SurgeryLast week we began a series on dealing with sin in the church. And as long as there are sinful people in the church—which is to say, always, on this side of heaven—the church needs to be equipped to deal with sin according to the instructions the Lord Jesus left us. And we turn to Paul’s directives in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11 to observe five stages of faithful and successful church discipline and restoration.

This week we come to that first stage, and that is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This passage teaches us that all sin is harmful to the body of Christ. Paul says in verse 5: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.”

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Recently I heard someone say that they love to worship, but they don’t love the church. They don’t see why a worshiper needs the church at all. After all, can’t we just worship as individuals? Here is my response:   Continue Reading…

January 18, 2017

Love & Irritability

by Eric Davis
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It was a typical night waiting tables in the fine dining room of the country club. Napkins were creased, flowers centered, and tables angled just right. Then my manager came to me with a warning I’ll never forget.

“Ok, Eric. Mr. So-and-so has a reservation tonight at 6pm.” Since I was newer, I did not know Mr. So-and-so. “You need to be warned about a few things. He doesn’t handle it well if things are not done his way.” The dining room manager proceeded to list a myriad of aesthetic and culinary requirements for Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience. The napkin had to be this way. The waiter had to approach him and his table a certain way. The water had to be poured in a particular manner. He had to be addressed in a certain way and tone. The food had to be set with a particular method. From start to finish, Mr. So-and-so’s dining experience came with several fiery hoops through which the dining staff must flawlessly leap. I was amazed. Working for a bit in fine dining, I was familiar with customer preferences and particularities. But this exceeded them all. “And if you do it wrong,” my manager warned, “you will anger him.”

As bad as all that is, I see too much of Mr. So-and-so in myself in various ways.

“Love…is not easily provoked” (1 Cor. 13:4,5).

Often we think of love in terms of a feeling or emotion. But here, God describes it as a demeanor in which we are not easily provoked towards potentially irritating people and circumstances. This is tough. Life is never lived in the sterile confines of a sinless, utopian laboratory well-removed from the Curse’s numerous provocations. This side of heaven, we are either about to be provoked, being provoked, just having been provoked, or some combination of the three. Everything inside and outside of us has the potential to provoke in one way or another.  Continue Reading…

mormonsThe other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”

Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!”

Their training teaches them to smile big, to not argue, and to focus on the positives of their religion. They are trained to talk about family, and about being with family for eternity. They are discouraged from bringing up controversial topics. No matter what you say, it seems like they nod as if they agree, and when you point out to them that they shouldn’t be agreeing, they agree with you again and say that they agreed with most of what you said. In other words, they are taught to be “winsome.” And this winsomeness ultimately manipulates some people into giving this false religion a try.

I’ve noticed over the years that some people in the church do the same, even some preachers are tempted to do this from their pulpits. We put on our best face. We ignore the difficult topics the Bible talks about and just focus on the love of Jesus. We focus on family as well, and on more happiness in this life and hope for the next. And as I think about the Mormon religion, I see three areas in particular where Christians are tempted to behave similarly.

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R.C. Chapman was a well-heeled young gentleman living in 19th Century England, and he had a lot going for him. He was born with the proverbial silver spoon dangling from his mouth, he excelled at his elite school, and he established a law practice at a prodigious age. The cherry on top of that generous dollop of smiling providence was a small fortune he inherited at age twenty-three. Naturally, it could be assumed that the young man was set for life and would settle into a comfortable life of ease and merriment. But that prognosis would overlook the dramatic effect sanctification has on true Christians.

At age twenty Chapman was born again. Before his thirtieth birthday he calmly and deliberately veered off the promising professional path onto the sparse road less travelled, to become the pastor of a small church in Barnstaple, Devon. He also invested his considerable wealth directly into the work of that ministry, leaving himself with nothing beyond a modest home and bare necessities.RC_Chapman

Chapman had a remarkable trust in God’s provision and a gushing generosity. A story is told how that once he travelled to preach at a conference and gave away all his travel money at the conference, leaving him no ticket to get back. He was paid an honorarium but by the time he got to the train station he had given that away to a needy soul he encountered. His companion asked how he intended to pay for the train. Chapman replied confidently, “To whom does the money belong, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”

At the station a man disembarking the arriving train recognized Chapman and hurried over to him and handed him a five-pound note, saying, “I have had this in my pocket for some time, and am glad I met you.” The man left and after a moment Chapman playfully asked his companion, “To whom does the money belong?

Some would call R.C. Chapman presumptuous.

But let me ask you this: Do think it is more Christlike to presume that God will provide… or to fret and worry that he won’t?

It’s easier to preach on some texts than to live them! One such passage is Philippians 4:6-7.

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Dealing with SinA couple of years ago, our church had the privilege of hosting a number of law enforcement officers from our community for morning services. More than 100 police officers who patrol the city of Los Angeles responded to John MacArthur’s invitation to join us for a Sunday morning that, in part, honored their commitment to protecting our society and gave them the opportunity to hear what the Word of God has to say about them: the civil authorities. Pastor John preached on the various institutions that God has raised up for the sake of restraining evil and maintaining order in a society: the conscience, the family, the government, and the church. Each of these God-ordained institutions, he explained, serves to restrain evil and maintain order in a society.

As would be expected, Pastor John focused on the institution of government that morning. But there’s reason to focus on the fourth of those institutions as well. Just as there is a great need for law and order to keep the peace in a civil society, so also is there a need for such law and order in the church. A civil society that has no laws, or that has no system of order to enforce those laws—no system to punish and rehabilitate offenders—is doomed to chaos. So severe is the nature of human depravity that a society of depraved human beings unrestrained by law and order is just unthinkable.

And the same is true of the church. Now, it’s true that our depravity has been overcome by the work of Christ on the cross. It’s true that we who are believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of us, directing our desires and causing us to strive against the flesh, and leading us to walk in righteousness. But those realities are not true for all who enter through the doors of the church on Sunday. Even within the visible church, there are those who believe that they’re saved, but who have not yet turned from their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for their righteousness. And for those who have been born again—even though we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin through the Gospel—we have not yet been set free from the presence of sin in our flesh. Galatians 5:17 reminds us: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Paul says elsewhere, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:21–23).

And so even though we who belong to Christ have been declared righteous in God’s sight on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, we nevertheless strive against the presence of remaining sin in our flesh. It is unhappy but all too familiar reality: Christians sin. And that means that the church needs to know how to deal with sin in its midst. There needs to be law and order in the church—a process for identifying, disciplining, and rehabilitating sinners.

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Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep– with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:21).

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Worship is a heart-felt attitude of thankfulness, love, holy fear, and submission to Scripture that magnifies the glory of God by rejoicing in who God is and what he has done for us through Jesus Christ. Worship takes God’s attributes (which can seem distant and are marked by the otherness of God—his holiness) and not only makes them personal, but magnifies them by the attitude of the worshiper towards them.

For an example, consider God’s sovereignty—which can certainly seem his most otherly attribute: when one who loves God understands how God’s sovereignty affects his own personal life, and he responds with thankfulness, fear, and submission (as well as joy, gratitude, etc.) then God is worshiped in the heart. Worship then is the result of a heart that has right information about who God is and what God has done, and then has the right response to that information. True worshipers respond in a way in keeping with God’s character and actions, as a response to his character and actions, and this has the effect of glorifying his character and actions.

True worship intersects with local church for a few reasons:    Continue Reading…

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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Though he was facing a brutal death before the ink could dry, I imagine that the apostle Paul had great joy at the time he wrote those words. Nothing could’ve been more thrilling to him than to be able to finish well. Nothing could’ve put him at greater peace prior to execution than having faithfully run the race in biblical ministry.

I recall sitting before our elders and professors just prior to launching into pastoral ministry: “You are going to have to keep a long obedience in the same direction.” With only eight years of pastoral ministry in the church I serve, I often think about the need to endure, especially as I see men in my generation disqualifying. And even more especially as the Lord shows me my own weaknesses.

For help in ministry longevity, it makes sense to look to those men who, by God’s grace, have weathered decades of the normal ministry storms without sinking. In our day, one of those is Dr. John MacArthur. This February, Dr. MacArthur will have been faithfully shepherding Grace Community Church for 48 years. That’s about 576 months or 2496 Sundays.

Whatever an individual with that track record has to say about ministry longevity is going to be valuable. In a sermon that I have found particularly helpful, Dr. MacArthur draws from the apostle Paul’s life, giving nine characteristics of an enduring ministry (each point will be summarized):

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holding-handsI still remember the hike I was on when I was confronted. A couple from our church noticed that my relationship with my girlfriend was unhealthy. We were not sinning sexually, but they thought that we were being unwise. We were spending far too much time together. I arrived at the Masters College with a desire to serve the Lord for the rest of my life, I had never dated before and was not prepared to enter into a relationship. Little did I know that on the first day of school I would meet the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. We began hanging out, and very soon we were studying together, having meals together, and pretty much spending hours a day together. And despite the fact that we were being pure, we were risking a great amount.

Looking around today it is quite difficult to find a couple who is dating wisely. Many people sleep together (even some within the church), and those who don’t, seem to get to the point where they are acting married soon after they begin their relationship. Some spend far more time together than most married couples do. They text each other dozens of times a day, they have most meals together and they spend full days together. They may call each other names of endearment, and talk about the kind of furniture they want to buy for their home together. Maybe they refer to each other as “my guy” or “my girl” before there is any real commitment. And even if they are staying sexually pure there can still be areas that need to be re-evaluated within their relationship. Of course, there must be time spent together in order for them to get to know each other to determine whether they ought to marry. I don’t know your heart or situation, nor am I the Holy Spirit, all people in a relationship must look to their own heart in order to determine whether they’re acting married in any way. Following are five dangers to consider when in a dating relationship that looks like a marriage.

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keep-calmIn 1988 Bobby McFerrin dropped his enormously popular hit that would become the first a capella song to summit the Billboard Top 100 chart to reach the #1 spot.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” resonated with a generation of those who identify as overstressed, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.

The lyrics, sung in an affected accent amid the bobbing and weaving of McFerrin’s own vocal gymnastics, became an anthem for the economically oppressed urbanites and a mantra for the angst-ridden collegiate coeds. Many know more stanzas of this song than of the national anthem.

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, (ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha) be happy (look at me, I’m happy)

Ooo-oo-hoo-hoo-oo hoo-hoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooo Don’t worry
Woo-oo-woo-oo-woo-oo-ooo Be happy […etc. …]

The problem with this cheerful chant is that it is misleading; it posits that the opposite of worry is happiness. Let’s delve into a verse of Scripture that brings rich theological protein to this otherwise unsubstantial cotton-candy advice.

Philippians 4:5-6 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything,

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