Thursday, March 8, 2018

Off with the Robe of Shame

You are ashamed, and perhaps you have turned your back on God for you assumed He has turned His back on you.  In rebellion you may have now committed additional shameful sins, only making your problem worse.  You have accepted your shame as your unchangeable identity and you live as an outcast, shut down emotionally, isolating yourself so you never have to be hurt again.  You numb your pain with drugs, sex, power, success, abuse of others, whatever enables you to stop feeling the shame.  But it keeps coming back like a recurring nightmare.
Jesus went to the cross and, bearing your sin and shame, He cried out “It is finished!”  The infinite expanse of God’s mercy and grace is bigger than you are, bigger than anything and anyone that might come against Him.  He can take all of your guilt and justify you.  He can take all of your shame and grant you the riches of His glory (Eph 1:18).  And now, like Jesus, run the race, despise the shame for the joy set before you.  Count it as nothing.  Put on His glory.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

We Live in a Dangerous World

Guns don’t kill people, sex doesn’t make people immoral, and wine doesn’t make drunkards.  We live in a dangerous world, a world filled with dangerous things that we are to receive with thankfulness from God and with which we are to steward this world to the glory of His name.  Yes, alcohol is dangerous.  So is food.  So is music.  So is sex.  So are electricity and knives and nuclear power.  So is social media.  So are cars and trains and spaceships.  So is prosperity.  So is the office of teaching.  So is parenting.  So what?  In all of these gifts, we have to grow up to maturity; we have to learn how to use them and how to not let them become idols that control us.  Therefore, the charge to the drunkard and the rule-nazi is this:  grow up!

Dangerous Table Wine

How dangerous is the bread and wine at this Table?  Another way to ask this is to say, “how potent is the bread and wine?”  Well, it is potent enough that if it is taken in hypocrisy, particularly the hypocrisy of separating yourself from other believers, it has been known to make some sick and even die.

And so two things.  First, if it has been your habit or conviction to partake of the cup with grape juice – that is still here in the tray and no one is looking over your particular shoulder.  You may have been convinced and today you should partake of wine.  You may have been challenged to think or rethink this and so you should do so and consider changing later.

Secondly, consider the danger of the rite in this way.  As we partake of the bread we are proclaiming that we are all of one loaf, one body.  Though we are broken, we are joined together in Christ who was broken for us that we might be one body.  Then, when we partake of the wine, we are declaring that we, like Christ, are willing to die, to have our blood shed, for that body – which is to say that you are declaring to the person you are passing the tray to – “Just as Jesus gave His life for me, so I am willing to give my life for you.”

Billy Graham RIP

With the passing of the one who was called America’s pastor, Billy Graham, let us remember the best of his ministry.

Graham preached the Gospel – and Graham called for a decision.  He didn’t beat around the bush at all when it came to naming sin, sin – and he made clear that the only way of salvation was through faith in God’s Son, Jesus.

There are many issues we might take with Billy Graham’s theology and with the methods he employed.  Fine.  But that man knew how to bring people, millions of people, face to face with eternity and the need to cry out to the Lord for salvation.

Here is the gospel:  Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  We are all sinners, lost and under God’s judgment.  Jesus died to pay for the sins of those lost in sin.  What must you do?  Believe and confess – and today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day of decision.

May God grant us a reformation where we return to the Bible and the Bible alone for our theology and philosophy of ministry.  But may God grant us a fervent love for the lost and an uncompromising boldness to speak the truth, to preach the truth, in love – love for Jesus – and love for people.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Because We Are Not Guilty

And this is why God looks at you in Christ and sees perfection.  Every day.  Outside of Christ, “If God were to mark iniquities, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3).  But in Christ, there is no condemnation.  This means that we must learn to confess our sins as forgiven sinners.  We don’t confess our sins to get justified; we confess our sins because we are justified.  We follow and obey Jesus not because we are guilty but because we are free.  We learn to refuse to walk in sin because we learn that we have died to sin and are alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6).  We can do this all because we call Jesus, “the Lord our Righteousness.”

Baptizing Them

We are a reformed church – and a reforming church.  When this congregation began we were self-consciously a reformed Baptist church.  That is, we only performed baptisms on those who had made a credible profession of faith.  But from the beginning as well, we have stressed to parents to raise their children believing the promises of God for their children – that is for their salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit – according to the preaching of Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Because of this teaching, many of us began to re-examine our doctrine of baptism and came to the conviction that the Scriptures teach that children of believing parents should receive this rite of baptism and as soon as they are able to partake at the Lord’s Table, they should come to the Table as well.  We began to see that they were covenant children, part of God’s family, and that they should be identified as such, instructed as such, and fed as such.

Well, what to do?  Some of us came to this conviction, but some of us did not.  Some came and joined our congregation with this conviction – and many have come and joined us believing that Baptism was for those who had made a profession of faith first.  One thing that we determined to do in all of this – is NOT to split the church over this issue.  And so, we have developed a way of ministering to families based on their conviction on baptism while continuing to emphasize the promises of God for parents with regard to their children.  This is what we call our baptismal cooperation agreement.

Sounds crazy?  Yep – many think so.  But we don’t.  We believe it is a glorious manifestation of the church in the state of being matured, not having figured out everything, not being overly scrupulous with convictions, and working hard to grow together up into the unity of faith.

So – this morning we have a wonderful example for you all to enjoy and rejoice with us – but I want to explain it to you and its context now – because it could raise some questions for you otherwise in just a few minutes.  Larry and Julia Badillo have been attending our church for some months and are going to become members soon.  They have four wonderful children, Emma, Mateo, Jude, and Siena.  The Badillos were Baptists and none of their children have yet been baptized.  But as they came to understand the promises of God for their children, they became convinced that all of their children should be baptized.

Some other families have done this at other times in the life of our church – and when they have, we have still asked the children old enough to make a profession of faith too – and so with the oldest three Badillo children we will do the same.  But in most cases, we have then sprinkled all of the children as the mode of baptism – based on the pictures of baptism we have and the outpouring or sprinkling of the Holy Spirit upon the nations and upon individuals.  This pictures the washing and anointing of the Spirit.

However, with the Badillos, out of respect for their past convictions as well as in honor of Julia’s parents who are here to celebrate with us, we are going to immerse Emma, Mateo, and Jude for their baptisms  - this pictures the planting and the death and resurrection pictures of baptism mentioned in Romans 6 for instance.

In Ephesians 4 we are instructed that there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism.  We agree, and as far as these baptisms, the different administrations and the different modes, we declare that we are still declaring that there is one baptism and one alone.  This baptism is the declaration by God through His church that He has purchased these ones with the blood of His Son and they are His.  This is the mark of their identity, their new identity, in Jesus Christ.  As you witness these baptisms, you are charged to remember your own baptism, to be grabbed by that baptism again and to hear God speak to you in that baptism – “you are mine and I am yours – you come and follow me.”

Partaking of Freedom

As you come to this Table as a baptized member of the body of Christ, you come to the Table to partake of freedom.  This Table declares freedom – freedom from sin, freedom from guilt, freedom to love like Christ, freedom to forgive like Jesus, freedom to give yourself away for others like Christ – only to find Your life more fully in Christ.

You have died with Christ to be raised with Christ to now live in Christ as you continue to feed on Christ and enjoy Him more and more today and forever.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.