Friday, June 24, 2016

Problems in Preaching – 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6



For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness — nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. (NASU)

Error in Preaching

Thankfully, the Word of God can be trusted to be without error. That doesn’t make it always easy to understand especially when there are two passages that seem to reveal conflicting ideas. It isn’t easy to understand when a character out of the Bible, who we believe should know better, does something rash and foolish. Samson comes to mind as well as Jephthah who sacrificed his daughter (Judg 11:31, 39). 

This man [Apollos] had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:25-26 NKJV)

It is one thing to be perplexed by Scripture and disagree over the conflicting explanations of difficult passages. But it is another thing to be in error. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit instructs us and guides us (1 John 2:27) but there are times, such as in the case of Apollos, when a person needs more information. Note that Apollos was accurate in what he taught. His error was a result of not being fully informed. He was teachable and was used by God when he had a fuller knowledge of the Lord Jesus. How does that apply to us? We need to be very careful when we speak or write about the way of God. Apollos didn’t have the completed Bible. We do. In the past, people had to read and reread Scripture to assimilate the many passages. As they wrote down their findings, the doctrines of the faith became easier to understand by reading their notes. Unfortunately, some elevated these studies above Scripture and introduced error. Now, we have electronic means of searching for words, looking up cross references, examining the original language, and thousands of people commenting on passages. We don’t have an excuse for being in error out of lack of knowledge. Even if we are, we also should listen to feedback from other godly people like Aquila and Priscilla. None of us has a perfect understanding of the Word of God and so we need each other because we are still fallen people. But woe to that person who introduces error on purpose or continues once corrected. We do not want to be caught disobeying a direct command from the Lord, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (Deut 4:2 ESV).

Impurity in Preaching

 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things [impurities] their hearts desired. (Rom 1:24 NLT)

As used in 1 Thessalonians 2:3, the word impurity is related to motives.[1] The New Living Translation translates the same word as shameful things and this helps clarify what might have been going on with some of the preaching within the early church or even in the church today. Paul warned Timothy to look out for people who “worm their way into homes” (2 Tim 3:6). They did this to take advantage of sinful weak women who were influence by their sinful impulses. It isn’t uncommon to find cults that do the exact same thing today. Many communes have been broken up by authorities when the sexual exploits of the leaders become so hideous as to involve the children living there. That is a gross impure motivation for preaching.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph 5:4 ESV)

But there are also some who simply are impure in the words they use. They believe they have freedom in Christ to use vulgar language because Paul used “dung” (Phil 3:8 KJV) and there are also terms in the Old Testament that we find crude today. (They are currently translated appropriately for our culture.) What they overlook is what Paul said in Ephesians 5:4. This kind of “shock” preaching is simply out of place.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45 NIV)

The more people yield their lives to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, they will bring good out of their hearts. They will fulfill what Jesus said in John 7:38 that streams of living water will flow from their hearts. Those who believe that using vulgarities or crude jokes, whether in preaching or in private talk, demonstrate that they have not yet completely yielded to God. It isn’t surprising when their ministry disintegrates if they don’t repent and clean up their hearts. Their arrogance in thinking that they can minister mixed with impurity eventually catches up with them (1 Tim 5:24). 

Deceit in Preaching

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Col 2:8 NASU)

Paul said his teaching didn’t come from deceit (1 Thess 2:3). It is interesting that when he wrote to the Colossians that he included empty deception right along with philosophy. Most philosophies do not teach deception but most of them end up deceiving us. The Encarta Dictionary defines philosophy as “the branch of knowledge or academic study devoted to the systematic examination of basic concepts such as truth, existence, reality, causality, and freedom.” Deceit comes when philosophies expunge the Bible from their systematic examination of basic concepts. If they really wanted to know truth, they would look first to Jesus. Jesus spoke of truth, the exact opposite of deceit, in several ways.

  • Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6).
  •  He said the Word of God is truth (John 17:17).
  • When applying truth to our lives, we are become sanctified (John 17:19).
  • Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37).
  • Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Jesus (John 18:37).

Where does deceit come from? It comes from anyone who lets other so-called “sources of truth” trump truth revealed in the Bible. Few people realize how much ancient philosophers influence church doctrine. Paul Enns states, “The early church was affected by Greek philosophy, and ultimately the Jewish and Christian views of God were derived from philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Philo.”[2] Fortunately, the Reformation reversed some of this but they were quickly followed by the Renaissance and philosophers like Descartes, Spinoza and other who introduced their own miserable ideas to the world and led the way liberalism and rejection of anything in the spiritual realm.[3]
 
There are two philosophies that are causing significant harm because the attack the very foundations of Christianity. The first is the philosophy of reason buried in the scientific world. It is sometimes called materialism because it believes that the physical observable universe is all that exists. It attacks Christianity first in Genesis by denying the very beginning of the universe is God’s creation. They reason that there cannot be a God because He can’t be seen, touched, or examined by any of our physical senses. Think about that, who would want to “examine” God who is beyond us in all ways (Rom 11:33-36). They don’t stop there, but deny all that the Bible says is true, especially the resurrection of Jesus. The Bible says of them:

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. (Ps 14:1 NKJV)

The second seriously dangerous philosophy is rationalism. Simply stated, this philosophy does not believe in absolute truth and that is the only truth they find absolute. It means that what is true for you is truth and if others say something else, then that is OK because it is their truth. It leads to doing anything you think is right. I saw a video the other day that showed how absurd this philosophy really is. In it, a five-foot-nine white man asks university students what they would say if he identified, first as a woman, then a Chinese woman, or seven years old and wanted to enroll in first grade. Then he ask what they would say if he identified as a six-foot-four Chinese woman. You have to watch it or you wouldn’t believe college students would them him that it is OK for him. You can find the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho. This of course, leads to approving sin and believing that any way to God is right. The Bible says:

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. (Isa 5:20-21 NLT)

 The Answer

Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God. (1 Peter 4:11 NASB)
In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul explains why he and his companions did not speak out of error, deceit, or impurity. It is because he was entrusted with the Gospel by God. His motives were not to please men but God. This is what Peter was warning his readers about in 1 Peter 4:11. When we speak or write, we must believe we are pleasing God and doing it as God leads. We must not let our own presuppositions or fear of offending people with the truth affect what we say or do. Don’t take this wrong, it doesn’t give us the right to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” That would put us on the same level as the Apostles and prophets who wrote the Bible under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul didn’t resort to flattery and certainly didn’t have greed as a motivation. He didn’t need to be built up by others’ praises because he knew where he stood in relationship with the Lord. He knew that even though he had authority as an apostle, It was God’s message and therefore His power. If we speak or write and don’t let it go to our heads, then we can rest in the assurance that if it is of any value, God will use it. 

I pray that this is of some benefit to those who receive it. If it is, then may the Lord Jesus be glorified.


[1] S. Grimm and S. Wilke, New Testament Lexicon, Joseph Henry Thayer, ed., (Seattle: Biblesoft 2006), s.v. “NT:167.”
[2] Paul P Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 4121-4122, Kindle.
[3] Ibid., 12285-12288, Kindle.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

I Dare You to Tell the Good News – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2



You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (NIV®)
Not a Failure
For if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God. (Acts 5:38-39 NASU)
How do you measure success or failure? It was clear even to the enemies of the Gospel that true success can only be accomplished if God is behind it. Individuals, business, churches, and nations all have different ways of trying to judge whether or not they are being successful or failing in their mission. We are often urged to set goals for ourselves so that we can measure our success. One such person, Gordon Hall set the following goals in 1985 at the age of 32:
1.       Be America’s youngest billionaire by age 38
2.       Speak five languages by age 40
3.       Be the world’s richest man by age 60
4.       Win Mr. America body building title by age 38
5.       Be elected President of the United Sates[1]
Let’s see how Mr. Hall did in reaching his goals. According to newspaper accounts, in June of 2015, Hall received an eight-year prison sentence for a $93 million tax scam with the sovereign-citizen movement. This was in addition to a fifteen-year sentence for a Ponzi scheme in South Carolina, which he was already serving. Neither of these were his first fraud convictions.[2] Based on his goals, he is a failure. While it is not wrong to plan and make goals, we must remember, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov 16:9 NIV®). If Mr. Hall had inquired what the Lord wanted him to do and these goals were truly what God wanted, Mr. Hall either would have been President or would be in the running.
But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:16 NKJV)
When making our goals and a means of measuring if we have attained them, a biblical approach is necessary. If our goal setting is not done after asking the Lord what He wants us to do, it is based on arrogance and pride. James clearly labels it as evil. Hall’s goals were all about himself and what he wanted. He was working for the three Ps, possessions, prestige, and power. He boasted about and what he was going to do.
“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (Mark 9:35 NLT)
Biblical goal setting has to start with the right perspective. Jesus told His disciples that they must become servants of everyone else if they wanted to be great. There has to be a heart change that puts others’ interest before our own when we make our plans. If the heart is not in the right place, even serving other with the goal of getting the three Ps will still be measured as a failure in eternity.
When we look back at Paul’s comments to the Thessalonians, it is apparent that someone thought Paul was a failure. Paul came to Thessalonica after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. He stayed in Thessalonica only three weeks before things got so hot that the believers helped him escape during the night (Acts 17:1-10). Paul didn’t measure his success based on his previous imprisonment, how long he was able to teach in Thessalonica, how large the crowds were, or being accepted by the community. No, his success was measured in faithfully proclaiming, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:3 RSV). Some of the Jews, a great many devout Greeks, and some leading women formed this new church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4). The measure of his success was not simply in seeing people saved, but it was also in seeing this church established that was able to carry on when he was pushed out of town after only three weeks!
Dare to Tell
And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. (Eph 6:19 NASB)
Have you ever been in a position like Paul? You shared the Gospel boldly, and then you were beaten up because of it. It may not have been a physical beating but perhaps it was a sound rejection not just of the Gospel but they made it personal and verbally attacked you. Maybe they made it miserable for you at work by claiming that you were using work time and resources to witness. How did you react? Paul depended on God to help him continue to share the Gospel with the Thessalonians, even in the face of strong opposition. When he wrote to the Ephesians, he asked them to pray for him so that he could be bold in sharing the Gospel and this was while he was imprisoned. This request was similar to his prayer request to the Colossians in 4:3, “pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word” (ESV).
If you are having trouble getting up the courage to share the Gospel with someone or anyone, the answer is prayer. It isn’t just you or me praying but enlisting others to pray for us. Not only will God answer a prayer like that but it also helps us to be accountable to do our part when our prayer partners ask us how we are doing in sharing the Gospel.
Perhaps the prayer needs to be for boldness, an opening, or the prayer needs to be for obedience. We’ve seen that Paul asked for prayer for boldness, but what about openings for the Gospel or just plain old obedience to Jesus.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Col 4:5-6 NASU)
One of the problems with daring to tell others is not always the Gospel message but the messenger. We are often so concerned with getting the message out that we don’t consider whether or not the timing is right. While anytime may be the right time, sometimes, the occasion must be massaged so the message is received. This takes wisdom in how to turn a chance meeting or a preplanned meeting into an opportunity to share the Gospel. It takes grace to do this, not a club. It takes just enough salt to make sure that the topic of the conversation is steered in the right direction. I’ve seen some people who could turn a rabid sports discussion into a witnessing opportunity without any objections. However, that may not always work and we still need to know how to respond to people so that there will be another opportunity for ourselves or for another. We may be planting or watering seed for another person to come along and reap a harvest (1 Cor 3:6-9).
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 NIV)
Obedience to the Great Commission is what all of us want to do but seems to be very difficult for most of us. Some of us find excuses by saying that evangelism isn’t our gift. The trouble with that excuse is that Jesus gave the command to “make disciples … teaching them to observer all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20 NASU). It doesn’t take a genius to understand that a disciple must obey the commands that Jesus gave His disciples. Jesus didn’t single out any one of them because he had a gift of evangelism. No, He told them all to go and make disciples. He told all of them to preach the good news. If we want to call ourselves disciples of Jesus then we need to obey just as the original disciples did.
While God does give a specific gift of evangelism to some (Eph 4:11), it is evident that evangelism or preaching the Word is something that we do as we live our lives. When the church was scattered after Stephen’s martyrdom, they evangelized. “But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20 NKJV). That word preaching is euaggelizo. It means, “to announce good news (‘evangelize’) especially the gospel.”[3] Note that these were not the leaders of the church. These were not the Apostles. These were people just like you and me, except they were obedient to the command.
Others of us quote the adage, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” These words were supposedly uttered by St. Francis of Assisi but Pastor Jamie Arpin-Ricci point out that, he never said this; rather, his writings reveal that what he said has been turned around in our modern culture. Our culture is more like St. Francis’ than we would like to think. We too often verbalize the Gospel but don’t live up to it. We pay lip service but don’t walk the walk. This is what St. Francis was trying to reverse. Now days, we quote the adage and use it as an excuse to not say anything.[4] We think that when we live godly lives, people will understand why and miraculously get saved without saying a word. It doesn’t work that way.
Help in Telling
Prayer for boldness, openings, and obedience certainly are necessary. However, some of us need some help not only in motivation but in how to develop those openings. Here are some books that span a broad spectrum of approaches. Since we all have different personalities and gifts, one of these may be just the approach you are looking for. Otherwise, you may want to adapt parts of each to your own style. I dare you to tell the good news today.


[1] Robert Reinhold, “Massive Hall Mansion Is the Talk of Phoenix,” Gainsville Sun (Arizona), October 27, 1985, accessed May 27, 2016, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1320&dat=19851027&id=lj1WAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3ekDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3841,3560850&hl=en.
[2] Robert Anglen, “Gordon Hall Trades Millions, Mansion for Prison Cell,” Arizona Republic | Azcentral.com (Phoenix), June 26, 2015, accessed May 27, 2016, http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2015/06/26/former-arizona-millionaire-gordon-hall-tax-scam-federal-prison/29316959/.
[3] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, s.v. “NT: 2097”, (Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc. 2006).
[4] Jamie Arpin-Ricci, “Preach the Gospel at All Times?,” huffingtonpost.com, August 31, 2012, accessed June 6, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-arpinricci/preach-the-gospel-at-all-times-st-francis_b_1627781.html

Monday, June 6, 2016

What Happens Immediately after We Die Presentations



While Canyon Hills Community Church's Pastor of our Senior's group was on tour to Israel with some of the seniors, I was given the opportunity to teach two Tuesday mornings. The Senior's group is called "Young at Heart" and has over 100 members. I am a member of the group and recently got my Masters of Arts in Theological Studies from Liberty University. The following Youtube video is part one of my teaching on "What Happens Immediately after We Die?" This is an audio file with slides from my power point presentation. Part one addresses annihilation and the Roman Catholic concepts of heaven, purgatory, hell, and limbo. This was presented on May 24, 2016.




The following is part two of my teaching on "What Happens Immediately after We Die?" This is also an audio file with slides from my power point presentation. This session discusses soul sleep, an intermediate body after death and before the resurrection, and a disembodied existence before the resurrection. It was presented on May 31, 2016.