Saturday, December 16, 2017

What Does it Mean that God is Sovereign?

From the late R.C. Sproul. Find the full sermon here.

"If something happens in this world -- by the power of men, by the power of nature, by the power of machines -- God always has the power and authority to prevent it, at least, from happening. Does He not? And if He does not prevent it from happening, then that means at least this much -- that He has chosen to let it happen.

"That doesn't mean He applauds it. That doesn't mean that He's in favor of it, insofar as He gives His divine sanction to it. But He does allow -- not in the sense of, again, approving all the time -- but He does allow it to happen, and in so allowing, He is making a decision. And He is making it sovereignly. And He knows in advance what's going to happen, and if He decrees that it shall happen, He is retaining His sovereignty over it.

"Now if things happen in this world outside the sovereignty of God, then that would simply mean that God is not sovereign. And if God is not sovereign, then God is not God. It's that simple. And if the God you believe in is not a sovereign God, then you really don't believe in God. You may have a theory of God. You may have theoretical theism, but bottom line, for all practical purposes, it's no different from atheism, because you're believing in a god who is not sovereign.

"Now what are the practical implications of a non-sovereign god? Think of it now from the perspective of those of you who are professing Christians. I like to explain it this way: if there's one maverick molecule in the universe running loose outside of the control of God's sovereignty, then the practical implications for us as Christians is that we have no guarantee whatsoever that any future promise that God has made to His people will come to pass."

Lamentations 3:37-38 says, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" We read in 1 John 2:25, "And this is the promise that He made to us -- eternal life" through Jesus Christ our Lord, when we understand the text.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses?

Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

What does this mean, that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses? Well, it's often interpreted that the saints who have gone before us, the faithful who have died and are with Jesus in heaven, are looking down from above. They're watching us, cheering us on as we run the race, just like athletes in a sports arena would compete in front of a big crowd.

However, no where else in the Bible are we given a picture of saints watching us from heaven. Furthermore, the Bible doesn't say anywhere that we should pray to these believers. They're not watching, and we can't talk to them.

So they're not witnessing us. They witness to us. The stories of these saints and their completed lives of faithfulness continue to minister to us through the Scriptures. These witnesses were just named in the previous chapter.

Saints like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab... "And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets" (Hebrews 11:1-40), many other men and women, who by faith finished the race and won the prize.

And so, by their witness, we learn to put off sin and run the race, pointing us to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. And as we are perfected in our faith by the testimony of the saints who went before us, so they are perfected also:
"And all these, though commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 11:39-12:2
...until we are all presented together before God as the purified bride of Christ, when we understand the text.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone?

In John 8:1-11, we read the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery, and she was brought before Jesus teaching in the temple. The Pharisees said, "Teacher, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?"

They were trying to trap him. If He said, "Let her go," he'd be ignoring the law of Moses. But if He said, "Stone her," he'd be going against Rome and that would get him in trouble with the Romans. Jesus responded by writing on the ground with his finger.

When they continued to press Him, He stood up and said, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." Upon hearing this, the Pharisees left, and Jesus said, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And He said, "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more."

This story is commonly used to say no one is without sin, therefore no one has any right to judge. But Jesus said just a few verses before to judge with right judgment (John 7:24). When Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin be the first to cast the stone," He was saying, "Which one among you is the dude she had adultery with?" Was he without sin? According to Leviticus 20:10, he's supposed to be stoned with her.

Having been exposed that they were ignorant of the law, the Pharisees high-tailed it out of there. Jesus, the author of the Law (represented by Him writing on the ground with His finger, just as He wrote the Law with His own hand at Mt. Sinai), forgave the woman and told her not to sin anymore.

However, there's a problem with this story. John didn't write it, and your Bible will tell you that -- John 7:53 through 8:11 didn't appear in any of the earliest manuscripts. This section is known as the pericope adulterae. In some textual variants, it's found after John 21:25, and in other places it comes after Luke 21:38 or 24:53.

It's a nice story, but it has no original authorship, and doesn't belong in the Bible. The greatest story of love and forgiveness is found at the cross of Christ, when we understand the text.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

What Does the Bible Say About Social Justice?

From a sermon by Dr. Voddie Baucham: "If the social justice movement went by its actual name, young Christians would not have been lured into it. Because the social justice movement is actually Cultural Marxism. There's no such thing as 'social justice,' people. In fact, in the Bible, justice never has an adjective. There's justice and there's injustice, but there's not different kinds of justice."

The term "social justice" is an argument for the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in a society. Sometimes that argument turns loud and violent, though many have good intentions when they speak of "social justice," a desire for the common good. But who gets to decide what the common good is, and who carries it out?

God is the one who defines what is just and what is unjust. "His work is perfect for all His ways are justice" (Deuteronomy 32:4). Our works are not good. Why is there in injustice in the world? Because it's full of unjust people (Romans 3:12). So what has a just God told us to do? He said preach the gospel to all nations, baptize, and teach them (Matthew 28:19-20).

That is the mission of His church. Those who have been changed by His Spirit will do good works -- the works God defines as good (Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 10:24) -- but works are not the gospel. You cannot change the world. Only God changes hearts, which He does through the gospel.

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24). That is the message of justice we should announce, so that all who hear it might be forgiven their sins and will not fall under the righteous judgment of God. He is both "just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26) when we understand the text.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Repent or Perish?

Another mass murder in the news. Another disaster claiming many lives. The number of people killed grows every day. What would Jesus have said about such tragedies?

Actually, He did address this in Luke 13:1-5. Some Galileans were murdered while they were sacrificing in the temple and their blood was mixed in with their sacrifices. Were they guilty of some terrible sin because this happened to them while they were worshiping?

Jesus said, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them. Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others in Jerusalem? No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

We live in a fallen world where people die: sometimes at the hands of lunatic psychopaths, sometimes in tragic accidents. Why do these casualties keep happening? Because of our sin. Not because one person's sins are worse than another's, but because everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23).

"The wages of sin is death," the Scripture says (Romans 6:23). And "all things have been subjected to futility" because of man's rebellion against God (Romans 8:20). As long as we live on this earth, people will keep dying in unexpected, unforseen ways. We will never solve that problem.

So what is there to do? Well, Jesus said, repent. Apologize to Him for your sin, and He will forgive you. And on the day that you die, expected or unexpected, you will not perish in judgment. You will live with God forever, in a place where every tear will be wiped away and evil and death shall be no more (Revelation 21:4), when we understand the text.