Matthew R. Perry

Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page

Praying For The Lost — A Lost Duty?

In Church Life, Sermons on September 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Last night, we had a time of prayer specifically for the lost—those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior.  What prompted this prayer meeting was an initiative called “With One Voice” by the Kentucky Baptist Convention to have all Kentucky Baptist churches pray during their Wednesday evening prayer service on Sept. 10.

During this service, we read Scripture, sang some songs dealing with prayer and revival among our people.  Then we passed out what we call a “Five Alive” card where we supplied each person with two names from the 114 names on the “Salvation” portion of our Boone’s Creek Prayer Guide.  With those two names were three blanks for them to fill in names of people they know.   I encouraged them to consider those who were closest to them (family, friends, co-workers) rather than someone they did not know (for more on this, read Oscar Thompson’s Concentric Circles of Concern).

One of my favorite things to do during a prayer service is to have our people spread out over our 50 or so pews and pray for those who may come into our service.  If your church is like most of ours, you know where most of your regular attenders sit.  But it’s a joy not only to pray for them but also to pray for others whom God may have come in.  It really gives our members an outward looking perspective and gives us great anticipation.

The part that meant most to me was when Alex Marshall, Jr., one of our deacons, had Ron Chaffins (our minister of music) and myself kneel at the steps up to the platform, followed by the church coming forward and laying their hands on us as they prayed for us.  It reminded me of Col. 4:2-4 when Paul exhorted the Colossians church:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  [3] At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— [4] that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

This prayer time really lifted my spirit up to heaven. Pastors bear a heavy burden in seeking to strengthen the flock as well as to share the Gospel with a lost and dying community. May our hearts begin to be crafted toward prayer for the lost and for the ministers of the Gospel who share His message. May our heart desire to be equipped to know what this message is so we can share it rightly. May praying for the lost never be lost on us!

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The Pentagon of Christianity: The Defense Department For Our Souls

In Church Life, Sermons on September 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

On September 11, 2001, that tragic day in our recent history, four planes were hijacked, three of which flew into very prominent buildings. Two of those buildings were the Twin Towers in New York. What may have been forgotten was the third building: the Pentagon. This was no accident on the part of the terrorists: for the Pentagon serves as our country’s Department of Defense.

Some have asked if there is any symbolic significance to a five-sided building. The answer is, not really. When the building was originally constructed, it was on a piece of property that went up against a highway and a bridge that were at a 108-degree angle, which forced them to build it with five sides instead of four.

What we Christians must do is realize that there exists a Department of Defense for our Christian life God constructed in His Word. This defense helps protect the borders of our hearts from the enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are the true enemies of the state, which is the Kingdom of God.

As we close out this series, it would benefit us to see what the five sides of this Pentagon.

1. Attend faithfully.

Attending times of corporate worship at your local church is crucial for maintaining a good defense system. We have already seen what Hebrews 10:23-25 says about not neglecting to meet together but to encourage one another. In Acts 2:42-44, Luke records the activities of the fledgling church:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

While it would be easy to focus on the particulars of what they did: listening to the teaching, fellowship, prayers, God’s power on the move, and genuine compassion for one another. And if you recall back in April, I passed out a list of what our worship services consist of, and the biblical basis behind those elements we have.

But the key word here is “And they devoted themselves.” It is difficult to be devoted to something or someone when you are chronically absent from that thing or person! How can someone be devoted to their spouse, their children, their work, their hobbies if there is not a decided diligence to spend time with those things?

2. Pray continually.

This coming Wednesday, we will have a special prayer meeting for lost unbelievers called “With One Voice” and in October, we will spend all four weeks looking at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15. But it’s not enough for us to think highly of prayer, to simply read about prayer, or even to preach about prayer.

James Montgomery in 1818 penned a hymn about prayer. My favorite verse is the sixth one which says, “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air.” We should feel at home with prayer as we do with breathing—it’s just part and parcel of the holy oxygen we need. So when Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (2 Thessalonians 5:17), “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2), and to “Pray at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18), what does he mean?

He means that we are to live in constant communion and sensitivity to God’s Spirit at work in our lives. While you may not continually stay having your eyes closed or spend your entire day in your prayer closet, you as Christians have the Holy Spirit who gives us a direct connection and communion. In his wonderful little book entitled “Prayer,” John R. Rice starts off his book with this verse from Psalm 65:2: “O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.” He then said simply, “It is God’s nature to hear and answer prayer.” As a Christian, we have that connection.

3. Give graciously.

Here is another that we have spent some time on over the last few months, but one more word concerning this will do us well. This past Wednesday, we looked at Genesis 4 with the issue of Cain and Abel. We know how this relationship turned out, usually summed up with three words: “Cain killed Abel.” But it would be helpful to see where all this came from. In reading Genesis 4:1-7

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Did you notice that Cain was ultimately angry not at Abel, but at God! But it all stemmed from his lack of willingness to give and offer rightly. Abel gave the firstfruits (or, as many say, “Off the top!”). He gave God the choicest of offerings. Cain just gave the leftovers. Paul echoes this in 2 Cor. 9:6-7:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We can round up a number of reasons for not giving: economy, bills and other debts. Some have hobbies and fetishes that take up a great amount of money. I one time belonged to a CD club while I was in college and seminary (before I got married). Before I knew it, I catalogued 200+ CDs … at $12-15 a pop. And I honestly wondered where my money was going. It was going to my idol!

But what we give to God and how we give to Him is a direct reflection of what we think of Him and what His Son accomplished. We tie up our money in other things necessary and unnecessary—yet so many who claim they are Christians give so little. Are you sowing so little because you think so little of what he gave to you?

4. Study diligently.

If we long to take God seriously and to build a great defense system for our souls, we cannot avoid this portion: you must study God’s Word diligently. I believe many of us see the necessity for this, but sadly many do not for whatever reason.

· Some say it is irrelevant: we have jobs to work, classes to attend, bills to pay, children to raise—this old Book doesn’t speak to today. It’s irrelevant, they say.

· Some say it makes no sense and they don’t know how to go to it.

· Some say, “I’m not seminary-trained, I’m just a lay-person.”

· Some say, “I just don’t have time.”

· Some say, “I have some doubts as to whether it’s really reliable.”

· Some say, “It’s just plain boring.”

This is not just those who are outside of Christ who say this—these are the opinions and feelings of many Christians as well! Yet, what made David say in Psalm 119:15-16, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” What made Paul say in 2 Tim. 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” What made Paul, who was in jail, alone, desolate, and understanding that death awaited, ask Timothy to bring “the books and above all the parchments” so he could continue his study?

For one, Paul wanted to know Him. Paul said in Philip. 3:10-12 that he desired to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” He wanted to know his splendor, his majesty, hiw power, but also his attributes. He wanted to identify with Christ. Ezra the priest echoes this: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Secondly, Paul wanted to grow in Him. Paul in this very familiar verse found in 2 Tim. 3:16-17, says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Paul wanted to grow and that is only found through growing in God’s Word. Peter was the same: 1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Lastly, Paul wanted to serve Him. We find out what God has in mind as far as service to Him, don’t we? Mark 10:42-45 says:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [43] But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

5. Serve willingly.

Psalm 100:1-5

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

[2] Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

[3] Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

[4] Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

[5] For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

Did you notice verse 2? Serve the Lord with gladness. These two cannot be disconnected. We cannot serve or worship the Lord simply out of a sense of duty! We must serve him with gladness! Why? Because it all comes down to the gospel. Huh? Yes! When we consider how Christ came to serve humanity through his death on the cross, we gladly serve our Savior and Lord who served us so!

Service entails action. Look at this Psalm again. Look at all the commands: make a joyful noise, serve the Lord, Know that the Lord, he is God, enter, give, bless! Service entails an action propelled by the love and longing for Christ!

In what ways will you serve? Some of you may be longing to serve, but do not know how. To you, I suggest that you let me know and we can talk about what gifts and talents God has given to you. Yet, some of you know there is a place where you need to serve. You see the choir sing and you know that God is calling you there. Consider what is stopping you. Some of you have a longing to serve with our children. Consider what is stopping you! Would it be that Christ is stopping you? Or Satan? Or self?

You say, “Well, Bro. Matt, God has been leading me to start something up, but it’s not on the committees lists, choir, children, or anything along that line.” Come talk to me—God has not called us to bow the knee to committees, but to the leading of His Spirit!

So let’s come to church, pray, give, study, and serve the Lord out of a grateful heart for all He has accomplished through Christ.

Would Calvin Approve of Some “Calvinists”? I Think Not!

In Calvinism, Evangelism, Gospel, Sermons on September 5, 2008 at 1:40 pm

As part of my DMin project, I am immersing myself in all things Spurgeon. I cannot tell you how much his sermons and writings have fed my soul and strengthened me toward holiness and my calling to preach.

The latest book I’m working through is Iain H. Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. Murray contends that this was Spurgeon’s first major controversy in his ministry at New Park Street Church (soon to be Metropolitan Tabernacle). Though he was only 20 years old at the time, his preaching began to truly gain momentum in London. Yet, some of the Strict and Particular Baptists who held a hard line concerning Calvinism began to exclude Spurgeon.  Spurgeon noted that they felt his “doctrine was too low for them.”

Spurgeon responded not in the newspaper but through his sermons which were published for a penny a copy, having a readership of approximately 20,000 people. 

A Calvinist Preaching Evangelistically?  Absolutely!

The reason they felt that his doctrine was “too low” was that he claimed to be a Calvinist but preached evangelistically.  In a sermon in 1859, during a service in which the foundation stone was laid for the new Metropolitan Tabernacle, he said: “The stone has to be rolled away from the sepulchre of Calvinism yet.  The Calvinism of some men is not the Calvinism of John Calvin, nor the Calvinism of the Puritans, much less the Christianity of God.”  You see, what some called “Calvinism” was a type of teaching which said that there should be no appeal to humanity in regards to responding to the Gospel.  These “hyper-Calvinists” believe that the Gospel call should only be given to the elect sinners, for this is who the preacher should have in view.  

Spurgeon rightly rejected this.  While the Scriptures do speak of God predestining and electing (see his sermon on “High and Broad Doctrine” among scores of others), he saw from the New Testament a mandate not just to talk about the facts of salvation, but to make an appeal toward all sinners to trust Christ.  It is not up to men to determine who they think are elect and not–let God sort that out.  Everyone understands that their salvation is a gift from God.  

But to rely on such a subject emotion as to be one who must wait on emotions and feelings before you believe those commands and invitations to repent and receive Christ is dangerous and ultimately self-centered.  

What Did Calvin Have to Say About Evangelism?

John Calvin and his theology have come under considerable fire.   Some reject Calvinism because they deem that he and his theology discourage evangelism and even prayer.  The objection is, “If God has already chosen who will be saved, then why bother sharing the Gospel?”  Calvin addresses this himself:

Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace . . . even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew and predestined (John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, trans. J. K. S. Reid, London: James Clarke and Co., Limited, 1961, p. 138)

So those Calvinist who not only reject sharing the Gospel with all peoples or at least de-emphasize it.  This is not biblical and, ultimately, its cruel.  How could someone who calls themselves a Christian believe that Christ and his apostles taught that sharing the Gospel takes away from God’s sovereign grace.  Yes, Christ says that he has called out a people from this wicked world (John 6:37, 44; Matthew 11:25-27), as does Paul (Ephesians 1:3-4, Romans 8:29-30), as well as Peter (1 Peter 1:3-6).  It comes along the same theme of God calling the people of Israel out from the world (Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8).  

But did not Jesus also say, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28).  Did not Paul say, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29, ESV)?

Ray Van Neste notes concerning Calvin and Calvinism, “Calvin’s doctrine of predestination did not make the preaching of the gospel unnecessary; instead, it made preaching necessary because it was by the preaching of the gospel that God had chosen to save the predestined.”  (I would highly recommend reading the entirety of Van Neste’s article.)  With this, Calvin even set up a school of missions where he would send out missionaries to teach the Gospel that was recovered during the Reformation.  

Conclusion

So if you hear a nasty rumor that Calvinists are not concerned with evangelism, those “Calvinists” are not from the ilk of John Calvin in the least.  We know that God is already at work in those whom He has called— we can evangelize with confidence.

Sermon Posted: The Square of Christianity — How the Church Can Engage the Culture

In Culture, Sermons on September 2, 2008 at 1:01 pm

My sermon on “The Square of Christianity” is now posted.  This sermon, preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church on Sunday, August 31, 2008, received such a good response that we are hoping to include a CD into our archives.  This serves as Part 3 of our four-part series on “Getting Our Church in Shape.”