Men of God

I Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

I was visiting a lady in Grand Manan once whose husband had recently died. Grand Manan is a small island in the Bay of Fundy, a mere 55 square miles in area (compared to Toronto, which is 630 square miles). The Anglican pastor had been in to see her shortly before I had. In Grand Manan, every pastor pastored everybody to a certain degree, because everybody knew everybody and the degrees of separation were a lot closer than 6. In any case, in the course of the conversation, I mentioned that Pastor Atkinson and I were good friends and that we met for prayer and our families got together frequently. “He is a real man of God” she replied.

What did she mean? What is a man of God? In I Timothy 6:11, Paul calls Timothy a “man of God”. Timothy, and my friend, were church leaders; Timothy a pastor and overseer of churches and my friend a pastor. Is that what a man of God is? Well, I hope that pastors are men of God but that is not what the phrase means. Paul is not telling Timothy that because he is a church leader he is a man of God. He is saying that because he is a Christian he is a real man of God. The woman in Grand Manan meant, I think, that my friend took his holiness seriously, he sought to do as God wanted him to do. He lived out the claims of the Gospel in his life. And she was right. People of God are the people that God makes. Gospel changed people – not super saints, not miracle workers. Just saved people who show that they truly are children of God.

Let’s consider a few things about being a “man (woman, mature believer) of God”

Men of God are, in the words of this text, people who flee from sin. They are people who chase after righteousness. They are people who fight the good fight of the faith. They are Christians.

But in these opening thoughts regarding “man of God” let us ask ourselves if we fit the definition. When Paul addresses Timothy here he does not say “O man”. He does not say “O you who have been baptized”, or “O church member”, or “O Pastor”, “O teacher” or “O missionary” or “O you who came forward when the invitation was given”. He says “O man of God”. So here is the question we need to consider about ourselves: Is this text addressed to me? How do you know? How do you know that when Paul says “O man of God, that he could legitimately be talking to you?”

Paul tells Timothy two things he must do, indeed will do, if he is a true man of God, a real Christian. Flee and Pursue. Run away and run toward. These are two essential marks of a true believer/saved person/Christian. Continue reading “Men of God”

Think Different

Ephesians 4:17 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart

The other day I posted about Christian people being different from the world in which they find themselves. We are a counter-culture within a culture. We live for Jesus Christ and that is very different.

Ephesians 4:17 and 18 tell us that such different living begins in the mind. As the old preacher said “You know where Jesus was crucified? At the place of the skull”. And the sanctified life of the church, separate and different from the culture where we reside, begins in the mind. Continue reading “Think Different”

Equipping Verses

Every Sunday at our church we review a verse for memorization. Maybe you are one of the ones who takes part. It’s a great practice. Most of the memorization that I have done has not been the result of sitting down and trying to put a verse to memory. It has come about simply from reading and re-reading texts of Scripture. That said, it is still a valuable practice to work at being able to recite and bring to mind, texts of Scripture, without having to scramble to a concordance, knowing that the Bible says something somewhere about something.

A month ago the Bible Gateway blog posted some handy helps for memorizing Scripture. You can find it here. The very best tip is the last one. “Repeat, repeat, repeat”. And the best way to repeat is to find yourself in the Bile repeatedly. Read whole Books of the Bible in a single setting. Read out loud. Read frequently. Talk to someone else about what you have just read. Pray verses that you have just read.

The verse we are working on this month is Matthew 6:19-21

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We are memorizing twelve verses between March of this year and March of next.  Just one verse a month. We call our verses “Equipping Verses” from II Timothy 3:16-17.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The theme for the verses this year is the child of God’s delight. What does the Bible say about what gives the true follower of Jesus Christ, real joy? The verse on that theme last month was Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

One verse a month. That is not onerous and it certainly is helpful. If you are not a part of our church and you’d like to get in on it, please join us. I’ll try to remember to give the verse each month.

The Gift that Keeps on Taking

The death by suicide of Rick Warren’s son this past weekend awakens pain and opens wounds for those of us who have had to travel the road of recovery from a loved one who takes his or her own life. I am one of those and my heart goes out to the Warren family. The one I lost was not my son, but he was a son and brother and father and husband. It has been ten years now and I still miss him. Someone once said to me that suicide is the gift that keeps on taking. That is truer than I wish.

Stuart was my soul mate and after my wife and children there is no one on the planet I love more. We were brothers for thirty-five years. We were referred to as brothers from different mothers. We were mates, roommates, and soul mates. I was his best man – twice – and he was mine once. We read each other’s minds. Both our wives found it kind of creepy how we knew each others thoughts. How I loved that man. How I love him still.

The last time I spoke to him, on September 16, 2003, he said, “See you in January. I won’t be home for Christmas because I want to be with you for your fiftieth birthday”. He took his life the next day. I conducted his funeral – once in Scotland, where he was living when he died, and once in Toronto at the church I pastor.

Hearing of Rick Warren’s son’s death brings things back quite vividly. We should be praying for the family. What they are going through is very tough.

It will not go away

None of this means that God is less than sufficient or that His comfort is not real and powerful. But it does mean that there is never a time when we do not need it. God’s comfort does not make pain go away. It helps us in the midst of it.

My friend Stuart was a believer. He loved Jesus and according to Pastor Warrren , so did his son. I believe it. Suicide and conversion can, and often do co-exist. Those who think they do not do not know either the Gospel or the ongoing effects of the fall in saved humanity.

Depression and mental illness and the inability to cope are relentless and merciless companions to those who are called to share life with them. How I wish I could make them all just disappear. I cannot. But there is coming a day when there will be no more pain or sorrow or sickness or death. It is an unbelievably great hope. For those who know Christ along with mental and emotional anguish,  I just say, hang on too your hope. It is true. It is real. It is worth living for.

And as heart breaking as it is that there are believers suffering despair of life, there are countless more who share the anguish but do not have the hope of entering the next life to be welcomed into glory. How we who know Christ need to be sensitive to the silent cries that so many scream in the hope that someone will hear them and respond and tell them life is worth living. These people are everywhere. God puts them in our paths. Let’s pray that we see them, take notice of them, get to know them, and befriend them.

Justin Taylor has published links to several articles and sermons dealing with mental illness and suicide. You can find them here .

Ken and Stu

Jesus Is Lord

Luke 20:41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 43     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

In Luke 20:44, Jesus asks “David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

His point in asking this question is that the Messiah, who David bowed down to as Lord, was David’s son. In the culture of Jesus time and place, fathers do not bow down to sons. Sons honour their fathers. Jesus threw a bit of a monkey wrench into that when he said that David called his son, even if he was the Messiah, “Lord”. In Jesus’ culture a father did not call the son Lord. The son called the father Lord. Even if the son was the Messiah. The Messiah, after all was just a man especially equipped by God for the saving of Israel, like Moses was. But no one thought that he would expect, or receive, or want – his father to call him “Lord”.

“How can David call his son ‘Lord’”? And no one can answer the question. Because there is only one way. The only way David can call the Messiah Lord is if the Messiah is over him. But David is King of Israel. And there is only one who the king of Israel bows down to at this point in their history – and that is God Himself. We do not know if any of the religious leaders made that connection, but that is the connection Jesus wants them to make.

But it is not just that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is God. There is even more. “There is more?” What more can there be than to say that the Messiah is the eternal Son of God? Isn’t that enough? Of course it is. But it is not where the Bible stops when it talks about the Lordship of the eternal Son of God. Not at all. It says there is more. What the more is what the Messiah did. Messiah/Christ means anointed one. The Messiah is anointed by God to do a work. He is appointed to do something. The Messiah’s work was to save. Every Jew knew that. Every religious Jew believes it still. The Messiah’s work is to come and restore Israel. His work is to come and save Israel from its enemies. He is to come and make Israel what it was originally intended to be. But even that was too small a thing for the Son of God. All who believe are children of Abraham and the Christ came to make children of Abraham from all the people groups of the world. And that is what Psalm 110 is talking about.

Of critical importance to a proper understanding of Psalm 110, is at what time the prophecy of God saying to His Son “Sit here as Lord”, is pointing. God says “Sit here at my right hand until all your enemies are my footstool. What event is this prophecy referring to? We find out in Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2.

Acts 2:25-36 – For David says concerning him,
” ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
[26] therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
[27] For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
[28] You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
[29] “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. [30] Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, [31] he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. [32] This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. [33] Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. [34] For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
” ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
[35] until I make your enemies your footstool.’
[36] Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Psalm 110 is about what God says to His Son after the death, resurrection and ascension. The Father says Psalm 110:1 to the Son as a result of His obedience in going to the cross, purchasing back His people from hell, triumphing over death itself. What Psalm 110 is doing for us is allowing us a peak into the very council chamber of the eternal trinity and hearing part of the plan of salvation being articulated.

David doesn’t just call Jesus Messiah because He is going to save. He calls Jesus Messiah because He saves through dying and rising from the dead. He defeats the final and most powerful enemy. He rises from the dead and guarantees that all who are in Him will rise from the dead as well. And because of this mind bogglingly great work, God instills Jesus as King over all. Did David know this? When he sat down to write this poem and God put it into his head to write these words, did he know he was talking about the second person of the trinity who would come to earth and live a sinless life and die in the place of His people and rise victorious over sin and hell and death? I have no idea. I doubt it. But it is what the Psalm is about. And it is what Jesus wanted the Sadducees and Pharisees that day to start putting together. And it is what we need to know and love if we are going to honour Jesus Christ as our Lord.

Wasn’t Jesus Lord before the resurrection? Yes. Wasn’t Jesus the Messiah before the resurrection? Yes, of course He was. But when He completed the work He came to do; when he rose from the dead and fully purchased His people and guaranteed their eternal life; when His work was done and He went back to glory, God rewarded Him. And He became Lord as a reward for what He had accomplished. He became Messiah not just as the anointed One but as the reigning King. See what Peter says. Why does the Father say to the Son “Sit here …”? He says it to Him because the Son has defeated death. See Phil. 2:6-9. See I Corinthians 15:20-27a.

Jesus is Lord because God has highly exalted Him to His own right hand because of His death and resurrection. Lord then means reigning King. It means Sovereign Ruler over all that it. It means Jesus has absolute power, control and reign. This is our Saviour. This is the One we call “friend”. This is the One who never leaves us or forsakes us. This is the One who we go to with all our problems, big and small. And this is the one who loves to have us come. Too many Christians still have a Jesus who walks around Galilee, who comes upon them and discovers what is wrong and fixes it. But the wonder of the church’s relationship with Jesus is not that we go to the God Man in His humility and humanity. The wonder of it is that we can go to Him now that He reigns as the uncontested, uncontestable Ruler of everything. He has purchased us by His own blood and now He allows us to call on Him. He allows us to serve Him. He allows us to ask favours of Him. He allows us to worship and sing and pray and speak of Him to others.

There is not a Prime Minister, President, King, Queen, dictator, despot or leader of any kind who would trust me with delivering their coffee. But the One before whom they will all bow one day, says that I am His co-heir, friend, and servant. Bow indeed. How can we who know Him do anything less? This is a stunning reality that brings us to an eternity of joyful worship.

More Great Stuff from CHS

I just found this over at the Gospel Coalition. It is worth more than repeating. It is worth doing.

Why Spurgeon Thought the Plain Preaching of the Gospel Was Sufficient to Grow a Church

Spurgeon:

Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.

Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!

In this house we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. We beseech the people of God to mark that there is no need to try doubtful expedients and questionable methods. God will save by the gospel still: only let it be the gospel in its purity. This grand old sword will cleave a man’s chine [i.e., spine], and split a rock in halves.

How is it that it does so little of its old conquering work? I will tell you. Do you see the scabbard of artistic work, so wonderfully elaborated? Full many keep the sword in this scabbard, and therefore its edge never gets to its work. Pull off that scabbard. Fling that fine sheath to Hades, and then see how, in the Lord’s hands, that glorious two-handed sword will mow down fields of men as mowers level the grass with their scythes.

There is no need to go down to Egypt for help. To invite the devil to help Christ is shameful. Please God, we shall see prosperity yet, when the church of God is resolved never to seek it except in God’s own way.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563

Letters on the Heart

II Corinthians 3 – Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts

The Corinthian church that has two Books of the Bible named after it was a real piece of work. Formed barely thirty years after Jesus lifetime, it is an amazing testimony to the unmerited grace of God, the hard work that progressives sanctification really is, and the propensity of the human heart to gravitate to what is wrong, even after it has been renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Should anyone ever long for the church to become more like the early church, they need to be confronted with their ignorance of the Scriptures and encouraged to read it a little more before they make such brash ungodly desires known in public.

The Corinthian church was awash in all kinds of problems, mostly related to their supreme problem of lovelessness marked by disunity. “I hear there are divisions among you” Paul said and then added, “And I believe it”. If there is any testimony to the truthfulness of the Scriptures’ teaching regarding the depravity of the human heart, the Corinthian church is it and it is an incredibly encouraging thought when people start talking about how far the church has drifted. The church has not drifted very far from Corinth. The heartbreaking thing about this is that we are still marked, as we will be until Jesus comes, by struggle against sin. The encouraging thing about it is that it gives us an answer to those who want us to believe that the church is now in the worst condition it has been in since the dark ages. “No”, we say, “it is in the same condition it has always been in since Pentecost”.

The Christian life is a life of spiritual warfare and the battle has been raging for over two thousand years now with no signs of abatement. This should not make us complacent about our behaviour or our attitudes. Paul did not excuse the Corinthians on the basis of depravity or the fact that Jesus would make everything better once He showed up. But it should make us realize just how real the warfare is and how long it has been raging. Too many believers talk about sanctification as if it is simply a matter of deciding not to sin anymore. Hardly. Becoming more holy demands sixteen ounces to the pound of unrelenting effort and resolve, using all the resources that God has provided and never letting up. This is why the highway to heaven is littered with the armour of Christian soldiers who have ceased to be going onward. This is why Jesus warned us about counting the cost of following Him (Luke 14:25-33). It is why we need to give the whole truth and nothing but the truth when evangelizing non-believers.

Having said all that, we take note of what Paul said to this divided, infighting, lawsuit pursuing, Lord’s Supper desecrating, resurrection denying church, as he wrote the second inspired and quite possibly fourth letter to them. He says, and we need to note it well

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Stand and be utterly gob smacked.

For all their problems, the Corinthian Christians demonstrate that they are true believers who are pursuing, even if ever so haltingly, true righteousness. Paul says here that the Corinthian believers are a letter of recommendation of Paul’s apostleship to others. Honestly now, would you want this bunch to be used to prove the validity of your work? Paul did, not because they got everything all settled. They demonstrably do not. But they do give evidence of being true believers who know and embrace the Gospel. In fact, Paul sees them useful to show that he is a true apostle.

For all their problems and carryings-on, Paul loves these people. What a lesson to the church today. The lesson is not that we overlook doctrinal flaws. When the Corinthians abused the Lord’s Supper and denied the resurrection Paul wrote them and taught them so that they would believe and practice properly. But he corrected them as a man who loved them, even though they were a very strange and disobedient bunch.

Will we only love those who get it the first time round? Will we grow frustrated and impatient with believers who have all kinds of strange understandings and conclude some very strange things? Will we insist that everyone see exactly as we do before we will permit them the title “Christian”? Make no mistake, there are plenty of false Christians in our churches and they need to know the real Gospel. We should give it to them with the love of Christ and remember how much Paul loved these slow learners in Corinth. Would he have seen them as a letter written on his heart if they showed no signs of growth after twenty or thirty years? Would he have them on his heart if they had not responded to his correctives?

But the point here is that Paul loved these people. He loved them when they were wacky and he loved them when they responded to his corrections. He loved them when they wrote and asked him questions. He loved them when some of them were believing lies about him. While he was rebuking them they were a letter written on his heart. While he was commanding them to rid themselves of immoral people from their midst he had them in his heart. When some in the church had died because of their abuse of the Lord’s Supper he was loving them. When he was so angry with them that he postponed a visit, he loved them. It is a grand testimony about what Christian leadership and behaviour is about.

Love, Paul told these very people, is patient and kind, does not rejoice in wrong and bears, believes and hopes all things in others. Paul demonstrated this to these Corinthians and let them know that it came from his heart.

God has been good to us in letting us know about this relationship. May it help us to have the kind of heart for one another that Paul had for them.