Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review. "The Life of A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God," by James L. Snyder

"The Life of A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God," by James L. Snyder is a quaint and pithy collection of Tozer snippets. An enjoyable read to be sure, it nevertheless falls short of its claim to be an "authorized biography" of the famed pastor.

This work is almost entirely a collection of loose quotations and undated anecdotes from those who knew him best. As such, it tends to read more like a funeral eulogy than a historical survey of the man's life and ministry.

Most of the recollections given of personal experiences with Tozer are general in scope. The author treats the reader to a rather monotonous series of fond memories, invariably beginning with "once," "on another occasion," or "one time..." For this reason, the total work gives the impression of pearls strung together in a loosely chronological but predominantly thematic order.

Very little attention is given to some of the significant moments in Tozer's life: his wedding to Ada, for instance, is treated with little more than two lines. His reception of honorary degrees (Tozer did not attend seminary) is only mentioned incidentally. His relations with other prominent evangelicals (outside the Christian Missionary Alliance which the author highly regards) such as Martin Lloyd-Jones is only regarded tangentially. His theological framework--such as it was--is lightly regarded.

Those accustomed to a more historical, annotated style of biography would probably do well to skip this particular volume on the life of A.W. Tozer, in favor of something more scholastic.

All in all, this book did what it was probably written to do, viz. provide some food for thought holding up Tozer's memorable quotations (already found in plethora in his collected writings) as the center-piece.

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Psalm 23, Do You Say It in Earnest?, Part 1

Ever since the age of five, my family has visited a particular stretch of beach located in North Carolina. Our very first week there my older sisters and I noticed and picked up everything: driftwood, broken shells, polished stones, and even dead crabs. I remember how loud I thought the ocean was and how looking straight down at the layers of waves—some coming, some going—made me dizzy. Decades later, my mom, dad, brother, sisters, and I, and our respective families travel out to that same beach every other year. We love it, but many of those details that once loudly called for our attention have been muffled. I realized this one summer as I was mindlessly throwing shells into the waves without caring if each one was a “keeper” or not. I believe that this is much the same way with familiar passages of the Bible. The first few times we encountered them we may have tried to scrutinize every word and connection, but after a while familiarity sets in and we find ourselves breezing through much treasured passages, losing out on new discoveries.  

Realizing this too common phenomenon, I tried to come up with a way to help my mind focus on the details of Psalm 23 (the well-known The Lord is my shepherd passage). John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon, in their commentaries on Psalm 23, note what an amazing and godly man David was to have written what he did. I asked myself, When I speak Psalm 23 aloud, in song or praise, do I speak it in earnest? Or, in other words, How truthful are the precious words of this Psalm when emanating from my mouth? I admit—sheepishly, may I say—that I was not all that pleased with my answer to that question. 

Nonetheless, this very question will serve as the backdrop for my next few meditations on Psalm 23, as we walk through the pastures and the valley with David and the Great Shepherd.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review. "Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life." By Colin Dureiz

After reading several of Schaeffer's books firsthand, (The Mark of the Christian; The Great Evangelical Disaster; A Christian Manifesto; How Should We Then Live?; He is There and He is Not Silent) I was eager to learn more about the life and thought of this great evangelical apologist from the last century.

Colin Duriez's biography certainly did not disappoint me on that quest to know Francis Schaeffer better.

Duriez, who bases his "Authentic Life" on voluminous personal interviews (including an interview with Schaeffer himself added as an appendix) does an admirable job in tying together first-hand witnesses, written sources, letters, and the author's own personal experiences at L'Abri in Schaeffer's presence.

Duriez traces the unassuming young man from his rural Pennsylvania upbringing, through his fundamentalist early years in the pastoral ministry, into his European study excursion, and ultimately to his founding of L'Abri and corresponding meteoric rise in international prominence, driven by his writings and film production.

Thankfully, someone has done a full-length biography of this prophetic pastor, and cultural guru before the generation of living witnesses to his ministry thins and ultimately dies out. This book combines the authoritative force of a well-researched documentary, with the personal ethos of a student of Fran who knew him personally.

By the time the author traces Francis Schaeffer's life to his demise at the mercy of cancer in 1984, the reader feels that he too--along with the whole evangelical community--has lost an important voice for truth.

Thankfully, Schaeffer's writings live on, continuing to influence generations still today. This biography would serve as an excellent companion for those considering spending some time in Schaeffer's mind though his writings and films. Colin Duriez's book will doubtlessly last as a helpful companion to understanding the life and mind of the author of these epochal works.

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reflections on the Jerry Sandusky verdict

By Pastor Matt Ellis

Last night, the jury arrived at a verdict in the Jerry Sandusky case. He was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse of minors. There was an overwhelming amount of testimonies. There was a lack of overwhelming substantive evidence. And yet, the jury and most people watching the trial believe that Sandusky was lying and should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Did the jury get it right? Or, as the case proceeds through the appeals process (which almost certainly is a given), will it become apparent that the witnesses were lying? Who knows?

But, there is one person who most certainly knows - Jerry Sandusky. As the verdict was read, Sandusky showed little emotion. Yet, inside his mind and heart, he knew the truth. If he is truly guilty, there was never an acknowledgment of it.

This is human nature. 

Adam and Eve would not volunteer a confession until God confronted them (Genesis 3).

Sarah could not acknowledge the fact that she laughed at a promise given by the Lord even when confronted (Genesis 18:9-15).

David refused to acknowledge an adulterous affair, murder and deception until the prophet Nathan confronted him (2 Samuel 12:1-15).

Annanias and Saphirra would not volunteer the truth to the Apostle Peter (Acts 5:1-11).

This is human nature ... or rather an evidence of the sin nature. Valuing self-protection and comfort more than "truth," the sin nature lies and refuses to acknowledge truth.

And, depending upon the nature of the offense, some folks (who have an active conscience) will withhold the truth to their own harm. They will live with guilt the rest of their lives. If they don't shut their conscience down completely ("sear it" - 1 Timothy 4:2), they will begin to experience problems with their health, relationships, etc. 

In his commentary on the book of Ephesians, John MacArthur recounts the following story:
According to an ancient Greek story, a Spartan youth stole a fox but then inadvertently came upon the man from whom he had stolen it. To keep his theft from being discovered, the boy stuck the fox inside his clothes and stood without moving a muscle while the frightened fox tore out his vital organs. Even at the cost of his own painful death he would not own up to his wrong."

It is a godly and courageous person, indeed, who will own up to what they have done. Why is it courageous? Because it is rarely if ever easy. In fact, it may be the hardest and most frightening thing someone will ever do ... and in confessing, there may be consequences.

But there is so much on the line! Why?

Because if the person is saved, God will bring discipline into that person's life until they make it right (Hebrews 12:5-11). 

And if discipline does not come in this life, it shows that someone is not God's child. Thus, they will hear the Lord say on the Day of Judgment: "I never knew you, depart from me..." (Matthew 7:22-23). The place to which these men and women are sent is a place of intense anguish (Matthew 13:41-42; Revelation 20:11-15). And it will be forever (Matthew 25:46). Horrid thought!!!

This second possibility shows that a desire to protect oneself from truth and consequences in this life may reveal that there are infinitely greater consequences in the life to come.

It's not worth it! Just mediate on the promise and joy of experiencing the truth of this verse, of being right with God:

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). 

Being right with God and enjoying Him is worth whatever cost you may have to pay to get it!

Matt Ellis is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Brooksville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @mattellis1997 or on Facebook at

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Relevance is a Black President for the Southern Baptist Convention?

By Pete Garbacki

Unfortunately, it is very relevant for this day and age that the Southern Baptist Convention elected Pastor Fred Luter, Jr. as its first black president.  However, there are several faults I have with this being a major deal.

First, it should not matter the color of one's skin.  Rather, as Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed, his children would "one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  In all the years since that speech in August of 1963 what progress have we made?  In some ways, we have made a great deal of progress.  In many ways we have made no progress at all.  For all the politically correct phrases we are supposed to use, people are still not judged by the content of their character way too often.  For the fallen world, this is to be expected.  For the church, this is a crime against God.

The Bible is clear in Galatians 3.27-29, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (ESV)  In other words, we are not limited by our differences when we are in Christ.  We should see past skin color.  We should see past cultural differences.

Again, in Ephesians 4.1-6 Paul writes, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (ESV)  We are to walk in the manner worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus.  He continues that Christians are of the same body, Spirit, Lord, faith, baptism and God.  There is no black god, or Hispanic god, no Anglo/Euro god.  There is one God over and within Christians.  We should, "regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer." (2 Corinthians 5.16 ESV)

Additionally, there is not a variety of races.  There is one race- the human race- all of us effected by Adam's choice to sin in the garden of Eden ("Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned..." Romans 5.12 ESV)  DNA points to this fact.  All the differences between "races" are very shallow. (See article: Do Races Differ? Not Really, DNA Shows -NY Times 8.22.2000)  

All humans are related through Adam and Noah's family.  Some people teach that the curse of Ham is where dark skin came from, others teach the mark of Cain is dark skin.  These are two dangerous and ridiculous teachings that do not square up with Scripture.  

Also, there is no black and white.  Everyone is a shade of color.  Some darker than others.  Different features can, doubtless, be traced to the scattering at the Tower of Babel.  When families left to different areas of the Earth, they brought their characteristics with them.  Their environment had an effect as well.  

I remember hearing that a "mixed race" marriage was wrong.  That is wrong.  When the Bible talks against a mixed marriage, it is regarding believers and unbelievers mixing, not cultures or skin colors mixing.  That part is, quite frankly, no one's business other than those in the relationship.

So, despite the fact that the skin color of the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention does matter, for Christians it should not matter at all.  Pastor Luter is my brother in Christ and a fellow citizen of Heaven.  ("...our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3.20-21 ESV)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Opportunity Presented by Post-Modernism

By Matthew Everhard

Permit me a moment to do a bit of cultural analysis. Let’s cover a thousand years of history in two minutes. Here goes…

The Ancient World gave way to an era called the Medieval Age, marked by superstition, supernaturalism, tradition, and the centralized authority in the Roman Catholic Church. This broke wide open in the Reformation period (1500’s) one of history’s great revivals of Biblical truth, as men like Luther and Calvin returned to the sources of the Old and New Testaments.  

Co-extensively, the Reformation ushered in the Enlightenment period (1700’s) marked by scientific inquiry and advance (Newton et al.) This matured into full-blown modernism (1900’s) which rejected almost all forms of supernaturalism, and essentially made empirical science “king.” Freud and Darwin took the top of the heap.

But today, we live in an age called “post-modernism.” Here, because we live in an inter-connected “global village” now, our culture rejects modern notions of absolute truth. Post-modernism rejects overarching meta-narratives. The playing field is wide-open. Anything and everything gets a fair shake in our day. Your truth is as good as mine. Wicca, Scientology, Mayan Calendar, Zombie Apocalypse--are all handled with the same gloves of tolerance!

We can define post-modernism as: an era of history in which the idea of “absolute truth” has been abandoned, in favor of: pluralism, tolerance, and personal experience. 

Good News/Bad News
There is both good news and bad news in all of this for evangelicals. First the bad news. Post-modernism makes evangelism a very difficult endeavor, because the preaching of the Gospel is first of all a truth claim. It is an assertion of certain facts: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose again. If these facts are not absolutely true, Christianity is unfounded. That post-modernism rejects “absolute truth” makes evangelism hard sledding indeed.

The good news in all of this is that our post-modern era is far more open to the sharing of personal-experiences than we fear! Much more so than other eras in the past! This is to our advantage in sharing personal experiences of Christ! Notice that in the book of Acts, Paul’s personal conversion story is told three times (chapters 9, 22, and 26). We should take note.

Discernible Life Change
There is, however, one rule to play by in post-modernism: you had better be authentic. The one thing that you must have to share your testimony with a post-modern thinker is a discernible life-change. Post-modern people can smell out a hypocrite from a mile away.

As Paul re-told his testimony and conversion to the angry crowd in Acts 22:1-22 twenty years later, not one man there could dispute that Paul had determined to live exactly like he professed that he would. Paul could pull up his shirt and show them the scars to prove it.

Biggest Fear
For most Christians, our biggest fear and ultimate obstacle in sharing our faith is that someone will reject us because we spoke about something so deeply personal as our faith in Christ. We are terrified of those two letters “no.” Have you ever heard the child’s motto “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Well that goes for personal evangelism too!

Ironically, most people will not reject you for telling them what Jesus did for you. We should, however, be far MORE AFRAID that our lives reveal our hypocrisy, superficiality, and shallowness. That to me is far more terrifying prospect than rejection. 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Brooksville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @matt_everhard or friend him on Facebook at

Thursday, June 14, 2012

James vs. Paul: Are We Justified by Faith or Works?

By Matthew Everhard

There is no doubt that James 2:24 presents a difficulty to those who hold the Reformed doctrine of Sola Fide (that is, that believers are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law). This present writer is one such man who holds firmly to Sola Fide without compromise. Briefly, how is it that we can hold firmly to the doctrine that justification is given by God as a gift through faith alone when James specifically says, "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone"? Does this single verse present a mortal wound in the Reformed understanding of justification by faith?

Worse still, many have attempted to show that the Apostles James and Paul are at irreconcilable war with one another. Paul, has written clearly, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28). Because of this apparent discrepancy or contradiction, some have thrown out the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture altogether. While Martin Luther certainly did not throw the “baby” of inerrancy out with the “bathwater” of this troubling text in James, he certainly was befuddled by the perplexity of this difficulty. He called James the “epistle of straw!”

However, when viewed in light of their respective literary contexts, James and Paul can both be understood to be holding swords—not against one another—but standing back to back to defend the gospel against different foes.

Paul’s primary concern is to defend the gospel of faith alone against a deeply entrenched (and misguided) Jewish understanding of a man’s right standing before God. Many had assumed they there were “in” merely because of their ethnic heritage. In Romans 1-3, Paul labors to show that all of humanity has fallen. This includes both Jew and Gentile. Because even one sin disqualifies us from salvation (a statement upon which James and Paul would certainly agree; compare Romans 2:23 and James 2:10), all of mankind stands in desperate need of salvation. Paul argues forcefully that salvation cannot be attained by obeying the Law (i.e. performing “works”) since no man can fully uphold the Law. Condemned under the weight of the Law, mankind is helpless and needs a Savior. This Savior is none other than Jesus Christ who died to atone for the sins of all who believe, satisfying the righteous requirements of the Law and propitiating the wrath of God.

James’ primary concern however is to defend against the error commonly called today “easy believism.” That is, that a person can be saved by merely reciting a creedal statement with no more commitment than mental assent to the facts of the gospel. James refutes the theoretical possibility by showing that any one who claims to have such mere “faith” (note James says claims in verse 14), yet demonstrates no real life change, cannot truly said to be a believer. James fights against a different enemy than Paul—one who would suggest that mere words are enough “faith” to save. No, the Apostle’s point is that saving faith—true, sincere saving faith—always consists of a radical renewal of the inner nature.

The point of discrepancy, however, is most acutely felt in the use of the word “justify” and its variants. Paul says we are justified by faith alone (Romans 3:28) and James says it is by works (James 2:24). This dilemma dissolves easily when we simply understand that the word “justify” has different meanings in different contexts.

We all know that words may have different meanings. For instance, the dictionary contains over 20 definitions for the word “run.” Sometimes words even change over a matter of a few years. Recall for example that the English language contains the word “gay” which until recent decades meant “happy.” How that word has changed! Obviously, context is everything.

When Paul uses the word “justify” he is taking this word in the most technical, theological sense. He uses it in its forensic (or legal) sense of declaration. He commonly uses the word to denote a man’s being DECLARED righteous before a holy God. Without the atonement of the cross, wiping away a believer’s sin, this declaration would be impossible. Only when the righteousness of Jesus Christ is given to a believer through faith is a man justified (that is, considered and declared righteous before God.)

However, when James uses the word “justify” and its variants in James 2, he is NOT taking it in its technical theological (or legal, forensic) sense. No, he is using it in its more common connotation of “proving,” “defending,” “showing,” “revealing,” or “authenticating.” Another such usage of the same verb appears in Luke 10:29. James’ point is simple: a man of faith PROVES the reality of his conversion by his corresponding outward behavior.

In conclusion, we find that both James and Paul are in agreement: we cannot separate Jesus Christ as the Savior from Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives. True salvation always and necessarily results in a life-change spilling over into a joyful response of obedience and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Understanding that Paul and James use the word “justify” differently causes the apparent contradiction to melt and disappear altogether.

The analogy of a fire may be helpful. A fire emits heat and light as a result of combustion. The light is not given off not as the cause of the combustion, but as its effect. Similarly, we are saved exclusively by the grace of God through the agency of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet the inevitable effect of this saving power is good works which radiate from the believer as light inevitable emanates from a fire. 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Friend him at or follow him on Twitter @matt_everhard. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Striking Similarities or Mere Coincidences: Do You Resemble the Master?

Lincoln and Kennedy

One of the pervading urban legends in American culture is the list of some forty plus similarities between John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. Conspiracy theorists love this kind of stuff! The list is so striking that some have wondered if there isn’t some mystical meaning behind the number of uncanny similarities between the two dead presidents. For instance...
  • Both have seven letters in their last names.  Spooky right? Don't worry, it gets better.
  • Both were elected to the House  of Representatives in 46', one hundred years apart of course. Both were elected to the presidency in 60'.  
  •  Both had VP's and successors named Johnson, born in 08’.
  • Both presidents were shot in the head, from behind, sitting with their wives, in the presence of another couple, on a Friday.
  • Lincoln supposedly had a secretary named Kennedy who warned him not to go to the theater; Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln who warned him not to go to Dallas.
  •  Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater; Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln-Ford automobile.
  • John Wilkes Booth ran from a theater to a warehouse; Lee Harvey Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theater.
  • Both of their assassins were killed before they went to trial.
While we must acknowledge that these coincidences are startling, there should be no coincidence whatever in our resemblance to Jesus Christ. This should be the intentional goal of our sanctification.

The more closely and intimately we walk with our Lord Jesus Christ in discipleship and sanctification, the more we will actually begin to emulate and resemble Him. In short, we must become like our master.

Let me be clear. I am not saying that if you are an obedient Christian, you too will grow out your hair and beard, wear a linen ephod, and end up with an appointment with a martyr’s stake. I don’t expect that the persecution and death of our Lord Jesus will be recapitulated in your life. But I am saying that the more you begin to resemble Jesus in action and affection, the more the world will view you as it viewed our Savior.

This is expressly taught by our Lord Jesus Himself repeatedly:
·  Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34 ESV).
·  Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do (John 14:12 ESV).
·  If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you (John 15:18f ESV).

In fact, the very word “disciple” is the Greek word mathetes (from whence we get the word mathematics) meaning a learner, i.e. one who learns—not just taking on knowledge—but also taking on the character of the master.

Romans 8:29 summarizes this truth thusly, “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (emphasis added).

Four Questions
Let me conclude by asking you some questions that you might apply directly to yourself.

  1. To your knowledge, is your resemblance to the Master, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, growing, stagnant, or fading? Do you see in yourself more and more resemblance to His character and conduct? His actions and inclinations? Or are you just another poor caricature of culture?
  1. If you answered yes to the first question, do other people recognize this in you in growing measure? That’s really important. The possibility of self-deception is lurking dangerously. It may not be that you are actually being transformed more and more into the image of Christ, but simply that you are reading more and more of yourself into the Jesus of the Gospels.  Oh how subtle that pernicious error is! The opinion of others is critical in this regard.
  1. If you answered yes to that question, proceed to the third. Do you find yourself sharing the affections (deep emotions) that Jesus held?  If we are going to walk with Jesus one step further, His affections must become ours. We must love what He loves, hate what He hates, have pity on what He pities, be angered by what angers Him etc. To be a Christian is to feel acutely! Does your heart not weep for the lost? Does your heart not soar for the glory of God! Does your heart not rejoice at the mention of His name? It is impossible to be a Christian and to be remain indifferent to the lost condition of the world.
  1. Finally, if you’ve answered yes to all three questions so far, proceed to the last: Is this resemblance to Jesus causing you more and more tension and conflict with our lie-enamored culture? Do you find yourself more and more unsettled in your view of the world, or do you find yourself quite contented and numb? If it is the latter, return to Q#1 and re-evaluate.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Un-Precious Life

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

There is a counter-intuitive, inverse correlation between self-love and ultimate joy. The more one loves self, the more the self actually erodes into oblivion. The more one savors Christ and expends everything for the sake of the Kingdom, he finds himself more alive than ever possible.

After spending three years with them, Paul told the Ephesian elders on the beach minutes before his departure that he viewed his own life as un-precious. He said, “I do not account my life of any value…to myself.” He does not deny that God created him unique or stamped him with the imago dei (Genesis 1:27). He does not deny his role as Apostle or church planter. He says he viewed his life as un-precious to himself (emphasis added).

The un-precious life is the key to living fully and radically for the glory of Christ. Let’s look quickly at four marks of this “theology of self.”

First, un-precious men are often viewed as crazy, even by other Christians. The un-precious man is almost always greatly-misunderstood in his own time. Most think they are weird. Perhaps in some degree they are. Even their parents, peers and fellow believers don’t “get” them because they live so contrarily to their age and culture.

If you want to live like Paul, know and expect that most will not relate well to you. Your reputation among others cannot be highly prized in your own eyes. Often it is not until history looks back upon them that their genius is received.  Think about Jim Elliot (d. 1956) who was martyred at the hands of the Waodani Indians. Consider his wife Elizabeth Elliot who went back to preach to those who killed her husband. Most had tried to talk them out of this “foolishness.” Today we hail them as heroes.

Second, un-precious men take risks because their decisions are not based on self-preservation. This builds on the last point. The reason they often aren’t understood is that they make decisions with little regard for self-preservation. Paul says in Acts 20:23, “The Spirit testifies to me that in every city imprisonments and afflictions await me.”

How is it that Paul seems to have no fear of death? Well the simple answer is that he knows he’s going to heaven. But a slightly more nuanced answer can be seen in his manner of life as well. Paul has no fear of death because he has already died to self a thousand times over. He says in another place, “I die every day” (1 Corinthians 15:31). 

By “losing his life” (to use Jesus’ expression, i.e. forsaking health, material gain, comfort, ease, leisure, prosperity) Paul has “found it” in spending and being spent for the Gospel. Death cannot take anything away from a man that he has already willingly renounced! Over such a man, death has no sway.

Third, un-precious men accomplish incredible feats because obstacles are viewed as negligible. Un-precious men are not inhibited by the obstacles that stop other men because they serve a God that is big enough to overthrow any resistance by His Mighty Hand. Words like “cost,” “risk,” “expense,” and “danger” are not in their vocabulary. David regarded his life as un-precious when he fought Goliath. Joshua considered his life un-precious when he took Jericho.

Fourth, many un-precious men die early through excessive use of the body. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) considered himself un-precious.  He preached 600 times before the age of 20. His sermons sold 20,000 copies a week. He led the first mega-church of the modern era, some 4-6 thousand persons at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. By his fiftieth birthday, Spurgeon had founded some 66 organizations including orphanages, publications, and missions.  His writings today comprise 63 volumes. Many do not know that his wife became an invalid at age 33, and for next 27 years could not attend her husband’s preaching.

David Livingston the famous missionary once asked Spurgeon, “How do you manage to do two men’s work in a single day?” Spurgeon replied, “You have forgotten, there are two of us.”[i] By this he meant the power of the Holy Spirit living within him!

Spurgeon wrote,

“If by excessive labor we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of heaven. It is our duty and privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices whose lot it is to be consumed.”[ii]

Finally, of course, the greatest man who lived as though He were un-precious (although He was of ultimate, supreme value in the entire universe!) was our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Praise God that Christ lived as un-precious for you. Will you resolve to live as un-precious for Him? 

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Florida. Friend him on Facebook at or follow him on Twitter @matt_everhard.

[i] Quoted in John Piper. Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity. (1995 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors).
[ii] Ibid.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When God Showed Up - a Week I'll Never Forget! (The Brownwood Revival)

by Pastor Matt Ellis

In some ways, 1995 will always stand out as one of the most incredible years of my life! It's the year that I encountered God in a way that was more powerful than anything I've ever experienced. It left me different; it left me dissatisfied with lesser things; it left me wanting to experience God again. I'd like to share a little about it with you...

Dr. Gray Allison
President Emeritus
Mid-America Seminary
I moved to the Memphis, Tennessee area in 1994 to work on my Masters of Divinity degree at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. At that time, the seminary was located in downtown Memphis and was housed in a former Jewish synagogue. Dr. Gray Allison was president at that time.

For the most part, I enjoyed chapel services there. We had our share of boring speakers but many of them showed us some wonderful things from God's Word. Some of the memories I will always cherish were the times Dr. Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist Church came to speak in chapel!

Adrian Rogers
Former Senior Pastor
Bellevue Baptist Church

In my personal life, I was experiencing the ups and downs of the Christian life. My "walk" with Jesus was chugging along but lacked the power I read about in the New Testament. I spent time in God's Word and prayed but it typically felt like a one-way relationship. Struggles with sin in my mind and heart reminded me all too well of Romans 7 where Paul lamented his inability to effectively life a Christ-honoring life. I wanted in live in the reality of what Paul described in Romans 8 - the Spirit-filled life.

In the early part of 1995, students at Mid-America were becoming aware that something special was taking place in some of our sister seminaries. I don't know when I first heard it called the "Brownwood Revival" but that's the name that stuck. (Click here for an article that the Houston Chronicle wrote about this revival four months after it began. Click here for an article written by the Baptist Press.)

Bill Elliff
Bill Elliff(1) had connections with Mid-America and had also recently experienced the power of God in that revival. If I remember correctly, he had visited Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and saw what God was doing there. He was asked to come to Mid-America for chapel services that memorable week.

I cannot remember the exact date. I just remember that it was a Tuesday morning in the early part of 1995 when we made our way to the chapel service. As I walked in, there was a sense that something was very different. I don't remember any of the musicians playing any music in an attempt to try to create an "atmosphere." But something was very different.

As Bill was introduced as that week's speaker, we were told that he had experienced God in a powerful way recently and he had come to tell us about it. As he approached the pulpit, he did so with a great sense of solemnity. He looked at us and spoke quietly and sometimes, his voice would crack. He wasn't going to "work us up" into a revival. He was broken by his encounter with God and it had left him keenly aware of his own sinfulness and frailty in God's sight.

If my memory serves me correctly (it's been over 17 years ago), that Tuesday in chapel, Bill spoke on God's holiness. He talked of how Isaiah was captivated by God's holiness in Isaiah 6 and how the natural human response was to become keenly aware of personal sin (Isaiah 6:5).

But he went on to say that God wanted us to acknowledge our sin on a deep level so we could confess it and receive forgiveness (Isaiah 6:6-7). Later in the week, he pointed out that when our sin is dealt with, we are empowered for service in ways we never thought imaginable (Isaiah 6:8ff).

As Bill preached in his soft, broken tones, students (most of them grown men) began to weep. This wasn't anything worked up and it certainly wasn't normal. In fact, I NEVER remember any other time when conviction of sin was so obvious.

All I can say is that God enabled us as a group to become more aware of the sin in our lives than we had ordinarily been able to experience. It's as if God shined a light into the hidden, sin-filled closets of our minds and hearts and we were made aware of how sinful we really were. Sinful thought patterns, wrong motives and long-forgotten sinful actions were brought to light. The only natural response was to weep over those sins, despise them, confess them to the Lord and forsake them.

In fact, in my personal experience, searching out sin in my heart became a compelling desire. I actually found great delight in searching and discovering sin ... because I loved the feeling of cleansing and forgiveness when I got it right with the Lord. Searching out sin was something I craved! I had never experienced this desire and joy to that extent.

I came to realize that in times of revival, the way to pure joy in the Christian life is through the valley of repentance. It is only as we are enabled to see our sins, bemoan and confess them at a very deep level, and then receive forgiveness from Almighty God that we are able to experience the unimaginable joy of the Lord.

When I say "joy of the Lord," I'm talking about an emotional response that was typical among most (if not all) of those present. It's something you can't adequately define ... you can only experience it. What did Moses feel as he saw God's glory in Exodus 33:18-23? What must Peter, James and John have felt as they saw Jesus radiating His glory in Matthew 17:2? They responded with fear/awe ... but you had to be there to really understand.

When God showed up at Mid-America, I can recall so many specific moments that will stay with me until the day I die. But if I was to boil it all down, I would simply say that God showed up and left us with a desire for Him that may have dissipated but has never completely disappeared.

While I have fallen far short of God's glory many times since then, I've also been left with a desire to know God more! It's left me with a disdain for religion as usual. I developed a clearer understanding of how putrefying apathetic Christianity is to Jesus (Revelation 3:16) because I've experienced God in a way that has left me wanting more.

As we see our nation and world morally spiraling out of control, may we cry out with Moses asking the Lord - "Please show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18). May He do it among us again!

Matt Ellis is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Brooksville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @mattellis1997 or on Facebook at

Cheap Law and True Holiness

A Sermon Delivered at Dayspring Church June 3, 2012

Please turn to Matthew chapter 5, that’s where we’ll begin today.

What is the primary obstacle to understanding and being encouraged by the Proverbs? It’s when we take the amazing overflowing wisdom, the gathered gold of the Proverbs and we cheapen it.  

Bonheoffer talked about Cheap Grace in his writings; Cheap Law is the idea that the law of God, such as the proverbs we have before us today, can be satisfied by anything other than the righteousness of Christ. Cheapening the law makes the Christian life doable and makes Jesus an accessory, a co-pilot, that we bring in when we need help, but otherwise unnecessary.

What’s wrong with making the moral side of Christianity seem doable? People like lists, they like programs, they like it when everything is nice and packaged and when it feels possible to obey God in the coming week. I know congregations like it when there are three points and they rhyme but I tend to resist that unless the text demands it because it communicates something that is not true—that the Christian life is neat and tidy and doable. All the famous pastors with big churches use this technique, but look at Jesus’ list in the NT. Matthew 5 is one. Turn to Matthew 5 please. Here Jesus gives God’s high standard for life and love in the New Covenant, he re-tells the law from the perspective of the New Covenant and rather than doing away with the law, repurposes it.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

So when we relax the law, when we make the Proverbs seem doable and make it seem easier to live the Christian life by smooth preaching, we are actually going against the intent of Jesus. Jesus gives a list in Matthew 5 [Blessed…blessed] and that list makes the new life in his new world order seem unattainable and he says that’s right, now you are getting it, the truths of Scripture are written so that I might fulfill them, not that you might fulfill them. Jesus seems to say that the rule and principles and truths of Scripture exist not that you might be more fit, but that I might more found, more glorious, more delightful! 

Proverbs used like a doable checklist end up like this, something to make us more fit, to make our business’ prosper and our families sound. We relax the Proverbs as Matthew 5:19 says, individually and as a group, so we can apply them mechanically and profit from them in this horizontal realm. But does that make us more holy in our soul? 

If we use the Proverbs merely as a means of self-improvement, then when we are improved, when our business is more efficient, when our homes are more manageable, when our children are properly disciplined, then we are done with them and they are done with us.
But if we use the Proverbs to reveal how our hearts are sinful, and how that leaks out into every area of life targeted by the Proverbs, and that we can’t fully obey any Proverb and any section of the law perfectly, then Jesus shines. Then Jesus is glorified and the gospel is revealed to be true.

If I cheapen the law, I don’t need the double-imputation of Christ—him giving me his righteousness, me giving him my sin—I don’t need that if I’ve got it all together. I don’t need that if the Proverbs and the rest of the Bible is just one big self-help book. I just need more will, more drive, more determination. But not more of Jesus.

Putting it positively, the Bible is designed to reveal our need for Christ and our need for the Gospel, and as we live for him and are guided by his inerrant, inspired book, we mature, and then our success, as well as our failure, reveals Christ, just as the success and failure of our heroes in Scripture does.

Let’s inspect Proverbs 24 today and see how this works. It’s very simple. You can either use these for simple self-improvement or you can take these principles and apply them to your heart and find new room for Christ there. You can be afraid of the consequences of ungodly living and so start applying the Proverbs out of fear, or you can start applying the Proverbs out of a desire for others to think you are spiritual, or you can apply them in such a way that reveals that Jesus is alive and well and matters in your heart and in your lifestyle and in your computer and bedroom and every part of your existence.

How do we do that? We read the negative Proverbs, warning us against sin, we ask, “How am I just like that?” And then we read it again and ask, “How is Jesus so sufficient, so marvelous, so awesome, that I never have to live and feel that way again?” Then true holiness happens, and we know it not primarily by our own feelings or experiences, but primarily because truth holiness is reflected in the law and the Gospel, in the assurances and the admonitions of Scripture. True holiness makes us more like Jesus, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross.

Looking at our text today, notice as it was read that in this section of Proverbs, we don’t have couplets, but couplets of couplets, that should not be separated as we read them. Let’s look at one more section of this chapter.

Let’s look at Proverbs 24. Two sections that jumped out at me this week.

11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
     does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
    and will he not repay man according to his work?

This is the traditional text used by a variety of pro-life ministries and Christian groups who reach out and try and help those who are in great danger. In our society, there are many activities and substances that can kill you. You can even die from doing nothing, just hanging out in your mother’s womb. I’m grateful we don’t have an abortion clinic in our community, but if we did, we could use this text to explain our Scriptural basis for it.

In its context, we don’t know for certain what historical situation this is referencing. They didn’t have abortion clinics back them. But the first audience of Proverbs was young men, being trained as princes in the royal court of Solomon, and they would have learned a great deal of information and science and technology of the day. With that wisdom and knowledge, they could not turn their back on the covenant community who was suffering, and then claim they were ignorant—God knew that they did and did not know. If there is someone in this congregation who is destroying themselves thoughtlessly, and ignorantly endangering themselves and their family, then we have to say something, because part of being linked together by Christ means helping those around us who are in trouble.

But that level of the proverb could be practiced by a Buddhist; an atheist could read the proverb on that level, bring it down to his own circumstances, and benefit from it. But that “relaxes” the proverb, making it helpful, but not redemptive, not gracious. This surface reading of it does not reveal my sin or reveal my Christ.  

But let’s go to the heart of why God included this in the Proverbs. I ask the reader--How are you just like this? Think on this for a moment before you continue.

Let’s go deeper into the heart of why God included this: How is Jesus revealed here to us in this previous text? Think on this a moment before you continue. 

One more text to consider:

19 Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
    and be not envious of the wicked,
20 for the evil man has no future;
     the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
21 My son, fear the Lord and the king,
    and do not join with those who do otherwise,
22 for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
    and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?

Obviously, the simple moral teaching of this text is to not worry about evil people, whether high up or low in society, and do not join with those who make it a habit. This calls into question the wisdom of joining one group or the other that is anti-Obama or anti-homosexual or even against drunk driving—this proverb warns that disaster can come from any situation, not just the political realm or from the obvious “bad people.”

But let’s read this with new eyes. How am I just like this? How does Jesus deal with the wicked, and what does this reality compel me to do? Contemplate this before you move on. 

In answer to the last question, Revelation 6:1 says this:

"Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals..."

And each one of those seals are salvation for his people and judgment on the enemies of the church, which is the purpose of the book of Revelation. When Jesus sees injustice, he is patient, desiring all to repent, but does not wait any longer than necessary and then he acts. Look at the end of Revelation 6.

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave[e]and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16  calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

This is how Jesus deals with those who refuse to repent. This is the most serious of matters we have before God--will we repent? Or hide sin and self? 

If you are not a God-worshiper, if you know you are not a Christian, even though you may be a member of a church, even though you may have been raised in the church, you know you don’t know Jesus personally, you don’t read the Bible ever, you don’t pray ever—if you live your life just fine without Jesus, then you need to be grateful. God could have dropped you on the floor at any time and he would have been within his rights. But he has delayed so you could repent, turn from your God-less life, and live a life centered on him through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who took the sin of all God’s people upon himself and gave all his people his right standing, his righteousness, towards God. You don’t have to fear death, you don’t have to fear life, you don’t have to fear the political process—but you do have to fear God and his judgment.

Today at the Lord’s Table, we will learn about the joy of fleeing from God, to God, and being received at his table as we look at the original Passover found in Exodus 12. Let us pray.

General Comments at the Table
It is the Lord's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

At this table, just as in the ancient times, we celebrate God saving his people from his wrath that they deserved. This is how he can be just, and punish sin, and the justifier, who pardons sinners. And he invites pardoned sinners to this table today, a place of safety for his people, and destruction for those who have no appetite for Christ.