Reflections on our church retreat

We just had our second annual church retreat/camp. We were blessed to be able to bring a speaker from my former church for the second straight year. Pastor Ryan Fullerton brought great teaching on building a culture of evangelism. A few reflections:

  • I pray every single one of our members have these words ringing in their ears in every relationship with non-Christians: connect-God-man-Christ-response
  • I pray for every single one of our children to be saved, and that we have a culture that says, “I welcome advice in parenting”
  • Preaching the gospel to yourself is how you will persevere in this life, and we cannot expect to be effectively evangelistic if we are not rejoicing in our own salvation
  • Ryan Fullerton is still my favorite preacher in the world

Listen to his Sunday sermon here

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Why weekly Lord’s Supper

We recently moved to weekly Communion on Sunday mornings. The two best reasons I have ever heard for not doing it weekly:

  1. It will become less special
  2. In order to really guard the Table, we should do it less

Regarding number 1, is there really anything else that we treat like that? Regarding number 2, is there really anything else we treat like that? For both, I think the answer is to just do it well every time. I try to kiss my wife goodbye everyday when I go to work. As long as I really mean it, I think it is a valid kiss. And even sometimes when my mind is not as fully there as it should be, it is still a good thing.

To those I will add one more possible reason for not doing it weekly: in Calvin’s Geneva, the civil government did not allow it. Ok, maybe in that case, that is a good reason to not do it weekly.

Outside of that, there are a lot of reasons to do it every time the church gathers for worship on the Lord’s Day:

  1. It appears to be the NT pattern (Acts 2.42, Acts 20.7)
  2. As often as you do it, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor 11.26). I repeat, as often as you do it, you proclaim the death of Christ!
  3. It forces Christians to examine themselves every week
  4. It helps non-Christians in attendance see who the Body of Christ is, and understand they are not a part of it yet
  5. It is the central benefit to church membership- anyone under the discipline of a church should be barred from the Lord’s Table; taking the Lord’s Supper once a month is like barring everyone three times a month

I could go on and on. It really comes down to what you think “this is my body” and “this is my blood” really means. Unless you say “I think Jesus meant this is not his body and blood,” I think you always give up a good thing if you do not practice it on any given Sunday.

What exactly is the Lord’s Day gathering?

What it is not:

  • an evangelistic rally of some sort- any church who makes Sunday morning more geared for the non-Christian than it is for the Christian is at best a parachurch ministry
  • the church- we often say “let’s go to church” on Sunday morning. We kind of know what we mean. Or do we? Any church who thinks of “church” as mainly Sunday morning is confusing a little bit what the church does versus who the church is

What it is:

  • the main gathering of the church (Acts 20.7)
  • a mixed gathering in most places I know of, where it is mostly the church, often mixed with visiting Christians looking for a church, and almost always mixed with some unbelievers who either think they are Christians or are looking into Christianity
  • a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)
  • the main time of the week where the flock (Christians) are to be fed, pray together, fellowship, and break bread together (Acts 2.42)
  • a great time for unbelievers to be saved (1 Corinthians 14.25); the church should evangelize 7 days a week, and they should not depend on the preacher to evangelize their friends, and Sundays are mainly for Christians to get fed. BUT, it is still a perfect time for the unbeliever to hear a skillful delivery of the gospel, and to see what the gospel does to the Church.
  • It is a time of worship! It is for God. It is to please Him. It is to approach and engage the living God in exactly the way He desires to be worshiped. Every decision about Sunday morning that does not begin with God in mind is a decision starting off on the wrong foot.

What we try to do on Sunday morning is make it so for God, that it will automatically be foreign to the unbeliever. If an unbeliever ever feels right at home in our worship gathering, something is seriously missing. One of the things we have been trying to communicate recently to guests is that if they are not a Christian: 1) We are so glad they came! 2) Until they become a Christian, they can only observe worship; they cannot truly participate.

May the Lord increase the number of His worshipers on the Lord’s Day!

What does “God so loved the world” mean?

It is so easy to think John 3.16 means “God loves every single human being so much” and leave it at that. But it has to mean more than that. It says “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.”

It still might be easy to think it means “God loves every single human being so much, so He gave Jesus.” But it has to mean more than that. It says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” John 3.16 starts with the word “for”! And right before that, Jesus says, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” So just like Moses lifted a bronze serpent (a symbol of a cursed and defeated enemy) for the life of the Israelites, so Jesus must be lifted up (on the cross, as a crushed enemy of God!) for the life of believers. God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son to die!

It still might be easy to think it means “God loves every single human being so much, so He gave His Son to die.” But it has to mean more than that. For what does dying have to do with love? If you know the gospel, you know that Jesus died in the place of sinners, so that sinners would not have to die. So that does sound loving. But John 3.16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (to die), that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

So many conclude John 3.16 means “God loves every human being so much, so he gave Jesus to die in their place, to give them a chance to be saved.” That is where good old fashioned logic helps. In John 3.16 God’s love leads to the sending of the Son, which leads to every believer being saved. The end of God’s love is every believer being saved. Go ahead and read John 3.16 again, and see if that is not what it actually says. In other words, God’s love does not merely produce a chance. God’s love produces salvation for believers!

Good Friday is good because it is the day God loved the world!

Struggle with vs living in sin

If you cannot distinguish between struggling with sin vs living in sin, you undercut much of the work of the church. Consider the following:

  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9.23)- Suppose a person professes they want to follow Christ, but looks at pornography everyday, and you say to him/her, “Let me help you turn away from sexual immorality,” and they say to you, “everybody struggles with sin.” Are you just going to say, “yes, you’re right,” or are you going to help them deny self?
  • “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8.31)- Suppose a married couple says they are disciples of Jesus, but they fight all the time, so they are getting a divorce, and when you press them on the covenant they made before God, they say, “we’re all sinners. What makes my sin worse than yours?” Are you just going to say, “you’re right, all sin is equal,” or are you going to help them abide in Christ?
  • “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6.2)- Suppose a girl wants to get baptized, but lives with her boyfriend, and when you call her to repent she says, “we all struggle with sin; give me time to grow.” Are you going to say, “yes, you’re right, we all struggle with sin,” or are you going to call her to stop living in it?

The final judgment will be a judgment for the “cowardly, the faithless, the detestable…murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” (Revelation 21.8). For those who struggle with sin, there is good news: trust in Christ and you will be saved! Then the Church can help you struggle against sin for the rest of your life.

For those who live in sin, you still have time to repent! But if you refuse to repent, that’s you in Revelation 21.8, no matter how much you say you love Jesus. God knows the difference between “struggle” and “living.”

 

Reflections on the book of Revelation

By God’s grace, I am finishing up Revelation in a couple weeks. It has been about an eight month journey. It has been more fulfilling than I ever anticipated. Just a few reflections:

  • Revelation is relevant for today- not because we have finally reached the “end times” now, but because we have been in the “end times” ever since Jesus rose from the dead. And when John wrote Revelation, the time (for the book to begin to be fulfilled) was near (Rev 1.3).
  • The point of this book is the victory of Christ over Satan through His resurrection- all  debates about this book take a back seat to that main point.
  • This book is full of symbols- the modern resistance to that betrays a desire in Christians to have every book of the bible be as easy to interpret for the 21st century reader as it was for the 1st century reader.
  • You have to choose a perspective to read from- the four major perspectives on reading Revelation are the Preterist, Idealist, Futurist, and Historicist views. You can be a combination of these (as I am), but you still have to choose a way to read this book, and then interpret it through that philosophy. Otherwise, you will be inconsistent, and your interpretations just will not stand the test of literature.
  • You have to be aware of your biases- at the same time, there is a fine line between interpretive perspectives and interpretive biases. You have to pray your way through this book, that the Lord would make you a humble reader, not afraid to be wrong about things you currently believe.
  • Dispensationalists are Christians. But many of them are not gospel-centered. So many of them can sit through a sermon that exalts Christ and His saving work, but leave troubled that you might not think there is a future for national Israel. That is the definition of not-gospel-centered.
  • Greg Beale has written the best commentary in the history of the world on Revelation.
  • If this book does not make you love the gospel and desire to evangelize the lost more,  nothing will!

Immanuel Network

Last week I got to spend time with my old church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. If you have not heard of Ryan Fullerton, you need to add him to your podcast list. He is an anointed preacher. And I mean Lloyd-Jones-type anointed.

But Ryan is just one of 14 pastors at Immanuel. They have led that church toward greater and greater health and vitality over the years. They continue to grow, and continue to be a great blessing to me many years after leaving there.

They started the Immanuel Network a few years ago, and this year was the first year we had an open conference, where about 100 of us gathered for a conference on what gospel-loving church life looks like. The Immanuel Network is a partnership of like-minded churches and leaders around the world, who all were sent out by Immanuel Baptist at some point in time. Including Immanuel, there are currently 5 partnering churches in the network (KBC is one of them). There are also 10 partnering individual ministry/church leaders spread around North America. There are also 8 or 9 missionaries spread out around the world. Everyone in the Network is Reformed and Baptistic. This past year there were 7 churches planted around the world through this network!

KBC is a Southern Baptist church. We are also affiliated with The Gospel Coalition. But I am probably most excited to be a part of the Immanuel Network. One simple reason: I can trust EVERYTHING that happens in our network will be faithful. We are not the only faithful network out there, but in God’s providence this is the actual network He has placed me in, with brothers and sisters around the world I actually know personally and love. And I am so thrilled that over time my own church will get to know them and pray for them, and be prayed for by them more and more.

For more info on the Network: http://www.immanuelnetwork.org