Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Can You Stand Next to the Truth and Not See It?

One of the lines from U2's current hit, "I Know I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" is "How can you stand next to the truth and not see it...change of heart comes slow." As I look back on my Christian life, I can give my "Amen!" to the truth of that verse. It is a sad Amen, however...because much pain results from change coming so slowly.

I began my Christian life shooing out of the gate like a rocket...or so I thought! It was something new that I could pour myself I had done with swimming and basketball and academics throughout my life. It wasn't too long into the Christian-life-thing that I realized it was different. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to maintain a sense of peace before God based on my performance and a matter of fact, the harder I tried, often the more defeated I felt!!

It was years before I realized that I had never visited the truths of the Gospel that must lay the foundation of Christian living...above all, the truth of justification by grace through faith...the promise of the Gospel of grace that through hope in Christ, God looks at me "just-as-if-I'd" never sinned and "just-as-if-I'd" perfectly obeyed His commands (see the Heidelberg Catechism Question #60!).

When I began to be gripped by such a gospel, my spiritual life changed, and it was as if for the first time, as Francis Schaeffer wrote in True Spirituality, "the sun came out and the song came!"

My first thought was, "If THIS is the Gospel, then how come I haven't heard it before?" I soon learned that lessons of grace had been all around me, I just didn't have the eyes to see or the ears to hear...I stood "next to the truth" and did not see it! Here's one example: as a new believer in Christ I read Oswald Chambers' devotional, "My Utmost for His Highest." Just this morning my sweet bride sent me this morning's devotional from that classic it slowly, especially in light of what I've just written:

"I realize I am saved by believing. It isnot repentance that saves me, repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause. It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration. Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died.

When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly the stupendous Atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God; and by the supernatural miracle of God's grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, not because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done. The Spirit of God brings it with a breaking, all-over light, and I know, though I do not know how, that I am saved.

The salvation of God does not stand on human logic, it stands on the sacrificial Death of Jesus. We can be born again because of the Atonement of Our Lord. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures, not by their repentance or their belief, but by the marvellous work of God in Christ Jesus which is prior to all experience. The impregnable safety of justification and sanctification is God Himself. We have not to work out these things ourselves; they have been worked out by the Atonement. The supernatural becomes natural by the miracle of God; there is the realization of what Jesus Christ has already done - "It is finished.""

I had read that devotional as a young believer...probably multiple times! It went right over my slipped right off my "teflon" heart!

So, how can you stand next to the truth and not see it...easily...VERY easily....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Water Cannons

There are worship wars in the church today...what style is Biblical, what instruments should be used, should only hymns be sung or only contemporary music used? What is more relevant, etc. Thankfully at Oak Mountain we have been spared such battles. However, water wars are another matter altogether. By God's providence, Oak Mountain is a Presbyterian Church placed smack-dab in the middle of one of the most staunchly Baptist strong-holds in the country...not that there's anything wrong with that! For the most part evangelical Baptists and evangelical Presbyterians agree on most things.

One of the things that is hotly debated, however, is baptism...the mode and the subjects of baptism. Baptists assert that the only subjects of Baptism are people who profess faith in Jesus Christ and the only Biblical mode is immersion. Presbyterians believe that people who profess faith in Jesus Christ AND THEIR CHILDREN are the proper subjects of baptism and the truly Biblical mode is sprinkling.

Let me say that no one's eternal destiny depends on where you come down on this issue. Let me also say, however, that I do believe there are huge practical implications and even "blessings of grace" involved in where we stand on this doctrine. The only thing that I really get bothered by in this discussion is thoughtless blather that doesn't even take the debate to Scripture. Tradition alone is not where the debate should take place...for any Christ-follower the discussion must take place at a Biblical/Theological level.

So, for those of you who are desiring some real substance to the debate, let me offer what I feel are some important passages to consider:

I would always begin with Colossians 2:11-12 where Paul basically equates circumcision and baptism (which then begs the question of who the proper subjects of baptism are because circumcision was applied to 8 day old male infants as well as adult men who would convert to Judaism);

Then I would turn to Acts 2:38-39, where ALL the Jews at Pentecost understood the Covenant language of baptism as referring to Abraham and circumcision and children of believers; children Peter even expressly refers to. No Jew present could fail to make the connection between Genesis 17 and the baptism that Peter is talking about in Acts 2; Genesis 17, which alongside Romans 4:11, answers the Baptist objection that baptism is an outward sign of an already inwardly present faith. We know that saving faith that brings a right relationship with God could NOT be present when circumcision was applied to an infant...yet it WAS still the sign of faith and the righteousness that comes by faith...and was commanded by God to be applied to the infant!

Then I would refer you to Ezekiel 36:24-32 as a passage that brings the symbolism of both circumcision and baptism together.

Finally, I would also say that the mode of SPRINKLING is present in the statements made in Hebews 9:13,19,21, Hebrews 10:22, Hebrews 11:28, Hebrews 12:24 and 1 Peter 1:2.

In my mind, especially in light of Acts 2:38-39, NO LONGER INCLUDING CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS IN THE COVENANT SIGN OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH would be a change among God's people so incredibly dramatic, that a change of such magnitude would have to be PLAINLY AND CLEARLY taught. It is NOT clearly taught in the New Testament. Therefore, apart from such clear teaching, the evidence is clearly on the side of infant baptism continuing the Biblical tradition of infants of believers being recipients of the sign of grace. I would say to my Baptistic friends (and they ARE friends and fellow family members in Christ!), I don't need to show you where infant baptism is taught in a verse; rather, you would need to show me clearly that the covenant sign applied to children of believers has ceased.

Happy studying!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who is FIRST?

Two of the best quarterbacks in college football...Sam Bradford, he plays for Oklahoma...he won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football last year. If he would have gone pro early, before graduation, he would have been offered millions and millions of dollars. He came back to play another year...and he got hurt. He recently he did this video with Colt McCoy, the quarterback of Texas, archrival to Oklahoma. After being hurt earlier in the year, Sam came back and played on Saturday, against Texas and Colt McCoy...he got hurt again...probably resulting in the loss of millions of dollars. He believes God has a plan for him and he is willing, along with Colt McCoy, to be SECOND, with the Lord first. After he got hurt on Saturday, ESPN interviewed him briefly...obviously he had no prep time to develop a thoughtful answer...he spoke in the same terms he uses in this video...God has a plan...I'll trust Him! Wow! Are you willing to say Christ is first, I am second?! Cry out for grace!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Clock is Running

I had the privilege of seeing U2 perform in Dublin at Croke Park on July 24. The local papers summed up my own assessment...perhaps one of the greatest U2 gigs ever! Now I get the chance to see them again in Atlanta tonight...with my youngest son.

One of the things that struck me during the concert in Croke Park was how many times the screens flashed a countdown; a stopwatch-like clock running down. I wondered during the concert what it meant, and I've thought about it several times since. I'm looking forward to seeing it all again tonight!

But what does it mean? Last night, I was reading Psalm 90, A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. In verses 12-13, Moses writes these words:

So teach us to number our days

that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Return, O LORD! How long?

The clock is ticking…so we must number our days…We only have so many days. Do we live in light of that reality?

We are to live in light of the fact that we only have so many hours to make a difference in this life. The more we live in light of our mortality, often the more wisely we live out our days. When we realize the clock is ticking, we more easily focus on what is important.

The clock is ticking.

Notice the line that we see several times in U2 lyrics: “How long?” In Sunday Bloody Sunday, in 40, we sing along with U2, “How long? How long to sing this song?” The clock is ticking...the Return of Christ is nearer today than it was yesterday. Moses prays: Return, O LORD! How long?

Perhaps U2 is calling us all to think about numbering our days. The time is short. Live in such a way to maximize your minutes. Make a difference! Live with purpose! Don't just exist…live!

If you’re going to the concert (or have already been), notice the emphasis on time. Even if you are NOT going to the concert…Time is winding down.

Time is running out…will you number your days?

See 1 Corinthians 7:29-31!

The clock is ticking...

Monday, October 5, 2009


Because of the Fall, because of our brokenness, we are all thirsty in this life. We may not even recognize our thirst, but it's there. It's built into our souls. We ARE a thirsty people. What we thirst for, ultimately, is Christ. The heart demands a drink that only Jesus can serve up. That drink is Himself, poured into our hearts by His Spirit (see John 7:38).

We can drink deeply of Christ, free of charge, without cost (see Isaiah 55:1-2). However, if we fail to drink of Christ, we will STILL drink...we will always live in such a way as to attempt to quench our thirst. If we don't drink of Christ and the promises of grace contained in the Gospel, we will seek drink elsewhere.

We are a people that so easily ignore the Gospel and go after other wells (see Jeremiah 2:13). Those "other wells" are also called idols. An idol is not a statue of wood or gold in our day. An idol is simply anything we pursue in an attempt to secure a pain-free life. An idol is any "drink" we pour ourselves in an attempt to cope with life apart from Christ. Think through a list of all the idols you are tempted to pursue.

Throughout the day today, we WILL drink...and we will constantly be on the look out for things to quench our thirst. The question is, will we drink of Him Who Satisfies; or will we drink of that which is like a mouthful of salt-water...drinks that just magnify and increase our thirst, leaving us frustrated?