Friday, February 22, 2008

How Shall They Hear?

Romans 10:11-15
Dr. Edwin Elliott

I. God Explains Evangelism

A. God saves people who are moved to call on Him. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

B. God explains the problem; people must be told the gospel; Christianity does not practice magic missions. "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14)

C. Personal evangelism and international missions point to sending people to tell the gospel message. "And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:15)

D. As people hear God, they change and begin to trust Him. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

II. Churches Must Send Missionaries

A. Jesus gave the order; the Great Commission is a mission statement and action plan for Christians. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" (Matthew 28:19)

B. Genuine missions are focused on Scripture-its obligations and its opportunities. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:20)

III. Today Is the Time To Send

A. The church in Cameroon needs help doing its work; the mission has sent for more missionaries. "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them." (Acts 16:9-10)

B. Opportunities appear for people who are busy about the Lord’s business. "Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." (Acts 8:29-31)

C. The problems the missionary will encounter are also the problems of the believers sending the missionary; "Whatever it may require" is a basic mission motto. "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me." (Galatians 4:13-15)

D. Missions belong to God and serve at His pleasure; God is under no obligation to build His church according to human plans. "And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." (Acts 19:10)

E. The mission plan always depends on God. "Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." (James 4:13-15)

F. God never fails. "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:6-11)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The First Step—Repentance

Hosea 14:1-9; John 20:11-18 / Psalm 49:1-20
Dr. Edwin P. Elliott

I. Hosea Pled for Israel To Repent

A. Israel’s iniquity had removed the people from God; sin trips people and nations. “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” (Hosea 14:1)

B. Make an honest confession to God, accept the blame for the problem, and talk with God about what must be done. “Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.” (Hosea 14:2)

1. God is willing to make repentance profitable; sin never works to anyone’s best interest. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

2. David demonstrated how the process of repentance works. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” (Psalm 51:2-4)

C. Think through how sin cannot solve problems and God can; then explore the moral inventory with God. “Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” (Hosea 14:3)

D. Rented help and helpers who are themselves perishing are useless. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:” (Psalm 146:3-5)

II. God Promises New Life

A. When people turn from their sins to God, He heals and He restrains His anger; it is possible to start over and to be healed.I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4)

B. What is ugly can become beautiful and stable. “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5)

In ancient times a fragrant white lily grew without cultivation, often producing 50 bulbs from a lone parent plant.

C. Disappointment will become productivity. “His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:6)

1. The ancient cedar forests of Lebanon drew visitors from all over the world in the days of Solomon. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Psalm 92:12)

2. Hosea points to the future which John records at the end of Revelation. “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2)

D. God protects the people who return to Him. “They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:7)

E. Repentant people and nations can be stronger than they were before they first shattered their lives. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.” (Hosea 14:8)

III. The Wise Understand What God Proposes

A. The options are either repentance and new life or death; the wise choose life. “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” (Hosea 14:9)

B. People who know what is in their best interest give up substitutes for God and learn God’s lovingkindness by living as He directs. “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.” (Psalm 107:43)

C. Just as sin progressively destroys, repentance progressively restores. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.” (Proverbs 4:18-19)

D. Under God’s instruction getting by becomes getting better. “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What Do You Expect To Find in the Bible?

I. The Bible Is God’s Message

A. God produced the Bible to educate people. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16)

B. That education enables believers to mature into what God designed them to be. “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

1. Everyone needs help understanding reality; twisted sinners do not automatically understand all that God expects. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

2.People like to imagine that they understand, but inherent stubbornness makes obedience unnatural. “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.” (Job 11:12)

3. People have to be told the truth; worldly wisdom cannot lead to God. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

4. Preaching from Scripture is the method designed by God to open the way to heaven; the many forms of successful evangelism all lead back to Bible teaching. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

C. The Bible is the only entirely reliable guide to what God expects. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:19-21)

1. Jesus Christ, the subject of the Bible, is the only effective platform for eternal life. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11)

2. The Bible must be used as God says He intends it to be used; even Satan can quote the Bible and even the demons know it is true. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

3. Calvin noted [in the Institutes 2:1.4], “Adam had never dared to resist the authority of God, if [Satan] had not discredited His word.”

D. God warns against any deviation from the Bible. “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

E. Any other guide is hopeless. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

1. Tradition and folk wisdom fail to produce useful results. “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7)

2. Philosophy will not accomplish what Scripture delivers. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5)

a. Philosopher William Young, English translator of Herman Dooyeweerd, said in retrospect he would gladly have given up his career and academic acclaim to have spent his life as a simple Bible teacher.

b. Calvin said [when commenting on Colossians 2:9] “He who is not contented with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God.”

c. The Confession of Faith of the Reformed Churches of France [1542] states, “Our philosophy is to receive in simplicity what the Scripture shows us.”

F. Jesus treated the full Bible as His own story and taught that even the evidence of personal sight would not convince someone who did not find Him in the Torah.
“Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:29-31)

G. There is no alternate gospel or legitimate improvement on the Word of God. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

1. Calvin said [in his commentary on Isaiah] “They who wish to build the Church by rejecting the doctrine of the word, build a hog’s sty, and not the Church of God.”

2. Calvin said [in his commentary on Jeremiah] “As soon as men depart even in the smallest degree from God’s word, they cannot preach anything but falsehoods, vanities, impostures, errors and deceits.”

II. The Bible Demonstrates Its Power for People Who Use It

A. The Bible demonstrates a compelling internal authority; people who are not convinced turn against God. “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:12)

B. The Bible opens the great mysteries of life. “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7)

C. As a spiritual student works with Scripture, one part fits with another, combining to yield increasing understanding. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13)

D. Faithfully and earnest interaction with Scripture progressively exposes the beautiful unity of God’s mind and Heaven’s message begins to appear. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6) “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” (Psalm 119:140)

E. Parents who love their children will teach the Bible to the children. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Calvin [in his Commentary on Galatians] said, “The true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning.”

III. Faithful Students Come To Know God and His Expectations

A. The Bible speaks directly to what people need to know about God and what He expects. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31) “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)

B. Of course a person who refuses to search will find nothing; nothing fits into a closed mind. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

1. Calvin [in his Commentary on John] said, “Unbelief . . . is always proud . . . [It] will never understand anything in the words of Christ, which it despises and disdains . . . this arises from the depravity of men.”

2. Calvin [in his commentary on Acts] said, “There is no end of erring, when we depart from the word of God.”

C. The transformed life, which emerges in students who submit themselves to Scripture, first satisfies and subsequently compels. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43) “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:” (Acts 26:22)

D. The Bible reveals life as nothing else can. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

E. The power in Scripture derives from the way in which the Holy Spirit uses the Bible to change people. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13-14)

1. Calvin [in his Commentary on Isaiah] said, “The ‘Spirit’ is joined with the word, because, without the efficacy of the Spirit, the preaching of the gospel would avail nothing, but would remain unfruitful. In like manner ‘the word’ must not be separated from ‘the Spirit,’ as fanatics imagine, who, despising the word, glory in the name of the Spirit, and swell with vain confidence in their own imaginations. It is the spirit of Satan that is separated from the word, to which the Spirit of God is continually joined.”

2. Full Bible Presbyterians distinguish themselves on one nonnegotiable point stated by Calvin [in his Commentary on Hebrews], “They belong not at all to Christ, who turn aside from His word.”

Expect to find God and eternal life in the Bible or be certain of finding death and eternal loss apart from it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Solution Becomes the Problem

Hosea 8:1-14; 1 Peter 2:1-10 / Psalm 52:1-9

Dr. Edwin P. Elliott

I. Listen When God Warns

A. God warned Israel that the people had violated His revealed order. “Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law.” (Hosea 8:1)

B. Terror turns hypocrisy into solid doctrine; God will do what the situation requires to eliminate hypocrisy and self-induced ignorance. “Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.” (Hosea 8:2)

C. When people reject truth, they invite serious trouble; truth is the best antibody to infectious evil. “Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.” (Hosea 8:3)

II. Israel Consistently Chose Destructive Solutions for Life’s Problems

A. Benefits can become burdens and what should strengthen a culture can become the undermining force. “They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.” (Hosea 8:4)

B. The pride Israel took in its improvements over revealed worship and church administration were actually provocative to God. “Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?” (Hosea 8:5)

1. God calls to people who trust Him but He separates Himself from those who rely on other gods that are unable to save them. “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.” (Isaiah 45:20)

2. The living God is either the foundation stone or the stumbling stone; there simply isn’t any other option. “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Peter 2:1-8)

C. In the great culture clash, something will be destroyed; it won’t be God or the faithful church. “For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.” (Hosea 8:6)

D. Idolatry generates its own punishment; even what appears to succeed cannot benefit its perpetrators. “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.” (Hosea 8:7)

E. When the church imitates the perishing cultures around it, the church secures the judgment of those cultures; hired love is not love. “Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure. For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.” (Hosea 8:8-9)

F. The future is not all that mysterious. “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

G. Being wrong gets painful; God guarantees it. “Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.” (Hosea 8:10)

III. The More People Support Bad Ideas, the Worse They Make Their Situation

A. Unless the doors lead to the true God, they open in hell. “Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.” (Hosea 8:11) ) “Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deuteronomy 4:6-8)

B. God explains everything in Scripture but idolaters won’t rely on it; only the spiritual can see truth. “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:120 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

C. If the system only mimics truth, it will not work; deviation from truth is fundamentally wrong.
“They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.” (Hosea 8:13)

D. There is no way to make sin work; wrong solutions to life’s problems become problems themselves. “For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.” (Hosea 8:14)

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