Proverbs: Wisdom is Calling

Why is wisdom referred to in the female form?

I mentioned this in the first week of our series in Proverbs. There’s no particular reason why wisdom is personified as a female, as opposed to a male. The reason for the personification is to give wisdom some human characteristics so there’s some tangibleness to her. Wisdom can be a very ethereal and unreachable kind of idea for many. In giving wisdom human characteristics, the author of Proverbs helps us to understand and see what wisdom is really like and how to follow on her path in life.

 

How do I ensure that I will receive wisdom's spirit?

It begins by listening to her because those who listen to her call receive her spirit. Practically speaking, this begins by reading your Bible so you hear from the wisdom in God’s Word. Getting in a Life Group, where you hear wisdom voice through others, would be your next step because none of us listen to wisdom perfectly and need others to help us see where we’ve traveled down the path of foolishness. These folks will also confirm to you where you are listening to wisdom, which should give you assurance as to which path you are traveling on.

 

If wisdom is personified as a woman in this passage, but isn't a "real" person, how am I to understand her judgment?

"You don't want to get on wisdom's bad side, for she is a wrathful judge to all that ignore her."

 

Here’s what wisdom’s judgment means: If you ignore wisdom, you’re going to suffer the consequences of your choice. Before we talk about judgment, though, it’s best to look at wisdom’s grace. Wisdom tells us the wise way to live, the best choices to make, and how best to honor God. That’s grace! We don’t have to figure things out on our own.

The judgment wisdom gives to those who don’t listen are the consequences for living foolishly, making poor choices, and not living to honor God. So what does her judgment include? It can be as simple as “If you don’t look both ways before you cross the street you may get hit by a car” because biblical wisdom includes common sense. It could also include spiritual ideas such as “If you reject the grace of God you will not spend eternity in Heaven with Him.”

The judgment of wisdom is simply the consequences we experience for ignoring the wisdom God has given to us and revealed in His Word. And her judgment is fair to all who ignore her. But don’t forget her grace!


You mentioned Proverbs 8:27-31 about wisdom being there during creation. The connection was made to Jesus who was there with God, the architect at the foundation of the world. Verses 22 and 23 sound like wisdom was the first created thing before God began creating the heavens and the earth. Jesus was not the first created thing because he was always with God, whereas wisdom describes her creation. The end of the sermon described many ways that wisdom's call and God's call are alike and how wisdom's judgment and God's are final. In our life group discussion, there were questions about whether wisdom here is Jesus talking – possibly prophetic writing. Is wisdom meant to be a separate entity to Jesus?

Proverbs 8:22-23 "The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be."

I specifically skipped Proverbs 8:22-23 because that is where there are some obvious disconnects between Jesus and wisdom (as you state, Jesus wasn’t created like wisdom was). My point was to show that although the connection isn’t perfect, there is a God-like (Christ-like) voice to wisdom when she speaks after her long period of silence (chapters 2-7). It is a voice of judgment that is very similar to God’s voice of judgment (especially when Christ returns again). Commentators are split on how far we should take this connection. I tried to take the analogy as far as I could without stating that Wisdom and Jesus are the same. They aren’t the same. And wisdom isn’t even a person (or a separate entity). As I mentioned in the first sermon, wisdom is given human characteristics simply to make it a bit less mysterious and easier to understand.

 

 

Proverbs: Wise Living/Foolish Living

Why is Easter Sunday on different days and months. Where Christmas is always the same day?

Instead of saying what others have said better, I’ll provide you with a couple of helpful articles that answer your question.

https://www.thoughtco.com/date-of-easter-change-every-year-700670

http://www.christianpost.com/news/easter-2017-dates-details-why-does-easter-date-change-every-year-176827/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/why-does-easters-date-wander.html
 

You mention the "wisdom books" in the Bible but never told us which books those are. So what are they?

Old Testament = Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes

New Testament = James

Towards the end of your sermon you said, Christ offers knowledge for the simple, "something " for the wise and "something " for the fool. I couldn't remember the "somethings" for the wise and the fool. Can you tell me? Thank you so much! Can't wait to talk about this at Life Group this week.

“He offers knowledge for the simple, instruction to the wise, and freedom for the fool who’s caught in their own death trap.”

Pastor Josh mentioned biblical wisdom. Is there such a thing as secular wisdom? If so what is the difference between the two? And Is there more than one way to teach wisdom?

I think the hard thing here is to pretend as if secularism isn’t influenced by religion. Meaning secular wisdom will have some influence from biblical wisdom. It just can’t help it. For instance, secular wisdom would be “Look both ways before you cross the street.” That’s what we’d call “common sense.” But much of biblical wisdom speaks to common sense situations long before there were cars on the road we had to look out for.

Probably where things start to differ is on moral issues. Where the Bible claims “right or wrong” secular wisdom may disagree. Where secular wisdom struggles is in helping a person understand why something is right or wrong. That’s a question only religion can provide an answer to. Tim Keller’s book, Making Sense of God, is a big help in thinking these kinds of things through.

I am a strong believer in my faith, but I was just wondering why God hasn't done anything in more recent years like he had with Moses parting the red sea or the whole Earth flooding like with Noah and the Ark.

Great question. If you think of the thousands of years of biblical history, there are actually very few moments in time when the great miracles (such as the flood and parting of the Red Sea) took place. There were many generations in the Bible who saw no such miracles. That’s why when Jesus came on the scene people were amazed by the miracles He performed.

So living in a time without the more dramatic miracles is the norm. The Bible does speak of another time of great miracles just before Christ’s return, but I’m not one to put a date on when that will happen.

I Am the Resurrection & the Life

Because there is a physical resurrected body, how does cremation work into this?

This is a great question! However, there is not a perfect answer. Some people choose cremation because the remains are portable, while others choose cremation because it is simply much less expensive than traditional burial. The Bible does not forbid cremation, but there are several factors to consider before making a decision between cremation and traditional burial:

The significance of the human body - We must remember the following about the significance of our bodies: (1) Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit; (2) Christ died to purchase us; (3) Our bodies are God’s possession, not our own; (4) Our bodies are meant for God’s glory. The human body is significant and intended for God’s glory, so we should always treat it that way, with respect and care.

The meaning of fire - Biblical references to the relationship between fire and the human body generally prove to connote destruction (Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 5:22; James 3:6; Matthew 10:28). Although the Bible typically relates the relationship of the human body and fire with Hell, Scripture still does not forbid cremation--however, this may provide reason for some to avoid cremation.

God’s role in the resurrection - Whether a person is cremated or buried, we must not lose sight of the fact that God knows how to raise our bodies. John 5:28-29 says: “28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Scripture gives us the promise of a new body, regardless if a person drowned in the ocean, burned in a fire, was buried in the ground, or cremated after death. God’s power is supreme, and we must trust His Word to be true. (Also see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54 and Philippians 3:20-21).

I Am The Good Shepherd - John 10:11

When will you have baby baptism again?

Our next scheduled infant dedication is sometime in May. Parents who are interested in infant baptism need to contact one of our teaching pastors – Josh Hanson or Ben Borsay.


Ben just spoke about election. Does Gateway support this concept? Is Gateway saying that GOD only selected some people to go to heaven and all others to go to hell?

The answer begins in eternity past in God’s determination to save a people for Himself. The doctrine of election, then, is an act of God, before creation, in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure. This truth is found throughout Scripture – one key passage is Ephesians 1:3-14. It’s a truth we embrace. But what about those who are not ‘chosen’? The answer requires a fuller discussion of God’s electing grace than a few sentences can provide. So, we recommend reading Chapter 32 from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. This is a primary text for our Joshua’s Men – so many copies are floating around our church. Or you can always call the church office (419-423-5947) and ask for Pastor Ben who can get a copy in your hands. In one sentence, however, we can trust God to be fair, just and faithful in all He does.
 

So what if God did not choose someone that we are trying to bring to Jesus?

We are called to witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ and then trust God for the results. The doctrine of election is actually a source of encouragement because we know that God is using us to reach people in a way that brings glory to Himself because God saves people not you or me. God invites us to go fishing because He knows that the fish are plentiful and hungry.

 

I Am The True Vine

For someone that professes to be a believer and reveals no fruits of the Spirit, does this mean they are not truly a Christ follower?     

A: One of the key passages on what it means to be saved is Ephesians 2:8-10, where we learn that salvation is by grace alone. In other words, there is nothing we can add to God’s saving work through Jesus Christ. It’s all grace. But the second part of the passage tells us that we were created to do good works. A person who has been saved by grace is also changed by grace – for good works and good fruit. So can we call someone who has no sign of God’s work in his or her life a Christ-follower? Let me suggest that the answer is no. Undoubtedly, God saves people and knows who has been saved. You and I can’t know the deeper reality of God’s saving work but we can, according to Scripture, have a pretty good idea of a person’s spiritual state. It shows! That’s why Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). 

Is it important to become a member of the church?    

A:Yes! It is important to become a church member. We live in a world that may seem to have “commitment-phobia.” In the words of wise church pastor, “commitment-phobia is the fear that in promising to do something good we will miss out on getting something even better.” For many of us, we hesitate or fail to make commitments because we want to “keep our options open.” We simply don’t want to be “tied down.”

But there are several reasons why church membership is important:

To Assure Ourselves - You are not spiritually saved by joining a church, but a church can help you be sure that you are saved. (John 14:21; 15:10,14; 13:17). Although salvation only comes by the grace of Christ through faith in Him, we can be assured of our salvation in Christ by the way we love others in a committed church relationship.

To Spread the Gospel - Have you heard the phrase “two are better than one”? Well, it’s biblical. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” Although this is true in contexts, it is also true when fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:29-20). A church is a missionary organization, equipped by God to spread the gospel effectively. One of the most important reasons we can join a church is to share the gospel with other Christ-followers.

To Expose False Gospels - In the context of the church, we have the opportunity to show the world what true Christianity is. One pastor explains it this way: “We dispel the false notion that Christians are nauseatingly self-righteous people who are worried that someone somewhere might be having fun, and who believe, above all else, in their own goodness. This is how many non-Christians think of Christianity. We can combat that false image by having a church that is not marked by such an attitude.” As a church, we have the opportunity to believe in the true gospel of Christ and covenant to live in such a way that we expose the false gospels of the world.

To Edify the Church - God created people with a longing for togetherness and to function in community. Joining a church will help Christ-followers be encouraged and sharpened by one another. Being a committed member of a church also allows us to counter the wrong trends of individualism in our world.

To Clarify Responsibility - Every church has a pastor. This is by God’s design. Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Becoming a church member formalizes the relationship between a church participant and a church leadership. Just as a man and a woman formally marry or an employee and a boss sign a contract, church participants and church leadership should also enter an agreement of relationship called a “membership covenant.” A membership covenant allows you to know what is expected of you and what you can expect from your church leadership as a member of the church. It also clarifies these details for church leadership. At the conclusion of this membership class, you will have an opportunity to take verbal vows before the congregation on a Sunday morning to formalize this membership covenant.

To Glorify God - “Our lives together are to mark us out as His (God’s) and are to bring Him (God) praise and glory.” When we humbly submit to God’s design for community with other believers in a church and to its leadership, we are proclaiming: “It’s not about me!” We glorify God by humbly acknowledging that we cannot grow spiritually alone and we need the help from others because they have unique, contributing gifts. As Christ-followers, I have something to give, and so do you. Join a church to glorify God by submitting to God, sharing your gifts, and receiving the benefits from others’ gifts.

Love Your Neighbor - Luke 10:25-37

How do I discern God's will?  Facing a forced job change and have been in prayer about it, but how do I discern His answer? I've been told that I'll just know, that it will 'feel' right but I've thought a felt that on other major decisions and they've been horrible decisions.  How do I know? This decision will affect not only me but my children greatly, I don't want to get it wrong??  How can I know? Discernment eludes me ....

How do I know God’s will? This is one of the most often asked questions I get as a pastor. And please excuse my long answer.

Sometimes we have a bit more dramatic of an idea in mind like “Should I sell everything I own and move to India to be a missionary?”

But others are a little less dramatic. We just want to know if we should quit our current job and take a new offer we weren’t expecting. Should I study this major in college or that one. Should I ask her to marry me or should I wait. Should we start our family now or wait to have kids at a later point in our marriage?  

The reality is that many of us don’t know what God’s will is for our life or even how to know God’s will for our life.

The apostle Paul wrote these words in Romans 12:1-2 (ESV). “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So first things first. How can you know God’s will?  Paul says we know the will of God by being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

And how do we renew our minds? Honestly, my answer isn’t very creative. It’s pretty basic. Kind of ordinary. Yet often neglected. And not nearly as appreciated as it should be.

But the way to renew your mind so that you know God’s will is to know God’s Word.  

For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 5, which tells us “to live peaceably with each other, to honor and respect church leaders, to warn lazy Christians, encourage each other, care for each other, be patient with everyone, do good—not evil—to each other and to all people, to always be joyful, to never stop praying, and to be thankful in all circumstances.” Well why should we do these things? Paul says in verse 18 that “this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

It’s hard to be any clearer than that, right?

In 1 Peter 2 we read “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”  

So how do you know God’s will? The answer is that you know God’s will by renewing your mind by knowing God’s Word. You must read God’s Word, study God’s Word, spend time listening to God’s Word preached, and absorb God’s Word.

But God’s Word doesn’t tell you whether or not to take this new job, or marry that person, or to go to which school. So there’s one other often neglected aspect of knowing God’s will. And here’s the good news and bad news.  

The good news is that this isn’t your responsibility. Which I know sounds crazy confusing, but just hold on because I’ll explain myself.

But this aspect of you knowing God’s will isn’t your personal responsibility.  

However, the bad news is that you do have a responsibility in helping others know God’s will.  

Listen to how Paul describes a man named Epaphras in Colossians 4:12. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”

So we have a personal responsibility to pray for other people that they too would know God’s will. This makes knowing God’s will a community project; not just an individual project. This is a corporate goal; not just a personal goal. We won’t know God’s will unless we’re doing life on life with other Christians who are helping us discern God’s will because we weren’t made to discern God’s will alone.

And this is why we have Life Groups and Gateway.  Small groups where people discuss how to apply God’s Word, pray for one another, care for one another, and build friendships with one another. All with a grand goal of helping one another understand God’s will.

I enjoyed the sermon, but my question is are we to love ISIS and other extreme actions of people? Where do you draw the line? Thanks and God bless.

So texting in questions sometimes limits how we ask the question. I’m going to assume something about your question and that is that it has a misplaced “and” in it. Meaning the question shouldn’t be “are we to love ISIS ‘and’ other extreme actions of people?” The reason I’m making this assumption is that your ‘and’ makes our love for people based on what they do. And that would go against everything the Bible teaches.

So, yes, we are to love the people in ISIS. They are deceived by Satan, following the path of a wicked and evil ideology, and will spend eternity in Hell if they don’t experience God’s unconditional love and grace towards them. And as God’s people we must love them.

But, no, we do not love their extreme actions or any evil action. The apostle John writes, “But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers,and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NET)

This verse is talking about the ‘second death’ which is eternity in Hell. But notice who’s there. Notice the “actions” that, if never repented of, will lead them to Hell. It’s not just the murderers of ISIS, it’s also the cowards, the sexually immoral, and the liars. That means that there’s is just as much hope for a murderer in ISIS as there is for a liar in Findlay, OH to be saved. But it also means that there’s just as much eternal hopelessness for a liar in Findlay, OH as there is for a murderer in ISIS. Both need God’s grace. Both need to repent. Both need Jesus. Both need to be loved by God’s people.

Love Your Church - Acts 20:17-31

What do you think of the movie “The Shack”?  Some say it is heresy.

Although The Shack is presented as just a book and now just a movie, it says a number of things that are not Biblical truth (just Google “criticizing of the Shack”).  One really big issue is what is called universalism.  That’s the idea that everyone is saved and going to Heaven, regardless of whether they believe in or follow Jesus Christ.  For example, the Jesus character in the book says “Those who love me came from every system that exists.  They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religion institutions.  I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my papa, into my brothers and sisters, my beloved.”  That is very different than John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”)  That is Heresy!

As Christ-followers, we have to practice discernment whenever we read, view or listen to anyone who is presenting spiritual matters, making sure it lines up with the Word of God.  

Love Your Family - Ephesians 5:31-33

During the supplication prayer life group sermon notes, the question came up about asking for prayer. What does the Bible say about having more individuals praying for a specific request? If we share a request on facebook is 100 followers of Christ going to change the outcome of a prayer? Does a single prayer with persistence = so many people praying? Our answer in discussion was sharing the request shared the burden over the body of Christ.   

So here’s my take on “do more people praying change the outcome of a prayer?” Maybe. I say “maybe” because it’s not about how many people are praying so much as will God be glorified by the people who are praying when He answers the prayer.

In 2 Corinthians 1:11 (ESV), Paul writes, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” So “more people praying” can matter if the “more people will give thanks” after the prayer has been answered. So having 100 Facebook friends praying, even friends who are Christian, may not matter if they pray without giving God thanks after He’s answered the prayer.

Yet even our thankfulness is no guarantee that God will answer our prayers, for He is not a puppet on a string that we control. And when must remember that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:5-15), He told them to pray in secret, alone with God.

So ask friends to pray with you, with the goal of God being glorified and thanked if He answers your prayer. But don’t neglect praying alone, as this is what Jesus taught us to do.

How could the next couple of generations after Adam and Eve not involved incest?   

The traditional view (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish) holds that Adam and Eve had many other children and there would have been brother/sister marriages.  Genetic problems would not have been an issue in this early period of human history.  God’s ban on incest is not announced until Leviticus 18:6 which is a much later date.  I am not personally convinced or comfortable with this view but I know that someday the real answer will be made clear.

I've been using my NIV version Bible for years and it used to be the one most often used in service but now ESV or other  versions more often cited.  Why?

We use different versions because there are several very good translations available in the English language and we go back and forth based on which translation seems must helpful in teaching God’s Word.  For your personal use, stick with what works best for you.

 

God is Love - 1 John 4 7-12

Where does pastor Josh shop for those snazzy clothes?

He asks Jon Campbell where he gets his clothes. Jon Campbell is our resident guru of fashion. But there’s a rumor that his wife picks out his clothes for him.

How do you lay your life down for others? How can this be applied in our daily lives?

You know, I’m really wrestling with this right now. As I said in the sermon, I don’t know that I have. I think it has to have a “death” element to it. A sacrifice, so to speak. Not a literal death, but where something dies in you in order to live for someone else. That death could be a hobby, a certain plan you had for your life, a certain amount of money, to living comfortably, etc…

One thing I do know, is that Christ laid down his life for us because of the joy that was before him. That’s part of the mix as well...joy. So there’s death and joy as we sacrifice for others yet do so joyfully because Christ first laid down his life for us.

Yesterday, Pastor Hanson said how we are to love all Christ followers. I thought we are to love all people even those who are not Christ followers. Could you explain what you meant?

We’ll get to loving people who aren’t followers of Jesus in the fourth sermon in this series titled “Love Your Neighbor.” The Bible passage that we were looking at on Sunday, 1 John 4:7-12, is specifically talking about loving people who are part of our faith family (followers of Jesus).

Can or should someone be re-baptized?

Our church believes that a person who trusts in Christ should be baptized in a Bible-teaching church with water (Matthew 3:11), in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). If a person has been baptized in this way, whether as a child or adult, his or her baptism is valid; therefore, he or she does not need to be re-baptized (Titus 3:5). The Bible does not teach that a person should be baptized more than once.

Prayer of Supplication - Luke 11:1-13

Does God want us to have a spirit of contemptment or a spirit of joy? Are the two mutually exclusive?

I think you mean “contentment”, not “contemptment” as those words are very different. Being content and being joyful are not mutually exclusive. In fact I think that being content and being joyful go together. It’s hard to be content without having a sense of joy. Likewise, it’s hard to be joyful without having some sense of contentment. So to answer your question, God wants us to have both joy and contentment as the two go hand in hand.

My questions are not about the sermon, but more in the application, maybe?  Many of my prayers of supplication lately are for God to act on behalf of refugees or immigrants suddenly left stranded upon the President's executive order a couple days ago.  How do we pray for our leaders in this situation? How do we pray for refugees and immigrants in this time?

God calls us to pray for “all those in authority” (I Timothy 2:1-2).  Then, in the next verse, we learn that praying for those in authority “pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:3-4).  In other words, God’s first priority is for the salvation of all people – government officials, immigrants, refugees, everyone.  So we should pray that God would use a complicated and messy political situation to the end that many would come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Of course, we continue to pray that our national leaders would be just and wise, but we remember that God’s priority is to rescue lost people.

 

Prayer of Adoration - 1 Samuel 2:1-10

If God is in control of all things, why do bad things happen?

The short answer is sin. God’s perfect plan includes our freedom to choose to obey Him or rebel against Him. Without this freedom, we’d never really love God as we’d be more like automatons than humans. But the hope of the Christian faith is that at the cross of Jesus, Satan was given the blow of defeat. The end is secure and the victory has been won because God can use all things--even bad things--for His purposes.

One quick example of this is found in the life of Joseph. In the book of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery and he experiences bad thing, after bad thing, after bad thing. Ultimately, though, God uses all of the bad things to elevate Joseph to second-in-command of Egypt. And in this position of power, Joseph saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of people during a great famine--including his brothers who sold him into slavery. Joseph’s assessment of all that happened to him was this: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

All of the evil things in Joseph’s life happened so that he would be in the right place, at the right time, so that many people would be kept alive. And that was possible because God was working out His plan for Joseph perfectly.

God is in control of all things... then why does he have us all sin?

I wouldn’t say that “God has us sin.” He doesn’t make us sin; sin is something that is both part of our nature (we’re sinners) and a choice we make (we sin). But God does allow us to sin. Why He allows us to sin is a bit of a mystery. We do know that because of our sin, Jesus came to live, die and defeat Satan, sin, death, and Hell on our behalf. Without sin, Jesus would never had to come. But even then, God didn’t make us sin. 

Also, I would caution taking one characteristic of God (His sovereignty) and trying to “figure it out” without taking into consideration His other characteristics. Like we learned on Sunday, God is both holy and sovereign. So not only is He in control of all things, but He’s also completely free from evil (including sin) and perfectly good. So His holiness would also suggest that He doesn’t have us sin.

Love - Light Shines In The Darkness - Galatians 4:4-7

What’s the meaning of once saved always saved.  And Jesus said don’t call me Lord Lord, I do not know you!

“Once saved always saved” means that a person who is a true Christian cannot lose their salvation.  The problem is the individual who claims to be ‘born again’ and lives like a Christian but then turns away from the things of God. The Bible records the words of Jesus:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

This verse, and many like it, make the case for a very important doctrine called the perseverance of the saints. The perseverance of the saints means all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.

“This definition has two parts to it.  It indicates first that there is assurance to be given to those who are truly born again, for it reminds them that God’s power will keep them as Christians until they die, and they will surely live with Christ in heaven forever.  On the other hand, the second half of the definition makes it clear that continuing in the Christian life is one of the evidences that a person is truly born again.  It is important to keep this aspect of the doctrine in mind as well, lest false assurance be given to people who were never really believers in the first place. “ (Wayne Grudem)

In other words, our salvation is the work of God and if He is ‘saving’ you there will be evidence of His grace in your life.            

Does the EPC/Gateway subscribed to all of the chapters in the Westminster Confessions of Faith?  If not, what chapters and why? 

Gateway subscribes to all the chapters of the Westminster Confession.  If you have specific questions about anything in the Westminster Confession, please call Pastor Ben or Pastor Josh. 419-423-5947 

 

Finding Peace in the Darkness - Mark 6:45-56

Why isn't "he" capitalized in scripture when it refers to Jesus?

This article on Bible translations and the use of capital letters is very helpful.  You can find the original article here.

Some Bibles do not capitalize certain pronouns because their translators felt that doing so was not an accurate translation of the original language. The decision to capitalize or not capitalize pronouns is a question of translation, and is not a statement of disrespect. 

For example, here’s a note from a translation consultant for the NIV addressing this question:

The NIV and some other contemporary translations do not capitalize these pronouns for a very good reason: they are not capitalized in the original. The Greek does not use upper case in employing these pronouns, and Hebrew uses only capital letters and has no lowercase letters.

The translators had to face a difficult issue and thought about it long and hard. On the one hand was the practice of showing reverence for God in keeping with the common English usage, and on the other hand was their commitment to providing a precise rendering of the original with no bowing to what was not in the original text. In the end they decided that fidelity to the original was their highest criterion.

While we may not like the absence of those uppercase letters, we can respect their total commitment to the precise rendering of the original.
--Biblica, Publisher of the NIV

God’s Compassion in the Mess - Jonah 2:1-10

One of my oldest and closest friends is an agnostic. She knows I am a Christian and has always respected my decision, but we have never had a deep discussion about religion and faith because of my complacency to leave it alone since we don't see eye to eye. I've recently felt compelled to share the Gospel with her; however, I find that I'm afraid and I don't know where to start. How do I begin the dialogue? I don't want to lose our friendship or come off as pushy, but I don't want to run away if the Holy Spirit is calling me to do this. I also don't want to go on thinking that I could have done or said something to change her mind. What do I do?   

Thanks for your very personal question. The good news is that your friend is agnostic, so she’s open to spiritual things. That’s a great start! The better news is that the results of your conversation with her are up to God. And that includes whether or not she gets angry and decides to end the friendship. That doesn’t make the situation any easier, but if God is telling you to have this conversation, then you have to be willing to do so even if it costs you the friendship. But given that you’ve been friends for a long time, hopefully, she will see this as an act of love and not being “pushy.” Besides, a friendship that doesn’t address eternal issues is temporary, at best, and the most loving thing you can do for her is bring up eternal issues so that your friendship lasts forever.

Now how to begin? That depends on a lot of things. Probably the best place to start is to be open about what Jesus is doing in your life. Make everyday conversations points to Christ. Something as simple as that may get her curious as to why and how Jesus is changing your life and whether He can do the same for her. 

The Jonah story seems so preposterous that it is hard to defend as a historic event. How do you see it?

Great question. My encouragement to you would be less concerned about how I see it and instead be concerned with how Jesus sees Jonah’s story. Because what Jesus thinks about Jonah is far more important than what I think, what you think, or even what modern science thinks.  

In Matthew 12, some Pharisees demand a miracle from Jesus. The did this a few times saying that they’d believe in Him if He did a miracle for them. But Jesus knew their hearts and that even a miracle wouldn’t convince them. So instead of a present day miracle, in Matthew 12 Jesus appeals to a miracle that’s already taken place. What miracle? Jonah’s miraculous story (see Matthew 12:38-41).  

If Jesus was convinced that Jonah’s story was real, true, and miraculous what should someone who follows Him think about it? We should probably believe everything that Jesus believed. Otherwise, we’re telling the guy whose miraculous resurrection we’re banking our eternity on that He believed something that was preposterous.  

Did people of the Old Testament, such as Jonah believe in eternal life?

Great question, but it has a complicated answer. The answer is “it depends.” Revelation from God is progressive in the Bible as you are hinting at in your question. You intuitively know that the New Testament more clarity about eternal life than the Old Testament. That’s what I mean by “progression revelation.”  

But that progression isn’t just from the Old to the New.  Even in the Old Testament, we see a progression of revelation. So some people in the Old Testament had a better understanding of eternal life than others, and we’re blessed with an even clearer understanding because we have both the Old and New Testaments.

So Pastor Josh talked a lot about the way we're "supposed to worship" with arms raised and such. How I've always thought about worship is that it matters how your heart is reacting to God's presence and not about where you place your arms. Some clarification on how this is incorrect would be helpful. Thanks.

First a clarification and a bit of “insider’s information.” I preach from a full manuscript.  Meaning every word you hear me say during a sermon is in my hand while I preach. So I’m confident that I didn’t say “the way we’re ‘supposed to worship’ [is] with arms raised and such.”  Now that may have been how you understood my words, but to clarify, that’s not what I said.  

But what I was driving at leads to your second point, which is that worship is a matter of how your heart reacts to God’s presence. And I don’t think it’s possible for your heart to respond to God’s presence while having no accompanying physical reaction. That physical response doesn’t have to be “arms raised,” but something should happen. Even singing is a physical response because we sing louder, softer, not at all based on our hearts response.  

For instance, when you watch a great movie that moves your heart, do you shed a tear, laugh out loud, or clap when the good guys win? Probably so. Or when your favorite college football team wins or loses a game, sure your heart is deeply involved in the game, but what about the rest of your body? I’m sure your hands raise when they score a touchdown, or you get vocal when the other team scores because your guys blew the play. Or what about when you meet someone famous. Now we tend to grow out of this with age, but don’t we get excited on the inside when we meet them, and it results in outward gestures? We forget our name, we get the shakes, we say things that are incredibly embarrassing.  

So if we do that for movies, sports, and celebrities...what do you think would be our bodies response will be when our hearts are stirred by God’s presence during worship? David danced. The elders in Heaven throw down their crowns while they bow down before God in worship.  Others played trumpets, shouted, and raised their arms. All being physical responses to their heart’s worship of God.

We Must Go - Jonah 1

Should I be re-baptized as an adult to affirm my faith as a Christian follow Christ, or is there not a need for it since it was already done when I was an infant?

Scripture shows that baptism is a sign of God’s covenant promise with his people, which is expressed as a sign of forgiveness and redemption and as a seal that signifies adoption into God’s family. This perspective of baptism is rooted in Genesis 15:1-6 and Genesis 17:1-8. According to this interpretation, God’s covenant with his people continues today, as illustrated in Galatians 3:7, which says, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Abraham’s covenant of salvation that comes by faith, and in the Old Testament, circumcision expressed it. In the New Testament, Jesus commanded baptism in Matthew 28:19. The sign of the covenant can be seen in Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12, and Acts 10:47-48, being expressed as a sign—like circumcision of the Old Testament—of God’s covenant promise to bless his people with faith in him.

In our denomination (the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or EPC), we believe that those who “have professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and have promised to be obedient to Him, along with the infants of one or both believing parents” may participate in baptism (EPC Book of Worship, 3-2). Biblically, baptism is observed once by each Christ-follower. Although the specific method of application is not essential, baptism is to be administered with water. Additionally, baptism does not guarantee or convey salvation.

Therefore, if you were baptized as an infant by Bible-believing parents, who are Christ-followers, there is no need for you to be re-baptized.

“Why isn’t Celebrate Recovery mentioned in what’s going on at N. Main Campus?”

This is a great question! Thanks for asking! First of all, let me say that I am thrilled that Celebrate Recovery is meeting at Gateway’s N. Main campus. This is an important ministry that is helping a lot of people and has the potential to help many more.

In the sermon, I did not mention Celebrate Recovery by name because it falls under all that Gateway’s doing for local community outreach at N. Main. I did mention community outreach as an area of emphasis at N. Main. I focused on the following broad categories: facility renovations, community outreach, prayer, and college ministry. If I had more time, I would have gone into more detail about each of these, such as details about current office renovations, architectural concepts, college Life Groups, Thursday night dinners, and specific outreaches...such as Celebrate Recovery. I chose to do a broad overview because the point of the sermon was not so much to provide a P. R. plug as much as it was to let people know the general scope of ministry that is currently taking place at Gateway’s N. Main campus. Although Celebrate Recovery is an important outreach, it is not the only important outreach taking place at N. Main, and I did not have time to highlight everything.

As Pastor Josh mentioned in the announcements, we don’t have time to highlight every important ministry taking place at Gateway on Sunday mornings. That’s why it’s especially vital to stay connected through the website, the Gateway Weekly (e-mail), and the N. Main prayer letters. Assuming promotion was the concern of the question, the most effective places to highlight Celebrate Recovery are in Life Groups and in the unchurched community. Additionally, Celebrate Recovery has been promoted in several recent editions of the LG Connect newsletter that is available on Gateway’s website and sent to Life Group leaders.

We Are Connecting - Hebrews 10:19-25

How do people who have been hurt by the church begin to trust God and His people again?

This is difficult to answer without knowing the situation you’re thinking of.  For instance, some people are hurt by the church when they’ve experienced loving correction and accountability.  I’ve seen people hurt by the church because they were told that they couldn’t become members because they were living together while not being married.  That’s one kind of hurt people can experience because the church stood for and with the truth of God’s Word.  The couple wasn’t willing to do so.  So the church hurt them, but I don’t think it’s the church’s fault.

Now there are also many times when people are legitimately hurt by the church.  The main reason is because the church is full of saved and unsaved sinners.  And sinners...sin.  We hurt each other by gossiping, being divisive, and placing unbiblical expectations on one another (to name a few).

In these instances of being hurt, you’re most likely being sinned against.  Thankfully, Jesus told us what to do when we’re sinned by someone in the church (see Matthew 18:15-22).  So if their situation is one where they’ve been sinned against, have they followed Jesus’ word in Matthew 18?  That would be a good place to start.

Where in Scripture do we learn to know that our salvation is secure?

Here are just a few references in Scripture.

John 6:38-40 “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

[Jesus won’t lose a single person given to Him by His Father.  Who are those given to Him?  Those who believe in Him.  And those who believe in Him have eternal life and the promise that they will be raised up on the last day (the day when Christ returns).  If someone is given eternal life, they have life that lasts forever.  That, for me, is one of the strongest arguments why our salvation is secure.  How can eternal life not last forever?]

John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

[Eternal life is in these verses as well (see above).  And those who have eternal life shall never perish.  Not only does eternal life go on forever, but those who have been given eternal life (those who believe) shall never perish.  Meaning it’s impossible for them to perish in Hell.

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.”

[This is the “golden chain” of salvation.  The point being that this verse leaves no gaps or possibilities for the chain to be broken.  If you are predestined by God, you will be called to Him.  And if you are called to Him, you will be justified (made righteous) before Him.  And if you are justified before Him, you will be glorified and spend eternity with God in Heaven.]

Pastor Josh, what is your tattoo of? I promise I only got momentarily distracted from the great sermon this morning!

My tattoos are all faith-based and I use them for conversation starters with people.  The tattoos you could see are:  1) “It is Finished” in Greek on the back of my arm, 2) a lamb being pierced with a spear (representing Christ being pierced on the cross); 3) An anchor with the word “hope” around it with Hebrews 6:19 (which says that Christ is the anchor of our hope).  Thanks for asking (and sorry for the distraction).

I question if time isn't better spent with family, Sunday worship, and volunteer work vs time attending weekly Life Groups. So many need help, wouldn't it be best we use our time to share our love of GOD  by helping others in need, instead of exploring our own needs in Life Groups?

All of the things you listed are great things, but why the “vs”?  I think there are too many verses in Scripture that command us to do both and so to say “either we meet the needs of others OR we meet the needs of those in the church” is just not biblical.  In fact, the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 NLT).

Do we need to love the hurting people in our world?  Yes!  Do we need to love the people in our church family?  Yes!  That’s why Gateway Church values “connecting to one another” and “going to the world”.  We can’t let this be an “either/or” situation.  The Bible is clear, this isn’t a “vs” situation.  We must do good to everyone--”helping others in need”--but, as Paul says, “especially those in the household of faith” (the church).  Thus we value both at Gateway Church.

Josh, to say we are not connected as we are not in life group can't be true. I am in Bible Study, do mission trips and attend regularly...It does bother me for anyone to be shamed into doing anything. We need to do things out of love, not guilt. 

Let me begin by saying, I’m thrilled that you’re in a Bible study, do missions trips, and attend regularly, but like my response to the question above, why make this an “either/or” situation?

In Hebrews 10:19-25, we saw some things that happen in a connected community.  Things like “drawing near to God together,” “holding fast to our hope together,” and “doing life together.”  All of these things happen in the context of a connected community that goes beyond what a person experiences on a missions trip, in a Bible study, or during a worship service.

Again, let me say that I love missions trips (I’m leaving for one in a few days), Bible studies, and worship services...but, none of these fulfill what we saw in Hebrews 10:19-25.  For instance, a missions trip is a great opportunity to serve people around the world, share the gospel, and build relationships with other believers who are on the trip with you.  Thus we value “Going” at Gateway and and want all of our people to be “going” on a missions trip.  But often (most of the time?), when the trip is over, so is the depth of the relationship you have with those who went on the trip with you.  Why?  Because the missions trip is what drew you together; not being connected to one another for the purpose of preparing for Christ’s return.

The same is true with Bible studies.  Again, I love Bible studies.  Bible studies are designed to fill us with God’s Word (a great thing), but rarely do curriculums help people grow closer together.  Rarely are there intimate, personal application questions in curriculums and even more rare is someone in a Bible study with the courage to share their answers to those questions.

As the pastor I quoted said, “Do you really believe what the Bible says about your sin?  It’s one thing to say, “I know I’m a sinner.  That’s what the Bible says.”  [But] do you know practically the biggest flaws you have?  The sins…that can most shipwreck you are—by definition—the ones you can’t really see, the ones you minimize, the ones you rationalize, the ones you’re really kind of blind to.  By definition your biggest sins are the ones you’re sort of self-deceived about.  A mark of mature Christian community is the members know that, and, therefore, they are accountable to each other.”

I’ve yet to find a Bible study curriculum that gets people to that kind of intimacy.  Why?  Because the point of the Bible study is to study the Bible; not to hold each other accountable to the sins “we’re self-deceived about.”

Finally, my point wasn’t to shame or guilt anyone into doing anything and I’m sorry if that’s how I came across.  And, yes, we’re to do things out of love, not guilt.  But we’re also to do things out of obedience, even when we don’t feel like (or love) doing it.  That’s why we need people in our lives who hold us accountable to the sins we’re self-deceived about.

The goal of my sermon was a simple call of obedience.  “Here’s what God’s Word says about being connected to one another in Hebrews 10:19-25.”  I hope that you’ll discuss the sermon, and how it should be applied in your life, with the Christ-followers you’re connected to.

We Are Generous - II Corinthians 8 & 9

Awhile back, Pastor Ben had us all who was able to get on our knees for a prayer, my heart says this needs to be done more often, and I should address it to our church. My question is, Why don't we as a church, do this more often, it will not hurt us in any way, but may help us in more ways than we could imagine... Jesus died a very painful death for us, and I feel that we as a church should bow down for that more often than we do.

Excellent suggestion and observation.  We will do it again - stay tuned.

Should I give to every great Christian cause that sends me a desperate request in the mail? My giving to Christian causes multiplies the requests and the mailing lists I am on.

No. If you gave to every request you would have nothing to give or live on. First priority is tithing to the local church, then pray about any other requests.  And pray well informed, asking a lot of questions about who you are giving to, how the money is spent, how the individual or organization is managed etc. If you are still not sure what to do, call us and we may know something about the people who are making the request.

Strength Through Weakness - Judges 14-16

In the sermon this morning Pastor Josh talked about Samson's choice of his wife was both from the Lord and yet sinful - can you please reconcile the two? I can fully understand the Lord using our poor choices for our good Rom 8:28 but the idea that God can sin or that our sin can be "ordained" seems inconsistent with His word.

Thanks for your question.  The verse, from my sermon, being referred to is Judges 14:4, which states, “His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.  At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.” (ESV; italics mine)

So first things first.  In some way, Samson’s choice was “from the Lord.”  That’s in the verse.  There’s no way to get around it.  The question is whether or not this was simply a “poor choice” on Samson’s part or sin.

We began our Judges’ series by looking at the end of the book of Joshua, because the two books help us to understand each other.  In Joshua 23, Joshua says, “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.12 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:11-13 ESV; italics mine)

Now there’s no clear commandment here, but there’s an obvious warning that intermarrying with non-Jewish people will result in God turning against His people until they have perished (died).  In the Bible, death is often a consequence for sin.

Earlier in the Bible, Moses recorded, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.  Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-4 ESV; italics mine)

The land Moses was speaking of is the land in which Samson lives.  And now we have a clear command accompanied with a warning:  “You shall not intermarry with them” and if you do the Lord will “destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3a; 4b ESV)

So we see two things.  1) Samson is breaking a command given by Moses, not just making a poor choice, and 2) His decision is “from the Lord.”

Now what’s making the questioner uncomfortable is a very God honoring desire.  They don’t want God to be seen as sinning or as “ordaining” our sin.  First, God does not sin.  That’s clear in the Bible.  Second, the idea of God “ordaining” our sin isn’t something I said in my sermon.  This is something being inferred from what I did say (Samson’s choice was both sinful and from the Lord).  And this may seem like the logical conclusion, but many times God and His actions defy our logic.

For instance, God sends an evil spirit to torment King Saul...twice! (1 Samuel 16:14; 19:9 ESV).  Now God sends the evil spirit, He doesn’t do the evil Himself, but let’s be honest.  God seems to be a little too close to evil for my logical comfort.

Or what about Old Testament prophecies that are predictions of evil things that must come to fruition?  Prophecy isn’t God looking into the future and telling us what people will choose to do; prophecy is God telling us what the future will be.  God’s prophets predicted the betrayal by Judas, Christ being beaten, and the crucifixion, just to name a few.  Evil things that were destined to happen because God promised they would happen.  Leaving us with two logical conclusions:  1) God promised evil things that must happen in the future or 2) We have to redefine what prophecy is to keep God from getting too close to evil.

So which do we choose?  How about a non-logical conclusion?  A conclusion that says:  God doesn’t sin, yet our choices (even sinful ones) can be from the Lord if they will accomplish His purpose.  This is what the Bible seems to be telling us in Samson’s story.

Does it defy logic?  Yes.  Is it what the Bible teaches?  Based on the verses cited above (and many more)...yes!

Fighting Spiritual Apathy - Judges 13

Will God at some point not use a Christian (put them on a shelf) that is entrenched in apathy and sin and continues to do so year after year? Yet believes they are serving God? Living one life at church and another at home.

So this is a tough one to answer.  Will God ever NOT use a Christian?  If we stop there, my answer is “no.”  God’s never done with His children.

Now continuing with the remainder of your question, I don’t know if a true follower of Christ can be “entrenched in apathy and sin and continue to do so year after year.”  Especially if they think “they are serving God,” but are living in complete hypocrisy (“living one life at church and another at home”).

True followers of Jesus are not comfortable with their sin.  They don’t justify it.  Their sin bothers them.  It grieves their heart.  So to go on in the same apathy and sin year after year without any struggle, without any attempt--by God’s grace--to defeat the sin, and to do so all while thinking that you’re serving God...sounds more like the religious Pharisees that Jesus rebuked in the Scripture.  These men were completely unaware of their sin and hypocrisy all while thinking that they were serving God as they had Christ murdered.

So does God give up on using a Christian for His glory?  Never.  Are some people deceived into believing that God looks at their apathy and sin and thinks, “No big deal?” Absolutely.