The foundation is the most important part of a building. Foundations can’t be moved without destroying the building. If the foundation lacks integrity, so will the building. If the building is moved and put on another foundation, it will never be as strong or secure. In the book of Ephesians, Paul describes the church as a building, the Household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the cornerstone. So who exactly are the apostles and prophets? What does it mean that Jesus is the cornerstone? The apostles were appointed by Jesus to be His personal representatives to the world. Their primary responsibility was to preach the Gospel. The apostles, or a close associate such as Luke, were also responsible for writing the New Testament. The prophets were those who revealed God’s Word. In other words, they spoke the Word of God from God Himself. Prophets were largely an office of the Old Testament and were laying the foundation for the church a thousand years before Jesus’ ministry. The cornerstone is also a concept taken from the Old Testament. The cornerstone was used to square up the rest of the foundation and thus the whole building. The cornerstone was always laid first and so Paul is clearly teaching that Jesus is preeminent to even the Old Testament prophets and that everything is measured according to Him. The gospel of John teaches that in the beginning, before apostles or prophets or anything else, Jesus was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God and all things were made through Him.
Now put this all together. The apostles preached the Word, the prophets revealed the Word, and Jesus is the Word. So in a very practical sense, the foundation of the church is the Word of God, known today as the Bible. And this is why the Bible is constantly attacked and undermined because Satan knows that if you destroy the foundation you destroy the building. Sadly, many churches have crumbled spiritually and institutionally because they moved away from their foundation. As we look forward to a year of building ourselves up in Christ, we must keep our feet firmly on the foundation of God’s Word.
The Bible says that Jesus is the Son of God. Stop and think about what an amazing claim that is. A flesh and blood man who walks the earth claiming to be the son of the creator of the universe! And this wasn’t some mysterious man who appeared out of nowhere or a character from mythology that no one had ever actually seen. This was Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son who many had watched grow up in their own town. When Jesus claimed to be God’s son, He got people’s attention.
Today people dismiss Jesus’ claim. They say it’s no big deal, after all aren’t we all the children of God? The answer to that is: no, we are not. The Bible says that Jesus is God’s only begotten son. This means that Jesus is the only person in the history of the world to be born directly into God’s family. We cannot be born into God’s family because of our sin nature. We are sinners separated from God from the moment we are born. Jesus was born through the conception of the Holy Spirit, without sin and in full fellowship with the Father.
The question is: how do we become part of God’s family? The answer: we are adopted! “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His Son into hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, than an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7). When we put our faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted into God’s family and we become the children of God and fellow heirs of the eternal glory awaiting Jesus. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Amanda and I have adopted two children and we are looking forward to bringing home our third child. When I think about how we are going to bring back this child from a different culture on the other side of the world and make her a part of our family, I can’t help but think about how God has done the same thing with us. Even though we were far off and separated from God, He knew us and loved us. Just as we eagerly waited for the day when we could finally hold Ethan and Sophie in our arms, and as we eagerly wait for Quinn, I know that in a far more profound way God was waiting for the day when, through my faith in Jesus, He would hold me in His arms and call me His son.
Commitment – it’s not a word that people often to like to hear yet it is at the heart of being a disciple. People often want to know God’s will for their lives, but if you’re not committed to following His will, what difference does knowing it make? A good way to measure commitment is to ask: What am I willing to give for Christ? Are you willing to give up your time, your convenience, your money, your style, your job? If God called you to be a missionary, would you leave everything behind and follow His will? Sometimes it’s small things that test our commitment. Would you give up your Sunday afternoon nap so that you can be at the nursing home or a committee meeting? Would you give up eating out or upgrading your phone service so that you can be faithful with your giving? Would you use your vacation to be a children’s camp sponsor? Are you willing to plan your weekend trips so that you’re back in time to teach Sunday School? I’m not saying you have to be at church every time the doors open but our lives as believers should revolve around Jesus.
When Jesus spoke of commitment, He didn’t pull any punches. Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell all that he had (Luke 18:18-23). He told another to give up his home (Luke 9:57-58) Jesus told the crowds that unless they were willing to leave their families and even give up their lives they could not be His disciples (Luke 14:25-33). Jesus continually confronted people with the question: Are you committed to yourself, or are you committed to Him?
We have come to expect the church to arrange everything for our convenience. Yet God is still calling us into a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ that will dramatically reshape our lives in His image for those who are willing to give up everything and follow Him (Philippians 3:3-14).
On Monday this past week, along with millions of other people around the world, I watched the first presidential debate. Let me rephrase that: I tried to watch the first presidential debate. To be honest, I couldn’t make it for more than a few minutes at a time. I would watch for about five minutes, turn to something else for a while, turn back to the debate, and then after five minutes be desperately searching once again for another show. Through all of this I kept thinking: Where have all the good leaders gone? It put me in mind of Isaiah 3:1-5:
For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah
Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread
And the whole supply of water;
The mighty man and the warrior,
The judge and the prophet,
The diviner and the elder,
The captain of fifty and the honorable man,
The counselor and the expert artisan,
And the skillful enchanter.
And I will make mere lads their princes,
And capricious children will rule over them,
And the people will be oppressed,
Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor;
The youth will storm against the elder
And the inferior against the honorable.
Israel had been blessed by God with some incredible leaders: Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon to name a few. Yet, because of their sin and rebellion God removed all the good leaders and honorable men from the nation. The message from God was clear: If you do not recognize My authority then I will take away all the people that lead you, support you, and make the nation great. As a result the people of Israel were forced to turn to “capricious children” for leadership. I can’t help but think that the United States is now at that point. I am often asked if I think the country is under judgment. When abortion is a hallowed right, when homosexuality is celebrated, when narcissism is a virtue, when corruption is excused, when truth is despised, when the Word of God is mocked even by those claiming to be Christians, then it’s hard to imagine why God wouldn’t judge our country. In the words of Ruth Graham, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
However, it is nothing new for the people of God to live in the midst of sin and depravity. The church was born into a hostile society, hated on one side by legalistic religionists and on the other by hedonistic pagans. Yet the church persevered, just as Jesus promised it would, and as the church we must continue to be the light for a dark and dying world until Jesus returns to take us home.
It’s finally here, the most wonderful time of year. No, not Christmas - Football! Yet, as I prepare to watch Alabama defend its national title (which I’m sure they will do), I have a nagging thought in the back of my head. Why do I care? Why am I emotionally invested in the outcome of these games? Why am I crushed when they lose and exultant when they win? Why do I spend hours each week watching a game, the outcome of which has absolutely no effect on my life? There’s nothing wrong with watching and enjoying sports. In fact, the apostle Paul used sports analogies more than once to make his point. And yet, I look around and see churches all over this country half or only a quarter full while 100,000 seat football stadiums with inflated ticket prices are overflowing with those who profess to be Christians. Could this be a case of misplaced passion? Do we as Christians get as excited about our redemption in Christ as we do about a touchdown? Do we feel a sense of loss for those without Jesus the same way we do when a game winning pass falls incomplete? Are we incensed over the disrespect shown to our Lord the same way we are when a ref misses a call?
It’s true that Paul used sports analogies to make a point, but his point was commitment to Christ. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified”
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27). His point was that we should show the same commitment, the same discipline, the same passion for Christ that an elite athlete has for their sport. What would our church look like if we were committed to serving an hour in the church for every hour we spend watching football (or basketball, baseball, ...)? Or if we were committed to spending an hour in prayer for every hour we spend watching (or playing) the big game? I believe the day is coming, as our world grows more hostile toward Christ, when Christians will be forced to acknowledge that sports just aren’t that important. After all, there won’t be any national championship trophies in heaven. But why wait for that day? Today, let our passion be for the One who gave His life and defeated death so that we could have life eternal.
We live in the strongest, wealthiest, most prosperous country in the history of the world. Our standard of living, even for those considered poor, is unparalleled. We have incredible technology that makes work easier, faster, and more efficient. People have more leisure time than they know what to do with. Because of welfare and entitlements, many people don’t have to work at all. We even proved how tolerant and socially evolved we have become by electing an African American as president. And yet our country is more bitterly divided than ever. Despite our wealth and comfort, protests, demonstrations, and people expressing their unhappiness and anger is a daily event. Out of 300 million people the two best candidates for president that we could nominate is a sleazy casino owner and possibly the most corrupt politician of our lifetime. This is further exacerbated by the menace of Islam that we continue to welcome into this country with open arms. Even though we seem to have the means to build a utopian society, everything seems to be crumbling apart. But this is nothing new. Every great society in history has followed this same pattern. In 1776 historian Edward Gibbon began to publish The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in which many of his conclusions can be clearly seen in our society today. At the time, in a bit of irony, Gibbon was a citizen of the British Empire which eventually declined and was replaced by the “American Empire” that was born in 1776 at the expense of the British. As with other empires, there will come a time when the U.S. will decline and possibly fall to complete ruin. Eventually there will be a one world empire led by the one that we often refer to as the Antichrist. However, this seemingly indomitable empire will be completely destroyed by the return of our Lord Jesus.
The point is that no matter what man builds eventually it will crumble to the ground. The only lasting kingdom is the kingdom that Jesus will build on this earth. That is why our hope as believers is not in government, armies, science, technology, or any strength or wisdom of man. Our hope is only in Jesus Christ.
Panem et Circenses. It’s a Latin phrase that translates “bread and circuses.” It was coined by a Roman satirical poet who was appalled at the apathy and self-centeredness of Roman society at the time. It has also been used as the theme of a popular book series, The Hunger Games. The idea is of a populous that has given up the privilege and responsibility of governing themselves in exchange for full bellies and entertainment. We see this in our society everyday. Most people are completely disengaged from the political process, have no idea how our system works, and couldn’t care less who might be the best candidates. Most of those who are engaged are supporting either the candidate that entertains them with his boisterous and defiant speeches or the candidate who offers free stuff. Either way, they don’t seem to care how much they’re lied to or how much power they concede as long as they get lots of stuff and have their ears tickled.
Sadly, we see this trend in churches as well. Most people attend a particular church to be entertained, or to have their needs met, or both. In the process they neglect their responsibility to serve others and grow in their faith. They also miss out on the privilege of being used by God to shape their church, their community, and the lives of individuals around them. Being a disciple of Jesus is a call to action as well as a denial of self. It is the opposite of panem et circenses as we work together to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
I read this morning that Disney is threatening to boycott the state of Georgia if they pass The Free Exercise Protection Act. This is a bill that provides protection to faith based businesses and groups that refuse services that violate their religious beliefs. Critics refer to it as an anti-gay bill. When I first read this I thought to myself: if Disney wants to discriminate against an entire state in the name of tolerance, they have every right to do so, just as the baker and the wedding photographer have every right to pick and choose their clients. But that got me thinking. So often in our society today, especially with this issue, why is it that person B is expected to modify their behavior and make any accommodation for person A, while person A is not expected to modify anything or make any accommodation for person B? Add to this that person B is a Bible believing Christian and person A represents any secular, unbiblical agenda in our society today. This is a growing reality for believers, but we should not be surprised. Why did Paul speak against homosexuality, prostitution, adultery, and other sexual immorality? It’s because in Roman and Greek society those things were perfectly acceptable. Christians in the first century were not persecuted because they were trying to force their beliefs on others. They were persecuted because they wanted to be different. They wanted to be disciples of Jesus Christ, living lives of holiness in accordance with God’s will. Add to this their message of the Gospel that exposed the sin and depravity of society and offered people an alternative to hollow, man-made solutions, and their presence became intolerable. This same intolerance will grow today and in time will become outright persecution. However, as it has throughout history, this will be the refining fire that revives Christ’s church and fuels the message of His death, resurrection, and redemption from sin – the only hope for our world.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses sets before the people of Israel a choice: life or death. They could choose life by submitting themselves to God’s will or they could choose death by rebelling against His will. This choice is fully realized in Jesus Christ: choose life by believing in the One who gives life or choose death by rejecting Him. Sadly, the followers of Islam have chosen death and this choice was on full display in Paris. Many people say that Islam needs a reformation but that is exactly what is happening. ISIS and other groups are reforming modern Islam by returning it to it’s violent and bloody roots. What we see today is not a metaphor or an esoteric idea, it is a real choice: life or death. As believers in Jesus we must not fall for the moral equivalency of the Left and the lie that “we all worship the same god.” Instead, we must stand against this religion of death and any religion or philosophy that rejects Jesus. Are there times when nations must take up arms to defend themselves? Absolutely. Are there times when even Christians must defend themselves and their families? Absolutely. Will there come a day when Jesus returns and executes God’s judgment on the earth? Most assuredly. However, God’s judgment is for those who have already chosen death. As believers we must embrace life and boldly proclaim the life giving Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
Reprinted from the Dec 2015 newsletter.
In the 2008 election a particular candidate (who shall remain nameless) garnered a large following by telling people what they wanted to hear. Those on the other side of the political aisle grumbled in frustration because no one seemed to pay attention to his ideology, his past record, or, perhaps most importantly, his character. Now we are approaching a new election cycle and the shoe is on the other foot. A particular candidate from the other party (who shall remain nameless) has garnered a large following by telling people what they want to hear and once again no one seems to be paying attention to his ideology, his past record, or, perhaps most importantly, his character. Thinking about this, I can’t help but wonder how many people approach God the same way, telling Him what they think He wants to hear saying, “Lord, Lord,” while hoping their past record, their character, and, most importantly, their unbelief will be overlooked. While I think fully vetting political candidates is important, this does cause me to stop and think about what would happen if God fully vetted me before being allowed into His presence. Knowing all the things that would come to light, there is no way any of us could stand in His presence. Thankfully the Father, by His abundant grace, looks past our track record because of our faith in Jesus Christ. When we stand in the presence of the Father we will be clothed in the righteousness of the Son and our sins will be remembered no more. Politicians will never change their stripes but as believers in Jesus we can look forward to a time when we will be transformed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior.
Adam Davis, Senior Pastor FBC Archer City, TX