Tuesday, June 29, 2010



On a recent Sunday morning as I was preparing for church, I had the TV on, and Joel Osteen was on the air. In case you have been on Mars for the last few years and don’t know it; Joel is pastor of America’s largest congregation, the 43,500 member Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He is author of three best selling books Your Best Life Now, Become A Better You, and the newest (released in November 2009), It’s Your Time.

Actually, though I have seen him a couple of times in brief TV interviews, and have seen his photo on books and ads, I had never viewed his program. I met his father, John Osteen, once when I was in mission work with ECL/Door of Hope. John was a Southern Baptist pastor who came to embrace charismatic views and started the church Joel now pastors. Under John’s preaching the church grew to 6000 members. John died of a heart attack in 1999. Joel stated that though he was in the church there, he had never preached in his life until one week before his father died. Upon John’s death, Joel assumed the role of pastor.

Just watching this pleasant, nice looking, energetic young man as he spoke, I wanted to like him, listen to him and not criticize him. He really seems like a “nice guy”. I listened for some good word from the scriptures, some exposition, some admonition, some doctrinal content, or at least a verse I could meditate on. Something that might help the thousands of people in that vast audience that resembled the crowd at an NFL game; or that might help his millions of TV watchers with scriptural truth. I heard -- nothing! I think Joel was just giving some highlights of his book. He was telling everyone they shouldn’t feel second rate because of lack of success. He said “God wants you to succeed”. “If you fail, don’t take it so hard -- try again”. “Always look at the positive side”.

What makes his teaching different than the Schullers, or the late Norman Vincent Peale and their “positive thinking”, or “possibility thinking” theology? They also pastored very large churches.Basically, Osteen’s teaching seems to be the same as theirs with a “name it and claim it” charismatic edge. Lakewood Church (as of March 2009), was almost twice as big as Willow Creek Church in S. Berrington, IL pastored by Bill Hybels, or Saddleback Church in Orange County, California pastored by Rick Warren, writer of The Purpose Driven Life. (These two pastors with their “seeker sensitive” philosophy could be discussed also, but another day perhaps).

I do not know if it is this way every service for him, but when Joel got to the end of his message that Sunday morning, with almost no quotes from the word of God for his great sea of thousands of faces, he took about 30 seconds to say “if you need to trust Jesus Christ as savior, ask Him right now to come in your heart. Now you’ve done that -- you are now born again. Contact us and let us know”.

So divine “magic’ here. Just a few hocus-pocus words and men are “born anew”. Such a “just prayism” gospel! Such an “easy believism” gospel! I want to tell you, my friends, that isn’t the gospel! It is not the gospel that Christ Himself preached -- or that Paul preached -- or that Peter and John preached -- or that Spurgeon preached -- or that true Bible preachers preach today. Beware! It is another gospel! I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”(Galatians 1:6-9).

Some will think me overly critical, and probably say “Who do you think you are?’ Well, I am nobody. I am not a pastor. Most of my ministry has been as a missionary, Bible teacher, evangelist and writer. Most of the large crowds I have addressed have been overseas.

But brothers and sisters, is our goal simply to have a large crowd? It would be nice to have a large crowd if they mostly came with a desire to hear the gospel. John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and John Piper have pretty large congregations. There is nothing wrong with that. These three men preach the gospel of grace to their crowds. Yet, having a crowd is not to be an end in itself. Better to have a handful that love Christ, and a desire to hear the word of God and grow, than to have a huge crowd of worldlings that have to have multiple programs and entertainment to keep them coming. Remember, if entertainment brings them in, you will have to get better entertainment to keep them! If all you want is a large crowd, and the money they can give, and the fame it will bring you, you are playing games with the souls of men and women!

"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them"(Isaiah 8:20).

Thursday, June 17, 2010



For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2: 8-10).

Dr. James A. Stewart referred to Ephesians as the “Alps of the New Testament.” Surely the teaching found here in chapter two is very lofty. Every evangelical Bible teacher in the world teaches on this passage, and on the subject of grace. All of us say we believe in salvation by grace “plus nothing, minus nothing.” This is the core of fundamental doctrine, but do we really grasp its full meaning?

We must examine the meaning of the Bible word grace. The Greek word for grace is charis. Most of us simply say grace is unmerited, undeserved favor. The definition is good, if incomplete. Strong’s Greek Dictionary gives this definition: “figuratively, literally and spiritually, especially the divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life.” Grace bestowed from God is a free gift of divine favor in contrast to doing good works seeking to find favor with God.

It is even in contrast from the works of the law, freely forgiving the sinner who has broken the law, solely on the merits of another who kept the law perfectly. Remember, law allows no failures, no mistakes: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2: 10).

For now, the Lord has not allowed me to locate my notes on a series I preached on Ephesians at the Lakewood Presbyterian Church in Atlanta about 20 years ago. Most of my ministry has been as a missionary worker, and evangelist. As such, most of my preaching has not been in series on certain books of the Bible, or continuing themes. So it was a real thrill for me to do a somewhat detailed exposition at that time. In the course of two years I was able to cover Ephesians, and a study of the Seven Churches of Revelation. I enjoyed it immensely. In that time I was not able to exhaustively study Ephesians, but we covered some ground even though they only had me there an average of two or three times a month.

There are basically three types of preaching. The first is textual preaching. This is where you take a text from the Bible, and either explore (expound), the text, or build a theme around it.

The second is subject preaching. You take a Bible subject and preach a message on it from all over the Bible, and other resources.

The third is expository preaching which takes a book of the Bible, or a chapter, or good sized portion, and attempts to mine the material as deeply as is practical in the allotted time. This is the best kind for a pastor to use because the people can learn much about the Bible this way. Of course, there are many variations on these types of sermons, but these are the basics.

To study the subject of grace, the second chapter of Ephesians is perhaps the best place to be. These verses encapsulate grace showing us what it is, and what it isn’t, in relation to law, works, death, life, God and man. It is not of yourselves. Nothing you could do from within to merit this salvation. You say “What about faith? Isn’t that something I do?” You exercise faith as the vehicle to reach for salvation, but the context of the verse indicates that even the faith is a gift of God. It is not of works lest any man should boast.

Paul, as in all his epistles, tells us from the start to whom he is speaking. In Ephesians 1:1 he says to the saints”. Paul says it is by grace that we are saved. Sinners are made saints by the Lord. They are saved. This is another great Bible word. It means deliverance. It means life in contrast to the death he talks about in verse one. He says “You hath he (God), quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sin (the broken law) (Ephesians 2:1). He is speaking of spiritual death here, and in the past tense. You were dead! Things are different now. You have been made alive! Our verse {by grace are you saved}, is also past tense. Inverting the words brings it clearer: by grace you are saved through faith. This is the meaning of the text.

John R.W. Stott puts it this way: “You were saved through faith, and even this faith by which you are saved is God’s gift. Theologically, this is true. We must never think of salvation as a kind of a transaction between God and us in which he contributes grace, and we contribute faith. For we were dead and had to be quickened before we could believe. No, Christ’s apostles clearly teach elsewhere that saving faith too is God’s gracious gift.” (e.g. Acts 18:27; Philippians 1:29) From the Message of Ephesians; IVP, Downers Grove, Illinois; 1979 edition (Emphasis mine).

Matthew Henry’s commentary on our text says: “Note, every converted sinner is a saved sinner. Such are delivered from sin and wrath; they are brought into a state of salvation, and have a right given them by grace to eternal happiness. The grace that saves them is the free, undeserved, goodness and favor of God; and He saves them, not by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, by means of which they come to partake of the great blessings of the gospel; and both that faith and that salvation on which it has so great an influence are the gift of God.” (emphasis mine).

He says in Ephesians 2:1: “You hath He quickened (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins”. He goes on to tell us that these dead sinners were “dead men walking” according to the world system, which is against God, and following “the prince of the power of the air”, which is Satan. These dead also had “their behavior in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (verse 3). In other words, the apostle is saying that these saints mentioned in Chapter one started out as everyone else, all “children of wrath” under God’s curse. In contrast to now being saved, they were lost.

He goes on in verses four and five to reiterate the quickening of God so that they are no longer dead in sin. Nowhere in these two chapters does he give one iota of credit to man regarding their salvation. It is all of grace! The making alive, the undeserved favor, the faith, the union with Christ, the good works that follow as God’s plan after salvation, are all the gift of Almighty God!

Note that it has brought them (and all of us who are saved), to a position in heavenly places spiritually with Christ. In the entire Bible you do not find any scripture that indicates that any man or woman can be saved without Jesus Christ! This goes for elect and non-elect! In the OT; He is the coming Messiah. In NT: He is the realized Messiah. You see this making alive, this grace, this faith we have been discussing has an objective, and the objective is Jesus Christ. This grace leads us to Him, who as Savior had to die for us. He procured our salvation for us. He is the salvation that this grace and faith lead us to. His very name, Jesus, means salvation. Remember: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father but by me” (John 14:6).

This grace leads one to Christ and no other, and it is absolutely necessary to “look unto Him” by faith to be saved. The goodness of God exhibited in His Grace, leads us to repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 2:4). There is no other way! Praise to His Name!

So we can say grace is:

1) Free Grace---the gift of God.

2) Saving Grace---it brings us to eternal salvation.

3) Sovereign Grace—not of ourselves, but by God’s sovereign will.

4) Sustaining Grace—created in Christ Jesus unto good works. He ordained beforehand that we should walk (move forward) in them.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found,Was blind, but now I see

T’was grace that taught my heart to fear,And grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear, The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares,I have already come
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,And grace will lead me home

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,Than when we’ve first begun

Song by John Newton in 1779. The world’s best-known hymn. These are the four most commonly used verses, of possibly ten, six of which were definitely written by Newton. Click link for more. These are the ones we know so well in most churches in the South.

www.anointedlinks.com/amazing_grace.html also see this site for more: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/m/a/amazing_grace.htm

(I originally wrote this article in May, 2006. I have ran it here several years ago, but I thought I would offer it again for new readers with very little updating for 2010 cw).

Saturday, June 05, 2010


BY RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691).

Mr Baxter was a renowned English Puritan preacher. He is famous for such books as Call to the Unconverted, Dying Thoughts, The Divine Life, and The Saint's Everlasting Rest. This short excerpt from The Reformed Pastor. written in 1656, was compiled by W.F. Bell.

How few ministers do preach with all their might! Alas, we speak so drowsily or gently, that sleepy sinners cannot hear. The blow falls so light that hard-hearted sinners cannot feel. The most of ministers will not so much as exert their voice, and stir up themselves to an earnest utterance. But if they do speak loud and earnestly, how few do answer it with weight and earnestness of matter! And yet without this, the voice does little good.

It would grieve one to the heart to hear what excellent doctrine some ministers have in hand, while yet they let it die in their hands for lack of close and lively application. In the name of God, brethren, labor to awaken your own hearts, before you go into the pulpit. A sleepy preacher will hardly awaken drowsy sinners. Though you give the holy things of God the highest praise in words, yet, if you do it coldly, you will seem by your manner to unsay what you said in the matter.

Though I move you not to constant loudness in your delivery (for that will make your fervency contemptible), yet see that you have a constant seriousness; and when the matter requires it, then lift up your voice, and spare not your spirits. Oh, speak not one cold or careless word about so great a business as heaven or hell.

I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul. When I let my heart go cold, my preaching is cold. And so I can oft observe also in the best of my hearers that when I have grown cold in preaching, they have grown cold too. Oh brethren, watch therefore over your own hearts: keep out lusts and passions, and worldly inclinations; keep up the life of faith, and love, and zeal; be much at home, and much with God. A minister should take special pains with his heart, before he is to go to the congregation; if it be cold, how is he likely to warm the hearts of his hearers? Therefore, go then specially to God for life!


“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:3-5). THE APOSTLE PAUL

“Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed to thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (I Timothy 4:15-16). THE APOSTLE PAUL

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). THE APOSTLE PAUL