Teaching Through The Gospel of John

I am excited to announce that I will be teaching John’s Gospel verse by verse starting in January.

John’s Gospel is one of the most theologically rich, if not the most theologically rich, books on the person of Jesus Christ. In John, we find the explicit declarations that Jesus is God. He is Lord over all of creation. He took on the establishment of religion in Judaism and turned it upside down. He challenged false teachers in the Pharisees head on.

In John’s Gospel, we see Jesus as Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. In John, we have the “I am” statements of Christ. We have the sign miracles that show his power over creation, over the Sabbath, over sin, over mankind. In John, we see the disciples struggle to understand and grapple with their Master’s teachings. We see the work on the cross.

In John, we see the glorious doctrines of grace. We see how God orchestrates our salvation. We see how God chooses His elect. We see the definite atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross as our substitute. We see the effectual calling of God to those He has chosen to be given to the Son. And finally, we see the preserving grace of the Father that none who are given to the Son will be lost.

But most importantly, we see “The Word became flesh.” What a great truth and comfort to know that Jesus Christ, God, came to this earth to dwell among us. He knows what we go through, he knows how we live, because he was with us for 33 years on this earth.

I have often said that if I could only have two books of the Bible to read and study it would be John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter to the Romans. The amount of theology in these two books alone is enough to study for a lifetime. So I am greatly excited about teaching through this book.

I have been asked how long this study will take. The honest answer is, “I have no idea.” I will be in this book until we are finished. Looking forward to it. The study will also be recorded and posted as a podcast. Details coming soon!

Was Mary Sinless?

Virgin of the AnnunciationA lot of focus during the Christmas season gets put on Mary as well as Jesus since she was his mother. There is a lot of incorrect theology about Mary, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. One of these doctrines is the idea of the Immaculate Conception.

The immaculate conception often is misunderstood to mean the supernatural conception of Christ in Mary’s womb. I also misunderstood this in the past. But that is not what this term refers to at all. In fact, the immaculate conception has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Instead, the immaculate conception deals with Mary. Specifically, it teaches that Mary was sinless and free from original sin.

There are two primary texts that Catholics use to make this claim. The first is Genesis 3:15.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15 English Standard Version

The main problem with using this text to define anything about Mary is that Mary is not found in this verse. The woman here is Eve, not Mary. Yes, Mary is part of Eve’s distant offspring through her descendants, but the only people mentioned in this verse specifically are Eve, Satan, Christ, and God the Father. So we can automatically throw this verse out with having anything to do with supposed sinlessness of Mary.

The other major text used by Catholics for the Immaculate Conception is Luke 1:28

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

Luke 1:28 (ESV)

In this verse they use the term favored one to claim that Mary was sinless. But how do they come to this conclusion?

First we must look at the underlying Greek for the term favored one and see whether or not it means sinless. The term is κεχαριτωμένη, which is pronounced kecharitomene. It is derived from the lemma χαριτόω (charitoo). But what do these words mean, and if they mean sinless, why are they translated as favored one?

The underlying Greek has a meaning of showing kindness, favor, giving grace, showing favor. So translators have gotten it right with favored one. But Catholics focus on one portion of this definition, giving grace. In fact, they argue that Mary was so full of grace that she did not receive original sin because she was “fully endowed with grace perfectly.”

But there is a problem with this viewpoint. First, being fully endowed with grace does not mean that you are sinless. All Christians are full of grace and favored and blessed. That is part of being the elect of God. Ephesians 1:6 uses the same word, charitoo, to describe all believers. Yet, all believers have original sin, and continuing sin that must be dealt with. Mary is no different.

The point is that there is no Scriptural basis for the Immaculate Conception. This is an invention and false doctrine of the Catholic Church. Mary was favored only in the sense that she was chosen to have the very special honor of giving birth to the Savior. She is not to be worshiped, not to be prayed to, she is a sinner saved by grace just like everyone else who is a part of the kingdom.

The Insane Child Abuse of LGBT

Back in October I mentioned the case of James Younger in my sermon on Reformation day. For those who do not know, James is a 7-year-old boy who has a divorced mother and father. His mother is trying to transition James into a girl named Luna by chemically castrating the boy and giving him hormone therapy. There is no indication that James wants this done or feels like he is a girl. Even if he did exhibit that, it doesn’t change the fact that he is a boy and should be raised and treated as a boy.

At the time of my sermon in October, a jury had ruled in favor of James’ mother that she should have sole custody over James and all decisions related to his life and health. A judge overruled the jury and put a stop to the ruling.

Now, Christian Post reports that the judge is being removed from the case. The removal of the judge was due to much political maneuvering and some twisting of facts, and the denial of the judge’s right to free speech. All of that is for another discussion at another time.

But the real issue here is what is going on with James and his parents. His father rightly wants him to be treated as the boy he is in reality. His mother is living in a fantasy world where she wants a little girl. It is abusive to pump chemicals into a child to try and change who they are biologically. This is true child abuse yet the liberal left celebrate this as progress? It is disgusting, it is sinful.

As believers, we should not be surprised by this. Romans 1 says they are going to be given up to their dishonorable passions. This is what is happening in the case of James Younger. The culture is going to what is dishonorable. It is leaving the natural order and defying God.

My heart breaks for little James and his Father. Pray that truth and justice prevail in this sad story.

How Should We Read the Early Church Fathers?

One of the great challenges as a Protestant is to know and understand how we came to be. The Reformation is our roots in history, but the Bible is our root in theology. Simply put, to be Protestant means you leave the man-made teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and look towards Scripture as your authority for faith and practice.

Why do I make this point when talking about the Early Church Fathers (ECF)? It is simple. Catholics tend to put an inordinate amount of weight and authority in the ECF. They do this to the point of elevating their writings to the level of Scripture. However, they will tell you that they do not do this. Yet, when shown their interpretation is incorrect Biblically, they will say, “But Origen said…” or “But Iraneus argued….” or “But Clement states…” and so on. When you simply say they are wrong, and point out the error, they will say that are we to know better than those that sat under the Apostles?

This, of course, is a logical fallacy. It is an appeal to authority. However, there is no authority there.

We do not hold that the ECF were infallible. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the ECF, or the church today, including the Pope, are infallible in any way (though the Catholics will try to argue that there is). So how are we to use the ECF?

The answer to this is not difficult. We should use the ECF as we use any other commentary. It is useful for study and instruction but must always be tested against the Scriptures. The Scriptures and Scriptures alone have the final say in all matters of faith and practice. The ECF did get things wrong, and often, they even contradicted each other. Scripture, on the other hand, has no contradictions. It is the perfect and holy words of God.

So while we should read the Fathers, we should not elevate their work to the level of Scripture.

What Are We Celebrating?

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is past us and we are already full-swing into another Christmas season. Christmas movies are on, presents are being purchased, trees and lights adorn the country. All of these things are fun, exciting, and part of the celebration of Christmas. But what exactly are we celebrating? John’s Gospel gives us the answer:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

John 1:14a (English Standard Version)

We are celebrating the fact that the God of the universe thought enough of His elect that He took on flesh to walk on this earth as one of us. He faced the same trials and temptations yet he remained sinless. He took our place on the cross and took our penalty for our sins in his death. He brought us salvation and redemption that we might have eternal life. There is no greater love.

We often hear that Jesus is the “Reason for the Season.” But do we really take this to heart? Do we really understand the magnitude of what happened on that first Christmas? Do we really think about Immanuel, God with us? Do we consider what Christ did for us on the cross? Does it make a change in our lives?

These are the things that we need to dwell on this Christmas season. And not just Christmas, we need to think about these things every day of the year. So let’s remember what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Give Thanks

It is hard to believe that we are at another Thanksgiving Day. 2019 has flown by. On this day we stop as a nation to give thanks for all that has been given to us. We are thankful for health, friends, family, jobs, homes, food, and many other things.

But what I find interesting is that we often take these things for granted the rest of the year. We do not live with the spirit of thanksgiving all year round. Why is that?

Why do we become so complacent with what we have that we forget that it could all be taken away in a second? We are guaranteed nothing in this world. We are not even guaranteed that we will be walking on this earth another day.

So as we go through the rest of 2019 and into 2020, let us remember to give thanks every day.

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:1-2 English Standard Version

Do Not Offend

In today’s politically correct culture we are often told that we should make sure we do not offend people when we are speaking the truth of the Gospel. We are also told that we need to make sure we are speaking the truth in love. But what does that mean? Does that mean to not offend? Does that mean we should do everything to make sure that feelings are not hurt? Are we really supposed to go about our preaching and teaching in such a way that nobody can take offense? The answer is NO!

The idea that we are not to offend people does not come from Scripture. This is the construct of a culture that is obsessed with being politically correct. A culture that believes there are no absolutes and that everyone can believe what they want to believe and that is true for them, except Christianity. The truth is this, the Bible is an offensive book to those who do not follow it. The truth is offensive to those who wish to reject it. And, could it be, that when feelings are hurt by hearing the truth it isn’t really their feelings but their conscience tugging at their soul because they know they are in the wrong?

Continue reading

“You Should Have Been Aborted!”

I was heartbroken today to read an article at Pulpit and Pen about a man who yelled at little 4-year-old Quinn Ross that she should have been aborted before she was born. Quinn is in a wheel-chair with a disease called Perthes Disease.

What is troubling is the fact that this man thought it was not only ok, but necessary, to attack a little girl who is obviously suffering in this world enough. What has the culture become?

The abortion culture of death in the United States is appalling. It is disgusting and the fact that millions of children have been murdered in the womb is a stain on our nation. It is even worse that some Christians believe this to be compatible with the Scriptures.

A poll done by Pew Research in 2014 showed that an average of 36.4% of Evangelicals believe that abortion should be legal in all/most cases. That number is staggering. The people who should be the most ardent defenders of life have 1/3 of their people saying there is nothing wrong with abortion.

It is no wonder that this man thought it was okay to tell little Quinn that she should never have been born. If the church will not lead the charge for life, why do we act surprised when the culture turns to death?

So what does the Bible have to say about this?

First and foremost, we know that Scripture says we are not to murder (Exodus 20:13). It does not get any more clear than this. Murder is wrong. Period. But the Government says that a child in the womb is not a human and therefore it is not murder. But why do we allow the Government to dictate our theology?

There are many examples in Scripture that God knew us before we were even born. That he fashioned us together in the womb of our mother. Psalm 139:13 is a great example of this, but it is not the only example. However, this clearly shows that God thinks that we are humans, persons, in the image of God, before we are born. It doesn’t matter what the Government says, abortion is murder in the eyes of God plain and simple.

To little Quinn Ross and her family, I am so sorry that you had to endure this obscene and despicable act by this individual and it is my hope that justice is served in this case.

Albert Mohler to be Nominated For SBC Presidency

I have a deep love for the Southern Baptist Convention. My grandmother was a Southern Baptist and though I did not attend a Southern Baptist Church as a kid, I did go to SBC vacation Bible schools and activities. I was raised on the Baptist Hymnal in my Grandmother’s kitchen.

At the beginning of my adult ministry, I was a youth pastor at a Southern Baptist Church. I went to a school that is in alignment with Southern Baptists. And even though I attend a United Methodist Church due to location, I am Baptist through and through.

I was disheartened when I saw J.D. Greear elected to be the president of the SBC. I understand the choice and why he ascended to the role. However, I have real reservations about some comments he has made and positions that he has taken in the past.

This year, however, I was encouraged to see that Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said that he will accept a nomination to be the new president of the SBC.

Mohler is a conservative. Make no mistake about this. He is a champion for theological fidelity to Scripture. He is no stranger to controversy in making hard shifts to the conservative right when liberal theology is creeping in. If you doubt this, just look at what happened at Southern in the early 90’s.

This is the type of leader that the Southern Baptist Convention needs. They need a leader who will stand up to the current trends of liberalism that are creeping into the church. They need a man of God who will stand up for Scripture. I firmly believe that Mohler is that man.

The Lost Art of Writing Letters

What I am writing about today isn’t so much about theology but it is something I believe is important. That subject is the discipline of writing letters. Unfortunately, in the age of technology, letter writing is something that has been lost. We go to our mailboxes and all we see are bills, political ads, and credit card offers. We get plenty of junk in our postal mail just like in our email. But what do you feel if you get an actual handwritten letter? Or even a typed letter from someone you know? It’s exciting!

I have been trying this year to be disciplined in writing regular letters. Emails are great, but they are not the same thing as receiving a letter. We also know that the written word is powerful. It can build up, or it can tear down. So here is some of the types of letters I have written this year.

  • Letters to the sick
  • Letters to the discouraged
  • Letters to political leaders
  • Letters to churches
  • Letters to church leaders
  • Letters of encouragement
  • Letters of question
  • Letters of rebuke

What I have found in all of these is that people are appreciative of the written word. Ok, maybe not so much from the letters of rebuke, though I have received written responses for those as well. Emails are cheap and can be very impersonal. But a letter shows that someone cared enough to spend time, effort, and money to send them something personal.

I don’t think this is a coincidence. After all, the majority of the New Testament was delivered to us as letters. Letters are powerful. My encouragement to you today is to think of someone you have something to say to and sit and write a letter. It will be a great experience. Rediscover the lost art (and joy) of letter writing.