May 28, 2007
But, wait. God cannot just simply let us go free, can He? Wouldn’t that be a corruption of justice…to let a convicted criminal go free? How would you feel if the judges in your city began a new policy of letting thieves and rapists go free simply because they felt sorry for them? You’d be calling for a new judge! Letting criminals walk with no penalty is the worst kind of injustice. And if God were to somehow ‘work the system’ and bend the rules for us, He’d be sinning too!
So, we have a dilemma. God loves sinners and wants to set them free. But His perfection demands that He must punish the crime! What is He to do? How will He maintain His impeachable justice and at the same time reach out a hand of mercy to sinners whom He loves?
There is only one solution. Someone else has to pay. If God wants to both punish your sin and rescue you from punishment, someone else has to pay the penalty. It’s the only option. But where could God find a man who did not have sins of His own to pay for? There aren’t any! So the only option is for God to become a man Himself (in the person of His Son) and to be, Himself, the one who would pay the penalty for everyone else’s sins! This is the story of Jesus! He was pierced for our transgression, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him (Isaiah 53.5). Christ’s death purchases for us forgiveness, a right relationship with God, a fresh start, God’s supernatural help to overcome our struggles with sin, and a permanent home in heaven that will never be taken away!
Jesus Christ died to save sinners…even sinners like you. His job is done. That is the best news a person could ever hear! But you must respond. You must lay hold of this free gift by faith. What that means is this: You must rest in Jesus. You must stop running from God…and run to the care and provision of Jesus. And, if you are the religious type, you must stop trying to save yourself with good deeds, or religious activity…and rest in Jesus’ good deeds on your behalf! He is fully capable of rescuing you and restoring you to God. He does not need your help. But He will only perform the rescue when you stop running from Him…and stop striving to save yourself and rest in Him! Salvation does not depend on the man who wills, or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9.16). So, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16.31)!
May 21, 2007
‘Bad news?’ you ask. ‘I thought Christianity was supposed to offer good news!’ Of course it does…and don’t worry, we’ll get there. But before a life boat appears very useful to us, we have to realize that we have fallen overboard. And before the good news will have the poignancy that it ought, we have to hear the bad news. And there is bad news…
The Bible says that all human beings are, by nature, sinners (Romans 3.10-11). And our experience bears this out. Each of us has observed the fact that even small children (who seem hardly know right from wrong) figure out quite quickly how to defy mommy and daddy! No one has to teach them how to throw a fit, or hit their brother, or lie about it when they get caught. So, to say that human beings are naturally good not only denies the Bible, but our common human experience. We are born selfish. We are born knowing how to sin…and wanting to sin. And, as adults, these innate qualities continue to cling to us like filthy axle-grease. We still pitch fits (perhaps more sophisticatedly, but fits nonetheless!) when we do not get what we want. In our actions, and in the secret places of our minds, every one of us lives a life in defiance, sometimes of the laws of the land, and other times of the laws of our own conscience. All of us find ourselves, at times, deliberately doing that which we know is plain wrong. Why? Because we’re born sinners!
But the major problem comes when we realize that we are not simply sinning against the laws of the land or the laws of our own consciences…but against the laws of God!
God’s response to such defiance? The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth (Romans 1.18). We suppress the truth, Paul says. We deliberately ignore God, His commands, and His authority. We have thumbed our nose at our Creator! And God has, therefore, shut the door on relationship with us, and is preparing eternal punishment for His rebellious creatures!
That is the bad news. It is awful news! We are sinners and there is, literally, hell to pay. But once we have come to terms with our rebellion, we are candidates to hear and love the good news…namely that “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3.18). Have you come to believe the good news? Have you let Christ bring you to God?
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It really is now a free country!
May 14, 2007
A great teacher? Founder of the world’s largest organized religion? Prophet? Humanitarian? All of these descriptions have been attached to Jesus Christ of Nazareth through the years. And none of them without warrant. For Jesus did teach like no one ever taught. Millions of people world-wide do claim Him as the founder of their faith. And Jesus did care for humanity with a power and a compassion unparalleled in history. But none of these man-made descriptions fully captures the essence of the true man, Jesus. So who, really, is Jesus? Let’s let Him answer the question Himself.
May 13, 2007
May 10, 2007
May 4, 2007
But there are some things you don’t ever want second-hand—toothbrushes, engagement rings, syringes, cigarette smoke…and faith! Faith is never any good when it is second hand. Faith cannot be handed down from generation to generation, or from one friend to another, like a suit-jacket. Each person must believe on Christ for himself. So how is it that so many people (particularly young people) are content with second-hand faith? How is it that so many believe that all is well because their parents believed, and brought them to church, and taught them wrong from right? All this is wonderful…but it doesn’t make a person a believer!
Let’s do a case-study of one Old Testament second-hander: Joash, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 23-24). Joash became king when he was seven years old. Of course, with such a young king, the nation needed a steady, faithful man who could act as regent while Joash grew up and learned how to act like a king. And God provided such a man—Jehoiada, the priest. As I read his story this week, it seemed to me that Jehoiada was one of the most exemplary characters in the Bible. He ruled well in Joash’s stead. He led the people back to the LORD. He raised Joash and taught him the ways of God. And Joash obeyed the Lord—restoring the broken-down Temple and serving well as king.
In fact, according to 2 Chronicles 24.2, “Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (italics mine). Now those italicized words should signal to you that something must have changed once “the days of Jehoiada the priest” were ended. And something did change. 2 Chronicles 24.17-19 tell us that once Jehoiada was dead, Joash began to listen to ungodly counsel and eventually turned against the LORD altogether—finally murdering Jehoiada’s son because he dared to point out the king’s unfaithfulness.
How could a man who started so well, finish in such a mess? One answer: His faith was second hand. His devotion, it seems, was more toward Jehoiada the priest, than toward Jehoiada’s God. And so, like many young-people whose religion is more out of duty to their parents than out of love to Jesus, he crumbled when Jehoiada died.
Isn’t this why so many young people leave the church when they go off to college, or get their own place? They are no longer under the watchful eye of their parents. If their faith was really in Jesus, they would remain and serve the LORD. But, as it is, their religion is second-hand. They are only doing it because mom and dad are watching. But let mom and dad die…or let the child be out from under the roof…and what appeared to be faith soon appears to be falsehood.
So what must we do? Well, as parents (or grandparents, pastors, SS teachers, etc.) we must constantly point away from ourselves and to Christ. We must plead with young people to be sure that their devotion is directed toward Him, and not toward us. And, if you find that you are a second-hander yourself…seek Christ while He may be found! Realize that no one else’s faith can save you. Make sure that you are devoted to, in love with, and believing in Christ for yourself.
May 3, 2007
May 1, 2007
Over the last two weeks of April, a fellow pastor (Scott Duley) and I traveled to
In the midst of this largely unbelieving populous sits the evangelical community. The believers we worked among are strong in many respects. There seems to be an absolute certainty about the exclusive claims of Jesus. The singing in our worship times was always done with great enthusiasm. There was a servant spirit evident everywhere. The men were eager to learn and usually on the edge of their seats to drink in the teaching of the Word. And (how encouraging!) the director of education (Alem, pictured below) for the
Amid these encouraging signs, there are definite areas for concern and prayer among the evangelicals in
All these facts point to one great need—sound, careful, reformed theological training in the Amharic tongue. Enter Anthony Mathenia. Anthony has been traveling to
Would he ever! The result of that initial meeting has been Pastor’s Training Institute. PTI will consist of eight 2-week training modules over a two-year span. The trainees are housed and fed through a local church in Addis Ababa, and attend Institute classes for six hours a day, five days a week. The curriculum is arranged systematically, beginning with the doctrine of God and moving forward the way any systematic theology text-book would. Interspersed are practical seminars and sermons as well. For this first two-year round of PTI, the training will be mostly done by English speakers and translated into Amharic by able men.
Scott and I traveled from the
Eventually, Anthony would like for PTI to transition completely into the Amharic language. This will require his own mastery of the language, as well as selecting and training of a group of Ethiopian men who will become the instructors in a long-term Amharic PTI. Would you pray with us about all that the Lord is so graciously doing in
- Successful long-term progression to an all-Amharic based PTI.
- The next PTI module happens the last week of May and first week of June (Jordan Thomas and Nathan Sawyer of
teaching). Memphis, TN
- Lasting fruit through the eventual planting of up to 40 Christ-centered churches in the unreached corners of
- Hosting logistics, travel, finances, and other nuts and bolts the Mathenia’s will be dealing with as they organize round after round of PTI.