In the middle of the third century, a bishop named Cyprian presented his understanding of the church as the “family of God” in order to answer two main controversies that were facing ancient Christianity at the time. These two controversies were over what to do with believers who denied the faith under persecution, and whether or not to re-baptize believers who were baptized by church leaders who also “lapsed.” His opponents argued that those who caved in under persecution should not be allowed back into the church…ever, and that those who were baptized by leaders who did the same were not genuinely Christian. On the opposite spectrum were those calling for the lapsed to be readmitted to the church without asking any questions.
In part one of this blog, I discussed how the parting of the Red Sea teaches us the ever-important lesson that salvation is of the Lord. If we truly believe this, the second lesson naturally follows: that God will bring our salvation to completion. If salvation is of the Lord, he will complete it. There is nothing we can do to thwart his plan. Let the explanation of this truth through the consideration of the miracle at the Jordan River be of encouragement to our hearts!
Two sets of water. Two miracles. Two fundamental lessons on salvation.
The parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River are much more than neat miracle stories. They are central events in the unfolding drama of redemption that proclaim who God is and the nature of His salvation. In this post, I will discuss one fundamental lesson of salvation revealed in the first of these events.
The Red Sea
Imagine the scene at the Red Sea: God had promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and into land he promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through many miraculous signs and wonders, God moved the stubborn heart of Pharaoh to momentarily allow Israel to leave. In dramatic fashion, the people evacuate Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues Israel, and Israel seems to be trapped by the impassibility of the Red Sea. Their first thought isn’t to turn to God for help (easy to judge, but unfortunately we often do the same), but to complain and grumble against Moses and declare that they were better off in Egypt (see Exodus 14:10-12). Moses responds, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today” (Exod. 14:13).
Before reading Putting on the Armor, I must confess that I often viewed the “armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6 as somewhat irrelevant. In a way, I knew it was probably important, but it seemed to be no more than a descriptive metaphor for walking with God, something I could easily skim over and get the point. I remember hearing a small handful of sermons or talks on the subject that seemed to trivialize the description of the armor. These talks of “praying on the armor” or “which piece of the armor are you missing?” trivialized the concepts of the passage so much that it had a negative effect on how I viewed the relevance of the verses. Dr. Lawless’ book has changed my view on the concept of the “armor” by providing me with an accurate view of the passage as a whole, helping me understand each individual piece of armor, and walking me through how to “wear” the armor in everyday life.
As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, especially when we experience suffering. Yet we often do not prepare for these moments and get tongue tied, speak with general spiritual platitudes, or avoid speaking altogether. But we must learn to comfort and encourage each other in suffering, because it is a natural part of life and a supernatural part of God’s plan (see Philippians 1:29). As we help one another, we can be instruments used by God to comfort those in need.
As we seek to speak to those who are suffering, we must avoid saying these four things:
“Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.” – 1 Timothy 6:17
Have you ever read verses about money and felt that they were unreasonable? Perhaps you’ve thought that to serve God and not money really isn’t even doable. How can we do that when we need money to live, eat, and provide for ourselves and our families? You’ve probably heard the famous verse, “You cannot be slaves of both God and money” (Luke 16:13). If you’re like me, you’ve probably been frustrated with understanding how we apply verses like these.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” –Proverbs 9:10
In the ninth chapter of Proverbs, Solomon compares wisdom with foolishness. In his description of wisdom, he writes that the “beginning” of wisdom is the “fear of the Lord”. In other words, fearing the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Today I want to ask the question: what does it mean to fear Him?
Expositional Preaching is short book by David Helm in the 9Marks of a Healthy Church series that seeks to define true biblical preaching. Helm makes a compelling argument that biblical preaching is “expositional preaching,” also commonly called “expository preaching.” Helm defines expository preaching as “empowered preaching that rightfully submits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.” First published in 2014, Expositional Preaching aims to lay down the foundation in training preachers to herald the Word of God in this way, a way that is submitted to the Word of God.
“For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” – Ezra 8:22-23
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple…For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” -Luke 15:27-28
In the past, every time I came across one of Jesus’ statements like this, I trembled. Was I really bearing my own cross? Was I truly following Him? At the same time, I was afraid of the immensity of the call of giving up everything to follow Him. Is it really worth it?