In the mirror and out the window

Author’s note: This is an amended version of a post I did at my blog on my church’s site — bethlehemcarthage.com.

mirrorpostThere is a lot of talk about church health these days, particularly regarding smaller, rural, more traditional congregations such as the one I pastor. While we place our faith in Jesus Christ, who said He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it, churches do die off in various ways and for various reasons.

Sometimes those reasons have to do with regional demographics. More people are moving to urban areas so there are less people out in the country.

But more often than we probably care to admit those reasons have to do with a church focused too much on ourselves, something written about by Thom Rainer in his book my church has been talking about in Sunday School, Autopsy of a Deceased Church.

To be sure, we should be looking at ourselves, but not so that we can think about the good ole days, how things at the church seemed so much better in the past, how pews (if not filled) were substantially fuller, how there was always activity. We should be looking at ourselves for the reasons the Bible tells us to; namely, to practice the one anothers — to love one another, help meet the needs of one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, and one too often neglected — confess sin to one another.

One of the problems of small, rural churches is that — in the community — almost everybody knows almost everybody, so we not only know the people we like, we know the people we don’t like. We know people’s faults. We know their histories. We live amongst people who’ve made us mad for decades. And sometimes (more often than we care to admit) this carries over to the local church, and so those in the community wonder why they should bother — going to church with those people.

That makes it all the more incumbent upon the body of Christ to look within — so that any sin in us might be done away with. We ought to be praying to God (while at the same time being fully submissive to His will) that He might blow the sin out of us, even when it makes things hard for us. So, yes, we ought to be looking ourselves in the mirror — and your church (if not Bethlehem), should be, too.

But we must not neglect the window… and the door… If we only look internally, then we will neglect Jesus’ command to go and make disciples. You can’t do the latter if you’re not doing the former. As a church we have to be willing to be ridiculed, castigated, rejected for the sake of the gospel. As a church we have to be willing to go to those people in the community we’ve known forever and say, “Yeah, you’re right, we don’t have it all together. We’ve made mistakes. And we will in the future. But that is why our sufficiency is found is Christ and not ourselves.” We have to love people enough to not be content to live among them, but lay ourselves on the line that they might hear the gospel, and by God’s grace, respond in obedient faith.

Kind of like Jesus did.

By God’s grace may we respond in obedient faith. To God be the glory!

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The Days of Noah, Part 1 (Gen 6:1-4)

Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.

We come in our study now to what is undoubtedly one of the strangest, head-scratching, least understood, most debated passages in all of the Old Testament, if not the whole Bible. It’s one that has puzzled many, understandably so. That said, it’s not beyond understanding. I believe we can read Scripture, compare Scripture with Scripture, and make a bit more than educated guess as to what the Holy Spirit is saying in Genesis 6:1-4. So let’s read…

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

This is, of course, and you can include verses 5-8 in this, the prelude to the Flood. We have seen since chapter three with the introduction of sin into the world that sin has spread deep and wide and it doesn’t discriminate. It’s affected everyone and everything. The curse is upon the world. It is true there is hope in the midst of the curse. One has been promised, a Seed of the woman, who will crush the head of the serpent. The sons of Seth have called upon the name of the LORD. Enoch walked with God and God took him. There were preachers of righteousness, prophets even, such as Methuselah, Lamech, and now we’re getting into Noah. So there were some righteous and there was hope amidst the curse. Nevertheless, as Henry Morris puts it, godless civilization descended into such “a terrible morass of wickedness and corruption that only a global bath of water from the windows of heaven could purge and cleanse the fevered earth.” And this text is the ramp up to that judgment. Continue reading The Days of Noah, Part 1 (Gen 6:1-4)

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The Gospel According to Genesis 5

Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.

Well, let’s take our Bibles and open them up to the fifth chapter of Genesis, a chapter which covers well over 1000 years of the history of God’s creation, over a millennium of world history. Genesis 5 takes us from the the first man, Adam, to the birth of Noah. From the perfection of creation, to the specter of death and impending judgment to come — via the Flood. So this is no placeholder text. Genesis 5 is just as much a part of the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient word of God as Genesis 1:1 or John 3:16. So let’s read it, and then see what can be drawn out of it, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, to thoroughly equip us for every good work. Continue reading The Gospel According to Genesis 5

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The Breadth of the Spread of Sin (Gen 4:16-26)

Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.

Tonight we are looking once again at the fourth chapter of Genesis, Genesis 4, the theme of which, as I understand it, is the spread of sin. In chapter three we saw the beginning of sin (the fall), and then the wages of sin (which is death). Then last week in looking at the account of Cain and Abel in the first half of chapter four we saw the depth of the spread of sin… how deep the spread of sin became. Tonight, then, we’re going to see how, with sin having entered the world, how wide it spread — the breadth of the spread of sin. So let’s pick up our reading in Genesis 4:16-26… Continue reading The Breadth of the Spread of Sin (Gen 4:16-26)

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The Depth of the Spread of Sin (Gen 4:1-15)

Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.

We move on now in our study of Genesis to the fourth chapter — Genesis 4 — where you might say we begin the rest of the story. Through Adam, sin has entered into the perfect world God created, and death through sin. The serpent has been cursed, the woman has been cursed, the man has been cursed. All of creation has been cursed. The man and woman have been driven out of the Garden of Eden by God; the perfect, sinless, communion, the fellowship they knew with God, be it ever so briefly, being corrupted. Everything in the world has been corrupted.

And yet there is no lack of hope. God has promised already, in Genesis 3:15, the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. One day Satan and sin and death will themselves be dealt a fatal blow. So moving on from Genesis 3, on the one hand we are looking forward to the day that will happen, but on the other hand, until then, sin is in the world, the wages of sin is death, and since all who come from Adam will be born sinners, we see the spread of sin… the spread of sin.

If you want an overarching theme to Genesis 4 that’s it: the spread of sin. Let’s begin by reading our text: Genesis 4:1-15… 

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.”  Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to theLord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”  He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

We do indeed see the depth of the spread of sin here. In just about every way, this account represents a decline even from what happened in the Garden of Eden. There man died spiritually and now, ejected from the Garden, this account shows him taking his own shovel to make his grave a deeper grave. Continue reading The Depth of the Spread of Sin (Gen 4:1-15)

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