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The week of Sunday, January 11 will bring the beginning of a new ministry at DRBC: small groups. I am very excited about how the Lord is going to work in our lives as we live life together! This is something that has been on my heart, well, really since soon after we started thinking about who we should be and what we should do in this new church plant.

When we first started meeting back in August 2011, our entire congregation was basically a small group! There was an intimacy that is not possible in a large group corporate worship service. Since we've grown to more than triple our membership since March of 2013--and I certainly praise the Lord for the growth--the corporate meetings can no longer provide the kind of personal, relational challenge and encouragement that each of us need.

This morning, David Bernstein, one of our small group leaders, sent me a link to a blog article that states very well the reason and the need for small group ministry. I hope that you will take the time to read this article--especially if you are not sure about small groups and the changes that we are making. Here is the link to this excellent article . . . http://www.benreed.net/the-why-before-the-what/ . Soli Deo Gloria!

My family and I love living in St. George, Utah. It is a beautiful place to live, and we have great neighbors. I am convinced that one of the major reasons that our neighbors are so polite and helpful is that many of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The behavior that is in accord with the teaching of their religion helps to make them great neighbors. In light of all that glowing praise for my LDS friends and neighbors in St. George, it is reasonable that I explain why Desert Ridge Baptist Church would host a conference the purpose of which is to present the reasonable questions that evangelical Christians have regarding the truth of LDS doctrine.

The meat of it is that the Bible teaches that being right with God is not possible through good works. So, while I am glad to affirm what wonderful neighbors my LDS friends are, that is an entirely different subject than how to be right with God.

What does the Bible say about being reconciled to God, or being right with God or justified before God? It is clear that living a good life does not make us right with God. Isaiah wrote, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isaiah 64:6a). Paul wrote, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them'" (Galatians 3:11-12, quoting first Habakkuk 2:4, then Leviticus 18:5). Paul acknowledges that keeping the law makes one right before God, if one keeps them all perfectly. The problem is that none of us does that.

Paul, again, wrote, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). James explained, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10). There are many verses that could be quoted here, but these two establish our problem: none of us have kept the law perfectly; we have sinned. And the terrible consequence is found in Ezekiel 18:4--"Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine: the soul who sins shall die." The death of the soul is described in Revelation 21:8 as "the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

So this is THE problem for all humans. None of us is perfect. God requires perfection. Our sinful failure means that, because of God's perfect justice, we are all condemned to the lake of fire. But . . .

GOOD NEWS! God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus the Messiah, God the Son, has become our substitute and on the behalf of His people, He has been and is perfectly obedient to the law of God, and has taken in the place of His people, the wrath of God that justly should be applied to all sinners. This is the message of the Bible, the Word of God.

The exclusivity of this good news for salvation is reflected in Paul's statement, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28). Jesus Christ is the only way to be right with God. Jesus + nothing = salvation. Those who have repented of their sins and put all of their trust into Christ alone for salvation are in fact saved from the wrath of God against sin.

1 Corinthians 15:3 is a summary of the facts of the gospel: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scritpures."

When this atoning work is applied, an individual is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:1-21). Then, the regenerate person, who has been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, is spiritually alive and serves the Lord through good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

This is the message of the Bible, the Word of God.

Some quotes from LDS sources demonstrate that there have been at least some LDS leaders that do not agree with the biblical plan of salvation listed above. Here are three examples:

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." -- 2 Nephi 25:23 (italics mine).

"One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of 'justification by faith alone,' which has entered into the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called 'reformation.'" --Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the LDS Church, in The Restoration of All Things, The Deseret News Press, 1964, page 192.

"But it [the doctrine of justification of faith alone] is repulsive to reason, absurd to the understanding, and contrary to the teachings of primitive Christianity." --B.H. Roberts [one of the Seventies], Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 1992, 1:318.

REMINDER! Romans 3:28 says, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." The law of non-contradiction demands that we recognize the great difference in what we find in Romans 3:28 (and throughout the New Testament) and the views represented by these 3 LDS quotes.

In addition, Galatians 1:6-10 states:

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Thus, we do not evaluate the message based on the messenger, for both Paul himself and an angel from heaven would be quite impressive messengers. Yet, Paul says here that if the message ever differs from what his hearers had already heard, that is, from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints," (Jude 3), then that messenger was to be accursed, which means eternally condemned.

All of the objective evidence demonstrates that the Bible is the absolutely trustworthy revelation of that faith. So, no matter how impressive anybody might be, the message evaluates the messenger!

Bottom line, I am participating in this conference, in which I will point out inconsistencies in LDS claims according to the Bible, because I love God and I love people. I want God's Truth known, and I want my neighbors to know it so that they, like me, can be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! I want the best for them, and dear reader, for you. That is why I am participating in this conference. Soli Deo Gloria.

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I recently received an email with a request for some help in understanding the relationship between Jesus and Satan (Lucifer). The LDS view is that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers. Actually, according to LDS doctrine as I undertand it, all members of the human race on this planet are spiritual brothers and sisters, since we are all the spiritual offspring of the sexual union of Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, just like Jesus and Lucifer. The following is my response. It is not exhaustive by any means, but I hope it states clearly and gives good evidence that Jesus is not Lucifer's brother, but rather Jesus is Lucifer's Creator! Here it is . . .

 

The question is whether one will choose to believe the Bible or the "prophets" and general authorities of the Mormon Church. There is a mountain of evidence in both the writings of LDS leaders and the Bible to show that what each teaches is in direct conflict with the other. So, if your co-worker wants the Mormon sources, a great help is a compilation of the writings of LDS leaders called In Their Own Words, edited by Bill McKeever. This has been very helpful to me. It's not a book that tries to explain what Mormons believe written by a non-Mormon. It's just a book of quotes from Mormon leaders compiled according to topics. Here is an example on the LDS explanation of the Virgin Birth of Jesus . . .

 

"Begotten means begotten; it means Christ's mortal body was procreated by an Eternal Sire; it means God is the Father of Christ, 'after the manner of the flesh' (1 Ne. 11:18)." --Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:141.  Cited in In Their Own Words, page 174.  What McConkie is claiming (among many, many other Mormon leaders) is that the Father both spiritually and physically begot Jesus through a sexual union with a female, in other words, the Father himself came to earth and had sex with Mary, and Jesus was the product of this physical union. In the eyes of biblical Christianity, this is blasphemy.

 

Concerning the question of Jesus' relationship to Satan, the Mormon position is stated clearly on the pro-LDS website fairmormon.org. On the page dealing with the question, "Do Latter-day Saints consider Jesus to be the brother of Satan?" is the following partial quote . . .

 

"Jesus, Satan, and all humanity share God the Father as their spiritual sire. However, moral agency led Jesus to obey God the Father perfectly and share fully in the Father's divine nature and power. The same agency led Satan to renounce God, fight Jesus, and doom himself to eternal damnation. The remainder of God's children—all of us—have the choice to follow the route chosen by Satan, or the path to which Christ invites us and shows the way.

Divine parenthood gives all children of God potential; Christ maximized that potential, and Satan squandered it."

The link for this page is . . . http://en.fairmormon.org/Jesus_Christ/Brother_of_Satan.

 

The essence of the message of Christianity is at stake. If we are all "spiritual children" produced by a sexual union between the Father and some Heavenly goddess Mother, including Jesus and Lucifer, then the Bible cannot possibly be true. The Bible presents Jesus as existing eternally as the second person of the Godhead, and in the Incarnation (His coming to earth as a human), both fully God and fully human. The following attributes and characteristics are taught in Scripture about Jesus . . .

He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-2)

He was God in the beginning (John 1:1)

He created everything that has ever been created, including Satan (John 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16), when God claims to have created everything by Himself  (Isaiah 44:24)

He is eternal as evidenced by His presence during the days of Abraham and the meaning of His Name, I AM (John 8:52-59)

He is the fullness of Deity (Colossians 1:19; 2:9)

He is the before all things, and the One by whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17)

He is worshiped by the Apostle Thomas as Lord and God (John 20:28)

He is glorified by God the Father as God (John 8:54) when the Bible is clear God will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11)

He is called God by the Apostle Paul (Titus 3:5)

He is called God by the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:1)

He was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders because they understood that He was claiming to be God, not just a god (John 5:18; 10:33)

Here is a link to a great web site to help with this topic . . . http://www.alwaysbeready.com/index.php/deity-of-christ/94

 

There are many other passages that could be listed that clearly teach that Jesus is the eternal, uncreated God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, the Agent of Creation Who created everything that has ever been created. The only possible way that Jesus can be both God and the Son of God is the reality of the Trinity. That is, God exists as one God in Three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God, but He is distinct in personality and personhood from the Father and from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but He is distinct in personality and personhood from the Father and from the Son.

That's Who Jesus is. Lucifer is a fallen angel, a created being, absolutely different and distinct from Jesus in essence. Jesus is God the Creator. Lucifer is a rebellious created being. They do not share the same essence. One is Creator, the other is creature.

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Today, September 11, 2013, is the anniversary of the infamous terrorist attacks that killed so many Americans, mostly in the twin towers of the World Trace Center in New York. What a terrible day. It was a day that is unfortunately always possible in any of our lives due to the fact that we live in a fallen, sinful world, and each of us is a sinner by nature. Days like September 11, 2013 cause many desperate questions like, "Why?" and "Where is justice?"

The Bible has an answer to these questions. While we aren't told about the reasons behind the specific events that happen in God's universe, we do know that the general reason for evil in the world is . . . us. Sin. Sinners. Us. Romans 3:23 tells us "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Ecclesiastes 7:20 declares, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." Very few people try to deny this claim. Romans 3:10-12, quoting from Psalms 14 and 53 says, "None is righteous, no, not one . . . no one does good, not even one." This doesn't mean that no person ever does anything with any goodness at all, but rather that everything that everyone does is tainted by the fact that everyone is a sinner by nature. That is the identity of all of the sons of Adam. Sinners. Some people may live morally better lives than others when measured by external consequences. However, James 2:10 instructs us, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." We are either perfect or imperfect. Righteous or unrighteous. There are only 2 categories. God makes up one, the sons of Adam are in the other.

This is the situation for everyone who is a son of Adam. Remember, Jesus is not in that category, as His conception was miraculous, and He is the sinless Son of God. For all other humans, we are sinners. This includes Muslim terrorists who fly airplanes into buildings in order to kill large numbers of people, as well as emergency personnel whose job it is to rescue victims of terrorist attacks and other disasters.

What makes this bad news worse is that God has already pronounced judgment on sinners! Ezekiel 18:4 says, "Behold all souls are Mine [God's] . . . the soul that sins shall die." A few months ago, I had some discussion with a nice lady who believes that this means that the souls of those who die in their sins will be exterminated, or, annihilated, i.e., they will cease to exist. But the terrible truth of the meaning of this verse, when taken with the message of the entirety of Scripture, is that the death of the soul includes the end of physical life on this earth as we know it now, but actually refers to an everlasting state of destruction. Luke 16:19-31 (Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus), Revelation 14:11, and Revelation 20:10 describe the state of the wicked as an everlasting torment, without end.

Even more telling is a study of the word used for "destroy" in Matthew 10:28b, which says, "fear Him Who can destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna]." The word for "destroy" in the original koine Greek, is apolesai from the root apollumi. In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), edited by Gerhard Kittel, the definition for the New Testament use of the verb apollumi concludes that the meaning indicates "definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of the extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death." In addition, the noun form, apoleia, (see "destruction" in Rev. 17:8, 11 e.g.), indicates the same. The TDNT concludes, "What is meant here is not a simple extinction of existence, but an everlasting state of torment and death."

For the definition and the use of Greek words, TDNT is recognized as a scholarly authority. In light of the meaning of the verb apollumi and its noun form apoleia, and verses like Matthew 25:46, "these [wicked] will go away into eternal punishment [kolasis], but the righteous into eternal life," we conclude a terrible truth. Those who die in their sin, are sentenced by the perfect Judge of all creation to spend eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15; 21:8).

The GOOD NEWS! is that God has acted! God the Son has suffered the wrath of God as a substitute for all those who place their faith and trust in Him. Justice is a reality from the perfect Judge of creation. Either sinners will answer for their own sinfulness, or Christ as the substitute has paid the sin debt demanded by God's perfect justice! Dear reader, will you face eternal destruction for your sins, or will you flee to Christ, beg for mercy, give yourself to Him, and receive forgiveness? The reality of the punishment of sinners demanded by God's justice is terrible, but the reality of the gospel [good news] is great!  Whether you are a terrorist or a law-abiding citizen, you are a sinner needing to be saved from the justice of God. Come to Christ!

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While contemplating Matthew 5, I read portions of a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon, called by many the "prince of preachers." At the end of his sermon, "A Call to Holy Living," preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England on January 14, 1872, he offered a brief prayer that sums up what is needed for the Christian life. [Link to sermon: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1029.htm]

Great and true and essential doctrines of Christianity are present in this prayer: the sovereignty of God, the substitutionary, penal atoning work of Christ that provides expiation and propitiation for our sins, and the necessity of the spiritual new birth by which believers are empowered to live for God according to the same power that raised our Lord from the grave! I add my "Amen" to this prayer:

"God bring us to Christ, and nail our sins to his cross, and give us life in our Savior's life. Amen."

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Often we are tempted to pray most specifically and with the most intensity when we are praying for deliverance from some suffering or difficulty. In the preface to the updated and expanded edition of his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper articulated a prayer for pastors that is most certainly Bible-driven and God-centered. I wanted to share it here . . .

"Banish professionalism from our midst, O God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. In Jesus' great and powerful name. Amen."

To that, I only add my own "Amen."

One of the ways in which Satan attacks the Truth of God's Word is through skepticism of the veracity and trustworthiness of the Bible. In fact, when Satan first appears in Scripture in Genesis 3 in the person of the serpent, his first words are "Indeed, has God said . . . ?" So the first effort that Satan made to incite humanity to rebel against God was an attack on God's Word. There is much confusion that comes from poor interpretation of the words of the Bible, but I want to write a bit today about another charge against the Bible originating from the enemy: that the Bible we have today does not contain the text of the biblical books as they were originally written. A note: there are indeed many Bible versions, but I am referring to the original languages in which the Bible was written, namely Hebrew, Greek, and a bit of Aramaic. Today's Bible versions that are truly translations and not paraphrases are based upon the original languages.

The particular attempted indictment on the authenticity of the Bible comes from many camps, some claiming to be withinthe realm of Christian believers, and some who declare themselves to be unbelievers. The problem for their cause is that there is overwhelming objective evidence that we have the Bible as it was originally written. This information is easily accessed with internet search tools. The manuscript evidence for the Bible far surpasses that for any other comparable ancient document. There are thousands of biblical manuscripts from the ancient world that survive--making the issue simple. We can compare the Bible of today with the ancient manuscripts. Even though we have no original manuscript copies, the gap between the original manuscripts and the earliest surviving copies is so small that the accuracy is virtually certain. The result by any objective unbiased measure is that we have the biblical books as they were originally written.

What I want to consider in this blog entry are implications of Jude 3, which reads in the New American Standard (updated ed.), "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." Jude makes a claim here that cannot be ignored. His clear claim is that the faith revealed in the ministry of the Lord Jesus and explained in the ministry of His Apostles has been delivered "once for all." The Bible is a testimony to this faith from two perspectives in time: the Old Testament looks forward and prophesies about the objective accomplishment of the foundation of this faith in the person and work of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus; the New Testament records and explains the person and work of the Lord Jesus after the events of His life. The very center of all of this is the perfect righteousness and the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus as the substitute for sinners, both in taking the due penalty for sin and living on behalf of His people a perfect life of obedience (see Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Jeremiah 23:6; Mark 10:45; Romans 3:21-26; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jude 3 announces that the Christian faith, that is, it's doctrinal content regarding the objective accomplishment of the Lord Jesus, has been given once for all. In other words, there is no more revelation regarding true Christian faith yet to come. God is no longer giving us new information, rather He guides us according to the Truth that has already been revealed.

A historical example of this is the religious reform brought about during the reign of King Josiah in Judah in ca. 640-609 B.C. This is recorded in 2 Chronicles 34. The reason for the return to God from idolatry was that the Word of God was rediscovered in the Temple, after having fallen into disuse. The people of Judah had ceased the reading of God's Word and fallen into evil practices. The reason for the revival was a rediscovery of the Truth of God's Word (during renovations at the temple, a scroll was found; possibly they found a portion or the whole of the book of Deuteronomy). They read it and began to obey it again. While this is not a perfect example because the fullness of the gospel had not yet been revealed at that point in history, it is the correct model for us regarding how we can be right with God: Hear and heed God's Word, the Bible.

A clear implication from Jude 3 is that there is no more revelation to be given. So, in order to be right with God, we need to seek to understand what has already been revealed. We do not need further revelation. What God has to say to us regarding salvation has already been revealed.

Another implication from Jude 3 when coupled with the theological truth of God's omnipotence (He is all-powerful) is that He is able to preserve His Word. When we consider that we still have the Bible, and that the clear objective evidence is that we have the biblical books as they were originally written, we should then rejoice that we have the revelation that God has always intended for us to have. Rather than looking for additional revelation, we should focus on understanding the Bible, the only sufficient written Word of God!

So, anyone who wants to be right with God can with confidence look to the 66 books which make up the Bible. There is no more revelation needed. God has spoken. He has revealed "the faith once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3). The question is . . . Do you believe God?

What a wonderful day it has been! While every day of life as a Christian is a testimony to the power of the living Lord, today is a special day to think specifically about the glory of the resurrection. But for DRBC, it also represents both the end of lots of preparation, and the beginning of an era of ministry.

Since, April 2011, I have been here, and along with others, have been working toward this day when a church would be started. Today, 15 charter members voted to constitute as a church! We are on record, believing that our King, the Lord Jesus, has called us into being as a local church here in St. George, UT. We had 20 people at our service in our new building at 1088 E Tabernacle Street. It was a joy to recite the old, old story once again, preaching from 2 Corinthians 5:21--"For our sake He [God the Father] made Him [God the Son] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

We look forward to serving our King as a church that belongs to Him. May the Lord grant that every Lord's Day from now until He returns, DRBC will meet for worship, edification, and preaching of the Word of God, making the gospel of God's grace clear! Soli Deo Gloria!

In light of the tragic massacre that occurred recently at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, an oft debated question of theology comes to mind: if God is good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? It is difficult to think about such murderous actions as what happened in Newtown, especially since so many of the victims were children. The sadness becomes weightier when one considers that these kinds of tragedies occur virtually daily, just not as publicized and usually on a much smaller scale. Truly, the world is a dangerous place in which injustice, poverty, and cruelty are far too common, and as we were reminded by the Newtown massacre, these terrible things sometimes are so outlandish that they demand our attention. They often cause us to think of the question of the problem of evil.

The Bible actually records the origin of evil among the human race, as well as the solution to the problem of evil. The truth of this will not make the pain and grief vanish. However, it is a tremendous help to realize that God has in fact accomplished what was necessary for the absolute defeat of evil, which will some day be a tangible reality at the consummation of the Kingdom of God. But the victory has already been won!

The problem started with the rebellion of Lucifer against God (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19). The essence of Lucifer's rebellion against God, his Creator, was pride. He wanted to be like the Most High (Is. 14:14), and for this blasphemy he is condemned, and will one day be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10). Until then, he roams about among God's human creatures like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour (1 Peter 5:8).

The first instance of the devil's deception among men was in the Garden of Eden. All he did was to entice Adam and Eve to share his own prideful, idolatrous, blasphemous desire to be like God. He said to Eve, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'" (Genesis 3:1). When Eve explained that God actually said that she and Adam could eat of any tree except the tree of life, lest they die, Satan--in the form of a serpent--said, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4b-5). There was some truth in what the devil told Eve, twisted though it was, but it is easy to see his rebellion and his desire to incite the same in Adam and Eve's hearts. You likely know the rest of that account. Eve, and then Adam ate from the tree of life, thereby disobeying God's explicit instructions. Sin entered the world. Everything changed.

Before the rebellion by Adam and Eve in the Garden, there was no sin and therefore no death for humans to fear. The Bible teaches that the sin in the garden brought death into the world, for death is the punishment for sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23). Also, every human born from our first parents Adam and Eve have inherited a nature that is corrupt, by nature sinful, and thus condemned (Romans 5:18-19; Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible is explicit that this sinful nature defines every one of us who have come after Adam and Eve (except Jesus--we will get to that!), that we are all sinners and that there is not one of us who is good (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12; 3:23). Lest we think to ourselves that, while we might not be perfect, compared to others, we are likely good enough for God's standards, James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." Thus, the Bible teaches that man sins because that is his fallen nature. So, we should not be surprised to find all manner of sin in the world. God warned Adam and Eve most clearly that they must not sin against Him by eating the fruit of the tree of life. But God is the One Who put the tree in the garden, and He is the One Who did not stop Adam and Eve from their disobedience.

Instead of preventing their rebellion, though He most certainly could have, God allowed it, and has ever since been explaining to us the seriousness and the eternal consequence of our sinfulness. He is a perfect judge, and claimed in Exodus 34:7b that He will "by no means clear the guilty." In the same passage, He also announced that He is "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Ex. 34:6-7a). How can both of these claims be true?

The only way that God's justice can be upheld is if He metes out justice for every iniquity, every transgression, every sin. The only way that He can be merciful and gracious is if He does not give us what we deserve for our sins, but instead gives us His love and fellowship. So how can both be accomplished? Only through the God-Man, Jesus, taking on human flesh and becoming our substitute to take on Himself the wrath of God against our sin. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (NKJV)." Jesus was perfect. He was not the product of 2 human parents, but was conceived in the Virgin Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:34-35). So, he did not inherit a sinful nature from Adam. He is truly human, and so can relate to us and our struggles, but He is without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He is truly God (Daniel 7:13-14; John 1:1, 14; John 20:26-29); Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). All of this is validated by His resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10; 1 Corinthians 15).

In summary, every person is sinful. The world is full of sinners. Thus, tragedies like the one at Newtown are always potentially lurking. The problem of evil has been solved. Jesus came into the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world. During this Christmas season, let us rejoice that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Even though God alone knows all of the details regarding the "whys" and "hows" and "whens" of His purposes, He has solved the problem of evil! One day, all evil will be eradicated forever (Revelation 21:1-4; 22:3-5)! Merry Christmas! Praise the Lord!

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Yesterday, James Hazelton (The Narrows Church), John Fields (FSBC, St. G) and I were involved in a discussion about an upcoming dialogue to be held at Dixie State College including adherents of various religious faith groups. I consider such an event healthy, if indeed, the participants speak with honesty and clarity. I always rejoice at the thought of the biblical gospel being presented, even when in dialogue with other religious systems. There is nothing to hide in biblical Christianity, in fact, we are commanded to "preach the Word" and to "make disciples of all the nations" in Scripture (2 Tim 4:2; Matt 28:18-20). Paul went to the center of dialogue in the known world in order to proclaim the gospel--the Areopagus at Athens (Acts 17:15-34).

In response to the discussion yesterday, apparently someone was not very impressed with our stated desire for Christianity (and the other positions) to be represented accurately. The issue seems to be, as usual, the exclusivity of Christ as Lord and only Savior. I received an anonymous email after that discussion in which it was made plain that our insistence on the exclusivity of the gospel was considered a danger to open dialogue and a means by which people are intimidated.

I was unable to respond with an email because the email address from which the message originated apparently had been disabled. I can't help but see the irony in someone defending the value of open dialogue through an anonymous email, to which a response cannot be sent! Not a very good example of dialogue!

In Scripture, we are also told that when we make the gospel clear, we will be hated by the world. Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). So, we should not be surprised when people don't like it when we make the gospel clear. This email is a very, very mild form of persecution, in light of the many brothers and sisters who are even now in chains or are being killed for the sake of the Lord and His gospel around the world. But who knows how long before those who promote tolerance while being absolutely intolerant of the biblical gospel will begin to take more direct action against the followers of Jesus in this country?

My (attempted) response to the email follows. I hope that the original emailer will read it. I would cherish the opportunity to dialogue about it . . .

 

Anonymous,
First, if the person receiving this is not the person who originally emailed me, forgive me. But please feel free to read what I have written and interact with me about it! Now . . .

I certainly agree that my Lord does not approve of the use of sabotage in obeying the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. I have no plans to sabotage anything. Honest dialogue between parties who disagree on any subject is generally good. I do think the value of any dialogue is directly related to the honesty and clarity of the participants. To censor the message of one of the participants is to declare the dialogue over!

So, as a Christian, I am interested when "Christianity" is going to be presented within a dialogue among adherents of various religious faiths. If Christ is not allowed to define Christianity, then it is not really Christianity, whatever it is. Basically, trading the Truth about God for anything else is called idolatry. However, let me say, as a member of the St. George community, I have other means for the spread of the gospel rather than "sabotaging" an academic discussion of different cultures/faiths. Besides, how academic can a discussion of Christianity be if the biblical, objective, message of Christ Himself is disallowed on the mere basis that the participants are uncomfortable with hearing it?

I am not surprised that, for example, Chechnyan Muslims don't agree with me on the Person and Work of Christ. I've had conversations with them in which they explained what they believed, and I explained what I believed. All in a civil manner. And neither party censored the statements of the other party! That's the point of dialogue! Besides, it's impossible to scare a person into becoming a Christian, since that is a supernatural act of God (John 3:1-21).

My Lord Jesus certainly stirred up the religious establishment with His claims of being God, the Messiah. There was no tolerance for His message, thus the religious, social, and political forces came together to kill Him. In doing so, they only fulfilled God's plan from eternity past, that is, to supply a substitute to suffer the penalty for sinners (everyone in the world is a sinner by nature--we are all united in Adam). See 2 Corinthians 5:21, or Acts 4:12. That this sacrifice satisfied God's justice is clearly seen in the vindication of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus! See 1 Corinthians 15:1-26. This explains why the biblical Christian message is called, "gospel," which literally in the koine Greek means, "good news!" Being right with God is not about my performance in religion or ethics, it is about my following Jesus whose perfect righteousness and sacrificial death make all of His followers right with God.

It has become fashionable to disregard all exclusive truth claims, even while citing or even claiming to venerate Jesus! Amazing! He is the most exclusive, unique figure in history! Consider that He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me" (John 14:6). And, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). he infuriated the religious leaders when He identified Himself as I AM, that is, God (John 8:58-59).

And, at his appearance before the high priest on the eve of His crucifixion, it was His own testimony that the high priest and the rulers found intolerable to the point of seeking His death. Mark 14:61-64 says, " 61 But ihe remained silent and made no answer. jAgain the high priest asked him, “Are you kthe Christ, the Son of lthe Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and myou will see the Son of Man nseated at the right hand of Power, and mcoming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest otore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard phis blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they qall condemned him as rdeserving death." This was a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, which the high priest understood well. Jesus was claiming to be the Son of Man, the Messiah, God! They hated him. And He is my Lord and my Savior. The Lord was clear that those who hate Him will also hate those who follow Him (Matthew 10, John 15:18-23). So, the more accurately I proclaim the message of Christ, the more likely it is that I will be disliked, or even hated. This is no surprise to me.

I feel no shame in trying to make the gospel message clear. I would feel shame in not doing so, since, as a follower of Jesus, I am commanded to do so (Matt 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-47; Acts 1:8; 2 Tim 4:2; et al). Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). I love Him, so I strive to do what His Word instructs me to do. I believe the Lord has sent me to St. George for the purpose of making clear the good news of forgiveness of sins. So, I would welcome the opportunity to talk further with you about this. It is my joy to serve Jesus. I am not a confrontational person, so I want you to know that I never intended to offend you. However, I realize that the message of biblical Christianity is offensive and most non-Christians are offended by the exclusive claims of Christ and would prefer that the message be silenced. I urge you to consider the claims of Christ. If you have questions about the historicity of the Bible, I would be more than happy to show you the many reasons for accepting the veracity of the Bible. May the Lord draw you to Truth--Himself!

We are all sinners--including you and me (Rom 3:23). We cannot be perfect (Eccl 7:20). God is a perfect judge and has ruled that sinners will be punished by eternal death (Ezekiel 18:4; Luke 16:19-31; Rom 6:23; Rev 21:8). But God the Son has come into the world to pay the penalty for sins (Mark 10:45; 2 Cor 5:21), through His perfect obedience to God's Law and His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-4). All who become followers of Jesus Christ, that is, who are born again, are forgiven of their sin and receive eternal life (Genesis 15:6; John 1:12; Rom 3:21-26; Eph 2:8-10). This is the good news--the gospel! Repent of your sin! Run from the wrath of God into the arms of His grace and enjoy life eternal, rejoicing in the glory of the Lord!

In the love of Christ,
Michael W. Waldrop

During our last two DRBC worship meetings, we studied 2 Timothy 2:14-26. In this passage, it is clear that the Truth is essential, and that false teaching and false teachers lead only to destruction. This is why I spend so much time and energy both making sure that my own teaching/preaching accurately represents what God has said, and encouraging our core group members to build a foundation that ensures that DRBC will always be a congregation that is committed to propagating the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, as revealed in the Bible.

Nine Marks is a ministry associated with Dr. Mark Dever, Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. This ministry claims that one of the nine marks of a healthy (meaning true or biblical) church is Biblical Theology. This means that the preaching and teaching, as well as faith and practice, in a church leads to the correct conclusion: love for God and the Truth that He has revealed in His Word, the Bible,  centering on the gospel message of salvation through grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Here is a link to the IX Marks website where the necessity of Biblical Theology is explained . . . IX Marks on Biblical Theology.

Since Jesus declared, "I am . . . the Truth . . . ." in John 14:6, surely if we love Him, we will want to know the Truth, since He is Truth! And, since he also prayed to God the Father, "Your Word is Truth," in John 17:17, if we trust the Lord Jesus, we will want to understand God's Word, the Bible. So, let's commit ourselves to learning, knowing, and proclaiming Truth!

In Christ,

MWW

Dr. Albert Mohler posted a blog today about the influence of the megachurch on Evangelical Christianity. In it he wonders if the megachurches of Evangelicalism will lead into biblical faithfulness or theological liberalism. The most concerning part of his article deals with a recent message from Baptist megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. You can read Mohler's blog at the following link. http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/05/01/is-the-megachurch-the-new-liberalism/

It is my prayer that Christians, especially pastors, will aim at our only meaningful opportunity for relevancy that makes a difference in a fallen world, and that is, to practice the truth that Scripture (the 66 books of the Christian Bible) alone is our rule for faith and practice. As such, we are not called to mull over our reactions to sin in any form. We must accept what God says and lovingly submit to His will. In the case of homosexuality, it is a sin. A sin from which sinners can be saved through the biblical, Christian Gospel. So, let us hold to Scripture Alone as our authority (Sola Scriptura) in order to be relevant in today's society.

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Jay Taylor wrote the following paper for a college course. He and his wife Amanda are members of First Baptist Church, Keller, TX, which is the primary sponsoring church for DRBC. What do you think about his evaluation of much of modern American Christianity?

 

Shopping for Jesus

Wanted: Looking for a fun, entertaining, emotionally driven, and not so needy type of church where I can pop my head in a few times a month and feel good about myself for a while. Oh, and nothing too serious, I’m not much for commitment. Sound absurd? Well, it shouldn’t. Although you are not likely to see an ad like this in real life, it is however, how many Americans inwardly employ the means to find a “church”. In a culture where everything is tailored to fit our needs, desires, and personal preferences, it seems the church is no exception. With the incessant demands of Americans for newer, faster, and easier in all that we do, it comes as no surprise that consumerism has breached the doors of the evangelical church. Accompanying this infringement is the baggage of secularism, and unfortunately this baggage carries eternal consequences. With the church accommodating the desires of seeking consumers, it has compromised the biblical foundation and theological truths in which the church was founded over two thousand years ago.

Consumerism in America has reached an all time high. Steeped in modernity, our society continues to develop new gadgets, services, and technology that promise to make our lives more comfortable and hip. In a media driven culture, our desires for the latest and greatest are not only expected, but demanded. We find ourselves upgrading to the newest car or phone in two year cycles, only to end up disheartened as we view the latest model roll across the television screen. Without a doubt, modern advertising infiltrates the minds of consumers, tantalizing them into a state of anhedonia-like behavior. We see it every day and there appears to be no end in sight. This marketing strategy has proven to not only be successful, but also contagious. Scores of corporations have profited greatly from these strategies, but none more surprising than the evangelical church. One would normally hesitate to classify the church as a corporation, but after witnessing many of these tactics dramatically increase Sunday morning attendees, it is safe to say this assessment is accurate.

Over the past thirty years, there has been an increase of this consumer dynamic in the life of the church. With Americans increasingly shopping for products and services that curb discomfort and give pleasure, it makes sense that they would eventually request the same when shopping for a church. It seems dissatisfaction can no longer be an option when it comes to worshiping God. Instead of filling out “How can we pray for you?” cards, we are more likely to find customer satisfaction surveys on the backs of the pews. A recent interview with First Baptist Keller intern Chad Ray buttresses these obvious infractions. Ray asserts, “What we are finding is that many families come to church with wrong ideals and attitudes. There are some who come into worship services only to treat it like a shopping list, not just to mark off something they’ve done for the week, but also to see if the church has everything they’re looking for” (Ray).

Consumerism has saturated the modern day evangelical church, period. A quick drive around North Fort Worth will testify that the megachurch movement is thriving on this very stigma. Billboards and marquees advertising the latest how- to series clutter up the roadsides, not to mention expensive direct mail flyers promising an experience you won’t soon forget. One can easily see that the modern day church has earned every bit of its seeker friendly reputation. With relevant sermon series on weight loss, parenting, and various disorders, these corporation type churches have attracted a culture that has no idea what the church truly represents. On this subject Ray notes, “If we entice the culture into God’s house promising to fix their problems, they will continually expect the church to solve everything. Once we don’t meet their expectations it’s on to some other congregation that will” (Ray).

The symbolism between many of these seeker friendly churches and a shopping experience is truly remarkable. The Irish author and social critic Os Guinness makes his observations known within this particular church movement. Guinness retorts, “Modern megachurches have been built on the philosophical and structural pattern of America’s recent shopping malls, which, in turn, have long been described as cathedrals of consumption” (Guinness 12). The megachurch is the church shopper’s dream come true. Starbucks, JumboTrons, Rock n Roll music, a lack of intimacy, and a heaping spoon of individualism, somehow pass for worshiping a holy God. With the appeasement of the general public, we are consequently causing shame to what God deems precious, the church.

The reason the seeker friendly movement is becoming such an epidemic is that churches are compromising God’s Word to placate our insatiable culture. The power of the gospel has been nullified by the power of advertisement. Theology has been replaced by entertainment and consolation. Consumerism runs rampant within the walls of God’s house and only a select few are moved to stand up and reprove this modern form of idolatry. Congregants are more concerned with what they can get out of church rather than what they can put into it. Instead of clothing the poor and feeding the hungry, we contemplate whether we want a caramel macchiato or chai latte before we head into the sanctuary. Unfortunately, there will come a day when many churchgoers will come to terms with the reality of God’s holiness and truth. It is on that sad day that the words, “Well done good and faithful servant” might be replaced with, “Depart from me I never knew you.”

Works Cited

Guinness, Os. Introduction. Dining with the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with

Modernity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993. 12. Print.

Ray, Chad. Personal Interview. March 2012.

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Chad is a member of First Baptist Church of Keller, TX, the primary sponsoring church for DRBC. He is a licensed preacher, and serves at FBC, Keller by preaching in their nursing home ministry. He and his wife Shanda are prayer supporters of DRBC. Here is a link to an article that Chad read, written by Dr. Russell Moore, about how Christians should deal with secular businesses that are not run specifically in obedience to the Bible, along with his response.

The article . . .

http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/03/25/should-christians-boycott-starbucks/

Chad's response . . .

I have just read this article and I must say that I totally agree. I have recently been asked about this exact issue with Starbucks. My answer, though not as well stated as Dr. Moore's was very similar. How do we as Christians expect non-christian organizations to run? I would say that this is precisely how they are to run, with the majority. They do not have the direction of the Holy Spirit to guide them but instead a board of trustees who are responsible to the stockholders to turn a profit. They do this well. Perhaps instead of a boycott that would do nothing but show Christians, as once again to be mean and hypocritical, we could use this as a means to evangelize a stranger over a cup of coffee. I think I will go to Starbucks and try to engage in a conversation that will allow me to present the Gospel. A much better use of my time I think.
Chad

 

It was a blessing to join with Cross Point Christian Fellowship yesterday for a baptismal service and celebration at Hidden Valley Park in St. George. What a joy to participate in something that was directly commanded by the Lord Jesus! Baptism, along with the Lord's Supper, is an ordinance of the Church--directly instituted by His command (Matt. 28:19-20).

I am a Baptist by conviction. It is very obvious by the name Baptist that churches of this persuasion must take Baptism seriously! We are named for that conviction! The ultimate reason for my conviction regarding baptism is not tradition, practicality, or even my raising. Ultimately, I am a Baptist because I am pursuing obedience to God's Word. The Lord Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). I am committed to a biblical doctrine of baptism because I love the Lord Jesus!

Desert Ridge Baptist Church is committed to what is called believer's baptism by immersion. Believer's baptism indicates that only individuals who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord are to be baptized. The biblical pattern of the relationship between professing faith in Christ as Lord and baptism is belief, followed by baptism. There are several examples (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12; 18:8). On the contrary, there are no explicit examples in the New Testament of infant baptism or any other case of Christian baptism administered to anyone who has not first believed the gospel and professed their trust in Jesus for salvation.

Additionally, it is clear from Scripture that baptism is not the moment of regeneration, but a picture of the spiritual reality that has already been affected by the Holy Spirit in a believer's life. Believer's baptism by definition denies that a person becomes a born again believer at the point of baptism in water, but establishes that only those who profess to be born again are to be baptized. One biblical example of this is the thief on the cross to whom Jesus promised that he would be with Jesus in paradise (Luke 23:39-43). He was clearly saved, but he was never baptized. This doesn't mean that it is an option for the believer to choose not to be baptized, but it does demonstrate that baptism is not the point of regeneration. Another unequivocal example is Acts 10:44-48 in which Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius' household, observed that the hearers had received the Holy Spirit, i.e. they had been saved, and THEN called for their baptism in water. One passage that on the surface seems to say that baptism saves us is 1 Peter 3:21. However, Peter's argument here is that "Baptism, which corresponds to this [Noah's ark], now saves you, not as removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Thus, the key is not the act of baptism in and of itself, but as an expression of the appeal, already decided upon, for a good conscience toward God, and a trust in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

The other issue involved is the mode of baptism: immersion. Why do Baptists immerse a person in water during baptism? First of all, because the word baptize, which is a Greek word, not English, means in classical and NT usage "to immerse, dip, plunge under water." The NT references to baptisms give evidence that immersion was the mode employed. In Mark 1:10, for example, after Jesus was baptized, He "came up out of the water." In John 3:23, John the Baptist was baptizing "at Aenon, near Salim, because water was plentiful there." Much water is required for baptism only if immersion is the mode for baptism. Also, when Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, recorded in Acts 8, the Bible says that "they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water . . . " (Acts 8:38, 39). So, they went into the water for the baptism, and came up out of the water when the baptism was completed. This supports immersion as the biblical mode for Christian baptism.

Theologically, believer's baptism by immersion is a wonderful picture of the biblical, Christian gospel as Paul recited it to the Corinthian believers in 1 Cor. 15:3-4: "That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." No other mode of baptism (sprinkling, dabbing, or pouring) displays this truth like immersion.

Immersion is a testimony of that the believer belongs to Christ, having died and been buried with Him, and having been spiritually raised to new life in Him. Romans 6:1-11 (especially as stated in Rom. 6:3-4) and Colossians 2:12 refer to baptism as a display of the reality of the believer's reality: crucified with Christ, yet living through His resurrection power (Gal. 2:20).

Finally, as recipients of the promise that the bodies of those Christians who die will be resurrected in glory at the second coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:11), believers see a picture of this reality in baptism my immersion. Though our bodies will die if we are not part of the generation alive at His coming, and though our dead bodies may be buried in tombs, our bodies will be resurrected on that great Day! Baptism by immersion pictures this wonderful reality.

The ordinance of baptism is a tangible opportunity to obey our Lord's command. Specifically, believer's baptism by immersion presents the blessed truth of the gospel, the amazing reality of regeneration, and the promise of a glorified body at Christ's return. I rejoice in my conviction that Christian baptism is believer's baptism by immersion!

My Christianity stands or falls on the veracity, or, truthfulness of the Bible. The only objective information I have about God, man, and salvation is from the Bible. If not, then I only have subjective information like feelings, emotions, philosophies, ideologies, insights--all valuable but none infallible. And if I don't have infallible information about God, man, and salvation, how am I supposed to know which truth claims are right and which are wrong. We have lots of contradictory claims within the pantheon of world religions. The law of non-contradiction means that truth claims that directly contradict one another cannot all be true. So, among the world religions, at least all but one must be wrong. Is any one of them right?

This is the value of the Bible. Though it has been attacked throughout history, from the Garden of Eden when Satan questioned Eve, "Has God really said . . .? " (Genesis 3:1), until today's claims that the Bible is corrupted/untrustworthy/mythical held by atheists/Mormons/adherents to world religions, the marks of Truth abound in the pages of the Bible, both OT and NT.

These marks of truth are discovered in the realm of correspondence to reality, or at least reality as humans experience it. What I mean by this is the remarkable correspondence between objective biblical claims in many categories (history, geography, archaeology, etc.) with the scholarly consensus in those categories. This doesn't mean that we can argue people into the Kingdom, but it does mean simply that the evidence points to an infallible, inerrant, fully sufficient Bible.

I plan to write more on this topic, but I want to close this post with a link, though I'm having trouble getting the link function to work. You will probably have to manually copy and paste the address into your address bar. It is worth it. The following is a sermon preached recently by Dr. John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA. If you want to understand the value of the OT as demonstrated in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, then listen or read   http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-431/christ-the-expositor#top. Praise the Lord for the Truth!

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That title sounds impressive doesn't it? Well, it was impressive because of what I got to be a part of while there: I got to fellowship with and preach to the congregation of Youngblood Baptist Church in Nortonville, IL, and I got to attend the North Central States Rally--a Southern Baptist Convention conference for edification, encouragement, and serious thinking about missions and ministry. What a blessing!

I thank God for the encouragement I received through the hospitality of Pastor Tim Sellers and his wife Lynn, and their 3 teenagers: Priscilla,Micaiah, and Josiah. I was reminded again that the Lord is building His church (Matt. 16:18), and that you can find His people almost everywhere in the world. Eventually, He will have worshipers from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9)! May the Lord bless Youngblood Baptist Church!

The conference was helpful because those of us who already belong to Him are the workers to spread the gospel and "make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:19). I attended workshops on developing church planting centers (which I pray DRBC will become), spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-18), praying through Scripture (is really making an impact on my prayer life), and confidence in personal evangelism. Thinking seriously about these topics was very helpful. The fact that there were approximately 1000 people in attendance from the upper midwest was encouraging in itself! And, I ran into an old college friend who is now a Pastor! God bless you Todd!

A very interesting thought was provided by Ed Stetzer in his sermon on Tuesday evening, Jan. 24: He noted the universal, cosmic reign of God over His creation, but then acknowledged the obvious truth--the people of planet earth are rebellion against their Creator. What was striking was the way he described Christians: we are the rebellion against the rebellion! That is true. For a person to do whatever he wants regardless of what God thinks about it is axiomatic in our world today for the vast majority of people. Yet, for Christians, we are rebelling against that. We are commissioned in Scripture to rebel against that thinking, against that rebellion, and call for people to return to loyalty to the rightful King, the Lord Jesus our only Savior. So, go forward, Christian, and through spiritual warfare, simple obedience, Bible proclamation, and loving evangelism, let us continue in our cause, the rebellion against the rebellion!

Soli Deo Gloria!

--Michael W.

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What a blessing last Sunday, January 8, 2012 was! We celebrated a couple of "firsts." There was our first meeting at the La Quinta Inn. The staff was very helpful and hospitable, and we had a great time of praise, preaching, and fellowship. Keith Sanders, Sr. Pastor at our primary sponsoring church, First Baptist Church, Keller, TX was with us and ministered the Word to us. Thank you, Keith for your ministry. So . . . our first meeting at the La Quinta was great. But then . . .

We celebrated our first 2 baptisms! Larry and Mary, the newest members of our church plant core group family demonstrated their love for the Lord in the ordinance of baptism. First Southern Baptist Church, St. George was gracious to allow us to use their facility in the afternoon. Thank you FSBC, St. G! Praise the Lord for the grace and blessings He is sending to us!

Then we capped the day off by enjoying great fellowship with our brothers and sisters of the churches of the Color Country Baptist Association at our CCBA Annual Evangelism Rally at Red Hills Southern Baptist Church in Enoch, UT. Bro. Keith challenged us to follow our Lord Jesus' example of witnessing, preaching to us about the Lord's encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. It was edifying and encouraging. Soli Deo Gloria!

MW

While many are wondering about the Mayan calendar and just how much time we have left on this earth, I submit that the most important thing we can be about in 2012 is not self-preservation, but the glory of God! We can trust God with everything from the cosmic calendar to every moment and detail of our lives. Romans 11:36 declares, "For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever, amen." Let's let this be our guiding truth as we negotiate the ups and downs of the new year.

The Christmas season is a great time for Christians, and it is not for the reason that you might think at first. See, December 25 is almost certainly NOT the date of our Lord Jesus' birth--probably not even this time of the year. Besides this, Christmas is not a biblical holiday. We are nowhere commanded in the Bible to celebrate Jesus' birthday. And yet . . .

At this time of the year, even in today's politically correct climate, one would be hard-pressed to avoid seeing numerous nativity scenes, particularly as part of the decorations on many front lawns. Thus, this is a great time of the year to think seriously about the Incarnation: the biblical, historic Christian doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus in which "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). It is important to understand that this doctrine means that Jesus' birth was miraculous: Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, literally a virgin. That is a miracle. It is unbiblical and even blasphemous to contend that the birth of Jesus was the result of the physical union of God the Father with Mary, as many leaders and authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have clearly taught. No, the Incarnation happened in the manner described in biblical, historic, orthodox Christianity. And there is a clear reason for why the Incarnation happened at all . . .

Sin. Well, ultimately it is because God is by nature a saving, redeeming God, and He acted in order to redeem sinful man from the terrible fate of rightly receiving His wrath. This is the core of Christianity. God is holy: perfect, pure, righteous, indeed the standard of these descriptive terms. He never had to live up to them, or perform to a standard. No. He is the standard. And He created man. Mankind was created innocent, in a sense even righteous before God. But mankind rebelled. Every person born into this world is a sinner by nature. This is demonstrated in that children do not have to be taught to misbehave. For example, no child needs to be instructed to grab his favorite toy and scream, "Mine!" This is bad news. The Bible says that all have sinned (Ecclesiastes. 7:20; Romans 3:10, 23) and that this means that all are due wrath from our perfect Judge (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). But God has acted. He has provided a substitute to punish in our stead. Not only that, but this substitute has lived a perfect life, one that God will impute, or, reckon to every sinner's account who surrenders his life to this substitute--the Lord Jesus. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection provides salvation to all those who belong to him. This is the biblical Gospel and the reason for Christmas (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 2:1-10).

The Incarnation--the coming of God the Son to the earth to take on human flesh--occurred because God is a saving God and we could never be saved without a substitute to fulfill God's law on our behalf, both through perfect obedience and through receiving the wrath of God due sinners on our behalf. This is Christianity. This is worth celebrating! Praise God!

May you, reader, experience the salvation described in this blog entry--to the glory of God! Merry Christmas!

Michael W. Waldrop