AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Joshua.
JOHN: Hi, Joshua.
AUDIENCE: The question is, just being here at Grace Community Church, grateful to be here, and what a wonderful church. Well, what are some weaknesses of Grace Community Church? And how can we guard our strength and ourselves against those weaknesses?
JOHN: Well, all the weaknesses of Grace Church are the cumulative weaknesses of all the believers and leaders in the church. As Paul said, “Not as though I have attained,” – right? – “but I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” None of us has arrived – not me, not the elders of the church, not the pastors of the church, and not the people of the church. So we bring together our collective strengths and we bring together our collective weaknesses.
We are constantly – as we’ve been saying in Sunday morning the last couple of weeks – we are constantly aware that there’s a spiritual war in every life, and each of us are struggling with that. Our sins not only affect us, but they affect all the people in our lives, so that what is good about us and what is not so good about us affects other people, and that spreads. That is one of the reasons why the Lord ordained discipline in His church. If we know there is sin in the church, it leavens the whole lump, as the Scripture says. It influences the church, so it needs to be dealt with when sin exists and is not repented of and turned from. So we’re only as strong as we are faithful and obedient, and we’re only as strong as we overcome the weaknesses that all of us possess.
And so the goal – and I just saw a new book that I wrote and it’s just out called Sanctification, and it basically deals with Galatians 4:19 where Paul says, “I’m in birth pains until Christ is fully formed in you.” So any pastor knows that the goal of the church is sanctification. And if the goal of the church is not sanctification, the church is going to be forever wrapped up in sin, and then it will never be what the Lord wants it to be.
We do understand that there are vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. There are vessels fit for the Master’s use and there are vessels not fit for the Master’s use. So to have a church of people who are fit for the Master’s use, to have a church of people who are useful in the lives of each other, to have a church where people’s spirituals gifts given them by the Holy Spirit actually function with power and edify the body of Christ, we need to be walking in the Spirit, right? “Walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.” We know that in the flesh all bad things happen. In the Spirit, love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control are evidence. So every church is just the combination of all its people, and therein lies its strengths, because its faithfulness becomes its strengths. Its obedience, its sanctification becomes its strength. But our failures are always the lingering and real weakness.
So organizationally, I don’t even look at the church that way. I wouldn’t say there’s some ministry that we don’t do or there’s some weakness in structure or organization. I don’t even look at the church like that. I look at the church as the functioning body of Christ; and it is only as strong as it is Christlike. And it comes down to every one of us, right, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
So the question is for each of us individually, “What contribution to this church does my life make?” And if I’m walking in the Spirit, then I am making a positive contribution to what this church is. If I am using the spiritual gifts the Lord has given me, if I am confronting sin in my life and endeavoring to honor the Lord and obey Him, if I’m coming with a pure heart to worship Him, I am making the maximum contribution to the church.
I think in a cultural sense, if we talk about what we could do a lot better, just about everything we could do better, right? We could worship with more pure hearts, we could be more aggressive in evangelism, more bold in proclaiming the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. We could love each other more, our love could abound even more and more. So all the spiritual virtues could be more than they are, and we need to be pursuing those things. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My question is about traducianism. Since the Lord created everything in six days and everything was very good, when did He create human souls, or our souls created during the process of conception? And how are souls sinless?
JOHN: Well, okay, let’s just be real simple here. Souls are not perpetually born out of one soul, every soul is an individual creation of God, every soul. And the question she’s asking is, “How then does sin pass on from soul to soul? Is God creating sinners?”
That is a mystery. We are not just the process of birth, we are not just born. We are created by God. We know that God forms us in the womb. So every soul is created by God, but that creation necessarily because it is human bears the effects of the sin of all of its progeny. So it is true that we inherit a sin nature even though God creates a living soul. We are not souls by birth, we are human beings by birth; but God creates souls. And when God creates a soul, that soul is affected by the reality of sin.
I think that’s a safe way to understand that, but obviously there’s mystery there, because we don’t want to make God responsible for creating sinners. So we literally are souls created by God and we would say with the regard to children, innocent, right, as children. But it doesn’t take long before that soul is affected by the humanity and the fallenness of that humanity in which it exists. That is a simple way to understand it. Does that help?
AUDIENCE: Yes. Thank you.
JOHN: Okay, thank you so much.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Emmy.
JOHN: Hi, Emmy.
AUDIENCE: Thank you for your many years of faithful service, as we heard this morning.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: So my question is for a family member who couldn’t be here. They’re having trouble reconciling the difficult parts and the beautiful parts of the Bible simultaneously. So there are many faiths and religions that claim to know the truth God in this world. So how can we be sure the Bible is the correct source of information? There are parts of it that are certainly very hard to accept.
JOHN: Well, that’s a pretty typical contemporary approach. And so your friend or your family member is facing that, and it comes down to people saying, “If God is loving, then why doesn’t He do something about all that’s wrong in the world? How can God be loving and all-powerful?” Larry King used to ask me this: “How can God be loving and all-powerful? If He’s loving and all-powerful, He’d fix what’s wrong, because His love and power would fix things. So God is either not loving or not powerful.” In other words, “He may be loving, but He can’t do anything about it.” Or, “He may be powerful, but He doesn’t love enough to change what exists.” But we know, according to Scripture, that God is both loving, all-loving. God is love, His very essence is love. And God is, as we sung, sovereign and all-powerful.
The reason we ask those questions is because we think God ought to view the world the way we do. What we think is fair – disease, illness, death, disaster, trouble – all of those things, what we think is unfair, all of those kinds of things, is the reality of what is really fair, because all of those things are the fruit of sin. Sometimes people will look at the Old Testament and they’ll say, “What kind of God kills people? What kind of God opens the ground and swallows people up? What kind of a God drowns the whole world in a flood? How can you say God is loving if He does that?”
That is not the question. The question is, “Why did He let people live until their sin was so monumental He had to eliminate it and start again?” The question is not, “Why does trouble come?” The question is, “Why does God overrule trouble and actually bless people? Why does the sun shine on the just and the unjust? Why do people who don’t know God, who reject God, who are under condemnation enjoy life, fall in love, have children, see the beauty of the world?”
The issue is simply this: we don’t understand the sinfulness of sin. Humanity doesn’t recognize the sinfulness of sin. So what they think is unfair is really justice acting, justice operating. The real question is not, “Why is there so much trouble in the world?” The answer to that is sin, clearly. The real question is, “How does God so graciously overlook all of that and redeem those who come to Him?”
So the problem with an unbeliever’s worldview is that he thinks the trouble is unfair; but it isn’t. It’s the just working of sin. “Whatever a person sows, they” – what? – “they reap.” So there is in the very fabric of human life the principle of evil that produces evil results on a personal level and on a national level, global level. So unless you understand sin and the sinfulness of sin and the fallenness of humanity and the fallenness of the world, the whole universe is fallen, the entire human race is fallen – always has been, always will be – until the Lord renews everything. So we’re simply living in the midst of all the consequences of the dominant power of sin that operates in every human being as well as in the cosmos itself.
So the question is not, “Why is there all this trouble?” The question is, “How loving is God to offer us an escape from all of it?” So when you look at the world you don’t say, “Why does God do all of that judgment?” You say, “Why does God let any unbeliever even live? The wages of sin is death. Every sinner is a blasphemer, condemned, disobedient to God, hating God. Why does God graciously, patiently let that unbeliever live and survive and enjoy many of the blessings we call common grace and patiently wait for them to come to Him to know Him?” So you have to turn that argument on its head and go back to the reality of sin. Does that help?
AUDIENCE: Yes. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hey, Pastor John. How are you? My name is Steven.
JOHN: Hi, Steven.
AUDIENCE: My question is, “How do we biblically witness to professing Christians?”
JOHN: How do we biblically witness to professing Christians? You’re assuming that this is somebody who says he’s a Christian but likely is not.
AUDIENCE: Yes, that is correct.
JOHN: I have a very specific answer to this. I wrote a book a long time ago called The Gospel According to Jesus. And in that book, in that book I went back to the real gospel. The introduction to the book dealt with the fact that there are many people who don’t understand the real message, the real gospel. The real gospel that our Lord proclaimed is very, very hard. It’s a hard message. Even the disciples said to Jesus, “Will anybody be saved? Will anybody be saved?”
I mean, look, Jesus came to the land of Israel, preached the message of salvation, the message of the gospel. And after three years of Him preaching – by far the greatest preacher who ever lived, without any argument – the whole nation rejected Him. The message was very hard. He was saying to them, “You need to recognize you are a sinner. You need to recognize, even though you’re religious, you’re under divine judgment, divine condemnation,” as we said this morning. “You need to mourn over your sin. You need to realize your spiritual bankruptcy that you are void of any spiritual life and have no good thing in yourself to alter that.” In other words, He devastated even the Jewish nation by condemning them in their goodness, condemning them in their religion, and He said, “Unless you literally are willing to die, if any man will come after Me, let him take up his” – what? – “cross and follow Me. Let him deny himself, take up his cross. It may cost you your life.” Unless you become a slave to Christ, confess Him as Lord, you’re not a Christian.
So the issue with people who are professing Christians is usually that they have some level of attachment to a church, maybe a Catholic church or even a Protestant church, and they don’t have any hostility that they can think of in their hearts toward Christ or God. But that’s not the question. The question is, “Have they repented? Have they bowed the knee? Have they confessed Jesus as Lord? Have they willingly become His slave? Are they willing to turn from their sin, deny themselves?” Jesus even said, “If you don’t hate your father and mother, you can’t be My disciple.” Are they willing to count the cost and follow Him at any cost?
And that’s what I was trying to communicate in that book. And I was writing the book basically to the evangelical leaders in this country who had led the church astray with a kind of a shallow, cheap gospel. Well, all that to say this: for years I have wanted to get that message out again in a different format without all of the polemical discussions that I was having in the book with theologians and other writers just to get the core of the message of Jesus and what He said without the argument, without the debate on a theological level. And that has finally arrived, and its title is Only Jesus. I don’t know if we have them yet. Do we, Michael? Next week they’ll be available.
This is The Gospel According to Jesus with all of the dialog and footnotes and polemics out and just the pure message of what it means to be saved. So I think this is very likely the best tool we have ever had to give to a professing Christian. And if you have any questions about their salvation, just say, “Read this.” It’s not long. It’s, I think if I remember, about a hundred and sixty or seventy pages. But it is unmistakably powerful because it is the words of Jesus telling the reader what it really means to be saved.
There’s not a shortcut to that. I think you have to give a full understanding of the gospel to a professing Christian if you’re going to unmask the shallowness of that profession. Okay? Its title is Only Jesus, and I’m glad we’re going to have them by next week. Good.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor. My name is Kevin, and my question is the third commandment, “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” And my question is, “Are we desensitizing the name too by using the words “oh my gosh” or “oh my God” or “holy cow”?
JOHN: Yeah, I think we ought to avoid using the name God. I don’t know about cows, but I think we ought not. Yeah, those are sort of substitute phrases for something that you shouldn’t say. Like “gosh” is sort of a derivative. You don’t want to say God, but it’s sort of an alternate option. I would avoid using the name of God in any way as a throwaway word ever, under any condition, or the Lord the Jesus.
That is not the only way you take His name in vain, but it is taking – it is reducing Him to nothing, right, emptying God of His glory. To say, “Oh my God,” that is emptying the very term “God” of any significance. That is taking His name in vain, because you have emptied that name of all its honor, all its glory, all its majesty.
And I would be careful, too, not to use substitute words. You’d be better off to clean your vocabulary up and get rid of those kind of verbal expressions. You could do a lot better with a little more mastery of the English language to come up with something better than that to express yourself. So don’t sink to that.
I mean, it’s not that you’re sinning intentionally in your heart when you use kind of what they used to call a minced oath or something like that. But avoid at all costs using the name of the Lord in any way that empties that name of its glory. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name’s Ed.
JOHN: Hi, Ed.
AUDIENCE: I’ve been at Grace Church my entire life.
JOHN: No, you haven’t. No, you haven’t. Not yet.
AUDIENCE: Oh. I do hope the Lord returns tonight. Since I have benefitted along with many people here from the decades of having The Master’s Seminary on this campus, along with obviously The Master’s University, how should we – how best should we the flock of Grace Community Church serve them, protect each other, learn to obey and follow young leadership? And how best do you think that we can trust them and serve them while they are here in seminary, as you guys teach them clearly?
JOHN: Yeah. You know, Ed, that’s really good. Thank you for asking that question. Many, many years ago when it was in my heart to have a seminary here, the question came up with the leaders of the church, “Well, if we get a lot of young gifted preachers in here for training, they’re going to replace all the lay people. And what’s going to happen is they’re going to become all the Sunday School teachers and all the preachers and teachers, and we’re not going to produce any lay preachers and teachers.” And I said, “That’s not going to happen. What’s going to happen is it’s going to be multiplication, because some of the lay people in our church are more mature than these young guys. They may not have a seminary education, they may not know all the fine points of doctrine and theology, but their maturity makes them priceless to the congregation as they open the Word of God and teach it as well. So what’s going to happen is there’s going to be richness poured into the congregation from these highly-trained and skilled young people and it’s going to be matched by the maturity of those older folks.” And that is exactly how this church has functioned for decades and decades.
If you walk into an elders meeting, you look around the table at the elders; there are a few of the young men who have come through the seminary and are on the church ministry staff. But most all of our elders are lay people, and all of them can handle the Word of God, can argue for the truth of the gospel, can give a reason for the hope that is within them with meekness and fear, so that there is a maturity that mentors the young men as well. And we see that because you’ll see around the elders table all these mature elders sitting; and there’s a gallery on the backside, both sides in the meeting, of what, 50 people in each of those galleries, 100 people, and many of them are students, and their seminary students who come to see how these mature elders function. So it is really a perfect union. We have the opportunity to pour into their lives the maturity that has come from the leadership of this church, and they have the opportunity to turn right around and stand up in front of us and teach and preach as they even do Sunday nights and Sunday mornings and enrich the whole congregation.
And just one other thing to say. I’m convinced that seminary education should be in a church. I think you would find it very difficult if you were running a medical school if it weren’t attached to a hospital, because what you would wind up doing would be teaching theory. So you wouldn’t want a doctor who only knew theory and had never had a place to practice. So you don’t want a pastor who has only sat in an ivory tower and accumulated data, you want somebody who has lived out the education and the context of a vibrant, dynamic church. This is how seminary education should be done. And even educators recognize that.
I remember the first year we started The Master’s Seminary, we started it really without getting accreditation from the Accreditation Association. We didn’t know what they would think since it was just one year old. But they came back and gave us full accreditation and commended us saying, “This is how seminary education should happen.” Even educators, non-Christian educators understand the critical need for application and lab kind of context to develop the ministry of these men that are being trained.
So we have been blessed mutually, all of us. The seminary students are blessed by the love of this congregation. And I hear stories all the time about how you take care of them, how you support them: you send them money, you give them your old furniture, you give them cars. There’s no end to the stories that we hear about how this congregation loves these young men. They’re so much a part of our church that you don’t even see them as some alien group, they just belong here, and that’s as it should be. Does that help?
AUDIENCE: Yes, sir. Thank you.
JOHN: Okay. Thank you, Ed.
AUDIENCE: My name is Gilbert Velasquez.
JOHN: Hi, Gilbert.
AUDIENCE: Congratulations for your service at this church.
JOHN: Thank you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: And I’ve got a question for you from Genesis 22. Abraham says to his son Isaac, “The Lord will provide a lamb for the offering,” in verse 8. But then verse 13 says, “Abraham saw a ram.” So how you could reconcile this to animals? One of them is humble and the other one is aggressive with horns?
JOHN: Yeah, but every ram was once a lamb.
AUDIENCE: How do you reconcile this?
JOHN: Yeah, but a ram is just a grownup lamb. I mean, the Lord will provide a lamb. Abraham believed God would provide a sacrifice, an animal. It’s pretty consistent to say God will provide a ram – I mean, a lamb, and a ram shows up. That’s the same animal basically. If he said, “God will provide a lamb,” and a giraffe showed up, that might be a bit of a problem.
Abraham didn’t know just exactly what the lamb would be, in what form it would take, but God did provide in the way that Abraham knew He would. So it’s the same animal, but just older. And Abraham couldn’t have known exactly what form that sacrificial animal would come in.
AUDIENCE: I’ve been reading Numbers chapter 5 or 6, the lamb is a burnt offering and the ram is a guilt offering – something like this. So there is still significance offering in Numbers 6. Does it make any difference?
JOHN: No, I don’t think so. I think Abraham is just saying, “I know God will provide the sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb.” This is just a general confidence that God is going to provide a lamb, and God does provide. Abraham couldn’t have known exactly what form or what age that animal would be, but he knew God would provide. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you, Gilbert.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, Pastor John. My name is Derek. I have a question. In Lewis Berkhof’s book in Systematic Theology he mentions that all the attributes of God are equally important, no one attribute is greater than another, including love. Do you agree with that statement? If not, which one attribute of God do you think would be more preeminent than another?
JOHN: No, I do agree with that statement. I agree that God is indivisible, that God is who He is. Collectively He is who He is. No attribute of God is more glorious or less glorious than any other. They are all glorious. They are all equal in glory, because God is all-glorious. To say that one attribute was less than another would be to diminish some element in God’s nature. Berkhof is right. All the attributes of God are as fully glorious as God is glorious. But when we talk about attributes that relate to us, we start with God’s love: “God so loved the world, that He gave.” It doesn’t mean that His other attributes are anything less. But love is what compels redemption.
And I was talking about this a few weeks ago that God loves because God is a Trinity. If God were a single God, He couldn’t have an attribute of love, because eternally there would have been no way to express that, it couldn’t have existed. You know what I’m saying? So this is Allah or any other single God. If there’s only one god who is only one person, then he does not love; and we see that played out in false religions where the god is a single god, there’s no love.
But God, eternally a Trinity, has as His nature love, because He loves the Persons of the Trinity. It is that love that God satisfies and displays in redemption. So while all the attributes of God are equally glorious and all of them are all that they could possibly be in the full glory of God and none is diminished as less than any other, it is His love that sets in motion all the other attributes to accomplish His redemptive purpose. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Pastor MacArthur. My name is Daniel.
JOHN: Hi, Daniel.
AUDIENCE: I would first like to thank you for your discipline and transparent teaching on the Word.
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: My question is, as a young Christian, I now struggle with entrusting my doctor and his methods, believing that Christ is all we need, yet seeing mental illness tear apart lives and families. How can we have peace and discern modern medicine and therapy?
JOHN: Yeah, that’s a really good question. Get a second opinion, you know. Just a matter of wisdom, don’t assume the sovereignty of any medical doctor. I want to give honor to whom honor is due, but my brother-in-law, John DeAngelis, very close to me for all the years of my life since he entered my life and married my sister, would be the first to tell you that you can’t trust all doctors. You can’t trust all people in any profession, because there are errors and there is human misjudgment and all of that.
You can’t put yourself out on a limb with something that a doctor tells you that doesn’t have any support. In other words, he may have degrees, he may have authority, but he’s offering you some insight into mental illness or some solution to that, which has not been tested. That is one of the reasons we have drugs basically approved by the Federal Government because they have to go through rigorous tests. So when a doctor prescribes you something that has a record of being useful and effective and helpful, then the doctor is functioning within a category that you can basically validate, right? You can find out what the science is on that.
For the most part – and I think in my case I’m just a trusting person – I trust the doctors I go to, but I go to the doctors that I’ve been told I can trust, right? So I think you have to put yourself in someone’s hands, but you have to know that that’s someone you can trust.
I remember when I was going in to have surgery on my back; I was having surgery from a doctor I didn’t know. But I doctor I know very well recommended him, and he said to him, to his friend who was going to operate on my back, “Just know this: you don’t want to be the guy that killed John MacArthur,” which was probably good advice. And he didn’t. He did a great job.
I just think you need to get referrals and references and due diligence; and there’s plenty of that available to you now with all the access to information. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you, sir.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor. My name is Adam, and I just had a question –
JOHN: Adam, so you brought on all this trouble.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. Sorry, but... I should have seen that one coming.
I had a question on Matthew 11, verse 14, talking about and says, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.” What does that title mean for John the Baptist? And just trying to understand that passage.
JOHN: Yeah, Matthew 11:14, “If you are willing to accept it, John himself is the Elijah who is to come.” The Old Testament closes with the promise of Elijah coming, okay, the promise of Elijah coming before the great and terrible day of the Lord, right?
AUDIENCE: In Malachi.
JOHN: Yeah, Malachi. That’s how the Old Testament ends, that the Messiah’s going to come in a great time of judgment. But prior to Him one – Elijah’s going to come. When the angel talks to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, he says to him, “He will come in the spirit and power of Elijah,” right? If Israel had responded to the offer of the kingdom, John would have been that Elijah. In other words, if they had acknowledged their Messiah the first time – I mean, this is hypothetical – but if they had acknowledged Christ when He came and offered them the kingdom, if they had followed through, for example, on the triumphal entry when they hailed Him as the Son of David and the Messiah, if they had followed through on that and embraced Him as Lord and Messiah, theoretically the kingdom would have come, therefore John would have been that Elijah; and with the coming of the kingdom, the judgment would have come then. But we know that they rejected the King, they therefore rejected the kingdom. The kingdom was postponed to His second coming. And again, I think that’s the essence of – you can read the notes in the commentary I wrote on Matthew and give you a little more information on that.
But our Lord is simply saying, “If you had believed, He would have been that Elijah.” It wasn’t that necessarily Elijah himself was coming; but John was declared to be in the spirit and power of Elijah, a prophet prior to the arrival of the Messiah to set up His kingdom. Okay?
JOHN: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John MacArthur. My name is Crystal, and my question is, “What is the relationship between prayer and God’s sovereignty, specifically whether a prayer changes God’s will or makes something more likely to happen?” like, for example, if you’re praying to heal the sick or for a person’s salvation. And if God has already elected or predestined who to be saved, then why do we pray? Or does our prayers matter?
JOHN: Yeah, it’s really a very, very good question, Crystal. And we’ve no doubt about the fact that God is sovereign, right, over everything.
The way to understand that question is this: you have illustrations in Scripture of somebody praying and God withholding judgment, you have illustrations of people praying and God bringing rain in answer to their prayers. From our viewpoint, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man produces much,” James 5. Right? The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person has a powerful impact. God hears and answers prayer. In fact, we are told to pray without ceasing. We know that God hears our prayers. And prayer is, in some sense, the power that moves the muscles of omnipotence.
The way to understand it is this: God is sovereign, but He works through means. God saves sovereignly but not apart from faith. Okay? God sanctifies sovereignty, but not apart from obedience. God acts sovereignly, but not apart from prayer. So God has ordained means by which His sovereignty operates. If you don’t believe, you will not be saved. If you don’t obey, you will not be sanctified. If you don’t pray, you won’t see the hand of God. God ties His sovereign operation to the means, and prayer is the means He has chosen.
You say, “Well, if I don’t pray, God may do the same thing.” This is true. If you don’t pray, He may do the same thing, but you won’t receive the benefit of it because you haven’t been involved. If the Lord has determined to save someone, name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world, He will save that person. If you pray, you become the means by which God saves that person. If you don’t, the prayers of someone else become the means that He uses, and you then are outside of that.
Look at it this way: if you pray and pray and pray for the salvation of someone, and they are saved, you receive the blessing, right? Yours is the joy beyond, beyond someone who wasn’t involved. If someone is converted to Christ and you haven’t prayed for them, you’re thankful, but not at the level you would be if you had been constantly interceding for that person.
Now keep in mind that our Lord said that when we pray according to His will, He hears us and He acts. So it’s always according to His will. It’s always within the framework of His sovereign will. So we are always saying, “Lord, do Your will and allow me in my prayers to be a part of what You use to bring about that will so that You may be blessed.”
So praying is really taking seriously the privilege of being a means by which God does His sovereign work. The idea then in prayer is to line up with the purposes of God and pray according to His perfect will. When our Lord gave that promise – I’ll read a verse – when the Lord gave that promise, He said that, “If you ask anything in My name, the Father will do it, that He may be glorified.” What does it mean “in My name”? This is John 14:13. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” What does it mean “in My name”? Consistent with His will.
So we acknowledge God’s sovereignty. We also rejoice with the privilege of being engaged in the means. And by the way, a benefit of the application of that means is the sheer joy and privilege of communion with God. Okay? Good question.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Brianna.
JOHN: Hi, Brianna.
AUDIENCE: My question is, there seems to be a sequence of events happening in heaven. In Revelation it states that the scrolls were opened in a specific order. Is there time in heaven? And if there is, does it work the same way it does here?
JOHN: No, there’s no time in heaven; it is timelessness. This is a space time creation. Outside of space time creation there is no time. God is eternal, and heaven is the dwelling place of God. In fact, I think it probably helps you to think of when you think about going to heaven forever and you say, “Are we going to be looking like saying, ‘Wow, I’ve been here 480 years and I’m not going anywhere’?” There’s not going to be time, because if there was time in heaven, you would have to deal with the fact that you were looking at something that was endless; and even at its best this could be a little daunting. So the way to understand heaven is timelessness. What it means is heaven is one moment that never stops, one moment that never stops, there’s no sense of passing time at all. So there is no time in heaven.
When you read the book of Revelation starting in chapter 6 and chapter 5, the Lord Jesus comes forward and He takes the scroll out of the hand of the Father. And the scroll represents like in ancient times a will and testament. What they would do is somebody would write a will and they would seal it, and they would roll it and seal, and then roll it again and seal it. And in the case of this scroll, it had seals; and when the Lord Jesus took the scroll from the throne and began to unroll the seals, He was unrolling the will of God, which was the title deed to the universe being handed to Him. He was the one, you remember it says, “Who was worthy? Who was worthy to unroll the scroll?” and no one appeared, and John was sad. And then the Lamb that had been slain came out, took the scroll and began to unroll it.
And this is simply a symbolic way of showing that as the Lord in the time coming known as the great tribulation takes back the universe, there’s a series of events that take place. The six events are listed as the six actions that come out of the rolling, opening of the scroll. And then out of the final scroll, the seventh one comes seven trumpets, and each one of them is the next in succession. So the seventh seal encompasses the trumpets, and the seventh trumpet then encompasses the seven bowls, which are seven more judgments. And that is all the sequential judgment that flows through the time of the great tribulation from the sixth chapter on through the eighteenth chapter, and then you have Christ returning in chapter 19.
But that is really not in heaven, that is simply a way to roll out the history of events as the Lord Himself during the time of tribulation brings judgment on the world and takes back the creation, and at the end establishes His kingdom. Okay? Good.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Dr. Johnny Mac.
AUDIENCE: Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
JOHN: No, that’s familiar to me. All the kids at The Master’s University call me Johnny Mac.
AUDIENCE: My name is Anthony Biar and I’ve been here for a month, and it’s just been a great blessing. Thank you so much.
JOHN: Welcome, Anthony. We’re so glad to have you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: So I have a question about sanctification. Actually, could you tell me the name of your new book, please?
AUDIENCE: All right.
JOHN: Sanctification. It’s a small book, but it’s called Sanctification: Christ’s Passion for His Church.
AUDIENCE: Cool. So one of the most profound things I’ve learned from you have been your teaching from Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16 through 17, the Spirit-filled walk of Christian. I’ve even just recently put your Bible study method into practice for the last year or so. Throughout your years, have you continued to read the New Testament repetitiously? And if so, how has it had an impact on your sanctification throughout the years?
JOHN: Well, I would say this, that my sanctification is directly correspondent to the work of the Word in my heart. What he’s talking about is that when I first began to read the Bible, I would read a book 30 times in a row. I started with 1 John; I read it 30 times because I wanted to be familiar with it. The Bible is its own best interpreter, right?
So I read. And I remember I started and I read 1 John 30 times, and I thought, “Wow, this is so rich,” I read it 90 times. And then I went to the gospel of John. I took the first seven chapters, the second seven, the third, and I read each of those 30 times. So in three months in 1 John and three more months in the gospel of John I connected all the dots, and I understood what John was saying and how his epistle was so much like the gospel, and I became familiar with those books to the point where I could tell you where on the page a certain verse was. In fact, just flipping to the fourteenth chapter of John just a moment ago, my eyes immediately went directly to verse 13, because I see visually my Bible because I spend so much time in it. I finally basically went through the whole New Testament reading everything 30 times. A book like Matthew, twenty-eight chapters, break it down to seven, seven, seven, and seven. And that’s how you absorb the Scripture.
I know there are approaches to reading through the Bible, and those are fine. But reading repetitiously the same thing over and over and over and over and over gives you a familiarity that passing it by in one reading won’t do. So I did that for a number of years, took me two-and-a-half years to do the whole New Testament. I never did the Old Testament that way, I just kind of read it along.
I don’t do that anymore, I haven’t done that for years. But because at this point I’m sort of all over the Bible with the books and the preparation that I’m doing, there’s not a day of my life that I am not reading the Word of God. Not only reading the Word of God, but reading about the Word of God, and reading about the Word of God in the books that I read is – those books are full of the Word of God. So it’s the exposure to the Word of God that is what transforms us. “Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy word is truth,” – right? – John 17:17.
So I really do believe that your sanctification is in direct proportion to the exposure you have to the Word of God. It is powerful, it is a force. It is not just data, it is a force. It is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts deep. It wounds and it heals. The Word does its work in your heart. You need to be continually in the Word of God. It is the Word the Spirit uses to sanctify you. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: My name is Clayton.
JOHN: Hi, Clayton.
AUDIENCE: How old is the earth?
JOHN: How old is the earth? Not millions of years. We would go back to the genealogies of Matthew and we would say the earth may be 10,000 years old, some number like that. There’s no reason to believe it’s millions and millions and millions and millions of years old. If you follow the creation account in six days, God created everything; and then you have genealogy, starting with Adam; and you can go through those genealogies and you can count the years. There’s been lots of really good works indicating that the young earth is the only possible way to interpret the Word of God.
Let me give you the primary reason apart from what you have laid out in the Scripture itself. It is this: you don’t have death until the third chapter of Genesis, right? So that precludes any kind of evolution, because nothing died. There was no death in the universe until the third chapter of Genesis. If there was no death, there couldn’t be any mutation, because nothing died and nothing replaced it. So when God created, He created with perfection, and there was no death. He created the entire universe mature: all the creatures mature, man mature, woman mature – all of that in six days. And there couldn’t be any process of evolution because there was no death. That creation continued until death came in the third chapter, and with it, the curse.
So if you believe in an old, old earth, then you have to believe that they affirm that or they declare that so that they have the process of evolution taking place all the time. But how can you have the process of evolution taking place if nothing ever dies? So to stuff evolutions anywhere into Genesis 1 and 2 is to deny the fact that death didn’t happen until chapter 3. So I think that’s important. Can you understand that, Clayton?
JOHN: Good. Thank you, bud. Thank you so much, that was a really good question.
JOHN: So when anybody asks you, you just say, “The earth is a little older than me.” Okay?
AUDIENCE: Okay. Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome, Clayton. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hello, my name is Darrius, and my question is, “Should we listen to songs that have like good Christian lyrics but are ran by false Christians, maybe such as Hillsong or Bethel or those kinds of stuff?”
JOHN: I mean, the bottom line would be that if something is true, then it’s true. You can appreciate the truth of a song if it’s true. There are a lot of songs written by real Christians that are bad theology, really bad theology. There are some songs written by non-Christians that are good theology. But I do think it’s important not to get sucked into those movements. Hillsong is an aberrant movement with really aberrant theology. Bethel is the same, or worse. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t now and then something they produce that is true and you can sing it as true. So just be discerning. But they are powerful movements, both of them – Bethel because of the Jesus culture music group, Hillsong because of Hillsong music. If they didn’t have that music, they wouldn’t have a movement, either of them probably. But the theology of both, particularly Bethel, is taking the Holy Spirit’s name in vain constantly, constantly. So you don’t want to be a part of that movement. But again, a clock that doesn’t run is right twice a day. So every once in a while people will come across the truth. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hello. My name Emma.
JOHN: Hi, Emma.
AUDIENCE: And my question is, “As a Christian, how would you personally represent Christ well when so many people who claim to be Christians give a bad representation of Christ, and the world sees the bad representation?” like, for example, the protesters outside.
JOHN: Yeah. Really good question, Emma. We not only have to overcome the enemies of Jesus, we have to sometimes overcome the friends of Jesus, don’t we, who misrepresent. All you can do is what you can do. You preach the truth, you speak the truth, you live the truth; you’re marked by love. I said that this morning when I commented about them. The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart. I think it is the words of Jesus back in John 13: “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, that you have love for one another.”
When there is a blatant hostility and you’re propagating hate, this isn’t going to attract anyone, this is not legitimate. The message that we preach is, of course, we are sinners, we need salvation. But the good news is what we preach, right, the gospel, gospel of forgiveness and grace.
I will just tell you, you know, my whole life I have not only tried to overcome the enemies of the cross, but struggled to overcome the friends who misrepresent the Bible, misrepresent the Lord, misrepresent His Word, like Hillsong and Bethel and ad nauseam there’s so many of them. But that’s the Devil’s strategy, right, because he disguises himself as an angel of light and his ministers are angels of light, and they appear to represent and they misrepresent him, and therein lies the confusion. If you put yourself in the position of a nonbeliever trying to sort out what is real just by, say, watching television or going to a church or watching the life of someone who says that person is a Christian, it would be chaotic.
But the Lord knows where the light is, and the Lord will bring the light to those that He is drawing; and you just want to make sure your life is that shining light in the darkness. And sometimes the darkness is darkest among those who are pretenders to Christianity, because that’s the Devil’s strategy, not just to attack the gospel, but to try to mirror the gospel in a deceptive way. So we just live our life, preach the truth, and let the Lord take it from there. Okay?
AUDIENCE: Okay. Thank you.
JOHN: Good, good.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Pastor John. My name is Cameron.
JOHN: Hi, Cameron.
AUDIENCE: I was just wondering, it wasn’t a big thing for me when I was a Christian maybe about a year or two ago. However, considering the effects of the Nicaea Council and the fallout that happened in – I mean, pre-Nicaean Council, of course. But considering the fallout where the entire East eventually and subsequently became Arian and West couldn’t have been bothered, and there was, according to scholars and historians, lots of politics and violence going on between both sides, how do we view that time and period when we – I used to say that, you know, “Hey, we have church bishops and everything, you know. They quelled the Arian heresy right at Nicaea.” But then it was brought to my attention that there was a lot of political stuff going on.
AUDIENCE: There wasn’t too many of the opposing side at that Council because of some political stuff going on. And eventually the entire East became Arian; and that, of course, was contributed to the rulership of Rome and everything like that. So considering the history of how Nicaea went down and how the East became Arian, and then it eventually became un-Arian because of the West insistence upon the West’s authority on the East, how should we view that period of time, which is filled with politics, violence, bloodshed, and just nasty stuff?
JOHN: Well, she’s talking back in 325 there was a Council trying to sort out the truth, because between the time of the apostles and a couple of centuries later, there were all kinds of errors. Of course, you can go back to the early church fathers and we can read about all of these kinds of things. So the Council at Nicaea was trying to come to conclusions about truth.
Just to make this story short, the real question, there was corruption. It didn’t take long even after that Council, and there were other councils around that, before that, and after that. It was true that even after those councils fought to define the truth, there was a lot of defection, there was a lot of politicking, and that led to from about 500 A.D. all the way to the Reformation, a period of darkness. The Roman Catholic system, that’s back in the 300s, when Constantine decides to make everybody automatically a Christian by baptism, baptize all the babies and everybody’s a Christian, and Christianity was basically stripped of its reality and turned into a ceremony. And then eventually, the East and the West split. You have the Greek Orthodox in the East, and you have the Roman Catholic in the West.
But the bottom line question that I think Cameron is asking is a good question: “Where was the truth through all those centuries? Where was the truth through all those years?” Historically there are answers to that. The truth can be found in the early church fathers. And I’ll tell you, there’s a new book that Nathan just wrote. Do you remember the name of it? Mike, do you remember Nathan’s book? Long Before Luther, yeah, great title. And what Nathan shows in that book is long before the Reformation, the gospel was still being believed and the true church was still alive long before Luther, because that is the question with all the politicking with the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. And the politicking was horrendous, and that’s where you have the development of the saints and the non-marriage law for the clergy and all those things. And we all know the outcoming of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism is an apostate form of Christianity. But long before Luther, the true gospel was there, and you can trace it through all those years. The Lord has always had His faithful people.
So get that book, Long Before Luther. Thank you so much.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: That’s it, there’s no one left. Well, we covered a lot of things. I hope some of it was helpful and encouraging for you. I feel like this is one way that we can have a personal conversation; and we always want it to be edifying and helpful and instructive, and trust that it is.
And I think another element of this that I’ve always felt strongly about is that there are answers, right? There are answers. And the answers are in the Word of God, and you can trust those answers from God’s Word. We do have reason to believe what we believe, because the Word of God has given us revelation that covers all these important questions. So, by the way, thank you.
Just a word about those people out there. This is a small church in Topeka, Kansas called Westboro Baptist that have decided some years ago that the message that they have to preach is hate, that God hates everybody; and they have managed to propagate that far and wide to the tragic results, first of all, of the people in that movement, and others who are confused by it. And if anybody is looking for a reason to criticize Christianity, that would be an excuse for them to use, right?
We know that that is not the message. Yes, the Bible says that sinners are condemned. Yes, the Bible says that God hates sin and sinners, and they will be judged; and homosexuality is a sin, and so is every other sin a sin, one is not worse than the other. But the message that we have is that in the face of the reality of sin and the judgment of God which we proclaim, the message of the church is a message of forgiveness and grace, right, that God loves, and we love because He loved us first.
Father, thank You for giving us a wonderful evening together to talk about things that are on our hearts. Thank You that Your Word gives us light and life. Lord, use us by making us knowledgeable in Your Word, to give answers to people who ask questions. Help us when we face questions that maybe we don’t know the answer to, to go back to the Word of God, back to the resources that are on the pages of Holy Scripture and find the truth. Make us people of the Book in every sense, so that we can give a reason for the hope that is within us with meekness and fear, so that we can show that the reasonableness of our faith, that it is based on divine revelation, that the Bible stands every test. It is validated again and again throughout all its history as the living and abiding Word of God. It is its own defense. It is powerful, it is true. It carries the same glory that You possess, and it will speak to any soul that is open to its truth in such a way as to validate that it is the Word, the living Word of the living God.
We pray, Lord, that we might grow in our knowledge of Your Word, that we might be able to lead people through the maze of their confusion to the glorious truth of the gospel. We know that the church is to be the pillar and ground of the truth, and we’ve endeavored to see that our church is that, that here the truth will always be taught everywhere at all times so that we can be people of the truth to proclaim that truth. Use this precious congregation even this week to proclaim Your truth, Your Word to someone who needs to hear. And we’ll thank You for that privilege, in the name of Christ. Amen.
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