The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

Friday, November 9, 2012

Unintended Consequences

According Ryan Anderson and Andrew Walker,

"Until Tuesday, no state had redefined marriage by popular vote. Indeed, 32 out of 32 states that put the issue to a vote defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman. But in this week’s election, citizens in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State all passed ballot initiatives redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships. Meanwhile, citizens in Minnesota failed to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a man and woman. (It remains so defined, however, by statutory law.)"

I guess the silence of America's pulpits regarding marriage and the Word of God paid off for those who are attempting to change the legal definition of marriage in America. 

The failure of pastors to share the whole counsel of God regarding the Christian and their civic responsibility also contributed to almost 30 million evangelicals not voting on November 6, and of those that did over 6 million voted for President Obama who supported the ballot initiatives in the three states that voted to legalize same-sex "marriage."

Did your pastor help prepare you for the issues confronting you and our nation in the November 6 election? Did you hear an exposition and application of the numerous biblical texts that address the Christian's civic responsibility and the critical moral issues that were tied to virtually every vote you made?

The prophet Isaiah said, "Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray." (Isaiah 9:16) The unintended consequence of silence?

Silence is a failure to lead. Can you imagine Moses or Isaiah, Jeremiah or the Apostle Paul, remaining silent in the face of evil that threatened their people?

The Apostle Paul instructed the church at Ephesus with these words,

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5;8-14 NIV)

If every pastor in America had followed the Apostle Paul's admonition in Ephesians 5:8-12, their people might have been  biblically instructed how to "live as children of light...find out what pleases the Lord" and "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, rather expose them" at the ballot box on November 6.  

Silence can have unintended consequences. I'm not sure the silent preachers of America anticipated this one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Your Worldview and Your Vote Part 3 - Forming a Biblical Worldview

(This is the third and final part of a message entitled "Your Worldview and Your Vote" that I preached at Pines Baptist Church in Pembroke Pines Florida on November 4, 2012.)

Lastly, this morning, a word about how we form a biblical worldview. Pastor Guy McGraw has said,

"Nothing that is morally wrong should be politically right."

Our worldview will determine how consistently we are able to carry that out as we cast our ballot. The Bible gives us a truth base from which to shape a biblical worldview that speaks to every issue we face in our personal lives and as a nation.

As you know, the letters of the Apostle Paul all followed the same pattern. He began with what is teaching or instruction, followed by practical application. The book of Romans follows that pattern. The first eleven chapters are doctrinal in nature. That is, Paul teaches biblical truth or instruction about the Christian faith. Then the concluding four chapters focus on applying doctrine to everyday living.

In other words Christian living is to be based on Christian doctrine. How we live as Christians should be consistent with what we believe. That is what a biblical worldview is all about.

Remember Pastor Warren? "...every time you make a decision you access the worldview database in your mind and you decide, "Because I believe this, I’m going to do this."
When you come to Romans 12:1 and following Paul transitions from doctrine to practical application. The word "therefore" in verse one identifies the transition. You've probably heard this before. When you come to a "therefore" in Scripture you need to stop and see what it is there for!

May I suggest to you this morning, that Romans 12:1,2 is foundational to establishing a biblical worldview. What is Paul referring to when he says "Therefore"? He is looking back to his teaching about the gospel in the previous 11 chapters, probably the greatest treatise on justification by faith in the entire Bible. Here is a sampling of that doctrine,

Romans 1:16-17, (ESV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written,
“The righteous shall live by faith."

Romans 3:23-24 (ESV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:1, (ESV)         
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Romans 10:9-11, (ESV)      
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."

This gospel is the foundation of a biblical or Christian worldview. You will find it very difficult to embrace a biblical worldview without first being reconciled to God by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. I think we are seeing the truth of that in our society today.

Based on the truth of the first 11 chapters, Paul makes this appeal, Romans 12:1 (ESV)             

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

This was nothing less than a call for consecration, because of what God had done for them through the gospel. You see reconciliation with God precedes consecration to God. He saved you to possess you.

Consecrating yourself to God means to surrender yourself to God and His will. That is implicit in the metaphor of presenting yourself as a living sacrifice. And Paul says this is "your spiritual worship," literally your "reasonable service."

The word translated "worship" involves the mind, reason and intellect. In other words this is a conscious, deliberate, voluntary, and rational decision to set ourselves apart to God for his purposes.

Friends, this is the foundation for living your life based on a Christian worldview. Remember Barna's claim that only 9% of "born again" Christians have a biblical world view. Could this be at the heart of the problem?

Have we decided in one way or another to follow Christ but have failed to embrace Jesus' definition of discipleship? Matthew 16:24  (ESV) Jesus said,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Self denial always precedes submission. You cannot submit to Christ without first dethroning yourself. The cross has always been an instrument of death. In this case a metaphor of the self-denial Christ demands of us if we are to follow Him.

Paul then calls the Romans to take another decisive step that flows logically from the first. 
Romans 12:2  (NIV)  
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Doesn't that sound like a biblical formula or definition of a Christian worldview? You see, a worldview is a lens or filter through which you look at life, through which you interpret life and then determine what to do.

He begins with a negative command, "Do not be conformed to this world." Phillips paraphrases it this way, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold."

Friends, we do not live in a vacuum. Every day we are bombarded by competing worldviews. Every time you turn on the TV or listen to your I-Pod; or read a newspaper or book; talk to your neighbor, work associate or classmate; read the newspaper or something online; you are exposed to someone's worldview. Everyone has a worldview.

In other words, every day we are vulnerable to worldviews that are often in conflict with our Christian faith. The question is what worldview are you allowing to shape yours?

Paul says, don't be conformed to the world. Perhaps you remember in the message I brought back in February (The Destructive Power of the World) that we defined the world as "The system that is opposed to God, satisfies self and serves Satan."

Recognize that what Paul identifies as "the world" breeds many kinds of worldviews that compete with the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives.

How then, do we live in such an environment? How do we remain faithful to the will of God?

Paul goes on to admonish us to, (vs.2b)  "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." This is both a deliberate choice and a continual process. We get our word "metamorphosis" from the Greek word translated transformed."

It means to be made into something new. It's like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. What emerges from the chrysalis is something that looks distinctly different from the original caterpillar.

The mind is the center of our thinking, where we reason; where we make ethical judgments; where we make moral decisions. Paul says it is our mind that is to be continually transformed. To what end, so "... you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is --is good, pleasing and perfect will." (NIV)

I believe that one reason, perhaps the most significant reason, that only 9% of "born again" Christians have a biblical world view is because a high percentage of Christians have failed to familiarize themselves with the Word of God.

Back in 2001, George Barna warned us, quote  'The Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy.'"  

In Paul's second letter to Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) he wrote,
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

Paul identifies four reasons the Word of God is profitable: It teaches us - that's doctrine, what to believe. Then it corrects us when we fall into false doctrine. Thirdly, it trains us. In other words, instructs us in proper behavior. Then lastly, it reproves us or rebukes us, when we get involved in wrong behavior.

Remember the "worldview database" Pastor Warren spoke of?  Here it is! The Word of God gives us the right doctrine to believe; it corrects our false doctrine; it  defines how we are to behave and it corrects us when we misbehave. All of that, so that we might be in a position to recognize what God's will is, and do it.

So there you have God's provision for us to answer the question "How shall we vote?" Base your vote upon your biblical worldview. And then vote for candidates that share your worldview.

Your pastor told me that several weeks ago he gave out a quick summary of the two major views on 23 issues prepared by Dr. Wayne Grudem, everything from abortion to solutions to poverty, economic justice, religious freedom, same-sex marriage, government debt and more. It included biblical references on all 23 issues. Study them before voting.

On you message outline I have included excellent online resources that will help you identify the worldview and positions of candidates on many of these issues including their voting records.

In closing, listen to the words of Samuel Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence over 200 years ago, who also served as the Governor of Massachusetts. (1793 1797)

“The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws...[Therefore,] when you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God. The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty. If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted...If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.”

Historian, David Barton issues a similar challenge:

"Voting, that is being salt and light in the civil arena, is not only your right as an American citizen, but it's your duty as a citizen in God's kingdom."

As we prepare to participate  in this year's elections as Christian citizens, remember Pastor Guy McGraw's advice,
"Nothing that is morally wrong should be politically right."

All Rights Reserved James P. McGarvey

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Your Worldview and Your Vote Part 2 - Worldview & the Ballot Box

(This is the second part of a message entitled "Your Worldview and Your Vote" that I preached at Pines Baptist Church in Pembroke Pines Florida on November 4, 2012.) 

Now to the question, "How then should we vote?" In other words, how do we determine who and what to vote for?

Christian attorney, John Stemberger founder and president of the Florida Family Policy Council, associated with Focus on the Family recently said,

"The only thing worse than not voting, is voting for the wrong candidate."

Perhaps you have seen this ad that was recently placed in newspapers across the country, a statement by Dr. Billy Graham, perhaps the most well known evangelist and Southern Baptist in America, if not the world. He wrote,

“On Nov. 6, the day before my 94th birthday our nation will hold one of the most critical elections in my lifetime. We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake. I strongly urge you to vote for candidates who support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms. The Bible speaks clearly on these crucial issues. Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back to God."

Dr. Graham's words, urge us to vote for candidates who support a biblical position on three critical moral issues, the biblical definition of marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom.

The fact that Dr. Graham feels compelled to even raise these issues in the context of a general election, is indicative of the fact that there is a battle of conflicting worldviews raging in our culture. Therefore, as Christians, we would be unwise to shrug off these differences as mere political disagreements  and miss the spiritual context of this struggle.

Note with me (secondly) the relationship of worldview and the ballot box.

Dr. Del Tackett, - in an article "What's a Christian Worldview?" on Focus on the Family's website, writes,

“A worldview is the framework from which we view reality and make sense of life and the world." He then goes on to quote David Noebel, author of Understanding the Times.

A worldview is "...any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world and man's relations to God and the world,'’'

Dr. Tackett continue by giving three examples.

"For example, a 2-year-old believes he's the center of his world, a secular humanist believes that the material world is all that exists, and a Buddhist believes he can be liberated from suffering by self-purification.”

Just a few weeks ago, (Sept 8,9, 2012) Pastor Rick Warren in a sermon entitled, "Standing Courageously for the Truth" said, your worldview,

"... is the belief that you build your life on. Your worldview includes how you see God. Your worldview how you see yourself, how you see others, how you view your past, your present, your future. Your worldview includes how you see sex, money, time. Your worldview includes how you see good and evil, problems and pressures. It influences everything in your life.... everybody has a worldview.  And every time you make a decision you access the worldview database  in your mind and you decide, because I believe this, I’m going to do this." He continues,

"If you for instance in your world view believed the world was going to end next week,                                                            you would act very, very differently than you are right now. It’s how you decide what you decide. Your worldview influences every choice you make. All your choices are based on it."
Pastor Warren helps us see, how central our worldview is in every decision we make in every area of life. And I would suggest to you this morning, that it plays a vital role as we carry out our civic responsibility in the voting booth. As we elect candidates who are responsible for determining public policy that affects each of us our children and grandchildren and the entire nation.

The most important question I believe we need to ask in determining who to vote for is what is their worldview? Because their worldview will determine what they stand for and what they stand against.

But, take a step back with me for a moment. I hope you realize how important it is that you and I have a biblically informed worldview as we go through that process of deciding who to vote for, or what to vote for.

Sad to say, American Christians evidently have some homework to do. And here's why I say that. In Dr. Tackett's article he cites a Barna Research Group study that indicates only 4%  of Americans have a biblical worldview. But what is perhaps more alarming is that only 9%  of "born again" Christians have a biblical worldview.

Here's what Barna found,

"Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life."

Perhaps this explains the troubling condition we find our nation in today. Or why, Dr. Graham said, "We are at a crossroads...."

Listen to what Pastor Carl Gallups said in a recent interview with WND the online news network,

"About 60 years ago, our culture decided it didn't need God or the mention of His Word anymore. So, we have raised several generations of children to believe that they are the 'me' generation. They were taught that there is no God, there is no higher authority,' there are no moral absolutes, and that they are nothing more than a cosmic happenstance based upon sheer random luck."  Listen to what he goes on to say about the relationship of this secular worldview to the moral decline of our culture,

"With such a worldview thoroughly ingrained within the institutions of our culture we now reap what we have sown.

"The abortion holocaust could not happen without first convincing the nation to believe that we are nothing more than a mere animal.  

"The radical homosexual movement could have never risen to its current level without first persuading the nation that there is no standard of right and wrong concerning our sexuality.

"Homosexual marriage would have never been considered until first the nation became convinced that marriage is nothing special or divinely ordained, and that marriage can be defined anyway in which man finds pleasing to his flesh and lust."

All levels of government in America, federal, state and local and the courts - are now involved in promoting, legalizing or defending immorality. Just a few weeks ago I listened to a sermon by Pastor Shane Idleman in California who shared with his congregation that "Governor Jerry Brown [CA] just days before had signed into law a controversial ban on counseling and therapy for youth that is not affirming to same sex attraction." This means you can't counsel young adults and say same sex attraction is wrong.

Just last night I read a report on the internet that a "...45 year-old male student, who dresses as a woman and goes by the name Colleen Francis, undressed and exposed his..." private parts "...on several occasions in the presence of young girls who use the college's locker room....

"Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Washington's Evergreen State College Thursday after college officials claimed that its non-discrimination policy doesn't allow the school to stop a man from exposing himself to girls as young as six years old in a women's locker room. A local district attorney has also stated that he doesn't plan to enforce the state's indecent exposure statute to protect the girls."

As Pastor John MacArthur noted in a sermon just a few weeks ago,  " of the historic parties here in the United States adopted the sins of Romans 1 as their platform." ("Abortion and the Campaign for Immorality" September 16, 2012)

Dr. Marvin Olasky has pointed out,

“We know that sin cannot be wiped out, because it is within everyone; we just don't want sin to gain governmental backing...We believe that God instituted government for the prosecution of wrong doers and not the promotion of evil.”

His opinion is consistent with the role of government Paul sets forth in Romans 13.

We've already seen that Paul said government was instituted by God and the church is to be subject to it. Look at verses Romans 13:2-4 (ESV),   

"2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."

Remember Paul wrote these words while living in the Roman Empire, not in a nation founded on transcendent truth. He says that the authorities are appointed by God. (verse 2) and as God's servants are to restrain evil,  with lethal force if necessary. You see, the depravity of man provides the moral necessity for the institution of government.

A government that protects society from evil and promotes righteousness sets the stage for a free and safe society. Freedom never comes without a price. Freedom prospers and survives only in the context of moral values that transcend the self- centered, nature of sinful man.

I am glad that there are stop signs, traffic lights and speed limits in our county. Otherwise I might not have made it to church alive this morning.

Paul also says that governing authorities give approval, recognition or praise to those who do good. They do this in their role as God's servants, says Paul.

Again, Pastor John MacArthur, "This is not about politics, although there are things we should talk about. You’re not voting for a pastor, you’re not voting for a spiritual leader, you’re voting for someone who has some sense of morality.
Since the Bible says that the role of government is to punish evil doers and protect the good, you better have somebody in power who understands what is good and what is evil. And if you think homosexuality, abortion, sexual freedom, hating God are not evil,
then you better go back and check your Bible again. How can people with that kind of agenda protect those who do good and punish those who do evil? That’s Romans 13’s definition of the role of government. ("Abortion and the Campaign for Immorality")

The fact that these biblical issues have become political issues makes this question even more critical, "How should we vote?"

Please understand at the outset, that I do not for one moment believe that America's moral decline will be solved at the ballot box. Nor do I believe that the proponents of the secular humanist worldview behind these changes are the enemy.

No, they are the victims of the "god of this age" who has "blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4  (ESV)

We must be very careful especially in the public discourse of these issues  to bear in mind the attitude and behavior Christ has called us to.

We must be careful to follow what I call Paul's apologetic protocol, 2 Timothy 2:24-26  (ESV),   

24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

Notice the emphasis on our demeanor: not quarrelsome - don't fight;  kind, patient even when enduring evil; gently correcting and able to teach. And notice the condition of our opponents. It's described in graphic spiritual terms. The need for God to grant repentance; leading them to the truth coming to their senses; the idea is, they have been drugged, they have been trapped by the devil, held captive to do his will.

We are in a spiritual battle for the minds and souls of men. First and foremost, therefore, America's hope lies in a spiritual awakening, that needs to begin in the Church, 1 Peter 4:17, "judgment begins in the house of God." America desperately needs the gospel. That ought to be clear from the Barna research. No political party is going to save America.