is sovereign and in full control of all things. The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, / And His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19). There is nothing outside of His control. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21). Even Satan and the forces of evil cannot act without God’s sovereign allowance. Satan could not test Job without God’s permission, and even then, God set the boundaries that the devil could not cross. Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand, only do not put forth your hand on him” (Job 1:12). God told Satan he could do whatever he wanted with what Job owned but that he could not bring about any physical harm upon him. Later, after Satan challenged God again concerning Job’s righteousness, the Lord allowed him to afflict pain on the man but would not let him kill him. So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life (Job 2:6). Jesus also stated to Peter that Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31). The devil had to demand permission to test the disciples. He could not do this without God’s consent. God is also in control of the trial you are going through right now. He either has brought it about or permitted it. Your world may seem to you to be spiraling out of control, but God is still holding it together in His hands.

2. God has a Purpose in the Pain

Not only is God in control but He also has a plan. He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). In fact, James instructs us to Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3). We should rejoice in our trials, not on account of the pain, but because there is a purpose in the pain. God uses these trials that He appoints in our lives to strengthen our faith and enable us to persevere to the end. We often learn more and have our faith mature during the valley experiences in our lives than when we are on the mountaintops. Believers have the precious promise that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). While the all things include “ the good, the bad, and the ugly,” the end result is good. The life of Joseph serves as an example of this principle. Joseph experienced a lot of horrible situations in his life. In their jealousy, his brothers put him in a pit and then sold him to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:18-28). Potipher’s wife falsely accused him and he wound up in prison (Genesis 39:6-20). The cupbearer forgets his promise to Joseph to tell the Pharaoh about him after the interpretation of his dream proves true (Genesis 40:23). However, at the end of Joseph’s life, he is able to say to his brothers: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:20). God used the wicked act of the brother’s treason to place Joseph in the second highest position in Egypt where he was able to provide for his family in the time of famine. Joseph may not have realized God at work during the time that he spent in the pit, but now he sees how God orchestrated all of these events for His purpose to save His people. You may not realize what God intends to do with the pit that you are currently sitting in. We only see a few feet ahead of us but God knows the entire picture that He is working out. He is in control and has a purpose in the pain.

3. God does What is Right

We may not understand the pain we are experiencing or the reason that God has for it, but we can trust that God knows what He is doing. When he inquired about God sparing the righteous in the city of Sodom, Abraham asks Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice? (Genesis 18:25). He recognized that God is just and therefore will be the perfect judge. God does not make mistakes. Everything He does is perfect and right. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (Romans 9:14). His will is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). His ways may not always make sense to us, but we can be assured that He is doing what is ultimately in our best interest and what will bring Him glory. Keep in mind that we are not just and do not often know what is best for ourselves. Left in control we would drive the car over the ledge, thinking that we were going the right direction the entire time. Praise God that He is in control with the perfect plan and knows what He is doing!

4. God Comforts the Afflicted

Paul describes God as the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God is there to comfort us during the tough times of trial we go through. David referred to God as his shepherd (Psalm 23:1). God protects and provides for His children as a shepherd would for his sheep. God has promised that “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me? (Hebrews 13:5-6). He is the One in whom we can find our help (Psalm 121:1). We have no reason to search for comfort anywhere else since God is all that we need. During this difficult situation that you may be in, know that God is here to comfort you. May you find rest in knowing that He is in control, has a purpose in the pain, does what is right, and comforts those who are hurting.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!