Friday, December 30, 2011

Deep Emotions

Here are a few lines from John Piper's book, Brother's, We are not Professionals:

"Emotions are like a river flowing out of one's heart. Form is like the riverbanks. Without them the river runs shallow and dissipates ont he plan. But banks make the river run deep. Why else have humans for centuries reached for poetry when we have deep affections to express? The creation of a form happens because someone feels a passion. How ironic, then, that we often fault form when the real evil is a dry spring." (p. 133)

"Many pastors are not known for expressing deep emotions. This seems to me especially true in relation to the profoundest theological realities. This is not good, because we ought to exerience the deepest emotions about the deepest things. And we ought to seak often, and publicly, about what means most to us, in a way that shows its value.

Brothers, we must let the river run deep. This is a plea for passion in the pulpit, passion in prayer, passion in conversation. It is not a plea for thin, whipped up emotionalism." (p. 134)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

God's Love

Today, our adult choir presented the musical "The Love of God at Christmas". Knowing ahead of time what the musical was about, it prompted me to go to 1 John 4:7-11, that excellent passage where we find the words "God is love" along with the exhortation emphatically stated a couple of times, "let us love one another".

In our study of that passage, we must be careful not to overlook the connection of God's love with the cross of Jesus Christ: "in this is love, no that we we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins"

In the death of Jesus in our place and for our sins the love of God was clearly seen as Jesus took upon himself the righteous wrath of God that we deserved.

In making this connection, we observe four things:
1) The definition of God's love is declared by the cross of Christ
2) The depth of God's love is measured by the cross of Christ
3) The demonstration of God's love visible by the cross of Christ
4) The direction of God's love is indicated by the cross of Christ

One of the fears I often have at this time of year is the sentimentality that we seem to have attached to the season to the degree that it overshadows the purpose and meaning of Jesus' coming.

We can clearly see...the love of God at Christmas in the cross of Christ.

Monday, December 12, 2011

True and False Conversions

Last night in our bible study, we examined Acts 8:9-25. This is Luke recounting of the gospel going into Samaria through the servant Philip. In the narrative, Simon appears to make a "profession" of faith. He is even baptized and then follows Philip around. We find in the text several clues that this was a "conversion of convenience" rather than a "true conversion" - i.e., 8:12-13 and 8:20-23.

Simon represents many "church members" today. They have made an apparent "profession" of faith, but there is no substance to that faith. It is what James calls a "demonic faith" (James 2:19). 

So, what is conversion? Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Conversion is a term used to describe the result of regeneration in a person that exhibits repentance from sin and faith toward Jesus.

The root of conversion is regeneration. The fruit of regeneration is repentance and faith.

JI Packer writes about regeneration: “The concept is of God renovating the heart, the core of a person’s being, by implanting a new principle of desire, purpose, and action, a dispositional dynamic that finds expression is a positive response to the gospel and its Christ”

Other phrases used in scripture to describe this truth: being born again; born from above; granted spiritual life.

Again, from Packer on repentance: “The change is radical, both inwardly and outwardly; mind & judgment, will & affections, behavior & life-style, motives & purposes, are all involved. Repenting means starting to live a new life"

Now, from John MacArthur: “True salvation is not mere profession or ritual act. It is the divine transformation of the soul from love of self to love of God, from love of sin to love of holiness.”

Let's summarize: Conversion, therefore, does not only point back to a one-time experience, but conversion begins a revolutionized life toward a continual lifestyle of repentance and faith pursuing Jesus as the master and lover of one’s soul.

What are some contributing factors to false conversions today?
- Neglect of teaching on regeneration
- Neglect of teaching on total depravity & the reality of spiritual deadness (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10)
- Our natural tendency toward religion - the performing of external rituals as the "essence" of faith
- Man-centered evangelism - easy-believism; decisionism; sinner's prayer treated as a magic formula
- Self-deception

What are some results in our churches from the presence of un-converted church members?
- Many people have a false assurance of salvation
- Church membership is not "meaningful"
- Many people are concerned with the external of religion only; lots of religious people
- False converts are in leadership positions who have no spiritual depth trying to make spiritual decisions that are spiritually discerned, but do not have the Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3)

What are some questions we can ask to asses the truth of someone's conversion? These are not infallible, just a starting point.
- Do you love Jesus? Are you pursuing Jesus to know him more fully and obey him completely?
- Do you hate sin? Are you growing in your amazement at the fact of God's grace in your life?
- Are you broken over your sin?
- Do you desire to grow in Christ and not just do more "religious activity"?
- Do you desire holiness in your life?
- Is there a progressive direction in obedience in your life?
- What kind of spiritual fruit is being borne in your life?

Where there is spiritual life, there will be spiritual fruit. If it's living, it's fruitful. If it's dead, it won't have fruit--it may have leaves, but not good fruit.