Monday, February 11, 2008

God the Gardener in America

Yesterday, I heard Dr. David Platt echo the words of Derek Webb and so many others by declaring that, statistically, our churches are losing relevancy by the day. The American church has never been so irrelevant to today’s culture. Congregations are not only generally more empty, they’re less impactful. America, it seems, no longer cares to hear about brimstone, they have their weights and wallets to worry about; they no longer need to hear about morality, Oprah instructs them on how to live; they no longer need grace, they never believed in sin.

I have to wonder… is Christ pruning the American church? It seems like the children of the simple pew-fillers of yesteryear now are thankful for that extra two hours of sleep each Sunday morning. Those who might have once sat in church, believing that they, well, believed, now make no such mistake. Going to church, save in a few small pockets across the South, is no longer the norm- it is a much more radical notion than it used to be. Maybe Christ is pruning away the branches of the American church to have a healthier core that is more apt to grow. If He is sovereign, which He is, doesn’t it make sense that He would be working even this for His and our good? That He was purifying and preparing His bride to receive Him even when it seems like His bride, at least in the Western world, is growing weaker?

Just as in pruning, where the excess is cut away so that the smaller, healthier bush can truly thrive and grow as it should, perhaps this is what God is doing to the American church. And what do we do in response? Beg for God to water and feed this mustard plant; reach out to the lost and dying world with every ounce of strength that we have; encourage, challenge, and rebuke one another in love; and wait patiently for the coming King.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Talk with Clayton about Regeneration/Second Birth


Regeneration- an act of God in which He imparts spiritual life to us; it is being “born again.” It cannot be undone

1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him:

John 1:13 “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”

It is God’s will; just as we did not choose to be physically born, we did not choose to be “born again”- it is something that “happens” to us

Questions from last week
(1) Have faith and repentance continued to be a part of your life?
(2) How does God save us? From his perspective, how do we become Christians? Is there anything we could do screw it up?
-Ephesians 2:1-10… we were dead in our sins, but God, because of His great love for us and not because of anything good that we had done, made us alive in Him. It is solely by grace that we have been saved through faith; we are saved by a gift of God.

-2 Timothy 2:11-12 “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us”

-Mark 13:13 “Any you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved”

-John 10:26-30 “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one”

-It is not that God demands perfection or any “good works” for us to get into heaven, but if we move towards doing these things, it is a sign that we have been “reborn”, since “every one who does what is right has been born of Him” (1 John 4:7). Once He has saved us, there is nothing that can separate us from Him. How sweet is that?

2 Corinthians 5:14-19; John 3:1-8; 1 John 5:1-5; Romans 6:1-14; Ezekiel 36:26-27

-What does it mean to be a new creation? What are some of the differences between a person who is a “new creation” and a person who has reformed their life to be a better person? Between a Christian and Gandhi? Romans 8:8 “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” No matter how “good” a non-Christian seems, the Bible says that all their righteousness, every good thing they’ve ever done, is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Non-Christians can do seemingly “good” acts because they were created in the image of God, but they do not give honor to God in their actions, so, even what seems to be “good” is sin before God. We, as Christians, however, are “new creations” in that we stand before God and He sees Christ’s righteousness in place of our own. We can give glory and honor to God because we have been made clean by Christ’s blood.

-What did Jesus mean in John 3 when He said that you couldn’t see the kingdom of God unless you were born again? What is the significance of this?

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake/ For Gods, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”

-What does it mean to be dead to sin and alive to God? How does this change occur and how does it affect our daily life?

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone , the new has come”

Talk with Clayton about Faith

FAITH- January 30, 2008
(John 3:16-21; John 12:11; John 1:12; ACTS 20:21)

Major Points from Last Week (Repentance)
1. Repentance is a gift from God that brings us back to Him
2. We become more like Christ only through a life of active repentance

Questions from Last Week
1. How are faith and repentance intertwined? Can you have one without the other?
-You cannot have one without the other. They are both tied together in the act of conversion, our willing response to the gospel, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation. Turning from sin is called repentance, and the turning to Christ is called faith (if we agree that repentance and faith are tied together and cannot be separated, this means that people cannot accept Jesus as “Savior” without also accepting Him as “Lord”).

2. What is the difference between the belief that the demons have about Jesus (James 2:19) and the belief that saves in John 3:16-21?
-Knowledge is not enough, nor are knowledge and approval (see Nicodemus in John 3:2; he had concluded that Jesus must be from God, but still did not believe in Him). In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel (“How can they believe in Him of whom they’ve never heard?” Romans 10:14) and approval of them, I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me.

-Saving faith is personal trust in Jesus Christ alone as a living person for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God.

John 1:12- Much as we would receive a guest into our homes, John speaks of receiving Christ.

Why is it dangerous to separate faith from repentance?
(1) Offers false security to those who say they believe or have “prayed a prayer”
(2) Cheapens the power of what God has done

Acts 26:18- Just like repentance, faith is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8-10

Questions for next week

(1) Have faith and repentance remained a continuing part of your Christian life?
(2) How does God save us? From his perspective, how do we become Christians? Is there anything we could do screw it up?