Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Memphis Summit and "Action Greensboro"

Three years ago, May 1-2, 2003, civic leaders from around the country gathered in Memphis, Tennessee to discuss the future of their respective cities and to dialogue about ideas and possible solutions to make our nation's cities better culturally, economically, and educationally.

The city of Greensboro, North Carolina sent eleven young professionals to The Memphis Summit in 2003. The report from these eleven participants, entitled Action Greensboro, contained eight relevant questions that arose from the meeting.

This Tuesday I will be joining between thirty and forty Southern Baptists from around the nation as we dialogue about how to make our beloved Southern Baptist Convention better. I would expect that the report coming from this particular Memphis Summit will consist more of recommendations and resolutions rather than questions. However, to keep you fully informed of my thoughts prior to the meeting, I am proposing eight questions that I think might be good for the dialogue all of us, including the Memphis particants, as the questions might help us address pertinent issues and arrive at some concrete solutions.

Action Greensboro:

Question 1: "If the Southern Baptist Convention will prosper by creating the conditions that allow future leaders and their creative ideas to flourish, then what are those conditions, and how are they created?"

Question 2: "How is technology altering our world and our convention, and what are the related policy issues?"

Question 3: What factors can propel the Southern Baptist Convention into a “golden age” of missions, evangelism, and cooperation?

Question 4: "What is the harm, if any, for individual agencies to establish doctrinal standards that push beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?"

Question 5: "What are some creative ways in which more people can be involved in the appointment process for boards and agencies of our convention?"

Question 6: "How can a framework of communication be established that allows employees of our agencies to freely express their ideas and thoughts without fear of intimidation, retaliation or termination?"

Question 7: "What are the implications of (a). former employees of agencies serving as trustees of the very agencies that employeed them?, or (b). sitting trustees vetting future trustees prior to nomination in order to determine their feelings for administration? and (c). trustee accountability to both his fellow trustees and the Southern Baptist Convention?"

Question 8: "What can be done to enhance the Southern Baptist Convention's spirit of cooperation toward all conservative evangelicals?"

I think these are eight good questions for our consideration.

In His Grace,


Friday, April 28, 2006

The SBC Is Worth Our Finest Efforts

After reading several of the comments on the previous post, I felt it best to clarify a few of things associated with our efforts to turn the SBC toward more of a cooperative spirit.

First, any talk of leaving the SBC is not in the best interests of the kingdom of Christ. Why? The SBC already has a mechanism in place for reaching a world in need of a Savior --- the International Mission Board --- and it would take at least a century for another evangelical missions sending organization to duplicate what the SBC is already doing. There are some who seem to be saying, "If I don't like what the SBC is doing, I'll just leave." I would propose that the SBC is in need of people who will tough out the bad times, be faithful in the rough times, and in general, give their finest efforts to better the SBC.

In marriage counseling I tell couples that once the word divorce enters the vocabulary, it is just a matter of time before it happens. Those who are advocating leaving the SBC lose their effectiveness in being an agent of change for the SBC. Of course, blind loyalty to a denomination is never appropriate, but I am of the opinion that with all our warts and faults, the SBC still has in place one of the greatest organizations to build the Kingdom of Christ in the history of man. Stay in the game, my friends. Threatening to leave the stadium only minimizes your influence.

Second, there is no need to be angry or bitter. Twenty years ago if some conservatives who were the victims of hard ball politics would have just smiled and laughed their way through the tough times, much of what we are seeing happening today in the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation might not have even begun. Instead, many conservatives became angry and bitter at the intimidation and control techniques used by some, and as a result, they are no longer part of the process of change. The Bible is replete with verses that tell us to rejoice in all things. The best antidote to anger and bitterness is a comprehension and acceptance of the providence, sovereignty and goodness of God.

My wife, staff, church and I will tell you that this past winter and spring have been wonderful. I have no offense toward those few who attacked me. In fact, I really like those who dislike me. Further, the more I am around people who did not previously know me, and the more I visit with them, the more I am seeing them grasp the issues that face us. This is NOT about people or personalities. It is about the philosphy of broad involvement, creative missiology, and mutual cooperation. I have faith that when the people of the SBC, including the trustees of our agencies, have full information, the right thing will always be done.

Finally, I have been invited to participate with a group of Southern Baptist men and women from around the nation that will be meeting in Memphis next week to dialogue about what can be done to change the direction of our convention. All these men and women are grateful for our conservative heritage, possess an evangelical and missional zeal, but are concerned that we may be becoming too narrow as a convention by exceeding the BF&M 2000 and excluding wonderful, conservative Southern Baptists from participating and cooperating in our convention efforts to reach the world for Christ.

I laughed when I read someone who wrote this meeting was "secret." I can assure you that I will not be a part of anything "secret." I will blog about the meeting, I will tell you exactly what takes place, and when it is over I have been told we can anticipate a handful of resolutions and recommendations that will be presented to the Convention in Greensboro. Since I have been assured the meeting is to discuss the issues and not personalities or people, I have agreed to participate.

All of us have learned a great deal ove the last twenty-five years. I really believe Greensboro can be a beautiful demonstration of how conservative Christians, who may not cross every "t" the same or dot every "i" the same, can work together for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. Again, it will require our finest efforts of speaking the truth in a spirit of grace.

I will post again on Monday and then will be traveling to Memphis with my youth pastor Ben Carr.

Have a great weekend and may this Lord's Day be a wonderful day of worship and refreshment!

In His Grace,


Thursday, April 27, 2006

The "Good Ol' Boy System" of Control, Exposed and Condemned by Judge Paul Pressler

I first met Judge Paul Pressler in the mid 80's. I was his driver as he toured Oklahoma and spoke to several pastor groups in preparation for the Southern Baptist Convention. I was a young pastor, concerned with what I was hearing about the liberal drift of the SBC, and I was committed to do my part, however small, to right the ship.

I distinctly remember part of the standard talk given by Pressler to groups of pastors around the state centered on the tight control the liberals had over SBC agencies. I did not know at the time the intimate details of how boards and agencies were being controlled, but I took the word of this man, and frankly, to this day I believe the Judge was telling the truth. Listen to his description of how things were operating in the early 80's at SBC agencies . . .

"To me, the issue was . . . whether the system was closed to conservative leadership. Would membership on our boards be open to all so that discussions of policy could take place as individuals from different perspectives and with different concerns sat down together and worked out their differences? I realized how closed the liberal, "good ol' boy" system had been." (Page 128, "A Hill on Which To Die," Judge Paul Pressler)

Pressler goes on to say . . .

"The boards were tightly controlled and were not places of free exchange. The tight control of the system showed me that the liberals had a basic fear of the democratic process of Southern Baptists. I came to see each board as a unified force to direct policy and not, as I had hoped, a forum for the presentation and compromise of diverse viewpoints. The nature of the liberal control showed me that they were unwilling to be open" (Ibid, page 128).

There are some who will not like what I'm about to say. I am going to say it anyway.

I like Paul Pressler. He has always been very gracious and kind to me personally. I have admired him on several fronts, not the least of which is the love he expresses both verbally and in his actions for both his wife and children. I also admire his courage and his stand for the sake of principles.

Unfortunately, what Judge Pressler so eloquently expressed as the problems with "the good ol' boy system' of the liberals, may now be the problems of the "good ol' boy system" of another group.

We are all conservatives in the SBC (both the cessationists and the continualists). We are all evangelical(both Calvinists and non-Calvinists). We are all believers in the authority of the Scriptures (those who like the BFM 2000 and those who prefer more historical Baptist Confessions). We are all Great Commission Christians.

We are brothers and sisters who love Christ.

I have heard from a very reliable source that there will be another recommendation forthcoming in the next IMB trustee meeting to censure me --- again. Since nobody in trustee leadership has spoken to me after the recommendation for my removal was rescinded unanimously at the last meeting, I can only assume that some are upset with my blog --- again.

My wife will be with me in New Mexcio for the next trustee meeting. She is a little nervous and anxious about everything, but I have assured her that everything will be fine. I reiterate, I take seriously my charge by the SBC to fulfill my responsibilities as a trustee, working for the good of our convention and the IMB. I will serve the Lord and my fellow Southern Baptists with all my heart and soul. I like all my fellow trustees and enjoy their fellowship. I am hoping what I heard is just a rumor and without substance.

However, if it is true, and I am censured in May for expressing my concerns with the direction we are headed as a Convention, then my prayer is that the words of Judge Pressler will ring loud and clear in Greensboro . . .

"The nature of the liberal (fundamentalist?) control showed me that they were unwilling to be open."

May God help us to be kind and gracious to all our SBC brothers, but to be willing to pay the price to insure we have not substitute one form of control for another.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Censure and Criticism From Fellow Christians Unavoidable?

There is in all of us a desire to be liked by others. Some of us, according to John Piper in his new book Contending For Our All, may think that we can be kind enough to avoid criticism by our Christian friends.

This will not work, especially if we have any public role. You cannot be kind enough and merciful enough that no one will criticize you. The religious leaders called our Master "Beelzebub" and He was the epitome of mercy and grace.

Piper gives Mother Theresa as an another illustration. Whatever you may have thought of her spirituality or theology, you cannot deny Mother Teresa's soft heart and compassion toward the people of this world. Yet, Germain Greer cricticizes Mother Theresa by saying . . .

"At my convent school, the pious nuns who always spoke softly and inclined their heads with a small, patient smile were the ones to fear. They became the mother superiors. Mother Theresa is not content with running a convent; she runs an order of Mother Thersa clones, which operates world-wide. In anyone less holy, this would be seen as an obscene ego trip . . . Mother Teresa epitomizes for me the blinkered charitableness upon which we pride ourselves and for which we expect reward in this world and the next. There is very little on earth that I hate more than I hate that" (quoted in First Things, January 1993, p. 65).

Mother Teresa? Arrogant, egotistic, power-hungry, obscene, worthy of hate?

A life completely devoted to compassion, as Mother Teresa's, does not exempt one from criticism from other professing Christians.

What makes any of us think we should be exempt from it either?

In His Grace,


Censure and Criticism from Christians

There is in all of us a desire to be liked by others. Some of us, according to John Piper in his new book Contending For Our All, may think that we can be kind enough to avoid criticism by our Christian friends.

This will not work, especially if we have any public role. You cannot be kind enough and merciful enough that no one will criticize you. The religious leaders called our Master "Beelzebub" and He was the epitome of mercy and grace.

Piper gives Mother Theresa as an another illustration. Whatever you may have thought of her spirituality or theology, you cannot deny Mother Teresa's soft heart and compassion toward the people of this world. Yet, Germain Greer cricticizes Mother Theresa by saying . . .

"At my convent school, the pious nuns who always spoke softly and inclined their heads with a small, patient smile were the ones to fear. They became the mother superiors. Mother Theresa is not content with running a convent; she runs an order of Mother Thersa clones, which operates world-wide. In anyone less holy, this would be seen as an obscene ego trip . . . Mother Teresa epitomizes for me the blinkered charitableness upon which we pride ourselves and for which we expect reward in this world and the next. There is very little on earth that I hate more than I hate that" (quoted in First Things, January 1993, p. 65).

Mother Teresa? Arrogant, egotistic, power-hungry, obscene, worthy of hate?

A life completely devoted to compassion, as Mother Teresa's, does not exempt one from criticism from other professing Christians.

What makes any of us think we should be exempt from it either?

In His Grace,


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why Fundamentalism Must Be Defined in the SBC

Words are meaningless without definitions. Vocabulary is the foundation of all communication, and unless the meaning of words is properly defined, effective communication is impossible. Such is the word "Fundamentalism."

John Piper's newest book Contending for Our All highlights the life of Dr. Gresham Machen, Professor of New Testament at Princeton University in the early part of the last century. Dr. Machen was fired at Princeton, and later stripped of his ordination in the Presbyterian Church USA for "insubordination." It seems he questioned various policies of the Presbyterian USA Mission Board, which led to his censure and eventually the formation of an alternative missions sending agency begun by Machen.

Dr. Machen also founded Westminster Seminary just a few months before his unexpected death on New Year's Day, 1936 at the young age of 55. He died a hero by the Fundamentalists of his day because of his "insistence on defending great doctrines that had come under particular attack by vigorously defending the truth."

However, Machen did not like being called a "Fundamentalist." Listen to his own words:

"Do you suppose that I do regret my being called by a term that I greatly dislike, a "Fundamentalist?" Most certainly I do. But in the presence of a great common foe (liberalism), I have little time to be attacking my brethren who stand with me in defense of the Word of God." (Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen, p. 337).

Piper gives seven reasons why Machen never spoke of himself as a Fundamentalist.

To Machen, Fundamentalism meant. . .

(1). The absence of historical perspective;
(2). The lack of appreciation of scholarship;
(3). The substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions;
(4). The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine;
(5). The pietistic, perfectionist tendencies (i.e., hang-ups with smoking, drinking alchohol, etc . . );
(6). One-sided otherworldliness (i.e., a lack of effort to transform the culture), and,
(7). A penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: premillennialism).

Machen was on "the other side" of all seven of these issues, yet God used him greatly to preserve conservative evangelicalism within his beloved Presbyterian denomination. He is the epitome of a conservative evangelical who could not be considered a "Fundamentalist."

May God grant the grace and wisdom needed to see that within our Southern Baptist Convention there are thousands of pastors and people who share the same spirit of Machen --- warmly conservative and fervently evangelical --- but not "Fundamentalists" as defined by Machen.

The SBC is large enough for all of us who are conservative and evangelical to cooperate together. Will our Fundamentalist brethren within the SBC, with whom we sided in the liberal debates of yesteryear, stand willing to cooperate with those of us who disagree with them on periphery issues?

We should know more where we stand as a convention by June 15th.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spurgeon on Missionaries Teaching Christ to the Natives!

I do not know whether all our missionaries have caught the idea of Christ “Go ye and teach all nations,” but many of them have, and these have been honored with many conversions.

The more fully they have been simple teachers, not philosophers of the Western philosophy, not eager disputants concerning some English dogma, I say the more plainly they have gone forth as teachers sent from God to teach the world, the more successful have they been.

“Go ye, therefore, and teach.” Some may think, perhaps, there is less difficulty in teaching the learned than in teaching the uncivilized and barbarous. There is the same duty to the one as to the other: “Go and teach.”

“But they brandish the tomahawk.” Teach them, and lie down and sleep in their hut, and they shall marvel at your fearlessness and spare your life.

“But they feed on the blood of their fellows, they make a bloody feast about the cauldron in which a man’s body is the horrible viand.” Teach them and they shall empty their war-kettle, and they shall bury their swords, and bow before you, and acknowledge King Jesus.

“But they are brutalised, they have scarce a language — a few clicking sounds make up all that they can say.” Teach them, and they shall speak the language of Canaan, and sing the songs of heaven.

The fact has been proved, brethren, that there are no nations incapable of being taught, nay, that there are no nations incapable afterwards of teaching others. The Negro slave has perished under the lash, rather than dishonor his Master.

The Esquimaux has climbed his barren steeps, and borne his toil, while he has recollected the burden which Jesus bore. The Hindoo has patiently submitted to the loss of all things, because he loved Christ better than all. Feeble Malagasay women have been prepared to suffer and to die, and have taken joyfully suffering for Christ’s sake. There has been heroism in every land for Christ; men of every color and of every race have died for him; upon his altar has been found the blood of all kindreds that be upon the face of the earth.

Oh! tell me not they cannot be taught. Sirs, they can be taught to die for Christ; and this is more than some of you have learned. They can rehearse the very highest lesson of the Christian religion — that self sacrifice which knows not itself but gives up all for him.

At this day there are Karen missionaries preaching among the Karens with as fervid an eloquence as ever was known by Whitfield, there are Chinese teaching in Borneo, Sumatra, and Australia, with as much earnestness as Morison or Milne first taught in China. There are Hindoo evangelists who are not ashamed to have given up the Brahminical thread, and to eat with the Pariah, and to preach with him the riches of Christ. There have been men found of every class and kind, not only able to be taught, but able to become teachers themselves, and the most mighty teachers too, of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well was that command warranted by future facts, when Christ said, “Go ye, teach all nations.”

Excerpt from "NO. 383
APRIL 21ST, 1861,

A sermon preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon 145 years ago tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Definition of the Church

At the heart of the issue for all of us within the Southern Baptist Convention who have a heart for missions and church planting is the definition of the "ekklesia," or as it is in English "church." Unfortunately our English word doesn't come close to the meaning of the Greek word. Ekklesia is a compound word which means "called out." The "church" is simply those in the world who have been called out by God's grace to faith in Jesus Christ. If a person considers the church "it" instead of "they" then that person's Biblical thinking about the church is already lost. For a better understanding of "ekklesia" the article by Baptist theologian John Reisinger entitled The Ekklesia would be a great place to start.

The International Mission Board has given an official definition of a church. The following information comes from Board approved policy . To help us consider the church as people rather than "an institution" it might be an interesting exercise to place the phrase "called out people" as a synonym for the word church. Could it be that problems arise when some see the church as an institution and others see "them" as a "called out people?"

CHURCH DEFINITION AND GUIDELINES Approved by the Board of Trustees in January of 2005

Bob Pearle moved that recommendation on Church Definition and Guidelines be approved. This recommendation was approved. (Following the trustee meeting, grammatical changes were made and the following is the corrected copy.)

The definition of a local church is given in the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.


We believe that every local church is autonomous under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His inerrant word. This is as true overseas as it is in the United States. Some churches to which we relate overseas may make decisions in doctrine and practice which we would not choose. Nevertheless, we are accountable to God and to Southern Baptists for the foundation that we lay when we plant churches, for the teaching that we give when we train church leaders, and for the criteria that we use when we count churches. In our church planting and teaching ministries, we will seek to lay a foundation of beliefs and practices that are consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, although local churches overseas may express those beliefs and practices in different ways according to the needs of their cultural settings. Flowing from the definition of a church given above and from the Scriptures from which this definition is derived, we will observe the following guidelines in church planting, leadership training and statistical reporting.

1. A church is intentional about being a church. Members think of themselves as a church. They are committed to one another and to God (associated by covenant) in pursuing all that Scripture requires of a church.

2. A church has an identifiable membership of baptized believers in Jesus Christ.

3. A church practices the baptism of believers only by immersing them in water.

4. A church observes the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.

5. Under the authority of the local church and its leadership, members may be assigned to carry out the ordinances.

6. A church submits to the inerrant word of God as the ultimate authority for all that it believes and does.

7. A church meets regularly for worship, prayer, the study of God’s word, and fellowship. Members of the church minister to one another’s needs, hold each other accountable, and exercise church discipline as needed. Members encourage one another and build each other up in holiness, maturity in Christ, and love.

8. A church embraces its responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission, both locally and globally, from the beginning of its existence as a church.

9. A church is autonomous and self-governing under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His Word.

10. A church has identifiable leaders, who are scrutinized and set apart according to the qualifications set forth in Scripture. A church recognizes two Biblical offices of church leadership: pastors/elders/overseers and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Aroma Therapy

And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:20-22)

These verses contain a very interesting phrase. "And the Lord smelled a sweet savor" (v.21). The word "savor" (reah) occurs 46 times in the Old Testament and it comes from the same root word for man's spirit or inner being (ruah). The word "sweet" is nihoah and carries with it the idea of rest (the name "Noah" means rest). So it seems as if Noah offers a sacrifice and "the soul of God was at rest" (many King James Bibles have a footnote that reads "a savor of rest"). God had been judging the world through the flood, but just as the Ark came to rest on Ararat, so God is comes to rest because of the sacrifice. Unlike the first week of Creation when God rested from creating, in our text God rests from judgement.

Noah and his family step off the ark into a dark world. The atmosphere continued to rage as it does today, the earth was covered in mud and slime as a consequence of condemnation for man's sin. It must not be forgotten that Noah and his family were, by nature, "evil in their thoughts continually." For this reason, the first thing Noah does upon leaving the ark is to build an altar and offer a sacrifice. Then we read, the sacrifice was a "sweet savor" to God. God rested from holy judgment.

How can we understand the satisfaction and approval of God for sinners like us? The key comes from understanding the sweet savor of the sacrifice. What does this aroma represent? The sacrifices of the Old Testament all point to the work of Christ and the aroma to God's approval of, and satisfaction in, the person and work of Christ. When one comes to faith in Christ, when one "kisses the Son," like Noah laid hold of the sacrifice, he is covered with sweet aroma of Christ and the judgment of God ends --- forever. Why?

I. The sweet savor of Christ covers the reek of sin . .

This is why aroma plays such a big part in the sacrificial system of Old Testament worship. A "smell" or "aroma" had to mask the stench of sin in God's people when they approached Him.

(A). The sacrifices in Leviticus were said to be a "sweet savor" to God (Leviticus 1:13).
(B). There was an altar of incense in the Tabernacle and later the Temple (Exodus 30).
(C). If on the Day of Atonement the Holy of Holies was not filled with the smell of incense prior to the High Priest entering, the High Priest died (Leviticus 16:13).

Some of the Roman Catholic traditions include the use of incense or sweet fragrances in their holy days. These solemn rituals of incense waving visually portray a spiritual truth that is often missed in Catholicism. "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God." (II Corinthians 2:14-16).

"In Christ" you are a pleasure to God, a sweet aroma unto Him, because Christ covers you with His righteousness. This understanding of the beauty and glory of Christ as a cover for us, and His very Person as a sweet aroma in us, should then lead us to understand that . . .

II. The sweet savor of Christ calls for resistance to sin . . .

If God loves the fragrance of Christ, and He does (II Corinthians 2:16), and if your body is the Temple of the God, and it is (II Corinthians 6:16), then does He not drive out stench?

"Being confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perform it (carry it on to completion) until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

In the Jewish book Mishnah in Avot (5:5) it states that there were no flies in the area of the Temple, nor was a snake or scorpion ever able to harm anyone anywhere in Jerusalem as long as the Temple stood. Though we are not sure of the accuracy of this statement because the Mishna is not God's inspired Word, wouldn't it be just like God to dispel any reminder of Satan (that old serpant, the Lord of the flies "Beelzebub," and the scorpion) from the place where Christ resides?

Some might object, however, and say, "I'm a believer, but there is still the residue of sin in me, and frankly, sometimes it is more than residue. I can't seem to conquer that habit that plagues me, I can't seem to get victory of that sin that pulls me down, your words are not encouraging to me because I still "feel my sin" so deeply. Why is God not driving out my sin completely?"

III. The sweet savor carries the reminder of the Savior . . .

God has a purpose for not driving out sin from your life the moment Christ takes up residence in your soul. Your journey with Christ involves being greatly vexed by sin in order for you know Christ even better. When you smell the stench of sin in your life (and by the way, others often smell your stench faster than you smell it), it is revealed by God to cause you to see your incredible need of Christ in you.

Are you sick because you have done something that has not only embarrassed you, it has shamed you? What is the answer? Very simply put, great sinners have need of a great Saviour. What Jesus Christ has done for you is a "sweet savor" to God. Has evil stained you? Grace shall shower you. "But where sin abounds, grace super abounds" (Romans 5:20).

The evidence of the sweet aroma of Christ in you is the desire to remove the stench of sin from your life. Notice, it is not the absence of sin that is evidence of Christ's presence, but the desire for your life to exude the sweet aroma of Christ. God's people are capable of the grossest sins of the world, but the difference is clear --- God's people have smelled Christ, and will not linger long in the temporal sweetness of sin that quickly turns into the foul odor that taints the soul.

If you are a believer in Christ, and you are struggling with sin, don't let the enemy deceive you. He will seek to convince you that God is not interested in your woship. He will seek to bully you into believing God has no enjoyment in your presence before Him. The great deceiver, like always is only half right.

Sin causes God to move in judgment and condemnation.

But the sweet aroma of Christ covers His people. God loves nothing more than to cease from judgment because of the beauty and glory of His Son. Sinner, don't stay away. Boldly approach the throne of grace.

Come covered with the aroma of Christ.

"When I stand before the throne, dressed in beauty not my own, When I see thee as thou art, love thee with an unsinning heart, then, Lord, shall I fully know, how much I truly owe." Robert Murray M'Cheyne.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Why the Cross?

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. Galatians 3:13

Have you ever asked yourself why it is Jesus Christ died hanging on a tree? Simply asked, why did Jesus die on a cross?

I. Because the cross is prophesied in Scripture -- "for it is written . . ." (Galatians 3:13).

Peter said the prophets "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ" (I Peter 1:11). Paul said to Agrippa in Caesarea "I say none other than those things which Moses and the prophets said should come, that Christ should suffer" (Acts 26:22). The prophets foretold Jesus would die on a cross.

I have a book in my library written in 1728 by John Gill entitled The Prophecies of the Old Testament Respecting the Messiah Considered; and Proved to be Literally Fulfilled in Jesus. Gill looks at several passages from the Old Testament and shows that the prophets predicted:

Christ would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).
He would be forsaken by his disciples (Zechariah 13:7).
He would be beaten and scourged (Micah 5:1).
He would die on a cross (Psalm 22).
He would be numbered among thieves (Isaiah 53:12).
His garments would be parted (Psalm 22:18).
He would be given vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21).
No bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20).
He would die in shame before men (Psalm 22:13).
He would die abandoned by God (Psalm 22:1).

These prophecies, among the hundreds in Scripture literally fulfilled, should give us the assurance that the Bible is truly God's word. No other religious book in the world contains prophecies fulfilled.

How could the prophets of the Old Testament predict the future of the Messiah? Simple. God spoke through His prophets since He alone has the power to know the future. Jesus Christ died on the cross because God intended His Son to die this way, and the evidence is found in the prophecies of Scripture.

But we have not really answered the question, "Why the cross?" Why not some other means?

II. Because the cross is God's symbol of a curse.

Galatians 3:13 is a quotation from God's law to the Jewish nation given in Deuteronomy 21:23.

22. And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23. His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

An Old Testament Jewish man who rebelled against the Law of God was to be taken outside the camp of stoning and hanged on a tree. This is not the western Gunsmoke form of hanging, but the Jewish hanging of crucifixion.
"They fix a beam in the earth, and a piece of wood goes out of it (near the top of it) and hang him; the hands are spread, and one hand is fastened to the one part of the cross-beam, and the other to the other end" (Jewish Rabbi Jarchi) as quoted by Gill.

The person hanged on a tree in the Old Testament pictured a person "cut off" from God. This cursed person is hanged to demonstrate to others he is cursed by God. Throughout the centuries Jews have mocked Jesus calling him, "he who is hanged."

Jesus Christ, in fulfilling the Law of God, became a curse when He died on a tree at Calvary. Why?

II. Because the cross becomes God's curse for us.

Have you broken the law of God? Are you worthy of the condemnation of God? Are you "cut off" from God because of sin, and feel yourself abandoned by Him? Does the venom of sin flow through you? Sinners have only one hope -- only one escape -- from God's curse of death. The cross of Christ.

We are in the same predicament the children of Israel were in thousands of years ago. Bitten by fiery serpents in the wilderness, facing imminent death, they needed relief. God instructed Moses to build a serpent on a brass pole and to "lift it up." God then said, "Everyone that is bitten, let him look and live" (Numbers 21:8). Look to what? A pole in the ground with a cursed serpent hanging on it? Yes. Look! Look and live! Moses told the people.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and wondered how a man could be a part of the kingdom of God Jesus responded with these words:

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14,15).

Then Jesus said the classic statement recorded in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believeeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Why the cross?

Without it there is no life, no forgiveness of sin, no escape from the curse of death due the rebel of God's law.

Christ bore on the tree the sentence for me.