Fighting Hypocrisy in the Church

Pastor Francis Chan goes through 1 Corinthians 5, a very difficult pasage about the responsibilites of believers to lovingly confront other Christians about their sin.  To ignore Christians who are living in sin and continue to let them do so is extremely unloving. You do it only because you care more about hurting the persons feelings than saving them from hell.

The Humanity of Christ

It is well known that Jesus came in the form of man, and He experienced life on earth, going through all of the problems we go through, all of the hurt we go through, and experienced pain, suffering, and loss just like the rest of us.  We all know this, but in the back of our minds is a thought that since Jesus is God made flesh, He really did not, or could not have gone through as much pain and suffering as we go through.

Great Loss

When thinking of how Jesus went through loss of personal relationships, two people come to mind.  First is Joseph, his father.  We do not know for sure what happened to Joseph, but we do know that Joseph was there when Jesus was twelve in the temple (Luke 2:28), then we never see him again in scripture. When Jesus was dying on the cross he tells John to take care of his mom, something Jesus would not have to do if his father was still alive (John 19:26-27).  This also shows that Jesus cared about his mom, he wanted her to be well taken care of, something any of us would want.

Another powerful passage in the Bible is when Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus, died.  Jesus got word that Lazarus was not feeling well and then after he died Jesus made his way to visit.  Seeing the women weeping over Lazarus and then seeing the grave himself was too much for Jesus, and “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  This simple verse showing that Jesus had compassion, felt pain, even though he knew Lazarus would not be dead for much longer, it was still painful to him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Great Suffering

I think it is downright impossible for us to understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.  All to often I hear others, or even think in the back of my own mind, that what Jesus went through was bad but at least he knew the end result so it was not that bad.  How wrong can we get? Not only did Jesus get tortured and executed, but his status with God was, for the first time in all existance, severed from the Father (Mark 15:34).  Can you imagine what this would have been like? Do you think Jesus was anxious at all, or wished that he could avoid what was ahead?

Jesus did not want to go through with what was ahead and prayed for God to remove this trial from his only begotten son (John 22:42).  Jesus, “being in agony, prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (John 22:44)

Yes, Jesus was human, he had compassion, felt the pain of loss felt great anxiety. Jesus went through the pain that we went through, even more so.

So why did He do it?  Jesus prayed “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (John 22:42).  Do you not think that the loving father would take such trials from His only begotten son? But he did not, why?  Because it was the only way.

Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

“He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever.” (Hebrews 10:12)  Jesus died, do you really understand that? Jesus, our creator, was beaten, tortured, betrayed, and executed for you!

Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

John Piper, in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ writes

Therefore, this man of indestructible joy was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). This “great high priest” is not unable to sympathize with us in our weakness, becasue he was tested in every way as a man like us (Hebrews 4:14-15). He wept with those who wept (John 11:35) and rejoiced with those who rejoiced (Luke 10:27, 21). He was hungry (Matthew 4:2), he was weary (John 4:6), he was forsaken (Matthew 26:56), betrayed (Matthew 26:45), whipped (Matthew 27:26), mocked (Matthew 27:31), and crucified (Matthew 27:35).

Jesus can and did relate to us, he felt pain suffering and loss.  Why did he go through all of this pain and suffering?  Because only through Jesus can we be reconciled with God.  Jesus went through all of that, only for you, what do you do for him?

Being an effective leader (Part 1)

2 Timothy 4

v. 1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

v. 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

v. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

v. 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

In order to understand the full weight of Paul’s charge to here, Timothy, we must look at the end of chapter 3. These verses are a classic declaration of the Bible’s inspiration.

2 Timothy 3

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Because all of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is God-breathed and is profitable to make the people of God complete and fully prepared to live lives pleasing to God, Paul moves to lay a solemn charge on Timothy – that charge, is to preach the Word.

Paul had spent years disciplining Timothy. Throughout his ministry, Paul had laid the emphasis on keeping the main thing, – and that was to study, teach, and preach the Word of God. But as he now passes from the scene and it is time to pass the leadership of the church over to a new generation of Christian leaders, Paul wants to make sure Timothy realizes he is not to be an innovator and creator of new means–His mandate, as a pastor and leader of the Church is to do what?

Preach the Word!

So Paul phrases his charge in the most solemn language . . .

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ

So here Paul is commissioning Timothy with a solemn and serious charge. We will all stand before God and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. This why the charge Paul lays on him is so serious – because all history, all mankind, will one day stand before God and give a final reckoning. Timothy will have to answer for how he has discharged the charge. Paul is laying a trust on Timothy – that trust was the word of God and his office as pastor of the Church at Ephesus. One day, he would stand before the Lord and give account for how he had performed his role and what he had done with the precious treasure of the Scripture.

All of us will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ – not for judgment for our sins, but for rewards. The believer’s sins were judged at the Cross, so the judgment we will face is not one that determines our eternal destiny – that is already settled in Christ. But we will face a judgment for rewards.

Paul describes this judgment this way in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 . . .

9 We make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Then in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Paul gives a description of what this judgment will be like

11 No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire

While everyone will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for how they have lived and used the gifts and resources He’s entrusted to them, pastors will face an especially strict judgment.

James says in James 3:1

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

In light of this stricter judgment, Paul says this to Timothy in 4:2

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

The best thing Timothy can do as a pastor and leader of the flock is to Preach the Word! The safest course to being able to stand before God on that day when he will give account is to Preach the Word! Realizing this, I marvel at why so many pastors today do anything other than Preach the Word.

Paul is absolutely clear here. There is no obscurity or uncertainty about his charge. This needs no interpretation – only application! Timothy must give himself and his ministry to the faithful and consistent study, preaching and teaching of the Scriptures. He must be ready at all times, when he feels like it and when he doesn’t, to minister to people with the Word of God. When dealing with people who are in error, he needs to be able to bring forth a word from The Word that will challenge their error. When someone is downcast and in need of encouragement, when they are weak and need strength, he must carry the Word to them. And he must be consistent in his ministry in the Word – even when it seems no one gets it.

The story is told about an old American Indian who attended a church service one Sunday morning. The preacher’s message lacked real spiritual food, so he did a lot of shouting and pulpit pounding to cover up his lack of preparation. In fact, as it’s sometimes said, he “preached up quite a storm.” After the service, someone asked the Indian, who was a Christian, what he thought of the minister’s message. Thinking for a moment, he summed up his opinion in six words: “High wind. Big thunder. No rain.”

When the Scriptures are neglected, there is “no rain”, no life-giving virtue in the message.

It is not the words of man, spoken in the greatest eloquence possible which make a difference. Only when preaching is based on God’s Word are His people blessed and refreshed. One of the reasons why the good pastor, the faithful church leader will keep the ministry centered on the study, preaching, and teaching of the Word of God is because . . .

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Paul is certainly speaking prophetically here. But history shows that what he says here has seen a sorry fulfillment again and again in the history of the Church. The Church seems to go through long cycles where it wanders from the Truth to the enticing words of false teachers. The Church is thus corrupted, and when people grow weary enough of the corruption, there’s a reform movement that sees a return to Biblical teaching and preaching. But after a while, the reform becomes institutionalized and once more people turn from Truth.

We see this in the development of Roman Catholicism and the many reform movements that occurred during the Middle Ages. Then we have the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism. That reform degenerated into rationalism and the rise of liberalism. Then there was the Modern Evangelical reform movement. But now it seems the Evangelical church is being co-opted by the philosophy of religious humanism.

Paul sees these cycles of corruption and reform turning like a massive wheel until the time would come when the wheel of corruption would grind to a halt in the end times. Then, most people would not want the “healthy doctrine” of the Word of God. Because of their “itching ears” they would accumulate teachers who would satisfy their cravings for things that disagree with God’s truths.

The fact that a preacher has a large congregation is not always a sign that he is preaching the truth. In fact, it may be evidence that he is tickling people’s “itching ears” and giving them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.

Note what Paul says – the time will come when people will not put up with good, solid Bible teaching – instead, because of their own inner lusts, and yet because they have a deep-seated religious stirring, they will find for themselves people who will tell them what they want to hear. So it is that when people who realize the need to believe in something bigger than themselves but who don’t want to submit to God, look for someone to scratch their religious itch, they will find a ready supply of those who will tell them what they want to hear, and make it sound religious all at the same time. So today, we have the health and wealth message which is tailor made for our secular, materialistic society.

Once people have rejected the Truth, they turn to fables; to wild stories about trips to heaven or hell or seeing a 90 ft. tall Jesus. These fables are exciting and sensational, but they aren’t likely to convict them of sin or make them want to repent! The result is a congregation of comfortable, professing Christians, listening to a comfortable, religious talk that contains no Bible doctrine. These people become the prey of every cult because their lives lack a foundation in the Word of God. It is a recognized fact that most cultists were formerly members of churches.

Paul’s emphasis on the ministry of the Word of God is the predominant theme of the pastoral epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Here he says that because this time of apostasy is coming, Timothy ought to give himself to the task of preaching and teaching. If that was true for Timothy’s day, how much more now when it seems that what Paul forecasted is coming to pass?

What I rejoice to see is that while there may be many who have itching ears and are heaping up false teachers to tell them what they want to hear, there is also a solid and devoted group of Christians at many good churches around the world who not only endure sound doctrine, but crave it!

Who is Satan? (Part 3)

Why, if Jesus triumphed over Satan, is there still sin in the world?

It is possible that a sentence may be pronounced and made known some time before the sentence is actually executed. During this interval a criminal is said to be under sentence awaiting his execution which some higher authority has decreed. This period of sentence is that in which Satan appears in the present age, which had its beginning with the cross. Execution of this sentence would have banished him forever. That he has not been banished is revealed in the fact that he, even after his judgment, is referred to in the Scriptures as still being in authority over this world.

The real church, which is the bride of Christ, is to sit with Him upon His throne (Rev. 3:21; 1 Corinthians 6:2,3; Matt. 19:28), and the present age must continue until that glorious heavenly people are gathered out from the world. When all is said and done, those who refused God’s commands will stand self-condemned, and nothing can accomplish this but the testing, by trial, of all the self-sufficient claims of Satan and man. The sin of man has brought him under sentence too, and grace alone withholds his immediate execution (John 3:18; Romans 5:18,19). Though the day of execution is, by God’s will, delayed, it is certain; and the time is fast approaching when the complete destruction of all self-enthroned beings will be executed, and Christ alone will reign, “for He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corin. 15:25). The kingly Son of God will arise and claim the nations of the earth and “break them with a rod of iron; and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).

Another reason for the delay in the termination of evil from the world and the execution of judgment upon Satan is that the presence of evil in the world provides the Christian with a ceaseless conflict by which he or she can develop the character to overcome. This type of victorious characteristic in the believer is priceless in God’s sight.

Conclusion
Satan is thus revealed in Scripture as having been created perfect in his ways, mighty in power, and full of beauty and wisdom. While blessed in this way, he proposed in his heart to make himself like God. Though remaining in heaven and having access to God, he (having taken the scepter of authority from Adam through Adam’s disobedience to God) is the ruling god of this world until God chooses to execute His sentence against Satan and his followers. In the middle of the tribulation Satan will be cast out of heaven onto the earth, with further access to heaven denied. From there he will be sent to the abyss during Christ’s reign in the Millennium and, after a short time of release, he and all who have ever followed him will be banished to the lake of fire (hell) forever.

Can anyone then doubt that this mighty being called Satan is a living power acting directly over the affairs of men in this self-glorifying age?