March 21, 2016

Welcome Guests

Below is a bulletin article intended for our guests this Easter Sunday.  But perhaps it will edify you, as well, Christian reader ... remembering the sorts of things that a Christian church is all about.


If you are visiting with us this Easter morning, we are delighted that you have come! By way of introduction to our church, you may have noted our mission statement on the front cover of this bulletin. PRBC is:
A community of believers dedicated to pursuing the glory of God by resting in all that Jesus is for us – and calling our neighborhood and the nations into that rest.
While we believe that all the words in our mission statement are important, the highlighted words would be especially helpful in describing to you who we are, and who we’re on mission to be. Let me explain them briefly…

The glory of God. It seems most essential to say that we, along with everything else in creation, exist first and foremost for the glory of God. We believe God created us, loves us, redeems us, and will someday bring us to live with Him in heaven – not first of all for our own self-actualization, or for the achievement of our own version of ‘the good life’ – but to bring honor to Himself! God, and not we, must always have the first place in all we say and do. And so all that we do must be motivated by one final goal … the glory of God.

Resting in Jesus. We believe that the chief means by which God obtains the glory He deserves is through the redemption of sinners like us through His Son Jesus. And we sinners are rescued only as we rest in Jesus: in who He is (the Son of God), and in what He has done for us by means of His sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection. We use the word ‘rest’ intentionally. It means we stop running from God, and stop kicking against His laws. And, for us religious folk, it even means we stop our frantic efforts to save ourselves … and bank our hope – past, present, and future – on Jesus Christ. In Jesus we can rest, knowing that he has done all the saving work for us! And so we are constantly reminding ourselves to rest in Him … to the glory of God.

Community. God has created human beings in such a way that we glorify God and rest in Jesus best when we do so in the context of a community … a supporting, encouraging, sincere group of fellow sinners saved by grace. So we seek to cultivate this kind of environment for the glory of God, and we hope you’ll consider joining us in that pursuit.

Calling. Part of the church’s task is to invite as many people as possible into this God-glorifying rest in Jesus Christ. So we make it our aim to be in our own neighborhoods, and (through our missionaries) among the nations, calling people to rest in Jesus, for the increase of the glory of God! Perhaps that’s why you’re here today – someone in our community invited you for this Easter gathering because they want to see you, too, find the rest and forgiveness and hope that they themselves have found in Christ. So listen in today as we consider this Jesus together … and find your rest in Him. And consider linking up with our community as we seek to cultivate this rest together … all for the glory of God!

March 16, 2016

On Salesmanship

So I’ve been trying to sell my car. The transmission is rapidly making its way to that place where transmissions go to die. And the replacement will cost me more than the car is worth. So the whole car must go. And yet, with a functioning transmission costing more than the car is worth, how to sell it? I’ve thought about offloading it to a junkyard, but am not sure I could get much for it. Same thing with a trade in. So, as I type this on Wednesday afternoon, it’s up for sale on Craig’s List … hoping someone who does transmission work, or who just needs the spare parts, will offer me a few hundred bucks. So far I’ve had a few nibbles, but no taker.

And the whole ordeal has me thinking about salesmanship. In order to be a good (and honest) salesman, you have to really believe in your product. But how can I believe in a product, and pitch it to the watching internet, when I know that the repair is likely going to cost someone more than the car is worth? I can’t! But neither can I try and pull the wool over people’s eyes! And so the advertisement clearly states what is wrong with the car, and the financial infeasibility of a repair. And now I wait … with an honest, but not very alluring, Craig’s List posting. Maybe someone will count the cost and find it worthwhile for some reason or other. Maybe not.

And it reminds me, in some ways, of our proclamation of the gospel. Now, unlike my car, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the gospel! Nor is it for sale! And so there are some great dissimilarities (more than the similarities) between selling a car and proclaiming Christ. But one thing that is similar is that, in both cases, I am offering something which, at first glance, most people find unappealing. The average person comes across an advertisement for a car, and then reads that the transmission is dying, and he quickly scrolls to the next item in the Classifieds. And so it often is, as well, with the gospel of Jesus Christ – what with its insistence that we are sinners, its claim that we cannot recover ourselves, its call to repentance, and its announcement that Christ is the only way to the Father. All these are bits of the gospel ‘advertisement’ (if you’ll pardon the analogy) that cause many a person to just scan right on by … looking for something easier to handle.

And so what are we to do? How are we to woo men to Christ and His gospel when we know that there are significant parts of His message that most people find unpalatable?

Well, first of all, we are to be honest. You wouldn’t (I hope) sell your car to someone without being forthright about its challenges. And neither should you try and smooth out the gospel so as to make it more palatable to the consumer. No! Give them the whole picture – the hard truths as well as the more easy-to-swallow ones!

But then, secondly, help them see that the challenging parts of the gospel are actually good and necessary! The hard truths of the gospel aren’t really so much like a bad transmission as they are like the initial shock of a cold shower on a hot, sweaty day. We recoil, at first, under the icy chill. But soon we find that the cool of the water is actually far more refreshing than if we’d just remained in the ease of room temperature. And so it is with the biblical doctrines of sin, depravity, repentance, and the exclusivity of Christ. Those who get over their initial shuddering at these cold water truths actually find them to be abundantly refreshing streams! Alas that it is not so with my dying transmission! But it is so with the gospel. The hard parts are necessary … and (for those who embrace them) refreshing! And so I can woo people to Christ and His gospel without any hesitation in my mind that what I am offering is actually worth having!

And finally, as one would do when trying to sell a car online, we must pray that God will draw people to His gospel in ways that we cannot! I can put the advertisement online, but there is only so much I can do to attract eyes to my Ford for sale. And I certainly can’t convince them that it’s a good buy. But God knows someone who could make good use of this car of mine, and who would be glad to have it! And I must ask Him to drive them to the website! And in the same way, God certainly has many, many hearts that He is preparing to see their need of the gospel. And He will get them over the hump of the gospel’s challenges to the natural man’s prejudices. And He will drive them to this blog, or to our church, or across your path at work or the gas station so that they can hear and see what we are offering to them in Christ.

And so we are not gospel salesmen. But we should truly believe in what we have on offer! And more than that, we should believe in our God!

March 8, 2016

Why Did Jesus Die?

It’s one of the most important questions we could ever ask, is it not? Why did Jesus die? And the Bible gives us a multifaceted answer. Jesus died …

  • To cleanse us from our sins (1 John 1:7)
  • To enable us to obey God’s law (Romans 8:3-4)
  • To bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
  • To “render powerless” the devil (Hebrews 2:14)
  • To show that God doesn’t sweep sin under the rug (Rom 3:25)
  • To bring Jews and Gentiles into one body (Ephesians 2:16)

And on and on we could go, to such an extent that John Piper has written a book called Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die!

In other words, the effects of the cross are manifold! God was working all sorts of redemptive good when He sent His Son into the world, and when He sent Him to that hill called Golgotha. And Tobey picked up on another one from one of our recent Sunday readings, and pointed out to me how wonderful it is … in 2 Corinthians 5:15 –
“and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Isn’t that marvelously straightforward? Jesus died (and rose) for us so that we might live for Him.

Now it is true, of course, that the reason we are able to live for Him in embedded in that verse (and in the other truths mentioned above). We can live for Jesus because He has died to cleanse us from sin, to enable to fulfill God’s law, to release us from the devil’s clutches, and so on. But I think our text in 2 Corinthians 5 may also be pointing out some of our motivation to live for Christ as well.

In other words, it is not only that we are able to live form Him because of His death and resurrection on our behalf (which is true and indispensable), but also that we are motivated to live for Him because of His death and resurrection on our behalf! Having seen what He has done for me, motivates me to want to do for Him. “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” There is motivation for Christian living! There is reason, if you can think of no other, for going all out for Christ! As the missionary C.T. Studd put it famously: “If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

It’s so simple, in some ways, isn’t it? Again, this is not to say that this motivation is all there is to the Christian life (far from it!). But it’s an important part of it! And our motivation really is so easy to understand. Jesus died and rose for me, so how can I not live for Him?

So let the fact of what Christ has done for you – the lengths to which He has gone to save your soul – sink in. And ask yourself, with that knowledge in hand, if you can anymore live, in good conscience, for yourself.

March 2, 2016

No Other Gospel

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:8-9

“Accursed!” That is a strong word! But Paul surely means it, having repeated himself twice on this subject. Anyone preaching an alternative gospel – a gospel not in accordance with Paul’s message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone – is anathema, to use the Greek word; “accursed” in English. Indeed, so serious is Paul about distortions of the gospel of Christ that he even proclaims that himself accursed if he should preach any other gospel … and that even an angel from heaven would draw down a curse upon himself by so going! Wow! Paul is serious – literally dead serious – about our (and our preachers, in particular) getting the gospel right! And we should be as well!

So we say it again: Anyone who preaches contrary to the message of Paul (and Jesus, and the other apostles); anyone who preaches a gospel in which salvation is not by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is under a curse for the way in which he is leading people astray.

Now, I know that this is not the way that we tend to talk in our pluralistic age – an age when a person’s heart and sincerity are often thought to be more important than what he actually believes; when spiritual ‘life’ (so-called) is sometimes considered more important than biblical doctrine. It’s true, of course, that we must have spiritual life, and heart, and sincerity! These things are vital to Christianity! But if our life, and sincerity, and heart are channeled into the rut of a false gospel, then it is all of no avail. And if a person ventures to teach that false gospel, he brings down great judgment upon himself! And of course, the more a man or woman teaches a false gospel, the more his hearers will have opportunity to buy into it, and thus to be carried away from Jesus rather than toward him. And therefore many of them will end up accursed to.

This is what Paul was afraid of in Galatia. Evidently some men were visiting the churches, claiming to have a message from God, and circulating a false gospel of works in place of the biblical gospel of faith, by grace, in Christ. And he saw the people in the pews being led astray. And he was, if I read his words correctly, a little worked up about it – not because his gospel was being undermined (for the gospel wasn’t ultimately his) but because, by these distortions of the gospel, precious souls were being led astray by these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

And this is the same reasons why pastors are concerned today, for instance, about the teachings of Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholics agree with us on the doctrine of the Trinity, and on the divine and human natures of the person of Christ. But their gospel is a different gospel; their understanding of salvation takes a circuitous route around and away from Jesus. It is swamped with all manner of rites and relics, statues and saints which serve like a marshy mote surrounding the person and work of Christ, and making it all the more difficult for people to run to Him and find safety in the strong tower of His name (see Proverbs 18:10). Now, I do not doubt that there are Roman Catholics who have emerged on the other side of the bog, and placed their faith in Christ alone. But the men and women who have taught them to do otherwise (Galatians 1:8-9) are in big trouble. And because of such teaching, many of our Roman Catholic neighbors have never even raised their eyes high enough to see what was beyond the black and swirling waters of the swamp … and some of them have already drowned. And that is a tragedy – and one for which their teachers will be “accursed.”

And so I urge you to understand the gospel for yourself; and to demand it from your own pulpit; and to take it to the neighbors round about you who have spent their whole lives wading in the muddy waters of the untruth promoted by false teachers. Do not despise or criticize them for the ways in which they have been duped and blinded. But neither must you mistake their sincerity and kindness for a true knowledge of the one way of salvation before God, and the “one mediator … between God and men.” Instead, open the Bible and proclaim to them the good news that  everything they need for standing righteous before a holy God is obtained by coming, in simple faith, to Jesus ... and that this Jesus is nearer to them than they have ever yet believed.