Monthly Archives: November 2009

Enoch: A Last Days Man

An Advent Prophetic Word

When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

Gen. 5:21-24 (NLT)

Genesis five shares a short story about a man named Enoch and his unusual and distinctive walk with God. What makes Enoch’s walk powerful was his determination to commune with God no matter how badly the culture around him was morally deteriorating. Like Enoch, the church finds itself in a perilous place: a decadent culture challenging the church to dare live its commitment to Biblical truth (2 Tim. 3:1-5). We like Enoch must be determined in our hearts to walk with God no matter how bad things become.

Many in the church make excuses, “It’s too hard to walk in the Spirit, we just can’t do it in the midst of all these problems.” Yet, the Bible speaks powerfully, “God’s grace is sufficient in all weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 1-10). Grace is available always, in every place, at any time, in the all-sufficient person, Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Imagine, Enoch walked with God never knowing the power of the Cross, no experience of the Holy Spirit, no benefits of the covenant, no grace in the sacraments, no sweetness of fellowship with other believers, no spiritual encouragement through the church, etc., yet he continued in sweet communion with our most loving and gracious God.

No matter how bad our circumstances are, grace is available to respond like Jesus in every life situation (2 Cor. 9:8). Grace is available for all our current circumstances no matter our tight funds, no matter our emotional need, no matter how frustrating our lives: God gives us grace to walk in the Spirit to respond like Jesus in every life situation (Gal. 5:16-26). Our circumstances are never bigger than God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:1-10).

St. Thomas More declared, “The times are never so bad that a good man cannot live in them.” The Apostle Paul reminds us that when sin increases, grace abounds the more (Rom. 5:20).Enoch tapped into that grace and walked with God. To walk with God means to talk with God. Their communion with one another was intimate and personal. Enoch knew God’s heart and God was blessed by his love (John 17:24). The Lord wanted to be with Enoch,”God took him away” (Gen. 5:24), thus the Lord allowed Enoch to by-pass death and brought him straight into his presence.

Not only did Enoch walk with God when all others were rejecting the Lord: he walked intimately and powerfully in constant communication with his heavenly Father (Heb. 11: 5-6). To walk by faith and please God with our attitude means to catch the heartbeat of God by believing and obeying his word not because we ought to, but because we want to. The writer of Hebrews commends Enoch because his heart of faith pleased God (Heb. 11: 5-6). Faith is a gift from God and a choice of our hearts enabling any child of God to believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are faithful, sufficient, and present for every life circumstance. Maintaining faith is a battle of the heart, staying fixed on the goodness and faithfulness of God. Enoch maintained his faith in a culture that had chosen to reject and blaspheme God. In this, Enoch pleased God’s heart. Enoch heard God’s voice thereby knowing God’s heart thereby he was able to share God’s word. Enoch did not hoard God’s word unto himself, Enoch taught God’s heart to a people who were constantly resisting God’s grace. Enoch was willing to share a message that was not going to be heard–a message of judgement:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Jude 14-15 (NKJV)

By God’s grace, Enoch walked with God, heard his heart, knew his ways, and communicated God’s truth in a decadent and decaying culture.

Three hundred years is a long time. What kept Enoch walking with God for three hundred years? He had an awareness of judgment coming. He had a sensitivity to the ungodliness of the age. And he drew closer to God as the reality of these things pressed in upon him. The way to graph it would be to make a circle, space these three items around the circle, and then show by arrows that each one influenced the other. The more Enoch was aware of the judgment, the more sensitive he was to sin. The more sensitive he was to sin, the closer he wanted to walk with God. The closer he walked with God, the more clearly he saw that judgment was necessary. Or the other way: the more clearly he saw the judgment coming, the closer he wanted to walk with God, and the closer he walked with God the more sensitive he was to ungodliness.

If you keep close to God, you will keep from sin. But if you sin persistently, you will fall away from God. Then you will rename the sin. You will not talk about pride, the great sin; you will call it “self-esteem,” “self-worth,” or what is “due to me.” You will not talk about gluttony and materialism; you will talk about “the good life.” You will not talk about disobedience; you will talk about “shortcomings.” You will not talk about the Ten Commandments and your violation of them; you will talk about your “mistakes.” It is only when you draw close to God that these things will become increasingly sinful in your sight. Only then will they work together to make you a preacher committed to calling men and women to repentance and faith in Christ before the judgment comes.

James Montgomery Boice cited in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, 2nd edition (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008).

We too can trust Christ and find him faithful in the midst of morally decadent culture. First, we walk with God by allowing the prevailing power of the Holy Spirit to subdue our sinful nature. Second, we trust God’s atoning work in Christ that our sin has been forgiven and forgotten. We stop striving in our best efforts to be accepted with God and we trust Christ’s supreme effort as our means to acceptance with God. Third, we abide in constant, conscious presence of Christ. We abide in Christ by holding steady in his presence trusting God’s promises by faith irrespective of the challenges, trials, and tribulations of our lives.

‘And Enoch walked with God’ (Gen. 5:22,24), that is, he kept up and maintained a holy, settled, habitual, though undoubtedly not altogether uninterrupted communion and fellowship with God, in and through Christ Jesus. So that to sum up what has been said . . . walking with God consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependence upon his power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to his glory, in an habitual eyeing of his precept in all we do, and in an habitual complacence in his pleasure in all we suffer.

George Whitefield, Selected Sermons of George Whitefield (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

Fourth, we are committed to continual growth in the knowledge and love of God (2 Peter 3:18). We commit to grow in Christ by reading his word, praying his will, trusting his promises, receiving his grace in the sacraments, fellowshipping with his servants, and serving his church. God is raising up Last Days Enoch’s who will walk with God in the midst of a hostile, apathetic, and immoral culture.

The Fragility of Life

The Grace of God Keeps Us Alive

A voice said, “Shout!”

I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.

Their beauty fades as quickly

as the flowers in a field.

The grass withers and the flowers fade

beneath the breath of the Lord.

And so it is with people.

The grass withers and the flowers fade,

but the word of our God stands forever.

Isa. 40:6-8 (NLT)

Today, I am once again struck by physical health and its fragility. Also, I am always stunned by how sudden a life can end through sickness and tragedy.

Friday, I performed the funeral of beloved mother whose heart had failed during an open heart procedure. This weekend, I visited a relative in convalescent home who suffers from dementia and is housed with Alzheimer’s patients. Yesterday, I visited East End Hospital to pray for man who was dying from toxemia. Over the weekend, he complained of cramps. He did not suffer from any intestinal ailments. The doctors decided to do exploratory surgery. This morning during surgery, the doctors could not locate the intestinal leak. They expect him to pass today. Healthy on Friday, gone today.

Suddenly and without warning, our health can fail and our lives end with an incredible finality and speed that is shocking to friends and loved ones.

More than ever I am struck by the need to live a life that is right with God. Also, I am more aware than ever that there is judgment and that one day I will have must give an account to God for my life and choices. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Cor. 5:9-10 NLT).

Indeed, the most important thing in this life is to be right with God by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.

1 Cor. 3:11-13 (NLT)

The thoughts of many hearts were revealed by Christ on earth, and that same Christ shall make an open exhibition of men at the last great day. He shall judge them, he shall discern their spirits, he shall find out the joints and the marrow of their being; the thoughts and intents of the heart he shall lay bare.

C.H. Spurgeon, “The Great White Throne,” delivered August 12, 1866.

HT: The Daily Spurgeon

“Not a Self-Help Religion”

We Need a Savior Every Moment of Every Day

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matt 1:21 (NLT)

We psychologize our troubles when what need is the Cross: the brokenness, forgiveness, healing and joy of our Savior’s blood-bought transformation.

It’s no wonder that self-help books top the charts in Christian publishing and that counseling offices are overwhelmed. Our pride and our neglect of the gospel force us to run from seminar to seminar, book to book, counselor to counselor, always seeking but never finding some secret to holy living.

Most of us have never really understood that Christianity is not a self-help religion meant to enable moral people to become more moral. We don’t need a self-help book; we need a Savior. We don’t need to get our collective act together; we need death and resurrection and the life-transforming truths of the gospel. And we don’t need them just once, at the beginning of our Christian life; we need them every moment of every day.

Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, Counsel from the Cross (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2009), 30.

HT: Of First Importance

The Stumbling Block of the Cross

“Sinners Hate It . . . “

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Gal. 6:14 (NKJV)

We all do it. We all fall back into it. We try to earn God’s acceptance and approval by our good performance (Gal. 3:1-3). We think if we will be a good little boys or girls, then God will be obligated and have to bless us. God will see our sincerity, our best efforts, and our decent morals and accept us, forgive us, and honor us. Our goodness will earn for us freedom from suffering and hardship–true salvation. We grow secure in our own goodness by our own efforts.

However, the Cross of Christ rejects our self-sufficiency. The Cross declares our efforts null and void (Rom. 3:10-12). The Cross shouts from Golgotha, our best efforts are morally corrupt, intrinsically selfish, and ultimately self-deceiving (Gal. 3:13). In our face, the Cross declares our need for a savior. The Cross is our most precious treasure for it frees us from ourselves (2 Cor. 5:15). The notion that we can save ourselves is destroyed. We see that our best efforts for salvation are absurd and ridiculous.

We look upon our suffering Savior and recognize that our sin and selfishness put him there. That ultimately, Jesus is bearing on the Cross our just punishment for our sins. Our own selfishness, our desire to be first and foremost, our self-absorption, self-concern, and self-conceit put Jesus there (Rom. 4:25).

The Cross breaks us of our pride as we witness God’s love poured out in Christ. We see that our best efforts are nothing. Our choice: accept God’s grace in Christ or continue to flounder, waver, harden our hearts, and be destroyed by our pride and selfishness (1 Cor. 15:10).

The Cross does not have to be a stumbling block!

How do I explain it? The Cross is mine and your most precious treasure. The love of God is displayed in all its glory there.

The ‘stumbling block of the cross’ remains. Sinners hate it because it tells them that they cannot save themselves. Preachers are tempted to avoid it because of its offensiveness to the proud. It is easier to preach man’s merits than Christ’s, because men greatly prefer it that way.

John Stott, Our Guilty Silence (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967), 40.

According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated his own holy wrath through the gift of his own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death. Thus God himself gave himself to save us from himself.

John Stott, The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 115.

We Want To Be Busy

“We Want To Complexify Our Lives.”

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Ps. 46:10-11 (NKJV)

Busyness means being constantly engaged in activity and/or preoccupied with the things of this world. Our culture finds meaning in busyness. Busyness makes us feel important. Busyness implies responsibility for our culture says important people are busy. Busyness leads to self-deception: I think I am achieving great things, if I am busy. Busyness is vanity: I am important if people, places, and things need my attention. Busyness does not reflect on God or meditate on his greatness. Busyness is laziness for I never have to stop and ask what is really important. Busyness is self-absorption. Busyness contradicts the Christian life’s focus on rest, joy, and peace. Busyness is distraction from the really important relationships of life: God, family, and friends.

I have often said that the soul cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.

Blaise Pascal, Pensees

We ought to have much more time, more leisure, than our ancestors did, because technology, which is the most obvious and radical difference between their lives and ours, is essentially a series of time-saving devices. In ancient societies, if you were rich you had slaves to do the menial work so that you could be freed to enjoy your leisure time. Life was like a vacation for the rich because the poor slaves were their machines. . . . [But] now that everyone has slave-substitutes (machines), why doesn’t everyone enjoy the leisurely, vacationy lifestyle of the ancient rich? Why have we killed time instead of saving it? . . .

We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hold in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it. So we run around like conscientious little bugs, scared rabbits, dancing attendance on our machines, our slaves, and making them our masters. We think we want peace and silence and freedom and leisure, but deep down we know that this would be unendurable to us, like a dark and empty room without distractions where we would be forced to confront ourselves. . .

If you are typically modern, your life is like a mansion with a terrifying hole right in the middle of the living-room floor. So you paper over the hole with a very busy wallpaper pattern to distract yourself. You find a rhinoceros in the middle of your house. The rhinoceros is wretchedness and death. How in the world can you hide a rhinoceros? Easy: cover it with a million mice. Multiple diversions.

Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 167-169.

HT: Justin Taylor

The Church Fathers and Scripture

A Patristic Reading of Scripture

Last week, Robert Lewis Wilken gave an excellent speech at Wheaton College on the Church Fathers’ method for interpreting Scripture. His talk was given at the inauguration of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies. David Neff reports:

Wilken made several key points about the Fathers’ nonliteral and image-laden reading of the Bible.

1. The New Testament authors clearly applied Old Testament texts in ways that departed seriously from the plain, surface meaning of the text. When Paul cites Psalm 19 in Romans 10 (“their voice is gone out into all the world”), he applies the Psalmist’s statement about the heavens to the preaching of the apostles. This runs against the plain meaning, said Wilken.

2. The books of Scripture do not bear their own significance. They must be united to something greater, which is Christ. Thus Paul interprets the creation of man and woman as a great mystery, which is Christ and the church; and he interprets the water-giving rock in the Sinai desert as Christ.

3. Typically, such creative renderings of the Bible are focused on the Old Testament. That is because the Old Testament text signifies Christ, but the New Testament text does not signify another Christ. It requires no allegory or analogy to reveal the Incarnate Word.

4. The Fathers also understood the interpretation of Scripture to require the reader’s participation in the spiritual reality of the text. Thus it is not enough to say that Christ was crucified. We must also say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and thus also I am raised with Christ.

HT: Christian History Blog

Calvary Before Pentecost

Die To Bring Forth Fruit

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

John 12:24 (KJV)

The Cross comes before the filling of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual death before resurrection life.  Repentance before the fruit of the Spirit. Cleansing from sin before anointing. Brokenness before blessing. Heart-change before Spirit-immersed ministry. Wilderness before exaltation. The Sinai Desert before the Promised Land.

Moses had his desert, Joseph his prison, Daniel his lion’s den, David his cave and Paul his Arabia. Before God could place these men in leadership, he had to transform their character. Before God can bless us, he must break us of our pride, self-will, and self-sufficiency. God uses our trials and tribulations to bring us to the end of ourselves. He is not punishing us, but loving us into holiness. God accepts us just as we are, but he loves us so much, he does not want to leave us as we are.

Brokenness is a heart yielded to God; ready and willing to obey the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever He directs. Brokenness makes us needy, less perfectionistic, patient with others, and open to God’s purposes. Brokenness makes our hearts available to the Holy Spirit.

Calvary ever comes before Pentecost. The reason why the Holy Spirit of God is not being evidence in so many of our lives and in so much of our ministry is not that there is a gift that we have been unfortunate to miss; it is not that there is a technique we have been unable to adopt: it is that there is a death we have been unwilling to die. Jesus tells the disciples that the pathway to glory lies through the seed going into the ground to a death, that the fruit may abound. And this is precisely the pattern which the New Testament declares in every book: the way to Pentecost lies through Calvary.

Eric J. Alexander, “The Source and Conditions of Blessing,Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 318.

Every one that gets to the throne must put his foot upon the thorn. The way to the crown is by the cross. We must taste the gall if we are to taste the glory. When justified by faith, God led them into tribulations also. When God brought Israel through the Red Sea, He led them into the wilderness; so, when God saves a soul, He tries it. He never gives faith without trying it. The way to Zion is through the Valley of Baca. You must go through the wilderness of Jordan if you are to come to the Land of Promise.

Andrew A. Bonar and R.M. McCheyne, Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 216.

The Blessed Hope (Sermon Series)

The Second Coming of Jesus

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thess 4:16-17 (ESV)

Sunday at Lamb of God, I began a series of sermons on the Second Coming of Christ. My burden is that our parish would come to experience the pure joy of anticipating Christ’s return. Too often, Second Coming teaching has generated fear and confusion in the church. My desire is to preach Christ and not a theological system. Our focus will not be on the mark of the beast, secret rapture, and/or secular events, but the final triumph of Christ. When Christ appears, he will completely defeat the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Paul describes the Second Coming as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) not a tormenting fear, or a tragic disaster, or a lost cause, but a blessed hope.

Biblical hope is not a wishful desire, but the confident expectation that the good things that God has promised he will bring to pass. We hope to see Jesus face-to-face. We hope to see loved ones again who have died in Christ. We hope that sickness and suffering will end and death will be no more. This Biblical hope does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5) for one day Christ will appear in the clouds and death will be defeated (1 Cor. 15:25-26) and we will reign with him forever.

Salvation is not a matter that concerns only the destiny of the individual soul. It includes the entire course of human history and mankind as a whole. The coming of Christ is a definitive event for all men; it means either salvation or judgment. Furthermore, salvation is not merely an individual matter; it concerns the whole people of God, and it includes the transformation of the entire physical order.

George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 557.

My message can found at the Lamb of God Charismatic Episcopal Church website for listening or downloading.

Oh, To Be Pardoned and Changed!

Two Distinct Things

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:4-8 (ESV)

The truth of the gospel: salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. My deliverance from sin is not based on my performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross. Faith tells me that what Christ did for me on the cross will be worked in me by the Holy Spirit preparing me for glory in the Father’s eternal presence. “I have been saved from the penalty of my sin; I am being saved from the power of my sin; and I shall be saved from the very presence of sin.” [R. C. Lucas, “The Christian’s Inheritance,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 141.]

It ought always to be remembered that there are two distinct things which the Lord Jesus Christ does for every sinner whom He undertakes to save. He washes him from his sins in His own blood, and gives him a free pardon: this his justification. He puts the Holy Spirit into his heart, and makes him an entirely new man: this is his regeneration.

The two things are both absolutely necessary to salvation. The change of heart is as necessary as the pardon; and the pardon is as necessary as the change. Without the pardon we have no right or title to heaven. Without the change we should not be ready to enjoy heaven, even it we got there.

J.C. Ryle, Regeneration (Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Heritage, 2007), 22.

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

The Message of the Cemetery

Death and Eternal Life

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

John 5:28-29 (NKJV)

The resurrection of the dead is the final work of God in applying Christ’s work on the Cross to our lives and to creation (1 Cor. 15:50-57). When Christ returns, he will raise from the dead the bodies of all believers who have died since the beginning of time (1 Thes. 4:15-18). Jesus will reunite these bodies with their souls (spirits) which have been residing in heaven (Phil. 1:21, Dan. 12:2-3). Also, He will change the bodies of all those believers who are alive, giving them glorified bodies. Therefore, all believers from all time will have perfect resurrection bodies just like their Savior. [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 828].

So the message of the cemetery is manifold. It reminds us of death and of eternal life. But it speaks to us, also, precisely of our present, everyday life. It encourages us to think of what passes and what abides. It invites us not to lose sight of standards and the goal. It is not what we have that counts but rather what we are for God and for man. The cemetery invites us to live in such a way that we do not leave the communion of saints. It invites us to seek and to be in life what we can live in death and in eternity.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “All Saints Day: At the Feet of Saint Peter’s Basilica”, Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts (Ignatius Press, 2006).

HT: Ignatius Insight