So, as we hope in God and believe the gospel of his beloved Son, we still suffer, but we don’t merely suffer. Our God has promised to graciously supply us with all we need to… More
For my monthly contribution to the Publican blog I’d like to share a blog that my wife, Rachel Noble, wrote a few years ago that is still very relevant today. Enjoy!
“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The early church just fascinates me. Here in Acts 6 the apostles are working relentlessly for the furthering of the gospel. However, there arose a complaint about the widows being neglected. If this complaint happened in today’s church I can see a lot of pastors feeling guilty, stopping whatever they are doing, and addressing this personally. This, of course, would come from a heart of compassion and a desire to make the widows feel loved and valued (which is honorable). However, this was NOT the response the apostles had. They were not about to put the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and prayer on the back-burner in order to “serve tables”. This may seem strange and perhaps arrogant, but if we look at this text, that’s simply what we see.
The apostles do take care of this issue, but in a way that did not neglect their primary duty which was the teaching of the Word. The apostles call for men of wisdom and good reputation to carry out this task of serving. The serving ministry is what we call the office of deacon as seen in 1 Timothy 3.
I once knew a pastor who was “faulted” with being “too theological” and perhaps not relevant enough. This saddens me immensely because it’s literally impossible for a pastor to be “too” concerned with studying God and His Word!
Today our culture (even within the church) finds theology boring, preaching irrelevant, and Biblical knowledge for those of some “higher level” of Christianity. Funny jokes, games, sports, and having coffee together have become more important than the true study of God’s Word. This should horrify us!
I recently spoke with a woman who told me that she had trouble finding a youth group for her children to attend. Her kids hated and were bored with every youth service they attended. At first, we would think it was the child’s fault, but the reason they hated it was because there was no actual Bible study going on. It was all fun and games, watching movies, and hanging out. There was about 5 minutes of Bible study taught by a “youth leader” who had no Biblical knowledge whatsoever. This should sadden us.
The study of God’s Word must be at the forefront of what we do as a local church. Our pastors (and any person who has a teaching or leading position) should devote themselves to the study of God’s Word and to prayer just as the apostles did in the early church.
I’m not saying that pastors shouldn’t serve or that various ministries of the church shouldn’t have fun and games, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the teaching and preaching ministry. Deacons were established in the early church with the primary responsibility of serving. Fun, games, and Christian fellowship are certainly important and should come as an outflow of a community of people who are centered around God’s Word and the gospel. The gospel holds us together. Enjoying the same games, watching the same movies, or having the same friends is not what binds us as Christians. The gospel binds us.
Let’s be the people of God who focus on the Word of God for the glory of God!
For a reason I cannot explain (I only ever watched the film once), I vividly remember ardent Angels’ fan Roger Bomman gazing into the heavens and asking God for victory for his team on the baseball diamond. He concluded his prayer with the words: “Amen… (then with a shrug) or A-woman.” Watching as a middle school student in 1994 I took the phrase for how it was intended in the movie: a falling-flat stab at humor veiling the rather obvious reality that Hollywood would refuse to assign gender to a god that may or may not (most likely not) exist. Fast forward twenty-six years and a US Congressman opens the 117th Congress with the same benediction. Yet now, Christians are losing their minds.
There are two issues that must be quickly addressed – the stupidity of the statement and the carelessness of Christians. Don’t be offended. Hang with me.
To utter in prayerful conclusion “Amen and A-woman” as Representative Emanuel Cleaver did in Congress last weekend reveals a glaring and undeniable ignorance. Cleaver claims that the phrase was a pun – a kind of shout out to all the new ladies in Congress, which would offset the accusation of linguistic ignorance that has flooded his way (the designation “Amen” is from the Greek ἀμὴν meaning “this is truth” or “may it be so” and has no gender specification to it). Only a kid praying for his baseball team should be led to think that “Amen” means “a man.” But the linguistic ignorance is not what I am speaking of, after all Rep. Cleaver has multiple degrees, and despite the cries of my right-wing friends, he is not an imbecile. He is though, ignorant on a more significant level. Cleaver’s entire Congressional prayer (which many have missed) called for the death of tribalism and a restoration of unity and peace. The sentiments, however genuine or disingenuous from the orator, should be shared by true followers of Jesus. After this prayer for unity though, Cleaver concludes with a phrase, that had he been truly thinking of unity and peace, he would have known would disrupt and defeat the very message of his prayer. If harmony is something one desires, then prudent care and consideration should be shown to bring this about. The Congressman is now “shocked” that his prayer has received so much critical backlash and laments that Americans failed to hear the sum of his petition. This should come as no surprise to the politician. That level of ignorance is sad.
But the ignorance of politicians – even would be reverends – should not surprise the true church either; and this is what unsettles me most. From everything I have found on the faith and theology of Emanuel Cleaver, he certainly does not seem to be a man with a deep faith in the singular message of hope and unity – the Gospel of Jesus. Therefore, if he is not trusting and preaching Christ alone as Savior and Lord, then he is not a true Christian. It is that simple. And for far too long we have, as the true church, demanded that unbelievers behave and speak as believers are called to behave and speak. That, my friends, is careless and ignorant on our part. The Christian has the Spirit of God within, has fellowship with the risen Christ, and walks (or should) in submission to the Scriptures. The non-Christian has none of the above. Clearly, this does not mean that we shouldn’t preach the truth to the perishing – only that we should not assume righteousness from the depraved. The god of this world has blinded minds and we should not be shocked when we witness unintelligible or deplorable groping by those without eyes.
Many Christians are appalled by what is unfolding across our nation today but perhaps we should take the blame for a moment. We have stood as “conservatives” in our proclamation while we and our children have been swept up in most, if not all, cultural tides. We despise that prayer has been removed from various settings, but we forget our direct access to the Father and neglect the disciple of prayer regularly. We pine for religious liberty – for the right to gather and the right to speak uncensored truth – but then refuse to do either. We hear from the Word that we are not to place our faith in humanity, yet then worship at the feet of a President whose policies have, at least to some degree, been Christianesque, but whose behavior and personal confession has not. We are believers; yet if we are honest, we fail to live according to the very standard we erect for unbelievers.
I know we don’t like to hear it, but repentance is called for, friends. Revival is an antiquated term, I know, but we desperately need a revival within Christianity of prayer, truth, devotion to Jesus and to His church, Biblical unity, submission to authority, and evangelism. Be saddened by the blind depravity that swirls through our nation, but don’t be shocked by it. Instead, may we be shocked and repulsed by the sin of our own souls – repent and purpose to be the light of Christ in this miserably dark world.
For those who have been reading the Publicans for a while now we wanted to make you aware of Andrew & Adam’s weekly podcast: A2. https://sonrisecity.wordpress.com/category/a2/ Each week we tackle different topics ranging from questions we have been asked by church members to issues happening in the world around us. The goal of this podcast is to be another point of instruction for those who call SonRise home as well as those who follow us here on the Publicans Blog. In the coming week we will highlight a few other podcast’s you may wish to follow.
Not every man can look to his father and say, “I am proud to be your son.” I can.
On the Lord’s Day, March 7th 2021, Dennis Carpenter drew his last breath with his sin-plagued, cancer-ridden body & opened his sin-freed, wholly restored eyes to embrace his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Instantly, he was in the presence of God Most High, engaged in the angelic chorus of praise, singing “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (Revalation 5:12-13)!
What a glorious Truth and the Comfort of my hurting heart!
My father was a man of integrity and character. He was honorable in an age when honor is rejected and shame has been abandoned by the masses. He embraced justice, devoted his life to promoting it, he served & protected his community, as the Chief of Police, with honor. He served the Lord in his local church with the talents and gifts the Lord had given him. He loved his family; and we love him!
He was not a perfect man but he was a faithful man; faithful till the end.
Hebrews 9:27 reveals a painful Truth that we know in all too familiar ways. The authors pens, “…it is appointed for man to die once…” Death is a reality, a pain-filled reality, for the one who is dying and for those who love him. But, for those in Christ, death is not the end of life. In fact, the Psalmist tells us “Precious in the sight of the YHWH is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). And as strange as that sounds to those outside the Church of Jesus Christ, the death of those saved from the penalty of their sins is indeed precious to the Lord and a delight to the deceased!
Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) explains these twin realities, why the death of the saint is precious to the Lord and a delight to the deceased, masterfully when he encourages his hearers to…
The Lord, in His Goodness, gave my father a peace, concerning his certain death, that caused his family question, “How does he have such peace?” His peace came from the certain knowledge that though his sins were many Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient; that though his death was imminent Christ’s resurrection guaranteed his eternal life; that though his heart was breaking that he was leaving his family his Savior awaited him. This is peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and it is only available to those who, by faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have taken Refuge in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Psalm 61:1-3).
“It is appointed unto you”, reader, “once to die and then face the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27) and “unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). You need not fear death or the judgement that follows it if you turn from your sin, trust in the Lord, and serve Him all your days for “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” (John 3:36). As a matter of fact, in Christ ALL are set from “the lifelong slavery to the fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).”For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Surely, in Christ, man has found his Sabbath. Rest in Christ, O Reader, “for He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:29).
From my youth, my father pointed me to the Cross of Christ, taught me to honor the Lord, to honor my mother, to love and serve my family, and encouraged me to serve the Lord faithfully in Eldred; surely, this is all of life to love the Lord my God and love my neighbor as myself. No greater gift has ever been given to a son from his father & no greater legacy could ever be passed from one generation to the next.
Thank you, Lord, for my father.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Original Post: Crossway
1. Had R. C. not been a theologian, he would have been a baseball player—for the Pittsburgh Pirates, of course.
R. C. Sproul played baseball for a sponsored team. He was traded for three players. The announcement made the papers. But the sportswriter added these words, “Sonny Sproul”—as he was known before he became R. C.—“lacked a potential bat.” At the time he was in the sixth grade playing against mostly early twenty-somethings. His first time at bat after the trade, he ripped off a sharp single. Next time at bat, he pounded a home run. He had an actual bat. He was offered a baseball scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh, but went to Westminster College on an athletic scholarship.
2. R. C. met Vesta, the love of his life, when he was in the first grade and she was in the second grade.
Vesta Voorhis moved to the next street over from R. C.’s in the Pleasant Hills community nestled to the south of Pittsburgh. In between Vesta and R. C.’s home was the elementary school. That is where he first saw her. She was in the second grade, and he was in the first grade. From the first time he saw her, he knew he was going to marry her.
3. R. C. always loved music, and at the age of 63 he started violin lessons.
Dr. Sproul often said that in addition to caring about and pursuing truth and goodness and justice, we should also pursue beauty. He loved art, architecture, literature, and film. He especially loved music. He took piano lessons when he was young, but always admired and aspired to the violin. In 2004, Saint Andrew’s Chapel (the church where he served as founding pastor) opened the doors of the Saint Andrew’s Conservatory. R. C. was one of the first students—for the violin.
4. R. C.’s conversion verse was Ecclesiastes 11:3.
As a freshman at Westminster College, R. C. stopped by the cigarette machine in the dorm lobby, put in his quarter, and received his pack of Lucky Strikes. He was on his way to Youngstown, Ohio for a night out. Sitting at a table was one of the captains of the football team. He was studying his Bible and motioned for R. C. to come over. He was reading Ecclesiastes and showed R. C. this verse: “If a tree falls to the north or to the south, in the place where the tree falls, there will it lie” (Eccles. 11:3). That verse ricocheted in R. C.’s head. He forewent his trip and returned to his room. He saw himself as a dead tree, rotting on the ground. He called out for God to save him.
5. R. C. wrote his bachelor’s thesis on Moby Dick.
To R. C., Melville’s Moby Dick is the great American novel. In his bachelor’s thesis from 1961, he referenced how Ahab vainly thought that by charting the Great White Whale, he could control it and eventually kill it. Then R. C. delivers this line: Ahab represents “the shallow religious views of mankind.” The seed for Dr. Sproul’s classic text, The Holiness of God, was sown.
6. R. C. went to the Netherlands for doctoral studies not knowing a single word of Dutch.
The first day of his studies, he spent 12 hours getting through one page of one of his textbooks. He looked up each word, recording it on a 3×5 inch card. And the next day, he did it again. And then again.
7. R. C. had the vision for Ligonier Ministries while teaching a Sunday School class on Christology.
In 1968, Dr. Sproul was teaching philosophy and theology at Conwell Theological Seminary on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia. He was bored. But on Sunday mornings he taught a class at Oreland Presbyterian Church comprised mostly of adult professionals. The course was on the person and work of Christ. The deeper he went, the more they listened. He began to think of devoting his life to teaching outside the formal academic classroom.
I pray with all my heart that God will awaken each one of us today to the sweetness, the loveliness, the glory of the gospel declared by Christ.
8. R. C. first preached a series on the holiness of God at a Young Life camp in Saranac Lake, New York, in 1970.
The first time Dr. Sproul read the Old Testament as a new Christian he came to the realization that God is a God who plays for keeps. That was in 1957. He had been gripped by the holiness of God. At Saranac Lake in 1970, he offered a five-part series on the holiness of God. Later, it was one of the first teaching series recorded for VHS tapes at the Ligonier Valley Study Center in the mid-1970s. In 1985, he published the book. The holiness of God is central to Ligonier Ministries, which R. C. Sproul founded in 1971. The mission statement for Ligonier is “to proclaim the holiness of God in all of its fullness to as many people as possible.” It was the central theme of his teaching. He believed that people both in culture and in the church did not know who God is—that is, who God is according to God’s self-revelation. As he said, there is only one attribute of God raised to the third degree (Isa. 6:3).
9. R. C.’s heart’s prayer was for awakening.
Of Dr. Sproul’s many heroes from church history, Jonathan Edwards stands out. One of Edwards’s sermons, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” had a particular influence. In 2014, he led a Ligonier study tour through New England. The tour reignited his desire to preach for awakening. R. C. emphasized the theme of awakening throughout his life. He prayed for awakening daily. In the final years of his life, his zeal for awakening intensified.
R. C. Sproul preached his final sermon on Hebrews 2:1–4 on Sunday, November 26, 2017. His final sentence was this: “So I pray with all my heart that God will awaken each one of us today to the sweetness, the loveliness, the glory of the gospel declared by Christ.” By Wednesday of that week, he developed a cold that continued to worsen. He entered the hospital on Saturday, December 2. Within two weeks, he was in the presence of God.
10. R. C.’s tombstone reads, “He was a kind man redeemed by a kinder Savior.”
Few have a wider smile than R. C. Sproul had. He loved to laugh and was always quick to deliver a one-liner. He enjoyed people. He truly knew the generosity of God, and that propelled him to serve people. He was known for standing for the truth. Over the course of his lifetime he took many such stands for the truth. He endeavored, however, to be kind. He was acutely aware of his own sin and of God’s mercy and grace in forgiving him. This was the cause of his desire to be kind. Most Sundays on the short drive home from church, R. C. would ask Vesta if he had been kind to people in the sermon.
Stephen Nichols is the author of R. C. Sproul: A Life.
Below is a short and needed post from Tim Challies. As a pastor I see the signs of division all over the place, and was greatly encouraged by his warning. I pray you’re encouraged as well.
In the warmth of a Canadian summer, in the reaches of a distant forest, a maple seed falls from the sky. This seed, called a samara, is a masterpiece of design that looks and behaves much like the blades of a tiny helicopter. As it falls through the air it spins, and this spinning action generates lift, and this lift keeps it aloft long enough to fall far from the smothering shade of its parent tree. As that seed helicopters down, a gentle breeze nudges it so it lands upon a nearby outcropping of rock. For a day or two it lays there, exposed to sun and rain, until a sudden gust of wind pushes it into a tiny fissure. And there the seed germinates, there it finds just enough soil to put down its first tentative roots, there it becomes a sapling, there it begins to grow into a tree. As the years pass, as the maple grows, its roots drive deeper into that crack, they push with steady and unrelenting force, until finally they break the mighty rock in two.
Many churches have been split and broken apart by what began as something little bigger than a seed. The dispute was to the church as the seed was to the rock—tiny, weak, insignificant by comparison. Yet it contained within it all the potential to eventually split the congregation in half. As time passed, as relationships grow distant, as groups were formed, as battle lines were drawn, the dispute pressed harder and harder against the foundation of unity. And then came that final inconsiderate word, that final thoughtless action, that final misunderstood decision, and as a rock breaks apart from the force of the roots, the church was split in two.
From the moment that little maple seed landed in the fissure and began to put down roots, it was only a matter of time before it broke the rock. It was inescapable as long as the sapling remained healthy, as long as it was fed by sun and soil and water, as long as it was able to continue its growth. Sooner or later its roots would be big enough to generate the pressure that would drive the rock apart. The rock’s only hope was for the tree to be torn out while it was still young, while its roots were still shallow and weak. But as long as the roots remained, the danger remained. And one day, inevitably, the rock gave way.
And just so, each Christian must be on constant watch against little seeds of dispute that fall into little fissures of disunity. For little disputes have their ways of growing into big disputes, their ways of becoming far greater than we would ever have thought, would ever have imagined. How good and how lovely it is when we dwell together in unity; how sad and how ghastly when we allow ourselves to be driven apart. Little foxes running amok can ruin an entire vineyard, little weeds left unpulled can choke out a great harvest, tiny seeds can sprout to split the greatest rocks, and even little disputes, when allowed to grow, can drive brothers from brothers and sisters from sisters.
In 2015 the Seattle Seahawks were on the verge of winning back to back super bowl championships. With just 26 seconds to play, trailing by 4 points, they were on the New England Patriots goal line. With one of the NFL’s most dominant running backs they were sure to score and win the game. Rather the run the ball, however, Seattle elected to throw a pass and it was intercepted by New England’s undrafted, rookie, Malcom Butler sealing the win for New England. Butler instantly became the most unlikely hero.
Today, as we take a look at a small section of Joshua, we will encounter another unlikely hero.
In the book of Joshua, we read the story of Rahab. Her story begins when two Israelite spies show up at her front door (2:1). The spies had come to gather intel from Jericho. They were planning an attack on the city. They were, by all accounts, enemies of Rahab, but Rahab had heard about Israel’s God and she believed (Joshua 2:10-11) and as a result she protected the spies and helped them escape the city successfully before any harm could be done to them (2:15-16).
As the spies were leaving she asked that they would remember her when they came back to the city to attack it (2:12-13). The spies agreed and asked that Rahab would hang a scarlet cord from her window to identify which house was hers (2:18). Once Israel invaded Jericho they destroyed everything and everyone except Rahab and her family. Once they saw that scarlet cord in the window they passed over her house and onto the next. Rahab’s faith saved her (Hebrews 11:31).
From this story (from this real-life historic event) we see that a hero emerges, an unlikely hero at that. Now the primary hero in this story is God. God is always the hero. He is the hero of your story and He is the hero of the entire Bible. But a secondary hero is Rahab. She opens up her home to the two spies, she puts her life in danger to hide them, and then she helps them escape, showing great faith, courage and boldness.
The Bible spends a good deal of time highlighting Rahab in a positive way. We see her story here in Joshua, but she is also mentioned in the book of James (James 2:25) and Hebrews (Hebrews 11:31) as well as in the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:5), where she is named in the lineage of Jesus.
Rahab is portrayed as a hero of the faith, but how unlikely of a hero she is. She was a Canaanite woman (not a Jew, not of the people of God), living in Jericho (a wicked and idolatrous city) and her profession was that of a prostitute. She would have been thought of more as a villain than as a hero, yet God used her, as unlikely as she was, to do a great work.
That is how God is. He regularly takes average, or even unlikely people and uses them to do great things for Him. Not because they are great and awesome, but because God is great and awesome and He can use even the least likely to accomplish His work.
God can use us, as average or unlikely as we are, to have a tremendous impact for His kingdom. That impact might be on just one or two people. You don’t have to have a gigantic Twitter following, be the author of several Christian books, or have a million friends in order to have an impact for Christ. Rahab impacted the lives of two spies who then went on to impact an entire nation. She also had an impact on her family by bringing them in her home, keeping them from certain death as Israel attacked. Her impact was on a small group of people, but reached far beyond that.
We too can have an impact on those in our circle. It may just be one or two people, it may just be our family, but we should be intentional to point people to Jesus.
God can use us to have a tremendous impact for Him. Our attitude should be, “Here I am God, use me. I am not great or awesome, but You are and You can do great things through me.” Let that be our attitude and prayer and see how God can use us for His glory.
Originally posted by Mitch Bedzyk:
Carl Trueman, a professor at Grove City College and an esteemed historian, has arguably written not only the best but most important work of 2020 with his latest book, entitled, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution. Trueman sets out to understand Western culture and its obsession with individualism and “identity,” particularly our sexual identity. He wants to understand why the sentence, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body,” is no longer considered non-sensical and self-contradicting but tolerated, and even celebrated.
In order to do this, Trueman guides us through history and the work of many key figures, such as Rousseau, Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, Freud, to show how a new understanding of the self emerged that focused on the inner life and sexuality of the individual. To be a truly “authentic” person today, one’s identity must be controlled and molded by our ever-shifting desires. Combined with Freud’s notion that we are fundamentally sexual beings and Marxist ideas of oppression and victimhood, the result is our culture’s iconoclasm and almost complete rejection of nature, history, and Christianity. While our culture may not be rational, Trueman shows it to be at least logical.
I cannot highly recommend this book enough. It is certainly tough sledding at parts, and rather long, but it’s well worth the effort. The issues of sexuality, gender, and individualism are shaping up to be the defining issues of our day and age, if they aren’t already. In order for Christians to stand firm against the coming waves of rejection, misunderstanding, and persecution, we must understand not only what Scripture says, but why our world thinks the way it does. And Trueman’s book is an excellent place to start.
You can purchase the book from several retailers: WTS Books, Amazon, etc. I have complied some reviews of the book by several solid Christian scholars as well as some podcasts, interviews, and video lecutres with Carl Trueman where he discusses the book.
Podcasts, Interviews and Lectures with Carl Trueman
- Albert Mohler Interview with Carl Trueman
- Podcast: Making Sense of Transgenderism and the Sexual Revolution (Carl Trueman)
- The Sexual Revolution and the Rise of the Modern Self .
- 8 Video Lectures by Carl Trueman. These lectures are an in-depth discussion of the main ideas, figures, and conclusions of the book.
- Trueman on his own podcast, Mortification of Spin: Part 1, Part 2
“So…was Ravi Zacharias really a Christian?”
The young staff member and I sat at a table filled with boneless wings, wedge salads, and leaders of our church. Her eyes were wide with saddened incredulity. Could it be possible that one of the most famed Christian apologists of the last century was, in fact, not a true recipient of the Christ he championed?
For me, this was a gut punch. Not the question from my friend, but the basis for the question. Ravi Zacharias, one of the men I had looked up to most over my two decades of ministry, had been a monster – guilty (as admitted by his own ministry) of sexting, sexual abuse, and rape. When the news broke I couldn’t come to grips with the truth. It felt so heart-shatteringly surreal. And now, the first of many questions about Ravi came – and by far the most important: was Ravi truly a Christian?
The small part of me not shocked by the breaking news shuddered at the thought of how this would bring fresh ridicule and blanket shame to the Gospel of Jesus. Ravi’s treason would deepen the belief and escalate the refrain that Christianity is bogus.
I was also sickened by the emboldened, unfeeling declarations of judgment from the “do-no-wrong” Pharisees within modern Christianity. It would be easy to once more shift the spotlight from their own sin – which they pretend doesn’t exist (at least not tangibly) – by conjuring their best prophetic voice in denouncing Ravi vehemently to the tune of 18 Facebook likes. The self-righteousness of those individuals repulses me as much as does the hypocrisy and abuse of Ravi. Perhaps humility (for without the grace of God could we not fall just as he did?) and prayer for Ravi’s widow and children is what is most needed in these moments.
Everyone knows that what Ravi did is reprehensible; and it is reprehensible. Using a Gospel platform to justify and demand sexual favors is wicked. Using ministry resources for little more than prostitution payments is evil. Abuse – true abuse – is vile. I will offer no excuse for the man I long admired.
I mourn for his victims. I mourn for his family. I mourn that he has given the enemies of God a reason to further blaspheme.
And in the end I am left asking myself the same question our young staffer posited before me: Could he be forgiven? Could Ravi Zacharias – the hypocrite, the narcissist, the swindler, the abuser – possibly be clothed in the holiness of Jesus? Could he be counted among the redeemed?
The answer, if you know your Bible, is unequivocally, yes. That’s the radicality of the grace of God. He takes the despicable and declares them pure.
Now, was Ravi a Christian? That is a different question. We know God can and does forgive the vilest of sinners; but we also know that his grace convicts, draws to repentance, and transforms. If the fruit of repentance does not grow it can only be because the root of grace is absent. Did Ravi ever repent? Did he struggle? Did he mourn his sin and wrestle with it? It would seem not, but I cannot know these things with certainty.
In moments like these, shrouded with angst, anger, disappointment, grief, and questions without an answer, the true Christ-follower must trust the sovereign goodness of God, pray that the kingdom of light will continue to pierce the darkness, and continually give thanks for amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. This is the way of Jesus. It is the way forward through the darkness.
Two of the most important words to us in Scripture: ‘Go therefore…’
What is so important about this phrase for many probably is not the words themselves but how often it has been preached and how often these two words have been addressed. As an alumnus of Southeastern Baptist in Wake Forest, I heard these words a lot. These words helped to shape my understanding of the gospel and the importance Christ put on our call not just to pastors and missionaries, but to all believers. We are called to go, or as can be derived from the text ‘to be going.’
Now before I get too far ahead of myself there are some crucial things in Matthew 28:18-20 that we need to embrace. First while the verse does say go, there is a very important phrase before that, a phrase that makes it all possible, a phrase that shapes how, why, and to what end we go and it is this simple phrase: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Let us just stop right there. In Jesus’ final words to his disciples He wants them to understand the most important thing about what is to come and what is happening right now and that is: All authority is His, All power is His, All that can be and ever was to be is His. In these 11 words Jesus gave the disciples and us everything we ever need, not just to go but to live.
This authority is what gives the Gospel power, Jesus conquered the grave and in so doing revealed all authority to be His and has made it evident for all to see and know. And because of this authority He is now sending out His disciples on the most important task of their lives to make more disciples. Surprisingly to some, we see that Christ’s authority was not dependent on the disciples, but rather one who sent them. In this they are assured that it is not by their might or power that people come to know Him or grow but by the authority of Him alone.
However this should be a motivation for the pursuit of making disciples not an excuse, if for no other reason than the fact that this is commanded by God. As we continue in the text we see that the disciples are to teach every new believer the commands of the Lord and to follow after His teachings and the truth of the Gospel, which clearly means the one He is giving them here before He ascended. In the book of Matthew these are the last words of Christ to the 11 remaining disciples. His final words are to go, baptize, teach, and know that He is with them. And these words apply to us today as much as they did then. We are called to go. God has placed each of us in this specific place, in this specific time, with our specific jobs and neighborhoods not simply for our own well-being, but for the proclamation of the Gospel. We exist and are called to go and make disciples, some will go to far off countries, some will go across the street, some will go to a new city or job, but all will go and as we go we make disciples.
For most of you who read this you will say you have read this before. There is nothing new here, I will agree with you on that. For most of us this is one of the first things we learn when we come to faith. I mean we came to faith because someone told us, whether that be a relative or a friend someone told us, someone spent time with us, someone walked us through the basics of the faith, someone taught us about the work of the Spirit in us leading to holiness, someone taught us we needed to forgive others and seek forgiveness when we sin. Someone discipled us, whether that was one-on one or in a group. Someone followed Christs command to go and make disciples. How did they grow in holiness and understand the Lord more, they followed his commands to go and make disciples. You are the product of God’s work in their lives.
So I write this not because it’s new or revolutionary, but because it is the most basic thing we are called to do and at times it is one of the easiest to forget.
I pray for each of us that we will never forget, because we have the assurance that all authority is His and He is the one at work, so rest in Him and go make disciples.
Living in the first century Roman world Paul would’ve been familiar with homosexual relations.
It was widely known that many of the Roman Emperors engaged in homosexual acts and/or lifestyles. And being one who traveled around the Roman Empire preaching the gospel Paul would’ve encountered many who also engaged in homosexual behavior. And more so being raised as a Jew Paul was taught the Old Testament Scriptures. Where God’s original design in Genesis 1-2 is clear. God made man in His own image, male and female He made them. And after having Adam name all the animals, no suitable helper was found for him. So God put Adam to sleep and created woman from him, and gave her to Adam to be a helpmate, so that they’d complement one another in their God given roles. This is the foundation of marriage. And keep going, this foundational institution of marriage between one man and one woman was one reason the lusts and actions of Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked. These Scriptures Paul was taught as a young Jew he now knew fuller and deeper from being saved by Christ. And so Paul is very clear: all homosexual activity, from homosexuality between two loving and committed men or two women, to a more violent action like homosexual rape (like what we see in Judges 19), as well as everything in between, is against God’s design for sexual relations between men and women. This is why he speaks of men and women giving up what is in accord with nature in Romans 1:26-27.
Bringing all we find in Romans 1 together, we can see the depths of sin in the heart of man. Man claims to be wise by rejecting the God known from creation. Then in this ‘wisdom’ man continues downward turning away from worshipping God our Creator to worship a god of his own making or a creature of his choosing. Where does this idolatry lead to? For this God gives man over to the sin they love. And being so unrestrained in the chase after sin, man, in his supposed wisdom (v22 is always in play), looks into the ‘mirror’, falls in love with himself, worships himself, and then engages in sexual activity with others like himself. Homosexuality then, is not only sinful. Homosexuality is not only evidence of God’s wrath being poured out from heaven here and now. Homosexuality is ultimately idolatrous false worship, where man has become smitten with his own image.
We believe this. But Christians individually and churches corporately don’t always handle this in the most winsome or wise manner. Two errors are usually made at this point with how we handle the sin of homosexuality.
First, some Christians and some churches in an effort to appear nice, relevant, and winsome make it very clear that they’re eager to welcome gay men and women into their lives and congregations. In many of these cases the traditional view of marriage and homosexuality is held and believed, it’s just not talked about or it’s downplayed so no one is offended. Others in this same vein not only proclaim themselves to be welcoming but entirely affirming of the gay lifestyle, either teaching that Paul doesn’t say what he plainly says here, or that the Bible is simply wrong on this matter. In these cases the traditional view of marriage and homosexuality is flat out denied. This is usually called the ‘liberal’ approach.
Second, some Christians and some churches read what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, believe it, and make the rejection of it a prominent part of their identity. They see homosexuality as the sin above all sins, the pinnacle of human depravity. In some more extreme forms of this, you often hear comments like ‘God hates fags’ or ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ Now because they believe homosexuality to be the sin over all sins they will not seek to befriend, evangelize, or be welcoming to gay men or women at all, even though they will seek to love all kinds of heterosexual sinners. This is usually called the ‘conservative’ approach.
Paul avoids both of these unfaithful postures. And we should too.
On one hand Paul doesn’t affirm homosexuality, he plainly calls it sin here in this passage. So, we should never deny the plain teaching of Scripture in an effort to be affirming of homosexual sin. But on the other hand Paul doesn’t shake his head teaching that homosexuality is the worst sin of all. So, we should never be those who teach and believe that homosexual sin is worse than heterosexual sin? How can I draw such conclusions? Look at what comes next in v28-31, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Paul is teaching that all of these sins flow from rejecting God and running after idols of our own making. Claiming to be wise, man descends in a kind of free-fall, into a state where all manner of evil becomes possible. Or, we can say man is not as bad as he could be, there is always room for ‘deprovement.’
Every single man or woman in all of history finds themselves adequately represented somewhere in the list of sins in Romans 1. This should make us kind, compassionate, and patient to all sinners, however sin is displayed in their lives.
 J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 37.
 Tim Keller, Romans 1-7 For You, 34–35.
 Fesko, Romans, 37. See also Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 53.
 Kent R. Hughes, Romans: Righteousness From Heaven, Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1991), 44.
Our gracious God and Father, we thank you for the governing authorities whom you have appointed as your servants (Rom. 13:1). You command us to give thanks and to pray for them, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim. 2:1-2). You call us to be submissive to them and to honor them (Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). And so, we ask that you hear our prayer:
We pray for President Biden, and our country’s new administration, that they would govern in the wisdom, the discernment, the righteousness, and the humility that only come from the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33). Make them continually mindful of their calling to serve in reverent obedience to you. We ask that if any of our authorities do not know you, that by your grace they would look to Jesus Christ in saving faith (1 Tim. 2:1-6). Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness. Help them to govern impartially, mindful of the poor, the oppressed, and the unborn.
We pray for their success in every good endeavor that accords with justice, and for lack of success in that which does not. May our government enact laws pleasing in your sight, to the glory of your holy Name and the welfare of our nation. But we praise you that your counsel, O Lord, stands forever; that the plans of your heart endure for all generations (Ps. 33:10-11). As your beloved Son taught us to pray, we ask that your kingdom would come, and that your purposes for our country would prevail (Matt. 6:9-13).
As citizens of your heavenly kingdom, we ask that you give us the strength and the faith to submit to our rulers, but also the courage to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19-20; 5:27-32). Whatever comes our way in the months and years ahead, may we never lose sight of our risen and soon-returning King.
May we not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon us to test us, as though something strange were happening to us. But may we rejoice insofar as we share in Christ’s sufferings, that we may rejoice when his glory is revealed (1 Pet. 4:12-13).
Your word says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Ps. 33:12). Holy Spirit, help us to understand that that nation is not America or any kingdom of this world but your church! Your church alone is the people whom you have chosen and redeemed to be your treasured possession (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
So, may our witness shine brightly in these ever-darkening days, as we display your perfect peace, justice, and joy through our lives together (Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:14-16; Titus 2:1-14). May our hope not be in any worldly kingdom or ruler or economy or constitutional freedoms, but may our hope be in the risen Lord Jesus. We ask these things in the name of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the first 6 chapters of Joshua we learn about the Israelites successful invasion over the city of Jericho. As we open the book of Joshua we can see that a great transition has taken place in the history of Israel. Moses has died and now Joshua was the new leader in Israel. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness God has now commanded Joshua to proceed into the promised land (Joshua 1:1-9). This is a big deal and would require the Israelites to conquer Jericho.
Joshua Gathers Intel
Joshua moved forward in obedience with God’s command and as a result sent two spies into the promised land to gather valuable information on how to best defeat the Canaanites living in Jericho (Joshua 2:1). The Canaanites were an evil and idolatrous people. They were also a strong and powerful people. One author notes that, “The Canaanites are described in the Bible as a large and fierce people, not easily defeated, so the Israelites would need divine help to come against them, defeat them, and take their land away. God promised Moses and Joshua that help” (Gotquestions.org). As a result Joshua, who was confident in God’s ability, was moving forward in obedience by formulating a battle plan. As a wise and skilled leader Joshua sends out two spies to gather intel that will help him defeat the enemy.
God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
As we read through these verses we are given a good example of how human responsibility and God’s sovereignty align, and it’s subtle and easy to miss, but it’s there and valuable for us to see. Ask yourself, “Why did Joshua send two spies into the promised land?” If God had promised victory to Israel and if Joshua had confidence in God, then why not just go and attack Jericho? Why send the spies? God has already declared victory (Joshua 1:5), why waste time and question God’s ability by sending out to two spies? Pastor and author Sam Storms responds to this question, he writes: “The sovereignty of God and the certainty of his promises coming to pass do not negate the importance of wisdom and prudence on our part. Just because God has decreed that something will certainly occur does not mean we are free to act like fools and throw caution to the wind.” (Sam Storms).
God’s sovereignty and human responsibility go hand in hand. Just because God is sovereign over life and death and He ultimately has determined the day that we will die, does not mean that we should start driving without our seatbelts or jumping off buildings as if we’re invincible. We should not have this attitude of, “Well, when it’s my time, it’s my time and I will throw caution to the wind.”No, God has given us brains and we are to use them by making wise, well-thought decisions.
Yes, God is sovereign and we look to Him ultimately as our Provider, Protector, and Guide and nothing in life happens outside of God’s sovereign hand, but at the same time our decisions matter, our actions matter, the Bible makes that clear. There are real consequences to our actions. And so we should give our best effort, try hard, and choose wisely as we go through life all while regularly asking God for provision and wisdom and mercy, realizing that He is the One who ultimately brings things to pass. That is what we see here with Joshua. He shows both confident obedience in God by moving forward to attack Jericho AND wise prudence by sending the spies to the promised land to check it out. Pray that you would have a similar confidence in God as you strive to live wisely and work diligently.
Rahab’s Faith / Jericho’s Demsie As the story continues we read that the two spies end up at a woman’s house named Rahab (2:1). Rahab had heard about Israel’s God and she believed (Joshua 2:10-11) and as a result she protected the spies and helped them escape the city successfully (2:15-16). She asked that they would remember her when they came back to the city to attack it (2:12-13). The spies agreed and asked that Rahab would hang a scarlet cord from her window to identify which house was hers (2:18). Once Israel invaded Jericho they destroyed everything and everyone except Rahab and her family. Once they saw that scarlet cord in the window they passed over her house and onto the next. Rahab’s faith saved her (Hebrews 11:31).
God’s judgement was set on Jericho. It was a sinful city full of wicked and idolatrous people. And Rahab the prostitute was as guilty as anyone and fully deserving of God’s wrath. But despite her many flaws she trusted in the living God and was saved. And when the agents of God’s wrath saw that scarlet cord in her window they passed over, leaving her safe and secure inside. You and I, apart from Christ, are not much different than the people of Jericho, we are not much different than Rahab. We are a sinful and idolatrous people who deserve the wrath of God. We deserve eternity in hell as a result of our disobedience toward God. But if we, like Rahab, put our faith in the living God, we will be saved.
Just as God’s wrath passed over Rahab when the soldiers saw that scarlet cord hanging from her window, so God’s wrath will pass over us when He sees His Son’s scarlett blood draped over us.No matter your background, no matter your faults when you come to Jesus in faith and repentance you are forgiven and eternally secure in Him. Rahab was a great sinner, but she had a greater Savior and the same is true of us today.We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior and His name is Jesus.
1. He Was One of the Most Prolific Evangelists of the Church.
In many ways he is the driving force that God used in bringing revival to America in the 18th century. Whitefield was a man on a mission to proclaim the gospel to all who would hear, from town to town, he boldly proclaimed the good news of salvation in the open air. He preached God’s wrath against sin and grace to the repentant throughout the American colonies at a time when such things were not done.
2. He Believed No One was too Far from the Grace and Salvation of God.
One of the driving forces behind Whitefield’s open-air preaching was the need for people to hear the truth of God who did not have churches to gather in. In his early days preaching in England he was rejected from preaching in the churches due to the focus on the gospel as the means of God’s salvific work, thus leaving him first to preach in prisons and then from the prisons to the fields. His first primary location was Kingswood, a people mostly rejected by English society. He firmly believed that all men needed the gospel, and that the gospel was for all mankind.
3. He Gave His Life to the Proclamation of the Gospel.
George Whitefield’s aim in life was to be fully spent for the cause of proclaiming the gospel, and in the end he did just that. He often stated that he wanted to be buried in a crypt under the pulpit of the final church he preached at and in 1770 after arriving in town he proclaimed the gospel one last time at Old South Presbyterian church in Newburyport, Mass. where he died hours later and was buried. Every inch of the man was given to the proclamation of the gospel. He was only 55 when he died but in those years, God used him to proclaim the good news of Christ’s work to many who had never heard its truth and sparked the flames of reformation in the American colonies.
The divide is vast. The hypocrisy is thick. The church of Jesus must rise above.
Last week, as self-proclaimed Patriots stormed our nations capital in undeniably heinous anarchy, I witnessed progressive Christian friends and left-leaning church leaders point fingers across the aisle not only at Donald Trump but at anyone who had the nerve to cast a vote for the Republican President last November. Conservatives were painted with one broad brush stroke, consigning all to censure, ridicule, and blame. Like with so many moments over the past year, even in the church, I was saddened but not surprised. It was a glaring reversal of the rhetoric and blame-casting that we saw last summer as BLM protesters rioted, looted, and burned businesses leading many conservative Christians to broad-brush all progressives as violent, freedom-suppressing, America-hating imbeciles. In the summer months liberals – some of them anyway – justified the protests saying that they were “mostly peaceful” with a few dissenters. Those same liberals blasted the assault on the capital last Wednesday. Conversely, conservatives decried the violent riots last summer, while a few sought to justify the attack on Congress as a “mostly peaceful protest.” Four years ago, when Donald Trump took his oath of office, a cry of “not my president” rose from one side much to the angered dismay of the other. Presumably, when Joe Biden lays his hand on the Bible next week, a similar sentiment will rise from that other side, much to the consternation of the first. As I said, the hypocrisy is thick.
After the events at the capital Lebron James and other athletes, artists, and celebrities stoked the fires of division by appealing to the racial divide once more. Joe Biden and the left, who have undeniably been vicious and unrelenting in their hateful rhetoric, are now calling for peace and unity on their terms. Donald Trump, who undeniably has been brazen, belligerent, and demeaning, is now calling for healing and reconciliation. If it wasn’t so sad it would all be laughable. How can so many do so much to destroy and then with a straight face call for peace, justice, and love? Again, the divide is vast – and our politicians, celebrities, and social media memes/rants are never going to bridge that yawning chasm.
Enter the church. The blood-purchased bride of Jesus. The people for His own possession. The royal Priesthood. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom. The ministers of reconciliation equipped with the only message that can heal the soul and bridge the divide. We know our mission. It’s rather glaringly clear in the pages of Scripture and in the records of church history.
We are light. We are the salt of the earth. We are Gospel ambassadors.
We are to unapologetically declare God’s truth. Yet many Christians instead either spread misinformation, conspiracy theories, and wild speculations; or they shelter the truth, unwilling to welcome the storm of ridicule that may follow.
We are to seek unity – a unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 – within the church. Yet many continue to point fingers, spew venom, make accusations, maliciously slander, and almost willingly splinter the church.
We are to trust in the only King who is truly sovereign, surprised by nothing, and declares the beginning of time to the end of days (which includes the appointment of political rulers [Daniel 2:21; Romans 13:1]). Yet with unrivaled (or so it seems) conviction, we trust in a man, a party, a judicial system, or a personal arsenal.
We must be people of the Book – reading, believing, being comforted by, and proclaiming the revelation there-in. Yet our eyes and minds are dominated by social platforms, media outlets, radical bloggers, and enslaved to the bias of our own hearts.
We are people who will be known for our love (those are red-letter words); yet we have become known for almost everything but true, Biblical, compassion-filled love.
Washington is an easy target and buying cultural lies, standing on political platforms, and worshipping fallen leaders is popular. But (and we know this) we are not called to the easy or the popular. Christian friend, stop with the name-calling, the broad-brushing, the venom-spewing, the hate, the divisiveness, the idolatry, and all the rest. It’s not cute, it’s barely clever, and it’s convincing no one of anything. More importantly, your sin grieves the heart of God, wounds His people, and confirms to the world that we are no different than they. Purpose to live according to your calling. Rise above this tumult to be salt and light. Too much is at stake.