Monday, June 26, 2017

Preaching and Preachers, Chapter 7: The Congregation

In chapter 7, Lloyd-Jones deals with the congregation in our preaching. Does the congregation dictate what we preach? Do we adapt the message to suitable for the people we are preaching to? Does a preacher who ministers to construction workers, need to be a construction worker to get a fair hearing?

 It's remarkable how he predicted what would happen, churches marketing toward certain sectors, trying to appeal to their hobbies and interests and designing churches and messages to suit their needs. Many of the modern Bible translations have that idea in mind; people can't understand "thee's and thou's" and if we could just a English translation that spoke their language, then they would believe. But look around the English speaking world, who has more translations of the Bible than any other people in history, and you'll see that theory proven wrong. It isn't that they don't understand the words, it is they don't understand the gospel. Our job is explain and teach and pray the Holy Spirit will give men life so they can understand. "These terms [justification, sanctification, glorification,] are peculiar and special to the Gospel. It is our business as preachers to show that our gospel is essentially different and that we are not talking about ordinary matters."

The case is made that Millennials, are some special generation that is so very unlike any generation before and if preachers are going to reach them, then they will have to adapt. This is nothing new. If a 20 something expects the church to change for him because he is too sophisticated to hear the gospel in the ordinary means, then the gospel is exactly what he needs to humble him. 2,000 years of preaching God's word, and we have now come to a generation of people that need a special way of communication, just for them, because they are superior to every other generation?

Of course, you can go to far the other direction, as Lloyd-Jones points out. We can be slaves to tradition. We can act, dress, and talk like we are living in the 1950's and if anyone steps out of that line, they are living in sin. It is the gospel, the message that is the dividing line. We can be stumbling blocks with our traditions, but we cannot budge on the essentials of gospel preaching and Biblical exposition of the truth.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Parable of the Dragnet by Lewis Kiger

Recently I had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Land and visiting many of the wonderful sights in Israel. In my opinion, the region known as upper and lower Galilee with its rocky hills and pristine valleys boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in all the land.

I was especially fond of the ancient city of Capernaum which lies on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus spent much of His public ministry. So much so, that even though Christ was raised in Nazareth, Matthew (in his gospel) calls Capernaum Jesus’s hometown. This intimate little village lies nestled between several rolling hillsides and directly on the banks of the sea. Like all coastal cities, it’s economy was highly dependent on the goods that could be harvested from the nearby waters.

It is from this area that Jesus called many of the 12 disciples, and as you are probably aware, several of them fishermen by trade. Fishing was more than a hobby to these men. It was a way of life. It was a craft, a trade. So, one can easily understand just how relatable the parable of the dragnet was to these men. We might say, that the Apostles may not have understood every parable that Jesus taught, but they clearly understood this one.

Many, many times these men had fished with a dragnet.

Today, we may call it a trawl net, or a seine. It is a long-netted webbing used to catch a multitude of fish at one time. The way they are used and designed really hasn’t changed that much over the years.

The top of the net had corks or floats affixed to it, while the bottom of the net had lead weights or small stones tied on, so the net would sink quickly to the bottom. One end of the net would be tied to either another boat or a secure place on the shoreline. While one boat rowed slowly into the sea, the men would carefully let down the net from the boat as they would make a large loop, enclosing the fish.

Once they had circled back around to where the first part of the net was tied, they would jump out of the boat and cautiously drag the net back onto the land. The net was indiscriminate. It caught everything in its path. From seaweed, to trash, to sticks, to every kind of sea creature. But if everything went according to plan, the net would also be full of all kinds of profitable fish. If it was a large catch, many men (perhaps even the whole village) would help draw the net in, and separate the fish. As they pulled their catch onto the beach, they would sort through it. Some would be kept to sell at market, others taken home to feed the family. Some would not meet the dietary requirements of the Jewish civil law, and would be turned back. And there were still other fish that were completely worthless. They were not edible, could not be sold, nor used for any good purpose. These were simply discarded or thrown away.

In Matthew 13:47-52 Christ uses this everyday way of life to describe His kingdom and what it will be like when the time of final judgment comes. Jesus makes reference to this prophetic day in verse 49 where He says: “so shall it be at the end of the world.”

This parable forces us to think about things we don’t like to consider. It directs our minds to a dreadful time that is yet to come. A time when the Lord will send his angels and gather together the souls of men and the wicked will be separated from the good. Those who are not saved, who have not been born-again, will be cast into hell itself.

John MacArthur summarizes this parable in these words: “The Dragnet of God’s judgment moves silently though the sea of mankind and draws all men to the shores of eternity for final separation to their ultimate destiny – believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation.”

Dear reader, have you trusted in Christ? For this is the only way to escape the righteous judgment of a Holy God. Are you safe from that coming judgment, because your sins were paid for at Calvary? Have you personally trusted in the saving work of the risen Lord Jesus Christ?

None of us like to contemplate such hard truths, but yet they are truths none-the-less. May those of us who have been redeemed be diligent to warn sinners to flee from the wrath that is to come.

What an amazingly straightforward parable this is! Only the Master Teacher could teach such a sobering truth, with such simple language. May God use it to reach your heart.

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Psalm 1: The Happy Song

The Psalms are a collection of God inspired songs; beautiful, poetic reflections of the whole range of human emotions coupled with deep, theological truths. Prayers to God, praises about God, expressions of grief, sorrow, doubt, joy, and happiness. It's like they were written for you, to say for us what we feel in words we could not express ourselves. They are like a mirror to help us see and understand what is really going on in our hearts. They are like medicine for the soul living in a sin cursed world, giving healing to our emotions, helping us to lament, to praise, or repent. David Murray wrote "We sing to Jesus in the Psalms, we sing of Jesus in the Psalms, and we sing with Jesus in the Psalms.

The Psalter begins with something everyone wants -- happiness. The Hebrew word translated "blessed" means happiness, and Psalm 1:1 begins "Blessed is the man..." In a book designed to worship the true and living God, the inspired songbook begins, "happy is the man." God's word and God's commands are not contrary to human happiness. In fact, true joy and happiness is only found with God. This Psalm makes the case that loving and worshiping God is not only man's chief purpose (Deuteronomy 6:4-5); but it is also man's chief joy.

The happy man is the one who doesn't follow the ways of an ungodly society. He doesn't stand with the sinner or sit with the scornful (Psalm 1:1).  The happy man doesn't find direction inwardly, or by following the crowd. He doesn't find delight in the same things the world does, but the happy man finds his pleasure in God's word. The meditation of God's word brings joy, as opposed to the ways of the sinner (Psalm 1:2). When you live by faith and your heart is full of God's word, the fruit that produces in your life is stability, joy, and godly living (Psalm 1:3).  

Why avoid the way of the sinner? Because, even though the house of the sinner may seem to bring happiness in the "seat of the scornful", the way of the sinner is death (Psalm 1:6). The path of the ungodly is not the established life, like the tree planted by the water, but is like the dead, light, temporary wheat chaff that blows away with the wind. Whereas a strongly planted tree won't be moved, the sinner is blown about by his own nature and the course of this world (Psalm 1:4). Where the happy man refuses to sit with the scorners and stand with sinners, the ungodly man will not stand in the day of righteousness judgment or sit in the congregation of the righteous. The happy man will walk alone with God; the ungodly man will walk with the majority now, and die alone without God. This psalm instructs us on how to live, encourages us in pursuing godliness, warns of the dangers of wickedness, and confirms the way to happiness is with God.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Steer Clear of False Teachers - Tuesday with Timothy #70

1Ti 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

I think that the “otherwise” isn’t just to the immediate context, but the whole epistle. But this moves beyond this letter on to the whole counsel of God; the words of Christ and doctrine according to godliness. The warning is for those who do not teach truth and will not consent to truth. False teacher who teach contrary to God’s word and will not submit to God’s word are condemned. These men teach contrary to the wholesome, healthy truth of God’s word and are against the words of Jesus Christ, even though they claim to be his ministers. The doctrine of God is according to godliness and teaching that doesn’t not teach, promote, and pursue godliness in the lives of the church is falsehood. You need to steer clear of any such man or ministry that teaches such false doctrine.

Paul pulls the cover off these false teachers and gets to the heart. Here are the characteristics of the false teachers.

1)      Proud
2)      Ignorant
3)      Morbid fascination with questioning truth
4)      Concerned with deconstructing language and fighting about things that don’t matter
5)      Corrupt minds
6)      Destitute of the truth
7)      Equates money and gain with godliness

What are the consequences of such a mind?
1)      Envy
2)      Strife
3)      Blasphemous slander
4)      Evil suspicions
5)      Meddlesome and perverse disputes

1) Pride will cause a man to never receive the truth. He won’t sit at the feet of Christ and learn. He won’t listen to the rebuke of Scripture because he is already right. He will protect himself and promote himself, caring little for the souls of others.

2) It’s interesting that pride and ignorance are linked together here, because they are often linked together in life. Sometimes, the less a man knows, the more proud he is about it. Ignorance of revealed truth is a shame for anyone, but ignorance in a teach is really inexcusable and extremely dangerous. Paul says they are know nothing’s of the truth and don’t put up with or listen to teachers who don’t know the truth.

3) Next, doting about questions, or a morbid fascination with questioning truth.  Here is Strong’s definition of the Greek word translated “doting”. νοσέω noséō, nos-eh'-o; from G3554; to be sick, i.e. (by implication, of a diseased appetite) to hanker after (figuratively, to harp upon):— Thayer's says it is to be sick; metaphorically of any ailment of the mind. To be taken with such an interest in a thing as amounts to a disease, to have a morbid fondness for. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, but what kind of questions are you asking? What is your motivation for asking questions? There are different types of questions. It’s a modern proverb to say there are no such things as stupid questions. I have worked much of my adult life in helpdesk settings, and I can attest that is utterly false. There are stupid questions. As a pastor, I also know that not all questions are good questions. Some are to gain information. Some are to find out where you stand on a particular issue, curious about your thoughts on a subject. There are wicked questions, there are question designed to entrap, there are questions designed to bring doubt and confusion. These men have a sick fascination with questioning truth that there are no answers to. This isn’t the sign of a profound or deep mind. Be wary of teachers who always have questions. It’s not humble, but as we have seen, it’s ignorance and pride, and deceptively wicked.

We'll come back and look at some more next time, Lord willing. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure by Lewis Kiger

Have you ever found money or some valuable that someone else had lost? I remember walking out of a large department store several years ago and finding a significant sum of cash laying in the parking lot. Of course, you’re wondering what did I do with it, right? I went back into the store and told them about my find without disclosing the amount, gave them my phone number and said; if anyone calls looking for this, have them contact me. I told the manager that if no one phoned me within a few days, I would keep it. I didn’t know what else to do.

Surprisingly, I never did hear from anyone about the money. We were out of town on vacation so I gave some of it to my family and watched them enjoy spending it.

I suppose every one of us have dreamed at some point about finding some lost treasure or discovering some vast fortune. Yet I assure you, discovering the kingdom of God is the greatest treasure that anyone could every find.

In Matthew 13:44 Christ uses yet another simple illustration to describe what it is like to become a member of His kingdom. There the Lord states, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”

In this parable, a man finds a treasure he wasn’t even looking for.

Jim and the Treasure by NC Wyeth
Perhaps he was a hired-hand employed to plow another man’s field. As he was making his way row by row tilling the ground, the spade hit something hard underneath the surface. The worker doubtless assuming it is just another large stone, digs around it but is shocked to find a treasure chest. He excitedly opens it to reveal a great fortune within.

Carefully looking around, he then buries the chest back beneath the ground and leaves from the field to go out and do whatever he must to purchase this field. The laborer is not wealthy, so in order to buy the land with the hidden treasure in it, he must sell everything he has in order to get the needed cash. Obviously, the value of the treasure was worth more than everything else he owned. So with joy, he sold everything in order to buy the field.

Such a thing actually happening may sound far-fetched to us, but yet again, we must put the parable in the context in which it was given. The land of Israel is the most contested piece of real estate on the planet. It has been overrun and laid siege to, many times over. Countless families have had their homes ransacked and their life savings stolen over the centuries. 

So, it wasn’t uncommon for Jewish families to hide their valuables somewhere on their property. One has to remember, they didn’t have an FDIC insured First National Bank of Jerusalem with safe deposit boxes. Nor did the people own large metal safes to keep their valuables secure. It was normal to hide one’s valuables underneath the earth or in a secret location somewhere.

But what happens when someone forgets where they stored their valuables? Or they die in war, and no one knows where the family fortune is hidden? Or if the patriarch of the family dies unexpectedly without relating where their valuables were hidden. What then?

Such a thing occurred frequently enough that there were Jewish Rabbinical laws written to address it. One such law stated that: ““if a man finds scattered fruit or money, it belongs to the finder.” Christ is simply using yet another familiar practice to make a truth more relatable.

Now the behavior of the man in our parable may sound unethical to us, but instead he was acting well within his rights. “Finders keepers” if you will, was the law of the land in Israel.

Furthermore, this parable isn’t about greed or illegitimate gain. The point of the story is not to warn against covetousness (there are other parables that address those issues). Rather, the lesson Christ would have His hearers learn is that His kingdom is worth more than anything else you own. Once you have discovered it, you need to do whatever you must in order to obtain it.

The Bible is full of examples of men and women who were not out looking for Christ, but once they discovered this “Hidden Treasure” they were delighted to do whatever they must to make Him their own. Nothing you have in this life is worth holding on to if it keeps you from holding on to Jesus.

Dear reader, have you found this hidden treasure? There is nothing that can bring greater joy, than discovering the cherished prize of eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Little Sins

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"(Romans 3:23). There are a couple ways you could receive this verse. The wrong way would be to think that because everyone sins it's not really such a big deal.  “We’re all human. We all make mistakes.” While that’s true, that isn’t what Paul was getting at. He is dealing in terms of guilty or not guilty in the court of God’s justice. Having the nicest room on the Titanic isn't much of a comfort when the whole boat is sinking. Being one of many sinners isn't consolation when we are guilty of crimes against God, and with God there are no little sins.

I'm tempted to define a little sin as an offense I commit against someone else and a big sin as a transgression that someone commits against me. It’s like minor surgery. Minor surgery is any operation that you are having and major surgery is any operation I’m having. It’s never “minor” if you are laying on the hospital table looking up at the surgical lights. If I tell a "little lie" I could say that no one got hurt, so it’s not that bad. On the other hand, when someone looks me in the eye and lies to me, that hurts and offends me and it is suddenly a different story. Or, consider if my enemy slanders me, it hurts and I don't like it, but I don't expect anything less from him. I know several people, like the man said, "whose favorite reading would be my name on a tombstone." However, if my friend, or a church member, or a spouse slanders me, that hurts. It is the same sin, but the weight of the sin is heavier to bear when a trusted friend hurts you. Who you sin against matters.

Now, let's try to put all this together. When you sin, you are breaking God's law. To look at our sins lightly, or to suggest they are not a big deal, is to blaspheme the Lord and His law. We are sinning against and breaking the law of a good, holy, merciful God. And by belittling our crimes against God  and saying they are not a big deal, we are suggesting that the person we are sinning against (God) is somehow small and unworthy of our concern. You have sinned against the Almighty, Eternal God. The Lord of Glory who gives you life and your every breath. Don’t measure the sin by your own standard, but by who it is you are sinning against. Ordinary sins stain souls as just as black as the sins that make us gag. There are no little sins when you have a big God. In the book The Valley of Vision, one man prayed, "Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against." 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Vanity (I)

The fleet astronomer can bore 
And thread the spheres with his quick-piercing mind: 
He views their stations, walks from door to door, 
         Surveys, as if he had designed 
To make a purchase there; he sees their dances, 
                   And knoweth long before 
Both their full-eyes aspècts, and secret glances. 

         The nimble diver with his side 
Cuts through the working waves, that he may fetch 
His dearly-earnèd pearl, which God did hide 
         On purpose from the venturous wretch; 
That he might save his life, and also hers 
                   Who with excessive pride 
Her own destruction and his danger wears. 

         The subtle chymic can divest 
And strip the creature naked, till he find 
The callow principles within their nest: 
         There he imparts to them his mind, 
Admitted to their bed-chamber, before 
                   They appear trim and dressed 
To ordinary suitors at the door. 

         What hath not man sought out and found, 
But his dear God? who yet his glorious law 
Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground 
         With showers and frosts, with love and awe, 
So that we need not say, “Where’s this command?” 
                   Poor man, thou searchest round 
To find out death, but missest life at hand.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Master and Slave - Tuesdays with Timothy #69

1 Timothy 6:1-2  Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.  (2)  And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

We generally apply this to the employer/employee relationship, which I think is a fair application since the general theme is submission to authority. But Paul isn't talking about employees, he is talking about slaves, douloi, a bondservant with his master, despotas. You may see a familiarity in that Greek word. It is where we get our English word despot. It means master, absolute ruler.

Paul does not condone slavery but Paul also did not call for radical rebellion and anarchy. Paul doesn't seek out a Roman Abraham Lincoln or an abolitionist society. We know were Paul stood on the issue of slavery, as we are familiar with the European slave trade.  If we go back to the first chapter of this book, Paul said 1 Timothy 1:10  For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. Kidnapping is contrary to sound doctrine. Paul, by no means, condoned kidnapping. Stealing men and making them slaves is sinful and it is wrong and is contrary to sound doctrine. Paul equates such sin with liars, fornicators and any other sin you want to throw in with it. The Bible did not condone chattel slavery.

The fact that men-stealing is wrong and the reality that slavery existed are two very different things. Paul dealt in the reality of how Christians ought to live, not in the dream of a world without sin. Believers who were also slaves were to live in submission to their masters. There was something bigger than individual rights and freedom at stake - the gospel and the honor of Christ. A slave, who has taken the name of Christ, is first of all, a slave of Christ. If the slave is rebellious, and dishonorable in the face of ill-treatment, the unbeliever (or believing) master casts his ire on the gospel and on Jesus. However, the humble servant adorns the doctrine of Christ by honoring those in authority above them. The slave can be a great witness to the saving power of Christ by showing the love of Christ, even to those who rule over them.

Likewise, the master  is not to despise his servants and take advantage of them because they are brothers in Christ. The master should be kind and repay the good work of the servants and be even more generous to them for it. The master shouldn't take advantage of the slave who loves Christ because he knows that he is going to honor him. The slave should honor his master and the master should treat the slave with dignity and fairness. The two men should be able to come to God's house on Sunday morning and shake hands with a clear conscience in regards to how they have treated one another through the week. And guess what happens when the master begins to see and treat his slaves as equals, as men made in the image of God? That's when the foundations of slavery begin to crumble. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Human Marriages End in Tragedy

"all human marriages begin with joy but end in tragedy. Whether it is divorce or death, the human bond of love is eventually torn apart. The marriage of Christ and his church, however, begins with tragedy and ends with a joyful and loving union which will never be rent asunder. There is joy to which we point in our worship, the joy of the Lamb’s wedding feast. But our people need to know that in this world there will be mourning. Not worldly mourning with no hope. But real mourning nonetheless, and we must make them ready for that."

Carl Trueman. Read the rest HERE.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ancient Baptism

For going on 2,000 years, believers have gather around pools of water to watch the ministers of the gospel immerse new converts in water. The Lord's churches have an ancient heritage. Across the continents and down through the ages the people of God have confessed their sins, trusted in the Christ, and submitted to water baptism.  Starting in a muddy river in Israel, then spreading to Jerusalem, and then through Samaria and Asia. Down southward to Africa or westward across the mountains and on to Europe, then to the Americas, the message of Christ was proclaimed and believed. Age after age, church after church acting out this drama, making this confession; Jesus Saves. Confessing that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God came, born of a virgin and entered into His own creation to save His people from their sins. We declare in baptism that the Godman was nailed to the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice and completely saved every single person for whom the sacrifice was intended. On that terrible afternoon, Jesus cried it is finished and gave up the ghost. Jesus, the Lord, the Saviour, the King, was dead. They took his lifeless body from that wretched tree and laid His dead corpse in a rich man’s tomb. Sad, dejected, and faithless, the disciples had given up in despair.
Baptism by Vasily Polenov
But lo, at the dawning of the first day of the week, the two Mary’s came to the tomb but the stone was rolled away. They were terrified, but the angle said “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” The tomb is empty! Jesus had risen! The Lord then met with his disciples, spoke with them, ate with them, and preached to them. He was alive! He had the power to lay his life down and he took it right back up. This same Jesus, in his same body spoke to these same disciples, bodily risen and forever defeating death for his people.

The Jesus who had the power to raise himself from the dead has the power to give life. To give life to the dead, to raise them from spiritual death unto spiritual life. We are to go with this message of the gospel and preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ. We have been charged to make disciples and baptize believers.  We baptize them symbolizing how we are made disciples. As Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected – we symbolize that in the water. We are buried in baptism. As Jesus rose from the dead for our justification, we come up out of the water raised to walk in newness of life. Baptism symbolizes what Christ has already done. We baptize believers; the disciples of Jesus to show the world that we have died to the old life in repentance and have been born again and are new creatures in Christ.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

God will set things right - Tuesdays with Timothy #68

 I Timothy 5:22-25  Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.  (23)  Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.  (24)  Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.  (25)  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.

Holiness in the life of a pastor is paramount. Timothy was to be careful who he laid hands on, making sure they were godly  men since the church is trusting and must trust them. Timothy does not want to be partakers of other men's sins by overlooking their sin and not disciplining them, nor does he want to be complicit in given an ungodly man a platform to sin in shaming Christ and his church and using the protection of the ministry to do evil deeds. Timothy is to keep himself pure. Sooner or later, a man's life will catch up with him, if he is living a hidden life. Either open before, going to judgment, or in open judgment at the judgment seat. The man of God needs to live a godly, pure life.

Timothy, it appears, was a teetotaler. I believe Timothy was concerned about keeping himself pure and about the example he set and his personal godliness. It would appear that Timothy did not partake of the lawful use of wine and Paul encourages him that because of his illness, he needs to drink it, if nothing else, for medicinal purposes. Paul did not badger Timothy for being legalistic. Paul didn't mock Timothy for not drinking wine. He told him he should drink wine for medicinal purposes. Had Paul mocked Timothy or called him a Pharisee, Timothy would never have used wine even for medicine. Just because someone is convicted that something is wrong by Scripture doesn't make them a legalistic Pharisee. Timothy took godliness seriously.

Paul ends with thoughts on justice. There are some men who sin and publicly fall. They sin and everyone sees it and knows it and are judged in this life. There are some men who get away with it, and their sin follows after them. Sin doesn't go unpunished. There is a reckoning. So whether the church disciplines or not, the perpetrators will be dealt with by God. And the same with those who are innocent. Some people do good works and everyone can see them, and some will not be rewarded for their good works until the judgment seat. The reminder here is that we must strive for justice and to do what is right, but also always remember, God is going to set things right one day. The falsely accused will be vindicated on that great day. The sneaky sinner, who seems to get away with their iniquity will have to answer for what they have done. Those that offer up false accusations will stand before Christ and answer for what they have done. The politicians who maneuver and destroy people to get their way will answer for their sins and will give an account to Christ, face to face. Those that do good and do right, and no one ever notices or pats them on the back, Christ will set that right on that day.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Preaching & Preachers: The Preacher, part 3

Lloyd-Jones turns his eyes to the training of the preacher. His view of the training of a preacher goes as follows:

  1. Life. Going from college to seminary to the church without earning a living or living life makes a man full of theory, but little experience.
  2. General education and training of the mind. 
  3. Knowledge of the whole Bible.
  4. Study of theology
  5. Study of church history
  6. Homiletics
Interesting, Lloyd-Jones not only dislikes homiletics, but actually refers to such  books on the "art or craft of the sermon" as prostitution and near an abomination. I'm not sure why that is. Homiletic books simply give the rules of speaking. Lloyd-Jones was a brilliant man, and a skilled medical doctor before he became a pastor. He was trained to be logical and was a skilled thinker. This would have played into his ability to outline and logically think through a text of Scripture. That is all decent homiletics books will do, they will teach you the rules of logical thinking and public speaking. Like it or not, there are guidelines and rules to effective speaking. A gifted speaker might not know the first thing about grammar, but if he will follow the rules of grammar, even if it is instinctive. A natural muscian who plays by ear still follows the rules and laws of music, whether he realizes it or not. The same with delivering a message. There are certain rules and laws of logical and effective speech, and if a man doesn't know them instinctively, then he needs to learn them. Lloyd-Jones perhaps was a natural or learned them from his medical career, but he indeed, followed the laws. For the opposite view on the need of homiletics, see the introduction in Sacred Rhetoric Or a Course of Lectures on Preaching by RL Dabney. It is a fine discussion on the difference between art and artifice.

Finally, I found this quote to be very true to my own heart and expresses how I often feel.
"I remember reading somewhere about the French novelist Anatole France that he used to say whenever he felt tiered an jaded with a tendency to be depressed and downcast, 'I never go into the country for a change of air and a holiday, I always instead go to the eighteenth century.' I have often said exactly the same thing, but not in the same sense in which he meant it, of course. When I get discouraged and over-tired and weary I also invariably go to the eighteenth century. I have never found George Whitfield to fail me. Go to the eighteenth century! In other words, read the stories of the great tides and movements of the Spirit experienced in that century. It is the most exhilarating experience, the finest tonic you will ever know. For a preacher is absolutely invaluable; their is nothing to compare with it. The more he learns in this way about the history of the Church the better preacher he will be."

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Parable of the Leaven by Lewis Kiger

Do you make homemade bread? It’s not something we do around our home regularly. But in preparing to preach this parable at the church I pastor, I asked my two teenage daughters to help me with an illustration. Together we mixed all the ingredients to make two separate loaves of bread. We followed the recipe exactly and did everything the same except, in one loaf, we did not add any yeast.

The outcome was quite instructive.

The lump of dough with yeast rose nicely, about 4 times its original size, and cooked up wonderfully. We enjoyed eating it. However, the other loaf without yeast looked pitiful. It never expanded, never enlarged itself. Actually, it remained the same size and shape as it was when put it in the cooking pan. Needless to say, we didn’t eat that loaf.
Baking the Bread by Anders Zorn
In Matthew 13:33 Jesus compares His Kingdom to yeast mixed into a large ball of dough. He says these words, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

There is much conjecture as to what Christ meant by this. Would you believe that while studying this parable, I found at least 17 different interpretations as to what the parable “actually meant?”  This is what happens when Bible students complicate the simple. Unfortunately, well-meaning individuals (and some of them preachers) make nonsense out of common sense.

Christ is using a simple and relatable illustration to help clarify a truth. During that time period, daily life consisted of baking bread. Every child had observed their mother in the kitchen with a wood stove making bread from scratch.

It was customary, after mixing the dough and allowing it to rise, the cook would pinch off one small portion of it and put it in a cool, dry place for the morrow. That little piece was already leavened (contained yeast) and the next day, when it was mixed with a new batch of dough, the yeast would spread and cause that batch to rise. Once it had risen, she would pinch off a little ball of it, and keep it for the next day. And so on.

This was a common practice in every Jewish home. In fact, this little ball of leavened bread was often given as a cherished wedding gift from mother to daughter.

Christ is simply using something they were familiar with to teach His disciples a lesson. He is teaching them (and us) that His kingdom will grow. It will increase just like a lump of dough when leaven is added to it.

Like the spread of yeast through the dough, it is invisible to the naked eye, but it is spreading. It will not happen all at once, but His kingdom is going to increase. The glorious kingdom of Christ cannot be stopped. Once leaven is mixed in dough, the chemical process begins and cannot be stopped.

Such is the kingdom of Christ. It spreads through contact.

This is vitally important to understand.

Yeast that never comes into contact with dough, cannot affect it one bit. In order for Christ’s kingdom to grow, we must be willing to follow the example of Jesus, and become a friend of sinners. We must reach out to them with the life-changing message of the Gospel.  We must invest time and effort into touching the lives of unbelievers with the message of a true and lasting hope for eternity.

One of the reasons why we have seen such a decrease in the spread of Christ’s kingdom in America today is that we are not doing our job of reaching the lost with the Gospel. Sadly, statistics and experience tells us that the average confessed Christian does not share his/her faith on a regular basis.

Too readily do we rely on others to do the work for us. But the kingdom does not spread by proxy. It spreads by the Christian coming into contact with the lost world around them with Good News of salvation by grace alone.

Like yeast, Christ’s kingdom is a living and thriving organism and it should be our earnest desire to be used by our God to help spread this kingdom.

Has your life been touched by the Gospel’s pervasive power? If it has, then you have been called to be in contact with lost sinners to spread the Good News of Christ’s kingdom.

Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Peculiar Prophet

There was something strange going on out in the wilderness. Actually, someone strange was out in the wilderness. If you were to follow the crowds, you would have heard this man before you saw him, and when you saw him, you would have known  who it was you were looking for. His clothes were as different as his message. He was wearing a cloak of camel’s hair and a leather tunic, preaching about the kingdom of God. We might not want to eat dinner with him, since he enjoyed a steady diet of locusts and wild honey, but that was a staple diet for rugged mountaineers who lived off the land. His name was John. You know him as John the Baptist, because that was the other odd thing he did. He dunked his followers under the murky waters of the Jordan river. All of this was peculiar and very new and as with anything that is peculiar and very new, John attracted people who were interested in the latest trending topics. But, keeping with John's way of life, he wasn’t interested in popularity. Point of fact, John called some of those that were interested in his baptism names. Calling visitors a "brood of vipers" is not in the church growth strategy manuals, but John hadn't read any of those books.
The Dead Sea and Jordan, E. Lear

John was preaching a new message. He was preaching the kingdom of heaven was at hand because the king had come. John was the first prophet in 400 years; the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. He came to announce the long awaited Christ was coming and prepare the people for the arrival of the king. John’s message was one of repentance. It is to change the way you think about everything, including yourself and God.  Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. You turn from being the lord of your life to bowing down to the lordship of Jesus. You turn from iniquity to holiness. You change how you talk, what you do, how you treat your spouse and children, what you think about yourself and how you treat yourself and others because you now love and follow the Lord.  A supernatural quickening; the creation of a new creature which brings the evidences of a new life. Repentance and faith turns your world upside-down. When people heard the message, and repented, they were to be baptized, or immersed under the water as a sign of the death to the old life of sin and the new life of godliness following the Lord God.  John's message was to announce the king is coming. The Christ was on his way, ready or not. The fact of Jesus arrival was plain. John gave two options, turn or burn. Submit to King Jesus or be judged by King Jesus. There was no third way.  John was right, King Jesus did arrive, and his message still stands. Repent and behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

An Elder Accused - Tuesday with Timothy # 67

1 Timothy 5:19-25  Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.  (20)  Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.  (21)  I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.  (22)  Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.  (23)  Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.  (24)  Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.  (25)  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.

First, I want to set forth some propositions that this passage teaches, then we'll come back and examine them.

  1. The elder needs to be trusted.
  2. There will be false allegations made against the pastor.
  3. Accusations against elders are serious.
  4. The pastor is not a perfect man
  5. The elder is a sinner and is not above discipline. 
In a perfect world, people will appreciate a man who desires to help souls in their pilgrimage. The church will not only shout Amen when the preacher says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" but understand that reproof, correction, and instruction usually comes with a little sting when he is talking about our sins. But we are not in a perfect world and sometimes feelings get hurt. People get offended. Sometimes false converts try to ruin the ministry of the man that offended and the weapon they use is false accusation. Sometimes false teachers attempt to ruin the man to get rid of the message. Often unbelievers and religious hypocrites hate Christ and take their ire out on Christ's men. Read the Pauline epistles and you'll see that the Elders will be accused of wrongdoing or evil because of the truth. In light of these realities, the church is not to receive accusations without witnesses. Even if it is a church member who makes the accusation. The whole point of chapter 3 was to find men of character, men the church can trust. You cannot take the word of the first person that complains about the preacher and then insist that he defend himself on every charge. If you cannot trust your pastor, why is he your pastor?

The pastor shouldn't have to defend himself against every little accusation someone wants to throw at him. The church should be understanding that this is going to happen. This protects the pastor, the ministry, and the church. The demand for witnesses presupposes trust. I'm not talking about blind trust or being a sycophant, but trusting you pastor to be a man of God and not trusting anyone and everyone more than him. If the church believes every accusation thrown and their elders that would mean they trust everyone but their elders. Think about that. If you believe every bad thing someone hurls at your pastor and think every accusation is cause for dismissal, then you do not trust the man. How can a man effectively preach, help, exhort, rebuke, and exhort if you cannot trust him, at all? The church should assume the best from their pastor and the pastor should be considered innocent until proven guilty and the standard of evidence is high. One person with a grudge should not be able to derail the ministry. A false allegation is a terrible sin against any Christian. There is more at stake when the pastor is accused because it not only affects the man, but also the church, the churches witness, and the name of Christ. The church is going to need more than just a disgruntled person throwing accusations around to take action against their pastor. 

Them that sin, rebuke before all. The elder is not above sin, nor is he above the church. The church does have the duty and the authority to discipline the pastor if he sins. If the elder is guilty, and it is proven, he needs to be rebuked. Public sins need public rebuke. Church discipline has a twofold effect: it brings the sinner to a point of decision/repentance and warns others of the consequence of sin. When sin is committed, the church has two options. They can discipline the guilty or punish the innocent. Churches, in their desire to be compassionate to the guilty, forget that ignoring sins can punish those who were harmed and sinned against. So if a false accusation persists against the pastor, but the church is being compassionate to the trouble maker, they have punished the pastor and made a culture of false witness. By not defending their pastor they have allowed the false accusations to stick and to gain ground. However, if the pastor sins, and it is proven, but the church ignores it out of compassion, then those the pastor has sinned against are punished.

This is a serious issue. Paul charges Timothy before God the Father, God the Son, and all the holy angels in Heaven, that he must observe these matters of church discipline. Timothy cannot overlook the sin of anyone in the church, no matter who they are and how long they have been there. For shame on the church that has double standards in church discipline. For shame if there are some people who are disciplined with the shake of the head and a pious quoting of 1 John 2:19 while others are allowed to do and and live however they please. God is watching.

Which brings us back to the qualifications of the elder. That is why it is so important for the church to examine, not only the man's doctrine, but his life. The ordination of a man is no light thing. When you lay hands on a man and ordain him, the man and the church is putting their stamp of approval on him and his ministry. To lay hands on a man who does not have the moral character to be a pastor, you have done yourself, the church, and the ministry great harm. Make sure due diligence is taken before selecting a man to be an elder. I understand the tradition behind a counsel of visiting elders in the ordination process, but out of town preachers cannot judge a man's life and character if they only know him from fellowship meetings. This is a matter for the church, and I'm afraid that it isn't taken as seriously as it should be.

The church needs to judge herself. I'll just add this because of the day and time in which we live. The church deals with all sin issues. Skipping church for a few months is not a felony, even though it is a sin. However, some sins are also criminal issues. Not all sins are crimes, but when the sin in question is a crime, then the church must get the authorities involved. Being a Christian is not a get out of jail free card.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Preaching & Preachers: The Preacher, part 2

Chapter 6 of Lloyd-Jones book Preaching & Preachers deals with the preacher himself. The second section deals with how a church can know if a man is called to preach. It is the churches responsibility, after all, to train, ordain, and send out preachers, so there must be some way to know if a man can be a preacher. The man must:

  1. Filled with the Spirit
  2. Have a godly character
  3. Have wisdom
  4. Have patience and forbearance 
  5. Have an understanding of people and human nature
  6. He must have the mental ability 
  7. He must have the gift of speech

Saturday, May 27, 2017

George Herbert's Prayer before a Sermon

"Thou hast exalted thy mercy above all things,
and hast made our salvation,
not our punishment,
thy glory:
So that then where sin abounded,
not death but grace superabounded
-- accordingly, when we had sinned beyond any help
in heaven or earth,
then thou saidest,
Lo, I come."

George Herbert

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Pearl of Great Price by Lewis Kiger

C.H. Spurgeon was a well-known and respected 19th Century preacher in England. In his biography, a story is told of an eye-opening event with a well-to-do and prominent citizen of London.

Spurgeon was strolling down the city streets one day when he met this youthful well-dressed man. In short order, the privileged young man informed the preacher that he had obtained everything that was needed in life. He proudly stated that he was young, healthy and had become a lucrative business man. After a few moments, the seasoned preacher asked, “that’s well enough, but do you know the Lord? Are you a Christian?” The affluent man answered, “What need do I have of that? That has no interest for me.” Spurgeon then asked, “Sir, will you accompany me for a few moments?” The man reluctantly agreed.

Down the street they went and entered into a dilapidated apartment building. They walked up two flights of stairs and knocked on the door of this tiny apartment. Minutes passed slowly as they stood waiting for a response. The impatient young man was eager to move on with his busy day but eventually the door gingerly opened. Standing there, hunched over, was an elderly lady. Her face was wrinkled by the years and her body crippled with arthritis. She was delighted to have visitors, one being her pastor. It was obvious by the cold room and ragged conditions that the lady was very poor. With pain making each step nearly unbearable, she eased back across the barren apartment and onto her bed.

Once settled, she expressed to the men how grateful she was for the generosity of her church and the Lord’s people. “Why if it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t even afford this little apartment,” she whispered. Spurgeon, knowing what she would say, inquired, “Sister, what do you have to look forward to in this life?” “Nothing, nothing on this earth” she responded.
The wise old preacher then asked, “Sister, the man I have brought with me today has youth, vigor, wealth and a prosperous future, but he does not have Christ. If you could, would you be willing to trade places with him?”
In spite of the throbbing pain, the old woman sat up in her bed, turned toward her guests and with a look of shock and confusion she boldly exclaimed, “Trade places with him? Never!” 

Reader, if you have never trusted Christ it does not matter how much wealth or vitality you have, you are a spiritual pauper.

Jesus uses the parable found in Matthew 13:45-46 to illustrate that eternal life is of greater value than anything else on earth. In the parable, our Lord states that the kingdom of God is like a merchant man seeking fine pearls. After finding a single pearl of enormous value, the merchant goes and sells all he has in order to obtain this one pearl.

The narrative teaches us that this merchant man considered this one single pearl worth more than everything else he owned. He was willing to sell everything in order to purchase this solitary prize. Such is the kingdom of God.
John Everett Millais

Entering into the kingdom of Christ is the single greatest treasure there is. Nothing is worth more. Christ’s kingdom is so precious that we should be willing to sell everything, or leave everything behind in order to obtain it.

Of course, we know that entrance into this glorious kingdom cannot be bought with money. A parable is simply an illustration. Parables are descriptive and not prescriptive. In other words, no amount of money, penance, or sacrament can purchase entrance into God’s kingdom. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Perhaps you have been searching for something to satisfy the emptiness inside you. One Bible scholar has said, that every human has a “God-shaped hole” in them, that only He can fill. Every person that has trusted in the sinless life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, feel just exactly like the old lady in the story. There is nothing we would exchange for eternal life. It is the Pearl of Great Price.

Have you found it?

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church