Tag Archives: Christ

Review: Finally Free by Heath Lambert

The use of pornography is a prevalent problem today among nearly every group of people—men and women, teens and adults, and believers and unbelievers. It has devastated hundreds of people, wrecked marriages, and even destroyed lives. Many great minds have put forth an abundance of resources about pornography and its devastating effects—books, self-help articles, and documentaries. Frankly, the amount of information on the internet about pornography is innumerable. But Heath Lambert’s work is refreshingly distinct. This book is not a book about pornography—this is a book about overcoming it. Lambert is an experienced counselor and a wise teacher who knows about the gripping power of pornography. In Finally Free, Lambert offers a persuasive and compelling case for incapacitating the sin of pornography through the grace of God in Christ.

Summary

The premise of the book is simple: believers who struggle with the sin of pornography can overcome it through the grace of God. Lambert begins the book by taking the reader to the start of the road to sexual purity—beginning where one should begin in overcoming sin: the grace of God. God’s grace is the foundation in the fight against pornography (and all sin). The grace of God both forgives and transforms, Lambert argues, and the grace of forgiveness and transformation are exactly what sinners engulfed in pornography desperately need. He contends that God’s grace to change a person is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy a person. At the same time, Lambert does caution readers that if they are drowning in pornography, they should read subsequent chapters and immediately start implementing the radical measures he describes in order to overcome pornography.

Flowing from the Bible’s teaching about grace, Lambert then unfolds eight grace-empowered strategies for overcoming and defeating the sin of pornography. This is the main part of the book and in it (chaps. 2-9), he asserts that pornography can be defeated through biblical, practical, and radical approaches. Lambert explains that Christians can use godly sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, spouses, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Christ to overthrow the grip of pornography. Each of these emphasize that overcoming pornography requires strategies that are thoroughly biblical, intensely personal, and sometimes hurtfully sacrificial. But they are all worth it and all empowered by the grace of God.

The book concludes with a stunning and encouraging call to holiness and hope. In the conclusion, Lambert compels readers to holiness and purity but also points them to the hope in Jesus Christ as they wage the battle against pornography. There are other features of the book that are extremely helpful in the battle with pornography. One is the practical suggestions found at the end of each chapter. Lambert lists three or four proactive ideas for how to employ the strategy explained in the preceding chapter. Another great feature of the book is the appendix—Lambert offers much help for people who know others who are struggling with pornography. One final feature which is excellent are the many testimonies laced throughout the book. At every turn, Lambert has included real-life stories of shame, defeat, and even victory that both warn and encourage the reader.

Interaction and Evaluation

Lambert’s approach to this book is the only approach to take—overcoming sin by God’s grace alone. I found that regularly and refreshingly helpful. In previously counseling others, I have often heard very self-dependent statements like, “If only I could quit this,” or “I swear that I am not going to do this again!” I struggled with pornography long ago and I said those exact things. Lambert has pointed out why focusing on “I” will always result in failure. We must focus on Christ and the grace He gives in order to overcome pornography or any sin, for that matter.

I have also found that the failure of many other books on pornography is that they only give you information about pornography. They try to tell you how bad pornography is, but not how to overcome it. Certainly, we need to know how bad it is—which Lambert himself explains. But struggling Christians need more than information—we need transformation. And this only occurs by employing the grace-empowered strategies outlined in the book. There is sufficient application in this book—I don’t think Lambert could have applied the teaching of Scripture more than he did.

Conclusion

Finally Free is aimed at helping people become just that—finally free from the choking grip of pornography—finally free to live a life of joyful purity. For those engulfed in this egregious sin—you don’t need to try harder and you don’t need to have better intentions. What you need is the grace of God and Heath Lambert will point you right to it. He shows you what tools you can use in this fight and how you can stay on the path to victory. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone else, Lambert offers the most biblical, practical, and urgent solutions for becoming finally free from pornography.

Buy on Amazon here. 

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The Christmas Story: The Wondrous Birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-7)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY on the 3rd day of December 2017:

Turning Away from the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-7)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 26th day of November 2017:

The Invincible Kingdom of Christ (Psalm 2)

The following sermon was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church in Barlow, KY on the 26th day of February, 2017:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2).

Introduction: Jesus is an Invincible King

Something unique about and exclusive to Christianity is that we worship and serve a King. Not just a King, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Yes, we worship Christ who is our Shepherd, Savior, Prophet, Priest, Mediator, and Lord. But something that distinguishes us from other religions is that it isn’t just a man we are worshiping. He isn’t just a good man, or even just a deity, or a God-like being—Jesus Christ is a King. He isn’t an enlightened man like Buddha, He isn’t a prophet visited by an angel like Muhammed or Joseph Smith (Mormonism). He isn’t among a host of other gods, as in Hinduism. He is a King greater than any religious figure. And He is a king greater than any political figure, greater than Caesar or any government, administration, or president (Acts 17:7).

He is the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17). He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Jesus Christ is a King and His kingdom is invincible. When Jesus appeared the first time, His kingdom was inaugurated—His first coming marked the beginning of the coming of the kingdom of God, His rule and reign on the earth. When He came the first time, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven—that’s when the administration of Jesus took over! He dominates, rules, and reigns in the world today through the Holy Spirit which He and the Father have sent to the world to carry out His purposes.

So it is clear from Scripture that the kingdom of God is invincible—and not just because the Spirit of God is here today accomplishing the will and purpose of God. It is invincible not just because Jesus is ruling in the hearts and lives of millions across the world. The chief reason that the kingdom of God is invincible is because one day, Jesus is coming back to finish what He started. One day, the King of Kings will return to gather in all His sheep, conquer anyone who stands in His way, and dominate the nations so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). He will come to rule, He will come to reign, He will make war and will dominate all nations, and conquer His enemies. And while this gives great hope for the church today, it also highlights the foolishness of anyone who might seek to revolt and fight against Him.

Scripture says that when He comes, those who are in rebellion against Him will mourn and wail—they will be put to shame, because they won’t stand a chance against Him. It is foolish and deadly to be against Jesus because, while we don’t know the day or the hour of His second advent, we are always one day and one hour closer! But oh, the folly of those who reject Him—oh the absurdity of those who are unsaved and the dangerous ignorance of those who revolt against Him! It is foolishness in the highest degree to reject Jesus because His kingdom is absolutely invincible, impenetrable, and it is impending—getting closer and closer to the time when Jesus will conquer all. And that’s the thrust of the second psalm we have before us. We’re going to see in this psalm that it is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus. This is a call to both nonbelievers and believers alike. Nonbelievers need to take refuge in Christ to avoid the terrible fury of God’s wrath, and we as believers need to continually take refuge in Christ daily so we may overcome sin and have our eyes fixed on the day when He comes again.

The psalmist writes this from an observer’s point of view and speaks of a great rebellion, and a greater king who will conquer all rebellion. The psalmist speaks of the nations of the world who are revolting against the kingdom of God, how God will conquer them all through His king, and ultimately through His Son. And the psalmist invites all who read this psalm to trust in this King who is the Lord Jesus Himself. We will see in this psalm:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)
II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)
III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)
IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Let us look now at the word of God:

I. The Revolt of the Apostates (2:1-3)

First of all, we see in vv. 1-3 that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. It is absurd to rebel against the Lord, thinking that you can overthrow His sovereign rule. The psalmist expresses here that the apostates are fools to plot a revolt in order to be liberated from the rule of God and His anointed one. Listen to the underlying tone of foolishness in the way the psalmist describes the world’s revolt against the Lord:

“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us” (vv. 1-3).

The psalmist opens this psalm with a question: “Why do the nations and the peoples plot in vain?” (v. 1). He sees the nations and peoples of the world plotting and raging against the Lord, and asks why.  You can even hear the concern in his voice in the way he penned v. 1—he views the nations’ revolt against the Lord as absurd, foolish, and stupid. And this idea leads the psalmist to ask, Why? Why would the nations do such a thing, he asks. Of course, “the nations,” in this psalm (and the Old Testament), are those who are outside of God’s covenant family. They are Gentiles, apostates, those who are outside of the faith—those who are pagan, worshiping other gods like Baal and Molech. These are not nations which worship the true God. It is said that these nations “rage,” and “plot in vain,” meaning they are restless, raging, and conspiring to do evil. They are upset about something, restless about something. And even this far in to the psalm the psalmist views their rebellion and revolt as absolutely foolish: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? Don’t they know they are planning destruction for their own selves?

Notice also, their raging now leads to plotting. In v. 2, they move to greater action than just raging and being restless: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Now the psalmist tells us what the apostates actually do in an attempt to carry out their revolt against the Lord and His anointed. The kings of the earth come together and the rulers come to take counsel together—they meet to discuss what they must do. They draw up plans, prepare weapons, train their armies, enlist their generals, locate their targets, and prepare reinforcements. They are meeting together to conspire a great revolt, a great rebellion. But it is not against another army, not against another nation, not to conquer land, not even to conquer the world—they plan a revolt “against the LORD and his Anointed.” That’s why the psalmist views them as dimwits, and it’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Why would you revolt against God? He is all powerful, all-knowing, all-present and who destroys His enemies.”

But that’s the focus of their rebellion—they rebel and revolt against the Lord God of heaven and earth, and they rebel against “his Anointed.” The anointed one would be the king of Judah—likely David at this point. Those who ruled God’s people were considered anointed—set apart by God Himself for His purposes, namely, to carry out His rule and reign among the people. Often you will see David saying things like, “[God] shows steadfast love to his anointed” (Psalm 18:50), or “the Lord saves his anointed” (Psalm 20:6). Statements like that are references to himself because he was the anointed king who ruled in Judah. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “anointed” here is masiah, which sounds a lot like Messiah, who is truly God’s anointed One. We know that the true Messiah is Jesus, God’s Anointed One. Keep that in mind for now, we will say more on that later.

And finally in v. 3, we have the goal of their plotting. The reason they are angry, the reason they are plotting, the reason they are planning a revolt against the Lord and His anointed king is this: “Let us burst their bonds apart, and cast away their cords from us” (v. 3). They want to separate the bond that exists between the Lord and His anointed king, for if they can get the Lord out of the picture and have the king by himself, they can be victorious in their revolt. So they first want to “burst” apart the “bond” between the Lord and His anointed. Secondly, they want to be liberated from both the Lord and His anointed! “Let us . . . cast away their cords from us.” They want to be free from His restraints on them as well.

So all throughout this section (vv. 1-3), it is clear that it is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation. And that is the first thing the psalmist tells us about King Jesus and about His invincible kingdom. It is very clear from what we’ve just read that it is deadly, foolish, and even audacious to revolt against the Lord—but let’s not make the mistake of leaving this passage in the dust of ancient time, because anytime we sin, we are declaring a revolt against the Lord as well! This idea of attempting liberation from the rule of God has been mankind’s central problem since the beginning – and it never ends well. Adam and Eve took the fruit because it was a “delight to the eyes,” so that they “could be like God.” The real sin was not mere disobedience, but idolatry of their own selves. They wanted to be like God, and they didn’t want the rule of God over them. And this is what happens when sin is committed. It is saying: “Let me be free from slavery to God!” It is declaring an insurrection upon God—declaring independence from God, saying by our actions that we do not need Him. Sin isn’t a mistake, it isn’t an accident, or a blooper. Sin is a willing revolt against an invincible King. And the utter foolishness of it is seen in that, when we sin, we are standing upon the very ground which God created and sustains – having a beating heart, breathing lungs, and a working mind – all of which are completely owned and operated by God! Sin is foolish, for we are using what God has created against Him. Sin is deadly and audacious foolishness.

Since the Fall, we have been in a revolt against God and His rule—it is deeply threaded within the very fabric of our existence to rebel against God and His dominion over us. We want to rule, we want to be in control of our lives and our decisions. The only solution to this problem is to have God be Lord over us again—and this happens through the gospel. This happens as God uses His anointed King Jesus to conquer the rebellion in our hearts and have us joyfully submit to Him by His grace. But even as believers today, when we sin against God it is a revolt. Do you view your sin that way? Pray that God would help you view your sin as a revolt against Him. We could certainly use more help in viewing our sin for what it really is. And the more we are sanctified through the word of God, as the Holy Spirit applies it to us, we will naturally view sin as “exceedingly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). Our distaste for sin should continue to grow, so that anytime we come in contact with sin or a tempting situation, we will see it as a bitter poison. If your distaste for sin isn’t growing, it’s because you don’t view it as an attempt to overthrow the rule of God on your life. It is foolish to revolt against the Lord, expecting liberation.

II. The Response of the Almighty (2:4-6)

But how does God respond to this? Does God get enraged with anger at their revolt? Does He open up battle plans on a table? Does He worry about the well-being of Israel and Judah? Does God stop their revolt because of the threat it poses to the kingdom which will one day bring forth the Messiah?

Not only is God not bothered, but He laughs:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill” (vv. 4-6).

God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. The psalmists notes that God is unaffected by their revolt and responds with laughter, terror, and confidence in His appointed king.

The psalmist says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” God laughs at them. God scorns and laughs—He is unchanged by their conspiring and plotting. God is He who sits in the heavens—He is in control of all things and He is far above them. He could wipe them out in a second. The ground upon which they stand could swallow them up to Sheol at any time—just as soon as God gave the command for it to do so. So of course, He laughs. 

Not only does He laugh, but “The Lord holds them in derision.” He views them with contempt—a scornful laugh comes from His throne as He sees apostates attempting to throw off His rule over them. The one who sits in heaven is the Master of the universe—He isn’t bothered by a tiny spec of humans on one planet in His universe who attempt to overthrow His rule.

Secondly, God terrifies them by His word. “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury” (v. 5). Instead of being terrified, God terrifies. God speaks and terrifies them when He speaks. Isn’t that amazing? What God does in response to their revolt and uproar is He speaks. When He speaks, the peoples are terrified by His words.

What does God speak? He says, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v. 6). This is the most interesting verse in the passage, in my estimation. I mean, you might expect God to say, “I will make an end to you,” or “My judgment shall quickly come upon you.” You would at least expect some other pronouncement of judgment on the nations as retribution for their plotting against the Lord! Instead, God Himself points to His established king as the very thing that should terrify the nations. What terrifies the nations of the earth is that God has installed His king. The king is God’s solution to the world’s revolt against Him.It is the establishment of this great king that should terrify the nations, it is this king who “is set on Zion, my holy hill.” “Zion” or Jerusalem, was God’s chosen dwelling place. That’s why it’s referred to here (as many other times) as His “holy hill.” Zion is God’s territory—it is the city which God had sanctified by His presence. God wasn’t limited by a city or a hill, or a temple—but He chose to carry out His rule in the world through Israel and through Zion. Zion is truly then, God’s “footstool.”

The nations were right to feel terrified, for God would empower any king who sat on the throne of David—it’s what God promised. The rebellious nations stand no chance against a king who has God on his side. God is not bothered by men’s revolt because of His established King. What is so great about this king? Well, let’s look at vv. 7-9 for that answer.

III. The Rule of the Anointed (2:7-9)

We’ve seen the revolt of the apostates and the response of God – notice now the rule of God’s anointed. Listen to the psalmist in vv. 7-9:

7 I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

What is it that makes this king so great? Because he is God’s anointed who will rule all the earth. This anointed King is God’s Son who will rule the earth by His might. The psalmist interjects to explain the decree which God has spoken to His anointed king-Son and the promises included in it.

The psalmist reaches back into the past and declares: “I will tell of the decree,” meaning it was one which was previously spoken. And it is likely that this decree is a retelling of the decree which God spoke to David in 2 Samuel 7,

“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (vv. 8-16).

In this decree, God promises David that His throne will go on forever. God will be a father to him, and David would be to him as a son. It is this decree which David is recalling, and it has many implications for the Messiah who is truly God’s Son, and who will also sit on David’s throne. And the psalmist is saying here, “I remember this exact decree, and here’s what it said.”

So in this decree, notice first the identity of the anointed in v. 7. “You are my Son,” says the Lord. The anointed king is God’s son. God would father King David as He loved and disciplined him, but this also looks forward to Christ who is God’s Son, His only begotten. Secondly, notice the rule of the anointed. In v. 8, the anointed king is promised worldwide rule and his kingdom shall extend to the ends of the earth: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” God invites the anointed king to just ask of Him and He will make Him the ruler of all the earth. The anointed king will have the nations, the very nations who have rebelled against him—he will have them as his heritage. The ends of the earth shall be his possession. In reality, this worldwide domination points beyond any earthly king because David, Solomon, and all other kings after them failed to do this. It doesn’t mean God’s promise had failed—it means that Someone greater would one day fulfill it completely. And notice finally how this anointed king will conquer all things: “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” He shall break them, and dash them in pieces like pottery. Certainly the might of this king is very great! Again, it is clear that the dominion and rule of this anointed king looks beyond any earthly king. The language used here is elsewhere used in the Bible when talking about God and His judgment, His wrath, and His power. No earthly king will make the ends of the earth his possession. No earthly king will destroy his enemies like pottery—but a heavenly King will. Any nation or person that rebels against this Davidic King, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ—He shall one day be conquered. One day Christ will fulfill completely what is spoken of in this psalm—He will return and claim what is rightfully His, He will dominate the nations. The psalmist is recalling it now as his confidence that his enemies will not prevail over the kingdom of Judah, but it is also a confidence in the future installment of the King of kings who will wipe out all who stand against Him.

Believe it or not, Jesus Christ will one day rule over the United States of America. Some folks like to say that the USA is a Christian nation, but just wait until He comes. He will one day rule in the poorest places of India, He will one day rule over any tyrant such as Kim Jong Un. He will one day terminate ISIS and terrorist groups from the face of the earth. He will one day make every nation, tribe, and tongue His inheritance. He will one day rule and reign from the east to the west, from the north to the south—for He will diminish His enemies with a rod of iron, and He shall break them like pottery smashed on the ground. Revelation 6:15-17 says that this day will be so severe that people would rather be crushed by boulders than to face Jesus: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Sorry if you don’t like it, but this is who Jesus is—a conquering King. He’s not some sissified, needy Jesus who is just begging you to come to Him. He is a judge called Faithful and True who will one day return to bring all things to their rightful place. And for believers today, this speaks much to how we deal with worldliness, worry, persecution, and perspective. If Jesus is coming back to conquer, then this carries many implications as to how we deal with problems in the world today. Here’s a few things Jesus’ return in this psalm means for us today:

1. We should avoid worldliness at all costs. There is no logical sense in building up earthly possessions and being concerned with worldliness, if Jesus is going to make a new world. Certainly, obsession with accumulation of possessions should be avoided because you can’t take it with you after death, but even more so because it will all be destroyed! Jesus warns us about this in Matthew 6, saying that we should not exhaust ourselves in worldliness because there will one day be no world such as the one we are in (Matthew 6:19-21).

2. We should not worry about anything earthly. We have no reason to worry, because everything will one day be in dominion under the rule of Christ, the King (Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6-7). Why worry about things of the earth, when one day, there will be no things of the earth?

3. We should be joyful in persecution. We know nothing of real persecution in the United States, but what persecution we do know – bring it on. Kill us, persecute us, do what you want – you aren’t slowing Him down from destroying you. We as believers literally have nothing to lose. We are soldiers in battle waiting for our king to return—even if we die on the battle field, He is still coming (2 Tim. 3:12).

4. We should have a heavenward perspective. Those of us on Jesus’ side should earnestly look forward to that day when He returns (Titus 2:13). We should have a perspective looking towards heaven, as we wait for Him to return in the same way He was taken up (Acts 1:11). But for those who don’t know Him, look toward Him in repentance and faith! If you do not, your fate is so terrible and dire that no description in language can capture what you will suffer.

This is the rule of the anointed and nobody will be able to stand in His way.

IV. The Recommendation to the Apostates (2:10-12)

Finally in this psalm we see a recommendation from the psalmist to those who revolt. The foolishness of their revolt has already been explained in this entire psalm. A man is a fool who revolts against the Lord because He has an installed and powerful King, His anointed one, who will conquer not only those who rebel, but the whole world. So then, the kings who revolt should be afraid, they should abandon their rebellion, they should be terrified that God has a mighty, invincible king who will conquer them with one swipe of a sword. So, the psalmist gives them a warning:

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (vv. 10-12).

It is clear that the only appropriate response to God’s king is service and submission. The psalmist concludes with a warning for the apostates—they should serve and submit to the Lord. First of all, he exhorts them to be wise and be warned. They would be wise to heed the warning of this psalm. “O kings, be wise,” he says, and “be warned, O rulers of the earth” (v. 10). Instead of foolishness, the wisest thing to do would be to view this decree as a warning, and heed it with all their might. Secondly, they are exhorted to serve the Lord: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (v. 11). They should serve Him rather than seek to subdue Him. And they should “rejoice with trembling,” taking pleasure in God while fearing Him for who He is. And finally, they are called to take refuge in the Lord Himself. Now this is where the psalm is at its highest peak. They are exhorted: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Embrace the Son if you are among those who revolt against the Lord and His anointed! Embrace Him or face Him! Notice this is the Son of God, indicated by His powerful wrath and the capitalization of the word son. Obviously, this is no ordinary king, if His wrath is quickly kindled. This is a Son who can be angry, cause His enemies to perish, and have His wrath stirred and kindled. They would be very wise to embrace Him. The psalmist concludes with a final invitation saying, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him!” Instead of revolting foolishly, take refuge in Him! 

Let me encourage you, if you are not submitting right now to the lordship of Jesus Christ, these are His terms of peace – take refuge in Him right now. Surrender to Christ if you haven’t—instead of revolting against Him, take refuge in Him. Turn to Him right now.

Conclusion: He Is Building a Coffin For Your Empire

Flavius Julianus was a Roman Emperor for a short period of time, and he was known for reinstating pagan worship which had been abolished under the rule of Constantine. With great fury, Flavius opposed the followers of Christ and he viewed them, in his own words, as “powerful enemies of our gods.” With fanatical resolve, he sought to remove Christianity from the face of the earth. But he never realized the stupidity of his endeavor. Still, history records that Flavius persecuted many Christians and took the lives of many who stood for their faith in Christ. One day Flavius was taunting a Christian believer named Agaton, in an attempt to entertain some of his friends. With so many Christians being put to death, the emperor asked him, “So, how is your carpenter of Nazareth? Is he finding work these days?” Without hesitation Agaton replied, “He is perhaps taking time away from building mansions for the faithful, to build a coffin for your Empire.”

Agaton was right—centuries have passed and the Roman Empire has risen and fallen, but only one kingdom has withstood time, persecution, bloodshed, heresies, splits and divisions—and it is the invincible kingdom of God, ruled by King Jesus. And the Son of God still takes time away from building mansions to build coffins for those who reject His lordship. This is a rebellion you don’t want to be in.

It is foolish for man to revolt against the Lord because of the invincible and impending kingdom of Jesus Christ—instead of revolt, one should submit to and take refuge in Jesus.

Do you understand that you sin is a revolt against God? Do you view it that seriously? If not, pray that God would help you to see that way. As you get more into the word, by His grace, God will increase your hatred and sorrow for sin. Are you expectantly awaiting the return of Jesus Christ? Is the promise of His return affecting your perspective on worldliness, worry, and persecution? And do you know Him today as your Savior and Lord? Are you taking refuge in Him this day? If not, realize you are a sinner, turn away from sin once and for all, and place your faith in Jesus Christ. He is a conquering King whose kingdom is invincible – don’t reject His lordship over you, lest you wind up in a coffin He has prepared for your empire.

Understanding Spiritual Riches (1 Cor. 1:4-6)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY in September 2017:

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you” (1 Corinthians 1:4-6, ESV)

Riches Beneath Our Feet

There is a large gold mine over in Queensland, Australia known as the Mount Morgan gold mine. Mount Morgan was a copper, gold and silver mine in Australia and it was the largest gold mine in the entire world at one time. To give you some perspective, they mined for copper, gold, and silver from 1882 until 1981—and during that time the mine yielded about 262 tons of gold, 37 tons of silver, and 387,000 tons of copper.

Before discovery of the gold mine, there were people who lived on the mountain’s barren surface. They were the original land owners, and they lived very poor lives. If you look at pictures of Mount Morgan you can clearly observe that, and see that whoever lived there obviously had a hard life of poverty—there isn’t a lot of good farm land, vegetation, or trees. And so for many years, the original land owners lived in deep poverty there. Even though the vast wealth of the gold mine was completely out of sight to them, it was beneath their feet the whole time.

If they had only discovered the wealth they already owned, they wouldn’t have lived impoverished and poor lives—instead they would have been wealthy, enriched, and supplied throughout the rest of their lives and the generations which would follow them. The only thing that separated them from living a rich life was their failure to discover the riches they already had in their possession.

And you know, I find that many of us as believers are in a similar situation. We are not living spiritually wealthy lives because we have failed to understand that God has made us spiritually rich in Christ. He who has ears to hear, let him hear that it is a serious mistake when we as believers fail to understand that we have been made spiritually rich.

Scripture teaches that God has given us a wealth and abundance of spiritual riches and resources to enable us to live the Christian life—to live lives which are spiritually wealthy to His glory. But often times, we are either completely unaware that God has done this for us, or we don’t believe it because it is so unheard of. When was the last time you heard a sermon on this? When was the last time you heard someone preach on how we have been given great spiritual riches to live a spiritually rich life?

Most of the time, we are struggling along in our Christian lives. Our devotional life, evangelism, discipleship, and church involvement would be more appropriately called poor than rich. But the truth is—God has made believers spiritually rich at conversion. He has given us everything we need to live a spiritually wealthy life. He has given us everything we need to be rich in pleasing Him, rich in glorifying Him, wealthy in magnifying His name. Christ did say, “How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23), but it is just as true that those who are in the kingdom of God are very wealthy spiritually. The only problem is, we often fail to discover the spiritual riches which are beneath our feet—spiritual riches which God has given to us that we therefore have in our possession.

Spiritual riches, if you don’t know, are good things which God has given to us through Christ which either affect who we are or how we live. There are spiritual riches pertaining to who we are—our identity; and there our spiritual riches pertaining to how we live—things which God gives us to obey Him in this life. There are spiritual riches or blessings concerning who we are (Ephesians 1:3-13), and there are spiritual riches or blessings concerning how we live (2 Peter 1:3).

Paul speaks of the spiritual riches which concern our identity in Ephesians 1 saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v. 3, emphasis mine). Paul goes on to mention several of these spiritual blessings as they relate to who we are. Believers are chosen by God, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, recipients of His grace, and sealed for eternity (vv. 4-14).

The apostle Peter best captures the idea of spiritual riches which concern our living in 2 Peter 1 saying, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (v. 3). The power of God has given us everything which pertain to our lives and our godliness. We have all spiritual riches we need to live obediently for the Lord. And those riches—those good things which God has given to believers to enable them to live the Christian life—these are precisely Paul’s concern in this passage. It is clear that Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that God has made them spiritually rich at conversion. After describing the fundamental truths to which they needed to return (1:1-3), he now calls them to understand yet another fundamental truth—namely, that they are made spiritually rich.

The Corinthians certainly thought themselves to be rich—but in the wrong sense of the word. They considered themselves self-sufficient, rich in worldly things—and certainly they were. They were wealthy, no doubt—wealthy in sin, disorganization, division, strife, and disunity—they were wealthy in sin and poor in obedience. And so in this passage, Paul calls them to understand and comprehend once again how God has made them spiritually rich. They needed to understand this and we need to understand today that we have been made spiritually rich at conversion. We will spend all of our time together here discovering, believing, defending, and applying that truth. And we will see in this passage:

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)
II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)
III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

Let us discover this morning how exactly God has made us spiritually rich.

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)

If the Bible states clearly that we have been spiritually enriched, then how have we been spiritually enriched? Where do spiritual riches come from and how do they come to us? Clearly, everything has an origin. If the Bible is true in saying that we have been “blessed [in] Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3), and here that we have been “enriched in him,” then where does “every spiritual blessing” come from? How have we been made so rich in spiritual things? According to Paul, the answer is the grace of God. This is the first thing we need to comprehend—we need to understand the source of spiritual riches—the grace of God. Every spiritual blessing we have, and every spiritual possession we own is owing completely to the grace and kindness of God which comes to us through Jesus Christ. That’s the first thing Paul says in the passage—it’s clear that he first wants the Corinthians to understand that the grace of God is the source of all their spiritual riches and blessings, and also that this very grace has been given to them as well.

The grace of God is where it begins—the grace of God is the fountain from which every other gift of God to us flows. The grace of God to us is like a waterfall where a great amount of valuable treasures were dropped. Like a man in a forest who follows the upward path of a stream in the morning, finding valuable gold and silver, as he walks for miles towards the source of the stream, filling up his pockets as he goes. The stream carries the treasures downward, as they get caught on the bank where the man can pick them up—but they are all coming from the waterfall where all the treasures were dropped. If the man is wise, he will not only collect all he can possibly contain in his pockets, but he will travel onward until he finds the source of the treasures floating downstream. So it is with spiritual blessings and riches. We too will be wise to discover where they are coming from, while at the same time appreciating the ones we have picked up along the way. So where do spiritual riches and blessings come from? Paul says, “the grace of God in Christ,” which itself has also been given to believers. Let’s see how this idea is developed in this verse—let’s read it one more time: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (v. 4).

First, observe here that Paul gives continual thanks to God for the Corinthians. Paul begins this passage by expressing thanksgiving to God, and this is his usual pattern—he does this in just about every letter. It’s really a matter of perspective—before Paul deals with problems in the churches to whom he is writing, and before he gives them instructions, he thanks God for them. They are believers just like he is, no matter their problems or issues, and so Paul gives thanks for at least that reason. And he says here, “I give thanks to my God always for you.” Also, gratitude is not just an attitude here—thanks is actually something which Paul gives. He says, “I give thanks.” Thankfulness and gratitude is something that he gives to someone—who is that someone? He says, “to my God.” Paul gives thanks to God—not to the Corinthians. His thanksgiving is directed towards his God, not towards the Corinthians or anyone else. And notice also the frequency of Paul’s giving of thanks towards God.  He gives thanks, “always for you.” He is continually thankful to God for them.

But how can Paul possibly be thankful for such a twisted church? I mean, the whole letter itself is a correctional epistle written to a church that was in urgent and dire need of correction. They were divided over leaders, sexually immoral, misunderstanding marriage, mistreating the Lord’s Supper, failing to comprehend the fullness of Christ’s resurrection, and a whole host of other problems! What reason could there possibly be in Paul’s mind to give thanks to God for this Corinthian church? Because “of the grace of God that was given [them] in Christ Jesus.” That’s the reason why Paul gives thanks, found in the last part of v. 4 here. Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthians, not because they are living right or because of anything they have done, but because of what God has done. And what God has done is give them His grace in Christ. He states here that the grace of God has been given to them in Christ Jesus—that is, the saving and sustaining grace of God. This grace has been given to them—they have received it. Also note that it is the grace of God in Christ Jesus, that which is because of Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus. This grace is in Christ. And since there is nothing but time separating us from the Corinthians, we can be sure that this grace of God in Christ has also been given to us. We too have received the grace of God in Christ, because He has made it accessible to us. The Spirit enables us to receive grace daily to obey God, and it is because of Jesus, and for the purpose of serving Jesus.

That which we and the Corinthians have received is the grace of God. That’s the reason Paul is thankful—because the “grace of God” has been given to believers. The word “grace,” here in the Greek means the favor and kindness of God. It is the undeserved kindness of God toward us. It is the outpouring of the mercy of God through Christ toward the undeserving. This grace is of God—it is related to God in every way conceivable. It is of God He alone is the only possessor of it, and it is of God because it comes from Him. Probably the best way for us to understand the grace of God is to look for a second at how Paul describes the grace of God in this passage as a whole. In this passage, he describes the grace of God not as an abstract object which sits by itself, but something which does. For Paul, the grace of God does things in the lives of believers. This grace of God saves, sustains, and secures.

The grace of God saves. Clearly, this is the emphasis in the passage we are considering (vv. 4-6). All of these things in the passage are past tense, implying that Paul is talking about a past act of God’s grace—which would be salvation. Notice, the grace of God has been “given,” it is through that grace that the Corinthians “were” enriched, and proof of that enrichment is that they received the gospel—the testimony about Christ was “confirmed among them.” When you are saved from the penalty of sin, and regenerated to new life, it is because God saves you by His grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

The grace of God sustains. It is also by this same grace that you continue to be saved. God saves you daily from the presence and power of sin by His grace—it is the kind act of God to give you His Spirit to be obedient to Him and overcome sin. This is what the Bible calls sanctification. The grace of God ensures and enables your obedience as you continue to live as a Christian. The grace of God supplies you with everything you need to continue being saved. You have everything you need through His grace, as you are waiting on the next big event in redemptive history: “you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7).

The grace of God secures. The grace of God secures you for eternity. It is by this same grace that you are saved, sustained, and secured for an eternity with God. Paul says that Jesus “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). He will keep you to the end—you will persevere because of the grace of God.

Knowing that the grace of God exists is enough reason to get excited and praise God, but even more, Paul says that we have been given this grace. “I [thank my God] because of the grace of God that was given you.” Even though the grace of God itself is the source of all spiritual riches and blessings, even this grace itself has been given to believers. Again, we are certain that Paul is referring to salvation here, considering the past-tense language here. This grace was given. “Was,” used as a reference to a time in the past, and “given,” the past-tense rendering of the verb “give,” or “to give.” Paul is recalling the Corinthians’ conversion and regeneration—when they came to faith in Jesus Christ. Even more to that point, how this grace was given to believers is explained in the last part of this verse.

This grace was given in Christ Jesus. The way in which God’s grace is both expressed and received is in Jesus Christ. God expresses and shows His kindness towards us “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), but we also receive God’s grace in Jesus because He made it available to us, and secured it to us as well. In God’s giving of His Son Jesus as the atonement for our sins, He gives us His grace. By giving us Jesus, He has given us His grace.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that they have been given the very source of all spiritual riches and blessings—and we need to understand this as well. We have not only collected treasures along the stream, but we have been given the waterfall from where all treasures flow. This means that we have everything we need to be pleasing to God. Do you believe that today? Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? Are you rejoicing in that truth this day? Every time you do something good for God, remember that it’s because you have been given the source of everything good—God’s grace. It is all owing to His grace. It is splendidly explained in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

We need to understand the source of spiritual riches, the grace of God—which we have been given in Christ.

II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)

If the grace of God is how we have obtained spiritual riches, then what spiritual riches have we actually obtained? If we have found and claimed great treasures at the waterfall of God’s grace, then what are they? In what ways have we been spiritually enriched?

In v. 5, Paul explains this. We have been spiritually enriched both generally and specifically. He says that we have been spiritually enriched in every way, but specifically in our speech and knowledge. There are ways that God has enriched and supplied all of us, and there are ways that God has enriched and supplied some of us. This too is something we need to contemplate—we need to understand the content of spiritual riches. In this verse, Paul deals with what we’ve been spiritually enriched with.

He unfolds exactly what ways the grace of God has been manifested among the Corinthian believers. This is fitting, because the grace of God does more than save, it supplies. This is what the grace of God does when it is given to believers. You are not just saved, regenerated, and given new life at conversion. You are also supplied with spiritual riches to live the Christian life—God gifts you in various ways to bring Him glory in your Christian life. Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, [in] that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge” (vv. 4-5). The Corinthians were made rich in general ways and specific ways to be obedient to God, and so it is true of us as well.

First, they were made rich generally. The first way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich –  generally. Paul says, “in every way you were enriched in him,” denoting a general enrichment. And in the last half of the verse he spells out some specific ways, “in all speech and in all knowledge.” In the first part of v. 5, he says that believers have been enriched in every way. In everything believers are enriched. There isn’t one area of our lives that God has left in spiritual poverty. God has made us spiritually rich exhaustively—He has given us everything we need to be spiritually wealthy in everything. And again, this has already occurred – “you were” enriched in him. In every way and in everything, we were at one time in the past enriched. The word enriched here means “to be made rich.” There are only three occurrences of it in the NT, this being one of them—it was not a term Paul used often. One example is in 2 Corinthians 9, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11). Paul speaking there of how God will enable the church to give financially to God’s work (see also 2 Cor. 6:10).

So generally speaking, every believer has everything he needs to be obedient to God—all believers everywhere have been made rich in Christ. We have all we need in Him. But also, there are some ways that God has specifically made believers rich—ways in which God has enriched believers as individuals—ways we may or may not have in common. The second way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich is specifically. This is definitely something the Corinthians misunderstood—for Paul deals with specific spiritual gifts at length in this letter. And here he notes two ways that the Corinthians have been specifically enriched. Paul likely chose to point out these two precise gifts because these were precisely the cause of some of the issues they had in the church. They misunderstood and misapplied these gifts, resulting in problems, and Paul is calling them back to understand the true purpose of them.

First, in their speaking they were enriched. They were able to prophesy, speak in tongues, and do many other miraculous things through their words. Again, they clearly abused this gift or Paul wouldn’t have dealt so much with clarifying its use and nature in chapter 14. Second, in their understanding they were enriched. They were a wise people, discerning, able to understand great truths. They were able to tell forth the truth (in all speech) and to grasp/understand the truth (knowledge). We too have been made spiritually rich in ways applicable to all, and in ways applicable to some. Paul speaks of those specific ways in chapter 12,

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

I read a story a few years back that may help us understand this truth further. It’s told by Dr. John MacArthur about a wealthy London businessman who lost his son. This man was your typical London business man—drinking hot tea, making deals, carrying around a suitcase, and making lots of money. But one day his son left him for a fuller life—and he had been searching for many years after his runaway son. One afternoon this father was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging for money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar, but there was something strangely familiar about him.

When the beggar approached and asked if the man could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long-lost son. With tears in his eyes and joy in his voice he embraced his son, crying, “A few shillings? You are my son—everything I have is yours!”

How foolish this son was to live like he was poor—he had a wealthy father who wanted to give him everything he had. And how foolish we are to live lives which are spiritually poor, considering that we have a heavenly Father who has said the same to us! There is no fuller life than a life of spiritual wealth—where our life’s greatest pursuit is being rich in obedience to God. We need to understand that we are like this runaway son at times, starving what could be a well-fed spiritual life, but often living as though we have nothing, when we possess everything that matters!

And that is the center of this passage—this is the key thing Paul wants us to understand. You have been made spiritually rich in Christ, given everything you need to glorify God—you should therefore have no excuse for living in spiritual poverty! If we have everything we need, but we live as though we are still in need—what’s the problem? Most of the time it is because we are not accessing it or acknowledging it. We need to access the spiritual resources and riches God has already given us, and we need to know that they exist! And how else do you know you have been made rich in Christ, other than by discovering it in the Bible? Find out from Scripture what kind of riches you have! Ignoring what Scripture says about how you’ve been made spiritually wealthy is like having five million dollars in the bank account, but not knowing it because you never went there to see if you had it! You have everything you need for obedience to God and joy in Christ, but you may not know it because you’ve never went to the Bible to see if you have it! Rest in this promise—you don’t come up with what it takes to be obedient to God, you just use what God has already given you and find out more from Scripture.

We need to understand the content of spiritual riches—that we have been made rich generally and specifically.

III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

We have seen the source of spiritual riches (v. 4), and the content of spiritual riches (v. 5), now I want you to notice in v. 6, the proof of spiritual riches. I’ll be honest with you—I have really struggled in preparing this message, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, the idea of being spiritually rich, having everything we need to live an obedient life—that is not something we speak of very often, is it? I was questioning whether or not I was in the right in preaching such a matter—considering that it is not something we talk about very often. And secondly, look at the majority of our Christian lives. Does it look like we are living rich spiritual lives? Our devotional lives—are they rich and wealthy? Our evangelism and discipleship—is it rich, fruitful, and wealthy? Our churches—are they spiritually rich and abounding with spiritual growth and maturity? The answer is more often no than yes.

With all of these things in mind, it makes a little difficult to believe that we have actually been spiritually enriched at all. With an observant look at how little this idea is taught and preached, and how spiritual poverty seems to be more prevalent than spiritual prosperity—have we really been made spiritually rich? It would seem not. Is there any way we can be sure that we enriched? Can we be assured without even the lightest breeze of doubt blowing upon our hearts that we have been enriched in Christ? Is there any concrete evidence or proof that we have obtained spiritual riches?

Certainly the Corinthians would have had trouble believing they were made rich in Christ. They lived wealthy lives, make no mistake—but not spiritually wealthy lives. They were rich in sin and poor in obedience. So is there any proof that we have been spiritually enriched? There is, and it’s what Paul explains in v. 6. To eradicate any doubt that might be in their mind or ours, Paul presents the impenetrable, solid, and concrete evidence that we and the Corinthians have been spiritually enriched. So to what does Paul direct our attention as the absolute proof that we have been enriched? The fact that we have believed and received the gospel! The way we can be absolutely sure we have been made rich for obedience to God is to reach back into our past and see if we believed the gospel and see if from His precious hand we received salvation. If we have believed the gospel, then we have been given spiritual riches. That is how we know we have been spiritually enriched. Paul says, “[I give thanks to God for His grace given to you in Christ, namely in that you were enriched both generally and specifically] even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.” Paul points to their reception of the gospel as the proof that they have been enriched for spiritual living. If they are saved, they are spiritually rich—it’s as simple as that.

This word testimony in the Greek is similar to the word martyr—someone who dies because they have testified about Jesus, because they have proclaimed Him. This word testimony means witness, this is the witness about Christ—the gospel of Christ—the witness and testimony about Him. The eyewitness account of who He is and what He has done—it is the gospel, the message about Christ. That is what is meant by the phrase testimony about Christ. When you believed the gospel and were saved, you believed the testimony or witness about Christ. So was true of the Corinthians, which is why Paul says secondly that this testimony was “confirmed among [them].” It was confirmed, established, and believed among them. This testimony about Christ wasn’t rejected and it hadn’t hit the surface and moved on—it penetrated their souls, thus enabling them to believe. It was established among them.

When a lawyer wants to prove his point to the jury and to the judge, often times he will call a witness to the stand. You hear and see it all the time: “I’d like to call Johnny Big to the stand, your Honor.” This witness can then testify to the events he saw or the things he experienced, and thus be convincing proof that what the lawyer is saying is true. And Paul in this passage is trying to get the Corinthians and us to understand that we have been made spiritually rich in Christ—and the witness that he calls to the stand is our conversion through the gospel. Paul is saying, “You Corinthians act like spiritual paupers, living like God has withdrawn every spiritual blessing from you, rather than living spiritually rich. Don’t believe me when I say that you have been enriched in Him in every way? Look at what you did when I preached the gospel to you! You believed it and it was confirmed among you—this testimony about Christ was established among you. If you weren’t made spiritually rich, you never would have believed the gospel in the first place! But because you believed the gospel, and God doesn’t leave you like you are, He has enriched you in every way to bring Him glory to the maximum degree in this life!”

If you have believed the gospel, God has made you spiritually rich. Conversely, if God has not made you spiritually rich, perhaps you haven’t believed the gospel. We need to understand the proof of spiritual riches—our receiving of the gospel. If you know at least that much about your Christian life—then that’s all the assurance you need to know that you have been spiritually enriched. Because that’s what God does for Christians—that’s His business.

Conclusion

We are standing on a gold mine folks—let’s dig in. We are basking in a waterfall of treasures—let’s pick them up one by one. We have a wealthy Father who says to us, “Son, everything I have is yours.” The great Scottish Bible expositor Alexander MacLaren once wrote, “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key to the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” Let me just ask you today: If God has made us spiritually rich at conversion, then whose fault is it if we live spiritually poor?

The source of all our spiritual riches is the grace of God, and we have also received this grace. Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? The content of our spiritual riches consists in being made spiritually rich both generally and specifically. Are you accessing the spiritual riches you already have, such as the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Scripture? And are you acknowledging the many other spiritual riches yet to be discovered in the Bible? Additionally, we have absolute proof that, at the moment of our conversion, these spiritual riches were secured to us. Do you believe it?

By God’s grace in Christ, may we understand truly that we have been made spiritually rich.

The Historic, Messianic, and Humble Birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-7)

This message was originally delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on the 9th day of December 2015:

Christmas: A Christ-Celebration

Christmas is a pretty big deal. It’s the biggest celebration of the year with decorations of lights, Christmas trees, wreaths, garland, candles, ribbons, and much more. It is a time of buying, wrapping, and giving gifts. We have foods that celebrate Christmas and colors that celebrate Christmas. There is even an entire genre of music dedicated to celebrating Christmas. And while it is true that the majority of the celebratory elements of Christmas have pagan origins, it doesn’t mean Christians today can’t celebrate Christmas. John Piper said recently,

“So my counsel is to give all your efforts to making your children as happy as they can possibly be with every kind of surprise that is rooted in the true meaning of Christmas. Let your decorations point to Jesus. Let your food point to Jesus. Let your games point to Jesus. Let your singing point to Jesus. Out-rejoice the world, out-give the world, out-decorate the world, and let it all point to Jesus.”¹

In any case, we should celebrate during this Christmas season. What happened Christmas night has never happened before, and there will never be anything like it again. It was the day that Jesus entered into human history. Christmas at its epicenter is a celebration of Christ. In fact, that’s what the word Christmas actually means. It is made up of two words: Christ and Mass. Christ meaning Messiah, and mas or Mass meaning a celebration or festival. Christmas is a Christ celebration. 

But why celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus entered into human history. We will see in our passage of Scripture for today exactly why we should celebrate. In this passage, the author of the third Gospel gives us a brief account of the day that Jesus entered the world. It is the Christmas story which is found in Luke’s Gospel, and it is cause for great rejoicing. We will see that the birth of Jesus was historic, messianic, and humble. And we will see the great implications this has for God’s plan of salvation. So let’s read the text:

The Text: Luke 2:1-7

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

I. The Birth of Jesus Was Historic (2:1-3)

First, we see that Jesus’ birth was historic. There were certain historical circumstances surrounding His birth and entrance into human history. There were actual events, also recorded in extrabiblical literature, which God brought about by His sovereignty. They were things which God orchestrated to ensure that Jesus would be born fulfilling the requirements for being the Messiah. Listen to vv. 1-3:

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town.”

Luke is describing the historical circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. He says that Caesar Augustus issued a decree for all the world to be registered. This decree was for the purpose of assessing taxes. It was tax time, and Caesar decreed that everyone in the Roman world be registered for this taxation. This registration for taxes was for “all the world,” that is, all areas of the world under Roman rule. For the Israelites and the people of Jesus’ day, this was their whole world – Rome dominated most of the territory. The Romans were mighty in power then and they continued to be many centuries later of course. But God was mightier in power, and He used this decree for His own purposes (as we shall see later).

Apparently, this was the first taxation when a man named Quirinius was governor of Syria. According to history, he was an administrator and a soldier who was usually victorious in his battles. And in v. 3 we read that everyone was submissive to this taxation: “And all went to be registered, each to his own town.” This taxation required Jews to travel back to their ancestral homeland. They would have to go to their own city to be registered. So in order to obey the law, Jews would need to go back to their homelands where they were born and raised to register for the taxation. It is important to take note of this because Mary is about to give birth, and she is not in Bethlehem where Jesus was supposed to be born. Micah 5:2 promises that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” If Mary gave birth to Jesus anywhere else, then Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah. He must fulfill what had been previously spoken about Him. You see, Mary was apparently in Nazareth with Joseph. Nazareth was her hometown: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:26-27a). Mary is about to give birth to the supposed Son of God, but they are in Nazareth. If her water breaks in Nazareth, then the Christmas story no longer exists, there can be no Messiah, and God’s promise would have failed; the people of Israel would need to keep waiting for the real Messiah. That’s why the taxation is so pressing for making sure that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem—Joseph would have gone to his hometown to register for the tax. And where would he need to travel in order to register for the tax? Bethlehem. That’s what we happening next. Joseph goes to Bethlehem with Mary right before she gives birth, and ends up giving birth to Jesus in the exact place where the Messiah was prophesied to be born.

So what we have in vv. 1-3 are the historical circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. He was born in real time just like any of us. We were all born at a certain year, when a certain president was in office, when certain things were taking place. If a baby were to have a biography written about his birth today, it might go something like this: “__________ was born when Barack H. Obama was president in 2016, nearing the end of his presidency because Donald Trump won the election.” Jesus was born in history. God was moving Caesar to issue that decree so that Jesus would be born in His prophesied birthplace. God was using history for His story.

II. The Birth of Jesus Was Messianic (2:4-5)

So we’ve seen that the birth of Jesus is historic (2:1-3), but secondly we see that Jesus’ birth was messianic. He was born under several circumstances that would make Him the Messiah. We see in vv. 4-5 that the baby in Mary’s womb would be the long-awaited Messiah who would save God’s people:

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”

Luke now focuses on the family of the child to be born: Mary and Joseph. They leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem, because that was Joseph’s hometown. Joseph is compliant with the decree, and goes back to his ancestral hometown to register for this taxation. And he takes Mary with him on his trip. The mode of transportation is not stated—either they walked, rode donkeys, or took a caravan up to Bethlehem—but in any case, he and pregnant Mary went to Bethlehem.

It is interesting to see that Luke emphasizes messianic themes in describing their journey towards Bethlehem. They went to the “city of David,” and Joseph was “of the house and linage of David.” Why even point that out? Because somewhere down the line, Joseph is related to David. If you were in the lineage of David, it was considered royal—a privilege. David was Israel’s greatest king, and for those who knew the Old Testament, they would have known that the Messiah was prophesied to come from David’s family. He would be born in David’s royal lineage. The Messiah would be the seed of David, He would be David’s great grandson. Listen to these clear testimonies:

“And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13-14).

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-2).

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jer. 23:5-6).

It is palpable that this Messiah-Redeemer-Savior will be born in David’s royal lineage. And who would be Joseph’s son? Jesus. He wouldn’t be Joseph’s son by intimate conception, but he would be his son by divine conception. If Joseph marries Mary, then Jesus would be born in David’s royal lineage.

So, they leave Nazareth and are now in this place called Bethlehem, which is the city of David. They went because this was Joseph’s city—he was of the “house and lineage of David.” They still weren’t married, for Luke says that Joseph went with “Mary his betrothed.” Their marriage had not yet fully consummated. They were still only pledged to be married.

Now, she was not required to be registered with him, but she goes with him anyway. Of course, no couple would want to be separated at such a crucial point in their relationship. So they went together to the city of David to register for the census. Jesus’ birth was about to be messianic. If He was going to be born in Bethlehem, He would be the long awaited Savior who would suffer for sin and bring salvation to God’s people.

III. The Birth of Jesus Was Humble (2:6-7)

We have seen that the birth of Jesus was historic (2:1-3), and that the birth of Jesus was messianic (2:4-5), now finally we shall see that Jesus’ birth was humble. He was born under very humble conditions—as a helpless baby in a manger. Luke concludes the narrative of Jesus’ birth in this way:

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

When they arrived in Bethlehem, it was time for Mary to deliver. She was having contractions, and her water broke. They had better find a local hospital, or an inn (which was a public motel), or somewhere to give birth to the Son of God. They had better let everyone know what’s about to happen. They better roll out the red carpet. But they didn’t—none of that happens.

Jesus was born in very humble circumstances, as a helpless, crying baby in a manger. The time came for her to give birth, says Luke, and she gave birth to her firstborn. Jesus is called here her “firstborn son,” signaling that He would have all the benefits of an inheritance. The firstborn son was always given the family inheritance. That is yet another important detail suggesting that He would receive the benefits of Joseph’s royal lineage. It also indicates that she would have other children after Jesus was born (see Matthew 13:55-56).

Once He was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths. These were pieces and strips of clothes bound together, believed to keep the limbs of a child straight. They were wrapped around newborns to help their limbs grow correctly. And she laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the public motel, the inn. The manger, which was an animal feeding trough was the first King-size bed there ever was. This was not a bright and beautiful night, as depicted by many of our Christmas cards today. It would have been dark, smelly, and unsanitary. The birth of the Son of God doesn’t get any more humble than that.

If God has been sovereignly orchestrating the circumstances surrounding the entrance of Jesus into human history, then why didn’t He have a royal place for Jesus to be born? God was clearly working behind the scenes to get Caesar to issue a decree. He was obviously ensuring that Mary and Joseph would be in a relationship, and eventually go to Bethlehem – so why didn’t God prepare a royal throne upon which Jesus could be born? Because the manger was not outside of God’s sovereign decree.

God chose that manger as the place for Jesus to be born. It was a demonstration of His humility—God became a man and took on flesh. Though He was God, He took nothing for Himself—not even an appropriate birthplace. Paul expounds on this in Philippians when he writes,

“Though he [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

Conclusion

The birth of Christ was historic, messianic, and humble. Just as God has been in control of this world since the beginning, God was in control of the circumstances surrounding His birth. The entrance of sin in the world didn’t throw off God’s plan of salvation – His plan to eradicate sin happened through the entrance of Jesus in the world. Rome’s crucifixion of Jesus didn’t throw off God’s plan of salvation – God’s plan of salvation in Jesus started with a decree issued from Rome. Having no royal place to be born didn’t thwart God’s plan of salvation – He was laid in a borrowed manger at His birth, and He was laid in a borrowed tomb at His death. In God’s sovereign plan, there was a time for Jesus to be born and there was a time for Jesus to die.

God came to earth that wonderful Christmas night so that He would grow up, live the perfect life, and die in our place on a cross, satisfying God’s wrath against us because sin. Then he would raise from the dead on the third day, and anyone who trusts in Him can be saved and have eternal life. Let us celebrate this historic, messianic, and humble Jesus this day. Let everything today be a Christ-celebration.


  1. “Rethinking Santa,” article by Tony Reinke on December 13, 2013; accessed December 24, 2016. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/rethinking-santa

You’ve Got Questions: What is the Purpose of Marriage?

Marriage is among the most weighty, yet heart-warming teachings in the Bible. Many people do not perceive it to be this way, but marriage presents theological truths in ways that nothing else can.  And despite the attempts in our culture today to redefine marriage, God has established the standards for marriage, with its many purposes. From these purposes, it can be easily seen that any attempt to redefine marriage by any other standard will fail and cannot legitimately be called marriage. Since God created and ordained marriage, we are not the determiners of what is right and wrong in marriage—God is. So then, among these purposes for marriage revealed in the Scriptures are:

Procreation

One of the most important purposes for marriage is procreation, that is, populating the earth. God says in Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth . . .” Necessary for populating the earth is a man’s seed and a woman’s womb. This is because God created man and woman to complement each other in every way, and through sexual intercourse, children are borne to men and women (Psalm 127:3-5). This is one of the foundational purposes of marriage.

Companionship

When God finished His creation work, the author of Genesis says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31a). Something interesting happens when God takes Adam and puts him in the garden to “work and keep it” (2:15). We read, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (v. 16). Notice that God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. So God made Eve from Adam’s rib and Adam liked what he saw! Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (v. 23). Then, the author states that the very existence of man and woman mandates marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). So one of the purposes for marriage is companionship. God created man to be in companionship with woman. This is another way they complement each other. God’s purpose in marriage is lifelong companionship—being in union with another human who shares your cares and burdens, laughs and tears.

Family

A third purpose for marriage is family. Many people do not take this into consideration, but family is God’s idea. Malachi 2:15 demonstrates this purpose, perhaps better than any other passage of Scripture. Malachi says, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring” (2:15a). One purpose of marriage is to create a stable home in which children can grow and thrive. Marriage should create an environment where a child can be taught, loved, disciplined, and grow in the faith. If family were not God’s plan, the church would lose its relevance and would likely not exist, for it is “the family of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

Sexual Purity

A fourth purpose for marriage is for sexual purity. In our world today, as in Bible times, sexual temptation runs rampant. The Bible says that the ultimate cure for sexual immorality is marriage: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2, emphasis mine). There are temptations all around us, and because of this (not being the only reason) men should seek wives, and women should seek husbands. Our sexual desires should be fulfilled by our spouse. This is because sex within the bounds of marriage is honorable and right in the Lord’s sight: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4).

The Gospel

This is the grandest purpose of marriage. This is where the Bible’s teaching on marriage is at it’s highest peak. According to the Bible, the purpose of marriage is to represent Christ’s unbreakable, covenant love for His church, the Bride of Christ. Paul says in Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25). This statement is doubly informative. First, it tells us how husbands should love their wives. They should love their wives like Christ loved the church. Second, it tells us how Christ loved the church. Here, marital love informs Christ’s covenant love, and Christ’s covenant love informs marital love. That is, the way a husband loves his wife is how Christ loves the church, and the way Christ loves the church is how husbands should love their wives. This tells us that, just as a husband has an exclusive, unbreakable love for His wife, so Christ has an exclusive, unchanging, unbreakable love for His church. And this theological truth only works with a Bride and Groom (Rev. 19:7-8). Anything that seeks to redefine that standard for marriage is shattering the greatest picture of all: God’s own love for us in the gospel. That’s why marriage cannot be redefined.

Those are the fundamental purposes for marriage as revealed in the Scriptures. No legal document or equality-rally can thwart God’s purposes for His divine ordinance. He alone has authority to say what is right and wrong in marriage. We see from these what we should pursue in our own marriages, and if we are engaged, what we should prepare for.