Saying One Thing & Doing Another

Eliza, in the musical My Fair Lady sings:

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

Don’t talk of stars, burning above
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire
If you’re on fire, show me!

Eliza is right. What really matters is not so much what we say but what we do. We can tell our children we love them, but if our work consumes us, the words matter very little.

The Apostle Paul was continually concerned that the churches he loved and served would not only talk about the Gospel but live a life that was appropriate and consistent with the Gospel. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27, cf. Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:12, 2 Thess. 1:11). Their walk needed to match their talk.

What would a life worthy of the Gospel look like?

  • They would live in humility, recognizing that they were sinners saved only by the grace of God.
  • They would live in trust, recognizing that the same Father who gave up His only Son would not fail to give them all other things as well.
  • Continue reading “Saying One Thing & Doing Another”

Would You Prefer to Die?

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Rather shocking words. Death, according to the apostle Paul, could actually be a good thing.

Some people feel this way because life is so bad that they want escape from it, but that’s not what Paul was thinking at all.

He was not tired of life, and he had no morbid fascination of death. Instead, his desire for death was based in his firm belief that death would bring him closer to Jesus. He loved Jesus so much that he could say that being closer to Him would be “better by far” (1:23).

Paul’s thinking may seem rather strange to you. Why would anyone think this way?

In order to understand his thinking, let’s ask this question: what makes life worth living at all?

Let me suggest that it is primarily one thing: relationships. Whatever else we may enjoy, without relationships, they are pretty much worthless. We desperately need people.

However, people can never satisfy us. Even at their best, they cannot supply the love we truly need. This points us to a more fulfilling relationship with our Creator.

Jesus Christ is a human being, born 2,000 years ago, but He also claimed to be the eternal God and proved it by His resurrection from the dead.

Because Jesus is no mere man, we are not talking merely about devotion to an historical person. We are talking about a human who is also God. This is the basic claim of the Christian religion.

In light of that, here are a few reasons why someone might consider death “gain” to be closer to Jesus.

  • He is our Creator. He made us and wants to have a relationship with us.
  • He is the ruler of the universe. There is no one who can do more for us than Jesus Christ to whom “all authority and power in heaven and earth” have been given.
  • Continue reading “Would You Prefer to Die?”

Love Needs Wisdom

Wisdom without love is worthless. Love without wisdom is not quite worthless, but it may be fruitless.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, he told them that he prayed “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (1:9).

You often hear, just love people, and that’s all you need.

But that’s not all you need.

Sometimes people with the biggest heart are not as effective as they could be because they just move on emotions rather than thinking through what would be best. Continue reading “Love Needs Wisdom”

What the Church Can Learn from the Antichrist

In my previous post on the “end times,” I suggested that the church is going to make progress throughout history. This should provide some optimism about the possibilities for good in history.

However, this opinion needs to be balanced with a consideration of the possibilities of evil in history. This is what we can learn from the appearance of the Antichrist at the end of history.

Why is this so significant to the church? Because the power of antichrist is already at work (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

I believe there will be a final manifestation of evil in history, the Antichrist, but I also believe that the spirit of antichrist is already present in history and relevant to each one of us. Understand that the Antichrist takes something that is good and makes it evil. When you realize that this evil is primarily about exalting self, then you realize that the spirit of antichrist is not nearly as far from us as we’d like to think. Continue reading “What the Church Can Learn from the Antichrist”

The Progress of the Church in History

What progress can the church expect to make in history? What are the prospects of the church before Christ returns?

There are several places in Scripture that indicate a progressive growth in the kingdom of God before Christ’s return. For example, Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed: “Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Mt. 13:32).

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel envisions a kingdom that breaks all other kingdoms. It “became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:35).

I believe that it is very hazardous to predict the future, even with the images that the Bible gives us of the future. Most who have tried to do it in any detail have been totally wrong. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons.

That being said, I predict that Jesus will return on October 25, 2134. Just kidding. Not going to make that sort of prediction.

However, I do think that history has shown us enough for us to believe that these images of progressive progress do tell us something about the direction of history. The movement of history seems also to teach that the kingdom will continue to make progress throughout history before the consummation.

Consider the early church. It grew from a small group in Jerusalem to a multitude of congregations throughout the world.

From there, the church continued to grow until it overran the Roman Empire and displaced the pagan religions there.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Christian missionaries went out and brought the Gospel to those who had overran the Empire. The conversion of “barbarian” tribes continued throughout the Middle Ages. Continue reading “The Progress of the Church in History”

Easter: Think Bigger!

The are several problems with the common perception of life after death. Here’s what people think: when we die, our souls go to heaven to float around there forever. This is only partially true.

When we die, our souls do continue to exist (Phil. 1:21), but our ultimate hope is in the resurrection of our bodies. Our hope is that Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). With the ancient church, “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (The Nicene Creed).

A second problem is that people think it is only our individual bodies and not the whole creation that will be redeemed. But the vision of our destiny in the Scriptures is one of a redeemed world (e.g., Is. 65:17–25). As the Apostle Paul says, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21). Continue reading “Easter: Think Bigger!”

When Evil Seems to Triumph

Few things can cause us more consternation than the seeming triumph of evil.

The prophet Habakkuk expressed to God a very human complaint against evil’s triumph: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:3-4).

When people abuse or oppress others, when an evil person gets rewarded or promoted, the cry goes up, “Where is God? Where is justice?”

It’s amazing how many people walk around with unresolved past injustices weighing them down. Just sit and listen to folks for a while. You will hear the cries of their hearts against betrayal, abandonment, abuse, and injustice.

What answer does the Bible give to all this? Continue reading “When Evil Seems to Triumph”

Beyond Illusion & Despair

No matter how many times it happens, I still have hope. I believe that my seven children will all love the meal I make for them. When I said that in my sermon Sunday, one man shouted out, “Then, order pizza!” Nope! That won’t work. One of my daughters doesn’t like tomato sauce! Another child complains about too much cheese! In spite of that, I hope beyond hope that everyone will like the meal.

I suspect I’m not the only one that is looking for a perfect meal. We are all looking for a perfect something. We think our marriage or vacation or job or church or children will fulfill all our hopes and dreams. The reality is generally far different. Everything disappoints.

One of the key promises of the Bible is that Jesus will come again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Why is Jesus coming back? To bring to completion what He started. He will bring in perfection, the restoration of all things.

An important corollary to this truth is that there will be no completion in this life. There will always be something lacking. Every hobby will have its boring moments. Every relationship will have its hard moments. Every church will feel unwelcoming at times.

It is important to recognize this for two reasons. Continue reading “Beyond Illusion & Despair”

What’s Right with the Institutional Church

There is much hostility to the idea of the “institutional” church today. Many do not believe that it is authentic and believe that it promotes formalism and bureaucracy over true community, etc.

Are there problems with institutional churches? Of course. Every sort of organization has problems. However, do the problems outweigh the benefits? I do not believe so. Let me tell you why I think that the institutional church is a good idea.

Of course, I could argue this same point directly from the Bible, but I want to just consider the institutional Church in terms of the nature of a society. Let’s suppose that we had no specific instructions on organization and just see what would happen if Christians tried to get together.
Continue reading “What’s Right with the Institutional Church”

Jean Claude, Pastor and Theologian (1619–1687)

The Church Where Claude Pastored
One of the most famous and highly respected theologians of the 17th century was the French Huguenot Jean Claude (1619–1687). Everyone in the Reformed communion speaks of him the highest respect. Even his greatest opponent, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, the famous Roman Catholic apologist, said of him that he said the most and best of what could be said for a bad cause! In this post, I would like to give a very brief overview of his life and explain a few of his works that are available in English.

As for the major events of Claude’s life, he was born in the home of a Protestant minister in southwestern France, where French Protestantism was strongest, in 1619. He did his studies at Montaubon and was ordained by his own father in 1646. He ministered in La Treyne for one year and then went on to Saint-Afrique where he served for eight years. In 1655, he became a pastor in the Reformed Church at Nîmes, one of the most important churches in France. Because of his success and the outcome of a provincial Synod in 1661, he was banished from the province (Languedoc). He then went to Paris to seek to get the sentence removed, but he was unsuccessful. His travels then led him to Montaubon, where he had studied for the ministry, and he was soon called and installed as a minister of that place. There, he served with relative peace and contentment for four years.

For various reasons, Claude was banished from Montaubon, and once again he went to Paris to have the sentence removed where, once again, he was unsuccessful. However, the Lord had other plans. He became the pastor at Charenton. Charenton was the most important Protestant Church in France because of its proximity to the Court. Because of the terms of the Edict of Nantes, no Protestant Church was allowed within the walls of Paris. Consequently, all of the Protestants in Paris had to worship outside the city walls. The closest church was in Charenton, about five miles outside of Paris. From this church, Claude countered the machinations against the Protestants, gave counsel to the Churches of France, and defended the cause of the Reformation. He was from 1666 until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the pastor of French Protestantism. Continue reading “Jean Claude, Pastor and Theologian (1619–1687)”