A Mental Buffet // 16 Mar 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.

Does God Love Everyone the Same? – Jeff Robinson

“God’s love for sinners should always astound and humble us. It must never be reduced to a merely academic matter. Rightly did the psalmist wonder, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:4).”

 

Don’t Settle for Jesusy Advice – Matt Johnson

“If you’ve been told that the core of Christian faith is about your ongoing transformation by making good on all the Jesusy advice, you’re getting ripped off.”

 

Jesus Will Finish the Mission – John Piper

“The grace of missionary service is as irresistible as the grace of regeneration. Christ can promise universal proclamation because he is sovereign. He knows the future success of missions because he makes the future. All the nations will hear!”

 

The Image of God and the Quest for Holiness – David Long

“Being the people of God is a matter of having one’s very being restored to the image of God. In Paul’s terms, it is being conformed to the image of Christ.”

Reflections on the Valley of Vision: Sincerity, Part 1: Some Thoughts on Authenticity

reflections-of-sincerity

“You desire truth in the inward being;
Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret being.”
– Psalm 51:6, NRSV

(Full prayer may be read here)

In this post, I mostly want to share some introductory thoughts going into the prayer, and in the next post, I’ll give some personal thoughts and commentary over the prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I have doubts about my salvation. Sometimes the thought plagues my mind that I could be one of those to whom  Jesus says, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!” (Matthew 7:23, ISV)

When this happens, I often pray from the Valley of Vision because there are times when I know what I want to pray, but I can’t seem to find the words, and usually when I read the prayers I think, “This is exactly how I’m feeling and this is exactly what I want to say to God.” I had one of those moments this past Sunday as I was flipping through the Valley of Vision and came across the prayer for sincerity. It was so fitting because I believe that God’s people just aren’t authentic enough in their faith.

Not all Christians feel this way. Some people think, I suppose, that we should drink lemon juice for communion so we look holier. Bill Muehlenberg wrote, what I would describe as, an almost scathing article against the idea of “authentic” Christianity. He made statements like, “Forget this foolishness of avoiding hypocrisy by embracing and settling for carnality and second-rate Christianity….Forget this lousy talk about “authenticity” and start talking about biblical holiness.” Now, all that talk of ‘biblical holiness’ sounds nice to the red tie-wearing, conservative, church goer that arrives to worship 15 minutes early every Sunday, makes sure they always have the same spot in the sanctuary, but reality is that biblical holiness is not something we can accomplish in and of ourselves. Holiness is given to us in Christ. That’s the only way one can reconcile Ephesians 2:8 (“by grace you are saved and not of works”) and Hebrews 12:14 (“without holiness no man shall see the Lord) without believing that you can lose your salvation or that you have to finish the work of salvation.

We’re not perfect. We struggle. We fall. We sin. And we have a tendency to hide behind a mask and we may (intentionally or unintentionally) lead people to think that we’re better than what we are. Dr. Steve Brown said “Christians are masters at hidden agendas and masks” and I couldn’t agree more. We all have a mask that we like hiding behind because it’s comfortable so that’s when I read the prayer for Sincerity in the Valley of Vision, I feel convicted of my sin and yet at the same time I’m comforted because I access to the Father by His grace so I don’t have to wear a mask in front of Him. He knows how bad I am and He loves me anyway.

There’s no reason to have a mask on before the throne of grace. Jesus has seen all the ugly parts and He’s not going anywhere. In Hebrews 13, the writer reminds his audience in verse 5 that Jesus has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and then in verse 8 the writer says boldly that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Life is unstable and the challenges that we face in life can cause us to become unstable, but Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is stable foundation you can build your life on. Trust Him.

Resources:

The Valley of Vision

Agendas and Masks by Steve Brown

Hidden Agendas with Steve Brown

And if you thought the Muehlenberg article was bad, check out “Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?” by Brett McCracken on The Gospel Coalition.

Sermon Notes: “Believing The Shepherd”

sheep

(These are the notes from a sermon that I preached a while back. Feel free to use them for your own study. Note, this is not a manuscript so some of the thoughts may seem scattered.)

Text: John 10:22-30

Introduction
I like using the Lectionary when I’m trying to decide what passage I need to preach because it will force you deal with things in the passage you may not feel comfortable dealing with. In a way, I think we should all (preacher or layman) get on some kind of a reading plan that will force us to read the Bible as a whole because you will find yourself in parts of the Bible that you ordinarily wouldn’t read and you’ll end up learning some things you didn’t know before, and you end up in a situation where the Bible confronts you and begins to tear at the fabric of what you were always taught to believe, and when this happens we need to let the Bible drive any of our pre-conceived notions that do not line up with what we’re reading in Scripture.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” ― John R.W. Stott

So tonight, I’ll be using John 10:22-30 as my main passage, but I will be jumping around to different parts of Scripture so that I can show you what the Bible forces us to deal with as we read this passage and seek to understand it’s meaning.

At the beginning of this passage, there’s three things we need to notice about the setting. There’s an important place, an important person, and an important party.

Important Person – Jesus the Messiah, the Jewish leaders have been hounding Him to tell them plainly if He is, in fact, the Messiah. And if you are paying attention to the chronology of John, then you’ll notice that this actually one of the more humorous passages in the Gospels and you’ll see why in a little bit.

Important Place – The Temple, more specifically, Solomon’s porch. “This place is important; it was the porch or portico on the east side of the Temple and was called the “Porch of Judgment.” From this location, the King would make his judgments and exercise justice for those who were brought before him. And here is Jesus strolling through this historic location, physically embodying justice in this place of justice — something his life and teachings were all about.”

Important Party – The Feast of Dedication, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, and today this event is known as Hanukkah. The Jews celebrated (and still celebrate) Hanukkah to remember a time when God kept the lamps in the temple burning for eight days even though there was only enough oil to last one day due to an oil shortage because of war in the land at that time.

As we keep these things in mind, let’s also notice that Jesus has been in Jerusalem since the Feast of Tabernacles which you read about in John 7 and He has been periodically teaching in the temple and revealing Himself as the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament.

Our 3 points will be the following:
The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
The Reason for Belief (verse 27)
The End Result (verses 28-29)

The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
Notice what verse 26 says, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” It doesn’t say “you are not of my sheep because you do not believe.” See, we can’t simply look at the passage and say, “Well then, their problem is that they simply do not believe. They’re just blatantly ignoring the facts.” While there’s truth to that, the problem isn’t simply unbelief, unbelief is only a symptom of a greater disease. The greater disease is deadness in sin. Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2, “You were dead in your sins.”

We often like to imagine Jesus as a lifeguard that throws us a life saver as we’re drowning in the sea of sin, but that analogy wrong, because Paul says the wages of sin is death. So, if you’re not saved, then you’re not sick in your sins, you’re not the brink of death in your sins, you’re dead in your sins.

So then, Jesus isn’t some lifeguard that throws you a life saver, He actually swims to the bottom of the ocean and carries your corpse up out of the sea, and breathes into you, the breath of life. So, then the problem people do not believe what Jesus is plainly telling them isn’t simply unbelief, it’s unbelief as a result of dead men walking in their sin.

In another place, Jesus makes a clear distinction between sheep and goats, so if Jesus is telling these Jews, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” then it must follow that they are goats. And Jesus says, there will come a day when He separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left hand.
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41 NRSV]

Jesus is making the clear distinction, unless you believe what He says about Himself in the Scriptures and follow Him, then you are nothing more than unbelieving goat.
“How do I know if I’m a sheep or a goat?” It’s simple. Do you desire to follow Christ and believe what He says? Then you’re a sheep. If you’re confronted with Scripture, and it doesn’t phase you or change you, then you’re a goat. Sheep love and follow Jesus.

The Reason for Belief (verse 27)

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” – [John 10:27 NRSV]

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” – [John 10:1-5 NRSV]

What is He saying here? When the shepherd calls, the sheep follow.

Do you remember that old song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? In the old school, when someone would make a decision for Christ, we would strike up the band and sing “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” That’s all well and good as long as we understand we don’t make the decision on our own apart from the inward drawing of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
– [John 6:44-45 KJV]

Let’s look at verse 45 in the NRSV just to good grasp of the meaning…
“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” – [John 6:45 NRSV]

Notice, Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets…” Anytime you see that phrase mentioned, you need to look in the Old Testament to the passage that is being quoted and read it in context.

“And they all shall be taught by God.” – Although this is not a direct, word for word quote, Jesus pulls this from two passages in the Old Testament that speak of the same event – the promise of the New Covenant.

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
– [Jeremiah 31:33-34 NRSV]

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your children.” – [Isaiah 54:13 NRSV]

Here’s the big question: What does all this mean for us? It means that God, in love, has brought us into His covenant and placed us in fellowship with a covenant community of believers.

It means that our belief does not come from within us, it comes from God who loves us, draws us, saves us, sanctifies us, and will one day, glorify us. God is the cheif operator in our salvation, not us. John makes that clear at the beginning of His gospel account in John 1.

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
– [John 1:11-13 KJV]

Prior to being born again, we were enemies of God without hope in the world, but the will of God intervened for us, and drew us to a point in our lives where we knew we had to come to Jesus or be lost forever.

The End Result (verses 28-29)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” – [John 10:27-29 KJV]

Let’s think about John 3:16 for a second. We know John 3:16, we love John 3:16, we can all quote John 3:16. We don’t dispute it. Yet, when it comes to verses like John 10:28-29, we want to say, “God gives them eternal life, but…” or “I know it says no one can pluck us out of God’s hand, but…” There are no ‘buts.’ There is nothing in the text that indicates that Jesus DOES NOT mean what He says.

There’s only one condition here. The sheep must follow, and He gives them eternal life.

Here’s how it works.

The Shepherd calls, the sheep follow, He gives them eternal life.

The Shepherd ALWAYS calls. The sheep ALWAYS follow. The Shepherd ALWAYS grants eternal life to the sheep. This is the beauty of Unconditional Election. Our election in Christ is sure. Our salvation is secure. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can be done for our salvation to be lost.

I can hear someone asking now, “But what if the sheep ever stop following?” Then that’s not a sheep, that’s a goat. The sheep may stray, but shepherd always brings the sheep back.

“How do we know who is a sheep and who is a goat?” It’s none of our business, Jesus will separate them Himself.

Now, here’s the big question for you tonight? Are you a lost sheep? Do you need Jesus to find you? Do you need hope that only salvation can give? You may be here, and you may be saved, but you need the joy of your salvation restored. Jesus can grant you joy unspeakable and full of glory.

 

A Scriptural Response to Charleston

charleston3My heart is broken for the families of the victims of this atrocious massacre, but in light of this horrific incident, the families are practicing what they’ve heard preached their whole lives – forgiveness.

Business Insider reports the following:

“Family members of those killed during a bible study at a historically black church in South Carolina Wednesday night were given the chance to speak to their loved ones’ alleged killer during his bond hearing today.

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate … they [the victims] lived in love,” Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Reverend Daniel Simmons, said in court.

“Their legacies will live in love so hate won’t win,” Simmons said.

So, how do we respond? I and many of my readers live in Arkansas. We can’t physically be there for the city of Charleston, and even if we could, what could we possibly do? The damage has already been done. So, today I want to talk what we can do now to show the sincerity of our love for Charleston as the city goes through this time of mourning and loss.

I believe our response should be one of love, prayer, and forgiveness with a full recognition of Jesus Christ as our Prince of Peace.

Love
The Bible clearly teaches that our love should be unconditional. If you don’t believe me read 1st Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1st John 3:10-18. As a matter of fact, read the entirety of Scripture and show me one place where God gives us one excuse for us, as His New Covenant people, not to love freely, unconditionally, and sacrificially. So, whom do we love? We love the people of Charleston. We love the friends and families of the victims, and we love people like Dylann Roof. That’s hard to say and probably hard for you to read, but let’s examine the words of Scripture:

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32-36, ESV

Jesus makes no qualms about it. “Love your enemies.” Now, more than ever, the words of our Savior should be ringing our hearts and our minds. We know the victims showed loved and affection for Dylann Roof when he walked through the doors of their church by this report from the article mentioned earlier:

“The mother of the youngest victim, 26-year old Tywanza Sanders, told Roof that “every fiber in my body hurts, I will never be the same.”

“As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you,” she said. “But may God have mercy on you.”

I watched the coverage on Fox Business of Roof’s bond hearing, and I heard only a portion of the hurt in Sander’s voice as she spoke these words, and the friends and families of the victims say that the congregation completely welcomed Roof as soon as he walked in. They had no idea who he was. They just wanted to love him as they had been loved by God, and that’s what we need to do, love.

Prayer
We need to pray for peace for Charleston, we need to pray for comfort for the families, we need to pray for racial reconciliation, and we must pray for our enemies. Again let’s turn to the words of Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

Let’s think about this just for a second. Why do we have enemies? Why do we have people like Dylann Roof who hate and express that hate through violence and bigotry? Why did Adolf Hitler persecute the Jews? Because Satan hates what God loves, and sin stands directly against anything that God ordained as good and holy. So,if God loves racial harmony and racial unity (and we know that He does), then sin causes people to hate God and everything that He loves including racial harmony and racial unity. We know that God loves these things because He sent His son to die for people of all races, creeds, and nationalities. If you don’t believe me, then let’s look at the book at the Book of Revelation:

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:6-10, ESV

This passage points us to a time when racism, sexism, and all of the other “isms” are no more, and it points to people that were redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus. All peoples of every tribe, nation, and tongue are singing to the sovereign Lord of the Universe. This is real racial harmony because this is when all earthly races become one race, God’s chosen race, His redeemed people.

So, when we go back to Jesus telling us to pray for our enemies, He tells us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-13, and finally He gives us the confidence to pray this way in Mark 11:23-24 when He says that “whatever you ask in prayer, believe… and it will be yours.” So, what should we pray? We pray for the salvation of Dylann Roof and those like Him, but we pray ultimately that God will have His way with him.

One of two things will happen by the end of Roof’s life, He will either stand before God justified by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, or He will stand condemned, under the kindled hot wrath of Almighty God as servant of sin. And either way, God will have had His way with him. What he did was horrible beyond description, but when he stands before the judgement bar, only God can judge him and we must come to terms with that.

Forgiveness
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15, ESV

I want you to notice something in this passage. Jesus doesn’t put any conditions on forgiveness. He doesn’t say, “Wait until the offending party asks for forgiveness.” He simply commands us to forgive others their trespasses regardless of the act, regardless of whether they ask for it, and especially regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Our whole motivation for forgiveness to see how much God has forgiven us in Christ (Ephesians 4:31-32).

The families of the victims have shared the Gospel and extended forgiveness to Dylan Roof, and I truly believe that the Bible commands us to do the same. The Christian Post stated that a gospel musician by the name of Marcus Stanley left a message on Roof’s Facebook before it was taken down for security reasons, and in a portion of the message Stanley gave an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“If you’re still out there… Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness. He is the only one that can save your soul and forgive you for this terrible act that you have done.” Stanley then added, “I love you Dylann … even in the midst of the darkness and pain you’ve caused. But more importantly, He loves you.”

A Need For the Prince of Peace
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that Jesus will come as the Prince of Peace. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus is our peace because He breaks down racial, cultural, and national barriers and brings near the throne of His grace by His blood.

We live in a broken world. What happened at Charleston is proof of that (as if we needed more proof). Only Jesus can bring peace to all the futile racial wars that fallen man fights. His redemption by His destroyed all walls and beckons us to a life of love and Christian unity.

“Not color but faith in Christ is the mark of the kingdom. But it is a mighty long journey. And the price is high. Jesus was on the Calvary road every step of the way. He knew what it woud finally cost Him. It would cost Him His life. But His heart was in it. To the end.” – John Piper, Bloodlines

Charleston needs Jesus. Dylan Roof needs Jesus. I need Jesus. You need Jesus. This world needs Jesus.

Sermon: “The Gospel of John” by Dr. Steve Brown

Hey Guys,

It’s been a bit since I written, but I intend to write some more soon when I have more time. A couple of days ago I was browsing through the website of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and I found this sermon by one of my favorite pastors to listen to, so I thought I would share it here for you to enjoy as well.

John’s Love Letters, Part 2: God is Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. -1 John 1:5 ESV

God is light.

This simple statement is gospel for those in darkness.

If you’re in darkness and you’ve never seen light, then you would have no idea what darkness was or even that you lived in darkness. It’s not until the light comes in and actually shows you what darkness is or even the evil things that the darkness is hiding from you do you realize that there is even something other than darkness.

One commentator writes the following,

“It is the property of light to discover all things; and it is perfectly pure and incapable of pollution: when therefore it is said, that “God is light,” we must understand it as designating… Light is perhaps the only thing which is incapable of being polluted; and therefore is peculiarly fit to represent the immaculate purity of God.” – Charles Simeon’s Horae Homileticae

I heard a theologian make an analogy very similar to this one,

When you’re in a completely dark room, you might find something that feels soft and cuddly. You’re convinced it’s harmless. How can something this soft and loveable be this bad, right? But then, one day, someone comes to the door of that room and invites you to come out from the room. You decline on the grounds that you want to stay in the room and cuddle with this thing you’ve found in the dark, but then the person inviting you out of the room opens the door, and shines a light inside the room revealing the thing to which you’ve been clinging to was the leg of a humongous spider knitting it’s web of destruction for you. All this time the darkness was hiding from you the thing that could’ve killed you.

This is what God does for us. He sheds light on our sin.

Still there are those that have not seen their sin for the death that it is. For them, their end is destruction, misery, and judgment. Only God can shine the revealing light of Christ upon their hearts.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. -John 3:18 ESV

We sometimes wonder if our darkness is too dark for God. We never consciously think that or even say it, but we live out that thought by running away from God because of our sin rather than running to God asking Him to take it from us.

The first part of John 3:18 tells us that whoever believes in Him is not condemned. So what must you believe? Simply believe that He is light and that He exposes and rescues from darkness.

Run to Jesus and repent.

“If from the lips of Jesus thou dost never drink sweet honey—if thou art not like the bee, which [sips] sweet luscious liquor from the Rose of Sharon, then out of the selfsame mouth there shall go forth against thee a two-edged sword; and that mouth from which the righteous draw their bread, shall be to thee the mouth of destruction and the cause of thine ill.” – Charles Spurgeon

Present(s) In the World

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 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.”
– Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” – Ephesians 5:6-11 (ESV)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

“The principle by which we live is not “how can I avoid contact with the world so as to be separate from it?” Rather, it is “how can I live in the world yet be free from its influence and by my life actually expose its contagion?” …As the light of the world, we shine in its darkness; as the salt of the earth, we preserve only if we are present in it.” 
– Sinclair B. Ferguson, Guidelines For Separation (Article in Tabletalk, June 2014, pg. 17)

As I think about these passages of Scripture and the Sinclair Ferguson quote, I’m reminded of a Jewish sect called The Essenes. The Essenes weren’t talked about much in the New Testament because they chose to live monastic lives in the wilderness because they wanted to remain separate from the world and not be stained by the culture. The Essenes were reported to be some of the most honest, studious, morally upright, and God-fearing people the world had ever known, but they eventually died out because they refused to live within a culture of people outside themselves.

As Christians, I think we can be guilty of the same thing. Let’s think about small churches that have 10-15 active members all over the age of 70. More than likely, that church won’t be around for too much longer. More than likely, it’s because somewhere along the way, the church decided it was better to live outside the culture than to live in it.

Let me clarify some things. We just read in 1st John 2 that we shouldn’t love world or the things in the world, but Jesus tells us that we are lights in the world in Matthew 5. Are these contradictory statements? No. As a matter of fact these passages of Scripture present us with a powerful truth. We are in the world, but not of it. We cannot be lights in the culture of the world if we refuse to live outside of it. That’s why I have my weekly Bible study at Hastings. It’s a coffee shop and a bookstore. It’s the epicenter of culture in our town. All different kinds of people walk in there of different religions, ethnicities, and walks of life. I have my Bible study there because the gospel is for all people of any background.

As Christians we cannot deny that we are in the world. It does us no good to try to live outside of the world while we’re here. However, we are not present in the world, but we are also presents in the world. As Christians, we are gifts to world because we have something that they need, the gospel. As we live out the gospel, we show the light of Christ and the light of Christ exposes the works of darkness in the world as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 and shows the world that there is a better way.

Today, pray about how you can be a light in the world.