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, December 29, 2014

The Importance of the Word of God

Did you ever realize that the longest love poem in the Bible is not directed to a wife from a husband but to God’s Word itself? Psalm 119 is the largest of the psalms and bigger than 30 entire books in the Bible. This poem is an acrostic, which means that it is organized according to the alphabet. Broken down into 22 stanzas consisting of 8 verses, each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The first eight lines each start with the first letter of the alphabet (aleph), the second eight lines with the second letter (beth), and so forth.

And this poem is all about the Word of God. In fact, the author of the psalm finds himself so enamored with God’s Word that he basically refers to it in every single one of the lines of the poem. One word itself does not suffice for how he chooses to reference God’s Word. Instead, he needs to use nine different terms. He speaks of God’s “law,” “testimonies,” “ways,” “precepts,” “statutes,” “commandments,” “judgments,” “word,” and “ordinances.” He cannot speak enough about the Word of God.

Several times the psalmist mentions how he delights in God’s Word (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 174). For him, Scripture is more desirable than any material treasure. “I have rejoiced in the way of your testimonies, as much as in all riches” (v. 14). “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver” (v. 72). “Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold” (v. 127). He certainly could sing that he “would rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” His love for God leads him to have a love for His Word that He has spoken to us. Such should be the desire for every Christian. Since God’s written Word points us to the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we love, we should have a similar attitude as that of the psalmist. Treasuring His Word far more than any earthly riches we may ever hold.

This delight in God’s Word greatly impacts how this man approaches the Word. He doesn’t just look at it once a week or a few minutes each day. It is constantly on his mind. He talks of meditating on the Word (vv. 15, 23, 48, 78, 148). “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). He ponders the Word as he goes about the chores and tasks of his day. He states that he has “stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (v. 11). In order for him to do this, he must have been striving to become very familiar with God’s Word; both what it says and what it means. There seems to be the idea of him working to have it memorized here. How else can one “store” something in their heart?

The author of this grand poem even is thankful that he suffered because it caused him to learn more about God’s Word. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (v. 71). He recognized that the trial or tribulation that he had to go through, which he never identifies anywhere in this psalm, had a silver lining as it produced a greater understanding of what God has said. Rather than complaining concerning his difficult experience, he rejoices. He recognizes that he would not have known God’s Word as much had he not gone through whatever the situation might have been. Do we ever think about how God may use hard situations to help us understand His Word better? To move us to trust Him more by taking Him at His Word? Or better yet, do we rejoice in our trials, knowing that in God’s purpose, we will come to know Him better in the revelation of Himself in His Word?

One thing this psalm certainly shows us is just how important the Word of God must be in a Christian’s life. So significant that we can’t just leave our Bibles sit on the shelf. Or substitute a daily Bible reading with a short quick devotion that tells a nice little story but only briefly mentions a verse of Scripture. I want to encourage you this upcoming year to make time to really read and study God’s Word. To set aside time each day to commune with God by reading a few chapters of Scripture. R. C. Sproul has stated that the real problem why so many of us are lax in our Bible study habits is not because we don’t understand the Bible or lack a desire to read it, but it stems from us being lazy. Reading and studying the Bible daily indeed is work and does take discipline. To help the congregation in which I serve in getting better at developing a necessary habit of Bible reading, I have invited them to join with me in following a Bible reading plan for the upcoming year that will take us through the entire Bible. I encourage those few who might happen to read this blog to find a good Bible plan and seek to read through the entire Bible this upcoming year as well. (If you would like some Bible plans to consider, or to join with the Mt. Joy congregation in the plan we will be following, please let me know.) Let’s pray that God would use our time in the Word each day to create in us the same passion and desire we witness in the 119th Psalm and further conform us into the image of His beloved Son.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer-Part 3

The past few months we have been looking at the characteristics of a true believer in Christ. The evidence in one’s life that demonstrates them to have been born again by God’s Holy Spirit and having been made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). The difference that a saving encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ makes in one’s life. What actions and affections show one to be a true possessor of Christ and not a mere professor of Him. The deeds that demonstrate a living faith.

We have turned to the book of 1 John to examine some of this evidence as he provides concrete examples of what the heart of a genuine Christian should resemble. So far in our study we have seen that a true believer desires to be obedient to Jesus’ commands, has a genuine love for other believers, denies the world, and remains in Christ. Such should be noticed, in some capacity, in the life of one who has repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for their salvation.

The apostle gives even more evidence than these in his letter. He also states that a true believer in Christ will practice righteousness. He says, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). In the original Greek that this verse was written in, it says “everyone also who practices righteousness HAS BEEN BORN OF HIM.” In other words, the one who practices righteousness reveals that they have already been born of God. The practice of righteousness serves as an indication that they have been saved. It is a necessary fruit of their faith.

The word for “practice” basically means “do.” The one who has been born again in turn “does” righteousness. And this is in the present tense, conveying a continuous action. Righteousness should be a habit we see in the believer’s life. Now, does this mean that a true Christian will never sin? Of course not! John would be contradicting himself if that was what he intended to say here because earlier he acknowledged that no believer can deny their sin and points to Christ’s work on the cross as the only hope he has when he does sin (1 John 1:8-2:2). What he is saying here is that a Christian will be striving and growing in righteousness. Like Paul, he recognizes that he has not “already become perfect” or “laid hold” of this goal but continues to press forward to achieve it (Philippians 3:12-14). When he fails, which he will, it grieves him and, with the grace that God gives, he picks himself up to practice righteousness again. The Christian continues to grow in this area as they mature though sometimes it may seem as if they are taking three steps forward and two steps back.

The very reason why a righteous life must characterize a Christian is because it characterizes God Himself. Notice that John states that the reason why we can “know” that “everyone also who practices righteousness has been born of [God]” is because we “know that He is righteous.” Sons resemble their fathers in various ways. Not only in their appearance but also in their actions. They will often pick up the habits of their dads. Likewise, there should be an expectation that the one who has been adopted as a child of God through their faith in His Son will resemble the One they can rightfully call Father. They will practice righteousness just as He Himself is righteous.

This serves as a distinguishing mark of a Christian. Later in the letter John even says, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). The one who does not continually practice righteousness but maintains an ongoing practice of unrepentant sin in their life we are told does not belong to God. Instead, he or she would be classified as a child of the devil, the one who “has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:7-8). There is a reason why Paul can confidently state that those who remain characterized by certain sins have no place in the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Because if one has been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified,” they would leave such sins behind and strive to practice righteousness instead (v. 11).

Do you see such characteristics in your life? A desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands. A genuine love for other believers. A denial of the world and its philosophy. Continuing in the faith and remaining in Christ. Practicing righteousness. According to John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they should be there if you have been born again and are a Christian. While these will not be perfect in any believer’s life, they should be present in every believer’s life. Are they in yours?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, October 30, 2014

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 497 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.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

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 (, 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." (

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,
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:

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