Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Taking Care Of What You Hear, Part II (Producing the Fruit)

In Sermons on January 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Go back to Luke 8:18: “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” Again, back to the Parable of the Soils. The seed of the Word of God has been planted in your hearts. The good soil which holds on, bears fruit with patience. Thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold.

Now what? “Take care then how you here, for to the one who has, more will be given.” The fruit borne with patience (or perseverance) may take time, but we hold on knowing the full effect of the Word on our hearts. It’s by the Word of Truth, the gospel, that we are saved and maintained. We hear the Word so more seed may be planted, more fruit borne in the gospel, and the abundance helps us persevere and be nourished.

Christians who have the Word of God must put it into practice as that fruit is being borne and growing. John 15:8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” If we seek to spread God’s glory from our neighbors to the nations, then we must bear fruit. How? John 15:8 says to bring glory to God. Meaning we should do nothing that is contrary to His nature, work, will, and plan.

I was reading an article about how some plant owners grow easily frustrated when their fruit trees fail to grow any fruit early on. Some then begin to give up on their growth, but this article brought in some important factors.

Size and age. Standard apple, peach, and apricot trees take 3-5 years to grow fruit. Why? They need time to mature and develop. So too with the young Christian. Psalm 1 says the righteous one is planted by streams, yielding great fruit and growth in Christ.

Sun Exposure: A tree in full to partial shade is fighting an uphill battle. Fruit trees can survive in partial shade, but they will take longer to begin bearing fruit. We do not want to get by on partial sunlight, but on the full light of the gospel of Christ and His glory. We just read from the Word that it’s a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. But the Son also feeds us the nutrients we need.

Soil Fertility: Fruit trees, like all plants, require some nutrients to survive. But excessively rich soil or heavy fertilization may encourage branch and leaf growth at the expense of fruit production. Did we not find out from Jesus that we need the proper soil to be ready to receive His word?

Pruning: All fruit trees benefit from annual pruning, if done in moderation. Pruning rejuvenates fruit trees and encourages the growth of fruiting spurs. Removing more than a third of the tree could have just the opposite effect you were going for and stimulate more branches, as the tree repairs itself, and no fruit. Lack of regular, moderate pruning is one of the most common causes of no fruit production. The Christian needs to prune as well. We need to prune away areas of sin of the pleasures, cares, and interests of the world so they don’t choke out the Word (Luke 8:14).

So not only does Jesus tell us to take care of how we hear, we need to take care of the Word that is heard, so that fruit may bear. Why? “…and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” What we must understand is that this is not simply talking about in this life, but also in reference to the Day of Judgment. You have the Word?  Persevere, then more will be given.  Reject the Word?  Then what you claim to have will be taken away.

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A Hunger for God: Wisdom from A.W. Tozer

In Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, Sermons on November 10, 2008 at 5:54 pm

In A.W. Tozer’s classic and life-changing work, The The Pursuit of God, he noted the role that religious leaders must place in recognizing the need for a hunger and thirst for God.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. …

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts (pp. 8-10).

What is interesting is that Tozer wrote this in 1948. What do you think? Is Tozer on to something here?

Sermon Posted: “That’s a ‘When’ When It Comes to Fasting” (Matthew 6:16-18)

In Church Life, Sermons on September 30, 2008 at 9:46 am

I am thankful for the wonderful response to God’s Word, especially in regards to the issue of fasting.  This sermon was preached on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.

Here’s an excerpt:

David Legge noted in a recent sermon that “Prayer is attaching yourself to God, but fasting is detaching yourself from the earth.” Whatever definition you want to put on fasting, few would equal that one. It is a renewed focus away from the things of earth It is a humbling of yourself before God, bringing your body into subjection through discipline.

These particular verses really turned the focus of what fasting was about in transitioning from the Old Testament to the New. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people celebrated various Holy Days. For instance, on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) there would be a day of fasting and mourning over their own sins and the sins of a nation. The sacrifices offered that day were scene as ways that they may be reconciled to God for their sins. This served as the only time in the OT on which the people of Israel were commanded directly to fast.

Yet other fasts cropped up. We read about them in Joel when national disasters took place. Nineveh fasted after hearing the reluctant preaching of Jonah. Fasting even took place under Samuel as a part of national revival.

Yet for the most part, fasting prior to Jesus’ time was about repentance of sin that transformed the covenant child into selfless human being. Fasting would be undertaken in order to sacrifice for repentance of sin and looking outward for justice among the people. Look at this passage in Isaiah 58:1-7:

Does this mean Jesus did not care for food? Hardly! In fact, the biggest condemnation the Pharisees gave to Jesus was that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. His most amazing miracle to us is his feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). His focus was on his soul and mind being galvanized to the will of His Father, dependent on nothing in the meantime.

“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet;

declare to my people their transgression,

to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily

and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that did righteousness

and did not forsake the judgment of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments;

they delight to draw near to God.

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,

and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day

will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose,

a day for a person to humble himself?

Is it to bow down his head like a reed,

and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast,

and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Yet, with Jesus, the issue of fasting became very different. We see in Matthew 4 that Jesus went out and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Why? Was it for repentance of sin? We know from Scripture and from clear reason that Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:21). So what was he doing? One commentator put it so rightly, “He was gathering strength not by eating and resting but by fasting and praying.”

Yet did Jesus seem outwardly strengthened? No, not at all. In fact, Satan tempted him with food and fame and fortune—the very things that Jesus would have struggled with to get him out of his situation. But he said no. Clearly, through his responses to Satan, he found himself feasting on prayer and the Word.

That’s a “When” When It Comes To Giving (Matthew 6:1-4)

In Church Life, Sermons on September 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm

When I was young, I would watch or be familiar with shows on TV that had some pretty interesting characters. Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch, Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island, Archie Bunker from All in the Family, Hawkeye Pierce from MASH. As a kid, I could never separate the actor from the person in real life. And often times, these actors were quite different from the characters they portrayed.

While this may throw us a bit, what is even more concerning is when someone who portrays a believer and a follower of Christ is nothing like the character he or she portrays.

As we get into Matthew 6, we find Jesus addressing three particular areas of our Christian devotional life: giving to the needy (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-15), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). But all of these issues come from what Jesus says in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” While some versions say for us to beware of giving alms, the oldest and best manuscripts state that Jesus is merely speaking in general of appearing righteous before men in order to receive praise from men.

Matthew 5 dealt with the inner moral requirements found in the heart. Chapter six is now dealing with the outward religious requirements and the motives behind those religious works. We find ourselves wanting the approval of those who are just like us. Jesus moves back to Matthew 5:19-20:

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

And now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of our religious rituals. Are we doing them to help and grow, or are we doing them so we can be seen helping, giving, and fasting? Dan Doriani in his commentary asks the appropriate question: are we desiring to be holy, or are we driving toward hypocrisy?

Let’s look at Matthew 6:2-4:

1. When you give, what reason do you have?

As we mentioned last week, there are numerous places to give: humanitarian efforts, missions work, charities, churches, television ministries, campus ministries, churches—there is no end. Each of these makes often legitimate cases for your giving. What makes you give to them?

Sadly, many give for what they can get out of it. When I worked in college at a local grocer, I would find myself witnessing to a lot of guys I went to high school with. One told me that he was up late at night going through some particular issue, when a TV minister put his hand toward the TV and said, “I sense someone is out there with a ______________ problem. Send $100 to our ministry and I will send you an anointed prayer towel. Just pray with this in hand, and God will hear and answer.” Sometimes we give thinking that by giving, God will materially bless us.

Yet, some of us are moved by pictures of needy children all over the world and give to these organizations. That’s a good sign. Jesus said, “When you give to the needy.” The operative word is needy. In fact, when the early church began, this area of giving and helping those in need was a very distinguishing mark for Christians. James Montgomery Boice noted

Before Christ’s time there were no homes for the sick or poor, no orphanages. There was a world of toil and poverty, of the exposure of unwanted children, of slavery, of great hunger side by side with great affluence, and appalling indifference. After Christ came there was an instant and sacrifical love of the believers for each other. This was followed by care for the poor, hospitals, reform laws in the status of women, the establishing of change in labor laws, the abolition of slavery, and other things.

Understand that giving is not optional, but it is a sign of obedience—especially if it is for the right reason.

What kind of heart do we have when we give? Part of being God’s covenant people is that we give to the needy. As Eric read earlier from Deuteronomy 15, God commanded and expected his people to help their poor and needy brother. Why? Remember that Deuteronomy is all about Moses giving his last marching orders to the people of Israel before they entered into the Promised Land. But where did they come from? From being enslaved and mistreated in Egypt. God delivered them from their slavery and would always remind them of their former condition.

While the Jews of Jesus’ time did give, it was more of a ritual and very external. Yet, we must realize that giving must not be a ritual, but a matter of a relationship. You see, when we give, we really give unto the Lord. Remember Malachi 3:6-10:

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. [7] From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ [8] Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. [9] You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. [10] Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Remember this: when we do not give, we are robbing Him. Yes, we are giving to the needy, but remember there is a spiritual need as well, and God expects his people to give to the storehouse of the local church to which they belong so that physical and spiritual needs may be met.

2. When you give, what reward do you seek?

Rewards. Many people have this conversation about rewards. Will Billy Graham have more rewards in heaven than a regular Christian? Some ask these with their main concern being what kind of ‘stuff’ will we have in heaven.

Yet, I believe this is the wrong angle to take. Heaven is not earth. Beulah Land is not America. Getting to heaven is not the equivalent of obtaining the American Dream where we have everything we want and more. We think about our life and what blessings God can give us both now and in the by-and-by.

Yet, Jesus comes along and in a span of six verses mentions the word ‘reward’ four times. Go back and look at Matthew 5:46-47:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Notice in Matthew 6:2

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Both of these verses deal with a false desire for a false reward. The great snare for many was to give for the praise of men. Those in Jesus’ times were particularly snared because the model being presented by the religious leaders was one of drawing great attention to oneself. When the trumpet sounded from the Temple for a time of giving, the Pharisee would drop what he is doing and rush toward the Temple, giving a great sign to everyone that he was spiritual—he’s going to the Temple to give! But it went even further.

The scribes and the Pharisees even believed that the more one gave, the more sin was forgiven. In one of their writings, we read, “As water will quench a flaming fire, so charity will atone for sin” (The Wisdom of Sirach 3:30). The Pharisees, in a way, felt they could buy their way to heaven with the amount of money they gave to the needy. But ultimately, what they wanted was recognition from men. And since that’s what they desired, that is just the reward they received—but no more!

The word Jesus uses is the word ‘hypocrites’ – as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he is not, much like the actor in a play.

Do we do this? Ask yourselves these questions:

• Will we only give to the needy if someone is around to see us give it?
• Will we give to the church, but only if our name is on a plaque by a window or a nameplate in book or Bible?
• Do you find yourselves “accidentally” bringing up how much you give?
• Do you give, but only if there is no monetary sacrifice, but if there is, you find excuses not to give? In other words, will you only give when you are “financially settled?”
• Sometimes we just give with the expectation of gratitude to the one to whom we give.
• Sometimes, people will only give if things are going well at church, but will withhold their giving if things are not—using it as leverage for implementing change they want to see.

What reward do we seek? The question is, at this point, what reward should we seek? Jesus answers this in Matthew 6:3-4:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This is an interesting picture. Jesus here is saying, “Be discreet—very discreet.” MacArthur says, “The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten.” When our right hand gives, we should be discreet even from our left hand, not to mention other people.

So are we to give in secret? Does this mean that every good work we do should be done in secret so no one else knows about it? What about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” So is Jesus saying in one place that people need to “see your good works” and in other place do like your Christian life and duty out in secret? No, the similarity still stands: what is the end result of your good works, to receive praise from men or from God? Wherever you seek praise from, from that same place your reward will come as well.

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!

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.”

“The Triangle of Christianity” Sermon Is Now Posted

In church, Church Life, church membership, Sermons on August 25, 2008 at 3:41 pm

I am in the midst of preaching a four-part series of “Getting Our Church in Shape.” The first sermon dealt with the Straight Line of Christianity in that we are to maintain continually our relationship with Christ at all times and at all costs.

This Sunday’s sermon was on the Triangle of Christianity. This sermon explores the reasons why we should join a local church. Here’s an excerpt from the first point dealing with “Growth and Maturity.”

God gives children to families so that we may be instruments of his to help them grow and mature. It’s amazing watching children grow and flourish how curious they get. Sometimes that curiosity is cute, other times that curiosity is quite dangerous. Being curious in watching the parents do something and then imitating them is cute. Being curious to see how a knife works or what happens if you jump from the fifth step of your stairs can be dangerous. Parents are there to help young children grow and mature to stay safe and to set an example.

We join a local church family so we may grow and mature in the faith. That commitment and investment in itself helps develop focus and disciple. We read in the New Testament how God used Paul, Barnabus, Silas, John Mark and others to plant churches all over Asia Minor. He intentionally planted churches in specific locations so people in those communities would have a place to get under the gospel.

Paul told the Colossian church in Colossians 1:28-29:

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.

God has placed pastors and churches in specific locations to proclaim Christ. Paul says that I’m there to warn and to teach with all wisdom in order for Christians to grow and mature in Christ. This was where Paul’s struggle was — pouring himself out in local churches so that they would pursue Christ and cast off every other bondage and hindrance.

This is why Mark Dever, an expert on church matters, notes, “The preaching must be faithful to Scripture, personally challenging and central to the congregation’s life. You will only grow spiritually where Scripture is treated as the highest authority.”

God Wants Me to Love … Them? (Part I: No Partiality To Our Love and Prayers)

In Church Life, Culture, Politics, Sermons on July 30, 2008 at 4:29 pm

(This sermon was preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on July 27, 2008. To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, ESV).

For over thirty years, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood graced the PBS landscape with a small question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Honestly, I made fun of that show when I was middle school and high school. Mr. (Fred) Rogers was just nice, but as I grew older, I realized how important his message was. Rogers was a Christian and his Christian worldview permeated every skit he did. Everyone had value. Everyone had a purpose for being on earth. Everyone (and many would groan when he said this) was special.

Do we find this corny and cheesy, or do we find some kernel of truth in it? I pray we do, because this echoes much of what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-48. In this passage, Jesus sets up this teaching by saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” We recognize the biblical understanding of “love your neighbor.” The question arose, “Well, who is my neighbor?”

According to the Jews, they would look around and say, “Well, the surrounding nations couldn’t be my neighbor! They worship false gods, and we worship the one true God. They offer abominable sacrifices. They aren’t my neighbor.” Then they would look to the Samaritans. “ They aren’t my neighbor. They are half-breeds, with Jewish blood mixed in with Assyrian blood. I won’t even walk on Samaritan soil.” They would even look at many of their Jewish brothers and tell themselves, “Well, we are the religious leaders, the intelligentsia of Israel. Everyone looks up to us. We are special. We cannot consider the common riff-raff our neighbor.”

Do you see what happened? Only those who were just like them were considered their neighbor. Those who looked and thought exactly like they did. They began to view everything through their own narrowly man-made glasses.

This most certainly penetrates where we live, does it not? How do you view people differently from you? Those who may be in a different tax bracket, have a different educational background, live in different types of neighborhoods. Some have “spiritual” differences: different denominations, use different versions of the Scriptures, praise and worship in different ways. How do you view them? Do you feel your station, your views, your ways are superior for whatever reason — even if those people are made in the image of God and, in the spiritual sense, are redeemed by the blood of Jesus?

Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He had to set the entire Jewish community (and us) straight concerning their relationships to one another. In fact, the entirety of Matthew 5 in dealing wit the relationship of Kingdom people to one another in dealing with anger, lust, divorce, words and retaliation all come to consummation here. We are to love and pray for all, not just our friends or those who are like us, but also for those who are “enemies” to us personally or who are contrary to our lifestyles. We are to emulate Jesus — for this is not a super-spiritual status meant for the select few. Jesus not only sets the principle, but as we will see, lived it out to the fullest degree.

1. Our love and prayers should show no partiality.

Again, Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. They go together. Our flesh says, “Hate your enemies and get revenge on those who persecute you.” What is Jesus driving at here?

The Scriptures use a number of words for ‘love.’ ‘Philia’ is a friendship type of love—a brotherly love. ‘Eros’ is a sexual type of love reserved for marriage (or at least should be) and is where we get the word erotic. ‘Storge’ is a type of love between members of a family. Yet, Jesus uses another word to describe this love: ‘agape.’ What is this? This type of love is a sacrificial love which puts self aside for the sake of the Kingdom and for others.

This is the type of love Jesus describes. This is the type of love we extend to our enemies. Yet, the Pharisees didn’t get this. They saw the command from Leviticus 19:18 which said “Love your neighbor as yourself,” dropped the ‘as yourself part’ and just assumed the corollary, “and hate your enemy.” As studied as they were in the Old Testament, they missed the fact that in no place in the Old Testament does it say to ‘hate your enemy.’

For example: in Deuteronomy 16:19, Moses commanded the judges to “not pervert justice. You shall show no partiality.” In Proverbs 25:21-22, the Proverbist writes:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.

Where did they go wrong? They allowed their own cultural prejudices cloud the Spirit’s work in their hearts. They called themselves people of God, yet some prejudice took root in their hearts and they began to divide themselves from others.

Aren’t we guilty of that? I’ve seen Baptists have a hatred for other denominations, Republicans and Democrats have a hatred for one another, the rich and a hatred for the poor and the poor for the rich. Even Christians who have a hatred for those who are abortion practitioners, homosexuals, pornographers, etc.

Does God have a ‘hatred’ for them? The Scriptures do say that God is angry with the wicked every day that that his wrath is being poured out against ungodliness and wickedness as a consequence of those who rebel against him. But consider Romans 5:6-8: :

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

You see, outside of Christ, we are enemies. When Christ saves us from our sin, we are no longer enemies but friends. If Christ lives in us, then he will lead us in exemplifying this type of love.