When Good Religion Goes Bad (or: Why “Good” Folks Need the Gospel Too)

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Don’t throw away the cross, Supes! For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole (Daily) Planet and yet lose his life?

We Christians may tend to think that there are other “faith systems” out there, other than biblical Christianity, that, while they may miss out on the whole truth, they still contain a lot of good in them, and maybe God will sorta smile and wink at their adherents at the end of the day, because after all, they were just trying to live a good life, and honor God, and what’s so bad about that? Maybe you have friends who are, in general, upstanding and moral people. And maybe you might, sometimes, possibly be tempted with the idea that you don’t really need to tell them about the Gospel–Because after all, you think, They might not know the full truth about Jesus, but they’re such good people! I’m sure they’ll be fine. The Gospel is “good news” for really bad sinners, not good folks like these… right? 

Not according to Jesus. According to Jesus, manmade religion (or “faith systems,” or lifestyles, or worldviews) that purport to show God great honor, while denying the necessity of the cross and resurrection of Jesus–those aren’t some kind of lesser piety. They’re not “Christianity Lite.”

According to Jesus, such systems amount to nothing less than cold, hard, condemnable satanism.
The Devil is fine with us ascribing all kinds of honor to the Lord, as long as we miss the cross, burial and resurrection of Jesus–and our need for the Savior who did all that for us.
“Good” religion goes bad when it substitutes “goodness” for the Gospel. Even Christ-likeness is no substitute for the crucifixion.

The Gospel is the good news, that Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me–so that we could die to our old life (which was really death) and receive His life. Get the Gospel, and you get God’s life. Reject the Gospel, and whatever else you may have–however “good,” you’ll lose your life and miss out on God’s life.

This is serious business–which it would have to be, to make Jesus call one of His top three disciples “Satan.” So if Jesus takes it that seriously, maybe we ought to reconsider how we think about those other “faith systems” (really they should be called works systems, since they deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone). Trying to show God honor, while denying God’s plan (by which He was more incredibly honored than He could have ever been by any scheme moral man could have come up with!) is from Satan.

In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
That’s what’s going on in Mark 8:31-38. It’s what Jesus has saved former moralists like me from, and it’s what we have to remember when we’re communicating the Gospel to our religious, well-intentioned, and moral friends. In so doing, we’re giving them the best “good news” we could give them.

The PorchCon Train Has Left the Station

…and it’s coming to a city near you. Provided you live somewhere near Phoenix, AZ. That’s right, “Conversations from the Porch,” (AKA the PorchCast, the podcast I co-host with some good brothers out west (and one in the D. R.)) is hosting a theological conference, centered around New Covenant Theology (NCT). If you don’t know what NCT is, go here, then go here and find out more about the conference.

To be sure, I’m pumped about the three plenary speakers (A. Blake White, David H. J. Gay, and Geoff Volker), but I’m most excited about meeting my fellow PorchCast “divines”–guys whom I consider friends and brothers-in-Christ, but whom I’ve never actually met in person–and recording an episode of the PorchCast in front of a live audience.

If you want to be a part of that audience (and why wouldn’t you?), check out http://www.PorchCon.com and get your tickets early, while early-bird prices last. It’s a limited-admission event, so once these bad boys are gone, they’re gone.

 

Jesus Is Better Than Christmas Trees (Or: How Jesus Reveals God’s Glory) (sermon notes)

This morning I had the honor of preaching to the saints at Park Edgebrook. Here are the notes I took on stage with me. 

Luke 2:8-20

(3 mins) Introduction:

  • Christmas trees make memories, but why have them?
  • Real or plastic pines don’t belong in homes!
  • Martin Luther’s first one emulated pines and stars.
  • 25-30 million real trees sold annually in U.S.
  • Trees symbolize memories, togetherness, family, and sentimentality.
  • Christmastime also involves depression, anxiety, and bad memories.
  • Today’s passage reveals the glory of Christmas.
  • Similarly out of place, but far greater than!

Read Luke 2:8-20. Page 857.

Pray

  • Need: Miss the glory and miss the point.

 

  • Big idea: Jesus brings God’s glory to life.

 

  • Jesus reveals the glory of God’s goodness.
  • Jesus reveals the glory of God’s relevance.
  • Jesus reveals the glory of God’s grace.

(10 mins) Tell the Story:

Rising Action:

(8-9)

  • Shepherds: bottom social rung. Everyone’s within God’s reach.
  • Angel appears! Glory!
  • Shepherds fear. Was angel there to punish?
  • “Shekinah” “dwelling” glory from OT.
  • Humbles, prepares shepherds, attests to the announcement’s truth.

(10-11)

  • “Do not fear.” Lit. “I am evangelizing you!”
  • God’s glory revealed will result in their joy.
  • “Good News” “for all the people.” Offered freely!
  • Do we remember it’s Good News for all?
  • Who in your life needs to hear it?
  • Savior for you! God’s glory to your life.
  • David’s city–Micah 5:2. Page 779. “  
    [Slide] “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me  one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
  • Messiah: “anointed one” Israel had been waiting for.
  • Lord: Septuagint translation of YHWH. God made flesh.

(12)

 

  • The sign–there would be only one.
  • God revealing glory humbly: baptism water (new life); communion bread & cup (atonement).
  • In a trough, helpless, weak, God meets humanity.

 

Climax:
(13-14)

  • The angelic multitude provide many witnesses.
  • They call the church to unify in worship.
  • Glory to God: the Father sent His Son!
  • Peace on earth: the Son of God reigns!
  • Men of God’s favor: Applied by the Spirit.
  • The Triune Gospel, Triune God revealed by Jesus.

(15-17)

  • Shepherds believe. Not going to verify but witness.
  • “Believe–>understand.” Augustine. Faith precedes knowledge.

  • Faith also produces action.
  • How often have we heard, not gone to Jesus?
  • We must repent for our prayerlessness, inaction (faithlessness).
  • We must encourage each other, like the shepherds

Falling Action:
(18-20)

  • They who heard, marveled.
  • We love to marvel. Facebook feeds. Marvel superhero movies.
  • Usually, it stops quick as it starts.
  • Even Christmas sentimentality ends. January, lights, carols!
  • Sinful sentimentality replaces God’s glory with lesser glory.
  • Sentimentality is about self. Life lived for self–>death.
  • God’s glory, Jesus reveals, gives life forever!

  • Mary treasured these things. Take time to do that.
  • Shepherds returned. Transformed.
  • Meeting Jesus–you go back transformed. Meaning. Cut some things out. Life looks different.

(14 mins) Application: The Three-Fold, Thrice-Told Gospel

[SLIDE]

Jesus reveals the glory of God’s goodness.

  • God’s work is Good news (10)! He is the standard for good.
  • God has come to His people (Jesus is Lord) (11).
  • God is worthy of praise (14).

Jesus reveals God’s relevance.

  • God is faithful to “all the people”–Jew and Gentile (10).
  • God is faithful to meet our needs: God’s truth, forgiveness, and justice (11).
  • God is faithful to bring peace–with God, one another, ourselves (14).

Jesus reveals God’s grace.

 

  • Jesus replaces sinful sentimentality and fills me with real joy (10).
  • (as Savior) Jesus sets me free me from God’s wrath and my slavery to sin (11).
  • Jesus earns me God’s favor by taking my sin upon Himself, atoning for it and sending the Holy Spirit (14).

 

  • All completely unearned. Free. Gift of love.

(2 mins) Conclusion/application:

  • Why this matters: need something more. Sentimentality=trap.
    • Jesus reveals God’s majesty, faithfulness and grace.
    • He alone deserves our undivided attention
    • If we miss this, we miss God’s glory.
    • And opportunities to glorify God.
  • Because you see, we’re like the shepherds
    • Jesus has revealed God’s glory to us.
    • We in turn are expected to glorify God. by making Him known.
    • This makes us depend less on lesser glories–like sentimentality.
    • Puts our hearts where they belong: on Jesus Christ and on His Gospel.
  • This advent, ask: where’s my focus right now… on God’s glory, or something else?
  • Because if you miss Jesus, who alone brings God’s glory to life, then you’ve missed the point.

  • Unbeliever? Glad you’re here.
  • Christmastime: magical. Depressing. Routine. Don’t miss it.

  • Opportunity (maybe last?). Trust in Jesus today. Angels still celebrate when Christ is born anew in a sinner’s heart.

  • The Gospel is good news that changes everything.
  • Jesus reveals God’s glory (goodness, relevance, grace); we respond by glorifying Him.
  • I challenge you this Christmas to ask God to take your mind off of sentimentality and onto Gods glory. That you would seek and find opportunities to announce the good news to the people who don’t yet know it.
  • [SLIDE] Jesus has brought Gods glory to life.That’s good news. We glorify God by making His good news known. Let’s pass it on.

(1 minute) Prayer

How Jesus Sets You Free (Sermon Notes)

What follows is the transcript I preached from at Park Community Church, Edgebrook this Sunday. The passage was Mark 3:22-30. Please excuse any typos.

Are you trying to win a war that’s already been won?

 

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Hiroo Onoda

Once upon a time (there are children worshiping with us this morning, so I thought that was a good way to start my opening story).

 

 Once upon a time, there was a man named Hiroo Onodo. Hiroo was a general in the Japanese army during World War II. His commanding officers put him in charge of defending the Philippines. And Hirooo took his job very seriously.

 

In fact, he took his job super seriously. When the American forces invaded the Philippines in 1945, Hiroo and his soldiers ran to the hills.

Japan surrendered later that year. The war was over. To let Hiroo know, the islanders dropped leaflets out of an airplane, which read, “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” Hiroo and his soldiers looked carefully at the paper, and decided… it was a fake! They didn’t believe it!

So Hiroo and his men stayed up in the mountains. Over the years, people sent more leaflets their way, and even search parties. But Hiroo stayed in the mountains. From time to time he would come out and attack fishermen and police. He was still fighting–as though the war wasn’t already declared over.

It wasn’t until 1974–almost 30 years after the war had ended, when Hiroo’s old commanding officer (who had become a bookseller) flew back the area and met with Hiroo, that Hiroo was convinced that the war really was over. He came down from the mountains and returned to civilian life.

See, Hiroo kept fighting, even after the war was over. Now, the Christian life, is sometimes compared to a battle, in the Bible. But what we’re going to see this morning is this: that Jesus has won the victory. So in an important sense, the war is already decided. God has won.

Because of this, we don’t fight in the same way, as though the war is undecided–as though either side could win.

This passage is going to address two big problems we have.

Many of us see the battle between good and evil as a war between two equally matched forces. It’s as though Good and Evil are locked in a wrestling match, and we feel caught in between.

When we think that way, we think that the devil’s side is more powerful than it actually is. That evil could possibly win the battle. Some days it feels like evil really is winning! And we feel powerless against it!

This passage is going to show us that Jesus has become victorious!

That Jesus and the devil are not equally matched.

Jesus created everything! He is infinitely greater than all forces–including the devil and his agents. There is no contest.

Now the second problem this passage solves is this: those of us who have been following Jesus for a long time, we may get complacent and forget what a dramatic rescue we’ve experienced. We may forget how bad our former state was. And we may forget that Jesus alone won the battle for us.

When we minimize the darkness of sin, we don’t see it as dramatically opposed to good as it really is, we forget how great the canyon is between good and evil. Then we think, you know what, it wasn’t that bad, was it? And we get tempted to wander back into sin.

We think that, if things get too bad, we could just jump back over to the good side. But we forget that we didn’t jump over the first time. We didn’t set ourselves free. Jesus rescued us, and we had nothing to do with it. So this passage will remind us of our need for a rescue, and the danger of living like sin really isn’t that bad.

Here’s the Big Idea this morning: It was Jesus who has defeated what held us captive, and He sets His people completely free.

Read Text: Mark 3:22-30.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”  And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,  but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Tell the Story:

(22) Scribes’ accusation

The Scribes…

They were the religious teachers of the day

Mark tells us they had come down from Jerusalem

Because Jerusalem was situated on a hill, then to travel away from the city, you were heading “down.”

Why were they coming? They came down on a fault-finding mission. They wanted to stop people from believing in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was claiming that He was equal to God. And He was doing miracles to back it up! He was claiming to be able to forgive people’s sins. But the scribes wanted people to follow them, and think that they were important. The scribes knew that, if people started kept following Jesus, then people would stop following them. They wouldn’t listen to the scribe’s rules anymore.  

So they get to Jesus and they said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”

Beelzebul means “Lord of the House. It comes from the word “Baal.” Baal was a false god that other nations had worshiped in the old days.

By the time of Jesus, the word Beelzebul came to be associated with the prince of evil spirits. Satan himself.

In other words, the religious teachers were accusing Jesus of working with the devil.

The scribes and the people all believed in the spiritual world. They believed in angels and demons–evil spirits.

And they believed that demons could attack people and take control of them.  

They also recognized that Jesus was casting demons out of people.

Mark doesn’t mention it, but in Matthew 12:22-23, we learn that Jesus has just healed a man who couldn’t see, couldn’t speak, and was paralyzed–he couldn’t move.

The man had been controlled by a demon, and Jesus made the demon leave the man.

The scribes could clearly see that the man had been healed, and that the demon had been there, and that Jesus forced the demon to leave the man alone.

For some of us here, this all seems very strange.

We don’t tend to see things like angels and demons in our everyday life. So it can be easy, sometimes, to think that they aren’t real. Or if they are real, they don’t have anything to do with us.

And yet the Bible clearly teaches that the spiritual realm is real. And there are plenty of people who could tell you that these forces are very real.

On the other hand, many people go the other direction and get super scared when they think about the devil and evil spirits. They think that everything that goes wrong in life is due to the devil.  

But God’s word teaches us that, while the devil is very real, he is defeated. When Jesus rescues a person from the devil, the devil cannot keep us from Jesus or from God’s love.  We see that in Romans chapter 8, verses 38-39. So the question is, have you been rescued? Do you need to be rescued? We’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.

If you believe the Bible is from God, then you have to accept what it says about the spiritual realm.

And there is every good reason to believe the Bible is true. That’s for another time; talk to me after the service if you want to know more.

In saying that Jesus was working for the devil, this was the meanest thing the scribes could say about Jesus.

Really, they are out of arguments. They are just slandering Jesus–just saying the worst thing they can think of.

But they haven’t thought it through. As it turns out, by accusing Jesus of working for the devil, they have actually opened themselves up to an incredible attack from Jesus. Jesus is about to give one of the most stunning counterarguments in the entire Bible. Watch what He does.

(23-26) Jesus is going to demonstrate for us how to do apologetics–giving an explanation to show why what God says is true:

(23a) Look with me at verse 23. “And he called them to him and said to them in parables…”

A parable means to “place one thing beside another,” for comparison. Jesus often taught this way.

Sometimes He did it to make things clearer, other times He did it to hide His meaning… to make sure only certain people understood.

Jesus is going to show the scribes why they are wrong, and then He’s going to tell them the truth–and He’s going to do it in a way that they can’t possibly argue with. Watch this!

(23b) He begins by asking, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

He’s not asking, “Can Satan do this?” He is asking “Why would Satan do this?”

Let’s think about this logically, Jesus says.

See Jesus is not afraid of logic, of wisdom. Logic is His friend. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, logic is your friend too. We should not be afraid of it; we can use it.

Jesus tells them two proverbs–two wise sayings–that He knows everyone will agree with. He says in verse 24,   

(24) “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand.”

And then in verse 25:

(25) “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Remember Jesus’ word picture of a house. That’s going to come back later.

Jesus lays out these two sayings, knowing they will agree with them. He’s setting them up.

Then He goes on to say in verse 26:

(26) “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end”.

Literally it says “he has an end.”

Another translation says, His end has come!

In other words, “Satan is done for!”

Jesus is showing them their own argument contradicts with itself

An argument that contradicts itself has to be false.

Jesus is proving them wrong.

He is saying,

“If I’m possessed by Beelzebu;, then I’m working for Satan.

If I’m driving out demons, then I’m working against Satan with the same action.

I can’t be working for and against Satan! It makes no sense!

Satan isn’t going to work against himself. They knew Satan is evil, but that he’s not stupid.

So why did the Scribes insult Jesus like this? It had nothing to do with the evidence or what actually made sense. They didn’t WANT to believe in Jesus. So they were grasping at explanations. They were desperate to believe anything except that Jesus really was who He was clearly proving Himself to be: the Son of God. And now, Jesus has shown everybody the condition of the scribes’ heart.

Next, Jesus is about to explain explains what really did happen.  Because remember, everyone agreed that Jesus had cast out demons from people who had been oppressed by them. Not even the scribes disputed that. So just how was Jesus able to do that?

(27) In verse 27, Jesus gives them the answer. He says,

“But no one can enter a strong man’s house…

Okay, now we are back to the house metaphor. What’s going on?

The house symbolizes control. A house is a place of safety. Think about your own house, about your own room. It’s where you are comfortable. It’s where you know what to expect. If it’s your home, you get to make the rules. Kids, remember: obey your parents’ rules, because it’s their house. So when Jesus describes a strong man’s house, He’s painting a picture with His words to make us see a house where the strong man feels comfortable and in control. He feels safe there.

Because someone might attack a man on the street, but it’s entirely different to break into his house and try to steal his stuff.

In this parable–this comparison–the strong man is the devil. His house is the control he has over sinners.

So How does salvation–being saved from our sins and from the devil–happen according to the Bible? According to Jesus’ own words in this story, it happens like this (go with me on this):

Weak and pitiful sinners like you and I are trapped by the devil–like we are in a strong man’s house.

When people sin, when they do wrong things, they are really sinning against God–and the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

The Bible talks about how, when you let sins, like anger, for example, get into your life, you are giving the devil an opportunity to move in and take control (Ephesians 4:27).

When someone makes a practice of sinning, Jesus says they become a slave to sin (John 8:34).

When you sin, it’s like you’re picking sides. You’re saying, “I don’t want God to be my Lord, my leader. I want to be His enemy. Well, God does have an enemy, and that’s the devil. So sinning is picking the devil’s side. It’s saying that the devil is right. It’s like saying you want to serve the devil as master instead of God. And Jesus says that no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

So the devil has bound them by their sin. Because they rebelled against God, they rightfully belong to the devil.

And here’s the sad fact: we all start out as sinners like this. We are all bad!

While he has us captive, the strong man is gloating over us and tormenting us. The prisoners hate the strong man, but they hate God and each other too. It’s miserable and seems hopeless.

Is there any hope for sinners like us? The only hope would be if there were someone who was not under the control of the devil, and free from His control. Thank God, there is someone like that.  And His name is Jesus!

Right after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. Out there, Jesus fasted–He ate no food–and the devil came and tempted Him; he tried to get Jesus to sin  (Mark 1:12-13).

But Jesus fought back. He used the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). He quoted BIble verses to the devil, and the devil was powerless against them.

Hebrew 4:15 says Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.” The devil failed in his mission to get Jesus to sin. Jesus would not join the devil’s side.

So Jesus is the one and only human being who resisted Satan’s temptation.

That means that Jesus is free from Satan’s control.

The devil can’t stop Jesus. And because Jesus is God, He has the power of the Holy Spirit. And He, the Holy Spirit, works with Jesus to set people free from the control of the devil.

Isaiah 49:24-25, in the Old Testament, says something that the scribes would have known very well: “Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? Surely, thus says the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.”

This is being fulfilled here in the life of Jesus.

Jesus is here to save His people from the “tyrant,” the devil.

In Luke 11:21-22, which tells the same story as this one here in Mark’s Gospel, but with a few more details, Jesus says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil”

So the parable continues:  Jesus has come to “plunder his goods”–to take from the Strong Man what belonged to him.

Picture this: Jesus smashes down the front door and charges into the strong man’s house. He marches over to the strong man, grips him by the back of the neck, and before he can say “Boo” Jesus slams his face into the table. Then, while the strong man is dazed, Jesus binds up the strong man with a chain, rendering him powerless.

In full view of the strong man, Jesus strolls from room to room in the house with a pair of bolt cutters. The prisoners of the house are so wretched that they actually mock Jesus as He does this. They can’t possibly understand just what a good thing is happening to them–but they are about to find out. Undeterred, Jesus snaps the shackles off of the prisoners and hoists them up onto his shoulders.

Jesus fireman-carries the prisoners out the front door–He’s going to feed them, restore them to health and give them an awesome new life with Himself. After kicking over a lamp on the way out, just to show who’s boss, He turns over His shoulder, points two fingers at the strong man like a gun, and says to him, “I’m gonna come back. And when I do, I’m going to finish you off.” And the devil can’t do anything. Because Jesus has bound him up with that chain.

That chain that Jesus bound the devil with is Jesus’ own death and resurrection. When Jesus died, He took the punishment for the sins of all His people. See, [Slide] Jesus actually rescued people from the devil’s control when He died on the cross.

Since Jesus took the punishment, there’s nothing more the devil can do.

The devil can’t accuse us before God, and say, “they’re a bunch of no-good sinners!” Because Jesus took our sin and and died for it. He dealt with our sin and wiped away our guilt–Colossians 2:14 says Jesus nailed the record of debt that stood against us, to the cross. It’s gone!

And the devil can’t force us to sin, because we aren’t slaves to sin anymore. Jesus has set us completely free!

The devil is so powerless against Jesus’ people now. It’s like the devil has been bound with a chain. We don’t have to listen to him or his lies anymore!

The Bible says, “the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And one day soon, He is going to come back and take us to be with Him forever. And He’ll throw the devil into the fiery lake. Scoreboard: the devil, zero. Jesus: infinity.

Jesus has now clearly shown the scribes, and everyone watching, that the only possibly correct explanation is that He is more powerful than Satan.

Well, the only one more powerful than Satan is God.

The scribes believed this.

So Jesus is forcing them, by what they already believe–by their own worldview–to accept that He is God.

What other options do they have?

They could deny that Jesus really did cast out demons. But these it was way too obvious that He actually did, that to deny them they would have to deny everything supernatural, spiritual and invisible. These Scribes were Pharisees, and Pharisees had to believe in the spiritual world. So if they said that, they would be disqualified from being scribes.

Their only option was to bow the knee to Jesus. But did they?

No. Their hearts remained hard toward HIm.

So Jesus gives them a warning. Look at verse 28. Jesus says,

(28) “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.”

Jesus knows their hearts are still hard.

But he also knows he has a crowd watching.

For the crowd’s sake and theirs, Jesus announces that God’s rescue plan won’t just be for people who have become oppressed by demons. It’s going to be for every kind of sin people commit. Because Jesus is going to die for all His people, all their sins will be forgiven.  Our sins will be forgiven when we realize that we need Jesus, when we truly say that Jesus is Lord and believe that He died and came back to life to save us.”

But, Jesus says, there is one sin that will keep people out of the people of God, from belonging to Him forever. He continues,

(29-30) “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” –for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

In Matthew 12:31-32, which tells this same story with a few more details, Jesus says, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Alright now, we are all probably wondering, “What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and how do I keep from doing it?” right?

The scribes saw with their own eyes, exactly what Jesus was doing. He was setting people free from the devil and restoring God in their lives. [Slide] Jesus rescued us through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through any other power. And the scribes, instead of glorifying God, they said it was all the work of Satan. They didn’t love God. They hated God. They said that God was Satan, and that God’s rescue plan, carried out by Jesus, and applied to the lives of His people by the Holy Spirit, was all one big Satanic scheme.

There is no coming back from that, because there is never any repentance. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings people to Jesus. If you are speaking against the Holy Spirit, then you aren’t submitting to Him. And you aren’t coming to Jesus–the only one who saves sinners.

Now if you are nervous and asking, “Have I committed the unforgivable sin? I don’t want to commit that sin!” Let me reassure you.

If you are worried about having committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then you haven’t done it.

The Scribes weren’t worried about that. They didn’t repent–their hearts and minds didn’t soften toward God. They got worse. They weren’t sorry. They hated Jesus more and more, until they killed Him.

What this meant to the original audience:

It meant that, in short, Jesus is the Boss.

The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, had been working hard to make sure people believe that there were only two sides to the spiritual battle of life: people could either be on the devil’s side, or they were on the Pharisees’ side (supposedly, they were the good guys). They had built this whole system, like a tall stack of Jenga blocks. It was tall, it was impressive. And it made sense.

But Jesus comes in, and He undercuts the whole thing at their most basic belief. It’s like he takes the bottom block out of the Jenga stack. The whole system comes crashing down.

Jesus says, “No, the Pharisees, unless they believe in Me, are actually on the Devil’s side.

Jesus frees people from demonic control and brings them to God’s side.

Then He smacks down the religious leaders and says they are committing sins that will lead them beyond the possibility of ever being made right with God.

Jesus is the boss.

What does this mean for us today?

It means that, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then Satan is totally defeated in your life. He’s bound. He’s powerless because of what Jesus has done for you.

As a culture, we often don’t understand this at all. We think that God and the devil are somehow equally matched. Like either one could win the war. Like it’s the World Series (GO CUBS GO) and the winner hasn’t already decided in advance. Sometimes in our culture that takes on silly examples.  

For example, the Washington Times recently reported that an organization is trying to start Satanist clubs in schools. The article reads, “They [the Satanists] point out that Christian evangelical groups already have infiltrated the lives of America’s children through after-school religious programming in public schools, and they appear determined to give young students a choice: Jesus or Satan.”

See how Jesus and Satan are portrayed as equal opposites.

Let’s make it abundantly clear. Jesus isn’t on Satan’s level. Jesus is God. Satan is a fallen angel (Isaiah 14:12-15). Jesus created the angels (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is infinitely stronger than the devil.

In our own lives, we might not be in a Satanist club. But don’t we sometimes forget how much stronger God is than the devil? Do you ever sometimes feel as though sin is so powerful, that it just might win in your life? In reality, for the Christ-follower, sin doesn’t stand a chance.

sermon-what-now-mark-3_22-30-slides-2Sin seems strong. The devil seems strong. Like if you’re a fourth grader, and some high school Freshmen come over and start messing with you. That’s scary, right?

You can’t deal with those guys on your own.

But then Jesus comes in like the Incredible Hulk.

sermon-what-now-mark-3_22-30-slides-3In one of the coolest Bible passages of all time, Isaiah 22, the Lord says this to His enemy–a man named Shebna, who historians think betrayed Israel and was proud, arrogant and incredibly wicked: “Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die….” Are you serious? That’s terrifying! God is going to ball him up and whirl him around and around and just whip him out into a field to die. 

THAT is what God does to sin, and to the devil. He utterly deals with them! The truth is that,

Jesus has defeated the power of the devil and the power of sin. And He loves you. And He is helping you even now, and when you pray. You will be with Him forever, and your sin will one day be a distant memory–if you can remember it at all, it will only be to give God glory for His incredible rescue of you

If you are a follower of Jesus here this morning, you don’t have to be a prisoner to sin, because Jesus has set you free from the power of the devil.

What now?

Here’s why this matters when you walk out those doors:

You’re going to be tempted to forget that you were ever trapped. You’re going to forget how bad it was in there. Sin is going to look very attractive to you, and you’ll to be tempted to slip back into Satan’s house. Into sin. Under his control. Into some of those old habits again.

You’re going to be tempted to forget that it was Jesus who brought you out and who sustains you to this day.

But truth of the Gospel–God’s Good News–is this: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).

We are free to walk in liberty and follow Jesus. Even the guilt of our past sin, has been decisively dealt with by the Son of God.

We have been bought with a high price–that of God’s own blood.

So we’re free; but we are not free to wander back into Satan’s house. As though we had never been rescued.

We must not forget what Jesus has done to rescue us. Don’t go back to sin like it isn’t that bad.

If you’re struggling with sin, and feeling trapped,

God has given you a weapon to use against the devil. God’s Word, the Bible, is a weapon to use against the devil.

Remember the devil is already beaten and bound. His threats against you are lies.

You can fight the devil by proclaiming and believing the promises God makes in the Bible, because those promises are truth. And the truth has incredible power.

Now maybe you’re here and you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus. Maybe you’ve gone to church for a long time, or this could be your first time. Maybe you don’t consider yourself spiritual, or maybe you are still evaluating your options. There seem to be many ways to God–many paths up the mountain, so to speak.

The truth is, what Jesus says is, there are only two ways to live: under the control of the devil, or in the freedom found in Jesus.

Jesus alone can save you and has already done what it takes.

Without Him, you are still trapped in your slavery to sin. But God is offering you His rescue today. Are you ready for that?

You can be set free from your sin and from the enemy’s control once and for all this morning. God is still working, still setting His people free, and He can and will do it for you.

Believe in Him. Come to Him and embrace Him as Lord and Savior, Who died and rose again to forgive you and make you right with God.. You can do that right now sitting there listening to me. God will without a doubt rescue you and set you free!!

Jesus is the only one who can beat our enemy–the one who held us captive–and liberate us. And He did.

As His followers, we do have a battle to fight, and we do pick up our sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We wrestle against our the devil every day, who would love to regain control over us. However, we fight against the devil knowing Jesus has already won the war.

The Son has set us free.

And if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.

Why Does God Allow Evil In The World?

This topic has come up a  couple times in recent days, so I wanted to just bang out a few thoughts on it.

What follows is not a full, scholarly treatment on Problem of Evil (in any of its various philosophical formulations). However, I hope it might be helpful to you, the next time someone poses this question to you.

I’m happy to get any feedback on this–and certainly let me know if you are able to use it in a spiritual conversation!

Why does the all-powerful, perfectly good God allow evil in the world? 

  1. God is good and the ultimate standard for what can be defined as good. Without God, there is no way of accounting for good.

    And evil is the opposite of good, so there is no way to account for evil if you don’t already know what good is.

    Therefore, unless you believe in God (as He has revealed Himself in the Bible) you can’t say anything meaningful about evil. So we have to start there.

  2. If God allows evil to happen in the world (and He does), then there must be a good reason behind it. The perfectly-good God of the universe is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28-30).

    In this world or any other, evil can never ultimately “win.”

  3. God does allow evil–both natural “evil” and evil committed by evil beings (humans and evil spirits). We see this in Scripture and in life.
  4. There are biblical examples of God intending and even predestining evil people to freely commit evil actions, in order that God’s surpassing goodness might be worked out in the end. For examples, consider Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery (explained in Genesis 50:20) and the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus (explained in Acts 1:16-17; 4:27-28).

    God is not the author of evil–He is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). However, He is sovereign over everyone and everything, the righteous and the wicked, and He is free to use it all according to His good purposes. He uses good people to make good decisions and bring about in good outcomes (often far better than was even intended!); He also uses evil people to make sinful decisions and result in (ultimately) good outcomes. How incredibly frustrating that must be for the devil! All his evil schemes keep being turned around against him to bring about good in the end!

    Take, for example, the worst sin that was ever committed. The unjust torture and crucifixion of the only perfect man to ever live–God Himself in the flesh–turned out to be part of God’s plan to carry out the greatest rescue act in history.

    Every time the Lord does this, the good He brings about far surpasses the evil that was worked, which, while still being authentically wrong, pales in comparison to the glorious greatness of God’s goodness.

  5. To keep from making this any longer, let’s summarize: God allows evil in the world, in order to demonstrate that He is so good that even evil cannot upset His good, pleasing and perfect will.
  6. When the redemption of Jesus becomes a reality in your life, He gives you a completely new perspective on the evil in the world and in your life. Jesus gives you the Holy Spirit to be with you and comfort you during your suffering.

    Even in your hour of death, He will be there to strengthen you and to welcome you into Christ’s kingdom, where evil is finally overcome and only goodness remains. Again, the worst thing becomes the best thing. That’s how incredibly good God is.

Trying to Do It Yourself?

The Bible says that God is the one who brings good out of evil and calamity in the world. However, if you are like me, you naturally like to be the one in control. You would rather shape and direct your own life, but you and I cannot possibly work everything out for good. That is a God-sized task, and we can only get that from Him. And the Bible says we can only get to Him through Jesus (John 14:6).

If you don’t yet know Jesus, you can meet Him right now! Repent–give up trying to bring about your own good in your life (how’s that been working for you anyway?), and trust in Him. Claim Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (the ultimate good-out-of-evil story), and He will save you (Romans 10:9-11).

Want to know more? Looking for more resources to use in spiritual conversations? Got Bible questions? Drop me a line: jsettecase@parkcommunitychurch.org.

How Did Jesus Argue?

Jesus was a master of apologetics (what John Frame calls “the theological discipline that defends the truth of the Christian message). Of course, He is the Master of everything, so it makes sense that He would defend truth in a masterful way. In the New Testament, there are many examples of Jesus engaging with His opponents in apologetical discussions. A brilliant example of this is found in Mark 3:22-30:

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”

So He summoned them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rebels against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished!

“On the other hand, no one can enter a strong man’s house and rob his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he will rob his house. I assure you: People will be forgiven for all sins[b] and whatever blasphemies they may blaspheme. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

In this encounter with his perennial opponents, Jesus is engaging in presuppositional apologetics. He begins with a claim of theirs–it happens to be common ground they both agree with–that a demon has been cast out of someone.
Then Jesus hits them with a one-two punch. First He goes on offense: “Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he’ll become wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:4). Then He plays defense: “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself” (Prov. 26:4).

(vv. 23-26) Offense

Jesus goes on the offense against their argument. Jesus steps into their worldview for the sake of argument and shows them that their reasoning is self-refuting and therefore necessarily false.
His argument:
  1. If I were possessed by Beelzeboul, then I would be working for Satan’s kingdom.
  2. If I am casting out demons, then I am working against Satan’s kingdom.
  3. If I am casting out demons by Beelzeboul, then I would be working for and against Satan’s kingdom.
That is logically incoherent and self-refuting. It is necessarily false. (Side note: this shows that the scribes could not actually believe this in any kind of rational way. Jesus is betraying their heart commitments. They couldn’t really believe that Jesus was working for Satan, but because they refused to believe in Him, they were forced to accept an obvious, irrational falsehood. This is what inevitably happens to all non-biblical world views.)
I suppose they could have argued back, “Well then Satan is obviously stupidly working against himself!” But this is refuted by considering that their whole argument was based on the craftiness of Satan’s strategy. So is Satan being crafty or stupid? Jesus implicitly says (as one commentator has pointed out), “Satan is evil, but he is not stupid.” This would have been accepted by all.

(v. 27) Defense

Jesus defends the truth. Jesus refuses to accept their presupposition (that He is not the divine Messiah), and demonstrates that the only possible correct view is that He is more powerful than Satan. The only one more powerful than Satan is God. The scribes believed this. Therefore Jesus is forcing them, by their own worldview, to admit that He is God. Of course, this entails that they owe Him their allegiance and faith. But the only way around that is to deny what they already claim to believe. Look at their options:
  1. They could argue that a demon was not really cast out–but the exorcism was so obvious that this would turn them into radically skeptic anti-supernaturalists–not even an option in that culture, and surely this would disqualify them from being scribes!
  2. They could argue that a mere man could possibly cast out demons without God’s approval and power–but this too would force them to abandon their pretense of a biblical worldview, disqualifying them from being scribes.
  3. They could admit that Jesus actually is the Messiah sent from God, operating in God’s power, and actually is God (because He’s claimed divine attributes and clearly has God’s approval for doing so), and is casting out demons by God’s power and authority.
What they cannot argue is that Jesus was casting out demons by the “ruler of the demons.” Jesus has brilliantly taken that option away from them and masterfully backed them into an inescapable corner.
It’s interesting that, after Jesus speaks, we don’t hear from the scribes again in this exchange. After all, what could they say? Their argument and lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God has been destroyed, and their thoughts have been taken captive to obey Christ, the Master Apologist.

Application for us

When we face challenges in spiritual conversations we may (must!) follow the Lord’s example.
  1. Go on the offense. Demonstrate that our conversation partner “can’t get there from here.” Their worldview doesn’t lead them to where they want to go, and in fact it refutes itself.
  2. Defend the truth. Show that the biblical teaching is the only possible way to get there.
For example, a man who says God can’t exist because evil exists, has no way of accounting for a meaningful definition of evil according to his worldview. However, the Bible not only accounts for evil but also provides a solution for it in the Gospel, which they have an obligation to hear and obey (believe).
In this passage, Jesus teaches important truth about His identity as the God-Man Messiah, also on blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, but He also gives us a template for handling challenges and objections in spiritual conversations.

¿Es el Cristianismo exclusivo? (Primera Parte)

Note: I originally wrote this article in English with the title, “Is Christianity Exclusive?,” for my previous blog. You can read it in English here. Thanks to Antonio Salgado for translating it into Spanish. biblia-1140x760

El cristianismo ha sido llamado religión más exclusivo del mundo. Después de todo, se presenta una visión de Dios y el reino de Dios, que está completamente centrada y enfocada en un solo requisito. Otras religiones ofrecen un sistema de normas y prácticas religiosas que puede seguir, para adherirse a las creencias y formas de vida para que pueda llevar a cabo. La idea es que, a medida que tratan su más difícil de hacer lo mejor, Dios (o Alá, o Jehová, o quien sea) podrá ver tu corazón y, tal vez, llenar los vacíos en su obediencia defectuosa e imperfecta. Hay un gran número de sistemas de fe que ofrecen esto. Los métodos y los requisitos varían, pero la esencia general es el mismo: hacer lo mejor para obedecer, y lo más probable es ponerse en No podemos garantizarlo, pero las probabilidades son mayores que la media..

No es así con el cristianismo (o, como los primeros seguidores lo llamaron, “El Camino”). Hay uno, único, inalterable e inflexible exigencia de estar en “buena con Dios” según la Biblia (la Biblia es la fuente de las creencias cristianas – a diferencia de otros sistemas de fe seudocristianas, como el catolicismo romano, que tiene un gran cuerpo de tradición de la iglesia que se mantiene en pie de igualdad con la Biblia). Sólo hay un requisito de una persona debe cumplir con el fin de ser perdonados de sus pecados y se transfiere desde el estado de “bajo la ira” a la condición de que este requisito es “justificado.”: Jesús tiene que salvar.

Eh? ¿Por qué me hacen parecer que el requisito es algo que Jesus hace, en lugar de algo que tengo que hacer? La razón es porque eso es lo que la Biblia enseña. Contrariamente a lo que cada otra religión enseña (que yo sepa, y yo soy un estudiante de la filosofía religiosa, por lo que vale la pena), en el cristianismo no hay nada que puede hacer – en absoluto – para merecer el favor de Dios. Cuando se trata de la salvación, no se puede hacer absolutamente nada para ganarla. Todo totalmente, totalmente, descansa por completo en la obra de Jesucristo para salvarte. Él vivió la vida perfectamente obediente que nadie pudo. Sin embargo, él murió como un asesino, cuando los pecadores como nosotros merecemos castigo. Hizo un cambio cósmico, salvando efectivamente a todo aquel que cree en Él. Solo aquellos que creen esto, se arrepientan de sus pecados (porque quién no, después de ver lo mucho que Dios los ama en sacrificar a su propio Hijo?), Y la confianza en la obra terminada de Jesús será salvado.

Debido a esto, el cristianismo es exclusivo. Toda paisaje espiritual y religiosa del mundo está plagado de falsas puertas que conducen a callejones sin salida, y Jesús es la única puerta que conduce al reino de Dios. Entrar a través de él, el autoproclamado “puerta estrecha” (Mateo 7:13), y serás salvo. Salvado del reino de la oscuridad, del pecado, de la destrucción, de la adicción, la delincuencia, de rebelión contra Dios, de vivir su vida fuera de la gracia y la bondad de Dios. Guardado en el reino de Dios, lleno de perdón y la misericordia, la bondad, el propósito y el placer. Y Jesús es la única manera de entrar. Punto. La Escritura no puede ser más claro en esto.

Es por eso que los primeros cristianos fueron llamados “seguidores del Camino.” El “camino” no es un sistema; el Camino es una Persona. Él es un ser humano, que también es Dios encarnado. Dos naturalezas (una humano, una divina), un hombre, un puente perfecto entre Dios y la humanidad. Jesús es la persona perfecta para cerrar la brecha de otro modo infranqueable entre la gente pecadora y el Dios Santo y perfecto. Así que el cristianismo es exclusivo. Cualquier cristiano que es honesto estará de acuerdo con eso.

Pero el reino de Dios es también sorprendentemente, inclusivo. Voy a explicar por qué en la segunda parte de este artículo.

Spread the News! New Resources Posted!

FYI, I’ve just posted two new resources that I hope will be useful. The first is for Spanish-speaking parents: a Spanish translation of the New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones (thanks to Antonio Salgado).

And the second is for churches to use in equipping their people to share their faith. You can find them both at the top of this page in the Resources & Media tab.

Why You Should Still Believe In The Bible, Even If It Contradicts Evolutionary Theory

As I write this, I am preparing to participate in the Skokie Library’s panel discussion of religious leaders, interacting with the Smithsonian Institute’s Exploring Human Origins exhibit currently on display there. If you’re a follower of Jesus, I would certainly appreciate your prayers as I get ready for this exciting event. If you’re in the area, consider coming on on Monday, September 19th at 7PM to enjoy what promises to be a lively discussion.

Does the Bible contradict Darwinian evolutionary theory? I believe it does. Some disagree. But what if they do contradict one another? Would that be a good reason to give up belief in the Bible?  No; as I intend to show, there is good reason to the Bible, even if it does conflict with the accepted “scientific” paradigm of Darwinian evolutionary theory.
To begin with, I will freely admit my dependence on God’s revelation in Scripture. The truth of the Bible is my most fundamental presupposition about reality, and I reason outward from there. As we will see, that’s a good thing–especially given the alternative.
So why doesn’t it matter whether the Bible and Darwinian evolutionary theory contradict? It is because belief in evolution means believing in rationalism. The problem is that rationalism ultimately collapses on itself and turns into irrationalism. And irrationalism similarly collapses on itself and turns back into rationalism again.* The belief system turns out to be totally incoherent. We’ll look at this issue in two stages.
Clear as mud yet? Read on.

Stage One

  1. It is a rule of logic that two contradictory propositions can not both be true. 
  2. If Bible and evolutionary theory contradict (which, again, is the issue we’re considering–whether or not they actually do contradict is beside the point), then to believe in evolution is to disbelieve, from the get-go, in the Bible. Because rejecting the Bible means rejecting the God of the Bible as the standard for truth, to reject the Bible in favor of evolution would be to subscribe to a kind of rationalism.

    Rationalism, according to theologian and philosopher John Frame, is, “the view that the human mind is the final judge of truth and falsehood.” But remember that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true. Therefore the only way you can be sure that everything you think you know is not false is by knowing single fact in the universe. Unless you know every fact in the universe, for all you know there might be a fact out there that contradicts every single proposition you think you know.
  3. As an ape evolved by time and chance alone after an extraordinarily long series of random mutations out of a sea of goo, you don’t know every fact in the universe. After all–why should an ape think he is omniscient!?
  4. Therefore, for all you know, every single proposition you think you know could be contradicted by some fact out there.
  5. This means you cannot actually be certain about anything in the world.
  6. You are stuck in irrationalism: you are now forced to live in complete uncertainty and without any certain knowledge of anything at all.
  7. This means that, even if evolution were true, you would have no good reason for thinking that you should believe it–because you could never actually be certain that you knew it (or anything else in the world).
  8. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the Bible and Darwinian evolutionary theory contradict. Because if evolution were true, and it did contradict with the Bible, then you couldn’t know that, or anything else. And this whole conversation is moot.
  9. “Fine!” You may say. I can see that there’s no reason to believe in evolution, if it’s actually true. But I still can’t believe the Bible, because I am now an irrationalist. With my limited mind, I can’t know anything for certain–including that the Bible is true!”

Stage Two

  1. Alright now, you’ve adopted irrationalism. Irrationalism, according to Frame, is, “A view of epistemology [the study of knowledge] that emphasizes the deficiencies of human reason, at the extreme denying the possibility of rational knowledge.”

    And now, like a good irrationalist, you know that you know nothing for certain. Here’s the thing: you DO know some things for certain about the world. For example, you now know that you have no good reason for believing in evolution, if it is true (see above). You also know you exist. And if you insist that you really don’t know anything at all, well then I would simply ask, “Do you know that for certain?” See the problem? You’re asserting irrationalism with rationalistic certainty. You know that you don’t know.

  2. Given that you do know some things for certain, and given that two contradictory statements can never both be true, there are only two possible options: either (a) you know everything–and therefore you are sure that there are no facts out there that contradict anything you think you know, or (b) God, who reveals Himself in the Bible, who actually does know everything and alone can be certain, has revealed some things to you–such that you can be certain.
  3. So the fact that you have certainty at all in your life, about anything, presupposes the truth of the Bible, God’s revelation about Himself and the world.
  4. To emphasize that point: because the Bible is true, we have certain knowledge about some things in the world.
  5. Because the Bible says that every book, chapter and verse within itself is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:15-16) we must presuppose that the Bible is true in its entirety. If we want to pick and choose which parts we will believe, we are substituting God’s standard of truth (Scripture) for our own fallible, fallen and incomplete knowledge. And then we’re right back to where we started.
  6. So this is why it doesn’t matter whether Darwin’s evolutionary theory contradicts the Bible. Because the Bible is true. So if Darwin’s theory contradicts it, then Darwin’s theory is wrong.

How to Respond

The Bible is God’s truth, given to us through men whom the Holy Spirit spoke through. And in the Bible, God reveals to us his holy character, his grand design of the world and His plan for the people He has created. As a people, we have rebelled against God. We have sinned and pursued our own autonomy–strongly desiring to live in God’s world, enjoying God’s benefits, but without God. As we have just seen, the desire for autonomy does not work out very well. In fact, it collapses in on itself!
In the Bible, God warns sinful people like you and me of the eternal consequence of living a lifetime in rebellion against him: everlasting punishment in Hell (Romans 6:23) says, “the wages of sin is death….” In the same Bible (in fact in the same verse!) God offers sinners like us complete pardon and reconciliation–through the man that he has chosen as judge of the world. God publicly confirmed that this man is both the perfect standard of goodness, and the perfect judge of humanity, when he raised this man from the dead.
You guessed it: the judge and God’s perfect standard is Jesus. And it is He who offers you reconciliation to God–even right now as you read this! The Bible says to change your mind (“repent”) about your so-called independence from Him and completely trust your life to Jesus, believing that He is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). If you will turn and trust yourself to Jesus, God will forgive you and give you new life, that will last forever with Him.
I know. To someone who has believed that Darwinian evolutionary theory was true since grade school, the Gospel (good news) about Jesus is going to sound foolish at first. But remember, we’ve shown here that, even if the Bible contradicts evolution, you should still believe the Bible.  The Gospel may seem to go against what you’ve come to see as common sense. But then again, compared to Darwin’s theory with its self-defeating rationalist-irrationalist cycle, the Gospel doesn’t sound like such nonsense after all, does it?
If you would like to know more, or you read this and have become a follower of Jesus, I would love to hear from you. Would you please shoot me an email at jsettecase@parkcommunitychurch.org?
Thanks, and God bless you.
*apologies to John Frame and Richard Pratt

Want to learn more?

  • Pratt, Richard L., Every Thought Captive (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1979).
  • Frame, John, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987).
  • Bahnsen, Greg, “Greg Bahnsen vs Evolution” on YouTube.

New Men’s Group Forming

I spent a few hours this afternoon contacting some of the men of Park Church (Edgebrook). I did this because I was recently tasked with overseeing the men’s ministry of our local church, and I wanted to invite them to be a part of a new initiative we are soon starting.

The good thing is this: I will not need to start things from scratch. Park Edgebrook already has a solid men’s ministry, which has been meeting semi-sometimely for breakfasts, book and Bible studies, as well as other initiatives. The men of Park Edgebrook are committed and involved in various ministries at the church. This is a solid church, with a solid contingent of men. Some of these guys have been attending the church for decades–since back when it was Edgebrook Church. But just about every week, there are new faces and new families that join our ranks.

A New Tribe

So my mission, as I see it, is to build on the momentum  happening here and to help provide opportunities for men who are already involved, as well as those who are newer or still unsure about the church, “to learn from God’s word and to challenge each other to live as men of wisdom and purpose.”

To do this, we are starting a new men’s small group, a tribe of friends and brothers to meet every week in community and on mission. 

The Biblical Pattern

In his letter to the church in ancient Galatia, the Apostle Paul writes,

Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else.  For each person will have to carry his own load.

The Bible’s instructions for how we are supposed to live together involve all sorts of truly manly themes: restoring our fallen brothers, self-discipline, carrying one another’s burdens, fulfilling the law of our King, pursuing humility, self-examination, working hard, and learning to carry out our own God-given responsibilities.

It all adds up to the makings of a solid men’s group, am I right?

The Church’s Vision

On the back wall of our church’s auditorium this statement is posted in words made of metal: “We exist to be a biblical community where the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives, renews the city, and impacts the world.”

The new men’s group will be the laboratory where we will strive to put the Apostle’s instructions and our church’s vision into practice.

Monthly Schedule

Following the guidance of Kevin Howells (Pastor of Small Group) and Park’s S. G. Ministry team, we will meet according to the following format:

  • Week 1: Group Study and Discussion
    An authentic, open and challenging discussion of a passage of Scripture and/or a chapter of a book, with a heavy emphasis on skills-building and practical application. 
  • Week 2: Meal
    Food, conversation, prayer and camaraderie.
    (Mmm… wings….*)


  • Week 3: Group Study and Discussion
    Same as Week 1.

  • Week 4: Third Place
    Time to unwind and hang out at a natural, neutral space in the community. Think: bowling alley, pub, restaurant, cigar shop, or coffee shop. I wrote an article about “Third Places,” which you can read here

Along with these regular gatherings, we will be open to getting together casually at other times, to watch a game, grab a bite to eat, get the families together, check out a neighborhood fest, serve the community, etc.

Next Steps

This new group will be open to all men of the church, single, married or divorced. Guys who are already committed to small groups should talk to their group leaders and wives (if applicable) before joining–but you are welcome too. Let’s form a tribe and get to work.

Do you want more information? Ready to sign up? Shoot me an email: jsettecase@parkcommunitychurch.org.

*Or maybe you’re a vegetarian, in which case just imagine I said, “Mmm… carrot sticks….”