Category Archives: Sin

YOLO is Anti-Gospel

Over the past year, it seems like the letters YOLO have taken over. Whether on facebook, twitter, or whatever other forms of social media exist, YOLO is popping up everywhere. Some of us writing this blog had to look it up. If you’re still living under the perverbial nerd rock, YOLO stands for “you only live once.” It’s the mindset that has quietly pervaded our society for years, but in recent days has become a proud motto, not just of the teenage generation, but all age ranges. The most disheartening thing about this new catch phrase is that it’s a part of Christian circles, just as much as it is a part of non believers. In this blog, Carter and Nathan weigh in on YOLO and the danger this mindset threatens believers.

Carter – One might argue that this is an innocent phrase that simply means carpe diem or work hard for the days are short. Well that may be what it means, but its not innocent. Why? Doesn’t it produce a working spirit? Or at least one that realizes the frailty of life? I mean after all does not Scripture say, “Lord, teach us to number our days”? Surely knowing that you only live once would produce in you exactly the Christian attitude of righteous living that we need. Right?

Wrong.

It is not focus on this life at all that produces righteous living.YOLO only produces an attitude that whatever fun things you want to do on this earth you better get it done soon! We develop bucket lists which are nothing more than a declaration saying, “My hope for joy or enJOYing things is here, on this earth, in this ONE life.” The biggest questions people have about heaven are as follows; Men want to know, will there be sex, and women want to know, will we know each other? Because of these fears, we live our lives focused on what we can accomplish, “while we still have time”.

I John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, we are now God’s children, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

What gives us the inspiration to live christ-like? It is the fact that scripture promises that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. One day we will be made like Jesus! We will co-heirs with him, in a kingdom where all things are made new and set right. Jesus said he came to give us life, and that abundantly! Heaven is not the end of life…it is true life. What spurs us to live righteously is not that you only live once, but that this one life is an everlasting one.

Nathan- As I have watched the YOLO mentality sweep through social media, I have continually thought of Biblical figures who’s lives fell into ruin because of a YOLO attitude. From Genesis to Revelation we see pictures of humanity giving into YOLO. The men and women of Noah’s day, the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites, and the list of evil men and women goes on and on. But there’s another interesting aspect of humans and YOLO. The righteous fall prey to it as well. Take for instance a certain man said to be a man after God’s own heart.

One day, when he should have been doing his job, this man after God’s own heart went up to the rooftop and began scanning the kingdom. His eyes stopped just a few rooftops ahead as destruction in the form of a beautiful woman bathed. He wanted her. Forget his wives, his children, this woman’s husband. He wanted her. He was the king. He got her and she became pregnant. The story unravels from there. Her warrior husband was taken from the battlefield and brought to her, but being a righteous man, wouldn’t sleep with his wife while his colleagues were still fighting. So the king had him killed. This king, this man after God’s on heart is David. He was never the same after that day on the rooftop. Destruction filled his household.

Years later, Solomon, David’s son was said to be the wisest man to ever live and he was also quite wealthy. We read about his earthly pursuits in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon lists everything under the sun that offers happiness and pleasure, but in twelve chapters he concludes that is the wrong attitude. YOLO doesn’t stand. It’s destruction. His conclusion is both simple and hard in this world: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

There you have it. Yolo isn’t biblical. It’s not the call of the believer. Fear God and keep his commandments.

 


Swallowed up in Grace

I have the privilege of serving at Vine Street Baptist Church here in Louisville. This past Sunday night I got to preach. Over the course of the semester I will be preaching about 4 times, and I decided to preach through the book of Jonah. Here’s my mostly unedited sermon notes. The actual audio should be posted later this week. This isn’t really a manuscript, but just some thoughts that I prepared for the actual sermon.

Swallowed Up in Grace
Jonah 1

Starting Points:
Why Jonah? 1. I’m translating it in Hebrew Class 2. It is a great treasure that teaches us as believers how gracious our God is, not only toward his children, but also to those that are perishing.

Jonah is Historical and True:
1. The OT Speaks of him in 2 Kings 14:25
“He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.” (ESV)

2. Jesus Speaks of Jonah in Matthew 12:38-41
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (ESV)

*This will ultimately leave us interpreting Jonah as a picture of the coming Christ who will put death in the grave.

Matthew Henry says, “Those prophecies (Jonah’s concerning Israel) were not committed to writing, but this against Nineveh was, chiefly for the sake of the story that depends upon it, and that is recorded chiefly for the sake of Christ, of whom Jonah was a type; it contains also very remarkable instances of human infirmity in Jonah; and of God’s mercy, both in pardoning repenting sinners, witness Nineveh, and in bearing with repining saints, witness Jonah.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)

1. The call of God demands obedience for the sake of the gospel. (v.1-2)
The call of God to go to Nineveh was shocking to Jonah. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian nation, the worst possible enemy for the Israelites. Since taking over the Promised Land, Assyria had been a threat from the North. Not only that, but they did not worship the One True God. Their evil was an affront to God. Verse 2 says, “for their evil has come up before me.” The Hebrew means their evil had come up to the face of Yahweh. In today’s terms this would have been like God calling us, not just to the Muslim world, but to the heart of an Al Qaeda training camp. Jonah had spoken of God to Israel, the people of God, but this new assignment was more than his prideful heart could take. Could God really be a God to ALL people? Could God REALLY extend his forgiveness to the vilest of humanity? Jonah will answer this in chapter 4:2 “O LORD, is not this why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The Lord’s grace should ready us to battle against evil for the souls of sinful men. For were we not in the same situation before the Lord snatched us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into his everlasting kingdom of light?

2. Disobedience to God’s Word…
a. Is denial of your confession (v.3,9)
Verse 3 tells us that Jonah fled to Tarshish “from the presence of the Lord.” There’s debate as to where Tarshish was. It was possibly on the western coast of Spain. Regardless of where it is, it is not only not Nineveh, but it’s in the complete opposite direction of Nineveh. Jonah was clearly trying to go so far away from where he was supposed to be that the Lord would be forced to call on someone else, to raise a new prophet, to choose anyone but Jonah. In verse 9, in the midst of the storm that God sent to bring Jonah to his senses, Jonah tells the sailors, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” As Jonah was running from the Lord, and Satan was orchestrating a master escape plan (which he will readily do), he had forgotten that God was sovereign over all things: Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, and even that unreliable ship that “threatened to break up” despite her sailors’ best efforts to “dig in” and make it through the storm on their own.

After just returning from East Asia, I found myself headed here to Louisville, after one of the hardest weeks of my life. I was certain the Lord was calling me to live in Jackson, TN, and had more than one promising job offer. All of these fell through, and I was mad at God. I had 4.5 hours from Jackson to Louisville to stew on this and yell at God. I distinctly remember pointing my finger in the direction of the sky and saying, “You dropped the ball, God! You sent me to East Asia, and now you’ve left me out to dry.” I had forgotten my confession. Sin makes us stupid, and the Word of God that has been hidden in our hearts fades away.

b. Separates us from fellowship of believers (v.3)
I want to just touch briefly on this. Primarily because I think most of you here tonight aren’t
guilty of this. If I’ve learned anything from Vine Street this semester, it’s that you certainly love being together. But notice in verse 3, “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish.” The command was to “Arise and go to Nineveh,” but instead he immediately set himself towards distant lands. When we are caught up in sin, we will forsake meeting with other believers. This is why the author of Hebrews says in 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The church was made for a reason. Together we are growing in grace. The church is the measure of grace by which the Groom is perfecting his Bride. When the temptation to sin overwhelms, run to the Cross, run to the Word, and run to the fellowship of believers. Jonah set sail with pagan sailors, hoping they wouldn’t point him to the Lord. We’ll see in a minute how wrong he was.

c. Is sin, which leads to death (v.4-16)
Jonah sets sail in Joppa, in hopes to flee from the Lord. On the open seas, though, God hurls a
storm upon the ship that will certainly leave the crew and passengers dead at the bottom of the
Mediterranean. The sailors begin to throw everything that’s not tied down overboard. Meanwhile, our brother Jonah is snoozing from sin exhaustion in the belly of the ship. The sailors begin to cry out to pagan gods to save them, but the storm only intensifies. The captain notices Jonah is missing and goes down to find him. “Get up! Our prayers aren’t working, try your God.” The men decide to cast lots, a common practice of the day, to see who’s fault this is. The sovereign God of the universe identifies Jonah, and the sailors start their questions. What’s your job? Where are you from? What people do you belong to? The truth comes out. Jonah knows he’s caught. More importantly, he knows the consequences of his actions. The men who were merely afraid at the storm, are terrified at this man, the prophet of Yahweh, the rebel of God. In verse 12, Jonah makes the best decision of the chapter, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down fro you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” This only scares the pagan sailors more, but they eventually do it. They pick up Jonah, ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and toss Jonah into the depths.

This is indeed our curse. The wages of sin is death.

3. The Grace of God…
a. Will call us to him if we are true believers (v.4ff)
There is no question that Jonah was a prophet of God. But like all men, Jonah let sin infiltrate his life and take over all logic and actions. But if you’ll think through Scripture, and even your own life, you’ll notice that God continually calls his children back to himself. Solomon, in Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” God will correct the paths of his children. In the life of Jonah, God hurled a storm at a ship on the sea. He will do no less for you. Be sure though, there is a difference in suffering for the sake of Christ and suffering under the discipline of the Lord because of your disobedience. Both bring him glory, but the only the former advances the gospel. When I preach next, Lord willing, we will look at chapter 2 at Jonah’s prayer and his last minute cry to the Lord more in depth. Let me exhort you now, though, to turn to the Lord before it comes to the storm, but if your sin blinds you until the storm is hurled upon you, the Lord will still deliver you, in fact, the storm itself is to bring back to God and make you look more like Christ.

b. Uses any means necessary to right our course, even pagans (v.6, 11, 14-16)
An interesting element to this part of the story in Jonah is the way God uses the sailors to call Jonah back to himself. They go get Jonah, and they beg him to join in crying out to God. The
Lord then reveals to them, through the casting of lots, that Jonah is the cause of this great storm. They put him on trial, and they are afraid of this Yahweh. They see his sovereignty, and in their fear, Jonah remembers the God he serves: the omnipotent, omnipresent true God. Jonah’s surrender to the Lord, will bring these men to their knees before the Lord.

c. Will rescue us from death (v.17)
Look with me at verse 17: “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah
was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” We have marred the story of Jonah. As a child, a remember learning this story about a man who got swallowed by a whale because he didn’t listen to God. The truth, however, is that Jonah got swallowed by a fish because we serve a gracious, merciful God. As the sailors were bowing down in worship to the Lord on the now calm waters, Jonah was sinking to his death. We will touch more on this when we look at chapter 2 together, but just as Jonah’s body was settling on what would seem to be his burial spot on the sea, the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah, where he stayed for three days, and three nights. Does that sound familiar? I hope it does. For this is the sign of Jonah: A greater One came. He too was entombed for three days and three nights. Those who witnessed this had the same thoughts that those sailors must have had: “He’s gone forever.” But praise be to God, three days later the Great One, the Christ, the Word of God made flesh, rose from the grave, and death was put to death. God’s grace will and has rescued us from death. This is the message of Jonah.

What Now?
As we close tonight, I want you to know that this story applies to you. Like Jonah, we all go astray.
There is no second of your life in which you do not sin. But thanks be to God, he is gracious, and he
continually calls us to himself. So when temptation creeps in this week, brothers and sisters, don’t flee to
Tarshish, run to God. This week, when God puts you in the paths of those that do not know him,
proclaim the gospel. This week follow the Lord your God, lest his strong hand of discipline come upon you. May his kindness and grace lead us to faithfully and joyfully serve him.


Conviction, Confession and Carnival Cruises?

A Southern Gospel Cruise? Ok ok, it wasn’t like the whole cruise was singing amazing grace…but yes that was the group I was in. Just like any cruise ship though, Carnival’s newest addition, the Magic, had everything we could ask for.

Great food, Free food, water park, wonderful food, putt-putt, great food, and 2 stops in the Bahamas. I even had a lady in Nassau shout out “Come get your bahama mama,”

I was uncertain what she meant but was sure I didn’t want one. I set back towards the ship instead.

It was indeed Magic.

I know what you’re thinking though still…Southern Gospel? I understand. Southern Gospel has indeed tainted itself with story after story of tragic infidelity and marital failure. Often the singers themselves are denoted as “fake” or “made-up”, just out to charm a few old folks and take their money.

Not this cruise and not these singers.

Before singing their next “number”, one of the groups’ members stood up and started sharing. However, what he shared was not cheesy nor for show. He told of his own moral failure. He did not glorify it but rather said with tear-filled eyes of how he had failed his family, lost his wife and kids, and his ministry. The silence was deafening.

But he continued. He said something that we all need to hear more of. He told of his guilt, and the shame that resulted. He wallowed in it, as most of us would. He considered himself useless to God. He then said, however, that the Holy Spirit continued to work in his life and he realized something that caught my ear.

“Shame is not of God…guilt should not lead there in Christ. Conviction, Repentance and Renewal are from God.”

He had revealed something that many of us struggle with. Confession is necessary. And here’s why…

What he did in that moment was recognize and glorify God’s victory over his sin. His sin was real. His shame was real. Satan would love for believers to live in shame. Shame from secret sin that we carry, whether current or past. The enemy would relish the opportunity to render us “unable” to serve because we are wrecked with shame. In Christ we have conquered the grave, sin and the shame of sin. We do not have to and SHOULD NOT live in shame. But in order for that to have its full affect in our lives, we must confess.

What we realize upon confession, is that we are not confessing sin at all. That would be both shaming to us and glorifying to the sin. But rather we are declaring Christ’s victory in our lives and confessing his glorious victory over sin.

Few of us need more Cruises, Most of us need current Conviction, and I would venture to say we all need to practice more Confession.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

You can confess that all day folks (spoken like a southern preacher)


Disaster Relief is Gospel Proclamation

Clay, Alabama, is a community tucked away in the very last foothills of the Appalachians that rest in the central part of the state. It’s an unsuspecting place, quiet, and beautiful. The high school is a source of intense pride. We’re proud to be from Clay-Chalkville. You may have never heard of us, but that won’t diminish the pride. That quiet community, however, gained a national spotlight last Monday.

Before the sun could do it’s job in bringing light and life on that Monday morning, terror and disaster awoke Clay’s residents. A tornado touched down and destruction ensued. The event itself wasn’t long, but the impact will last forever.

I had the opportunity to travel back to my Alabama roots. It was painful. Gut-wrenching doesn’t quite describe the feeling of seeing the things you once knew so well left in a pile of debris. Praise God my family was ok, and, for all practical purposes, left untouched by the destruction. My neighbors aren’t, though. They’re picking up the pieces of their lives. Literally.

Survivors guilt. Why was I spared? Why is my stuff ok? Why aren’t my childhood memories scattered across the neighbor’s yard, tossed about carelessly like a child’s legos? It’s a feeling the Lord is making all too real in my life. You see, tornadoes aren’t new to me. As a student at Union University in 2008, a tornado hit our campus, removing 80% of the residence life buildings and leaving 40 million dollars in damage. I was in the 20%. I didn’t lose anything. Let me share what I gained though, and what, once again, another tornado reminded me of.

Storms are a reminder of the gospel. They are a part of the gospel story. Prior to sin, destruction wasn’t there. But sin entered the world, and so did tornadoes. Storms are a reminder that the world is not right. We as humans are not right. We live under the curse.

An interesting thing happens, though, in a tornado and the days that follow. I experienced it at Union, and I experienced it in Clay. The sun comes up. The body comes together. Hope is born. Do you see the gospel there?

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, says “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

As believers we hope in the coming resurrection. We will be raised with him. To what? Look at Revelation 21:3-4: “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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'” There will be a day, when things will be right again.

While they are not, though, preach the gospel. Don’t cower down to destruction. In the wake of the storm, point to Christ. Preach the gospel. It’s the only thing that can truly put a life back together. The blood of Jesus saves sin cursed people. The gospel is the best disaster relief there ever will be.


The Death of a Saint

Wednesday, in the still darkness before the sun brought the world to life, a dear saint of God breathed her last breath. Death, sickness, and sin all seemed to win this one. Grief began to sit in, first in family members, then friends, and dear brothers and sisters in the faith who knew her well. There was, no doubt and rightly so, a sense of hopelessness in her lifeless body.

Something greater was happening in that body, though. Her sin cursed body was finished, but her Blood bought soul was freed. You see, at some point in her life, Mary Elizabeth Vann was seeking self righteousness, attempting to fix herself. In one instant, though, the Spirit of God fell on her, snatched her from the burning fires of death, and presented her with Christ, the One who bought her on the cross. In an irresistible moment of the purest grace, she ran into freedom in the kingdom of God.

The Lord began working in her, moving her new heart of flesh towards Himself. She grew in the knowledge and wisdom of the Word. The Great Comission wasn’t a story in a book, it was a command the Lord God had given her. She deeply desired that her brothers and sisters knew it was theirs too. The gospel must be advanced, and that task belongs to us.

Today we mourn that this one is gone. We talk of her passing and our laying her body to rest. The real truth though, is that this saint isn’t past. She’s more alive than we’ve ever been. She’s found rest, but it’s in the presence of Christ. Her body will continue to decay on this earth, but don’t stand too close when the Day comes. You see, that body’s coming up out of the ground and it’s going to be made new.
So friends, mourn that sin curses, but rejoice. We’re headed to endless freedom too. Life will be eternal, and everyday it will be greater than the day before.


A Time of Hope

Last night and today I had the opportunity to visit my parents’ church in Birmingham. Both services had me in tears at least once. As I looked out over the congregation, many of whom I’ve known since birth, I saw many who were celebrating Christmas with the groans of creation.

There were at least three widows experiencing their first Christmas without their husbands, all well over 30 years. One mother, who has meant a lot to me since I was a teenager, was celebrating Christmas while her two sons were both away for the first time in their lives. There were cancer patients, others with various illnesses, and many who were, no doubt, tangled in sin. All these pointed to the painful truth that the world is messed up. But in the midst of despair and groans, the celebration of Christmas brings hope.

While much of our language, actions, and overall culture points out the loneliness of some, financial burdens of others, and dirtiness of sin in the face of light in many, Christmas should be a time of hope. There’s really no point in overlooking the sorrow, it’s a part of the human condition. We must, however, point to the hope of Jesus.

Jesus has brought hope, but he’s still bringing more. He brought hope that first Christmas morning when God laid in that manger. He gave even more hope in his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection three days later. He’s promised to return though and finish what he started. He’s coming back as our Warrior King. He’s going to slay the Dragon. We’ll celebrate his birth, death, resurrection, but sickness, death, and sin won’t creep in. We’ll be more alive than ever before.

As Christmas comes to a close, think about these things. The world as messed up. That’s why we’re going into the ministry. The Messiah came, though, and he’s coming again. So pastor the hurting, but point them to the hope to come.


Phinehas and Pastoring

Last week I turned a paper in on the story of Phinehas in Numbers 25. You should read it. It’s a great story about Phinehas, the high priest heir, who responds to an abomination in the congregation with the jealousy of the Lord. While studying for the paper, I ran through some good quotes about pastoral ministry from Matthew Henry’s commentary.

“So much does God delight in showing mercy, that he is well pleased with those that are instrumental in turning away his wrath; this is the best service we can do to our people; and we may contribute something towards it by our prayers, and by our endeavors in our places to bring the wickedness of the wicked to an end.”

“Note, it is requisite that ministers should be not only for God, but zealous for God. It is required of them that they do more than others for the support and advancement of the interests of God’s kingdom among men.”

In the story of Phinehas, he is serious about sin. While I don’t think pastors have the right to go and kill off the parishioners, I think, as Henry points out, that we have an obligation to be serious about sin. Too often, sin is overlooked in the church. We all know it’s happening, but no one is willing to do anything about it. To shepherd the flock is to protect the sheep no matter what. Sometimes this means breaking their legs and holding them. Ultimately, it means that I, as a minister, must be serious about my sin. Sadly, I don’t think I am as serious as the Lord has called me to be.