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JOHN: Thank you for being with us tonight. I know this is kind of a busy season and that’s why we decided tonight just to do something a little bit informal, have kind of a family gathering as if this was a large living room and we were just going to spend some time together. I have been doing this kind of Q&A for many, many years. This goes way, way back to the very early years of our church when I had the fear that I was answering all the questions that nobody was asking, and that I needed to listen, and I took my cue from the apostle Paul. It says about him that when he met with people, he reasoned with them out of the Scripture; and the word “reason” is dialego from which we get dialog. He dialoged with them. He obviously also in addition to preaching would go from house to house and minister to people at the point of their need and at the point, obviously, of their questions. So it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to know what’s on your heart, and hopefully for you to get some help and some answers that might not be as forthcoming if we didn’t do it this way. So there are three microphones out there, and there are three guys by the mics. Austin is over there to my left, Chris is in the middle, and Tom is over there.
So the way it works, we don’t want to get a long, long line. But just go to one of those near microphones if you have a question. If you don’t have a question we’ll sing another hymn and take an offering again and go home. But I think you probably have some questions, so line up. Don’t get more than two or three deep. We’ll try to get to your question, but we don’t want you to wind up standing there for a prolonged period of time. Okay?
So I think we have enough to get rolling. Let’s see where the longest line might be. Everybody’s kind of checking on the question. They’re just there to help you get to the question specifically so we can use the time most valuably. Okay, let’s begin with this lady over here and with Tom. Yes, give me your name first.
AUDIENCE: Lori Price.
JOHN: Hi, Lori.
JOHN: How are you?
AUDIENCE: I’ve already asked you this question when my husband was very sick and dying a year-and-a-half ago. But the people in our Dementia Ministry here have asked the same question, and I think it would be nice if you could answer it again. The verse in 2 Corinthians 4 that says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
And then we know that we’ve been taught to use the Word of God to renew our mind, that the Holy Spirit uses the Word to help us to grow with our sanctification. And so when someone has dementia – and Gary was unable to communicate or really reason for a number of years – or if someone has a mental illness, or maybe someone just has less capacity to take in the Word of God and obey the Lord in that way, how is that verse fulfilled for someone who’s really unable to apply the Word to their heart anymore?
JOHN: Yeah, thank you, Lori. Lori and Gary were just an incredible and active part of life here at Grace Church, and then Gary was stricken with Alzheimer’s and for many years was laid up and then basically totally incapacitated. Patricia and I used to be blessed to go by and spend some time with Gary and Lori just because of the joy that was in her heart and the heart of her family as she went through this amazing difficult time with her dear husband.
I think you have to understand the question this way: the assumption is that the process of sanctification is related to a functioning human capacity. We would not assume that a child would be able to take in the Word of God with a full understanding, make significant application of that truth, discern its implications. We wouldn’t expect a young child to do that. The same would be true of someone who was, to some degree, limited mentally, maybe by a low IQ, or maybe by an accident, or maybe by some kind of an illness. So we don’t want to say that spiritual growth is only for the super-smart people, but it assumes that there is a functioning mind, that there is the ability to think on these things, because that’s exactly what the apostle Paul says: “If there’s any virtue, any praise, think on these things.”
And the Bible also says that you are renewed by your mind, in your mind. You’ve come to the knowledge of the truth and the renewing of your mind. So the actual mind plays a very important role in the process of sanctification. If there is an incapacitation of that mind, obviously the process of sanctification is affected by that. It is basically put on hold at that particular point and we can’t assume that there will be spiritual things happening without the ability to process divine truth, see its implications, and even live in its application.
That does not mean that God has abandoned the person. That does not mean that God is not watching over, caring for, sustaining, and even comforting that person while that may not be articulated by someone who’s incapacitated like that. But what that verse essentially is saying is just looking at life in general as we get older and our outer man, our human body decays, while the human body is going downhill, the spiritual life should be going uphill. But it assumes the functioning of the mind. And when that doesn’t happen, then you have to deal with people the way you would deal with a child, someone without the full capacity.
A good illustration of it, the great influence in my life was a man named Dr. Charles Feinberg. I’ve told you about him in the past. He was my mentor and my teacher in seminary, and he was extremely brilliant. He knew about 30 languages, and he had studied to be a rabbi and was converted to Christ, and wrote many books, and knew the Bible, and he was the most profound theological mind that I ever came across; just an astonishing man.
He, at the end of his life, was struck with dementia also, and he thought he was an unconverted Jew. He had been an unconverted Jew, but he had become a believer in Jesus Christ and the President of a seminary training men, writing books particularly on messianic portions of the Old Testament. They said that while he was in whatever facility he was in at the end of his life, he didn’t remember that he was a Christian, but he kept calling faculty meetings like he was still the head of a seminary.
So all we can say about that is that he was as much in the care of Christ in those hours when he lost the ability to reason as ever he was when he had his complete reason intact. His salvation was not tied to how his brain functioned, his salvation was tied to the grace and the goodness of God, and it was manifest in the time that he was reasonable; and when that went away, it didn’t affect that salvation, although it certainly put the process of sanctification on hold.
But they came to an abrupt ending in the case of Gary, when he went into the presence of the Lord and then he was known as he was known, right? Wonderful question. Thank you, Lori. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hi, John. My name is Andrew. First of all, thank you for your years of faithful ministry and service to our church.
JOHN: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. You’re welcome. Hey, I’m in front of a mic at Grace Church talking to John MacArthur.
JOHN: Might help if I had one of these platform speakers on up here just so you could hear a little better. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Okay. Scripture tells us that Christ experienced everything that we would experience as a human, was tempted in every way. Why do you suppose that Scripture does not give us an example of how He overcame and resisted sexual temptation?
JOHN: Yeah. I think you have to look at it this way. Christ was tempted in every way that we are tempted, that’s what it says, in all points tempted like as we are. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that every kind of temptation. I think the “all points” is really more chronological. He was tempted the way a child is tempted. He was tempted the way an adolescent is tempted. He was tempted the way a young man is tempted, which would encompass some of those things. He was certainly exposed to that.
In fact, in His life there were many, many, many, many times when He was spending time with the worse of people, with the people who were the dark side of society, and that is why the Pharisees accused Him of being with drunks and sinners, meaning prostitutes and thieves and lowlifes and all of that. So He would not have been completely impervious to that kind of life and those kinds of people. But what you have to understand about Christ that’s so different from us is that at some point when we are tempted, we experience the process of temptation.
I don’t believe He ever experienced the process of temptation, I think the door was literally barred and shut. I think the temptation came, but it never even had a foothold. So there’s no discussion of some kind of internal battle going on with Him on any level of temptation. The only time we see Him agonizing in a temptation is in the garden, and that is the only real agony in a struggle. And people say, “Well, in that prayer He’s saying, ‘If You will, Father, let this cup pass from Me. Is there any way to avoid the cross?’” That, if it can be understood this way, was not so much a solicitation from sin, as a solicitation from righteousness. In other words, the battle for Christ at that point was that He was so completely consumed by righteousness and holiness that He could not imagine Himself ever, ever being in any way connected to sin.
And here He was about to be literally the sin-bearer. He did not become a sinner, but he bore the fury of God over sin. So I think when you see a battle in His life, that’s the only biblical battle you see, and it’s a not a battle fighting against sin, it’s a battle fighting for righteousness, because there was no way that He could even conceive of having a connection to sin. So in His life when it says He was in all points tempted, it means it came at Him, but it never found any foothold in Him at all. And the only time there was a battle, just to sum it up, He was clinging totally and completely to holiness and virtue and righteousness, and couldn’t imagine anything other than that. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Yeah. Good evening, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Bill Clark. I asked you a question this morning just before this service was starting, and you did say if I could come back tonight you could maybe expand on that.
JOHN: Yeah. Thank you, Bill. Yeah. No, I remember your question. You asked me if there will be animals in heaven.
JOHN: Yeah. For all you dog lovers you can hold your ears here.
AUDIENCE: You knew he was going to say that.
JOHN: There is nothing in the Bible that indicates there are animals in heaven. The only thing we have at all indicating animals anywhere near heaven would be Christ riding on a white horse and the saints coming with Him in the book of Revelation in that situation. But, again, I think that that has to do with a more metaphoric use of animals.
Animals are a part of passing world. You could ask the same question: “Will there be flowers in heaven? Will there be grass in heaven?” We do know that heaven is another dimension, a completely distinct dimension from anything we know today. The one thing that we do see in heaven is a river of life. I don’t exactly know what that means, but I know it won’t be the same kind of H2O that we have here.
So heaven is occupied by eternal souls: the eternal God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the eternal holy angels, who live and worship Him, and do His bidding forever; and the eternal souls of believers who are gathered into heaven. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that there are animals in heaven. They are part of this world, and they basically – this will also frighten you a little bit – they basically were designed for the food chain here. That is, they were designed to be consumed to one degree or another; or to serve man in some capacity as domestic animals, to help him living out his life, generating food, taking care of the things that he needed, helping with transportation, all of that.
So they belong to this world. I see them as a kind of a common grace, in many cases a delightful common grace. In some cases, an absolute disaster that we want to avoid. There are animals we want to have in our house, and there are some we don’t want in our house, as you well know. So they’re a part of the creation that passes away, and there’s no enduring place in heaven for them.
Now I know people think their dog is going to be there, or their cat is going to be their, or their goldfish is going to be there or something. But there’s nothing in the Scripture to indicate that. And whatever sentimental attachment you have with your animal, that’s nice. If you get some comfort out of that sentimental attachment in this life it is for this life that the Lord has provided that, but not for the life to come. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: All right. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Thank you for answering my questions. My name is Joy.
JOHN: Hi, Joy.
AUDIENCE: And it’s an answer to prayer to be here. So here they are, three real quick questions.
AUDIENCE: A little complicated. How do I know if I am saved if I have blasphemous thoughts? Should I be taking Communion if I am not sure if I’m saved? If I am not chosen, would I even care about being saved?
JOHN: Really good questions, Joy. You have a wonderful name, but sometimes it’s hard to live up to, isn’t it? I mean how would you like to be named Joy and have to always be assumed to be possessing all of that?
I can hear the cry of your heart, Joy. I want to make it as simple as I can. The fact that you are asking these questions is evidence of the work of God in your heart. It is evidence of your desire for Him and for salvation and to know Him; that is evident there. The fact that you would stand up in front of all of us and unbear your heart in such a sweet and honest way is evidence of the hunger of your heart to know Him, and I think that’s what you’re essentially saying.
The way you know that you are saved is by your desire. Do you desire to know God?
JOHN: Do you desire that He would know you and love you?
JOHN: Do you desire to love Him?
JOHN: Do you desire to honor Him?
JOHN: Do you desire to obey His Word?
AUDIENCE: I do, but I can’t do it on my own strength.
JOHN: Well of course not, join the club. I mean that’s why we’re all here. This is the same with all of us. It’s all of grace, isn’t it? It’s all of grace.
The apostle Paul in Romans 7 helps us, because this is the apostle Paul. This is the one that we would elevate as the supreme example of a Christian, and he says – well, he calls himself a wretched man, because he says, “I do what I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I want to do.” He said, “There is a principle in me that loves the law of God, but I see another principle in me warring against the principle of my mind, and it’s the principle of my flesh, and it causes me to do the very opposite of the things I want to do.” And he says, “O wretched man that I man. Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” And that’s a very interesting illustration.
One of the ways that murderers were punished in the ancient world was that the victim that they had murdered was strapped to their body, and eventually the decay from the corpse would destroy them. Paul feels, even though he’s a believer, that he’s got the dead body of his sinful nature still tied to him. So what you’re saying to me is essentially the same cry that came out of the noblest of all Christians, and that very cry is evidence of the work of God in your heart, that you desire to know God, to be loved by God, to love God, to honor God, to obey God, and that you know you can’t is a statement of a genuine believer, because you recognize that you aren’t everything you should be, and you are utterly dependent upon God Himself and upon the Holy Spirit.
That’s true of your salvation. You can’t save yourself and you can’t sanctify yourself. So you’re where all honest Christians live. You are saying, “I’m not what I want to be, but I know what I want to be. I’m not what I ought to be, but I know what I ought to be.” It’s about direction. It’s about affection. It’s about love.
And we’ve talked about that recently when Jesus was restoring Peter. In John 21 He said three times, “Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me?” And Peter had been caught in disobedience again, and yet he said, “Lord, you know. You know me. You know I love you.” “Then feed My sheep.” He accepted the failing life of Peter, the tendency to be disobedient, and even maybe to have ungodly thoughts, which is just part of that remaining sin nature. But He accepted that man, and He accepts all of us if we love Him, and calls on us to love Him more. So you don’t want to evaluate the character of your salvation by your failures, you want to assess the genuineness of your salvation by your desires, by what you love, what you long for, what you want.
And you’re here, and that says everything. This is not a place for people running from God, this is a place for people running to Him. But asking the question is important. The purest joy – to kind of play on your name a little bit – the purest joy in the Christian life comes when we are obeying Him, loving Him, serving Him, worshiping Him. That’s when we enjoy the most assurance.
Security is one thing. Security means that I am saved and He will keep me until I see Him face-to-face. I’m secure in Him. That’s not assurance. Assurance is the confidence I have in my mind of my salvation. Many people are saved, they’re secure, secured by God in that salvation, but they don’t always have the assurance.
Why do we struggle with assurance? Because we know our weakness, because we know our temptations, because we know we’re not what we ought to be. Sometimes because we fall into a pattern of sin and we lose our assurance; sometimes because, perhaps, we have been taught wrongly that you might do something to cause you to lose your salvation, and that generates a certain amount of fear.
But to go back to the main point, the very desire of your heart is the evidence of the work of God in your life, because unregenerate enemies of God don’t have those desires. Okay? Does that help?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you, Joy.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Brother John. My name’s Scott.
JOHN: Hi, Scott.
AUDIENCE: Hi. So I just wanted to see if you could put into a biblical context the difference between a Christian with self-defense – like, say, someone was breaking into their house and you have a duty to protect your family versus, say, how Peter was rebuked in the garden for having the sword, and He told him to put away the sword, because whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword. So maybe the personal self-defense versus persecution of the government or law enforcement if they were to become in this country like we’re seeing in other countries of the heavily persecuted.
JOHN: Yeah, really good question, Scott. You remember the Lord when He sent out His followers told them they needed to take a weapon, they needed to take a weapon. And you might say, “Well, that was to defend themselves against an animal attack.” But not just that. I believe that self-defense is a built-in mechanism in the human life, and I believe that human life is created in the image of God and therefore is valuable, and the reason that God institutes capital punishment for murder is because it is a violation of the creation which is in His image.
JOHN: I think we have a right to defend ourselves. The Lord was clearly saying to His followers that, “You may be in a situation where you will have to defend your own life.”
On the other hand, you also have Jesus saying, “If somebody hits you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek. If somebody takes one piece of your clothing, give them another piece of your clothing.” That’s a very fine line to walk. I think we have to look at it on a sort of case-by-case basis.
If somebody comes into my life and they mistreat me, I’m not going to necessarily attack them. I may take that mistreatment. I may turn my other cheek and let them mistreat me again, and humbly accept that as something the Lord is allowing for the moment. But if somebody shows up at my house with a gun and wants to kidnap my children, that takes on a completely different character.
In fact, that happened at our house. Patricia and I were home, and a guy came with a knife wanting to take one of the children. And it never came to a point where I had to do anything, but I played a lot of baseball when I was young, and so I got the largest 36-inch bat I could find, and I stood behind the front door with it in my hand ready to do what I needed to do to defend my family, because I think that’s part of the responsibility of a father, to defend his own children.
Self-defense, it’s a built-in mechanism. We have apparatus in our own design by God that is defensive. We have ways to deflect and defend and defend ourselves against certain things. We have an antibody system in us. Our eyes blink to protect our eyes. We naturally react in a protective way. Self-preservation is built into what it is to be human, and it’s kind of intensified when you’re the leader of a family or you’re responsible for other people.
So I think if you follow that far enough, I did a series of messages on war, the Christian and war. I think God has ordained the fact that not only are we to protect those over whom we have responsible care as an individual or as a family, but I believe even on a national level, the people in authority have a sword, and they don’t have that sword for nothing; and they don’t have that sword to spank people, they have that sword as a terminal weapon if they need to use it. But it always would be used in a defensive way.
In other words, the only just war is a defensive war, not a conquering war, not where you decide, “Well, we’re going to go conquer this nation. We’re going to march and we’re going to kill all these people and take over their land and their assets and all of that.” That is an unjust war. But I think there’s no issue biblically in a just war in saying that innocent people are being attacked and killed, and we need to step in and defend them against those kinds of unrighteous assaults.
Just on a national level in our own country, America has always, through its history, done that. We’ve always seen our country as kind of a global power to restrain evil around the world. You have to have restraint of evil in your own life. You have to have restraint of evil in your family. You have to have it in your city. You have to have it in your state. You have to have it in your nation. That’s why there are police, and National Guard, and various forces, all the way down to those that do investigation to things like that, because evil will run wild unless it is restrained; and God gives government a sword.
But also the world as well has to be policed. And for many, many years, God raised up America to be, in a sense, the defender of all those who were under assault. That has disappeared in recent years in America. We no longer feel we need to play that role. And, consequently, you have something happening.
For example, in the Middle East where you have ten – well, you have ten million people displaced in Syria. You have a million people now, refugees out of Syria, and half a million dead bodies around Syria, and people sitting around saying, “Should we do anything?” Well, that has happened because we have decided that we don’t have any responsibility to protect innocent people, so we’ve stepped out of that role. We can only hope that somebody else, somebody else with some sense of honor and right and wrong could step in to be a protector in the world, or all hell will just continue to break loose at the level it’s at now. And with the power of weapons, the destruction is just incalculable.
So on the one hand, on a personal level, I don’t want to defend those people who criticize me or defend myself against those people who might take advantage of me, like they take my coat and I give them something else, or they take my money and I give them more money. That’s fine, that’s one thing. But when you come and threaten my life, then I have the right to defend my life, because it is in the image of God that I have been made. And I also have the right to defend the lives of those for whom I have been given responsibility in my family and those that are around me, to whatever degree I can be their protector, I want to be their protector.
I think Jesus summed it up in a wonderful statement. He said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It may cost me my life, but I will put my life on the line to protect the people that God has put in my care. So using discretion and wisdom as to how that is applied, certainly that’s a challenge for a Christian.
I’m asked occasionally, “Should Christians have guns as a defensive tactic?” I don’t have a problem with that. Obviously you now have a weapon that can take a life, and you have to make sure that you use it only in a way that protects the lives that you are responsible to care for. And in that sense, as the potential of those who do evil becomes more life-threatening, sometimes the defenses have to become equally life-threatening. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hello, pastor. My name’s Richard.
JOHN: Hi, Richard.
AUDIENCE: I’ve been here since January 2011, roughly 624 Sunday services in a row. I take notes on everything, and I’m not a good notetaker, so I have to rewrite them neatly in notebooks at home, so I’ve kind of got the numbers down and everything.
JOHN: Wow, good.
AUDIENCE: Unfortunately with such great service that you and everybody else does comes great expectations. And during the Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis tour in October of 2014, I was looking so much forward to it with fellow believers, notes in hand ready to write like crazy, and the Number One subject of that conference, what I thought would be, would be the lineage of man. And yet it seemed – everybody seemed to have missed it from Java Man, Peking Man, Cro-Magnon, Nebraska Man, you know, Neanderthal. I thought they’d do a really complete thorough list of the errors, the embarrassing low number of actual fossils found, the population. If dinosaurs are 60 million years old and the lineage of man is only 4 million, then there should be millions of bones found for every dinosaur bone, and the population characters, the math – I could have really used a great update on that, and it seemed to have missed. I was wondering who goofed that up. And would that not –
JOHN: Now what’s he talking about? Is he talking about a conference?
AUDIENCE: You remember that in October when they had Kirk Cameron come here?
JOHN: Oh, yeah, I remember about that.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. And nobody went over the lineage of man. I was wondering, would that make a good like, say, Saturday conference?
JOHN: Yeah, it would make a great one.
AUDIENCE: Or a great even service, you know. I mean they have done a couple of things on the protestant reformation.
JOHN: No, no. I’m going to help you right now, Richard, okay. There is a book. I think it’s Abner Chou’s book What Happened in the Garden. It’s called What Happened in the Garden. The whole book is about Adam and the origin of man, okay. It’s my gift to you. Go to the bookstore after church and tell them that. Put on the pastor’s account two of those books so you can have them in two places, okay, and get those books. Get a couple of them. Really exceptional treatments of the very thing you’re asking, the viability of the Genesis account of man.
And, of course, there are lots of things that ICR, Institute of Creation Research, and Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis that debunk all those phony men that you mentioned that were concocted by some unrelated bones to be sure. But start with the book What Happened in the Garden, and pick up a couple of copies over there. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Okay, thanks, thanks. I was wondering, what about for everybody though? I mean not a book for everybody, but I mean like a service.
JOHN: Okay, okay.
AUDIENCE: A service for everybody.
JOHN: You go charge two books to my account, and you all go and charge the rest to Michael.
AUDIENCE: No, I mean a service for everybody, yeah. That’s what I mean, like a service.
JOHN: No. What you’re saying, it’d be a great thing to do. We need to think about that, put that on the radar, because I know that stuff is pushed on people all the time.
AUDIENCE: Exactly. I work at a university.
JOHN: Yeah, okay, so there you get it, yeah. I’m reading a book called The Gene. It’s about genetics. It’s written by Mukherjee, this brilliant oncologist who wrote The Emperor of All Maladies, which is the history of cancer. It’s about a thousand pages on the history of cancer.
This book on the gene, it’s the biography of the discovery of the gene all the way down to the modern era; and what is so astonishing about it is, as they began to discover the fact that what was going on in the world was information, information. Encoded information was being somehow passed from person to person, from animal to animal, and they didn’t know how. They didn’t know where it was. They didn’t understand the gene. They hadn’t found DNA. They hadn’t gotten into genetics. But they knew that there was this amazing, absolutely precise data that was somehow passed from cell to cell. They couldn’t figure out how it was passed. But eventually, of course, they came to understand genetics, and now they’ve gone a long ways into understanding it.
But what is so remarkable about it is, as this brilliant scientist takes you through the discovery of the gene, he keeps saying it’s so amazing how evolution works. It’s like he had this massive blind spot that only an idiot would think, all of this data all over the universe in every single cell could be there by accident. But there’s this huge blind spot, and he keeps referring to evolution; and you want to grab him and wring him by the neck and say, “Can’t you see in this a Creator, an eternal mind, and all of that.” So, yeah, this stuff is pushed off continually at the university level, along with other stuff.
You know, a university education today – one of the reasons that I’m so happy to be a part of The Master’s University – university education today is full of that evolutionary stuff; and the goal of much of that education is to make sure that you’re sensitive to transgender people, neither of which have anything to do with you having a successful life in the future. So that would be a good thing to do. We’ll have to look at debunking evolutionary history of man.
Would that cover it? Okay. Thank you, Richard. Thank you. Keep coming. Keep taking notes. That’s great.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: I have a couple of questions for you. My name’s Michelle. and I –
JOHN: Hi, Michelle. Thank you for your faithfulness.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. I have a lot of cults that come to my door on a regular basis. I think that they have a mark on my house that says come here, because they’re there almost weekly. And so I have two questions for you. One, because I do have a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to my door; they define the kingdom of God in one way, and I believe we would define it in a different way. So could you explain the differences between what they believe and what we believe? And then my second question would be, is what would you focus on when they do come knocking at your door, and what would you suggest that we avoid talking about?
JOHN: Well, first of all, to them, the kingdom of God is their group. It’s that simple, it’s their group. And if you’re not in their group, you’re not in the kingdom of God. And that’s how all cults lock their people down with the treat that if you ever leave this, you’ve left the kingdom of God. You’ve just consigned your soul to eternal perdition or punishment or nonexistence. But all cults are exclusive rather than synchronistic. All cults believe themselves to be the only true religion, the only true representation of the kingdom of God, all of them. And even though there are many cults, they never intertwine, they never mingle. They don’t crossover with each other. There may be sort of parallel ideas and viewpoints, but each of them believes their cult to be the kingdom of God. And so being in their cult is being in the kingdom, and being out of it is being out of it.
Again, how do you deal with these people? First of all, because it is the nature of every cult to assault, in some way, the person of Jesus Christ. You have to take the warning of 2 John which says if somebody comes to you and offers you something other than the truth about Christ, you don’t want to have anything to do with that person. You don’t want to be accepting of that person or you’ll become a partaker in his evil deeds.
The most evil things propagated are false views of Christ, talking about Christ, but a different Christ. That is the subtlety of Satan, so you want to be very careful not to be welcoming to them. And the way I think the best way to deal with them – and this is the way that I’ve dealt with them through the years when they come to me or come to the door of our house – is to say, “Let me tell you what I believe about the Lord Jesus Christ, and what I believe about your religion.” And you can do that in a very brief few statements, that He is the Eternal God, the Son incarnate, and just give them a brief Christology, and to say then to them that your religion is a satanic counterfeit, and if you don’t escape from that religion you will be judged by God and sent to eternal hell.
Now they’re coming very bluntly to your door, and I think you need to meet them with that same kind of blunt rebuff. If they melt at that point – and not all of them are as strong as the others. But I think you have to hit hard before you let them get into their little system and they start unpacking the system. If you get them out of their system, they really don’t know what to do. So I wouldn’t spend a lot of time listening to them and then trying to undo the machinations of their system that they’re basically trained to regurgitate. It’s much more effective to just hit them immediately with the reality of who Christ is and salvation in Christ by grace through faith alone, and the authority of Scripture, and the false character of the religion that they’re a part of, and the need that they have to escape that religion before it’s too late. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Mike and I’m from Chicago, and I just had to come see you and Grace To You. And I love you so much.
JOHN: Thank you, Mike.
AUDIENCE: And you’ve been ministering to my soul for about nine years just teaching the truth, and I love it, and I praise God for you.
I have a question regarding who to allow behind that pulpit. And I’m asking this question from a perspective of your pulpit, because I’ve been under your teaching for so long that my views are more connected with your views, because I examine the things you say too.
JOHN: Good, that’s the way you should be.
AUDIENCE: And I love it, you know. I love the truth and I love the church, I love the body of Christ. I love all kinds of people, even unbelievers and being Christ-like regardless. On top of that, I’m attending this church for awhile now and it’s an Assyrian church – I’m Assyrian myself – and he’s an awesome preacher, I praise God for him. But at the same time as – just these times, like last year until today, and it seems like it’s going to be continuing, that they’re allowing Pentecostals to come in and teach. At the same time, I understand that there’s differences in Pentecostals, you know, and I say this out of respect towards Pentecostals, you know, nothing that I’m trying to be sarcastic on or anything like that, is not Pentecostals that are like oneness.
JOHN: No, I know. Not nontrinitarian, antitrinitarian.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, not those, not the ones that say you have to speak in tongues in order to be saved, not those neither; not the other ones that do things, you know, in the churches, run around and so on. Just the normal ol’ Pentecostal that just speaks in tongues. Would you allow him or her – well, her meaning to teach the women.
JOHN: Well, there wouldn’t be no her in this pulpit.
AUDIENCE: No, not that pulpit, no. That’s why I made –
JOHN: Yeah. No, we won’t have her here.
AUDIENCE: I’m with you on that. What I meant to say was allowing her to teach the women here in your congregation.
JOHN: No. Look, the one thing that you have to have as a foundation, okay, is that you’re committed to the truth of Scripture. And if you’re really committed to the truth of Scripture, you understand, and you understand that that is a responsibility before God to be approved a God, a workman needing not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word, rightly handling the Word. I have an accountability to God to communicate to the people that God gives me the truth, and I believe that truth is manifest in Scripture to a faithful student who opens it up.
We’ve been teaching the Word of God here for all these many years at Grace Church, and our people read many other writers who teach the same truth, and they go back in history. We not only sing the old hymns, we read the old writers who had the truth right. It’s not as if we’ve discovered it. It’s not as if we’ve nuanced it. There is a historic understanding, an interpretation of Scripture that has marched through all of church history, and it can be understood, it is clear. It can be understood, and any faithful teacher has to be consistent with the truth. And since the truth is everything, since the truth is everything, our whole responsibility, we will not play fast and loose with the truth.
So there would be no point in saying, “Well, maybe you did most things right; and because you get a few things wrong, that’s not a problem.” That is a problem. If truth matters – and it does, and if all truth matters – and it does, then we have to be sure that everyone is a faithful teacher of the truth. There’s room within the vastness of biblical truth to explain it in different ways, different emphases, different comparative Scriptures, different insights, so that you can have many preachers and many teachers, but all with the same truth.
We have a doctrinal statement that is very long. I don’t know if you’ve seen it; you can go to the website and look at it. It’s very detailed. It is the doctrinal statement that all of us who lead at Grace Church affirm. And within that, we are faithful to teach those things that are in that statement – and that’s a historic statement. So there would be no reason for us to want to expose our people, not because I’m worried that they would somehow be confused, but because I don’t want to give the impression that you don’t have to get it all right; I think you do. I think you need to do it all correctly and accurately. Does that answer your question?
AUDIENCE: Yeah. But just on the flipside real quick?
AUDIENCE: Being in a church like that I love those people. Them being confronted out of respect and love, and they just keep going about it. What would you do?
JOHN: Well, if I were you, I would just keep loving them. You’re not the pastor. You’re not a leader there. You don’t necessarily want to go on the assault. The only strategy that Scripture would really offer you would be to go to the pastor, leader of the church, sit down with him in a loving, kind, and gracious conversation, and bring up the concern that’s in your heart in that way. And, look, that may be the best option for you; that may be the best church. Remember now, there were seven churches in Asia Minor, and only two of them were good, five of them were not. But the Lord promised blessing to those in those churches who were faithful.
It doesn’t really do any good to create a revolution in the church, but I do think what’s in your heart, if you can defend it biblically, you should direct in a gracious and loving way to the people in leadership. Okay? Good. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, John. My name is Shelly.
JOHN: Hi, Shelly.
AUDIENCE: And I want to say yesterday was my 56th anniversary of my second birth.
AUDIENCE: I’m 76 years old, so I was 20 when I got saved. And I want to say there was no discipling back in those days. And you’ve been my favorite radio Bible teacher and theologian before I started coming here. I want to thank you for it, because I love the truth too, and you’re right there with it. Thank you so much for your ministry –
JOHN: Why you’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: – and for being a good steward of the gifts God has given you. I wanted to say that.
JOHN: Thank you, Shelly.
AUDIENCE: My question is about the scripture, Revelation 21:22. Talking about the Holy City in describing it and it says, “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb are its temple.” And the first time that caught my mind was actually probably about six years ago. I mean I’ve read it before, but I’d never – and I got very excited because I think very literally, and I thought, “Okay, a temple is something you go inside to worship.” And so that meant if God and the Son, the Father and the Son were going to be the temple, does that mean we go inside of them to worship? I just want you to explain to me your best understanding of what that means and how that all works out.
JOHN: It’s really simple. “I saw no temple in it, because the eternal state itself is the temple.” The new heaven and the new earth in its totality is the dwelling place of God. It is the limitless, infinite, eternal new heaven and new earth, that is the Holy of Holies. There’s not a Holy of Holies in it, it itself is the Holy of Holies. Does that help?
So when you’re in heaven, you’re in the temple. All of heaven is the temple, the light being God and Christ lighting all of the entire new heaven and new earth in its infinite vastness; that is the temple. Okay? Thank you. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Shariar; you can call me John.
JOHN: Hi John.
AUDIENCE: I come from a Muslim background, and growing up I was always trying to connect with God, it just never happened. So I actually got involved in a lot of Eastern religious cults and things like that. And until this day, I’m the only one in my family, as far as I know, that’s saved; and everybody in Iran is still Muslim and stuff like that. So just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for everybody around the world. And I know that Grace is a kind of church today because of your relentless passion and love for sound doctrine, and I just honestly don’t know anybody else in the world who has the same kind of love, the same kind of aggressive pursuit and exposure for truth to get it out there than you. And just wondering what’s going to happen to Grace when you’re gone?
JOHN: John, John, I want to ask you: how did you come to salvation? Just in a couple of sentences. Was it an influence of a friend, or the Scripture?
AUDIENCE: Well, I don’t have an exact timeframe. But I have to be careful, because I don’t even know how to explain it that well. Three years ago I had a dream, and I know now that my salvation isn’t based on that dream. But that dream scared the daylights out of me, and it prompted me to pursue Christ, to pursue His Scriptures, to know what it means to be a Christian, and to know how I could be saved, why I’m saved. And so now because I have the understanding of the gospel, I would say I’m saved now. And so –
JOHN: That’s a great answer. Look, the Lord buries His workers, but His work goes on. You know, I always say, removing me from this world is like taking your hand out of a bucket of water; there’s no hole, it fills in. God has His people in every time and every age. I’m not indispensable, I’m just a servant for whatever time the Lord gives me. And, actually, I’m supposed to be retired, but I can’t imagine that as long as I’m –
JOHN: as long as I’m functioning. So I just want to serve the Lord in the time that He gives me. I don’t know. Obviously none of us knows how much time we have. I thank the Lord that I can still connect the dots at my age, and I still have the energy to do what I do and the love for it, because I think, you know, when you reach the age that I’m at and you’ve spent all these years studying the Word of God, there’s a sense in which you have more than you’ve ever had before. So there’s more to offer even now. I’m not trying to say that I can be a better preacher or a better anything now, but I do know that all through these years there’s an accumulation of truth, and I’m just glad that the Lord’s allowed me to function at this point where I can still be proclaiming that.
So people ask me, “What’s the replacement plan around here?” Well, whatever happens to me, this church has so many great, gifted, dedicated, highly-motivated, passionate preachers coming behind me that they’ll be plenty of them to take my place. And I want to throw in one other little thought too, that even after I’m dead, Grace to You will still be pumping messages out all over the planet. So I will be speaking, even after I’m gone. Thanks, John.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: Hello, my name is Gabriel. I’m visiting from El Salvador, so my English is not perfect.
JOHN: Oh, that’s okay. No problemo.
AUDIENCE: I’ve been reading Acts, particularly chapter 21, and I have some issues with verse 26. You don’t mind if I read it?
JOHN: Did you come all the way from El Salvador to ask this question?
AUDIENCE: Well, I try to come at least once a month. I work at an airline, so I get to do it.
JOHN: Oh, okay.
JOHN: Acts 21?
AUDIENCE: It says, “Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went to the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.” So it has always seemed to me a little strange that he would participate in Jewish sacrifice in the temple even after his ministry as a Christian evangelist and an apostle. Would it be safe to say that Paul made a mistake by participating in the rites of purification at the temple? And if that is the case, wouldn’t it be like a very big sin considering what is stated in Hebrews that the Jewish would no longer – should no longer participate in the Hebrew sacrifice system? And would it be his continuation as a minister kind of be like the possibility of committing serious sin and then still being able to minister? I know it’s a big question.
JOHN: No, it’s good, yeah. I don’t think any of those symbolic ceremonies at the temple, Old Testament ceremonies, were in themselves bad. They still conveyed certain truth. And one way to kind of understand that is if you go to Ezekiel 40 to 48 and you look at the future millennial kingdom of Christ, you’re going to see the reinstitution of a temple, and certain things that happened in the Old Testament temple are going to happen again. So there’s really nothing wrong with those ceremonial things. And I think this is what Paul meant and he had in mind when he said to the Jews, “I’ve become as a Jew. I become all things to all men, so that I might, by any means, win some.”
The Jews accused him, remember, of assaulting the temple, and that’s why they arrested him. But he never did that. He didn’t do that. He joined in the temple worship which had been ordained by God and still maintained symbolic meaning to those Jews. And there was no real reason, for example, to denounce those things. They would have their place, they would have their time, and obviously, they would pass away.
I think this is really reflective of the intention of the Jerusalem Council in chapter 15 when the apostles decided that they did not want to just go out and offend the Jews. At the same time, you could push it too far, and the one who did sin was Peter in Galatians, chapter 1, by his duplicity, playing both sides of that issue. But I think in the case of Paul I wouldn’t want to ascribe this to him as some sinful behavior, but rather his understanding that there were these ceremonies which had significance in the history of Israel, which in themselves were not moral, and that he could participate in them as a way to keep his connection to the people and meet them at their own point of interest. Okay? Wonderful. Thank you so much.
AUDIENCE: My name is John Butler. I’m a student at UCLA. I appreciated when you came out a couple of weeks ago, it was really great.
JOHN: Yeah, we had a great evening at UCLA.
JOHN: That was a wonderful time.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, it was wonderful. Along those lines of thinking, especially of you as a young man, I thought I would ask you for some book recommendations that you would have for Christians who are mature in their beliefs, but also looking to really just continue advancing and knowing God, and growing spiritually in like holiness. Kind of like along the lines of J. C. Ryle’s Holiness, or J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. But just what kind of books were especially influential to you when you were a young man growing up?
JOHN: There are so many. I’ll tell you one that I just recommend every young man read; it’s John Owen on the Christian Life written by Sinclair Ferguson. Sinclair Ferguson has been in this pulpit, and he’s a very dear friend, and he has done an immense work to help us by distilling down the massive amount of literature that John Owen wrote: John Owen on the Christian Life. I mean you could spend a lot of time on that. And he has just recently – and I think that’s a Banner of Truth book. Is it, Nathan? Do you remember? I think it’s a Banner of Truth book.
And Sinclair has just come out with really what is almost a sequel. It’s called Devoted to God, or something like that. It’s a new book on sanctification by Sinclair Ferguson, Banner of Truth. I just think – he is a theologian, but he’s an exegetical theologian. He draws his theology out of the text. And those are two really, really helpful, helpful books, giving you a very biblical look at the issue of sanctification.
Another book that enriched me – and, you know, you’ve got to be willing to tackle this one, because it’s a big one – is get a copy of Stephen Charnock’s book on The Existence and Attributes of God, and just read a little of it every day. He takes you into the nature of God in depth that you normally would never experience. Charnock, C-H-A-R-N-O-C-K. It’s a reprint from long, long ago.
I have a list in my office. If you give a call to my office, we can give you a list of other books that don’t immediately come to mind. But those would be a couple of good places to start.
AUDIENCE: What was the title of that last one again?
JOHN: The Existence and Attributes of God.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE: Good evening, John.
AUDIENCE: My name is John also.
AUDIENCE: I have a question. There seems to be a lot of disagreement among Christians regarding dispensationalism and the rapture. I would like to ask you what your views are on these two subjects. And are they important to believers?
JOHN: Yeah. What’s important is the truth, and so we have to qualify that a little bit. And when you say dispensationalism, for those of you who might not know what he’s talking about, there has been floating around in evangelical Christianity for probably a hundred years or so this idea called dispensationalism; and in its sort of original form, it showed up in the old Scofield Bible that was very popular among evangelicals. And it basically said that God functions in the world in different ways at different times, and each of these different times were called different dispensations; and God operated in different ways in those dispensations.
They came up with a lot of dispensations. There was the dispensation of innocence. There was the dispensation of human government, and there was this and that, and the Old Testament dispensation, the New Testament dispensation, the millennial dispensation, the eternal dispensation; and they took this rather complicated list of dispensations and I think sort of placed them as a filter over the Bible. And rather than seeing them from the Scripture, they used them as a grid to impose upon the Scripture, and they came up with things that were not biblical. They came up with a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ or the kingdom of heaven. They came up with different ways of salvation. They came up with the idea that the Sermon on the Mount and all that’s in the Sermon on the Mount was not intended for us in this life, but was intended for behavior in the millennial kingdom in the future. They did a lot of things that tore up the Scripture, sorted it all out. And along with that, they taught the rapture of the church, followed by the tribulation, followed by the millennial kingdom.
I believe that is an accurate representation of Scripture. I believe the next event on God’s calendar is the rapture of the church. It is a signless event; it could happen at any time. I believe it is followed by the time of tribulation on the earth. I think Scripture can support that and does. And I believe it’s then followed by the return of Jesus Christ to establish His thousand-year kingdom, at the end of which there is the final judgment, the destruction of the universe, and the new heaven and the new earth, the final state is created. I think that is accurate.
What happened was that that, I believe accurate, if maybe overcooked idea of eschatology got mingled with all these other dispensations that didn’t have what I would consider a biblical defense. So there was a rejection on the part of many in the reformed world of our eschatology, because it was connected to that dispensationalism. So one of the things when I first came to Grace – I had been exposed to that growing up. But by the time I got here to pastor, I realized, and certainly it was intensified in my realization as I began to go through Matthew in the first time we went through Matthew many, many years ago, that just didn’t hold water. I have written commentaries. I’ve gone through Revelation several times. I’ve written books on the second coming.
There is a book called The Second Coming. We have, as a faculty at the seminary, just completed a new Systematic Theology. It’ll be available in January – a thousand pages of doctrine: the section on eschatology, the rapture, the tribulation, the kingdom, and the eternal state is the best that – I think it’s the best that I’ve ever read. It’s exceptionally good. That has not changed in all the nearly 50 years of my teaching of Scripture. What has changed is I couldn’t find biblical warrant for all the complexities of that kind of dispensationalism. So I really believe that our true understanding of eschatology suffered because it was connected to something that couldn’t be upheld with a careful examination of Scripture.
So if you ask me what I believe about dispensations, I would simply say this: God dealt with man one way before the fall and one way after the fall – another way. God dealt with man one way before the cross and another way after the cross. That is obvious; everybody has to see that, and that can be demonstrated in Scripture.
If you say, “Are you a dispensationalist?” I would say it only in this sense, that God still has a plan to save national Israel. And that’s not based upon some external notion imposed on Scripture, that’s based upon Old Testament promises reaffirmed in the New Testament by the apostles. So, yes, I do believe in that one aspect of dispensationalism that God will save national Israel in the future. And that ought to be pretty obvious to most people, because it’s so clear in the Old Testament in the book of Acts in particular.
There was a conference in Europe some years ago, and one of the well-known, very esteemed theologians and pastors was asked by a student at the conference, “What is the significance of the existence of the nation Israel biblically?” to which he replied, “It has absolutely no significance.”
Well, that’s a little hard to understand since the Scripture promises the future salvation of Israel, and Israel exists. And the Hittites and Jebusites and Amorites and Edomites and Moabites and all the other ites don’t. So why are there Israelites? This is a demonstration of God’s fidelity to His promise.
So, yes, I do believe that God dealt with man before the fall in a certain way; and after the fall, obviously everything changed. Before the cross, there was a time when God was patient with the wickedness of man and dealt with man on the basis of something he had not yet done. And then at the cross and beyond, He deals with man on the basis of something he has done which must be believed in. So you do have those changes in God’s operation.
But salvation has always been by grace through faith alone, and salvation comes through God justifying the sinner, not through the sinner’s works. But eschatology, I think – my understanding of the end, the rapture of the church, the tribulation, the kingdom, and the new heaven and the new earth has upheld all these many, many years of scrutiny and debate and discussion and reading; and that particular eschatology has been assaulted from a lot of viewpoints.
One very helpful reality is this: those who believe in the clear, literal meaning of Scripture, when it speaks about the future except the rapture of the church, the tribulation, the kingdom, and the new heaven and the new earth. That’s the literal interpretation. I discovered that when I’d been in places in the world where they had no exposure to universities or seminaries or anything, they just read their Bible and they believed that. The people who don’t believe that can’t agree on what they believe; that’s a problem.
So they want to say, “We don’t believe that. We don’t believe it is literally what it says.” But if you don’t believe it is what it says, then you have no hope of knowing what it is; and that’s exactly what shows up. All the sort of non-premillennialists are all over the map. In fact, they’re shifting and changing frequently through their own ministries. So that eschatology holds tightly to Scripture. Okay? All right.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Anybody left? Okay, over here.
AUDIENCE: Hello, I’m Claire, and my question is –
JOHN: Hi, Claire.
AUDIENCE: in regards to transgender. I have an older sibling actually who’s transgender, and my question is just how to approach that biblically. It’s specifically in regards to what pronouns to use, and just in general.
JOHN: Yeah. Claire, bless your heart for asking that. Simply stated, there is no such thing as transgender. You’re either XX or XY, that’s it. God made man, male and female. That is determined genetically. That is physiology. That is science. That is reality. This notion that you are something other than your biology is a cultural construct intended as an assault on God. Now your sibling may not see it that way, but that’s what it’s all about.
And more than anything – in fact, I was reading an article by R. C. Sproul just yesterday in which he said that, “The greatest revolution in American history was neither the American Revolution or the Industrial Revolution, it is the Sexual Revolution.” This has become the most far-reaching, damaging of all revolutions that’s ever occurred in this country or any other. The problem with buying into this is, it is a kind of personal suicide. It is literally the end of your existence in the way that God designed you.
I’ve said this a few weeks ago. A person who is in the transgender world is nineteen times more likely to kill himself or herself, because you have completely cut yourself off from reality and from normal relationships. This is the end of your identity. This is the end of your ability to have a marriage that is a real marriage. It’s the end of your ability to have a family. It’s the end of your ability to connect and to be a part of a society and a culture, and have a future and belong. It is a kind of extreme isolation that can be no more extreme. You can’t get more extreme than saying, “I am not who I actually am,” because that becomes an utterly imperceptible identity. You literally have disconnected yourself from existence. You aren’t who you are, you are some fantasy person in your own mind.
Look, this is going to continue to escalate because we live in a world where people are told to construct whatever they want themselves to be. This is what the Internet does to people. It allows you to create yourself the way you want to create yourself. You can access whatever is out there, and you can create your own world, your own reality, and you can live in that world. The isolation of this particular aspect of it is so sad and so tragic.
I read the other day a surgery was done in Australia on a five-year-old to do a sex change. These kinds of parents ought to be imprisoned who would lead a five-year-old. And what kind of doctor would ever do that in a hospital in Australia. This is a kind of scarring for life.
So I don’t mean by being so firm that you want to be lacking in love when you communicate this. But I think the only way you can address it, honestly, is to say, “God made you, and God made you exactly the way He wanted you to be. You’re not only fighting God in His physical creation, you are even, more importantly, fighting God in His sovereignty. You are fighting God in His spiritual relationship to you. This is a war on God. I’m not going to let God tell me who I am. I’m not going to let God define me. I’m going to be my own god. I’m going to define myself.”
And you’re in Romans 1. That’s a reprobate mind. That’s a mind that doesn’t even function. So while saying that with firmness, so you understand it, I think this has to be dealt with with love and compassion, because there’s some holes in the heart of someone going in that direction. There’s a lack of being loved and accepted, and feeling wanted and needed and significant.
So on the one hand, the reality of that lie and deception is so damaging, so destructive, so isolating, so corrupting that it needs to be confronted. But on the other hand, that confrontation can’t exaggerate what already exists, which is a sense of feeling isolated in relationships. So you’ve got to find the fine line between confronting the error of it to protect the person, and at the same time, providing the love and affirmation that that person needs to be all that God would have that person be. Does that help?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you, Claire. One more.
AUDIENCE: Greeting, Pastor John. My name is Prestina.
AUDIENCE: I want to just start off by saying I’m thankful to the Lord for your ministry.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I used to listen to you back on the East Coast since the late ‘80s. I’m now a member of Grace Community Church.
AUDIENCE: My question has to do with church discipline. I would like to know what are some of the steps that we, our elders take to – after someone’s been discommunicated to restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.
JOHN: Yeah, it’s a really good question. Scripture is the alarm for me to leave; I don’t know. Yeah, Scripture is clear. If someone is in sin, you go to that person, you confront the person. If they repent, you’ve gained your brother, it’s over. If they don’t, you take two or three witnesses to confirm their response. If they still don’t repent, you tell the church. If the church then pursues that person – Matthew 18 lays this out – and they still don’t repent, you treat them as an outsider.
How do you treat an outsider? Do you ignore them? Do you dismiss them? Do you push them out of your life? No. You treat an outsider as the mission field. So when a person has been disciplined in the church they literally have become the mission field. So now we want to go after them, because it may be that they’re nonbelievers. They might have been a part of us, but they’re acting like a nonbeliever, and they may therefore be a nonbeliever.
And I understand the question, because it’s an important question. People can feel like when they’ve gone through that kind of process that they’ve sort of done all they need to do. But that is never the intent of church disciple. The intent of church discipline is not to get people out, but to get them in. So even after that’s done, there should be an ongoing pursuit, and that should be carried on by all the people who know those folks and love those folks. And, of course, the church has to be a part of that as well.
We rejoice around here when that restoration does happen, and there are times when it does happen and there’s a full restoration. But that should always be the goal. Okay?
JOHN: Good question. Okay. All right. Well, this is our last Sunday night, so have a great holiday. We’ll see you this week for a concert, and then on the Lord’s Day, and then on Christmas day as well. God bless you.