message on worldliness

I preached on 1 Jn 2.15-17 today, partly the fruit of recent discussions here. You can find the audio and notes at the link below.

And the World is not Idle (1 John 2:15-17)

As a supplement to our Romans series, we go to 1 Jn 2.15-17 to look at a complicating factor in our sanctification, the temptation of the world. The world tempts us because it orients its system along the lines of our fallen natue, something we find very appealing. The shocking fact of this passage is that believers themselves can fail of their love for God because of their love for the world.


a plea for real exposition

I ran across a sermon the other day. The preacher bills himself as an expository preacher. He was dealing with a very important text, full of material for application to our present scene. His approach to the text was to read a verse, and then talk about his view of what he thought of that theme in relation to our modern situation. After awhile, he would read another verse and carry on with the development of his own opinions.

I think he might have defined a few of the words from the original language. At one point, he began mis-pronouncing one of the Greek words underlying the point he was making. He kind of lost me there, and I imagine he lost his congregation too. Most of them probably don’t know Greek.

Other than defining a few of the words, there was no interaction with the text. There was no explanation of the thoughts of the text, how they related to one another, what the apostle was teaching through the argumentation of the text, and what that argumentation meant for our situation here and now.

There was a bit of historical context offered. It was… ah… how shall we say it? Not germane to the text. It actually fit more with another text in another epistle. In short, it didn’t expose anything about the text so the hearer could read, hear, and see, “Ahah! that’s it, that’s right, that’s what the text means, and this is what God is saying to me here and now through this ancient text.”

In short, if this was exposition, there wasn’t a whole lot of exposing going on.

Oh, brothers! Please! Be an expositor! Let the text speak! Get yourself and your opinions out of the way! Speak as of the oracles of God!


Northwest Regional FBF Conference

We held our annual conference last week at Lincoln Park Baptist Church in Wenatchee, WA.

Our keynote speaker was Dr. Fred Moritz, my good friend and former mission director. He is now ‘emeritus’ with the mission and on the faculty of Maranatha Baptist Seminary.

We had a great week … all in just three days! Lots of preaching and good fellowship. We are hosting the sermons at our church site, so I thought I would make the link available for anyone who might be interested.


Contend (3)

To continue the discussion of Jude 3, I’d like to discuss the ultimate objective of Christian contention. (See these links for Part One and Part Two of this discussion.)

Various objectives have been suggested for Christian contention, and especially the Fundamentalist version of it. Ernest Pickering subtitled his book Biblical Separation with the line, ‘the struggle for a pure church.’ Certainly a pure church has to be an objective, but is it the one Jude has in mind ultimately?

Others suggest that Fundamentalist contention is simply lust for battle, ego and megalomania. Fundamentalists are the berserkers of Christianity, or the Idi Amin’s. Such suggestions aren’t very charitable, to say the least.

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Contend (2)

I wrote about Jude 3 a few days ago. That post motivated me to study the passage in more detail. The verse is really a profound statement, vv. 3-4 serving as Jude’s thesis statement for the epistle.

I preached on the passage this past Sunday. The message really centered around the dominant word of the passage and was entitled simply, “Contend”. This post reflects some of my observations from that sermon.

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today 99 becomes 50

My American friends might not know what that headline means. I would guess almost all of my Canadian friends would.

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the Matthew 18 bludgeon

A very widely misunderstood passage is the church discipline outline given by our Lord in Matthew 18.

KJV  Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

NAU  Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

This paragraph is often used as a bludgeon to stifle public criticism of public religious leaders in their public capacity. The person who uses it asks, “Have you talked to so-and-so personally (and privately) about this?” The questioner ignores the fact that he has not done so himself with the person he is questioning. Never let inconvenient details get in the way of shutting down public debate!

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why are young people leaving church?

Another interesting CT article asks this question.

The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

More than in previous generations, 20- and 30- somethings are abandoning the faith. Why?

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decisions, decisions

What if you don’t recall the hour of your “decision for Christ”? Or, as this old article at Christianity Today asks, “How can I know I’m a Christian if I can’t remember when I first responded to the gospel?”

The question reveals, I think a faulty view of salvation and assurance of salvation. In light of our recent discussion of revivalism here, I thought the article asked an interesting question.

The whole idea of a “decision for Christ” is largely a revivalistic phenomenon. As the article says:

Much of American Protestantism has been influenced by revivalism, which places great emphasis on "making a decision for Christ" in a public, definitive way. These "moments of decision" often become the crucial evidence that one is saved. Other Protestant traditions, less influenced by revivalism (including some Reformed and Lutheran churches), may be content to leave the conversion experience unclearly identified, putting the focus on identification with the church. Both of these traditions have benefits, as well as potential problems.

In a recent comment, our e-friend Tracy makes a good point, I believe:

If I’m preaching to lost folks, I preach Christ crucified and call for them to close with Christ immediately and publicly. Before I close, I tell them if they have any questions, either they can come to the front at the invitation time or they can see me after the service. I always stress that Christ desires their immediate salvation. So I declare the gospel, spell out its terms, and call them to close with it.

I agree with that. We need to call folks to decisions.

But what about some who can’t remember the specifics of their decision? (Perhaps it was a long time ago, perhaps it was when they were very young, perhaps they remember bits, or perhaps they remember nothing at all.)

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new methods in a spiritual wilderness

A few weeks ago I posted an article highlighting something I found in the book The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn. Today I want to post an extended quotation from the book and make a few observations.

I am in the section of the book that deals with Scotch-Irish immigration to America. The chapter is “The Presbyterian Church”. The first point made is about the lack of churches among many (most) of these immigrants. Two reasons are cited: First, the lack of trained ministers. The Presbyterians insisted on a classical education for their clergy, something in short supply on the frontier. Trained ministers from the Old Country were rarely found among the immigrants.

But an even greater problem afflicted the re-establishment of the church among these immigrants, all of them Presbyterian in their native country. That problem was a general spiritual malaise that affected all the major denominations at the time, according to Leyburn. My lengthy quotation follows (including the quote in our little ‘identify’ the person and time game a few days ago). The quotation comes from pp. 277-279.

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