Perusal* – Fall 2013, Fan or Follower?

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

1 Corinthians 2:1-3, And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Another school year is upon us and Flat Creek would like to welcome all of the area’s college students back to Lynchburg.  We especially welcome the class of 2017 to the beautiful geography of the Blue Ridge mountain foothills.  There is much to see in central Virginia so take some time to enjoy the landscape! We also trust that you will find a place to worship each Lord’s Day and hope that you consider Flat Creek Baptist Church where the marvelous truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is affirmed in song, prayer, and proclamation.

Are you a fan or follower of the Savior?  I am an unapologetic fan of the Fab Four, the Beatles.  Same can be said for the Eagles, Eric Clapton, and yes, even, (on the country side), Dwight Yoakum.  I enjoy most all types of music, but especially the Blues.  Am a fan of the Oakland A’s and San Francisco 49ers and a Va Tech Hokie Nation guy.  I am fans of these groups and teams.  Not so much Jesus Christ.  He is my Lord and Savior (they can’t be separated by the way) and I am His disciple….a follower of God the Son.  He is my Master and Redeemer, not my homeboy. 

Are you a fan-boy of Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, David Platt, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, R. C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Ravi Zacharias, or others?  These are men of faith and powerful preachers, but only men.  We enjoy reading and learning from such men at Flat Creek.  We glean from great men of old, Polycarp, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, C. H. Spurgeon, and many others.  But they are all sinful men redeemed by the grace of our Savior. To a man they will denounce the promotion of their names and point all to Jesus Christ.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses which are followers and disciples of God the Son.  Disciples learn how to follow the Savior.  We become like Him from the constant and repeated exposure to His Word. “One cannot doubt the Bible,” J.I. Packer warns, “without far-reaching loss, both of fullness of truth and of fullness of life. If therefore we have at heart spiritual renewal for society, for churches and for our own lives, we shall make much of the entire trustworthiness—that is, the inerrancy—of Holy Scripture as the inspired and liberating Word of God.”

The Bible liberates. “The truth shall make you free” is prefaced by, “you shall know the truth…”  Many disciples assume that the free nature of the Gospel taught by Jesus means I am free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, in any way I want. Of course this is simply our age old rebellion to the authority of the Trinity in our lives.  Non-conformity has become the new conformity, even among professing believers.  It begs the question, are you worshiping in a church that exposes you to expositional teaching and preaching?  Is every facet of the ministries of the church poised to point to the Son of God as revealed in the only reliable source of God’s truth?

We suffer from what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery”, implying that only the most current approaches to worship are relevant.  The good, rich, and time-tested “old time religion” is outdated simply because it is not new or fashionable.  Today preaching, which is God’s anointed means of delivering the Gospel, is thought to be too confrontational, too outdated, too in-tolerant.  Music, drama, dialog have been substituted for proclamation of the Gospel. When music elevates a better understanding of Jesus, I can worship.  If music is the primary means of spiritual interaction it detracts from His glory.  When drama is used as a primary mode of worship, it detracts from the Savior.  We should talk about God’s word, but dialog will never replace preaching. Anything, other than learning of Him and growing as a follower of Christ through His Word, detracts from Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Even an inordinate focus on the modes of worship will detract from our Savior.

Attending church for the sake of the music, drama, or dialog is akin to watching a football game for the sake of the refreshments.  It’s good, but not the reason we go to a game.  So let’s define preparation for Sunday worship.  Our prayers during the week should focus on the ministry of God’s word for the sake of the Gospel on the Lord’s Day.  Our preparation for giving on His day is for the purpose of supporting our local church and obedience to the Great Commission.  Giving is to be full of joy and expectation that our God can accomplish more with our collective resources for His glory in the Gospel.  Music is to supplement prayer and the Word, not entertain.  And preaching should elevate Jesus the Christ as He is exposed as Savior and we are exposed as sinners in dire need of God’s grace. 

The Greeks had a fascination with the spoken word, with athletics, and with the stage. Corinth so enjoyed being entertained that Paul was concerned that it would filter into and jeopardize the church.  Are we satisfied with entertainment? As a follower and not a fan we should ask a question; “Could I worship the Lord Jesus Christ in a church that has no music and focuses only upon the melody of God’s word as it is taught and preached?” If we answer “yes” to that question, then music, drama, skits, and dialog will find its proper place in our worship of the Savior.

Our sin desires to displace the Savior’s grace.  Our flesh desires to be entertained.  God is seeking to be worshiped by His accepted means - preaching and the administration of the ordinances of baptism and Lord’s Supper. As a follower of Jesus or perhaps seeking to become a disciple of Jesus join with us this Lord’s Day and jettison the fleshly desire for entertainment. Come and worship with the Flat Creek family.  Our music is selected to genuinely foster worship, a blend of good, theologically sound contemporary songs that complement age old hymns - all for the purpose of focusing on Jesus Christ and Him crucified as proclaimed in the Gospel.  

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you and that you might confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and enjoy the freedom He brings in obedience to Him.

Are you a fan or follower?   

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Spring 2013, Empty Faith & Hope…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)  

1 Corinthians 15: 12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church to correct aberrant resurrection theology.  Some of them were thinking like the Sadducees of old, denying the resurrection as the only hope for eternal life.  They made a crucial mistake – assuming there is the Christian faith without the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The denial of the resurrection eliminates the necessity of preaching, reveals the shallowness of the unfaithful, contributes to an elusive hope, leaves us in our desperate sinful condition, and makes liars of Christians.  Doesn’t sound like Christianity, does it?  If Jesus did not rise from a borrowed tomb then His submission and obedience were hypocritical no matter how well intentioned he was.  Christian disciples have been duped for 2000 years to believe a lie and Jesus was a dope for believing the prophecy in Psalm 16, “I will not suffer my holy One to see corruption…” It leaves people of faith cold and removes trustworthiness from the character traits of believers.  Either the Christ was gloriously raised from the dead or life is unquestionably meaningless.  A moral eclipse soon follows - the suffering and shame of Calvary were immoral and if immoral then sin cannot be forgiven.  The church is a farce and the Gospel it claims to represent is a fable.   

Believers are to think and look beyond a culture that is reticent about the veracity of the Savior’s resurrection.  His resurrection was attested to by numerous eye witnesses and confirmed to the disciples by a woman, Mary Magdalene, the first to see Him Sunday morning.  If the disciples were constructing a story why would they record Mary as witness to the raised Jesus of Nazareth?  Why not fabricate an air tight alibi secure in the number of men that saw Him.  Because the Gospels were telling two truths – 1) a majority of men fabricated lies during the Lord Jesus’ trials, and condemned Him to death, and 2) the last laugh, so to speak, was three days later.  The consequence of death by crucifixion would be followed by the unintended consequence of the resurrection. 

The purposes of the resurrection are many but it primarily displayed the satisfaction of God the Father with the obedience and passion of His Son.  The holiness of God condemns sin and demands punishment, even death, for the perpetrators. God’s promise of peace on earth and goodwill to men came at a princely price - the Prince of Peace died and shed His blood to forgive sin. This Jesus did willingly, though perhaps at times He seemed reluctant to drink the cup of wrath meant for sinners like you and I.  Bearing the shame and disgrace reserved for a true criminal He bore the brunt of punishment reserved for underserving sinners. Grace is truly amazing, overwhelmingly amazing, and thankfully amazing.  Little wonder He was raised back to life promising the very same for as many as receive Him by acknowledging our sinfulness, repenting of our rebellion, and confessing faith in His death, burial, and resurrection.

The Trinity’s holiness separates sinners from the divine order.  But holiness must be accorded to sinners in order to see God for only God can satisfy Himself.  Never was this truer than His act of sacrificial love and grace in the person of Jesus Christ, who knew no sin and became sin for us. The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds believers in the 1st and in the 21st centuries that God is for peace. 

Shalom is granted to those that believe in the Gospel of a Person, Jesus Christ.  The truth of the Incarnation gives to us a man that is the “great Shepherd of the sheep”, that died that we might be forgiven and was resurrected that we might become holy like Him.

Hebrews 13: 20 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Thankfully, the resurrection is the most attested event in all of ancient history and knowledge of Jesus as Savior does accord peace to sinners.  Luke would write in Acts 4,

“Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead...However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that you might confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.The Lord is risen indeed!

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Winter 2012, Reflections on the Incarnation…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

2 Corinthians 8: 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

It is Christmas again…a most wonderful time of the year!  Flat Creek completed our 6th annual “Living Nativity” this past weekend, Dec. 8-9.  Our Lord blessed with beautiful weather and two nights of almost bumper to bumper traffic.  Our count indicated 130 cars, more than 350 people, and the Gideon’s delivered more than 200 New Testaments.  Many thanks to everyone that worked to make the weekend possible, especially our Baptist Young Women.  Flat Creek’s Living Nativity is the brainchild of one young lady in particular, Afton Fisher and each year Afton adds new twists to make the Nativity accurately represent the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We have posted photos on the social scourge of the day – excuse me, the social craze of the day; Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/FCBVA#!/FCBVA/photos

Christmas is a time when people should reflect and be thankful for the great mystery of God with us, the Incarnation of the Son of God.  Jesus the Christ was supernaturally conceived of God’s Spirit to become a man, to walk among men, to teach men about true worship of His Father, to die as a man, rising to conquer death.  Consistent with the Trinity’s eschatology each seemingly minor prophecy was brought to pass beginning with the visit of Gabriel to Mary and ending on a mountain outside of Jerusalem as disciples watched Him ascend to the Father he loved so very much.  Jesus Christ, a man full of grace and truth, humbled Himself and became obedient to the death of crucifixion.

Our country has heard much this year in the name of fairness. The wealthy should be more patriotic with their financial blessings and pay additional taxes.  It seems in America today patriotism is compelled.  I’m not sure of the reasoning but do know human nature.  The rich because of sin attempt to squelch the poor and the poor envy the rich because of sin, all the while attempting to confiscate their wealth.  What is needed is grace and humility.  What is needed is Immanuel.

Grace defines our God!  My wife was talking with a dear lady this year about the lady’s trials and depression.  Robby mentioned that God’s grace is sufficient for us, especially our salvation.  The lady countered that grace was not enough, there is something needed from us.  If so, what might that be?

The nature of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is that it is unearned.  Not only is it unearned, it is undeserved.  And it is extravagant.  What may I bring to my Lord that improves on His grace?  Could I possibly impress upon Him my sincerity, when much of the time I am not sincere? Could it be my obedience all the while knowing that my sin nature tempts me to rebellion and I easily fall into sin?  Could it be my goodness or my justice?  No, I am like rich and poor, a sinner in dire straits and in need of a Savior’s grace.

The extravagant nature of the grace of our Lord Jesus is because of God’s abundance.  God’s wealth is undefined.  Paul attempts to define the undefinable by declaring that Christ condescended into poverty for our sakes.  There are stories of wealthy people losing all in the stock market or some other nefarious misadventure.  But none compares with the reversal of fortune God the Son chose.  He was not compelled or forced or threatened.  The only completely free Person in the Universe decided to humble Himself into poverty, and bear my sin’s curse, satisfying the righteous demands of His Father and bringing me into their family!  What wealth is this!

Our Lord told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”   Grace defines the character of God and is altogether sufficient for our most pressing need - the forgiveness of our sins.  Remember, we were sinners before we ever sinned.  God’s sufficient grace would not be possible without the Incarnation of God the Son.  We would be lost in sins forever.  This Christmas, thank Him for the sufficiency and efficiency of His grace incarnate in Christ Jesus that saves a wretched man in poverty to spiritual riches in the His heaven.

Merry Christmas and my prayer is that 2013 will be the best year for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory.

Sola Deo Gloria!  Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Autumn 2012, Reflections on Doors…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Revelation 3:8, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

John the exiled apostle wrote the words above from Patmos to the churches of Asia Minor, specifically to Laodicea.  He echoed a passage from Deuteronomy 30:1-3;

 “…the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, … call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, 2 and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you…”

Flat Creek has been studying the Lord’s Prayer for several weeks, having recently focused upon Jesus’ teaching about “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  In both Deuteronomy and Revelation our Lord reminds Israel and a church that He has set before each of them opportunities that can only be had if proper and decisive choices are made.  His desire is for his children to be responsible, obey His revealed will and rejoice in His blessings!

At the time of this writing our country is about 50 days from electing the leader of the free world and the most powerful person on the planet.  It is truly a sobering thought and one I pray that each of you will prayerfully consider long before entering the voting booth.  Christians have a responsibility to be both salt and light to a world decaying and in darkness from a lack of Gospel truth.  An open door is before us…may we walk through it wisely.

I am very thankful and humbled to be an American.  Our country is not perfect, has many warts, and has committed sins too numerous to mention.  But it is comprised of a vast wealth of enterprising, hardworking people - people that share biblical views whether they realize it or not.   These views are the results of hundreds of year’s exposure to Judeo-Christian ethics that are almost subliminal, e.g. the respect for individual’s rights with parallel responsibilities, the understanding that heterosexual marriage is the foundational structure of society, the gift of the rule of law, and so many others.  Yes, some disagree with these ethics, but most subscribe to them. America’s heritage is steeped in the morality of Scripture and the world has benefited from the United States perhaps more than any other country in history. 

One of my greatest fears is that our children and grandchildren will not be recipients of our Lord’s continued blessing upon our great nation.  America has been blessed because many of her citizens have honored and hallowed God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What has been set before us in His word has resonated around the globe due to the faithfulness of many to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and countless hundreds of thousands have entered into the kingdom of God. His will has been and is being done on earth.

A door is before us in November.  The apostle Paul mentioned a door in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “…a great and effective door has been opened to me and there are many adversaries.”  I challenge you to not only listen to what is being said, but also to watch what is being done.  Talk is cheap and gifted orators easily persuade the gullible.  As believers we should vote as led by our consciences which are to be bathed by the Holy Spirit’s word of God and in the glory of our Savior.  The result is goodwill to men.  The Gospel is the power of God to salvation for many, but it is an obstacle to others that do “not like to retain God in their knowledge.”  Choose the open door set before you and keep His word!

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

Perusal* – Summer 2012, “Bear one another’s burdens…”

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Huey Lewis wrote a song back in the 1980’s with these lyrics:

“The power of love is a curious thing

Make a one man weep,

Make another man sing.”

And John Lennon wrote “All you need is love…” over 40 years ago. I like these songs…great lyrics, melody, and subtle messages. Love is an oft spoken word with misunderstood expectations.  Today’s focus on “love” has become an idol in the western world.  Love has evolved from providing for ones in a manner that glorifies our heavenly Father to acceptance of lifestyles that are sinful and debauched.  Further, the church, the bride of our Savior, has suffered the desertion of many that claim they have been born again and claim they love the Lord. An understanding of love within the church is desperately needed.

The church has explicit organizational responsibilities given to it by Jesus.  They are primarily; 1) to preach the Gospel, 2) to protect the Gospel, 3) to equip the professors of the Gospel and exclude false professors, and 4) to prepare genuine professors for the bride groom’s return. Many other responsibilities are couched in these four, e.g. missions and evangelism, support of believers that have needs that their families cannot fulfill, and fellowship within a family of redeemed sinners.  These directives are given to the church in love and they are to be carried out in love.  Notice the equipping is to occur in the local church.  Notice the bearing of each other’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ in the church.  Notice the majority of the New Testament is written to local churches.  Why then is the power of love for the local church missing?

“Christians cannot display the life of this final society, this end-time gathering, this heavenly city, this Christ, all by themselves”, states Jonathan Leeman in his book “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love”. We need other believers!  Today many so-called believers in the saving work of Jesus Christ consider local church membership as a relic from the past.  We are consumers and picky consumers at that.  Our thoughts about church are strategic – we are part of the larger “universal” or catholic church.  Our submission to God’s authority and the four principles our Savior left to his body on earth is sporadic and the application of these four tactics is misapplied even when it is believed.  We easily pull out from under the umbrella of the authority of the local church.  When we do, the deluges of life’s struggles drown us because we have removed ourselves from our Lord’s ordained means of growth and service – the local church!

Can we bear each other’s burdens and do we examine our spiritual works within the doors of a local church?  And how would we obey these commands if not within the local church? Jesus gifted the church with His authority on earth.  We are members of his body and are to submit to his Lordship and to the gifted authority of elders in the local church.  I am not to judge another without humility and I cannot challenge their individual commitment.  But the church can.  This is the power of God’s love!  Today many don’t believe that authority belongs to the church; it belongs to the consumer Christian, asserting their presence with the power of the pocketbook.  We question the Lordship of Christ and do not submit to Him when it is preached. And we search for churches that cater to our consumerist nature.  The preacher must be a comedian and music must be accompanied by guitar riffs that produce “air guitar” wannabes. Not surprisingly, churches are shallow; Christians are weak and look like the world. 

Beloved, we are to bear with one another – the church is comprised of sinners.  Even when I am alone I am with a sinner.  It is in the church that I am to love sinners with all our baggage - the backbiters, the hypocrites, those devoid of doctrinal stability and they are to love me.  I have the same sins!  And I have the very same Savior!  I chose the church in which I serve – but the members I did not choose.  I have grown in God’s grace to love them, to participate in defining Jesus’ love to a lost and dying world.  Bearing each other’s burdens characterizes the church’s love until our beloved Redeemer returns and demonstrates to the world the power of love! 

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey