Silent Sermon – November 20, 2020

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination. As the one lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and “dead as a doornail.” Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it. As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”

Many of you have read this before; it’s still a good reminder and I believe it applies to marriages and friendship, even as it does to our spiritual fervor. Please know that while I do care about WOGF thriving, I care even more about His Church-at-large thriving. And it’s pretty clear, just from the book of Hebrews alone, that if Satan can get his way and can scatter the embers, he wins, at least a local victory over those embers he puts out. I certainly don’t want to be a part of having to account for that! (Hebrews 13:17)

See you Sunday if you can attend safely!

Family AND Friends – November 13, 2020

One of the many email newsletters to which I am subscribed is from the Grace Evangelical Society.   They are fighting the good fight and sometimes their daily article align with what I’m talking about that very week.  This is a good one; Bob is using a different set of parameters, but covering the issue we’ve been calling; Relationship with God vs Fellowship with God.  It’s a good read! ~Pastor Scott 

The Difference between God’s Acceptance and His Approval

November 9, 2020 by Bob Wilkin in Blog1 Corinthians 9:27, 2 Timothy 2:15

I grew up in a home where I knew I was loved. I was a surprise, but a good surprise. My mom turned 40 a few months after I was born. My dad was nearly 40 as well. I was the long-awaited son.

Both Mom and Dad hugged and kissed me a lot. They showed their acceptance of me in many ways.

I longed to have my father’s approval. He had grown up in an alcoholic family, and his father never approved of him, either.

When I became a Christian at the start of my senior year in college, I was overjoyed to be accepted by God forever. I knew for sure that I was saved once and for all. I knew I was part of His forever family.

I did not learn about God’s approval until seven years later when I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. I came to learn an important distinction between God’s acceptance and His approval. I believe you will find this distinction to be very encouraging.

The Difference Between Acceptance and Approval

We see this difference in nearly every area of life.

Family. If you have children, then you accept them. Period. But you may not approve of them and their behavior. If your child is a drug addict, for example, then you do not approve of him or his behavior. But you still accept him as your child. He will always be your child.

Politics. There have been times in our lives when regardless of our political views, we have not approved of the actions of our President. However, if we are mature people, we accept him as our President. It is nice when we also approve of him. But we should certainly accept whoever is duly elected as President.

Sports. This illustration breaks down a bit since teams can cut their players. But let us say that the head coach loves his players and accepts them as he would his own children.

I recently saw a documentary about one of the greatest running backs of all time, Lawrence Phillips. His college coach at Nebraska was Tom Osborne. Osborne loved and accepted Phillips. Yet when Phillips assaulted his former girlfriend, Osborne suspended him indefinitely. Later Phillips played for Dick Vermeil with the Rams. Vermeil loved and accepted Phillips too. But when Phillips came to games drunk, Vermeil cut him.

In sports, a good coach accepts all his players. But he does not approve of all his players.

Church. A good church will accept everyone who joins the fellowship who believes in Christ for everlasting life. But a good church only approves of those members that are walking with the Lord. If a member strays from the Lord and refuses to repent, then the church disfellowships the person. He is accepted as a brother in Christ. But he is not approved while he is away from the Lord.

God Accepts All People Who Believe in His Son for Everlasting Life

The Scriptures are clear on this point. Anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ for his eternal destiny is accepted by God.

John 3:16 tells us that the Father so loved us that He sent His Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but has everlasting life.

John 5:24 says that when we believe in Jesus, we are also believing in the Father who sent Him. And all who believe in Jesus have everlasting life, will never come into judgment regarding their eternal salvation, but have passed from death into life.

In John 10:28-29 the Lord Jesus said that whoever believes in Him is held securely in His hand and in the Father’s hand. There is no such thing as someone who has believed in Jesus who is not accepted by God.

John says in John 1:12-13 that whoever believes in Jesus is a child of God. Our status as God’s children is permanent. Once we believe in Jesus, we are saved and secure forever. Once saved, always saved.

God Only Approves of Believers Who Are Faithful

God does not approve of wickedness. If a believer in Jesus Christ strays and begins to live an ungodly life, then he forfeits God’s approval.

I urge you to do a word study on approved and disapproved in the NT. I have done that and here is what I found.

The word approve (dokimos) occurs 7 times in the NT. Six of those uses refer to being approved by God. Here are four of those six references.

Romans 16:10. Paul says that a man named Apelles was “approved in Christ.” That was his current spiritual state, but it could change.

1 Corinthians 11:19. Paul said, “that those who are approved” within the church of Corinth “may be recognized among you.” Again, some in the church were currently approved by Christ, though that might change.

2 Corinthians 10:18. Those “whom the Lord commends” are “approved” by Him.

2 Timothy 2:15. Timothy was to “be diligent to present [himself] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed…”

The word disapproved (adokimos), the antonym of the word approved, occurs 8 times in the NT. Six of the eight uses refer to not being approved by God, though English translations sometimes translate it as disqualified, as in disqualified to win the race. One of those verses clearly shows that it is possible for a born-again person to fail to be approved by Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:27. This verse exemplifies what it would mean to be disapproved by Christ. In the three verses before verse 27, Paul called for the believers in Corinth to strive for the imperishable crown, a reference to ruling with Christ forever.

Paul knew that he and the believers in Corinth had everlasting life. However, Paul did not know, and could not know, that He would gain the imperishable crown and Christ’s approval. To have the crown and the approval, Paul would have to endure to the end of his Christian life.

Paul feared that after preaching to others about winning the crown, he himself would be disapproved.

All theologians and preachers recognize that it is important to persevere in the Christian life. However, some say that you must persevere in faith and good works to get into the kingdom. They say that if you fail to persevere, then you will end up in hell forever.

I read a thesis at DTS on 1 Cor 9:27 in which the student argued that Paul was expressing doubts about whether he would escape eternal condemnation.

Another group of theologians and preachers understand perseverance to be required to have Christ’s approval and to rule with Him in the life to come. That is the natural understanding of 1 Cor 9:27.

Paul was sure that he had everlasting life and that he could never lose it (Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 2:12). He also knew that he was currently approved when he wrote 1 Corinthians. But he knew that approval, unlike acceptance, could be lost.

Conclusion

I did not realize it when my dad was alive, but he was never going to approve of me. I kept striving for his approval right up until he died. I was 37.

A few years after he died, I went for some counseling because I was struggling. The counselor explained that I had been striving for my dad’s approval, but that I could not get it. He said after my dad died, I looked for father figures to approve of me.

I came to accept that my dad never approved of me. I always fell short of his expectations in sports, in my career choice, in where I chose to live, and in many other aspects of my life.

But through counseling I came to realize that it was Christ’s approval that I really wanted. His approval is the ultimate approval in life.

I’ve completed seven marathons. That is 26.2 miles. I am in training now for one on December 31st. The Christian life is a life-long marathon. It is a race that is not over until we die or are raptured.

Did you know that the Lord Jesus will say, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17) to believers who persevere in the Christian life? Those whom He approves He will publicly praise before all believers of all time.

Wouldn’t you love to hear your Lord and Savior say, “Well done, good servant”? Wouldn’t you love to have His approval?

Remember the difference. God accepts everyone who has ever believed in His Son for everlasting life. But He will only approve those who persevere in faith and good works.

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Bob Wilkin

by Bob Wilkin

Bob Wilkin is Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society. He lives in Highland Village, TX with his wife, Sharon. His latest book is Is Calvinism Biblical: Let the Scriptures Decide.

If you wish to ask a question about a given blog, email us your question at ges@faithalone.org.

Ask the Pastor – November 6, 2020

This question came in via Twitter after Sunday’s message on 1 John 2:3-6, which dealt with “keeping His commandments.”

Question: “If we know a tree by its fruits and are told faith without works is dead… do you believe it’s possible for someone to call themselves a Christian and never have fruit or good works in their life?”

There is a lot to unpack here.  The goal of gathering as a church is to provoke one another to love and good works.  Sometimes when I’m called to defend infantile Christians, I feel like I’m encouraging carnality.  Please know that I’m not.  I want all of us to walk in the light, hand-in-hand with Jesus!   

With that said, justification is separate from works (Rom 4:5).  I am justified by faith (Ibid).  When I am justified, I am forgiven (Eph 1:7), I am sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13), I am adopted by the Father (Rom 8:15), I am redeemed (Eph 1:7), I receive eternal life (John 3:16), I’m baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13);  etc.  I can’t lose any of those things, even if I do it wrong.  And some people will:  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.”  1 Cor 3:15.

It’s true there are lots of warnings about living wrongly.  I believe that the”fruits” warning to which you allude, which is found in Matthew 7, is a reference to false teachers and it lines up with my premise about 1 John.  Don’t listen to someone who discounts their words with their actions. 

As to the argument is James, I try to to keep this blog to one page but it’s an interesting study to compare and contrast Abraham’s faith experience in Genesis 15:6:

“Then he believed in the Lord; and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

And Genesis 22:

“He said, ‘Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”’ 

In Romans 4 Paul referred to Genesis 15 to make his case of justification by faith.  In James chapter 2, James used Genesis 22 to make his case for justification by works.  I submit that the first was justification before God, the second was justification before man (Abraham, himself in this case).   I believe that we can understand much of the apparent difference between James and Paul if we understand Paul was concerned about our justification before God and James wanted his congregation to get off the couch! 🙂

We all love babies; 25-year-old babies make us cringe.  Don’t be a baby any longer than you have to be!  (Hebrews 5:11-14)  🙂

Pastor Scott

P.S.  If someone persists in acting like the Holy Spirit does not reside in his heart, share Jesus with him!

Dare to Stand Alone – 10.30.2020

I was thinking of a song we used to sing when I was a boy. Some of you may remember “Dare to be a Daniel:”

Dare to be a Daniel

Dare to stand alone

Dare to have a purpose firm

Dare to make it known  

Standing by a purpose true

Heeding God’s command

Honor them, the faithful few

All hail to Daniel’s band

The song could also be about Daniel’s three friends who said to the ruler of the known world, “Nebuchadnezzar, we are not in need of an answer to give you concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

It could be about David who said to the giant, Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you and remove your head from you. Then I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that this entire assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will hand you over to us!”

Or it could be of Joshua, or of Gideon, or of Deborah, or of any of the men and women mentioned in the annals of faith.  Men and women of great courage who chose faith over fear.  And that’s the simple point of this blog.

It feels like the news wants to keep us afraid.  Or perhaps, better said, there are genuinely fearful things happening in our world today – riots, threats of violence, election turbulence, viruses, division – none of which surprise God at all.  Courage is choosing to believe God’s got this! 

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Context is Comforting

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you!”  Do you believe that?  It’s in the Bible, it must be true!  

It is in the Bible (James 4:7b).  And it is true.  However, the devil doesn’t have any reason to flee if you are resisting in your strength alone.  You’ve heard me and other teachers say that “context is king.”  Usually this is referring to interpretation, but in this case it refers to application.  YES, we must resist the devil’s temptations.  In order to do that, we must submit to God (v. 7a).  In order to submit to God, we must humble ourselves before Him (v. 6) and draw near to Him (v. 8).  After all, the devil is far more powerful than we are, but he’s no match for our God!  Peter’s similar exhortation is also in the context of humility and staying firm in faith and Paul instructs us to take up the full armor of God.  Satan is alive and well on this planet.  He’s not scared of much, but he is scared of our Abba!

You may have seen this clip before, but, in my humble opinion, it’s worth watching.

Pastor Scott 

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

Today, I was doing some pre-study in 1 John, where we will be on Sunday mornings for a few weeks.  One of the themes of the second paragraph, in chapter 1, is honesty.  This illustration is a bit nostalgic but also speaks to the kind of bone-deep integrity that ought to be in each of us, just as it is in our LORD!

Coming from a big city, my friend David wasn’t prepared for the approach rural Maine businessmen take toward their customers. Shortly after David moved there, he rented a rototiller. The store owner showed him how it worked and explained that the charge was not based on how many hours he had it out, but rather how long it was actually used. Looking over the tiller for some kind of meter, David asked, “How will you know how long I’ve used it?” With a puzzled look, the owner simply said, “You tell me.”

Loren Morse, Reader’s Digest, March 1991

Challenged with you,

Pastor Scott

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.  1 John 1:5-10 (NASB)

The Downside of Guarding Your Heart

by Guest Blogger, Tracie Miles, via crosscards.com

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

“Mom, you have lots of walls around your heart.”

Upon hearing my daughter’s comment and feeling somewhat offended, I immediately replied, “Ummm, no I don’t.” Yet she stood gentle but firm in her statement.

Her comment nagged at my mind. What does that even mean? Have I really put up walls around my heart? And if so, is it that obvious? The more I pondered, I slowly began to see what she was referring to as I stayed more aware of my thoughts and actions over those next few days. There were walls which had gradually erected as a result of my heart taking a beating over the past few years and enduring many painful experiences.

For example, I have a hard time trusting people and always worry someone is not being honest with me. I’m constantly thinking someone will let me down or betray me, so I secretly just wait for it to happen.

My mind is trained to assume that in any situation, the worst case scenario will probably come true. So I stay on guard at all times and often forget God is on my side, that I can rely on His peace in all situations and that He is the one person who can be trusted.

I’m hypersensitive to feeling rejected, betrayed, unaccepted, unloved or criticized, so I protect myself by hiding my emotions and putting on the “I’m fine” mask with a smile. If a conflict arises with another individual, I tend to retreat and ignore rather than face and deal.

My feelings get hurt easily. Then I let my emotions and self-critical thoughts tug at my self-confidence, fueling my deepest insecurities and pushing me back farther behind the walls where it feels safer, which often also leads to conflict in relationships.

Ouch. Reality check. Apparently, I do have a lot of walls that have formed over the years, one heartbreak, one hurt and one thrown stone at a time. Guarding my heart felt like protecting myself. But in actuality, I was only keeping other people from getting too close, keeping myself from trusting for the best in others. These reactions frequently steal my peace and joy and sometimes even stand in the way of feeling as close to God as I wanted to be.

But doesn’t Scripture instruct us to guard our hearts in Proverbs 4:23“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

This verse is where Solomon gives us one of the most important aspects of the Christian life, because the status of our hearts affects who we are, how we feel, what we do and how we live.

Yet Solomon’s description of guarding our hearts differs greatly from the way we often view guarding our hearts.

Guarding our hearts from a scriptural perspective means for us to be alert, through the power of Christ within us, to what enters and dwells in our hearts.

We need to be aware of what we say and do, because over time, our thoughts and actions shape the status of our hearts. Biblically guarding our hearts is founded on consistent communication with our Lord for direction, conviction and peace.

Putting up walls to protect my heart from being hurt again seemed like a normal self-defense mechanism, even though I often didn’t even realize I was doing it. But I’ve now realized those walls were actually doing more harm than good. All the invisible walls I’d worked so hard to erect were reaping zero benefits in my life.

Thanks to my daughter’s simple, honest comment spoken in love, I’ve learned the downside of putting up walls. There is a big difference between guarding our hearts and putting up walls. Guarding our hearts with Scripture helps keep our faith on track, but the walls we erect to keep people out or protect our emotions can become walls which keep us bound in insecurity, fear, unhappiness and loneliness.

Only God can protect our hearts from pain, and He did not create us to live in a prison of our own making. Instead, He created us for companionship and love. He wants us to live free, full of joy and with peace in our hearts. But it is our choice to climb out from behind walls we’ve built and remember all of those gifts are available through Him, no matter what we’ve been through or what lies ahead.

Life is simply too short to live behind walls, especially when freedom and peace are always accessible if only we ask.

Lord, please help me tear down the walls I’ve built and empower me to trust in Your protection of my heart. Help me release all my anger, bitterness, hurt, offense and unforgiveness to You and live in the freedom and joy You offer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Everyday Integrity – September 25, 2020

Today, I was doing some pre-study in 1 John, where we will be on Sunday mornings in a few weeks.  One of the themes of the second paragraph, in chapter 1, is honesty.  This illustration is a bit nostalgic, but also speaks to the kind of bone-deep integrity that ought to be in each of us, just as it is in our LORD!

Coming from a big city, my friend David wasn’t prepared for the approach rural Maine businessmen take toward their customers. Shortly after David moved there, he rented a rototiller. The store owner showed him how it worked and explained that the charge was not based on how many hours he had it out, but rather how long it was actually used. Looking over the tiller for some kind of meter, David asked, “How will you know how long I’ve used it?” With a puzzled look, the owner simply said, “You tell me.”

Loren Morse, Reader’s Digest, March 1991.

Challenged with you,

Pastor Scott

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.  1 John 1:5-10 (NASB)

Adult Bible Classes 9.18.20

Adult Sunday Bible Studies

Growing Together in Grace

October 4th launch

1.             Young Adult Community – Sean and Sam Nunn meeting in the Conference Room (#120)

2.  Going Deeper -An elective group that continues in a dialog about Pastor’s sermon that morning meeting in the Class Room currently behind partitions  (Room #139)

3.  Going Theological – An elective group that digs into a different area of systematic theology each quarter – Studying “Theology Proper” in Fall 2020 meeting in the Grace Classroom (#133) 

4.  Going Practical – An elective group that studies a different aspect of our practical Christian walk each quarter – Studying “Jesus among other gods” by Ravi Zacharias meeting in the Worship Center

5.  Ambassador/Fidelis – A traditional Sunday morning class.  Studying Eschatology meeting in the Ambassador/Fidelis Classroom (#134)

Classes 2, 3 & 4 will shuffle every quarter Winter Quarter starts December 6, 2020. I trust you’ll pick a class and join us on Sundays; right after the service at 11am starting October 4th as we grow in grace together!

Pastor Scott