Disciples Eagerly Engage the Word

The Billy Graham Library, Charlotte, NC

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).

The word ‘eagerness’ (προθυμία) is also translated numerous places in the NT as “readiness” (2 Corinthians 8:11, 12, 19; 9:2). Merriam-Webster noted the contrasted words were lackadaisicality, languor, lethargy; aloofness, disinterest; apathy, deliberation, detachment, impassivity, stolidity. (Merriam-Webster, I. (1996).

Think about the time you woke up or your children or grandchildren woke up on Christmas morning. I love our children because they always let us sleep in, but when it was time, it was time. You never saw a child approach a present with their name on it with disinterest or aloofness. There is nothing lackadaisical about a child on Christmas morning. Their eagerness to find out what was in store could not be squelched.

I don’t really know why, but I see these Bereans eagerly, readily, willingly tearing into the Scriptures because in them was their treasure–their long-awaited rescuer, their Messiah.

These folks are called noble, a word used to address nobility of birth, a higher rank. Now, we must realize that, over and over, God shows no partiality. He loves us all as His imagebearers. Yet, His Word does show that their character was impressive in their willingness to see if what they were saying was true.

Another aspect we cannot forget is how the apostle Paul must have preached. Now, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul noted that he did not come with “lofty speech or wisdom,” like the other orators of the day. But one cannot help but wonder about the attitude in which Paul preached and taught. Did the eagerness equally put off the Thessalonians and compel the Bereans? What motivated Paul? 2 Corinthians 5:11-15 says:

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2 Corinthians 5:11-15

Paul preached with a passion about the Person of Christ. You see, preaching, teaching, and sharing Christ comes from a fear of God, a love of God, and a love for those who we wish to see rescued from their sin and brokenness. It’s a desire to see people become third chair, Christ-treasuring, all-in disciples of Jesus.

  • Are you eagerly delving into the Scriptures? Why or why not?
  • Are you engaged with the Scriptures daily? Do you have a plan to engage the Word daily?
  • Read Psalm 19:7-10 and see the role the Scriptures play in conversion and revival of believers and churches.

(To listen to the entire sermon, click here to access our FB page on Facebook Live.)


A Key Pauline Missions Strategy: Do Not Give Up on the Cities

Usually, disturbing the peace is a bad thing. When it comes to Colorado law, disturbing the law comes about by offensive or vulgar speech or gesture that can incite a breach of peace. Fights which aren’t sanctioned as an amateur or professional; and brandishing a weapon with the aim to harm or threaten to harm. Nothing can come from this.

But as we come to this passage, we see some of this. In verses 6 and 7, they accused Paul and Silas for turning “the world upside down” and “saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They were disturbing the societal peace (allegedly) but they were also accused of inciting revolt by proclaiming another king.

But notice–they disturbed the peace. But they disturbed their “peace” with the truth of God’s Word. Part of being and making disciples of Jesus is to disturb the personal ‘peace’ that a personal insurrection needs to take place. In our brokenness, we look for ways to find peace. In our brokenness, we are bowing our knee to a ‘ruler’ of our lives that will direct us.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, which rescues us from our sin and brokenness and toward God’s design and purpose, when fueled with the Word and prayer, can turn the world upside down.

Don’t give up on the cities

Michael Green that the apostle Paul “made for the centers from which the gospel could sound out into the surrounding area, as it did from Thessalonica and Ephesus.” Paul had a strategy of finding the cultural centers in Asia Minor, with a desire that came about later on from a commissioning he had from Christ Himself to speak in Rome.

Denver is a cultural center. All of our cities in the United States are cultural centers. What would happen, say, if we as followers of Jesus, as disciples of Jesus, would pray for and engage our city at every level? Many of you shared at one point that you grew up in rural areas. Some of you may wish to return to those areas where they may share your ideals and values. And especially when it seems that these cultural centers in our cities are passing legislation and going in a direction that is away from God’s design.

Paul also went to the synagogues first, as was his custom. As we will see here when Paul goes to Thessalonica, then to Berea, then to Athens, he would study the King’s edict (the Scriptures), but would also study the culture in which he would visit. His goal was to leave behind a gospel presence, that is, a plant, that is a church with elders in place to keep the gospel flame burning.

Cities are the cultural centers of our nation and our world. Tim Keller notes, “God designed the city with the power to draw out the resources of creation (of the natural order and the human soul) and thus to build civilisation.” Cities often attract different worldviews and backgrounds, and while these are great places in order to understand multiple worldviews and be a place of great influence, industry, education, and technology, this can also be a place where a lot of conflict can happen politically, job-wise, educationally, scientifically, and psychologically.

Keller insightfully notes,

“Reach the city to reach the culture. Protestant (evangelical) Christians are the least urban religious group and thus have the least impact culturally. Three kinds of people here affect the future: a) elites, b) new immigrants, c) the poor. The single most effective way for Christians to ‘reach’ the US would be for 25% of them to move to two or three of the largest cities and stay there for three generations.”

I bring this up because this was the strategy of the apostle Paul. He would strategize his missionary journeys (and, we should say, God opens the door) for Christians in general (and here, Paul specifically) to take the message of the gospel elsewhere.

Be consistent inside and outside the pulpit!

I shared this on Facebook a few days ago:

Pastors, preachers, teachers, and Christians in general: if you’ve spent all week berating and making fun of others who do not share your political views, then turn around and preach how God loves everyone and wishes to save them, you are sending mixed messages. For all week, you are communicating that you only love people who believe like you and that God also only loves those who agree with you. If the gospel has gripped you and His grace is a reality, the berating and name calling leave a bad taste in your mouth because the love of God is not overflowing. Be consistent inside and outside the pulpit!

My entire life, I’ve seen politics do a Jekyll and Hyde number on many church members–and I’m seeing this today in this highly charged political climate today: when speaking about Jesus and the gospel, how He has rescued us from brokenness and into Himself, and how this grace extends to all.

Yet, when speaking about political matters unrelated to Scripture, a switch is flipped. Gone is the speaking of grace. Gone is the love. Gone is the care for the soul. What arrives in its place is berating, namecalling, a plethora of ‘how-dare-yous,’ and a boatload of division.

Remember James 3:6-10:

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Dear Christian, as citizens of heaven, we can do better.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus, and You Will Be Saved”: What Is True Faith?

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God (Acts 16:25-34).

Recently, Cynthia Nixon, the actress most notable for her role in Sex and the City as well as a progressive activist, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post regarding how one politician of her preferred party took umbrage with how he described someone of the other party as a “decent man.” Why did she take issue with this description? Because of his views on marriage–specifically that they hold to what Scripture says regarding marriage being exclusively between a man and a woman. This is a politician who took a hit because his wife taught at a Christian school that held these views from the Bible.

That wasn’t the only thing. Our nation is divided greatly between those who believe abortion is up until birth and those who believe it should be up until heartbeat. In our state, we have the most aggressive abortion laws around. Plus, the Colorado legislation imposes progressive types of sex education in our schools that far outpace what Scripture says and with which most homes are uncomfortable. Many politicians now believe they know better than many homes as to how our children should be taught.

Our country is moving more and more toward the belief of what Rome held, and that those who preach the Scriptures should be silenced–or worse. We are hearing more rumblings from Hollywood and Washington and in our legislatures that those who hold to certain beliefs from Scripture should not have a say in the marketplace of ideas.

So when we come to a passage of Scripture like Acts 16:25-34, we see that the apostle Paul found himself preaching a message that the authorities did not like. Yet, after a series of providential and supernatural events, Paul found an open door not just to the jail but to the heart of the Philippian jailer.

Paul and Silas are in prison. When Paul exorcised a demon out of a slave girl–a slave girl who “brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling” –the owners saw their means of gain leave, they trumped up charges about how they were Jews bringing “customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice” (v. 21). The crowds and magistrates went after them and threw them in jail.

The apostle Paul urged the fearful Philippian jailer, after inquiring as to what they might to “to be saved,” to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). What does it mean to ‘believe’?

Up here we have three chairs which represent the three stages of belief.

Notitia. Notitia refers to the content of faith, or those things that we believe. We place our faith in something, or more appropriately, someone. In order to believe, we must know something about that someone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Assensus. Assensus is our conviction that the content of our faith is true. You can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. Genuine faith says that the content — the notitia taught by Holy Scripture — is true.

Fiducia. Fiducia refers to personal trust and reliance. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is only effectual if, knowing about and assenting to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in Him alone for salvation.

In which chair are you sitting? The only true faith is the faith represented in this third chair. This is how you can tell what true faith is.

True faith is a praying and singing faith

Rather than groaning due to the pain and suffering (16:22-23), rather than complaining about being in “the inner prison and fastened feet in stocks” (v. 24), they were “praying and singing hymns to God” (v. 24a).

John Stott notes the reaction from Paul and Silas:

“Not groans but songs came from their mouths. Instead of cursing men, they blessed God. No wonder the other prisoners were listening to them.”

John R.W. Stott, Acts, 267.

Now, many of you know hymns from when you were a child. We know that, even among those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, the music embedded in the minds and hearts John Polhill is right:

“In Acts, Christians are always full of hope. Peter slept peacefully the night before his trial (12:6); Paul and Silas sang. Their praise and good cheer was in itself a witness to God, and the other prisoners listened intently.”

John Polhill, Acts

The praying and singing faith is that which sits in the third chair, the fiducia chair. These are prayers and songs of hope and joy. Dennis Johnson notes,

“When adversity dampens our mood, we need to sink the roots of our joy more deeply into the Lord himself, rather than relying on surface circumstances.”

Dennis E. Johnson, Let’s Study Acts, 207.

So remember that Chair 1 is the content of the faith. Again, you can know the content of the faith without believing the truth of that content. Chair 2 is about believing the truth of that content. But are you relying on the person and work of Christ? Are have you surrendered to Christ Himself rather than His deliverance from circumstances. Tertullian said many centuries ago, “The legs feel nothing in the stocks when the heart is in heaven.”

True faith is a shaking faith

In the OT, whenever God appeared to His people, the place would shake (Exodus 19:18). (Isaiah 6; Mount Sinai shook) Even in the darkness of prison, unjustly there, shackled—God was there. While Christ was dying on the cross, we read in Matthew 27:51-53:

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many (Matthew 27:51-53).

When this type of shaking takes place, this is God showing up in the most dire, the most seemingly hopeless circumstances. And when God moves in us, we may find ourselves shaken as well.

Jim Eliot, whose missionary team was killed by the Auca Indians of South American in 1956, noted:

“It makes me boil when I think of the power we profess and the utter impotency of our action. Believers who know one-tenth as much as we do are doing one-hundred times more for God, with His blessing and our criticism. Oh if I could write it, preach it, say it, paint it, anything at all, if only God’s power would become known among us.”

From his journal

When you trust in Christ, your world will shake—whether it’s a slight rumble, or cataclysmic. Our entire core, our entire will is now shaken and rebuilt for His glory.

True faith shackle-dropping faith

God not only shows up, but God sets us free in Christ. As those shackles kept Paul and Silas imprisoned, so too the law could shackle. Our ability to obey the law in our own strength to rescue us from our brokenness will not work. In order for Paul and Silas to be freed from prison, they needed to get away from the shackles and have the doors unlocked. In order for any of us to be freed from the prison of our sin, Christ has to rescue us. Derek Thomas tells us,

“Paul was not shackled by these considerations in such a way that he was unable to answer the question positively in terms suggesting that the jailer did indeed have something to do. If the jailer was to know the privileged of salvation, he must exercise faith. He must believe. He must place his entire trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Derek Thomas, Acts: Reformed Expository Commentary, 469-70.  

And here we see Thomas telling us about Chair 3. It’s not about knowing the content of Christianity, nor is simply believing it true. Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Later he says, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” Know? Like the content of it all? The truth of it all? No, it’s surrender, a placing of trust in its entirety in the Lord Jesus Christ.

True faith is a saving faith.

  • If someone were to ask you, “What must I do to be saved?” what would you say? We would say that you must sit in the third chair of surrender and complete reliance on the person and work of Christ.
  • They heard their prayers. They listened to their singing because of that reliance–circumstances did not define their faith, Christ did.
  • They saw their gracious lives. They could have escaped, but they chose to stay behind. They possess the love of Christ and want others to know this as well.
  • Saving faith is belief plus action. We’re not hooked on a feeling, our lives are changed.
  • Repent and believe: Turn from sin and brokenness, and turn to Christ and His purpose. Being a disciple is running hard after Christ and running hard away from sin and self.

[You can access the audio or video of the sermon as well.]

Scudder Lectures from MBTS: Discussing Gay and Transgenderism in the Church

Recently, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary held their annual Scudder Lectures. This year, Denny Burk, the Director of the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College and Southern Seminary, spoke on two lectures addressing the gay and transgender movement among Christians.

I post these because it is so important for each of us to sort through these matters. The culture would have us believe one thing, but our concern is how the church addresses these issues. For some, it seems unloving to say these matters are wrong, or even sin. For others, if one identifies as either gay or transgender, they are not identified still as our neighbors.

We need to spend time thinking through our positions (whatever they may be), especially those of us who identify the Bible as God’s Word and our guide in faith and practice. And hopefully, you will see that the views held are not based on hate or ignorance or intolerance. A charged issue, yes. But let’s take time as believers make sure we’re getting this right.

Lecture 1 “Is Gay Okay for Christians?” https://bit.ly/2UqQDdV . What turns a desire (epithumeo) into an orientation? When does that become sinful? Is there a difference between a harmless sexual desire and a sinful sexual desire? What makes temptation sinful?

Lecture 2 “Is Transgender Okay for Christians?” https://bit.ly/2SRN92u

Panel (Jason K. Allen, Burk, Strachan): https://bit.ly/2Cd0b4U

Spurgeon’s View of Bible Translations

Spurgeon is my pastor—at least he’s my dead pastor! He was a man passionate for the Scriptures, passionate about the sovereignty of God, and passionate in evangelism! His Lectures to My Students, The Soul Winner, and An All-Around Ministry are must-reads for all aspiring and experienced ministers of the gospel, without question.

I have been very interested in what his view was concerning the translation of Scripture. I know he used the Authorized Version (a.k.a., the King James Version of the Bible). With his ministry being in the 1850s through his death in 1892, I know this was the primary translation in churches, though there were others that were developed (as there were when the 1611 KJV came out).

As there is now, there was then about which is not just preferred, but which is superior. From my observations, five camps exist now in their view of the King James Version:

  • KJV Only: In this camp, it is not just the Greek and Hebrew texts that are inspired, it is this particular English translation that is inspired as well. All others are not simply seen as good in need of fixing, but perversions of God’s Holy Word. In fact, the few that are in this camp do not refer to this as the King James Version but the King James Bible. It is not just one version of many—but the only Bible that is needed.
  • KJV Preferred: In this camp, there are those who prefer the KJV, but who believe it is one translation out of many translations into the English and recognize that the other translations in evangelical mainstream do not deny any major doctrines. Even if a word may not be in a certain verse, it is found elsewhere in the Scriptures, thus affirming that orthodox doctrine.
  • KJV Friendly: In this camp, the KJV may not be the version they feel compelled to use for whatever reason, but understand the history, the beauty, and the importance of that version.
  • KJV Hesitant: They will use this in a pinch (in other words, only if no other version is available or if they are preaching in a church that is KJV Only), but avoid it because they hesitate to use a version relying on 17th century English in the 21st century.
  • KJV Never! In this camp, the KJV is (sadly) not in their library at all. The dated nature of the wording make it difficult to understand—often having to take as much time to explain what the 17th century English means, if it’s pronounceable.

Again, given that Spurgeon was around in the latter half of the 1850s, he was around when other versions other than the King James/Authorized Version of the Scriptures were being translated—in the same spirit that came about when the KJV was translated in 1611. Here are some quotes below (HT):

Do not needlessly amend our authorized version. It is faulty in many places, but still it is a grand work taking it for all in all, and it is unwise to be making every old lady distrust the only Bible she can get at, or what is more likely, mistrust you for falling out with her cherished treasure. Correct where correction must be for truth’s sake, but never for the vainglorious display of your critical ability. [Commenting and Commentaries, p. 31.]

The end of this quote gives a good word. If you are KJV Hesitant or KJV Never, do not belittle those who are in the other camps!

No one will doubt that Spurgeon was Baptist to the bone and no one would doubt his commitment to the Scriptures. But he recognized from his voracious studies that all English translations will have places where correction will be needed—but it’s no reason to distrust other translations that aim to place Jesus and all other orthodox doctrines in high order.

In message 1604, “Heart Disease Curable,” Spurgeon says,

Concerning the fact of difference between the Revised and Authorised Versions, I would say that no Baptist should ever fear any honest attempt to produce the correct text, and an accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. For many years Baptists have insisted upon it that we ought to have the Word of God translated in the best possible manner . . .. By the best and most honest scholarship that can be found we desire that the common version [KJV] may be purged of every blunder of transcribers, or addition of human ignorance, or human knowledge, so that the Word of God may come to us as it came from His own hand.

Remember, Spurgeon loved the KJV. Loved it. His camp is KJV-preferred. But he had a view in showing that it is a translation! Errors that are in any English translation can fall into, as D.A. Carson says, intentional and unintentional.

Consider this example from Carson:

Before the printing press the New Testament (and all other) documents were copied by hand. People are not capable of copying a lengthy piece of written material without introducing errors. This is easily proved. Sit down and copy out the Gospel of John (from whatever translation you like). After you have finished, read it through and correct it. Then give it to two or three friends and have each of them read your correction. No more evidence will be needed [Source, p 14].

Spurgeon was all for scholarship being used to find a better (read: more accurate) translation! Even the KJV was revised in 1887—for the KJV Bible we have is not the precise one found in 1611. The newer translations come out of late not because of a hatred for the Word and a desire to pervert the Word but for a desire to help make the Word clearer. Some succeed, some do not! Some try to make it more palatable for the modern reader, thus loosening the thrust of the original Greek and Hebrew. But by and large, these translations work to honor the originals to help those in the faith.

Lastly, this:

“Greek is the sacred tongue, and Greek is the Baptist’s tongue; we may be beaten in our own version [the KJV], sometimes; but in Greek, never” (Autobiography, vol. 2, p. 327).

Spurgeon spoke that the “Greek” (the language of the NT as well as the Greek OT known as the Septuagint) is the “sacred tongue.” Not English—for English didn’t come into its origins until 1000 A.D. or so. Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic were the languages God used for His original inspired texts.

Thus speaks Spurgeon on the matter! Heaven knows there are many other opinions, websites, books, and pamphlets out there on various and sundry angles of this issues.

May charity be given to all, regardless of our respective camps.

Cleaning Out the Ecclesiological Lint Trap

I’m always appreciative of works that remind us of what Christ intended for His church. At times, I feel as if church has become a lint trap, capturing all sorts of cultural preferences over time that have become non-negotiables, while the the non-negotiables of the New Testament are crowded out and become, well, negotiable. Or forgotten.
While recovering from the ailments that have prevailed over my health over the last week, I had the chance to finish up a wonderful work by Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney called The Essential Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to the Life and Teaching of America’s Greatest Theologian. Edwards lived from 1703-1758 in Colonial America, and his influence is still felt today. But even almost three centuries ago, he still felt the pull that affected the life of church and church members. Toward the end of this work, Strachan and Sweeney summarize his conviction about the church of Jesus Christ:
“Local churches [need] to be more than a communal rallying point, a place to celebrate shared heritage and common political views, a conduit for certain social causes, a site of moral formation, or a safe zone for the training of children in certain behaviors and ideas. The church is grounded in truth and led by fearless Bible-loving “officers,” as Edwards calls them. God has said more to the church than just “be kind”; He has called the church to be a Word-centered family, and from this rock-solid bond of fellowship to offer the lost a powerful picture of transformation and acceptance. How important this is. Where many around us have no family, the people of God can become their family (Ps. 27:10).” Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney, “ The Essential Jonathan Edwards .” P. 422.
Let’s review the litany of what church should not primary consist:
  • Communal rallying point
  • Celebrating shared heritage
  • Common political views
  • Conduit for certain social causes
  • Site for moral formation
  • Safe zone for the training of children in certain behaviors and ideas.
Each of these aspects deserves its own blog post, but let’s stay positive–we should reclaim the purpose of the church: being and making disciples of Jesus.
Each of the bulleted points can find some sort of fulfillment elsewhere. But churches are there to preach, teach, equip, and send believers into their spheres of influence (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors) to live Christlike lives of holiness. While some of what we see in the above realms will overlap because political matters do address moral matters also addressed in Scripture, we react primarily as citizens of the Kingdom.

Let’s clean out the lint trap. Let’s get back to the non-negotiables of preaching the Word, teaching and applying the Word, observing the ordinances, and sharing Christ.