Audio: Discipleship & The Seeker Friendly Church

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple… So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27 ESV, Luke 14:33 ESV

In the four Gospels our Lord Jesus Christ spoke often about the terms of discipleship.

When we honestly examine His teaching on this very important subject we will probably arrive at the same conclusion as many of His disciples came to: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” John 6:60 ESV. In fact, His teaching was so difficult that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” John 6:66 ESV.

What about us? After we have evaluated His teachings will we continue with Him or will we be like the “many” who “turned back and no longer walked with him”?

Recorded: Sunday September 30, 2012 at the North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA

 

 

 

 

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Entry Level Theological Truth [39]

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole

Eviction is never pleasant. Involuntarily leaving one’s home is traumatic. Worse still, in Adam and Eve’s case it also meant losing the freedom of unimpeded enjoyment of their Creator (Genesis 3:8.) They were sent from the garden – “Paradise Lost” as Milton dubbed it – into an uncertain world of labor, hardships, and tribulation. In spite of this drastic alteration of scenery, however, the Lord was actually acting in mercy towards them.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [32]

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8.

To many people God seems distant and removed from their everyday lives. Much of this situation is self-imposed, for humans have a tendency to hide from their Creator. This behavior first transpired in the garden moments after the fall of Adam and Eve; upon hearing the sound of the Lord’s approach their intuitive response was to hide.

Their modern descendents are no different. Troubled by accusing consciences, contemporary people run and hide from the searching, inescapable gaze of the all-knowing God. As the Scriptures say: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20.) Rather than expose themselves for what they are, people hide from God’s light. This denial of reality leads to chronic self-deception and alienation from the Lord (Ephesians 4:17-18.)

 


Hiding In Plain Sight



 

A nineteenth century writer evokes the atmosphere:

A sense of guilt upon the conscience invariably occasions distant views of God. The moment Adam became conscious of having sinned, He hid himself from God’s eye. He sought concealment from the endearing presence of Him who had been used to walk in the cool of the evening through the bowers of Paradise, in sweet and confiding communion. It is so now! Guilt upon the conscience, sin unconfessed, imparts misty, gloomy, distorted views of God. We lose that clear endearing view of His character which we once had. We dare not look up with holy, humble boldness. We misinterpret His dealings; think harshly of His ways; and if providences are dark, and afflictions come, in a moment we exclaim, ‘I have sinned, and God is angry.’ And so we seek concealment from God. We sink the Father in the Judge, and the child in the slave.1

One of his contemporaries points out the absurdity of hiding from the Almighty: “What madness was this, to think to hide themselves from Him from whom they could not hide themselves, all things being naked and open before him. Hebrews 4:13. What folly was it to fly from him whom they should have flown to; he being the God of all comfort and consolation. Romams 15:5. Did ever any hide himself from God and prosper? (Job 34:22. Amos 9:3. Jeremiah 23:24.) No, never.”2

 


Strategies For Evading Reality



 

Some people hide in pleasures – some of them ordinary and some of them illicit. They try to put God out of their thoughts in a continual round of amusing diversions. Others camouflage their guilt and terror behind a cloak of pseudo-piety. They reason that a facade of good deeds and religiosity may obscure their guilt. Others deny the obvious truth of God Himself, thinking that they can disinvent the Judge of the universe through an act of their wills; they seek to do this by replacing Him with intricate but shallow fables about the origin of the cosmos.

All of these efforts are in vain, however, for God seeks His fallen creatures, poignantly calling out “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9.) Drawing on Mackintosh’s classic Notes On The Pentateuch, MacDonald notes: “This question proved two things—that man was lost and that God had come to seek. It proved man’s sin and God’s grace. God takes the initiative in salvation, demonstrating the very thing Satan got Eve to doubt—His love.”3

This pursuit of sinful men and women culminates in the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus Christ – “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16) – the one who describes His own mission thus: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10.)

The Lord repeatedly exposes people to the light. If they hide and run, he pursues. As the poet Thompson memorably depicted it:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.4

At the end of this life, everyone must meet Him. To those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior now, they will see their most cherished loved One face-to-face (1 John 3:1-2.) To those who do not have a relationship with Christ, He will be their judge (Acts 17:31; Revelation 20:11-15.) The eloquent Scottish preacher-poet Horatius Bonar well articulates this somber reality, bringing the past and the future together:

In the day of wrath this scene of Eden will be repeated,—man fleeing from the presence of God. In the absence of thickets he will betake himself to the rocks and hills (Hosea 10:8; Revelation 6:15, 16). But what will these do? Can His eye not pierce these? Can His hand not pluck them thence? For thus the Lord has spoken, ‘Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down; and though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence’ (Amos 9:2, 3).5

1Octavius Winslow, from the blog: http://octaviuswinslow.org/2010/08/22/august-22/ Accessed on 8/23/10.
2Philip Henry, Exposition of the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis, (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1839), pp. 74-75.
3Alluding to C. H. Mackintosh, Notes On The Pentateuch: Genesis to Deuteronomy, p. 33; William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad, Ge 3:7–13 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995).
4Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven. Lines 1-13. Accessed on 7/20/12 here: http://poetry.elcore.net/HoundOfHeavenInRtT.html
5Horatius Bonar, Earth’s Morning: Or, Thoughts on Genesis, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), p. 140.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [28]

“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5

The title of Tears For Fears’ 80’s pop anthem “Everybody wants to rule the world” hits on a basic truth about humanity: people innately desire to command their own lives and circumstances. Of course, the reality is far different. Many live like the embodiment of Henley’s skeptically poetic lines:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
1

 

Yet the sad truth is that men are not in control of their fate, lives, or world. This inner yearning for control with its correlative quest for personal knowledge and enlightenment are artifacts from the fall. From the garden of Eden onwards, Satan has peddled the lie to humanity “…you will be like God”2, holding forth the promise of self-sufficiency for wayward humanity.

 


A Faustian Temptation



 

The serpent implies to Eve that the Almighty does not want competition by saying this: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 5.) In other words, Adam and she will know what God knows and be able to decide for themselves concerning the nature of good and evil. Contemporary people also find this lie attractive. They erroneously believe that they are their own arbiter of truth and can determine good and evil for themselves. But God is the standard of truth in Himself; apart from Him humans do not have the capacity to escape evil and achieve lasting, eternal good.

Of course, the Lord does not want man to be ignorant; He is a God who reveals Himself and gives light through His Word (Ps. 119:130.) He wants people to walk in the light with Him (1 Jn. 1:5-7.) That is, God wants them to discover knowledge in Him. Good is what agrees with His character and will (these things are explicitly revealed by what He commands and teaches in His Word.) In Christ – the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) – believers find the truth about God and themselves (Jn. 14:6.)

 


Rejecting Destructive Independence



 

The essence of sin is rebellion against God – a treasonous act of disloyalty to the One who made mankind. When one sins, they dethrone God in their life and place themselves squarely on the throne. As Stott pointedly said: “Every sin is a surrender to the primeval temptation to become like God.”3 When they sin, they are saying in effect: “I know better than God what is good for me; abstaining from this act would be evil – I must do it.”

 


Sharing In The Life That God Has For Us



 

Christian sanctification is the process by which our Creator and Redeemer works out the new life in His new creature’s lives. The more that the saints walk with Christ, the more they learn to deny self in favor of obedience to God. A nineteenth century preacher put it well:

The first object from which our heavenly Father weans His child is self. Of all idols, he finds self the hardest to abandon. When man in Paradise aspired to be as God, God was dethroned from his soul, and the creature became as a deity to itself. From that moment, the idolatry of self has been the great and universal crime of our race, and will continue to be until Christ comes to restore all things. In the soul of the regenerate, Divine grace has done much to dethrone this idol, and to reinstate God. The work, however, is but partially accomplished. The dishonored and rejected rival is not eager to relinquish his throne, and yield to the supreme control and sway of another. There is much yet to be achieved before this still indwelling and unconquered foe lays down his weapons in entire subjection to the will and the authority of that Savior, whose throne and rights he has usurped…The moment we learn to cease from ourselves–from our own wisdom, and power, and importance–the Lord appears and takes us up. Then His wisdom is displayed, His power is put forth, His glory is developed, and His great name gets to itself all the praise. It was not until God had placed Moses in the cleft of the rock, that His glory passed by. Moses must be hid, that God might be all.4

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1William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”; found here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/invictus/ Accessed on 6/5/12.

2Or “gods” according to some translations; either rendering of elohim is permissible in Hebrew. If one thinks of Elohim as a proper title for God – as in Gen. 1:1 – than it is “God” (NKJV, JND, & ESV.) If, however, the serpent was using the term generically of Adam and Eve, then “gods” would be the correct translation (KJV; “divine beings” NET; see Ps. 82:1, 6 – especially note the margin of the NKJV.) It is a question of emphasis: is he saying they will be like God, emphasizing that they could achieve the same level as their Creator? Or is he affirming that they will be little gods who can decide things for themselves apart from their Maker? Either way, it is a sinful declaration of independence from the God who is the truth.

3J.R.W. Stott, Christ the Controversialist. London: Tyndale Press; Downers Grove: IVP, 1970, p. 207.

4Octavius Winslow, from the blog: http://octaviuswinslow.org/ Accessed on 7/30/10.

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NT Tuesday: Worship in Spirit and Truth

Worship in Spirit and TruthThe editors of this blog have asked me to write a series of posts that are scheduled to appear on Tuesdays. My heart’s desire is to explore some New Testament principles during this time. And seeing that this is a blog, the author requests that some of the readers reply and give their sincere thoughts/perspectives on the topic at hand – that’s the purpose of a blogs, folks!

The dictionary definition of a principle is that of “a basic truth, law or assumption.” It is that general definition that I would like to focus on for the next several weeks (or months, until the real bloggers kick me off here.) So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.” I fear, that we often define New Testament principles too narrowly and biasedly to fit our mindset. I will endeavor, in my fledgling series of blogs, to approach this subject without bias, but rather, with a heart open to hearing from the Lord Jesus.

The first New Testament truth and law (i.e. principle) that I would like to explore with you is that of worship. We are going to split worship into two types, but for now we will look at Worship in a general sense and then in the next few weeks look at the two types of worship – corporate and individual – before moving on to the next principle.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [26]

The Rock of Gibralter

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’” Genesis 3:4

After beginning subtly, the adversary changes tactics by directly challenging the Word of God. From an implied undermining of the Almighty’s goodness Satan’s argument now proceeds to specific contradiction of the Creator’s authority. Eventually the enemy always unmasks himself in opposition to the Lord’s revealed mind in the Scriptures. Ultimately, everyone must decide: “Does God’s Word have authority in my life?” Whether one realizes it or not, disbelieving or disobeying the Bible flouts the power, holiness, and sovereignty of the Most High God.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [25]

Graveyard

“…Lest you die.” Genesis 3:3

“There’s nothing certain except death and taxes” says the familiar adage, but why is that so? People of every race, nationality, socioeconomic and educational level die. One out of every one dies in our world today; these are easy statistics for the mathematically challenged (like this author.) How does one account for the ubiquity of death in our world? Genesis 3 gives the answer.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [24]

“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”.’” Genesis 3:2-3

God’s Word is a disclosure of His mind and a revelation of His character and will; therefore, it must be handled carefully. To be slipshod in one’s reading or interpretation of the Scriptures is to invite spiritual error and the disaster that inevitably ensues.

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Entry Level Theological Truth [22]

to-tell-the-truth-will-the-real-jesus-please-stand-up

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

In the mouth of a clever interlocutor questions can undermine and even destroy faith. Therefore, it is not accidental that the first Satanic attack on mankind focused on questioning God’s Word. The serpent was merely a pawn exploited by the devil for an insidiously evil incursion into Eden’s idyllic scene. By assailing God’s Word, the father of lies sought to erode confidence in the Almighty’s authority. Since it first succeeded, Satan has repeatedly employed this tactic to delude men and women and lead them to spiritual destruction.

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Jottings – Going to Church Without Going to Christ

Jottings

On Matthew 10:14-15: “This is a doctrine fearfully overlooked, and one that deserves serious consideration. Men are sadly apt to forget, that it does not require great open sins to be sinned, in order to ruin a soul for ever. They have only to go on hearing without believing, listening without repenting, going to Church without going to Christ, and by and bye they will find themselves in hell! We shall all be judged according to our light. We shall have to give account of our use of religious privileges. To hear of the ‘great salvation,’ and yet neglect it, is one of the worst sins man can commit. (John 16:9.)”

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), p. 96-97.

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