Before my recent annual physical with my primary care physician, I had to fill out a form entitled, "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" The two main questions were as follows, with the multiple choices available.
What is your sexual orientation?
This has so permeated the pores of our society that it is considered normal. But it is not. There is so much sexual confusion. One's sexual and gender identity was given by their Creator, the God who personally made you, who knitted you together in your mother's womb(Psalm 139:13), who made you in secret and intricately wove you in the depths of the earth(Psalm 139:15.
One's sexual and gender identity is not determined by the person. Your sexual identity was determined by God Himself from eternity past.
If you were born male, God did not make a mistake. In His infinite wisdom and gracious care, He created you male. To say that you should have been born female and are trapped in a male body is nothing short of slapping God in the face and telling the Holy and Perfect God whose ways are blameless and upright, that He made a major mistake.
If you were born female, God did not make a mistake. In His infinite wisdom and gracious care, He created you female. To say that you should have been born male and are trapped in a female body is nothing short of slapping God in the face and telling the Holy and Perfect God whose ways are blameless and upright, that He made a major mistake.
Don't be mistaken. If you change your sexual identity from male to female or vice versa, it is not because that is who you are inside, but it is because you have deliberately and intentionally chosen that lifestyle. The Bible says that it is not natural.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."
And like any other sin, homosexuality will keep you from eternal life, heaven, the kingdom of God.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
Some of the Corinthians were like that. But they were washed and justified (declared not guilty and fully righteous before G0d) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the corruption and stain of sin, all people are spiritually dirty. The Bible clearly says that even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags(Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we need to be washed through Christ alone. All people stand condemned before the righteous Judge of the Universe. Thus, we need to be declared not guilty and fully righteous in His divine courtroom. The only way that can happen is to have Jesus Christ as your Advocate, your defense attorney as it were. Will you turn to him, trusting in Him alone to save you from the penalty and power of sin? Then you can praise God for making you male or female, the way you were born.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."
There was a time when it was clear what words were considered swear words , or cuss words, if you prefer. But as our culture has changed, people have accepted certain words as part of their every day lingo that were once deemed swears. And unfortunately this has also crept into the church and amongst Christians. People wrongly think, that since everyone uses that word, it must be ok for me to use it. Since when is the standard, what others speak, even in the church and amongst Christians, rather than what the Word of God clearly tells us?
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
This verse is part of a context where we are to put off our old self, which is part of our corrupt former manner of life, and to put on our new self, which is "created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."(verses 22-24) In your speech, are you putting off your former manner of life, or are you conforming to the language of the world, or sadly enough, to your Christian friends?
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving."
This cannot be any clearer. There is no ambiguity here. Crude joking and filthy talk are simply out of place for the Christian. And our speech is in the context of sexual immorality(the Greek from which we get the word pornography), which "must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. "(verse 3)
Have you become so accustomed to filthy language in the form of swear words that you don't even notice it or react when you hear it form someone or even coming out of your own mouth? Have you considered the effect that it has on others? Does it give grace to those who hear? Does it fit the occasion? Does it build up? What do your words reveal about your heart?
Thumbs up or Thumbs down. Those were their call letters. Or should I better say, their call sign, as Siskel and Ebert reviewed the current movies playing in theaters on their TV show "At the Movies".
If you thought Siskel and Ebert were only confined to the movies, you thought wrong. It seems today there is another show running that ought to be named "At the Church". But who are the hosts? Could be anyone. It could even be you. These are the Siskels and Eberts who critique the church. They have a knack for finding those things that bug them and annoy them. The bugs. The nuisances. Whether it's the idiosyncrasies of someone or the format of the worship service. If you listen carefully, you can hear their complaints.
"Nobody greeted me. They were not very friendly."
"Why don't they have a children's program?"
"The pastor didn't give me what my itching ears wanted to hear. He actually preached the Bible."
Don't be mistaken. This is nothing short of consumer Christianity. Since when are we to be critics of the Bride of Christ, His Church? Do not misunderstand me. Being critical with a consumer mentality is distinctly different from using discernment to rightly judge whether a church is right for me or not. You ought to be asking the following.
But Siskels and Eberts are found not only amongst those looking for a church, but also amongst those already part of a church. They know that the Bible says, "Do all things without complaining"(Philippians 2:14). But somehow it doesn't apply to the Bride of Christ. It's open season for the church.
Do you know someone like that? Could that someone even be you? Rather than approaching the elders to address in private one of your concerns, do you tend to complain to others on your way out of the service? And are they legitimate concerns because of some doctrinal error or are they simply personal preferences?
Why don't they do it this way?
How come the temperature is never right?
Why does the leadership not incorporate this aspect in the ministry?
But you may be saying to yourself, "I don't verbally complain to anyone." My question to you then is, Do you complain within your thoughts but just don't say anything? Do you leave the worship service with an encouraged heart or a grumbling spirit? You see, it's a matter of attitude. It's this kind of attitude that's detrimental not only to your own spiritual well-being, but also to the health of the church. A critical spirit is like sulfuric acid that eats away at everything it touches.
And the worst part of Siskels and Eberts in the church is that they spend so much time and energy critiquing and complaining, that they don't contribute to the Body. They are solely consumers. Are you a spectator, sitting in the stands and standing on the sidelines looking for something to complain about? Or are you actively involved in serving?
Siskel and Ebert. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Leave that for the movies. Do not be the one who brings it into the church!
You're at a funeral. Close friend passed. Sad time. The eulogy portion of the program begins. And a mutual friend gets up. To offer hope and comfort he says of the deceased
"He is looking down on us today."
But is he? Are people who have died actually looking down on their friends and relatives? Are they smiling down on you, proud of your accomplishments? Are they able to see what's going on in your life, not from up close, but at least from a distance, from the afterlife?
These questions are rareley pondered because it has become so commonplace in our culture and society to say things like that.
The Word of God teaches that only God Himself looks down on everyone and everything. He alone is omniscient and omnipresent. Those attributes are only ascribed to God. So to say that someone else is looking down on us is to ascribe divine attributes to a deceased person and thus Deity.
The Lord looks down from heaven;
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
People who die cannot look down and observe things on earth. They are not God. That, by the way, includes believers. Believers who have died have no interest in the things going on down here anyway because they are in the presence of Christ, basking in His glory, worshipping Him and beholding Him face to face. Trust me. If you are a believer, when you die and appear in His presence, you will be so enthralled with Christ, the last thing on your mind will be the things of earth.
If you are not a believer in Christ alone for the salvation of your soul, the inheritance of eternal life and the forgiveness of your sins, then, have you taken the time to consider that you cannot hide from God? You are as naked as can possibly be before His holy eyes. And to Him you will one day have to give an account!
Will you acknowledge your own sinfulness?
Will you agree that you stand condemned under His just law?
Will you admit that you are utterly unworthy of receiving any divine merit or favor?
Will you by faith turn to Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Lord, on whose merit alone God can bestow divine favor upon you and grant you forgiveness of sins and eternal life?
In a church culture where biblical illiteracy is on the rise, how is your handle of the Word of God? Do you wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God(Ephesians 6:17)? Are you allowing the Word of Christ to richly dwell within you(Colossians 3:16)? Are you mighty in Scriptures, competent and proficient enough in the Scriptures to make use of them? There was a man in the early church who was. Let me introduce you to him. His name, Apollos.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus."
From the very outset, the first quality that stands out about Apollos is that he was competent in the Scriptures. The greek term literally means strong. Thus the New King James Version translates it "mighty in the Scriptures". It is the idea of being able to do something, excelling in something, having the power for something.
So Apollos was able in the Scriptures. He was excelling in the Scriptures. He had the power to do something with the Scriptures. And the text tells us exactly what, namely "he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus(v. 28) As a result, the believers in Achaia were greatly helped by Apollos(v. 27).
Do you want to to be mighty in Scripture and to excel in your use of the Bible? In order to have a better handle on the Bible, make sure to make use of all 5 aspects of intaking the Word of God. To illustrate, take a piece of paper, trace your hand on it and fill in each of the fingers with the 5 methods of Bible intake.
1) The Pinky - HEAR
2) The Ring Finger - READ
3) The Middle Finger - STUDY
4) The Index Finger - MEMORIZE
5) The Thumb - MEDITATE
You sit under the expository preaching of the Word of God ...
...to HEAR its great doctrinal truths unfolded
...to understand how they connect with the rest of Scripture
...to grow an exalted view of God
...and to grasp the flow of the specific book of the Bible the pastor is going through.
Do you belong to a local church where you hear the exposition of Scripture? Or are you listening to watered down topical sermons that leave your soul high and dry?
As you READ through the Scripture yourself, you are taking a bird's eye view of the whole counsel of God. Do you have a regular reading plan?
Then, as you STUDY the Bible, you are taking a worm's eye view, examining the specific details of a certain passage in light of the context of that particular book and in light of the context of the Bible as a whole. Are you part of a small group Bible study that focuses on this aspect?
You also MEMORIZE the Scripture so that you can use it when you are tempted or when you have opportunity to share it with others. Have you ever been on a systematic diet of a Scripture memory program?
And finally you MEDITATE on the Bible. That is you ponder it, muse over it and think about it. It is like a cow's digestive system that has 4 compartments to it's stomach for complete and full digestion. So in meditating on Scripture, you churn, as it were, the very words of God until they are digested for your soul. This is represented by the thumb because just as you can touch all the other fingers with your thumb, so you meditate on the Word when you hear it, read it, study it and memorize it.
Like Apollos, are you mighty in the Scriptures? Competent in the Scriptures.? Able in the Scriptures? Excelling in the Scriptures? Does that describe you? Or as Charles Spurgeon said of John Bunyan(Pilgrim's Progress), do you bleed Bibline?
Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord.
The 16th century saw the battle lines clearly drawn during the Protestant Reformation. And what was the battle over? The purity of the Gospel! Justification by faith alone. The Council of Trent was the Roman Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation. In Canon 9 it states the following.
CANON 9: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”
Anathema is a strong word. It is used by the apostle Paul and is translated "accursed"(Galatians 1:8-9), meaning divine judgment in eternal hell. At the Council of Trent, Rome pronounced divine judgment and curse on anyone who said that justification is by faith alone with no other contribution or cooperation by the sinner.
But God had raised up a monk by the name of Martin Luther who by God's grace came to understand and see the light of the truth that justification is indeed by faith alone. And the verse that God used to open his eyes was Romans 1:17.
The apostle Paul is known for his clear and abundant teaching on the doctrine of justification in his masterpiece treatise, the book of Romans, and in its parallel, the book of Galatians. If someone were to ask me to learn about justification, that's where I would direct them. Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ taught about justification in one of the most well-known parables recorded in the gospel of Luke.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Two men are contrasted in this parable, commonly known as the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector(or publican). Though they both went to the temple for the same purpose, that is to pray, we can see four major differences between them.
First of all, their prayers were distinctly different. The Pharisee thanked God...for himself(Imagine that!) because he was not like the others, namely sinners. On the other hand, the tax-collector saw himself as "the sinner"(original Greek text) because he saw his condition before a holy God and pleaded for mercy because he understood God was just to punish him.
Secondly, their view of God was quite the opposite. The Pharisee had a low view of God, whereas the tax-collector had an exalted view of God.
Which naturally leads to the next difference, namely their view of self, because one's view of God determines one's view of self. The Pharisee had an arrogant view of self. To use the words of Luke, he trusted in himself that he was righteous and treated others with contempt(v. 14). His pride caused him to look down on others. The Pharisee compared himself to others, while the tax-collector compared himself to God. The Pharisee focused on the external conditions of his religiosity. The tax-collector focused on the internal condition of his heart. The Pharisee saw his spiritual assets, whereas the tax-collector saw his spiritual bankruptcy.
And the last but most significant difference, which is the point and major thrust of Jesus's teaching, is a different standing before God. With absolutely no hesitation and no stutter in His voice, Jesus unambiguously and unequivocally made an emphatic declaration. The tax-collector, rather than the Pharisee who justified himself before men(Luke 16:15), went that same day from the temple to his house...JUSTIFIED. He was pronounced by God the Judge in His divine courtroom 'NOT GUILTY' and 'RIGHTEOUS'. Jesus is pointing out that justification is...
...an event, not a process!
...complete, not progressive!
...instantaneous, not delayed!
...immediate, not developing!
What security! Blessed Assurance! All because of the mercy of God. All because of an act of God whereby He declares one righteous. And all without any contribution or cooperation from man.
Are you like the Pharisee, self-righteous before men and in your own eyes, looking down on the others who aren't as good as you, whose spiritual assets don't come close to measuring up to yours? Or are you like the tax-collector, humbly crying out for the Lord to have mercy on your soul simply because you realise the sinful condition of your own heart and that a just God would thus be compelled to render His divine judgment?
Remember the old holiday classic "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer"? In one scene, Rudolph's misfit elf friend Hermey, who wanted to be a dentist, says to Rudolph, "Hey, what do you say we both be independent together." It's funny when you think about it because independence is contrary to togetherness.
Hermey's comment is indicative of the independent mindset of our culture. We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Frank Sinatra's well-known song "I Did It My Way" is the motto of our society. And this has crept into the church because we've allowed the world to squeeze us into it's mould, contrary to what God clearly tells us in Scripture(Romans 12:2, J.B. Phillips).
In other words, we cannot think we are sufficient in and of ourselves. We are not independent of God. We are completely dependent on God "for 'In him we live and move and have our being’; (Acts 17:28). And furthermore, in bearing fruit, apart from Christ, we can do nothing(John 15:5).
Our sufficiency is in Christ alone. The apostle Paul learned that lesson during a time of personal difficulty in his life.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
The contrasting term "But" reveals to us from the context that, even though Paul was going through a difficult time(verses 7-8), God used this in his life to teach him a valuable lesson. This is the risen, ascended, exalted and glorious Lord speaking to Him, not the Jesus in His humiliation as the Suffering Servant during His incarnation. So this gives even more weight to what Christ tells him . And what was the valuable lesson that the Lord taught him? He unequivocally declares to Paul that His grace is sufficient, that is, His power is made perfect in weakness.
Christ's grace, all-sufficient, for any trouble. Christ's power, perfected, in the midst of weakness. Paul's response was 2 fold, to gladly boast of his weaknesses and to be content in the midst of difficulties. And why? Because that is when the power of Christ is most manifest.
Can you readily say with the apostle Paul, "For when I am weak, then I am strong"?
Do you readily acknowledge your total dependence on the Lord?
Are you doing it your own way?
Are you content with your weaknesses and hardships?
Do you boast gladly of your weaknesses?
Do you boast of your own strength?
When trials come your way, are you thankful for them, knowing that it is an opportunity for Christ to manifest His all-sufficient grace and perfect power?
Do you grumble and complain, wondering "Why is this happening to me?"
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
If I were giving a State of the Church address, what would I say in our current situation with COVID.? Now I do not go to bed restless because I am not sure of what will happen in the long run to the Church. And that is because I fully trust the Head of His Body, Jesus Christ when He said, "I will build My church."(Matt. 16:18) Christ IS building His Church and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."(Matt. 16:18). So, if I were giving a State of the Church address, I would say the State of the Church is...NOT GOOD.
In the midst of COVID, there are churches that have opened their doors, but some people are not coming to church. Rather, they have opted to stay home and watch via live stream. And that is not because of health reasons. Other churches have not opened their doors but have gone fully remote, even though their buildings are large enough to open it's doors and still abide by the COVID restrictions. Churches need to open their doors and believers need to go.
The people in our church, both young and old, could not wait to get back together. Believers love to be with other believers and worship together. After all, there is just something about gathering together corporately with other Christians on the Lord's Day to worship through the preaching of God's Word, congregational singing, praying, giving and fellowship. Besides the joy of meeting together, it is commanded in Scripture,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
We are not to neglect to meet together. That is the habit of some. But I fear that is becoming the habit of most. Not gathering together with the saints and watching via live stream is not only a bad habit, but also a hard habit to break. After all, it is convenient to sit in the comfort of your own home. But that is not church and that is not applying the truth of these verses. Furthermore, the God of the Bible is not a God of convenience. We have fashioned Him into our own likeness and made Him a God of convenience. Unfortunately, our current evangelical culture promotes this Christianity of convenience.
Do you think the sovereign God of the universe was taken by surprise when COVID hit our world? By no means! When He gave us this command to assemble together as a local church body, He was not thinking to Himself that now He has to somehow amend His Word to adjust to the circumstances. His Word is eternal. The truths therein are applicable in all circumstances.
Now, there are some who may need to stay home because they or someone in their family has serious health concerns, such as going through chemo treatment for cancer or complicated pulmonary issues. And having live stream can help them participate for worship on the Lord's Day.
But if you or someone in your family does NOT have these serious health issues, why are you not attending? Is it because you do not like wearing masks? The necessity and desire for gathering with the saints on the Lord's Day for worship out of loving obedience far outweighs the inconvenience of wearing a mask.
Or is it because you are afraid? Fear is the enemy of faith. Fear cripples your spiritual life. Fear steals your joy and peace. Fear is detrimental to your spiritual health, growth and maturity.
Or could the reason be that after all it is more convenient to stay at home. But that is not church life. That is not body life. Rather, that is isolating yourself from the rest of the body.
Let me encourage you. Sickness and disease are part of a fallen world. They will always be around. If not COVID, there will be something else. Our omniscient God knows that. Our heavenly Father watches over His own. He will protect us. That does not mean we may not get sick. We do not promote or adhere to the false gospel of health and wealth. Neither do we subscribe to fatalism, thinking whatever will be will be. Rather, on the one hand, we do our part to watch over our health, and at the same time trust God as we continue to live our church lives. After all, as members of one Body, we are united not only to the Head, Jesus Christ, but also to each other. That is part of the commitment of church membership. We belong to Him and we belong to each other.
Should a pastor, . . .
. . . who typically preaches verse by verse through a particular book of the Bible
(sequential exposition), . . .
. . . stop preaching through that book of the Bible, . . .
. . . for one Sunday or even for a season, . . .
. . . and preach topically, . .
. . . in order to address the cultural issues and current events from a biblical perspective?
That was one of the questions we discussed at a recent pastors' fellowship I'm a part of that is committed to sequential expository preaching. More specifically, should a pastor address the current issues, i.e. COVID, BLM, social justice, riots, etc., in a different format, such as a Sunday school class or a small group Bible study during the week, so as to not stray from his exposition of a book of the Bible? What about just addressing these issues on your radio program? But then again, what if you do not have the platform of a radio program? And what if you pastor a church in a rural, vacation spot location where your congregation is not as directly affected?
Before I answer the question, let me start with 5 reasons the Bible should be taught verse by verse through books of the Bible. First of all, simply because it is the Word of God. Jesus said it Himself and that alone should settle it for all Christians.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. "
Also, I believe in sequential exposition because the Word does a sanctifying work in the lives of believers.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. "
Furthermore, the Word of God does a saving work in the lives of unbelievers.
since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
A fourth reason for verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible is for pastors to give their flock the whole counsel of God. Far too many in churches today rely on piece meals for their spiritual food intake. They read a devotional verse of the day on their app without any clue as to the flow or connection within the Bible. Pastors who exposit the Word can put on full display the unity of the Bible as they show how that particular text of Scripture they are preaching on that Sunday fits, not only, into the scope of the book of the Bible they are preaching through, but also with the rest of Scripture. What we need today is more pastors with the same commitment of the apostle Paul. And what churches need today is not nibbling and snacking, but sitting down for a full feast.
for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."
And last, but certainly not least, sequential exposition is necessary because the clear command from the Shepherd of His Sheep, Jesus Christ, to His under-shepherds, the pastors, is to preach the Word. Near the end of his life(2 Timothy 4:6), when most had abandoned him(2 Timothy 4:9-16) and thus he was feeling the loneliness of a long distance minister, what final charge would the apostle Paul pen in his swan song letter to his son in the faith, Timothy? His final exhortation was nothing other than to preach the Word.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching."
Note that pastors are to preach the Word, in season and out of season. That is, when it's convenient and when it's not convenient; when there is opportune time and where there isn't; when things are going well and when things are not going so well.
Which gets me back to my question that I began this blog with. My succinct answer is "no". A pastor should not deviate from his sequential exposition to do a...topical sermon that relates to what is happening in the world. But I do think it's ok to do an expository sermon of a different text, outside of your normal sequential exposition of a book, in order to help people know how to interpret the times in light of the Scripture. And it should not be for an extended period, but for one Sunday, because you want to get back to the continuation of the Bible book you are preaching through.
I'v been preaching through the Gospel of Luke. But early on, when COVID hit and there was gloom and doom in the air, even, it seemed, in the evangelical air, I decided just for one Sunday to preach from Lamentations 3:21. Giving the historical background of the difficulty God's people were going through(Jeremiah 3:1-20) and then showing Jeremiah's display of God's character(Jeremiah 3:22-38), it not only encouraged us to trust God no matter what, but also helped us to see that even from the pen of the weeping prophet, Lamentations is actually an encouraging book.
The following Sunday I was back in Luke.
Another thing a pastor can do while preaching a book of the Bible, if it's obviously conducive to the text at hand, is to set it in contrast with what is going on in the evangelical church. So for instance, when I was in Luke 10, I highlighted the message Jesus sent the 72 out with(Luke 10:9). Then I explained the message we today are sent out with, namely the saving power of the Gospel(Romans 1:16), to make disciples of all nations(Matthew 28:18-20), as ambassadors of Christ proclaiming the message of reconciliation(2 Corinthians 5:19-20). And I set that in stark contrast to the BLM message that many evangelical churches are falling prey to, and that, not just from the secular world or liberal pastors, but from Bible believing pastors. In doing so, pastors can fulfill their God-ordained role to expose and make their flocks aware of false teachers and remind them of the church's singular mission and message!
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."
I've heard them all before. Maybe you have too. Or maybe you are in this boat even as you read this blog. I am talking about the common objections for why people don't join a local church. They come in various shapes and sizes.
Just between us girls, let's be honest with one another. These so called objections are simply nothing more than excuses. They are ways people rationalize not committing to a local body to keep them accountable. This should come as no surprise, especially in the non-committal culture we live in, where church membership is looked at as no more than a club with a view only of "What can I get out of it". If nothing, then I'm bailing.
So let's address each of these objections. Oops. Typo. I mean excuses.
"I've been burned."
My response to this is, "Who hasn't?" We all have. Therefore, no one should join a church so as not to be burned again, right? And I don't think it a stretch to say that you yourself may have burned others as well. If we never want to be hurt again, then let's lock ourselves in our homes, and never have any contact with the outside world, never mind with people of the church. After all, in today's world, you can do all your work and shopping from the comfort of your home computer.
This argument is weak than for no other reason that it reveals that this person is a peace-faker, pushing everything under the proverbial rug until one day Mt. Vesuvius explodes. They avoid all conflict because they think that conflict in and of itself is wrong. But biblically, conflict in and of itself is not wrong because it is an opportunity to glorify God through it, to grow in your faith as a result of it, and to serve other people in the process. The key is on how you learn to resolve conflict. The Bible is clear on how.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men"
Romans 12:18, emphasis added
"Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."
Matthew 5:23-24, emphasis added
In this case, the scenario is not if you have something against your brother, but if your brother has something against you. The fleshly, ungodly and unbiblical knee jerk reaction would be to say, "Well, if so and so has something against me, let them take the initiative and come to me." But the radical teaching that Jesus offers is the only God-honoring response, and that is to realize the onus is on you and for you to take the initiative.
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother."
Matthew 18:15, emphasis added
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32, emphasis added
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;"
"So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another."
So this excuse is not so much a commentary on the other people who've burned the person, but more of a commentary on the person and on their unbiblical understanding of conflict and how to reconcile relationships.
"They are all a bunch of hypocrites."
My response to this is, "How can you see clearly enough to see the hypocrisy and speck that is in other people's eyes, when in the meantime there is a log in your own eye?"
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."
"I can just watch a message on T.V. Sunday."
One problem to this excuse is that most teachers on T.V. are false teachers who are propagating the doctrines of demons. Paul warns his son in the faith, pastor Timothy of this.
"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."
1 Timothy 4:1, emphasis added
Unfortunately this is not as obvious as it should be because of the major lack in discernment in the church and the high tolerance that permeates our culture and has seeped into the church!
A further problem with this excuse is that you need to be in regular contact with other Christians, in corporate worship and to practice the one another injunctions of the New Testament, i.e. love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, bear one another's burdens, etc., all of which, by the way, cannot be done looking at your T.V. set.
"I read my Bible every day anyway."
Great. Keep reading. Don't stop. That is your spiritual nourishment. However, you also need to listen to the Bible, with other Christians, from a pastor who is qualified as an expositor of the Scripture. That means the point of his sermon is the point of the sacred text.
"I still love Christ though I'm not part of a local church."
I've got to be honest and say I have doubts that you love Christ if you're not part of a local church. You see, one who truly loves Christ will love what Christ loves. And Christ loves His Church.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,"
Ephesians 5:25, emphasis added
So much so that He sacrificed Himself for Her, and this willingly. Furthermore, to say you are committed to Christ is to say you are committed to His Church. You cannot separate the Head from the Body. In his testimony, the apostle Paul said that he persecuted the church( Gal. 1:13; Phil. 1:6), yet Jesus said to him, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." (Acts 26:15). How can that be? Because to persecute the Church, the Body, is to persecute the Head, Jesus!
"I am not in agreement with their statement of faith."
Now, if you mean things that relate to...
...the inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture
...the Deity of Christ,
...the substitutionary death of Christ
...the bodily resurrection of Christ
...justification by faith alone in Christ alone,
then I would say you need to sit down with the leadership and discuss these matters. If the church denies any of these critical, essential, non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith, then you need to look for another church.
But if you mean that you have a different view of the timeline of end times or the mode of baptism, then I would say join the church as long as you submit to the leadership (Hebrews 13:17) and don't try to draw disciples after you and thus cause division over these matters.
"I have certain areas of my life that I'm still working on."
Don't we all. Your sanctification will not end until one of 2 things happens: you die and are ushered into the presence of the Lord OR the Lord returns. So join a church as an official member with others who are still in the same lifelong process of sanctification.
The Word of God is crystal clear, not pulling any punches.
"and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added
It is a clear command of Scripture to not forsake assembling together with other believers. And since a command, to disobey is to sin against the One who gave it, namely God Himself.
R.B. Kuiper in his book The Glorious Body of Christ writes,
It is clear that in the days of the apostles it was universal practice to receive believers into the visible church. What could be more logical? He who believes in Christ is united with Christ. Faith binds him to Christ. He is a member of Christ's body, the invisible church. But the visible church is but the outward manifestation of that body. Every member of the invisible church should as a matter of course be a member of the visible church. Extremely significant in this connection is Acts 2:47 - "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Not only does the Lord Christ require of those who are saved that they unite with the church; He Himself joins them to the church. And the reference is unmistakably to the visible church. The Scriptural rule is that, while membership in the church is not a prerequisite of salvation, it is a necessary consequence of salvation.
Hariton Deligiannides is the pastor of Mendon Communiy Church. Pastor Hariton proclaims the truth of Scripture in order to help people come to a knowledge of the truth, namely that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, and to then get grounded and rooted in the deep truths of Scripture.