This is a private blog for members of DRBC only. If you would like to become a member please email me.
Key thoughts on Titus 1 . . .
1. Paul's Identity: servant/slave of God; apostle of Jesus Christ (vs 1a)
2. Paul's Task: evangelism, edification, encouragment (vss 1b-3)
3. Titus: Paul's true spiritual son; at work in the field--Crete (4)
4. Priority Need for Titus: Elders in every town/place
DRBC DISTINCTIVE: PLURALITY OF ELDERS
5. Qualification of Elders (5-9; also see 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Note the interchangeable use of the word "overseer" with "elder" in verse 7. The terms "pastor," bishop," and "elder" all refer to the same office, each emphasizing a different aspect of leadership. Verses 6-8 focus on his character; verse 9 focuses on what he must be able to do.
6. The Need for Elders, So Qualified (10-16). Many false teachers who must be silenced by the instruction and correction of the sound doctrine of the Word of God (10-11). Note that faithful ministry as elders will lead to opposition of the enemies of God (circumcision party, Judaizers, legalists, prevailing cultural context, those attracted to Jewish myths and commands of men). Note also the gospel implications of verses 15-16: the issue is whether or not sinners have had their hearts changed by the truth of the gospel! Works can never earn salvation, but they can certainly expose those who have never been saved.
Application Questions . . .
1. Paul's first instruction to Titus in the body of his letter is to establish elders in every place. What does this imply about the importance of solid leadership?
2. Does your regard for solid leadership reflect this priority?
3. According to the list of qualifications in vss 5-9, is the priority in the selection of elders on character and faithfulness or popularity and personality?
4. How do you reflect this biblical priority in the way you interact with elders and leaders?
5. Should an elder expect that sound doctrine will bring about conflict and contrast?
6. If we note that a particular culture is full of sinners and characterized by sinful behavior, do we have the right to be prejudiced against the people of that culture?
7. Can a sinner (defiled and unbelieving) earn his way into God's favor through good works?
8. Is a redeemed sinner regarded as pure on the basis of the purity of his works?
DRBC Small groups meet regularly. These groups are excellent sources for conversation about these issues and more. All are invited to participate. Contact DRBC for info.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Happy Resurrection Day!
Everything that New Testament Christianity teaches depends on the resurrection of Jesus the Christ! In 1 Corinthians 15:19, Paul wrote (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." In other words, if there is no afterlife, no heaven, no relationship with God as our Father after this life, then Christianity does not deliver on its promises. He had just explained the reason for this conclusion in his previous statements. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." Even more pointedly, he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."
These verses bring us to the heart of Christianity: that Christ has paid the just penalty for the sins of His people, having taken their sins upon Himself, and that His righteousness, as the One Who has conquered death and hell, has been counted for His people. This legal transaction allows sinners to be justly forgiven for their sins, and makes them worthy to be in the presence of God, because Jesus is worthy!
Don't be mistaken into thinking that the value of Christianity is simply how sincere a believer's faith might be or how ethical (relatively) a believer's faith might cause him/her to be. New Testament Christianity is about the objective reality of Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and perfect righteousness provided so that the people of God might be saved, sanctified, and ultimately glorified! Paul himself has told us that if Christ did not truly and objectively rise from the dead, then our faith is futile. So, let us sincerely believe in the resurrection of Christ, and let us see the value of that in the Truth of the Resurrection!
In John 11:25-26, Jesus explained this Truth to Martha (the sister of Lazarus), "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
He is Risen! Soli Deo Gloria!
It works great as you can:
1.) Read off your phone while waiting in line at the store
2.) Read first thing in the morning and last thing at night - IF you keep your phone near your book like I do :-)
3.) Allows different family members to read the different translations from their phones as you sit together. This is great because some of the different ways that verses get translated provide a springboard to deeper investigation, conversation and if need be - it makes the father have to go hit the books so to speak, to get a clearer answer when he doesn't know why one group translated a certain way vs. another translator or group of translators.
In other words - it helps to see different ways a verse has been and POSSIBLY can be translated.
An example is the way the ending of Hebrews 1:2 is translated by different committees or groups.
It says - "and through whom He made...
(1) the world - NASB
(2) the worlds - KJV
(3) the universe - NIV
(4) the ages - YLT
There are some presuppositions that one has to have - and cautions to have in place when doing this - but I won't elaborate on that in this email.
Anyway, all one has to do is to go to their phone and:
1.) On their phone Internet browser, type in PASSAGE and TRANSLATION abbreviation (as an example - Romans 8:1-17 ESV)
Note - for some reason it doesn't come up with the complete cha
2.) Click on the first occurrence of a result from www.biblegateway.com
3.) You should get the section that is in the translation you wanted.
4.) THEN - after you've read the passage in whatever translation you started with, there's a little box you can click to change the translation to another one - and up it pops - then you read that one - and then pick another one.
I do this repeatedly during the day - and it is GREAT!"
Soli Deo Gloria!
Soli Deo Gloria!
DRBCers and Friends,
Recently, I was reading about an ecumenical group here in the city that includes LDS, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant Christians. Certainly, everyone who lives in the St. George area should be good neighbors to each other, as we have much in common due to proximity.
What struck me about the article however, were a couple of quotes by those involved in this ecumenical group. One retired American Baptist pastor related that during his time as a pastor in St. George (1961 to 1991 according to the article I read in The Spectrum--not sure what the date was as it was cut out and given to me), "I could go in and worship at any church and feel at home."
The other quote was by a Jewish lady who participates in the ecumenical group. About this group, she said, "We're not interested in who believes in what but what we can do as a group for our community. That's the focus." Was that the focus of the Lord Jesus during His public ministry? Was that the focus of the Apostles as they were imprisoned, beaten, and most of them martyred for their refusal to stop preaching the gospel of God's grace in Christ Jesus?
At DRBC, we are very interested in who believes in what, precisely because we want the best for everyone in our community! What we believe is directly related to our eternal destination: in glory with God forever or the lake of fire/. Here are a few verses from God's Word that demonstrate that the Lord is interested in who believes in what, and that knowing, trusting, believing God is what ultimately matters . . .
And he [Abraham] believed the LORD, and he [the LORD] counted it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 ESV).
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).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:14-17 ESV).
These verses are clear that the message of the gospel ("the word of Christ") must be explained so that people can understand. Since the church has been given the Great Commission to "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them . . .," it matters what people believe. It is not the duty of the church to simply vaguely serve the community, apart from any concern of what people believe! Our primary concern is that people have a saving relationship with God by grace through faith in Christ (His perfect righteousness, death, burial, and resurrection as our substitute).
One other verse that really places the importance of faith versus the works of the law in priority for us . . .
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law (Romans 3:28).
The desire of DRBC is that sinners (that's everybody) be declared just (righteous) by God. The Bible throughout teaches that this happens through faith, not good work in a church or family or workplace or community. DRBC is primarily interested in who believes in what for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners!
Soli Deo Gloria!
David Bernstein sent me (and some others) this list of "one anothers" in Scripture, and I thought it would be great to post here. Thanks, David!
Here is a partial list of the "one anothers" and "each others" in scripture.
Jesus sums up all the law into two commands: Love God and love others. To Love is to fulfill the whole law. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal. 5:14)
The following passages help us to understand how much emphasis the Scriptures place on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another.
Leviticus 19:11 "Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another."
John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. [meaning to humbly serve one another]
John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
1 Cor. 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
1 Thess. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another , because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
1 Thess. 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
1 Thess. 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.
Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
Again, thanks to David for sending this list!
Michael W. Waldrop
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.
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.
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!
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."
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."