Thursday, May 16, 2019

“Ephesus: The Loveless Church” (Pt. 1) (May 26, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Ephesus: The Loveless Church” (Pt. 1)

(May 16, 2019)

 

          The famed “Seven Churches” in Revelation 2-3 are “types” of churches as well as literal churches in literal cities, which Jesus addressed.  The issues covered in chapters 2-3 with the seven churches of Asia Minor are characteristics/tendencies of “the church” throughout time.  Each of the letters to these churches are addressed to “The angel of the church of . . .”  The “angel” or “messenger” of the church is, most likely, referring to the pastors of these churches.  The letters are, with only minor exceptions, organized in a particular pattern.  1) A description of Christ based on the vision in Revelation 1.  2) A compliment(s) of the congregation.  3) A rebuke of a problem(s) or spiritual deficiency.  4) A correction of the problem or wrong.  5) A promise to those who overcome.

          The word “love,” and the concept of “love,” saturate our modern culture, but many only partially understand what love really means.  Those who have no real background in church, for instance, do not understand Christian (Christ-like) love.  Further, they do not understand the fact God sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of people, therein demonstrating an incomprehensible love, for which all are undeserved.  The world’s understanding of love is severely limited.  Often lust is mistaken for love.  Frequently sentimentality is mistaken for love.  It is not unusual for warm and fuzzy feelings to be mistaken for love.  Even when there is real/genuine love it often lacks the depth it could have if Christ were involved. 

          Children, beginning at an early age, have an understanding of love that is developing.  It can be comical to listen to how they understand it, but there is also an unmistakable seriousness.  Ideally, children are simultaneously learning love by experiencing love given to them in their home by their parents and other family members.  Simply by observing the love between parents and other adults, children can potentially learn a lot about God’s love for them and people in general.  Children, even with limited knowledge and understanding, would really struggle to understand a “loveless” marriage, knowing it was just not supposed to be that way.  What about a “loveless” church (not loving one another), or a church that no longer loves Christ supremely?  These would seem like glaring contradictions!  Indeed this is a contradiction and it was exactly the problem identified by the first church Jesus addressed - Ephesus.

          In Revelation 2:1-7 we read Jesus’ Words “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.  Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.  But, this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’”

          Ephesus was the most important city in Asia Minor at the time Revelation was written.  It was the center/hub of the worship of Artemis (or Diana; Acts 19:28), who was the goddess of fertility.  It was a strategic commercial center and great seaport much like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, or San Francisco would be today.  Because of these realities, the Apostle Paul had invested a lot of time there.  Nearly 3 years he had spent establishing the church at Ephesus.  By the time of John’s writing, Ephesus had obviously declined from where it was when Ephesians was written and Timothy had been the pastor there.  The second half of vs. 1 clearly points back to the vision of chapter 1 of the book and points directly to the person of Christ.  Christ’s position was to be front and center, or in the place of the most prominence within that church and in all the churches.  Yet, often He is not.  Christ can be crowded out much easier than many realize.

          In verses 2-3 the Lord pays a compliment to the congregation.  As the judge of everything, Jesus particularly mentions that He has evaluated their works, their labor, their patience, and the fact they could not bear those who are evil.  Evidently, they were hard-working people.  They exhibited a great level of patience, or long-suffering.  And, they recognized and dealt with evil, or evil people very swiftly.  Further, they had held firm (persevered) with patient determination all in the name of Christ and had displayed no signs of weariness in doing so.  In modern terms, they were a church very busy with all sorts of programs and activities which were all done in the name of Christ.  They had sincere desire to see great things happen.  Jesus wants that from the modern church.  After all, He commends the Ephesian church for it all.  But, there is just one problem, and beginning in verse 4 we will see what it was.

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

“Jesus and All Authority” (Pt. 2) (May 7, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Jesus and All Authority” (Pt. 2)

(May 7, 2019)

 

          When someone writes a scholarly work or if they make a speech or give a presentation about something they will regularly cite other authoritative voices from the past and/or present.  These citations will include known scholars in their field who have weighed in on the subject.  If it is a book or article there are footnotes with names, book titles, titles of articles, publishers, dates, etc. as they are simply adding to the research and advancing and interacting with the thoughts of those who came before them.  The goal is to offer as much credibility as possible to the argument set forth.

          In Matthew 7:29 we read, in reference to Jesus, “For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”  In New Testament times, scribes would often cite other authorities in order to lend as much credibility to their statements as possible.  In sharp contrast to the common practice of the scribes, Jesus’s words were self-authenticating.  In the body of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had used clear, direct wording to establish authority for His Words.  These were words and concepts previously unknown.  In Matthew 5:20 He says “For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  In 5:22 He says “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment, and whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”  In 5:26 He says “Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”  In 5:28 He says “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  In 5:32 He says “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”

          In John 7:45-52, John records an incident where Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders of the day.  In the midst of the back and forth seen there, we have an astonishing and candid comment made in vs. 46 by officers to the chief priests and Pharisees.  It says “The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’” (John 7:46)  Even those who were not necessarily looking to recognize “authority,” immediately recognized authority coming from Jesus.  It was obvious, undeniable, and right there in plain sight before their eyes and ears!  The authority of Jesus is obvious to anyone who will take an honest look.  There has never been another like Jesus!  The Sermon on the Mount Jesus preached is brimming with all manner of authority.  The implied question for those who first heard it and for anyone who ever reads it is “What will you do now?”  When I consider the response all should have, I cannot help but think of the words of the great hymn written by John H. Sammis, “Trust and Obey.”  The first stanza reads “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way; while we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.  (chorus) Trust and obey, for there’s no better way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  The last stanza reads “Then in fellowship sweet, we will set at His feet, or we’ll walk by His side in the way; what He says we will do, where He sends we will go; never fear only trust and obey.  (chorus) Trust and obey, for there’s no better way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, May 2, 2019

“Jesus and All Authority” (Pt. 1) (May 2, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Jesus and All Authority” (Pt. 1)

(May 2, 2019)

 

          We live in a day and age where authority is highly questioned, and often outright rejected.  Young people are widely being taught to be their own person and reject their parent’s ideas, teachings, and even parental authority itself.  Many are rejecting the authority of elected officials to make decisions, laws, and policies.  Many are rejecting the police and all law enforcement officials because they do not see their “authority” as legitimate or worthy of being obeyed.  Many students are rejecting the authority of their teachers and causing chaos in the classroom and schools fearing lawsuits let students get away with things that would have been unheard of in previous generations.  College professors are frequently defiant of the authority of their supervisors and will say/teach off-the-wall things because they are not respectful of Deans, College Presidents, and Trustees.  Authority, as we knew it in our culture, is all but gone. 

          The single worst rejection of authority we see in our world however; is the rejection of biblical authority.  There are multiple ways this reality has displayed itself.  It is teaching kids things that are contrary to God’s Word. It may be rejecting God outright.  It may be silencing people from talking about their faith, about God, and about what the Bible has to say.  It is rejecting the ethical/moral teachings of Scripture.  The rejection of biblical authority is the root cause of the rejection of all authority.

          The rebellion against, and even total rejection of authority, is nothing new.  It has gone on since the Garden of Eden and continues to this day.  But, what is worse now is that there is no shame, no remorse, and no apologies for the rejection of God and His Word which carries all authority.  Adam and Eve, at least hid from God due to shame, but today there is no shame!  Jesus is, quite frankly, not very well received in modern culture.  Jesus was not very well received by the religious leaders and those in authority in His day either.  The people largely were astonished at the things He said and taught, but many saw their status/position on the line and therefore resisted and even rejected Jesus and His claims to authority.  In Matthew 7:28-29, as the Sermon on the Mount was concluded, we read “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”

          Some were, we are told, astonished at His teaching.  Occasionally someone comes along and they have a special giftedness to get people to listen and even follow them in some way.  We have seen positive examples of this and we have seen negative as well throughout history.  Positive examples include people like Billy Graham, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and other great preachers, evangelists, and even some good politicians and world leaders.  Negative examples would be Hitler, cult leader Jim Jones, and many politicians, world leaders, and certainly false teachers within the church.  The ultimate example of the negative will one day be the “Antichrist” that the Scriptures speak of.

          The Jews were used to a certain type of teaching; a certain pattern of teaching; a certain type of teacher.  They noticed immediately that Jesus did not fit the norm at all – not even close!  As they tried to rationalize it all in their mind, they were somewhat confused because they could only really see things in earthly terms.  We see a clear example of their “earth-centered” pattern of thought recorded for us in Mat. 13:53-58 as Jesus was teaching in His home town of Nazareth.  There we read “Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.   When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son?  Is not His mother called Mary?  And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us?  Where then did this Man get all these things?  So they were offended at Him.  But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’  Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”  It is made clear here the “unbelief” and “rejection” hindered the work of Jesus in that place.  It was not that His power was limited there or anywhere else, but He was not willing to show accompanying signs and wonders to people who were highly skeptical and rejected Him for earthly, worldly, non-sensical types of reasons.

          Today, men are often not “astonished,” not “impressed,” and not concerned with Jesus’ teaching.  Many reject the Bible who have never really read it, much less studied it.  They do not see it as relevant, believable, credible, or important in any way.  They simply dismiss it in favor of believing other things, whether they have solid evidence or not.  “Belief” is a matter of the will.  If we work hard enough we can find a reason or a way to reject almost anything we do not want to believe.  There is a saying which says “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”  This is the truth on display here.

          To know, to really know, Jesus’ teaching is to be utterly astonished!  It is to be blown away in the same way these people were here who heard The Sermon on the Mount.  Some people claim to be Christians, some even go to church, but they are not enamored with the teachings of Jesus.  There is no awe, no “Wow” factor.  The more one studies the Scripture, the more they should potentially be “wowed” by it.  God’s Word is truth, not only for the head, but also for the heart.  Jesus, the Son of God, has all authority.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

“Building on the Solid Rock” (Pt. 2) (April 23, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Building on the Solid Rock” (Pt. 2)

(April 23, 2019)

 

          The foolish, according to Jesus, do not build on the rock but rather on the sand.  Matthew 7:26-27 says “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.”

          Lots of things have been poorly built, carelessly built, and foolishly built over time.  Some have purposefully been built to appear to be something they are not.  Movie props are meant to fool, deceive, or create a fantasy.  They are easily built, erected, and taken down.  They lack the structural integrity of real buildings; however if you look at them “strait-on” they can look like the real thing, especially with the help of camera angles and lighting.  They serve a particular purpose and are then dismantled.  They are not built to stand the test of time or have permanence.  Yet, many lives are built in such a way that they are little more than movie props, facades, or fantasies.

          The foolish, according to Jesus, are the ones who build their lives, their hopes, and their dreams on shifting sand and unstable earth ready to be washed away or blown over when storms come.  They lack resistance, strength, and quality.  They may even be beautiful but they lack the foundation that really gives support and strength.  Storms comes when tragedy strikes, or things occur that cannot be easily explained such as death, illness, job loss, financial loss, home loss, etc.  When many stand before God in final judgment it will then be realized they did not build their lives on Christ and His Words and He will say to them “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”  Lots and lots of people will one day find themselves separated from God for all eternity in Hell who built their lives on something else other than Christ and His Words; the firm foundation.

          There is an important distinction to be made here.  In this parable, Jesus is pointing to His Words; specifically the sermon He has just preached.  There is a call for action in response to His Words.  I like the point that commentator Charles Price makes when he says “The wise man who built his house on the rock was the man who ‘hears these words of mine and puts them into practice’ (vs. 24).  The foolish man who built his house on sand was the man who ‘hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice’ (vs. 26).  The rock is obedience.  The sand is disobedience.” (Charles Price; Matthew: The King and His Kingdom; FOTBS; 148)

          Anyone who has the physical ability to hear can hear, but not all will obey.  Hearing with only physical ears is not enough.  Christ’s Words must be heard with spiritual ears and then acted upon accordingly.  Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Not every church member will inherit eternal life.  Church membership may be only part of the “prop” to fool and deceive.  It is the people who actually believe Jesus’ Words, to the point of obedience, that will inherit eternal life.  Those who do not believe will be condemned.  In John 3:20-21 we read “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”  The Words of Jesus represent our hope.  We follow Jesus because we realize there is not salvation in any other.  How appropriate are the words of the hymn writer John Rippon published in 1787 “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faith in His excellent Word; what more could He say than to you He hath said; to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.”  The last stanza says “The soul that on Jesus who hath leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to his foes; that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

“Building on the Solid Rock” (Pt. 1) (April 16, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Building on the Solid Rock” (Pt. 1)

(April 16, 2019)

 

          In 1889 “The Sand Bar Saloon,” which was built on stilts, was located on the Red River separating what is now Oklahoma and Texas.  A long footbridge led to dry territory.  At flood stages, the saloon was washed away, but was, of course rebuilt time after time.  Finally, someone died in a flood and it was never rebuilt.  We have all seen floods and unstable weather.  We all know enough about building to know that sand or soft soil is not the best place to build.  This is not a new concept.  Jesus taught this long ago in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27 which says “Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But, everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended; the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.”

          In several places Christ, and His teachings, are compared to a foundation and He being the chief cornerstone.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:4-8 “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’  Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’”  If you are building something, after a foundation is laid, the work of erecting the structure begins.  When we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the foundation has been laid and the work of Christian living begins.  We then begin to build up our faith and strength in Christ, bear witness for Him, and more.  After the foundation has been laid, there is still a lot of work to do.  Paul writes to the Corinthian congregation in 1 Cor. 3:9-13 “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it.  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

          Jesus Christ is the perfect foundation, the perfect example, who possesses perfect wisdom, and perfect character.  Every Word He says is perfect.  Daniel Doriani writes “Jesus’ words perfectly express his character, his mind, his will.  He never deceives, never changes his mind, never misspeaks.  He never has to say, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’  This world has all too many obese gym teachers, divorced marriage counselors, and debt-ridden financial planners.  Not so with Jesus.  He does what he says.  He is what he says.  Every word perfectly reflects his mind, his character, and his actions.  Therefore, if we would be wise and godlike, we should listen attentively and do whatever Jesus says.  His words will be a rock, a sure foundation for life.” (Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple; 222)

          Jesus says, anyone who has ears to hear; (if you can take it) this is the difference between wisdom and foolishness.  It is simple, basic, common sense the way that Jesus puts it in this parable.  A person will either heed Jesus’ Words or they will not.  A lot of rumors, stories, and crazy notions were floating around about Jesus but Jesus wanted to see what His disciples really believed about Him.  There came a point where Jesus asked the disciples point blank about who they thought He was.  He wanted to know what sort of foundation had developed in their thought process.  In Mat. 16:15-18 we read Peter’s response to Jesus’ question.  “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’” (Mat. 16:15-18).

          Build on strength, build on truth, build on righteousness, build on the Words of Jesus Christ!  That is true wisdom!  That is the foundation for every Christian life and for the church as a whole.

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, April 11, 2019

“Those Christ Never Knew” (Pt. 2) (April 11, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Those Christ Never Knew” (Pt. 2)

(April 11, 2019)

 

          How can we determine real Christians from unreal?  Can we?  Should we?  We generally can tell most of the time.  And, yes we should. Why?  1) We are told to do so.  2) Because of Mat. 7:12 (The Golden Rule) we imagine if the tables were turned and if we had false hope/confidence then we would want others to share the Gospel with us and plead with us to commit to Christ.  “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  (Mat. 7:12)

          On the day of judgment many will say, “Wait just a cotton picking minute! Didn’t we do this and didn’t we do that? (prophesied, cast out demons, done many wonders, etc.)  Apparently there were even signs and miraculous wonders done by some, but they were not done for the exclusive glory of Christ.  They were done for show; done to gain a following; to impress/awe/shock/mesmerize, etc.  Their purposes sound a lot like the reason for having a circus! 

          The reason Christ, and later the Apostles, performed miracles was to demonstrate power over nature and lend strong testimony to the work of God.  But Satan’s followers, false teachers, etc. have certain power and ability as well; although, much, much less, yet it is enough to cause some to follow them.  Consider, for instance, the magicians in Pharaoh’s court who were able to do certain miracles like those done by Moses; clearly though God was more powerful.  We must remember, everyone is wowed by “miracles” or even the claim of miracles but they are still inferior to Biblical Truth.  The “truth, the “Word,” is always given precedent.  The signs and wonders were only for one reason; to help validate the truth.  They were nothing by themselves.  The false teachers were making the miraculous all about themselves!  Revelation tells us the eventual Antichrist will come with great powers, signs, and wonders, thereby deceiving many.  Those not rooted and grounded in the truth will be easily deceived by the Antichrist.

          The hearts of those Christ never knew are empty.  Jesus says in Mat. 7:23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  Clearly Jesus created these people, so when it says he “never knew them,” we are not to think He is “unaware” of them.  It simply means He does not know them intimately in the same way He knows His own true children.  Jesus’ words sound very harsh in vs. 23.  But, is there no warning for them?  Is it reasonable to assume they do not know any better?  If you are told what is going to happen and then you make a choice to engage in certain behavior, is it unjust or unfair when you have to suffer the consequences?  Jesus gives more than a fair warning to those He never knew!

          The number one thing that characterizes a believer is a changed life.  Anyone can say anything, but a truly changed life is hard to argue against!  Just like in the opening illustration!  The lost have hearts that are empty and they cannot seem to fill them no matter how hard they try.  I like the words Paul spoke to Timothy concerning the fundamentals or foundation of the faith.  In 2 Timothy 2:19 he says “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows whose who are His,’ and “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’”  One of the biggest indications of a truly changed life is a desire to be free from sin.  If someone still loves their sin, engages in it, and is unwilling to try and overcome it, the indications are very strong he/she does not know Christ.  The Psalmist wrote “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight, You hate all workers of iniquity.” (Psalm. 5:5)

          Salvation is a miracle of God.  Those whose hearts have not been changed have not experienced the miraculous change which is possible.  John Newton said, “If I ever reach Heaven I expect to find three wonders there; first, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there.”

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

“Those Christ Never Knew” (Pt. 1) (April 3, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Those Christ Never Knew” (Pt. 1)

(April 3, 2019)

 

          Two generations ago Dr. Hugh Price Hughes was one of the great preachers of London.  In that day, Charles Bradlaugh, a famous atheist, challenged the great preacher to a public debate.  Hughes agreed to debate with the following provisions: he would bring a hundred people who had been redeemed by the Spirit of Christ as witnesses to the Christian faith, and Brandlaugh was to bring a hundred pagans who had found satisfaction in their godless way of life.  The hall was filled to capacity on the night of the debate.  Dr. Hughes was there with his hundred people, but Brandlaugh never did show up.  He could debate the preacher as long as they used arguments; but when they began using lives, he was defeated.  As long as we simply talk to the world, we will never win, but when we begin showing the world our lives which have been redeemed by Christ, then the world cannot argue back.

          Throughout His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called for “life-change.”  Without a life-change, one’s “religion” is nothing more than a system of beliefs.  True Christians have a relationship with Jesus Christ and not merely a “religion.”  It has been said “To be active in religious affairs is no substitute for obeying God.”  In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

          This world is full of people that speak in empty words.  It has always been so.  Not everyone who “talks the talk,” actually “walks the walk.”  Many are self-deceived about their Christianity.  They point to the day they were baptized or walked the aisle or talked to the preacher.  But, their lives have no reflection of the work of Christ.  James wrote “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)  Romans 2:13 says “For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.”  There are a great many people who are trusting in something from the past.  If Jesus is not your “present” then you do not have a personal relationship with Him and need to be evangelized, repent of your sins, and embrace Christ as your Lord and Savior.  James Montgomery Boice writes this warning “So beware, especially if you sense you are a nominal Christian only.  There are many paths to hell, many of them religious, but there is only one way to heaven, and that is through trusting in Jesus Christ.” (James Montgomery Boice; Matthew Vol. 1; 116)

          One might ask, how so many people could be going the wrong way.  It almost seems like the majority should be right.  But, Jesus is very clear on this.  In verses 13-14 of this same chapter He has instructed them to “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mat. 7:13-14)  From there, He goes on to warn that you will know who a person really is by their fruit.  He further warns there are a lot of deceivers out there.  In verses 15-20 He says “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Mat. 7:15-20)  Now, in verse 21 He clarifies the same overall point even further when He says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (vs. 21)

          There are a lot of ways that seem right to a person but all those ways lead to death except for one.  Jesus could not be clearer.  He told us He is the Way, Truth, and Life and that no one enters except through Him.  He referred to Himself as “The Door” in the Gospel of John.  There is no other way to enter Heaven.  Lots of people are making fanciful claims today about one thing or another, but the Scripture says what it says and no amount of twisting or bending will make the Scripture into anything other than what it already is.  But, I would argue that is a very good thing.  We do not have to be, or stay, confused.  Jesus said He is the way (the only way) to God.  He made it black and white so we do not have to wonder.  This is just one more wonderful thing to praise and thank Him for!

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

“Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 2) (March 20, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 2)

(Mar. 20, 2019)

 

          You have probably sang the Christian song that goes “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  The meaning behind that chorus is that the fruit produced by being a “true” Christian/believer is love.  Christians bear good fruit, whereas pretenders either produce bad fruit or are simply barren.  True believers differ in significant ways from false teachers who try and catch the latest wave or are blown about by every wind of doctrine.  Sadly, in this day and time, many preachers with substantial platforms have succumbed to the spirit of the age and have compromised on many key issues where the Bible is clear.

          It would be impossible to try and cover all the types and specific examples of false teachers in our age.  We could study them and critique them one by one, but there is not tremendous value in doing so.  When people who handle money are taught how to spot counterfeit money, they do not try to learn about every possible type/way of counterfeiting.  Instead they study very closely the real thing – real money!  They know it inside and out.  That is what leads them to not get taken easily.  If you have been a believer for any length of time, you should not have to wonder if a certain preacher/teacher is a false preacher/teacher or not.  But, sadly many are being manipulated and fooled.

         What are false teachers?  Where do we draw the line?  Are Methodists, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, and others false teachers because, perhaps we as Baptist see things differently?  We can vary on numerous points and it is ok.  Maybe they are wrong.  Maybe we are wrong.  The false teachers discussed in the New Testament go well beyond the majority of mere “denominational” differences.  These would deny, to greater and lesser degrees, such fundamentals as the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the literal bodily Resurrection of Christ, the literal bodily return of Christ, salvation by faith in Christ alone (not universalism), etc.  Today it most certainly would include those who advocate wrong, unbiblical positions regarding practices such as same-sex marriage, practice of homosexuality, advocate abortion, allow sex outside of marriage, etc.  Teaching a “this worldly” approach to Christianity such as the “name it and claim it” or “health and wealth” (prosperity gospel) which paints a false picture of the Gospel.  In fact, it is more than misleading; it is another “gospel” entirely.  Sadly, it can also include silence where raising a voice is called for.  One prominent preacher at a very large Houston church said in an interview that he just did not like to mention “sin” because people have enough bad stuff and negativity going on in their lives and they know what sin is.  There was just no need for him to talk about it.  He believed his job was to help people feel good about themselves. 

          We see plenty of examples of television preachers flaunting their wealth with luxury cars, multi-million dollar homes, gold fixtures in the bathroom, their own private jets, air-conditioned dog houses, extravagant jewelry, expensive tailor-made suits, and on and on.  What are they teaching when they live this way?  They are conveying that their living that way is more important than missions, the homeless, the poor, the diseased, the oppressed, the suffering, and much more.  Would Jesus really live that way if He were to come back today? Ten million dollars will purchase one jet plane for a televangelist or could do extraordinary amounts of evangelistic work in the hands of missionaries.  Commentator Douglas Sean O’Donnell writes “To contemporize our Lord’s teaching, it’s as if Jesus says, ‘I teach self-denial; they teach look great, feel great.  I teach the dangers of materialism; they teach live your best life now.  I teach that there is only one way to God; they teach love wins – that the wideness of God’s mercy is so wide that everyone is eventually included in his kingdom.  I teach humility and dependence upon God; they teach if it’s to be, it’s up to me.’” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth; PTWC; 198)

          A tree is known by its fruit.  When I was growing up, we would not say, “that tree out by the barn,” we would say “The walnut tree.”  We would not say, “those trees at the end of the garden,” we would instead say “The peach trees and the apple trees.”  Many can deceive for a time/season but eventually, it becomes known that they are by what kind of fruit they are producing.  In Matthew 7:18 Jesus says “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”  A prophet’s fruit includes both words and deeds.  True prophets teach doctrine that is sound and live holy lives.  False prophets may have great speaking skills and social graces but their doctrine and their ethics are gravely flawed.

          During his long reign of terror, Saddam Hussein claimed to be a bold fighter and brilliant leader.  But his deeds and words when he was captured revealed who and what he really was.  He had a loaded pistol at his side, but chose not to fight.  Instead he showed his cowardice.  He said, “I am willing to negotiate” when he was captured, as if he was in a position to bargain!  His words showed that he was vain and deluded not brilliant.  Every tree, Jesus says that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire, signifying punishment for the false teachers who bear bad fruit.  By the fruit they produce, you will know them.  Some will say, I know this person is a good teacher because look at how many followers they have; listeners they have; books they sell; some may say “I personally know people they have helped.”  We should never judge by that standard.  Only God’s Word can be the standard.  You can justify almost anything if you follow the numbers, or find people who like something, or think they have benefitted from something.

          God’s Word is “living and powerful” and it conveys God’s agenda for this world.  It needs no mixture of selfishness, individualism, or worldly-oriented false teachers with their lies, self-promotions, and distortions.  What we need now is what we have always needed –Truth!  By a person’s fruit, you will know them.

 

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, March 14, 2019

“Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 1) (March 14, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 1)

(Mar. 14, 2019)

 

          Chuck Swindoll tells the story of the time one of his friends was tricked into eating dog food while attending a dinner party at the elegant home of a physician.  The dog food was served on delicate little crackers with a wedge of imported cheese, bacon bits, and an olive, topped with a sliver of pimento (hors d’oeuvres a la Alpo!).  This prank was pulled off by someone who had just graduated from a gourmet cooking course and decided she would put her skills to the ultimate test.  After doctoring up the food, she placed them on a silver tray and served them and one by one watched them disappear.  Swindoll’s friend said, he could just not get enough of them and kept going back for more.  Evidently everyone there had a good sense of humor, because when she admitted what she had done later, they all had a good laugh!  This true story is the perfect illustration of what goes on in the realm of religious deception.  Every day there are phony preachers, and other “professional” Christians that are marketing their wares and serving their hors d’oeuvres on silver platters to the undiscerning who are being fooled.  If it looks fancy enough, is served the right way, and looks appetizing, a certain number of people will always think it is good.

          In the Old Testament, there are multiple warnings about false prophets.  There were strict tests/criteria for a true prophet (Deut. 13:1-11; 18:20-22).  In the New Testament the Apostles give many warnings about false teachers.  You see it in nearly every book of the New Testament.  In the case of Jude, for instance, the whole book is dedicated to refuting false/deceiving teachers.  Jesus Himself also warned strictly about false teaching and teachers.  False teaching and false teachers running amok is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the last days according to Matthew 24.  Jesus had nothing kind to say about them, only the strongest words of condemnation.  In Matthew 7:15-20 He says “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

          In verse 15 of Matthew 7 Jesus teaches that false teachers can be known by the cloths they wear.  They are wolves dressed as sheep.  When we see a sign that says “Beware” we hopefully take notice.  Jesus says “Beware of false prophets!”  A false prophet does not simply make a mistake in his teaching; everyone makes mistakes.  The difference with false prophets is that they make mistakes in the fundamentals.  They misrepresent God himself.  They misrepresent the Gospel.  They deny God’s message and his messengers, and they resist correction.  They disguise themselves in an attempt to be less obvious.  Jesus tells us they come to you dressed as sheep; appearing as sheep, but are actually ravenous wolves.  In biblical times there was no greater threat to sheep than wolves.  They would utterly devour sheep.  Sheep are basically defenseless animals and a wolf could devour them in nothing flat!  The only thing that stood in the way was the Shepherd whose job was to protect the sheep from the wolves.  If the shepherd did not do his job, the sheep were left highly vulnerable.

          On the outside, these false prophets claim to be part of the flock of God, but on the inside they are ravenous wolves.  Picture a hungry, slobbering, growling wolf.  This is what Jesus uses to describe these false teachers.  It is quite a picture!  Commentator Daniel Doriani writes “To complete their disguise, they use biblical language even while they distort its meaning.  They recite creeds, but reinterpret their meaning.  They also have credentials – graduate degrees and ordination certificates.” (Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of the Kingdom; 213)  Believers (sheep) need to be careful, watchful, and discerning knowing there are plenty of false teachers filling pulpits, writing books, coming over the airwaves, and streaming on the computer; but we should be familiar enough with our Bibles to know when major doctrines are twisted, changed, or ignored.  Furthermore, we should know when these false teachers add to the teachings of what the Bible says.  In these last days it is more important than ever to be on guard, be discerning, and be ready!

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

“Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 2) (March 6, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 2)

(Mar. 6, 2019)

 

          Christians are often called “narrow minded” these days for holding to a belief that the path to salvation is limited rather than inclusive or broad.  The reason the world is attracted to the broadness is that they do not wish to be told their way is wrong; that the way of someone they love is wrong; or that even total strangers, in some cases, are wrong.  These days it is not unusual to hear someone say something to the effect of “Well, my god would/would not do . . .” Perhaps their “god” is ok with whatever they seek to justify; however true and absolute justification does not come from one’s own mind, heart, ideas, or philosophies but rather from the one true and living God. The one true God has revealed Himself to mankind through His written Word - the Bible.

          The English word “narrow” comes to us from (stenos) in the original Greek language of the New Testament and carries the meaning of  “groaning” or “to groan” as from being under pressure.  It is the word from which we derive our word “stenography” which refers to writing that is abbreviated or compressed.  “Narrowness” or “Narrow-mindedness” is seen “selectively” as a bad thing in our culture.  People insist on “many” paths to certain things – such as God; they are however fine with “narrowness” in a great many other areas.  Commentator Douglas O’Donnell writes “We are all opposed to narrow-mindedness but we are not as opposed to exclusivity as we might at first think.  For example, no one is opposed to a supermarket or restaurant – a place where food is handled and sold and consumed – having an exclusive sign on the front glass that reads, ‘No shoes, no shirt, no service.’  No one is opposed to the Spanish Club at your local high school being comprised only of members who have an interest in and a basic knowledge of the Spanish language.  No one is opposed to Woman’s Workout World having a policy that men are not allowed to work out there.  And nobody thinks that if there is only one vaccine that will cure polio, that is too narrow, that we should be able to take whatever drug we want to cure polio.” (Douglas O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and Earth; PTWC; 195)

          Beyond simply “narrowness” some believe it is “unjust” for there to be only “one way” to God (through Jesus Christ).  Scripture is abundantly clear on this issue; for instance in John 14:6 Jesus says, exclusively “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  In Acts 4, Peter is preaching before the Sanhedrin.  Verse 8 tells us he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he spoke.  He then says in verse 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  In Matthew 18 the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him “Who then is the greatest in the  Kingdom of Heaven?”  In response to that question, in verse 3 He says “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mat. 18:3)  Is Jesus too narrow and/or exclusive?  Many certainly think so!  Interestingly, and quite ironically, there is a prevailing belief that many, or perhaps almost all, paths lead to God except for the one God actually tells us that leads to Him!  This is what philosophers call an “absurdity” when trying to follow a track of reasoning that simply makes no sense.  It is such a strange position you can hardly believe anyone would hold it; however, it is prevalent.  Sadly, this position often does not go much deeper than the surface. 

          Where do the questions leveled against the exclusivity of the Gospel and Jesus’ requirements really come from?  Are they from a genuine and humble desire to locate the truth; or are they merely attempts at self-justification?  O’Donnell goes on to write “We would not question the justice and goodness of the scientist who found the one cure for the Great Plague.  So why do we question God when he has provided only one cure for our Great Plague [sin]?  Thus the question ‘why so narrow?’ is a question of ingratitude and insubordination.  It is as contemptible as putting Sir Alexander Fleming on trial for only giving us penicillin.  Therefore in this courtroom I throw out this case against God.  Instead I do what God does here in his Word.  He puts us on trial. We must stand before him and give an account to our choices.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth; 195)

          When you think about it, Jesus has done a wonderful thing by making it so straightforward.  He is saying, in effect, this is it!  In John 10:9 Jesus said “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved . . .”  All people are told they must enter by that narrow way if they will come inside.  Jesus gives true rest to all those who find Him.  In Mat. 11:28-30 we read His words “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Why would anyone be resistant to such an offer?  We are told the answer to this perplexing question in John 3:19-20 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Sinful man creates his own confusion and ambiguity when it comes to salvation.  He actually finds self-affirmation for his sinfulness in the self-made murkiness.  When you stir up crystal clear water it becomes hazy.  That is precisely what some in our day are doing.  Through it all, Jesus’ Words are clear “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mat. 7:13-14)

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Two Paths To Follow" (Pt. 1) (Feb 28, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 1)

(Feb. 28, 2019)

 

          We live in a confusing world in a confusing time.  Everyone, it seems, claims his/her own path to success, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  One auto manufacturer claims to make the best cars, then another makes the same claim, then another, and on it goes.  A multitude of restaurants claim they have the best steaks, the best chicken, the best pizzas, the best salad bar, etc.  Several insurance companies make the  claim they have the best rates and the best coverage.  Cellular companies each advertise saying they have the best service, fewest dropped calls, and the best customer service.  It is hard to maneuver through this world of advertising with its endless sea of claims, gimmicks, and promises.  Who is telling the truth?  If we can hardly figure out how to maneuver the treacherous waters of advertising, then how much more do we struggle when it comes to decisions which have “eternal” implications!  Especially since we know that Satan is actively working to confuse and distort the truth and work against us at every turn.

          In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Today, more than ever, people are claiming many paths/ways to God.  They are saying it all leads to the same place – but does it really?  Our culture has slowly become inclusivistic.  It desperately wants, and even demands, to believe “I’m ok – you’re ok.”  Anyone who does not embrace an “inclusivistic” outlook is seen as “narrow,” “closed-minded,” “ignorant,” “ill-informed” and perhaps “stupid.”  While we may feel like we need to be concerned what others are saying and thinking; in the end it really only matters what Jesus said!  People who are confronted with their sins these days will often say something like “God is my judge,” or “Judge not lest you be judged, (Mat. 7:1)” even quoting the Scripture they neither know nor trust in.  While these statements are true, they are only true in their context and in the way God meant them.  These are meant as warnings for all people to give careful heed to His Word and adjust their lives accordingly.  God does not judge on some arbitrary, whimsical basis, but always in accordance with His Word.  Many people these days are, in effect, proclaiming they want to be judged by a standard they do not really know rather than a standard of which they do know.  They do not really like the standard God reveals in His Word so they cling to a false hope that there is somehow another unknown standard that exists whereby God will judge them in a way more favorable to their liking. To make the statement “Only God can judge me” is to say one of two things 1) Yes God will judge me according to the precepts and truths revealed in His Word, or 2) God will judge me according to a standard by which I really know nothing about, but I am confident that it will come out good for me in the end.  There is absolutely no basis for the second statement, but the consistent, overwhelming message of Scripture fully supports the first statement.

          In Matthew 7:13 and following Jesus gives a series of contrasts.  In each case, one is right and one is wrong; one is good and one is bad; one is desirable and one is undesirable (Two Paths vs. 13-14; Two Trees vs. 15-20; Two Claims vs. 21-23; and Two Houses vs. 24-27).  Beginning in verse 13 Jesus teaches that there is a superhighway to destruction.  Throughout the course of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been laying out a case for the superiority of the Kingdom of God and why anyone hearing His Words should want to become a citizen of that Kingdom, inherit eternal life, and escape the wrath and judgment which is to come.  But, for most people it seems easier to follow the crowd.  We have all said to our parents at some point “Mom/Dad, everyone is doing it!” or “Mom/Dad, everyone’s got one!”  Then parents say, something like “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?”  In some situations we realize that following the crowd is not a good idea, but in other situations we seem to think it is a very good idea.  Jesus is making it clear that if you follow that wide road, or enter through that wide gate you are headed for destruction along with “the crowd” of many others who are also going through it.  John MacArthur writes “The way that is broad is the easy, attractive, inclusive, indulgent, permissive, and self-oriented way of the world.  There are few rules, few restrictions, and few requirements.  All you need do is profess Jesus, or at least be religious, and you are readily accepted in that large and diverse group.  Sin is tolerated, truth is moderated, and humility is ignored.  God’s Word is praised but not studied, and His standards are admired but not followed.  This way requires no spiritual maturity, no moral character, no commitment, and no sacrifice.  It is the easy way to floating downstream, in ‘the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2).  It is the tragic way ‘which seems right to a man,’ but whose ‘end is the way of death.’ (Prov. 14:12).” (John MacArthur; Matthew Vol. 1; 454-55)

          From the time each of us understood “salvation” or what it meant to be “saved,” we have understood that mankind could not save himself no matter how hard he tried.  We came to realize we had to rely on a Savior (Jesus).  The world will often refer to God in a very generic sense but even the mention of Jesus’ name is highly upsetting to many folks.  Why would Jesus upset so many?  It is because they want to do what they want to do without having to answer to anyone.  We live in a culture where “individualism” has run amok!  Everyone is expected to celebrate and applaud the individualism of others no matter how crazy what they are doing seems, with just a couple of exceptions.  1) You cannot harm/hurt others against their will 2) The Christian worldview is simply not acceptable.  All viewpoints are given a fair hearing, tolerance, and often applause, except for the Christian worldview.  This is seen regularly, for instance on college campuses, where Christian speakers are barred from speaking. 

          The broad road, Jesus says, leads to destruction.  It will always seem to lead to life and happiness.  It seems right because so many are on this road.  It seems right because it strives for political correctness.  It seems right because, by its broadness alone, it conveys safety in numbers.  It seems right because it protects the rights of the individual to say, do, or be anything he/she wants to be.  But Jesus says, this is not the path to Him, nor the one that leads to life.  No matter how attractive or alluring the broad road, it always leads to destruction. 

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor