Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Q: What Good Works Am I To do?
A: All our efforts and resources are to be used in ways that glorify God, and should be in accordance to His Word.
Good works begin with humble submission and obedience to God’s commands. At the most fundamental level we are told to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:27-40). And since love is more of an action than a feeling, we are told to perform acts of kindness, care and charity.
We were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).
If we don’t do good works we are considered to be spiritually dead (James 2:17).
Faith produces good works (James 2:22).
We are told to do good works in public (Matthew 5:15).
We are commanded to inspire other people to do good works (Hebrews 10:24).
Some of the most basic good works include obeying and showing respect to those in authority over us. We are called to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4) before God, and to keep ourselves from being corrupted by the world. We are to honor our parents, submit to our husbands, and obey our masters.
We are also called to do good works for those who are in need of help. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, protect the orphan and care for the widow (James 1:27). And that’s not all. Right at home we are to help mom clear the dinner dishes and give little brother a hand with his shoe laces.
Since we are stewards of the life and resources God has given us, virtually everything that can be done as unto the Lord can be considered a good work. Here are some examples.
Worship is a good work.
Prayer is a good work.
Tithing is a good work.
Attending church gatherings is a good work.
Disciplining your children is a good work.
Voting wisely is a good work.
Checking your motor oil is a good work.
Saying thank you is a good work.
Controlling your temper is a good work.
Brushing your teeth is a good work.
Work and Vocation
In our current culture it is easy to view work as a means to an end, a way to earn money rather than a noble activity in and of itself. The primary vocation of believers, who are called to faith, is that of being children of God. But this includes serving the Lord through good works in the world. Theologian John Pless writes:
Luther understood that the Christian is genuinely bivocational. He is called first through the Gospel to faith in Jesus Christ and he is called to occupy a particular station or place in life. The second sense of this calling embraces all that the Christian does in service to the neighbor not only in a particular occupation but also as a member of the church, a citizen, a spouse, parent, or child, and worker. Here the Christian lives in love toward other human beings and is the instrument by which God does His work in the world.
Wisdom In Work
We need wisdom to perform good works, and it is important to do them in a way that honors God. It is easy to get distracted by competing allegiances for our energy and attention. The Bible warns about trying to serve two masters, because we will tend to favor one and despise (or neglect) the other( Matthew 6:24). Some things in life need to pruned, and others fertilized to produce the fruit of works. A man may need to give up his golf game to make time for serving someone. He may need to give up a costly habit to free up his resources to support ministries in his church.
Diligence In Work
While a sincere heart and good intentions are sufficient to start a good work, they might not finish it. It is wise to plan one’s work out carefully and to ask others for counsel (Proverbs 24:6). “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). Each day is an opportunity to expand the Lord's Kingdom on earth through productive stewardship. It has been said that a failing to plan yields the same results as a planning to fail. I tell my children to make a plan, and then work the plan, revising things as necessary. If it is bad stewardship to waste food while feeding the hungry, it is bad stewardship to be careless while doing one’s work.
I’ll close with two views of stewardship, courtesy of my friend, Ron Strom.
Adolescence: rebellion, irresponsibility
Time is your own, waste it on yourself
Go for the gusto, you only live once
My life is my own to please myself
Youth: time of preparation, fruitfulness
Time is God’s gift, use it to His glory
Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven
I was bought with a price to serve my Master
May the Lord bless you as you perform good works.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
So what’s next? Will polygamy be legalized next year? After all, if two women can be united, why not three, or four? Can we, in good conscience, continue to deny consenting adults (maybe minors, too) the right to be joined into one big happy whatever-you-call-it? Then, what will be legalized after polygamy?
An ancient prophet once said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” These words should be echoing in the chambers in Salem. Those citizens of Oregon, who still embrace biblical standards for marriage and family, are rightly alarmed when the state violates the public trust and legislates immorality. Fortunately, a ballot initiative process and an upcoming election is at their disposal. It is therefore fitting that the deeds of our bold legislators and governor be well remembered on election day.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
There is widespread disdain for authority in America today. Children disrespect their parents. Employees resent their bosses. Politicians are lampooned on talk television. There seems to be more respect for athletes and celebrities than for our leaders.
Commercial advertising has helped shape the American individual. We have been told for so long that we can have anything we want, when we want it, that we’ve come to believe it. We fancy ourselves as independent-minded consumers, so we think we are in control of the ideas and beliefs we adopt as well. We therefore, tend to frame questions of truth and behavior in subjective, rather than absolute terms. We are attracted to relativism because it permits us to be the mark and measure of authority. It’s all about us.
Consumerism is not new, of course. Satan exploited Eve’s desire for self-fulfillment by advertising forbidden fruit way back in the garden. She was deceived. She bought the lie. Adam condoned it. Mankind has been in bondage to self-gratification ever since.
No one is truly autonomous, and no one can escape authority. As a creature, man is subject to God's natural laws (gravity for example) and God's moral laws, which are revealed in the Bible.
Liberty and self-restraint go hand in hand. Men who are self-controlled by moral conscience and obedience to God's laws have little need for external control. But those who lack self-control must be restrained by others. Thus, the need for systems of human government. This is no surprise. The Bible says that man has a perpetual moral problem. He has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). He does not seek after God or care to know God's commands apart from the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He is not a sick man calling out for the help of a physician, or a drowning man crying for someone to rescue him. He is incapable of asking for help, because he is spiritually dead. And only God’s grace can save him. This is how we must view all individuals.
Americans love their liberty. Part of our national identity is the fact that we cast off the yoke of oppression by declaring our independence from England back in 1776. Our founding fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to defend the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men. They reasoned from a thoroughly biblical worldview when they declared that these unalienable rights emanate directly from God alone.
Today, Americans think they can retain their rights, but deny the God who grants them. This is not only true of secularists, who want to expunge the Christian faith from the monuments and textbooks of history. It is also true of many so-called Christians, who think they can recast God in their own image. As such, He is not a God of might and justice, of holiness and pefect law. He is a wrathless sugar daddy who brings self-fulfillment to all who seek it. He winks at sin. He is a year round Sunday Santa Claus, who brings only good gifts to boys and girls.
Autonomous individualism is a malignant disease in American culture that has crept into the church. It has produced rampant immorality so that adultery (through no fault divorce), child murder (through abortion), and sexual perversion (through homosexual unions) are just a few of the unbiblical practices that are now legal in our land. Don't get too discouraged, though. God has sovereign authority over all circumstances. He is not taken aback by the emergence of humanistic relativism or the corruption it produces. He will, however, certainly judge such things.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) .
The good news is that God offers mercy and forgiveness to those who repent and believe in Christ. Perhaps if we humble ourselves, and embrace the truth and authority of the Bible, we will be restored. Under the authority of Christ's cross there is redemption and there is transformation. Expect it. Rejoice in it.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Q: Who Has Authority Over Me?
God’s Law is eternal, authoritative and expansive. The Law is not limited to the Ten Commandments, either. All of Scripture is inspired by God, and given to man for his benefit (2 Timothy 3:16). The whole Bible, then, is our standard of truth and morality for all of life. There is therefore no legitimate authority apart from that which is established by Scripture.
The Bible commands us to love God and love our neighbors. One of the greatest acts of love we can perform is our humble submission to lawful authorities. As we show genuine compassion and respect for others, we demonstrate our submission to the Lord, and obedience to His Word. The light and momentary trials of living under the authority of imperfect people is part of God’s sanctifying process of making believers more like Christ. So rejoice as you submit.
Institutions Of Authority
God has ordained three institutions of earthly authority. They are (1) the family, (2) the church and (3) the state. Within each of these institutions there are agents who exercise God-given authority over us. Extending over these institutions is the Law of God, which is the highest standard of authority for all human conduct and relationships.
1. The Family
Submission to authority in your family is inescapable. Your parents have authority over you. Your husband has authority over you. Your spouse has authority over you. All this is God’s plan for couples to stay faithfully married and to train up well-behaved children. Individuals are produced in families and they are God’s possessions, bought with a price, and under obligation to give God glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Fathers are commanded to be servant leaders in their homes. They are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and they are to discipline and instruct their children. Wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Children are commanded to obey their parents (Ephesians 5:22-6:4). When authority is properly exercised and respected in a family, the home is a wonderful place of nurture and joy. Therefore, the first priority of every Christian family should be to unleash the authority of God’s sure and sufficient Word in our homes.
* Deuteronomy 6:5-9 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
* Colossians 3:16-21 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
The institution of the family does more than make marriages and babies. It is also the engine of economics and free enterprise. It is the realm of commerce, business contracts, personal industry and the creation of material wealth. The family populates the planet with productive workers, ministers of mercy and shapers of culture. The other institutions are completely dependent on the family for their personnel. All business dealing must be subject to the rule of God’s Law which regulates fair contracts and transactions.
2. The Church
Submission to the leaders of the your local church is required. Your church elders have authority over you, and they must give account for your spiritual condition directly to the Lord. Your proper submission to them allows you to grow in your knowledge of the Bible and to walk more faithfully as a follower of Christ. As you respond to their teaching and preaching of sound Biblical doctrine, you mature in faith and are better able to do good deeds. The Bible calls you to honor and obey them so that they consider it a joy as they watch over you (Hebrews 13:17).
The Church is God’s divinely appointed guardian of Truth. The Bible refers to the church as the Body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), the Bride of Christ (Matthew 25:1-13), and the Household of Faith (Galatians 6:10). Although the church cannot produce children, it certainly helps shape them. Church leaders are charged with the responsibility of proclaiming God’s Word to edify the body and equip them for the works of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). Christians are commanded to maintain regular fellowship with one another and stir one another up to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-24). The Church plays a significant role in cultural transformation through the ministry of God’s Word made active and alive in the other institutions of family and state.
3. The State
Submission to the authority of human government is mandatory. Or else! You know this when you speed past a parked police cruiser on the highway with an officer inside pointing a radar gun at you. Your lead foot on the accelerator may have just cost you a hefty fine. And when you are pulled over, you know that the club, handcuffs and pistol on the officer’s belt are not merely ornaments. They are instruments of law enforcement, and he is authorized to use them if you decide to pitch a fit.
Human governments are ordained by God to execute justice and punish evil behavior. They regulate human conduct by justly enforcing God’s moral and civic laws. They ensure that individual rights are protected and that contractual agreements can be enforced. Because man is sinful by nature, human governments are necessary to protect the innocent and to punish the guilty. The need for the external law enforcement is directly proportional to the lack of self-restraint exercised by individuals in society. Therefore, obey the laws of the land and be respectful to those in serve in the government.
* Romans 13:1-7 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
* 1 Peter 2:13-17 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
In order for us to have a right perspective on living under authority in a fallen world, we should look to Jesus as our example. The King of Glory submitted himself to birth in a lowly manger. He was submissive to his earthly parents as boy (Luke 2:51). He humbled himself even unto death on a cross in obedience to His Father's will (Philippians 2:4-8). Christ, our Lord and savior came to serve, rather than to be served (Matthew 20:28).
We should do likewise.
Follow Up Assignments
1. On as many pages as necessary, write a list of good works that will get you into heaven :)
2. Listen to audio file on "Myth of Adolescence"
Friday, February 1, 2008
Q: What is my main purpose in life?
A: A Christian’s main purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Additionally, we have purposes determined by our gender and by our individual giftings and interests.
Why Am I Here?
Most of us have wondered why we’re here. After getting squeezed, toothless and witless into the atmosphere as infants, we soon begin to wonder about our purpose here on the surface. I know I did. After a while we might think about our exit. Then what to do in between. Willy Shakespeare wrote about such things in As You Like It.
Jacques: All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the canon's mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered pantaloon With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Life is more than advancing through stages, like an elevator rising up through the stories to return to the basement. It’s more than living to “eat, drink, and be merry” (Ecclesiastes 8:15) The Bible says that believers were chosen (predestined) even before the creation of the world to do good works (Ephesians 1:4). Amazing. It sounds like God has a purpose for us in mind.
In order to help you not waste your life, I offer three basic types of purposes that every Christian must consider. This information is an adaptation of a Vision Forum Ministries message by Doug Phillips on life purpose.
1. Universal Purposes
* Love God and love your neighbor (Matt 22:37-40)
* Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (This is man’s chief end according to the Westminster Catechism question #1)
* Obey God and make disciples (1 Jn 5:2-3; Matt 28:19-20)
2. Gender Purposes
* Man is made in God’s image, yet they were made male and female (Gen 1:27)
* Man and wife are to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28; 9:1)
* Men are to be providers (1 Tim. 5:8), protectors (Pr 5:22-23; Pr 22:15; Pr 23:13-14; Matt 18:6), instructors of their children (Eph 6:4), and heads of households (Eph 5:22-23)
* Women are to be helpers (Gen 2:18; Pr 31) nurturers (Mal 2:15; 1 Tim 2:15) instructors of women & children (Pr 1:8-9; Titus 2:3-5)
3. Individual Purposes
* Children are to honor and obey their parents (Col 3:20)
* Children are be trained, instructed and discipled at home (Dt 6:7; Pr 22:6; Eph 6:4)
* Individuals are given a variety of gifts by the Spirit (1 Cor 12:4)
* Individuals must remain faithful to the Scriptures and to their relational commitments as they pursue their purposes
* Parents must be committed to the purposes of raising godly children, which should supersede and modify their desires for career advancement and personal status
It’s important to recognize that one’s individual purposes are subordinate to the gender and universal purposes established by God. A child may not justify a life purpose that denies the authority that is placed over him by his parents. An individual may not justify a life purpose that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Therefore, practices such as homosexuality, adultery and transgender identity cannot be legitimate life purposes for Christians, because these things are prohibited by Scripture (1 Cor 6:9; Ro 1:24-27). Women may not justify their desire to serve as leaders in the church as a life purpose for the same reasons, since Scripture forbids it (1 Tim 2:12).
If you find yourself resenting the call to submit your individuality to greater purposes, remember that being a disciple of Jesus means taking up your cross daily. It does not include carrying the your cultural tote bag of American individualism and feminism along with you. If you are to be a true disciple, you must let the Word of Christ dwell in you until you are willing to utterly trust the Lord at His Word and obey Him.
Here's a last word of encouragement. The sovereign God who has called you into His kingdom as a man, or woman, or child is faithful to complete the purposeful work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).
Follow Up Assignments
1. Memorize the Greatest Commandments and the Great Commission: (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:19-20)
2. Make a list of three things you'd like to accomplish in the next three years and why. Be ready to share your responses.
Q: What is a disciple and why should we make them?
A: A disciple is a Christian who is fully devoted to Jesus Christ, living daily in His Word and by His Spirit, making other disciples. We make them because Christ commands it.
According to Christian researcher, George Barna, most parents abdicate their responsibility to spiritually nurture their children (Barna 2000), a majority of youth abandon their faith when they leave home (Barna 2000), and most church discipleship activities are ineffective in producing disciples (Barna 2003). Ouch. Since I’ve criticized the consumer-driven church model in previous posts, I’ll cut straight to the chase. Radical reformation is in order. The modern evangelical church needs to prune the programmatic individualism and start cultivating DISCIPLESHIP REFORMATION.
I believe that adequate reformation in discipleship will only occur when we return to Biblical orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right practices). Here are some flash points.
- God is sovereign and His Word is sure and sufficient
- We must read obey the Scriptures pertaining to discipleship
- We must return to the Biblical, home discipleship model of child training and youth preparation
- We must relationally train followers of Christ to make disciples through systematic instruction
The marks of a disciple include bearing one’s cross (Luke 14:27), suffering as Christ suffered (1 Peter 2:21), loving the brethren (John 13:35), bearing much fruit (John 15:8), being chosen by God (John 15:16), making disciples ( Matthew 28:19-20), and expecting reward (Luke 18:29-30).
Disciples are known for their:
- Faithfulness (commitment to the person and Word of Christ in obedience)
- Fellowship (commitment to love and serve other believers)
- Fruitfulness (commitment to do good works, share the gospel and make disciples)
To sum things up, DISCIPLESHIP REFORMATION means Christians must be committed to the long term process of systematic, relational training. Churches must emphasize the equipping of parents to disciple their children for multigenerational faithfulness. Churches must train and equip followers of Christ to invest their lives in making disciple makers.
Follow Up Assignments:
Prepare to share your testimony of faith (When did you repent and believe?), including the event of your baptism.
Knowing What A Disciple Is And Does (understanding the marks and goals of a disciple of Jesus)
Week 2: What is my main purpose in life?
Knowing Your Purpose In Life (understanding God’s sovereignty, the chief end of man and one’s individual calling)
Week 3: Who has authority over me?
Honoring Authority (understanding God’s reign over family, church, and state)
Week 4: What good works am I to do?
Doing Good Works (renouncing adolescence; gaining wisdom in work, study, spiritual growth and productivity)
Week 5: What is in the Bible?
Knowing Your Bible (understanding the Bible’s contents and the basics of doctrine)
Week 6: How can I grow closer to God?
Establishing Devotional Habits (getting the most out of Bible study and prayer)
Week 7: How can I stay pure and focused?
Practicing Purity (gaining wisdom in an exploitive, materialistic, self-absorbed, sensual culture)
Week 8: How can I resolve conflict?
Being a Peace Maker (learning to listen, love, reconcile, deal with discipline, and bless others)
Week 9: How do I share the gospel?
Knowing and Sharing the Gospel (preparing and sharing a powerful testimony of faith)
Week 10: What is a Biblical Worldview?
Understanding Worldviews (examining religion and philosophy through the lens of orthodox Christianity)
Week 11: How can I help transform the culture around me?
Being An Ambassador (engaging the culture with an accurate and informed mind, an artful method and an attractive manner)
Week 12: What career and ministry should I pursue?
Your Kingdom Gifts (choosing a career for influence in family, church, marketplace and public square)
Week 13: How should I handle money?
Managing Money (understanding Biblical economics and private enterprise for family and Kingdom expansion)
Week 14: How should I prepare for marriage?
Looking For A Husband Or Wife (understanding marriage & Biblical roles, planning for marriage, family & ministry)