August 31, 2015

Sermons from 1 Timothy

We've just finished a series of sermons working our way through the book of 1 Timothy.  Listen in:

1 Timothy 1:1-2 - "To Timothy" - mp3
1 Timothy 1:3-11 - "The goal of our instruction" - mp3
1 Timothy 1:12-17 - Paul's Testimony - mp3
1 Timothy 1:18-20 - "Fight the good fight" - mp3
1 Timothy 2:1-7 - "Who desires all men to be saved" - mp3
1 Timothy 2:1-15 - Instructions for the Life of the Church - mp3
1 Timothy 3:1-7 - "The office of overseer" - mp3
1 Timothy 3:8-13 - "Deacons likewise" - mp3
1 Timothy 3:14-16 - "The pillar and support of the truth" - mp3
1 Timothy 4:1-7a - "Doctrines of demons" - mp3
1 Timothy 4:6-16 - "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching" - mp3
1 Timothy 4:10,16 - The Why's of Gospel Ministry - mp3
1 Timothy 5:1-8 - Widows, Family, and the Family of God - mp3
1 Timothy 5:9-16 - Widows, Workers, and Women's Roles - mp3
1 Timothy 5:17-25 - Managing the Team of Elders - mp3
1 Timothy 6:1-5 - The Primacy of Doctrine - mp3
1 Timothy 6:5-10, 17-19 - Money, Contentment, and True Riches - mp3
1 Timothy 6:11-16, 20-21 - "Fight the good fight" and guard the good news - mp3

August 27, 2015

Sermons on Isaiah 55

We've just completed a brief series through one of the great chapters of the Old Testament.  Listen in:

Isaiah 55:1-2 - The Free Offer of the Gospel - mp3
Isaiah 55:3-4 - The Gospel of the King - mp3
Isaiah 55:4-5 - The Expanse of the Gospel - mp3
Isaiah 55:6-9 - The Gospel of Repentance and Pardon - mp3
Isaiah 55:10-11 - The Word of the Gospel - mp3
Isaiah 55:12-13 - The Gospel of Joy - mp3

August 24, 2015

David's Mighty Men

I was struck, once again, this week as I re-read the account of David’s “mighty men” in 2 Samuel 23. You may remember that chapter, where the biblical author gives us a who’s who of David’s leading men – listing thirty-plus of them who counted as David’s most valiant and trusted warriors. One of them “went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.” Another of them slew eight hundred of the enemy in a single battle. And then there was the instance in which three of the mighty men, overhearing David’s wistfulness about the refreshing water that could be drawn from his hometown well, broke through the lines of Philistines camped round about that well, and secured a skin of water for their lord at the risk of their very lives!

These were great men! “Mighty men”, as they are called. Men who would go to great personal risk, and make great personal efforts to serve their lord, David. Even though, for most of them, all we know if their name and place of origin, there is no doubt that David could have listed many, many acts of valor, honor, loyalty, and kindness which each of them had performed on his behalf (and, thus, on behalf of his Lord).

And, as I read about them again this week, I was struck with the thought that he (or she) is greatly blessed who has such a band of men (or women) by his (or her) side. We are marvelously privileged if we have even three, much less thirty, such people in our lives – people who are valiant for what is right; people of honor; people who will be loyal to us no matter how difficult it may be; people who will go to great lengths to show love and care and help to our souls.

And it begs the question: Who are the mighty men (or women) in your life? Some of them may be spouses or family; some church family; some brothers and sisters in Christ who live in other places, but who would stop on a dime and be in Cincinnati overnight if that is what you needed. Do you have such people in your life? If so, you are rich indeed!

But then we should also ask … whose mighty man or woman are you? You cannot be “closer than a brother” to every friend in your life. But there are probably a few for whom you absolutely should be! Who are they? Or whom ought they to be? Don’t let them down. Be mighty on their behalf, and mighty for the Lord in their lives. No one else may know all that you did and sacrificed for their good. But they, like David, will have a long list of reasons to be thankful for you. And God will honor your faithfulness!

August 17, 2015

Effective Evangelism

Do you want to be more effective at sharing the gospel of Jesus with your family, co-workers, and neighbors? Do you want to see souls saved? What can you do to be more effective as an evangelist? Well, there are probably a number of things to say here …

Getting the gospel right is paramount. And so is presenting it, not merely in your own words, but particularly in those of Scripture.

Prayer is vital, too. No one comes to Jesus unless they are drawn by God. And so we do well to plead that God would do what we cannot.

And then there are lesser (but still important) things like winsomeness, relationship, clarity of expression, and so on.

But it struck me, as I read Psalm 51 this past week, how David connects his own evangelistic effectiveness with the cleanness, joyfulness, and Spirit-filling of his own heart (vv.10-13):

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.

Did you pick up on what David is saying? He asks for a clean heart, a steadfast and willing spirit, the presence of God’s Spirit with him, and a restored joy in the salvation of His God! And then, he says, “I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to you” … as though his success in sharing God’s word with others depended (at least partly) on David’s own holiness, and joy, and nearness to God! And that is exceptionally worthy of note! It’s akin to what pastor Robert M’Cheyne said famously: ‘What my people need most is my own personal holiness.’ Were M’Cheyne’s words an overstatement? Probably. But you get the point. It is a clean and well-sharpened scalpel that is most effective in the hand of a surgeon. And it is a clean, Spirit-filled, happy Christian who is the best instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit.

Now, in saying this, we do not negate the fact that the power for conversion is in the word of God, applied by the Spirit of God. Not for a moment would I seek to de-emphasize that! Nor do I deny that God can use the filthiest of sinners to speak the gospel such that multitudes will be saved. It is “the gospel”, in the final analysis, that is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).

But the gospel’s reach often seems to extend much further, and to ring out much more clearly, from the lips of happy, holy, Spirit-filled Christians. So let us be such! And please do pray for this needy pastor, that I would be such. “Then I will teach transgressors [God’s] ways, and sinners will be converted to [Him].”

August 10, 2015

Sermon on the Law of God (with some thoughts on the Sabbath)

I've written at several points, through the years, on the Law of God (and particularly as it is embodied in the Ten Commandments).  Yesterday I gathered many of those thoughts together and summarized them in a single sermon.  Listen in here.

One thought that may be helpful to repeat in written format relates to the connection between the abiding relevance of the Sabbath to the modern debate over the biblical teaching on marriage.

The Sabbath command is the one in ten that many Christians balk at most quickly … perhaps mainly because we are Americans, and we idolize activity.  But there are also a few people who don’t believe the 4th commandment is still binding on us because, they say, it is a part of the Old Testament ceremonial or civil law (neither of which are incumbent upon us, any longer, as a way of life).

Well, it’s true that there were civil accouterments attached to the Sabbath commandment … such as the penalty of stoning for those who broke it.  And we are no longer bound by those civil penalties.  But you would be hard pressed, as Alistair Begg has pointed out, to count the Sabbath principle as a civil or ceremonial law … placed as it is, right in the middle of 9 other obviously moral commandments!  Commandment 3 is obviously a moral law.  And so is commandment 5.  And we don't write them off as being merely civil or ceremonial requirements which died away with the close of the Old Covenant.  So why do we assume that we should do so with the commandment that comes right between the two?

Furthermore, we should note that the Israelites, in Exodus 16, were expected to know about and keep the Sabbath even before God gave them the 10 commandments in ch.20; even before Moses gave them the Old Covenant, in other words, with all its ceremonies and civil institutions!

The Sabbath principle predates the OT ceremonial and civil laws!

And not just by four chapters in the book of Exodus!  But we find in Genesis 2 that God sanctified one day in seven as what we call a creation ordinance!  The Sabbath was given, in other words, not at the inauguration of the Jewish nation, but at the inauguration of the entire human race.  It was given to mankind in general, not simply to the Old Covenant Jews.  Go back and read the account for yourself in Genesis 2:1-3.

The Sabbath, like marriage, was instituted in the Garden of Eden … not in the Law of Moses!

And that’s where this becomes an interesting case study  … in these days where Christians are keen to defend the biblical definition of marriage!  We don’t say that marriage was only for the Jews, because there is a command in the Mosaic law about adultery!  Nor do we say that marriage is only for Christians, because it’s addressed in the New Testament epistles!  No!  We say that there is one definition of marriage for the entire human race, because God declared it to be so in the garden!

And I submit to you that, to use any other reasoning on the principle of the Sabbath - which God also instituted in the garden - comes across, to me, like theological picking and choosing!

You cannot say that one man, one woman marriage is for all mankind (and not just for Jews and Christians), unless you are also willing to say that the Sabbath is also a creation ordinance … intended for the blessing, and the obedience, of all mankind!

And so what is the principle in Exodus 20:8-11?  All mankind is to take one day in seven - the Lord’s Day - and refrain, not only from working himself, but also from making other people work for him.  And not only this, but Isaiah 58 says that we should also refrain from distracting recreations so that we can give ourselves, on the Lord’s Day, to the things of God!

Now, there are some exceptions to this which Jesus makes clear … namely that works of necessity (like caring for your animals) and works of mercy (like healing the sick) are lawful on the Lord’s Day.  But by and large, the idea is that we don’t work, and that we don’t ask others to do unnecessary work for us ... cashiers, waitresses, ticket-takers, athletes, and so on.  And we don’t dilly-dally the day away on recreations that take us away from God.  But rather we use the day to rest both body and soul, and to delight in the Lord!

And I hope that you will take these things just as seriously, as you take the other nine commandments, and as you take the necessary Christian stand for the biblical definition of marriage!

August 4, 2015

Jesus' Easy Yoke

A pastor with whom I used to have correspondence signed his emails in quite a memorable and stirring way. Not just ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Best regards’ or ‘Every blessing’ … but ‘In Jesus’ easy yoke’, and then his name. And it struck me as quite memorable the first time I read it. And it still sticks in my memory these 8 or 10 years later. He was reminding me, based on that great invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11, that he was yoked to Christ, and that to be so was not at all a burden.

Would that we always felt that way!

Oh yes, both the brokenness of this world and the weight of our own sin often conspire to make us “weary and heavy-laden.” But when we come to Jesus, we “find rest for [our] souls.” When we come to Jesus, we do not find such heavy burdens added, but rather lifted! And, even in those cases when Christ does not take a burden wholly away, what we find is that He takes the heavy end of the furniture and leaves us with the light duty!

But what about the yoke that He Himself lays upon us? What about His expectations that we plough a straight furrow? What about the standards of conduct and duty toward God that we did not feel or know before, but which come to the front of our minds when we begin to follow Christ? The commandments of God are a yoke. But, as my pastor friend reminded me, even this yoke is an easy one. “My yoke is easy” says Jesus, “and My burden is light.”

Now, we may make the yoke feel difficult or heavy – just the way I suspect an ox could get mighty chafed by even the lightest of yokes if he were constantly trying to hurl it off his neck. So it is with the yoke of Jesus. If we do not voluntarily and cordially bend our necks to it, the yoke can feel very comfortable indeed. But if we’ll willingly “take [His] yoke upon [us] and learn from [Him],” what we’ll find is that the yoke is actually not nearly so heavy or awkward as we sometimes make it out to me. Indeed, we will probably find that the yoke has the effect of a modern day back-brace which, while limiting motion, actually enables us to move about more comfortably (not to mention safely!) than ever before. “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). And all the more so because they help keep us on the narrow path, and away from God’s hand of discipline.

And so I wonder – what commandments of God seem like a burden to you? What position on the yoke collar seems to chafe you the most? And is it because the yoke is really all that heavy … or misshapen? Or is it because you have chosen to wring your own neck against it? The commands concerning obedience to parents, and the purity of our thought lives, and covetousness, and the Sabbath, and God’s exclusive claim on our worship are all, to be sure, restricting. Such is the nature of a yoke! But this particular yoke is “easy,” if we’ll simply bend to it happily. These particular commandments are not burdensome, but safe, and happy, and even exciting.

So no, we do not bow our necks to Christ’s yoke in order to accomplish, or add anything to, our salvation. Christ Himself has achieved that all by Himself! But having been saved; having been redeemed from sin’s penalty and power, we are expected to live like it! And, if we have really been saved … well then, we’ll actually want to live like it! And so the fact that Jesus would put a yoke on us and guide our steps into a straight line is actually a welcome thing, is it not?

What surgery recoveree would turn down a brace that would actually enable her to walk again? And what rock climber would turn away a belay rope that would keep him from falling over the cliff? And what true Christian would turn down a yoke which would make him or her walk straight for the Lord?