Straight to the Heart

 
 
 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. (Matthew 1:23, ESV)

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Christmas is one of my favorite seasons. I enjoy the family get-togethers, the food, the music, the lights, you name it! Most of all, though, I enjoy Christmas because it re-focuses our attention upon Christ.

We tend to get so caught up in the busyness of the holiday that we lose proper focus, but it need not be that way. One way we can maintain our focus is by observing Advent (the word Advent means coming). Advent is the time of the year, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and usually culminating with a Christmas Eve service, when we look back to the first coming of Christ and look forward to His second coming. The lighting of the Advent candles in hopeful anticipation of the return of Christ is the most prevalent symbol of the season. While we’re nowhere in Scripture commanded to celebrate or observe Advent, this tradition can be a helpful way to instruct your family on the true meaning of Christmas over several weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. So, to keep your and your family’s eyes fixed upon the Christ of Christmas, you may want to celebrate the season with the lighting of the Advent candles in your home each week during a time of family worship. Use the following thoughts and Scriptures to help you focus on Christ this Christmas. May God help us to maintain a proper focus.

 

First Sunday in Advent

December 3—Mark 13:24-37

The first Sunday in Advent begins a week of reflection upon the Second Coming of Christ. In John’s gospel, Jesus comforted His disciples by reminding them that He would come again (John 14:3).  Christians today live with the hope that Jesus is coming again!

 

Second Sunday in Advent

December 10—Mark 1:1-8

Beginning with the second Sunday in Advent, we consider the need to prepare for Christ’s return.  Hopeful waiting requires spiritual preparation, “so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28).

 

Third Sunday in Advent

December 17—John 1:6-8, 19-28

Joy marks the observance beginning the third Sunday in Advent. Jesus’ birth was good news of great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10). It was news of joy because it was this Jesus who came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) by giving His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

 

Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 24—Luke 1:26-38

God with us is the theme of the fourth week of Advent. Through the conception of the Holy Spirit, Jesus entered this world in human flesh so that He could reconcile all things to God through His fleshly body (Colossians 1:22).

 

Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 24—Luke 2:1-20

On Christmas Eve we celebrate the birth of Christ. Join us this Christmas Eve at 5:00 p.m. during our regular Sunday evening gathering time as we come together for a time of corporate worship for our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
 

Whether or not you choose to incorporate the Advent celebration tradition, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus during this busy season that so easily distracts us from the Christ of Christmas.

 

Love,


Can Women Serve as Deacons?

By Josh Hayward

I commend our sister Phoebe to you, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae (Romans 16:1)

At HPBC, we are committed to the biblical teaching on God’s design for men and women in the home and the church.  However, many churches who are also committed to the biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood differ when it comes to whether women can serve as deacons.  This past Sunday evening we addressed this very topic.  Below you will find a summary of the address that was given. Our prayer is that God gives us wisdom, as a church, as we consider whether women can fill the role of deacon.

 

Getting Back to the Basics of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Let’s begin with some of the truths we affirm about God’s design for men and women. 

  1. First, we believe Scripture teaches that men and women are created with equal in worth, value, and dignity (Gen. 1:26-27; Gal. 3:28; 1 Pet. 3:7). One is not “more acceptable” to God or “more saved” than the other.  All Christians inherit all the blessings of what it means to be in Christ (Gal. 3:29; Eph. 1:3-14).
  2. Second, we believe Scripture teaches that men and women have different God-given roles in the in the home. Man was created to lead, protect, and provide for his wife and family. And the woman was created as a suitable helper to come alongside the man and affirm, encourage, and follow godly leadership (Genesis 1-2; Eph. 5:22-33).
  3. Third, we believe Scripture teaches that men and women have different God-given roles in the in the church. God has called only men to be pastors (1 Tim. 3:2) and women are not to teach in authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12-13; 1 Cor. 14:34-35). 
  4. Fourth, we believe that distinguishing roles between men and women does not make one better or more important than the other. Just as there is a distinction in roles among the persons of the Trinity (i.e. the Son submits to the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son) and yet each person retains his full deity, so too, a distinction in roles between men and women in the church in no way implies an inequality of personhood, worth, or importance. 
  5. Fifth, we believe Scripture allows for women to serve in some leadership and teaching roles. The Bible encourages women to teach other women (Tit. 2:3) and would certainly allow for women to teach children. It even permits women to pray and prophesy in the gathered assembly (1 Cor. 11:5). 

 

What is a Deacon?

There’s been a lot of confusion (especially in many Baptist circles) as to what a deacon is.  In many Baptist churches, deacons function like elders.  They exercise leadership and oversight in the church, they help make important decisions, and many of them are even seen as the primary teachers of the church.  According to Scripture, however, elders (not deacons) have been task by God to be the primary shepherds/leaders/teachers of the church (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). 

The word deacon (Greek: diakonos) means “servant.”  The title is a description of the function. Acts 6:1-6 shows us that a deacon is to serve the church in ways that free up the leaders to prioritize the preaching of the Word and the shepherding of the flock. 

 

Key Passages on Women Deacons

Now that we’ve considered what a deacon is, let’s look at a few key passages pertaining to the topic of women serving as deaconesses.

1 Timothy 3:8-13. When we compare the qualifications of an elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7), we find three key differences. 

  1. Deacons are not required to be “apt to teach.” Why? Because the role of the deacon is different than the role of the elder. He (or she!) is called to serve the church in whatever way necessary to allow the elders to give themselves to teaching.
  2. Deacons are not require to manage the church. Both elders and (male) deacons are called to “manage their own households well” (1 Tim. 3:4, 12), but it is only said of elders that the ability (or lack thereof) to manage of their households corresponds to their ability to manage the church. Deacons do not manage the church. They serve the church. Therefore, in general, they are not in a position of spiritual authority over the members of the church. 
  3. Women can serve as deacons. Many translations of verse 11 read, “Their wives likewise…” The word for “wives” is the same word for “women” in the original language and the word “their” is not actually in the Greek text.  Here’s an important question to ask: If Paul intends v.11 to refer to the wives of deacons, why would he require qualifications for deacons’ wives and not for elders’ wives?  It seems awfully inconsistent. It is likely Paul is addressing female deacons in verse 11.

 

Romans 16:1-2. In these verses, Paul describes Phoebe as “a servant of the church in Cenchreae.”  The word “servant” is diakonos, the same word used in the 1 Tim. 3 for deacons. For Phoebe to be called a servant of a particular local church—namely, the church in Cenchreae—sounds like an official title and office she holds. Though all church members are called to be servants, nowhere does the Bible designate the entire church as official servants in the way Paul seems to with Phoebe in Rom. 16:1.  Therefore, it is very likely that she served as an official deaconess of the church in Cenchreae.

 

Reasonable Arguments for Women Deacons

Now that we’ve looked at the two key passages that positively address women serving as deacons, let’s consider some reasonable arguments for the permissibility of deaconesses in the church.

  1. We should not make restrictions where the Bible does not.  Some churches might be uncomfortable with women serving as deacons perhaps because their tradition does not leave room for it, or they might think it is better just to “play it safe” by reserving the office for men.  But we need to be careful NOT to add restrictions where the Bible does not. 
  2. Given what a deacon does (serves the church), there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits women from filling that office. The role of deacon is not a teaching or authority role prohibited by Scripture.  One of the primary reasons why the elders HPBC are comfortable with women serving as deaconesses is because the role is not one that holds authority over men or responsibility to teach men, which are the only two functions women are prohibited from performing in the church.
  3. Women do not FUNCTION as elders without the title, yet many women are FUNCTIONING as deaconesses without the title. We currently have women functioning as deaconesses at HPBC; they just don’t have the title.  It would be inconsistent to argue that women are allowed to serve in the church in a formal way, but shouldn’t be given the title of deaconess. 
  4. There is evidence of the role of deaconess in the early church.  The allowance of women serving as deacons is not a new idea.  It seems that one of the main diaconal roles for women in the church of the first several centuries was to prepare other women for baptism.
  5. Many other people we respect hold this position. Women serving as deacons is not an invention of those who deny the authority of the Bible.  It is a belief held by many conservative evangelicals and evangelical churches.
  6. The Baptist Faith and Message seems to imply the biblical permissibility of deaconesses.  Article VI on “The Church” says the office of pastor is restricted to men, but does not say the office of deacon is restricted to men.
  7. There are some diaconal roles that would be better filled by women!  Since the role of a deacon is to serve in areas of the life of the church that need attention, it makes sense to place women in service roles that tend to match their abilities and are more appropriate for a women to serve (e.g., Baptism Preparation, Building Aesthetics, Hospitality, Children’s Ministry, Weddings).

 

Conclusion

The elders are very thankful to God for the members of HPBC.  Whenever we seek to implement changes we believe are biblically based and will benefit the church, you have consistently asked thoughtful questions and provided helpful insight, undergirded with a trust in your leadership.  That’s what we experienced last Sunday as we addressed the topic of women deacons.  We began the conversation and will ask God for wisdom as the conversation continues.   


The Value and Necessity of Women in the Church

…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands… (1 Peter 3:4-5)

If we are to believe secular feminism, men and women are not equal unless women are free to fill the same roles as men: jobs, careers, military, leadership. Thus, secular feminists root male/female equality in what we do (our roles). As it relates to the church, these secular feminists argue that the Bible was written by men, for men, in a culture of men. But, because we are now “enlightened,” they argue, we must move beyond the outdated norms of Christianity and give women their place, their equal place of leadership in the church. The argument sounds good; it sounds noble; it sounds, well, “enlightened.” But, is it biblical?
 

Men and Women ARE Equal!

What secular feminists get right is that men and women ARE equal. What they get wrong is where they root equality. While secular feminists want to ground equality in our roles – what we do – the Bible grounds equality in our essence – who we are: human beings created in the image of God as male and female (Genesis 1:27). This biblical concept of the image of God is the basis for human dignity. We are to treat ALL PEOPLES – male/female, young/old, rich/poor, black/white, Asian/Hispanic – as equal before God because we are all human beings created to image God. That’s WHO we are.
 

Men and Women ARE Different!

Still, though men and woman are equal, the Bible distinguishes between the roles God has given each of us. The man was created first and placed in the Garden “to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). In the garden, Adam was to provide for himself by working the garden, but he also had a responsibility to protect the garden from invaders. In Genesis 2:18-20, however, God showed Adam that it was not good for him to be alone, so God promised to provide a suitable helper for him. Adam displayed his leadership role in naming all the animals God paraded before him, but there was no suitable helper for him there. Therefore, God created the woman to come alongside him and help him fulfill the task God had given them – to rule over creation and to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with godly offspring that reflect God’s image (Genesis 1:28). But Adam also named the woman (Genesis 2:23), showing that he had authority over her as well.

While the man and woman are both equal as God’s image, God has assigned distinct roles to each. To use John Ensor’s language, “the man initiates…the woman responds; he leads…she guides; he protects…she welcomes protection; he loves by sacrificing…she, by submitting; he is the primary provider for the family…she, the primary nurturer.” This is the precise picture that Genesis 1-2 paints. Secular feminists gasp at the biblical ideas of authority and submission, but the bible paints the husband-wife relationship much like a beautiful dance. Submission, then, is not a dirty word. As John Piper rightly notes, “Submission is the defined calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership, and so help to carry it through according to her gifts.”
 

Men and Women in the Church

While this divine pattern for male/female equality in essence and distinction in roles is established in the family, does it have any implications for the church? Can woman lead men and exercise authority over men? Can women teach or preach to men in the church? Or must women also submit to male leaders in the church?

Evangelicals answer these questions in different ways. The elders of High Pointe have concluded that the biblical pattern established for the family in Genesis 1-2 is also to be reflected in the church. In the church men are to lead, protect, and provide (teaching God’s Word) for the congregation, while women are to support, encourage, and follow the godly leadership of men called to be pastors.

The clearest passage outlining this pattern in the church is 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Contrary to what both secular and even some evangelical feminists argue, the Bible values women. Paul tells Timothy, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness” (1 Timothy 2:11). Feminists tend to focus on the word “submissiveness” as an oppressive idea. However, we need to be reminded that in a culture where women were not valued, they weren’t allowed to learn. Just think of those cultures today where it is still illegal for women to be educated. When a culture does not value women, one of the clear marks of oppression is to withhold education – not to allow them to learn. The Bible, however, sees women as of equal worth to men as image bearers, so women, like men, are to learn in the church. This is a revolutionary idea. Jesus himself allowed women to sit at his feet and learn from him.

Still, Paul does “not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). The context of 1 Timothy is one in which false teachers had gained influence and were leading the church astray. For this reason, when Paul writes to Timothy, he emphasizes the role of men as pastors or elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7). For Paul, only men are to be pastors.

Those who argue today that women can serve as pastors suggest that in 1 Timothy 2, Paul is dealing with a particular issue in the culture of Ephesus and that we should not universalize the same application to all churches. The problem, again, is where Paul roots his argument. While those who want to argue for women pastors root their argument in culture, Paul roots his argument in creation (Genesis 1-2). In 1 Timothy 2:13, Paul argues that “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” In other words, on the basis of God’s pattern in creation – men and woman are equally God’s image but different in the roles the fill – Paul argues that only men should be pastors.

The Value and Necessity of Women in the Church

But, while only men can be pastors, that is not to say that women do not have a place in church ministry. In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul argues that women may pray and prophesy in the assembly, so long as they do so in submission to their husbands. Prophecy is a direct revelation from God, so a prophet only passes along the revelation God has given her or him. Today, since we no longer receive revelation, this can be applied to the reading of Scripture. This is why at High Pointe, we ask women to pray and read Scripture in our gatherings.

In addition, women may teach other women and younger children. So, women have a valuable place as teachers of God’s Word. We should train women for this task and encourage them to teach in the various capacities available to them in the church.

At High Pointe, we believe that women may serve in a variety of capacities in the church, so long as they do not exercise authority over men. And it is a joy to have many women serving in such capacities. Of course, how we apply these truths requires great wisdom, but know that at High Pointe we believe that women are a valuable and necessary part of the church. This Sunday night, Pastor Josh Hayward will help us think through how we apply this teaching to our diaconal ministry. I hope you will join us as we think through these things together, seeking to glorify God and advance the mission Christ has given us, in the power of the Spirit, honoring both men and women as God’s image, and faithfully fulfilling the distinct roles God has given us.

Love,


It is More Blessed to Give…

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of our Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV)

Our Lord blessed us in 2016 in an overwhelming manner! Though we entered November (2016) about $140,000 behind our budget needs, you’ll remember that we had a one-time special offering with a goal of $100,000.00, which the Lord allowed us to meet and surpass! We continue to rejoice over God’s blessings, as we look back on his grace.

This year we enter the month of November just over $40,000.00 behind our budget needs. That’s a big difference! Still, it is a deficit. Let me encourage you, High Pointe, to continue your faithful, generous giving over these last weeks of 2017. Yes! We only have about nine weeks left in the year. It’s hard to imagine, I know, but I believe that we can overcome this deficit and end the year meeting budget. We’re not that far away! So join us in praying for and giving joyfully to meet our financial goals for 2017.

As an update on the Jourdan Crossing property, we have extended the deadline to close to 21 December. Lord willing, the buyer will be able to obtain the finances to purchase the property. If so, we will realize that capital on 21 December. This will go a long way in reducing our debt and alleviating some of the ongoing financial needs. However, rather than depending on the closing of this property, we would love to see God meet our budget and provide for all our ongoing needs through the generous giving of High Pointe. Why?
 

First, giving expresses our love for Christ.

We don’t give in order to gain favor with God-that would amount to justification by giving (works) and would give us reason to boast. All our giving is an expression of a love for God that flows from a genuine trust in His promises to provide for our basic needs. All the blessings we enjoy are gifts from God: our homes, cars, families, employment, even our time (James 1:17). Our generous giving is a recognition that these things have no eternal value in comparison to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord” (Phil 3:8).  In other words, generous giving expresses that we love Christ more than “stuff.”

 

Second, giving expresses our love for the body of Christ.

We may say that we love High Pointe, but the true test of our love for Christ’s body at High Pointe is that we willingly, cheerfully and sacrificially give of our time, talents, gifts and earthly treasures so that the body might build itself up in love (Eph 4:16). I am always humbled and challenged by the testimony of the early church. Luke says that “they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45).

 

Third, giving expresses our love and concern to see all peoples become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ.

Giving expresses our concern to advance the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ as articulated at High Pointe. Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matt 9:37).  According to recent statistics, only 37% of the more than 220,000 people who live within 5 miles of our building are strongly involved in a church. In addition, consider the fact that two more apartment complexes will go up on Dessau in the coming year(s). Just stop and think about the enormity of our mission field! If we are to reach the unbelieving people of Austin, we will need men, women and children of great faith and maturity who will give willingly, cheerfully and sacrificially of their time, talents, gifts and treasures to reach our community with the gospel.  So, then, let us give generously here on earth, thereby storing up our treasures in heaven where they will reap eternal dividends. Together, we can seek the Lord and ask Him to use us in a way that will bring Him the greatest glory!

 

Love,


Train Yourself for Godliness

“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:6-8, ESV)
 
As Americans, we spend lots of money, time and energy trying to either get fit or stay fit. While being or getting physically fit is important and may even be God-glorifying (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), the apostle Paul reminds us that it is only of limited value. Training for spiritual fitness, however, is of eternal value (1 Timothy 4:8). Therefore, argues Paul, we are to train ourselves for godliness because it is of value for this life and the life to come. But what does it mean to train for godliness? Let’s follow Paul’s argument.
 
Note the command and Paul’s argument. Stated negatively, Paul warns against having anything to do with irreverent (godless) babble and silly myths. Positively, Paul commands that we train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). To train for godliness, then, seems to be the opposite of giving oneself over to the false knowledge that comes from false teaching. It is giving oneself over to “the words of the faith” (i.e., the gospel), and the good doctrine that flows out of that gospel (1 Timothy 4:6). In other words, to train for godliness is to train oneself in the true knowledge of God that comes from giving oneself over to God’s Word.
 
At this point some may argue that such training sounds and smells like legalism. But training for godliness is not legalism because this true knowledge of God begins as a gift of grace at salvation, and this true knowledge of God is a gift of grace for sanctification (2 Peter 1:3-4). Having received this knowledge of God and His saving power, we must continue to grow in this knowledge – this is what it means to train in godliness. It is only legalistic if you believe yourself to be gaining God’s favor by your actions. But if we receive God’s gracious Word and take it in by faith, then we are seeking to grow in our knowledge of God through Christ by His revelation to us. But you may still wonder how to go about such training?
 
To be sure, the Lord grants us many different means of grace (ordinances, one another, gathering as a church, etc.), but here I want to emphasize the foundational means of grace for our sanctification: God’s Word illuminated by God’s Spirit. Donald Whitney in his book The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life calls this Bible intake. God has mercifully not left us in the dark to figure things out. Our Lord Jesus promised to be with us by His Spirit, and the Holy Spirit guided certain men to record the Word of God about Christ. That’s what the Bible is: God’s Word about Jesus. If we are to know God, that is, understand who He is (character, attributes) and His ways, then we must take up the gracious gift of God’s Word and read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, hear it read and preached, and even sing it. If we are to understand the Bible itself, we must read it because earlier passages of Scripture shed light on later passages of Scripture and vice versa.
 
To train in godliness, then, is to train diligently in the knowledge of God in Christ by giving yourself over to the gospel and the doctrines that flow from the gospel – that’s Bible intake (Hos. 4:6)! So, establish a time and a place, then find a plan and begin by faith. It is hard work; after all, Paul calls it training. Taking the Bible in and hearing it, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it, singing it is merely hearing God and getting to know Him in the manner in which He has graciously revealed Himself to us. Let us train together and grow in spiritual fitness!
 


What is the Gospel?

 
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, ESV)

Much confusion exists today over just exactly what the gospel is. In an effort to clarify the gospel some begin with a via negativa, highlighting what the gospel is not. This is helpful, of course, but we cannot stop there. There are several places in Scripture where the gospel is briefly summarized, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

, is one of those places. There the apostle Paul reminds us:

The gospel is the revelation of God’s plan to reconcile sinners to Himself (1 Corinthians 15:3). This saving plan was prophesied long ago (1 Peter 1:10-12), revealed to the New Testament apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) and inscripturated for our sake under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21). In other words, the gospel is not a man-made message (Galatians 1:11-2:11) but a divine revelation received (1 Corinthians 15:3

).

The gospel is about Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This saving plan that was revealed in a progressive but limited fashion to the Old Testament prophets, then fully disclosed to the New Testament apostles and prophets concerns Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-4). God reconciles all things to Himself through Jesus (Colossians 1:19-21). Consequently, the Father sent Jesus at the appropriate time in history to face the “hour” of His death on the cross for us (John 12:23-28; 17:1

). In this sense we may also say that the gospel is an unrepeatable event in history.

Thus, the heart of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for this historical event was the plan which has now been revealed (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

  1. Jesus Christ died as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 2:14-17). We are sinners born in sin who owe a debt too large to pay (Romans 6:23). Thus, the gospel is not a message of what we must do to redeem ourselves—that’s religion. The gospel message announces that only the Father can cancel the debt of sin that we owe by counting it against Jesus, His own Son (Colossians 2:13-14; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). This penal-substitutionary death was according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53:4-5).

  2. Jesus Christ was buried. The point here is that contrary to Greek philosophical ideas that Jesus only appeared to die, He really died, and He really was buried (cf. Isaiah 53:9).

  3. Jesus Christ was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4; see also Acts 2:23-32). Without the resurrection there is no gospel, no good news. Without the resurrection we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:12-18). The resurrection reminds us that in the same way Jesus was raised, all who hope in Him will also be raised.

What are we to do with this gospel?

  1. We are to repent (turn away) from our sins and receive Jesus’ work on our behalf by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Mark 1:14-15).

  2. We are to remain in this gospel by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), for the gospel is that on which Christians stand. In other words, we will never outgrow the gospel.

  3. We are to proclaim this gospel, for it is the only hope of salvation to the world (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3). This is the gospel priority (1 Corinthians 15:3). It was Jesus’ priority (Luke 4:18, 42-44); it was Paul’s priority (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:23); it should be our priority (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-47).

Love,


Speaking Life-Giving Words to One Another

 
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…The lips of the righteous feed [or shepherd] many…” (Proverbs 10:11, 21, ESV)

 

At a recent meeting, a number of us were asked what we had been reading. One of the brothers was reading Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies. He shared with us James Fraser’s twelve rules for ordering his conversations. I found it to helpful, so I used the rules this Sunday in our sermon on “Taming the Tongue” from Proverbs. Since so many of you asked for them, I offer them below. I have updated some of the language and added applicable Proverbs under each rule. You may find these twelve rules in his Memoirs of the Reverend James Fraser of Brea, Scotland 1798.

 

1st Rule: Speak nothing sinful: lying, cursing, scolding, backbiting, gossip, slander – anything that dishonors God or neighbor.

  • Proverbs 13:3 | “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

2nd Rule: Speak no idle words: will what I profit or is it vain, empty?

  • Proverbs 25:11 | “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

3rd Rule: Speak not much.

  • Proverbs 10:19 | “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

  • Proverbs 17:27-28 | “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. / Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

4th Rule: Speak soberly both as to matter and to manner: not loud, obnoxious.

  • Proverbs 27:14 | “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”

5th Rule: Speak not rashly or hastily.

  • Proverbs 29:20 | “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

6th Rule: Speak weightily, seriously

  • Proverbs 26:18-19 | “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking.’”

7th Rule: Speak in Faith: do you know, believe what you’re saying?

  • Proverbs 12:22 | “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”

8th Rule: Speak Prayerfully: have you prayed about what you will say?

  • Proverbs 15:29 | “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

9th Rule: Speak timely and purposefully

  • Proverbs 15:23 | “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is.”

10th Rule: Speak in Fear – keep a bridle in your mouth

  • Proverbs 8:13 | “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”

11th Rule: Do not let your neighbors’ faults be the subject of your talk, even if true.

  • Proverbs 16:24 | “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

12th Rule: Speak not of yourself or your worth.

  • Proverbs 16:18 | “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Grace & peace,
 


Who do you say that Jesus is?

 
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5, ESV)
Everyone has a Jesus! And most everyone esteems him. For the Hindus, Jesus was an incarnation (avatar) of the Hindu gods; Buddhists believe Jesus was a wise teacher and excellent moral example; Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet but nothing more; Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was the first created being through whom all things were made; and Latter Day Saints (Mormons) believe that Jesus is God’s son (physical offspring), who through obedience to Mormon teachings attained godhood.
 
Since everyone has a Jesus, the critical question is not, “Do you believe in and esteem Jesus?”, but, “Which Jesus do you believe in and esteem?” The purpose of John’s gospel is to give evidence that Jesus of Nazareth, as presented in the Christian Scriptures, is “the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). For this very reason John begins his gospel by identifying Jesus.

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Ask and It Will Be Given to You

 
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5, ESV)
Charles Spurgeon was a confident prayer warrior. Reflecting on prayer, he said:

“Oh, that every Christian enterprise were commenced with prayer, continued with prayer, and crowned with prayer! Then might we also, expect to see it crowned with God’s blessing. So once again I remind you that our Saviour’s example teaches us that, for seasons of special service, we need not only prayers of a brief character, excellent as they are for ordinary occasions, but special protracted wrestling with God like that of Jacob at the brook Jabbok, so that each one of us can say to the Lord, with holy determination, ‘With thee all night I mean to stay, And wrestle till the break of day.’ When such sacred persistence in prayer as this becomes common throughout the whole Church of Christ, Satan’s long usurpation will be coming to an end, and we shall be able to say to our Lord, as the seventy disciples did when they returned to him with joy, ‘Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.’”

 

Such confidence in prayer flows from an understanding of what the Lord Himself teaches us about prayer in Scripture.

We are His children (Matthew 7:7-11)

: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Jesus glorifies the Father by answering prayers offered in His name (John 14:13-14)
. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
 

When we are living in God’s will, our prayers will be answered. John 15:7 (ESV) – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” 1 John 3:21-22 (ESV)

– “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
 
If we ask according to God’s will, He hears us (1 John 5:14)
. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
 
If He hears us, then we have what we ask for (1 John 5:15)
. “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
 

These are not all the Scriptures that should give us confidence in prayer, but they are sufficient for our consideration and contemplation. It is amazing to consider that we are children of the living God who came to the Father through the Son. Since the Father delights in His one and only Son, He also delights in us who have been adopted through the Son. And if He does not withhold any good thing from His Son, He will not withhold any good thing from us. After all, He has already given us the greatest treasure—Jesus Christ, the beloved. Why would He withhold anything else? So let us pray with confidence in our great and gracious God.

Love,
 



Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. In addition, Juan serves as a council member of The Gospel Coalition, co-founder and president of Coalición, assistant professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has authored numerous books, including 1 Peter for You and Seven Dangers Facing your Church (forthcoming March 2018). Juan and his wife, Jeanine, have five daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.
 
    

 Juan’s Publications