Well, good evening, everybody. This is Sunday night, May 3, 2020. And you are actually in my office. This isn’t a stage, this is my office at Grace Community Church. I do have to confess that they cleaned my desk off. It doesn’t normally look this clean. There’s normally a lot more work hanging around on this desk that I need to get to. But, yes, this is my office and it has been since way back in the 1970s. This is the sort of center of my world and ministry here at Grace Church, which we so much love.
We moved to my office tonight because it allows me to talk to you a little bit about the church. For the last couple of Sunday nights we’ve done Q&A in our church auditorium, albeit an empty auditorium; we put a desk out there so you could see that the church was empty. Sunday mornings we’ve been doing our services livestream from the Worship Center either live, or we’ve used some previously recorded sermons. But, you know, it’s time for me to talk a little bit about this medium as to whether or not this is legitimate for a church.
You know, there are some people, some people who profess to be Christians who have this experience of livestream church, television church, and that’s all they ever have. They may go to an auditorium, but they’ll be looking at a flatscreen, and some person will be up there preaching on that flatscreen, and that’s church. But those of us at Grace Community Church know far better than that. This is not church. This is not how the church is designed to function. This is an accommodation to the exigencies in which we find ourselves right now.
Look, I understand that sermons preached throughout all the years recently have been made available on the Internet, and you can listen to lots of preachers online, on your computer, on your iPhone, on your iPad, even on your television, but that is not the church. The church is not a group of people watching a show, a program, or even a sermon, the church is the living organism of the body of Christ. And if there’s any command in the Bible that comes to mind at a time like this it’s in the book of Hebrews where we are told to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is. In other words, don’t be like those people who fail to come together and assemble as a living organism the body of Christ, don’t be like that. And much the more, as you see the day approaching, the further through redemptive history we go the closer we come to the return of Christ, the more difficult life becomes and the more we need each other. The church was never designed to be people sitting in a dark auditorium watching somebody on a stage or somebody on a screen.
And certainly, those of us who are a part of Grace Community Church we know that very well. I’ve had so many people say to me, “I don’t know if I can go another week without church. I don’t know if I can go another week without gathering with the people and worshiping. I miss the music, I miss the singing, I miss the fellowship. I miss being able to take my kids to the nursery knowing what they’re receiving from the Word of God. I miss the fellowship group that I’m a part of and all the dear people that are embedded in my life because of that fellowship group.” So we at Grace Community Church, we who know what the church is to be, we who are a living church that meets in one location and has for over half a century, we miss that reality. And I know that’s how you feel. I don’t think anybody who’s a part of Grace Church is ever going to be able to substitute a flatscreen experience for the living church.
Look, I get it. There’s accountability there. There’s high expectation there. Your life is exposed there. People get to know you and so they get to know your strengths and your weaknesses. There’s vulnerability there. There’s honesty there. But that’s what we seek, that’s what we desire, because we stimulate one another to love and good works; and that’s the reason we assemble, as that same passage in Hebrews says. So while there might be a temptation to extend the comfort of just hanging around your house and turning on the sermon or the message from Grace Community Church in the future, if you have been a part of Grace Community Church you’re going to find that’s never going to be an adequate substitute. What we do on radio, what we do on television through Grace to You, what we do with putting our sermons online making them available in the sermons and lessons of all the teachers at Grace Church is a supplement, never a substitute for the life of the church.
I miss you. I know you miss our fellowship. Thank you for the sweet notes and cards that have come to me expressing gratitude for us doing this. But they also, almost all of them, have the added note, “I can’t wait till we get back together.” And speaking of that, we don’t know exactly when that’s going to be. I know there are all kinds of political aspects to this over which we have no control and about which we have no real knowledge. But I would just give you a few things that you might find good news, just a little bit of a report.
I noticed today that a report came out from the CDC which is the official group the Center for Disease Control, and they said that actually the number of deaths that have occurred during this COVID epidemic is half of what has been recorded, half. So we have been operating with numbers that are unrealistic. It has also come to light – and I think this is very, very interesting – it’s also come to light that half of the deaths occur to people in hospitals and aging homes where you have older people, because they’re the more vulnerable population. So the reality is that the vast majority of the population is really unaffected or mildly affected by this entire thing. The most dangerous place you could ever go turns out would be a hospital, because when you go into a hospital the staff there don’t have a vaccine against this. They’re exposed to it. And if there are other compromised patients, as there are in a crowded hospital, then the coronavirus is circulated in that hospital.
So we’re starting to learn that the folks who are just out in the world doing what we do, we’re the safest of all. The place you don’t want to be is, of all places, in a hospital, because that’s where the highest incidents of this infection at its most serious level takes place. So a lot of things coming out of this that I think are starting to remove the fear and help us to understand that we were told some things that just were not true about the affect of this.
The latest I heard, and I heard a report today from a highly respected medical authority who basically said the death rate will be essentially the same as seasonal flu, no greater than that. We now know that. And in retrospect we would say if we’d known that at the beginning we certainly wouldn’t have shut the world down to the degree that we have and did such disastrous damage to so many lives. But having said that, we have to understand that the Lord allows certain things and certain things are the foolishness of men even at their best efforts; so here we are. But I just want to remind you that this is temporary, that this is not nearly as deadly as we were told, that the rate of death is about like the seasonal flu, it’ll run its course; and hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll come back together and we’ll join each other again and have a great celebration.
So that’s just to give you a little bit of update. We’ll do that when we have the best opportunity to know that everything is the right time for that. And then we’ll just trust everybody’s judgment. If you feel like you want to wait a little longer before you come back, that’s fine. We’re all adults and we’ll trust you to use your discretion with regard to that. But we’re starting to think about that now and looking very much forward to it.
Well, in the meantime, rather than preach another sermon to you than what we’ve been giving you, we thought a few Sunday nights together just hearing what’s on your heart would give us an opportunity to be a little more personal in the things that we have to say. So here we go again tonight with some questions. And we’ve just kind of condensed it down. We have so many questions coming in from all over the planet that we’re trying to cover as many as we can. So I’m grateful for the folks who have culled through them. And I don’t know what the questions are. I’m about to read the first one; and we’ll go through them and see what the Lord has for us tonight.
QUESTION: “What is the best explanation for a skeptic to understand how it is that many private events and words of Christ were recorded in the Gospels by disciples who were not actually present at the time?”
Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s from Jason. Jason is really asking this question: “How do we know that Jesus said what those disciples or Bible writers said He said when they may not have even been there?” That’s a fair question. It has a wonderful answer.
In the upper room at the Last Supper, as we call it, the night that Jesus gathered with His disciples for the final Passover, He said to them, “The Holy Spirit’s going to come. And when the Holy Spirit comes He will lead you into all truth, and He will show you all the things that are true about Me.” In other words, our Lord promised the apostles and those who would be the associates of the apostles that the work of the Holy Spirit would be to reveal to them everything they needed to know. “The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. And when He comes, He will lead you into all truth. He will bring all things to your remembrance, even the things I spoke to you, and show you more things concerning Me.” That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
So when those writers sat down, the apostles and the associates of the apostles, and even the one who came later, Paul, and wrote, it was the work of the Holy Spirit to divinely reveal to them the exact and precise words of our Lord that He spoke during His life and ministry that appear in the gospel record. It was the work of the Holy Spirit that caused them to have a perfect recollection, if they were there, of an event such as the transfiguration where Peter, James and John were there. They were given the opportunity as well to hear a revelation from the Holy Spirit into their own minds that gave them an exact and precise historical recounting of all the details of events where they were not there.
So the Holy Spirit superintended everything. Sometimes their memories. Sometimes the very words of Jesus, which they may not have remembered on their own, were repeated to them through inspiration from the Holy Spirit. And sometimes it was something that they didn’t even experience, something our Lord experienced apart from them. For example, His own temptation when none of them were there was given to them by way of divine revelation. And the testimony of Scripture is that that work of the Holy Spirit causes the Bible not to be given by any private interpretation; but holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. That’s what Peter says in his epistle.
So you do have disciples who had actual experiences, although they may not have remembered every detail perfectly, who heard the words of Jesus, may not have remembered every word perfectly, and sometimes weren’t even there on occasion. But all of that was gathered together divinely by the Holy Spirit and distributed to them through inspiration so that it was perfectly recorded in the Scripture. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. All Scripture is God-breathed. I hope that helps, Jason.
QUESTION: “I’ve thought about and prayed a good deal about pursing a life of competition in the sport of mixed martial arts. What is your biblical view on a Christian competing in such a sport?”
My view: duck and run. The reason I say that, I’ve known a couple of guys who did that. I remember one particular young man, and the end result of that was really serious debilitation of his mental faculties. There are some sports where obviously there is the possibility of a concussion. I mean, you can have a concussion slipping and falling on the kitchen floor. But where the intention is not only to harm your opponent, but to render your opponent incapable of continuing or unconscious, you’re literally building that event around the possibility of doing permanent brain damage.
I think you could be in a sport where you might break an arm or break a leg. But something that has the lethal effect of doing brain damage would maybe fall under the category of, you know where the apostle Paul says, “I don’t want to do anything even though I’m free. I don’t want to do anything that somehow causes me to lose control. I will do nothing that causes me to lose control.” It’s something you apply to drinking alcoholic beverages or taking drugs. Paul says, “All things are lawful. I will not be brought under the power of any. I don’t want to do anything that takes away my ability to think and reason and act responsibly.”
And, secondly, I would say this. I don’t know that – in fact, I’m sure that MMA, Mixed Martial Arts, doesn’t make a great contribution to recognizing man as created in the image of God. It is a deforming, it is a defacing attempt, and I don’t think that on its face it gives proper honor to the creation of man in the image of God. For those reasons, I would find something else to be a competitor in, something that’s going to do less harm and give you the satisfaction that you need as a competitor. And I get that. I played university football all through my days. I played a lot of other sports. I was very competitive, and I was somewhat aggressive, as everybody else was. You had to be or you couldn’t compete. But those were games that didn’t people permanently damaged in terms of their ability to think and reason; and I think that’s something to avoid.
QUESTION: “I can’t find a church that believes exactly like Grace Community Church in my area. Which doctrines do you believe are essentials to look for in a church?” This is from Charles.
Well, first suggestion: move to Southern California, come to Grace Community Church. We would love to have you here for sure, and I mean that. I mean, we would love to have you here.
But when you’re looking for a church, what are the doctrines that you look for that are essential? And that is a very good question, Charles, because there are some doctrines that they’re not nonessential. No divine truth is nonessential if you want the full range of divine revelation. And the full scope of divine blessing is distributed through all divine truth. But there are some doctrines that are not necessary for salvation. One of them that comes to mind might be the form of baptism. Some sprinkle, some pour, and some immerse. That’s not a salvation issue biblically speaking. There are some doctrines that have been established in terms of how a church is run. There are varying views on how a church should be structured. There are people who differ on spiritual gifts and how they function. Those are not essential to salvation.
But when you’re thinking about essential doctrine you’re thinking essentially about the drivetrain of salvation. So what is that? Well, just to summarize it briefly, it would start with the authority of Scripture. The authority of Scripture is an absolutely essential doctrine because if you do not believe in the authority of Scripture, then you don’t know that you can trust what it says, and all is lost. So the most important of all doctrines is that the Bible is the Word of God, and it is absolutely authoritative and inerrant. So that’s where it starts, to believe the Bible is the Word of God and only the Bible is the revealed Word of God. That is number one.
Now if you think about it, that is the very doctrine that is most under attack in this society because the enemy knows that. Satan knows that, that if you can undermine people’s confidence in God’s Word, everything is lost. That’s exactly what Satan did in the garden, didn’t he, when Eve said, “Well, God said this and God said that,” and he said, “Did God say that? No, God didn’t tell you the truth. You’re not going to die.” She believed the lie, and catapulted the whole human race into sin, corruption.
So everything starts with believing in the authority of Scripture. From there, you look at Scripture and say, “What are the essential doctrines in Scripture?” First, God, the nature of God. The writer of Hebrews says, “He that comes to Him must believe that He is.” In other words, you come to God only when you come to the God who is God. So you have to have what is called theology proper. In studying theology we start with the category of bibliology: the Bible is first. And then we go to theology proper, which is the study of the nature of God. That’s the second very essential cardinal category of truth.
So if you, for example, deny the Trinity, you have invented a god who is one and that’s not the true God. You’re calling Him God, but you’re worshiping Satan, or you’re worshiping demons. False gods are concoctions of the kingdom of darkness. So you have to come to the true God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: one in nature, three in persons; the God who is revealed in Scripture, the true God. Then in understanding the true God you need to understand the role of the Father as the Creator, the giver of life; the role of the Son as Redeemer; the role of the Spirit as the power for salvation and the power for sanctification. So a trinitarian understanding of God.
Then you come to Christ: What do you believe that about Christ? That He is virgin-born, that He is God and man. He is fully God and fully man, truly God and truly man, that’s who He claimed to be; that He lived a sinless life, that He died a substitutionary death, that He rose from the dead – and that was the Father validating His sacrifice, the Son in whom He was well-pleased; the validation of His having accomplished our redemption is the Father raising Him from the dead, that He ascended into heaven, and that He reigns there and will return again. The other thing that is essential is to believe that salvation comes by faith alone in Christ through grace and not by human works.
So when I talk about the drivetrain of salvation I’m saying you start with the Bible, the true understanding of Scripture; true understanding of God, the Trinity; true understanding of Christ, His perfection, His perfect life, His substitutionary death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension, His return; and that salvation comes by faith in Him. That is the category which we would say is absolutely essential doctrine.
QUESTION: Here’s another question: “Many Christians have taken the meaning of ‘fast’ to mean giving up anything such as phones, computers, sweets, et cetera. Is this biblical?” And this is from Mercy.
No, you wouldn’t be able to apply any of those things to a biblical fast. In Scripture a fast is not something you do because you want to trim down your excess in life. It’s not something you do to lose weight. It’s not something you do to get a better grip on your life. I can understand putting away a phone for sure, and I do that frequently. I can understand staying away from a computer screen. I can understand not eating everything that’s in sight and especially when it’s loaded with sugar, I get all that. But none of that can be confused with a fast. That is all just part of sensible sort of personal discipline, you know, living your life in a disciplined way, that all fits into that category.
When you’re talking about fasting, you’re talking about something that is not isolated from another spiritual means of grace, and that other spiritual means of grace is prayer. You don’t find fasting separated from praying. And in that sense, this is how you should understand fasting. Fasting is an accommodation to prayer. I’ll give you an illustration.
And I’m sitting at this desk and I remember very vividly, a number of years ago sitting here after nine days of fasting, and on the ninth day somebody walked in the office here and gave me news that immediately, immediately ended my fast. And for the first time in nine days I asked for something to eat; and I’ll tell you what it was. I found out nine days before that that my son Mark who was in college in those days was having severe headaches, and we had taken him to see a neurologist to check on those headaches, and he put him through some scans and reported to me that he had a tumor in his brain. And he said, I remember the words, “It could be terminal.” Young and healthy, college athlete, loved the Lord.
I was just dumbfounded at the reality that this could be a terminal tumor. And I remember, I had no appetite, I had no interest in eating anything; all I wanted to was pray, just continually pour out my heart. And I remember many days in that nine-day period I had to take Mark down to the cancer center when they were continuing to do these scans and to try to find out what it was. I remember on that final day we got the word that it was basically – it was a juvenile growth that was benign, and it was near the pineal gland, and it didn’t have anything to do with his headaches. And they didn’t think it would grow because they thought it was just a childhood anomaly.
I remember the word came from the doctor, “Watch his batting average.” He was a baseball player. “Watch his batting average, and if his batting goes down significantly it may mean the tumor is growing.” Well, over the subsequent months, his batting average went up. As it turned out, it was benign.
But I thought about those nine days many, many times. And again, that question makes me think about it now. There was just no interest in eating. There was one all-consuming desire of my heart and that was to bring him before the Lord, and I had no desire to eat.
Sometimes when I go to the hospital, people are suffering, people are struggling, and they’re recovering from an illness or they’re in very serious condition. Well-intentioned friends may want to help them eat, and, “You need something to eat.” Sometimes you’ll see a grieving spouse in a hospital and somebody will say, “You need to go and get something to eat,” you want to be very cautious about that because there are times when food is almost unacceptable because your heart is so overwrought with concern and you’re consumed with prayer.
Fasting really can’t be isolated. Doesn’t always have to be that severe a situation. But the fact that we don’t fast more is probably a testimony to the fact that we don’t show enough concern in our prayers. But that’s where fasting belongs.
QUESTION: Paul and Gerard ask this question: “Does the Bible say anything about cremation?”
Well, the only thing the Bible says about cremation is that it’s going to happen to the entire world. The entire world is going to be burned up with fire; that is the final cremation just before our Lord creates a new heaven and a new earth. Peter described it this way: “The elements will melt with fervent heat.” What’s going to happen is the atomic structure of the creation will be uncreated in some kind of an atomic holocaust that’ll take everything we know out of existence. That will be the final cremation of the whole universe.
But backing up from that, let’s be a little more practical. The Bible does not say anything about cremation as such. It doesn’t say anything about what is required, what is allowed, or what is not allowed. There are many people who have died in fires. I’ve heard people say, “Well, you don’t want to be cremated because you’re going to resurrected from the grave, so you want to have something of your body in the grave.”
I don’t think that’s a very sensible thought. There are people who have been dead for a thousand years, there’s not going to be anything there but dust. There are people who died and were eaten by animals. There are people who are at the bottom of the ocean who have long since disappeared. There are people who have been consumed in fires. The Lord’s not going to have any problem creating new resurrection bodies for those who belong to Him. In fact, the great white throne, the earth will give up its dead, and the sea will give up its dead, and that’s the unbelieving dead who will come before God in the great white throne judgment and be sent into eternal hell. So the resurrection for even the unjust doesn’t require the preservation of a body. And the rapture of the church, the resurrection of the saints doesn’t require the preservation of a body.
So I would say it’s a choice that you can make personally, that’s between you and your family. But it has no bearing whatsoever on the coming resurrection. You can talk it through and make any decision you want in that regard.
QUESTION: Here’s a question from Chris: “How would you reconcile Matthew 11:28 to 30 in which Jesus says, ‘My yoke is easy and My burden is light,’ and Luke 9:23 which says, ‘Pick up your cross daily’? Should we always expect the Christian life to be difficult, or is it easier to bear because of our faith in Christ?” Really good question, Chris, because you’re juxtaposing two scriptures.
I would say it this way: the Christian life is hard because it’s hard to give up your own will. It’s hard to give up your own dreams and ambitions and desires. That’s what our Lord said in Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” – that’s the hard part – “and take up his cross and follow Me.” The following is hard because we’re sinful. And even though we’ve been regenerate, even though the Holy Spirit lives within us, even though we are new creations, we’re still incarcerated and unredeemed human flesh; and it’s a battle. Like Paul said in Romans said, “We do what we don’t want to do, we don’t do what we ought to do. O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” says Paul.
So listen, the whole of the Christian life is constantly this effort to deny one’s self. Literally, John says the words of Jesus were to hate yourself, to literally determine not to do what your flesh wants to do: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. So the Christian is hard because of who we are. But on the other hand, the Christian life is easy because of who Christ is. The easy part is His part. We don’t have to maintain our salvation. We don’t have to maintain the presence of the Holy Spirit, He grants us His Spirit permanently. We don’t have to come to some kind of understanding of truth by pursuing truth on our own, He gives it to us in His Word.
So the easy part is the presence of the Lord, the presence of the Spirit of Christ in us, the truth of Scripture, the blessings that flow from heaven. He has ordained the plan of our lives. He holds us in His care. He supplies our needs. He leads us in green pastures, to still waters. He fills our lives with blessing. And you could say that all that flows easily from the loving hand of the Lord. The hard part is us denying ourselves, being willing our lives if we need to, and being obedient to follow Him.
QUESTION: “How can we handle a daughter who’s almost 18 years old, raised in the church, but she is clearly rejecting the gospel? What advice do you have for us?”
There’s only one way you can handle that and that is to confront her with the fact that that is the most dangerous posture that any person could have. Why do I say that? Because in the book of Hebrews it says this: “Of how much sorer” – or greater – “punishment shall he be thought worthy who has trampled under foot the cross of Christ, the blood of the covenant, and counted it an unworthy thing?” What that is saying is that punishment is more severe for someone who knows the gospel and rejects the gospel than it is for someone who’s never heard it.
Yes, there is no doubt that those who die without the Lord will go to hell, but there are degrees of punishment there, and the severest punishment is for the person who knew the truth and rejected the truth. How much greater punishment will come on that person. So even at the age of 18 that daughter needs to be given a dire warning, and that if she continues in this direction of rejecting, then Hebrews 6 comes into play: “If you have tasted and you’ve heard, you know the truth and you reject the truth, it’s impossible to be renewed again to repentance.” This is what the Bible calls an apostate, someone who having heard the truth rejects the truth, continues to reject the truth, goes beyond the truth can never be renewed to repentance.
A most severe illustration of that was the Pharisees, Matthew 12. They heard Jesus teach, they saw His miracles, and they concluded that He did what He did by the power of Satan. So He said to them, “You have committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.”
What did He mean? Everything Christ did He did through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember now, He humbled Himself to the Father’s will and the Spirit’s power. So everything He did was by the power of the Spirit. When they said it was by Satan’s power, they blasphemed the Holy Spirit. They concluded that Jesus is an instrument of Satan. He said, “Having heard everything I said, seen everything I’ve done, if you conclude that I’m an emissary of Satan, that blasphemy can never be forgiven.”
So as a parent, as a loving parent, you need to warn that kind of young person not to go down that path of rejection. It needs to be a firm, heartfelt warning, done in love and done persistently.
QUESTION: Here’s a question from Brad: “Does Paul root his argument for head coverings in the created order in 1 Corinthians 11 if so should we not practice this today?”
That’s kind of an obscure question for many of you I know. But the apostle Paul talks about women having their head covered in that chapter. God has designed men and women differently. I think we all get that, we all know that; I know it’s trying to be overthrown today. But, look, reality is reality. This is not fooling anyone, not anyone with half a brain and any common sense. Men are men and women are women; and God has assigned men to have a certain function and women to have an equally certain function. Both are perfect in God’s design, suitable for men, suitable for women. Both are roles fully honored by God. And certainly there’s no difference between male and female in Christ spiritually. But there are different roles and different functions. And we know that in the plan of God, in the economy of God, built into life are structures that we call submission and authority; they’re essential. You have them most obviously in marriage. Somebody is the authority and someone is the submission.
Now there’s a mutual submission. We all submit to each other in Christ. We all defer to each other in Christ. We all humble ourselves before each other in Christ without regard to what gender we are. But in a marriage, the husband is the head of the wife and the wife submits to her husband, and that is because it’s modeled by Christ Himself. In that same book, 1 Corinthians, Paul says God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman. So Christ submits Himself to the Father, and that’s a model for how the wife submits herself to her husband.
Now in ancient times, and even today I would say, in ancient times women demonstrated that submission in the way they dressed. In fact, going all the way back into the Old Testament, men are instructed not to wear women’s clothes, and women not to wear men’s clothes. There was to be a clear distinction between men and women. The Bible says that women do not wear those things that pertain to a man, or the reverse.
So throughout history and certainly in New Testament times, there were ways in which there was a demonstration of a woman’s submission. One way was the woman covered her head. You see remnants of that today in the Islamic world, where that is a sign of a woman’s submission. We might think it’s a bizarre sign today, but that’s what it is, and it’s because that’s always been a part of human culture.
But God has accommodated that sign in a most interesting way. God has given women hair that, from all that I’ve learned through the years, grows rapidly and that grows faster than men’s hair, and it does not grow on their face like a man’s beard. So God has uniquely identified women by their hair. And that’s what Paul says her hair is her glory, her covering is a symbol of submission, and it’s been accommodated by head coverings which are very similar to that.
So what does that mean to us today? Women ought to look like women, dress like women, and behave like women. Men ought to look like men, dress like men, behave like men. That’s all it’s saying. Why is that important to God? Because when that is confused, everything is destroyed. Society is destroyed.
Society can only survive as long as the family survives. Family can only survive as long as marriage survives. Marriage can only survive as long as authority and submission in love survives. We’re not talking about an abusive authority, we’re talking about loving, tender, compassionate, kind, merciful authority.
But marriage only survives where you have gracious, loving leadership and willing sweet submission. And where you have that, you have a marriage. And where you have that kind of marriage, you have the raising of children in submission. And because they see it modeled between mom and dad, it’s easy for them to understand the role they play. And where you have that submission working in a family, you have civilization, you have order. And when that all begins to fall apart, as it is in our society, you lose civilization at its core.
We’re seeing that right now in this COVID situation. Child abuse is escalating because the abuser is in the house all the time now. Marriage conflict which can be mitigated because the father leaves the home or the mother leaves the home and they get a little relief is not mitigated now. So the irascibility of that relationship is escalated. The mother is given responsibilities to do things that she’s not done. The father is given opportunities to express his hostilities on a constant basis. Drinking is escalating in the home. Abuse is escalating in the home. This is a reflection of the fact that all those divine designs of authority and submission have been overturned by the culture, and that’s not how people live. And so they can’t have successful marriages, they don’t have successful families. Paul was simply saying follow the path of a woman’s submission and do it in a way that the culture understands you’re giving honor to those distinctions by the way you dress.
QUESTION: Here’s question from Melony: “How do you know when you are called to singleness and when you’re called to marriage? Are there biblical reasons for the gift of singleness?”
Well, there’s one biblical reason given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 for the gift of singleness, and that is for spiritual purposes. Paul says it this way. He says those that are married have a concern for their wife, those that are not married have a concern for Christ. Now that’s the point. So let me press this a little bit because it’s very important to say this.
Singleness just for the sake of freedom, singleness so you can just do whatever you want without complications, singleness so that you can have short-term relationships with women and then go on to the next one is obviously sin. It’s sin to have a relationship with a woman outside marriage. That kind of singleness which only exists for the sake of personal fulfillment and freedom from responsibility certainly is not a reason for any Christian to be single.
For a Christian to be single, you have to ask yourself, “Can I be content being single, and can I use that singleness for purposes of the kingdom, so that not being concerned with a spouse and not being concerned with the family I can give myself solely to the service of my Lord?” that would be a biblical reason for the gift of singleness. That’s the one that’s laid out in 1 Corinthians.
Now having said that, I probably need to say some of you may be thinking that you have the gift of singleness because nobody’s asked you to get married yet. And this is bothersome to me. People are getting married at such a late age. I think I read a week or so ago the new kind of norm is 35 years of age when people as kind of a norm are getting married. So what have you been doing with yourself for the 18 years before that when you got out of high school? What have you been doing?
Marriage is the grace of life. Some of you men need to understand that the greatest thing you can do is to take one of the Lord’s daughters and care for her, give her your life as the one who loves her. Be to her as Christ is to the church, a bridegroom. It’s not about finding Miss America or the perfect person, it’s about asking yourself, “Could I be a shepherd to a woman who belongs to Christ, and could we together raise up godly children to His honor and His glory?” That’s the question. It just seems like everybody’s got their own pathway and people are running right through the normal time for marriage and generating such a kind of independent approach to life that it would be very hard for them ever to come into a union with someone because their selfishness is so, I guess you could say, petrified by the time they get to a certain age.
So ask yourself, “Are there godly women the Lord has surrounded me with in my world that I could care for as Christ cares for His church?” because that’s what a husband does: “Love your wife even as Christ loved the church.” We love our wives in a saving, protective, nurturing, providing way; and we then provide for our wives what is most fulfilling to them. And what is that? Children. How is a woman delivered? How is a woman saved? Paul says, “By child-bearing.”
A Christian man should be saying, “I need to bring my life together with the life of a godly woman so that she can be fulfilled. It’s not about me. It’s not about me having a trophy wife or thinking I might have to give up something.” You have to give up everything to give your life to someone else and then have the joy of children, which fulfills your wife and, by the way, it fulfills you as well. So think about it biblically and certainly not selfishly. Okay?
QUESTION: “How do you know when to give grace toward those we are dating since no one is perfect?” Give grace all the time. “What do we look past and what are red flags? I can’t seem to find a girl that wants to memorize whole books of the Bible or spend all her time praying.” That’s Ricky.
Yeah, well I don’t think you’re going to find a girl who wants to memorize whole books of the Bible and spends all her time praying. I remember when Melinda my daughter was a college student. The guys would date her, and I remember one guy came to the door one night and he said, “Hello, Dr. MacArthur, I’ve come to take Melinda and we’re going to go get some coffee. And I just want you to know we will be reading the Bible and praying.” And I looked at Melinda before she went out and I said, “Get rid of that guy. Get rid of that guy. I think he thinks this is some kind of a spiritual exercise, you know.”
Look, as a pastor, I have a responsibility to nurture the congregation the Lord gives me. I don’t expect to find a woman who is everything that she should be in Christ, especially in youth. I don’t expect that you as a young guy are everything that that wife would wish you to be or that you should be. But this is how we grow together.
And again, you’re back to asking the question, “Is this a daughter of Christ? Is this one of the Lord’s sweet daughters that I can invest my life in to shepherd her for His glory, for her joy, and for the well-being of His kingdom?” that’s the question. “What can I do for the church of Christ? What can I do to bring joy and fulfillment to a wife?”
You know, this is what we do as pastors. I was talking to some young pastors just this last week, and they were asking me questions about, “What kind of church should I go to?” And I said, “Look, if you find a church that is already everything it should be, don’t go there, they don’t need you. Find a church that is something short of what they should be, and there find your place, because that’s where you are needed.”
We’re not looking for perfection. For some of us, I think we’re just looking for somebody to say yes. And that may be good enough, and then the Lord will fill that marriage with love and blessing. So I think we can overthink this criteria if you as a guy love the Lord and a girl has given evidence of genuine salvation, you’ll find that growing together spiritually is the best of all things because there’s a sort of common surprise, a common freshness in your relationship, and it will wear very well.
Here I am pushing between 50 and 60 years of marriage, and I don’t know where I end and Patricia begins because we’re so joined in everything, and it’s been more fulfilling as the years have gone by because we’ve grown together in ministry. Look at it that way rather than trying to find some perfect person. Find a person who is eager to grow along with you.
QUESTION: “In recent month the Holy Spirit has convicted me of some prosperity theology that has crept into my thinking. How can I properly read Scripture when Jesus does miracles according to the individual’s faith? How does our faith relate to what God chooses to do or not do in our lives?” Signed, Shawn.
Now let me go back to Jesus’ miracles, Shawn, for just a moment and say this: there is no commonality of faith in the miracles of Jesus. There’s no commonality of faith. Jesus did miracles to people who didn’t believe anything. He did miracles to people who had meager faith, He did miracles to people whose faith was barely recognizable, and He did miracles for people who did express faith. But that is not the common denominator.
The common denominator in the miracles of Jesus is not anyone’s faith. The common denominator in Jesus’ miracles was His sovereign will. Look, He raised people from the dead. How much faith did they have? The miracles of Jesus were not dependent on faith. When He created food to feed a crowd of probably over twenty thousand people and made fish and bread, that was based on no one’s faith; least, the disciples who said, “We don’t have enough money to feed the crowd.” That’s how much faith they had.
So there are times when there’s a measure of faith. There’s times when there seems to be a greater faith – Jesus comments on great faith. But in most of His miracles, there would be no indication of faith at all. In fact, essentially for the life of His ministry, three years in Israel, He banished illness from Judea and Galilee. Faith was not a common element, His own sovereign will was.
It’s also to be noted very importantly that biblical history is not just completely covered with miracles. Go to the Old Testament and look for miracles. Well, the first miracle: creation – massive, incomprehensible miracle of creating the universe in six days. The next miracle after that: drown the whole human race – that’s a judgment. You have some more miraculous judgments, but you really don’t have miracles happening all the time, even though God is at work. You have some miracles around Elijah and Elisha, but there are only just a very few times in the Old Testament where actual miracles took place. A number of judgments, but not actual miracles.
You come into the New Testament and there’s an explosion of miracles unparalleled around the person of Christ. Why? Because Jesus said, “Believe Me that I am the Son of God for the works that I do.” He was demonstrating His deity. He didn’t do miracles to reward the faith of the sick, He did miracles to demonstrate His divine nature.
And then, the apostles came along, and the apostles He gave the power to do miracles, to do those miracles. Why? Because there was not yet a New Testament, and there were all kinds of teachers and all kinds of preachers. So how does somebody know who the true preachers are? So you’ve got the apostles in the book of Acts going out and saying, “Christ is the Messiah. Christ is the Messiah. He’s the Savior of the world. He’s the only Savior, the only Redeemer.” How do I know that? Because His messengers do miracles. So they were called the signs of an apostle.
So the flurry of miracles came in the ministry of Jesus, and then in the early years of the apostles. But as you keep reading in the book of Acts, they begin to disappear and disappear and disappear. And when you come to the letters of Paul to the churches, nobody’s told to do miracles. In fact, Paul left people sick as the miracles began to fade.
So if you understand the role that miracles played, it’ll help you to understand how the prosperity gospel is basically asking you to believe fake miracles, fake miracles, and then trying to tell you that they’re all out there waiting to happen in your life if you send in your money. That’s always the motive of false teachers.
QUESTION: “How can I glorify God in a long chronic, suffering? Physically I only get worse, which causes loneliness.” And she has a sweet name: Grace.
Grace, I wish you were here; love to pray for you and call on the Lord to pour out His grace on Grace. I think that you glorify God in a long, chronic suffering in a simple way, and that is thankful praise, thankful praise. That’s maybe all that you can do. Maybe your suffering has debilitated you. Maybe it’s kept you kind of out of the public. Maybe it’s limited you, as you indicate in the question, to a place of loneliness. This is your time to express grateful praise, grateful for the fact that the Lord has saved you, redeemed you, that He’s gone to prepare a place for you in glory, that He’s going to come and take you to be with Him in the very place that He’s prepared for you there, and that your suffering will end. There’ll be no sorrow, no sadness, no sickness, no death, no tears. You need to live in grateful praise.
I know you say, “Well, it’s easy for you to say because you’re not in this chronic illness.” I know that. But I do believe that there is no trial, 1 Corinthians 10:13, that has overtaken you, but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted” – or tried – “above what you are able, but will with that trial make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
So grateful praise. Lift up your heart to Him. I would read the Psalms a lot, the Psalms, because that’s essentially what the Psalms contain, just psalm after psalm after psalm of grateful, grateful praise for the promises of God, the power of God, and the fact that we’re not going to face what the wicked will face in the future. May the Lord give you much grace as you endeavor to do that.
QUESTION: Here’s a question from James: “After we die, do we go straight to heaven or go somewhere until final judgment day? As Christian, do we have to go through final judgment or only nonbelievers?”
That’s a good question, James. After we die we do go to heaven, and there are two scriptures that indicate this to us where the apostle Paul says, “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” I would rather go to heaven. “Far better to depart and be with Christ. But you need me here, so I’m happy to stay here as long as the Lord wants me to meet that need.”
But go back to that statement: “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” So he knew exactly where he would go if he left: to depart and be with Christ. To leave this world is to be with Christ. Now Paul also said, “For to me, to live is Christ.” If for me to live is Christ and to die is gain, then death must be more of Christ. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” So every indication is that there is no purgatory, there’s no waiting place, there’s no holding tank, there’s no sort of Sheol-type nondescript place. And you do remember on the cross there’s a perfect illustration of this where Jesus said to the thief who believed, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Now that is the promise of the Lord that when we leave this world we are immediately in His presence. We are described in the book of Hebrews as the spirits of just men made perfect in heaven. So we are spirit beings in heaven in the presence of the Lord waiting for the resurrection of our bodies. That’s the promise.
QUESTION: “How does one know when they’re praying in the Spirit?” Guillermo.
Well, you might not always know, but I’ll give you the best way that you can know. Praying in the Spirit is not a feeling, it’s not an emotion. It’s not some kind of ecstatic experience. It’s certainly not babbling in tongues. It’s not unintelligible speech. Praying in the Spirit simply means that you’re praying consistently with the Holy Spirit’s purpose and will. That’s praying in the Spirit.
The way to understand it best perhaps is Romans 8 where it says, “The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” In other words, in an internal trinitarian language that has no words. “The Holy Spirit is always praying for us, and we know” – says Paul – “that the Father hears His prayers because He always prays according to the will of God.”
So praying in the Spirit then is praying in the will of God. In John 14, Jesus put it this way: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Whatever you ask in My name.” What does it mean “in My name”? If you just tag on “in Jesus’ name” at the end, does that qualify? No. “Whatever you ask that is consistent with My name.” What do you mean “My name”? “Who I am. My being, which is My will, My purpose, My plan. I will answer.”
So praying in the Spirit is the same as praying in the name of Christ. It is praying consistently with the will of God. And that is where we need to start our prayers. So do we have an outline for that? Absolutely. Jesus said, “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your will be done, Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s how we should pray. Pray in the Father’s name, for the Father’s will, for the Father’s kingdom to advance.
And then you can also pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Provide our bread, and lead us not into temptation,” because that’s exactly what Jesus said to pray. So pray for forgiveness, pray for provision, and pray for protection, and you’ll follow the pattern that Jesus gave.
QUESTION: Here is a question from a teenager right here at Grace Community Church. “How can children minister to unsaved fathers?” That is a great question. “How can children minister to unsaved fathers?”
Number one: be obedient, be obedient. Number two: be respectful. How do I say that? Because in 1 Peter 3, Peter says, “If a woman has an unsaved husband she can win that husband by being submissive and following his direction.” So the same would be true with a child on a father.
You should never use the fact that your father’s unsaved as a reason to be disobedient or disrespectful. Be obedient, be respectful, be loving, and then constantly pray for your father’s salvation. And I would even say whenever you have an opportunity, be honest enough to say to him, “Daddy, I’m praying for you to come to Jesus. That’s my number one concern for you.” Tell him that’s on your heart and that’s your prayer.
QUESTION: Here’s another question from Jerry: “Is doubt considered a form of sin to God?”
Yeah, absolutely. Doubt is a form of sin when it’s expressed in a category in which God has revealed what you need to know so that you have no reason to doubt. For example, are you doubting the veracity of Scripture, the truthfulness of Scripture when God has said every word is pure? That’s a sin to doubt what God has said is true. Are you doubting the love of God when God has said He is love and He loves the world? Are you doubting the deity of Christ? Are you doubting the work of the Holy Spirit? Are you doubting the truth of the gospel? Are you doubting the fact that the Lord saved you when you cried out to Him? Are you doubting the forgiveness of sin which is promised to those who believe? Are you doubting future heaven? Doubting is a sin when it is expressed in categories where God has given a full revelation, a full revelation. You don’t need to doubt what God has said is so.
Obviously, there are things in life that we don’t know about. We might doubt that some venture’s going to be successful. You might doubt that some relationship is going to work out the way you would like it to. Doubt things that are reasonably doubted. You might doubt the safety of some enterprise. You might doubt the wisdom of some financial risk. A healthy sense of doubt is protecting. Don’t ever doubt what God has already disclosed to you is absolutely true.
QUESTION: “With the example that Gideon gives us, is it advisable for Christians in the modern day church to put out a fleece to God when seeking His guidance in a matter?” Mitch.
Yeah, you remember the story of Gideon. He wanted to know what God’s will was, so he put out a fleece overnight, laid it on the ground, and it was a matter of God expressing His will by whether it was wet or dry. No, you know, that is not really a good way to go. I don’t think we could claim the fact that God would answer us if we threw our best dress shirt out on the grass overnight and decided what we were going to do by whether it was wet in the morning. That was an occasion in Old Testament times when God was disclosing Himself in many ways.
You know, Hebrews begins that God in many portions and in many ways revealed Himself in the Old Testament, and that was one of the ways that God reveals Himself. And now He’s spoken in His Son and the record of His Son in Scripture. So don’t expect God to be held to some test: “Okay, God, if I get a phone call tomorrow, I know it’s Your will. If I don’t get a phone call, it's not Your will.” Any of those kinds of things that you throw at God are not going to be how God works, and you’re not going to be able to force Him to work that way either.
QUESTION: A final question. Thank you for staying with us tonight. “Since God is Trinity, to whom should our prayers be directed?” And this, by the way, is from Gideon.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I think you talk to God. You say, “Thank You, Father, for Your plan. Thank You, blessed Lord, for validating that plan, ratifying the Father’s promise in Your death and resurrection. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for giving Me life.”
I have never ever been able to isolate prayer to one member of the Trinity. Praying is to all of them collectively and to each one individually. We sing that way. We have songs that are prayers to the Father. We have songs that are prayers to Christ. We have songs that are prayers to the Holy Spirit. We call on the Holy Spirit to move on us, teach us. We call on Christ to forgive us, to empower us. We call on the Father to grant us mercy and grace.
That is exactly how we should pray. You should talk to each member of the Trinity and all of them at once at the same time. You have the freedom to do that because there is no time when every member of the Trinity is not fully engaged in accomplishing the purpose that has been designed for you; and They’re all involved, and you need to commune with each and every one.
Well, thank you for the questions tonight. Really an incredible array of things. I hope you felt some help coming from the Word of God. We covered a lot. Let’s thank the Lord.
Father, thank You for giving us this time. Thank You for these dear folks who put out their questions that are on their hearts. And, Lord, this is just emblematic of the hundreds and hundreds of people who are asking questions that can be answered in the Scripture. And, Lord, I pray that these dear folks who struggle because they need answers will find resources. And we want to be as much a part of that resource as we can be right here at Grace Community Church. So, Lord, lead them to the truth, and may that truth give them life and blessing, we pray in our Savior’s name. Amen.
And just to part by saying if you don’t have a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible, it’s just come out in a new edition, and 25,000 footnotes, and it answers a whole lot of questions. I’ve put all the possible answers that we could cram into the footnotes of the MacArthur Study Bible. You can get them through Grace Books International right here at Grace Church, you can get them in our bookstore, or you can go online with gty.org, gracetoyou.org, and you can order Study Bibles, or you can get them through whatever means they’re available. But I think every believer ought to have a Study Bible, because a lot of the questions that you ask are answered in the footnotes, and you can get it all in one volume. So just remind you of that. God bless you.
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