Traits of youth who do not leave the church

This is a very helpful article on church leaders.com which gives 3 traits of those young folks who do not walk away from the church. It is written by Jon Nielson, who is the senior high pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Read the article in its entirety here – http://www.churchleaders.com/youth (Photo credit www.workingworld.com)

*Trait # 1 – They are converted

The Apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn’t use phrases like “nominal Christian” or “pretty good kid.” The Bible doesn’t seem to mess around with platitudes like: “Yeah, it’s a shame he did that, but he’s got a good heart.” When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find that there is very little wiggle room. Listen to these words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop talking about “good kids.” We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion. How many of us are preaching to “unconverted evangelicals”?

*Trait # 2 – They have been equipped, not entertained.

Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples, or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to “equip” the saints to do gospel ministry in order that the church of Christ may be built up.

If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer, and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been. We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them. We have entertained, not equipped them…and it may indeed be time to panic!

Trait # 3 – Their parents preached the gospel to them.

As a youth pastor, I can’t do all this. All this equipping that I’m talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students’ homes. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crapshoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church. The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.

Phil Johnson – The story of Calvinism

Photo from Spurgeon.org which also happens to be one of Phil Johnson’s websites. It contains an entire library of Spurgeon’s sermons.
phil johnsonPhil Johnson (Pyromaniacs) does a survey of Calvinism. Phil Johnson is Executive Director of Grace to You. He teaches regularly as a lay pastor at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of Dr. MacArthur’s major books. Phil is an elder at Grace Church, a trustee of the UK-based Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust, a member of FIRE, husband to Darlene, father of three sons (two of them married), and grandfather to three precious children. Phil is probably best known for his websites, which include The Spurgeon Archive (www.spurgeon.org) and a blog known as Pyromaniacs (teampyro.blogspot.com).

The Video –  Published on Nov 18, 2012 by needanewstartcom.

The Christian doctrine of ‘Election’ has caused more difficulties to believers than any other. It is indeed one of the most frequently misunderstood of all Biblical teachings. Many have been distressed by what they think this teaching means. But rather than causing Christians concern, this doctrine is actually one that should fill believers with comfort and a much better grasp of the great and sovereign God that they serve.

In the first message Phil introduces us to this doctrine, and begins by dispelling the myth that election was an addition to the gospel invented by the Apostle Paul, and which cannot be found in the teaching of Christ. But as Phil shows us, this is simply not the case, and he then goes on to explain what election is really all about, directly from the teaching of Christ.

The second message provides a very helpful overview of Calvinism and its history, which actually sets the doctrine of election in the context of the Biblical teaching with which it is most commonly associated. Once correctly understood, election is seen to be actually a demonstration of the Lord’s love for his people. These two recordings will be a great help to those who are struggling to understand this most difficult doctrine.

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When it comes to sexual temptation- FLEE!

When it comes to sexual temptation, the only way to get out of it- the prompting- and you know what is the general guideline for sexual temptation? God says, „Flee fornication!” 

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

Flee- you know what’s ‘flee’? Run! Like Joseph. Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife. You know, this guy Potiphar, he’s a high ranking officer of Pharaoh. Potiphar can have any woman he wants. He had nobility, he was a high ranking official and he has all the women he wants for his harem. But, for his wife he would choose the very best and she was probably very beautiful. And that’s why when she tried to seduce Joseph, Joseph ran. There were no commandments because Joseph lived before the commandments. But, Joseph knew how to face sexual temptation. This is one temptation you don’t stand there saying, „Come on.. I’ll fight you in Jesus name.” No, just run, flee.

Flee means- you are driving along and you meet an old friend, someone you had been attracted to last time or whatever and she says, „Will you give me a lift?” And you say, „No, because… testimony… people see me and…you know, you understand…. here’s some money for a taxi. Flee, flee. In my case, I don’t counsel the opposite sex and because I don’t, I can tell all my (assistant) pastors, „Don’t counsel the opposite sex.” Our church has invested heavily in the training of female counselors  and these ladies are trained by me, the guidelines are set by me and they counsel the ladies of the church.  Because problems start with good intentions.

The problem is that you are not fleeing. There is something unique about sexual sin. It affects your body. The Bible tells you that this sin will affect your body, the other sins won’t. Is it your health? Will you age so much faster? I do not know, but I do know it will affect your body. I remember some years ago, I noticed a counselor in our church, he was very popular, ladies were coming to him to be counseled. So, I talked to the wife and told her: watch him. We don’t allow guys to counsel women, but, sometimes situations are such…  that we are flexible. But, keep an eye on your husband. She said, „You know what pastor? I trust my husband.” You know what, I said, „I don’t want my wife to trust me in this area.” Why? Because I am red blooded. I’m a man. I don’t want my wife to trust me in this area. No, no, no.

You know why? Because evreything starts out innocently. A little flirtation, a little attraction. The guy really wants to counsel the girl. The forces of attraction are very strong. So, the best thing is not to trust yourself in this area. PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH. You need to understand why people fall into sin. It works like this in the cycle:

  1. First of all temptation comes. It can come in a talk, or something you saw, something you remembered,
  2. Then, before it becomes sin, this always happens. The in between is this: Confidence in the flesh (I can handle this). The apostle Paul says in Philippians 3, „Put no confidence in the flesh.” We must not trust in this area. For example, take a boy, your computer is outside the room (or on his cellphone). The boy says, „you don’t trust me dad?” Tell him, „I trust you, I just don’t trust your flesh.” That’s a smart dad. Because I don’t trust my own flesh. When you don’t trust your flesh you are safe. The moment you say, „I can handle this, I can watch this show, no problem,” and you may mean it but, you are putting confidence in the flesh. And your flesh will always bring you to the dark side. You think: Oh, it’s getting late and an attractive girl like her should not be going home alone. I think I’ll take her back. Innocent, alright? I can handle this. Or I’ll just open this email. You know, there’s some suggestive photos but the website is okay. Or this movie, there’s some good elements… I can handle this. It starts with confidence in the flesh. You’re smart if you learn to run like Joseph. And you know something? (In the end) God could trust him to rule. Does that mean poor Joseph was repressed for the rest of his life? No, he had a lovely wife, had children, had double fruitfulness. He enjoyed married life and best of all, he was able to have a clear conscience.
  3. If you have utter confidence in the flesh you fall into sin, indulgence.
  4. And the prompt of sin is guilt. In guilt you have new resolutions. „From now on, I’ll never turn on the computer. From now on, I’ll never look at the opposite sex. From now on, I won’t even talk to the opposite sex.” You know, some extreme stupidity. „From now on, never again, never again…” When the devil hears that, the devil says, „Good!” Resolutions don’t work because they presume on man’s strength. The more you distrust in yourself in this matter, the better it is for you.  Once you have these guilt resolution, you have a propensity for fresh temptations.

The way Jesus broke this is He counseled a woman, He ministered a woman caught in adultery. She wasn’t a prostitute. She was caught in adultery and what did Jesus tell her? „I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The church has it backwards. The church says, „Go and sin no more first, then we won’t condemn you.” In other words, Jesus gave her the gift of no condemnation and that became an empowerment to go and sin no more.

Addiction to pornography has destroyed countless lives and marriages, even in the church. What is at the root of this addiction, and how can this and all destructive addictions be truly broken once and for all? Joseph Prince tackles these questions head-on and shows from God’s Word how only God’s grace and gift of no condemnation can truly set one free. Listen to this life-changing message today, and allow God’s grace to deliver, lead and empower you to experience victory over condemnation and every destructive habit in your life!

Uploaded by  on Jun 1, 2011

Moral Purity in Marriage

Dr. Russell Moore – You will encounter sexual temptation in your marriage. It is not a question of whether you will encounter sexual temptation, you will encounter sexual temptation when the satanic powers see two who become one flesh, what they see is a living, breathing,  organic display of what they hate the most, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Whatever sexual temptation will come into your marriage is not about you, it is about something that has been going on for millennia and something that was purposed and planned in the mind of God before the cosmos ever was. Your struggle and your battle is precisely what the serpent offers in the garden when he says to the woman, simultaneously, „See yourself as an animal”. She’s been given dominion, the Bible says, over all the beasts of the fields and now she is taking direction from a beast of the field. And also, „See yourself as a god. You can decide what is good and evil”. You will face this throughout your marriage because this is exactly what the apostle Paul is talking about when he says the issue with sexual purity is not simply about self control, although it is about self control. It is about a kind of self control that is doing warfare against the temptation of Satan.

Paul has been going through this entire letter, talking to them about the dangers out there, in the spiritual world. He talks about sexual morality, he talks about sexual fidelity and he says, „Don’t you understand that there is something spiritual happening here?

ADULTERY – Almost anybody in this room can look around and see the kind of carnage that takes place in the lives of even the people that you know. Some of you have pastors who preached the Gospel to you , or baptized you and were later destroyed because of an adulterous affair. Sexual immorality is not something that suddenly happens to you, sexual immorality is part of a conspiracy and a plot to work with you in your sin in order to, as the book of proverbs says, trap you like an animal who is caught.  Paul says, „Flee from sexual immorality. Be warned about joining yourself in adultery”. And why is that the case?  It’s because this warning applies to all of the people of God. We typically think that sexual temptation and sexual opportunity happen to sexy people. That is not the way that it happens. And I have seen so many men who have left beautiful, godly wives for women that you would not even notice if you passed them in the hallway. This is not a matter of how sexy someone is. The Satanic powers are noticing you. They are watching you. Especially those of you who have stood up and said, „I am pursuing God’s call upon my life, to stand and to speak for Christ, in proclaiming the oracles of God.” They will do anything to see to it that the Gospel is discredited by your animalistic impulses. Most people who find themselves drawn into adultery, are not drawn into adultery because they are so oversexed. Most of them, instead find them selves in that place because marriage is a mission, it’s an economy. It’s an order that has been put together and it is hard labor together to bring forth the bread from the earth and to be fruitful and multiply, and to raise up the next generation and to get along with one another through all of these sufferings and all of this strife.  Notice what the apostle Paul says here, it is shockingly radical „You belong to each other”. He does not simply say, „Flee adultery”. He says something significant here. He says, „Husbands, your body belongs to your wife. And wives, your body belongs to your husband”. Do you realize what a shocking statement that is?

(2) FORNICATION – When you change the biblical name ‘fornication’ which is something that is evil, to ‘premarital sex’ you are changing it to something that signifies it is just a matter of timing. There are some ways that fornication mimics the conjugal union of sex. When you have two that are joining themselves together, outside of that life long covenant, you are picturing something other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fornication is not simply something that is timed badly. The fornication is a spiritual act that is joining you and attaching you in some mystical way to another person, in a way that communicates a ‘Christ who is not faithful to His bride’. That is not just immoral, that is blasphemy. One of the significant issues that we face in our churches is that we have an entire generation of young people who are able to cover over and to callous their consciences by being technical virgins, by justifying to themselves acts of rebellion against God as somehow being acceptable and somehow being justifiable in a way that not only stores up sin, but also devastates the functioning christian conscience. And often, even those teenagers and young single adults in our churches, who are remaining faithful in sexual purity are doing so more out of risk avoidance than out of a commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God has revealed that fornicators will not enter the kingdom of God. One of the things we have in our church and possibly in your marriage is that we don’t really believe that. And we really do not see the spiritual war that is going on at this point, because we assume it’s premarital sex, so once the marriage takes place, the issue is now resolved. Some of you in your marriages right now are experiencing deadness and mistrust, and conflict because you, husband led that woman into fornication and you have never gotten to the point of repentance before God for evil. Everything that you said to her, to convince her that this was justifiable, every act of hiddenness that you took to manage your own hiddenness and to cover over your sin, yo will be able to do just as easily, again with some other woman. „She’s the love of my life!” You’ll feel that way about some other woman some day. „We were just so carried away”. You’ll be carried away again, like that. „The timing was so wrong, we were so young”. „My wife just doesn’t understand me and I’m at a time in my life when I really need this relationship”. Until you get to the point, specifically men, where you, as a former fornicator get on your knees with your wife and say, „I am guilty of not protecting you, of not exercising Godly headship over you, of not loving you as Christ loved the church, and I repent before God and I repent before you”. You will never understand what the scripture is talking about when it says, „you were washed, you were freed”. The problem is that we assume that because the problem is in the past, that the issue is over, but, nothing drives 2 people further apart than sinning together. Your wife, men, may not trust you right now because she knows her parents couldn’t trust you then. Until that is dealt with, with the kind of heart that cries out, „Lord have mercy and free me and wash me”, you will never find the kind of spiritual power and freedom in your marriage that  you so desperately need.

(3) PORNOGRAPHY. The apostle Paul doesn’t speak to pornography directly here, but he speaks to porneia, to sexual immorality. And this issue has become almost ubiquitous to such a degree that pornography in terms of spiritual warfare has been weaponized, including in our churches. Now, when a couple comes into my church and says, „We don’t know what’s wrong in our marriage, we just don’t have any intimacy, we don’t have sex with each other anymore, we just feel cold, I immediately say, „How long has the porn been going on? ” Husband usually looks at me like I’m an Old Testament prophet or a new age psychic. It is because it happens so often and with such regularity and it always has the same satanic results. PORNOGRAPHY IS UNIQUELY SATANIC BECAUSE IT DRIVES YOU TOWARDS INSATIABILITY. Nobody in the history of the world has said, „Ok Ive seen my porn”. Porn, by definition drives you further and further and further towards intimacy . WHy? Because it is an occultic pull upon you that is driving you towards the kind of mystery  and the kind of intimacy  that you are designed to find in the one flesh union and it severs that away from real life, covenant, flesh and blood love in such a way that you become numbed over to the joy of sexual intimacy itself. PORNOGRAPHY LURES YOU IN WITH SEXINESS, and then TOTALLY EVISCERATES YOUR CAPACITY  FOR SEXUAL INTIMACY. So much so, that there may even be men in this room  who are so captured by pornography that you are not even able to have sex with your wife without retrieving for yourself images that you have archived from porn. If you do not see how desperate and how sad and how pathetic and how pitiful that situation is, you will never find freedom. When you put yourself in the orbit of pornography, you are not just viewing material, you are joining yourself with a digital prostitute. Someone who is paid to create a sexual arousal in you, you are doing exactly what the apostle Paul is warning about in Corinth, when he says, „Don’t go up there to the temple prostitutes. What will happen when you get there, no matter how you cover over it, no matter how you keep it hidden, something spiritual has happened in the most wicked sort of way. Pornography will move in and destroy you because it will start to create you into the kind of person for whom intimacy is simply body parts rubbing together, not one flesh. And you will ultimately find yourself, when you have seen every image you want to see, when you have read every word you want to have read, like Esau, vomiting up the red stuff that he craved so badly. Pornography has some of you enslaved, precisely because the satanic powers love to work by helping you to hide your sin.

The power that Satan has over you is only two fold. Satan’s power is to take those things the God has created for good in your life, including the impulse towards intimacy and to twist it slightly away from its intended object, so that you become more and more entrapped and enslaved in your own deception. That you are exactly in the situation the apostle Paul speaks of as unbelievers, „Following after the prince of the power of the air, through the passions of the body and of the mind”. The only other power he has is Revelation 12- to accuse the brothers. Some of you are staying in hiding right now when you are at the place in your life where if there is enough of the sense of the urgency of the situation, you can save your life. , you can save your marriage, but you are hiding in the bushes back there where our prehistoric parents are. But, there is a voice through the word of God speaking as it does in every generation that asks the question, „Adam, where are you?”

The only way that you will break yourself free from the pull toward immorality is to come out of hiding. „Lord have mercy upon me, the sinner”.  And the only way that the power of Satan can be defeated is first of all, by recognizing that the goodness that God has given you in that one flesh union in your marriage is to point you to something that is even better news than that. So that the very act of holding that husband, holding that wife, crying and weeping in repentance together, that very act is a physical picture of what the apostle Paul says to the church at Colossae, when he says, „All of that legal record of our condemnation, that list of thoughts and intents, and archived internet histories has been nailed to His cross, disarming the principalities and powers by making a public display  of them.

Russell Moore: Why Impostors Love the Church

Russell More asks: But why, when there is so much opportunity for debauchery out there in the world around us, do such people choose the church? His answer?  Read below:

Recently, I read a book that kept me awake a couple of nights. It was about “Clark Rockefeller,” and the scare quotes are important. The man was neither “Clark” nor “Rockefeller.” He was a German immigrant who crafted an identity as an heir of one of America’s wealthiest dynasties. He married, fathered a child, and was involved in fraud, theft, and maybe even murder. And no one ever knew, until the very end.

What made me squirm was the fact that the fake Rockefeller’s inroad to all his deception was churches and relationships, particularly with women. He would make the connections he needed in local congregations, and he would charm the women there.

At the same time, he would parasitically imitate the men, watching and mirroring back to them their convictions and opinions, even the inflections of their voices. But behind all of that, there was nothing real but a predatory appetite.

The New Testament warns us, of course, about spiritual impostors. Sometimes, these “wolves” are there to introduce subtly false doctrine. But just as often, it seems, these spiritual carnivores hold to true doctrine, at least on the surface. But they use this doctrine and service for predatory ends. The sons of Eli, for instance, use their priestly calling to co-opt the fat of the offering and to lay with the women at the altar (1 Sam. 2). Virtually every New Testament letter warns us about the same phenomenon (e.g., 2 Pet. 2; Jude).

But why, when there is so much opportunity for debauchery out there in the world around us, do such people choose the church?

First of all, I think it’s because deception can look a lot like discipleship. A disciple is like a son learning from his father, Jesus tells us. The student resembles his teacher. That’s good and right. But the satanic powers turn all good things for evil. A spiritual impostor can mimic such discipleship when he’s, in fact, just “casing the joint,” watching the mores, learning the phrases, mimicking the convictions. It can seem like the passing down of the faith when, in reality, it’s an almost vampiric taking on of another identity, all for the sake of some appetite or other.

Second, I think it’s because these impostors are looking for something they can’t find in bars and strip clubs. Many of them “feed” off innocence itself. The Apostle Paul, therefore, warns of those who “creep into households, taking captive weak women burdened down with sins.” (2 Tim. 3:6) The impostors are able to gain power over the weak not only by deceiving them but also by morally compromising them.

Often these victims are drawn, for reasons good and bad, to spiritual authority. The impostor mimics this authority, sometimes with a precision almost to the point of identity theft. But he uses it to defile, sapping away what seems to them to be innocence as a vampire would lap up blood.

Finally, the church often draws such impostors because of a perversion of the Christian doctrine of grace. The Christian gospel offers a complete forgiveness of sin, and not only that, a fresh start as a new creation. But both Jesus and the Apostles warn us that this can easily be perverted into a kind of anti-Christ license. Faith is not real without repentance, and faith is not like that of the demons, simply assenting to truth claims. Faith works itself out in love. Faith follows after the lordship of King Jesus. Faith takes up a cross.

But a notion of “grace” apart from lordship can provide excellent cover for spiritual impostors. That’s why virtually every sex predator I’ve heard of compares himself, or is compared by one of those on whom he’s preying, as a latter-day King David. This is often the case even while this person continues to run rampant in his sin against the Body of Christ. Those who seek to hold accountable, or even just to warn the flock, are then presented as “unmerciful” or “graceless” or unwilling to help along the “struggling.”

This often leads to a church that then loses its ability to be the presence of Christ. The church, desiring to be seen to be merciful, loses any aspect of the merciful ministry of Christ because we don’t do what he called us to do: to tend the flock of God. Or we are so burned over by the presence of predators among us that we lose the ability to trust anyone. Yes, there is Demas, and yes, there is Alexander the Coppersmith. But there’s Timothy and Titus, too.

Moreover, the presence of impostors can cause us to lose confidence in the church itself. But how can that be when Jesus warns us from the very beginning that we must be watchful of this. The Apostolic Word gives us confidence that spiritual predators, like Pharaoh’s magicians, “will not get very far.” (2 Tim. 3:9)

There’s nothing more enraging than the sound of a lamb bleating in a wolf’s mouth. But the Shepherd is coming. (HT)

Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church. Moore is the author of several books, including „The Kingdom of Christ,” „Adopted for Life,” and ‘Tempted and Tried.”

Theological dementia and The two ways that people die

3 points from an R C Sproul Easter message, see full notes below:

We live in a world of not just foolishness, but theological dementia. People actually out there believe that their sins will be covered by this vague amorphous love of God who forgives everybody. If you don’t repent, I don’t care how loving God is, He will not forgive you. Not now, not ever. Sin is so much more of an offense against a Holy God than any of us ever imagine. 

In the Bible when is speaks of people dying, it describes only two ways in which people ever die. People either die in faith or they die in their sins. There are people here today (in church), as a matter of custom, or family pressure that have no faith. You’re still in your sin and if you would die today, you would die in your sin and you would perish without hope.

Are you sexually immoral?  Are you addicted to pornography? If you don’t flee from it, you’ll take it with you to the lake of fire. Are you living with a man or a woman who is not your wife?, outside of the bounds of marriage? You can celebrate that relationship in hell. The culture applauds it, but the Lord God almighty can’t stomach it. And in every church in America there are those who have eschewed marriage to live together without any word of discipline from the church. I say to you this day: If you’re in such a relationship, get out of it before the sun sets today. You’re defying the holiness of God and He will not tolerate it for a long time. Are you a liar? Can people trust your word? Is deceit and dissembling part of your conduct? This is why some people hope that the resurrection didn’t happen. Because if Christ is not raised I don’t have to worry about a lake of fire. When I’m dead, I’ll be dead. There’ll be no judgement. I will have gotten away with it all. 

R.C.Sproul full message:

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in the 15th chapter, where the apostle Paul addresses the skeptics that had invaded the church a Corinth. People that were denying the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, but wanted to reconstruct the church to make it more politically correct, more relevant to the needs of the people of that day, so they wanted a christianity without resurrection, with our the supernatural. They wanted a christianity based solely upon their appreciation and admiration for the profundity of the ethical teachings of rabbi Jesus.

And so, the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and said to them, „Have you really considered the implications of your thinking? In his discussion, by way of this letter, he employed a technique that had been made famous by philosophers before Socrates which was the technique of arguing in an ad hominem fashion, not the ad hominem abusive, fallacious manner of arguing, where you try to refute your opponent by insulting his character. That’s the fallacious kind. But, the simple ad hominem argument was to argue to the person, that is, you listen to the statements and the premises that your opponent is making, you repeat them, then you step into the shoes of your opponent and say, „Okay, if your premise is correct, what is your logical implications of it? Let’s track them and see where it takes us. And so they would use that technique called reductio ad absurdum, where they would reason from their opponent’s premise and showed that if you are consistent with your premise it will lead you ultimately to absurdity.

Paul was a master at that. So when he writes to the Corinthians he says this, „If Christ is preached and He has been raised from the dead, how is it that some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? Well, if there is no resurrection from the dead”, Paul is saying, „what are the implications for that?” Well if there’s no resurrection at all of any kind, of anyone, then that would clearly exclude any hope of the resurrection of a single person like Jesus. If there’s absolutely no life after death, if no one comes out of the tomb, then manifestly that would mean that Jesus is still dead and that He has not been resurrected. Wel, then what? If Christ is not risen then our preaching is empty, it is futile, it has no meaningful content. It is meaningless. And, if our preaching is nothing but a void, then your faith is empty and meaningless. Your faith is an exercise in delusion. Not only that, but we would be found to be false witnesses of God because we’ve testified that it was God who raised up Christ. If Christ is not raised, obviously God did not raise Him and if God did not raise Him we have been liars by telling the world that indeed God did raise Him from the dead.  And again, if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile. You’re still in your sins. You still carry the weight of guilt around your neck.

In the Bible when is speaks of people dying, it describes only two ways in which people ever die. People either die in faith or they die in their sins. There are people here today (in church), as a matter of custom, or family pressure that have no faith. You’re still in your sin and if you would die today, you would die in your sin and you would perish without hope. Well, what would be true for the unbeliever would be true as well for the believer. If Christ is not raised we would be unjustified. But the Bible says, „He was raised for our justification”. He was raised because the Father said, „YES!,” to the atonement, because He said  „YES!,” to His work of reconciliation. But if the Father had rejected the sacrificial offering of Christ on the cross we would have no Savior. We would have no relief, no forgiveness of our sins.

We live in a world of not just foolishness, but theological dementia. People actually out there believe that their sins will be covered by this vague amorphous love of God who forgives everybody. If you don’t repent, I don’t care how loving God is, He will not forgive you. Not now, not ever. Sin is so much more of an offense against a Holy God than any of us ever imagine.

If Christ is not raised, you’re still there in your sin. If Christ is not risen, then those who have fallen asleep in him have perished. Someone once said to me, „When you die and go to heaven, write down the 10 people that you most want to see there”.  And of course, the first one was Jesus, naturally. Oh yes, I wanna see Paul, yes I wanna see David, and yes I wanna see the rest of the apostles. But after Jesus, the next name on my list was my father. I wanna see him again. I wanna see my mother again. And there are those in this congregation who yearn to see their husbands again, or their wives again, or their children again.

Paul says, let’s face it. Let’s be realistic. If Christ is not raised, why do you amuse yourself with thoughts that you’re ever going to see your loved ones again? Because you won’t. When you’re dead, you’re dead. And if you die with the most toys, you win. What nonsense. Is there anything more precious to you than life? Is there anything more significant to you than eternal life? Than resurrection from the dead? And Paul says,”If He’s not risen, they’re all gone. They’re all dead. Forget it”. And we are of all people the most to be pitied.

Then Paul goes on to say, „I don’t want you to believe in the resurrection because the options are too grim too imagine. I’m just showing you where you are going if you deny the resurrection, but, now is Christ raised from the dead! And he was seen by the apostles, by Peter, and John, and 500 people at one time and He appeared unto me. I am not writing you myths and fables. Why do you think my life is on the line every day? Why do you think I fought with the wild beasts at Ephesus? Why do you think I spent so much time in jail? Why do you think I spent so much time in shipwreck? And in beatings?

It’s because I saw Him! And I know that He is alive! I know that my Redeemer lives!

Fast forward. Beyond the writings of Paul to the apostle John. Jesus is raised from the dead! So what? Here’s what: We will have a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem. That New jerusalem is going to come down from the heavens and when we look at it it will look like a fantastically adorned bride on her wedding day. More beautiful than a princess or a queen. And John said, „I heard a voice and it said: Behold, the tabernacle of God, the tent of God is with men and He will dwell with them.

Emanuel. Jesus will be in our midst again. And God will wipe away every tear. You’ve no use for tears because John says there won’t be anything more to cry about. There will be no more death, there aren’t any funeral services in the New Jerusalem. There aren’t any cemeteries in the Holy City. There will be no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain. Those belong to the old order which are passing away. „And behold,” God said, „I will make all things new!” And He said to me the same words He uttered from the cross, „It’s finished. It’s done. I am Alpha and I am Omega. I am the beginning and I am the end. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts and he who overcomes shall inherit all things and I shall be his God and he shall be my son”. Incredibly good, nay, great news!

Sadly, however, even here in the announcement of the ending of death and pain and sorrow and tears for those who belong to Christ, the announcement doesn’t end there. There is a however. As John, quoting Jesus, says, „But, the cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, idolaters and liars, do you see this list? Did you see the things that are contained in there? Murderers next to the unbelievers? Here’s what Jesus says, „The cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, idolater and liar will go into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Are you sexually immoral?  Are you addicted to pornography? If you don’t flee from it, you’ll take it with you to the lake of fire. Are you living with a man or a woman who is not your wife?, outside of the bounds of marriage? You can celebrate that relationship in hell. The culture applauds it, but the Lord God almighty can’t stomach it. And in every church in America there are those who have eschewed marriage to live together without any word of discipline from the church. I say to you this day: If you’re in such a relationship, get out of it before the sun sets today. You’re defying the holiness of God and He will not tolerate it for a long time. Are you a liar? Can people trust your word? Is deceit and dissembling part of your conduct? This is why some people hope that the resurrection didn’t happen. Because if Christ is not raised I don’t have to worry about a lake of fire. When I’m dead, I’ll be dead. There’ll be no judgement. I will have gotten away with it all.

I don’t wanna end the sermon on Easter in the lake of fire. That’s no  place to swim on this day. I wanna look to the New Jerusalem, where our Lord Jesus has gone, to His Father’s house in which He tells us are many mansions. And He is gone to prepare a place for me and for you and all who put their trust in Him. So what? So what! So, everything! You know why? You know what I’m going to say: He is risen!

Peace on earth? Not until Christ returns…unless you are a Christ follower

Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace !

Isaiah calls Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

While Luke tells us that the angels proclaimed peace on earth amongst the peoples whom God is pleased with:

Christians can have peace through Christ !

  •  Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”.
  • Also inRomans 5:1 the apostle Paul states: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Also in John 16:33 Jesus states: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  •  And in Philippians 4:6-7 -And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • In John 14:27  Jesus states: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you

But, His kingdom is not of this world…

Yet, in John 18:36 the apostle John writes: Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” and Isaiah refers in 2 different verses to the time of peace when Jesus will reign as King over the earth.

  • Isaiah 11:6 -The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
  • Isaiah 65:25 – The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

…so, without Christ, the world cannot / will not have peace !

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While Christians around the world get ready to celebrate the birth of the Saviour, here’s a brief, yet important example of a life well lived (to the end) that is Christ-honoring, an example from a man named Juma Nuradin Kamil.

  1. Persecution– Romans 8:35-39

    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  2. Perseverance – 1 Corinthians 16:13
    Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

SOMALIA

2 Thessalonians 1:4

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Pray for the country of Somalia, a country that is predominantly Muslim (99.67 %) and a profession of faith in Christ is punished by death (decapitation). According to Voice of the Martyrs, there are only about 4,000 Christians in Somalia in a population of 9.9 million people, so you can understand what a tiny minority the Christians are and therefore very vulnerable to persecution. Here is a story of a faithful man, who persevered unto the death, death by decapitation – Juma Nuradin Kamil. He rightly understood what the Apostle Paul meant in

Philippians 1:21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Matthew 16:26

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

The following is the report published at Voice of the Martyrs:

Christian convert beheaded

A kidnapped Christian convert from Islam was found decapitated on September 2 on the outskirts of Hudur in Bakool region, in south-western Somalia. Juma Nuradin Kamil, who embraced Christianity about three years ago, was kidnapped on August 21 by three suspected Islamic extremists from the al Shabaab terrorist group. Muslim extremists from al Shabaab, a militant group with ties to al Qaeda, have vowed to rid Somalia of Christianity.

Sources believe the kidnapping and subsequent manner of murder suggest that al Shabaab militants had been monitoring him. „It is usual for the al Shabaab to decapitate those they suspect to have embraced the Christian faith, or sympathisers of western ideals,” a Christian leader said. „Our brother … was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him.”

Pray for Juma’s family and the grieving Christian community. May they rest in the knowledge that the Good Shepherd walks with them through this difficult time. Ask the Lord to protect believers in Somalia and deliver them from harm. Pray that the perpetrators will repent and turn to Jesus Christ.

For more on our suffering brothers and sisters in Somalia, go to the Somalia Country Report.

September 22, 2011 Sources: Compass Direct

Arousing Ourselves to Death, Dr. Russell Moore

Touchstone Archives: Arousing Ourselves to Death.

A very sobering editorial from Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here’s a short excerpt:

A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this.

Porn Is Ravaging Our Churches

The couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot. The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.

It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?” The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?” For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age. In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the Church faced the horror of this truth.

A Perversion of the Good

In one sense, the issue of pornography is not new at all. Human lust for covenant-breaking sexuality is rooted, Jesus tells us, not in anything external to us but in our fallen passions (Matt. 5:27–28). Every generation of Christians has faced the pornography question, whether with Dionysian pagan art, or with Jazz Age fan-dancers, or with airbrushed centerfolds.

But the situation is unique now. Pornography is not now simply available. With the advent of Internet technology, with its near universal reach and its promise of secrecy, pornography has been weaponized. In some sectors, especially of our young male populations, it is nearly universal. This universality is not, contrary to the propaganda of the pornographers themselves, a sign of its innocence but of its power.

Like all sin, pornography is by definition a perversion of the good, in this case of the mystery of the male and female together in a one-flesh union. The urge toward this is strong indeed, precisely because our Creator, in manifold wisdom, decided that human creatures would not subdivide like amoeba, but that the male would need the female, and the female the male, for the race to survive.

Beyond that is an even greater mystery still. The Apostle Paul tells us that human sexuality is not arbitrary, nor is it merely natural. It is, he reveals, itself an icon of God’s ultimate purpose in the gospel. The one-flesh union is a sign of the union between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:22–33). If human sexuality is patterned after the very Alpha and Omega of the cosmos, no wonder it is so difficult to restrain. No wonder it seems so wild.

An Ecclesial Issue

Pornography, by its very nature, leads to insatiability. One picture, stored in the memory, will never be enough to continue arousing a man. God, after all, designed the man and the woman to be satisfied not with a single sex act but with an ongoing appetite for each other, for the unitive and procreative union of flesh to flesh and soul to soul. One seeking the mystery outside of this covenantal union will never find what he is looking for. He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.

Yes, pornography is an issue of public morality. We have spoken to this repeatedly. A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this. We agree with those—often even secular feminists with whom we disagree on much—who say that a pornographic culture hurts women and children through the objectification of women, the trafficking of children, and the commodification of sex.

But before pornography is a legal or cultural or moral issue, it is an ecclesial one. Judgment must, as Scripture tells us, begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). The man who is sitting upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs their children to soccer practice might well be a religionless, secular culture warrior. But he is just as likely to be one of our church members, maybe even one who reads Touchstone magazine.

To begin to address this crisis, we call on the church of Jesus Christ to take seriously what is at stake here. Pornography is about more than biological impulses or cultural nihilism; it is about worship. The Christian Church, in all places and in all times and in all communions, has taught that we are not alone in the universe. One aspect of “mere Christianity” is that there are unseen spiritual beings afoot in the cosmos who seek to do us harm.

These powers understand that “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). They understand that a disruption of the marital sexual bond defaces the embodied icon of Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:32). They know that pornography, in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ, joins Christ, spiritually, to an electronic prostitute or, more likely, to a vast digital harem of electronic prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:16). And these accusing powers know that those who unrepentantly practice these things “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

Sham Repentance

This means that our churches cannot simply rely on accountability groups and blocking software to combat this scourge. We must see this as darkly spiritual and, first and foremost, reclaim a Christian vision of human sexuality. Internet pornography, after all, is downstream from a view of human sexuality that is self-focused and fruitless. In an era when sex is merely about achieving orgasm by any means necessary, we must reiterate what the Christian Church has always taught: sex is about the covenant union of one man with one woman, a union that is intended to bring about flourishing, love, happiness, and, yes, sensual pleasure.

But it is also intended to bring about new life. An incarnational picture of sexuality, rooted in the mystery of the gospel, is the furthest thing possible from the utilitarian ugliness of pornography. Our first step must be to show why pornography leaves a person, and a culture, so numb and empty. Human sexuality is, as our colleague Robert George put it, more than “body parts rubbing against one another.”

Moreover, we must call for repentance in our own churches, and this will be more difficult than it sounds. Pornography brings with it a kind of sham repentance. Immediately after an “episode” with pornography is “over,” the participant usually, especially at first, feels a kind of revulsion and self-loathing. An adulterer or a fornicator of the more traditional kind can at least rationalize that he is “in love.” Most people, though, don’t write poetry or romantic songs about this isolated, masturbatory compulsion. Even the pagans who find pornography pleasant and necessary seem to recognize that it is kind of pitiful.

Typically, for those who identify as Christians, a pornographic episode is followed by a resolve “never to do it again.” Often these (again, typically) men promise to seek out some sort of accountability and leave it behind. But often this resolve is less about a convicted conscience than about a sated appetite. Even Esau, belly full of red stew, wept for his lost birthright, but “found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Heb. 12:17).

Without genuine repentance, the cycle of temptation will grind on. The powers of this age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make it seem irresistible again. The pseudo-repentance will only keep the sin in hiding. This is devil work, and is among those things our Lord Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8).

Genuine Repentance

Our churches must show what genuine repentance looks like. This does not mean setting up legalistic rules and regulations against the use of technology itself. This, the Apostle Paul tells us, is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). It does mean, however, that every point of temptation comes with a corresponding means of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). For some especially vulnerable members of our churches, this will mean giving up the use of home computers or of Internet technology altogether.

Such a suggestion seems absurd to many, as though we were suggesting that some Christians might do well to stop eating or sleeping. But human beings have lived thousands of years without computers and without the Internet. Is our Lord Jesus right when he says it is better to cut off one’s hand or gouge out one’s eye rather than be condemned by our sin? (Matt. 5:29). How much less is it, then, to ask that one cut through a cable?

We must also empower women in our congregations to grapple as Christians with husbands enslaved to pornography. We believe, and have taught emphatically, that wives should submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:23). But, in Scripture and in Christian teaching, all submission (except to the Lord directly) has limits. The husband’s body, the Bible says, belongs to his wife (1 Cor. 7:4). She need not subject herself to being the physical outlet for her husband’s pornographically supplied fantasies. If both are members of a Christian church, and if he will not repent, we counsel the wife to follow our Lord’s steps (laid out in Matt. 18:15–20) to call a brother to repentance, up to and including church action.

The Gospel Answer

Finally, and most importantly, we call on the church to counteract pornography with what the demonic powers fear most: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, after all, walked with us, before us, into the testing of the appetites. His enemy and ours offered him a solitary masturbatory meal, to be wolfed down in the desert. Jesus turned back Satan’s offer, not because he did not hunger, but because he wanted a marriage supper, joined with his Church “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).

The powers want any child of Adam, especially a brother or sister of the Lord Jesus, to cringe in hiding from accusation. Through the confession of sin, though, any conscience, including one darkened by pornography, can be cleansed. By the blood of Christ, received in repentance and faith, no satanic indictment can stand, not even one that comes with an archived Internet history.

—Russell D. Moore, for the editors

Russell D. Moore is the author of Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. He lives with his family in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

Read more: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-03-003-e#ixzz1KjFPxXBW

A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this.

Read more: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-03-003-e#ixzz1KjG12iKy

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