01/04/2007

Sam Storms on Acts 20 (part 2) - from Life in the Spirit

Finally, here is the next post from the Life in the Spirit Conference. I apologise for the delay. The first part of Sam's message can be found here.


Introduction

In 2005 Piper addressed the PCA {I wasn’t able to take down this quote word for word and I can’t find it on the internet, although the CD of the message can be ordered from here}– “It is our desire that God would send a spiritual awakening, of Christ-exalting, gospel-centred truths… not truncated, partial truths. The Glory of God is seen when we see the full gospel. He is more glorified when we desire more and more of God through more and more of His truths. How can knowing more about God get in the way of loving God? More of the Word puts more kindling in place… But there are people who say we can marvel at the mountain by staying distant. No! It is the clarity of gospel truths that drives the awakening. [Those] who have treasured the fullness and clarity of gospel… so rekindling… spread around the world the highly combustible gospel doctrine.”

We need the Spirit of God to take these convictions and make them ours. Today it is not just the pursuit of understanding the text but kindling in the human heart.


I) The depth of your commitment to church must reflect depths to which God went to save it

Look to the cross to inspire your responsibility. “The church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20v28). It would be more accurate to translate this “with the blood of His own (Jesus).” “His own” is a term of endearment, showing– God’s affection, devotion and delight for His Son, which magnifies the extent of the sacrifice. So if you question your own sacrifice, consider the depths to which the Father went.


II) Behold the awesome overwhelming responsibility of those in leadership of the local church

Leaders are “undershepherds” under Him – we have a responsibility to shepherd. George Barna’s book Revolution {not in any way recommended by Sam; he reviews it at here and here} – diagnoses a revolutionary trend that many young people have concluded that they can follow Christ with no connection with local church. They do not have any notion of a covenantal bond, with leadership or teaching. But Barna supports this {and Sam Storms most definitely does not!}

But many have bad experience of abusive leadership. Heavy handed authoritarian, manipulative leadership must be banished and eliminated. If a leader cannot obey Heb 13v17 – to lead with joy – then he should resign. A leader needs to give care with understanding that they are sheep; if not then you have no business being in the ministry.

Paul realised that leadership meant time and pressure and disappointment and hurt. What sustained him or (better) who sustained Him? 2 Tim 1v12 - the person, who removed all sense of shame, removed any hint of shrinking back through fear of standing for the gospel. It doesn’t say “in whom I have believed” but “whom I have believe" relationship; let nothing come between you and Jesus. God has entrusted the gospel to you, God is able to guard what He has placed in our hands as stewards. 2 Tim 1v13 – don’t modify it. That is our responsibility.


III) Failure to consistently preach the whole counsel of God opens the door to false teaching

V30 – twisted things, even from among the elders! This turned out to be a true prophecy. See 1&2 Timothy.


IV) Never underestimate the power of God and His Word

V32 - God through the instrumentality of His word is able to build us up. God does not promise to build us up any other way than through the power and efficacy of His word. Many churches have abandoned the functional authority of the Word in their lives. The Word is not allowed to govern how the church thinks and thus the church has lost the sense of its power.

Col 2v2 - that is the goal. 1) The knowledge of the mystery of God. Now, there is a place for doubt, under the work of the Spirit; no doubt can lead to arrogance, doubt humbles us. But it can be crippling. So Paul wants to bring full assurance. Full assurance is a real possibility in this life, despite theological and personal struggles. Not saying this is infallible knowledge but can be sufficiently accurate to give us assurance. We are never fully free of doubt because of the work of satan. Yet we can still experience full assurance of understanding.

2) There are riches. Wealth, treasure, indescribable spiritual value in resting in God’s word.

3) Of understanding – assurance is a function of knowledge and depends on our depths of understanding of who He is. This is the primary way we overcome doubt. Knowledge is not an end in itself (it puffs up), yet knowledge of God is the soil in which the seeds of peace and love germinate. Ignorance sows seeds of heresy.


V) Now, returning to point 3 (Failure to consistently preach the whole counsel of God opens the door to false teaching)

We face an array of twisted things. These hinder growth and maturity.

1) 2 Tim 2v7. Illuminism. Many have abandoned expository teaching. It is a command, “consider what I say”, with a promise, “He will give understanding.” What he says is in 1 Tim 1v13 – sound words. Illuminism ignores the command and presumes about the promise. Thinking is hard work. It is easier to simply trust the promise. But it is a false presumption that God will fulfil the promise despite ignoring the command. Illuminism seems more spiritual, but actually true illumination is the fruit of investigation. Illumination does not replace meditation, it is the fruit of meditation. It is dangerous to expect it the other way round. It is a problem in the body of Christ; some close the scriptures for words of prophecy. There is an anti-intellectualism. Some are so terrified of being Pharisees that they turn off their minds. Of course dead orthodoxy is terrible, but knowledge is not the enemy, arrogance is. Truth enflames the heart. Flesh is the enemy. The mind is only the enemy when yielded to fleshly arrogance. The mind is to be renewed.

2) Sentimentalism- diminishing theology for good feelings, especially if the theology offends you. Paul’s experience: Acts 20v19, 23 – trials and imprisonment (so was he outside the will of God as some say we are if we suffer?); v20, 27 - teaching, exposition of the whole counsel of God (yet we can yield to laziness, lack of preparation, and the pressure of managing time); v21 – repentance (it means abandoning sin); v21 – faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not inclusivism (this is hard for many to swallow).

3) Atonement of Christ – v28 Shedding of blood was necessary. It was not cosmic child abuse. Such a comparison is grievous to the heart of God. The Father gives and the Son willingly offers up His life. It is not victimisation. The new view rejects divine wrath. But the absence of penal substitution means I have nothing to say to a lost and dying world. What can I tell them? What hope is there in dealing with guilt, and bringing deliverance from bondage and alienation from their Creator? But only Jesus suffered and died in our place. We are forgiven because He was forsaken. This is the only ground for our forgiveness. “I’m accepted because you were condemned.”

4) The only way of defining whether something is twisted is if there is a straight line to contrast it with. Paul believed in absolute truth. Today we are being told that if there is such a thing then we cannot know it. So heresy loses all sense of meaning.


Conclusion

How will you discharge your ministry? 2 Tim 4v1 – Paul was under the scrutiny of God, beneath His gaze. So Paul was not ashamed.

How aware are you as you stand before your flock? He is watching. The ears of heaven are attuned to everything you say. His eye is over every gesture, application, thought and attitude. The most important thing– am I pleasing to my Father? Preach the Word. Don’t shrink back from the whole counsel of God. May God enable us, by the Holy Spirit.

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