The Manhattan Declaration

This is a declaration of the wider Christian conscience against abortion, the subversion of the institution of marriage, and religious liberty.  It is a must read.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blogs about it here.

A brother, Patrick Schreiner, pulls a few helpful resources together here.

Read the Manhattan Declaration here.

Good article on the state of American Christianity

by John Mark Reynolds, who recently visited Southern Seminary for the Norton Lectures.  Visit here to read.

Introduction to Luke’s Gospel

From teaching preparation.  It might be helpful; or at least something for you to critique.  I added it to the “Other Writings” page above.  If you want to, enjoy. . .

A Farewell Thought to June of 2008

In God’s providence, He has allowed me to spend this month largely in Philippians 2:5-11 and Philippians 3:1-11. These texts have truly been a blessing to my soul, as God has granted to me from them a greater treasuring of Jesus Christ above all things. Christ’s self-humiliation has astounded me, while His recommendation to follow His mindset has, in itself, served to bring me low quite often in the past 30 days as I continue to battle with sin, selfishness, and evangelical apathy. His super-exaltation has become my battle cry – my Jesus is the Great “I AM”! He is Sovereign Savior and Lord (cf. Isaiah 45). It has also served to give me an earnest anticipation of His future exaltation when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – to the glory of God the Father. But I am also exceedingly thankful that in His majestic grace and mercy, He has bent my knee and clothed my tongue with His praises, and not left me to myself like many who will do the same with much bitterness and horror at the revelation of His mighty wrath – though this has also tenderized my heart and mind towards the lost who currently stand in such a position.

Philippians 3:1-11 has simply forced me, wonderfully forced me, to gaze longingly and musingly at the supremacy of Christ – how treasuring Jesus helps us to endure the toughest of trials, for in Him exists a triumphant joy that serves to strengthen us in the midst of our deepest loss and greatest sufferings for His sake. His Gospel stands supreme against all contemporary “Judaizers” – Jesus is completely sufficient to save. Paul has defined for me a wonderful caricature of the Christian as one who (1) worships by the Spirit of God, (2a) glories in Christ Jesus, (2b) puts no confidence in the flesh, (3) counts all things loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, (4) whose great passion is to “gain Christ and be found in Him,” – which means to forfeit the righteousness of works that we so earnestly contend for as the basis of salvation before Christ, and instead, to trust in the righteousness from God that depends on faith in Christ, a.k.a., a perfect imputed (alien) righteousness given on the basis of faith alone! (5) But also one who in contemplation of the supremacy of Christ – Savior, Lord, Righteousness, Treasure – and the faith that binds one to Him, yearns – yearns! – to know and be transformed by the sanctifying power of Christ’s resurrection – an earnest knowing, sharing, conforming, and attaining! – to know Him, to know Jesus Christ – with increasing intimacy! This will help us suffer the loss of all things for His sake – and we must!

Lastly, my wife and I have been given over to the consideration of “counting all things loss” – not just confidence in the flesh for salvation, but quite literally, the adding up and counting of all things as LOSS for the sake of Christ. It is as John Piper is well-known to have said in that wonderful dialogue on the prosperity gospel – that when one suffers the loss of all things, even and especially those things most dear to them, and he or she can still say that Christ is enough, Jesus is all-satisfying, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever - this makes Jesus look beautiful! I don’t know about you, but I want to make Jesus look beautiful, because He is supremely beautiful. I have thought – what is most dear to me in this life – my wife – the prospect of children with her – family – friends – my own life – these we must hate, these we must consider rubbish in so far as they hinder us from gaining Christ (Luke 14:26 cf. Philippians 3:8-9), for in themselves they are of the sweetest blessings of God. To write LOSS over everything in this life, so that when and if we are to suffer the loss of it, it will not sideline us for Christ, but though we grieve, it will strengthen our dependency upon and delight in and propagation of Him – Jesus, the Lord, to the glory of God.

I will, therefore, leave you and this month now passed in history with a parable and a thought to sum up God’s work in me:

Parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it,” Matthew 13:45-46.

Thought: If God were to require your life from you this very hour, what would you want Him to find you supremely treasuring? And thus, what are you supremely treasuring? Kingdoms that an hour in hell will cause you to quickly forget? Or Jesus Christ, the Pearl of Glory? And, ah, that we would endeavor at all costs to set this Pearl before all men!

For us all, may it be the latter in Jesus’ beautiful name. Amen.

Counting All Things Loss in View of Our Treasury, Jesus Christ

Something every Christian ought to do – and I would say immediately upon conversion – is count the cost of following Jesus Christ. In Philippians 3 Paul defines the Christian as one who worships by the Spirit of God, glories in Christ Jesus, puts no confidence in the flesh, and as one who considers the cost of knowing Christ, counting all things loss in order to gain Him. Our Lord said as much, and the apostle Paul was certainly convinced. Jesus said,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…whoever loses his life for my sake will save it,” Luke 9:23.

“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. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish,’” Luke 14:26-30.

These things our Lord said when great crowds accompanied him. Does this not seem to contrast in a great way the methodology of today designed to bring masses of people in to the church? He does not comfort them with worldly pleasantries – no, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ you had to write LOSS over those things that are most dear to you in this world – your wife, your children, your family and friends, etc. But there is good reason: Jesus is the Treasure; Jesus is to be our dearest delight. He comforts us rather with the prospect of Himself – Jesus is our only GAIN. This is (but by grace) a nearly unbearable word – when a child comes forth from the womb, a climactic moment in this life, we write “loss” over them for the sake of Christ so that if we actually suffered the loss of them (although we will rightly grieve with many tears and sorrows and wailings) we will not be sidelined for the cause of Christ, but rather we will know Christ more intimately, extol Him more passionately, describe Him to the lost more all-satisfyingly – Christ is the Treasure, and He is our portion…forever.

If we treasure Jesus above all else, then “all else” becomes expendable for His sake. If Christ is most dear to us, and we suffer the loss of those things beneath Him, then we maintain that no matter the loss, Christ we still have. What is it to suffer the loss of those things which we have already considered loss…that we may gain Christ and be found in Him? I find this extremely heavy but a necessary meditation. Have I..have you counted the cost of following Christ, and thus, written LOSS over everything because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord? Not only our pre-Christian confidence in the flesh as the basis of salvation, although this is essential to salvation; but everything that in any circumstance would hinder us from knowing, gaining, and treasuring Christ above all else!

Our Lord told Ananias of Paul, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name,” – a name that Christ chose Paul to carry to the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel, – and why is suffering for carrying this name essentially linked, – because, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. That is, to the exclusion of every other name – Buddha, Muhammad, or Brian. This will cause us to suffer – carrying the name in which lies the Person and Work unto an exclusive salvation. But do we not, like Paul, carry that name as Christians?

What was Paul doing after his encounter with Christ – we find him praying, spending time with the disciples for “some days”, stowing away into Arabia for three years, staying with Peter for 15 days, – why? Why all of this spiritual discipline, all of this musing? In part, I think, Paul was counting the cost of following Jesus Christ, – Christ was “(showing) him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” And one by one, Paul wrote LOSS over everything – everythingon purpose – that he might gain Christ and be found in Him, that he would know Him and the power of His resurrection.

In view of the supremacy of Christ have I…have you counted the cost and found all things LOST for His sake? What things have you counted LOSS? What things must you reckon still that you have not yet? “If anyone comes to me and does not hate…his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” May we all count the cost in view of the indescribable beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ and the promise that we have in Him, for if we have Him we have all things pertaining to life and godliness and glory.

Treasuring Christ in the Midst of Trials: Philippians 3:1-4:1

Over the past few weeks God has brought me to Philippians 3:1-4:1. Reading it as an entire unit, seeing its focus, and knowing what Paul meant to attend to in it has been extremely pleasant to my own soul. I thought in this blog that I would give a quick glance at this church’s circumstances, and the matter that Paul sets before them to strengthen them in the midst of them.
In this letter, one thing becomes apparent: anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (alright, so that is in 2 Timothy 3:12) – but this is the standard of the Philippian church. They are not perfect as is evident by Paul’s prayer for their sanctification and spiritual progression (1:9-11) and chapter 4. But they are not confronted by the apostle concerning anything close to those problems in Corinth, Colossae, Galatia, etc. They have partnered in the Gospel of Christ, praying, giving, and testifying to the grace of God. They herald Christ as Lord as opposed to Caesar. Because of these things, they have enemies, or opponents (1:28), in the face of whom they are not to tremble but be emboldened. They were a persecuted church precisely because they desired to advance the Gospel at all costs.
In chapter 3, Paul puts a face on their opponents: Judaizers (Jewish Christians who asserted that one had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses plus believe in Christ to be saved; cf. Acts 15:1, 5), and pleasure-seekers or sensualists (3:17-19). And these two groups remain stumbling blocks to this day – the Judaizers are those divisive legalists in your church who would in any way maintain that Christ is deficient to save; the sensualists are those who belong to the world, or are perhaps those who sit amongst you in corporate worship but beyond the church worlds perceive grace as a license to sin.
Paul means to help them endure suffering – notice, he does not tell them to avoid suffering! He has already mentioned it as a grace of God (1:29) and will soon mention it as a worthy consequence of knowing Jesus Christ (3:7-11). He does not mean for them to aim for temporal comfort, but to give them sustenance that will enable them to endure suffering with joy. And what does he recommend to them? The supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things and above all things! This, he says, rightly considered and taken unto sanctification will help you to live and suffer and die – in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (1:27). Hence the title that I’ve given to this chapter: Treasuring Christ in the Midst of Trials.
I’ve broken it down into 5 divisions concentrated on the supremacy of Christ and the meditations that come from it that have served to make my soul exceedingly glad. I offer them to you in hopes of the same outcome -

1. The Supremacy of Christ’s Gospel as a meditation on Christ’s absolute sufficiency in salvation (3:2-7).

2. The Supremacy of Knowing Christ as a meditation on the gift of faith and Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed on that basis – and of the supremacy of this satisfying knowledge that enables us to endure the loss of all worldly things (3:2-9).

3. The Supremacy of Christ’s Person and Work as a meditation on counting all things as loss in this material world that we may become less hindered and more intimate in knowing Him – whom by grace we already know, i.e., the sanctifying power of treasuring Christ (3:2-11).

4. The Supremacy of Pursuing Christ Above All Else as a meditation of the ultimate goal of the Christian life and the freeing power inherent in it that enables us to be emboldened with the Gospel and perseverant in persecution (3:2-16).

5. The Supremacy of Christ’s Triumphant Power as a meditation upon the supremacy of Christ’s sovereign kingdom and end as the source of triumphant living in the midst of trials (3:2-4:1).

With these divisions, I would leave you with what has been an encouraging set of brackets around this incredible text: Chapter 3:1 in conjunction with 4:1 provide an awesome tandem of commands to introduce and close Paul’s words. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord ,” introduces this text and the text explains the command so well – why should we rejoice in the Lord in the midst of suffering? Because Jesus Christ is sovereignly and savingly preeminent in and over all things, strengthening His Church to endure with triumphant joy the experiential pain that comes at the hands of men for the sake of the Gospel. And having expounded the supremacy of Christ and how it prepares us to live and suffer and die well, he concludes with another command of encouragement – “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” “Rejoice” and “stand firm in the Lord” offer us a solid battle cry in view of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

I hope these provide you with some edifying thoughts. If so, feel free to comment as always.

1 John 2:2: Thoughts on Definite Atonement

Here is another offering of a text typically used by those who defend an indefinite atonement. Once more, I am not trying to stir a theological boiler, but rather engage in edifying discussion. After all, in my estimation, what can be more edifying than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ – and let us type or read that lightly, – that Jesus is our (the sinners) Lord and Savior! His person and work are our exclusive glory and boast (Philippians 3:1-11).

The atonement itself is the crisis of Christ central to the ministry of God’s Church. It ought not to be a doctrine of divide, but of great rejoicing. And so I am grateful for the unity found in recent debates between Calvinists and Arminians. Every biblical Christian, by that title, must hold that Christ’s cross-work was and is and will always be a perfectly appeasing, penal, substitutionary sacrifice, that is sufficient for all of the sins of the entire history of mankind, in the sight of the Father in heaven. It was rendered in perfect humble obedience to the Father and is the basis from which Christ was super-exalted in His resurrection, ascension, and coronation to the right hand of Power, far above the heavens. And, the eschatalogical judgment will thus be a moral one based upon the sinless righteousness of God offered in Christ that depends on faith in Him – every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Yahweh (Lord) to the glory of God the Father! Oh, the rivers that flow from the service of Jesus Christ, and that to God and for sinners like me and you.

But how is this atonement applied? We looked briefly at 2 Peter 2:1 in order to deal with the term “bought” there and its meaning in relation to the “deniers”. Today, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on 1 John 2:2, – “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

1. This verse must be read with the entirety of John’s gospel. In his gospel, we find several statements which speak of an indefinite view of the atonement at face value (1:29; 3:16; 12:32, etc.); but we also find several which speak of a definitive view of the atonement (3:16?; 6:36-40 cf. 6:44, 65; 10:3, 11; 17:2, etc.). But there is not much reference to sin or of repentance (see Nathaniel, Nicodemus, the blind man healed, etc.) – John’s treatment of Christ’s dealing with them is quiet concerning their sin, although, the biblical witness verifies what we hold, namely, that they were in fact sinners, and needed to be reconciled to God. John’s gospel is quite silent and generic concerning the atonement landscape and its inherent sacrificial language. But when it is mentioned, it is mentioned broadly, to the world – but often restricted to those who believe out of the world. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” and thus, God loved the world – the gift of His Son was for the world in many ways – but it is quickly narrowed by the continuation of “whoever believes” – that it is those who believe in this Gift out of the world who will not perish but have eternal life. And not to be one-sided, faith is absolutely something that sinners must do. The work of God is for us to believe in the one whom He has sent (John 6:29). If they don’t do it, they will perish. They just won’t do it without God enabling them to do it. Faith is God’s gift in accordance with His will (Ephesians 1; 2:8).

2. I make that long point to show that when one arrives at 1 John they survey the scene from within the church and not the greater part of the ancient world. He writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin,” 2:1. He then means to exhort us to holiness and solemn gratitude by the mention of Christ our Advocate with the Father – a picture of Christ’s intercessory conquest on behalf of the Church. And then we come to our verse:

“He is the propitiation for our sins…”

That is, Christ is the propitiation (and expiation) for the sins of the church in John’s address, as well as, universally. By His sacrifice, Jesus both reconciled sinners to God and satisfied God’s holy anger against our sin. Food for thought: did Jesus do this for every sinner in the history of the world? It puzzles me greatly! How can we say that He has actually done this for every sinner – reconciled them to God and given them the status of a child before His majesty in heaven? We can’t! If we continue in this interpretive path, then we either say that Christ actually did this for every sinner but that His atonement wasn’t powerful enough to sway the wills of men; or we recant such actuality, and settle for this – that Christ’s sacrifice didn’t actually do this for the whole world, but only possibly (He made this possible for the whole world); but if we hold to the actuality of His sacrifice, then what do we make of those who die in their unbelief, whom Christ actually died for, reconciled to God and gave a favorable status with the Father by appeasing His wrath against them? What sin will they be condemned for? This leaves us in a great quandry – one that I am unwilling to stay in with better interpretations and God-honoring solutions available.
“…and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
This reads very conclusively. There it is – not the church’s only but for the whole world! At this point I will not shift gears and turn to that often used argument that John is referring to Jewish believers in the first half of the text and Gentiles in the second half, although it carries some merit (and I also held on to it for a time).
But the attention in this verse is a carry over from what precedes it – Christ our Advocate with the Father when we, the church, sin. He, Christ our Advocate, is also “the propitiation for our sins.” Running parallel with this is 1 John 4:10 – “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Two things of note: first, we have God the Father specifically commissioning His Son to be the propitiation for our sins – God sent Jesus to propitiate the sins of the Church! Ah, but what of John 3:17 – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” You might say, see there…! But what of John 3:18, where we have that remarkable narrowing again – “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,” – so that it appears that in 1 John 4:10, the apostle simply shorthands the intention of John 3:17-18.
Secondly, there is no mention of “and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” in 1 John 4:10 as there is in 1 John 2:2. Why? Because when he mentioned it in 2:2, it was simply an afterthought for clarification, and he did not need to attend to it again. Why is this important? Because 2:2 is focused on the “propitiation for our sins,” – those sins that we commit after we have repented and believed in Christ and been baptized, etc. – and its continuation, therefore, is a statement made with regards to the way in which God forgives sin in general. In other words, there are not a half dozen ways in which God makes propitiation for sin, but only one way – by the Lord Jesus Christ – and that at all times towards all sinners in all places forever. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins and not only ours, but this is how he reconciles sinners to God in general, always and everywhere.
J. Ramsey Michaels writes:

“But having introduced an explicit theology of atonement to deal with the specific problem of ‘our’ sins now, after conversion and baptism, the author adds, almost as an afterthought, that of course this is God’s way of dealing with sin always and everywhere: ‘and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.’ There is not one ‘propitiation’ for us and another for the rest of the world, but Jesus…is the only sacrifice, and the only way of salvation for all. The point is not the Jesus died for everyone indiscriminately so that everyone is the world is in principle forgiven, but that all those forgiven are forgiven on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice and in no other way.” (*1)

I think that this best reflects the meaning of the Bible, of the author, of the epistle itself, and of the text under consideration. Above all, I think it most glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ, and serves to encourage us in view of His sacrifice to advance that Gospel at all costs. Your comments are, as always, welcome…

*1. Michaels, J. Ramsey; Atonement in John’s Gospel and Epistles; an essay in The Glory of the Atonement; pg. 117.

The Supremacy of Christ for Righteousness: A Look at Philippians 3:4-7

Upon reading Philippians 3:4-6 one might wonder why Paul so engages in what he deems foolish boasting. But much can be said of his tactic when fully thought out. For it appears that Judaizers (Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentile Christians submit to the law of Moses and the rite of circumcision *1) had crept into the church at Philippi heralding a false gospel much like that of those in Galatians. Their gospel was that of an insufficient Christ. It was Jesus plus something, or better yet, circumcision and law with a side of Jesus.
But why does Paul then seemingly join them? Perhaps they would say much of themselves and then retort to claiming the insufficiency of Paul in accordance with their human standards. In conjunction with that, Paul certainly wanted to show them that there was no saving value in mere external inheritance or religious accolade. Therefore, instead of shying away, he meets them head on. He confronts their arrogance and foolish boasting on the basis of a hypothetical - if (and I reiterate, if) there is any saving value in what you say or standardize or lay as yokes upon mens necks, and you boast in those things as your ticket to heaven, I have more to boast in than you – though such boasting is foolishness!
It is an oddly awesome tactic of retort and witness of Christ. In explanation of this Calvin writes:

“He does not speak of the disposition exercised by him, but he intimates, that he has also ground of glorying, if he were inclined to imitate their folly. The meaning therefore is, ‘My glorying, indeed, is placed in Christ, but, were it warrantable to glory in the flesh, I have also no want of materials.’ And from this we learn in what manner to reprove the arrogance of those who glory in something apart from Christ. If we are ourselves in possession of those very things in which they glory, let us not allow them to triumph ove Christ by an unseemly boasting, without retorting upon them also our grounds of glorying, that they may understand that it is not through envy that we reckon of no value, nay, even voluntarily renounce those things on which they set the highest value. Let, however, the conclusion be always of this nature – that all confidence in the flesh is vain and preposterous.” (*2)

I find his words helpful. That if Christians have lived such exemplary external lives prior to knowing Christ, then it is leverage to be used in sharing the Gospel, so that when an unbeliever confronts us with his outward heritage and fleshly accolades as a defense against condemnation and an advantage or basis of salvation and self-glorying, we may with confidence reply, “this is a foolish thing to boast in, but on the hypothetical argument that the externalities of religion are the basis of salvation, then I have more reason to boast in the flesh than you (if in fact we do!): “I was born into a religous home, professedly Christian; I was baptized as an infant; I was confirmed at the age of 13; I partook of the sacraments regularly; as to my life, I was not the prototypical teenager – I never partied, had sex, or gave my parents mental breakdowns, etc.” And then having triumphed (albeit foolishly), humbly and adamantly state, “but whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ,” that is, every fleshly advantage I had, I forfeited that I might have Christ, for what is a man’s righteousness before God’s righteousness? What, indeed, would be the reason for me to hold on to an approximation, which is external only, when in the Gospel, perfection is offered me through faith in Christ, and perfection, internally and externally, before God and men is what is required; and this Christ is for me! He alone was pleasing to the Father in Himself, and no man could condemn Him of sin either.

My fleshly advantages were (in truth) hindrances to me in coming to that which God required of me, when I made those advantages my boast and the basis of my eternal security. Christ’s rightousness does not fall short. So let us say to them that our pre-Christian lives were more exemplary, if in fact they were, but that such boasting is foolishness, for no man attains to the righteousness of God but through faith in Christ – therefore, all that I considered gain (and if you are witnessing – “all that you right now consider gain for yourself unto eternal life”) I count as loss! Why? For the sake of gaining Christ, the righteousness of God for me, the sinner. May the supremacy and the sufficiency of Christ’s person and work ever be our solid foundation, hope, and boast.

*1: Hughes, R. Kent; Preaching the Word Commentary on Philippians; pg. 123.

*2: Calvin, John; Calvin’s Commentaries; Philippians; pgs. 89-90.

A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 3 of 3

Luke 18:15-17 reads,

“Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”

In parts 1 and 2 we have addressed two kinds of people involved in the ministry of a church and specifically the youth within that church – parental figures and disciples. In this part, we will turn our attention to a third Person, our Lord Jesus Christ and His priorities for youth ministry.

Part 3: The Priorities of Youth Ministry

“But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”

I have listed three priorities from this text that are simple staples to a successful youth ministry. And I am going to address them in reverse order. Therefore,

Priority #3: This church body must be made up of people who have received the kingdom of God like a child.

This is important in three facets;
One, we must be born again Christians. We live in a day and age when many who profess Christianity do not practice Christianity – and the authenticity of one’s faith is not in a mere profession but in the practice of Christ. Billy Graham has estimated that seventy-five to eighty percent of the people sitting in the pews on Sunday morning are lost. Have you attempted to force your way into God’s kingdom, or like a child receives a gift on Christmas morning, have you received the kingdom of God? By the one you will die lost and condemned; by the other you are fitted for glory.

Two, we must be born again Christians aimed at holiness. The kingdom of God implies the rule of God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ, they have believed in Jesus Christ as Lord over every aspect of their lives or not at all. Two-faced Christianity will serve to hinder a child from coming to Christ, but a true passion for holiness that glorifies Christ will serve to bring a child to Christ.

Three, we must be born again Christians aimed at holiness and humility, or who endeavor as servants of Christ to bring children to Christ. Jesus said in Luke 9:48, “whoever receives a child in my name receives me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” One characteristic of a child that Christ continually drew upon was the characteristic of humility. As such, children teach us a valuable lesson in bringing them to Christ – we must be humble servants.

Priority #2: We must give careful attention to our lives to avoid being a hindrance.

Christ said, “Do not hinder them.” This is an imperative of Christ, and as such, we would do well to obey Him. In Matthew 18:1-6, it is recorded that the disciples were arguing over “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And Jesus calls a young child to Himself and sets the child in the midst of them and says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

In that day, the worst of criminals experienced this very punishment. If we in any way hinder children from coming to Christ, Christ says we are counted among the worst of them. We must give careful attention to our lives, to our doctrine, to our words, to our thoughts, and to our priorities, for by them a sponge-like child will either fill up with sin or the truth that leads to salvation.

Priority #1: Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me.”

I believe that there are at least two things wrapped up in the “Me” of this greatest imperative of Christ, “Let the children come to Me.”

First, Christ’s preeminence as the definitive priority or a matter of Christ’s preeminence. When Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me,” He means that in contrast to anything else. Parents, it is good for you to set education as a priority for your child. It is good for you to set athletics as a priority for your child. It is good for you to set certain hobbies or friendships as priorities for your children. It is good for you to raise them with good manners and a solid moral foundation. But these all become sinful when they take preeminence over Jesus Christ as the definitive priority of your child’s life. When your child misses worship for a hobby, or Sunday school because of a spend the night party, or a family Bible study because of athletics, or a monumental discipleship weekend because of other forms of entertainment, then a sinful shift of priorities has occurred. Christ says, “Let the children come to Me.” When I misrepresent a text on Wednesday nights or teach them more about morals than the Gospel, or prefer that they follow me instead of Jesus Christ, I have hindered them from coming to Christ. And Christ says to me, “Let the children come to Me.” What good will it be, beloved, for a child to be well-educated if on the day of judgment he has not “come to Christ?” What good will athleticism be for a child when they stand before God in paralytic awe and horror that they had never “run to Christ?” What will there manners and morality be on the day when God requires of them the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, if they have not been “clothed with Christ?” God help us to honor Christ as the definitive priority in the life of this youth ministry. Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me.”

Secondly, Christ’s biblical Person and Work are revealed in His word “Me”, or a matter of Christ’s Person. We must bring the children to the biblical Jesus, the Jesus who reveals Himself even in our text as Prophet, Priest, and King. We must not fashion for ourselves an idol, beloved, and present “him” to the youth. No, we must speak of Him as He is in truth.

A well-known Christian publication recently sent out its Easter Sunday school study for children. In it they purposefully removed the crucifixion of Christ, His Priestly Work on our behalf, claiming that the crucifixion of Christ was too graphic for young children. I would ask them, “How can we celebrate Easter if we omit the substitutionary death of Christ?”

Beloved, in our living, loving, praying, serving, preaching, and teaching, we must hold up the biblical Christ as central to this youth ministry.

When He rebukes the disciples for their sin in our text, we see Christ the Prophet.

When Jesus speaks with the authority of God and gives the decree of the kingdom, we see Christ the King.

And when our Lord lovingly and compassionately calls the children to Himself in order to bless them, we see Christ our Priest and Intercessor before God.

In this youth ministry we must contend for the Christ who points out our sin, paid for our sin, and exercises Lordship over every aspect of our Christian lives. Anything less and we will hinder the children from coming to Christ. May it never be! Jesus says, “Let the children come to Me.” Let us, therefore, endeavor to bring them to Him. To God be the glory. Amen.

A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 2 of 3

Luke 18:15-17 reads,

“Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the biblical makeup and ideal involvement of these parental figures in youth ministry (verse 15a). Now we turn our attention to the second part of verse 15.

Having addressed the issue of parents and youth ministry, let us now examine the problems of youth ministry within the confines of this text.

Part 2: The Problems of Youth Ministry

Notice again our text:

“And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them,” 18:15b.

The greatest assault on youth ministry is sin – the sin of the children, the sin of the parents, and the sin of the world. Sin is the greatest problem in youth ministry. But if you would look to your right and to your left, in front of you and behind you, and in your mirror tonight, then you will see the problem of youth ministry in this text – the problem is us!

It is not the Pharisees that rebuke the people from bringing their children to Christ, who so often rebuke Christ; it is not the Sadducees or the Hellenists or the pagans; and contemporarily, it is not the naturalist or the spiritualist or the postmodern man. These who would prevent children from coming to Christ are the disciples’ of Christ – those closest to Him.

The disciples, here, make a critical error in their understanding of Christ’s mission and their place in it. Christ came to seek and to save sinners, and the disciples were set free to be servants to all in bringing everyone to Christ!

Though this is not an exhaustive list, I have recognized four kinds of problematic disciples who stand in the pathway of children coming to Christ, starting with these disciples:

First, the elitist disciple; as Calvin rightly states, these disciples preferred to introduce to the world a “fancied Christ.” They rebuked the parents who would have their children blessed by Christ because they perceived Christ as a King to important to extend love and grace and compassion and time to infants and young children. These disciples had forgotten that they too were lost in sin, and that Christ sought each one of them out. They had forgotten that they were sinners saved by the grace of Christ. Because of this, they tended to be unevangelical and separatist. They thought of themselves like bodyguards to a famous individual. Under these disciples, children will grow in the shadows of legalism and partiality, while missing the compassion and love of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ – that is, if they can get past these disciples into the arms of Christ.

I would give these disciples credit, for at least they believed in a powerful Christ, and would, obviously, come to grow to know Him more intimately as time passed and the exaltation of our Lord occurred. Today, the problematic disciples are not of the kind that believe Christ to be too high and lofty to fool with infants. Rather, many disciples today follow a Christ who is much less than what He has revealed Himself to be.

Here are a few more problematic disciples:

Secondly, the hypocritical disciple who would witness of a “powerless Christ”. On Sunday morning, these disciples wear a smile and say their “amen’s”, but Monday through Saturday, fail to spend any meaningful time with Christ. They say they believe Him to be powerful, but they never pray for salvations, and they never expect much from the youth ministry of the church. They masquerade as one thing, and practice something else.

Thirdly, the shallow disciple who would witness of an “unentertaining Christ.” They prefer the youth to watch Christian videos, play Christian games, have Christian parties, and listen to sappy Christian music, but they stand to rebuke anyone, parents, pastors, or laity who rather bring the children to Christ through expositional preaching of God’s Word, and a seriousness about the realities of sin, Satan, death, hell, and Christ crucified and raised as victor over them all.

Fourthly, the lawless disciple who would witness of a “tolerant Christ.” These disciples cling to the love and grace and compassion of Christ and His authority to give these things to them, but they cannot fathom a Christ who is coming a second time to judge the world in His righteousness. To these, Christ does not speak about personal sin, nor does He demand fruit and holiness. They profess to know much about Christ, while practicing very little of Christ.

Lastly, the material disciple who would witness of a “prosperity Christ.” These disciples are very dangerous because they are entrenched deeply into the thinking of the world. Christ alone does not satisfy, they say, and God is unhappy with you if you are not prospering materially. This disciple is, perhaps, the most tempting for youth to follow, because many pass this garbage off as “The Gospel”, and it is not. God is the ultimate satisfaction; in Him shall we be truly satisfied.

Regardless, all of these problematic disciples have one thing in common. They disdained what they saw. We must ask ourselves from the text, “What did they see that they felt so strongly to rebuke?” And the answer is – passionate people who having truly tasted of the goodness of Christ endeavored with every ounce of their strength to bring the children to Jesus Christ! That’s it! They saw undeniable passion put to practice and the outcome was evangelism – the parents were bringing the children to Christ!

I pray that instead we would all unite as faithful disciples whose desire is to introduce not a fancied Christ, or a powerless Christ, or an unentertaining Christ, or a Christ who tolerates disobedience, but rather the biblical Christ, the Jesus who says, “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them.”

In Part 3 we will address the priorities in youth ministry as Christ identifies them in verses 16 and 17 of Luke 18.

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