The Most Important of Warnings

On our way to our vacation destination last August, I was driving through a construction zone with very little traffic and no construction workers on site. The interstate on which I was driving was down to two lanes (one in each direction) with no ability to pass. Unfortunately, I was behind a semi, and I am not nearly as patient as I should be, driving or otherwise.

Of course, when you are going through a construction zone and trailing a semi, cruise control really is not an option, as speeds can fluctuate so much. Thus, I found myself creeping up on the semi, slowing down, creeping up, slowing down, etc. Meanwhile, an Illinois State Police officer pulled out of his observation spot and was following me. I knew he was behind me but did not think much about him, as I could hardly speed or do much, and there was nearly no one else on the road.

Well, as soon as the construction zone ended, the trooper put his lights on and pulled me over. Great! What did I do wrong? Apparently, I did two things wrong. Multiple times, my speed got up to 65 miles per hour in the 55-mph construction zone, and I was following the semi too closely. Looking back, I can recognize the officer was right, and I was guilty of both offenses. Still, I was frustrated.

I cannot really remember what I said to the officer, but what I do remember is that he let me off with a warning. Phew! Perhaps my sweet wife and five scared children sitting with me in the van helped. They certainly helped more than my driving did! One thing I am certain I did not say in response is, “Oh, no thank you, officer. Please give me the full force of justice and the maximum penalty for my offenses.” Instead, I was obviously grateful for the warning and thanked the officer. I am not sure how much he could have penalized me, but I imagine that, especially because I was driving through a construction zone, the fines could have been steep. Praise the Lord for warnings!

ETERNAL IMPORTANCE

Of course, there are no more important warnings than those found in the Word of God. Over and over, the Bible warns us of our need to turn away from sin and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. Sin has consequences, and so we are warned of our need for atonement, which only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Titus 2:11-14 on the “Second Chances” that only come by the grace of God. The greatest of all warnings points us to the greatest of all graces.

For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

Titus 2:11-14

STANDARD OF TRUTH

If I told that state trooper, “But, I didn’t KNOW I could only go 55 miles per hour here,” would that make me innocent? Of course not. As a driver I am responsible for knowing and obeying the law. Likewise yet more importantly, as God’s creation, we are responsible for knowing and obeying His Law – the Bible. Are you seeking to know His Word and heed His warnings?

If I told that state trooper, “Well, maybe it’s your opinion that I was following that semi too closely, but in my opinion, I was just fine. I was comfortable with what I was doing. That’s my truth,” how would that have gone? Not well. The law is not based on my opinions or feelings and abilities. The law is based on standards, regardless of how I feel. I have no right and no ability to change the law, at least not in that moment. Even more so, we can never change God’s Law. His law is perfect and enduring. His standard of truth never changes because He never changes. Thus, we have no right and no ability to pick and choose which parts of His Word we obey. Are you asking for God’s help to walk in humility and obey His Word? Do you have relationships of intentional accountability to help you grow in your relationship with Him?

By God’s grace, He has given us warnings throughout His Word, and He has given us chance after chance to repent and believe. Let us not fail to know and embrace the most important of warnings! Let us trust His grace for salvation and trust His grace for sanctification. To God be the glory!

Receive the greatest and most important of all second chances by trusting in Jesus Christ to make you right with God. Learn more by checking out The Story.

Sinful yet Hopeful

Do you notice anything off about the picture above? Yes, that trailer is supposed to be hooked to that tractor. That trailer was hooked to that tractor, until one of my children (who will not be revealed in this post) was messing around on the tractor and disengaged the hydraulics. Apparently some other things were done, too, causing said-child to retreat in fear of the wrong that was committed.

Perhaps no one would find out, though. After all, when someone comes to move the trailer back into place for our Sunday morning outdoor worship celebration, he will hook the trailer back up, and no one else will be the wiser. So, nothing was said to Marsha or me about the trailer parked unhooked behind the tractor.

A little later, however, while all five of our children were playing outside, they noticed the tractor rolling down the hill. At least one of them wondered, “Who’s driving the tractor?” Oh, no one was driving that tractor. It was now helplessly rolling down the hill.

Praise the Lord that none of our children were near it when this happened, and no one was hurt or killed! Praise the Lord that no other vehicles were in the parking lot, and no damage was done! Praise the Lord that the tractor came to a perfect stop at the end of the gravel lot, and nothing bad happened! God’s mercy and grace are all over this story.

SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES

Well, God’s mercy and grace are all over this story, that is, until I walked outside the next morning for my (usually) very-enjoyable morning walk. Mercy and grace were not words that would describe my initial attitude toward my children when I saw what had happened.

When I first noticed what you can see in the above picture, I thought, “Why in the world did someone decide to use the tractor and then leave it down there? And, who was it?” That thinking was only for a moment, though, because I quickly realized it must have been something my children did. That was all that made sense.

How did this happen, though. When did this happen? How did my wife and I not know? How are all of our children still alive? Are we the worst parents ever? Do we have the worst children ever?

When everyone was awake, my wife and I questioned our children and quickly learned the truth, including the fact that all five of them knew who was guilty and knew what had happened. None said a word, however. No one told us, somehow thinking we would not find out and/or that it would not be a big deal if we did.

A John Deere tractor that our kids were playing around rolled 200 feet down a hill!

Needless to say, Marsha and I had a long, serious conversation with our children. Furthermore, they proceeded to lose a lot of privileges, and we hope they have learned their lesson.

You see, sin has consequences. In this case, disobedience and disrespect could have led to someone being killed, and death is the ultimate curse and consequence of sin.

THERE IS HOPE

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on how we can “Find Hope in God’s Judgment” (Micah 4). Yes, sin has consequences. Yes, God judges sin. Yes, we all deserve the devastating eternal death that is the curse of sin. Yet, there is hope.

We are all sinful, but we can still be hopeful, hopeful if we know and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The only hope that conquers sin and death is the hope of the gospel. Do you have this hope? Do you rejoice in this hope? Do you find satisfaction and contentment in this hope? Are you daily living for the God of this hope?

Like our children, we all deserve much greater consequences to our sins than we have received. The fact that we are still breathing, despite our countless failures and rebellions, is living proof. We deserve death but by trusting in Jesus’ death in our place and by believing in His resurrection from the dead, we can have life and have it abundantly.

Look out for the consequences of sin. Look out for God’s certain judgment. Look out by looking up (to Him). Look out by looking back (to the cross). Look out by looking forward (to eternal life). Only then will you have the hope that never dies.

P.S. – “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

If you have yet to believe the gospel and surrender your life to Jesus Christ, please do not delay.

Having and Being a Micah

In the days of God’s prophet Micah (more than 2,700 years ago), the people of Israel were living in great sin against God, facilitating rampant rebellion and injustice among the people. Micah boldly declared in the midst of the wickedness, “But as for me, I am filled with power by the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and courage, to proclaim to Jacob his rebellion and to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Micah 3 and challenging those at our outdoor worship celebration to “Respond Rightly to God’s Judgment.” God’s judgment is real and certain, so are you prepared? Are you following the trends of the culture and compromising biblical truth, or are you following Micah’s example with a counter-cultural commitment to biblical truth?

WHO’S YOUR MICAH?

While it was a very overwhelming and difficult task, Micah boldly confronted the sins of Israel. Who is your Micah? Do you have someone (or better yet, someones) in your life holding you accountable and confronting you when you fail to follow God faithfully? Do you have people who will speak up when you are blind to your own sin?

We all need accountability because we all fall short of God’s perfect standard, and we are all prone to the pride of self-justification for our shortcomings. Who is your Micah? Who is asking you the tough questions? Who is challenging you to turn from sinful tendencies and follow God according to His Word?

If you do not have people like Micah in your life, please do not delay. Make sure you are actively involved in a Bible-teaching church, and develop friendships with people you can trust to speak Truth into your life. You will not regret doing such an important, life-changing, life-giving thing.

WHERE’S YOUR MICAH?

Likewise, where is your Micah? In other words, where is the Micah inside of you? Are you walking with Jesus yourself and calling sin what it is – rebellion against a holy God? Are you involved in the lives of other Christ-followers, so that you can lovingly speak Truth into their lives?

Just like you need people to be Micahs in your life, others need you to be a Micah in their lives. We need one another.

If you have come to know and follow Jesus Christ, then you have received His Holy Spirit (see John 14:6, 26; 16:8; Acts 2-28; etc.). And, like Micah, you should gladly declare with purpose, “But as for me, I am filled with power by the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and courage, to proclaim…

The Spirit of God will not allow you to be content to live in sin (see 1 John), and the Spirit of God will not allow you to be content with others living in sin (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2).

No, you will not come down on others in prideful condescension but rather with a loving urgency to respond to the Lord in faith and repentance. We all need Micahs in our lives, and we all – by the work of the Holy Spirit – are called to be Micahs in the lives of one another.

Are you compelled to stand up for God’s Word and declare His Truth? If not, would you turn to Him and ask Him to take over your life?

THE ONLY PERFECT MICAH

Only the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, perfectly fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Only He was and is the perfect Micah – the One who could always speak Truth into people’s lives because He is the Truth. And, only He can change your life in such a way that you too will desire to have people like Micah regularly speaking into your life, as well as being a Micah in the lives of others.

If you want to both have a Micah and be a Micah, make sure you have Christ. Make sure you faithfully serve Him and serve His church. Let us walk alongside one another to bring God the glory and to be a blessing to others.

Learn and trust the Good News of the gospel. Check out The Story.

Covering the Smoke Doesn’t Save You from the Fire

My family loves bonfires, and we have really enjoyed them in recent days. Few things are more satisfying than sitting around a fire with people you love. I even love the smell of a good fire.

Interestingly, though, one thing I do not like is the smell of my clothes after I leave the fire. While the smell does not affect me during the fire, apart from a face full of smoke when the wind changes directions, the smell is less than pleasing afterward. In fact, the clothes you wore must be washed, or they will continue to stink.

Likewise, if you do not shower and wash your hair, you will continue to stink. Simply changing clothes only does so much. The smoke gets into your hair and skin, and while a clean set of clothes and some cologne will mask the smell for a while, that smoke smell eventually reappears.

In preparing for my Sunday morning message – “Living Difference” (Romans 13), I noticed a spiritual correlation with this idea of fire and smoke.

OFF AND ON

In the same way that simply ridding yourself of a smoke-absorbed coat will not permanently change your smell, simply ridding yourself of sinful habits will not permanently change your life. You must both put off and put on. “Discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). If you continue reading the passage, you will see what is to be discarded in verse 13 and what is to be put on in verse 14.

Put off sin and put on Christ. Flee from sin and follow Jesus. Run from evil and cling to what is good.

If I am somehow able to rid myself of a sinful habit but do not surrender myself to Jesus, then I will simply return to said-habit or replace it with another sinful habit. And, even if I do not return or replace it with another sinful habit, the smell of smoke is still there. The stain of sin is not yet washed away. The evidence of fire still exists.

ONLY ONE ANSWER

The only One who can rescue us from sin and deliver us from the eternal fire of death in hell is Jesus Christ our Lord. He died on the cross in our place for our sins, taking all the smoke of sin upon Himself. The wrath of God that we all deserve was poured out on Jesus. On the third day, though, Jesus rose from the dead to win the victory over sin and death. Now, everyone who turns away from sin and trusts in Jesus for forgiveness and new life receives both. The smoke is washed away, and the stain of sin is gone. Even though we are still sinners, it is as if we were perfect because we are counted righteous in Jesus Christ.

This only happens, though, when we are cleansed from our sins by trusting in Jesus. Then, He takes off the old and covers us with the new.

If I try to cover the smell of smoke on my own, I cannot save myself from the fire. But, if I ask Jesus to take away the smoke and make me clean, He does so in a way that is eternal.

Have you put off the old and put on the new? As we will discuss Sunday morning, Lord willing, the evidence will be not only in how you relate to God but also in how you relate to others, including the church and the government. Again, see Romans 13.

If you have not yet made the decision to surrender your life to Jesus, will you do so today? You can learn more HERE. Let us flee from immorality and follow Jesus with all our hearts!

Back-to-back fires (right above this past Saturday, followed by the top picture on Mother’s Day)

3 Reasons to Repent of Sin

Our youngest son, Micah, turned four last week. He is such a blessing to our family, as are all of our children. If you are a parent, though, you know full-well that children sin. They do not have to be taught how to sin; it comes naturally, as it does for all of us. In fact, God’s Word tells us that we were sinners before we were even born.

Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

If we believe and accept this truth, though, what is still gut-wrenching is when we see our children commit sins they learn from us. When my children lose their patience and yell at one another, I see myself in them. When they selfishly throw a fit because they did not get their way, I see myself in them. When they tease and pick on each other, I see myself in them. Sin repeats itself, does it not?

Sin is serious and must not be justified, defended, sugar-coated or denied. Instead, we ought to grieve over our sin and repent, which means to turn away from sin and turn to the Lord. Repentance involves changing your mind about sin and changing the direction of your life. Here are three reasons repentance of sin is so important…

1. God

Repent of your sins because, more importantly than any other reason, your sin separates you from God. God is holy, and sin is not allowed to enter His presence. Therefore, you and I – because we are sinners – are not allowed to enter His presence, not in this life and not in the next.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching my last message in our series The Gospel According to David. Looking at 2 Samuel 11-12, I hope to explain what it means to be “Sinful but Repentant.”

When David committed a series of sins and tried to cover them up, “the Lord considered what David had done to be evil” (2 Samuel 11:27). This is the ultimate reason repentance is so important – because all sin is first and foremost an offense to the Creator and Ruler of the universe.

In David’s prayer of response to his sinful actions, he said to God, “Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4).

Repent of your sins because nothing is more important than restoring your relationship with God and nothing is more devastating than eternal judgment and separation from God.

2. Other People

Repent of your sins because sins have consequences that inevitably go well beyond you. For David, what began as lust with his eyes and lust in his heart, led to adultery with another man’s wife, deception in an attempted cover-up, murder of the man whose wife David defiled, and the death of David’s son.

If you read 2 Samuel 11-12, you can see the devastating effects of David’s sin on the lives of others. The consequences are heartbreaking, and there were even future consequences that affected people who were not even part of these events.

God said to David, “Why then have you despised the command of the Lord by doing what I consider evil? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife—you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword. Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own wife” (2 Samuel 12:9-10).

David’s sins destroyed the lives of others, and our sins can do the same. Repent of your sins because your sins hurt others, whether you currently realize this or not.

3. Yourself

When God sent Nathan to confront David, Nathan shared a story that related to David’s sin (see 2 Samuel 12:1-8). David was appalled and thought justice needed to be done in that case. How easy it is to see sin and evil in others, while failing to see sin and evil in ourselves!

Regardless of what we see or how we feel, though, we are sinners in need of forgiveness. We are desperately wicked when left to ourselves and the consequences of sin are not just realized in this life. The consequences are eternal, unless we repent and turn to the Lord. You have nothing lasting and good to look forward to unless you repent of your sins.

Of course, this third reason is related to the first two reasons. All three reasons are intertwined, in fact, because a right relationship with God affects our relationships with others and our own well-being. We need God, and we need one another, or we will never be our best selves.

So, repent of your sins because God commands you to, and you desperately need His forgiveness. He is worthy of all glory and honor, but in your sin, you are attempting to steal His glory and honor. Repent of your sins because others are depending on you. And, repent of your sins because you will never find joy, hope, peace and satisfaction if you do not honor God and care for others.

Respond

Remember earlier I said that repentance involves changing your mind about sin and changing the direction of your life. The reality for every single one of us, though, is that we simply cannot do this eternally important act on our own. We need help. We are incapable of changing ourselves. Thus, God sent His Son Jesus (who never sinned) to die on the cross for our sins, and He rose from the dead to defeat sin and death for all of eternity. Now, if you trust Jesus’ substitutionary death, you are able, by the power of His Spirit changing your life, to repent of your sins and walk in a right relationship with God.

Will you respond to the truth of God’s Word by placing your faith in Jesus Christ and repenting of your sins? If you have already made the decision to surrender your life to Jesus Christ, will you examine your heart to make sure you are seeking Him daily in faith and repentance?

Micah and I took a long walk through the Callaway County countryside earlier this week, enjoying the beautiful weather and talking about all kinds of things. May memories like THESE be much more prevalent than memories of my sins and failures as a father!

By the way, Micah really did enjoy the walk, even though his strange facial expression in the above picture does not seem to indicate enjoyment.

Is habitual church absence a sin?

This is a very short (trust me!) response to an important question. Is it a sin for someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ to be consistently absent from and thus inactive in a local church?

Yes, I believe it is a sin.

When considering this issue, many will point to Hebrews 10:24-25, which says, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

While I believe that clear calling and command are helpful, I believe 1 Corinthians 12 is even more helpful when considering the critical importance of active church membership and involvement for a follower of Jesus Christ. As verse 12 and following make clear, the singular body (the church) with many individual parts (church members) cannot possibly function properly if those parts are not actively involved.

“Now you ([plural you – i.e. you all]) are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Paul was writing this letter to the local church in Corinth. They were one body – one church – consisting of many members. And, just as we understand clearly from the body and body parts analogy, a body that is missing members simply cannot function properly or naturally. All members are needed, just as all members need the body. When a member is missing, the rest of the body is affected.

So often, when people choose to miss church services and not maintain active church involvement, they think it is primarily about them

“I’m busy and just don’t really have time for the church right now.”

“I’m not getting much out of it.”

“I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”

But, all of those excuses (and countless others I have heard) are centered on the individual choosing to not engage with the church. I do not recall the last time I heard someone say, “I really need to get back in church, so that I can better serve others and help them grow in their relationship with God.”

What if that was our motivation? What if we loved one another so much that our longing to be actively involved with our church was less about our individual selves and more about each other and the church as a whole?

What if we applied the greatest commandment to love God with your entire being and the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40) to our church life?

“But, I’m busy and just don’t really have time for the church right now.”

Sure, you might be busy, but you will make time for what is important in life.

“But, I’m not getting much out of it.”

You might not be “getting much out of it,” but what can you do to make sure others are getting much? And, are sharing your concerns about spiritual growth and health with church leaders?

“But, I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”

Yes, you can worship God anywhere, but you need the church and the church needs you.

In a letter to another local church, Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts…” (Romans 12:3-6).

Now, consider your excuses for not being an active church member, and see if they can still be defended in light of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. I am not aware of any that can, with the exception of those who are sick or imprisoned for their faith, in which case the church is called to go to them.

Granted, many choose not to join and be active in a church because they do not yet have a born-again relationship with Jesus Christ. In that case, we cannot expect unbelievers to act like believers.

If you do profess to know and follow Jesus, though, please prove the legitimacy of your faith by obeying His Word and loving His church.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A bad Friday and a GOOD Friday

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8 – NLT).

Why do we not consider and meditate on the cross more often? Why do we not constantly remind ourselves of the incredible love God displayed in giving His perfect and only Son to die for our sins? Why do we take for granted the fact that we deserved none of this? Rather, WE deserve the cross. WE deserve God’s righteous wrath. WE deserve to go to hell. Yet, God loved us so much that He was willing to take our punishment. At what cost to us? At NO COST to us! Wow! What goes down in history as the most evil thing that was ever done also goes down in history as the most loving thing that was ever done. We killed Jesus Christ (our sins put Him on that cross) – the most evil thing ever done. Jesus Christ willingly went to that cross because of His love for us – the most loving thing ever done. Wow! Truly a bad Friday and yet ultimately a GOOD Friday.