Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Priority of Sharing the Gospel

A comment at another blog caught my eye:

"…When I think about how hard I campaigned for (name of candidate) during the primary season, I feel a tinge of guilt…perhaps I should be standing on street corners doing sign waves pointing folks to Christ. Hmm..."

"Hmm…" is right.

Not that sign waves would be the most effective method of sharing the gospel, but this person is on to something. The church's and the believer's primary responsibility is to share the gospel with every creature and make disciples of all the nations.

In the midst of a heated political season we must keep in mind that the only answer to the issues facing our state and our nation is the heart changing and life changing power of the gospel. Political activism apart from the gospel is simply moralism. Let us always keep before us the priority of "pointing folks to Christ" through the message of the gospel.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

This Memorial Day Remember Those Who Fought for the Faith

Memorial Day is set aside for us to remember those who have fought for our country and for our freedom. Hopefully it will be more for us than just a day off from work and picnics and we will indeed think of those who have sacrificed to serve our country.

On Wednesday evenings my pastor is going through a crash course in church history. This past week he gave a brief biography of William Tyndale and John Huss and the impact they had leading up to the reformation. I was reminded that, like Tyndale and Huss, there have been many who fought for the faith and for the Word of God who paid just as great a price as those who have fought and given their lives for their countries.

This Memorial Day let us also think of those who have paid the price to stand for the Truth and for the Word. Let us take the opportunity to Remember Those who are suffering for their faith this very day. Let us consider their example and determine ourselves to stand for the truth and boldly proclaim the good news of the gospel.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Praying for Government Leaders

John Piper preached a good message from 1 Timothy 2:1-4 on the importance of praying for all people, particularly for our government leaders.

He shared two reasons why it may be difficult to pray for our leaders as we should:

  • Government leaders may seem distant and remote; if not in miles, then at least in accessibility.

“It is hard to pray earnestly for someone you don't know, and especially hard to pray for somebody you never see. Yet, this difficulty must be overcome, Paul says. You must pray for them: emperors like Nero, proconsuls like Gallio, governors like Pilate, kings like Herod. They may seem remote and inaccessible, but remember, they are not remote and inaccessible to God. And by prayer you can get as close as one of their intimate advisers.”

  • Government leaders may be unbelievers and insensitive to the Holy Spirit.

“This should not cause us to hesitate one moment to pray for them, first, because God may save them and bring them to a knowledge of the truth, and second, because God uses rulers to accomplish his purposes whether they believe in him or not.”

Let us seek to be faithful in pursuing God’s priority of praying “for kings and all who are in authority”.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spurgeon on the Priority of Sharing the Gospel

Spurgeon has some great words which challenge us when we are tempted to be distracted from our priority of sharing the good news of the gospel:

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22

"Paul’s great object was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to save. Anything short of this would have disappointed him; he would have men renewed in heart, forgiven, sanctified, in fact, saved. Have our Christian labours been aimed at anything below this great point? Then let us amend our ways, for of what avail will it be at the last great day to have taught and moralized men if they appear before God unsaved? Blood-red will our skirts be if through life we have sought inferior objects, and forgotten that men needed to be saved.

"Paul knew the ruin of man’s natural state, and did not try to educate him, but to save him; he saw men sinking to hell, and did not talk of refining them, but of saving from the wrath to come. To compass their salvation, he gave himself up with untiring zeal to telling abroad the gospel, to warning and beseeching men to be reconciled to God. His prayers were importunate and his labours incessant. To save souls was his consuming passion, his ambition, his calling. He became a servant to all men, toiling for his race, feeling a woe within him if he preached not the gospel. He laid aside his preferences to prevent prejudice; he submitted his will in things indifferent, and if men would but receive the gospel, he raised no questions about forms or ceremonies: the gospel was the one all-important business with him. If he might save some he would be content. This was the crown for which he strove, the sole and sufficient reward of all his labours and self-denials. Dear reader, have you and I lived to win souls at this noble rate?

"Are we possessed with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners, cannot we live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where our love to Christ, if we seek not his honour in the salvation of men? O that the Lord would saturate us through and through with an undying zeal for the souls of men."

(Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, December 7, PM reading)

HT to Dan Phillips at Biblical Christianity, December 7, 2007

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Democratism" and the Church

Some more thoughts on election day about how the principles and philosphy of democracy have impacted the church in America.

In a post entitled, Evangelicals, American Culture, and the Spirit of Democracy, J. Wesley at the Conservative Intelligencer shares some insights regarding the impact “democratism” has had upon the church.

He presents three areas where American principles of democracy have shaped life in the church:

1. Our Beliefs about Salvation

“In a nation dedicated to equal rights and one-man-one-vote, there is little room for the sovereignty of God.”

2. Our Doctrine of God

“The Democratic Spirit despises hierarchies; it loathes orders and ranks in society. To a large extent, even God must be brought down to our level. A t-shirt sold in Christian bookstores says it best – "Jesus is my Homeboy.”

3. Our Approach to Church

“…We’ve “democratized” the office of pastor into a sort of genial mentoring role…Most pastors no longer have much ability to enforce church discipline to correct sin within the church (and too often, no desire to do so anyway.) With both God and the pastorate democratized into rather toothless figures, Christians in the pews often have little fear of the consequences of sin, even open sin.”

We must always be careful lest we equate Democracy with biblical Christianity. This can lead us into motivations, methods, and messages which are not true to God's Word.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Message of the Cross and Democracy

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 Paul writes:

18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Since Tuesday is Election Day, we are holding no Bible studies at the capitol this week. However, with so much focus on the primaries and the upcoming elections in November, I thought it might be helpful for us to consider the importance of the cross and the gospel in relation to elections and democracy.

In The Cross and Christian Ministry, D.A. Carson deals with the centrality of the cross in contrast to human wisdom and philosophies, including democracy. Carson writes:

"Does the elevation of the virtues of democracy lead men and women to the cross? In America, the founding fathers conceived of democracy as a way of establishing accountability by restricting power. If the populace as a whole did not like the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government, the ballot box provided a means of turfing them out. Strangely, modern politicians speak of “the wisdom of the American people,” as if special insight resides in the masses. That was not the perception of the founding fathers; it is certainly not a Christian evaluation. Doubtless, democracy is the best form of government where the populace is reasonably literate and shares many common values, but even under these conditions the majority vote does not always display great wisdom. It is the best way to limit power and make government more or less responsive; it is not the best way of determining right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and bad. Does democracy itself lead anyone to the cross? Is it not always wrong to equate “the American way,” or, more broadly, any democratic system, with the gospel?

"Paul’s point is that no public philosophy, no commonly accepted “wisdom,” can have enduring significance if its center is not the cross…"

The Cross and Christian Ministry. D.A. Carson Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI. p. 16.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians warn us against depending upon human wisdom (including democracy and the political process) to truly change our state and our country. So as we cast our ballots on Election Day, let us remember it is the "word of the cross" which is the power of God to save us and ultimately change our nation.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pastors Politicking from the Pulpit

From an article in the Wall Street Journal:

"A conservative legal-advocacy group is enlisting ministers to use their pulpits to preach about election candidates this September, defying a tax law that bars churches from engaging in politics.

Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz., nonprofit, is hoping at least one sermon will prompt the Internal Revenue Service to investigate, sparking a court battle that could get the tax provision declared unconstitutional. Alliance lawyers represent churches in disputes with the IRS over alleged partisan activity.

"The action marks the latest attempt by a conservative organization to help clergy harness their congregations to sway elections. The protest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 28, a little more than a month before the general election, in a year when religious concerns and preachers have been a regular part of the political debate."

My concern is how easy it is for the church to become associated with a political issue, party, or a candidate rather than with the message of the gospel.

Would you (or should you) as a pastor be one of the test cases for politicking in the pulpit?

Monday, May 5, 2008

"Shine Before Men" Phil Johnson on Matthew 5:16

Over at TeamPyro Phil Johnson begins a series on Matthew 5:16

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

"Despite the simplicity of that verse, there's a lot of misunderstanding nowadays about what it means and what it demands of us. The passage and its context are often cited by those who seem to think it's a call for Christians to harness the political process. It seems like every time I hear anyone talk about "salt and light" nowadays, it's someone trying to rally Christians for political activism or persuade evangelical church members to sign onto some boycott, petition, or letter-writing campaign—as if lighting and salting the culture were nothing other than consolidating the evangelical movement behind a political agenda and then making our voices heard in the political process.

"But if you look at this passage carefully in its context, it is not talking about political activism at all. It's not talking about using our clout as a voting bloc, or organizing mass boycotts and protests, or electing Christians to public office. It's talking about holy living at the individual level."

You can find Phil's study HERE.

You can find my study on Matthew 5:16 which was presented at our state capitol HERE.