Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
For a century and a half ‘altar calls’ (which is an odd Protestant term in itself) have been seen as important in conversion. First popularized by Charles Finney and perhaps immortalized in Billy Graham’s crusades, the altar call is often unquestioningly seen as a crucial element to sections of evangelical Christianity. However, it might be seen as socially and even emotionally manipulative practice; but what is more a substitute for what God has commanded.
God has already given us an ‘altar call,’ a way to express faith in Christ publically and it is called baptism. We don’t need to come to the front, we need to plunge beneath the waters.
Matthew’s Gospel places a clear emphasis of baptism in following Jesus, from John’s baptism of repentance (Mt 3:1–12), Jesus’ own baptism (Mt 3:13–17) to the New Covenant sign of Baptism in the process of making disciples (Mt 28:19–20).
It is through baptism that we express our faith and discipleship and the Lordship of Christ. It is through baptism that we become visible citizens of the Kingdom, members of the Church. The first command Jesus ever gave was to be baptized.
If we have been convicted of sin through a song or a sermon in a worship gathering and are open to or have trusted in the Gospel (Mt 4:17) then we should seek out or tell a leader and begin the process to be baptized.
When we create substitutes, we diminish God’s appointed means.
For this reason, I don’t offer ‘altar calls’ but willingly, gladly and regularly urge people to believe and be baptized (c.f. Acts 2:38 and Mk 16:16) and offer necessary supports in this fundamental act of discipleship.
There are a lot of words and ideas in the Bible that are taken for granted. One such word in Christianese is ‘the Gospel.’ What is the Gospel (or Good News)? Before we get the Gospel out we must first get the Gospel right.
As Paul warned the Galatians of “a different gospel” we must first note that there are false gospels (Gal 1:6). Often there is enough truth in these to make them believable. Some common examples include:
As the RCMP used to train officers to identify fraudulent bills by memorizing the facets of a real bill, so too we must know the true Gospel because there are endless counterfeits. In this way we will always be able to identify other gospels. Our energy should be devoted to knowing the one true Gospel.
So what then is the Gospel?
Gospel (original god spell, or good news in old English) comes from the Greek word euaggelion (εὐαγγέλιον). It is a proclamation, a message.
In the Greco-Roman word the gospel was a proclamation of good news when a new King/Emperor was crowned, a son born to such a man, or a decisive victory won in battle. In the Jewish world the Gospel was God’s intervention to save His people, particularly in His promised Kingdom. Of course, in both cases, it was only good news depending on what you did with the message (c.f. 1 Cor 1:18; 2 Cor 2:15–17).
Jesus is God’s King (“the Christ”) who broke into history to bring salvation for His people. Through His life, death and resurrection He won a spiritual victory over sin and death and hell and Satan. Charles Hodge said, “The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.”
Paul defined the Gospel this way:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Cor 15:3–4).
Mark spoke of the Gospel call that is closely associated with the Gospel (for every message must be responded to, positively or negatively): “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15b).
When we turn and trust in who Jesus is and what He has done, all the benefits the King won (forgiveness [Cross] and life [Resurrection]) are credited to us through faith; our relationship with God is restored and we enter into the New Covenant with Him.
The Gospel is a message with a corresponding call to respond. The Church is called to publish these glad tidings universally and without discrimination. We need to get the Gospel right and then get the Gospel out.
The Television (TV) was invented in 1927 and became popular after WWII. As a new form of medium (media is plural of medium, meaning mass communication) it engaged the populace’s senses and brain in new ways than traditional written forms. It both enabled positive content yet its addictive power made prey a ready audience to which to broadcast ungodly content, first subtly and then overtly. Today there are many other forms of screened entertainment and information but TV remains popular.
As a runner I’m permitted a neat cross-section of our culture, particularly on dark winter nights. As I run around Markdale or Flesherton, living rooms and dining rooms are ablaze with light from extra-large flat screen TVs. Canadians spend 20.6 hours/week watching TV, not to mention 5 hours/week on Youtube and more time on other applications. Many people even have it on as background during general family and social time. That is a lot of time in front of a TUBE!
When I was a child I watched too much TV. It wasn’t all bad (e.g. history documentaries), however, it wasn’t healthy spending 3 hours a night watching TV. As I grew in my faith I dropped TV altogether (except for some news). Rather, I spent time at church, working, with friends, reading or doing hobbies. While I’ve occasionally watched a movie on the laptop or on a plane or browsed Youtube my adult life has been devoid of TV. In fact we don’t own one! (This surprised a media salesman on a recent visit when trying to sell us bundle deals, we don’t use 60GB on our phone or have a TV for satellite!). As you may guess, I’m not against TV but one must handle it with great discernment.
Psalm 115:8 says (speaking of idols), “those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” Essentially, we are what we eat! What are we consuming (including music). Ironically, as an over-user, one relative accurately described the TV as ‘the idiot box’; much on TV is not edifying. Just as media can be used by and for Christ to advance His purposes, so too the media is regularly used by Satan to sow lies, dull our thinking and fill our lives with trivial things rather than things that enrich our lives (Phil 4:8). Studies show that our brains and relational skills are negatively impacted by too much media exposure, especially children. (Yet how many parents use media to pacify their children; I even know of a 4-year-old with a TV in their bedroom!).
In our media and technologically saturated world we need to be savvy in how and how much we expose ourselves too. Time to go read a book…
Godlessness is the absence of God and godly values, even a confusion in them (e.g. calling good evil and evil good). It is thinking yourself God and thereby determininig right and wrong).
In Genesis we see the origin of many things. Particularly we see how a close relationship with God produces godliness whereas a separation and distance from God produces godlessness.
*A relationship conveys saving knowledge/grace and a proximity conveys common grace/general benefits.
We were created to worship and serve the Lord in love/humility and obedience in accordance with His Word (blessing and life). This is godliness. Godlessness is pride and rebellion (curse and death).
We see this pattern unfold in Genesis. Adam and Eve succumbed to the Serpent’s temptation and fell from grace. Cain didn’t stay close to God and so his descendant, Lamech, was even more wicked than Cain (and society sunk to new depths in Gen 6). Noah’s son Ham uncovered his father’s nakedness, his offspring—Nimrod—likely was involved in Babel, and the Canaanites epitomized godlessness with their evil ways. We see this amongst God’s people too. In the time of the Judges ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’ resulting in sin. A good King was sometimes followed by a mediocre son and then a wicked grandson. When David wasn’t after God’s own heart he strayed.
Think of the ungodliness produced by godlessness in cultures throughout the ages. There is a reason the light of the Gospel lifted untold millions around the world (even merely culturally speaking) from darkness and into civilization. The West often baulks at the present blessings we enjoy (c.f. the cut flower society) yet those blessings derive from our Christian heritage. The Gospel has always been salt and light in a culture as it is in individual lives. The West foolishly thinks it can cast off its Christian roots without dire societal consequences. Christianity is the immune system of the West. Destroy the immune system and instead of life you will have death.
I heard a story recently of a great-grandfather who was a Christian, grand parents who were Chreasters (they attended church at Christmas and Easter), grand-children who were atheists and a great grandchild who attacked his grand-mother for drug money. While not all athiests are so ungodly without God godlessness will increasingly prevail.
What is the solution to the great and present ungodliness? No matter how far from God we are (or are in our walk with Him if we savingly know Him) we are called to turn and trust. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Ja 4:8). Repent of sin that causes death and trust in/follow Jesus who gives us life, who enables us by His death, Resurrection and Spirit to live godly lives; not only us but whole cultures.
This is the question Cain, very arrogantly, asked God as He investigated the murder of Abel. More than a retort, it raises a very important question, ‘am I responsible and how should I exercise that responsibility’?
In a general sense, all of humanity are our brothers. We have a responsibility to ‘love our neighbour as ourself’(GC) and “to do good to all people.” (Gal 6:10). Especially, we have the obligation to be faithful in evangelism, not shying from sharing the Gospel with them and generally in truth pointing them toward a better way by word and deed.
It is impossible to care for or share with all people. That is why Galatians says “as you have opportunity.” We are most responsible for those God has placed within our immediate sphere. This likewise follows for evangelism with the additional caveat, to do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15b), just as God spoke to Cain.
Gal 6:10 further says, “especially those who are of the household of faith.” Our ‘brothers’ are those who are so in the Lord. We have an obligation within the redeemed community to care for each other’s physical needs as evidenced by Deacons and other pictures in Acts. We begin to practice the 2nd great commandment and learn how to care for others in the church.
But life is not simply physical and so there are spiritual considerations. Positively we’re to carry out instructive discipline (discipleship) and negatively corrective discipline. Both aid the spiritual well-being of fellow believers.
We all should be disciples helping to make and grow disciples (though there always remains a role for official leaders). With the truth we know we should instruct and live as an example to fellow believers and those newer in the faith. Important Considerations: This we do in truth, humility and love always desiring what is best for the brother, to be conformed into Christ’s image.
In love, we all have a responsibility to guard our brothers and sisters from the calamity of sin ruling over them just as God did with Cain (Gen 4:7). The Bible commands us to admonish one another (Ro 15:14), watch out for one another (Eph 4:32), speak to those who’ve sinned against us (Mt 18), even pluck them from destruction (Jude 22).
Lest we come to see ourselves as the Christian Gestapo there are a number of items that make for wise counsel here:
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Ex 33:14)
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps 16:11)
It is a wonder we were created to relate to our Creator. We were designed for His presence in our life. His presence means life and light and peace. It is therefore the longing of every human soul that we find rest in the presence of Him who made us. God’s presence, unsurprisingly, is a great theme of the Bible.
Presence in the Garden
The LORD God was present in His garden. He walked in the cool of the day and spoke with Adam & Eve. There was abundant life in the Garden because God was there. This was symbolized in the tree of life.
Presence After the Fall
One curse of the Fall is that the Couple were driven from God’s presence. They would know death and decay. However, there remained small ways for God’s people to experience God’s presence: Remembering His Word, prayer, worship and the visitation of Angels. These were all ways in which God’s presence could be mediated. Occasionally God’s Spirit would come upon an individual for a special purpose. All of this was founded upon faith.
Presence Under the Old Covenant
When God rescued Israel from Egypt He was present with them, leading them by the pillar of cloud and fire. When the Tabernacle was built His glory rested upon the place. This was where God’s people could come to meet with the Lord. Much of the imagery (menorah and artwork of plant life) were reminiscent of the Garden. This was later reflected in the Temple.
Presence in the Incarnation
God’s people longed for God to be present with them. This longing was finally realized when God became flesh and dwelt among us. The Incarnation or Immanuel, “God with us.” Whoever met Jesus was in the very presence of God and had a taste of life (e.g. healings, etc).
Presence in the New Covenant
Jesus had said it was to the disciples’ advantage that He return to Heaven for He would send the Helper (Jn 16). They could only be with Jesus if He were with them. When the Helper came, Jesus would be with His followers 24/7/365 and wherever they went. He would come to dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph 4).
The Temple was no longer needed for God’s New Covenant people as Christ was our temple (Jn 2:19) who is building us into a spiritual temple (2 Pet 2:15). God’s presence goes wherever the Church goes! (This is why the early Christians forsook the physical Temple; believing its destruction as prophesied by Jesus was a judgement for Jewish unbelief).
Presence in the New Heavens and New Earth
As wonderful as the Spirit’s help is, we still pine for Jesus to return and physically be with His people. We await Jesus’ return and the New Heavens and the New Earth (a restored Eden) where Rev 21:3 says,
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Believers will spend eternity with the Lord! Come Lord Jesus, come!
Did God save Adam and Eve or in the curse did they ultimately perish in hell?
The Bible isn’t overly clear but there are some hints to suggest they were saved:
Christmas—the real Christmas—lies buried beneath so many layers of wrapping, adornments and tradition that it is worthwhile pausing to unwrap it and find true joy.
DEFINING CHRISTMAS | NOUN [krísməs]
The season/day of the year when the birth of the Christ child is celebrated; God’s anointed One, the promised deliverer. In Jesus God took on human form becoming this Christ.
Christmas is two words: Christ and missa; Latin from the worship service’s closing prayer meaning “go” or “send” (i.e. mission). Having celebrated the birth of Christ the early Christians went out to proclaim the glad tidings of His coming. The first instance was in AD 336.
Christmas is an ancient tradition, however it endures as it is real and relevant; God’s rescue plan that enables a relationship for all who repent and believe.
IT’S REAL | MATTHEW 1–2 & LUKE 1–2
Confirmed by ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish sources and faithfully recorded
in the Gospel accounts, Jesus was actually born. A first ‘Christmas’ really happened.
Josephus (d. 100) said, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man.”
The biblical author Luke gives more detail by saying, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” You can read the whole story in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2.
IT’S RELEVANT | JOHN 14:9 & ACTS 17:27
Christmas is not just a quaint old story; nor is God a far off and distant reality. We don’t have to wonder who God is or what He is like or how to come to know Him. Jesus said “whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is because Jesus is the promised Christ, the son of God.
IT’S ABOUT RESCUE | MATTHEW 1:21
Jesus’ name means ‘salvation.’ This is why the angel instructed Joseph to “call Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21).
While Jesus was a wise teacher, ultimately, he was born the Christ not just to teach but to rescue sinners through His life, death and resurrection.
Before Christmas can be seen as good news we must first acknowledge the bad news.
IT ENABLES A RELATIONSHIP | LUKE 24:46–47
As sinners, we do not know God―in fact, we are enemies of God. Yet in His grace God made a way to have a relationship with Him. The appointed means was faith—trust—in the good news of His Son: that God sent His Son, Jesus, who lived and died and rose again so that those turn and trust in Him might receive forgiveness and life eternal through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through belief in this Saviour we are reconciled with God, adopted and called to live as His children.
When we unpack Christmas we find that true joy and meaning comes not in the trappings but in the offer and ultimately acceptance of Christ. As the carol says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” May your joy be made complete this Christmas by receiving God’s grace through faith in His Son, the Christ.
On a recent visit of our area nursing home a thoughtful resident said to me after the chapel service, “I can tell that your church isn’t a slack church. There are too many slack churches these days!” I perceived this lady had attended a mainline church in her day and witnessed it, and others like it, steadily decline due to slackness. (The tragedy is they had not always been slack). By slackness she meant faithful, true, devoted, committed to the Faith.
Many dying (and dead) churches are:
Healthy churches are:
Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations...
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We can over and under shoot in sports, hunting and when driving. All of these can be detrimental. What is more detrimental is when we over or undershoot in the presentation of the Gospel. What I mean is when we diminish the Gospel by limiting it or when we embellish it and so enlarge it; when we bring the question of the extent of the atonement into its proclamation. The Gospel is neither "Christ died for you," nor "Christ may have died for you." The Gospel is the Gospel, it does not depend upon the extent of the atonement.
When this over/under happens, I confess, my neck twitches because of the biblical and theological imprecision involved, not to mention the unnecessary insensitivity it shows to Christians of differing beliefs (General and Particular)- can't we simply agree in the Gospel?
Before we get the Gospel out, we must first get it right. Gospel agreement is foundational to salvation and Christian fellowship.
I have met and heard (both historically and present day) of those who only preach the Gospel to God’s elect, or refrain from offering the Gospel or calling sinner’s to repent for fear of preaching to the unelect. (Yet we show we are among the elect by believing the Gospel!).
This paralyzes hearers from believing the Gospel because they are left wondering… It also reduces faith to a mere passive acceptance or realization that you are among the elect.
Though the Bible speaks about election, NO WHERE does it tie it to the Gospel's proclamation.
I have met and heard (both historically and present day) of those who preach the Gospel and insist, even base it solely or rest it heavily upon, the claim that Christ died for everyone (in a specific sense) or that Christ died for you (in a specific sense), and that all you need to do to be saved is to realize this. (Certainly there is universal value in Christ’s death and the Gospel is to be published to everyone).
This often immunizes hearers from truly believing the Gospel because they think they’re ok because of Christ’s death or have an interest in Christ or passively "accept" Him vs actively trusting in the Gospel or think that belief is the same as mental assent (e.g. if you believe Christ died for you, you will be saved).
Though the Bible speaks about the extent of the atonement, NO WHERE does it specifically tie it to the Gospel's proclamation.
What then is the Gospel?
Gospel (original god spell, or good news in old English) comes from the Greek word euaggelion. In the ancient world this was the announcement of a king’s victory. It was good news! Jesus is that King who through his life, death and resurrection won a spiritual victory over sin and death and hell. Trusting in His Gospel brings to the believer all of the benefits the King won.
Its proclamation doesn't depend on the extent of the atonement and may be described as:
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Markdale Baptist Church
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