Current Sermon Series: God’s Design for Marriage and Sex

Pastor David is currently preaching a series on God’s design for marriage and sex. Here is the sermon audio for each message. We will continue to update this post as the series progresses.

God’s Design for Marriage and Sexuality

11.03.13

Glorify God with Your Body (1 Corinthians 6:9-20)

10.27.13

God’s Design for Marriage (Genesis 2:24)

10.20.13

Male and Female: God’s View of Gender (selected Scriptures from Genesis 1-3)

10.13.13

Image is Everything: An Introduction to the Image of God (Genesis 1:26-28)

10.06.13

Evangelism in a Post-Marriage World (Romans 12:1-2)

Soli Deo Gloria, dss
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Sanctity of Human Life Sunday Event: Denny Burk Preaching on Proverbs 24:10-12

On Sanctity of Life Human Sunday, Calvary Baptist Church (Seymour, Indiana) will be hosting Dr. Denny Burk, professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College

Dr. Burk is a popular blogger and has written much about gender, sexuality, theology and politics.  He is the associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church, the editor of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhooda husband and a father.  This year, he will be releasing What is the Meaning of Sex?  (Read Jim Hamilton’s commendation to get a feel for the need of this new book).

This Sunday at 6:00pm, Dr. Burk comes to discuss the complex issues related to defending life and the erosion of our religious liberty. This timely message will challenge us to think about the Christian’s role in standing up for the sanctity of life in a culture that continues to make laws which turn the sword of the state on the innocent.  All are welcome to join us for this important evening.

Schedule of Events

6 p.m. A Biblical Message from Proverbs 24:10-12

7:00 p.m. Question & Answers with Dr. Burk

7:30 p.m. A Time of Prayer

7:45 p.m. Refreshments

I hope all those in South Central Indiana who are not in church and who care about Sanctity of Life will join us for this event.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

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The Book of Acts: On Mission With the Triune God

Luke’s second book is entitled, “The Acts of the Apostles.”  However, a more accurate title would be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because it is the Spirit who is responsible for convicting, converting, and creating the church. Yet, even this title is insufficient, because it tempts us to think that the Father and Son are absent. Thus, a better title might be, “The Acts of the Triune God Through the Church of Jesus Christ.”  While lengthy, such a title rightly emphasizes God’s work in and through the early church.

This month we will begin to look at the church in the book of Acts. In it we will see emphasis on God’s word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Spirit’s power, and the bold evangelism of the saints. In this newsletter, we will look briefly at the ministry of the Triune God and its new creation community, the church of Jesus Christ.

The Sovereign Father

Luke begins Acts where his gospel ends. Alerting his readers to the fact that he is continuing the same story of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (1:1), Luke tells of how the saints waited in Jerusalem for the “promise of the Father” (1:4). This promise is the Spirit of God himself, sent by the risen and ascended Son to all those who believe. What is noteworthy about the promised Spirit is that in everything, the Spirit is the “change agent” who builds the church.  But always, the Spirit works according to the Father’s designs.

Throughout Acts then, we hear testimony to the sovereign action of the Father. For example, when Peter preaches on Pentecost, he affirms God’s predestined plan to send his Son to the cross for the purpose of providing salvation for Israel and the Gentiles: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24; cf. 4:27-28). Just as God was active in all of Jesus life, death, and resurrection; so the Father is active in the life of the church (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18).

The Risen Lord, Jesus Christ

While Acts chronicles the birth of the church, the church must not be pitted against Christ. Where Luke’s gospel contains all the words and deeds Christ did on earth, Acts contains all that Christ did from heaven.  For instance, Acts 1:2 recounts how Jesus ‘chose’ his twelve apostles, but then Luke turns around in verse 25 and uses the same word of Matthias’ calling.  Make no mistake, Christ is still in the business of choosing his servants. The same thing is true in Acts 9 when Jesus confronted Saul—first rebuking him and then calling him into gospel service. Or in Acts 7, the risen Christ stands to receive Stephen as he is stoned. In all these accounts, the risen Christ reigns and rules on earth.

Moreover, Christ not only acts; He speaks. As the Spirit of Christ is poured out to empower the saints (1:8), the early church takes the message of salvation from Jerusalem (Acts 1-7) to Samaria (Acts 8-12) unto the ends of the earth (Acts 13-28). In all of these locales, Christ continues to speak. Through his servants, the risen Christ declares his universal lordship and the offer of salvation through his death and resurrection. Thus, in this way, the risen Lord is acting.

The Spirit of Promise

Acts 2 marks a significant change in redemptive history. Whereas in the Old Testament, God’s Spirit dwelt “with” Israel, now God’s Spirit resided “in” God’s covenant community (cf. John 14:17). Pentecost marks this dramatic shift. Jesus had told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the outpouring of the Spirit. Until that day, the disciples were weak-willed and reclusive. However, when the Spirit came, it moved men like Peter and John to go into the world to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. Thus, the Spirit is seen to be at work throughout Acts. In fact, a constant refrain in the book is that the servants of God where filled with the Spirit and went our proclaiming the gospel.

The Spirit-Filled Church

According to the Father’s design, the Son’s work, and the Spirit’s power and presence, the church experienced incredible growth. In Jerusalem, thousands of Jews placed faith in Christ to form the first local church. As the gospel went forward, churches continue to be planted. The Spirit moved men to witness; He converted the lost; and He united new born Christians into local assemblies meeting in the name of Jesus Christ. This was true in Jerusalem, Galatia, Ephesus, and Rome.

Not much has changed. The Spirit continues to work where the Word of God is proclaimed. He confirms the power of the gospel through radical conversions and unites believers in local churches. These covenant communities are built not by impressive technology or programs dependent upon demographic affinities but by the pure and simple message of the Son of God who saves sinners!

My prayer for Calvary is that we would be a church who is convinced that the Triune God and his gospel message is sufficient to purify, empower, and build our church. We don’t need fancy programs; we just need the power of the Spirit and the simplicity of the gospel. This is what changed lives in Acts, and what still changes lives today. In the next few months, as we look at Acts, I hope you will join us and pray that God would move mightily.

For His Glory and your joy,

Pastor David

 

 

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Service That Pleases The Lord

Repeatedly in Scripture, God calls his people to fear, worship, and serve Him.  In Exodus, Moses records that Israel is redeemed in order to serve the Lord.  So does Titus 2:14, which says that Christ redeemed a people who are zealous for good works.  Likewise, Paul says that those who were once slaves of sin are now slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:17-19).

These verses give us a starting place for understanding how we should serve.  But we need to dig a little deeper to understand how God intends for us to serve him.

True Service Is Radically Dependent on God

First, we must serve God as those who abide in Christ.  Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man abide in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit.  Apart from me he can do nothing” (John 15:5). We cannot serve unless we are getting are united to him.  God does not commission us to go and do great things for him.  He calls us to join him in his work; he gives us his Word and his Spirit; and he expects that we would daily feed on his grace and truth.

Second, we must come to get before we give.  We are leaky buckets and we need to be filled with the Spirit of God daily.  Too many churches have a history of putting people in places of service prematurely, and sadly these young believers never grow up (cf. Heb 5:11-6:3).  They burn out, fade out, or just eek it out.  Instead, churches need to do a better job shepherding the hearts of their servants so they serve out of overflow.

Third, service is as an extension of worship.  Church work should never detach itself from or replace worship.  Worship must always be the fountainhead of good works.  In fact, when Christians lose an appetite for worshiping God and put in its place works of service, their soul will soon shrink.  And what’s worse—they may not even be aware of their deadly condition.  By contrast, those who enjoy the Lord most are ready to serve—just as Psalm 100 indicates.

Psalm 100: A Hymn of God-Pleasing Service

In this hymn of praise, the Psalmist calls believers to “Make a joyful noise to the LORD!”  Thus, service falls under the banner of praise and worship.  Verse 2 extols: “Serve the LORD with gladness!” which presumes that joy is not self-generated but is a result of feasting on the grace of God (Ps 16:9-11; 32:11).

Verse 3 continues, “Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his sheep; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  In this verse, there are a number of things that inform our service before to God.

First, you and I must “know” the Lord.  This is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.  We do not know God like we know long division; we know God as a lover knows his beloved.  This personal knowledge requires conversation and the sweet exchange of personal knowledge.  Thus, if we are to serve God rightly, it must flow from love to him.

Second, God is our maker and we are his sheep (v. 3b).  We cannot serve unless he empowers and leads us.  In John 10, Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, describes how his sheep “go in and out and find pasture” (v. 9).  Applied to the question of service, this bucolic scene pictures God’s people feeding from the Lord and then going out to serve him.  Extremes fail in both directions.  Sheep who only feed grow lethargic and fat, while sheep who busy with empty-hearted service grow anemic and irritable.  Service needs sustenance, and true servants learn how to live on and for God.

Third, the location of service is in the presence of God.  In Israel, this was the temple courts (v. 4), but today, with God present wherever his saints gather, the location is the gathered church.  Many good Christians give their attention to ministries outside the church, but rarely should these Bible studies, missions, and para-church ministries overshadow service to the local body.  God has given Spiritual gifts for the upbuilding of his church (1 Cor 12:7), not other invented forms of ministry.

Last, thanksgiving is the fuel that drives God-pleasing service.  Psalm 100 describes thanksgiving as both a condition and a command (v. 4).  It is not an optional aspect of service; it is a requirement.  When Christians do service with ungrateful hearts, they do a disservice to God and those whom they serve (cf. Deut 28:47).  God’s people are a thankful people—thankful for the forgiveness and love found in Christ.  Those who please God with their service are effusive in their thanksgiving.

Overall, there is no greater gift than knowing God.  And by divine design, that knowledge leads to effervescent service.  Sometimes suh service is hard, even painful and deadly, but on the whole, the promise of serving with God brings the greater reward of resting with Him when the age closes.

This is our calling.  As you come to church this Sunday may you come thirsty for Christ, but may you also come with towel and basin ready to meet the needs of others.  In embracing such service, you are not only becoming like Christ, you are pleasing your heavenly father, who has redeemed you, given good works to do, and supplied you with his Spirit to accomplish those good works.  Rejoice in the Lord and perspire in his work—this is how we please God with our service.

For His Glory and your joy, dss

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Don’t Waste Your Summer

Don’t Waste Your Summer, Or How Will You Build Up Your Most Holy Faith?

In the short but powerful epistle of Jude, Jesus’ half-brother commands: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”  In his context and ours, this instruction is vital for Christians who are on their heavenly journey.  Only those who continue in faith, hope, and love will enter the gates of heaven (Matt 24:13; Col 1:23).  Those who start well, but leave their first love are in jeopardy of proving themselves wolves in sheep’s clothing, flowers planted in rocky soil.

To spur us on, Jude commands “those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” to “keep themselves” in the love of God.  And he gives three ways that Christians are to do this: (1) by waiting for the mercy of God to come in Christ (v. 21b), (2) by praying in the Holy Spirit (v. 20b), and (3) by building yourselves up in your most holy faith (v. 21a).  It is this last that we consider today.

One of the primary ways that your love for God will continue is to walk in faith, faith that is not self-generated, but faith that comes from the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:23) as a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9; Phil 1:29).  But this faith does not come like a digital download from the Internet.  It is an exercise of your Spirit-enlivened soul, such that Jude can tell us that we need to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.  So, how do we do that?

The theological answer is that we need to hear the word of God in Christ, for our faith comes by hearing his Word (Rom 10:17), but the practical answer is that every week we are summoned to come and hear the word of God—read, sung, prayed, taught, and preached.  In fact, faith is built not by weekly activity, but daily meditation (Col 3:16).  Still, it is from the weekly instruction that most of us have learned how to read and rightly interpret the Bible.  With that in mind, I am calling our church to go deeper in the Word of God.

The Spiritual Discipline of Learning

For the last ten weeks, as we have read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, we have been considering how to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.  We began by considering the central place of “Bible Intake.”  In the weeks that followed, we considered prayer, fasting, evangelism, and worship—to name a few.  And finally, our last lesson has called us to a lifestyle of learning.

The danger of learning the spiritual disciplines is knowing about them and not practicing them.  Christian self-deceit always lurks with learning (James 1:22).  The solution is not to stop learning, but to put learning to practice, and this summer I am calling our church to do just that.

With the Olympic spirit that will wash over us by August, I am challenging you to participate in a ‘Summer Biblical Triathlon.’  As with an athletic triathlon, the goal is to train and push yourself in three endurance activities.  In our case, we will fight the temptation towards lethargy this summer, and strive to build up our most holy faith.

Together, I am calling us to grow in our understanding and adoration of God’s plan of salvation.  Here are the three components.

  1. Beginning (or continuing) a Bible Reading Plan.  For those just beginning (or starting over), our reading plan will be the The Essential One Hundred Reading Plan.  This reading plan selects 100 Scriptures to move you from Genesis to Revelation in 100 days or 20 weeks (5 days per week).
  2. Attending one of two Wednesday Night classes.  These five-week classes offered in May/June and July/August will explain how the parts of the Bible fit with the whole.  It will give you a guide for seeing God’s drama in biblical history and current events.  If you have ever gotten lost in the Old Testament or wondered what God’s plan for the future is, then this class is for you.
  3. Reading a book (or three) about the Bible.  In the foyer are a selection of seven triathlon books, call them “Pastor’s Picks,” to help you better read the Bible.  For example, Tim Chester’s From Creation to New Creation is a helpful overview of God’s plan of salvation, while Michael Williams’s Reading the Bible through the Jesus Lens gives 4-5 pages on every book of the Bible and how they relate to Jesus.

At the end of the summer, we will have a ceremony for those who complete the triathlon and those who read three books will receive a gift book.

As summer dawns, instead of just focusing on the vacation, the yard work, or the summer job, let’s build ourselves up in our most holy faith.  Before we know it, summer breezes will be replaced by falling leaves.  The seasons prove true Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fade,” so let us resolve to live in the light of the rest of that verse: “but the word of God will remain forever.”

You will never regret spending more time in God’s word.  The investment is eternal.  And this summer we can protect ourselves from wasting our summers by running together and beholding the beauty of God in the pages of his Scripture.  I hope you join us!

For His Glory and your joy, Pastor David

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The Sacredness and Sweetness of Sundays

The Sweetness and Sacredness of Sundays

When God created the heavens and the earth, he spoke light into existence and separated it from the darkness.  On the first day, he called the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.”  From the start, God’s world has run on a schedule.  Like a watchmaker, God spun the earth so that every revolution would take twenty-four hours, and every year would include 365 days, plus six hours.  It seems that in Genesis 1, God’s creation modeled the pattern that men would keep in all generations—six days of labor, one day of rest.

The rest of the Bible depends on this basic structure to frame all that God does with men.  In Exodus 20, God commands Israel to keep the Sabbath holy, saying “On it you shall not do any work, . . . for in the six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Now, this command to rest was not a call to inactivity or sluggishness.  Rather, it was a call to make time a servant to men, a means by which men would learn to trust the Lord with their time and to know that they needed something more than they could acquire in their weekly schedules.

Since God did not rest because of fatigue, the Sabbath was not just a means of physical recovery for him, or for us.  It had a more Christ-centered purpose.  In fact, it seems that the Sabbath was a gift of joy and fellowship with God.  In other words, it was a holy day of worship, a day to set aside creation and to enjoy the creator. In a world unaffected by sin, this day off would have been needed, but how much more in a world wrought with sin and its effects?!

This was true in the Old Testament, and it is true today.  Only, since Christ’s advent, the meaning and application of the Sabbath has changed to the Lord’s Day.   Thus, as we make application, let us consider three things.

First, the Sabbath day in creation and Israel is a type of Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and he is the true rest.  Paul calls the Sabbath of Jesus’s substance (Col 2:16-17).  The meaning of this is that in Christ, we who are tempted to work in order to gain security, identity, and standing before God (and men) can now look unto Christ for all three.  In him, we have rest full and free.

Second, Sabbath Day worship has been replaced by Lord’s Day worship. After the resurrection, the New Testament church gathered on the Lord’s Day—the day of his resurrection (Sunday).  Thus, when we gather this Sunday, we announce to the world that Christ is risen and reigning. We do not gather on Sunday because it is the most convenient day for our church; we gather on Sunday because it tells the world that on this day Jesus Christ rose and is now present with us. Just the same, when someone makes a preferential choice to skip church they muffle the testimony of the Lord’s resurrection.

Third, the Lord’s Day is a gift of grace. Sadly, too many Christians obscure the grace of this gift.  The Lord’s Day is not simply a day to recuperate from work in order to return to work.  Your life is more than your vocation!   And it is more than just getting to the next vacation.  The Lord’s Day keeps this in perspective.

Instead of providing physical rest alone, the Lord’s day provides living water for the weary heart. It is a day devoted to the reading, singing, preaching, praying, and discussing of God’s Living Word. If you live on God’s word and not man’s bread, what could be a better gift to you than the promise that for hours this coming Sunday a banqueting feast of God’s word will be prepared before you.

The gift of the Lord’s Day is not merely a reprieve from the world, though it is that; it is a promise that God still speaks.  In a true church that faithfully proclaims the gospel, those who come to hear his voice will never go away disappointed.  This is the grace we need to keep our hearts strong; this is the grace for which your heart longs.  For those who desire God’s grace, gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day is a necessary part of life.  It is a day filled with grace for those who are willing to seek it.

Over the next few newsletters, I am going to consider a number of blessings that God gives us on the Lord’s Day and that come from attending church for the right reasons. I hope you will consider these points with me, and that you would share them with the ones who “know the Lord” but who prefer not to worship him in public Sunday by Sunday.  Perhaps together, we can encourage them to taste and see the sweetness and sacredness of Sundays.

For His Glory and your joy,

Pastor David 

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Proclaiming Christ To All . . .

Let Us Proclaim Christ From All The Scriptures, In Order To Make Disciples From All The Nations.

Perhaps you have seen this phrase around our church.  It is on our website, it is stamped on our letterhead, and its shorter version, “Proclaiming Christ to all” is a part of our logo.  For me, as your pastor, this short sentence has encapsulated everything that I have done since coming to Calvary two years ago.  However, as of yet, I have not unveiled, unfolded, or unpacked what this short statement might mean in its fullness.

This February I will.  Now don’t worry, there is no major structural, personnel, or budgetary changes coming with this emphasis, because there is really nothing new about the mission statement.  Rather, it is a call to renew our passion and pursuit for Jesus’ mission.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, our Master-builder and Chief Cornerstone gave a two-fold mission statement that never needs to be improved upon. In Mark 12:29-30, he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  In this vertical directive, he tells us that our first priority is Him.  Even when all else fails—and sometimes it does—we remain worshipers of Jesus Christ.  We exist to glorify Him.  Even when we cannot speak, serve, give or stand, we can worship.

Conjoined to Jesus’ first statement is a second, “and love your neighbor as yourself.”  To love God and to neglect neighbor is unchristian.  If we have been loved by God, we must love others (1 John 4:7-12).  We did not first love him; He first loved us.  And all those who are truly loved by God, will love others, especially their church family.

Still, the church has often gotten hazy on what true love is.  Is it social justice?  Meeting physical needs?  Providing relational fellowship?  Feeding, clothing, and immunizing the poor?   Certainly, the church is called to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27), and the apostles insisted on caring for the poor (Gal 2:10).  Still such works are not explicitly Christian until they are tethered to the gospel.

Loving our neighbor crashes on the rocks of indifference until it tells them about Jesus.  If you give away all your earthly possessions for the sake of another, but never call their attention to God’s love and call them to bow the knee to King Jesus, you have only made their ambulance trip to the city morgue more comfortable.

We must be about proclaiming Christ to our neighbors and the nations.  Jesus calls us to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, instructing them to obey all the commands that Jesus gave the apostles.   The Great Commission, therefore, defines true love.

In addition to needing clarity, the church of Jesus Christ often needs renewal, because the greater problem is not haziness but laziness.  How often do we start some spiritual project, only to see it fade out in time?  There is no reason to feel guilty about this; it is part of our weakness.  We must constantly call ourselves to account and to press on, once again, to run the race God has given to us.

And so, beginning this month, as we think about God’s mission for Calvary Baptist Church, we will come back to Scripture’s two main emphases—loving God and loving others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will consider how God would have you join in on this mission at Calvary.

In truth, if it sounds repetitive, like you have heard it before, give praise to God.  Instead of chasing the things of this world, you are ready to serve Christ and reach others with his life-saving message.  If it sounds scary, you are right.  Jesus is not safe.  He bids us to come and die.  Nakedness is a possibility and resurrection life is our only secure promise.  Nevertheless, he promises us his presence as we go on mission with him.

But above all, I hope it sounds exciting.  For the last two years, God has graciously healed, strengthened, and unified our church, and it is only right to take what he has given us in Christ and to share it with others.  This will of course mean further refinement—throwing off sin, confessing idols, and removing anything else that entangles our feet —but it will also mean increased joy on the journey.  Walking with Christ into the world always causes us to know and love our Savior more.

To finish then, join our church for the next month as we pray, dream, and think about ways to follow the One Man, with the One Message, who has given us One Mission.  Or to say it another way, let us Proclaim Christ From All The Scriptures, In Order To Make Disciples From All The Nations!

For His Glory and Your Joy,

Pastor David

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A Temple Story

A Temple Story

What is the best way to describe the Bible? Is it a collection of verses that supply promises and warnings for the Christian life?  Is it a collection of books that each point to Jesus Christ?  Or is it an epic story of Paradise Created, Paradise Lost, Paradise Promised, and Paradise Made New in Christ?

Perhaps, the best answer is all the above.  While each of these three answers are correct, I think the last is the most difficult to see in Scripture.  In the last month, we have given attention on Sunday mornings to the tabernacle in Exodus and how it fits into God’s plan of redemption.  Because of that, I want to give you a biblical roadmap that traces God’s “tabernacles,” I think by seeing this line of dwelling places, it will give you greater ground for hope in God.  Let’s see.

Garden of Eden. This is God’s first dwelling place on earth. In Genesis 3, it describes God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day.  This garden has many features of the later sanctuaries of God—gold, bountiful trees, flowing rivers, priestly guardians, and more.  Thus, from the beginning, God sets a pattern for the kind of place he will inhabit with his people.

Exodus 25-40. On Mount Sinai God gives Moses a vision of his throne room, which becomes the pattern for the tabernacle and all future sanctuaries.  Interestingly, as we have seen this tabernacle points back to Eden and ahead to a New Eden.  The tabernacle given in Exodus is a portable Sinai where God’s people—through the priest—can climb the rungs of Jacob’s ladder and come into God’s presence.

1 Kings 8. After Israel is settled and resting in the land, 1 Kings records how God gives Solomon wisdom to build a temple in Jerusalem.  This temple replaced God’s nomadic tent and became a permanent fixture in Israel.  It’s size and beauty surpassed that of the first tabernacle, showing that as time goes by, God’s temple increases in glory and beauty.

Ezekiel 40-47. During the Exile, after God’s spirit had abandoned the temple, Ezekiel describes a future temple that overflows with streams of living water.  This water will cleanse the earth, and God’s presence will once again dwell with his people.  Significantly, when Jesus comes, John uses imagery from Ezekiel to describe Christ’s cleansing ministry (see John 7:37-39).

Jesus. Perhaps most amazing of all, Jesus Christ is described as God’s dwelling place.  He is God with us, Immanuel.  John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us.  In truth, Christ is the meeting place between God and man.  In him the fullness of God dwelt bodily (Col 2:9), and in him we have access into the very throne room of God (Heb 10:19-25).  Therefore, we ought to come regularly into his presence with thanksgiving and supplication.

The Church. Today, God dwells in heaven, but by his Spirit, he also dwells in his church. Paul says, “We are the temple of living God” (2 Cor 6:16), and that our bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19).  Likewise, 1 Peter 2:5 describes believers as living stones “being built up as a spiritual house.”  In this way, the church is the spiritual house of God (Eph 2:19-22).

Revelation. Finally, there is the promise at the end of the age that God will dwell with his people on earth.  In fact, Revelation 21 speaks of a New Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven adorned as a bride. It says there won’t be a temple, for the lamb will be the temple of God.  This is our hope. At the end of the age, all the cosmos will experience the glory of God’s holiness, and will be as sacred as innermost chamber of the temple.

This temple theme is a source of great wonder and hope.  When the world around us seems to be crumbling, the ever-steady rise of God’s dwelling place in our world is a gospel reminder that even if our flesh and funds may fail, God is bringing us into his dwelling place.

Remember what Jesus promised.  He said, “In this world, we would have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Such a promise is good news, but its goodness grounded in another promise: “Let not your hearts not be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

I am praying that this month God will give you and me a greater vision of his heavenly tabernacle, and that such a vision will purify our daily desires, and motivate us to live more radically for Christ.  God’s temple story gives us hope for tomorrow, no matter what is transpiring today.

For His Glory and your joy,
Pastor David

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A Bag of Treats or A River of Delights: A Halloween Parable

In a few weeks children, teenagers, and some adults will adorn super-hero suits, clown wigs, and other silly costumes all for the purpose of having some seasonal fun and gathering a bag full of candy.  Good Christians differ on what to do with this holiday, and without stepping into that firing line, I simply want to take note of the way that Halloween is a dramatic parable of the fleeting pleasures of sin handed out by the houses of this world.

In Hebrews 11, Moses is described as a man of faith because “he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (v. 26).  Because he was looking to the reward, he chose to be “mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 25).  With heaven in view, he sought God’s reward, instead of the treats of this age.

The same was true of Abraham.  Earlier in Hebrews 11, the father of faith is depicted as a man whose hope is set on the city whose architect and builder is God (v. 10).  Scripture says of him and his offspring, “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 15-16).

In these statements, we see that hope in God’s rewards defines the life of the Christian (Heb 11:6). While we do not yet see our treasure, we believe in the promises of God that Christ has gone away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2; Heb 11:16).  We live in this reality. We say no to the world’s offerings because our hearts are in love with the world to come.

Here is where Halloween provides such a fitting parable.  As trick-or-treaters dress up in search of candy, they hope to collect a sack full of Hershey miniatures and Starburst packets.  On that night, the collection is sweet.  Serious trick-or-treaters know where the best candy is, and they get there early to pull in the full-sized Snickers or Silver Dollar.  Yet, all that is gained on that single night is soon eaten and the costume outdated or outgrown.

The joy of Halloween is as light as cotton candy and as long-lasting as cheap gum.  Contrast this with the joy that comes from the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” So too, Psalm 46 describes his dwelling place as possessing “a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (v. 4-5).

In terms of our parable, God’s house is the one who doesn’t stop you at the door.  He doesn’t demand a trick.  He doesn’t leave you hungry by giving you an itty-bitty bag of candy-coated chocolate.  Rather, his guests are invited to come and dine with him.  His food is satisfying and cost of admission is free.

But here is the rub.  In order to arrive at his home, the Christian must pass by all the other doors.  He must say “no” to constant offers of SweetTarts, Smarties, and Milk Duds.  Even when hunger sets in, he must keep plodding towards the mansion on the hill, whose invitation to dine with the king is sweeter than the houses in the valley of death.

So how will the Christian make it?  Like Moses and Abraham, he must keep before him the promises of God and the reward at the end.  Christian faith is not meant to be a stoic battle of the will, that says “I will do right, even when I don’t feel like it.”  No.  The Christian faith is much more like a long journey that says I will say “no” to the hospitality of this world, because I have the promise of an outstanding feast with the king ahead (See Isaiah 25:5-9).

To the world, this kind of reasoning sounds unappetizing.  They will say, “Just Trick or Treat!”  But to the Christian who takes God at his word, he becomes like the child who forsakes the city block to travel into the country to find the home he has never seen, but who has promised a Christmas dinner that is more than he could ask or imagine.

This fall, as you see children dressed in costume and pursuing an abundance of sugary treats, whether you partake or not, remember that such is the feasting of the world.  It comes through personal effort; it lasts for only a night; and its fruits fade away within days.  Contrast this with the city of God and the house of our Lord, whose gifts are never so small, never so fleeting, and never so empty… they only take time for them to come to us!

May we like Moses reject the fleeting treats of this world, because we remember that filling our bags with them is the devil’s trick.

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Love Covers a Multitude of Differences

This month, we finish our three part series on “theological triage.” As we have seen in the last two months, Christians stand against those who deny the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and justification by faith. At the same time, churches and individuals can cooperate when they agree on the essential elements of the gospel, even if they differ on matters of church government or spiritual gifts. This does not deny the importance of these matters, but it keeps in mind that some doctrines are more essential than others.

Moving closer to home this month, we think about unity and diversity within our own church. This third level of doctrinal distinction is the boundary marker for church membership. While Calvary shares many things in common with other evangelical churches, there are certain things that set it apart. To say it another way, there are, at our church, non-negotiables that define our community. Simultaneously, in such a community, there is a range of diversity that could lead to division but should function to demonstrate the way love overcomes and unites.

The point I have tried to lay out in each of these reflections is simply this: In a fallen world, no two people will ever agree on all things, let alone doctrinal things. So, the goal is not to “resolve” all differences, but to learn how to love one another, as “we grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15).

To begin with, members of Calvary must share the core convictions delineated in the first and second level (e.g. the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection of Christ, salvation by grace alone, and so on). But going beyond these truths, we must also affirm believer’s baptism, a memorial view of the Lord’s Supper, congregational authority, and deny things like personal prophesy outside the Bible. (As a Southern Baptist Church, these convictions are delineated most extensively in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000).

In these statements of faith there is a basis for fellowship and solid ground to unify our message and mission. In other words, when we gather together there is no need to debate why the Bible is central, why men lead, and why babies are not “baptized.” These are all agreed upon as our common understanding of God’s Word. At the same time, though, there are other doctrines held in our midst that could divide, but that God uses to grow us we prioritize a spirit of deference over defensiveness (Philippians 2:3-4).

Some of these doctrines include the doctrine of election and the way we view the end times. Each of these doctrines have been debated for centuries. Solid evangelical believers and Baptist pastor-theologians have held opposing viewpoints. For instance, at First Baptist-Dallas, the great Baptist preacher George Truett, a postmillennial, was replaced by, W.A. Criswell, a Dispensational pre-millennial. Though these two men had opposing views on the millennium, the church flourished under both.

Certainly at that church, and ours, there comes a personal decision to either major on the minors and embrace suspicion and division, or to major on the Messiah and his universal offer of salvation to all who believe. Recently, in Southern Baptist life there has been much disagreement concerning issues of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, evangelism and election. Since both are in the Bible, both must be addressed and affirmed. Yet, good men (and women) disagree about how to reconcile them.

Sadly, some become contentious and mean-spirited in their attempts to defend their view. However, it seems better to hold one’s conviction with biblical certitude and humility, remembering that disagreement on these matters need not sink the ship. The man who rows on one side of the boat and sees only ocean and the man on the other side who sees sea and shore, may disagree on their perspectives, but they are conjoined in the effort of serving the Captain. Such is the case for our church.

We must maintain a unity of mission—reaching the lost with the message of salvation. Satan would love for us to be distracted with anything else. Simultaneously, as we love those who differ from us—in age, in music choice, and in third-level doctrine—we demonstrate the love of Christ, which covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Such love engenders a spirit of unity and reflects the Savior who took on the form of a man in order to die for his enemies. Indeed, when we express gentleness and patience towards those with whom we disagree on matters of doctrine, we demonstrate the love of Christ. And in so doing, we speak with words inexpressible the kind of doctrine we really believe.

May God be pleased to give us grace to walk together in his Truth.

For His glory and your joy,
Pastor David

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