Archive for November, 2007

30
Nov
07

Knowing You are Forgiven – Part One

How do you know when you are forgiven?

One of the Bible’s clearest explanations of forgiveness says,

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

Let us break down the sentence in order to better understand forgiveness.

If we confess our sins…

One need not be a biblical theologian to recognize forgiveness is conditional. Forgiveness is conditioned upon our confession. Conversely, until one confesses their sin, they will not be forgiven.

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words the word “confess” in this sentence means “to confess by way of admitting oneself guilty of what one is accused of, the result of inward conviction.” Thus, confession is the result of conviction.

Of course, for conviction to come, one must be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said this about the role of the Holy Spirit in convicting us of our sin:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…
John 16:7-8

One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to convict. So, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin we must confess our sin. Admitting your wrongdoing before God is a result of conviction. Therefore, confession, genuine confession, must be the result of the Holy Spirit working in your heart to admit your guilt before God.

…he is faithful and just…

Next, in order to comprehend forgiveness, you must know something about God. In this short phrase John teaches two things about God.

First, John teaches that God is faithful. To admit God is faithful is to say God is reliable. God is so reliable he made this pledge to all who place their full confidence in Him: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:6b).

Next, John teaches that God is just. In this case, the word “just” is interchangeable for the word “righteous”. To say God is “just” is to say God is always “right”. Again, Vine’s helps us by describing God being “just” as “it designates the perfect agreement between His nature and His acts (in which He is the standard for all men).”

It is one thing to say that God is “faithful and just”. Yet when you know God personally through Jesus Christ, you know that He is not only “faithful and just” in His character, but that it is in His character to express His faithfulness and righteousness to us. So, to experience forgiveness you must understand the faithfulness and justice of God. To understand God’s faithfulness and justice is to realize He keeps every promise He makes. One of the biggest promises God makes is that He will forgive us when we confess our sin to Him.

…to forgive us our sins…

Returning to the Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words we learn two great truths about the word “forgive”. Vine’s teaches forgiveness “firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offense; such remission is based upon the vicarious and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ.” Thus, the word “forgive” is a powerful biblical word. More importantly, the act of forgiveness is a merciful and benevolent act of God entirely through Jesus Christ.

So, according to 1 John 1:9, forgiveness is a fact. Here is the process by which forgiveness works. First, the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin. Next, as a result of that conviction I must confess my sin. Because God is faithful and always right, when I confess my sin God forgives that sin. In short, forgiveness comes when sin is confessed.

Yet there is more.

…and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we confess our sin, God does more than just forgive us our sin. The Bible adds, “and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“To cleanse us from all unrighteous” is to make us holy. It is to free us from the contamination of sin. The phrase means to venerate us, to consecrate us, to sanctify us.

So, when we confess our sins, God sets us free from two things. First, he sets us free from the penalty of sin—“to forgive us our sins”. Second, he sets us free from its contamination—“and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. What a great God! What a loving God.

Here is my biblical understanding of 1 John 1:9,

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, we must confess to God our sin. Because God is reliable and always right, He will deliver us from the penalty our sin and completely remove our guilt of that sin through Jesus Christ.

For those of you who are still struggling with forgiveness, I will continue our lesson in tomorrow’s blog.

28
Nov
07

Three THEREFORES You Need to Know

While reading my Bible this morning, I was reminded of three THEREFORES I have noted in my Bible. I found these THEREFORES during a personal Bible study years ago. I am so glad I made note of them, because each time I see my notes I am reminded of the process necessary for the victorious life I live in Christ. These are three THEREFORES you need to know.

First, there is the THEREFORE OF MORAL PURITY.

James records,

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (underline and emphasis added).
James 1:21

To live the victorious life in Christ, one must first rid themselves of “filthiness and rampant wickedness”. The Bible teaches that every human is inherently evil (Romans 3:23). We are born sinners. Even though we are sinful by nature, our sinful potential is increased by learned sinful tendencies. Whether inherited or learned, our sinful behavior must be put away. By the way, I don’t know about the rest of you who read this blog, putting “away all filthiness and rampant wickedness” is a full time job for me. That is why this first THEREFORE is central to my delivered life in Christ.

Next, there is the THEREFORE OF MORAL CLARITY.

The writer of Hebrews teaches,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (underline and emphasis added).
Hebrews 12:1-2

We are told, once again, to do away with our sin, we are told to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” That reminds us to rid ourselves of our sinful ways. And we are taught to do this by “looking to Jesus”. We must fix our eyes on Jesus. We look to Jesus as our example for moral clarity. Jesus is our example of moral clarity because the Bible says of Jesus,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Hebrews 4:15

Finally, there is the THEREFORE OF MORAL CONFORMITY.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (underline and emphasis added).
Romans 12:1-2

This THEREFORE teaches us, a third time, not to conform to the sinful standard of the world, but to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Isn’t it interesting to note each passage reminds us to reject the sinful ways of the world? The world desires to squeeze us into its mold. We must rise above the standards of the world by allowing God’s Word to conform us into genuinely devoted followers of Christ.

These are three THEREFORE everyone needs to know. I challenge you this week to being your morning by re-reading and reminding yourself of these THEREFORES.

27
Nov
07

A True Sports Superstar

In a day when so called “sports superstars” are in and out of jail, on and off steroids, or up and down contracts, the following story will inspire you.

I saw the video first on Fox News. I later searched the web for the video in its entirety.

LET ME WARN YOU, THE FOLLOWING VIDEO IS NOT FOR THE FAINT AT HEART.

click here for video

Apparently Claire had injured her leg a few weeks prior to the race. Claire’s coach limited her practice two weeks prior to Ohio’s High School State Cross Country Championship due to the soreness. Perhaps she should have had the leg x-rayed. I understand, however; most athletes believe they can work their way through an injury.

In the race, Claire heard her leg crack. She thought it was a muscle strain, and determined she could finish the race. Her goal was to catch a rival runner in front of her. A few steps later, she heard the crack again, and again. Then another, louder crack brought her to her knees.

A teammate passing her encouraged her to her feet again. When she finally stood on both legs, this time her leg gave way with the loudest crack.

“At that point, I knew what had happened. I knew my leg was broken pretty badly. And I knew I couldn’t get up again. So I started crawling,” she said.

Claire said she did not think of her coach or her parents. She did not even think of anyone else encouraging her to finish. Instead and here is one of the big reasons why I think Claire gets it, she thought of the countless stories she had heard about runners who collapsed before the end of the race and yet still finished. Claire said she still would have crawled across the finish line even if her leg had given out at the 400-meter mark. No matter what, Claire was going to finish.

“They may not have let me, and it might not have been pretty, but I would have tried,” she said.

And, now, here is the biggest reason I believe Claire crawled across the finish line. She said, “I had come so far. Our team had come so far. All season, we had been working for state, and now we were there. I was almost done, and there was no way I was going to let the team down.”

There it is; this is how I know Claire gets it—“There was no way I was going to let the team down.”

So, she finished the race in a time of 20:24.07, only 18 seconds slower than her personal best (20:06), despite crawling for the last 45 feet. The finish was good for 67th place, helping her school to a fourth-place finish in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III championship.

Claire Markwardt, in my opinion, is a real sport star. Claire is the epitome of an authentic athlete. She understands the purpose of physical competition. She knows the meaning of being the member of a team. Sure, Claire was competing for a personal best, but the bigger picture forced her to crawl across the line. Claire did not want to disappoint her team. The team was first. Many of our “sports heroes” of the day would benefit from Claire’s story. Claire Markwardt embodies the purpose of genuine athletic competition and being the member of a team.

26
Nov
07

Try Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is now my favorite holiday. I enjoy Thanksgiving because I pig out on a lot of delicious food. That is why I was able to run an extra few miles during the Thanksgiving weekend. That way I can eat all I want and not feel guilty or gain weight. I also like the time Thanksgiving gives me with my family. Additionally, I enjoy watching three or four football games five days in a row. Furthermore, Thanksgiving lets me catch my breath before the end-of-the-year activities swing into motion. So now do you see now why I like Thanksgiving so much?

This Thanksgiving weekend I spent time reminiscing about some previous holiday experiences.

One Thanksgiving my mother’s house caught on fire. This is not to be confused with the fire of December 2005 that gutted her house. This fire was sometime around 1988 or 1989. The grandkids came running in the house yelling, “The house is on fire! The house is on fire!” Actually, the house was not on fire. The smoke billowing out the eave was due to the chimney overheating. Thank goodness the smoke alerted us, and the fire department arrived in time to “cool off the fire” without any damage to the house.

Another memorable Thanksgiving occurred when my sister-in-law, Martha Jo accidentally cut her hand with the carving knife. Mom had recently purchased a new set of carving knives. As we Whitley kids can do, we made a big deal out of the knives. Mom told us to be careful. We were not, and Martha Jo took a large piece of flesh out of her finger. My brother, Chuck, and I spent the evening in the emergency room with his wife. The rest of the family enjoyed the good food and fellowship without us. By the time we arrived back at mom’s house everyone was leaving.

Perhaps the most memorable Thanksgiving was the first one Vonda and I celebrated as parents. The year was 1989. Taylor was three months old, and I was in my first pastorate at South 28th Avenue Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, MS.

Instead of traveling home for the weekend we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on our own. (Make mental note—this was not a good idea for any young father, especially when your wife has just given birth to a newborn and is homesick for her family.)

The night before, I placed a turkey in the smoker. That was a good plan, I thought, until the next morning at 10 AM I discovered my fire was extinguished in the middle of the night. The turkey looked exactly the same as it did when I placed it on the grill the night before at 10 PM. Additionally, Vonda experimented with three new recipes on three basic staples—stuffing, sweet potato casserole and congealed salad. I was not going to say anything, but the dishes were horrible. Moreover, I had already manned up and was eating what she prepared. After her first bite of each dish she said, “This is disgusting!” I agreed and quickly dumped my food in the trash. To put it bluntly, that was a BAD, BAD Thanksgiving.

Thankfully, the next day her mom and dad were on their way to Hattiesburg to rescue the day. Vonda still blames me for that one. Her mom worked magic in our kitchen, while I stayed out of the way. By Friday afternoon we were enjoying our Thanksgiving meal. I still don’t think that turkey was fully cooked.

Three more thoughts about Thanksgiving popped into my head this morning. One thought centered on Scripture. When I think of Thanksgiving, I often think of these words from 1 Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19


For the Christian, Thanksgiving is more than a holiday; it is a way of life.

Another reflection pertained to a Chinese Proverb, which says,

When you are drinking the water, don’t forget who dug the well.


Thanksgiving should remind us of those who made our life possible.

My third and final contemplation focused on a missionary story from China.

Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China. In his journal he wrote of a very difficult time in his life. He says, “I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed BUT the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, BUT the darkness only deepened. Then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: ’TRY THANKSGIVING.’ I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return.

That story is a good word for us as this Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close: try thanksgiving!

25
Nov
07

You Supply The Caption

Okay, I asked you last Monday what WORD you would use to describe the ONE BIG WORSHIP from November 18. I am impressed with your responses.

I was especially fond of Mr. DQ’s response. Ubiquitous—what an erudite word! How incredible, the man who makes cool treats also possesses a recondite vocabulary.

Now for a photo that will make you speechless. This photo is sent to me from Ben Chandler, the Director of Missions from our St. Clair County Baptist Association.

Now for some more blog fun, I want you to send me what caption you think would best fit this photo.

20
Nov
07

Let’s Talk about Our Future

I had several conversations last Sunday at the conclusion of the ONE BIG WORSHIP that made the entire day worth all the effort and expense.

I met one couple that arrived at 10:45, expecting to participate in our third worship. So, they came in a little late. However, the husband said something I really liked. He said, “We heard enough to know we want to come back to this church again next weekend.”

That’s a good word, isn’t it?

I like what someone told me one of our senior adults said. When asked about all the things that had happened in the past to get us to this point, the woman responded, “There is no need to talk about where we have been; let’s talk about where we are going.” Amen! Let’s not talk about our past. Let’s talk about our future.

My dad said his favorite part of the ONE BIG WORSHIP was when I asked all those who were present the day we opened CrossPoint in 2003 and then when I asked the others who had come since then to stand. He said that was the highlight of worship. I would almost agree, although I think Latoya Cathey’s solo was over the top.

For those of you who did not respond yesterday, take a moment to respond today. I want to hear what you thought of the day.

19
Nov
07

ONE BIG WORSHIP Experiment

I have an experiment I want to conduct in today’s blog. Your participation is greatly needed and appreciated to make this experiment work.

If you could only use one word, what word would you use to describe the ONE BIG WORSHIP we had yesterday at CrossPoint? Respond now. Give me a comment. Provide your word, and then tell me why you used that word.

My word for any move of God is WOW. I guess that shows how limited my vocabulary is, doesn’t it, if that is the only word I can think of to describe worship.

My brother, Rhett, used a great word to describe not only the ONE BIG WORSHIP, but also CrossPoint. He used the word GRACE. Rhett said CrossPoint is a grace-church. He said he could sense God’s grace when he walked into the room. He said he heard about God’s grace in our music and in my message. He said he saw people of grace serving God at the end of worship by carrying their chair back to the worship center. I like that description, don’t you? Grace would be a good word to describe the day we had yesterday.

Another word that comes to mind is IMAGINE. I derive that word from Ephesians 3:20-21, where Paul, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit records,

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

What word would you use? Take a moment to respond to the comment section and let me know.

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