Show Me Your Doctrine

Is right doctrine more a matter of what you say you believe or what you show you believe?

If you read the book of Titus (and the book of James for that matter), I think you’ll find that right doctrine revealed in our lives is less about the knowledge we spout off and more about the evidence of faith worked out in our lives through an authentic journey with Jesus. I’m not saying that good works is the means of salvation, or that moral behavior is the key to unlocking justification in our lives. We are saved by grace through faith; it is a gift of God, so that no man can boast. But the mark of a life that is growing more in tune with right doctrine is growth in Christ-like character and integrity.

As Paul was addressing Titus and informing his leadership concerning the issue of “empty talkers and deceivers” in the church at Crete, this is what he said:

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.[1]

Paul goes on to address what “sound doctrine” looks like in the lives of older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and Titus himself. He does this by listing character traits that are in keeping with right theology. Apparently, when your view of God grows more accurate, your life begins to show it. Could this be what Peter was talking about in the first chapter of his letter to the churches?

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”[2]

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at with his oft-quoted phrases referring to knowing people by the “fruit” in their lives.

As we submit our lives to Scripture, our integrity will grow. As we get to know Jesus, and as we grow closer to God, what we say and what we show will line up more closely.

Indeed:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.[3]

A church made up of people who are longer on showing than they are on saying will be a welcome sight to a watching world.

[1] Titus 1:16-2:1, ESV

[2] 1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV

[3] 2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV

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A Season of Hope

We’re trying out something new this Christmas at LifePoint. Here is one of the video blogs that you can find at tobethechurch.com, the site we have dedicated to our Advent themes throughout this month. This week’s theme: Hope.

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“Through all the darkness, Jesus has been there.”

If you missed these great stories from Sunday, here they are. These folks went public with their faith in Jesus this last weekend, and it was awesome.

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The Religious Leader and the Shamed Outcast

How are you doing on your Christmas shopping? I’m about half-way there. I don’t know what your personal gift-search strategy is, but I tend to prefer the heat-seeking missile approach. I want to spend as little time as possible in the actual store, tracking my target gift with an explosive intensity that has me weaving in and out of aisles filled with all manner of holiday clutter. The key to this approach is programming my mind pre-store with the exact nature of gift that fits the person for whom I am shopping. Once I obtain said gift, I secure it in my arms and head for the checkout stand like a running back with a clear-path to the end zone.

There is an art to gift-giving, finding that perfect something for that special someone. Buying the ideal gift requires a combination of personal sacrifice and understanding. It will cost you something, but you should also be acquainted with the needs of the person receiving it. Perhaps it could be said that the greatest gifts we can give are those that meet the deepest needs of those we give them to.

The incarnation (“in flesh”) of Jesus is a gift from God that cuts across every possible classification and stereotype. The Apostle John knew this on the deepest personal level. He ordered his gospel with this reality in mind. How else can we explain the juxtaposition of the characters we meet in John 3 and 4?

In John 3, Jesus was approached by a man named Nicodemus. He was a religious leader among the people, a Pharisee. His position in society would have commanded respect and honor from the average Jew. People would have admired him from a distance and approached him with deference. Jesus’ simple message to this religious leader was: “You can’t enter the kingdom of heaven unless you’re born again.” As Jesus spelled this out in his exchange with Nicodemus, He revealed that He was (and is) the source of salvation. “God sent the Son…in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

In John 4, Jesus was the one making the approach. A “woman of Samaria” was going about her business, drawing water from a community well in the middle of the day. This woman was an outcast in every sense of the word. She was a Samaritan, someone an average Jew would turn away from in disgust. She was a woman, meaning a respectable Jewish man would normally look past her as if she didn’t exist. She was also a train-wreck, morally speaking. She had been married 5 times, and was (at the time of her exchange with Jesus) living with a 6th man who wasn’t her husband. As Jesus struck up a conversation with her, he headed down the same path he did with Nicodemus, only in slightly different terms. He told her “If you knew the gift of God…you would have asked [Me] and [I] would have given you living water.” As the story concludes, this woman (along with a number of other Samaritans) meet the Messiah, who came from God to save God’s people from their sins.

Jesus is God’s greatest gift, sent to meet our deepest need. Religious leader or shamed outcast, whoever believes in Him will experience salvation. Whether you’re put together for all to see, or you’re falling apart at the seams, calling on Jesus is the answer.

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A More Thorough Sermon On John 3

Yesterday at LifePoint we kicked off The Hour Has Come, our 2014 Advent series. I preached a single verse of Scripture, examining in detail the contents of John 3:16. We camped out in this one verse, and we found that it exposed the Advent theme “LOVE,” as in God’s love for sinners, which was a motive behind the incarnation of Jesus.

I don’t often preach one single verse, because in expositional preaching it is normally more beneficial to examine an entire passage in context, in order to arrive at (and apply) the meaning of the biblical text. Obviously, as I hope was apparent yesterday, when you drill down deep into a verse like John 3:16 there is more than enough content to fill one (if not many) sermons. But as I alluded to in my introduction yesterday, I did preach the entire opening passage in John 3 a little over a year ago in our series Beautiful Feet. If you’re in the mood for a Monday sermon, or you are just curious as to the fuller context of yesterday’s text, here it is:

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High School Parents Take Note

As our youth ministry continues to grow at LPC, we are able to develop some more age-targeted activities throughout the year. For the first time in a number of years, this winter we will doing two separate retreats, one for our high schoolers, and one for our middle schoolers. Our middle school retreat will be February 27 – March 1 (information will be released soon). Our High School Retreat will be March 27 – 29. There is an urgency to sign up for our High School Retreat. The spots are very limited, and we are closing registration on December 28th. So if you want to guarantee your spot please sign up and pay ASAP. For more info, and to sign up on-line, click here. Below is the video of last year’s high school retreat called “Spring Thaw” at Multnomah University. This is a taste of what our high-schoolers will be headed to in March. 

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The Hour Has Come

This weekend we kick off our Advent series at LifePoint: The Hour Has Come.

We have taken this series title from John’s gospel, and we’ll spend the first three weeks of December examining the Advent themes of LOVE, HOPE, and JOY from the third and fourth chapters of John.

But first, what is this “hour has come” theme all about? If you’ve read the gospels, you may recognize the phrase, because it is used in all four gospels by Jesus and about Jesus.

The Greek word hora is translated “hour” in a lot of contexts, which is a good rendering in English, because the biblical writers use it to describe a range of concepts that parallel our use of the word “hour.”

For instance, we would use “hour” to refer to a specific segment of time, or hour in the day, as in “Yesterday at Noon.” This is exactly the way hora is used in Mark 15:25: “It was the third hour when they crucified him.”[1] Matthew 8:13 is another example, “His servant was healed at that very hour.”

We also use “hour” to refer to “an appointed time” for something to occur. My wife and I are looking forward to that “hour” in which our 4th daughter will be born. This is another way hora is used by the NT writers. Luke 12:12: “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that hour what you are to say.”

The word hora appears in every gospel, but John uses it most:

Matthew: 22 times
Mark: 12 times
Luke: 17 times
John: 27 times

A third (and very important) way that hora is used in the NT is one that is a little trickier for us to understand. In reference to the redemptive work of Jesus, “hour” is used to describe the time where a significant redemptive event is going to occur. We would probably use the word “time” or “moment” or even “day” or “chance” to refer to this concept in English. Such as, “This is your moment!” or “It’s our time now!” Who can forget this epic Goonies scene?

If Sean Astin were speaking Koine Greek in that scene, he would likely have used the word hora,[2] as in “it’s our hour” or “our hour has come.”

Although all the gospel writers use hora in this way, I have found that John’s gospel has a stronger concentration not only of hora, but of hora used to refer to Jesus’ redemptive acts, or future events resulting from Jesus’ redemptive work.

  • John 2:4: “My hour has not yet come…”
  • John 4:21: “The hour is coming…”
  • John 5:25: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming…”
  • John 7:30: But no one laid a hand on him (Jesus), for his hour had not yet come.
  • John 8:20: …but no one arrested him (Jesus), for his hour had not yet come.
  • John 12:23: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
  • John 13:1: Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world…
  • John 17:1: When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…

This “hour” for Jesus seems to refer to the hour of his crucifixion, and all that results therein. It’s the hour of redemption, the hour of liberation, the hour upon which the salvation of sinners depends. The gospel writers give some amazing accounts of this hour– as darkness descends (Mark 15:33), the earth shakes (Matthew 27:51), the curtain in the temple is torn (Luke 23:45), and people who had died start coming back to life and walking out of tombs (Matthew 27:52-53).

This hour was the hour for which Jesus came into the world. The target of the incarnation was the cross. Jesus was born to die. And glory to God, death wasn’t the end. The cross led to the resurrection, followed by Jesus’ ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who believe in Him.

As we celebrate Christmas in this hour (season), we must remember the target of the incarnation. In the beauty of the cross we see the love of God, experience a living hope, and come to know the great joy found only in Jesus.

[1] Friberg’s lexicon would define this sense of hora as “a limited or measured segment of time.”
[2] Greek geeks may argue that Astin would have used kairos which means “appointed time,” but that’s a debate for another day.

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