Who would have thought back in 1994, when my girlfriend and I came up for one Sunday so I could preach to fill in for the Chestnut Lane congregation that nearly 10 years later I would be moving to work fulltime with that very same congregation. Changes had happened. Chestnut Lane had moved buildings, taken on a new name. My girlfriend and I had married and had three children.
On September 1, 2003, we pulled into our new home. On September 2, a group of you came over and helped us unload our trucks and get unpacked. It started nearly 7 years of a great working fellowship. How was I to know that you weren’t just trying to look good for your new evangelist but that you all really are that loving and serving all the time?
Over the past years, we have weathered good times and bad. You all have been there for us as we had our fourth child, as Marita’s father and grandmother died, as she underwent surgery for skin cancer, as my grandfather died. You were there when we had financial difficulties, spiritual difficulties, extended-family difficulties. You’ve even been there this past week as we had to leave our home because of plumbing problems. I want to thank you for your great service.
I hope you can say the same for us. My hope is that when the shoe was on the other foot, when you were in need and having difficulties, that we were as loving and serving for you as you have been for us.
I have truly enjoyed my time working with you and want to say thank you to the elders and to each of you who make up this congregation for letting me work with you, teach you week in and week out, and be the voice of the congregation. Your kindness and support of my efforts has made all the difference in my own spiritual growth and ability to stick with this work of preaching.
I am excited for what the future holds for me and my family as we move to Indiana. I’m also excited about what the future holds for you as you start to work with a new evangelist. I believe a fresh start will help take the Franklin Church to the next level of work and growth. I’m excited for you and I’m especially excited for the Davis family as they getto experience the love and service that we have experienced for so many years.
You have worked your way into a special place in my heart. I will pray for you continually and often. Please pray for me, my family, and our work.
I want to leave you simply with the reminder from Paul that no matter what happens, we are God’s children and as long as we stay in His hand, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Hang on to Jesus. Stand firm in the grace of our Lord and “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 5:10-11).
Please remember that I love you and God loves you. Let’s remember to love and pray for one another this week and for the years to come.
In Numbers 13, Moses sent 12 spies into the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. It has been called the Promised Land because God promised the Israelites He would give it to them. They weren’t simply looking for a land and trying to decide which one they wanted or which one they could take. God was sending them to a land He had promised to give them. This was the same God who had delivered them from Egypt by a series of plagues and then by parting the Red Sea. Seems to me, if this God wanted to give them a land, He knew how to do it.
However, in Numbers 13:27-29, 10 of the spies reported that the land was indeed amazing. It was everything they had been promised. It was a land flowing with milk and honey. It was the land they really wanted. Only one problem. “We can’t do it,” reported the spies. “The people are too big, too strong, too powerful. We’ll never overcome. We should pack up and go home.”
In Numbers 14:7-9, Joshua and Caleb tried to change the minds of the people. “If the Lord wants to give us the land, He’ll do it. Trust in the Lord.” But the people wanted to stone them, appoint new leaders, and return to Egypt.
You know how the story turned out. God punished the Israelites. They wandered in the wilderness until that generation died—except Joshua and Caleb. God rewarded these two men in the Promised Land when He finally gave it to the next generation.
This story makes me think about our present day. The scripture has told us that the harvest is plentiful, but laborers are few (Matthew 9:37). The scripture has told us to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We read the book of Acts and see the great success those early Christians had spreading the gospel.
However, I am tempted to look around today and start making excuses. Too few people care about spiritual things. Too many people are too worldly and liberal. Everyone is prejudiced against Christ’s church. Nobody wants to listen. People won’t like us. Nothing will work. On and on and on the list can go.
Is this kind of excuse-making anything more than, “Yes, the land is all God promised, however, it is filled with giants. We better just go back to our building and quit worrying about victory in the land”? It is just so easy to forget that we aren’t doing all this on our own. God is with us. God wants us to have victory in the land. Will everyone listen? Of course not. But God is with us. We will be victorious. We will have success. We will spread the gospel and God’s kingdom, if we trust in the Lord and simply do His will.
That means we just need to start doing something. Instead of waiting until we are sure we have come up with some fool-proof plan that everyone will listen to, let’s just start doing something. Invite people to the assemblies. Offer to pray for people. Have a study in your home. Ask if your co-worker would be interested in reading the Bible together. Do something. Not everyone will listen, but God is with us. And He is the one responsible for giving the increase (I Corinthians 3:5-7).
We will do it, not because of us, but because God is with us.
While the rest of the nation will simply be celebrating our nation’s independence, we will be celebrating our spiritual independence through the blood of Jesus Christ on July 4. However, the Franklin Church will also be starting a new segment of it’s life and work.
Mitch Davis and his family will be starting their work with us. We are extremely excited to have Mitch join our fellowship. We know his sincerity and his desire to glorify God through teaching God’s will. II Timothy 4:1-2 gives Mitch the charge to preach the word, ready in season and out of season to reprove, rebuke, and exhort us with patience and teaching. We are certain Mitch will fulfill that charge and help us grow in our work and ministering.
We invite any and all to join us, not simply to meet Mitch and his family, but rather to hear the gospel preached in simplicity and sincerity. Join us as we continue our work in glorifying God (cf. Ephesians 3:20-21).
Welcome Mitch and family!
John 3:16, the most well known verse in the Bible, explains that Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to. However, it doesn’t teach that simply because Jesus died, no one will. It says only those who believe in Him will have eternal life. That is pretty profound. Jesus didn’t teach universal salvation. He taught that only those who had faith in Him, who trusted Him, who surrendered to Him would be saved.
This is not simply a mental assent to the facts of Jesus; this is a surrender to the will of the one we say we believe. Galatians 2:20 describes what this faith is like: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Having faith in Jesus is more than agreeing; it is surrendering. It is putting ourselves and our will to death. It is submitting to what Jesus taught.
How does this start? Romans 6:3-6 says:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
If living by faith means crucifying ourselves with Jesus, when does that happen? According to Romans 6:3-6 it happens when we are baptized into Christ. It doesn’t happen any other time. There is no amount of prayer that will accomplish that. There is no amount of “going to church” that will accomplish that. There is no amount of giving money to the church or to those in need that will accomplish that. There is no amount of ignoring temptation that will accomplish that. Only being baptized into Christ will accomplish that.
Further, remember that John 3:16 says Jesus died so we don’t have to. But, that death doesn’t just cover everyone. How do we get into that death? Romans 6:3-6 says when we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death. It is not when we have simply agreed that Jesus died for our sins that we enter His saving death. It is not when we’ve told others about His saving death. It is only when we have been baptized into Christ that we enter His saving death.
Sadly, I hear of more and more Christians who once had so much faith in this teaching from Christ that they submitted to baptism in the name of Jesus for the remission of their sins who are not passing this teaching on to others. Because the majority of the religious world doesn’t accept it, they have started backing off. Maybe people can be saved simply by agreeing that Jesus died for them, they say. Maybe people can be saved because they are leading pretty good lives, in sincerity toward God. Maybe people can be saved because they said a prayer. Maybe they can be saved even though they weren’t baptized into Christ, but were baptized to show something else. This is what we are told.
Who are we to say how God can save people? That is what we are asked. My response? We aren’t anyone to say how God can save people. That is why we must say only what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). You see, when we say a person must be born of the water and the Spirit, that is must be baptized, we aren’t telling God how He must save people. We are only telling people what God said about how He would save people. Actually, we are taking too much to ourselves and telling God how to save people when we say that maybe God will save people some way other than how He said.
Romans 6:3-6 is pretty clear. If you want to be in Christ, you have to be baptized into Him. If you want to be in His saving death, you have to be baptized into it. If you want to be crucified with Christ, you have to be baptized into it. Let’s just say what God says about it and leave it at that.
Sometimes it is easy to get sidetracked and miss the real point behind what we are supposed to be doing and teaching. Because we hear so much error in the religious world these days, we can easily get caught up in simply trying to correct common errors. Then it may readily seem the purpose for our teaching and action is to fix some particular error.
Paul explains a different goal for our teaching and toil in Colossians 1:28—“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ Jesus.”
Please notice what it does not say: “Baptism we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone baptized into Christ Jesus.”
Because the mainstream religious world believes in Jesus but usually misuses, abuses, and misunderstands baptism, we have spent a great deal of our teaching trying to correct their error. Certainly, part of presenting everyone mature in Christ Jesus will include baptism. After all, we cannot present anyone in Christ Jesus except through baptism. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Also, Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
However, this is simply part of being mature in Christ. It is not equivalent to being mature in Christ. We are not done simply because someone has been baptized. Our job is not simply to present them in Christ, but present them mature in Christ. When someone is baptized, we must continue pursuing our purpose.
Further, because of the many errors we have fought over the years we might think that maturity in Christ equals having the right take on the hot button issues over the past years, i.e. institutionalism, instrumental music, speaking in tongues, divorce and remarriage, etc. Certainly, Bible knowledge is part of maturity in Christ. Peter says we must add knowledge to our faith in II Peter 1:5-8. However, our goal is not to make sure young Christians grow to answer all the questions about hot topics to our satisfaction as if they are a catechumen who must memorize our special catechism in order to be mature. Sadly, I’ve met some who can answer these questions correctly but are far from mature in Jesus. They are hotheaded, quarrelsome, arrogant, self-centered, Diotropheses who would have the pre-eminence in a congregation. That is not maturity in Jesus, no matter how doctrinally correct they are.
Would you like a picture of maturity in Christ Jesus? Would you like to see the goal we are striving for everyone to reach? Take a look at I Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Certainly, someone does not have to be a man to be mature in Christ. Nor do they have to have been married or raised children. However, in general, the picture of the shepherd is not some special qualification list. It is simply a picture of mature Christianity.
Mature Christians are above reproach, humble, peaceful, sober, content, hospitable, lovers of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, respectable, able to teach, gentle, experienced, and well thought of even by non-Christians. Are we working to present everyone like this in Christ? Or are we simply satisfied with getting them baptized and letting them work out the rest on their own? Paul said he toiled to present folks not just in Christ, but mature in Christ. May we work on the same goal.
Spring has arrived. The flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. Pollen is spreading. People are wearing fewer clothes. That can be a problem.
I certainly can’t provide a line based on a Bible verse that says your shorts need to be a certain length or your shirt needs to cover a certain amount of flesh. As much as I wish I could, I can’t find a verse that delineates exactly how loose certain clothes should be. However, as we work on having our hearts right with God, I’d like to remind us of a few passages. If we can get our hearts right, then our dress will follow.
First, while the two passages speak directly to women, I think the principles apply to all and we need to remember them. I Timothy 2:9-10 says, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” Also I Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” What people need to see most about us is our good works, our gentle and quiet spirit. Are we hiding our spirit by displaying our flesh?
Second, can we look at Romans 13:14 in a new light? Paul wrote: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the lust of the flesh.” On the one hand, it is true that no matter how you dress, I need to work on my own lust so that I stay pure. However, based on this verse, if you dress in a way that triggers me, I need to learn to simply stay away from you. I need to learn that coming around you is going to be a problem for the lust of my flesh in the same way that watching a television show that has people dressed like you might do the same thing. Do you really want to do that to our relationship?
There is another aspect of this that we all need to consider. I once heard a person claim he had a problem with lusting and wanting to be lusted after. I had never thought about that second half. However, if I want to be lusted after and am dressing to promote that, I am providing for the desires of my flesh. I get a fleshly payoff from knowing others are lusting after me. Let’s make sure we are honest. When we are wearing skintight clothes, cleavage-revealing blouses, muscle-defining shirts, thigh-displaying skirts, what is our goal? Is there part of us that wants to be lusted after? If so, we need to reconsider our dress.
Third, Galatians 5:19 says sensuality (licentiousness, lasciviousness) is a work of the flesh. If we pursue a course of sensuality, the text says we will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sensuality refers to activity that promotes, indicates, arouses sexual desire. What does our dress say about sexual desire? Is our dress intended to promote sexual desire? We need to take care. Certainly, some are so given to their lusts that no matter what we wear, they will be provoked to sin. We are not charged with making sure everyone else keeps their lust under control. However, we must make sure we are being completely honest about the way we dress. Are we appealing to the senses? Perhaps a better question is not are we intending to arouse sexual desire, but are we intending not to arouse sexual desire.
Fourth, many think talking about this is simply prudish, Victorian, simple-minded. However, the Bible demonstrates that the body can be used to stimulate sexual arousal. God made us to be sexual beings. However, He also designed sex to be kept in the confines of marriage. We need to be careful not to present our bodies in ways that will promote sexual desire and arousal in anyone but our spouses. Consider passages in the Song of Solomon. In Song of Solomon 5:10-16 we see the woman expressing her physical desire based on the man’s hair, his eyes, his cheeks, his lips, his arms, his legs, his appearance. In Song of Solomon 4:1-11; 6:5-7:9 we see the man expressing his physical desire based on the woman’s breasts, eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth, cheeks, jewelry, perfume, navel, neck, thighs, perfume, and stature. I don’t think these passages mean we need to be covered from head to toe. However, I do think they stress how important it is that we arrange and cover our bodies properly and reserve the sexuality for marriage.
Finally, Mark 7:21-23 says what comes from within a person is what defiles them. Jesus included sensuality on that list. We need to get our heart right with God and then we need to dress from the heart. Perhaps some dress in a sexually suggestive way out of ignorance. Others may simply not realize how harmful what they are doing really is. Whatever the case, we need to be careful. We need to get sensuality, lust and the desire to be lusted after out of our hearts. Then we need to dress from a heart that is intent on glorifying God.
If we get our heart right, we’ll get our dress right.
There is no doubt that the Bible teaches we can fall from God’s grace. That is, having received the gift of God by His grace, we can so live as to abandon that gift. In fact, the Bible is so plain about this that I’m amazed anyone disagrees. Galatians 5:4 says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.”
However, have you ever noticed what these folks were doing for which they had fallen from grace? They weren’t living in sinfulness. They weren’t giving themselves over to immorality and idolatry. They weren’t abandoning their faith in God. Now don’t get me wrong, these would all be reasons for which someone would fall from God’s grace. We can see that in other passages like II Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 6:4-6; et al. I’m simply pointing out that wasn’t the problem in Galatians 5:4.
What was the problem in Galatians 5:4? They were trying to be justified by law. They were trying to be justified by being righteous according to the Law. They were working hard to obey everything the Law said. Had they done well at that, they would have been pretty holy people. How can people who are working hard at living such holy lives fall from grace?
Is the issue here they were trying to be justified by the wrong law? Since Paul goes back and forth from talking about “the Law” and simply “law,” I believe he was using the Old Law to make a point about being justified by a system of law. The problem was that trying to be justified by the Law, or any law, meant trying to be justified by their own power and will. The Law was not intended to justify anyone according to Galatians 2:16. Why? Because people wouldn’t obey it. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Think about it. If our problem is we haven’t kept the Law, how would throwing more law at us help?
What concerns me is we might end up doing the exact same thing today and never even know it. Do we try sometimes to justify ourselves by law? Do we think if we “go to church” enough we’ll be justified? Do we think if we cut out enough sins we’ll be justified? Do we think if we do enough good works we’ll be justified? Do we think if we get enough things right we’ll be justified? Why do we think we are going to heaven? Is it because of how well we’ve kept God’s law? If so, aren’t we doing the exact same thing Paul condemned in Galatians 5:4? Can we fall from grace and all the while still be trying really hard to do God’s will? It appears that we can.
While we can fall from grace when we run headlong into sin (II Peter 2:20-22) and the sacrifice of Christ will do us no good if we simply go on sinning willfully (Hebrews 10:26-27), it appears we can also fall from grace by thinking we can justify ourselves through our strength and ability to keep God’s law. We need to remember that the entire purpose of the Old Law was to capture us under sin, to prove we are sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:22). If righteousness could come by law, then that Old Law would have been able to do it (Galatians 3:21).
Here’s the rub, of course. Hearing this, some of us might think, “Great, it doesn’t matter if I go on sinning. In fact, that might be good because of God’s grace.” That is exactly the flaw Paul anticipated Christians following. In Romans 6:1-4, Paul demonstrated that we have died to sin. Jesus didn’t set us free so that our faith in Him would allow us to disregard God’s will. Rather, Jesus died so we could die to sin and be free to live in His righteousness. He died to set us apart for good works (Titus 2:14). We pursue those good works.
However, if we pursue those good works from a motivation to be justified for our ability to keep God’s law, Galatians 5:4 says we fall from grace and are severed from Christ. Instead, we pursue those good works because of our love for God. We pursue those good works because God deserves to be glorified. We let Him worry about justifying us through His grace. We focus on glorifying Him because we know how much He has done for us. Isn’t that the story we see from the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. We love much because we have been forgiven much.
Obviously, if we disregard God’s will and follow our own path, we’ll end up outside of God’s grace (cf. Proverbs 14:12). But if we think we can justify ourselves by keeping God’s law, we’ll just as equally fall from God’s grace. The problem is we may not realize it because we are convinced we are doing so good that He has to give us His grace. But grace doesn’t work that way.
Let’s not fall from God’s grace either by turning our back on God or by trying to justify ourselves and earn God’s grace. Let us stand in God’s grace, surrendering to Him, living by faith in Jesus, and relying on His grace for our salvation.