Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is Newsweek Right About Gay Marriage?

Is Newsweek Right About the Bible and Homosexuality?
Dr. Kevin Shrum

Newsweek (Dec. 15, ’08 issue) has done it again. In an article entitled, 'Our Mutual Joy: The Religious Case for Gay Marriage', author Lisa Miller obliterates the plain reading of various biblical texts as she attempts to make a case for the gay lifestyle and for same-sex marriage.

Miller comes nearest to telling the truth in the article’s title – she can only make a religious case for her position, but not a biblical case because the Bible neither affirms nor condones homosexuality or same-sex marriage. Let me make the case.

Jesus. Yes, Jesus was single and did not specifically mention homosexuality. But every time he had the opportunity to redefine marriage He failed to do so, i.e. Mt. 19:1-9. In fact, Jesus defined marriage not by the Law or cultural custom, but by returning to the book of Genesis that sets the pattern for marriage as a commitment between a man and a women (Gen. 1:27; 2:18-25). In other words, Jesus returned to the book of origins and not the Law or cultural custom. In doing so Jesus affirmed the heterosexual nature of marital, conjucal, and parental relationships.

Paul. Paul, too, was single. Yet, no one in Scripture presents a more scathing critique of the abuse of marriage and the associated abouses of God's gift of sexuality. Romans 1:18-32 outlines one of the clearest repudiations of homosexuality in the Bible. We also know that the Corinthian church was filled with former sinners of all stripes, including homosexuals (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Such afirmations do not even begin to touch the nature and scope of what the Old Testament says about sexual sin. Miller's recognition of the sodomy, incest, adultry, fornication, and polygamy among the cast of characters in the Old Testament is rightly noted. Yet Miller fails to comprehend one basic principle of Bible interpretation - not everything the Bible describes it prescribes for its readers. That is, the Bible is God's book that describes the redemption of sinners in spite of their willful and unlawful sinfulness.

But while the Bible makes a clear case against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, it does not stand alone in opposing this aberrant lifestyle. Opposition is woven into the very fabric of creation. Let me illustrate.

Physically. Brace yourself. Homosexuality does not make sense with how our bodies are made. It is obvious that God made men in such ways that they only match up with women when it comes to sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is not the only reason for marriage, but our physical makeup does give us a clue as to who our appropriate partner should be.

This is the dirty little secret that the proponents of the gay lifestyle do not want us to discuss because they know that envisioning sexual acts between people of the same sex does not make sense to the average person.

Naturally. This first point leads to a similar point. By in large, nature functions best, especially when it comes to procreation, when marriage takes place between monogamous, committed men and women. Conversely, it is a violation of nature for men and men or women and women to function in ways that should be left for the relationships between men and women. There is no ‘gay gene’ in nature, only choices and propensities.

Familially. Only heterosexual marriage makes sense for the family unit as well. God’s plan is for a man and a woman to form the basis of a successful family. I can hear the cry from those who support same-sex marriage that you will find many loving families in same-sex partnerships. Further, they will tell us that heterosexual marriage is no panacea of success and peace.

Both of these claims are true. I’m sure that people in same-sex relationships share some degree of love for one another. And I know for a fact that many marriages are in trouble. But a troubled marriage does not necessarily call for a redefinition of marriage. That’s like saying that because a student missed the answer to the math equation 2 + 2 by answering 5 instead of 4 we need redefine or obliterate the processes of math. No, the student simply needs to correctly learn the answer.

Socially. While every society in recorded history has had a same-sex constituency, no society that has been dominated by sexual promiscuity has survived to tell about it. In fact, in his monumental and influential book, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbons notes that rather than building up the empire, sexual promiscuity of all kinds, i.e. adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, was one of the leading causes among many that helped Rome implode from within.

The pro-gay lifestyle has become connected with a vigilant pro-gay agenda to create a rather vocal minority that is bent on normalizing the abnormal and by demonizing all those who disagree with this “progressive” view of same-sex marriage. However, both Scripture and reason argue against repudiating the truth that marriage and families work best when formed by a committed, covenant marriage between a man and a women. This is where Miller misses the mark.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Christian Patriotism: What Can Christians Give America?

What Can the Christian Give to America?
A Christian Patriot’s Reflection

Mention the terms ‘patriotism’ and ‘Christianity’ in the same sentence and you will get a variety of responses. Some will, without hesitation, wrap the cross in an American flag, so equating Christianity and Americanism that it is impossible to make the distinction between the two. Those Christians who make the mistake of so aligning themselves with the political process or with a particular political party often perpetuate the loss of the church’s prophetic voice.

Others will go to the opposite extreme, declaring that Christianity should have little to do with the American system and that Christians are to avoid politics or any display of national pride altogether. Those who cast their lot with this kind of Christian worldview find it difficult to display any kind of national pride, may not choose to participate in the political process, often have difficulty to singing the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and too often end up abusing the very freedoms that under-gird their right to criticize the country. But are things this simple? Some observations are in order.

First, when it comes to America there is no doubt that this blessed land has always had a ‘Christian flavor.’ Though America has never pretended to be a specifically Christian nation, it must be recognized that while some of our Founders were deists, most were committed Christians and nearly all were influenced by a Judeo-Christian worldview. There is no doubt that the foundations of American republicanism are rooted in a Judeo-Christian worldview. John Adams’ famous statement about the necessity of religion (Christianity) for the viability of America’s representative form of government bears repeating:

“We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Second, Christians live within a tension. On the one hand, we are citizens of the country in which we are born and, as such, we are to be the most responsible citizens possible. For example, God commanded Jeremiah to seek the peace of the city for in seeking its peace Jeremiah would himself know peace (Jer. 29:7). This command was given despite Jeremiah living in a foreign land under forced deportation. Further, Jesus noted that we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s (Mk. 12:17). Romans 13:1ff. and Titus 3:1 commands every Christian to respect and obey civil authorities, fervently praying for each and every leader. In addition, 1 Peter 2:17 states that we are to honor all men, especially the king. In fact, did you know that Paul himself was keenly aware of his rights as a Roman citizen, appealing to these rights when punished without due process so that he might preach the gospel all the way to Rome (Acts 22)? In brief, Paul was no political novice.

However, the Christian has another, higher allegiance to and a separate citizenship in the family of God. Both Ephesians 2:18-22 and Philippians 3:17-21 declare that we are citizens of the family of God rooted in the kingdom of God, with Jesus as Sovereign. Our citizenship in God’s family supersedes all other allegiances. Most of the time, the Christian can live within the confines of both forms of citizenship. Yet, when a choice must be made, the Christian must choose his/her allegiance to Jesus Christ and His kingdom as the priority.

Third, what, then, can the believer give to his/her nation? What does the Christian offer to the land of his/her birth? Two texts can be helpful in answering these questions: Acts 9:10ff and 1 Peter 2:13-17. Based upon these two texts let me suggest at least three things the Christian can give America.

(1 Peter 2:13-17) “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For 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. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

(Acts 9:10-16) “Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

First, let us give America the Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact, this is essentially what God told Ananias concerning the newly converted Paul (Saul). He notes that Paul was a chosen instrument and that God would use him to “carry my name before Gentiles, and kings and the children of Israel.” In essence, God would use Paul to take the gospel to every person at every level of life, even to those in political power and authority (see Acts 24-26). Why? Because God knows that the greatest need of sinful humanity is not a political makeover, but spiritual regeneration. Give to a nation a converted and holy people and you will give to that same nation, or any nation for that matter, a citizen constituency that is able to seek the better of society for the glory of God. Again, while it is necessary as a good citizen for every Christian to fully participate in the political process that the nation offers, even making a place for Christians serving in the political process, it must be recognized that the believer has an allegiance that supersedes his earthly allegiances. That allegiance is fixed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, let us give to our country a model citizen. Moreover, let us give to our country a Savior through whom man’s sins can be forgiven. And how can we give America the Savior?
…by praying that the Savior’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven
…by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people in a variety of ways
…by proclaiming the gospel one-on-one from the coffee shop to the Capital
…by pursuing kingdom initiatives that prepare the way for the gospel of Jesus Christ
…by preparing for spiritual revival and renewal

Second, let us give America Christ-motivated service. Notice what the Apostle Peter states in 1 Peter 2:16 about Christian conduct in a secular society: "…but living as servants of God…” In essence, Christians are to demonstrate their commitment to Jesus Christ through word and deed. While God uses the preaching of the gospel to save sinners, Christian service through responsible citizenship builds the platform from which we preach. Again, nothing replaces the gospel of Jesus Christ in changing the sinners’ heart. Accompanied by deeds of service, the preaching of the gospel and service to others make for a potent double threat to the kingdom of darkness. When a nation releases itself from its spiritual moorings it makes way for a crass and crude civility. The loss of neighborliness and general kindness has taken a hit in recent years. Consumed with individual rights, citizenship in America has lost its civility and has given way to an immoral self-centeredness that ignores kindness and courtesy and that is at other times protected under the term ‘individual rights.’ Christians do not need a congressional mandate to serve others. Our mandate to serve others in the realm of our earthly citizenship comes directly from our citizenship in a separate and distinct nation whose builder and maker is God.

Finally, let us give to America suffering/sacrifice. Please note Acts 9:16 where it is stated that Paul would “suffer for the sake of my name.” This type of suffering was demonstrated in and through Paul’s gospel-saturated life (see 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; 11:22-21). I believe the call to suffer means that the Christian, while not looking for a fight or for suffering, is willing to preach the whole counsel of God and to live in such a counter-cultural manner even if it means being ridiculed or even arrested for the sake of the gospel. Consistently, lovingly, faithfully and patiently, the Christian must serve the nation of his/her birth through preaching the gospel and through Christ-motivated service even if it means a collision with the very nation he/she is attempting to serve. So, in brief, let us give to the nation we love the Savior, Christ-motivated service and suffering, if needed, so that the kingdom of our God becomes the kingdom of this world.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Deprived or Depraved? Yes, Delivered!

Deprived? Depraved? Delivered!:
Confronting the Health, Wealth and Social Gospel
Dr. Kevin Shrum

The gospel of Jesus Christ has always been under siege. From the earliest days of the church and the Galatian problem (Gal. 1:6-10) to the Palegian, Docetic, Ebionite, adoptionistic (Arian), Marcionite and Gnostic heresies concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ to the modern errors of the ‘word of faith’ movement and the salacious claims of the Jesus Seminar, open theism and the emergent church, the gospel of Jesus has always been in the cross-hairs of those who would substantively and subtlety alter or blatantly challenge the claims of Jesus Christ and, therefore, the core of the gospel message (1 Cor. 15:1-11).

In recent decades the particular claims of what may be called the health, wealth and social gospel have been devastating to the church by presenting a truncated gospel, stunting the spiritual maturation of the church and the mission enterprise of the kingdom of God. The health and wealth dimensions of the gospel find their roots in such misinterpreted and misapplied passages such as 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good (perfect in KJV) health, as it goes well with your soul.” The gospel of health teaches that it is a sin to be sick, that physical sickness may indicate that a person is out of the will of God and that the sick person is being plagued by demon spirits. Conversely, it also teaches that persons who are sick are disobedient because they have yet to claim the perfect health that is rightly theirs in Jesus’ name.

The gospel of wealth teaches that it is God’s will for every believer to be materially rich as a sign of God’s blessing. Further, it teaches a ‘dominion theology’ that takes Genesis 1:26 to the extreme – “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…” – arguing that believers are to take back the earth and all of its riches, a possession that Satan stole after creation and that Jesus Christ has reclaimed so that every believer can be wealthy. Conversely, it also teaches that those who live in poverty are out of the will of God and have yet to claim their rightful degree of material possessions as a sign that God is blessing them.

The social gospel teaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ deals mainly with the situational and circumstantial conditions of humanity. The social gospel, which is closely related to liberation theology, teaches that the greatest need of man is positive and productive living conditions, excellent educational opportunities and freedom from the tyranny of any kind of authority. The root of this kind of teaching is that once educated and free, man can become self-actualized. The nature of sin is not personal, it is socially systemic.

The Gospel Rooted in Deprivation?
Let me recap where we are in this discussion. The gospel of wealth does for material issues what the gospel of health does for the body. The gospel of wealth takes every ‘prosperity’ passage (for example, Ps. 1:3; 10:5; Isa. 53:10) in Scripture and translates it into the notion that it is God’s will for every believer to be wealthy. Conversely, poverty may be an indication that a particular believer is out of the will of God and has yet to claim his/her rightful inheritance in Jesus Christ, inheritance being narrowly defined here only in terms of material possessions rather than spiritual reward.

What many do not connect with the health and wealth gospel is the classic social gospel that emphasizes the circumstantial nature of sin and the sinner. That is, the social gospel addresses the conditions in which the sinner lives with the view that increasing educational standards, promoting physical health, setting basic standards for clean living conditions and promoting the general welfare of humanity is enough when it comes to the gospel enterprise. Stated in simple terms, the social gospel is the good deeds of the gospel without the life-changing gospel itself. The social gospel provides form with no content as if the sinner will be converted by conditional osmosis.

Before addressing these three issues from a biblical perspective, it may be appropriate to add a few practical words concerning the health, wealth and social dimensions of the Christian life. For those of us who do not buy into the gospel of health/wealth or the social gospel we are often chastised with critical statements such, ‘So, you want people to be sick, live in poverty and be satisfied with inadequate living conditions?’

This silly question is nonsensical and over the top. Of course those who believe the gospel do not desire for people to live in ill-health, in poverty or in unclean or unsafe life settings. The antecedents of the gospel call for good bodily care, good health and prayer for the healing of the sick when needed. If you smoke you will probably contract emphysema or cancer. If you overeat and do not exercise you will more than likely contract one of a number of possible maladies. The body is the temple of the Lord and calls for great care and stewardship. And while Scripture does teach that bodily exercise profits very little, it does not teach that bodily exercise profits nothing. Those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, however, do not make the locus of the gospel the health of the believer.

Likewise, when it comes to the wealth of the believer the person who believes the gospel is not advocating the necessity of poverty. Nor should the person who lives a simple life argue that accumulated wealth alone means that a person is an unbeliever or, at the very least, is a shallow materialistic Christian. Poverty is no more a sign of righteous than is wealth. Wealth gives no indication of the blessing of God any more than poverty is a sign of the curse of God. Scripture speaks of material goods more in terms of stewardship than it does the size of one’s savings account.

And what about the social setting of the sinner that forms the matrix of the social gospel? Who among us would argue that the Christian believes clean living conditions do not matter to the individual? Who would not make the case that drilling wells in the impoverished places of the world is not a worthy cause? Who would argue against finding a cure for AIDS or for finding a cure for similarly deadly diseases? And, who would argue against bringing quality education to the masses? Of course the social settings of humanity matters. Having said this, we should not make the mistake of preparing people to live in this life with a level of quality while failing to prepare them for eternity. Fighting for justice in secular society is incomplete if it falls short of addressing the justice we receive from God through Jesus Christ.

The core criticism of the health, wealth and social gospels is that all three are rooted in the concept of deprivation. That is, the greatest need of humanity is not rooted in sin but is due to the fact that we have been deprived of health, wealth and quality living conditions, or maybe all three. And even when sin is mentioned it is only mentioned in a conditional sense, in such a way that sin is defined as being deprived of our health, of being deprived of wealth and of being deprived of quality living conditions. In other words, sin is deprivation, rather than a matter of a corrupt nature.

In this case, the gospel becomes an effort to gain health, wealth and a desired degree of circumstantial conditions that have been stolen from us as a result of sin. Sin is not the fracturing of our nature and of our relationship with God; sin is the barrier that keeps us from what should be rightfully ours: health, wealth and prosperous living conditions.

The Gospel as a Response to Depravity
Instead of a gospel rooted in overcoming any sense of deprivation we may experience, the gospel is actually a response to the nature and scope of sin and the sinners’ relationship to God because of sin. Humans are sinners by nature and by choice. By nature I mean that since the fall of humanity into sin our very nature has been corrupted to the extent that we do not have to be taught to sin – sin comes naturally (Rom. 5:12). We have a sin nature (Rom. 6:15-23).
And because we have a sin nature we are, in turn, sinners by choice, as well. That is, our nature as sinners expresses itself in the freedom we have to choose what is reflected in our nature. Humanity is not truly free because our nature is not truly free – it is bound by sin. We are free to choose between one sin and/or another; we are not free to choose not to sin unless our nature is changed. Having a sin nature can be termed as being depraved, corrupt, spiritually dead and alienated from God. We are enemies of God. We are not deprived children; we are depraved sinners.

Again, while the extent of the gospel must eventually reach our material concerns, our physical trials and our social environment, the gospel of Jesus Christ first and foremost addresses the corruption of our depraved nature, our sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ takes seriously the nature and scope of our sin and does not treat it as an incidental condition brought on by the deprivation we may experience materially, physically or socially. Jesus Christ did not first and foremost come to make us materially rich, physically healthy or socially comfortable; rather, Jesus Christ came to conquer sin, crush death and redeem a sinful people for Himself so that they might live a life unto the glory of God no matter our resources, health levels or social settings. The Scripture is clear on this matter.

Ø “…for there is no one who does not sin…” 1 Kings 8:46
Ø “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” Psalm 143:2
Ø “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?’” Proverbs 20:9
Ø “Surely there is not a righteous man on earthy who does good and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20
Ø “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18
Ø “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18
Ø “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Ø “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12
Ø “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God doesn’t deal with our sin by remedying our deprivation; instead, the gospel of Jesus Christ deals with our sin by providing deliverance from sin. Colossians 1:11-14 addresses the deliverance we experience in Jesus Christ, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10 states that Jesus “…delivers us from the wrath to come.” These two passages alone provide an answer our greatest need.

First, in Jesus Christ God has “…delivered us from the domain of darkness…” As sinners we are aligned with sin, death, hell, Satan and unrighteousness. Such a statement is not politically correct, yet it is true. We are sinners by nature and by choice, children of wrath and enemies of God (Eph. 2:1-3). Jesus delivers us from the rule of sin.

Second, in Jesus Christ God has “…transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son….” In essence, we are not only delivered, we are transferred by means of new birth (Jn. 3:3). Rather than remaining a part of the company of sinners, we have now become a part of the company of the committed, those who have been radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Third, in Jesus Christ we have been delivered from sin and transferred from an old life to a new life because in Jesus Christ “…we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The basis of our deliverance from sin and our transferal out of the realm of spiritual darkness is the substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus Christ by which the justice of God was appeased and through which we are made just (Rom. 3:21-31).

Fourth, in Jesus Christ we have been delivered “…from the wrath to come.” That is, the gospel is good news because it remedies our sin problem and revokes the judgment that was due us because Jesus bore the wrath of God. If the sinner received what he/she deserved it would not be a life free from physical pain, material deprivation or circumstantial challenge, it would be judgment and eternal punishment.

When we treat the gospel of Jesus Christ as a tool that removes any deprivation we may experience in life the gospel is greatly diminished. In this fashion, the gospel becomes an instrument by which we manipulate God so that we might receive from Him perfect health, expansive wealth and comfortable living conditions. The failure of this kind of gospel is that while living in perfect health, with expansive wealth and in comfortable living the sinner remains under the wrath and condemnation of God.

The deprivations of life do not compare to our depraved position before God. Let us seek to preach/teach the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we might be delivered from sin. From this position of deliverance we seek the betterment of humanity so that they might hear the good news of deliverance and salvation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Can I Believe About the Bible?

What Can I Believe Sermon Series? #2, 4.6.08
What Can I Believe About the Bible? ╬ Dr. Kevin Shrum
The IBC Pulpit ╬ 2 Timothy 3:10-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21

Introduction: We now come to the subject of the Bible. Last week we began this series with a message about the very person of God. The question comes, ‘Where can we get the most reliable information about God?’ The answer to this very important question is we get our information from God’s Word, the Bible. Our great God, among His many attributes, is a communicating God. He is a God of words. Though there is a record of God speaking through dreams and visions, God uses words to communicate with His people. The culmination of God’s speaking is what we call the Bible: 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

The Bible is not just a book like other books. Some would agree that the Bible has a special quality, but that it is no different than the inspiration we see in a Shakespeare or in a renown poet. In fact, some critics of the Bible would say that the Bible is the highest and most noble product of man, but it is nothing more than a humanly produced book.

The Bible is not just a religious book among many religious books. All world religions have their own scriptures. Some would argue that the Bible is simply the religious book of the Judeo-Christian faith, but has no more authority than other religious books. This false notion is untrue, as we shall see, first and foremost because the Bible speaks of the one true God, while other religious books speak of false gods or of a heretical view of the one true God.

The Bible is not an unimportant book. A number of people would go so far as to say that the Bible is an unimportant, antiquated book that should be ignored, discarded and banished. And yet each new generation brings with it a faithful remnant of believers who affirm the truths of God’s Word. In other words, no matter how much the critics attempt to banish, burn or belittle the Bible it keeps rising to the occasion. As Psalm 119:89 states it well, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” That is, the Bible is rooted and grounded in the very nature of God. The Bible will not fail because God cannot fail.

There are many passages that speak to the inspiration, infallibility and authority of God’s Word! Let’s observe a few of them.

(2 Timothy 3:10-17) “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Peter 1:16-21) “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

(Luke 1:1-4) “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

The Bible is not just a book like any other book nor is it just one religion book among many religious books. Instead, it is the book of all books – God’s very Word in written form. Let me make four statements that substantiate the claim that the Bible is the Word of God.

Because of how it was written!
The Bible was written through human instrumentation by 40 different authors over a 1500 year time period yet with the same themes and story lines that could not have been produced apart from divine intervention. The writers were divinely inspired by God to record the sayings and events that God desired for us to receive in the future. They were not mechanical robots, but were “…carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) God used human writers, their personal backgrounds and individual interests, to produce exactly what He wanted produced in the way He wanted it produced. They were not mind-numbed robots, but thinking and feeling writers who were supernaturally moved by God to correctly write as they did. David, the Psalmist, said as much in 2 Samuel 23:2 when he wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue.” This is the meaning of ‘inspiration’ (2 Timothy 3:16) This is also what Dr. Luke was getting at in the introduction to his gospel when he wrote, “…having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you…” Luke followed the events of Jesus and put together an orderly account that was inspired by God Himself. The Bible, then, is a book that was inspired by God and that is time-bound in that it records the events, places and people of specific eras and epochs, but whose words, truths, principles and precepts are timeless, applying to all people everywhere in all ages.

Because of what it says!
The Bible is not only the book of all books because it was inspired by God through human instrumentation, but it is also the book of all books because of what it says – it is the Word of God to us. It says what God says. The Bible says what God says because it is God’s Word. The Bible does not contain the Word of Go that we must subsequently discover on our own. Rather, the Bible is the very Word of God. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” The term scripture refers to the writings of the prophets and the apostles.

Because of Who it’s about!
The Bible is the book of all books not only because it is inspired and is God’s Word, but it has as its subject God Himself. The Bible is an immensely practical book. Yet, the main subject of the Bible is God Himself. It is the record of God’s redemptive activity in time and space. As Psalm 119:89 notes: “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”

Because of what it does!
The Bible is also a book above all books because of what it does. It is through God’s Word that we are saved. 1 Peter 1:22-25 describes the power of God’s Word o save sinners in this way: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” God’s Word accomplishes God’s purposes as Isaiah 55:10-11 states, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” The Bible does what it does because it is the inspired, God-saturated, life-changing, powerful Word of the Lord.

Unpacking One Text – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Scope of the Bible
“All scripture…”
This refers to all the writings of the Bible, the prophets, the gospels, the wisdom books and the pastoral epistles. Inspiration applies to all of God’s Word, not some parts or the parts we like, but to all parts.

The Inspiration of the Bible
“…is breathed out by God…”
The Greek term is ‘theopneustos’ and literally means the breath of God. This is a reference to the work of God in the writers as they recorded the events and sayings that are in Scripture.

The Authority of the Bible
“…and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” To be profitable means to be helpful, advantageous, the supreme guide. Teaching is that thing that refers to the substance of a subject. And reproof is the correcting, chastising nature of Scripture, while correction is to set a thing right, correct to restore. So, the Bible is filled with authoritative and advantageous instruction on the substance and subject of God; it is confrontational in that it has the ability to square up with our sin and it is correcting in that it positively sets right the things that have been crooked.

The Sufficiency of the Bible
“…that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
This means that it is only through the Word of God that we are made mature in Christ. The Bible is sufficient to order our lives by. To say that the Bible is inspired and authoritative is one thing, but to actually order our lives competently by God’s Word is another thing. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where we must ask ourselves questions like, ‘Is our marriage ordered according to God’s Word?’ ‘Are we raising our children according to God’s Word?’ ‘Are we managing our finances according to the Bible?’ ‘Have we set our plans for life according to God’s Word?’ Every good work is a reference to a life ordered and structured by God’s Word.

This is why we are to study the Word of God on our own, and it is why we need teachers/pastors. Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

What Can I Believe About God

What Can I Believe Sermon Series, #1, 3.30.08
What Can I Believe About God?
The IBC Pulpit ● Isaiah 42:5-9; 44:6-8; 48:9-11 ● Dr. Kevin Shrum

The sermon series entitled – What Can I Believe? – is delivered out of a deep concern that God’s people know what they believe and why they believe it. In an age where spiritual confusion and biblical illiteracy reign knowing the great truths of the Scripture is essential. In this series we will look at the Doctrine of God, the Doctrine of Scripture, the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the Doctrine of Salvation and the Doctrine of Last Things.

Introduction: We begin with God! What can we believe about God? Are there many gods? Is there but one god? Is Allah the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Is God a single unity or is God a trinity? Many of these questions will be answered in this message, as well as the other messages in this series. Let’s begin with several base texts (although there are many texts that could be used and will be used in this message).

(Isaiah 44:6-8) “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’”
(Isaiah 48:9-11) “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
How does one begin to think about such a large issue as God? Let’s allow these texts, and others, direct our thinking about God. There are five main thoughts that emerge concerning God throughout Scripture.

God is a Self-Referential God!
What does it mean to say that God is a self-referential being? It’s actually very simple. Humans are time-bound, referenced creatures. We do not exist on our own. We must have a reference point in order to define who we are: parents, birth date, job, death date, etc. We are dependent, created beings. On the other hand, God has no reference point in that He is an un-invented, uncreated, unreferenced being! He exists all by Himself. As Isaiah 44:6 notes, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”
This is exactly what God was getting at when Moses asked about the identity of God at the burning bush: (Exodus 3:13-14) “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you’” Again, God is not a created being; He is not a dependent being; He is not a man-made concoction. He is simply I AM!
But this is not all. God is not only an uncreated being, He is a Trinitarian unity. That is, God is One. Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one.” Christians do not believe in a polytheistic system of gods or in a pantheistic god where God is equated with nature, but rather in One, Personal, Trinue God. Yet, when we come to the New Testament we discover a deep mystery about God – God is also Trinitarian in nature. That is, though God is One, we also see that He is made up of three separate and distinct personages – Father, Son and Spirit. There are not three gods; nor, is there simply One God with three different names. Instead, there is One God who is revealed in three distinct, unique and separate personages within the unity of the Godhead. What gave birth to this view of God? Scriptures such as Matthew 3:13-17 where the Son is baptized, the Father speaks words of affirmation from heaven and the Spirit anoints Jesus. 2 Corinthians 13:14 recognizes the mysterious nature of God: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In essence, God is God all by Himself in the perfect fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit.

God is a Sovereign God!
Our great self-referential God is also sovereign. That is, He is in control of all things, ordaining, guiding and accomplishing His will in His time and in His way. He is neither surprised nor caught off guard by any event in history. In fact, He is behind, in and works through all events of history. He has a design for all things and will accomplish this design by His great power and for His glory. It must occur to us that nothing has ever occurred to God as if by surprise. Isaiah 44:6 notes, “I am first and I am the last; besides me there I no god.” God numbers our days and makes all things to happen according to His will. God is sovereign in creation. Isaiah 42:5 puts it this way, “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.” God is sovereign in salvation in that He has chosen to save a people for Himself out of every nation and every tongue and every tribe for the praise of His glory (John 13:8; Rev. 7:9). God is sovereign in all things, especially in stewarding His creation and saving sinners for Himself.

God is a Saving God!
Our great, sovereign God is also a saving God. In Isaiah 44:6 God is called the “Redeemer, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 43:14 concurs with this description of God by adding, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” God as redeemer is also a New Testament concept. Galatians 4:4 states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” To redeem something means to purchase at a price. In other words, God has purchased sinners with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, how does God redeem sinners? Through Jesus Christ! God is a saving God because He is holy, righteous and just. He is able to declare sinners not guilty in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is able to save because He is also a God of grace, mercy and love. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve - forgiveness. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve – wrath and judgment. And love is the redemptive engine that makes God’s love and mercy possible. God demonstrated His justice and righteousness toward sin and sinners by punishing His Son, Jesus Christ, so that He would bear the penalty for our sin. God poured out His wrath on Jesus so that He could pour out His righteousness on sinners (Romans 3:21-31).

(Galatians 3:10-14) “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ 12 But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

(Titus 2:11-15) “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

God is a Sending God!
The God who is God all by Himself, the God who is a sovereign, saving God is also a sending God. That is, He has ordained that word about Him and His great mercies be spread through the means of His chosen people. This is why Isaiah 44:8 puts things this way, “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses!” Earlier in the Book of Isaiah God had called Isaiah to be a prophet with Isaiah answering in the affirmative (Isa. 6:1-8). The sending nature of God is also seen in that familiar passage in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” God sends us as witnesses of His sovereign, saving grace so that sinners will hear and believe the good news (Romans 10:14-21). We are His ambassadors declaring His message for His glory and for the sake of sinners (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

God is a Self-Glorifying God!
In the end, the chief end of God is to glorify Himself. God is not a man-centered God, but a God-centered God. This rather arrogant statement is actually not arrogant at all. If I, as a human, were to say such a thing you may call the men in white jackets to take me away. But for God to say this is actually right, true and loving because God is a perfect being who alone deserves all praise, glory and honor. If God doesn’t glorify Himself in all things then He is giving His glory to something else and that would be idolatry.

(Isaiah 42:8) “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”

(Isaiah 43:25) “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, I will not remember your sins.”

(Isaiah 49:9-11) “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

(John 17:1-5) “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Empty Suit Syndrome

The Empty Suit Sndrome
Kevin Shrum

Have you ever heard of the ‘empty suit syndrome?’ The term ‘empty suit’ was coined several years ago to describe a person who looks good, dresses in style and looks the part, but who lacks any kind of substance. The ‘empty suit syndrome’ places great emphasis on appearance, with little focus on the depth of personality and character. The modern era and post-modern era has continually brought to us a focus on the vain and temporal. We have become a society enamored with looks, appearances and style.
This ‘empty suit syndrome’ has crept into the church today. Too many attend out of duty but with no passion for God; some participate in the body of Christ as a social exercise so that they will have something to do and friends to relate to, but with no desire for Jesus Christ. There are too many spiritually empty suits, if you will, in the church, devoid of spiritual power and the Word of God.
This type of thing must have been on Paul’s mind when he penned his last epistle, 2 Timothy. It would be in 2 Timothy 3:5 that Paul would write to Timothy to warn him of false teachers, leaders and members that would invade the church after his death – “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” This monumental verse is staggering in its implications. It set in the larger context of a passage that speaks of the difficulty of the ministries:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.”
This is substantial. Paul tells Timothy to avoid the empty suits of the church. The words of 2 Timothy 3:5 are telling:
Ø Avoid those “…having the appearance of godliness…” The term for “appearance” can also be translated “form.” The Greek term is ‘morphosin’ from the root word ‘morphe’ from which we get our term metamorphosis, which refers to a change, but in this case refers to outward appearances that are absent any content. It is a reference to a form without substance. There was an outline without anything in the middle. It’s like a cookie cutter, but with no dough in the middle. And what was the appearance of these false teachers, leaders and members? It was the appearance of being godly. These false teachers, leaders and members were playing church, but had no clue as to the power of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Ø And what did Paul say about these teachers, leaders and members who appeared godly but weren’t? He notes that they have denied the real, authentic power of God. Read verse 5 again, “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” The word for “deny” is ‘arneomai’ and carries with it the meaning of deliberately and intentionally disowning, refusing or denying a thing. In other words, in these ‘empty suits’ there has been a willful rejection of the very godliness that they are attempting to represent.
Ø And what was it they were denying? Again, read verse 5, “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” The term for “power” is ‘dynamin’ and is the root word from which we get our word dynamite. And what is the power of God? The power of God is the third person of the trinity – the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:7-8 unfolds the promise of the power of the Spirit: So when they had come together, they asked him, “‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” The unveiling of this power would be unleashed at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on His disciples as a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. Acts 2:14-21 states it well: But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
Ø Paul’s command to Timothy was to avoid such people who had the appearance of being godly, but who had deliberately denied the power of God in the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:8 identifies two examples of this kind of ‘empty suit’ spirituality, Jannes and Jambres. Jewish history identifies these two men as the men referenced to in Exodus 7:11-12, men who were magicians before Pharaoh and who challenged Moses as he came to declare the Word of God – let Israel go! In essence, spiritually empty people are nothing more than spiritual magicians with no real power. Avoid such men!

How can we avoid this kind of ‘empty suit spirituality?’ It comes from being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 commands, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” And Ephesians 4:30 states, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Further, 2 Thessalonians 5:19 states, “Do not quench the Holy Spirit.” In other words, we are to be filled and controlled by the Spirit of God just as a drunkard is controlled by intoxicating drink. In essence, we are to be spiritually intoxicated. This is what it means to be a Christian (Baptist) Pentecostal. To be reborn, regenerated, filled and controlled by the precious Holy Spirit of God! So, how do we become filled and controlled by the Spirit of God? How can we avoid being an empty suit that denies the very power of God?

Paul answers this question in 2 Timothy 3:10-17: “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Paul outlines several things in 3:10-17 that Timothy needs to incorporate into his life if he is to avoid being an ‘empty suit’ and if he is to deal with those who deny the very power of God. These are amazing principles that are as current for us as they were for Timothy in day!
Ø Check up to see if you’re a saved person! This is what Paul reminded Timothy of in Chapter 1 (vs. 5): “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” An empty life is overcome by being a saved person, filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit of God.
Ø Hook up with a spiritual mentor! In 2 Timothy 3:10-11 reminds Timothy of how he had followed Paul’s example. That is, Paul was a mentor to Timothy, praying for him, giving him advice and helping to guide him spiritually so that Timothy would avoid the many spiritual pitfalls that can trip up a believer. As a result, it is imperative to hook up with a spiritual guide. There is great accountability in the mentoring process. Find someone who is spiritual in your life who will pray for you, love you and hold you accountable.
Ø Stand up and get ready for hard times! Paul reminds Timothy that following Christ will be difficult at times as 2 Timothy 3:12-13 notes – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” The hard times would be characterized by 1) individual persecutions and by 2) having to deal with imposters who would invade the church in an attempt to sidetrack her from the Word and from her mission. His word to Timothy is not very sympathetic – instead he challenges him to expect hard times. Hard times are on the way, especially hard times brought on by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ø Fill up your head and heart with God’s Word! Adding to a spiritual check up, a hooking up with a spiritual mentor and a standing up under the onslaught of persecution, we are to add filling up on the inspired Word of God as noted in 2 Timothy 3:14-17: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Ø Finally, look up for Jesus is on His way! Again, this was Paul’s last letter prior to his death in Rome. Yet, he would write in 2 Timothy 4:6-8: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” The Lord is coming in two ways in terms of day. There is the ‘day’ of the Lord and the ‘Day’ of the Lord. Small caps ‘day’ is the day you will die. More than likely, that day will come before the LARGE CAPS ‘DAY’ of the Lord comes – the day the Lord Himself returns. But no matter if Jesus comes for you on your day of death or if He comes on His day to take the church away, the hope of Jesus’ return is something that ought to fill us with power and confidence (2 Thess. 4:18).

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Re-Wired for the Future
Dr. Kevin Shrum

Since October of ‘05 God has been rewiring me and my family for the next phase of ministry and life. The first twenty-seven years of ministry has been quick and awesome. We have journeyed through school together, served several churches with joy together and have been able to do and see things that we never dreamed we would be able to do and see. But we have determined that we do not want to keep with the status quo, drifting through the second-half of our ministry life. We want to make an impact with the rest of our lives.

The stirring God began in us is preparing us for the next phase of life and ministry. It’s as if God broke open our hearts, reached in and pulled out our spiritual circuitry boards and began rewiring us for a new day. It has been an unnerving, exhilarating and rewarding process, and it’s not yet complete. A personal story is in order to illustrate what we’re learning in this process.

One Sunday morning I awakened with a deep sense of needing to ‘get to God’ in worship with other believers. It had been a rough couple of weeks and I needed a touch from God. We made our way to church as a family. I attended a couple of early morning meetings, taught a Sunday School class, fielded many individual questions and attended to the needs of many in the church, preached a sermon, spoke to many with questions after worship and finally made our way to the car to go home.

Nothing was wrong with any of the aforementioned activities. In fact, all of them were good things, even necessary things – at least according to the structure of the church. But I was weary and tired when I looked at my wife and said, ‘Honey, today I needed to get to God and the church got in the way. And I’m the preacher!’ I wondered how many weary, but committed laymen feel the same way every Sunday as they drag themselves through a difficult week at work only to spend their weeknights and weekends propping up a church system that too often keeps them from the very thing they really long for – God. We needed to be re-wired; and the church needs to be re-wired, as well.

Here’s what we’re learning through God’s re-wiring process. First, we have been reminded that the only constant in life, other than the things of God, is change itself. This is not an original insight. But it’s true. If you expect things to stay the same you will be disappointed. If you get locked into a particular phase of life thinking that things will ‘always be this way’ you will be severely inhibited in your spiritual growth. A renewed sense of commitment is growing in us to see God in the new phases of life, to embrace change and to see where God will take us next.

Second, we have replaced the word retire with the word transition. There is no doubt that one day we will be much older (we’re in our mid 40’s) and need to respond to the changes in our life in appropriate ways. God willing, we have another 35-40 years of service in us. However, retirement is often a dead end for many when it comes to spiritual effectiveness. As a pastor, I have seen too many people retire from work, retire from church work, retire from spiritual growth and eventually retire from life altogether. Rather than transition to new phases of God’s work, too many Christians retire into ineffectiveness and spiritual atrophy.

Third, we are learning that God is planting a desire in us to see the work of the church in new and fresh ways. Our beliefs and convictions have not changed, but our view of how things can get done in the church is shifting. I was raised in and have pastored program churches driven by committees with a rigid leadership structure. I thank God for these methods that have served Baptists well.

Yet, after three decades of doing church this way, i.e. of church growth books, seminars and methods, churches in America are in a period of decline as the old ways show their ineffectiveness for the present and future needs of the mission of the church. Too many churches spend too much time and resources propping up the organization itself. Rather than the organization serving the mission of the church, the organization serves the organization, internalizing the people and financial resources of the church and contributing to a self-absorbed, centralized institution rather than a vibrant mission-sending body of believers.

What remains the same is God’s Word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, time-honored biblical principles of discipleship and evangelism, the effectiveness of building personal relationships with unbelievers and the leadership of the Holy Spirit in birthing a vision for new ways of reaching the lost with an ancient gospel. What does and must change are the methods of the church, i.e. structures, systems, processes, procedures.

Fourth, we are re-wiring ourselves for more cooperation without convictional compromise. The need for cooperation within Baptist life is at an all-time high. Cooperation is needed generationally, methodologically and ecclesiastically. Too often, however, cooperation has led to convictional compromise. The re-wiring process is teaching us to give the benefit of the doubt, to not assume things until verified and to ask honest questions instead of making pre-mature judgments. It is also teaching us to speak truth both to institutional lethargy and theological liberalism.

Finally, we are discovering that God is the God of the past, the present and the future, especially the future. The re-wiring work God is forcing us to look forward standing on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and not past, current or even future structures or methods. This reiterates the truth that the things of God do not change, but methods, modes and means vary with time and circumstance.

The new schematic God is building into our spiritual circuitry systems appears to be moving us toward more spiritual creativity, streamlined systems of spiritual formation and a deep desire to know and glorify God by preaching the Word of God and impacting the culture of a new generation.