Monday, June 30, 2008


A friend wrote to me about a contradiction in my blog:
On June 20 You have:
One answer should certainly be that people's eternal lives depend on it!

On May 20 you have:
The clear teaching of the Bible is that God is sovereign in all things, including the salvation of the lost.

Please never make a statement that puts someone’s salvation dependant on what another person does. It makes a good appeal for canvassing but for the wrong reason.
I am very glad my friend wrote to me about this, because it is an issue that needs to be addressed. I hold that both statements are true according to the word of God and are not contradictory.

1) God is completely sovereign in all things, including the salvation of the lost.
(2Timothy 1:9) "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,"
2) The eternal lives of lost people depend on hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Romans 1:16) "¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
(Romans 10:17) "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
My answer to the supposed contradiction is that God has sovereignly ordained both the means and the results of salvation. Redeemed people are God's sovereignly ordained means of carrying the gospel to the lost. Apart from that means, people will not be saved. It is by that means people will be saved as God sovereignly works in their hearts.

I don't know who God will save, but I do know how God will save them - by the hearing of the Gospel.
(Romans 10:14-17) "¶ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
We have the privilege and responsibility of presenting ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God.
(Romans 6:13) "And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."
Jesus said that the greatest commandment of the law was to love God and that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39) We should love God so much and love our neighbor so much that we are motivated to reach the lost with the gospel of grace. The gospel glorifies God, condemns sin, and is our neighbor's only hope of salvation.

Is concern that lost people need the gospel a wrong motivation for evangelistic efforts? My friend wrote: "Please never make a statement that puts someone’s salvation dependant on what another person does. It makes a good appeal for canvassing but for the wrong reason."

I would agree that concern for the lost should not be our ONLY motivation. I have often preached that our PRIMARY motivation should be our love for God and His glory. We should also be motivated by obedience, since God has given us the task. 2Corinthians 5:11 says that we are also motivated by the fact that we know we will face God's judgment.

But is it biblical for us to be motivated by the plight of the lost - knowing that apart from the communication of the gospel they cannot be saved? Should we ever say that whether we act or not, God will save His elect?

The apostle Paul wrote:
(Romans 9:2-3) "that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,"
And again:
(Romans 10:1) "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."
Paul knew that God was sovereign in salvation - that was what he was addressing in Romans 9. But he also loves the lost and is determined to do everything he can do for accomplishing the salvation of God's elect.
(2Timothy 2:9-10) "for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
Even though Paul is under no illusion about God's sovereign place in the salvation of the lost, he speaks as if their salvation was something he personally accomplished through his efforts:
(1Corinthians 9:19-24) "¶ For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
24 ¶ Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."
The salvation of the lost depends ultimately on the sovereign grace of God. But God, in His sovereignty has appointed us - by our prayers and by our witness - as the means to accomplish His purpose. Because of that, it is completely true and consistent to say, "God is sovereign in all things, including the salvation of the lost" AND that we should be motivated to share the gospel because "people's eternal lives depend on it."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Emotional Inertia

Newton's first law of motion said that a body at rest remains at rest and a body in motion continues in motion in a straight line and at a constant velocity unless acted upon by some force.

Sir Isaac was talking about physical objects, but I am convinced that there is an emotional equivalent to this law.

People want to continue doing what they are already doing. If they are at rest they don't want to start moving. If they are moving, they don't want to change direction or velocity.

It is true for me when my alarm goes off early in the morning. I definitely have an emotional inertia that makes me want to keep lying there in my bed. Only my thoughts about the things I need to do will get me up and going. They are an outside force - moving me ahead.

It is also true in the routines of our lives. It takes some energy to get a routine going. Then, once the routine is well established I don't want to interrupt it our change it. I like routine. I'm used to it. Change is at least mildly uncomfortable and sometimes seems downright painful. Change makes us nervous.

Think about how churches operate. How often do people say things like, "We've never done that before." or "We've always done things this way." This is evidence of emotional inertia.

At Whipple Avenue we are about to begin a community canvassing program. I am feeling the emotional inertia. How will we be received? Will all this work be worth it? What is the benefit? Maybe we should just do the same old things and not try out new things right now?

What we need is an outside force that will act on us and make us get moving. I suggest that the force we need is love. My questions and fears are evidence of my self-love. It is easier for me and less threatening to me to just keep doing the same old routine. But I need a different love to get me moving.

I need a love for God. (Deuteronomy 6:5) "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." If I love God like that, I will be more concerned with obeying His will and telling of His glory than I am about my ease and comfort.

I need a love for my neighbors. (Leviticus 19:18) "... you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." It is easy for me to be complacent in my routine. I have a secure future in heaven. Why should I put myself out or risk ridicule by going out in door to door canvassing? One answer should certainly be that people's eternal lives depend on it!

People who are not followers of Jesus Christ are on their way to an eternity of punishment for their sin. If I love them, I should be moved by compassion to at least reach out to them in friendship. Maybe someone will end up changing the course of his or her life because of this simple friendly visit.

The Bible says that we are "living stones." Rocks just lie there, wherever you put them, but we are supposed to show signs of life. Even if you feel emotional inertia, allow the force of your love for God and your love for your neighbors to move you to action.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Low Expectations

Do you do the least you can do? Do you always do EVERYTHING you could do?

What about your desire to live for Christ? As a Christ follower, what is the least we can do? Should we even consider it? If someone is doing the least they can do, maybe they are not a Christ follower at all!

Consider the Scriptures:
(Philippians 1:21) "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

(Galatians 2:20) "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

(Philippians 3:8) "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ"

(2Corinthians 10:5) "casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,"

(1Corinthians 9:24) "¶ Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."

(Colossians 3:17) "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
We are far too easy on ourselves. Our lives center in our comforts and convenience. We want morality, but not holiness. We want service, but not sacrifice. We practice moderation in our devotion.

William Carey said, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." This needs to begin in our personal expectation that we will be genuinely transformed into the very image of Christ when we turn to Him to be saved, not just from the penalty of sin, but also from sin's power in our lives.
(Romans 12:1-2) "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Too often we stop short of sacrifice and only provide a contribution. We have low expectations and we live down to them. But God expects something more... wholehearted devotion. Love without limit - Heart, Soul and Strength.
(Deuteronomy 6:5) "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."
How can God richly bless us when we are only lukewarm? Blessings come as we turn up the heat and give our hearts completely to Him - to pursue His pleasure and His glory in All things in our lives.

Do all to the glory of God!

Friday, June 6, 2008


The weather has turned warm. Our backyard fishpond has cleared up so we can see the fish. The rain stopped so I could mow the lawn. This is Lola's last day of school!

It must be summer!

We've had a busy couple of weeks with lots of traveling between Canton and Caldwell. Last concerts for choir and band. Last Memorial Day parade. Last Band Banquet. Graduation!!!

Then there were wonderful, crowded, noisy, busy, too short visits from family. As Emma Joy would say, "I Wuz you. G'bye Emma!" Now they are all gone.

The air conditioner is running. There is a warm breeze blowing. The fountain in the pond is gurgling. Birds are singing.

You've gotta love laptops. Friday is my day off, so I've spent the morning on the back porch finishing up my notes for my Sunday sermon. Soon I will turn my attention to putting things in the house back in place and getting started on the projects that were put off during graduation and family visits.

If this is a sample of summer in Canton, I love it already.

Have a great day!