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If Job wasn’t righteous enough…

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - If Job wasn't righteous enough...Consider the ways Job is described:

  1. “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (1:1).
  2. God said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (1:8).
  3. After Satan took Job’s animals, servants – and worst of all – his children, God said the same thing to Satan and added, “And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause” (2:3).

These verses present a fantastic description. As far as earthly righteousness goes, nobody could do better than Job. But this is what God says:

Job was arguably the greatest man in the Old Testament. In our eyes he might be one of the most righteous men in history. But he wasn’t righteous enough in God’s eyes. Continue reading If Job wasn’t righteous enough…

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When should children be baptized?

When should your children be baptized?I recently received the following question: “When should children be baptized? Please explain why a child’s baptism should] lack coercion. Helpful tips, suggestions, things to avoid. This would be helpful. Sounds like the approach we definitely want to use.”

Here’s my response…

I hate to sound harsh, judgmental (or arrogant, since my oldest of five is still only eight), but one of the most common mistakes parents make is having their children baptized at a young age. At that time the baptism could be more a product of the parents’ encouragement than the child’s heart to obey Christ. When children are young they generally desire to please their parents. If parents want a child to be baptized, most likely the child will have that desire. This leaves the parents wondering, “Was my child trying to please me or God?”

Continue reading When should children be baptized?

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Unworthy of Heaven?

Unworthy of HeavenIn The Parable of the Wedding Feast, heaven is pictured as a marriage with Jesus saying, “Those who were invited (referring to the Jews) were not worthy.” (Verse 8). These words stuck out to me: “How could they not be worthy when we’re all not worthy?”

Worthy can mean you deserve something; therefore, were they unworthy because they didn’t deserve to attend? The Jews were God’s chosen people. If anyone deserved to attend, it would’ve been them. If they didn’t deserve to attend, nobody deserves to attend.

Worthy can mean you’ve earned something. Had they not done enough? There are two reasons this can’t be the case:

  1. Paul said the Jews “have a zeal for God” (Rom 10:2). They had probably done more for God than anyone; if anyone had earned, or shown themselves worthy to be in heaven, it was them. If the Jews hadn’t done enough, nobody has done enough.
  2. The Gospel is salvation by grace through faith, and grace is unmerited or unearned favor. Grace can’t be earned. Grace can only take place when something hasn’t been earned: Romans 11:6 If by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. Grace is the opposite of being worthy; grace is necessary because we’re not worthy. By definition the Gospel is for unworthy people.

So they can’t be unworthy because they hadn’t done enough.

Worthy can mean “great character or commendable excellence”, so did their sinfulness make them unworthy?That would seem reasonable except verse 10 says, “the wedding hall was filled with guests” and they were as sinful as the Jews who couldn’t attend (Rom 3:10, 23).

So if they’re unworthy, but it’s not because they didn’t deserve it, and it’s not because they hadn’t earned it, and it’s not because of their sinfulness, what makes them so…not worthy?

They were unworthy for one very simple reason: they rejected the invitation. They were invited in verse 3 and it says, “they were not willing to come.” The simple, yet terrifying truth is if you reject Jesus then you become unworthy of heaven. None of us are unworthy because of our sinfulness or lack of works, but we are unworthy if we don’t embrace Jesus. The King says, “I can handle murderers, adulterers, thieves, people who haven’t done anything deserving attendance, but I can’t handle anyone who doesn’t love My Son.”

In John 16:9 Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” This sounds like an odd statement considering there are so many sins. We’d expect Jesus to say, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, because men are sinners” but His statement makes it sound like there’s only one sin: not believing in Jesus. While there are different sins, there is only one sin that has eternal consequences…there’s only one sin that can’t be forgiven…there’s only one sin that determines where people spend eternity, and it’s not the sin of lying, adultery, murder, homosexuality…it’s the sin of not believing in Jesus. And that’s sin these people committed; that’s what made them unworthy…

Acts 13:46 Paul and Barnabas [told the Jews], “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and JUDGE YOURSELVES UNWORTHY of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

People who reject Jesus judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life. People who surrender their lives to Jesus – regardless of what they have earned or haven’t earned, regardless of what they deserve or don’t deserve, regardless of what they have done or haven’t done, regardless of their sinfulness or perceived lack of sinfulness – become worthy of everlasting life and will find themselves at the wedding: Revelation 19:9 Blessed are those who are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!

You can listen to a sermon I preached on The Parable of the Wedding Feast here.

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Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen

During yesterday’s sermon I discussed The Parable of the Wedding Feast, stopping right before Matthew 22:14 which says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” That verse doesn’t seem to fit though; it seems like it should read, “Many are called, but few respond” because the parable is primarily about people unwilling to accept the King’s invitation (aka call to salvation).

The many called are those who hear the Gospel. It’s the second step in God’s wonderful plan of redemption: (1) Whom He predestined, (2) these He also called; (3) whom He called, these He also justified; (4) and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Rom 8:30). The call itself takes place in Matthew 22:2-3 The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who…sent out his servants to CALL those who were invited to the wedding. The call is to see yourself as a sinner, stop trusting in your own righteousness, embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior and receive His righteousness by grace through faith.

Of the many called, it’s a much smaller number that actually respond to the Gospel and are saved: they are the few. The “many”and “few” Jesus discusses in Matthew 22:14 are the same “many”and “few”Jesus discusses in Matthew 7:13-14:

  • Matthew 22:14 MANY are called, but FEW are chosen.
  • Matthew 7:13-14 Wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and MANY who go in by it. Narrow is the gate which leads to life, and FEW find it.

The few chosen in Matthew 22:14 are the same few that enter by the narrow gate in Matthew 7:14, are they’re the same few that are predestined, justified and glorified in Romans 8:30.

The balance struck in these verses is really tremendous…

In verse 3 after the call goes out it says, “they were not willing to come”; it’s not that they weren’t able to come it’s that they weren’t willing to come. The call goes out again in verse 4: “Again, [the King] sent out other servants, saying, “Come to the wedding.” But in verses 5 and 6 it says, “They made light of it and went their ways…the rest seized his servants…and killed them.” This group’s rejection is even worse than the first as you again see the people choosing not to come, choosing instead to reject the wonderful love and grace of the King. Then after all that you see that they weren’t “chosen”, looking to the sovereignty of God in choosing the elect.

The finer details of how people are chosen, and why few are chosen instead of many, looks to the very center of the tension between:

  • Calvinism and Arminianism
  • Unconditional Election versus Conditional Election
  • God’s Sovereignty versus Man’s Free Will

This has caused a debate that has raged in the church for centuries, but the truth is if you want to be one of the few chosen as Matthew 22:14 says, and be  justified and glorified as Romans 8:30 says, enter by the narrow gate as Matthew 7:13 says by confessing Jesus as Lord.

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The Gospel Is Explained Financially in Scripture

The Gospel is explained financially in Scripture by using words accounting terms. The best way to appreciate the beauty that takes place when believers put their faith in Christ is by understanding these words. Let’s take a look at each of them!

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Sin Debt

Because of our sins, we have a huge amount of sin debt against God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:12 He encouraged them to say, “Forgive us our debts.” In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the man doesn’t have a huge criminal record, but he does have a huge amount of debt. The servant pleaded with the king for mercy. In Matthew 18:27 it says, “The master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” The forgiveness of the man’s debt pictured the forgiveness of his sins.

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Ransom and Redemption

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre Gospel is explained financiallyA ransom is something paid to cancel or erase a person’s debt. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Paul said, “Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6).

When someone pays the ransom for another’s debt, it’s known as redemption. The individual who pays the ransom is known as a redeemer. Titus 2:14 says, “Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed.” Peter discussed what was required to cancel our sin debt and he said we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18, 19).

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Imputation of Sin and Righteousness

“Impute” is accounting term referring to moving assets from one side of a ledger to the other. The Greek word for impute is logizomai, and it occurs forty-one times in Scripture. Almost half of those times it occurs in Romans, and of those nineteen times, eleven times it occurs in chapter 4! Just like 1 Corinthians 13 is the Love Chapter, Romans 4 is the Imputation Chapter. Continue reading The Gospel Is Explained Financially in Scripture

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A great spiritual heritage means nothing if…

Nobody’s spiritual heritage compares to that of the Jews. Paul lists some of the blessings unique to them as God’s people: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came (Rom 9:4, 5). When John the Baptist came on the scene though he told them, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (meaning produce fruit that shows you’ve repented), and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matt 3:8, 9).

Basically, the Jews thought they were saved BECAUSE of their spiritual heritages; in that sense it actually became a stumbling block for them. They were trusting in that more than they were trusting in repentance and faith in Christ; therefore, John told them, “God could turn these rocks into children of Abraham” meaning being a physical descendant of Abraham doesn’t cut it.

Jesus had to contend with this too. The Jews told Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants…Abraham is our father” but Jesus replied, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me…You do the deeds of your father” (John 8:32-41). Abraham was their father physically, but spiritually their father was the devil.

Here’s what’s interesting: Jesus said “If you were Abraham’s children…” but they were Abraham’s children! This makes sense if we understand Abraham had two types of children:

  • Physical or biological children: the Jews.
  • Spiritual children: people who have put their faith in Christ. There there were lots of Jews who were physical children of Abraham, but not spiritual children of Abraham, and there are lots of non-Jews, or Gentiles, who are not physical children of Abraham, but are spiritual children of Abraham:
    • Romans 2:28 He is not a Jew (or child of Abraham) who is one outwardly (or biologically)…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly (or spiritually)
    • Galatians 3:7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. That’s talking about spiritual sons of Abraham.

Jesus and John’s point is the Jews needed to move from being physical children of Abraham to spiritual children of Abraham.

There is tremendous application in this for children today with great spiritual heritages…

  • The Jews thought they were saved because they had a great spiritual heritage, and many times children that grow up in the church think they’re saved because of that spiritual heritage.
  • The Jews thought they were saved because Abraham was their father, and many times children think they’re saved because their parents are Christians.

And there’s just as much application in this for parents as well:

Sometimes parents think their children are Christians just because they have Christian parents. Just as frequently as you hear children say…

Oh yeah, I’ve always been a Christian. I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve always gone to church.”

You’ll hear parents say…

“Oh yeah, my kids have always been Christians. They grew up in a Christian home. They’ve always gone to church.”

Nobody has always been a Christian any more than the Jews were born spiritual children of God. Every Christian is an individual who at some point surrendered his or her life to Christ, and anyone who hasn’t done that isn’t a Christian.

When John the Baptist came on the scene he told the Jews, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (meaning produce fruit that shows you’ve repented), and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matt 3:8, 9).

It’s interesting John told the Jews, “Do not think to say to yourselves…” It sounds like the times in the New Testament we’re told, “Do not be deceived.” That’s a phrase we see when there’s a strong tendency for us to be deceived in a certain area. For example:

  • 1 Cor 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” There’s a tendency for us to think we can hang out with the wrong people and not suffer as a result.
  • Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. There’s a tendency for us to think we can “get away with sin.”

There was clearly a strong tendency for the Jews to think they were saved because they were Jews, and there’s a strong tendency for the children of Christian parents to think they’re saved because they’re the children of Christian parents.

This all looks to why the statistics are so alarming about young people leaving the church: they never develop their own faith. They only had a relationship with God through their parents and when their parents were out of the picture they had no relationship with God themselves. Their parents were their connection to God and without them there was no connection. The Jews had to make a willful, deliberate decision to repent and follow Christ, and the children of Christian parents need to make a willful, deliberate decision to repent and follow Christ.

Although it might look like the real application in all this is for the children of Christian parents, there’s as much application for Christian parents themselves. Christian parents can’t trust that their children are saved because they grew up in Christian homes. They can’t trust that because their children went to church every Sunday for years or sat in on countless family devotionals that they’re born again. They need to fervently pray their children to surrender their lives to Christ.

This hits especially close to home for me as a pastor as my children spend more time involved with church activities than anything else in their lives. I know they need to recognize their sinfulness and need for forgiveness through Christ. I know they need to repent and surrender their lives to the Lord.

Let me conclude by making two points…

  1. When John told the Jews they needed to be baptized, that was terribly shocking for them because only Gentiles were baptized when they wanted to proselytize to Judaism (you can learn more about this in a sermon I preached on Luke 3:1-6 titled Preparing the Way for the Lord). Basically, they learned they were as filthy as the Gentiles and needed to repent and be spiritually cleansed just like them. The children of Christian parents are as filthy as the children of non-Christian parents and they need to repent and be spiritually cleansed as much as children that have never set foot in church.
  2. The Jews had an amazing spiritual heritage. No nation in history has experienced the blessings they’ve experienced. But that spiritual heritage meant nothing (and was even a stumbling block for them) if it didn’t lead to repentance and personal faith in Christ. Similarly, a child could have the greatest spiritual heritage in the world, but a spiritual heritage means nothing if it doesn’t lead to repentance and personal faith in Christ. Here’s a sermon I preached related to this subject.
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How Can Man Be Right Before God?

In Micah 6:6 the prophet says, “With what shall I come before the Lord, And bow myself before the High God?” Basically he’s asking, “What do I have to do to be right with God” Then he provides a number of guesses: Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He provides a number of guesses, “Do I bring Him what’s prescribed under the Old Covenant? Will ten thousand sacrifices work? What about sacrificing my own son for my sin? Will that please God?” The implied answer is none of these make us right with God; no amount of human effort will satisfy God.

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus made a statement that would have shocked all his listeners, and it should shock us too: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The idea that anyone’s righteousness could exceed the self-imposed righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was unfathomable. The universal response to Jesus’ words would be, “That’s impossible!” Jesus wanted the people to see God’s required standard of righteousness could not be reached by anyone. That makes perfect sense because “if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Gal 2:21).

Does this relate to this morning? Today is Resurrection Sunday, and a few days ago was the anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion. Micah said, “How can I come before the Lord?” We’re celebrating the anniversary of God providing the way for us to “come before” Him. What sacrifice is good enough? What amount of effort is required? The sacrifice and effort Jesus provided. That’s what’s necessary. Every other religion of the world is about what man does for God; they’re all about our effort and our sacrifice, but Christianity is about what God did for man; it’s about His effort and His sacrifice for us. This morning we’re going to look at how the righteousness God requires can become our righteousness. It’s this righteousness that’s necessary to be reconciled to God.

You can listen to Sunday’s sermon, Cut Off & Resurrected For Our Justification here.

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3 Reasons Conversion Doesn’t Involve Restitution

Does restitution need to follow conversion?
Does restitution need to follow conversion?

One of the more common questions I receive in ministry sounds like, “What sort of restitution do I need to make for sins I committed before becoming a Christian? How much do I need to try to make right after getting saved?”

Here’s a message I received recently that I have permission to share…

Scott,

As I reflect on my past and my many sins I am more aware of how wretched and worthless I am. I am also convicted of sins I wonder If I need to undo.

For example, when I was 16 and I worked at Ross I stole clothes. I am pretty sure I don’t own any of those clothes now, nor do I know the amount or worth of what I took. However, will I go to hell if I don’t find a way to pay them back? There are so many other things I could list.

I feel like my past is like Humpty dumpty, and I can’t fix it.”

Here’s my response…

I’ve never thought much about going back and making right all – or even some – of the sins I committed before my conversion. The closest I can think of relates to a girl (and her family) I hurt badly about fifteen years ago. Two years ago, I decided to message the mother on Facebook and ask her to forgive me. I would’ve messaged the girl too, but I thought hearing from me would probably cause more pain than comfort. I did invite the mother to share with her daughter how sorry I was if she thought that best.

Here are three reasons restitution doesn’t need to follow conversion.

First, there are too many sins to count.

Nobody can remember all the sins they’ve committed. Even if they could – like your theft from Ross – we wouldn’t have the means to make them right. When I was saved I knew the importance of living for Christ and dealing with the sin currently in my life, but past sins were in the past.

For most of us it would take the rest of our lives trying to “fix” our previous sins. My heart would really have to break for any deathbed conversions: “I want to be saved, but I know I don’t have the time to…”

Second, Zacchaeus is descriptive, not prescriptive.

Zacchaeus chose to pay back the people he ripped off: “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Zacchaeus is meant to be a model for all of us though, because he did this on his own and not at Jesus’ encouragement.

Third, salvation involves repentance, not restitution.

Repentance means turning from our sins, and it must accompany salvation; therefore, when we’re saved great effort should be made to ensure patterns of sin are broken. We should have changed lives after conversion, but nothing in Scripture says repentance also means going back and fixing the mistakes we’ve made.

If restitution was required for salvation not only could nobody be saved, salvation wouldn’t be by grace through faith.

The point of the famous hymn, “Just As I Am” is God wants us as we are, not as we would be after we made some number of things right. We don’t have to do anything to be accepted by God, except repent and turn to Christ in faith.

With that said, if the Lord convicts…

The Holy Spirit could burden you to make some form of restitution for past sins:

  • Ask for forgiveness from someone you’ve hurt.
  • Repay someone for something you’ve stolen.
  • Tell someone the truth after a lie you’ve told.
  • Try to fix the reputation of someone you’ve slandered.

If God convicts you about some form of restitution, by all means obey the Lord.

Has the Lord ever burdened you to make some form of restitution? Can you share the details? Can you think of some other ways God might convict people to make restitution? Share your answers below.

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Salvation in the Old Testament?

We know we’re saved by grace through faith, and one of the most common questions I’ve received since teaching the Bible is, “How were people in the OT saved, since they lived before Christ’s First Coming?” The answer is people were saved in the OT just like they’re saved in the NT: by grace through faith. God made numerous prophecies that a Messiah would come into the world. If they believed those prophecies, or had faith those prophecies would come true, or had faith that Messiah would come, they were saved as they looked forward in faith to the Messiah coming.

Last Sunday we looked at the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the Woman would come and crush the head of the Serpent. As soon as sin came into the world, that prophecy was introduced allowing people to look forward to, or put their faith in the Seed of the Woman. In other words, as soon as sin came into the world, so too did the opportunity for people to be saved by grace through faith. Just like we pass along to our children what we know about Christ, that prophecy would’ve been passed along to Adam and Eve’s descendants,  allowing them to be saved by grace through faith.

What was their faith IN since they didn’t know Jesus like we do? Their faith was in all the prophecies about His coming. If they believed Jesus would come, they were saved, similarly to how we’re saved if we believe Jesus has come. OT and NT believers are both saved by looking to Christ in faith, but from opposite sides of the cross. People in the OT were saved by grace through faith in Jesus coming like we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus having come. That’s why Gen 15:6 can say Abraham was saved (accounted righteous) by his faith or belief in what God had said to Him in Gen 12 when He established the Abrahamic Covenant with him. But didn’t Abraham live before the Gospel? Genesis 3:8 says God “preached the gospel to Abraham.” Consider that!!! Abraham heard the Gospel!  Here’s a quote I really like: “The basis for salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various ages.”