sproul-macarthur-piper
Today on Facebook, someone posed this question in the Reformed Baptist Fellowship & Theology Forum:

“Help me guys on preacher and teacher
A) R.C. Sproul
B) J.F. MacArthur
C) J Piper
Who do you prefer? And Why?”

While this kind of question is like having to choose between Mexican, Italian or Chinese food (another conundrum if you ask me!), it did spark my thought processes and so here they are.

I have a deep respect for all three of these Men of God and choosing one of them in no way diminishes my respect for the other two.

That being said, my choice is John MacArthur. His expository method gets to the heart of every text on which he preaches and I have a deep respect for one who loves the church with such passion.

The slight disagreements that I have with R. C. Sproul and John Piper are certainly secondary, maybe even tertiary differences on issues that do not adversely impact the clear Biblical teaching of Salvation.

First of all, my main disagreement with R. C. Sproul is on the issue of baptism. Baptism is a picture of what has taken place in the heart of one who is elect and from the examples in Scripture was done as an outward sign after one's conversion to illustrate what God has done in that person's life.

Next, my main disagreement with John Piper is Non-Cessationism. He believes that the signs and wonders gifts are still operational today, even though he has not personally experienced them. Once again, the examples in Scripture illustrate that the purpose for the signs and wonders gifts was to validate to their world that the Apostles indeed were called by God and given authority to speak on His behalf. Since we now have the completed Canon of Scripture, there is no need for the message to be validated in the same manner.

Christ spoke in Mark 8 and Luke 11 that an evil generation seeks a sign. Seeking a sign can indicate a lack of faith. I pray that in my own life I can exhibit the kind of faith Christ spoke of in John 20:29:

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'”

But even with these disagreements, all three of these men are being used by God to build His kingdom and I thank the Lord for such giants of the Faith and I pray for His continued blessing on their efforts to bring honor to the Lord's Name and that the Lord continues to draw his elect to Himself in the process.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

I came across this video today from The Atheist Antidote and I found his tone to be calm and his presentation to be well-reasoned about what true love is. Please take the time to watch here:

I have a number of friends that have chosen worldviews and lifestyles that are contrary to the worldview that God has revealed to me through the reading of Scripture. I don't know all the circumstances that led them to their lifestyle choices but I do know that the Word of God is clear on these issues that are at the forefront of the culture today. What ever their worldview and lifestyle choice, I want to be abundantly clear that the reason I oppose their choices and worldview is certainly not because I hate them. Quite the contrary. I know what lies ahead of them if they do not repent and through God's gift of faith, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and His imputed righteousness on their behalf and renew them to a right standing with God, their end will be an eternity living under the full fury of the wrath of God. But it doesn't need to be this way. God has graciously provided the way of escape, even though He is under no obligation to save ANY of us! To my friends caught up in these lifestyles and worldviews, ask God to reveal Himself to you through the reading of His word. My first suggestion is to read the book of John once a day for two weeks and answer this one question, Who is Jesus Christ? If you are willing to do this, I would love to hear your answer at that time. You may contact me here. To those of us who don't happen to struggle with these particular sins, let us always remember that the sins we DO struggle with are just as heinous to God as any we oppose in others.

The Just Justifier
The Just Became The Justifier – What A Great Paradox

Back in June, I wrote an article for iLevite.com called “Blog Post Sermons And Arena Worship” where I argued that many churches seem to have lost sight of what theme should be preeminent in our worship services. We should always strive for excellence in everything we do, and it should always stem from our love and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and not from a sense of duty or earning favor with Him, but our primary focus must remain on the Word of God. We must proclaim the message of the Gospel within the context of Scripture as a whole.

The article brought a good cross-section of responses, both positive and negative, which is never a bad thing!  The Christian Faith is a Faith that is meant to be pondered and people should take the time to work through all of its tenets, even those that are difficult. That is why it is imperative to preach and teach the Word of God in the fullest detail when we gather together as the Body of Christ.

Each day, we should remind ourselves that it is the Gospel that has transformed our lives. Easter Sunday, I had the privilege to offer special music for the church my father founded in 1963, North Flushing Baptist Church in Flushing, MI. The pastor, Dale Lewis is a life-long friend and faithful servant to the church. When we had lunch on Saturday, Dale shared what was on his heart to preach the next morning and I was amazed at how God orchestrated such a meaningful service.

For his text he chose Romans 3:20-26:

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

In this text we find the core doctrine of salvation and the need for it. In chapter 1 of Romans, Paul clearly lays out the case of God's righteousness and of His holy wrath against those who transgress against His holiness. As the Infinite Holy God, any transgression against His Holiness, no matter how small we perceive it, must incur an infinite judgment. Since we are incapable of satisfying the Holiness of God through our own works, God Himself became the sacrifice to redeem His chosen as His own.

But in that last verse is a challenging concept. Christ is both the Just and the Justifier. How can this be? In Proverbs 17:15, Solomon wrote, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” Essentially, Christ made Himself an abomination in the sight of God the Father in order to reconcile His fallen creation. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 wrote, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

This is the message that should permeate every worship service we plan. We must remember that the Gospel is not just for the unsaved. It is for us as well. We must also remember that building a church for the Kingdom of God is not a “numbers game.” Just because a church may have thousands upon thousands in attendance does not mean that it is a blessing from the Lord. Without the Gospel, it is merely church for goats.

PraisesAbout a year ago, I was in the car with my son and saw a billboard that took me by surprise. It was for a new church plant in our area and proudly displayed the words, “Church that doesn't **** (a word that I will not use  here because it is absolutely inappropriate!) ” Really?! Is this the best we can do? Is the Gospel so boring and flat that we have to resort to this kind of ridiculous “marketing” tactic to “bring in the sheaves?”

I really wish that this was an isolated example of how far many churches seemed to have moved away from fully trusting in the power of the Gospel to change the hearts of men. Unfortunately, there are quite a few more examples that I have seen over the past few years in this trend. These include using coarse language in sermons, featuring secular songs as worship songs (for example, Joan Osborne‘s “One Of Us” “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us…”, or ACDC's “Highway To Hell”) or tailoring their sermon series to the felt needs of “seekers” rather than trusting the Word of God to equip true Christians in strengthening their faith so they can preach the Gospel outside of the walls of the church with a boldness that will draw people to the Cross.

Recently, I was speaking with a good friend of mine who had left a church that is certainly well within orthodoxy, but has allowed it's focus to fall on the excellence of musical performance rather than the excellence of the Word of God. Before he and his wife left the church, he had a meeting with the worship leader and told him that the reason they were leaving was that the music was TOO good and it overshadowed the preaching of the Word. Now, this is not to say that we should not strive for excellence. We serve the Almighty Eternal God and He is certainly worthy of our best offerings of praise. But just as my friend said, it seems that some congregations are focusing on using music to draw crowds to the church rather than focusing on preaching the Gospel to draw men's hearts to Christ.

What is it that are we called to do? Are we just more self-help peddlers who feel that the pulpit is an extension of our blog sites? Or are we frustrated rock musicians that secretly (or maybe not so secretly) would rather be rocking out the downtown arena than playing for a bunch of squares in a stiff “traditional” church? Why do we try to compete with what the entertainment industry does anyway? (They have much larger budgets and are so much better at it than we are.) But even if we could do it as well as the world what is the point? What is it that changes the hearts of men? Is it helping them in their marriages? Is it helping them with their finances? Is it helping them be better parents? While all of these things are well and good and can be the RESULT of a changed heart, these are not the things that bring about that change in the first place. In Mark 7:15, Jesus said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Therefore in order for a man's actions to change, his heart must first be changed. But, can that truly happen if what we are doing is simply catering to the desires of men whose hearts are darkened by their own sin? Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society once said, “The church in it's desire to become relevant makes itself look like a fool in the midst of it's enemies. The church today in America looks like a Six Flags Over Jesus. Because if you draw people using carnal means, you will have to keep people using carnal means” In many ways, we have allowed the style of our worship to trump the substance of the Truth. Besides, if we have to use some kind of laser light show to counter the short attention span of a bunch of people with ADD tendencies, what does that say about our own opinion of the Gospel? If we don't have a respect for it, is it any wonder that others don't either? Paul in Romans 1:16 said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

So what is it that we DO have that is better than the world and they cannot duplicate? The Word of God. Paul spoke of this in Romans 10 when he was discussing how one comes to faith in Christ. Verse 17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In order for anyone to be able to receive the gift of faith in Christ, they must first hear the word of Christ. The only way that can happen is through the preaching of the Word. Let's let the Word of God do what it is capable of doing and that is changing people's hearts.

Let's keep our focus on the right things. For our worship services, leave the blog posts on the blog sites and the arena rock for in the arenas. While we can have different styles of worship services, in the end, style must take a back seat to the preaching of the Word. Worship services are not for Tony Robbins or Metallica wannabes. They are for those of us who are redeemed to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth, stemming from our love for Him and our love for His Word.

And, that is certainly something the world cannot duplicate!

Word
“Word”

This definitely does not fall under the category of deep, deep theology, but it is kind of cool. I was editing a sermon by Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas and while reviewing the waveforms looking for anomalies to remove, I came across this particular waveform when he said the word, “Word.”

The book of John refers to Christ as “The Word” and in the most quoted verse in all scripture, John 3:16, Jesus reveals the Father's love in that He sent His only begotten Son to redeem us for his own.

Sometimes, a little reminder can make all the difference. How deep and abiding is the love of God on us, His chosen. Rest in His love, my friends. And while you are at it, go tell someone what He has done for you in saving you from your sins.

And most of all … May He receive all glory and honor for his marvelous gift.

P. S. Props to Todd Friel and all the gang at Wretched Radio for the post title!

Slow Train ComingOkay. I have never been a big fan of Bob Dylan. I know, I know! He supposed to be one of the greatest songwriters ever but his work never really did much for me. That is until 1979.

When I first heard that Bob Dylan had a new album back then, I just kind of ignored it. But then I heard “Gotta Serve Somebody” on WLVA in Lynchburg, VA, and  I couldn't believe I was hearing truth like this on a secular radio station. It was certainly an enlightening moment.

Fast forward to this morning. I checked my email and saw this in my inbox from Desiring God,

What Bob Dylan Got Right

In contrast to most of Bob Dylan's work, I love John Piper's work. God has used John Piper's work in a profound way to draw me closer to Himself and to realize that the Christian life is not about rules and regulations but about loving God with everything I am and enjoying Him and not just all of the benefits He has blessed me with. When we become a slave to Him, that is where true freedom lies.