JOHN: Through the years, we have done this as a way to allow the folks in our congregation to get the answers to the questions that ring in their hearts. I guess one of the fears that a preacher has is he’s answering questions nobody’s asking. So for many years, we’ve set aside Sunday nights just to have kind of a little bit of a family meeting and a family dialogue. And I don’t intend to propose to you by this that I can answer every question. But I certainly do want to be of help to you if you have a question. And one that relates to the Word of God and to spiritual truth is edifying for all of us, so this is a joy for me.
And I think you’re used to this because you’re lining up so rapidly behind the microphones. And let’s see, Rodney Anderson is over there. Somebody is in the middle. I think it’s Tom Patton, if they’ll let him through. And then Isaias, you’re over on the right side, and you can get in line. You don’t want to get the line too long because there are already so many people lined up. I would hate not to get to you, but let’s begin. And I’ll do my best to keep the answers short but, hopefully, answers that are helpful.
So let’s begin over on the left with that young man. And I want to know your name before you ask your question.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Torian, and my question is, Why did you become a pastor?
JOHN: Well thank you very much. I became a pastor really, I believe, because that’s what God wanted me to be. There’s never been any doubt in my mind that this is what the Lord called me to, even from when I was very young. And it didn’t necessarily start because I wanted to be a pastor. It started because I wanted to know what the Bible meant.
As a kid—maybe your age, maybe in junior high or high school—I would read my Bible, and I wouldn’t know what it meant. I could read a few verses, and I would get a general idea. But I knew the Bible was very deep and very rich. And it frustrated me to just read the Bible and not really grasp its truth. And so I felt like ministry—teaching and preaching the Word of God—would put me in constant contact with the Scripture.
So it was more that I wanted to give my life to the study of Scripture than that I had some kind of aspirations to be a preacher. In fact, at the earliest years of my life as the Lord began to work on my heart, I never really thought about what I might be. I thought maybe I would be like Rodney and be a missionary, or maybe I’d be a youth worker or whatever. But the thing that drove me was the love of the Word of God. Eventually, it became clear that as the Word of God became clear in my heart and mind, I wanted to tell everybody about that, and so I began to do that. How old are you?
JOHN: You’re eleven. So I think I preached my first sermon when I was sixteen. It was bad. It was really bad. But I had to start somewhere. And the fact that it was so bad was a good motivation to get better. So I started young, preaching the Word of God, because once I began to understand it, I had to tell people what I had discovered; and it’s still that way today. And so I started—I don’t know—preaching nearly seventy years ago. And every time I have the opportunity to study the Word of God, it is as exhilarating and thrilling an experience as it was at the very beginning. And to have the joy of sharing it with you is wonderful.
Now having said that, the Lord did something to me that kind of sealed my life of ministry. I had a car accident—maybe you knew about that—when I was about seventeen years old. I was thrown out of a car going seventy-five miles an hour. And I slid across the highway, and I was torn up pretty badly. And it was at that point that I survived. And standing on the side of the road in a heap, I said, “Lord, OK, whatever you want me to be, I’ll give. I surrender. Whatever you want me to be, I want to be that.” And so I had three months in bed to recover and seal the commitment in my heart to do whatever the Lord wanted me to do. From that moment on, there was never a question of what it was.
So I think if the Lord wants you in the ministry, he’ll give you the desire for it. It’ll come up in your heart because the Lord will initiate that, and you’ll know that’s what you need to do, OK?
JOHN: Good question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Brother John.
AUDIENCE: My name is Arno Babajanian. I’m a member of Grace Community Church, Foundation Bible Study, and Sojourners Fellowship Group.
AUDIENCE: My question is why Puritans were post-mil, and a lot of Reformed brothers, if dispensationalism is biblical?
JOHN: So your question was why the Puritans were . . .
JOHN: OK. Well, let’s break down the language of what we’re talking about. So he’s asking a question about eschatology, what you believe about the end times. And if you go back in church history, there are basically three views. There is what we call the pre-millennial view; that is, that you believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus is going to return. He’s going to rapture the church, and then He’s going to come back in judgment on the earth during a time of Tribulation. At the end of that time, He will return to establish His kingdom on earth for a thousand years.
So we believe that Christ will come before the millennial kingdom—millennium just means a thousand. And in Revelation 20 we are told He will reign for a thousand years about a half a dozen times. So that is the standard, most common understanding of the future. Now if you follow the book of Revelation, it makes sense. You have the church on earth in chapters 2 and 3. All of the sudden you see the saints in heaven in chapters 4 and 5. And then in chapters 6 through 18 all hell breaks loose in the world in the time of Tribulation as judgment falls.
At the end of that period of seven years, Revelation 19, Christ returns and judges the ungodly. And then in chapter 20 He sets of His thousand-year millennial reign on the earth, and He reigns for a thousand years in righteousness and peace on the earth. At the end of that time, the entire universe goes out of existence, and He creates the new heaven and the new earth—the eternal state. That’s the chronology of the book of Revelation.
But through the years of theology and discussion, that has not been what everybody believed. And part of it was there’s a certain progress to the development of theology. So there have been a couple other alternatives. One other alternative is that there’s no real millennium, that the thousand years doesn’t really mean a thousand years, and the Lord is not going to come back and set up His kingdom on earth; the millennium is just kind of a spiritual idea. These people are called amillennialists. The alpha privative means they reject the millennium. So they would say that whatever’s going on in Revelation 20, it doesn’t mean a thousand years, and it doesn’t mean a kingdom on earth because there’s not going to be a kingdom on earth any different than the current kingdom, which is the church in the world.
And then there is the postmillennial view. And that is that Christ comes after the millennium. And there were many of the Puritans who held to that view. There were some who were with every view. But the postmillennial view says this—and this is a hard sell: The post-millennial view says things are going to get increasingly better in the world. And the church is going to flourish and grow and not only be a spiritual entity in the world. But the church is going to take over all the institutions of the culture. You hear people who are postmillennial talk about culture war. So they’re sort of trapped with, on the one hand, a desire to preach the gospel so people are converted and, on the other hand, a desire to take over the institutions of man in order that they can bring about the kingdom and then hand it to Christ when He returns.
There are people who believe that. That is a very difficult thing to believe, that the world is going to get better and better and better when the Bible says it’s going to get—what? Worse and worse and worse. That’s a very difficult thing to hold to. In fact, most postmillennialists faded away after World War I and World War II. World War II, 71 million people were killed. That is the darkest era of human history, and it was in a relatively modern time. And the world hasn’t improved since then.
But in the era of the Reformers and the Puritans, the clarity of those doctrines was not developed, and I’ll tell you why. When the church emerged out of a thousand years of Roman Catholicism in the Reformation, it had to reestablish every doctrine. They had councils on the nature of Christ, the deity of Christ, the nature of God, the nature of salvation, the authority of Scripture. They were recovering from the apostate Roman system the true understanding of Scripture.
And the early Reformers didn’t get all the way to the end of capturing, recapturing, reaffirming the full range of biblical doctrine. So you have someone like Martin Luther, who God used to recapture the doctrine of justification by faith; and you have John Calvin, the Lord used to clarify the essence of the doctrine of salvation in the widest possible understanding. But they didn’t get to eschatology. In fact, John Calvin wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible but Revelation. They fought so many battles on the foundations, it took time in the recovery process to clarify and crystallize eschatology.
But now that you have the clarity of eschatology, and you have a simple, straightforward interpretation of the book of Revelation, the chronology of Revelation is clear. The church is on the earth in chapters 2 and 3—letters to the churches on earth. The church appears in heaven in 4 and 5, which would indicate a rapture. In chapter 6 through 18 you have the judgments that come in the time of Tribulation. After that the Lord comes, destroys the ungodly, establishes His millennial kingdom in Revelation 20. And then in chapter 21 and 22 you have the new heaven and the new earth. That’s the simple chronology of Revelation.
And it’s not difficult. In fact, it starts with a blessing: Blessed is the one who reads and understands this book. It’s not complicated. In fact to be a successful amillennialist, you have to say that this doesn’t mean what it says. And to be a successful postmillennialist, you’d have to say this doesn’t mean what it says.
But we’re far enough along in the development of theology in the church that we can’t claim we’ve been so busy battling other aspects of theology we didn’t get around to eschatology. We’re there now, and I think what the Bible teaches is clear. But there were times in history when they hadn’t quite gotten to that yet, OK? Good.
AUDIENCE: Hey, Pastor John. Jeff Secor. I would say, forty-five years here, and I thank you for teaching the whole counsel of God, and even proper eschatology, because that’s what gives us hope. And listening to the Puritan Conference, I elect you as my favorite Puritan, modern-day pastor, so anyways . . .
JOHN: Well thank you, Jeff. I think you’re a little biased after forty-five years.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I know.
JOHN: But I’ll take it.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. Thank you so much. But in Acts 17:26, I think we’re all kind of facing this a lot with California and the way they’re going in our nation. But some people have a struggle of, you know—having determined their appointed times and boundaries and their habitations, a lot of us are swayed to leave our churches and different things in different areas. Just wondering how you would go through determining the will of God and—as a believer, we’re talking about—and just what your viewpoint is on your aspect of that.
JOHN: Yeah. I think what you’re saying is on a lot of people’s minds. Things are getting worse, and they seem to be the worst in California. And that is cause for some people to leave California. I hate to tell you this, but whatever is now here is going everywhere else. So you may get a short reprieve, but it will catch up with you because this is the direction the world is going. And the wretchedness and corruption that is evident in this state is fully undergirded and supported by the bureaucracies of the federal government and the people that are in them. So you’re not going to escape. Plus this: Your objective should not be to escape the evil. Your objective should be to find a safe place in a great church with the people of God.
So, many people who have left and gone somewhere else have come back and contacted me and said, “We never should’ve left because we can’t find anything like Grace Church.” I’m not saying this is the only church. But I am saying you would look a long time to find this kind of spiritual family to care for you, to love you, to support you, to nurture you. And there’s really no safety in the system anyway. What you want to do is find the most faithful believers, the most faithful shepherds and pastors—the most faithful church—and flee to that. Find your safety in the fellowship of the saints.
Running from that because you prefer some other tax laws makes no sense to me. In fact, from my standpoint, if I’m going to be anywhere, I want to be wherever it’s the hardest because that’s where the most profound need is. And that was my motivation when I wrote that letter to the governor. I can’t see a way that we can use any political system to change what’s happening in our state. But we can pray that God would save the leaders, right?
But if He doesn’t, I’m still in the very best place I can be: under His Word with His precious people. This is where I want my children. This is where I want my grandchildren. This is where I want my great-grandchildren. This is where I want everybody I love, because the safest place is the place where God is most evidently at work. You can’t run and hide from the decline of the world. Better to be in the safest place, and that’s the place where God is the truth-protector—in His church, OK?
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Elliot.
JOHN: Hi, Elliot.
AUDIENCE: My wife and I have been enjoying coming to your church for the past couple months.
AUDIENCE: We’ve been considering church membership. So in light of that, I think I understand the rationale behind church membership. But I wonder if possibly there’s a danger in making the distinction between members of the body of Christ and non-members of the body of Christ. So what Scripture supports church membership, and can things like church discipline, fellowship, commitment simply come with a genuine profession of faith?
JOHN: Well, let me just simply say this: We’ll start with the day of Pentecost, when the church began. Three thousand people believed, and three thousand people were baptized, essentially, by the apostles and the other believers. And there were only 120 total believers, so they knew the number. And there was no such thing as an unbaptized believer. When a person becomes a believer, they are placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit literally immersing them into the body of Christ. You become one with Christ in union with Him, and one with everyone else who is in union with Him, so spiritually you’re a part of the body of Christ.
You have to understand the spiritual reality of that. All believers are part of the body of Christ. All believers then were baptized; that is, they were publicly identified with the believers. They were publicly identified by the leaders of the early church. Even later in the book of Acts it says there were five thousand men who believed. So they were tracking with who was a believer, who was baptized, who publicly confessed Christ, and who was under their care.
So what we’re saying, from the very beginning is there was leadership in the church. By the time you get to chapter 6, they know who their people are. And they know they have a responsibility to care for those people. And in chapter 6 they’re struggling to make sure that the believers who were widows have a fair allotment of food. So they knew there was a shepherding responsibility. So they chose men—they are called deacons—full of the Spirit, full of faith to shepherd the flock.
Peter says to the elders, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” So there was no such thing in the early church as a believer that was just loose. In the book of Acts we find that when people move from one city to another, they took letters specifically from the church they were a part of to the church that they were moving to so that they were being introduced as a member of the church of Jesus Christ in another place. They knew who the people were. They tracked them.
But church membership is not just signing on a line; it is essentially saying, “I submit myself to the shepherding and the leadership and the discipleship and the discipline of those who are over me in the Lord.” In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he said we are to give honor to those who are over us in the Lord. They knew who their shepherds were. They knew who their spiritual leaders were. And on the other hand, in the book of Hebrews, you have a message to the leaders to be examples that the people could follow, and the people are said to follow their faith.
So there’s no sort of ambiguity about life in the church. You submit to godly elders who care for your soul, to deacons who minister on your behalf. You submit to the discipline of the church, which is for your benefit, like the discipline of God in Hebrews. It’s to produce righteousness. You put your life in the care of the shepherds. And the Great Shepherd is the Lord Jesus, who shepherds His flock through the undershepherds. This is just what the New Testament defines as life in the church.
So by membership—you ask, What are the privileges of membership. You’re saying, “Care for me. Lead me spiritually. Direct me. Help me to use my spiritual gift. Help me to be a blessing to others by putting into practice the one-anothers of the New Testament—praying for one another, loving one another, edifying one another—whatever the one-anothers are.” So the New Testament doesn’t know anything about a free-floating believer who just bounces around. There’s built in a sense of accountability and an obligation and responsibility for shepherding. That’s the only thing the New Testament knows.
So when we talk about church membership, we’re simply saying that it’s a covenant between a true believer and those whom the Lord is going to use to shepherd them to comply with that shepherding, to follow their faith, to learn from them, to love them and to honor them. And that is exactly what a church is. So what you want to do as a believer is you want to find whatever means there is to be totally connected to that process where they know who you are, you know who they are, and you have that mutual ministry together, OK?
AUDIENCE: Thank you, sir.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Dr. McArthur. My name’s Tracy Lesser. I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina, and had the privilege of attending the Puritan Conference. This is my first time at Grace. So I don’t have a deep doctrinal question for you, but I did want to share that you have been my spiritual father for forty years. As a young teenager from a very broken home, I got a card. And it was for a free book from you, and I sent it off—no stamp required. I think had it needed a stamp, it would not have been sent because there were no stamps in my home. And I got your book. I don’t remember the book, but I was then on the list to get more books, and I sent away.
And for forty years you have mentored me and raised me, so I just want to thank you for that, for being my father. And as I said, I don’t have a deep, doctrinal question. But I thought, I wonder who you would, if you were standing at a microphone, who you would want to be asking a question to, what you would ask from past or present? And you’re not allowed to say Jesus [laughs].
JOHN: There are so many questions I would ask. But it has been my life journey in the Word of God to find the answers. So I can’t exist without those answers. So I don’t put off any questions. In fact, this is a bit of an insight into my approach to the Word of God as a preacher. So as I said, I’ve been doing it a long time. Produced a lot of sermons, as you know. First of all, thank you for your sweet kindness and telling me that. That’s an incredible encouragement to me. But I cannot have any questions. They all have to be answered by Sunday.
JOHN: I remember one of my seminary professors—he said to me I could never be a pastor because I can’t get all my questions answered by Sunday. So I know where the answers are; they’re on the pages of Scripture. And through all these years, the Lord has honed my skill and my ability and my passion to go to the Word of God and find the answers.
In fact, preparing, for me, to preach is to go to a text and to answer every question that rises out of that text. It is just a process of questions and answers, questions and answers. Well if that verse means this, what about the verse before? Or if that verse means this, what about this other verse that seems to contradict that? Or it means that, what does that have to say about this doctrine or that doctrine? I’m never done [with] preparation until all those questions are answered. So while I would have personal questions to ask of men of God, as far as the Scriptures go, I spend my entire life making sure that I have the answers that the Bible gives so I can pass them onto you, OK? Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Stephen. I’m in my first semester at TMS.
JOHN: Good, Stephen.
AUDIENCE: My question to you is related to a couple of different Bible passages: Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things”; Romans 7, where Paul declares, “Wretched man that I am.” My question is, Are these passages describing all of humanity, including people who are New Covenant believers? Or are New Covenant believers excluded from having hearts deceitful above all things, above being wretched? And I suppose if your answer is no, these aren’t including believers, then how would you kind of rationalize believers who do have this mentality of follow your heart, but they seem to be going astray? And if it does include believers, then how would you encourage those of us who are maybe struggling with that reality?
JOHN: Well, yeah, I understand. Jeremiah 17:9 is simply a commentary on fallen humanity. The heart of man is deceitful above all things. It is a lot of things. It is a lot of things. It is only evil continually. We read Romans 3:10-20. The heart doesn’t seek God, doesn’t seek His glory, doesn’t seek truth—and we talked about all of that this morning.
But above all of that, it is deceitful. So the problem with the unregenerate is that their heart lies to them. Now remember what we said this morning: that they’re of their father the devil, who is a liar. And if you speak the truth, they can’t relate to it. They don’t believe you because it is the truth, and they’re blind and dead to the truth. So Jeremiah 17 is like the other passage in Jeremiah, which says, “Can a leopard change his spots?” Of course not! “Neither can you who are evil do good.” So that’s a simple description of the fallen state of humanity.
When you get to Romans 7, it’s a very different situation because clearly Paul is a believer—clearly. In chapter 6 he marks out the transformation of a believer, who having been a slave to sin, has become a slave of righteousness. In chapter 7 he says, “I love your law. It is holy, just and good.” OK, that’s not a non-believer. He’s not deceived. The truth does not offend him. He loves the truth. It’s holy, just, and good. And that is a reflection of the new creation, a principle operating in him that loves the truth and loves righteousness and loves God.
But he says, “I see another principle operating in my life.” So now we have the definition of a believer. He is a new creation. He is no longer deceived. He sees the truth. He knows the truth. He loves the truth. He embraces the truth, but there’s something else attached to him. It’s another principle making war against all of that. Now, there’s no war in a fallen individual. What is the war? He’s deceived; he operates on lust. There’s no war.
But in the believer, who now is totally transformed, there is a war, and Paul explains it this way: “Because there is still my unredeemed flesh.” And he makes the analogy that it’s like having a corpse connected to his body. In ancient times one of the ways they punished a murder was to attach the dead corpse to the body of the murderer. And so the living murderer was carrying around the decaying corpse attached to his own body.
Paul sees that kind of picture, and so he says, “I’m a wretched man. On the one hand, I want to do the right thing, but I don’t do it. On the other hand, I don’t want to do the wrong thing, but I do it.” This is the wretchedness of the struggle of the life of the believer. And the difference, as I said, is there’s no struggle for a non-believer. What is he struggling with? His will is free only in one sense. He can pick his sin.
So Paul is describing the Christian’s experience. And he hates the fact that that is his experience. And that’s why in chapter 8 he says, “I’m waiting for the resurrection of the body, when the flesh is no longer there.” So as believers, we understand that battle, right? We understand that struggle with sin. We wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. We’re fighting the remaining sin that is in us because we haven’t yet been fully glorified. And we’re fighting the onslaughts of the enemy, who comes at us to try to take advantage of us and lead us astray. The non-believer is one entity. The believer is a brand-new creation. But he still has to deal with the remaining flesh, and that’s the difference, OK?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: You’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Pastor John. My name is Conrad.
JOHN: Hi, Conrad.
AUDIENCE: First of all, I want to thank you for your ministry. It’s had an amazing impact in my life. And hardly a day goes by where I don’t listen to at least one of your sermons.
JOHN: Oh, thank you.
AUDIENCE: I always feel like you should have made more impact based on the clarity that you bring across. So anyhow, here’s my question based on 2 John 1:10–11. It says: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do no receive him into your home, and do not give him your greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
So my question is where, with the people that are most likely in all of our lives as friends and family members, do we draw the line as far as inviting them into your house, appreciate, even, their prayers? Let’s say there’s people that are involved in false forms of Christianity or don’t believe at all in Christ and then have been part of family gatherings and spending an extended amount of time with them. Does it have any spiritual effect on me, as an individual, negatively?
JOHN: So the Bible says that the Lord doesn’t want to take us out of the world. We’re here to reach those people, right?
JOHN: We’re here to reach those people. But where we draw the line is we do not allow them to teach us their error. You could have a conversation with those people. I suppose the most obvious application of this would be you don’t let the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the door. You don’t let the Mormon missionaries in the door. You don’t give them an opportunity to pollute your mind. And this goes back to Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who does not stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But hs delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law he meditates day and night.”
So that is a very practical question because we have to engage those people. But we do not have to give them a platform and in any sense affirm that. You may be in a situation where you don’t have a choice. And somebody may go on talking in a way that is a denial of the truth. There is no possible way that you can affirm that person. You have to denounce false teaching. You don’t create a platform for it. You don’t let them get away with it, because it’s so corrosive and so corruptive; OK?
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Jaime. My question is how often do you spend time on God’s Word, on a daily week, with things to get done?
JOHN: How often do I spend time in the Word of God?
JOHN: Every day. This, again, is what I do. And, as I said earlier, I chose to do this so I would be able to do that. It was really—this is a very personal thing with me. I don’t know that there was any human reason why I became so consumed with understanding the Bible. I think that’s something the Lord did in my heart. I was like any other kid. I was a Christian. My dad was a pastor. I believed the truth. I loved the Lord. But I was consumed with understanding the Bible.
In fact, when I came to Grace Church back in 1969, the reason I was so glad to finally be a pastor was I wanted to go through the entire New Testament, verse by verse by verse by verse by verse by verse. And from the very beginning that was in my heart to do that, because I wanted to understand every bit of it because I knew every word of God was true and pure. And amazingly, the Lord allowed me to stay here long enough to do that. But that was the goal from the very, very beginning.
Now, doing that is an all-consuming challenge week after week after week, month after month, year after year intensely studying the Word of God. And when you’re not directly studying a given passage, reading constantly and widely to enrich myself in theology and doctrine because this is the all-consuming reality of my life. So in that sense my time in the Word would be very abnormal, maybe even for preachers because if you preach in one church for five years and leave, you can take those sermons from that five years and give them to the next group. But if you stay in the same place, then they’ve heard everything you have to say. You have to keep getting something else to say.
So for half a century I’ve tried not to repeat myself, and the Word of God is absolutely inexhaustible. It is my greatest delight. I understand Psalm 19. I understand that the Word of God is more precious to me than gold, yes, than fine gold; sweeter also than honey from the honeycomb. There is nothing that is more joyful to me than coming to an understanding of the truth of Scripture, which reveals to me the nature and character of God and His saving purpose. It’s exhilarating as much today as it was when I first began.
Now if you’re caught up in all kinds of other things, then I have to suggest to you that you need to read the Bible as much as you can. But you also need to be in a church where you can be taught and benefit from everything the pastor is learning, right? That’s why you come to Grace—because I prepare the Word of God to give to you. This is what pastoral work is, so that something you can’t do on your own becomes a treasure given to you by the one who teaches you, OK?
JOHN: Good question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: My name is Liliana.
JOHN: Hi, Liliana.
AUDIENCE: My question is why did God—didn’t destroy Satan?
JOHN: Why God didn’t destroy Satan? The answer is because He has a purpose for Satan. He has a purpose for Satan. This is a very hard question to understand. Why didn’t God—why did God allow sin? Why did God allow evil? Why did God allow Satan to fall and the demons to fall with him? And the final answer is because it brings Him glory. How does God get glory from allowing Satan to do what he does? How does God get glory from sin?
Well He does in two ways. He gets glory because Satan and demons and corruption and sin in the world allow Him to display His holiness. How does He do that? By judging that. God puts His holiness on display, His righteousness on display, when He punishes sin, when He punished the angels that rebelled. This is God displaying His glory, and wrath is part of His glory.
But the other thing is this: Because Satan operates and because there’s sin in the world, God also can display His power and His grace. How would we ever know that God was gracious, merciful, forgiving? If there hadn’t been sin, we would never know that. We would never know that. But that is God’s nature. So God allows evil. He allows Satan. He allows sin, one, to display His wrath. And ultimately, He will bind Satan and cast him into the lake of fire, and the final judgment will come. He’s already been sentenced to that.
But the other reason He allows for sin and Satan is so that He can demonstrate His grace by forgiving people who are caught up with Satan and sin. That’s necessary for God to put His full attributes on display. Does that make sense? Thank you, Liliana. Good question.
AUDIENCE: You’re welcome.
[Laughter and applause]
AUDIENCE: Hey, Pastor John. My name is Kendall Weaver. I really appreciate your ministry. I’ve been coming here since March, and I have a question. What is the Christian sabbath? Is it Saturday or Sunday?
JOHN: Well, Sunday is the day Christians worship, and that started in the book of Acts because Christ rose on the first day of the week. So sabbath day was the day of rest connected to the Lord resting the seventh day after He created in six days. And God ordained in the Old Testament that since He rested, as it were, on the seventh day that His people Israel would on the seventh day rest and worship their Creator. That was the day in the Old Covenant.
When you get into the New Testament, all the commandments of the Old Testament are repeated except one. All the—if you go to the Ten Commandments, they’re all repeated except one is left out: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” You don’t have that in the New Testament because we’re now under a new covenant, which is better than the Old Covenant. And we have a new day—the day that Christ rose from the dead. And so from the very early chapters of Acts, the church met on the first day of the week to celebrate the Resurrection.
Seventh Day Adventists want to go back to the Old Covenant. That’s why they have dietary laws. But the New Testament says there are no dietary laws: “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” You shouldn’t forbid any food. Don’t call dirty what God has cleansed. Paul said to the Colossians, “Don’t let anyone hold you to a sabbath or a festival or a new moon because all of that is shadow, and Christ is the substance.” So the church has always, in consistency with the New Covenant, met on Sunday.
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much, Pastor John.
JOHN: You’re welcome, you’re welcome.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Daniel. And yeah, just thank you so much for your ministry here. And my question for you is how do we intentionally or actively glorify God in our free time, where we find ourselves often doing, like, secular hobbies such as watching movies or playing games or things like that?
JOHN: Well first of all, you want to make sure that whatever movie you’re watching or whatever game you’re playing is good, virtuous, and righteous. And understand this: that leisure time is a common grace. We need that. Jesus rested. Understand that God has given us a world full of amazing diversions. You can worship God by taking a run in the woods, going to the beach and surfing. You just want to make sure that what you do with that leisure time is good, first of all, and leads you to be thankful to the Lord. Spending time with friends, reading a great book, even a great novel, watching a documentary, watching a movie that demonstrates the realities of life and puts on display both the consequence of sin and the blessing of righteousness. Look, I don’t know what people think about me, but I need leisure. I can’t go twenty-four hours a day like this, although there are some people who want to crack the whip and keep me going.
Occasionally, I need to grab my golf clubs and go out and look at some green grass and blue sky. And I love that because I’m with friends, and we talk about all kinds of things, and my own heart is refreshed. Or I need to take a drive with Patricia and go to a beautiful place and just enjoy each other. That’s part of common grace. That’s the world we live in. It’s not just brown and ugly. We are to appreciate God in everything that He has provided for us.
I talk a lot about music because our world is filled with music. People ask me, “What kind of music do you like?” Beautiful music. I don’t like ugly music. I don’t like music that’s not music.
Because God has given us that. So I think you have every reason to do that. I’ve always been a fan of athletics. I played athletics in high school and college. And it’s still fun for me, as a diversion, to watch those sports that I know well because I can dissect the realities of what is going on because I participated in those things. And I built a lot of strong relationships through the years.
This morning was interesting. Two young men came up to me this morning who used to be great football players at USC. And in the days when they were at USC, I was doing a lot of Bible study with the football team there. And one of them I actually married to his wife, and they were just thanking me this morning for the investment I had in their lives many, many years ago because of my interest in football, which they loved. You know, any of these things that God has put in life that cultivate joy, fulfillment, physical well-being, mental challenges, are given by God, OK?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Pastor John. My name is Christian Nuesa.
JOHN: Hi, Christian.
AUDIENCE: So my question is on singleness, actually.
AUDIENCE: So I find singles at Grace to be too careful or too strict in their choice of their spouses. I’m married, by the way, I’m sorry.
JOHN: You’re married.
AUDIENCE: I forgot about that part. So—
JOHN: Well, you just took the desperation out of your question.
AUDIENCE: I forgot about that part. I was gonna ask—I was gonna say that in the beginning. Sorry.
JOHN: Go ahead, Christian.
AUDIENCE: So my question is—you can see it’s ironic, right, because this is the safest place to find your spouses, right, at Grace Community Church. So as a church, how do we break that culture?
JOHN: Yeah, it’s really—Christian, it’s a really good question. I’m grateful you have a wife.
JOHN: But I’m glad you’re asking it for all of us who don’t. Yeah, look, we all know in this culture people are not getting married young. They’re waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. It’s part of the selfishness of the culture. It’s part of the protracted adolescence of men. It’s part of the shirking of responsibility. But the price is high because the grace of life is marriage, and the blessing is children. “Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them.”
I don’t understand, also, why Christian men don’t find a lovely Christian girl and be, in a sense, Christ to her and say, “Let me care for you. Let me love you. Let me serve you as Christ did His church.” I don’t know why they have to be looking for some level of perfection that makes everybody somehow unqualified or short of what is expected. I think we’re looking for the wrong things.
I think the joy and the fulfillment of marriage is not bound up in the initial attraction. It’s bound up in the depth of the covenant that you make. In fact, I worry about this a lot. I threatened to take all the single men and put them over here, all the single women and put them over here, and I’ll match them up.
[Laughter and applause]
But if I did that, nobody would show up. I’m aware of that.
But it’s the grace of life. It’s the best that life has to offer. And there are going to be a lot of really sad people in old age, who don’t have a life partner and don’t have children and don’t have grandchildren. And we have four great-grandchildren now, and they are just the greatest joy in our life, to see righteousness passed down generation to generation. But you really have to get over the world’s design of a marriageable person, and find someone who loves the Lord, and say, “I want to care for you as Christ cares for His church.”
And I really blame the men. There are some guys who have tried, and girls keep saying no thanks. I understand that. There may be some blame there. But it’s my constant prayer that the Lord will direct young men to find the godly women and live the full life that God intends in marriage, OK? Wow, a lot of people disappeared.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Kisugi Mayra. My question today is what will become of Jesus’ priestly role and priestly office after sin is defeated? And will His high priestly role cease at the same time the existence of sin ceases?
JOHN: Well, He will always be our great High Priest. He will always have that role just as He is eternally the God-Man. If you look in Ezekiel 40 to 48, you find that in the millennial kingdom there’s going to be an actual temple, and there’s going to be actual sacrifices. And Christ is going to function as the great High Priest in that millennial temple, so that’s the millennial kingdom. When He comes back, He is going to play the role of the priest. And many people will be redeemed during that thousand years. In fact, the Old Testament prophet said ten Gentiles will come to Jerusalem hanging on the skirt of one Jew as that Jew brings them to Christ.
So He will, during the millennial kingdom, be the mediator between the unconverted and God. So He will function as a priest. And there will actually be sacrifices in that temple, which will be memorials to the sacrifices of the past. We don’t need any other sacrifice other than the sacrifice of Christ. But we have the communion table by which we remember His sacrifice. And apparently, in that millennial temple, there will be offerings, sacrifices offered to the Lord that are reminders of the sacrifice of Christ as well.
Now when you get into the eternal state, there’s no need for mediation because in the eternal state we’ll all have total access to God, OK? Good question.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Pastor John. My name is Ulysses, and I’m a recent member of Grace Community Church, and so I’m still growing and learning. And so my question is if we’re all sinners, how could we be saints at the same time, when the Bible makes a clear distinction between saints and sinners?
For example, saints, they’re constantly fleeing from sin. And even though they stumble, they seek reconciliation with the Heavenly Father by repenting. And on the other hand, the sinners, they are constantly making plans to sin. They take pride in their sin, and they boast about it. And so these are two characteristics that are completely distinct, and they’re contrary to one another. And so how can we explain to non-believers who use the excuse of “we’re all sinners” to remain in their willful sin by saying that we believe in God, God loves everyone, and so we’re good to go when we, as believers, we know that we cannot remain in willful sin anymore?
JOHN: So the way you have to understand that is what I was saying earlier about Romans 7. But listen to 1 Corinthians 1: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” So there you have the Corinthian church identified as saints, right? And yet in chapter 3 he says to them, “I . . . could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. . . . You’re still fleshly . . . since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, are you not walking like mere men? . . . One says, ‘I’m of Paul,’ another ‘I’m of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?”
So on the one hand in chapter 1 he says, “You’re saints by calling.” In other words, “You’re holy. God has literally imputed His holiness to you. But on the other hand, you’re still human. And I recognize that I have to talk to you as if you were infants in Christ because your flesh shows up in the divisiveness of your relationships.” If you go through 1 Corinthians, they had a lot of problems. Just every chapter lays out some of the issues among those “saints.”
We are designated saints because we literally, in God’s eyes, are covered with His righteousness. We are set apart. We are holy in our position before God. In our practice, we still struggle with sin. So you can say about the church of Jesus Christ they are saints. But you have to immediately then say we are also imperfect. “Sinner” is a term used in the New Testament of non-believers. We are saints. But we are saints that are not yet perfect until we’re with the Lord in glory, OK?
AUDIENCE: Thank you, Pastor John.
JOHN: Sure. One last question.
AUDIENCE: Hello. My name is Caleb. I am a new member at Grace.
AUDIENCE: My question surrounds church discipline. We continually see church leaders and pastors fall into sin or situations that jeopardize their ministry. How should a church deal with disciplining a pastor or elder? And how does a church heal from those painful experiences?
JOHN: Well, simply to answer that question, a pastor must be above reproach, OK, must be above reproach. If he’s not above reproach—in other words, if there’s legitimate reproach, meaning shame, brought on him by his behavior—he can’t be a pastor. He can’t be a pastor. It’s not perfection, because none of us is perfect. But since we are to be an example to the believers, if we bring shame on ourselves and shame on the Lord, we forfeit the possibility of being an example.
And you really get one opportunity at a life of integrity. You get one opportunity at that. And if you discredit yourself by some flagrant sin, then you have lost that above-reproach designation. It may be some kind of immoral thing. That’s why Paul immediately says, “He should be a one-woman man,” because more often than not, when pastors fall, they fall morally. Peter also adds to that you’re not in the ministry for money. That’s a second category of sin where pastors go astray: They turn to material things and money. “Filthy lucre” is what Peter says. But when that happens, there’s a forfeiture of that above-reproach status.
Maybe when that kind of person is put out of the church and truly repents, we want to be quick to say the Lord may still use that person. But he’s not going to be the model that a pastor needs to be. Maybe down the road many, many years later it’s possible that his life is totally transformed, and he could be restored to some ministry. I don’t want to put that out of the realm of possibility. But I think of ministry as one opportunity to maintain a life of integrity. And when that’s forfeited, it’s forfeited. And the church needs to deal with that if an elder sins. He’s to be confronted by two or three and dealt with. That’s explicit, OK?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOHN: Mm-hmm. OK, I think we answered a few questions. And I’m so sorry about all of you who stood so long in line. Great shall be your reward in heaven.
So thank you. Let’s have a word of prayer together, OK?
Father, our hearts rejoice because Your Word is sufficient. Its truth is clear. Its promises are real. Your power transforms. We thank You for the church. We thank You for the saints. We thank You for the love of the saints. We thank You for the blessing of fellowship. We thank You for the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads us and guides us and presses us forward into the path of righteousness and obedience and love.
We thank You that we don’t need to fear the future because nothing will ever come at us that has the power to overwhelm us because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. And there is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, and God will with the temptation make a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
As saints, we have the truth. We have the power of the Spirit, reality of regeneration, and a new nature to resist the temptation that would discredit us. We long for the day when we have complete victory over our remaining flesh. But in the meantime, Lord, may we walk in the path of righteousness, filled with the Spirit, and see the fruit of that in righteousness, in joy, in love, and effective ministry. That’s our prayer in the Savior’s name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.