Beware of Losing Your Spiritual Balance


Balance Rock, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

The month of August entails doing staff evaluations, a.k.a., reviews.  These processes are always helpful but not always easy.  You see, the tendency for some to walk in with an overconfidence because we in our pride believe that what we do is pleasing to God (of course) and no dings could possibly exist.  This is the problem of blind spots. Reviews, if done fairly, will expose those blind spots and will serve as a great corrective for a better course ahead.

Christ comes in and reviews each church, telling them what they do well, but mainly exposing the blind spots.  They did three things well:

The first thing we see is their toil, almost to the point of exhaustion.  They were busy with church life. Sam Storms rightly says, “It no doubt had all the programs and activities we normally associate with a church that is spiritual and passionate. They were truly diligent and conscientious.”

The second is their patient endurance, that is, their perseverance. Regardless how their society went, especially when the Temple of Diana was so prominent, they stayed faithful.

Lastly, and best of all,  they did well in holding to truth. In verse 2, they did well by not bearing “with those who do evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.”  In verse 6, Christ commends them for not holding to the works of the Nicolaitans, “which I also hate.”  Who are these Nicolaitans?  We do not know, but we do know that when Jesus addresses the church in Pergamum, they are connected with both idolatry and adultery, meaning that whatever they were teaching led to this.  And Jesus hated this.

Do we have what Jesus hates and love what Jesus loves?  The only way to know is not to assume we know, but to read His Word prayerfully and carefully each and every day.  And clearly, when it comes to various aspects of understanding truth, they have done rather well.

But this is about balance, isn’t it?  Take a look at our Fighter Verse for this week:  Ephesians 4:15.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

You see, they lost their way when it comes to love of others. A.W. Tozer once said, “You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically, but as empty as one spiritually.” We see this happening with those who are believers or have been in church world a lot, our hearts love the truth but grow cold to those who do not love the truth we love. Even when the truth says to love God and love neighbor with all you have, if our neighbors don’t love those truths, then we lose our love for our neighbors.  If we love the truth, we must love others who have not yet embraced the truth of Christ.

On the back of your sermon notes, you see that our commitments are to “grow in the Word” and to “love one another.”  Growing in the Word means that we engage and embrace the truth of who God is, what He’s spoken, and what He has accomplished through Christ.  Loving one another is connecting with others selflessly as Christ has connected with us.   The Great Commandment tells us to love God with all we have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Jesus is our first, first-love.  But the balance is to love the truth He’s spoken (and thus to love the One who speaks the truth) and to love those who are fellow imagebearers.

The church at Ephesus has lost that.  Have we?  How can we tell?

  • Are the times where we gather together simply to process the information dump that may come from our teachers, or to prayerfully process it by the Spirit to show us how to love others?
  • Do we get to love the programs and ministries that the church offers for our own enjoyment and consumption, or do we love it in order to serve our neighbors and make disciples?
  • Do we love religious activities, but fail to spend time with God in prayer, Scripture reading, and living for Him?

Paul told Timothy to keep watch on his life and doctrine.  Is having solid doctrine a problem?  Absolutely not!  But that love for God (not information about God, God Himself) in Christ and all that He is which is found in Scripture must be used by the Spirit to transform our thinking.


What a Difference Thirty Years Makes in a Church

Ephesus was the most important political center of Asia. Also there stood the Temple of Diana (Artemis), considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Paul ministered there, and through the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila and later through the ministry of young pastor Timothy, the gospel took hold.  Reading Acts 20:18-35, we see how Paul and the elders in Ephesus felt about each other. Reading this is a touching farewell.

Through the apostle Paul, they were trained and shepherded well in the whole counsel of God, i.e., the Scriptures. Over the next 30 years, time and interia took them to a place that put their place as a church of Jesus Christ in jeopardy.  Think about all that can happen in 30 years. Think about ARBC and all that has happened in 30 years.  Thirty years ago, a man named Dean Burk became pastor, and was pastor here for 14 years. In the sixteen years that followed, I’m the third pastor in that time. Many staff ministers have come and gone, many people have come and gone.  The old boom came and went. But you know what can also go in 30 years.

The first generation of a church has a passion for the lost.

The second generation has a passion to keep the passion of the first generation.

The third and fourth generation’s passion turns to apathy outside of an intentional renewal!

Our hearts can grow quite cold to the right things. Our hearts can grow cold to Christ and can grow cold to others.  We can have all the right doctrine, know our Bibles inside and out, but if our love for Christ and others goes, then we are not simply normal church-going people–we are in grave danger of having that lampstand removed.

Take Heart, Pastors! Christ Will Build His Church!

Christ is moving and working in His church even now.  He has promised this.  He is the one to build His church.  Men may believe it’s ultimately up to them, but Christ builds His church.  Book after book is written that can, at best, serve as supplements–only the Bible carries the substance of how Christ personally and intimately builds His church.

How though, does Christ build it?  For now, let’s just see two ways that parallel the original creation.  By the Word of God, creation came into being in general; and by the Word of God the church (meaning, His organization and His people).  In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul writes: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Hearts and minds are changes and galvanized by His glory that shines in us and by His Word that transforms. When Jesus told His disciples, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me” (John 6:37) and all through the first part of Acts that, through the preaching of the gospel to all who would listen, that “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:39).  When we realize that the word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekklesia,’ which means ‘called out ones,’ it is Christ who is calling out those whom God has chosen unto Himself.  It will happen.  He’s building His church.

MacArthur rightly said,

By human reason, persuasiveness, and diligence it is possible to win converts to an organization, a cause, a personality, and to many other things.  But it is totally impossible to win a convert to the spiritual church of Jesus Christ apart from the sovereign God’s own Word and Spirit.  Human effort can produce only human results. God alone can produce divine results.

It’s His church.  We are not simply projects, but are people, souls that Christ is intimately personal with. Recently, I watched an interview with Brett Favre, former Green Bay quarterback.  He holds most every QB record in the book when he retired.  His father was a football coach–and His Father never told him how proud he was of him.  He told others, but never Brett.  Brett understood his father loved him in his own way, but never saw it demonstrated.

Daily, Christ is showing us how much He loves His church, which we will see in a bit.  But He loves you.  Not your religious activities, but your relationship with him, from which those activities arise.

Christ will build His church. And we know that when Christ makes a promise, He never fails to follow through. In Titus, Paul by the Spirit says that God cannot lie (your versions may say does not lie, as if he had a choice to lie or not, but the Word is an absolute–He cannot lie).

Do we truly believe He will build His church? Do we really take God at His Word as to what He wants His church to be?  What would happen if God moved in our hearts and spirits by His Spirit and we said, “Lord, I trust you to build your church your way, not mine.” The way we would know where we stood is if He told us to move something that’s a favorite away. It could well expose some idols that need toppling.

Christians are Forgiven–But of What?

I must share with you why I am preaching on this particular Psalm.  I was visiting a church back in Kentucky a couple of years ago, Lagrange Baptist Church in Lagrange Kentucky. It was a good sized church that had some wonderful songs and some very loving people. They did something that I was used to in my church growing up, and that was having a spoken call to worship. The spoken call to worship was usually a scripture reading. And I like that because the Apostle Paul commanded young Timothy to do not neglect the public reading of Scripture . The scripture they read was Psalm 32. 

As they read that, I felt as if I were revisiting an old friend. Because as I read this, I begin to realize that many people in our culture believe that they are entitled 2 things. And this sense of entitlement has crypt into the church. We tend to believe in our society that we deserve certain things, good things, even the things that we want that may not be good for us, without any sense of what goes into getting those things. We tend to believe that we should receive things, regardless of the cost.

Such is the case with how we look at this text before us. David had received something. He knew that what he received, he did not deserve. He recognized, as it says twice in the first two verses, that he was blessed. Why was he blessed? What did he receive that caused him him to deliver such an incredible testimony?

St Augustine once said “The beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner.”  He is right. This reflects what the writer of Proverbs once said in that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). So David begins by acknowledging he is a sinner.  But he also declares that he is forgiven . This served as a foundation for the Christian’s assurance, for their testimony, and for their joy. While the world wants to say that everyone is basically good, the Scripture say that everyone is a sinner in need of forgiveness from the one who they have ultimately sinned against 

So let’s get to work and see what the scripture has to say. First, we must know that of which we have been forgiven.

In vs. 1 and 2, David uses three words to describe three different aspects to the concept of sin.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

The first word he uses the word transgression, which basically means a going away or a departure. In this case, it is a going away, departing, and even rebelling I guess the authority of God. Psalm 51 verse 4 notes the David, when he rebelled against Bathsheba, confessed that ” against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”  we would do well to remember this. Often when we have sinned against someone else, we tend to think it’s simply against them. But its not. We have violated God’s command, rebelled against authority, and send against another that was made in His image. This is no small thing. But David goes on.

He also mentions the word sin, which in the Hebrew is translated to a word that means falling short of a target.  In this case, and aspects in is falling short of the standard that God has set in His Word. Some of you may recognize the verse from Romans 3:23, which says that all have fallen short of the glory of God.

The last word that he uses is the word iniquity.  This word means twisted or corrupt.  This word deals with how sin works in our inner being. It does not simply violate God’s law are mine, but twists and corrupts our souls. We become twisted people, corrupt people. When we here of someone in a life of crime or does not deal with others with integrity, a word that used to be used what’s the word crook. Or if a politician violated his oath of office, he was crooked.

All of these paint a bleak picture. But notice the words that connect with these words: his transgression is forgiven; his sins are covered; the Lord does not count his iniquity against him. This is significant—the transaction is complete. Forgiveness! The covering of sin hearkens back to the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The tablets that contained the Law (and thus showed where that law was broken) were covered by the mercy seat lid, sprinkled clean by the blood of the Lamb. During the Day of Atonement, the priest would sprinkle blood on that seat (Leviticus 16:11-19) for the cleansing of the sins of the repentant people of Israel.

It is strictly by God’s mercy that Christians are forgiven of sin. In Genesis 15:6, Scripture says that Abram “believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” God credited his righteousness to Abram’s account. Why? Because he believed in the promises that God made regarding His gracious salvation—this was not something that Abram, David, nor any of us can earn.

Christ offers forgiveness!  Come to Him today and receive it!