David’s first big battle was against a Philistine “terminator” named Goliath. Ironically, his last recorded battles were against four more Philistine giants. As you recall, David picked up five smooth stones on his way to fight Goliath. Why five stones? Was it merely extra ammunition in case he missed his first shot or two? Or was it, as some suggest, because Goliath had four super-sized siblings or sons? Grabbing five stones may have been an act of faith. Perhaps David thought:
“God will not only help me defeat this giant, but every giant I have to face!”
In case you haven’t noticed, life is a series of battles. You’re either in a battle, fresh out of a battle, or about to face another one! Wouldn’t it be nice if we only had to face ONE battle or just ONE giant? That’s not reality. News flash—just because you defeat one enemy, demon or temptation doesn’t mean the war is over. The enemy doesn’t give up and neither should we. Let’s make five observations about David’s final conflicts:
. David Kept Fighting.“When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines” (2 Sam. 21:15). This was late in David’s forty-year reign when he was around sixty years old. Notice David personally went down and fought (he was no armchair general). He wasn’t just living in the lap of luxury or being pampered in his cedar palace. No, he kept fighting. That’s what we must do—keep fighting the good fight of faith. There is no victory without a battle. Billy Sunday, the 20th century evangelist known for his bold rhetoric said, “Listen, I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist, I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head, and I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.” As soldiers of the cross, we keep fighting realizing we are in a spiritual war between God and Satan, angels and demons, good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error. The good news is we’re on the winning side—“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
. David Nearly Fainted. 2 Samuel 21:15 (KJV) says, “And David waxed faint.” The Living Bible reads, “David became weak and exhausted.” We’d like to think we’re invincible, that we never get weary or worn out, but that’s not realistic. There will be times of great strength and triumph along with times of weakness and defeat. Here we have King David, a champion, a giant killer, a national hero of Israel, nearly passing out in total exhaustion on the battlefield. The old saying is true, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” When you are physically, emotionally and spiritually drained, remind yourself of Paul’s words, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Don’t lose heart, don’t give up or quit. David almost did, but he bounced back and won the battle.
. David was Saved by a Friend.“Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant . . . who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. But Abishai . . . came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him” (2 Sam. 21:16-17). Certainly, all of Goliath’s relatives had a vendetta against David (they wanted revenge). Goliath’s son, Ishbi-Benob, had David in a vulnerable position and was closing in for the kill. It was a close call, but Abishai, David’s nephew, saved his life and slew the giant instead. Abishai’s name means “possessor of all that is desirable.” He reminds me of another “friend” who has saved us from our enemy time and time again—Jesus. Some giants we may be able to slay on our own with God’s help (Goliath was a one-man job). To conquer other giants, we’ll need the help of spiritual friends—prayer partners, brothers or sisters in Christ to agree with us. There is power in agreement. With God on their side, one person can put 1,000 to flight, but two in unity can put 10,000 to flight (Dt. 32:30). That’s one reason Jesus sent His disciples out in pairs. God teams people together to help each other overcome. None of us are lone rangers (even the Lone Ranger had Tonto). We need a network of spiritual friends.
. David Knew His Source. When God delivered David from all his enemies, he wrote, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence” (2 Sam. 22:2-3). As long as we are connected to our source, we will prevail. If you separate a fish from water, a plant from soil or a branch from a tree, they will die. The same will happen to us if we are detached from God, our spiritual source. Jesus made it clear, “I am the vine, you are the branches . . . for without Me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). We must stay connected to our source to ensure victory.
. David and His Men Slew Five Giants: Goliath, Ishbi-benob (2 Sam. 21:16), Saph (2 Sam. 21:18), Lahmi, (Goliath’s brother—1 Chr. 20:5), and another unnamed giant (2 Sam. 21:20). Three of these behemoths were “born to the giant of Gath” (perhaps Goliath’s sons) and one was his brother, but all were killed by David and his men. The point is we will face multiple giants in our lifetimes, but the same God who helped David defeat Goliath, gave him victory over every giant he faced!
All the giants mentioned in the Bible were enemies of God’s people. Giants intimidate people with their abnormal strength and size. One Hebrew word for “giants” is nephil (plural nephilim) which means “a bully or tyrant,” a fitting description of demons. Goliath was a big bully—defying God and terrorizing Israel until David decapitated him. Likewise, Satan is a bully. He tries to intimidate us with fear, but he is a defeated foe. You may have a giant towering over you today (depression, doubt, debt, fear, sickness, addiction, temptation, etc.). Remember, the God who conquered Goliath whipped all of his overgrown kin too. Take courage, my friend, your giants are coming down in Jesus’ name!
Ben Godwin is the author of four books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. To read more articles, visit his website at bengodwin.org and take advantage of his 4-book bundle for $25.00.
An award-winning scientist recently told the world that science and religion are not incompatible.
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports (3/19/19):
“The annual Templeton Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to ‘affirming life’s spiritual dimension,’ was awarded Tuesday to Brazilian Marcelo Gleiser—a theoretical physicist dedicated to demonstrating science and religion are not enemies.”
Gleiser, a professor at Dartmouth College since 1991, said:
“Science does not kill God.”
Although he is described as an agnostic, the AFP reports that Gleiser:
“refuses to write off the possibility of God’s existence completely.”
“Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method…Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against…I’ll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited.”
I agree with this man’s sentiments. How is it that science and God are somehow viewed as enemies?
The great British jurist, Sir William Blackstone, whose four-volume set of Commentaries on the Laws of England were of great value to our founding fathers, put it this way:
“Thus, when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, He impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be. When He put that matter into motion, He established certain laws of motion, to which all moveable bodies must conform.”
I think it is fascinating that virtually all the early scientists historically were professing Christians. They were, in the words of Johannes Kepler, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” in their scientific explorations. Modern science arose near the end of the medieval period. The early scientists believed that a rational God had made a rational universe, and it was their job—using the words of Kepler, “as priests of the highest God”—to try and catalogue what laws of the universe He had created.
Consider some of the thoughts of scientists who were Christians through the ages.
Blaise Pascal was a brilliant mathematician in 17th century France. He is credited with discovering principles that would ultimately lead to the creation of the computer.
“Faith tells us what senses cannot, but it is not contrary to their findings. It simply transcends, without contradicting them.”
Pascal also said:
“Jesus Christ is the only proof of the living God. We only know God through Jesus Christ.”
Isaac Newton, the discoverer of gravity and one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, wrote more about the Bible and about Christian theology than he did science. Said the great Newton:
“I have a foundational belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”
The father of modern chemistry was Oxford professor Robert Boyle, born in 1627. Boyle was not only a diligent student of chemistry, but a diligent student of the Bible. In his will he left a large sum of money to found the “Boyle lectures” for proving the Christian religion.
19th century American Matthew Fontaine Maury is credited as the father of oceanography. He got his idea that the sea has “lanes” and currents from a verse in the Bible. Psalm 8:8 speaks of:
“the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.”
One time Maury gave a speech at the inauguration for a college in which he said:
“I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg your pardon: the Bible is authority for everything it touches.”
That includes, he said:
“physical geography, the earth, the sea and the air.”
“[W]hen, after patient research, I am led to the discovery of any one of [the physical laws the Creator has built into His creation], I feel with the astronomer of old [i.e., Kepler], as though I had ‘thought one of God’s thoughts,’— and tremble. Thus as we progress with our science we are permitted now and then to point out here and there in the physical machinery of the earth a design of the Great Architect when He planned it all.”
Indeed, as science professor Marcelo Gleiser points out, “science does not kill God.” Far from it.
The late Dr. Robert Jastrow was an astronomer and a planetary physicist with NASA, and he wrote a book called, God and the Astronomers.
“The scientist has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback) djkm.org @newcombejerry http://www.jerrynewcombe.com
During the 33 years that I was preaching regularly in the worship services of Bethlehem Baptist Church, I resisted with all my might any reference to the one half of the service as worship, and the other half as preaching or teaching.
No! I insisted that the way we talk about it be the way it is. In the one part of the service, we worship through song and prayer and confession and affirmation; and in the other part of the service, we worship through preaching and hearing preaching. It is all worship.
Which meant that the aim of my exposition in the sermon for those 33 years of preaching was in that moment of preaching to fuel in myself worship — to awaken worship, to experience worship — and at the same time draw my people into the experience of worship over the word — in response to the reality shining out of the word.
Preaching’s Highest Priority
The aim of preaching was only secondarily that marriages might hold together, or that our people might be honest and just in all their business dealings, or that they might witness with boldness to unbelievers, or that they might pray with fervor, or that they might give themselves to the cause of global missions, or that they might be generous so that the church budget can be met, and all the ministries carried out. If any of those things ever became the primary goal of my preaching, I believed I had ceased to preach biblically.
“My primary task, week in and week out, was to handle the Scriptures in such a way that I laid open the reality of God.”
And, of course, I longed for and prayed for the health of their marriages and their honesty in business, and their boldness in witness, and their fervor in prayer, and their zeal for missions, and their radical wartime lifestyles and sacrificial generosity. All of that is essential to the Christian life. But many pastors are so burdened by the urgency of these precious, practical things, that they subtly — or blatantly — make those things the primary aim of their preaching. And I think that is deadly.
I think all of those things — and the thousand other beautiful, practical fruit of biblical truth — flourish in the soil of worship. So, my primary task, week in and week out, was to handle the Scriptures in such a way that I laid open the reality of God and his work in Christ and in the human soul and in the world, so that hearts — first mine and then the people’s — might be enflamed with worship. Heart’s aflame with worship of God, kindled by a sight of the glory of God through the word of God — that’s the soil in which all God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-dependent fruit of righteousness grows. And if it doesn’t grow there, it’s probably not Christian fruit at all.
Reality Demands a Response
So, what I want to persuade you of is that biblical preaching — the kind that Paul commands in 2 Timothy 4:2 — is worship. Or to say it more fully: preaching is expository worship. Or the phrase that I like to use for biblical preaching: expository exultation.
The text is opened so that the true meaning — the author’s intention in these words and clauses — and the reality communicated through that meaning, can be seen for what it is; that’s exposition.
And as it is opened, the preacher is responding to it — with his mind and his heart and his body — in a way that signals its proportionate worth and beauty; that’s exultation.
What I mean by the preacher’s signaling the proportionate worth and beauty of the reality behind the text is that the preacher’s response — with his heart and mind and body — should be fitting, suitable, proportional to the kind of reality seen through the text. So, for example, if the reality in the text is heavythe preacher is not lighthearted. If the reality in the text is sweet he’s not sour or dull. If the reality in the text is tender, he’s not harsh. If the reality is harsh, he is not tender. If the reality in the text is glorious the preacher is in awe.
And believe me, brothers, this can’t be faked. Spiritual people can tell if you are an actor playing an emotional role. Unspiritual people — you can fool them. But not real Christians, who have the Holy Spirit.
If every truth in the text elicits from the preacher the same pitch, the same tone, the same spiritual intensity, or if majestic realties find him in the same casual, chatty mode he uses for the illustration about his dog, or if the tender embrace of the prodigal by the Father finds him in a hard, condemning tone, the preacher is just not in touch with reality — and his people know it. Many of them are so used to that kind of preaching, they have lost a sense of how tragic it is and assume it’s normal.
So, here’s where we’re going. First, I will try to define what the inner essence of worship is. Then I will make try to show why biblical preaching not only aims at this worship in every message, but also is this worship in every message.
The Inner Essence of Worship
Let’s define the inner essence of what worship is. The reason I focus on the “inner essence of worship” is that the New Testament, unlike the Old Testament, is stunningly silent on the external specifics of what corporate worship should look like.
To Every Culture
I think the reason for this is so that the New Testament will be a relevant book of faith and life for all the cultures of the world. Old Testament Judaism was mainly a come-and-see religion. And New Testament Christianity is mainly a go-and-tell religion. And that means we are to take God’s word and incarnate it in every culture. So, there are hundreds of cultural outworkings of the inner essence of worship that are not prescribed in the New Testament.
It doesn’t tell us whether to worship in a building or under a tree, with two songs or ten songs, with or without worship leaders, with or without instruments — let alone which ones — with singing before or after or in the middle of preaching, in a thirty-minute service or a five-hour service, sitting or standing, with babies present or not, with pulpits or not, with banners or not, with men and women on the same side or separate, with casual clothes or formal, with a set order and flow or a different one each time, with congregational prayer or only from leaders, and on and on.
Worship by the Book
Worship in the New Testament is radically oriented on the experience of the heart, and is freed from specified forms and places. Jesus set the trajectory when he said to the woman at the well in John 4:21–23:
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
You see the shift in categories: worship will not take place only in this mountain or in Jerusalem, but (shift in categories) in spirit and in truth. Spirit and truth replace mountains and cities. So, the external, formal, geographical dimension of worship diminishes and the inner essence of worship is foregrounded. To many people’s surprise John Calvin put it like this:
[The Master] did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because he foresaw that this depended on the state of the times, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages) . . . Because he has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones. Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe. (Institutes, 4.10.30)
And Martin Luther, as you might expect, put it like this:
The worship of God . . . should be free at table, in private rooms, downstairs, upstairs, at home, abroad, in all places, by all people, at all times. Whoever tells you anything else is lying as badly as the pope and the devil himself. (What Luther Says, 1546)
What Happens in the Heart?
In my effort to define worship biblically for Christians, I am not focusing on the external, but asking: What is the inner essence of it? What happens in the heart when the heart is worshiping? Of course, God intends for there to be outward acts of worship — spoken prayers and songs and affirmations of faith and so on. And of course, Paul says in Romans 12:1 that our entire bodily life of obedience is to be “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
“Worship in the New Testament is radically oriented on the experience of the heart.”
So, I’m not discounting or minimizing the necessity of external expressions of the worth of Christ. What I want to know is this: What must happen in the heart so that any of those external things are not just muscular movements, but real expressions of something authentic in the heart?
The Pharisees did many external acts of worship, but Jesus said that inside there were dead men’s bones and hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27–28).
Whether by Life or Death
The text that has crystalized the inner essence of worship for me most helpfully is Philippians 1:20–23. I’m going to streamline the argument here so we can get to preaching, but I hope it will be compelling. Paul says,
It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
CHRIST BE WORSHIPED
Now I am assuming that worshipping Christ is virtually the same as magnifying Christ. So, this is really a text about Paul’s eager expectation and hope that Christ be worshiped in or through his body in life and death. Then he gives the basis for how his death would magnify Christ — or be an act of worship.
For to me . . . to die is gain.
And then he explains in verse 23 that the reason death would be gain for him is that death means departing and being with Christ, which he says is far better.
MAGNIFIED IN DEATH
So here’s his argument: My dying will be a magnifying — an honoring of Christ, a worshiping of Christ — if in my dying I experience Christ as a treasure that is more satisfying than everything I am leaving behind. That’s what “gain” means. Death is gain because I get Christ.
But that’s only true if I experience Christ as a treasure that is more valuable, more satisfying to my soul, than everything I am losing in death. That is what turns my death into an act of worship — because the inner experience of my heart is to value him, treasure him, cherish him as more satisfying than everything I lose in death. That is what makes death worship.
And this is confirmed if we see how Paul later unpacked the other half of verse 21, “to live is Christ.” He said in Philippians 3:8,
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
So, death is “gain” because it brings us closer to Christ who is a more satisfying treasure than everything we lose in death. And life is Christ because, even before death, Paul had already resolved to count everything as loss compared already to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.
EXPERIENCE THE TREASURE
So here’s my conclusion about worship: Experiencing Christ as a more satisfying treasure than everything we lose in death, and everything we have in life, is the inner essence of worship. That heart-experience of being satisfied with Christ — and all that God is for us in him — is the inner reality and essence of what Paul called magnifying Christ in life and death.
Let me clarify again: I’m not saying this inner essence is the totality of worship. Worship includes the outward expressions of that essence: We sing, we pray, we confess our sins, we affirm our faith, we sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow in silence, we lift our hands, we may even leap for joy — all that is worship, if it comes from this inner essence. And none is worship if it doesn’t. As Jesus said,
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me. (Matthew 15:8–9)
So to say it again, the inner essence of worship is the heart’s experience of Christ — and all that God is for us in him — as a more satisfying treasure than everything the world can give or death can take.
CAN YOU GET SATISFACTION?
You may ask: Why do you use the word “satisfying”? Why don’t you just say, “The inner essence of worship is having Christ as a greater treasure than everything in the world”? Why do you have to insert this word, “satisfying”?
First, being satisfied with Christ really is implied in saying Christ is your greatest treasure, and I want to push it into people’s consciences that that’s what they’re saying when they claim to be Christian: to have Christ as their treasure. Because I fear that many people say he’s their treasure when in fact he doesn’t satisfy their souls. Money satisfies their souls. Earthly security and comfort satisfy their souls. Being married satisfies the soul. Or success or sex or sports or movies.
“I fear that many people say Jesus is their treasure when in fact he doesn’t satisfy their souls.”
I want to slam the door shut on the assumption that you can have Jesus as your greatest treasure, and yet have all your heart and emotions and affections cleaving to another reality for satisfaction. That’s not true. To have Jesus as your supreme treasure is to have him as your supreme satisfaction. And I think more preachers need to make this explicit, so that we help people not deceive themselves that they are Christians when they’re not.
Here’s the second reason I define the inner essence of worship as experiencing Christ as a “satisfying” treasure, not just a treasure. Jesus said in Matthew 13:44,
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
I use the word “satisfy” because of that little phrase “from his joy” (apō tēs charas autou) he sells all that he has. This man did not just sell all that he had to get the treasure in the field. You can imagine doing that, oddly as it seems, with a dour disposition and under some kind of external coercion where he has no real delight in that treasure, but is driven by some ulterior motive. But Jesus utterly rules that out with the words, “in his joy” he sells all that he has.
The most essential inner mark of reality in closing with the treasure of the kingdom is that we don’t just sell everything else as less valuable, we feeleverything else is less valuable. We sell it all in joyful abandon in order to have the all-satisfying Christ.
Where Righteousness Grows
So I’ll say it again: the inner essence of worship is experiencing Christ — and all that God is for us in him — as a more satisfying treasure than everything the world can give or death can take.
To be a Christian is to be born again into that. That experience of the inner essence of worship is the mark of the new creature in Christ. To live the Christian life in all of its practicalities is to continually act out of that. That experience of worship in the heart — the treasuring of Christ — is the soil where all the fruits of righteousness grow.
The Ultimate Aim of Preaching
And, therefore, the inner essence of worship must be the ultimate aim of preaching in every message, no matter the text, no matter the topic.
And my argument is that preaching that would awaken such worship in the hearts of the people, must strive, by the Spirit, to experience such worship inpreaching. Preaching that would awaken worship by the Spirit, must seek to be worship by the Spirit. Preachers that aim for the people to be awed by the glory of Christ in the word of God, must stand in awe of what they have seen of Christ in the word of God.
Therefore, as we preach the treasure, we are treasuring. As we hold up the pearl for all to see in exposition, we are prizing the pearl. As we invite people to the banquet, we are savoring the feast. If, week in and week out, we are not awed, not treasuring, not prizing, not savoring, not worshiping over the word — we are hypocrites, and unfit for this great calling of expository exultation.
The Devil Can Do Exposition
Remember, the devil can do exposition of Scripture. He can take it and explain. And up to a point, he can even explain it accurately. And empty-headed, irrational people can exult over a biblical text when they have no idea what it means or what the reality is behind it. But neither the devil nor empty-headed, irrational people can exult over the glory of God revealed in a true exposition of Scripture.
“If you have some years left in the sacred privilege, don’t waste your pulpit.”
In other words, the devil cannot preach. Irrational, emotional people cannot preach. That is, they cannot do expository exultation. They cannot see the glories of Scripture for what they are, and love them, and exult over them for their true spiritual beauty.
But that is what preachers do. Preaching is a peculiar kind of worshiping speech designed by God for bringing the glories of his word to the people of his favor for the awakening of worship. And that peculiar kind of speech is captured in the New Testament by the two Greek words that “preaching” translates. It translates euangelizō and kērussō.
Heralds of Good News
Euangelizō is the speaking of one who brings good news of great joy. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news (euangelizōmai) of great joy (Luke 2:10). Kērussō is the speech of one who heralds the weighty message of a great authority — like a town crier representing his king. Which is why Paul says in Romans 10:15, “How are they to preach (kēruxōsin) unless they are sent” — that is, unless they have some great authority behind them?
So, preaching, in bringing those two kinds of speech together, is unique. It’s not just teaching, it’s not conversation, it’s not discussion. Preaching is a unique kind of speech: It is heralding of the best news in all the world, from an infinitely powerful and glorious authority. It makes clear the meaning of biblical texts, and opens them so all can see the beauties and the glories of Christ in the good news; and it manifestly loves the goodness of that good news; and it feels the weight of God’s authority in it all. The King did not send his messengers to get the words right while the heart is wrong.
There is no speaking in the world like Christian preaching. It is utterly unique. And if the herald of this King, and the proclaimer of this news does not exult in this King and in this news, he is an unworthy herald. And he is not preaching.
A Constellation of Glory
The Christian preacher is never dealing with a mere body of facts to be clarified. He is dealing with a constellation of glories to be treasured. Paul calls them “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). And the preacher’s aim is that the people would experience these riches as a more satisfying treasure than everything the world can give or death can take.
And he knows — you know — that the pathway to their worship throughpreaching, is his own experience of worship in preaching. And I bear witness from decades of preaching that God in his mercy loves to show up behind the pulpit and turn exposition into exultation. And when he does, the joy is unsurpassed.
If death did not mean a closer, deeper, sweeter communion with Christ, I could wish to be young again. And if I were, I would preach. There is nothing like it in all the world. The weight of God’s authority. The unsearchable riches of Christ. The privilege of showing them to God’s people. The pleasure of seeing them yourself. And, by the Spirit, the awakening of worship in the hearts of God’s elect. O brothers, there is no greater calling. If you have some years left in the sacred privilege, don’t waste your pulpit.
Exult over the glorious realities of biblical truth, make them plain, and draw your people into your worship over the word.
There’s a lot of end-time speculation that is simply that: speculation. What year will Jesus return? Will the antichrist be a European atheist? A Middle Eastern Muslim? An Israeli Jew? And what about the Temple in Jerusalem? Will it be rebuilt? If so, how and when?
These are all interesting questions. But for the most part, they don’t affect the way we live today (unless you happen to believe Jesus is coming today – in which case, why are you even reading this article?).
But there are larger, end-time scenarios that do affect how we live today, including those that set dates for Christ’s return.
Before getting into specifics, though, let me paint a picture for you.
Let’s say your family is not religious, so you’re not inclined to believe in (or, look for) miracles.
Your mother, now 80, has been diagnosed with cancer, and you’re told that it is in an advanced stage and there’s nothing that can be done.
How do you respond?
Probably, you get another serious medical opinion, looking for some ray of hope. But once you’re convinced that there’s nothing that can be done – no surgery, therapy, or alternative treatment – you maximize the time you have together and try to make your mom as comfortable as possible in her last days.
You’ve been told there is no hope for the future, and that affects how you live today.
In the same way, if you were convinced that the world was getting worse and that there was nothing you could do to change that, would you be involved in the culture wars? Would you invest time and energy and income in fighting against abortion? Would you seek to restore marriage as God intended it? Or would you simply tell as many people as you could about Jesus, knowing that everything around you was collapsing?
To be sure, we should all our do best to be faithful witnesses and share the gospel with everyone we can. And we should live with a sense of urgency since we only have one life to live for the Lord, and every day, other lives hang in the balance.
But if you truly believe that we are living in the last generation and that things will only go downhill from here, why bother to bring about change? Why bother to combat the darkness if things will only get darker?
To compound the problem, what if you believed that, before things hit rock bottom, Jesus would rapture us out of here? What if you believed that things, indeed, were getting dark, but before they got really dark, we would be rescued?
What, then, would your attitude be to declining morals? To spiritual backsliding? To cultural collapse?
Perhaps something like this:
“These are the signs of the times Jesus spoke of! Everything is about to collapse! We’ll be out of here any moment!”
I remember hearing these very things as a new believer in Jesus in the early 1970s. Not only were the major prophecies lining up – especially when it pertained to Israel – but the final apostasy was here, the great falling way.
And it was easy to think like this.
First, the events surrounding the restoration of the State of Israel were of great spiritual and prophetic importance. There’s no denying that.
Second, America went through a sudden and dramatic cultural shift in the 1960s, and it was easy for many to think we were in the very last of the last days.
I’m talking about the difference between Leave It to Beaver and the Beatles singing “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.” Or the difference between Father Knows Best and Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire – as if engaging in a sexual act – at Monterrey Pop. Or the difference between Ozzie and Harriet and the Stonewall Riots.
“Yes, these are the prophesied last days, and we’ll be out of here any moment. It’s all going down from here!”
Unfortunately, those who had different expectations than many of us – such as radical feminists and homosexual activists and sexual revolutionaries and anti-Christian educators and Eastern religionists – were working hard at changing the culture in a lasting way. In the words of one gay activist, they wanted to write the revolution into law. And they did. Dramatically and spectacularly.
As for many Christians looking for the any-minute-rapture, it never happened, and here we are today, grieving over our culture’s demise. Worse still, it is our children and grandchildren who have inherited the mess.
Personally, based on my study of Scripture, I believe that the end of the age will be marked by great light and great darkness. By a great harvest of souls and by great rebellion. By an outpouring of the Spirit from above and a wave of deception from below.
I also believe that light ultimately triumphs over darkness and that, from a New Testament perspective, the light is shining brighter while the darkness is losing its grip (see John 1:5; Romans 13:12; 1 John 2:8).
I also believe that we, as God’s people, are destined to overcome whatever opposition comes our way, especially in terrible times (see John 16:33, and read all of Revelation!).
And, on a totally pragmatic level, regardless of what we believe about the final generation, we will not know for sure that we are part of it unless Jesus comes. That means that we should stand up and do what’s right in every generation, simply because it’s right. And we should relieve suffering whenever we can, because that’s always a good thing to do.
Otherwise, we can easily become paralyzed and fearful, looking for a way of escape rather than looking to be agents of change. (Can you imagine what the world would look like today if the generations of Christians before us believed theirs was the last generation and everything was getting worse? Why combat evils in the Roman empire in the 300s or slavery in America in the 1800s? “It’s all coming down and we’re out of here any second!”)
Regardless of your end-time beliefs, I believe the book will stir your faith and give you courage. After all, in Jesus, you are an overcomer (1 John 5:4) called to make disciples of the nations, under the total authority of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). Isn’t that more than enough to keep us strong and full of faith?
To the surprise (and consternation) of Hollywood, Unplannedopened to more than $6 million in box office receipts, finishing number 5 in the nation. And it did this while opening in less than 1,100 theaters nationwide.
More importantly, this powerful, pro-life movie that exposes the evil of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry is making a powerful impact on its viewers. This could truly be a major game-changer in the days ahead.
Not that the left didn’t try hard to stop the film from getting out of the gate, let alone succeeding.
Lead actress Ashley Bratcher was warned that she was “probably gonna be blacklisted” by Hollywood if she took the role.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that, “Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, HGTV and several other cable networks” rejected advertising for the movie.
I’ve heard of theaters that dropped the movie before its release, only to reinstate it after protests.
Then there was the ridiculous R-rating the movie was saddled with, without possible justification.
And over the weekend, Twitter temporarily suspended the movie’s account, only to restore it a few hours later after a storm of protests. (Can anyone tell me any possible rationale, other than sheer, anti-life bigotry, for shutting down this account?) Then, once the account was restored, more than 100,000 followers realized they were no longer listed on the account. This is beyond suspicious.
And still, despite all this opposition (and more) the movie brought in more than $6 million in the first weekend, more than doubling prior estimates.
It’s also quite revealing that, on Rotten Tomatoes, critics (15 so far) have given Unplanned a rating of 53, while viewers (1,996 at present) have given it a score of 94. Right now, that makes Unplanned the highest viewer-rated movie of all new releases, way ahead of Dumbo and Captain Marvel, both of which have viewer ratings of 60. It’s even doing better than How to Train Your Dragon, at 88.
But these ratings only tell you so much. It’s the testimonies of the viewers which are so powerful.
“I had tears throughout the movie. Got to my car and really broke down. Thank you God that you are allowing people to see your side of this issue.”
A woman wrote:
“I cried through so much of this movie. I don’t understand how people can continue to justify the killing of the unborn. I walked out of this movie with the conviction to get involved in crisis pregnancy assistance ASAP.”
Another said this:
“I couldn’t stop crying and at one point wanted to wail and pray. I had to force myself to get it together.”
“Within the first ten minutes I was sobbing as was the lady sitting beside me. I know what happens with an abortion but seeing it was powerful. If I weren’t already pro-life I would be after watching this movie.”
A mother posted this:
“I took my 16 year old and she was greatly impacted. She had no strong opinion on abortion until she saw this movie. I’m taking my 11 year old to see it next.”
And one viewer commented:
“I was overcome by the strong message of grace and forgiveness.”
One viewer after another described the powerful impact of Unplanned, with many feeling the need to get involved in the pro-life movement now.
But the comment that moved me most was this one, from another mother who went with her daughter. Her own story is compelling as well. Read this and weep:
“Wow what a movie! I went to see it with my 11yrs old daughter Bella. I was reluctant at first to take her, I prayed about it and got the green light from The Holy Spirit. Yet there were scenes where she covered her eyes, she was glad she saw it too. At the end she hugged me so tight, started crying uncontrollably and said ‘So much evil mommy, those poor babies. Everyone needs to see this movie.’
“She is also one of those babies who got saved by prayer. I was one of those women who had an appointment to murder my baby when I was 12weeks with her, but cancel the appointment hours prior doing ‘the procedure’ at a clinic here in Houston…”
May God have mercy on our nation. May He turn the tide in our country. May He act on behalf of more than 60 million slain in the womb.
And so we pray:
“So much evil, Lord! These poor babies! Help us to do our part to awaken the conscience of the nation. We beseech You, Father, to change hearts and minds. It’s time!”
Three weeks ago I blew the trumpet for “Planting a Passion” to waken a dream in you of being a part of spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples by starting a new, strong, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, missions-mobilizing, soul-winning, justice-pursuing church somewhere else in the Twin Cities. I pray that this vision of Planting a Passion is simmering in all of you.
The Call for Justice-Pursuing, Coronary Christians
Then in the last two weeks, we fleshed out some of what it means to be a justice-pursuing church. We focused two weeks ago on racial justice, and we focused last week on justice for the unborn. And in general my plea was that God would create justice-pursuing, coronary Christians at Bethlehem — not adrenal Christians. Christians who keep on pumping the blood of life hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade into a Cause bigger than yourself or your family or your church. Marathon Christians, not sprinters. William Wilberforce-likeChristians who gave all his life to defeat the slave trade in Britain two hundred years ago.
One of his adversaries said, “It is necessary to watch him as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that Enthusiastic spirit, which so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows.” In other words, knock him down and he gets up stronger. There are not many people like that in America today. Most people who get knocked down for righteousness’ sake feel sorry for themselves, then they ask where God was, and then they take someone to court. A coronary Christian learns from the defeat, gets up, sets a new goal, and presses on in the cause.
Coronary Christians Fight Warfare Against Their Sin
Now, this morning we have returned to Romans 8 to pick up where we left off on December 16th. But I am still trumpeting Planting a Passion, and I am still working to build “justice-pursuing” churches, and I am still pleading for God to create coronary Christians, because that is what verses 12–13 help me do.
If you are going to be the kind of person who gets up when you get knocked down and instead of planning revenge, plans fresh strategies of love; and instead of questioning God, submits to his wise and good sovereignty; and instead of whining, rejoices in tribulation and is refined like steel, then you will have to learn to kill the sins of self-pity and pride and grudge-holding and loving the praise of man. In other words, coronary Christians who joyfully press on in some great cause of love and justice don’t come out of nowhere. They come out of the fiery furnace of warfare with sin — fought mainly in their own souls.
Let’s look at verses 12-13: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh [literally: we are debtors not to the flesh], to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
If you are going to be a coronary, justice-pursuing, passion-planting Christian — or, for that matter, any kind of Christian who inherits life and not death — Paul says you must not be the debt-paying slave of the flesh — that old rebellious, insubordinate, self-sufficient nature we all have (Romans 8:7). “Brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” — we owe the flesh nothing but enmity and war. Don’t dally with your destroyer. Don’t be a debtor to your destroyer. Get out debt to the flesh, don’t pay for your own destruction.
How, we ask? That’s what verse 13 describes. If you are going to be a coronary, justice-pursuing, passion-planting, free-from-debt-to-fatal-flesh Christian, you must be skilled at killing your own sins. This is dangerous language here, so be careful. Don’t think about other people’s sins. Don’t think about how people wrong you. Think about your own sins. That’s what Paul is talking about. Verse 13b: “But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of [your!] body, you will live.”
John Owen on Mortification of Sin
The great teacher of the church on this doctrine is John Owen. Nobody has probed it more deeply, probably. He wrote a little 86-page book called Mortification of Sin in Believers. “Mortify” means “kill” in 17th century English. Today it just means “embarrass” or “shame.” But Owen was talking about this verse. In fact, his whole book is an exposition of this verse — Romans 8:13. He put it like this: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
My mother wrote in my Bible when I was fifteen years old — I still have the Bible — “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Now Owen says, based on Romans 8:13, “Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you.” We will see that these two mottos are very closely connected, because Romans 8:13 says that we are to put be putting sin to death by the Spirit: “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” — and what is the instrument of death wielded by the Spirit? The answer is given in Ephesians 6:1: “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.” This book will keep you from sin — this book will kill sin.
I just want you to see how everything in these recent weeks is connected. We thought we were taking a detour from Romans since December 16, but it turns out that we were really simply giving application of what happens when Christians put to death the deeds of the body. They become coronary, marathon, God-centered, Christ-exalting, justice-pursuing, passion-planting Christians.
So now what would be helpful to know in order to experience what Romans 8:13 is calling for? Well, I see four questions that would be helpful to answer so that we can be about this crucial duty of killing sin.
“If you have been justified by faith you will be glorified.”
What are “the deeds of the body” when Paul says, “If by the Spirit you kill the deeds of the body, you will live”? Surely not all the deeds of the body are to be killed. The body is supposed to be an instrument of righteousness. So what are the deeds of the body that are to be killed?
What does killing them mean? Do they have life that we should take away? What will killing them involve?
What does “by the Spirit” mean? The Spirit is himself God. He is not a lifeless instrument in our hands to wield as we wish. The very thought of having the Spirit in my hand gives me the shivers of disrespect. I am in his hand, aren’t I? Not he in mine. He is the power, not me. How am I to understand this killing of sin “by the Spirit”?
Does this threat of death mean that I can lose my salvation? Verse 13a: “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die.” This is spoken to the whole church at Rome. And death here is eternal death and judgment. We know that because everyone — whether you live according to the flesh or not — dies a physical death. So the death this verse warns about is something more, something that happens only to some and not to others. So the question remains: can we die eternally if we have justified by faith? If so what becomes of our assurance, and if not why does Paul threaten us all with death if we live according to the flesh and tell us to be about the business of killing sin?
So let’s start here with this last question and then take up the others in two weeks. What we should take away this morning is a general sense of how justification relates to sin-killing; and how crucial it is that we do it.
Does the Threat of Death Imply We Can Lose Our Salvation?
You know my answer: no, someone who is justified by faith alone apart from works of the law cannot die in this sense of eternal death. One of my main reasons for believing this is found in this chapter in verse 30. In this verse, Paul argues that salvation from beginning to end is a work of God with every part linked to the other in an unbreakable chain.
Romans 8:30: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Here the link between justification and glorification is certain. If you have been justified by faith you will be glorified. That is, you will be brought to eternal life and glory. The chain will not be broken: predestination, calling, justification, glorification.
Killing Sin Is the Result and Evidence of Justification
So the question then is why does Paul say to the church in Rome — and to Bethlehem — “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”? The reason is this: Putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit — the daily practice of killing sin in your life — is the result of being justified and the evidence that you are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law. If you are making war on your sin, and walking by the Spirit, then you know that you have been united with Christ by faith alone. And if you have been united to Christ, then his blood and righteousness provide the unshakable ground of your justification.
On the other hand, if you are living according to the flesh — if you are not making war on the flesh, and not making a practice out of killing sin in your life, then there is no compelling reason for thinking that you are united to Christ by faith or that you are therefore justified. In other words, putting to death the deeds of the body is not the way we get justified, it’s one of the ways God shows that we are justified.
And so Paul commands us to do it — be killing sin — because if we don’t — if we don’t make war on the flesh and put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit — if growth in grace and holiness mean nothing to us — then we show that we are probably false in our profession of faith, and that our church membership is a sham and our baptism is a fraud, and we are probably not Christians after all and never were.
Killing Sin Is the Effect, not the Cause
This is a good place to review and reestablish the great foundation for our call for coronary, justice-pursuing Christians. Are we calling for you to live this way so that you will get justified, or are we calling for you to live this way because this is the way justified sinners live? Is the pursuit of justice and love “by the Spirit” with life-long perseverance the cause or the effect of being set right with God?
Let Wilberforce answer. Here was a man who had a passion for holiness and righteousness and justice greater than anyone in his day perhaps. When he wrote his book, A Practical View of Christianity, to trumpet this passion for justice and for political engagement in the cause of righteousness, here is what he said,
Christianity is a scheme “for justifying the ungodly” [Romans 4:5], by Christ’s dying for them “when yet sinners” [Romans 5:6–8], a scheme “for reconciling us to God” — when enemies [Romans 5:10]; and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled.
“If we died to sin by being united with Jesus in his death, we can’t stay married to sin.”
We have spent almost four years laying the foundation for understanding Romans 8. The first five chapters of Romans demonstrate that the only way for us sinners to be declared righteous in God’s sight is by having righteousness reckoned to us — credited to us, imputed to us — by grace, through faith, on the basis of Christ’s perfect life and death, and not on the basis of our own works. God is just and justifies the ungodly who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
With that stunning and unspeakably wonderful foundation laid, Paul has to ask in chapter 6, two times: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase” (verse 1)? “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace” (verse 15)? And all of chapters 6 and 7 is written to show that justification by faith alone apart from works does notand cannot lead a person to make peace with sin.
Paul answers his own question in Romans 6:2, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” We can’t. If we died to sin by being united with Jesus in his death, we can’t stay married to sin. The faith that unites us to Christ disunites from his competitors. The faith that makes peace with God makes war on our sin. If you are not at odds with sin, you are not at home with Jesus, not because being at odds with sin makes you at home with Jesus, but because being at home with Jesus makes you at odds with sin.
Therefore, I call you and urge you, for the sake of being God-centered, Christ-exalting, soul-winning, justice-pursuing, passion-planting, coronary Christians, don’t live according to the flesh but “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body.” Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.
Yale has found a roundabout way to blacklist legal and nonprofit organizations that don’t adhere to Yale’s understanding of gender identity.
April 1, 2019 by Aaron Haviland
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges of being a Christian and a conservative at Yale Law School. A few days ago, the law school decided to double down and prove my point.
After the Yale Federalist Society invited an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a prominent Christian legal group, to speak about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, conservative students faced backlash. Outlaws, the law school’s LGBTQ group, demanded that Yale Law School “clarify” its admissions policies for students who support ADF’s positions. Additionally, Outlaws insisted that students who work for religious or conservative public interest organizations such as ADF during their summers should not receive financial support from the law school.
On March 25, one month after the controversy, Yale Law School announced via email that it was extending its nondiscrimination policy to summer public interest fellowships, postgraduate public interest fellowships, and loan forgiveness for public interest careers. The school will no longer provide financial support for students and graduates who work at organizations that discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”
Yale based its decision on a unanimous recommendation from the school’s Public Interest Committee. The committee explained: “The logic of our broader recommendation is that Yale Law School does not and should not support discrimination against its own students, financially or otherwise. Obviously, the Law School cannot prohibit a student from working for an employer who discriminates, but that is not a reason why Yale Law School should bear any obligation to fund that work, particularly if that organization does not give equal employment opportunity to all of our students.”
The law school also thanked Outlaws for raising this issue.
Too Vague and Broad
Conservative students who read the announcement were outraged. At first glance, the policy looks like it applies to organizations with disfavored policy positions. A student working for ADF, for example, would not receive school funding because ADF advocates for natural marriage.
In private emails to students, however, the Yale administration has been presenting a narrower explanation of the new policy. The school’s funding restrictions will only apply to organizations with disfavored hiring practices.
While admitting that there are still many details to be worked out, Yale currently says it envisions a self-certification process for employers. For a Yale student to receive a summer public interest fellowship, the employer must certify that it is in compliance with Yale’s nondiscrimination policy. If an organization does not self-certify, then the student will receive no financial support from the law school.
For organizations like ADF, this presents a problem. ADF employees must sign a statement of faith in which they affirm—among other principles—the Christian sexual ethic. This ethic teaches that “all forms of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, polygamy, polyandry, bestiality, incest, pornography, and acting upon any disagreement with one’s biological sex) are sinful and offensive to God.”
When asked specifically about ADF, Yale officials claimed they do not know enough about ADF’s hiring practices to make a determination. However, they admitted that if ADF does not certify that it will comply with Yale’s policy, then students working for ADF will be ineligible for public interest fellowships and the loan forgiveness program.
Discriminating Against Christians Is Totally Acceptable
When questioned about this new policy, Yale officials act puzzled as to why religious and conservative students and alumni are so worried. There are several reasons to be concerned.
First, Yale’s only assurances that the policy will be limited to hiring practices, and not applied to policy positions, are private emails sent to individual students. This is not enough. What ultimately matters is the text of the policy. Behind-the-scenes promises about how the policy will be interpreted and applied are not binding. The law school’s public position is too vague.
Second, even if this new policy is limited to hiring practices, it’s still deeply troubling. The policy was obviously a response to ADF. Yale made this clear when it thanked Outlaws for raising this issue, which was in the context of a protest against ADF. And in announcing the new policy, Yale said, “while the law governing nondiscrimination against LGBTQ people is subject to contestation, the Law School’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is not.”
Without naming ADF, Yale has found a roundabout way to functionally blacklist them and other organizations that do not adhere to Yale’s progressive understanding of gender identity. Law students and graduates will still receive funding to work at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union that defend abortion, for example. But if students and graduates want to work for ADF or other similarly situated religious or conservative organizations, they will get no help.
Finally, Yale has already caved to one progressive demand by restricting financial support for conservative students. Who is to say that the school will not cave again and start denying admission to conservative applicants? There were certainly calls among the student body to do so. Progressive students are attempting to shrink the Overton Window of reasonable public discourse, and Yale seems all too willing to comply.
I still believe that there is plenty of good at Yale. As Justice Kavanaugh said, we should all strive to be “on the sunrise side of the mountain.” I am incredibly lucky to be here and am determined to leave this school without any anger or bitterness. But they’re making it hard.
Aaron Haviland is a student at Yale Law School. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Cambridge, and he served in the Marine Corps.