Biblical Certainties

Biblical Certainties: 1 John #15

1 JohnThis is an exposition of 1 John 5:18-21. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, February 7, 2016.

Those who have been genuinely born of God:

  1. live godly lives.
  2. stand in stark contrast to unbelievers.
  3. owe everything to the gracious working of the Savior.
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A Model of a Genuine Servant

A Model of a Genuine Servant: Colossians #16

colossiansThis is an exposition of Colossians 4:12-13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, February 3, 2016.

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A Pattern for Personal Renewal

A Pattern for Personal Renewal: Nehemiah #10

NehemiahThis is an exposition of Nehemiah 8:1-18. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, January 31, 2016

Intro:

This evening I want to talk about an event that drastically impacted the nation.  An event that altered the course of history.  An event from which it took years to recover.  It happened at the Water Gate.  Not the hotel in Washington D.C. but the Water Gate in Jerusalem in the year 444 B.C.   Nehemiah has changed hats.  He had moved from being the cupbearer to king Artexerxes in the palace at Susa, to builder of the wall of Jerusalem to now, governor of Judea.

The wall has been completed.  It was a monumental task accomplished in just 52 days.  It had lingered for a century but by God’s grace and through Nehemiah’s leadership the 1.5 – 2.5 mile wall was restored and the gates in place in less than 2 months.  This was accomplished in spite of constant opposition and harassment.  The city was settling into a routine.  The government is operating like a well oiled machine.  The people have returned to their homes.  The temple is functioning and all is well…or is it?  Something just isn’t right.  Something is missing.  Life seems empty, hollow and unfulfilling.  The need is for a fresh work of God.  A movement of the Spirit of God renewing and refreshing His people.  Our text this evening is found in the 8th chapter of Nehemiah.

Text: Nehemiah 8:1-18

The book of Nehemiah gives us insight into godly leadership.
It helps us understand principles about leadership and ministry that impacts the culture.
Ministry that makes a difference.

Last time we noted that we are called to live and work for the glory of God in the place He has planted us.  We are where we are by God’s design.  Where we live and work, the circumstances in which we find ourselves are not accidental but are rather the work of providence.  Yes, our world is sinful and wicked but it is in this sinful, wicked world that we are to live out our faith.  And we are to live out our faith together!

The people have returned from exile.
They are trying to put their lives back together.
Living for God was not easy.
They have been living in a pagan land – singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land is hard work.
Back “home” doesn’t seem any easier!
Having rebuilt the wall it is now time to rebuild the nation.
It is clear there is a need for a renewing of the people of God.
The need is for revival.
Renewing the people of God is what revival is all about.
Evangelism is not revival.

Revival is the work of God in the midst of His people.  It is a reanimation of the people of God.  Revival rekindles the passions of God’s people.  It restores the joy and wonder of salvation.  It creates longing for holiness and obedience.  The rebuilding of the wall was not an end it was a means to an end.  The end was the greater work to be done in the hearts of the people of God.  We are going to finds some principles in our text that point the path of renewal.  A renewal need as much today is in the 5th century B.C.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army described the conditions of his own time calling for revival in the church.  As you hear them I think you will recognize them in our own day:

  • Religion without the Holy Spirit
  • Christianity without the Christ
  • Forgiveness without repentance
  • Salvation without regeneration
  • Politics without God
  • Heaven without Hell

There is a desperate need for a moving of the Spirit of God in revival and personal renewal.  Life for many has become a meaningless existence.  They go through the day but there is no joy, no lasting fulfillment.  Life is shallow, empty and void.  They have lost the joy of their salvation.  Life has become a drudgery.

In Nehemiah 8 we find a pattern for personal renewal.
If you have lost the joy of your salvation – you are a candidate for renewal.
If you have had a closer walk with Christ than you do today –  you are a candidate for renewal.
If you cannot say that Christ has full control over your life –  you are a candidate for renewal.

Thesis: Personal renewal demands openness to Word of God, devotion to the call of God and obedience to will of God.

Three keys – openness, devotion and obedience.

  1. Personal renewal demands an openness to the Word of God.  (8:1-8)
  2. Personal renewal demands a whole-hearted devotion to the call of God.  (8:9-12)
  3. Personal renewal demands a life of joyful obedience.  (8:13-18)

Conclusion:
Are you in need of renewal?
Open yourself to the Word of God.
Devote yourself to the call of God.
Give yourself to joyful obedience to His Word and will.

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The Fruit of Assurance

The Fruit of Assurance: Study of 1 John #14

1 JohnThis is an exposition of 1 John 5:13-17. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, January 31, 2016.

Intro:

It is something that we Baptist are sure of.  We hammer it home as often as we have an opportunity.  It’s one of the things we are known for – “You guys believe that once saved always saved stuff.”  Yes we do.  We believe in eternal security or the preservation of the saints.  I prefer the latter term because it is all of grace.  We are saved by grace and kept by the gracious working of our God.  We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.  It is not to the one who strives but to the one who trusts in God who justifies the wicked that salvation is given.  This is a precious truth to us but to say we are saved by grace does not mean we don’t do anything.  Rightly understood the doctrine of perseverance is not, “I signed a card, got dunked in water and its smooth sailing from here on out.”  This doctrine is not an excuse for prayerlessness, lack of discipline or ungodliness.  Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone but not a faith that is alone.”  In other words saving faith looks for something to do.  Saving faith is an active, obedient faith.  I’m not saved because of what I do – I do what I do because I’m saved!

Many think they oppose “doctrinal preaching” because they prefer practical teaching.  But there is nothing more practical than doctrinal truth.  Doctrinal truth leads to faithful service and we have a wonderful example of that in our text this morning.  Our text is found in 1 John 1 John 5 beginning at 1 John 5:13.

I remember sitting in my systematic theology class at Southwestern Seminary when Dr. Dominy said, “I’m going to teach you the two most important words in theological study.”  I sat up and readied my pen.  I don’t want to miss this.  He said, “Here they are.  Are you ready?  So what?”  You haven’t finished exploring doctrinal truth until you ask, “So what?”  God is the infinite creator of all that is.  He spoke and a world came into being.  He is everywhere present.  He knows everything.  He is all powerful.  He is gracious, loving and merciful.  He is holy, transcendent, unique, one of a kind.  It’s not enough to fill your head with those facts.  The Christian life is not a game of cosmic trivia it is a living relationship with the Creator.  What does His character demand of you?  How are you to relate to Him?  How do those attributes affect your life?  In other words, so what?

John has been writing to hurting, struggling people.  False teachers have perverted the Gospel.  Many have left the church; those who remain are confused and uncertain.  Is it true that there are “greater” truths?  Is it true there is a “higher” knowledge?  “I don’t know what they know – does that mean I’m not really saved?”  John wrote as a loving pastor to bolster and encourage their sagging faith.  He said if you want to know that you know – there are some simple tests.

  • The test of righteousness – are you growing in holiness?
  • The test of love – are you growing in your capacity and desire to love?
  • The test of truth – is there an increased hunger for the knowledge of God?

It isn’t about being “perfect” in any of these areas.  It is about progress or growth.  Are you farther along the path?  Is there evidence of growth?

5:13 = the message of the book.
This is what John’s first epistle is all about.
In fact there is a real sense in which the letter ends with this verse.
The verses that follow are a postscript.
John draws some conclusions based on this truth.

What difference does this doctrine of assurance make in practical ways in daily life?

Thesis: Assurance of salvation is essential to powerful, confident Christian living.

There are two things I want you to note.

  1. Assurance of salvation inspires confident praying.  (5:14-15)
  2. Assurance of salvation demands impassioned intercession.  (5:16-17)

Conclusion:
The point of it all is that our assurance of salvation is essential to powerful, confident Christian living.

It inspires confident praying and it demands impassioned intercession.

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Keys to Effective Service

Keys to Effective Service: Colossians #15

colossiansThis is an exposition of Colossians 4:2-6. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, January 27, 2016.

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Living for God’s Glory in a Sinful World

Living for God’s Glory in a Sinful World: Nehemiah #9

NehemiahAn exposition of Nehemiah 6:15-7:72. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, January 24, 2016.

Intro:

You’ve often heard the Christian life described as a “marathon” rather than a sprint.  You’ve been told that we are to walk by faith and not by sight.  You’ve been taught that we are to live for eternity not for today.  Why are we told these things?  Why is it important for us to know this?  Jesus described discipleship as, “Taking up your cross daily and follow me.”  Jesus said that following him was a matter of daily death.  Further he said in this world you will have tribulation.  As the people of God we are to expect heartache, pain and struggle in this life.  It is important to understand that the Christian faith is not a fairytale.  We are not told that we come to Jesus and then live happily ever after.  Our faith is anchored in the actual world we live in.

Yes, the Gospel is the good news that God has lovingly and graciously provided salvation for us in the person of the Lord Jesus.  This is not a salvation we deserve or are owed.  It is freely given by the grace of God to those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ and in him alone.  At the new birth the Spirit of God takes up residence in you and you are sealed as belonging to God.  You, once the object of his sovereign, righteous wrath, have now been made his beloved child.  You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  You are declared righteous in his sight because of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  You have been set on the path of righteousness and you are being made righteous by the work of the Spirit of God in you.  You are bound for eternal glory and nothing can change that.  But, you remain in this sin-marred world where you will “work out” your salvation in fear and trembling.  Our text this evening is found in the 6th and 7th chapters of the book of Nehemiah.

Text: Nehemiah 6:15-7:72

Don’t panic.
I know you see that text and you think, “Oh no, we are gong to be here all night!”
We are not – we are going to fly over this text and note a few things along the way.
This passage is a transition.

It is a summing up of what has been going on (the building of the wall) and it is preparation for what is to come (the building of the nation).

From this text we are reminded of a very important principle for Christian living…

Thesis: We live in a sinful wicked world and we are called to live and work for the glory of God in that world.

We are to make a difference where we are planted.  We are to be salt and light in the place God has put us.  This community is to be different because we are here.  Your home is to be different because you are there.  You are to influence your school, your workplace, your neighborhood, the organizations and community groups you are participate in.  Your life is to count for the kingdom wherever you are.

There are three (3) things I want to point out.

  1. Living for God’s glory in a sinful wicked world demands constant vigilance.  (6:15-19)
  2. Living for God’s glory in a sinful wicked world demands a clear vision and a shared responsibility.  (7:1-65)
  3. Living for God’s glory in a sinful wicked world demands sufficient resources.  (7:66-72)
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Our Politically Incorrect Gospel

Our Politically Incorrect Gospel: 1 John #13

1 JohnAn exposition of 1 John 5:6-13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, January 24, 2016.

Intro:

There was this seminary president, this Jewish rabbi and a Messianic Jew together in a television studio…I know it sounds like a bad joke but it was the setting for an episode of the Donahue Show on MSNBC back in August of 2002.  Al Mohler from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Shmuley Boteach – the rabbi, and Michael Brown were on the program to “discuss” whether Jews were “going to heaven” or if they needed to be converted to Christianity.  I was pleased that Mohler and Brown were the two representing our point of view because both are intelligent, articulate and gracious.  Traits that were definitely needed given that the program quickly degenerated into an attack on historic Christianity.  Mohler laid the ground work by saying, “Christians believe that all persons can go to heaven who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no discrimination on the basis of ethnic or racial or national issues…it is those who are in Christ.  The defining issue is faith in Christ.”  He later said that all people are sinners and in need of a savior.  He declared Jesus Christ as the sole mediator between God and man.  He also pointed out that the Gospel is first to the Jew and then to the gentiles.

That position was said to be, “The cause of anti-Semitism; that it reeks of prejudice and stirs the soul to evil behavior.”  The Christian Church was accused of, “Trying to spiritually annihilate Jews by removing every last Jew on the face of the earth and converting them to Christianity and Jesus.”  Those who believe this Gospel were declared to be “spiritual Neanderthals with repulsive, revolting views.”  Evangelism was equated with “spiritual terrorism.”  But that was just in the opening moments of the program.  Things went downhill after that!

My point is we are living in a society that has already openly asked, “What does Christ have to do with Christmas?”  Our culture has done its best to remove any hint of spirituality from the Christmas season.  What is of greater concern to me is that an increasing number of folks seem to be asking, “What does Christ have to do with Christianity?”  The biblical Gospel, the historic message of the Christian church is not only questioned, it is openly denied and despised!  What is the church to do?  How are we to respond to the growing animosity?

Thesis: Our pluralistic culture, with its multiple paths to glory, demands that the church clearly, plainly and uncompromisingly set forth the biblical Gospel.

Text: 1 John 5:6-13

The problem in our culture is there are those who want to gut the content of the Christian faith but then live according to its ethic and that is not possible.  The ethic is based on the content!  In John’s day there were those who had “moved beyond” the simple truths of the Gospel to so called greater truths.  They had moved on to a higher truth, into a secret knowledge.  John was writing to confused believers assuring them of life in Christ.  John has three distinct purposes in writing:

  • he wanted to encourage their sagging faith
  • he wanted to stress the historical groundings of the Christian faith
  • he wanted to expound upon Christ’s new commandment – the need to love one another.

The bulk of the letter is taken up with the issue of assurance.  But, as with the three tests, we discover these three purposes are not isolated, they naturally and of necessity enter-twine.  They are woven together as part of the same fabric.

In our text he addresses the historical context and makes some bold pronouncements about the Gospel.  Truths that we must boldly proclaim today.

  1. John identifies Jesus as the one true Redeemer.  (5:6-8)
    John is identifying who Jesus is.
    He is of divine origin – “this is he who came…”
    He is identified with man  – “this is he who came by water…”
    He is the Redeemer – “this is he who came by water and blood…”
  2. John sets forth the testimony that must be believed.  (5:9-11)
  3. John unapologetically proclaims that Jesus Christ as the only means of being made right with God.  (5:12)
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Dealing with Opposition

Dealing With Opposition: Nehemiah #8

This is an exposition of Nehemiah 6:1-15. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered a Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, January 17, 2016.

Intro:

Faith in Christ is the answer.  Trusting Christ is the solution to your greatest need – peace with God.  When you confess your sin, acknowledge your need of a Savior and trust in Christ alone the great need of your life is met.  That does not mean your life in this sinful, fallen world, is nothing but blue skies from now on!  Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have tribulation.”  To be a follower of Christ in this world means to be in opposition to the world around you.  To follow Christ is to swim against the current of popular culture.  It is to be at odds with the morals and standards of secular culture.  A fact that is becoming increasingly clear.  This is why our Lord spoke of the Christian life in terms of “taking up your cross daily.”  He spoke of narrow roads, persecution and testing times.  Peter said to those persecuted, “Don’t act as if this is something strange or unprecedented.  They persecuted Christ, they will persecute you.”  Well pastor, thanks for the pep talk but where is this going?

Opposition and push-back are inevitable in this life.
You will face opposition.
Some of it will be severe and direct.
Some of it will be subtle and indirect.
How are we to respond to opposition?
That is the focus of our text this evening found in the 5th chapter of Nehemiah.

Text: Nehemiah 6:1-15

Nehemiah faced opposition from the moment he arrived in Jerusalem (2:10).
As work began on the wall opposition grew.
As the work progressed opposition intensified.

In the beginning the opposition came in the form of harassment and ridicule.
2:19 – But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?

4:1-3 – Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews.
And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?
Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!

Nehemiah and the workers continued and the threats became more forceful.
4:6-8 – So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.  And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.

4:11 – And our enemies said, They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.

Nehemiah and the workers continued the work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other!

But their opposition was not limited to enemies from without they also had to contend with enemies from within.  In Nehemiah 5 lack of character accomplished what ridicule and physical threat could not.  When corrupt leaders set aside the Law of God and oppressed the people they lost heart and stopped the work.  Nehemiah dealt with matters firmly, directly and biblically.  The work continued.

As we reach Nehemiah 6 the wall is completed.  All that remains is to set the gates in place.  The battle, however, is far from over.  A new series of attacks begin.  These are more subtle but nonetheless deadly.  Nehemiah must face intrigue, innuendo and intimidation.  Let’s look at the text.

We are often more vulnerable near the end of a great work.  Battles have been fought and won.  Victory is in sight and there is the tendency to let down our guard.  As we explore our text we are reminded that…

Thesis: Believers overcome great opposition through an awareness of God’s call; dedication to God’s glory; and confidence in God’s goodness and presence.

There are three (3) things I want to point out in our text.

  1. A sense of divine calling and certainty of the task assigned enable the believer to resist the subtle call of compromise.  (6:1-4)
  2. Assurance of his relationship to God and dedication to God’s will enable the believers to stand tall in the face of slander.  (6:5-9)
  3. Absolute confidence in the power and provision of God means the believer cannot be intimidated by the threats of mere men.  (6:10-15)

Conclusion:
In this world we will have tribulation.  We will find ourselves at odds with the culture around us.  There will be opposition.  Some of it will be direct, in our face and fierce.  Some of it will be subtle and seem reasonable but is just as deadly.  We must resist.  But how?

We overcome great opposition through an awareness of God’s call; dedication to God’s glory; and confidence in God’s goodness and presence.

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The Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Exam: 1 John #12

1 JohnThis is an exposition of 1 John 5:1-5. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, January 17, 2016.

Intro:

I loved school!  I’m one of those folks who just loved “being on campus.”  Now don’t get confused – I didn’t say, “I love academics.”  I said, “I loved school.”  There is a difference.  I enjoyed the study.  I enjoyed the people.  I enjoyed interacting with students and faculty.  I found the give and take of debate stimulating.  I enjoyed sitting around the student center and solving the problems of the world.  It’s just a shame we didn’t have control the world back when we had all the answers.  Today I’m not sure if I even know what the questions are – then I was confident I knew everything.  What I didn’t like was the end of the semester.  I didn’t like it because this might be one of those crazy professors who thought it was a good thing to give a “comprehensive exam.”  You know an exam that actually covers the entire semester’s work?  What a nutty idea to see if you’ve actually mastered the material you where supposed to have mastered!  I remember the final exam for the first semester of western civilization.  We walked in and took a seat.  Two hours had been set aside for this exam.  I was anxious for the teacher to hand out the exam so I could get started.  “I hope there some matching and some multiple choice.”  He pointed to the chalkboard and said, “There is the question.  You’ve got two hours.  Good luck.”  “Beginning with the year 600, trace the development of this concept through to the dawn of the enlightenment using the major literary works and leading historical figures.”  Nothing leaves you quite as exposed and vulnerable as a comprehensive exam.

As John comes to 1 John 5 of his 1st epistle, he pulls together the three tests revealed earlier in the letter.  He was writing to a confused bunch as some false teachers had come into the church and perverted the Gospel.  False teachers with “super truths” and “secret knowledge” had caused division and strife within the fellowship.  Some had left the church.  Those who remained were wavering.  Uncertain.  Hesitant.  John intended to encourage them and strengthen their sagging faith.  He said, “I am writing that you may know that you have eternal life.”  His goal was that they would be certain of their being “in the faith.”  In seeking to encourage he gave a series of tests.

  • The test of righteousness – are you growing in holiness?  Is there an increase in desire for the things of God?  Are you progressing in godliness?
  • The text of love – is your love increasing?  Love for God and love for your fellow man?
  • The text of truth – have you grown in your understanding of doctrine?  Is there an increase in your appetite for the truth of God’s Word?

These are ways of measuring your spiritual life.  They are a means of determining whether you are in fact “in the faith.”  Now these three are brought together in our text found in 1 John 5.

Text: 1 John 4:20-5:5

Thesis: In our text John lovingly and yet forcefully sets forth the characteristics of a genuine believer.

We discover that these tests are not isolated truths.  They do not stand alone.
Rather they naturally and of necessity blend together.  Here John, with the exactness of a surgeon and the compassion of a pastor, applies these three tests.  These things are true of the children of God.

If you are “in the family” this is true of you.  If these are not true – you’re not “in the family.”

There are three things I want us to note:

  1. John proclaims the absolute necessity of the new birth.  (4:20-5:1)
  2. John defines love as obedience.  (5:2-3)
  3. John declares that faith assures victory.  (5:4-5)Conclusion:
    It’s exam time.  Time to apply the three test.
    How are you doing?
  • The test of righteousness
  • The test of love
  • The test of truth

There’s nothing that leaves you so exposed or so vulnerable – but this is an exam you must take.

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Godly Relationships

Godly Relationships: Colossians #14

colossiansThis is an exposition of Colossians 3:18-4:1. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, January 13, 2016.

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