Don't Believe Everything You Read--Winston-Salem Journal

Don’t Believe Everything You Read--Winston-Salem Journal

The articles written by Dr. Earl Crow in the Saturday editions of the Winston-Salem Journal are a train wreck. He does not represent evangelical Christianity and demonstrates that he has no clue what he is doing when discussing scriptural passages.  Some may think that this is a strong or even harsh statement, but allow me to elaborate.  I will provide some general comments about his articles as well as some specific points.

Dr. Crow often implies or pushes the answer in a certain direction without ever stating his actual position.  For example, our adult class during The Blend recently read his article about Hell, and without ever explicitly stating the point, he implied that Hell is not real and that all will be welcomed into Heaven.  Crow often quotes Scriptures that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.  For example, when asked if we will know each other in heaven, he quoted Matt 8:11 which says, “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  Now, tell me, what does that verse have to do with the question?  The last point that I will make is that Crow often questions evangelical, traditional teaching without actually explaining how it is wrong or offering a truly biblical alternative to the traditional position.

What is our lesson?  Do not believe everything you read (or hear or watch) without studying the subject for yourself, fact-checking, and getting (at least) a second opinion.  Just because something such as a television show, movie, or newspaper article is “religious” does not mean that it is accurate.  There are many wolves masquerading as sheep (Matt 7:15).  The New Testament is full of warnings to beware of false teachers (e.g. Rom 16:17-18; Col 2:8; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 Pet 2:1-22; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 1:10-11).  We do well to heed those warnings in our own day.

Now, let me express some humility.  I do not have it all figured out.  I cannot answer every question.  However, there is nothing worse or more devastating to a Christian’s walk than for someone who is “religious” and “educated” to appear to be an “angel of light” and yet only deceive believers.  Crow is a PhD who uses common misconceptions to gain sympathy for his positions.  The way he goes about his writing and teaching is sad and, honestly, disgusting.  So, again, do not believe everything you read.

If you have any questions or comments about Dr. Crow’s articles, please email me at, call me, stop by the office, or bring it to my attention on a Sunday.

Romans 8:1-4 Reason to be Excited

Romans 8:1-4      Reason to be Excited                                WC McCarter

I truly want people to be happy and to find satisfaction in life, but I must be honest: many are looking in all of the wrong places.  I know too many people who go from one hobby to the next, one job to the next, one partner to the next.  God has blessed us with all sorts of things in which we can find pleasure.  There is nothing wrong with involving ourselves in fun and entertaining activities, but we know that they are not lasting.  I want you to find your ultimate satisfaction in Christ Jesus.  I want you to fully understand that Christ’s work of reconciliation is not only for the age to come but to be enjoyed now.  Eternal life begins now and will be enhanced in the age to come. I want you to live abundantly and free under the influence of the Holy Spirit and in the power of the resurrection of Christ.  There is reason to be excited today.

I want you to be attracted to the Lord Jesus Christ, to love Him, treasure Him, spend time with Him, and trust Him.  Romans 8 is about life, life now and life eternal.  This chapter is special in the revelation of God.  It declares what it means to be a Christian from “no condemnation” at the beginning of the chapter to “no separation” at the end.  In talking about the Christian’s life and confidence, the Holy Spirit is mentioned 19 times!  The apostolic doctrine of the New Testament concerning life now and forever involves the Holy Spirit as its focal point.  Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

This section in the epistle begins at Rom 6:14 which says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  Today’s sermon text is part of one flow of thought that runs through verse 13 and concerns the subject of “life.”  We will talk about the Christian life in the here and now.  We are looking forward to heaven, but how do we live now?  Are we to only trudge through this life, or do we have reason to be excited?

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Justification and Sanctification
In the first two verses of this chapter both justification and sanctification are declared. God has reversed the guilty verdict that we all were given. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yet now, God declares us justified (not guilty) because we are “in Christ Jesus.” Of course, there are existing consequences for our sins now, but what the Scripture is teaching us that there are no eternal ramifications for our sins if we are in Christ. “Condemnation” refers to the state of lostness, separation from God. We are free from condemnation not because we are sinless, but because we have put our faith in Christ Jesus who was but laid His life down for us. You see, Christ took our place of condemnation and He bore the full burden of it that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The Holy Spirit has taken those accomplishments of Christ in our behalf and made us free. 2 Cor 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
We follow the law of the Spirit which is liberty, and in this liberty we are called to serve one another. Gal 5:13 says, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” We no longer operate under the law of sin and death, but under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ.

The Law’s Weakness
The Scripture says that the law was weak through the flesh. The law itself was not weak. It is not sinful, wrong, or weak in and of itself, but its weakness is the flesh (the influence of sin). It can name your sin, it can diagnose your problem, it can declare you guilty, but it cannot save you.

The law could/can name one’s sin and could pronounce judgment on it, but nothing else. If the law could not fix sin nor put it to death then all it was doing was adding up one’s transgressions and sins and trespasses and failures. Though the chief weakness of the law was and is the FLESH. The Law cannot be criticized for its weakness- only the participants.

God Did
It is the work of Christ, and Christ alone, that has set us free. We can live in this resurrection power because of what He has already done. Christ Jesus shared in the essential human nature- flesh and blood, bones and marrow. Jesus was in fact God as a physical human being, but only in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” “(Our High Priest) was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It was God who did something. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” It took a mighty act of God to save us. It took a mighty act of God to reverse the guilty verdict. “What the law could not do: GOD DID.” The Spirit can liberate us because of the situation that Christ has caused.

What was it that God intervened to do? Condemn sin. The just requirement of the law was fulfilled in God’s condemnation of sin. The “just requirement of the law” is surely perfect obedience and submission to God the Father. Christ has fulfilled the just requirement of the law and it is applied to us when we believe in Him, put our faith in Him, and when we treasure Him.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Verse 5 may serve as an appropriate conclusion. Let us set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

We do not strive to be justified or sanctified by the works of the flesh, but by the fruit of the Spirit. A vine does not produce grapes by any demand that is made. It produces fruit that comes out of its own life. When we participate in the divine nature and we are in Christ then fruit will be produced out of Christ’s own life not by any demand. Until we are in Christ Jesus and setting our minds on the things of the Spirit, we…are…dying. If all we do is read secular novels, watch tv, and talk to unbelievers, we “are never going to form the mind-set of the Spirit” (Moo, 257). We need to spend time with God. We need to talk to Him in prayer, enjoy His company as we encounter Him in His word, we need to ponder the things of Christ, be with His people, communicate with them about these things, sings songs and hymns, and many other things.

The question we are left with is this: Are you in Christ Jesus?  If you are, then you have something to be excited about.

John 4:1-26 True Worship

John 4:1-26         True Worship                                             WC McCarter

In John four, we meet Jesus as He is heading out of Judea and north to Galilee.  In between these two regions is the region of Samaria.  Most Jews would avoid Samaria by going around it along the Jordan River, since over 700 years of religious and racial prejudice separated the Jews and Samaritans.  Jews looked down on Samaritans who were half Jew and half Gentile, and considered them impure people.  Although it took more time, traveling along the river would be the easiest route.  Jesus had a special purpose for this trip.  He was on a mission.  He overlooked racism and disregarded the Jewish traditions of the time.  What he does and says is highly valuable.

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, in response to one of the most heated questions of the day, Jesus makes a statement about worship and worshippers.  He told a Samaritan woman at a well that the time had come when true believers would worship God in spirit and truth.  This woman quickly grew to understand that Jesus was a prophet and maybe even the Messiah, but it is not clear whether she understood what Jesus meant by “spirit and truth.”  Yet, that is our goal today.  What was Jesus teaching about true worship, and how does it apply to us?


Point 1: Spirit and Truth- Linked
These 2 terms go hand in hand because they are both governed by the same preposition- “in.”  In effect, Jesus says that worship is to be, “In spirit and in truth.”  They are linked together.  We must interpret both terms in light of each other.  D. A. Carson says that they “form one matrix” and therefore are “indivisible” (226).

Connective: First, we see that both of these words must go together. This will guide us as we investigate this text.

Point 2: Location and Means- Dismissed
In the context, it seems that Jesus compares and contrasts location and means of worship.  These are the two subjects discussed.

*What locations are named?  (1) Mount Gerizim; (2) Jerusalem Temple
*What means of worship is understood at both?  Ritual Ceremonies

Jesus dismisses Mount Gerizim and even the Jerusalem Temple as the correct location for worship.  He also rejects the means of worship for both, which was ritual ceremonies.  Since both the location and means of worship have been dismissed, all we are left with is what?  Worship in spirit and truth.

The spirit (human) replaces both the Jerusalem and Gerizim locations for the appropriate place for worship, while truth replaces ritual ceremonies.  Let me mention that the apostle John often uses words that can have multiple meanings.  Here is an example, the word “truth” can also be translated as “faithfulness” or “reality.”  Jesus is saying that we must worship God with sincerity of heart, in truth, in faithfulness.  This is our true act of worship.  Outward rituals are not our means of genuine worship.  Love for the truth and faithfulness to the truth is our true means of worshipping God the Father through Christ the Son.

Connective: It is now clear that worship has changed to spirit and truth because the old locations and means have been replaced, but we now face the real question, What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

Point 3: Spirit and Truth- Meaning
At this point I like what Mark Moore says about true worship, “The Spirit of God and the spirit of man commingle.”  Worship is when our human spirits commingle with the Holy Spirit, with sincerity and complete reality before God.

Ritual was the old requirement of worship.  Jesus changes this to worship in truth, which is anything that is in harmony with God’s Word and will.

God is not limited to a place or time. We can commune with God anywhere at any time.  We can serve God in many capacities and in any place.

You know when you’re riding with someone and they have to slam on their brakes?  What do we do a lot of times?  We grab the dash, like it’s a steering wheel.  We tense up and try to push the brake with our foot, even though we are not behind the wheel.  It is an automatic reflex that we have developed.  Now, who can blame someone for doing that?  Yet, the same thing often happens in our worship times, but that cannot be excused.  That cannot be laughed off.  We cannot allow ourselves to merely go through the motions of a traditional routine.

Jesus said, “God is Spirit.”  God is much more than this physical world.  Worship is much more than a specific location or any ritualistic event.  Is it wrong to designate a place to meet for worship or to do many of the same things each week?  No, of course not.  We have the commands of the Lord and His apostles and the example of the early church to follow.  We are commanded to assemble together on a regular basis.  We are commanded to do some of the same things when we meet such as partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  We are to belong to a local church among whom we worship and serve.  Yet, we must understand that the location and means by which we worship do not control us.  We worship the Father in spirit and truth.  We can worship under a steeple, in a pew, at someone’s house, in someone’s basement, at a baseball stadium, at work, or out under a tree, etc.

Have you been in a spiritual rut?  Have you not “felt” the Spirit in worship?
Do you feel far away from God at times?

Let us forsake all forms of worship that are based merely on man-made traditions, human insights, and only outward activities.  This, of course, means that we must not bend to cultural pressure, whether it be secular culture or Christian culture, as to how we should worship our Lord.  We must be faithful to the truth, and we must worship Him in spirit.

Let us not engage in the “worship wars” to argue about music styles or what clothes we wear on Sundays.

Let us do this one thing: Worship God in spirit and in truth.  In your spirit, get to know the Lord better.  In your spirit, commune with the living God.  Let your spirit be the starting place of your obedience to the truth.  Believe in your spirit.  Trust in your spirit.  Pray in your spirit.  Love Christ in your spirit.  Let us be faithful to our Lord in everything we do because He has and will be faithful to us.

John 3:1-17 You Must Be Born Again

John 3:1-17        You Must Be Born Again                           WC McCarter

George Whitfield, a contemporary of John Wesley in 18th Century England, is known as one of the greatest preachers to ever live.  The Lord used him in mighty ways.  He gained wide renown in England, but he turned away from it in 1738 to come and preach in the small, American colony of Georgia.  When he came here he expected persecution, but was instead received as a messenger of God.  His fame spread here about as quickly as it had across the ocean, and he made several trips back and forth between the continents during his ministry.  Whitfield was good friends with Benjamin Franklin who once did an experiment about Whitfield’s voice.  Franklin calculated that Whitfield’s voice could be heard by 30,000 people at one time out in the open air (without any kind of sound system).  And, the content of his preaching was even more powerful than his voice.  Like many preachers during the Great Awakening, Whitfield stressed Christian conversion.  In this way, he was one of the founders of modern evangelicalism.  A lady once asked the preacher why he preached so often the words: “You must be born again.”  Whitefield replied, “Because, Madam, you must be born again.”  It is to that subject that I would like for us to turn our attention today as we look at John 3.

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Nicodemus most likely witnessed the events of chapter two (the overwhelming of the traditional institutions of Judaism: ritual vessels (2:6) and the temple (2:15) were both instruments of ritual cleansing now trumped by the Lord Jesus; Jesus Christ did not come simply to replace religious establishments, but to bring life that those institutions could never give).  Nicodemus even represents another institution of Judaism, the Pharisees who were teachers of the Old Testament law/Scriptures.

The end of the previous chapter (John 2:25) sets up the Nicodemus account fittingly, “For He knew what was in man” and then the next verses, beginning the section on Nicodemus, says, “there was a man of the Pharisees.”  Jesus knows what is inside of man and then a man shows up to inquire of Him!

[A] Nicodemus
Nicodemus inquires of the teacher which allows Jesus to further explain. The point here and in many of the discourses through this Gospel account is that there is generally a deficit that needs to be met in order to have a deeper understanding of Jesus words (most often faith or the Spirit).

1. Member of the Pharisees (v1)
2. Member of the Sanhedrin (v1) – Jewish ruling council
3. Reputable Rabbi (v10) – ‘The’ teacher of Israel

[B] Born Again
1. Nicodemus wants to start on simple terms and discuss Jesus’ signs. Jesus thwarts that idea and gets directly to the point- ‘You want to be in the Kingdom? You must be born again.’
2. You cannot even see the Kingdom of God unless you are born again. And “seeing” many times means “understanding.” You can’t even begin to understand unless you are born again. It certainly means “experience” here.
3. Nicodemus then asks a question with an ironic misunderstanding.
          a. The word used can mean “again” or it can mean “from above.”      Nicodemus takes it to mean “again.”
b. Because Nicodemus inquires farther with misunderstanding Jesus can now explain that being born again (from above) is to be born of water and the Spirit.

[C] Water and Spirit
          Several Interpretations have been offered:
          1. Water Baptism
- Acts 10:43-47 “Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’”
          2. Water Symbolizing the Holy Spirit
          - Thus “born of water, even the Spirit.”
          3. Water Symbolizing the Word of God.
- Ephesians 5:26 “that He might sanctify and cleanse her (the church) with the washing of water by the word.”
          4. Water as physical birth and the Spirit causing spiritual birth.
          - Though not a common understanding of physical birth.
5. Water meaning John the Baptizer’s baptism and the work of the Spirit afterward.
          6. OT imagery of “water” and “wind” to refer to God’s work from above.

- Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants.”
- Ezekiel 36:25-27 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”

* I would now lean toward the Old Testament imagery as the true meaning of what Jesus said. It makes perfect sense and is rooted in Scripture. It is that the water and Spirit refer to one event (from above). The one thing that I would combine with it is baptism because what better time is there for God to cleanse you and put His Spirit in you? In fact, scripturally, the only guarantee of the Spirit is in baptism.

 [D] “So is Everyone Who is Born of the Spirit”
1. The Spirit comes to all who believe, but the work of the Spirit is mysterious as it comes and goes and does as it wishes.
2. No one and no thing can contain the Spirit and the work of the Spirit.
3. The only way to have a true understanding, the only way to know God, and the only way to see much less enter the Kingdom of God is for the Spirit to do something in your life and He does in the life of every believer. And the Spirit can only work because of what Christ has accomplished.

[E] Loving the World
- It is agreed by most who have studied this passage that vv. 16-21 are John’s words as commentary of what Jesus said.
          1. It speaks of the work of Christ in the past tense.
          a. “loved” b. “gave” c. “send”
          2. The phrasing is certainly John’s.
          a. “only begotten” b. “believed in the name” c. “he who does the truth”
- God loving the world may be surprising.
          1. Jews rarely, if ever, spoke of God loving more than Israel.
          2. In other places, John tells his readers to not love the world.
(1 John 2:15-17)
3. D.A. Carson has said, “There is no contradiction between this prohibition and the fact that God does love (the world). Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the selfless, costly love of redemption.”

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) Many are religious but lost.  Have you been born again?

(2) Not only is this something we believe for ourselves, but this is the standard that God holds for all people.  Therefore, this is the message that we declare to our neighbors, our community, and to the whole world, that you must be born again.  There is a great falling away in our time, but we will stand on the side of orthodoxy; we will stand on the side of Scripture; we will hold firm our commitment to Christ as the only hope of the world.

Psalm 121 My Help Comes from the Lord

Psalm 121            My Help Comes from the Lord                  WC McCarter

I would like to work our way through Psalm 121 and see the psalm in its original context and meaning.  After that, I would like for us to think about these themes and principles for our own day, in our own situations.

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Song of Ascents Background (Heading)
There are several psalms labeled “Songs of Ascents” which have been grouped together in Psalms 120-134.  These psalms were most likely sung by pilgrims making their way up to Jerusalem for holidays and other pilgrimages.  As they traveled through long, dusty, rocky, winding roads, they would sing these words of worship and confidence in the Lord.

Question (1)
One man says to another, or even to his own soul, that he looks unto the hills with the question, From where does my help come?  In those ancient times, a pilgrim could lift up his head, set his eyes on the mountains, and see some illegitimate resources—temples/altars to false gods.  He could look up and see the things of the world and consider who he should trust.  In chapter 18, Ezekiel references these false gods that set on the hilltops surrounding the area.  God was looking for godly men and women who had not eaten on the mountains or turned their eyes toward the idols.

Not only did the mountains represent idols and the temptation to turn to away from God and trust in them, the hills also represented danger.  Imagine traveling in those ancient times on narrow roads surrounded by hills, going long stretches of time without seeing any other travelers.  You would not know what was lurking up there.  There could be wild animals or robbers who set out to injure and raid pilgrims.  You would be looking for supernatural help.

Answer (2)
Thus, in verse two, the man is answered by a fellow traveler, or he voices an answer to his own question as he preaches to his soul.  What is the answer?  “My help comes from the Lord who is the Maker of heaven and earth.”  The Lord is the true and living God as opposed to the dead, false gods made of created elements.  God created the things from which the idols were made.  There is no help from false gods.  Also, the hills were created by God and tings even more majestic.  He is the Creator of all things—great and small, the things we can see and the things we cannot see.  If your help comes from Him, then you have nothing to fear.  He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-resourceful, merciful, forgiving, and loving.  There is none as impressive as our God.  There is none who can do what He can do.  There is none who has promised all the good that He has promised to us.

Our Keeper (3-5)
I was intrigued to learn in my study that Baal was a “seasonal god” who would have to be roused from sleep after a period of hibernation.  How silly are these notions.  A guard’s chief duty is to stay awake!  Our God neither sleeps nor slumbers.  He does not have a body that grows weary that He would need rest.  He does not have eyes that may get heavy and need to shut.  He is Almighty God.  He will not allow your foot to be moved, and He can ensure it because there is never even the slightest moment when He is not keeping watch over us.  Verse five says the Lord is our Keeper (Protector or Guard).  He is on our side.

The idea at the end of verse five transitions us to the last section—God is the shade at our right hand.  There is nothing that we cannot fend off.

Our Preserver (6-8)
As we can imagine, the sun is a constant danger in the Middle East.  It can dehydrate, burn, and more.  It causes folks to pass out or even to die.  It takes a toll on the bodies of those who are out in its light for too long.  Think of a traveler out on the roads in the sun’s rays for hours at a time.  The moon was thought in those days, and even in ours, to cause people to act crazy.  Of course, these may be taken metaphorically as dangers from which the Lord shades His people.  As our shade, the Lord protects us from the sun and moon—from all potential dangers.  He protects us at all times, day and night.

If God can protect us from the most powerful forces on earth, then He can surely protect us from anything.  Many things are unknown to us, but God knows them all.  He will preserve us from all evil.  He will preserve our souls.  He will complete the good work that He has started in us.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Now, I have talked with several of you just this week who are going through a variety of different circumstances.  Some of you are struggling because of your own weaknesses or because of the weaknesses of others.  You can turn your eyes up and look to the world today to find some kind of answer, or you can look beyond the hills and even the heavens to the Creator of heaven and earth.

(1) Nowhere does this psalm promise that we will live easy lives.  In fact, God allows us to go through physical challenges sometimes in order to preserve our souls.  He wishes to strengthen our faith.  He wishes to keep us in a relationship with Him rather than the things of the world.  Those things are passing, but the Lord’s promises endure forever.

(2) If you put your trust in the Lord and set your eyes upon Him, then you are guarded from the time you leave your house in the morning until you come home at night, from the time you lay your head on your pillow to sleep until you wake up.  The Lord God is your guard.