Thursday, May 31, 2007

Excerpt from Spurgeons Puritan Catechism (with proofs)

32.Q. What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7), and accepts us as righteous in his sight (2 Cor. 5:21) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Rom. 5:19), and received by faith alone (Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Scripture of the Day

Galatians 6:11-15

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which F111 the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Scripture of the Day

Psalms 119:33-38

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not todishonest gain.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Ray of Hope or a Grim Glimpse of the Future?

I came across a story from the U.K. today about Rev Dr Richard Turnbull and a fiery proclamation that he made. Dr. Turnbull is the principal of Wycliffe Hall which is the evangelical school of theology within Oxford University. The article I found comes from the English newspaper, The Independent, and carries the title “The man who says we are all going to hell.” Dr Turnbull’s statements have added fuel to the fire of controversy and division inside of the Anglican Communion, and they have provoked mixed feelings from me. First things first, here’s what he said,

"We are committed to bringing the gospel message of Jesus Christ to those who don't know. In this land that's 95 per cent of the people: 95 per cent of people facing hell unless the message of the gospel is brought to them." 1

When asked to clarify specifically what he was talking about or who he was referring to, Dr. Turnbull said that he was “thinking only of the atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, people who are too lazy to get up on Sunday morning, and anyone who fails to make it to a regular church service.” The way that Dr. Turnbull summarized his intention worried me, and made me concerned that he was more focused on ecclesiological Christianity (i.e. whoever goes to church is a real Christian) instead of the true understanding of the personal transforming nature of the gospel.

However, further reading of the article caused me to drop my concern over that comment because he was shown to have a deep interest in defending various socially unpopular applications of the gospel. Also, his comments from the speech that is quoted above may have been explicitly referring to evangelism, not intra-church reform, even though both of these missions seem to be very important to him.

Here are some of the facts from the article that caused me to be excited about his ministry and mission instead of being concerned and apprehensive:

  1. There has been much controversy and even an investigation into how Dr. Turnbull has managed Wycliffe Hall. In fact a document critical of him and his leadership made the accusation that under him, the institution has become "increasingly hostile to women priests and openly homophobic".2
  2. Dr. Turnbull’s handpicked (against opposition) deputy3 is the Rev Simon Vibert who was the co-author of the paper "The Ministry of Women in the Church Today" arguing that women should not teach men.
  3. He is the chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council that, among other things, has “encouraged Christians in parishes where the vicar had liberal views on issues such as sex and marriage, or who appeared not to believe in the ‘uniqueness of Christ’ to break away and form their own congregations, and offered to supply suitable ministers.”

Those three reasons give clues that he, Wycliffe Hall, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and anyone else with whom he associates with in ministry have traditional and biblical approaches to proper sexuality and the qualifications for ministers. But the final reason given for petitioners to break off from their churches, a defense of the uniqueness of Christ, is, quite frankly, the key.

His commitment to the gospel truth and the Word of God over, above, and against the stream of culture was summed up in a warning from the "Covenant for the Church of England" that was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in December. It made a scything assessment of the Church of England as well as a strong declaration of orthodoxy,

"The Church of England is increasingly polarised into two churches: the one submitting to God's revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by Western secular culture, and focused on church structures." 4

So why did I have mixed feelings when I read this article? Basically, I see a glimpse into the future of American Christianity when I see what’s going on in the Anglican Communion. There is a plethora of denominations, hierarchies, and worship traditions in the United States, so the apostasy of one single denomination would not be as devastating for our society as a whole as it is for the U.K. when its main church falls from orthodoxy. However, the moves made by the Episcopal church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) away from both orthodoxy and the Scriptures in favor of social and contemporary influences on the church signal disaster on the horizon for us.

There is also the rise of blatant heresy and false teachers that are in the guise of Bible-based and Christ-centered churches. From Creflo Dollar to T.D. Jakes, from Benny Hinn to Rod Parsley to Joel Osteen and everyone in between, our nation is filled with self-styled evangelists and prosperity preachers who are aligned with Biblical Christianity on many of the social issues like abortion and marriage, but they are preaching the equivalent of arsenic in so many of their other doctrines. I have seen both Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar either refer to, or preach out right, a demonic doctrine stating that Christians are little gods. I have seen the overwhelming emphasis on temporal wealth, health, and other trivialities and a distortion of the gospel and its command of repentance and faith to sinners. And in what is possibly the best example of a lack of spiritual discernment, modern Christendom has accepted and acknowledged as one of its leaders a man whose beliefs were condemned as heresy almost 1700 years ago. T.D. Jakes is a charismatic speaker with an inspiring story, but his doctrine denies the Triune Godhead of Scripture. And that, my friends, is heresy.

The issues that we face here in the U.S. are not necessarily those of openly homosexual clergy or the endorsement of homosexuality as a God accepted and approved way for men and women to live…not yet, anyway. But we too face the challenge of keeping the gospel and the church pure. And the answer and course of action that we must take in order to preserve the integrity of the gospel and to reach others for Christ is the same here as it is across the pond. We need to be “committed to bringing the gospel message of Jesus Christ to those who don't know it,” inside and outside of the church walls.


2 An explanation may or may not be necessary for why this is a good sign. Normally, people who hear what the Bible has to say about the roles of men and women in the home or in the church and find that it is contrary to their own perspective; they’ll demean it by labeling it patriarchal or oppressive to women. Similarly, those who find their sexual proclivities and lifestyle at odds with what Scripture teaches will use labels. So, for those who hear the clear teaching from Scripture that men should not have sex with men, but they themselves are in favor (in practice or principle) of that action, they will label our doctrine as homophobic.

3 I believe this is a sort of vice-president or other important leadership role.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Emergent “Seeker Sensitive Fluff”

I was scanning a popular emergent church youth leader’s blog recently when I came across a series of interesting videos. In case you don’t catch the parody, let me explain. There is a fairly popular ad campaign from Apple Computers where two actors represent the two rival computers types. The Apple, “Mac”, is portrayed by a young and contemporary actor, and is shown to be laid back and to have it all together. Mac’s rival, “PC”, is played by an older actor who is playing a very uptight, high maintenance and is shown to be deficient in all ways when compared to Mac.

Now, having the template in mind, we can look at the Christian parody of it. In the video series, the two character types are relatively the same, but instead of portraying rivals in the computer industry, they portray two different types of Christians in modern western society. The first character is a traditional protestant (I assume) named “Christian”. The second character is the contemporary believer, “Christ-Follower”, who is set up to be a character who is cool and, basically, the opposite of irrelevant “Christian”.

You can watch the two videos for yourself, but here is a brief synopsis of them:

Video 1: This is the first of the series where we are initially introduced to Christian and Christ-Follower. Christian has his stack of books and other materials that is capped off with his Bible, and it is noted that it is a King James Version. After divulging the contents of his stack of materials, Christian asks if Christ-Follower wants to see his bumper stickers. When given the go-ahead, Christian opens his suit coat to show various bumper stickers stating that he ran out of room on his car. The ending of the parody shows Christian copying everything that Christ-Follower says culminating with Christ-Follower saying, “I’m a big dork.” And then Christian repeats, “I’m a big dork…oh….”

Video 2: This video is sixth (and final, I believe) video in the same series. It shows Christian and Christ-Follower meeting with a therapist in some sort of a counseling session. The session opens with Christian talking about how he feels inadequate and has to hide inside of his church. The therapist then encourages them to give each other a compliment. Christ-Follower makes a genuine comment about how Christian is good at exegesis and that he dresses nicely. Christian grudgingly says that Christ-Follower is better at reaching “today’s generation”, but then he comments that it is done with “seeker sensitive fluff” and it is a “total waste of time” under his breath. The video ends with the therapist stating, “Maybe you should come in… twice a week.”

In the first video, I found it interesting that the books and materials that were mocked included “rule books, ethics manuals, and a morality play or two just for good measure” as well as Christians’ Bible. How did they mock his Bible? For starters, when displaying his Bible, Christian looks like a buffoon when he swings his bible around like a sword, and this is both mocking the type of believers that Christian represents as well as the fact that it seems to be demeaning the Bible and the power of the Word itself. I realize that might be a bit nit-picky, but…come on.

Also, I would like to know what rule books and ethics manuals the creators were referring to and, obviously, looking down upon. If this parody was to be an equal comparison (even with the above mentioned concerns) between modern Christ-Follower and Christian, I think that Christ-Follower should have had the following books in his hands:

  • A New Kind of Christian (Brian McLaren)
  • Blue Like Jazz (Donald Miller)
  • Velvet Elvis (Rob Bell)
  • A Generous Orthodoxy (Brian McLaren)
  • The Message (Eugene H. Peterson)
You see, the truth is that those in the Christ-Follower (Emergent) movement don’t want to get rid of rule books and ethics codes, they want their rule books and ethics codes to replace the old ones. When you disregard authors like Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Rile, Owen, Spurgeon, Edwards, and others and substitute them with the flavor of the month contemporary writings that are only “relevant” for a short time, you’re in danger of separating yourself from actually following Christ in favor of following a contemporary fad.

As far as the second video, I actually thought that it was funny. I understand that it was set up in such a way as to mock people like me who do classify a lot of what goes on now-a-days as “seeker sensitive fluff and a total waste of time.” But as far as the main thrust of my thoughts regarding this video, I’ll let another blogger’s comments set the stage.

The full brunt of his critique is best understood when all of the videos in this series are viewed. But, in case you don’t want to subject yourself to that, the basic thing to know is that in the other videos you see Christian listening to his “jPod” (an iPod filled only with explicitly Christian music and other media), carrying his HSHD (Holy Spirit Hard Drive) so that he can get a jump start of the “Holy Ghost, or Spirit, or something” when he gets bored in church, and we see him proudly displaying his WWJD bracelet. All of these things are to show that Christian is woefully out of touch with contemporary society and, rather foolish looking in his attempts to copy culture. After seeing these things, this blogger named Guy writes:

"Does it strike anyone else as awkwardly ironic that there is a Christian mimic of a popular sales campaign that is mocking the type of person who gets excited about Christian mimics of popular sales campaigns?"1
In his comment, Guy identifies himself as an emergent type of individual, but wants to be real about who and what they are about. I find this comment as an accurate critique of the videos as well as somewhat ironic. How long will it be before videos like this, books like “Blue Like Jazz” and “A New Kind of Christian”, and other contemporary things are as foolish and out of date as Christian wearing his WWJD bracelet.

What could be more relevant to any hearing audience than the truth that God has revealed about how to be made right with Him, be forgiven of our sin, and avoid His terrible wrath and judgment? And in order to do that, we must proclaim the gospel in an undistorted and unapologetic manner.


IVF And the Horrible Consequences

I was listening to Dr. Albert Mohler's radio program from yesterday and read his article about the process of selective reduction as a prpblem that is only really an issue because of IVF (in vitro fertilization). We as Christians need to wake up to this issue of birth-control and fertility treatments. Please read Dr. Mohler's article at

Also, I have written about birth control and it's abortive effect in an article called Pleading for the Voiceless that is also a call to awareness.

An Open Question to Catholic Bloggers

In my blog reading I visit various blogs and web sites that espouse views and ideas that I am not in agreement with in an attempt to be pseudo-well read and exposed to other views. In doing that, I sometimes visit a Catholic blog whose tag line is, quoting part of 1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.”

On this particular blog, the Irish-Catholic and Dangerous blog, the author, Danny Garland Jr., posted the following quote as the “Quote of the Day” for yesterday.

“Mary continually builds the Church and keeps it together. It is difficult to have devotion to our Lady and not feel closer to the other members of the Mystical Body and more united to its visible head, the Pope.”

-St. Josemaria Escriva1

In an effort to try and understand the Roman Catholic doctrine about Mary, I submitted a question in the comments field of that entry, but it was never posted. Whatever the reason, my question and request for clarification still stands. Here is what my comment was to the above quote:

Hey Danny, I just happened by your blog and I had a quick question about this post. It is not my desire with this question to rehash old discussions; I simply want to know how this works. This quote, "Mary continually builds the Church and keeps it together" seems contradictory to "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." (Matt 16:18)

It seems contradictory insofar as much as Christ says "I will build my church..." and St. Josemaria Escriva says "Mary continually builds the Church...."

Furthermore, how does this same person say "Mary...keeps [the Church] together." when we see that "[Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."(Col 1:17)

Again, I understand that we differ on how best to understand the passage from Matthew, but the portion that we dispute is with the “rock” not with who will do the building. I guess my question is how does this quote from St. Josemaria Escriva jive with Holy Scripture?

I truly hope that you and your wife are doing well.

My goal, as I hope was evident, is not primarily one of seeking an argument or fight, but only of seeking an answer. Also, I hope that it was evident that I was not attacking the author or angry in any sort of way. I simply, and genuinely, do not see how Scripture and St. Josemaria Escriva’s comment about Mary fit together. If they do fit together in Roman Catholic theology, I would like to understand how it does. I await any light that my Catholic friends can shed on this subject.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Apparently I Am a Bigot…and You Might Be Too

I don’t listen to too much of the political talk anymore, but sometimes flashes of it make it into my listening regiment because of a Christian or moral component that surges to the forefront. One such issue slammed me harder than, I think, many Christians seem to be taking it. To set this issue up, here is a snippet of an article that, I believe, has some very ominous overtones.

During a debate on religion and politics at the New York Public Library with atheist author Christopher Hitchens, Sharpton said, "As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation."

On the campaign trail in Iowa Wednesday, Romney fired back, calling Sharpton's comment "terribly misguided."

"It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners," Romney said. "I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make."

Asked if he thought Sharpton is a bigot, the former Massachusetts governor said, "I don't know Rev. Sharpton. I doubt he is personally such a thing. But the comment was a comment which could be described as a bigoted comment.

"Perhaps he didn't mean it that way, but the way it came out was inappropriate and wrong."1

Why is this so frightening and ominous? If Al Sharpton is called a bigot because he made a statement that categorized Mormons as people who do not “really believe in God”, what does that signal for the rest of us? Now, I am not a fan of Rev. Sharpton in most cases, but this is the second time that I have agreed with what he said (or inferred). The first time that I agreed with Rev. Sharpton was when he was critical of the prosperity preaching and theology of Creflo Dollar.

“To try and distort Jesus to try and justify your new jet plane or your new Rolls Royce is, to me, an abomination.”2

But regarding his recent comment pertaining to Mormons and Mitt Romney, he may have been intending to make a poke specifically at Republicans and used the only Mormon as his target. So I am not totally sure of what exactly he intended, but the way in which it was said and subsequently received by Mr. Romney was one of bigotry.

Furthermore, even though the Rev. Sharpton has backpedaled in his attempts to “spin” what he said or meant to say in the context of that debate and he seems to no longer agree with what he stated, that doesn’t change the fact that it is true. Even if he might have intended it to be more of a shot at Christians who are also republicans, it came across as a shot at Mormons, and the fact of the matter is that Mormons don’t believe in the true God of the bible at all.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a bigot as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices” and one who especially “regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance. “3 Now, you can disagree with what I, or the Rev. Sharpton, believe about who does and who does not really believe in the true God. However unless you can prove that myself or Rev. Sharpton display hatred or are involved with an agenda to deny “equal freedom of expression” or we are “unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights” 4 to Mormons, the accusation of bigotry is a giant leap in its application.

Do I believe that Mormons worship God? No, I don’t. I would say the same if you asked me if Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Oneness-Pentecostals (“Christians”), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientologists (Christian Science). I would ardently defend my statements because the Word of God basically says that if you don’t believe in Christ and worship Christ, you are not worshipping God. This is not something that Christians have made up in order to be mean; it is something that God has shown to us through His Word.

“Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)

"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27)

“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9)

Lest you think that I am overreacting in my concern over the “bigot” comment made by Mitt Romney, I came across another use of this term by a different religion. The following dialogue was taken from a BBC Panorama documentary called “Scientology and Me”. In watching it, the primary goal was to ascertain if the Church of Scientology is, as it is referred to in British law, a cult. Here is a summary of what both U.S. and British courts have stated about Scientology,

In 1984, Scientology was described by [British Judge] Mr. Justice Latey as: "both immoral and socially is corrupt, sinister and dangerous. It is corrupt because it is based on lies and deceit and has as its real objective money and power for Mr. Hubbard, his wife and those close to him at the top". The same year, in Los Angeles, Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge, Jr., called Scientology: "a vast enterprise to extract the maximum amount of money from its adepts by pseudo-scientific theories ... The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard".5

That British decision is one of the reasons why Scientology is not considered a religion in Great Britain, and therefore does not receive the various tax (and other) perks of a religion. When John Sweeney, the BBC reporter, asked this question to a very high ranking member of the Church of Scientology, Tommy Davis, the following exchange occurred.

“Some people say [Scientology] is a sinister cult.”

“You have no right whatsoever to say what is and what isn’t a religion. The constitution of the United States of America guarantees one’s right to practice and believe freely in this country, and the definition of religion is very clear, and it’s not defined by John Sweeny. And for you to repeatedly refer to my faith [as a cult] is so derogatory, so offensive, and so bigoted. And the reason you keep repeating it is because you wanted to get a reaction like you are getting right now. Well buddy, you got it. Right here, right now, I’m angry. Real angry.” 6

So what is all of the fuss about? In our society, calling someone a bigot is a serious charge that carries with it a detestable (and rightly so) stigma. It has been used to refer to those persons who view people of other racial ancestry or religions affiliation (i.e. Africans, Mexicans, Jews, Gypsies, etc.) as less human or as people deserving a lower class status in the culture. Being a classified as a bigot seems to be one of the quickest ways to be marginalized and demonized. However, if our culture (and subsequently, our legal system) moves the classification of a bigot from one whose views are shown to call for a lower or a sub-human class of people and subsequently to socially discriminate against them over to a definition that includes theological statements about who God is, we are in grave danger in America.

Hate speech laws are already knocking at the door when it comes to preaching the Biblical doctrines of sexuality. Even though no Christian church is calling for the persecution of homosexuals, we have had terms of bigotry and homophobia thrown at us. In no way do we want to make those who practice homosexuality second class citizens with voting, employment, or other citizenship infringements, we are proclaiming God’s Word.

But, if the sentiments of Mitt Romney are heard, receive, and amplified by our anti-Christian (I could say “anti-God” because it would be the same thing) culture, we are not only in danger of legal ramifications for proclaiming and preaching portions of Genesis Leviticus 18, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 6 because they refer to the abomination and condemnation of homosexuality, but we would now be in store for the same type of restrictions when preaching passages about the exclusivity of Christ like John 14:6 or 1 John 2:23.

Honestly, I don’t believe that we can stop this trend, but that does not mean that we should give up the fight. It is inevitable that our land will see preaching the gospel of Christ and the preaching for holiness and purity in doctrine as well as holiness and purity in living as intolerant, bigoted, and illegal. That will not stop us from our preaching, but it will make the cost of preaching that much higher. Preaching the gospel in America today may bring ridicule, scorn, and bad looks from those around us. Preaching the gospel in America when hate speech and bigotry legally includes the subjects above will bring legal persecution in the form of taxing our churches, infringements on the publishing of bibles, and jail time for preaching the Word of God.

Now is the time to preach the Word with the freedom that we have. We need to take full advantage of the time and freedoms that we have before they are taken away, and this country becomes even darker and more hostile to the gospel.

May God – the one and only True God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is eternally existent in three Divine Persons and who demands our repentance of our sins and belief in Jesus Christ alone for salvation – give His true children strength, courage, and diligence now, and may He carry those same attributes into and through increased persecution.

May God convict His children of our sinful and lethargic wasting of time and of legally protected opportunities to proclaim the gospel so that we will waste no more time. God, give us mercy and grace to be bold and unashamed.

1 (emphasis mine)



4 From Merriam-Webster’s definition of intolerant



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Awana Memories and S.H.A.R.I.N.G.

A few weeks ago saw the final installment for this year’s Awana program at ABC. This year began with some difficult decisions and changes, we had a few major setbacks come from out of nowhere during the middle of the year, but we ended well.

The difficult changes that we had to navigate through this year included changing the location, the night, and the leadership of the entire Awana program. However, when I think about this last year in Awana, it is a lot of the positive things come to mind, whether I think of the clubbers, leaders, or the parents of the children involved it doesn’t matter, I have been blessed on all fronts. Some of the most encouraging ways that others have blessed me this year are related to the areas of service, spiritual growth, and spiritual sensitivity.

First of all, it is no secret that all three of our Awana directors were not directors last year. In fact, neither Jon nor Susan had ever even worked in Awana before. I say this to both of their credit. Jon had shown an interest in participating in previous years, but because of the mid-week meeting time, he was never able to participate. One thing that really impressed me about his heart for this type of ministry was when he asked me what we did and when we did it for our program in order that he could pray for us at those times. That blew me away, and it still is a source of encouragement.

Susan had a bit of a different reason for becoming the director of our youngest club members (preschoolers). Our carry-over leadership from the previous year became disgruntled or unhappy with something (I have no clear idea of what it was), and quit one Sunday night after the program. So, we had one week to scramble and find some committed leadership to fill in the gap, and Susan jumped in and really did a fantastic job.

Both Jon and Susan responded to an urgent and critical need in our body, and the Lord has used their willingness to serve and love for children greatly this year, and I have personally been blessed by them on numerous occasions.

Secondly, in the area of spiritual growth I wanted to make two comments. Perhaps the key factor that can make our Awana program shine, except in the semi-rare case of a committed and personal initiative by the individual clubber, is the parental involvement. As a leader, It is very easy to figure out which parents spend time working with their children on their Awana verses. For that, parents, I am truly grateful, and I think that your children will only thank you more as they grow older. Another key factor is the involvement and growth of the individual leaders. Now since I spend the majority of my time working with T&T and I have been able to witness those leaders more closely, I have two thoughts relating to two leaders; Ed and Dan. I remember hearing Ed’s testimony, being present at his baptism, and approaching him to serve in Awana three years ago. Let me just say that whether it is taking charge of the section time or boldly leading the club in prayer, Ed has shown growth in spiritual maturity and a willingness to lead this year. Similarly, I asked Dan to lead a council time this year. In reality, I badgered him until he relented and put together his first ever lesson for Awana. I was (and am) so proud of Dan for stepping out, putting a good deal of preparation into his lesson, and boldly delivering it to the clubbers. Dan gained a valuable experience that he said will help him next time. Both of these men blessed me in their very distinct, but vitally important, ways of service and faith.

Now, if I were to try and sum up what my main goal or primary point was that I was trying to instill in the children this year, I would use the acronym of S.H.A.R.I.N.G.. It is true that you could accurately describe my focus as being on the Ten Commandments, but teaching on them was not the end goal in mind.

S – Show sin By Using the Law.

The whole lesson series on the Ten Commandments could fit into this letter of the acronym. It might seem a bit excessive to spend so much time on only one point when there are six other parts to the whole goal, but there is good reason to do that. The Bible calls the law the tutor that leads us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Paul also said this, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET.’” (Romans 7:7)

In other words, we cannot know what sin is or see the sin in ourselves if we do not know the law because “sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4) Once this is established, the rest of the message of the gospel flows comes somewhat more smoothly. When I went through the Ten Commandments with the children, my goal was not to talk about worshiping a golden calf as idolatry or robbing a liquor store as a form of theft. Because if I had done this, these “good” church kids would have tuned me out thinking that this doesn’t apply to them because they would never do that stuff. So I talked about budging and cheating on a test as forms of stealing. Budging in line is stealing someone else’s place and cheating is stealing someone else’s answers.

It was after one such lesson that a child blessed me with her spiritual sensitivity. After the lesson when the leaders and clubbers were dispersing, Grace, a shy fourth-grader, timidly approached me to ask a question. Grace’s question was, essentially, to ask if it was covetous to want something for her birthday. I was very blessed and impressed by this question. I was blessed because it showed that she had understood the lesson about coveting enough to apply it to her own life in a way that I had not described. I was blessed because it is such a sweet thing to hear a child (or anyone for that matter) examining everyday normal life in an effort to determine what is pleasing to God. This was truly a joyful experience and a highlight of the year for me. It was exactly this type of personal application of the Law of God that was my goal for the children.

H – Humility Before God’s Law is the Only Acceptable Reaction.

There are only a few different ways that one can react to the correct teaching and direct application of God’s Law to one’s life other than with an attitude of ambivalence. The first reaction is pride or self-righteousness, and this is the most common reaction, by far. These people react to the Law of God by saying that they are good people even after being shown to have broken the Law of God and therefore are lawbreakers. This self-righteousness can show itself in that this person refuses to admit that they’ve broken any commandments (i.e. “I’m perfect”). The other way is after admitting that they have sinned, they are confident that the good that they will accomplish will outweigh or take “atone” for any of their own sin.

Even after the Law has been used properly, to the best of the ability of the preacher, there is no guarantee that everyone will have a humble attitude. This is why it is a blessing to know what Paul taught us that regardless of the variety of workers, it is God and God alone who has the responsibility of enabling or causing the growth of a believer.

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

The response that we want and that we desire in others is one of humility, or, as Jesus put it, being poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). It is exactly this humble attitude of acknowledgement and personal ownership of sin that shows that the hearer has truly understood their crime and their impending punishment.

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." (James 4:6)

If the person displays an acceptance of the pronouncement of guilt as well as the personal responsibility and ownership of it, then we can begin to share the Good News. I have heard Todd Friel say on many occasions that once the ground work of the Law has been laid, then when we proclaim the gospel using John 3:16, we do it with power and conviction and enthusiasm. Because grace without the reason for grace, or a sacrifice without the need for a sacrifice doesn’t make any sense.

A – Accept the Truth of the Gospel with A Child-Like Faith
– A Child-Like faith

16 But Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ 17 ‘Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’” (Luke 18:16,17)

First of all, I must say that I agonized over using “accept” in this part of the acronym. I realize that “accepting Jesus” is the common way to refer to the appropriate response to the proclamation of the gospel, but I am not convinced that it is the best word to use. Personally, I like the word “receive” because it is the word that seems more often to be used in the Bible (i.e. Luke 18). Unfortunately, “sharing” is not spelled “shrring”, so I had to “make due” with what I had.

Using the concept of childlike faith was not a matter of making my message fit my audience, the older I get; the more I see the necessity of just that kind of faith. One of the chief things that is different between children and adults relates to skepticism, mistrust, and unbelief. Children (using my own experience as a father) are very inquisitive, but this is not really a different trait from adults. The difference is that if a child trusts someone, they will accept an answer that is given and move on. For instance, when my son asks me why he can’t go out into the street to pick up some “treasures”, I simply tell him that it is dangerous and that he could get very hurt doing so. My son believes what I say, and we move on.

This same pattern, a question asked by the child (which may have been precipitated by a direction or correction from a parent) and is then answered with a statement by the parent, seems to be the formula for how children learn and understand things about the world. The child has no knowledge of gum disease or tooth decay, but we teach them to brush their teeth. They most likely haven’t seen gross tooth decay or even been to a dentists’ office, but they take their parent’s word to be true. We must humble ourselves to the preaching of the gospel and come to it as helpless and ignorant children placing our faith in the tested and true Word of our Father in Heaven.

R – Repent of Sins.

However controversial this concept may be inside of modern Christendom, this step of repentance is both a natural response to understanding, receiving, and believing the gospel, plus it is also the mandate and testimony of scripture.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)

7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 "Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:7-9)

Repenting of sins is the turning from and forsaking the old fleshly life, habits, and desires that so defined us before being saved. One of the chief objections to this doctrine of repentance is that it seems to be a “work” and the gospel is clear that we are saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8,9). This objection is very easily dealt with because repentance (as I see it) is always the response of the one who is being saved. In other words, repentance doesn’t save you, but this repentance is the evidence that you have truly been saved.

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

The obedience here is to the full message of the gospel. Satan himself believes the truth about God – he knows that God is real, that Jesus is the Christ, and he understands the atonement and yet neither Satan nor his fallen angels are saved. This type of mental understanding doesn’t save the redeemable either; one must have the full faith that is evidenced by a changed life.

“5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:5,6)

In short, repentance is a tangible process by which our lives are brought into an increasing alignment with God and His holy standard.

I – Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Once the gospel has been preached, and the individual has responded in faith and repentance, the Holy Spirit now indwells the believer.1 There are many different facets and important points to make about the significance of the Spirits’ indwelling the believer, but for this lesson, I simply focused on the fact that eternal life has been granted to the believer at this time. This is something that cannot be lost. The hope of the believer is that we will be united with Christ in glory and be released from this state of war, turmoil, and suffering.

2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2-5)

N – Neglect Your Old Self; Take Up Your Cross

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24,25)

Christ made the demand on all of His disciples that they must forsake all that they had known and treasured in favor of Him and Him alone. Another way of articulating this concept is as the continuation of a lifestyle of repentance. In other words, we must continually be forsaking our old nature, warring with the sin that we are aware of, and running to Christ and following in His commandment of love and obedience.

One of the things that we see in the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-9,18-23) as well as in the text above is that the Christian life is not one of care-free or struggle free life, but it is one of battle and relentless striving for Christ and against the flesh. It is those inside of Christendom who are wooed away from Christ by money and possessions or who back away and forsake the name of Christ because of the threat or reality of persecution who testify in and of themselves that they were never born again because the testimony of their lives is not one of forsaking all in favor of Christ.

G – Go Into All the World and Make Disciples

19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20)

The goal is never just to get someone to be saved and end there. The end goal is for that same person to be obedient to Christ, and having the mind of Christ this same person will obey Christ’s commission to all believers to preach the gospel in order to “seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14,17)

1 I would say that these three things happen almost simultaneously, but if you were to press me, I would say that the individual is regenerated first and then responds in repentance and faith to the proclaimed gospel. Even though this is the logical way that the steps would occur in time, I don’t believe that we can parse them out like that and that is why I think that they occur virtually simultaneously.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson