Pastors’ conferences are a great time to get some spiritual food for my soul. But, I have to admit…there is nothing like being back at CLF for a Sunday gathering. I love our church. I’m amazed at the grace and mercy that God has shown us through the years. Through times where we’ve metaphorically stubbed our toes to the times when, quite frankly, I made mistakes as a leader…God has been really kind. There is something marvelous and mundane about the regular gathering of the local church. It’s when God uniquely meets His people; when we stir one another to love and good deeds; and when we worship our great God together. Marvelous…mundane…and it was great to be back at church after a week at the Sovereign Grace Pastors’ Conference.
Now, Sunday had a couple of things working against me (or in my favor)…1) I was coming off of the pastors’ conference, where my soul was fed really well by the preaching. In a future post, I’ll give you links where you can find the conference messages, but the 3 that really stood out to me and strengthened me were from H.B. Charles, Jeff Purswell, Josh Blount. For those of you interested in the church’s response to social justice, I highly recommend Josh’s message. If you just want to worship God, listen to H.B.’s. And if you want to hear a message about team ministry, I would recommend Jeff’s sermon. My heart was filled with biblical truth and some of the things I heard were so confirming/challenging that I had to refrain myself from using much of that material in my sermon. 2) Colossians 1:28 is a life-ministry verse for me. I was jealous (or zealous) to preach that at CLF. When I studied this text, the week before last, I was bursting at the seams with what I was learning and seeing. I simply could not wait to preach on Sunday. So, that tells you why, as one person said, I used my “baseball voice”; or as another said, “wow, you were really passionate about that.” Too be honest, I’m just glad that I didn’t preach for 2 hours!
- One thing to be aware of when we’re preaching expositionally (book by book in the Bible), is that many times, a text’s point, will not cover everything that needs to be said about something. For instance, our text yesterday, was primarily about Paul’s ministry to the church and the reasons why he preached the whole counsel of God, centered on Christ. The natural application of that is that one of the major means of grace (tools that God gives us to help us grow) is the public preaching of God’s word, through faithful pastors. However, this does not mean that there are not other tools that God has given us to help us grow…being at church, under the preaching of a faithful pastor, is one of those tools. But God has also given us the written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit; He’s given us mentors/disciplers who personally help us grow in Christ-likeness; He’s given us spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and evangelism. It is important that we utilize all of these. But since the text yesterday was primarily about the preaching of God’s word through faithful pastors, I emphasized that a ton. You cannot take that sermon as a “one-off” sermon disconnected from the rest of Scripture. Utilize all the means that God has given us and if you don’t use them, there’s a chance that growth could be stunted or muted a little bit.
- One point that needs clarifying is the idea of “once saved always saved” and what I shared yesterday of the importance of trusting Christ, day after day and the perseverance of the saints. Someone asked me this after service and it’s a great question. Too often, many have lived by the idea that a person can claim to believe in Christ, yet there be zero evidence of that faith being at work in their hearts, and still be saved. The challenge with this is that in the NT, there is a point made often about “today”, that cannot be missed. Hebrews repeats this phrase often, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” And we saw this Sunday in Colossians 1:23, when Paul wrote, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” If someone has been genuinely converted, saved, and justified before God through Christ…they will continue in the faith, not shifting from the hope of the gospel. However, if they aren’t genuinely converted, saved, and justified before God, through Christ…they will not continue in the faith and they will shift from the hope of the gospel. And when someone shifts from their hope in the gospel…they are not a Christian. So, what about the guy who was a pastor and recently denied his faith in Christ? Did he lose his salvation? I think the biblical response would be: he never had it to begin with. Further, I think the Bible would teach that if that man is genuinely a child of God, at some point in his life (before he dies), the Lord will turn him to Christ. The difference between “once saved always saved” and perseverance of the saints is this: The idea of “Once saved always saved” to some, seems to be the idea that someone can say they believe in Jesus, early in life, yet never show signs/evidence of that and still claim to be saved. Perseverance of the saints says, if someone truly believed in Christ, then they will not only show signs/evidence of that, but they were persevere in their faith, until the day they die. This doesn’t mean they will be perfect, nor does it mean they won’t have some serious struggles along the way. But in the end, they will persevere in their faith.
- Lastly, let me clarify some things that I said about travel-ball parents. Here’s the basic challenge: there are sports (volleyball, soccer, and baseball, in particular) that have this particular claim: being on a travel team will help your son/daughter grow in their ability in the sport and increase their exposure to better competition and potential college opportunities. These statements are true and they are particular challenges in the culture that we live in. My concern, in this past Sundays’ message (but in reality, as a pastor and a dad), is the statement that we make as parents about our priorities and our desires, to our children. Further, if there has been anyone in our church, who’s an advocate for using sports as an avenue for gospel-ministry, it’s been me. However, what has concerned me deeply over the last several years has been the amount of families who are missing many weeks in a row of church for the sake of travel-sports. But this issue also speaks to the amount of time people miss church in the summer due to family vacations/trips or extended time away. So, let me say somethings about these things:
- First, I would ask you, as a parent, it is absolutely critical that you consider what your absence from church says to your children. With so much emphasis today about how many kids are leaving the faith when they get to college, I wonder if we as parents should consider what we’re speaking/teaching to our kids about the priority of the local church, when we’re gone for weeks on end.
- Second, please hear the concern appropriately…I am not saying that people need to be in church every week. Nor am I saying that kids shouldn’t do travel sports, families shouldn’t do vacations, and you shouldn’t have time away. What I am saying is that the ‘normal’ routine of your life, as a Christian and Christian family, should be that when you’re in town, you’re attending your local church.
- Third, I would encourage you to challenge the ‘norm’ in the culture a bit, by asking the coach if your child could miss some Sundays or even come home early from a vacation to be at church on a Sunday. Some coaches will work with you, some will not. However, because we’re normally afraid our kid won’t make the team if we asked such a daring question or they might lose playing time, we don’t ask. You might even cut short your vacation and miss some fun on that Sunday you came home for. But doing these types of things, shows our kids what matters most to us.
- Fourth, this is coming from the coach in me. It is true that your kid will get better competition…it’s true that they’ll possibly get better coaching…it’s even true that they might have better exposure to colleges. But I can tell you from experience and from watching…many who have chosen to commit to the travel sports mindset, don’t get the dreams they hoped and some find kids that are burned out at the end. I know of countless situations like this. The chances of your kid finally making it…are really small. Parents need to think realistically about their kids’ abilities, the amount of money they’re spending on this, and the pressure their kid feels to measure up and perform. To be honest, as a baseball coach, one of the greatest challenges I have as a coach…is travel ball parents.
- Fifth, this is coming from the parent in me. The pressure on us to have our kids in everything we can is impossible to quantify; the pressure to let them experience all of life in their sports is intense; and the pressure to help them be happy are immense. I feel it. But one of the best things we did was stand on our convictions about Sundays. We’ve had our kids on travel teams…with an understanding with the coaches about Sundays. We told them that we would miss most Sundays, but would come to some. What that did was build respect with our coaches, but it did cost our kids some playing time. We paid the same fees, stayed in the same hotels, but came home on Saturday nights. On a few occasions, we arranged to stay over on Sundays. That even offered opportunities to talk about why we missed church! As a parent, the soul of our children is more important than their happiness or athletic prowess. So, let’s make sure we’re caring for that.
- Sixth, there are some who have the conviction that nothing like this should ever be done on Sundays. I don’t. I know that there are times when people are away from church…just not the normal routine. Further, I know that some games are in town, in the afternoon, at a time away from church…I’ve coached in many of those.
- Finally, I think one thing to do is to plan ahead for this. For instance, look ahead at the amount of Sundays you might miss and evaluate if missing that many in a row is good for you and your child. If possible, knowing you might miss several in a row, try to attend a church in the city where your game/tournament/vacation is. Choose to show your kids that Jesus and church matters to you. This is why I said what I said on Sunday. I’m afraid that we are showing our kids that sports and vacations are more important than Jesus and His church. And for me, as a pastor, it’s too important to not speak up about it.
- While, working on Sundays doesn’t fall into the same category, in my mind, I think some of principles might help in moving forward. John Piper spoke about this and I found some of his advice helpful. Here’s the link to that: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/advice-for-christians-who-work-sundays.
- If there are concerns or questions about what I’ve shared here or on Sunday, please don’t hesitate to contact me about that.
Quotes I liked but didn’t include in the sermon:
- “To continue in the faith is to be content with the gospel that first saved and delivered us from spiritual death and estrangement with God, and brought us straightaway to live in his presence, at peace with him. It is to base our lives and our teaching upon the apostolic doctrines of grace. It is for those whose confidence that they are reconciled is in Christ’s work for us, not in Christ’s work in us. It is to be unmoved and immoveable in the face of strong winds of new doctrine, not just when people would deny the apostolic gospel but when, more subtly, they would improve upon it.” Lucas, R. C.
- “His duty to defend and justify his ministry was necessary here for local reasons. It seems almost certain that the new teaching at Colossae attracted favorable notice largely because of the compelling ministry of its leading advocates.” Lucas, R. C.
- “By comparison with such impressive ministry, the work of Epaphras, at least, seemed somewhat pedestrian. We note that Paul thinks it necessary to repeat his commendation of Epaphras in verses 12 and 13 of chapter 4. The ‘I can assure you that he has worked hard for you’ of the lb version neatly catches the sense one gets that Epaphras lacked showy gifts, and that, because of this, he had critics in Colossae only too ready to disparage him.” Lucas, R. C.
- “The gospel therefore is good news of a great future.” Lucas, R. C.
- “And herein lies a word of caution, which is very important to Paul’s present purpose. The visitors spoke unguardedly of God doing a still greater work for the Colossians than had been achieved for them so far. By doing this they failed to distinguish between the fruits of Christ’s reconciling work that are to be enjoyed now, and those which we come to possess only in the life of the world to come. This dangerous tendency to see the present rather than the future as the time when God’s ‘full salvation’ is to be enjoyed, reappears in various forms in the New Testament, most extremely in the claim of certain teachers in Ephesus that ‘the resurrection is past already’. The reason for the ready acceptance of this type of teaching lay in the language of zeal by which it was presented. The unwary could easily come to think that the mark of spirituality was to claim all of God’s gifts now. It is not always easy to understand that part of God’s blessings of redemption are to be possessed now, but that other aspects of redemption remain a matter of promise (e.g. the redemption of the body we wait for, described in Rom. 8:23). it is the language of presumption and folly, not the language of faith, to claim that God has given something which a sober judgment cannot discern in reality.” Lucas, R. C.
- “There is no part of Christian teaching that is to be reserved for a spiritual elite. All the truth of God is for all the people of God.” Bruce, F. F.
From the cheap seats:
- In watching sports with my sons, I find myself laughing in disgust at all the dancing, gyrating, and prancing that current athletes do when they do the jobs they’re paid to do or a job they’re expected to do. Imagine how ridiculous it would look for an accountant to finish a person’s taxes and starting doing the “Dab”…or imagine a house builder pounding nails and jumping up doing the “Dougie”. Just doesn’t make sense to me.
- Running the ball on 1st down 16 out of 20 times for 2.7 yards/carry, is insanity…
- Another reason I can’t stand the Astros: https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066522/ex-astros-pitcher-mike-fiers-team-stole-signs-camera
- I cannot think of a better weekend of just good football drama than this last one…LSU/Alabama; Vikings/Cowboys; then Seahawks/49er games were all incredible games. The highlights from those games were crazy.
Trust in Christ; hope in Christ…today…have a great week.