6-String Salvo, November 21, 2014

bigstock-Guitar-950679Here are the posts for today’s salvo…

1. Aaron Earls gives us 6 ways to build character above reputation.

2. J. D. Greear helps us understand what Jesus meant when He said we would do greater works than Him.

3. The importance of congregational singing is affirmed and encouraged by Marshall Segal.

4. Rick Phillips examines rewards/punishments as valid encouragements for sanctification.

5. Clint Archer teaches us how to count to three in Hebrew when we’re talking about how long Jesus was dead.

6. With the President’s talk last night about immigration, Ed Stetzer talks about why immigration reform matters and Russell Moore shares why he believes executive action is the wrong way to bring about immigration reform.

Here’s Northern National with You’re the One

Enduring Hatred

I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever been hated by someone.  I’ve had plenty of folks who didn’t like me, didn’t agree with me, and didn’t want anything to do with me.  But someone tell me they hate me?  I’ve never had someone say those words (and if you do hate me, no need to let me know!).

In sports, there seems to be a sense of “hatred” between some teams and their fans, especially between rival schools.  Some fans “hate” a certain player because he/she has been successful against their team.  Some fans “hate” a certain coach because of his/her success.  Some fans even “hate” a certain color because it’s the color of their bitter rival.  But even in sports, at least in many cases, hatred is really a veiled term for grudging respect.

Jesus says that, for Christians, there will be days when we will be hated because of Him.  Look at what Jesus says in Mark 13:13…

Mark 13:13 (HCSB) 13 And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.

In verses 9-12, Jesus tells His followers what that hatred will look like: beatings, imprisonments, kangaroo courts, betrayal by loved ones, and death.  He then tells them that the Holy Spirit will be with them, even giving them the words to say to their accusers and executioners.  That’s why history records many of the martyrs’ final words as being encouraging, and even supernatural.  For a natural person doesn’t forgive their executioners when they feel unjustly sentenced.  But many Christians have rejoiced as they died, even asking the Lord to forgive those through whom death comes.

And while those witnessing these events may not understand what they’ve seen and heard, we do.  We’ve seen and heard those who have endured to the end.  But Jesus says they will be delivered.  Delivered from what?  If a Christian endures hatred, endures prison and beatings, and even dies, how has he/she been delivered?

Endurance is a fruit of belief in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And deliverance is endurance’s final reward.  For deliverance doesn’t mean that the Christian is spared shame, suffering, and death.  The deliverance Jesus speaks of is eternal life as the martyr enters into the presence of the real Treasure…Jesus.  And in His presence, there is no more sorrow, no more hatred, no more betrayal, no more pain, and no more death.  Absence from the body means that we are present with the Lord.

Enduring the trials and tribulations of this life, even unto death, is a gift from God given by the Son through the Spirit.  May we endure so that we demonstrate joy to those who blind to its reality.

We Have Swords, Just Not Those Kinds

There are people in this world who believe that violence, or the threat of violence, for the cause of religion will accomplish the task of changing hearts.  So some people pursue violence with great passion.  From beheadings to bombings to torture, these people gladly kill in the name of their god, or gods, that others might turn to their religion.

Why doesn’t Christianity pursue violence for the goal of seeing people turn to Jesus?  After all, if we believe we have the truth, and that there is only one Name given by which men are saved, wouldn’t we want to do everything we could possibly do to see people profess Jesus as Lord, even if at the tip of the sword?  Isn’t physical death better than eternal death?

Violence is a part of the Christian gospel.  But not the kind of physical violence other religions would endorse.

First, we do have a sword that we use to change hearts, but not that kind of sword.  The Bible is called the sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 6:17.  In Hebrews 4:12 the Bible is described as sharper than any double-edged sword.  And we know that several times in Revelation Jesus is pictured with a sword coming from His mouth symbolic of His Word.  God’s Word isn’t passive.  It’s active and as it is read and proclaimed the Holy Spirit applies it to hardened hearts so that spiritual eyes and ears are opened.  A physical sword can’t go where the sword of the Lord goes nor do what the sword of the Lord does.

Second, we do go to war to change hearts, but not that kind of war.  Christians don’t take up physical arms for the Kingdom of God because His Kingdom isn’t that kind of kingdom.  The weapons of our warfare are not worldly (2 Corinthians 10:4).  We don’t battle flesh and blood, at least not in the world’s way, but spiritual rulers and powers (Ephesians 6:12).  So we don’t put on physical armor but the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11, 13-17).

Third, we do bring about death, but not that kind of death.  Christians don’t call people to believe or die.  But we only echo the call of our Lord Jesus Christ who told those who might follow Him to deny themselves, take up his cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).  Paul says in Galatians 2:20 that we have been crucified with Christ and no longer live.  In Romans 6:4, Paul says that we have been buried with Jesus by baptism into death.  To follow Jesus means to die.  And then it means to live.

Finally, we clash with enemies, but through prayer and proclamation.  In prayer we call on the Lord to bring His Kingdom so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.  Through proclamation, we speak against the world, the flesh and the devil so that those in bondage will be set free.   We pray for our enemies and tell them of our Savior who has changed our hearts in such a way that we can actually pray for our enemies.  That is truly revolutionary and life-changing!

There is a day of violence coming when the Lord returns, what the prophets called the terrible and dreadful Day of the Lord.  On that day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  Until that day, we will proclaim His Kingdom, not with acts of violence, but with pleading calls to repentance.

Making the Ham Fit the Pan

I like to play the card game spades.  It’s a great game, especially when you’re playing with three other people who know the game and how to play it.  There’s strategy involved, there’s working with a partner, and even sometimes there’s a little luck.

I’ve been playing spades for as long as I can remember.  But one of the things I learned early on is that different people have different rules for playing the game.  For instance, some folks have the first hand played by each player laying down his lowest clubs.  Others let you start with any card from any suit but a spade.  In another home, going low means you don’t win any hands and you’ll get 100 points and if you go “blind” low you can win 200 points and swap a card with your partner.  Others will go low for 100 points and swap one card while going “blind” low gets you 200 points and you can swap 2 cards.

So before I play spades with new folks, I always make sure we establish the rules by which the game will be played before we start playing.  That way we’re all on the same page and we can enjoy the game.

Churches have rules we call tradition

Churches can have “rules” by which it operates, some spoken and some unspoken.  These rules can be labeled “traditions.”  Traditions aren’t necessarily bad in themselves.  But traditions can be elevated to the level of truth so that failure to obey the traditions becomes equal to disobeying the Scriptures.  And, of course, there have to be people who guard and protect the traditions.  Rules may be meant to be broken, but traditions are meant to be honored, upheld, and treasured.

But what happens when traditions become a barrier to a church reaching its community with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?  What happens when traditions keep the church looking inward instead of outward?  What happens when traditions become sticks to beat people with?

Traditions fill the silence

Often times, traditions are used to fill the, so-called, silence in Scripture for clarity on certain topics.  For instance, have you ever been amazed at how little the Scriptures say about worship style?  The Bible speaks to the content of worship and the attitudes of those worshiping.  But should musical instruments be used?  How many instruments?  What instruments are good and which ones aren’t?  How many singers should sing?  Should a choir be used or not?  Should a praise team be used or not?  So into the seeming silence of the Scriptures churches begin to adopt practices that become habits that become traditions.  And once a practice becomes a tradition it then takes on an authoritative power over everyone so that it shapes and controls what people think and do.  And then those who guard and protect the traditions will fight against any who would dare speak against that tradition.  The keeping of the traditions becomes more important than obedience to the Scriptures.

One of my favorite stories about tradition concerns a newly-wed couple.  The young bride was getting ready to cook a ham for her husband.  Before she put the ham into the baking pan she cut off both ends of the ham.  This was a curious practice for the husband had never seen anyone do this before.  So he asked his wife why she cut both ends of the ham off.  She answered that her mother always did this so she did, too.  So one day the young lady was with her mom and asked her why she cut both ends of the ham off before placing it in the baking pan.  Her mom said that her mom, the young bride’s grandmother, always did this.  Both ladies decided to go and talk to the grandmother and ask her why she cut both ends of the ham off.  The grandmother answered, “My baking pan was always too small for the ham, so I had to cut off both ends of the ham to make it fit.”

There are traditions we should hold to

Traditions can take on a life of their own, sometimes to the detriment of the gospel and to the church.  I like how some folks talk about closed hand and open hand issues within the church.  Closed hand issues are those for which we will fight to the death.  Things like the inerrancy of the Scriptures, the substitutionary death of Jesus for sinners, the certain return of Jesus, God is Trinity, and other truths like these are worth dying for.  These are traditions we should gladly hold to.

But there are other issues that, while important, we should hold with an open hand and allow varying beliefs without looking down on someone who believes differently.  How long should a worship gathering last and when should it start?  Should a church do on-site Bible studies or home groups?  Should there be a children’s church or not?  Which translation of the Bible should be used?

The problem with closed hand and open hand beliefs is that some people will differ on what’s closed and what’s open.  And therein lies the struggle that churches often face.

And lest you think this is only a traditional church issue, even new church starts can develop practices that quickly become traditions.  There are young pastors who don’t want to go to established churches because of the traditions they will find there.  But they will start their own church, determine how it will operate, and a few years later will discover that they have traditions, too.  How will they know?  When someone new comes to the church and wants to see a practice changed, how the pastor responds will let him know if he’s become a protector of tradition.

The proclaiming church is a tradition we should always hold to

Traditions aren’t necessarily bad things, unless they are elevated to the level of Scripture (closed hand issues), or they become hindrances to the proclamation of the gospel, or they become a source of pride and identity for the church instead of Jesus so that to change or lose a tradition is to, in some minds, destroy the identity of the church.

Ultimately, there is no better church tradition than boldly proclaiming the gospel to our cities and to the ends of the earth.  That is a tradition that we must hold on to tightly with a closed hand!

What’s Our Problem?…The Notes

Yesterday I preached from Romans 2-3 as we talked about the sin of depending on works righteousness instead of trusting in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 1 sinners don’t like Romans 2 & 3 sinners because the Romans 2 & 3 sinners look down at them.  It’s no wonder we have difficulty reaching the lost of our cities.  If you’d like to listen to the sermon or read the transcript, you can go here.

Using Romans 2 & 3, I talked about how we can diagnose if we are committing the sin of depending on works righteousness for our salvation…

1. I may be depending on works righteousness to save me if I can easily point out the sin in others but can’t see the sin in me (2:1-11).

2. I may be depending on works righteousness to save me if I love to talk about and study God’s Word but I don’t obey God’s Word (2:12-16).

3. I may be depending on works righteousness to save me if I use the Bible to beat down sinners but won’t let the Bible convict me of sin (2:17-24).

4. I may be depending on works righteousness to save me if I boast in my religious pedigree rather than boasting in our Lord Jesus Christ (2:25-29).

5. I may be depending on works righteousness to save me if I believe my advantages as a religious person makes me more savable (3:1-9).

What’s Our Problem?

This week I’m using Romans 2-3 as the backdrop for my sermon dealing with those who trust in the idol of works righteousness.  Here’s Romans 2:1-5…

Romans 2:1-5 (HCSB)
1  Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2  We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3  Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? 4  Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5  But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.

Saturday Stuff

Just a few things for your Saturday perusing…

*Guardians of the Galaxy is the number one movie of the year which means a sequel is on its way.  Here are some items of interest concerning the sequel.

*Marvel’s Agent Carter series is set to debut in January 2015 on ABC.  Here’s a clip from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

*From 2004-2008 TNT showed 3 Librarian movies starring Noah Wylie.  They were kind of a Indiana Jones knock off, but enjoyable in their own way.  A new series, The Librarians, is a spinoff of those movies and will debut December 7.  Check out this article that has a brief overview of the series and the teaser trailer for it.

*The new Star Wars: Episode VII movie has been titled The Force Awakens.  My friend Aaron Earls compiles both his and others ideas for 29 better names for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And check out the new extended trailer for Marvel’s Avengers 2: Age of Ultron


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