Lordship: Total Commitment of Life to Jesus

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You may have heard the phrase, “Have you made Jesus the Lord of your life?” That idea is so familiar, many people think it is biblical, but unfortunately it is not. Nobody ever makes Jesus Lord. People either submit to his Lordship and find eternal joy or reject it and find eternal pain. Lip service to his Lordship is the same as rejecting it, by the way.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:46-49 ESV)

 

We know, even by a cursory reading of the New Testament that Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:8; Matthew 3:13-17; John 10:30) We also know that Jesus is sovereign (John 10:17-18, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again”). We know that Jesus is the savior (John 14:6; Philippians 2:7-8). Finally, we know that Jesus is Lord. The question is how will you respond to the Lordship that Jesus already exercises? Will you submit to Jesus as Lord, or will you intentionally reject his lordship?

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

Guided by the Truth

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[1] To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
[2] O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
[3] Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

[4] Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
[5] Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

[6] Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
[7] Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

[8] Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
[9] He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
[10] All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

(Psalm 25:1-10 ESV)

Using My Own Theology Against Me

David begins Psalm 25 with a declaration of confident trust in the LORD. He says something powerful in Hebrew when he says, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.” This expression is used in other places pointing to desire or longing. David is directing his desires toward the Lord. What a way to start. This is a lament psalm, asking God for help in trouble, and David starts by saying, “I am directing my heart, my desires, my affections, my attention toward you.” He starts with the supremacy of God and moves to the trustworthiness of God. In verses 2-3 he says, “none who wait for you shall be put to shame.” That is, he balances his concern that he might not be ashamed of his trust in God in verse 2 with his belief, his conviction, his theological understanding that none who trust in God will be shamed that they have done so. Matthew Henry agrees,

It is certain that none who, by a believing attendance, wait on God, and, by a believing hope, wait for him, shall be made ashamed of it.

Using Truth as Lamp and Light

Those who trust in the LORD desire to understand his ways and his paths. That is, those who trust in the Lord want to understand how to live their lives in a way that glorifies God in obedience and joy. God has revealed his ways and paths to us in Scripture. David himself connects the way and the path of the LORD to the Scriptures later in this Psalm (8-10), and in other places as well:

[33] Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
[34] Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
[35] Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.  (Psalm 119:33-35 ESV)

[44] I will keep your law continually, forever and ever,
[45] and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. (Psalm 119:44-45 ESV)

[105] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 ESV)

Guidance is not mystical. David doesn’t ask God to help him with a “sense of peace”, or an awareness of where he is at work so that David can join him. He asks God to make him know the truth, to teach him the truth,  and lead him according to the truth.

Repentance as a Heart Condition

David expresses trust in the LORD along with a robust commitment to the truth of Scripture from a repentant heart. He rests in the covenant-keeping fidelity of the LORD toward wicked sinners and he asks God to remember not his sins and transgressions. This is not a wishful, “if you get me out of this, I’ll never do bad things like I used to do” kind of prayer. David is genuinely seeking to be pure before the LORD in prayer, and he is praying that God will answer him according to mercy, not according to what he actually deserves.

Using My Own Theology Against Me…Again

David concludes this section by declaring that God will indeed instruct, lead, teach, and keep his merciful covenant. He founds his trust in God on his knowledge of God sourced in Scripture. God does indeed instruct, lead, teach, and keep his covenant with his people. David is essentially asking God to continue to be who he is and strengthening his own heart with the truth about who God is.

Guided by the Truth

The truth of Scripture is for all of life. We must use the Scripture as David did: to inform our minds and hearts about the God of the Bible who has spoken words of life to us. David used the truth to set his heart on God, to help him trust in God, to direct his way, to remind him of the mercy God had already shown Israel, and to fuel his own praise of God for his goodness, mercy, and guidance in the truth. This is what Scripture accomplishes in the people of God.  In moments of trial and hardship, do what David did:

  1. Use your own theology against you: No one has lied to you, cheated you, sinned against you, and abused you more than you have. Stop listening to yourself and use Scripture to preach to yourself.
  2. Look to the Bible for guidance, not mystical, pseudo-Christian nonsense: A “sense of peace” or something subjective  is no way to determine God’s feelings on a matter. Search Scripture and get Godly counsel from someone who knows the Bible. Pray that God will give you wisdom and direct your paths according to the truth.
  3. Have a repentant heart: Martin Luther, in his posting of the 95 Theses admitted, “the entire life of believers should be repentance.” We begin with a heart of repentant trust in the mercy of God, not with a proud, demanding heart, believing we deserve what we are asking of God. Believers know what they deserve: separation from God for eternity. Thus, we come to God in humility, asking that he will answer us in mercy.
  4. Exalt the God of truth: Celebrate the character of God in Scripture. Be corrected in your thinking by the truth and directed in your worship by the truth.

 

Do The Ordinary: Gospel Balance

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In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them. (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, ESV)

I admit my behavior swings constantly from legalism to liberalism and I get it right like two days a year. Balance is hard for me. Is it hard for you? Do you find it difficult just to follow Jesus? I do. I often want to add to what God requires and tragically, I subtract from it sometimes. Solomon gives us three principles for living in balance before God.

  1. Don’t trust in your own Pharisaic righteousness: Solomon says, “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” Solomon is pointing to the self-righteous tendencies of the legalist, much like Jesus in Matthew 23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
  2. Don’t be foolish with your freedom: Solomon warns us not to be overly wicked nor to be a fool. This is the other extreme from the legalist. While we acknowledge that sin is a part of our existence, even as Christians (Galatians 5:16-17), we must jettison the idea that because the presence of sin remains we have no responsibility to put it to death.  That’s not wise, nor is it safe. Christians put sin to death (Romans 8:13-14).
  3. Fear God: Reverence, worship God. Solomon takes the focus off of behavior and puts it on God. This is the journey of our existence as we seek to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Seek the balance between legalism and license: worship. We know that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10), and that Jesus Christ is to the believer “wisdom and righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30), so we, as God’s people must avoid these extreme behaviors and seek to do the ordinary thing: worship Christ.

Model Pastoral Prayer

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Before we get into the exposition of this passage, I want to direct your attention to another passage that will feed an understanding of this one. One of the chief rules in the study of the Bible is that Scripture interprets Scripture. Paul prays a very specific prayer here and I want you to understand why he does so. To do that, we need to take a close look at Ephesians 4:11-15.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…”

Paul says that Jesus gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, & pastor-teachers for what purpose? To equip the saints for the work of ministry. What does that accomplish? It builds up the body of Christ until it attains unity of doctrine (the faith), knowledge of Christ, and spiritual maturity. So, in summary, Christ gave apostles and pastors to promote the spiritual maturity of the church. Paul sees this as his role.

Paul believes his purpose as an apostle is to help the church grow into spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:11-13,15; Col. 1:28-29), thus his prayer is in alignment with that purpose: his prayer is that God will allow him to return again to Thessalonica to equip them for spiritual maturity.

The Meeting

There are two textual areas of Paul’s prayer I want you to notice. The first is the meeting (3:11).  Paul prays that God would allow him to see the Thessalonians again.

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you…

Paul first uses the phrase, our God and Father himself (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1). How amazing it is that he is even able to pray this prayer. How amazing is it that God has given us the right to call him Father? We call God Father because he has first called us children of God. Second, he speaks about our Lord Jesus Christ who is the one through whom we have adoption, our brother, the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin, clearly grouped with the Father in this phrase, and thus divine. Third, the point of Paul’s prayer is that God would direct our way to you: The phrase “direct our way” means to clear the way, or to make the path straight. Remember, Paul described the devil’s prevention of a reunion between himself and the Thessalonians in 2:18, and here he is asking God to remove that obstacle. Interestingly, if you read  Acts 20:1-4, apparently that prayer was answered,  the obstacles were removed and Paul was able to come to them!

Our prayer as pastors should be that God would remove whatever obstacles are keeping our church from being the church. Be it pride, idolatry, legalism, or anything else. If there are obstacles that are keeping us from engaging one another in Christ-centered community, pastors should pray that God would remove those obstacles and cause us to seek after spiritual maturity together.

The Meeting For Maturity

The second major textual area in this passage is the reason for his meeting, the maturity of the Thessalonians

  • (1:12-13): Paul prays that God would allow him to see the Thessalonians again so that he could equip them for spiritual maturity.

“…12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

Two areas of maturity fall under Paul’s concern. The first is love (12). He wants them to increase (superlative; greater and greater) and abound (overflow, more than enough) in love (agape; the unconditional even if you don’t deserve it love).

That love is meant first for those inside the community of faith (one another). G.K. Beale says, “The Christian community is the school in which we learn to love. Like great musicians who practice tedious drills for long hours, Christians practice their scales at home in order to sing in public. In the community love is commanded and modeled, and here is where it must be lived out and practiced. This does not mean that love is limited to the boundaries of this community. But if the community does not live by the model and teaching of its founder, Jesus, how can it expect others to do so or to hear its call to join with them?” Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(John 13:35).

Love isn’t, as Beale noted, limited to the Christian community. Paul directs the Thessalonians to demonstrate love for all, that is, for those outside the community of faith. We love those who are not within the community of faith, though we do so in a different way. What did Jesus tell his disciples? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Other passages talk about our behavior toward those outside the community of faith in that we are to pursue peace with them (Romans 12:18), do good (Galatians 6:10), be patient (Ephesians 4:2), Praying (1 Timothy 2:1), showing consideration (Titus 3:2), obeying authority and government (Romans 13), honoring (1 Peter 2:17). Love is learned and practiced inside the community of faith and it overflows to those outside.

CLARIFICATION: This is a clear message from the apostle and it is clear from the previous passage (3:6-10) that this kind of love is produced by our faith in the gospel. That we won’t love people like this, whether they be inside the church or outside. If we are to love people, we will do so only as the gospel permeates every area of our being, which is what he talks about next.

 

  • Paul moves into his second concern for the Thessalonian church’s maturity and that is what I call holistic holiness (13). So that he may establish (strengthen; make strong or firm) your hearts (comprehensive being; Pr. 4:23; not just your emotions)
  • Christians tend to relegate their emotions and their actions to completely separate areas of their being. They say, “I may act like a jerk sometimes, and sure I ran over that old lady, but inside, I’m a really good person.” This is how Juvenile Christians get away with sin. It can be relegated it to a corner of their personality and they say something spiritual like, “In my heart of hearts, I’m not the kind of person who would say/do something like that.” Well, actually, it’s because you are that kind of person in your heart of hears that you said or did what you said or did. We have to be clear on this reality as we shepherd the hearts of our people.

 

Paul wants them to mature in Christ until they are spiritually mature, or blameless. And they will be so before God. They had to remember, and we must always remember that God is watching. Not just the world. It’s mystifying to me that I am more concerned about the fact that other people might be watching me than I am about the fact that God always is. I’m not alone, though. A few years ago, I started out a tithing sermon by saying that I decided to look at the financial records for our church and see what everyone gave. You should have seen the looks on everyone’s faces. Horror. Then I said I was kidding and asked why it was such a problem for them that I might know what they give, when God already knows what they give. God is watching. God wants his people to be spiritually mature, and he sees when they refuse to be.

Not only are we to be mature before the face of God, but also before the end: We don’t have much time until the trumpet sounds and Christ returns once and for all to establish his kingdom. He is coming and coming soon. Romans 13:11-14.

“11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

 

Let us be sober and awake and take advantage of the time we have been given.  Are you saying that we should tell our people to obey God because we are afraid of the judgment? Isn’t that fear-mongering legalism? No. While we rest completely in the finished work of Christ on our behalf for our standing in God (2 Corinthians 5:21), we cannot ignore the seriousness of the Christian life of maturity. We must tell our people not to waste their lives storing up treasure on earth when they could be storing up treasure in heaven. We must tell our people to press on to maturity in their relationship with Christ because that’s what the Bible says the Holy Spirit is in them to accomplish (Galatians 5: 16-25), and I’d like to go ahead and be on the same team with the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t you?

Patience in Pastoral Prayer

Maturity is what we are to be about as pastors and as churches. But that doesn’t mean we get to be impatient. We understand that there are babies and there are grown ups in the people of God. In a survey we took a month ago we learned that by far, the majority of people in our church have been saved for 10 years or more, which could and should mean a degree of spiritual maturity.

By way of an illustration, when you’re dealing with babies, there are certain things you understand. One pastor explained it like this and I like this illustration. When you go to a pool and you see toddlers splashing in the baby pool together (in that water that’s just a little bit warmer than the other pool), you don’t think anything about it. Why? Because they’re babies, in the baby pool. However, if you came into the pool area and there was a 55 year old man in the pool just splashing and giggling…wouldn’t you grab your phone and call the authorities? In the same way, we have patience with babies, but not with those who should no longer be acting like them. That’s why we take this so seriously. It’s our job, and it’s their life.

Let’s pray with the apostle Paul for our people that they would be mature and that we would mature, not above them, but along with them for God’s glory and our joy.

“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith”(2 Corinthians 1:24).

The Power of Delight

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"Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them" (Psalm 111:2).

One of the most powerful motivators for Bible study is the inevitable delight in doing so. We study Scripture because when we do, we expand our delight in God, which causes us to come back again to study more, knowing that our delight in him will expand yet again. That is what the Bible is built to do.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward”(Psalm 19:7-11).

Only the Bible can support the weight of our need for soul restoration in God. Herein is the secret of our delight in the study of the great works of The Lord: we forget him. We have bad days. We lose sleep in fear of upcoming decisions. The doctor gives us bad news.

“Some days with Jesus we are so sad we feel our heart will break open. Some days with Jesus fear turns us into a knot of nerve ends. Some days with Jesus we are so depressed and discouraged that between the garage and the house we just want to sit down on the grass and cry. Every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. We know it from experience and we know it from Scripture.”-John Piper

Within the pages of the Bible we find the mighty, sovereign God who holds us together and restores our soul (Psalm 19:7,23: 3). We remember again that God causes all things to work together for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28ff). We remember again that Jesus came and died that we might not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3). Our delight in God expands. Our focus is now upon our God, not on our pain. He is the God whose works are great, and we who have found our souls restored in them study out of delight, not out of duty.

Man as Prophet, Priest, And King

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The three offices that Christ fulfilled in the Scriptures are that of Prophet, Priest and King. We see that clearly in the Old and New Testaments, but most clearly in the New Testament when we see Jesus as the better priest and prophet in the book of Hebrews and the conquering King in Revelation. Calvin saw it this way in the Institutes where he wrote: “the office which [Christ] received from the Father consists of three parts. For he was appointed Prophet, Priest and King.”

John Fesko elaborates, “Christ, for example, spoke as the prophet when He gave the true meaning of the Law over and against the misinterpretations of the Scribes and Pharisees in His Sermon on the Mount (e.g. Matt. 5.21-22).  In like manner the High Priest was supposed to go into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and make a sacrifice on behalf of the people of Israel to atone for their sins (Lev. 16).  The role of the High Priest is ultimately fulfilled in Christ as the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek who has entered the heavenly Holy of Holies and intercedes for the people of God (Heb. 8-10).  The same pattern holds true for the Old Testament office of King.  It was King David, for example, that ultimately points forward to Christ in His role as the King of Kings (e.g. Ezek. 37.24ff).  Again, these Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king find their ultimate fulfillment and significance in the person and work of Christ.”

George Whitfield agrees, “A man ought to look upon himself as obliged to act in three capacities: as a prophet, to instruct; as a priest, to pray for and with; as a king, to govern, direct, and provide.”

If men are to model their lives after Jesus, then we must understand and pursue a correct, biblical, Holy Spirit-empowered filling of the roles of prophet, priest and king.

Man as Prophet

In the most simple definition, a prophet is a man who speaks for God. While we might think of telling the future when we think of the word “prophet”, it has more to do with speaking the Word of God.

Practical Marks of Man as Prophet

  1. He hears from God: Prophets in Scripture heard from God through dreams, visions, or verbal conversations with God either audible or internal. Today, we have the completed revelation of God in the pages of the Bible. Bob Lepine says, “To hear from God today, a man must diligently equip himself as a student of the Scriptures.” For example, as Doug Wilson says, “a man may not be a vocational theologian, but in his home he must be the resident theologian. The apostle Paul, when he is urging women to keep silent in the church, tells them that “if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home” (1 Corinthians 14:35). A husband and father must be prepared to answer doctrinal questions from his wife and children, and if he cannot, then he must be prepared to study so that he can remedy the deficiency.
    1. Study: Colossians 3:16 (May the Word of God dwell richly…)
    2. Meditation: Psalm 119:11
    3. Delight: Jeremiah 15:16; 2 Peter 2:2
      1. Do you love the written word?
      2. Do you love the preached word?
      3. Do you love the taught word?
    4. Practice: James 1:22-25
  2. He establishes a doctrinal foundation for his life and home: Every man must be a theologian. 2 Timothy 1:13-14, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”; 2 Timothy 2: 1-2, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
  3. He proclaims and declares the truth of the Scriptures: For many of us, a formal time of Bible study with our family is a daunting idea. We think of everyone in our family looking at us to offer some spiritual insight and we feel inadequate to give it. This can be remedied! There are boundless resources that can help in the study and delivery of the Scriptures. Not only in this area, but in other areas where a testimony of the truth is required, it is important that the man of God arrive equipped to deliver a clear, biblical answer: 1 Peter 3:15-16; Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
  4. He confronts sin in his own life with ferocity and in others with generosity: Galatians 6:1-3; Matthew 18.

Man as Priest

The danger in many evangelical churches is to assume that a few men are charged with the task of being spiritual leaders, and the rest of the men in the church are to go about their business, give their money and try not to cuss. The reality of the Bible is that all men are to strive to obey Christ and live their lives in spiritual leadership, whether that be a wife, children, Sunday School class, committee, deacon board, elder board, staff, etc.

Character

[1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9]

Practical Marks of Man as Priest

  1. Prayer: Matthew 6 (Pray like Jesus told you to pray); John 17: 8-9, 17-18, 20 (Pray like Jesus)
  2. Worship Leader:
    1. Men should take the initiative on Sunday Mornings. Men should get kids dressed, fed and ready for church. Men should review memory verses, get offerings ready, pray for Sunday School teachers, etc.
    2. Men should take the initiative in Prayer, Bible Study, and family devotions. If you don’t like to read out loud, ask your wife or one of your children to read a few verses.
  3. Discipleship: Elise Fitzpatrick says, “It’s never enough to just focus on behavior-to train children to obey you immediately, to sit up straight, not interrupt, do their schoolwork faithfully, and so on. You have to do a work in their heart. As you have probably heard along the way, rules without relationship lead to rebellion. This is all tied to winning your children’s hearts.”
    1. Explanation: This is training by word, or by what is said to the child. We instruct children in the Lord. We preach the gospel to them as we teach them to obey all the way, right away and with a happy heart, taking the opportunities when they fail to point them to the gospel. You remind them that God’s standard is perfection, but we never reach it because our hearts are inclined to evil. Every encounter with discipline is an opportunity to not only address the lack of obedience, but to address the need for redemption, so that Jesus might save our rebellious hearts. Tullian Tchividjian says, “Yes, they need to clean their room, to share with their brother and to stop hitting, but more importantly, they need the gospel.”
    2. Example: How do I do this as a father? The main thing you need to do is to study your own Bible. When you come to apply the Bible to your own life, I would encourage you to do it this way: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
      1. Teaching: The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. So what is this passage teaching me about God, man, sin, Jesus, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, etc.?
      2. Reproof: Rebuke of wrong attitudes or actions. Scripture convicts of sin and calls us to repent.
      3. Correction: Many times we can see the problem, but we are either unaware of the solution, or unwilling to take steps to put it into practice. Sometimes the answers are hard to find, but they are always there.
      4. Training in Righteousness: The Bible is a book about God, fundamentally. However, the Bible does give us a clear pattern by which we can live our lives. This happens through warnings, instructions, teachings, commands, etc.
    3. Deuteronomy tells parents to teach their children the Scriptures but before it does, it tells them to love the Lord their God with all their heart. So before you teach your children, take pains to teach yourself. Chances are, the sins that you struggle with are identical to the sins your children struggle with. So research your own sin and apply the Scripture to your own heart and then teach your children out of the overflow of your study!

Man as King

One author comments, “The king led, protected and provided for the safety of the realm. He secured the infrastructure necessary for civilization. He justly applied the law of God to the government, commerce and care of the state. . . . The king was not only a warrior, but he also was the representative of the realm in conversations with the “world.” He planned strategies, negotiated alliances, and applied the word of God to daily conflicts. . . . In so doing, he became the one who took the truth of God into the world and invited unbelievers to know and bow before the God of Israel.”

Practical Marks of Man as King

  1. Leadership: Do you abuse or abdicate in the area of leadership? Examine the major areas—your faith, your marriage, your family, your job, your relationships with friends, your service to the community, your physical health and well-being, your stewardship over the resources God has given you, and your recreational time—and decide where you need to begin to take some initiative and lead. Again, one author points out, “We are called to cultivate Christ in our spouses. . . . To do so effectively, we must be guided by a vision of who they are, a picture of who they were meant to be [like Christ] and a grasp of our role in helping them become like Christ.” Don’t make this leadership idea secular, but biblical: Luke 22:26, “But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
  2. Provision: Genesis 3 implies that the man is to be working, through difficulty, but in chapter 2 he was working in perfection. God didn’t put man in the garden to play. He put him in the garden to work. The idea is: Manhood=labor. Providing for the family is the man’s responsibility. That involves planning, hard work and decision-making. Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent surely lead to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. Psalm 104:23 Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until evening. Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.
  3. Protection:  Deuteronomy 22 talks about a girl who commits adultery with a married man and she is sentenced to death by stoning. They put her to death on the steps of her father’s house, because he has failed to teach, shepherd, instruct, and protect her. This isn’t just true of fathers and daughters. It is true of fathers and sons as well. All through Proverbs we read instruction after instruction on how to stay away from the harlot, the adulteress. It’s a dad’s role to protect his son from pornography and promiscuity. Proverbs 5:1-6

This is difficult. If you’re like me, when I look at the pattern the Scriptures lay out for us as men, it’s daunting. I fail in these areas daily. You and I need Jesus. We need the grace given to us by Jesus when we look at these things and weep over our sin and wickedness and bad parenting. We need Jesus, the true prophet, priest, and king to bring us to the Father and remind us of grace so as we seek to obey him, we do so out of gratitude for our Father…maybe then our children will be grateful for theirs.

Practical Atheism: A Devotional By Jeff Schreve

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As you prepare your heart for Sunday School this week, I would encourage you to read and meditate upon this great devotion by Pastor Jeff Schreve on Practical Atheism:

Have you ever met an atheist?  An atheist believes there is no God.  Do you know what God’s response to that is?  “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1).

While no Christian would ever be guilty of being an atheist, many Christians are guilty of being practical atheists.  Practical atheism does not believe there is no God; practical atheism lives as if there is no God.  Could you be a practical atheist?

THE PRACTICAL ATHEISM TEST

Notice the convicting similarities between atheism and practical atheism:

1.  An atheist does not pray. So many Christians do not really pray.  They may mumble something with a bowed head before dinner or before bed, but there is no real time to seek God in prayer.  The Lord says in the Book of James, “You do not have because you do not ask” (Jas. 4:2).

2.  An atheist does not read the Bible.  So many Christians do not read the Bible.  The average Christian is very susceptible to the devil’s lies because he/she does not take time to read and study God’s Word.

3.  An atheist walks by sight, not faith.  So many Christians do the same thing.  They fail to evaluate their situation in light of God’s miraculous power, so they worry and fear and fail to simply trust God.  How quickly we forget, “Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God” (Heb. 11:6).

4.  An atheist does not give to the Lord’s work.  So many Christians do not either.  Many Christians spend more money on their pets than they do the Kingdom of God.  A recent statistic revealed that if all the members in an average-sized church were on welfare, and each one tithed, the giving to that church would double.  WOW! 

5.  An atheist lives only for this life.  So many Christians are guilty of the same.  They store up their treasure on earth.  They live and plan as if this temporary, mortal life is all that matters.  They make decisions with only earth in mind, not heaven.  The Bible says, “The eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth” (Prov. 17:24).

CHANGE ME, LORD!

If some of those similarities are too close for comfort, don’t sink down in guilt and shame.  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  Confess it as sin, and ask God to change your heart.  Tell Him that you do not want to live another day as if He were not alive and able to work miracles.

The story is told of Martin Luther, the great Christian reformer of the 1500s.  There was a time in his Christian life when he was very depressed for days on end.  His wife, Kate, came into his study all dressed in black as if she were in mourning.   Luther asked her what exactly she was mourning:

    “Have you not heard?” she questioned.  “God is dead.”
Luther responded, “Woman!  That is absurd!  God is not dead!”
“Well,” she replied, “if God is not dead, then stop living like He is!”

My friend, God is not dead, He is alive and well.  He still answers prayer, He still speaks through His Word, He still blesses when we honor Him with our wealth, He still moves mountains when we come to Him with a mustard seed of faith, and He still rewards those who diligently seek Him.

No matter what you are facing today, God is able.  Take Him at His Word and trust Him!!  Determine to live every day in the light of His presence.  Remember, His name is Jehovah Shammah, “the Lord ever-present.”  He is ever-present for you this day and every day.  Live like it!

…our God enjoys loving us.

QT Chair

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:18-20).

What an amazing reality! Steadfast love refers to God’s covenant fidelity, his promise-keeping faithfulness to his people. The amazing thing about the steadfast love of the Lord is that it doesn’t come out of a cold, calculated duty. Rather, it arrises from delight. God enjoys loving his people like this. I can’t speak for you, but I’d be willing to bet you aren’t always lovable. I know I’m not. The idea that God loves a wretch like me is amazing, but the fact that he delights in doing so is mind-blowing. Find hope in that today, Christian. God doesn’t  love you because he has to. He loves you because it is his delight to do so.

The Measure of Our Maturity

measure of our maturity_t_nvEveryone has their own idea of what it means to be “mature”. Everyone has marks that they look for in another person’s life to see if they indeed are mature. I read a quote by Fred Cook this week and he says it well, “Maturity is the ability to do a job whether supervised or not; finish it once started; carry money without spending it; and…bear an injustice without wanting to get even.” That is a great definition of maturity, though there are probably as many different definitions as there are people reading this.

  1. The problem is that many of us don’t have a definition of what it means to be spiritually mature. Many of us have had that question in mind for a long time: How do I become a mature Christian? What does maturity in the Christian life look like? There may be others who are looking at this question and have no doubt what Christian maturity looks like because they’re thinking, “It looks like me!” Well, let’s look at God’s word to see what God says a mature believer looks like. Look at Psalm 119:73-80:

73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!

How Do I Become a Mature Christian?

  1. Do You Have a Desire for Growth? (73, 80): If so, this passage teaches that maturity means Bible.
  2. The Psalmist submits himself to his creator (v73), and then acknowledges that it is this same creator that will give him wisdom and understanding (v73). Not only that, he prays that he might be complete, or sound in his life, as he applies the understanding he receives (v80).
    1. Understanding: 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Paul is clearly teaching submission to God the creator as the giver of the knowledge of Christ); He says something similar in Colossians 1:9, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”
    2. The application of the knowledge of God results in a spiritually mature life: Colossians 1: 10-14, “…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
    3. Charles Spurgeon said about this verse, “He who has made us live will (and indeed must) make us learn.” I would add to that, “…so we may live.” We study the Bible to know, love and live the truth.
  3. Are You Connected to Other Believers? (74, 79): Maturity means living with others. The Psalmist points out the desire for his growth in God to assist others in their growth as well. He hopes they will be helped in two ways:
    1. By his Passion (v74): He hopes that they will see the hope that he has in the word of God and that they will share in his joy.
    2. By his Proclamation (v79): He hopes that they will turn to him, and this carries with it the idea of people turning to listen as someone speaks.
      • Psalm 40:1-3 Says: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
      • Ephesians 4:12-16, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
      • “We do not only meet to share each other’s burdens, but to partake in each other’s joys, and some men contribute largely to the stock of mutual gladness. Hopeful men bring gladness with them. Despondent spirits spread the infection of depression, and hence few are glad to see them, while those whose hopes are grounded upon God’s word carry sunshine in their faces, and are welcomed by their fellows.” –Spurgeon. A mark of spiritual maturity is the gladness of God that you invest in the lives of others.
  4. Are You Dealing with Difficulty? (75, 78): Maturity means enduring suffering.The Psalmist acknowledges to God that in all he has had to deal with, God has not been unfair to him, and even if he undergoes persecution from the hands of evil men, he will ignore their falsehood and trust in God.
    1. Trusting God’s Faithfulness (v75): Matthew 5: 11-16, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
    2. Ignoring the World’s Falsehood (v78): Matthew 5: 43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
      • Christ told us this kind of thing would happen. He told us that in this world we would have trouble, but that he has given us his peace and that we should take heart, for he has overcome the world. Remember what we said last week, that in all suffering, God has a reason and a purpose.
      • Ironically, James 1:1-2 says that we should consider it joy when we endure suffering, for the testing of our faith produces endurance and the result of endurance, according to James, is guess what? Maturity. Maturity means enduring suffering.
  5. Do You Find Comfort in Your Covenant With God Through Jesus? (76-77): Maturity is a result of the Spirit’s work within me. The bull’s-eye of this passage is seen in verses 76 and 77 where the Psalmist acknowledges that at the center of maturity for him is the work of God in him and to him. He mentions two things about this work of God.
    1. It’s a Loving work: The word that the Psalmist uses in verse 76 is hesed which is God’s covenantal love, or his loving faithfulness to his people. This is a comfort to the Psalmist and to us, for we know that maturity in our relationship with God is not dependent upon us, but upon him: Hebrews 12:2 says to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Galatians 3 says that it is foolish to think that we are redeemed by grace, and made holy by our own efforts! Philippians 2: 12 says that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This would be scary, and impossible for us as sinful people, but we must read the next verse! Verse 13 reminds us that it is God who is at work within us both to will and to work for his good pleasure!
    2. It’s a Merciful work: Colossians 3:12-17, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Maturity is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I pray this weekend of worship is a step toward spiritual maturity by God’s definition, and that we consistently measure our maturity according to that standard, not the standards of the world, or the standards we invent in our idol-making hearts.

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