Tuesday, June 13, 2017

News and Good News

In a time of fake news and biased news, we should not lose sight of this reality -- the church is a product of the news.

The word "gospel" in the language of the New Testament means “good news.” Once the “good news” that God reconciles sinners to Himself through His Son's work has invaded our lives and brought us into Christ's church, we are able to see the news in light of this gospel.

We may not rejoice at all the news we read or hear. Some news should grieve us. Some news should anger us. Yet, the "good news" opens our eyes to understand God is doing all things in this world for His glory and for the good of His people. We may not understand God's ways as events unfold, but that does not diminish the fact He is working providentially to fulfill His purposes.

It is especially important to be aware of news that affects Christ's church or reflects the good or evil actions of human beings in the world. Beginning with this post, I will seek to provide some periodic posts that consist of brief introductions and links to such news. And in some cases, they may include an article I have written for Baptist Press.

Here is the news this time:

1. Terrorists continue to attack and kill Christians

Most of the attention in this country of late has been focused on terrorist attacks in Great Britain, but Islamic extremists have unleashed their violence on Christians recently in countries such as Egypt and the Philippines. See articles here and here.

2. Worst famine globally since World War II occurs in Africa

An estimated 20 million people in four countries -- Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen -- are at risk of dying of starvation. The cause of the famine is man-made, according to this report.

3. Sanders applies unconstitutional religious test to Christian

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont recently labeled a nominee to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget as an Islamaphobe for defending the biblical doctrine that salvation is only through Jesus. In opposing Russell Vought, the 2016 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination used a religious test for office the U.S. Constitution forbids. Here is the article.

4. Planned Parenthood again shows abortion is its priority

Planned Parenthood, the country's leading abortion provider, demonstrated once again abortion is its main business. The organization's latest annual report showed it upped its abortion count by more than 4,000 while some other services for women fell and the money kept rolling in. Pro-lifers continue to call for federal defunding. See article here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

You and the sin 'crouching at the door'

A recent visit with a Christian couple found us discussing our concern over a mutual friend as part of our conversation. Our friend is involved in unrepentant sin that is contradictory to his professed faith and destructive to others.

One of them asked how I, as a pastor, think about it. My response went something like this: Sin is more powerful than we give it credit for being. Then I thought about a passage our son had read to his wife and daughters during family worship a few nights before. (They are staying with us for awhile between moves.) He read from Genesis 4 and talked about God's message to Cain. I told my friends what the Lord told Cain even before he murdered his brother Abel: Sin is crouching at the door.

The answer I provided in that conversation is not a complete one, but it is an important part. Sin wants us, and we are susceptible to its power.

The complete divine message to Cain was: "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:6b-7).

This passage indicates Cain could have pre-emptively prevented sin from gaining a hold on him. Cain didn't, however. And he didn't master sin. Even before sin brought destruction in his brother's life, it did so in his own.

What happens to the Christian who doesn't recognize sin is stalking him? What happens to the Christian who opens the door to the sin crouching outside? What happens to the Christian who thinks he can toy with sin for the briefest of seasons?

The late Adrian Rogers, whom our family was blessed to call pastor for eight years, said this: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

Once a Christian opens the door to sin and excuses it in the slightest way, there is no guarantee he or she will be able to put the brakes on it. If we, as followers of Jesus, do not master sin, we should assume it will master us. Everyone who reads this blog may know a professing brother or sister in Christ who has stepped slightly onto sin's slope and found it a slippery one. How many of us know another Christian, including one in pastoral ministry, who has fallen so badly he has brought reproach on the name of Christ and His church, destroyed a marriage, and done dreadful harm to others?

Given the danger and power of sin, how should we respond as followers of Christ? Though this is not a complete guide, here are some recommendations:

1. Remind ourselves often of the holiness of God. Sin is no small matter to Him. It has no part in Him. He despises it. He will judge every sin for eternity. Our desire should be to emulate Him in hatred of sin.

2. Confess -- and repent of -- our sins quickly and fully. We cannot minimize sin if we would guard ourselves against sin's threat to consume us. We cannot think some sins are too insignificant to require us to agree with God about the offense they are to His holiness. If we are lethargic about confessing and repenting of a sin, we risk becoming lackadaisical about a growing number of sins.

3. Commit ourselves to other saints who humbly recognize their need for, and practice, confession of sin. The confession of sin by a church in corporate worship is an important and regular reminder of our need and God's cleansing. As the church of Jesus, we are going in the same direction with no one left behind -- likeness to Jesus.

4. Rehearse the gospel frequently. Preaching the gospel to ourselves helps us remember the condemnation we were under because of our sin and the comprehensiveness of Jesus' work to atone for our sin. May we remind ourselves of the great price the Son of God paid to conquer every sin, and may we rejoice in the forgiveness for every sin fully given on the basis of Christ's life, death and resurrection.