What is a Christian Church?

A Summary of the Sermon: What is a Christian Church?

1. A church that belongs to Christ.

2. A Great Commission people.

3. A group of people baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

4. A group of people who as the Body of Christ are under the Headship of Christ and are members of one another.

5. A group who honors the Lord’s Day every week with a gathering to worship the Triune God. Lord’s Supper, biblical teaching, prayer, singing, and fellowship.

6. A group of people who honor the Scriptures as God’s Word and seek to live out New Testament Christianity.

7. A holy temple with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone, the apostles as the foundation, and the people as living stones built together.

8. A church rooted in history and tradition passed down from the apostles through every generation.

9. The pillar and ground of the truth.

Conclusion. The Christian Church is the universal people of God who are united with Jesus Christ. A Christian Church, to speak of specific, historical traditions and the heritage of this congregation, is one marked by an intention to be as biblical as possible. We seek to unite around Christ himself and around the Scriptures rather than anything else. Historically, our tradition was a back to the Bible movement born in the late 1700s in America. In that effort, we have tried to preach the Gospel the way it was delivered in the New Testament; we have renewed a high view of baptism and the work of God in it; we have emphasized the importance of weekly communion around the Lord’s Table; we restored the plurality of elders in every local church; and we have sought to root assurance of salvation not in emotional or sensational experiences but in the New Testament Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can be assured that you are saved and belong to the Lord if you have heard the Gospel, believed it, repented of your sins, and been baptized all according to the Scriptures. Assurance of salvation rests in Christ alone and not in ourselves or our experiences.

Now, the final encouragement to you today is three-fold: (1) Gain a richer and deeper appreciation for the Church of God; (2) Join the Church as a member united with Christ and in connection to the other members of the Body; and (3) Become a great supporter, defender, and lover of the Church.

For an explanation of each item, listen to the full sermon here:

Thoughts on Judas Iscariot

A friend recently texted me a podcast where somebody was giving a so-called “thought experiment” about whether Judas betraying Jesus was actually positive and whether Judas repented. The guys were fairly sloppy in how they talked about it. My friend asked my thoughts. Thought you might be interested in what I wrote to him:

You are right, Judas Iscariot is an interesting biblical character. Comparing and contrasting Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial has always fascinated me. There is a lot of detail in the biblical narratives to study.

What these guys are discussing is an old gnostic theory, even though they don’t seem to know that. This was pushed more recently in The Da Vinci Code and other fictional writings. These are all fabrications that are out of step with the biblical canon.

The Gospels use fairly harsh language for Judas. Judas is never viewed sympathetically or as a victim or in a positive light in the slightest. The Lord Jesus says that Judas was a devil. The Gospels say he was a thief during Jesus’ ministry (a man of selfish and immoral character) and that he was possessed by Satan to betray Jesus.  It seems that Judas was possessed by Satan because he opened the door to that evil. So, the New Testament is clear the Judas did not do what he did for righteous ends. A Christian reading of the New Testament does not allow for Judas is a hero or good guy.

Judas definitely regretted what he did, but regret is not the same as repentance. The narrative seems to portray his suicide as motivated by overwhelming grief rather than godly sorrow. True repentance is both a turning away from sin and turning to Christ in faith.

Acts 1 makes it clear that Judas had done evil and was never restored.

What is a Christian?

A Summary of the Sermon: What is a Christian?

1. Someone who has repented of his/her sins.

2. Someone who believes in Jesus Christ.

3. Someone who is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

4. Someone who has been born again from above.

5. Someone with a single-minded devotion to Christ.

6. Someone who picks up his/her cross to follow Christ.

7. Someone who obeys all that Jesus has commanded.

For an explanation of each of these items, listen to the full sermon here:

Devotional Thoughts on the Second Commandment

Notice that God only spoke to them out of the midst of the fiery mountain. The people did not see God. The same is true of Moses when he said, “Show me your glory.”


Example: Golden calf (the people wanted to see).

This was a blatant disregard of the second command.


Your sins of commission (the things that you do) and your sins of omission (the things that you neglect to do that you should do) have an impact on the lives of others, especially your own children and grandchildren.


Alcoholism is often passed from one generation to the next. Overburdening oneself with debt is usually passed from one generation to the next. Poor marriages are passed from one generation to the next. 


And yet. . . .


*Generational sins can be prevented through covenant loyalty with God.


*The cycle of sin can be broken through repentance.

Devotional Thoughts on the First and Second Commandments

The First Commandment clearly designated Yahweh, the Lord God, the personal being who brought up the people of Israel from the Land of Egypt, as the only truly divine being in the universe. While there are false gods of the pagan peoples, and while there are other supernatural beings, there is only one Supreme, Divine Being. You shall have no other gods.


Now we turn to the Second Commandment: You shall not make for yourself a carved image. When I was young and still living in Lenoir, I remember hearing about a church and certain preacher who took this command and browbeat his congregation about all sorts of things in their homes. He said that they could not have statues or sculptures in their homes and particular kinds of paintings. What made this stick with me, growing up in the South and in a country family, was that he said that they could not have taxidermy mounts in their homes such as deer heads. Now, I think this is silly and really is a poor job of biblical interpretation. Yet, I am uncomfortable with many of the things that people do today with certain drawings depicting Jesus. We basically have no idea what he looked like. I am uncomfortable with the icons and shrines of the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches as well.


I have even seen investigative reporting in North Korea, which is highly dangerous. In that Evil, Communist State, the people have paintings and shrines for the Supreme Leader. They even have these things in their homes. What blew me away was how the people sang toward the paintings and even prostrated themselves before it. That totalitarian state has fostered cultic practices around the personalities of the Supreme Leaders including the veneration of images of them.


Biblical Faith calls for worship of the one true and living God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth and all that is in them. We shall have no other gods besides him, and we shall not make for ourselves any carved images. Veneration, that is, regard with utmost significance and reverence, is outlawed for any created thing. Because Yahweh, the Lord our God, is spirit, transcendent, and above all, we are not to attempt to make any sort of image which we think might encapsulate who he is. He is the glorious one. The whole world cannot contain him, much less a sculpture or painting or any other thing.

Devotional Thoughts on the First Commandment

God is a covenant-making God. He wants to live in relationship with us. God says in Heb 8:6 that Christ is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” The New Covenant, promised explicitly in Jeremiah 31, was sealed with the blood of Christ. God wants us to live in communion with him (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and in community with one another. The doctrine of the Trinity says that God is one in essence and three in persons. Christians are monotheists; we only believe in one God. We know the Father through the Son, and the Spirit applies the work of the Son to our lives. The church is a Christian community, living in and according to the precepts of the New Covenant in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the New Covenant, the First Commandment still applies: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” God demands single-minded devotion. Take up your cross and follow him. You will be hated and persecuted, but great is your reward in heaven. Follow Christ. Serve him and no other.

Sermon Excerpt on Mark 9:30-37

Sermon Excerpt on Mark 9:30-37
From Wesley C. McCarter "Glory and Greatness"

We got a glimpse of Christ’s glory and coming kingdom in the transfiguration narrative (Mark 9:1-13), but the recounting of the episode regarding the demon-possessed boy just afterwards reminds us why Jesus came and why he had to go to the cross (Mark 9:14-29). Sin had to be remedied. One should point out that even in the glorious account of Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain, the Lord explained, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him” (Mark 9:12-13). The inner circle of disciples who witnessed the things on the mountain may have been a bit confused at first, but Jesus makes clear that “Elijah, as forerunner, did not come to prevent the Messiah's suffering and death but to foreshadow it” (Blomberg, 1992:266).

The Christian path to glory and greatness is by way of suffering, service, humility, and a willingness to associate with the same. Christ, our Lord and Savior, is a suffering servant (Mark 9:30-37). He was a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief. Let us descend into the valley of the shadow of death with him by faith. Let us take up our crosses and follow him. Let us die with him and so live with him. Let us endure and then reign with him.

Brief Commentary on Galatians 3:13

An excerpt from Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatian 3:13:

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.
For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

"When we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with joy and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins, we get His holiness. By faith alone can we become righteous, for faith invests us with the sinlessness of Christ. The more fully we believe this, the fuller will be our joy. If you believe that sin, death, and the curse are void, why, they are null, zero. Whenever sin and death make you nervous, write it down as an illusion of the devil. There is no sin now, no curse, no death, no devil because Christ has done away with them. This fact is sure. There is nothing wrong with the fact. The defect lies in our lack of faith. . . . If I examine myself, I find enough unholiness to shock me. But when I look at Christ in me, I find that I am altogether holy."

--Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 1535, Gal. 3:13

Communion Meditation: Uniting Past, Present, and Future

The Lord’s Supper unites past, present, and future.

1 Cor 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.


The Holy Meal is simultaneously a remembrance of what Christ did in the past, a proclamation of that Gospel in the present, and an anticipation for the coming kingdom of God in the future.


Right now, in our eating and drinking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, past, present, and future are united in the event. We participate in the Eternal and with the Eternal One.

A Poem by G. Hopkins: Moonless Darkness

Moonless Darkness

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and always:
Now begin, on Christmas day.