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  1. Question: Are Demons Free or Bound

    July 29, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    The following is a question our church received in connection with our After Life series.

    Are fallen angels demons? And if so, are they roaming the Earth? 2 Peter 2:4 says the angels were cast in to hell and kept until the judgment. 2 Peter was written approximately 67AD and Revelation was written as things to come so I was confused.

    I. Are Fallen Angels Demons?

    Scripture indicates that in Satan’s rebellion he took 1/3 of the host of angels into his scheme and, as a result, they were expelled from Heaven.

    Revelation 12:3-4And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.

    While Revelation does indeed speak to future events it does not only speak to future events. The book regularly draws on images and scenes from the Old Testament and history. In fact, there are a number of believers today and throughout history that believe the images of Revelation are repeated throughout human history. It seems likely that this is the case later in the same chapter where John explains the symbols of vs. 3-4: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)

    Jesus also refers to the devil and his angels in Matthew 25:41.

    II. Are Demons Roaming the Earth?

    Based on the testimony of Scripture we conclude that yes, demons are active on the Earth.

    The Gospels and Acts are thick with activity of demons – they possess, cause some sicknesses, and generally oppose the work of Christ. However, their activity isn’t found only in the Gospels. Sean McDowell has summarized 1 what the New Testament says about the activity of demons on Earth this way:

    Demons work to cause harm in the following ways:

    Cause disease (Matthew 9:33; Luke 13:11, 16)

    Possess unbelievers and animals (Matthew 4:24; Mark 5:13)

    Work against the spiritual growth of Christians (Ephesians 6:12)

    Spread lies about God, His work, and God’s people (1 Timothy 4:1)

    III. How Can Demons Be Both Locked Away and Roaming the Earth?

    A. Some Demons Are Currently Bound in God’s Judgment

    2 Peter 2:4-5For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…

    Jude 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day…

    B. Apparently Some Demons Are Free but Fear Being Locked Away in Judgment

    In Luke 8:26-33 Jesus exorcises a man containing a Legion of demons. When these demons first encounter Jesus they plead with Him: …they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss (vs. 31).

    It appears that the demons who are free to work on Earth are aware of their compatriots held in chains and are terrified at the thought of being made to join them. That also seems to raise the possibility that Christ consigns demons to those chains from time to time.

    C. It Is Possible These Demons Will Be Released for a Time in the Future?

    Revelation 9:1-11 records a judgment where a bottomless pit is opened and locusts which wound like scorpions are released to torment the people of earth. The text never identifies these creatures as demons but their tormenting work is consistent in kind with the work of demons and their being held in a bottomless pit may be a reference to the holding place of fallen angels. This, however, is speculative; it is unclear from the text if we should understand this passage in this way.

    Notes:

    1. http://www.seanmcdowell.org/index.php/theology/what-does-the-bible-say-about-demons/

  2. How Should I Mourn Someone I Believe Died Lost?

    July 21, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    There is a ready supply of help in print and online about how to mourn for a believer.  For this we are thankful.  However, there is a dearth of information on the subject of mourning for those who appear to have died outside the faith.

    This excerpt from the second sermon in my church‘s After Life series was originally posted on our church’s blog in the hope of filling this vacuum and bringing help to those mourning. 

    How do I mourn for someone who I believe died lost?

    A. You shouldn’t attempt to deny the emotions that arise during your mourning; rather you should take them honestly and immediately to God.

    I often recommend the Psalms to those who are mourning. I do so because the Psalms are, among other things, nakedly human. The writers rejoice, sorrow, and get mad – often mad at God! This tells me that God desires to engage with us in the full range of the emotional spectrum He has given us. Don’t let your grief, frustration, sorrow, and anger take you away from God – let it carry you to him.

    B. Rejoice and enjoy the good that was a part of the loved one you are mourning.

    While mankind is totally depraved that does not mean that any human is as wicked as they might possibly be. In fact, the image of God that mankind carries mean men and women are capable of great and delightful good and loveliness, even if they are lost.

    As a result we should be quick to enjoy the pleasant memories of those that are lost to us through death and be thankful for the time we had with them.

    King David, after his enemy Saul died, is a good example of this in 2 Sam. 1:19–25 1:

    Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!… Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!… You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

    C. While being honest about the reality that those outside of Christ perish eternally in Hell do not give up hope in grace which is invisible to human eyes.

    Wayne Grudem 2: “…it also must be said that we often do not have absolute certainty that a person has persisted in refusal to trust in Christ all the way to the point of death. The knowledge of one’s impending death often will bring about genuine heart searching on the part of the dying person, and sometimes words of Scripture or words of Christian testimony that have been heard long ago will be recalled and the person may come to genuine repentance and faith. Certainly, we do not have any assurance that this has happened unless there is explicit evidence for it, but it is also good to realize that in many cases we have only probable but not absolute knowledge that those whom we have known as unbelievers have persisted in their unbelief until the point of death.”

    God is consistently, scandalously, surprisingly gracious. Who knows, as it pertains to your loved one, what gifts of grace the Lord has kept up His sleeve? The story of the thief on the cross illustrates that the grace of Christ can show up in the most surprising of places and at the latest of hours.

    D. Let this experience drive you to make sure, as far as it depends on you, to not experience this kind of grieving with anyone else you love.

    Share the gospel, not only to protect your heart in the event you outlive another loved one but so that you might enjoy their company as you enjoy Christ for eternity!

    E. Trust that God Himself will comfort you.

    It might not be perceivable at a given hour but trust that the Holy Spirit really is a comforter and that Christ really has called you friend. Chose to believe that Romans 8:28 is true – that for those who love God all things work together for good.

    This is true in this life and in to eternity. Scripture says that will wipe away every tear from [the] eyes [of His children], and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

    We don’t know all the specifics of how He is doing that wonderful work but we do know that He is! And, however He accomplishes this, it is immeasurably good!

    Notes:

    1. I am thankful to Wayne Grudem via his Systematic Theology for this example.
    2. Systematic Theology, Chapter 41 – Death and the Intermediate State

  3. How Death Serves Christians

    July 14, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    This material was originally planned as part of  my sermon on Death and the Intermediate State (part 1 of our After Life series) but had to be cut for the sake of time 1.

    It is too good to leave on the chopping floor though (I’m afraid Berkhoff isn’t the most widely read Systematic Theologian).  Read and, if you are a believer, rejoice!  If, on the other hand, you are not a believer isn’t this good reason to place your trust in Christ today?

    While death in itself remains a real natural evil for the children of God, something unnatural, which is dreaded by them as such, it is made subservient in the economy of grace to their spiritual advancement and to the best interests of the Kingdom of God. The very thought of death, bereavements through death, the feeling that sicknesses and sufferings are harbingers of death, and the consciousness of the approach of death, — all have a very beneficial effect on the people of God. They serve to humble the proud, to mortify carnality, to check worldliness and to foster spiritual-mindedness. In the mystical union with their Lord believers are made to share the experiences of Christ. Just as He entered upon His glory by the pathway of sufferings and death, they too can enter upon their eternal reward only through sanctification. Death is often the supreme test of the strength of the faith that is in them, and frequently calls forth striking manifestations of the consciousness of victory in the very hour of seeming defeat, I Pet. 4:12,13. It completes the sanctification of the souls of believers, so that they become at once “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Heb. 12:23; Rev. 21:27. Death is not the end for believers, but the beginning of a perfect life. They enter death with the assurance that its sting has been removed, I Cor. 15:55, and that it is for them the gateway of heaven. They fall asleep in Jesus, II Thess. 1:7, and know that even their bodies will at last be snatched out of the power of death, to be forever with the Lord, Rom. 8:11; I Thess. 4:16,17. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live.” And Paul had the blessed consciousness that for him to live was Christ, and to die was gain. Hence he could also speak in jubilant notes at the end of his career: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved His appearing,” II Tim. 4:7,8. – Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

    Notes:

    1. I know what you are thinking: “As if you cut anything out of your sermons!”  Really, I do… promise.

  4. Loving Truth: Theological Triage

    June 24, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    The people of God are commanded to love truth (Zechariah 8:19).  One of the crucial ways we love truth is to reject error (Psalm 119:163).  However, not all errors are equally weighty.  It is much more dangerous to believe wrongly that your house is not on fire than it is to believe wrongly that your electric bill has been paid.  In a similar fashion, it is more dangerous to believe that you are saved by a mixture of faith and works than it is to believe that communion should be offered to infants.

    Part of loving truth is learning to rightly understand the difference in importance when it comes to theological disagreement.  A concept of immense help to me in this area comes from R. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological.  On the need for critical theological thinking he says,

    Today’s Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context. This applies both to the public defense of Christianity in face of the secular challenge and the internal responsibility of dealing with doctrinal disagreements. Neither is an easy task, but theological seriousness and maturity demand that we consider doctrinal issues in terms of their relative importance. God’s truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis.

    His solution, called Theological Triage, is incredibly practical and well worth memorizing.

    The word triage comes from the French word trier, which means “to sort.” Thus, the triage officer in the medical context is the front-line agent for deciding which patients need the most urgent treatment. Without such a process, the scraped knee would receive the same urgency of consideration as a gunshot wound to the chest. The same discipline that brings order to the hectic arena of the Emergency Room can also offer great assistance to Christians defending truth in the present age.

    A discipline of theological triage would require Christians to determine a scale of theological urgency that would correspond to the medical world’s framework for medical priority. With this in mind, I would suggest three different levels of theological urgency, each corresponding to a set of issues and theological priorities found in current doctrinal debates.

    Mohler proposes a three-tiered system of diagnosis.

    First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.

    In the earliest centuries of the Christian movement, heretics directed their most dangerous attacks upon the church’s understanding of who Jesus is, and in what sense He is the very Son of God. Other crucial debates concerned the question of how the Son is related to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The earliest creeds and councils of the church were, in essence, emergency measures taken to protect the central core of Christian doctrine. At historic turning-points such as the councils at Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, orthodoxy was vindicated and heresy was condemned–and these councils dealt with doctrines of unquestionable first-order importance. Christianity stands or falls on the affirmation that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God.

    The church quickly moved to affirm that the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ are absolutely necessary to the Christian faith. Any denial of what has become known as Nicaean-Chalcedonian Christology is, by definition, condemned as a heresy. The essential truths of the incarnation include the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who deny these revealed truths are, by definition, not Christians.

    The same is true with the doctrine of the Trinity. The early church clarified and codified its understanding of the one true and living God by affirming the full deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–while insisting that the Bible reveals one God in three persons.

    In addition to the Christological and Trinitarian doctrines, the doctrine of justification by faith must also be included among these first-order truths. Without this doctrine, we are left with a denial of the Gospel itself, and salvation is transformed into some structure of human righteousness. The truthfulness and authority of the Holy Scriptures must also rank as a first-order doctrine, for without an affirmation of the Bible as the very Word of God, we are left without any adequate authority for distinguishing truth from error.

    These first-order doctrines represent the most fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and a denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself.

    The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers. When Christians organize themselves into congregations and denominational forms, these boundaries become evident.

    Second-order issues would include the meaning and mode of baptism. Baptists and Presbyterians, for example, fervently disagree over the most basic understanding of Christian baptism. The practice of infant baptism is inconceivable to the Baptist mind, while Presbyterians trace infant baptism to their most basic understanding of the covenant. Standing together on the first-order doctrines, Baptists and Presbyterians eagerly recognize each other as believing Christians, but recognize that disagreement on issues of this importance will prevent fellowship within the same congregation or denomination.

    Christians across a vast denominational range can stand together on the first-order doctrines and recognize each other as authentic Christians, while understanding that the existence of second-order disagreements prevents the closeness of fellowship we would otherwise enjoy. A church either will recognize infant baptism, or it will not. That choice immediately creates a second-order conflict with those who take the other position by conviction.

    In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue. Again, a church or denomination either will ordain women to the pastorate, or it will not. Second-order issues resist easy settlement by those who would prefer an either/or approach. Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second-order level, for these issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God.

    Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most of the debates over eschatology, for example, in this category. Christians who affirm the bodily, historical, and victorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ may differ over timetable and sequence without rupturing the fellowship of the church. Christians may find themselves in disagreement over any number of issues related to the interpretation of difficult texts or the understanding of matters of common disagreement. Nevertheless, standing together on issues of more urgent importance, believers are able to accept one another without compromise when third-order issues are in question.

    Contending earnestly for the faith is the duty of every Christian generation.  Doing so carefully requires that we know how to evaluate priorities in a world of vast and rank theological confusion.  Memorizing the tiers of theological triage is an important step in developing Christian maturity.


  5. Christian Parents the Reason for Religious Decline?

    April 10, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Ours is not the first Christian generation to bemoan the decline of Christian faith in our days.  I suspect we could learn a good deal about our own troubles from the generations of believer which have preceded us.  One of those, the earliest English Baptists, propose a reasonable cause, at least in part, for the decline of love for Christ.  Despite the strangeness of the spelling I believe we can learn much from this short selection from the 1677 introduction to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith.

    200px-Benjamin_Keach

    And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of Religion in our day, which we cannot but touch upon, and earnestly urge a redresse of; and that is the neglect of the worship of God in Families, by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the grosse ignorance, and instability of many; with the prophaneness of others, be justly charged upon their Parents and Masters; who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young? but have neglected those frequent and solemn commands which the Lord hath laid upon them so to catechize, and instruct them, that their tender years might be seasoned with the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures; and also by their own omission of Prayer, and other duties of Religion in their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, have inured them first to a neglect, and then contempt of all Piety and Religion? we know this will not excuse the blindness, or wickedness of any; but certainly it will fall heavy upon those that have thus been the occasion thereof; they indeed dye in their sins; but will not their blood be required of those under whose care they were, who yet permitted them to go on without warning, yea led them into the paths of destruction? and will not the diligence of Christians with respect to the discharge of these duties, in ages past, rise up in judgment against, and condemn many of those who would be esteemed such now?

    We shall conclude with our earnest prayer, that the God of all grace, will pour out those measures of his holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be accompanyed with the sound belief, and diligent practise of it by us; that his name may in all things be glorified, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.


  6. Justin Martyr on Early Church Worship

    April 8, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    This is great material describing the worship of the early church by Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) from from chapters 61-67 of his First Apology.  I sadly had to cut it from my sermon Sunday but wanted to broadcast it in some form.  Thankfully I remembered I have a blog for just such a purpose!

    …we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.


  7. Just FYI: Michael Heimple of Capitol Artists Colorado Springs is an Inveterate Spammer

    April 4, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    For some time now my church and each email address associated with it has been receiving unsolicited bulk emails from Michael Heimple of Capitol Artists of Colorado Springs, CO ( Mike@capartists.com ).  These emails are solicitations for booking artists operating in the Christian arena.

    In mid-2013, in an effort to reduce the amount of unsolicited email coming to my inbox (because dealing with the number of emails I receive that I asked for or that need my action is difficult enough) I replied to one of these emails asking that my address be removed immediately.  I had to reply to the message with the request in pure hope, considering there were no details about how to unsubscribe from the mailing list within the body of the message nor were there links to any automated unsubscribe programs.  I received a reply which was highly sarcastic in tone but which indicated I had been removed.

    The emails continued to come unabated.  I replied again in late 2013, indicating this time that every address associated with our church’s domain and my own private email address should be removed immediately from any and all mailing lists current or future.  The reply I received was in clear and direct violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act , specifically items #5 and #6 on the Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM page.

    I was told by Mr. Heimple that he couldn’t simply remove all email addresses associated with our domain because his database didn’t sort the addresses used by domain.  Again, a clear violation of the CAN-SPAM act and thus literally a Federal issue.  However, in charitable 1 and pragmatic interests I provided a list of emails which needed to be removed.

    The reply I received to the one with the list of emails to be removed was again sarcastic and launched a lengthy email correspondence conducted over several hours where Mr. Heimple took a taunting tone toward me and in which I reminded him that it was he, not I, who was intentionally in violation of Federal law.  While I kept the initial email 2 requesting to be removed, I failed to save copies of the following interaction, a failure I greatly regret at the time of this writing.

    Today I received another unsolicited email, this time promoting a group called The Cavaliers Quartet 3.  At this point I feel like I have no choice but to take more direct and public action as my private attempts have failed.

    Simply put, operating as a spammer – even in an attempt to connect artists with church audiences – is a violation of the law and fails to reflect appropriate Christian ethics within the context of business.  If you are an artist associated with Capitol Artists or Michael Heimple (I’m not sure if there are more employees at Capitol Artists than Mr. Heimple) please know you are doing yourselves no favors by allowing him to conduct business this way on your behalf.

    *Update 5/13/14* These keep coming in.  I guess from here on out I’m going to update this post each time I receive a new spam message from Heimple and then share it on social media anew.  Hopefully enough eyes will see it or it will turn up in search results to the point Heimple will feel like he has to follow through on my requests to have our email addresses removed from his spam email lists.

    Here’s my most recently received spam email from Michael Heimple (mike@capartists.com) of Capitol Artists.

    2nd Update for 5/13/14: Another one came in.  Reposting, notifying spam@uce.gov and SpamCop, again.  Wonder if it is time to start contacting the artists in the emails directly?

    *Update 6/21/14* I’ve been contacted by another individual who has apparently had similar dealing with Heimple.  While not surprised I am saddened by this new information, mostly on behalf of those artists that Heimple represents.

    Notes:

    1. i.e. I didn’t want to turn an individual representing Christian artists in for violation of Federal law
    2. That one was promoting a group named The Farm Hands Bluegrass Quartet, which sounds like a band I’d like to hear.
    3. If you are in The Cavaliers Quartet let me be clear: I’m sure you are great guys who love the Lord. Heimple, however, is a problem.  And just so you know, the link to your site that he included in his spam email promoting your group didn’t actually work because he messed up the address.

  8. How Should Christians Respond to World Vision?

    March 25, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    WV

    As you’ve probably seen, evangelical relief organization World Vision has announced that they will now be hiring persons who are in same-sex unions.  This is an unfathomable error and one that leaves Christians asking how they should respond to an organization that is intentionally distorting the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So what does a Christian who is concerned about meeting the practical needs of the weakest members of humanity and being faithful to the truth of Scripture do?

    First: if you aren’t sponsoring a child now is a perfect time to begin!

    Better

    As best I’m able to determine both Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International  are organizations doing work of practical good on par with or exceeding World Relief while also refusing to concede Biblical truth for the sake of changing cultural trends.  It appears World Help, despite some troubles in recent years with a rogue consultant, does an admirable job of connecting donors’ dollars with needy individuals and groups. 1 I encourage you to partner with these organizations to turn the failure of World Vision into a positive force for the cause of Christ.  Furthermore, shame on us if the only time we pay attention to relief organizations is when it becomes  a political issue; let’s get increasingly involved as donors for the glory of Christ!

    WH

    What about those who are sponsoring children through World Vision?  

    Let me encourage you to be proactive and vocal to World Vision about your disappointment over their error and your intentions to distance yourself from their organization in the future.  You can find their contact information here and/or let them know through social media (a means often more useful in getting the attention of an organization) on Twitter and Facebook.  Understand that it is their donor base which will have the greatest impact on World Vision.

    Should you stop sponsoring your child?

    World Vision has put Biblically faithful believers in the awful position of having to choose between being clear about the gospel and supporting a child who needs their aid.  Here’s my suggestion: (after you let World Vision know you will be distancing yourself from their organization in the future) continue to support your child until the natural termination of support then move on to a relief organization with more integrity (again, let World Vision know this is your plan).  The child you are connected with is an innocent victim of World Vision and will likely not be able yet to properly process the catastrophe of the organization’s decision.

    While in that relationship of support let me encourage you to take full advantage of your relationship with the child!  Write them letters freighted with the gospel, the beauty of Christ, and His care for their circumstances.  If you can, go visit the child.  Do everything you can to help that young bearer of the image of God know the Father who gave His Son for their salvation and calls His followers to care for his or her needs.

    The fact that World Vision has so intentionally failed their own cause and their donor base doesn’t meant that the avenues they have established can’t be used for good until the natural point in which they can be abandoned for those provided by a more Biblically faithful organization.

    Notes:

    1. If my research is faulty please let me know and I’ll edit the post to describe these organizations more accurately.  I would also welcome information about other worthwhile organizations.

  9. Evaluating a Sermon

    February 26, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    One of the things I want to remain committed to throughout my life is becoming a better preacher.  Furthermore, my church has been blessed with a number of young men whom God has called into vocational ministry.

    Toward the twin aims of helping those at my church growing in their skills as preachers and my own improvement I created a sermon evaluation form.  I’m posting it here for the use of others with a similar desire.

    I hope it’s profitable for you.  One request: if you use it would you please let me know by leaving a brief comment?  I would be interested to know how (if?) it is being used outside of our church.

    Midway Baptist Church: Sermon Evaluation Form (Right-Click and select “Save link as…” to download PDF)


  10. The Logic and Burden of the Law

    February 21, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Print

    In Luke 11:46 Jesus accuses one of the religious lawyers of His day of load[ing] people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.

    If we are going to understand the nature and severity of Jesus’ rebuke we need to understand the basic logic of the Law which is do this and you will live with the implication that those who do not do do not live.

    i. Revealed in the Old Testament

    Leviticus 18:1-5Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.

    Deuteronomy 27:26Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

    ii. Explained in the New Testament

    Galatians 3:10-14For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”  Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

    The Law, then, becomes a set of hoops far too high to jump through; a treadmill that never stops moving your feet on and on, faster and faster; a burden whose weight collapses the shoulders.

    In fact, when Jesus the Greek term that Jesus uses here that we translate burdens hard to bear he is using a term normally used to describe a ship’s cargo.  The load placed on people by the Law through false religion is far beyond the ability of men to bear.

    B. The Misery Created – you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers

    When religious authorities use their positions to broadcast the demands of the law, the same demands that are beyond human attainment, they fail in their most basic responsibility – to point to the grace of God as the only means of relief from the demands of the law.

    In our day this pattern is particularly twisted because it co-opts the language of grace to press law further and further.  For instance, when a mother of a sick child is told that if she will simply have faith that her child will be healed and that child dies the mother is left believing that either she has failed to believe well enough to protect her child.

    Here the beauty of Christ is clearly seen in contrast:

    Matthew 11:25-30At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    Christ is the opposite of these false teachers – where they use their power to further the burden and misery of men He uses His to take the load from their shoulders, to bear what they could not, and give them relief from their own failed efforts to be good enough to be right with God.  He is good enough for them.  This is the good news we call the gospel.