Pastor Cary's Blog
Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments
Wednesday, May 08, 2013 Comments (0)
“We have been sanctified [made holy] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). This speaks of our sanctification as an event. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). This speaks of our sanctification as a process. We are, as Paul says, “Being transformed into the same image [of Jesus] from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Believing this is taking place in our daily lives is not easy. We should, of course, just believe God’s Word and be done with it. Yet, we struggle to see this change or rather, we expect this change to progress faster than “one degree of glory to another.” Perhaps this is because our lives are shall we say, so ordinary. We have ordinary moments, ordinary struggles, daily irritations and temptations. We fail to see, however, the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through these ordinary moments.
I am reading Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments by Winston Smith. It’s a great book, by the way. The subtitle of the book is an excellent description of sanctification. Sanctification is extraordinary change through ordinary moments. As we daily encounter ordinary moments, we have a choice to make. We can obey God or obey our flesh. Our responsibility in these ordinary moments is Spirit-empowered obedience. In fact, Spirit-empowered obedience is our role in the sanctification process. We can obey, regardless of how strong or powerful the temptation, because the Holy Spirit is within us giving us the ability to obey.
Spirit-empowered obedience is not a pain free exercise. We do not appreciate the pain or suffering involved in fighting with our flesh. We would rather have heaven on earth, that is, we would rather be fully sanctified now rather than seeing God work through our pain, suffering and struggle with sin to make us holy. We could be tempted to despair, but God speaks hope to us. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
We must rejoice in our ordinary moments. We must rejoice in the God of our Salvation who is accomplishing his work in us. We must rejoice because every day God is accomplishing extraordinary change through ordinary moments.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Devote Yourselves to Good Works
Thursday, April 25, 2013 Comments (0)
“Be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:2).
“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8).
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:14).
Titus 3:5 is a verse often quoted, and rightly so, to support the truth that salvation is by God’s grace and mercy alone. Our good works did not save us. Surrounding this wonderful verse concerning the finished work of our salvation is the command to devote ourselves to good works. The command to do good works in verses 2, 8 and 14 (the imperative) is based upon the finished work of salvation in verse 5 (the indicative). We can do good works because of what God has done for us through Christ. Our good works are not for the benefit of God, nor are they to merit favor with God. Our devotion to good works is for the benefit of others.
When we speak no evil of others and show courtesy to them, we are benefitting them. We devote ourselves to good works because “these things are excellent and profitable for people” (v. 8). People profit from our good works. God does not need our good works. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). We devote ourselves to good works “to help cases of urgent need and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). People need our good works.
Jesus tells us the ultimate goal in doing good works, “Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Our genuine trust and belief in God’s finished work on our behalf (Titus 3:5) frees us to do good works for no other motivation than to glorify God. I am “justified by his grace” (Titus 3:6), therefore, I do not need to do good works. I want to do good works because I am a different person. I was “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, [slave] to various passions and pleasures, passing [my] days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating [others]” (Titus 3:3). Now, God has changed me “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
So devote yourselves to good works not because you have to but because you want to. Devote yourselves to good works because God has changed you. Someone may be touched by your one act of kindness and subsequently glorify our Father who is in heaven. There is no greater earthly reward than that.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Help Us Reach the Unreached and Unengaged
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 Comments (0)
According to the International Mission Board, there are 6,953 unreached people groups. An unreached people group is a group where Evangelical Christians comprise less than 2% of the population. There are 3,104 unreached people groups not engaged by anyone. Our church is taking the first step in engaging one of these unengaged people groups. Lord willing, two of our church members will be going on a Vision trip this summer to meet and begin a long term relationship with this people group. For security reasons, we do not publicly publish the location of our people group or the details of our trip.
First, let me encourage you to adopt an unreached/unengaged people group as a prayer focus. Educate yourself on this unreached people group with IMB resources, Operation World or the Joshua Project. Subscribe to various email updates so you can pray specifically for the spread of the gospel in this unreached people group.
Second, let me encourage you to give an offering to specifically help reach an unreached people group. Our church is a small church with a big vision. We believe God is going to use us to engage our unreached/unengaged people group with the Gospel. There are many obstacles to us engaging this people group. The biggest obstacle, of course, is the financial obstacle. So I ask you to prayerfully consider partnering with us to reach this people group. There are no known churches or Christians in this people group. If you would like to give toward this effort, you can visit our E-Giving link. Register as a new user, and select the “Unreached People Group Missions Fund” when you make a transaction. Or, you can mail a check and designate “Unreached People Group Missions Fund” on the memo line of your check. Mail the check to:
Bayview Baptist Church
707 E. Bayview Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23503
If you have any questions about our unreached people group or our summer vision trip, you can email us here. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for your generous support.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Friday, April 12, 2013 Comments (0)
I was not aware of this case Judge: Va. Beach noise-statute standards are too lax, but since these gentlemen and their church are in my neighborhood I wanted to comment on this story. Before they closed Rosie’s bar on Chesapeake boulevard, the street preachers in this story would stand across the street from this bar with a megaphone calling on the bar patrons to repent. Perhaps some of you know and have encountered these street preachers.
I cannot say with absolute certainty their approach to evangelism is unbiblical. I cannot find a passage where it says, “Thou shalt not street preach with a megaphone.” There was certainly a lot of street preaching going on in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there was certainly some fiery prophets shouting “repent” at the top of their lungs. I cannot, therefore, tell them they are wrong for preaching in this manner.
I can say I have not run into one person who has come to Christ as a result of listening to a street preacher. This does not mean, of course, there are not some who may have come to Christ in this way. I just don’t know of anyone. I do not know of any studies done on the effectiveness of street preaching evangelism. Perhaps some bored seminarian will undertake such a study.
From my perspective as a United States citizen, I do get a little nervous when there are too many restrictions placed on free speech. Hey, I’m a pastor. We speak for a living. I realize noise can be a problem. We have noise ordinances which prevent my rump shaking neighbors from playing their music at window shattering levels after 10 at night. In the case of these street preachers, the judge found the noise law in Virginia Beach to be inconsistent and not well defined.
Personally I do not believe shouting in a megaphone is the best evangelism method. The message of the Gospel is indeed offensive (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Gal. 5:11), but we do not have to be offensive to preach the Gospel.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
(2 Timothy 2:24-25)
Continue to engage people with the Gospel. Do so, however, with kindness, patience and gentleness. Also pray that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Original Sin, Guilt and Unity
Thursday, April 11, 2013 Comments (0)
Occasionally I skim through the articles in the Baptist Press to keep abreast of what is happening in our denomination. While reading “2nd View: John 3:16 Conference Addresses Calvinism,” I was a little rankled. This section particularly upset me:
Adam Harwood, Christian studies professor at Truett-McConnell College in Georgia, in his presentation directly challenged the perspective on humanity inheriting the guilt of Adam's sin.
Harwood contended that while all people have a sinful nature, only Adam is guilty of Adam's sin because "according to the Bible, God judges people for their own sin."
Harwood claimed that some Southern Baptists, particularly R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, disagreed with this stance.
Harwood referenced an article Mohler wrote on his blog in 2012 titled "Southern Baptists and Salvation: It's Time to Talk" along with Mohler's claim that a 2012 document signed online by many non-Calvinist Southern Baptists, called "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation", "appear[ed] to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature and the human will –– understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied."
As described in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, semi-Pelagianism "affirmed that the unaided [human] will performed the initial act of faith" and "the priority of the human will over the grace of God in the initial act of salvation."
Harwood said unity within the SBC may depend, in part, on Mohler retracting his claim.
Harwood also called on Southern Seminary to revise a faculty-written interpretation of the Baptist Faith and Message which Harwood said goes beyond the doctrinal stands of SBC Baptist Faith and Message.
In Article 3 of the BF&M, humanity inherits from Adam "a nature and an environment inclined toward sin" whereas, in the SBTS interpretation, "the guilt of Adam's sin falls on all."
"I do not mean to imply that SBTS faculty don't affirm the BF&M. They do so as part of the hiring process," Harwood said.
"But the faculty exposition omits concepts found in the BF&M and replaces them with a theological viewpoint not found in the BF&M," Harwood said, "namely that all people are guilty of Adam's sin."
The part which rankles me the most is Harwood’s assertion that unity within the SBC may depend, in part, on Mohler retracting his claim. Harwood’s assertion is unfortunate. Unity in the SBC does not depend on Mohler retracting his claim. Unity depends on whether or not people in the Southern Baptist Convention who hold different views of how salvation happens (i.e., monergistic salvation: God working alone or synergistic salvation: God and humans working together) will agree to disagree and work together to fulfill the Great Commission. I hold a monergistic view of salvation, but I would not assert that my friends who hold a synergistic view of salvation must deny their doctrinal convictions in order for me to be in unity with them.
While I agree with Harwood that God judges people for their own sin, I disagree with his position that humanity did not inherit Adam’s guilt. Paul’s argument in Romans 5:12-21 certainly disputes Harwood’s position. Paul summarizes his argument in verse 18 and makes a conclusion. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Verse 12, verse 15 and verse 18 clearly suggest that the one sin of Adam resulted in condemnation for all people. Condemnation comes only to the guilty. We not only inherited an inclination to sin, but we also inherited Adam’s guilt. I cannot be sure, but perhaps Harwood’s objection might be rooted in western culture. John Stott explains, “The concept of our having sinned in Adam is certainly foreign to the mindset of western individualism. But are we to subordinate Scripture to our own cultural perspective?”
Paul’s comparison and contrast of Christ and Adam does not make sense if Adam’s sin and guilt were not inherited by all humans. Paul is essentially saying that as Adam’s guilt and condemnation was imputed (charged or credited to) all humans, so also is Christ’s righteousness imputed to those who believe. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (v. 19). The comparison, what is similar, is imputation. With Adam, guilt, condemnation and death are imputed. With Christ, justification (being made righteous) and life are imputed.
Calvinism will not split the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Neither will someone such as Dr. Mohler stating his position or Dr. Harwood stating their position. What causes splits is insisting your position be the dominant position, and denigrating and attacking those who hold a different position. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have been guilty of this within the SBC. However, Calvinists and non-Calvinists within the SBC have been cooperating and working together to fulfill the Great Commission throughout the history the denomination. Let’s keep it that way.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Friday, April 05, 2013 Comments (0)
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:36)
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. (Acts 17:16)
When it comes to responding to those who do not know Christ, there are two biblical emotional responses: compassion and anger. When it comes to responding to the lost, our hearts may respond with a mixture of compassion and anger.
Jesus responds with compassion when he sees the crowds. This is the basis for his command to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). In addition to laboring in the harvest, we are to pray for more laborers. The religious leaders of Israel failed in their responsibility to shepherd the people. Jesus is the Messiah who comes to shepherd his people (Mic. 5:4). We must also have compassion for the crowds. We must act on our compassion by laboring in the harvest (i.e., proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and meeting needs Matt. 9:35), and we must pray for more laborers to join us.
Instead of being impressed by the ornate display of artistry in the sculptures of Athens, Paul is angered. Anger is also a biblical emotion when approaching the lost. Angry not at them, but angry that God is not being worshipped. Angry that God is not getting the glory he alone deserves. Instead of worshipping God, the people are worshipping idols of their own invention. This should make us angry. God will not share his glory with another (Isa. 42:8), and it should anger us when God does not receive glory. Does this mean we run through our city tearing down public idols, angrily excoriating people for their sin of failing to glorify God? What did Paul do? “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). Instead of acting with a fit of rage (the way of worldly anger), Paul reasons with people. The righteous anger of Paul leads him to reason with people in hopes of persuading them to follow Christ.
Perhaps you are feeling no emotion when you look upon the lost in your city. We cannot make ourselves feel anything, of course. If you know Christ, you can do something about your lack of emotion. Our growing in the likeness of Christ is progressive. We are being changed by the Holy Spirit from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). So I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord of glory to change your emotions. Ask him to give you his heart toward the lost, helpless and idol worshipping crowds. He will answer. I must warn you. Righteous emotions lead to righteous behavior. If God burdens your heart, you will act on those emotions. You will labor in the harvest, and patiently reason with those in your city.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Brothers, Stop Trying to be Cool
Friday, March 22, 2013 Comments (0)
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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
This is a quick note to my fellow middle-aged brothers in the pulpit. Stop trying to be cool. Stop wearing skinny jeans, leather necklaces with a shark tooth and hoodies with skulls on them. You look ridiculous. Besides, some of your grandchildren’s friends are saying, “Your grandpa dresses funny.” Also, stop trying to make the Gospel fit into whatever movie happens to be popular. The Apostle Paul isn’t like Frodo. There is nothing “Christian” about people playing a game that involves killing others for sport, even if they were forced into playing the game. Real Christians just say no, and die for their refusal to fit in. Stop preaching words that soothe the ears of our narcissistic culture.
Instead, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” In other words, brothers, open the book, read the book, explain what you read and tell people to respond to what they have heard. This is not cool. It is your calling. If you want to be cool, do something else.
Soli Deo Gloria!
You Can Know That You Know Christ
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 Comments (0)
I spend a lot of time teaching people how to determine whether or not they really know Christ. This is especially important for new followers of Christ, but it is also important for people who have stumbled and begun to doubt their salvation. I often direct people to John 10 for assurance. In this passage, Jesus uses the metaphor of the good shepherd and sheep to describe our relationship with him. As you read John 10, I encourage you to notice every time the words “hear,” “listen,” “follow” and “know” are used.
· “The sheep hear his voice” v. 3
· “The sheep follow him, for they know his voice” v. 4
· The sheep do not follow a stranger “for they do not know the voice of strangers.” v. 5
· The sheep did not listen to the thieves and robbers who came before Jesus. v. 8
· “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” v. 14
· The other sheep being brought in “will listen to my voice.” v. 16
· “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” v. 27
In verse 27, Jesus summarizes his message. His summary really answers the question: how can anyone know that they know Christ? You can know that you know Christ if you hear his voice, if he knows you and you follow him. Knowing Christ is the ultimate question. It is the reason, after all, people are denied entrance to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21-23). If you know Christ and he knows you, then you hear his voice and you follow him.
In addition to knowing that you know Christ, there is an added benefit: God’s protection. Jesus says,
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:28-30).
As ones who know Christ, you have eternal life. You will never perish. God the Father, who is all-powerful, holds you in his hand. No one, however powerful they may be, can take you out of his hand. You can know that you know Christ, and you can experience divine protection and security.
The truths of John 10 are not mere ideas you believe as a Christian. The truths of John 10 are ongoing realities in the life of a Christian. So walk in the confidence of Christ. Walk confidently knowing that you know Christ. Walk fearlessly knowing you are protected by power no one can trump—the power of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Friday, March 15, 2013 Comments (0)
This is one of the most creative presentations of the Gospel through story I have seen in awhile. Enjoy!
The Courage to be Protestant
Thursday, March 14, 2013 Comments (0)
I do not recommend having many “hills” in your life to die on. In this past Sunday’s sermon, however, I mentioned a hill upon which I am willing to die. It is the hill of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation. In light of the recent election of a new Pope, I believe it is important to reiterate why I am and will continue to be a Protestant.
In April 1996, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals produced a document called The Cambridge Declaration. This declaration reaffirms the doctrines of the historic Christian faith. You can read the entire declaration here. The five theses of this declaration are:
Thesis One: Sola Scriptura
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.
We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
Thesis Two: Solus Christus
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.
We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
Thesis Four: Sola Fide
We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice.
We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ's righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria
We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.
We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
I like to summarize the five solas this way: I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone for the glory of God alone. On this hill I will die, and I will not compromise these truths. As David Wells so aptly puts it,
It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant. After all, millions have done so throughout the West. They are not in any peril. To live by the truths of historic Protestantism, however, is an entirely different matter. That takes courage in today's context.
Do you have the courage to be Protestant?
Soli Deo Gloria! David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 1.
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