Category Archives: Biblical Lesson/Teaching

GTY Blog: The Christian’s Job Description

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Code: B180507

Years ago, a mundane event turned into one of the more interesting and memorable moments of my life. I was flying from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, to speak at a men’s conference. I was seated in the dreaded middle seat, slowly progressing toward El Paso. The man in the window seat next to me was a Muslim from the Middle East. His presence was distinguished and palpable—he was in traditional dress and had a quiet demeanor. About thirty minutes into the flight, he looked over at me. I had my Bible out and was writing a few notes. He said, “Excuse me, sir. May I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said, and he asked, “Is that a Bible?”

“Yes, it is a Bible.”

“Oh,” he replied, “Sir, can I ask you then another question?”

“Of course,” I said.

He said, “Can you tell me the difference between a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Baptist?”

That was not at all what I was expecting him to ask, but I was happy to oblige. And after I explained the difference between Catholics, Protestants, and Baptists, I said to him, “Now may I ask you a question?”

“Of course, of course,” he said.

We were already talking about the nature of the gospel, but I wanted to bring the issue to his spiritual doorstep. I asked him, “Do Muslims sin?”

“Oh, yes. We have many, many sins.”

Testing his self-awareness, I asked, “Well, do you commit them all the time?”

The honesty of his answer still stuns me. He said, “Yes. In fact, I am flying to El Paso to commit some sins.”

“Really?” I said, somewhat surprised.

“Yes. I have just immigrated into the U.S. I came through the El Paso immigration center, and I met a girl there. We have arranged to meet this weekend to commit some sins.”

Since he was comfortable with blunt honesty, I said, “May I ask you another question? How does Allah feel about your sins?”

I had clearly found a sore spot. “Ah,” he groaned, “it’s very bad. I could go to hell forever.”

“Really? Why don’t you stop doing those sins?”

“I can’t stop,” he said.

I prodded a little further. “Do you have any hope that in spite of your sins, you might escape hell?”

I’ll never forget what he said next. “I pray Allah will forgive me.”

“Well, why would he do that?”

Somewhat hopelessly, he said, “I don’t know. I just pray he will.”

Here was the opportunity I had been pressing for. I said, “Well, let me tell you something. I know God personally, and I can promise you, He won’t.”

He looked at me like I was crazy, as if to say, You know God personally, and you’re in the middle seat on Southwest? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was determined to push past his visible incredulity. “I know the one true God personally, and He cannot overlook your sin.”

“But,” I said, “I have some good news for you. There is forgiveness available. There is a way to be reconciled with God.” And I went on to present the gospel to him.

That’s what I do—I tell people how to be reconciled to God. It’s my job; it’s my life. And it’s yours, too, if you’ve been reconciled to God through Christ. That’s what Christians do—it’s our primary function. We preach the forgiveness of sins and redemption by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Paul speaks about the responsibility that we have as believers to proclaim the message of forgiveness—the message of reconciliation. And that’s the pivotal word we’ll carefully examine in the days ahead.

 

(Adapted from Good News)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180507
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Lessons About Worship and Faith – GTY Blog

Luke 10:38-42

Code: B180502

We don’t often consider the lessons we might learn from the strife between siblings—even when it is recorded in Scripture. But through a brief episode in Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit has much to teach us about the nature of faith and worship.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

The Priority of Worship over Service

It’s interesting to read this narrative and try to imagine how the average woman might respond if placed in a situation like Martha’s. My strong suspicion is that manywomen would be inclined to sympathize with Martha, not Mary. After all, it would normally be considered rude to let your sister do all the hard work in the kitchen while you sit chatting with guests.

So in a real sense, Martha’s feelings were natural and somewhat understandable. That may be one reason Jesus’ rebuke was so mild. In normal circumstances, any older sister would think it obligatory for the younger sister to help in serving a meal to guests. In other words, what Martha expected Mary to do was, in itself, perfectly fine and good.

Nevertheless, what Mary was doing was better still. She had “chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42). She had discovered the one thing needful: true worship and devotion of one’s heart and full attention to Christ. That was a higher priority even than service, and the good part she had chosen would not be taken away from her, even for the sake of something as gracious and beneficial as helping Martha prepare Jesus a meal. Mary’s humble, obedient heart was a far greater gift to Christ than Martha’s well-set table.

This establishes worship as the highest of all priorities for every Christian. Nothing, including even service rendered to Christ, is more important than listening to Him and honoring Him with our hearts. Remember what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: God is seeking true worshipers (John 4:23). Christ had found one in Mary. He would not affirm Martha’s reprimand of her, because it was Mary, not Martha, who properly understood that worship is a higher duty to Christ than service rendered on His behalf.

It is a danger, even for people who love Christ, that we not become so concerned with doing things for Him that we begin to neglect hearing Him and remembering what He has done for us. We must never allow our service for Christ to crowd out our worship of Him. The moment our works become more important to us than our worship, we have turned the true spiritual priorities on their heads.

In fact, that tendency is the very thing that is so poisonous about all forms of pietism and theological liberalism. Whenever you elevate good deeds over sound doctrine and true worship, you ruin the works too. Doing good works for the works’ sake has a tendency to exalt self and depreciate the work of Christ. Good deeds, human charity, and acts of kindness are crucial expressions of real faith, but they must flow from a true reliance on God’s redemption and His righteousness. After all, our own good works can never be a means of earning God’s favor; that’s why in Scripture the focus of faith is always on what God has done for us, and never on what we do for Him (Romans 10:2–4). Observe any form of religion where good works are ranked as more important than authentic faith or sound doctrine, and you’ll discover a system that denigrates Christ while unduly magnifying self.

Not that Martha was guilty of gross self-righteousness. We shouldn’t be any more harsh in our assessment of her than Christ was. She loved the Lord. Her faith was real, but by neglecting the needful thing and busying herself with mere activity, she became spiritually unbalanced. Her behavior reminds us that a damaging spirit of self-righteousness can slip in and contaminate even the hearts of those who have sincerely embraced Christ as their true righteousness. Martha’s harshness toward Mary exposed precisely that kind of imbalance in her own heart.

Jesus’ gentle words of correction to Martha (as well as His commendation of Mary) set the priorities once more in their proper order. Worship (which is epitomized here by listening intently to Jesus’ teachings) is the one thing most needed. Service to Christ must always be subordinate to that.

The Primacy of Faith over Works

Another vital spiritual principle goes hand in hand with the priority of worship over service and is so closely related to it that the two actually overlap. This principle is the truth (taught from the beginning to the end of Scripture) that what we believe is ultimately more crucial than what we do.

Martha’s “preparations” were a distraction (Luke 10:40) from the “one thing” (v. 42) that was really needed—listening to and learning from Jesus. Religious works often have a sinister tendency to eclipse faith itself. Proper good works always flow from faith and are the fruit of it. What we do is vital, because that is the evidence that our faith is living and real (James 2:14–26). But faith must come first, and it is the only viable foundation for true and lasting good works. All of that is wrapped up in the truth that works are not the instrument of justification; faith is (Romans 4:4–5).

Martha seems to have forgotten these things momentarily. She was acting as if Christ needed her work for Him more than she needed His work on her behalf. Rather than humbly fixing her faith on the vital importance of Christ’s work for sinners, she was thinking too much in terms of what she could do for Him.

Again, this seems to be the natural drift of the human heart. We wrongly imagine that what we do for Christ is more important than what He has done for us. Every major spiritual decline in the history of Christianity has come when the church has lost sight of the primacy of faith and begun to stress works instead. Virtually every serious doctrinal deviation throughout church history has had this same tendency at its core—beginning with the error of the Judaizers, who insisted that an Old Covenant ritual (circumcision) was essential for justification. They denied that faith alone could be instrumental in justification, and that undermined the very foundation of the gospel.

Human instinct seems to tell us that what we do is more important than what we believe. But that is a false instinct, the product of our fallen self-righteousness. It is a totally wrong way of thinking—sinfully wrong. We must never think more highly of our works for Christ than we do of His works on our behalf.

Of course, such a thought would never consciously enter Martha’s mind. She loved Christ. She genuinely trusted Him, although her faith had moments of weakness. Still, on this occasion, she allowed her anxiety about what she must do for Christ to overwhelm her gratitude over what He would do for her.

I’m very grateful that Christ’s rebuke of Martha was a gentle one. I must confess that it is very easy for me to identify with her. I love the privilege of serving the Lord, and He has blessed me with more than enough to stay busy. It is tempting at times to become swept up in the activity of ministry and forget that faith and worship must always have priority over work. In these hectic times, we all need to cultivate more of Mary’s worshipful, listening spirit and less of Martha’s scrambling commotion.

Martha and Mary also remind us that God uses all kinds of people. He has gifted us differently for a reason, and we’re not to despise one another or look at others with contempt, just because we have differing temperaments or contrasting personalities.

Martha was a noble and godly woman with a servant’s heart and a rare capacity for work. Mary was nobler still, with an unusual predisposition for worship and wisdom. Both were remarkable in their own ways. If we weigh their gifts and their instincts together, they give us a wonderful example to follow. May we diligently cultivate the best instincts of both of these extraordinary women.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180502
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

False Teaching Out There and In Here – Ligonier Ministries

by Nathan W. Bingham

Here’s an excerpt from False Teaching Out There and In Here, Sean Michael Lucas’ contribution to the April issue of Tabletalk:

The recognition that heresies often start from a biblical platform and basis should humble and warn us. It should humble us, even chasten us, to recognize that we might unwittingly propagate error even as we teach God’s inerrant Word. Though we labor over our sermons and lessons, wrestling with the text, trying to get it right, there is always the possibility that we might teach error in ways that lead God’s little ones astray.

Continue reading False Teaching Out There and In Here

Profiles of Godliness: Martha and Mary – GTY.org Blog

Friends of Christ

Code: B180423

When we think about the life of our Lord, we generally focus on His preaching, His confrontations with religious hypocrites, and His relationships with His disciples. But we can easily overlook the friendships He enjoyed with everyday people—those with whom He found hospitality, fellowship, and refreshment.

Throughout the course of the four gospels, we repeatedly encounter two friends of Christ—Martha and Mary. Scripture consistently presents these extraordinary women together, and displays a distinct and instructive contrast in the character of these two sisters.

Scripture doesn’t give us many personal details about Martha and Mary. They lived with their brother, Lazarus, in the small village of Bethany. That was within easy walking distance of Jerusalem, about two miles southeast of the Temple’s eastern gate (John 11:18)—just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem’s city center. Both Luke and John recorded that Jesus enjoyed hospitality in the home of this family. He went there on at least three crucial occasions in the gospels. Bethany was apparently a regular stop for Him in His travels, and this family’s home seems to have become a welcome hub for Jesus during His visits to Judea.

One Key Similarity

Martha and Mary make a fascinating pair—very different in many ways, but alike in one vital respect: both of them loved Christ. They became cherished personal friends of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Moreover, He had a profound love for their family. The apostle John, who was a keen observer of whom and what Jesus loved, made it a point to record that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5).

We’re not told how this particular household became so intimate with Jesus. Since no family ties are ever mentioned between Jesus’ relatives and the Bethany clan, it seems likely that Martha and Mary were simply two of the many people who heard Jesus teach early in His ministry, extended Him hospitality, and built a relationship with Him that way. In whatever way this relationship began, it obviously developed into a warm and deeply personal fellowship. It is clear from Luke’s description that Jesus made Himself at home in their house.

The fact that Jesus actively cultivated such friendships sheds light on the kind of man He was. It also helps explain how He managed to have an itinerant ministry in Judea without ever becoming a homeless indigent, even though He maintained no permanent dwelling of His own (Matthew 8:20). Apparently, people like Martha and Mary regularly welcomed Him into their homes and families, and He was clearly at home among His many friends.

Certainly hospitality was a special hallmark of this family. Martha in particular is portrayed everywhere as a meticulous hostess. Even her name is the feminine form of the Aramaic word for “Lord.” It was a perfect name for her because she was clearly the one who presided over her house. Luke 10:38 speaks of the family home as Martha’s house. That, together with the fact that her name was usually listed first whenever she was named with her siblings, implies strongly that she was the elder sister. Lazarus appears to be the youngest of the three, because he was named last in John’s list of family members (John 11:5), and Lazarus rarely comes to the foreground of any narrative—including John’s description of how Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Some believe Martha’s position as owner of the house and dominant one in the household indicates that she must have been a widow. That’s possible, of course, but all we know from Scripture is that these three siblings lived together, and there is no mention that any of them had ever been married. Nor is any hint given about how old they were. But since Mary was literally at Jesus’ feet each time she appeared, it would be hard to imagine them as very old. Furthermore, the starkly contrasting temperaments of Martha and Mary seem unmellowed by much age. I’m inclined to think they were all three still very young and inexperienced. Indeed, in their interaction with Christ, He always treated them much the same way an elder brother would, and many of the principles He taught them were profoundly practical lessons for young people coming of age. A few of those lessons rise to particular prominence as we consider their recorded encounters with Christ.

Snapshots of the Sisters

Scripture gives three significant accounts of Jesus’ interaction with this family. First, Luke 10:38–42 describes a minor conflict between Martha and Mary over how best to show their devotion to Christ. That is where we initially meet Martha and Mary in the New Testament. The way Luke described their clashing temperaments was perfectly consistent with everything we see in two later incidents recorded by John. (We’ll return to focus mostly on the end of Luke 10 next time, because that’s where the contrasting personalities of these two are seen most clearly.)

A second close-up glimpse at the lives of these two women comes in John 11. Virtually the entire chapter is devoted to a description of how their brother Lazarus died and was brought back to life by Christ. Jesus’ personal dealings with Martha and Mary in this scene highlighted their individual characteristics. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus affected both Martha and Mary profoundly, but differently, according to their contrasting personalities. John gave very detailed and poignant descriptions of how deeply the sisters were distressed over their loss, how Jesus ministered to them in their grief, how He mourned with them in a profound and personal way, and how He gloriously raised Lazarus from the dead at the very climax of the funeral.

More than any other act of Jesus, that one dramatic and very public miracle was what finally sealed the Jewish leaders’ determination to put Him to death because they knew that if He could raise the dead, people would follow Him, and the leaders would lose their power base (John 11:45–57). They obstinately refused to consider that His power to give life was proof that He was exactly who He claimed to be: God the Son.

Martha and Mary seemed to understand that Jesus had put Himself in jeopardy in order to give them back the life of their brother. In fact, the full depth of Mary’s gratitude and understanding was revealed in a third and final account where both of these women appeared together one more time. John 12 (with parallel accounts in Matthew 26:6–13 and Mark 14:3–9) records how Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly ointment and wiped His feet with her hair. Although both Matthew and Mark described the event, neither of them mentioned Mary’s name in this context. It was nonetheless clear that they were describing the same incident we read about in John 12.

Both Matthew 26:12 and John 12:7 indicated that Mary, in some sense, understood that she was anointing Jesus for burial. She must have strongly suspected that her brother’s resurrection would drive Jesus’ enemies to a white-hot hatred, and they would be determined to put Him to death (John 11:53–54). Jesus Himself had gone to the relative safety of Ephraim right after the raising of Lazarus, but Passover brought Him back to Jerusalem (vv. 55–56). Mary (and probably Martha as well) seemed to grasp more clearly than anyone how imminent the threat to Jesus was. That surely intensified their sense of debt and gratitude toward Him, as reflected in Mary’s act of worship.

That’s where we’ll pick it up next time, as we consider the godly—but contrasting—character of these two women.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180423
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Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath? – Ligonier Ministries

by Steven J. Lawson

The Genevan Reformer John Calvin said, “Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns.

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners.

Like trumpeters on the castle wall warning of coming disaster, preachers must proclaim the full counsel of God. Those who stand in pulpits must preach the whole body of truth in the Scriptures, which includes both sovereign wrath and supreme love. They cannot pick and choose what they want to preach. Addressing the wrath of God is never optional for a faithful preacher—it is a divine mandate.

Tragically, preaching that deals with God’s impending judgment is absent from many contemporary pulpits. Preachers have become apologetic regarding the wrath of God, if not altogether silent. In order to magnify the love of God, many argue, the preacher must downplay His wrath. But to omit God’s wrath is to obscure His amazing love. Strangely enough, it is merciless to withhold the declaration of divine vengeance.

Why is preaching divine wrath so necessary? First, the holy character of God demands it. An essential part of God’s moral perfection is His hatred of sin. A.W. Pink asserts, “The wrath of God is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin.” God is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) who “feels indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11) toward the wicked. God has “hated wickedness” (45:7) and is angered toward all that is contrary to His perfect character. He will, therefore, “destroy” (5:6) sinners in the Day of Judgment.

Every preacher must declare the wrath of God or marginalize His holiness, love, and righteousness. Because God is holy, He is separated from all sin and utterly opposed to every sinner. Because God is love, He delights in purity and must, of necessity, hate all that is unholy. Because God is righteous, He must punish the sin that violates His holiness.

Second, the ministry of the prophets demands it. The prophets of old frequently proclaimed that their hearers, because of their continual wickedness, were storing up for themselves the wrath of God (Jer. 4:4). In the Old Testament, more than twenty words are used to describe the wrath of God, and these words are used in their various forms a total of 580 times. Time and again, the prophets spoke with vivid imagery to describe God’s wrath unleashed upon wickedness. The last of the prophets, John the Baptist, spoke of “the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7). From Moses to the forerunner of Christ, there was a continual strain of warning to the impenitent of the divine fury that awaits.

Third, the preaching of Christ demands it. Ironically, Jesus had more to say about divine wrath than anyone else in the Bible. Our Lord spoke about God’s wrath more than He spoke of God’s love. Jesus warned about “fiery hell” (Matt. 5:22) and eternal “destruction” (7:13) where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). Simply put, Jesus was a hellfire and damnation preacher. Men in pulpits would do well to follow the example of Christ in their preaching.

Fourth, the glory of the cross demands it. Christ suffered the wrath of God for all who would call upon Him. If there is no divine wrath, there is no need for the cross, much less for the salvation of lost souls. From what would sinners need to be saved? It is only when we recognize the reality of God’s wrath against those deserving of judgment that we find the cross to be such glorious news. Too many pulpiteers today boast in having a cross-centered ministry but rarely, if ever, preach divine wrath. This is a violation of the cross itself.

Fifth, the teaching of the Apostles demands it. Those directly commissioned by Christ were mandated to proclaim all that He commanded (Matt. 28:20). This necessitates proclaiming God’s righteous indignation toward sinners. The Apostle Paul warns unbelievers of the “God who inflicts wrath” (Rom. 3:5) and declares that only Jesus can “deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Peter writes about “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 3:7). Jude addresses the “punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). John describes “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). Clearly, the New Testament writers recognized the necessity of preaching God’s wrath.

Preachers must not shrink away from proclaiming the righteous anger of God toward hell-deserving sinners. God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). That day is looming on the horizon. Like the prophets and Apostles, and even Christ Himself, we too must warn unbelievers of this coming dreadful day and compel them to flee to Christ, who alone is mighty to save.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

Source: Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath?