Friday, April 27, 2018

You Are the Salt of the Earth




In the Sermon on the Mount we read, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” We are helped in our understanding of our Lord’s words here by remembering two ways that salt functions. First, salt seasons. Think about the food you ate recently. Did you shake a little salt on it? Why? Because salt adds some season to the food! Second, salt preserves. Before the days of refrigeration salt was used to preserve food. It was rubbed into meat, for example, as a means of preserving the meat for later consumption. We could elaborate on why it is that salt adds savor or how it actually functions as a preserving agent, but the main point of the two uses of salt cited above is this: salt is different from the thing it comes in contact with.[1] Therefore, at the most rudimentary level, to be the salt of the earth is to be different from the world. In other words, there is a marked distinction between people who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and those who have not. Those who have been transformed by the powerful working of God now see life through a new lens and live in a way that is different than before (Col 3:1-4).

When followers of Christ fail to live in such a way that is distinct from the world, our witness is compromised, and we fail to live with purpose. The disciples were being reminded of the necessity of living the new life they’d been given in Christ. Although there is not a command explicitly given in Matthew 5:13, there is certainly a command implied: Be salty! In other words, live out your identity as a disciple of Christ. 

How do we function as the salt of the earth today? Let us consider several ways. 
First, we function as salt through the words we speak. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” If indeed our hearts have been transformed by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, our speech will reflect it. Indeed, our speech may be used to bless others (see Eph 4:29)! We speak words of kindness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members, and to those in community and in so doing we function as the salt of the earth.

Second, we function as salt in the way that we work. Again, Paul wrote in Colossians 3:22, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” We have the tremendous opportunity to be salty in the workplace by working hard, with integrity, and with excellence for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). 

Third, we function as salt in the way we treat others. When we remember the enormity of our sin against a holy God and the full forgiveness that has been extended to us through the cross of Christ (Col 2:13-14; Ps 103:12), we acknowledge that any suffering we incur at the hands of others pales in comparison to the suffering we deserve for our treason against King Jesus, and we show mercy to others as a result (Rom 12:14, 17).

Finally, we function as salt by living upright, pure lives. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (See also Titus 2:11-14).

If we’ve been washed by the blood of the Lamb our lives will be different. The words we speak, the way we work, the way we treat others, and the purity of our conduct bear witness that we are indeed the salt of the earth.

Blake Gerber



[1] See David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2001), 132.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Get Back Up!



In the Christian life there are times where we each fall and go back to our sin… This weird thing we hate and yet pursue (see Rom 7:1-20). The question that many ask themselves in those times though is, "What do I do after I've sinned yet again?" From my own life and that of others I've talked with it often seems our first instinct and common tendency is that of "wallowing" for lack of a better term. We tend to have this self pity-party consisting of faux-sorrow and leading to statements like, "I can't believe I did that again," or "how could God still love me and forgive me again for this," or other such things. What I've come to recognize is this reaction is in itself sin. It's my pride that I failed again. It's my pride thinking I ever could meet God's perfect and holy standard on my own. It's my pride thinking I had actually been acting good enough in such a way as to have earned God's forgiveness and love. I have failed to believe and return to the gospel… the only hope for a sinner like you and me.

Proverbs 24:16 sates, "
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity." I'm called to get back up, to rise again. However, instead of embracing this truth I often reject the righteousness offered to me that allows and calls me to get back up. God is clear in Rom 8:33, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." The righteousness I need has been given and it is from God, not my actions. Yet, for some reason I tend toward a heart of pride that would still want to reject God's righteousness and instead wallow in a lack of my own. How foolish is this though. It is not as if God is surprised by my wayward heart and sin. 1 John 1:8 states, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." To think any differently than that I might sin again is simply wrong, but the passage goes on to God's solution for these still unsubmitted actions in v.9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Rather than staying down with my face and proud heart firmly planted in the mud of my sin, I am instead called to look up once again to the cross at Calvary where my Savior died for me and recognize by His work I am still saved, loved, and free to live for Him and not for me. I must remind myself of the truth that the Christian life is not about being perfect. It is about growth in the pursuit of perfection. I must get back up! I must bring my sin to the cross, repent of it confessing and turning away AND THEN I must remind myself of the grace that is present for me, the Holy Spirit Who lives within me, and the empowering hope that I am not enslaved, I AM FREE. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36)! I must rise once again!


I should not be surprised by this hard work either. Over and over the Scripture talks about living this life for Christ and against sin as a battle (Ephesians 6:11-18, 2 Tim 2:3-5, 4:7). I must remember that the war is already won. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith." (1 John 5:4) and "but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57). These present battles are chances for me to reflect what has already been done through Christ for me. Therefore, I must rise again! The King has conquered! I want to reflect His glory and this truth in both the times I choose to pursue Him over sin and the times I fall and fail by getting back up! I must look to Christ.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin (Hebrews 12:1-4).


Get back up! For the glory of the King and by the power of the King, RISE! He has risen from the grave (Mat 28:6). Your victory is won (John 16:33). You stand perfect before God (Col 1:22). You have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). Rise once again dear brother and sister! Take hold of the promises that are yours in Christ! May we press on, living for the King and in His power. In our greatest successes and in spite of our darkest failures may we continually look to Him and get back up!


As a note of encouragement, I have always found this song by Shane & Shane extremely encouraging in the dark times of despair over sin… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ria3TVg8us&app=desktop

Phil Smith

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Paul and the Advancement of the Gospel



In first century letter writing, the author always included near the beginning of the letter what is called the thanksgiving or the prayer section.  It is in this section of the letter that the purpose of the letter was found.  This is important to know when we read the epistles in the New Testament, for the authors of the New Testament were, in some ways, a product of their culture.

When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he discussed much in this introduction portion of the letter.  This has caused scholars to debate what motivation was behind Paul’s letter to this church that he loved dearly.  The following are themes found in the thanksgiving/prayer section, as well as in the body of the letter: Christ and the gospel, the language of servanthood and ‘fellowship,’ the relational basis of this ‘fellowship’ (this section shows Paul’s deep love and affection for the Philippian Christians), Paul’s ‘chains’ (thus the motif of ‘suffering’), the future orientation of present life in Christ, and the need for love and fruitful living in the present.[1]

Here is the thanksgiving/prayer section, and I have underlined the language used that highlights all of these themes.

Philippians 1:3-11 3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

It is easy to see why this is debated in the Christian community.  So what is the main point of Philippians?  Many scholars think joy.  Many think suffering.  Many think unity.  Some think it is a missionary thank you letter.  Others think it is a letter of encouragement.  All of these words/concepts are used much throughout the letter.  But Paul’s purpose in everything is to preach the gospel.  The gospel is the central focus of the letter; it puts all things into perspective.  It brings unity, we suffer for the advancement of the gospel, and we have joy because of the gospel.  And he is grateful for the Philippians because of their fellowship in advancing the gospel.

Paul’s first and foremost concern, at all times, is preaching Christ and advancing the gospel.  He stated in Romans 15:18-20, I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation."

So, does this describe our lives?  You and I need to ask ourselves: Do I spend more time talking about everything else in life than I do the gospel?  I’m guilty of this.  If my friends and family were asked, would they know that the gospel and its advancement is the most important thing in my life?  I have experienced joy as a result of the gospel, but if I am called to suffer for it, am I willing?  Is it important enough to me to endure hardship and trial for its advancement?  Later in the letter, Paul told the Philippians that they, too, would suffer for the gospel.  We are no exception today.

If we want to experience the joy of Christ, we have to be willing to suffer for His name.  But when we put our focus wholly on the advancement of the gospel, these other issues, which we sometimes emphasize more than we should, become secondary issues…because our focus is on Jesus, not on ourselves.

Kurt Smith




[1] Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 59.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Good News and Hard News





Below is an adapted version of what I sent to my parents upon recently being diagnosed with a retina disease. We would appreciate your prayers!
-Pastor Ben

Good news and hard news...

The good news is I have an opportunity to draw near to God in a new way. I have a chance to bring honor to God in my response. And I will have more eagerness than ever for heaven and the promise of a new body!

The hard news is I was diagnosed with an "inherited disease of the retina" by Dr. Pete Lagouros at Illinois Eye Center (IEC). I have not done well on the field of vision test for the last 6 years when I've gone to Bard Optical in Washington. Bottom line, I don't have as much peripheral vision as most people. Not a big deal, but the eye doctor at Bard (my friend Mark Hahn who attends church at BCC) has sent me to Illinois Eye Center a few times for further tests and nothing really came of it. I was referred by Dr. Hahn to IEC again this month too as I failed the visual field test again at Bard at my annual appointment. Nothing new. Same old, same old. I thought.

This time, IEC had some more tests to do. Maybe new tech was finally available? Not sure. The lining in parts of my retina are thin. Dr. Lagourus doesn't know why. Again this doesn't cause me much day to day issue yet except for small things like me to not being able to find my mouse on my computer screen easily. Again, I just don't have all my peripheral.

All this to say, there are not concerns with me driving and doing life as usual for now. I'll be going to Iowa City for a more official diagnosis sometime between now and June. I'm waiting on them at this point. There is no treatment now but researchers are getting closer. Getting an official diagnosis will make me a better candidate for treatment when it becomes available. A quick internet search says that some inherited disease of the retina can lead to complete blindness. Not sure if that is the kind I have. Will find out more in Iowa City. My hope is that since my vision has not changed much in the last 6 years, that it won't change much in the next six years and so on.

Makes me long for heaven when I'll get new eyes. Makes me lean in the Lord even more. 

Recently (on the day of my diagnosis), my Facebook memories showed me a post I put up in 2012 that involved then 7 year old, Addy. Here it is:
"On my day off, feeling lazy, don't want to do training run, I say "This is going to be hard." Our Addy says, "Hard is not bad. Hard is just hard." Preach to me, little girl! Preach to me! Bless the Lord!"

Will this be hard? It appears so. It could be years. It could be decades. I trust in a God who cares for me more than I can imagine and is doing this for my good and His glory. 

Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose". 

I'm satisfied in the Lord and Him alone. I've had a pretty good run with pretty good eyes. I can be bitter that I don't get a longer life with good eyes or I can choose to be thankful for the time I've had good vision. I'm choosing, by God's grace, the latter. The former sounds miserable!



Friday, March 9, 2018

The Importance of Obedience


I was recently reading through Romans chapter 1 and came across verses 28-32 and realized the profound impact they have on parents and children in discussing obedience. In these verses, God gives a list consisting of,
"not see fit to acknowledge God, … [given] over to a depraved mind, [doing]things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil,… without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, [and] give hearty approval to those who practice them."
Right in the middle of the list of all these "very bad things" He also states, "disobedient to parents" (v.30). Often times we take disobedience lightly. With smaller kids we make it more of a joke to laugh about. With older kids we say, "What did you expect, they're a teen." These verses, however give a pretty clear picture of how God views disobedience. It is horrible! It is not a small thing to be joked about or a minor infraction to be ignored. To God it is on the same level as that of "murder" and "hating God." In 1 Sam 15:23a God states, "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry." Very interestingly, both resulted in the same punishment… death (v.32).
Lev 20:27, "Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
Deut 21:18-21, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear."
God hates disobedience! There is no other way to say it. He hates it! He hates it so much that he views it as warranting death. Is it any wonder then that Solomon writes, "My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you" (Prov 3:1-2). He recognizes his son's very life hangs in the balance of his obedience to his father's instruction.
There is a contrast to disobediences leading to death as well, however. Paul writes, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“ Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land" (Eph 6:1-3). Thus there is not only a curse for the disobedient, but there is also a promise of blessing for those who obey, namely life and a good one at that.
It is a picture of the carrot and stick… disobedience brings death, obedience brings life.
How does this affect us then?
1)     If you are a child to a parent… take heed. These are very serious and weighty things. Your very life is what we are talking about here. Don't belittle your disobedience. Don't write it off as something everyone does, or as a very small thing. God does not (even if your parents do) and it is to Him you stand accountable.
2)     If you are a parent recognize this is a very serious issue… your child's very life hangs in the balance. Demand obedience, do so consistently. Punish for disobedience, do so consistently. This is not done from a punitive heart upset by how your child makes you look, or because they've bothered you or your little kingdom, but rather for their good. What God calls big sin and treats as big sin you should call and treat the same. On top of this, know your own obedience to God is determined by how you deal with your kids in this (Prov 13:24, 29:17, Eph 6:4).
3)     If you are a parent I would encourage you to present these truths to your kids. Say with Moses, "… I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live… " (Deut 30:19). I would also encourage, that this not just be a onetime conversation either, but should come up regularly in both their times of disobedience and obedience.
Whether you are a disobedient child or a disobedient parent there is hope! We each have a Savior who "was obedient to the point of death" (Phil 2:8) to deal with our disobedience to God and bring us back to Himself (Rom 5:6-9, 2 Cor 5:21, Eph 2:1-10, Heb 4:14-16, 1 Pet 3:18). We need to bring your sin and disobedience to the cross. There is forgiveness, healing, & hope for a rebellious, disobedient heart like yours and mine! (1 John 1:9).

Phil Smith

Monday, February 19, 2018

Two Degree Movement

Diane, our office manager (and great friend!), sent me a link to a blog this week. There were some great things to ponder in regards to a church’s outreach.

Our purpose statement at BCC is to glorify God by proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and prepare His people to worship Him forever.

Let me ask you:
As you think over how you have spent your time since the new year, how much of that time has been spent in proclaiming versus preparing? 

Consider this: Add up how much time have gone to worship service, Sunday School, care group, a BCC training class, a Bible study, giving counsel/getting counsel, making a meal for a fellow church family, etc. Now compare that to how much time you have spent serving the lost, communicating gospel truths to someone who doesn’t know Christ, being intentional to have the unsaved into your home, etc.

My guess is that our time in “preparing” far outdistances our time in “proclaiming”. That is not always a bad thing, but if this distance is constant, I wonder if we need to shift things a little in our personal lives as well as in the ministries we serve in at BCC. 

The blog post Diane sent helps us see how to do this. The blogger quotes a book:
"The author argues for something he calls the Two-degree Rule. His question is essentially this: What would it look like to move the needle of the compass two degrees away from insiders and toward outsiders?
And, what would it look like to move the compass in each and every ministry? Even better, what would it look like to move the compass in the heart of each and every church member?

Here’s an example from the author’s book: Delivering meals.
Man are we good at delivering meals to people in our churches who just had a baby, are recovering from surgery or are grieving a loss. I mean, we are amazing at this. But, what if we delivered meals to our neighbors, co-workers or family members who don’t know Jesus? What if our church’s meals ministries moved the compass two degrees away from insiders and toward outsiders?
So, if you’re interested in becoming a church that is truly focused on reaching the lost, you probably don’t need an outreach department.
What you need is for your church, from the ground up, every person and every ministry to move just a little toward outsiders."

BCC’s outreach ministry doesn’t have a committee and doesn’t do a lot of big events. Why? We want to help each ministry move two degrees—from meal sharing to youth ministry to care groups. Let me know if you want to be a part of the Two Degree Movement!


Pastor Ben

Friday, January 19, 2018

How Can a Perfect God Call the LGBT Lifestyle Sin?

The following is an edited email conversation with a college student asking for help in sharing biblical truth with a friend who has embraced our culture’s view on the LBGT lifestyle. My hope in sharing this is to give you some logical principles and arguments against popular culture’s false assumptions. My hope is that this will prompt more thought and dialog in your sphere of influence about how you might be more winsome yet courageous to speak the truth into the darkness of this enslaving philosophy. 

----

Hi Mr. Kloter, quick question. I’m talking with someone about God. They are a massive supporter of LGBT. 

How can a perfect God can call the LGBT lifestyle sinful when it’s something they can’t change about themselves?

I know we’re supposed to love them and point them to Christ and all, but how can they be Christians while ignoring/participating in sin they can’t really change?
Can an LGBT person be a Christian since repentance means the need to turn from and avoid LGBT behaviors?

I know I can be forgiven for my own sins and with God’s help and with encouragement from others, I can fight and begin to conquer that sin, but a LGBT person can’t really just not be gay anymore can they?

---

Dear __________,

First, consider the presuppositions of the person/people you're engaging.

1. He/she is making judgements about God's standards.  Consider asking, "What standard are you using to determine right/wrong or good/bad?" You need to learn the source of their truths/beliefs. Help them understand that your truth-source is from the God who made you/them. 

2. The label "gay" is not helpful.  A wiser way to think of people is whether they’re lost or saved, believer or unbeliever, child of God, lover of God or enemy of God. This helps us think of the LGBT person as “on the same bench” as any other individual. Their struggles and temptations are not unique from others at the root level (Rom. 3:23; 1 Cor. 10:13).

3. Therefore, I would argue that “gay” or LGBT is not an identity. These labels simply describe attitudes and desires of the heart that manifest themselves in predominant ways. When a sinner is saved, he/she is radically transformed, they are a “new creature,” they are no longer defined by the beliefs, habits and behaviors of their past (1 Cor. 6:9-16; 2 Cor. 5:17). The transforming grace of the Gospel makes people new and different with new insights, wisdom, desires, and power to change to become more like their Lord (Phil. 2:12-13). 

4. Consider discussing the fact that if he/she is able to make judgement claims, they must also allow for the fact that God is not only free to make his own judgements, but has the authority to do so as Creator.

5. He/she described God as perfect, so you have common ground. A perfect God’s Word is also perfect, without blemish, flaw or error. Furthermore, God's perfect word does not lack anything that you would need to know in order to deal with this issue, or any other, for that matter.

6. Since God’s Word is perfect, then God's perspective on homosexuality is perfect when He calls it sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

7. Note that he/she assumes that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition. On what basis is he/she making this claim? How does he/she know this? What is their truth source? Even if science may discover a gene that is more common in those with this predisposition, it doesn’t change God’s “predisposition on homosexuality. He calls it sin. He calls the sinner to confess, repent and turn from sin and turn towards righteousness. He offered His son in love to enable the homosexual to be free from this and to enjoy fellowship with Him.

8. He/she assumes that homosexual behaviors cannot be changed. This is true. Their only hope is to repent and believe the Gospel. God does not command a change without giving them the power to do so. That power is given as a gift of grace through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, so that the LGBT might live in a harmonious relationship with this perfect God. That's not unloving, that's amazing.

9. He/she claims God is unfair. This is correct; God IS unfair. He offered his sinless son to die for people who hate and reject him. He offered his sinless son to die for people who are sinners and deserve Hell. That is the greatest act of unfairness recorded in human history.

10.  He/she asks for fairness. Fair treatment of sinners by a perfect God would mean their eternal punishment. Every human deserves Hell, nothing more, nothing less (Rom. 3:23, 6:23).

11.  All sinners, including the LGBT (they are not unique 1 Cor. 10:13), can become a Christian by repenting of sin (turning from their sin and rejecting their own self-righteousness) and trusting fully in the righteous life of Christ for their own righteousness, and trusting fully that Jesus' blood paid their eternal debt.


12.  Any person who truly has been "born from above" (Jn. 3:3) will grow in hatred towards sin (Pr.13:5), including LGBT thinking and behaviors (Eph. 4:17-24), and they will grow in their desire to grow in holiness (Ps. 40:8).


Kent Kloter