As you know, if you are part of the family of Grace Community Church, it’s been our custom for many, many years to have a time of family sharing at times when we take a little bit of a break from our series - and by the way, next Lord’s Day evening, we’ll be going back into James, a tremendous section on true wisdom, James chapter 3. We’ve looked at the section on the tongue and what a life-changing experience that was. And I know we’ll be back in full enthusiasm next Lord’s Day as we look at the matter of true wisdom, a test of living faith. On Sunday morning, we’ll be back in 1 Timothy again, so I know you’ll be anxious for that.
But for tonight, as we do customarily from time to time, letting you have an opportunity to share what’s on your heart, and I want to do my best to answer the questions that you have. This really began about seventeen years ago when I first came to Grace church because I was studying the book of Acts and found that Paul reasoned with people out of the Scripture. He dialogued with them. There needs to be a place where those who preach and teach the Word can know what’s on the heart of those who hear, and so that’s what we want to do tonight.
And your questions should surround the Word of God, your own spiritual experience, something about the life of the church, whatever it is that relates to those things, we want you to feel free to ask. And don’t be embarrassed. Don’t feel, “I don’t want to go up there and ask a simple question,” because you may ask a question you think is simple and three hundred people may say, “Boy, I wish I’d have asked that question, that’s what’s been on my heart as well.”
We have folks here who’ve been a Christian - been Christians a long time. Anybody here been a Christian for thirty years, put your hand up. You’ve been saved for thirty years? Okay, that’s good. All right, put them down. Anybody who’s been a Christian for three years or less, put your hand up. Three years or less? Okay, a few more than that. So there’s a lot of space in between, right? Some of you have been a Christian within a year, is that right? Put your hand up if you’ve been a Christian within a year. Okay, so there are all kinds of things that are on the hearts of many people.
Some of you are trying to figure out the wart on the nose of the beast of Revelation and what it signifies, and others of you are just trying to figure how to get your prayer life together. And just about everything in between. So you feel free to ask what’s on your heart.
I’m going to ask some of our pastors to stand by those microphones, and they’re going to ask you to ask them the questions so we can help to speed the process. Sometimes folks mean well but they come up to ask a question and it sort of starts out, “I was born in St. Louis, and then we moved to Kansas City,” and by the time we get here in 1987 to the question, lots of time has transpired. So we want to try to expedite that.
And no more than two or three people can line up behind a microphone, okay? Once you see two people there, don’t get in line or they’ll just send you back to your seat because it means you have to stay there for a long time. So just two or three and that’s it. And you need to find a seat nearby, okay?
Boy, we have a real stampede tonight. I have the feeling I’m in for it, but that’s good. No more than three in line. If you see there are three there, don’t get in line, just find a seat someplace, okay?
All right? Okay, and he’ll - the pastor there will just help you with your question, okay? And if you do want to ask a question, we’ll hope you’ll get the time and opportunity to do that, but let me say this: If you do not have the opportunity to ask your question tonight, write me a letter, put your question in the letter, and I will be more than happy or one of our staff will be more than happy to answer whatever question you might have, okay? And give me your name first so that I know who you are. Sometimes I can’t see that far. Okay - is that Ronna?
JOHN: I thought so.
QUESTION: Hi, John. One thing, I just wanted to thank you. Not only are you the coup de grâce of Bible teachers, and I have the privilege of learning under you, but I have increased my vocabulary probably a hundredfold just by listening to you. You know, you say probably four words - four words in a sermon and I don’t know them. I write them down and I go home and I look them up. And in all seriousness, it helps me when I read other books because I know what the context means.
For instance, today I got home - you used a word this morning, today I got home and my mom and dad were watching football, and it was the Giants and the 49ers, and we’re just kind of talking about the team. And in my mind I was trying to get straight, there’s such an amalgam of teams and leagues that I said - I was trying to find out what this game represented. So finally I just said, “Dad, is this game a precursor to the Super Bowl?” You used that this morning. And my dad, he just said yes. I don’t know if he said yes to placate me and didn’t know what I mean, but he answered me, so I guess apparently he knew what I meant.
But all that to say this, John, I really appreciate that. So thanks a lot, keep using those words. My question is -
JOHN: Thank you, Ronna. I usually am quoting someone else and I have to go home and look them up myself.
QUESTION: Well, whatever, it helps. And I know some other people have gotten on the ball, too. So it’s good. My question is probably so fundamental, try not to laugh a lot when I ask this. But in Romans chapter 1, it talks about, verse 18, it talks about, I know it’s talking about the sin of man, but verses 18 through 32, I don’t understand it when verse 21 says, “For they knew God,” and verse 22, “They became fools; therefore, God gave them over.” Verse 25, “For they exchanged the truth.” The “theys” and the “thems” and then it says in verse 28, “God gave them over to depraved minds.”
I thought we were born utterly depraved. Who is “they” and when did this happen?
JOHN: That’s a good question. What you’re asking about Romans chapter 1 is: Is this the personal experience of every unbeliever? Or is this a chronological picture of human history?
And personally, I would opt out for the fact that what you’re seeing here is a chronological picture of world history. And so that what you have from the beginning is that man, after he was created, was obviously created with the knowledge of God. Adam knew God, right? And Eve knew God. And their family knew God. And so in that earliest generation of human history, God had planted in the heart of man and in the environment of man, the evidence of His existence, His power, His Godhead and so forth.
But man then began to decline. And what you have here is the chronology of man who originally worships God, knows God, even looking at Adam. And even Adam after the fall still knew who God was, still recognized the voice of God, that’s why he hid from Him, still understood the law of God. His children, Cain and Abel, understood the revelation of God. Abel obeyed the revelation of God. Cain violated the revelation of God. But then you have as you move toward the tower of Babel - I mean toward the flood, the terrible decline of the human race.
And by the time you get to Genesis 6, God drowns the whole civilization because they have gone so fast from the knowledge of God to a reprobate mind. That moved very fast. And from that point on, the whole of civilization, really, has been in that situation. When you have a restored civilization from the loins of Adam after the flood, still by the time you get to Genesis chapter 11, they’re building a ziggurat, a temple of false idols, and God has to scatter them and change their language.
So what you have to see here is not the pilgrimage of every person from the knowledge of God to ignorance, but the pilgrimage of mankind from an intimate, unfallen state to idolatry and that reprobate process ending up with a whole civilization of reprobate people who just keep reproducing each other. Okay?
QUESTION: Yeah, my name is Joseph, and a couple of weeks ago, or a few weeks ago, you were talking in - teaching in 1 Timothy. You were teaching about widows indeed. And in verse 9 and 10, it gives the qualifications for the widows indeed.
JOHN: First Timothy 5:9 and 10.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
JOHN: Well, this is not the qualification of a widow indeed.
QUESTION: The requirements - I’m sorry, these are the requirements for who may be in that list.
QUESTION: It says in verse 10 it has to do with - and if she has brought up children.
QUESTION: That particular requirement. And I think you said something to the effect that this meant bearing and rearing children. I don’t know if that was correct. That’s the way I wrote it in my notes, anyway.
QUESTION: Anyway, the question comes up, bearing and rearing children, as to bringing up children. In other words, this is the requirement, she has to have had children and also raised them. And it’s really a little confusing because suppose that there is a lady that gets married and cannot have children, so they decide to adopt a child. And later on, she becomes a widow indeed. She raised a child, but she didn’t - she couldn’t have the child. Would she be qualified to be in this list?
JOHN: Well, let me answer the question this way: By saying what it says here, as I remember, is that if she has raised children or brought them up. The emphasis here, of course, is for a very unique role in the church’s ministry. Okay, now, you have to understand something very important, a widow indeed, or a truly bereft woman, is to be cared for by the church, whatever might be her situation relative to children.
In other words, when you have a woman who has lost her husband - the word “widow” in the Greek language has nothing to do with death, remember that? It has only to do with being bereft. It literally could be translated “having been left alone.” So a woman may lose her husband many ways, death, desertion, divorce, separation, whatever.
That woman then needs to be cared for because God has not designed women to care for themselves but women to be under the care of men. So we said, then, that women of any kind who have no human resources, no husband, no brother, no man in the family who would care for them, the church would care for them as well.
Now, additionally, when it comes to verses 9 and 10, he is discussing what some have chosen to call a semi-official function in the church. And that is women over sixty who, having lived their life to the glory of God and having exemplary testimonies, are called on to form a group of women for the purpose of instruction, example, and ministry to others in the church. Now, in no way does that official group limit anyone else’s service. It’s just a unique group.
Now, I would go so far as to say also - and I need to go back and check my notes to be specific, but when it says in verse 10 she is to have a reputation for good works and to have raised children, the idea here is, of course, if she is going to go out like in Titus 2 and instruct younger women to love their husbands, love their children, be keepers at home, et cetera, et cetera, chaste and all that, she’s going to have to come from that vantage point and that experience to have the credibility that it takes to get into that kind of ministry.
So I would say this, that if a woman - and I don’t think the text forbids this - if a woman has raised adopted children and she has proven herself to be a godly woman, I don’t think she would be disqualified. If a woman had never had children or never raised children, then you can debate and argue about whether they would qualify or not. The simple fact here says she is to have brought up children. So I would say a woman who didn’t bring up children wouldn’t qualify to be in this group, as I tried to point out in Titus 2, because I think one of their primary roles was in helping younger women know how to handle children and the situation in the home.
But that in no way eliminates or limits anybody’s ministry. I tried to say this when we were studying about elders. An elder is not better than, an elder is not superior to, an elder simply has a unique function in the church. And I’ll be very honest with you and say that there are many laymen across this nation who are more effective at winning people to Jesus Christ than many elders and pastors. There are some laymen who are more effective and more gifted teachers of the Word of God than many pastors are.
So we don’t want to put some kind of premium on an office in the church and make it a symbol of spiritual status or make it a sort of an elite group. If a woman qualified to be in this kind of group to do this kind of ministry, so be it. If she didn’t, then let her minister in any other way where she was gifted, where she was experienced, and where she could be used by God. So let’s not get this boxed in where we think people might be second-class if they don’t fit that certain pattern. Okay?
QUESTION: That answered my question, yes.
JOHN: Let me add a footnote to that. You know what it says in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Joe. You know the passage because you probably got into it when you used to be single, before you got married, but in that passage in 1 Corinthians 7, it talks about singleness, you know, being to the glory of God. A person who is single has not the cares of this world and doesn’t have to worry about spouse and family and all of that and is free to serve the Lord.
So we could just as well say that a person, a woman who never got married and never had children, never had a lot of the baggage that some of the rest of us have had, that in many ways can limit the service you could give to the Lord. So we don’t want to undercut the fact that any person in any state, totally abandoned to the power of the Spirit of God and walking in obedience to God’s holy will, is going to be able to be used to the maximum capacity of their God-given ability. Okay?
QUESTION: My name is Hollis. Now, correct me if I’m wrong in any statement I make, John, but my understanding is there are two degrees, two classes of decreed events within the predestined plan of God.
JOHN: Now, say that again, Hollis. Two what?
QUESTION: Two classes of decreed events in the predestined plan of God.
JOHN: Two classes of - and then I missed it.
QUESTION: Decreed - decreed events, those events which are divinely caused and those which are divinely permitted. Now, my question has to do with prayer in this regard. Moses prayed and supposedly God did what he - Moses wanted, he repented. Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain for three and a half years. And then God repented toward Nineveh.
Now, of course, I believe in prayer, and the New Testament teaches us that, and God has answered prayer in my life and so on. Now, could you comment on, does God allow His means of obtaining His will to be altered by prayer or - just, you know?
JOHN: Yeah, just a simple question - oh, that - you - you see, whenever you ask a question that’s poking around in the divine mind, I’m a little bit at a loss to handle it, but let me see if I can help you with that, Hollis, because I know what you’re saying.
What you said at the beginning, I think, is important, that there are two elements within the predestined, sovereign, determined will of God. One is a direct act of God by which He determines and effects a certain cause and the other is an indirect act of God by which He permits without directly effecting a certain cause.
Yes, I would say, from the human viewpoint, that’s a fair distinction to make. I mean I think we would have to say that there are some things, for example, and the scriptures reveal that God directly did, He just did them. There are other things that would not reflect the moral will of God. For example, any sin - right? - or any act of evil. And yet God allows that to happen.
So whatever - we tend to see whatever is good and whatever is holy and just and righteous as being directly attributable to the work of God, whatever is evil or whatever is neutral being within the tolerance of God, though not the direct expression of His will. If that helps you to make that distinction, that’s fair. It probably isn’t as accurate as we would think it is, but from our limited human perspective, it works to think of things in that way.
I mean I see - for example, I see a soul converted to Jesus Christ and I say there’s the direct act of God. I see the Word of God preached and a family put together and there, I say, is the direct act of God. On the other hand, I see someone walk away from obedience to Christ, get involved in an adulterous affair in the church, wind up in church discipline, and I have to come up here and read their name. I don’t say there’s the direct act of God; I say within God’s tolerance, He has allowed that to happen and has an effecting purpose for that in the future. So that’s fair enough.
Now, let me just tell you, as you get into the nuts and bolts of your Christian life, you really don’t want to - you don’t want to try to deal with that twofold perspective or you’ll get yourself very confused. Just let that be. If it helps you to perceive certain things as to why God allows evil and so forth, then fine. But when it comes to the matter of prayer or it comes to the matter of obedience, you cannot play with those things on the level of sovereign, predetermined will. You have to function on the level of human responsibility and obedience.
So the issue in prayer is not how do I figure out how this thing works, the issue in prayer is to be obedient. And since the Scripture says pray without ceasing, and since James says the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, and since there are illustrations after illustrations of God having His will moved in one direction or another apparently by prayer, we have to bank on that. When the saint of God raises his prayer to heaven, God responds.
Somebody used to say prayer is the nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence. Now, I don’t know how that works. And I don’t know how that is contained within the absolute sovereignty of God, but it is. The fact that I don’t understand that doesn’t really bother me. It means God has a greater mind than I do, and that’s the kind of God I want. But my responsibility as a Christian is not to figure out what God’s sovereign will is and how my prayers may or may not work within the framework of that will, my responsibility is to be sure that, without ceasing, I pray.
And I believe with all my heart that what James says is true, the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. How that functions with God’s sovereign, predetermined will, I don’t know, but it does. And it’s no problem for Him, it’s only a problem for me because I have a puny, pusillanimous, little pea brain that cannot grasp the infinite mind of God in which all apparent paradoxes are instantly resolved. Okay?
QUESTION: Okay, I won’t let it bother me. Thanks.
JOHN: Good. I’ll tell you, the footnote to that - the footnote to that is that, you know, I suppose from the - your viewpoint, you look at someone like me and say, “Well, you know, you know your theology and all,” but I want you to know that when I go to time of prayer and I call upon God, I call upon God out of a - out of a concerned heart, not out of a theological context. And I can just tell you this, that through the years of my life - and even more so, I think, in recent days - I have seen the direct answer of God in prayer that - that just - it continues to overwhelm me - it continues to overwhelm me.
I’ll give you one just simple illustration. We - I told you that - this is family talk - but I told you toward the end of December that we were struggling financially. And I can remember on several occasions just saying to the Lord, “Lord, this church has been here a long time, and here we are way behind. And we don’t have the resources we need to have. And how are we going to meet our needs? And here we come to the end of a year, it’s a time of prosperity, it’s not a time of recession, everything is going good, and we just don’t have the funds and where’s it going to come from, Lord?”
And we were just falling behind week after week and then it came to - I think it was - yes, it was the Christmas Sunday, and we had an offering on Christmas Sunday that equaled two times the annual budget of this church the first year I was here. Absolutely astronomical.
And then I was praying that the Lord would somehow meet the need in our radio ministry, and God was just seemingly taking it all the way to the end. And a man came in and said, “I want to give a hundred thousand to the church and a hundred thousand to the radio ministry.” You know? And you just sort of stagger and fall back. And I can only tell you that God answers prayer. I’m not going to sit around trying to figure out how He does it because if He told me, I wouldn’t understand it. So I just do it.
QUESTION: My name’s Gordon.
JOHN: Hi, Gordon.
QUESTION: I have a question regarding the gospel of John chapter 20, verse 17, when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. Why did He say, “Stop clinging to me”?
JOHN: Well, you have to understand that - that’s a good question, Gordon. But let me tell you, you have to understand a little bit of the emotional dynamics that are going on. All right? Mary Magdalene had a background that would make a black mark on a piece of coal. She was a bad woman, okay? She was a very wicked and a very sinful woman. And along came the Lord Jesus Christ and made her, as Isaiah said, as white as wool, as white as snow, purified her, took her sin away, and then she became one of that little entourage of women who, along with the disciples, accompanied Jesus at all times through His ministry.
They were there, I’m sure, performing many wonderful and gracious services to the traveling band whenever they were able to do that.
You have to understand that the resources Jesus provided for those around Him were beyond anything we could imagine. We know how wonderful it is to know Christ in the spiritual relationship, and it was equally and in some ways distinctly differently wonderful to know Him in the physical as well. And so there He was, providing for them every resource they needed. And then all of a sudden in an absolutely unbelievable and to them inexplicable act, He was killed. And it was as if the bottom came out of everything in their world. Where would they go? Peter said it, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of life.”
And they had put all their eggs in one basket, and this was a terrible and terrifying disaster. And then when Jesus comes back from the dead, the natural response is just to hang on. And that’s what - that’s, in effect, what she’s doing, and He is saying to her, “Look, you can’t keep me here, I have to go to my Father. And when I go to my Father, I’m going to send you the Holy Spirit.”
And if you remember, the Holy Spirit is called by Paul in Romans 8 the Spirit of Christ, so in a very real sense also, He is called another Spirit earlier in the gospel of John and the word is - it’s the word from which we get “homo” which means the same rather than “hetero” which means different. So He says, “I’m sending you the Spirit who is the same as I am.” It’s the same concept as that. And so Christ says, “I’m going back and I’ll send one who’s just like I am. And you remember back in John 14, He said, “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He’ll do it.
So the resource will still be there, “But it won’t be me, you can’t hold onto me, I have to ascend to my Father” and then, of course, to send back the Holy Spirit. So it was the idea that she was emotionally involved in holding onto Christ because she had suffered through an absolutely horrible, painful existence in seeing Him crucified and didn’t want to lose Him again. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
JOHN: Good question, Gordon. Yes?
QUESTION: Hello, my name is Laura Takagi and my question is, there’s a lot of false religions - Mormonism, for example - where the archaeologists haven’t found any evidence of this great civilization that was supposed to be here on this continent. I was just wondering, as far as Christianity is concerned, I know that there’s a lot of historical evidence as far as, you know, Jesus’ existence. I was just reading in Acts yesterday about the account of Herod when he died.
JOHN: Acts 12? He was eaten by worms?
QUESTION: Eaten by worms for five days. I know that Josephus recorded this event. I was just wondering whether other historians at that time, for events like this or other events that, you know, give us empirical evidence or scientific evidence or something for witnessing’s sake and also for faith-building’s sake.
JOHN: Sure. Boy, that’s good. You need to come out to the Master’s College the next two weeks and take the course on Christian apologetics. That’s wonderful. Or go to the bookstore and buy a book called Evidence Demands A Verdict - is that the title of it? Yeah, written by one of my classmates in seminary, Josh McDowell. Evidence Demands A Verdict, very helpful along that line.
Let me just - let me just respond to you in a simple, simple way, all right? I wrote also a little book on it. I can’t remember the name of it. I can’t. Something about the Bible. But anyway - what is it? Why I Trust the Bible or what is it? Ask the bookstore people, these people don’t know, either, you know? But anyway, it’ll take you through science, archaeology, and some things like that. It’ll give you some good little handles. One of the best exercises I had in seminary was Dr. Bask before he died was a fine apologist, and he had us memorize a sort of self-contained small paragraph on every major issue of Christianity with a logical kind of defense.
And that’s very important in witnessing when people ask questions. But look at it from several viewpoints. Okay? The best means of defending Scripture - I’ll give you just a little - a little handful of it. Number one, these are the five best means of defending the veracity of Scripture. In my judgment, they go from the least effective to the most effective. Okay, the least effective but a good one is experience.
One of the things that’s very convincing to people about the truth of the Bible is its impact on your life. In fact, I would venture to say that most people who come to believe the gospel are initially drawn to that belief not because they’ve been intellectually convinced but because they’ve seen somebody’s changed life. Is that not so? And that’s the initial attraction. How did you get to be so happy? Where did you find peace? How did you get an answer to your needs? And so forth. So experience is a valid one.
In other words, you say the Bible can change your life, you say the Bible can bring the knowledge of Christ and you can experience the forgiveness of sin, the hope of heaven, joy and purpose, da-da-da-da. And you did it and it happened in your life. That’s evidence. Okay? But it’s not the strongest evidence because Mormons have experiences. Jehovah’s Witnesses have experiences. Hindus have experiences. Some people think they see pink elephants and they don’t, so you don’t want to build truth on human experience, but it still has a very strong emotional appeal.
The second in the five would be science. The Bible is remarkably accurate when it comes to science. For example, you read Eastern literature, and you’ll find that the earth sits in a pile of honey. You can find even in Pliny, the Greek, all kinds of bizarre descriptions of the earth we know aren’t anywhere remotely related to truth. Flat earth on the backs of certain things, sitting on pillars and all of that. So from a scientific viewpoint, the Bible is amazing.
The oldest book in the Bible, Job, says, “He turns the earth like the clay to the seal.” And what that means is you had a piece of clay with your signature on it, you took soft clay and a little stick through it and just rolled that across the soft clay and it imprinted your signature. And that, when it says He turned the earth like the clay to the seal, means the earth rotates on an axis.
The whole issue of the water cycle is in the Scripture. How He draws up the seas and carries them with the clouds over the land and sends it back down again. It talks about the earth being in perfect balance. The depth of the sea and the water weight, the height of the mountain and the mountain weight keeps the earth from going like a bent, you know, ball or, you know, completely out of kilter and throwing everybody off after each cycle.
So there are a lot of things like that. One of the ones that’s most dynamic is the fact that in 1903 Herbert Spencer died and he was - he received a great prize for discovering classification. In other words, all the knowable, Herbert Spencer said, could be classified into five categories, which is pretty marvelous, to reduce it down to five. He said everything that exists is either time, force, action, space, or matter. Time, force, action, space, or matter. And in 1903, he died, and he died hailed as one of the great scientists because of that discovery.
What he didn’t know was Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning (that’s time), God (that’s force) created (that’s action) the heavens (that’s space) and the earth (that’s matter).” Now, you can go from Genesis 1:1 right on through the Scripture and find some pretty remarkable things.
The third and very powerful impactful evidence of Scripture’s veracity is the person of Christ. You study the person of Christ and come up with any other conclusion than that He was God. And you have testimony after testimony after testimony, eyewitness after eyewitness. The man’s life could never be denied, it’s there for the world to see. It is verified not only in the biblical record but in extrabiblical record as well, such as Tacitus, Josephus, and so forth. How can you argue with the perfect life?
The fourth would be the matter of miracles. The matter of miracles. By the way, in the science category, you put archaeology, the discovery of archaeological data that verifies biblical history. And then you take the miracles. How do you explain the miracles of Scripture? How do you explain five hundred people seeing a resurrection?
And then the final and most impactful of all apologetic categories is prophecy. The Bible says something’s going to happen and it happens to the very letter. Predominantly, that’s Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled within the biblical record.
And so those are the things you want to look at. And as I say, you can get a lot of good resources for that because there are just myriads of things that can help you prove that. The best thing, I think, is Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Okay?
QUESTION: Thanks, I needed that.
JOHN: You’re welcome, you’re welcome. Yes?
QUESTION: Hi, John, I’m Glen Adams.
JOHN: Hi, Glen.
QUESTION: My question concerns the so-called ministry of Dr. Gene Scott. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?
QUESTION: A friend of mine was watching him a couple of months ago, and he made a statement that I found quite disturbing, and that was that if he ever got his hands on Jimmy Swaggart or Jerry Falwell, he’d punch them right in the mouth for being such hypocrites. So I decided to watch him last week, and the band on his program were - one of the songs it was playing was called “Kill a Piss Ant for Jesus,” and another song that they were playing was the old Beatles song, “Money” (Gimme, gimme me, gimme money”).
I’d like you to comment on the dangers of, say, a young Christian watching something like that and how it’s going to affect their faith in Christ and how that might impede an unbeliever from coming to know Jesus Christ.
JOHN: Well, of course, I appreciate your concern, and I have a great, great aversion to and anxiety about false teachers. You know, the flipside of the coin is that if Christians can use the media, so can everybody else. I mean we say so much about getting good Christian television and good Christian radio programs out there, and I’m one hundred percent for that but, of course, it’s out there for the bad as well, but that’s nothing different.
You know, in the time of Christ when people were preaching in the street, they were both good and bad. Jesus warns in Matthew 7 about the false teachers, “Beware of,” - he says, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” That’s not wolves dressed up like sheep, that’s wolves wearing wool garments, and the wool garment was the garment of a prophet, so false prophets. He warns about the lying, the hypocritical lie speakers of 1 Timothy 4 who are energized by seducing spirits propagating doctrines of demons.
So we shouldn’t think that because false teachers are on television, because false teachers are on radio, because false teachers are putting out books there’s anything different. There are many false Christs, Jesus said. There are going to be many more false Christs. Even now, John tells us, it is the last time, antichrists are everywhere.
Now, the question comes, is this dangerous? Of course it is dangerous, it’s exceedingly dangerous, and particularly dangerous to young Christians because of Ephesians - the principle of Ephesians 4:14, “Be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.”
It is basic to a child that children are not discerning. For example, in 1 John chapter 2, verse 13-14, he says, “I write unto you fathers because you’ve known Him from the beginning. I write unto you young men because you’re strong and the Word of God abides in you and you’ve overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because you have known the Father.”
And he gives us three categories of spiritual life, spiritual growth. Fathers who know the God who is from the beginning; in other words, you’ve gone beyond the page and you’ve really become intimate with the living God, that’s spiritual maturity. The second level, spiritual young men, are strong in the Word and they overcome the wicked one. Why? Because the wicked one is primarily a false teacher, he is disguised as an angel of light. So the spiritual young man knows doctrine, knows theology, can answer the critics, fights against them and so forth.
Then he says, “Little children, you have known the Father.” And all a little child knows is just the Lord, it’s just sort of spiritual “Dada” and there’s a great spiritual vulnerability. I believe that this is primarily the responsibility of the church, to take those on and nurture them. That’s why today what disturbs me even more than false prophets is an unchurched kind of Christianity where people think that all they need is a radio or a TV or a few books, and they’re not loyal and committed and bound by love bonds and by accountability and responsibility to a redeemed community of people.
And if we allow people to just float around - that’s why I don’t like the church page where it’s who’s playing where on Sunday and people pick where they want to go and visit here and visit there and go see this and watch that and hear this guy. And without that accountability and without that nurturing and shepherding, there is a great vulnerability.
So having said that, let me say this: I don’t believe - and I hope I’m right about this - I don’t believe that people who are tied into the life of a church like Grace Community Church are fooled by Gene Scott. Why? Because they’re taught the Word of God. If they start popping up with his theology, somebody in the Bible study is going to pull them down real quick and say, “Where are you getting that? Who are you listening to?” Because there’s accountability there. So having said that, I’m greatly exercised over false teachers, and I want you to know that if I’m concerned about them, you can imagine how concerned the Lord is.
And I have to promise you that I have sometimes been on my knees, praying imprecatory prayers. I’m not going to say which ones I have prayed would die, but I have actually prayed that. Now, I’ve prayed that based upon the prayers of David (“Lord, how long are you going to let these people live and disgrace your name?”) But what concerns me - the Lord’s going to take care of them. What concerns me is this growing coterie of people who say they’re Christians who feel that they can sit out there and pick and choose at random based upon what kind of emotional impulses they feel and have a tremendously high level of vulnerability.
So what do we do about it? What we do about it, I think, is preach not only the gospel of Jesus Christ but the gospel of the church, the forsaking not of the assembling of yourselves together under the proper teaching of the Word of God and under the proper leadership of a plurality of godly men. And you want to make sure that the life of these men backs up the message.
And so I just think we need to call people to the church. We have a funny kind of day today, you know, we have really bred a lot of independence, haven’t we? I mean it’s do-your-own-thing time. And for people to lock into a community of people and have accountability is tough in our culture, and so we need to work very hard at that. So preach not only the gospel of Christ but the gospel of the church.
And if you want to know how to recognize a false teacher, remember the tape I did on Matthew 7:15 to 20, I went through all the ways that you can recognize a false teacher. And then you might want to get 1 Timothy 4, that little section there would be helpful to you as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
JOHN: Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Lois, and I need some help with the chronology of events surrounding the birth of Christ. Every year when I study this for my Sunday school class, I’m a little bit confused. The account in Matthew 2 is quite different than the account in Luke 2, and it seems that in Matthew, they were told to go to Egypt after the wise men had been there. And this probably was when He was, you know, maybe a toddler, maybe even a year old or something. Now, had they been in Bethlehem all that time? They were in a house at that point.
And yet the other part of my question is in Luke 2, the days of Mary’s purification, they presented Jesus in the temple with Anna and Simeon, and then it says, “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, into their own city Nazareth.” And I’m trying to fit the Egypt trip in between Bethlehem and Nazareth. Does that make sense?
JOHN: That’s a good question. And I’m not sure there’s a dogmatic way to express the answer. If you take the simple chronology of Luke, verse 21 of chapter 2, the eight days were accomplished, the circumcision of the child, the name called Jesus, and when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem. I would think that the - that is immediately after the birth.
The wise men don’t come for a while. So what you have is the birth of Christ, the purification of Mary, the meeting with Simeon and Anna in the temple, back to Bethlehem because the child is too young to travel. They find a home, they stay there.
Over a period of perhaps a year, we can’t be sure, the wise men come. At the time the wise men come, they are staying in a house, the text is clear on that. The wise men present the gifts, don’t go back to Jerusalem because they don’t want to tell Herod that they found the child. The angel comes to them, sends them to Egypt. They go into Egypt until Herod is dead. And from that point, the text picks up in verse 39 of Luke 2, and they then go on their way to Nazareth. So I would see the trip into Egypt after the purification, after the meeting of Anna and Simeon.
QUESTION: I think so, too. The only verse I really have trouble with is Luke 2:39 because it sounds like it’s right after -
JOHN: Well, when they had performed all things according to the law of God, you know, that’s pretty general. Don’t be - don’t get stuck on that because I think it’s pretty general, when they had done all that God had prescribed them to do and they went back to Nazareth.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
JOHN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi, I have a question regarding Acts chapter 2. Now, is this just an historical account or did God lay this pattern out, how the church should function? Because I notice you mentioned the complacency, you know, how we need to be held accountable and people don’t like that. It’s pretty comfortable being in our own little capsules.
JOHN: Now, which -
QUESTION: Go ahead -
JOHN: Which part of Acts 2 are you -
QUESTION: Forty-two, excuse me - “Day after day.”
JOHN: Sure, Acts 2:42, let’s look at Acts 2:42. This -
QUESTION: Forty-six, excuse me.
JOHN: Forty-two to forty six? Okay, well let’s just go through the whole thing - we’ll just look at all of it. Peter gets up on the day of Pentecost and preaches a great sermon. The primary focus of the sermon is to tell the people of Jerusalem that they have killed their Messiah, and that didn’t settle well with them. It wasn’t that they got angry, it’s that they became very convicted.
Verse 36 sort of sums it up. He says that God has made the same Jesus whom you’ve crucified both Lord and Christ. When they heard it, they were pricked to the heart. They said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what do we do?” In other words, there’s a certain admission of guilt here, “What are we going to do?” And then Peter says to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ with regard to the remission of sins and you’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, he calls for salvation. The symbol of salvation, the baptism outwardly, and then the gift that comes along, the gift of the Holy Spirit will belong to them, so forth and so on. His message comes to a conclusion. In verse 41, it says they that gladly received his word were baptized the same day, they were added to them about three thousand souls. So the church is born with three thousand people, okay? This is the first church.
Verse 42 then tells us the four elements of church life in which they engaged. But the first key idea is they continued steadfastly. Continuity in the faith is always the mark of true salvation, John 8 says if you continue in my Word, verse 31 to 34, if you continue in my Word, then you’re my real disciple. So they continued. There was continuity. Three thousand saved, three thousand continued, that’s the kind of evangelism that everyone would want to do - there’s no loss.
Four things they engaged in. One, the apostles’ doctrine. That means simply the revelation of God, the teaching of the new covenant. Obviously, they didn’t ignore the Old Testament, but the focus of their life as a church was on the doctrine taught and articulated by the apostles, the new covenant.
People ask me all the time why I spend so much time in the New Testament and why I seem only, or mostly, to use the Old Testament as an illustration source, and that is because I believe from the very beginning of the new - of the church, the apostles’ doctrine and the new covenant teaching was the matter with which they were mostly preoccupied. So they studied the apostles’ doctrine; that is, the revelation and the teaching of God, coming through the apostles because it had not yet been written down.
Secondly, they engaged in koinōnia. That’s the partnership of life. Now, what do we mean by that partnership? Koinōnia means partnership. I think the very best way to understand that is an intimate sharing on a spiritual level in life. If you want to know what that partnership is, it’s a partnership of love. It probably could be summed up best by the “one anothers” of the New Testament - pray for one another, edify one another, love one another, build one another up, comfort one another, whatever - and they were engaged in mutual ministry.
Thirdly, breaking of bread most likely has to do with the Lord’s Table. It may also have to do with food, with eating together in a meal, but it certainly has the tone of the Lord’s Table as well and then in prayer. So there was teaching, there was fellowship, there was eating together, including the Lord’s Table, and there was prayer. And I believe to this day that is still a viable model for the life of the church.
Furthermore, it says a sense of awe came on every soul. This was an awesome group of people. Any group of people who are so totally preoccupied with divine truth, with loving, intimate, Spirit-filled fellowship with the sharing of life and a gathering around the focal point of our faith, the cross of Christ, and diligently committed to prayer are going to have a dynamic impact, and they did. Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. Note it was the apostles who did them, not the people. For these were the signs and wonders that came as gifts to the apostles, according to 1 Corinthians. Very clear on that, chapter 12.
Now, it says in verse 44, “And all that believed were together” - and that’s a general statement, together in heart and soul and mind and spirit - “and had all things common.” What that means is that if I had something you needed, I gave it to you. There’s a certain sense in which we hold in trust everything together within the community of faith. It doesn’t mean communism, doesn’t mean that everybody took what they had, liquidated it, and somebody sat in the seat and doled out equal shares to everyone, and we can prove that by verse 45.
The imperfect verb form is used, “And they were selling their possessions and goods and they were parting them to all men as every man had need.” When you read in the Authorized “and they sold and they parted,” it kind of sounds like at one point in time they sold everything and split it all up in a kind of a Christian communism form. But the Greek verb says they were selling, it’s a continual thing, and they were parting as people had need. So here in this community of people, if I have something and a resource that’s in abundance to me and you have a need, my resource of abundance becomes the meeting of your need.
Verse 46, “They continuing daily with one accord in the temple.” Why? Well, the temple was the only place of worship there. They didn’t have a building, and that’s where everybody worshiped, and this wasn’t something different, this was the consummation of the old covenant, this was that of which every temple sacrifice spoke, and so the place to go to worship God was the temple, and they went there every day. It was not uncommon for the Jew to go there every day anyway, some devout Jews. They went there every day.
And then they were sharing meals and that again, I think, implies the Lord’s Table, though it’s not explicitly stated, from house to house in each other’s homes, and they ate their food together with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. The result was the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Now, that’s a general overview. Having said that, is there a specific thing that you want me to hit?
QUESTION: Yeah, the church doesn’t seem to meet very often like -
JOHN: The present church?
QUESTION: The church in America. Because I notice that the church in America has a certain thrust. The church in Korea meets more often and they pray and God’s dynamics is just - incredible difference.
JOHN: Well, let me see if I can answer that for you. The church, in my judgment - you have to identify what you mean by the church. I don’t think that when they were breaking bread from house to house, the whole three thousand came to everybody’s house every day.
QUESTION: No, okay, alright.
JOHN: I think what was happening was believers were congregating as a matter of the daily course of life. And it could have been here or there or everywhere. Life was very communal. There were no freeways, there were no highways. I mean you lived in the city - if you were to go to the city of Jerusalem today, which would be a wonderful thing for you to do, you could - in the old city where the wall is, you could walk anywhere in the city and, you know, be with anybody you wanted within a matter of a few minutes. So life was a bit different.
But this, of course, is behind - really, behind the home Bible studies that we have and the cultivating of flocks and fellowship groups and all the things that we do to stimulate that continual intercourse of spiritual intimacy that ought to be going on all the time among Christians.
My - as long as you’re asking, I’ll jump on the soapbox for a minute. But one of my pet peeves and concerns is the fact that people treat particularly Sunday worship as if it were an option. I mean it grieves my heart that there are people who will come here two out of four Sundays and think they’ve done God a favor. I mean - and it isn’t a question of whether the sermon is interesting. I mean let’s face it, folks, I might be interesting now and then, but I’m not going to be - I’m not going to be exhilarating every time I open my mouth.
But the commitment of people today is the commitment that says, “Hey, you’ve got something that interests me, I’ll be there.” It’s not the thing that says, “How can I go and offer my praise to God and how can I go and expose my life to His Word so that I can be a better person and how can I go so that someone can minister to me and I can minister to them? And how can I go not to take but to give God the honor due His name if the sermon was a two on a one-to-ten scale?” See?
But we don’t have that mentality. We have that deal that says, “Hey, what have you done for me lately?” And, you know, when you’ve been the same place like I have for seventeen years, it’s old hat. “Him again?” I’m like the poor; you always have me with you. And, you know, so - and I’m grieved by that.
You know, we live in a society with so many options. I can remember, as a little boy, the hottest thing going in town was the Sunday night church service. I mean it was great. It was either that or sit home and listen to a crackling radio. And it was exciting, and the place was packed. It’s a different age, and I think your question is well put. We - I mean we need to spend our life with people of like precious faith. We don’t ignore the world, but we need that intimate fellowship.
Well, I’m preaching now, so that’s enough, okay? Thanks for asking. One more question.
QUESTION: My name is Robert, and my question concerns the issue of parental authority, and it’s almost like I should’ve this resolved when I was 15. But a lot of Christians, especially adults, who are getting married or pursuing a career will read the Bible’s admonition to obey your parents in all things for this is well and pleasing to the Lord. I don’t know if that’s a verbatim quotation, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. And so my question is, as adults, how much credence do we give to our parents’ authority?
As a for instance, I went to another church and a college pastor taught us that we had to obey our parents in all things, no matter what station we were in life. And he gave the example of a college student who was thinking of entering full-time ministry and asked his father what he thought he should do. Well, his father was an alcoholic and was drunk all the time and said, “No, I don’t think you ought to go into the ministry. Do something else.” And he did that and all these blessings came upon him for having obeyed his father.
And another is a couple I know here at church, and they were engaged and broke off the engagement because either one or both sets of the parents objected to the marriage. They were both growing believers, so there’s no biblical reason why they shouldn’t have been married. So I just want to know how - where do we draw the line as far as obeying our parents?
JOHN: If you’re my children, you always do what your father says. But now we’ll go beyond that and talk about everybody else -
No, that’s a very good question. I would say that your friend who’s been talking to you has probably been to a Bill Gothard seminar because that sounds very familiar.
JOHN: Yeah. Let me say this: -- As a child growing up in the home, it is very, very obvious and apparent that children are enjoined to obey their parents in the Lord. I mean this is clear from the Old Testament, this is reiterated in the New Testament, as well in Colossians and Ephesians. So it’s very clear that a child, living in the home under the parents - within their realm of responsibility and under their provision, is to obey them.
But I believe it is also very clear in Scripture that there may come a time when a child who has reached the point of making an adult decision has to go directly against the will of their parents.
Jesus said, “I have come to bring a sword to set a man against his father, to set a brother” - and he went through the whole family. “I am not come,” He said, “to bring” - what? - “peace but a sword.” He says this is to be expected because the gospel is divisive. It’s just the way it is. The gospel tears apart, it cuts, and it must do that.
I believe that we would be going way too far to say that God will lead you through an unregenerate parent in every circumstance. I just don’t see that that’s biblically accurate. I think if a man, Jesus said, “is not willing to leave his father and mother to be my disciple, he’s not worthy to be my disciple.” I mean the teaching of Jesus is yes, as a child, submit to your parents, but yes, as an adult - mark it - “I will bring a sword and there will come times when you will have to defy your parents in order to obey my will.”
Peter sums it up in Acts when he says to the Sanhedrin - they were the authority, they were the religious authority, they were the political authority in that place, Jerusalem - and they said to him, “You stop speaking, you be silent,” and he said, “You judge whether we ought to obey God or man.”
And I think when you come to adult decisions about spiritual matters, it is vastly over simplification, vastly over simplified to assume that your parents will always reflect to you the will of God. I just don’t see that at all. I think that’s - that’s not rational and I think it’s not biblical. When a young person comes to the point in time when they must make a decision, they must respond to the prompting of the Word of God and the will of God.
Now, this idea of throwing up illustrations, you can find an illustration for anything. I can tell you an illustration of a man who went out and married a wonderful Christian lady and was unhappy - miserable. And he divorced this Christian woman and married a harlot and is ecstatic. Now, do you want to use that as a model to tell all? You see, whenever you try to determine truth on the basis of an analogy, you can prove anything. All you have to do is find the right analogy, that’s all.
So don’t ever let anyone use that kind of leverage to convince you of something. It’s very, very - by the way, it’s very convincing, but it shouldn’t be. Here’s a guy who did this, and he got blessed. Well, that’s just an illustration of something, not an illustration of divine truth necessarily. So children should respond to their parents’ authority, children should obey their parents in the Lord, parents should be responsible to give their children the right kind of leadership.
I would imagine that there’s a time when a child ought not to obey his father. If his father says do something that is against the law, something that is abusive, if his father says to him - to a daughter, I want to have an incestuous relationship, is she supposed to obey him? I mean that’s ludicrous. If he says to a son, I want you to go with me, help me rob a bank, is he supposed to obey him?
So if you’re going to draw the line there, then why can’t you draw the line in the spiritual dimension? Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
JOHN: All right.
Well, that takes us to a good point to kind of wrap our thoughts up tonight. Boy, these have been good questions, I hope they’ve been helpful to you.
You know, what excites me is I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and I always know - I don’t always know the best answer to the question, but I always know there’s an answer, isn’t that wonderful? And you say, “Well, how do you - how can a person be so well-read? I mean the L.A. Library’s got two million five hundred thousand books, how can you know everything?” Look, isn’t it wonderful? I mean it’s all in this little book. You say, “You mean that book deals with everything?”
Listen, that book deals with every area of human life that is necessary to be considered. It’ll deal with anything you can think of in terms of principle, if not in terms of actual objective data or fact. And that’s - I guess that’s what appeals to me. I’ve always been a sort of a one-track person, and the thrill of ministry for me is it’s all reduced to this one book, and it’s so simple to pour your life into one book and to know that whenever there’s a question in your heart, that book contains the right answer. Are we rich or are we rich, who possess this book?
And the ultimate crime of all crimes is to have it and not know what it says. Amen? Try that again. Amen? To have it and not know what it says. Spend your life here. I’m no smarter than anybody here. I’m not going to give you my GPA when I was in college, but it wouldn’t shake anybody loose. I was - I was not a great student, but somewhere along the line in my life, I - the Lord did something to change my heart. I basically went through college never letting my books get in the way of my education. I was - I went from one game to the next, football, basketball, baseball.
I was involved in student activities, I was involved in so many things, and it wasn’t study that had a priority with me until I got to seminary and got a small taste of the Word of God, and then I got this almost consuming appetite for the Scripture. And there were many people in seminary who were so much more able to study and learn than I was. I had to slug it out. But I think over the years, because my own particular mind demands such repetition in order to retain, that constantly pounding the same things into my own head has resulted in some of them sticking in there. And I just praise God for that.
I feel like the richest man in the world because - more than anything else - because God has allowed me the privilege by the grace of His Spirit to commit to my heart the truth of His Word. And I just tell you, that’s the joy of life.
You know, when you become a Christian, that seems like the greatest thing that could ever happen - and really it is - but there’s another time in your life when you wake up and realize that you have a grip on the Word of God that will be almost as exciting to you. To put it in the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you” - what? - “richly.”
Well, let’s pray.
Gracious Father, we thank you so much for what you’ve given us in your Word. We thank you for who you’ve given us in your Spirit so that we have an objective revelation and a subjective teacher, so that we have the Word in our hands and the Spirit in our souls. Truly, we need not that any man should teach us with human wisdom who are taught of God by the Word and the Spirit. May it dwell in us richly. And I pray, Lord, tonight that all the unanswered questions might be answered, all the longings of the hearts of those who are still asking might be put to rest.
Lord, I pray that each of us, though in great measure dependent on each other, will find a sense of independence in our own study of your Word because of the availability of the Spirit. Help us to be diligent enough to study and read, patient enough to let the answers come as we faithfully digest your truth.
And help us ever and always, even as Mark Twain once said, to be more concerned to put into practice what we do know than to worry about what we don’t know. Help us not to struggle on the fringe of speculation while being disobedient to those things that are patently obvious. Lord, help us to take what we do know and live it, and protect us from the evil one and the doctrines of demons that come under the energy of seducing spirit through spirits, through hypocritical liars who would deceive us. And make us faithful to your Word, to your people, to your gospel.
And may we ever and always balance the intake with prayer. Forgive us for our prayerlessness, forgive us for our cold prayers, forgive us for our heartlessness in not praying. Forgive us for those lightweight prayers that are nothing more than duty. And make us the people you want us to be. For the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
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