A Famine in the Land

Amos, who was a shepherd, fig tree caretake,r and breeder of cows, was called by God to take his agricultural and farming abilities to God’s people and shepherd them towards repentance. God gave Amos a message to deliver that summarizes greatly the state of the land at that time –

’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

Friends, the conditions described in those two verses are very indicative of the 2017 world we live in and unfortunately too many churches fall under this characterization as well.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura – “Scripture alone” – is a Latin phrase people know and ascribe to, but are far from practicing. Our society is an “I did it my way” place where our rules too often trump God’s. Our society may often consider the Bible’s good morals but then opt out of following them when it is not convenient.

Sola Sciptura was one of the distinctions that separated Protestants from the Roman Catholics during the Reformation and it should be a phrase that separates us still today. It is not Scripture + tradition or Scripture + church teaching or Scripture + experience or Scripture + church councils or church fathers.

It is Scripture + nothing = everything.

John MacArthur has written,

“No man, no church, no religious authority has any warrant from God to augment the inspired Word of Scripture with additional traditions, or to alter the plain sense of it by subjecting it to the rigors of a ‘traditional’ meaning not found in the Word itself. To do so is clearly to invalidate the Word of God – and we know what our Lord thinks of that.” (Sola Scriptura, pg. 182)

What does Jesus think of that?

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).

The greatest evil in the world is to sit in judgment upon what God has said.

Book Blurb: Beat God To the Punch

Image result for best god to the punchI just began reading a book with a potentially misleading title.

It’s called Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life by Eric Mason. One could quickly conclude that the author might be suggesting that we can arrive at a thought or place before God is able or capable of arriving or thinking a particular thought we had. Paul David Tripp writes in the foreword of this book what we are all wondering when we hear the title of this book,

“We can’t ever beat God to the punch. He is in control. He is sovereign. He always is the one who initiates our relationship with Him. Isn’t the Bible the origin-to-destiny storyof how God in grace has beat us to the punch? There is something about this phrase that just doesn’t seem right.” (pg. xiv)

To understand what is meant of the title, you must understand what this “punch” is? What is it that is going to happen one day to all of us? Is there something that we can be prepared for now that we won’t be forced to do later in life?

Answer: yes. Paul writes this in Philippians 2:9-11,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

You see, one day everyone – whether they have acknowledged it or not, will acknowledge Jesus as Lord. This is not a salvific acknowledge but an intellectual one. Everyone will come to realize who Jesus is, even though they may not be saved.

Beating God to the punch means confessing Him as Lord now before you are forced to later. Mason writes,

“This is a reality, that all will bow to Jesus. By implication, we have the option to bow by choice, or to bow by force. This reality extends to our whole life. willfully bowing to Jesus now – rather than later – is the option we have in our everyday life. the preaching of the gospel is the invitation – a free offer, an urgent call, to bow now, by choice.” (pg. 1)

Don’t wait to be forced to bow! If you get to that point, it’s too late to enjoy the eternal joy and fellowship with those who acknowledge His Lordship in their lifetime (II Thessalonians 1:9).

REPRISE: How Can I Identify a False Teacher?

Image result for wolf sheep's clothingToo many false teachers are getting too close to my flock.

I am sure I am not alone in sharing concern for why the Southern Baptist Convention allows certain mega-church pastors to remain in their denomination or why the emerging church continues to influence a young generation of evangelicals or why others are preaching that God wants you to be wealthy and doing it in 3rd world counties.

Many of these voices I hear or see quoted from people I love, and as a shepherd at Wichita Bible Church, I grow concerned every time I hear or see it. Please share this blog post with others. Don’t listen the wolf pretending to be a sheep (Matthew 7:15).

Here is a series of questions you can ask to determine whether or not someone is a false teacher?

Are they preaching the Lordship of Christ? What are they saying about Christ? What is the Gospel they are articulating? Does their Gospel glorify God or give man a better, easier life?” Paul wrote in Philippians 1:15-18,

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Paul could put up with men who were even breaking the Tenth Commandment, as long as the biblical Gospel was being preached.

Are they twisting the Scripture? Peter says, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, …” (II Pet 1:16). He says in II Peter 2:3 that false teachers just make up stories from Scripture. The false teacher relies on his own creativity. He makes up his own message. He twists Scripture to fit his message. Some examples of how people can twist Scripture are as follows: teaching the Bible’s authority but referring to a man’s writings more often (e.g., heroes of their own stories), building monumental truth out of obscure phrases or verses (e.g., lifestyle diets out of Daniel’s vegetable fasting), ignoring context and reading into Scripture what is not there, etc.

Are they adding or subtracting from the Scripture? We see this in the novelty of people saying they had visions from God revealing to them truth that is to be considered equal to God’s Word. There are many who claim some revelation outside of Scripture. To add or subtract from Scripture is to attack the sufficiency of Scripture.

Are they promoting themselves? False teachers believe in their own brand. They are not into downplaying themselves; they want the attention. They want the notoriety; they want to be noticed. They build their church kingdoms around themselves. Jesus said, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18).

Are they lying? False teachers revel in their deceptions (II Pet 2:13). The very fact that they dress like sheep but are wolves indicates everything coming from their lips is untruth. They bring about deceitful schemes that toss people around like children (Eph 4:14). The Gospel they preach is a lie; their hypocritical life is a lie. What they say in the pulpit is not who they are, what they believe or what God would say or believe. The very fact that God calls them “false” teachers means their lying is the essence of who they really are. You can’t trust anything they say. They speak out both sides of their mouth.

Are they smooth with their words? Some of the best orators today are false teachers (e.g., Joel Osteen). They are spreading a blend of error that some have called “cotton candy Christianity.” They don’t offend anyone, won’t say anything dogmatic, share “lovey-dovey” stories, tell lots of jokes and are nothing more than motivational speakers calling themselves Christian leaders. They might use rhetoric to convince people of their cause, and they draw people away from the Word with their smooth talk.

Are they in love with the world? Jets, luxurious houses, 5-star hotels, first class seats on airplanes – these are not just perks for celebrities with money. These perks are also embraced by almost every false teacher out there. We have TV channels devoted to showing the lifestyles of the rich and famous false teachers. Remember what John said: “They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them” (I John 4:5). They do things for money and love to serve … if there is a payoff that follows. They look at the appearance of godliness as an opportunity for gain … materially. When you preach this with your lifestyle and you seek to win people, you don’t win them to the Gospel. You win them to the opposite: you win them to worldliness.

Are they quick to gripe and complain? Remember what Jude said about these men? He called them “grumblers” and “malcontents” (Jude 16). They complain to God because He demands they adjust to Him. They are never satisfied with God’s demands for their life. They can’t do anything but murmur and murmur and murmur some more. False teachers do not joyfully embrace God’s demands; they find ways around them.

Are they manipulative? Remember in Matthew 7 when God condemns the group of people who said they were casting out demons in Jesus’ name and prophesying in Jesus’ name and doing great works in Jesus’ name? These are the manipulative false teachers. Paul talks about this in Colossians 2:23 – “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” These men delight in looking like they are humble or spiritual. They love the praise while they defraud people. Their external religion seems legitimate, but their hypocrisy is nothing more than manipulation. Thus, their rituals are empty.

By the way, I can send you a list of some of the false teachers I had in mind with my opening comments if you life. Send me an email at charlesheck@cox.net and I will be happy to share that list with you.

 

 

J.I. Packer, On God Loving Us

Image result for ji packer“There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and I am glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)

Just In Case You Missed It – July 29-August 5, 2017

  1. 10 Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God“10 Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God” by Sam Storms.
  2. Are You a Spectator on Sunday Morning?” by Michael Wittmer (Desiring God).
  3. In Awe of Her God” by Vaneetha Rendall Risner (Desiring God). If you have never read or hear Joni Eareckson Tada, read this article. It has been 50 years since her diving accident that left her a quadriplegic.
  4. When the Preaching Is Bad” by Nicholas T. Batzig (Feeding on Christ). It might be a good resource to make available on an ongoing basis at my church for post-sermon wrap-up after I preach.

Recap.jpg

 

How About This For Your First Five Year of Ministry?

Brian Croft is a professor at Southern in Louisville, KY and well-known blogger who focuses on the practical side of ministry. Recently, a video was released re-telling the story of his first 5 years of ministry. 

Praise God for His faithfulness – http://practicalshepherding.com/2017/07/02/a-video-testimony-of-brian-crofts-crazy-first-5-years-at-his-church/.

Hate What God Hates

My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments.” (Psalm 119:120)

The psalmist sees God and he “trembles.” This is absolute fright! In Job 4:15 the term is used to describe making the hair stand on end because of fear. The psalmist fears the judgment of the God who is his protection and security. That is what we see here. He doesn’t want to disobey any of God’s commandments and he is “scared stiff” of the consequences of doing so.

The psalmist really shows his opposition to evil because he knows the weight of God’s opposition to it as well. He feels the weight of God’s disdain for evil.

We live in a society that believes God to be weightless. Let me explain.

Image result for psalm 119

In my 1st year of college at Masters, I was required to read a book entitled No Place for Truth by David Wells, who is a professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Wells is very gifted at giving a commentary on modern culture and showing the vast differences between orthodox theology and how people actually live. Anyway, in his book, he speaks about one his great concerns in modern America of that being too many who think God to be weightless. He writes,

“It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that He is ethereal but rather that He has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life.

“Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider Him less interesting than television, His commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, His judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and His truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies.

“That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned Him after having nudged Him out to the periphery of our secularized life. . . . Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.” (No Place for Truth, pg. 88)

This is certainly our society. We, by nature, want to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him.

Not the psalmist, he adjusts his life to God. He sees the weight of God opposing evil and he opposes it with the same disdain.