A Gospel Message

To the readers of this blog: this is a draft of a letter we intend to mail to homes in our area if they are not home after two visits during our door-to-door canvassing efforts or if they have a “no soliciting” sign on their door. As a matter of policy, we do not knock on doors when they post “no soliciting” as we desire to respect the private property of those we would engage in gospel witness. The following letter will be mailed to their home instead.

I am asking you the reader to give me some feedback on this letter. Do you believe the gospel is presented clearly in the letter? Do you believe the letter to be engaging enough that people will read it? Do you think that a reader could understand the gospel enough from this letter to come to faith in Jesus Christ? What could be improved in the letter? What do you like, and what would you do differently? This is an invitation to engage with what I am doing. I would enjoy any feedback and appreciate your help. Just remember that I have tissue-paper-thin skin, so don’t poke too hard or I might wilt into a corner curled in the fetal position sucking my thumb.

Just kidding about the thin skin (in case you don’t have an ear for sarcasm. Thank you for any help you can offer.

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings!  Since we didn’t get the chance to meet you while visiting your neighborhood, we thought we would drop you a friendly line to say “hello” and introduce our church to you.  Berean Baptist Church was founded close to 65 years ago.  Our church is located across from Grandview Park on Jackson Avenue in Ogden.  We would be honored if you would visit one of our services.  Our church exists to praise and worship our great God and to show His glory to our neighbors.

We try to keep things simple in our services.  We sing Psalms and hymns, emphasize worship, and open the Bible together, desiring to receive His Word and know Him.  We visit neighborhoods throughout our area, hoping to share the gospel’s good news with our neighbors.  Maybe you have heard the gospel before now, but if you haven’t, will you please consider this message of hope?

The gospel is good news for bad people.  In fact, it is our badness that makes the gospel so good.  You may not like this way of introducing the gospel, but it makes no sense to call it “good news” if it doesn’t address something terrible.  When the Bible speaks of humanity, it doesn’t speak of us as if we were “basically good” people who are just down on our luck.  The Psalmist said that God looked down from heaven to see if there were any “good” people who understood and sought after God.  God concluded that “every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 53:3).  This is not the only place where the Bible draws this conclusion about the human race.  Consider what Paul says in Romans 1:8, for example.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

“Wrath” might seem like a harsh word.  Many believe that wrath is inappropriate for a loving God.  Yet, the Bible uses the word “wrath” several times to describe God’s response to sinful people (Matthew 3:7; Mark 3:5; Luke 3:7; John 3:36; Romans 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; I Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 3:11; Revelation 6:16-17). 

Photo by David Dibert on Pexels.com

God concluded that there was “not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).   He stresses the fact that He responds to our sin with wrath.  Rather than dispute this, we would be wise to ask why God responds to our sins this way and to see what can be done about His wrath.

God’s wrath against sin tells us that sin is not a small thing, a little mistake.  The fact that we look at it this way is part of the problem.  The wrath of God tells us that sin is horrible.  And no wonder when God has filled the earth with good things.  By our sin, we have said that what God has provided is not good or not good enough, that we can’t be satisfied with what He has given – we want what God has forbidden.  This is why all sin is an insult to God. 

We “sin” whenever we disregard God’s moral law – either by doing what it forbids or refusing to do what it requires.  Unfortunately, people often live without regard for God’s moral law.  God does not take this lightly.

Because we tend to be more concerned with pleasing self than pleasing God, and because we aren’t all that concerned about what God thinks of what we do, the Bible tells us that we are “alienated” from God – that is, we are separated from Him.  Sin causes a rift between God and us.  We desperately need to be reconciled to God.  But how can we be reconciled? 

This is where the “good news” of the gospel comes in.  Yes, God responds to our sin with wrath, but God has also provided a way for Him to appease His own wrath without pouring out that wrath on sinners.  And this is how: God sent His Son Jesus to take our sins on Himself, and the wrath of God against our sins, so that God might be just in punishing sin and at the same time justify (pardon and acquit) sinners.

This is the glory of the cross.  Because at the cross, God met sin with wrath and met men with pardon.  God poured out His wrath on Jesus instead of on us when Jesus died on the cross.  That is why Jesus died such a bloody death, why the cross included such brutality and torture.  And yet, the Bible teaches that God didn’t require Jesus to suffer in our place like some cruel sadist who can only be satisfied with a gory death.  Instead, the Bible says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” 

God sent Jesus to the cross so He could provide a way for sin to be punished and sinners to be pardoned.  God satisfied His own wrath because Jesus, who is very God of very God, died in our place. 

God makes this very simple for us.  Suppose we don’t believe in Jesus Christ: in that case, the Bible tells us that “the wrath of God abideth” on us (John 3:36).  But if we turn from our sinful life and embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Bible teaches that Christ’s death on the cross can then be applied to us, that we can be forgiven and pardoned and reconciled to God.  This is good news indeed!

If you recognize the justice in God’s wrath against your sin, you should also see how good God is to provide a way for your sins to be forgiven. 

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (I Peter 3:18)

This is the good news of the gospel.  God provided a way for sins to be forgiven through the death of Jesus Christ in your place, suffering for your sins and dying your death.

If you have read this and desire to know more about the gospel, we would love to do a Bible study with you.  Please use the contact form at our church website, www.berean-baptist-utah.com, and we will be happy to schedule a time for Bible study with you.

May you be blessed to know God through Jesus Christ!

No Shocker: the LDS Church Supports the “Respect for Marriage” Act

On October 21, 2013, Al Mohler told an audience of faculty and students at Brigham Young, “I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”  I say this was bold: the faculty and students at BYU can’t conceive of an eternity where they would be anywhere but heaven.  But mainly bold because Mohler suggested that our shared opposition to homosexuality could land us all in jail. 

At the time, Mohler saw the situation correctly.  A few years before this speech, the LDS church provoked the wrath of homosexuals everywhere by supporting California’s 2008 Prop 8 ban on same-sex mirage.  California passed the gay mirage ban, which the courts later overturned.  And all of this happened several years before the 2015 Obergefell Ruling came from the Supreme Court, making gay mirage a sanctioned event in the U.S. 

When the extent of the LDS church’s involvement in the fight for Prop 8 was made known, the rage and fury of radical homosexuals came in like a storm.  And ever since, the LDS church has been doing penance in surprising (and disappointing) ways.  The collapse has been disheartening, to say the least, and the tension among rank-and-file Mormons is palpable.

So, when the LDS church announced their support for the so-called “Respect for Marriage” Act, the shock many felt was entirely uninformed.  It should surprise nobody.  It fits with the trend in the LDS church ever since the Prop 8 battle.  Perhaps it has been a long time in the making – I don’t think so, but I can understand why some, both in the LDS church and outside of it, might have been blindsided.  But the support for this “Disrespect for Marriage” Act fits with their general personality, political posture, doctrinal commitments, and overall culture.  Allow me to explain.

Personal Reasons

The LDS church puts a very high value on “nice.” It is the one virtue that every member holds dear.  LDS church members are legitimately some of the kindest people you will ever meet.  But it would help if you understood this not so much as a product of natural disposition but as a religious commitment.  Of all the sins one might commit in Utah, being mean ranks among the highest.  In Utah culture especially, we encounter a superficial niceness that cloaks (sometimes very thinly) an inward passive-aggressiveness.  According to a recent study, Utah tops the charts for the most confrontational drivers in the nation. 

This cult of niceness explains why you will see more rainbow flags and trans flags and “hate has no home here” and “Black Lives Matter” signs in Utah than in almost any other place.  I could step out my front door in my Ogden neighborhood and see a half dozen rainbow flags.  And this is not unusual.

This religious commitment to “nice” explains why Donald Trump is so unpopular in our state – even though Donald Trump won Utah quite handily.  It explains why Utah Conservatism is so frustratingly moderate.  It explains why pro-life conservatives in our state legislature routinely vote down pro-life legislation.  The LDS believe they are better “Christians” because they support LGBTQ rights. 

This past spring, James Lindsey spoke at an event near me, and I had the privilege of meeting him courtesy of Andrew Badger, then-candidate for U.S. Congress.  Though an outsider and somewhat unfamiliar with Utah, Lindsey pegged one crucial fact.  The reason that rank-and-file Mormons are embracing Wokeness, the reason our Governor announced his preferred pronouns, has nothing to do with political agenda and everything to do with the general demeanor of the LDS church.  The LDS church doesn’t want to be divisive or combative.  On the contrary, they want to accommodate people of all faiths and all lifestyles. 

So, their support of the Defense of Marriage Act shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Political Reasons

The LDS church sees compromise as the path to protecting religious liberty.  When our Utah politicians debate the thorny cultural issues of our time, they will inevitably speak of finding a “Utah solution.”  They pride themselves in finding compromises that satisfy both parties in the culture wars. 

Thus, in 2015, our Legislature produced the famed “Utah Compromise,” which granted equal protection to the LGBTQ+ while at the same time protecting religious liberty.  It was a ground-breaking compromise and became the template for similar non-discrimination laws in other conservative states.  The Utah Compromise was brokered and endorsed by the LDS church itself, which is why the LDS church has, for at least the past seven years, actively lobbied for similar legislation at the federal level. 

Continue reading “No Shocker: the LDS Church Supports the “Respect for Marriage” Act”

To Enjoy God, We Must Know Him

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

We have been answering the question, “why don’t I enjoy God?” Many, many Christians would confess that they don’t enjoy God.  They know that they can enjoy God.  They know that they should enjoy God.  But they don’t enjoy God.

They want to enjoy Him.  They may try to enjoy Him.  But their efforts end in frustration, and soon it is back to the grindstone. I believe this is the case among believers who are faithful to their devotions.  I believe it is the case among believers who are careful in their everyday lives, who strive to honor God and do what is right.

We have observed several hindrances to our delight in the Lord.  So far, we have considered two of the most obvious – you cannot enjoy God until you are born again, and you cannot enjoy God while harboring sin.  I want to tackle yet another hindrance to enjoying God – we cannot enjoy God if we do not know Him.

In His intercessory prayer, Jesus said that knowing God the Father and God the Son “is life eternal.” That is, “eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One.” (D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, p. 556) This eternal life begins the moment we receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior.  It reaches its summit in the day when we hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”  Between the day we receive Christ and the day we see Him, we can expect to grow into that joy and delight in the Lord Jesus Christ.  But our growth as Christians, as measured by the growing delight we experience in the Lord Jesus, comes as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him. 

Continue reading “To Enjoy God, We Must Know Him”

If You Don’t Enjoy God, You May Not Be Saved

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

The question of why people don’t enjoy God gets at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. What is the good of being reconciled to God if you don’t enjoy Him? What is the good of walking with God if you dread that walk? 

When Christians think of walking with God, of experiencing Him face-to-face and spending significant time alone with Him, far too many feel a paralyzing dread, a choking fear, a painful desire to run and hide from the presence of God.

In our most recent post on this topic, we showed you that the biggest hindrance to our enjoyment of God is our sin.  We must add an element to that.  If sin prevents us from enjoying God, then we can’t enjoy Him until we have been born again.

Our text describes the condition of the unsaved man as “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart…” Unregenerate man is alienated from God. Such a person can strive to overcome sin all he wants.  He can feel a strong sense of remorse and a strong desire to change his ways because of his sin.  He may even be able to overcome some isolated sins. But he cannot overcome that alienation from God, no matter how much he might “turn over a new leaf” in his life, or how much he tries to reform himself.  So long as a person continues in a state of alienation from God, his sin will stand as a barrier between himself and God.  If he were to attack that barrier with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, he would find that the sins would pile higher even as he carted off loads of former sins. 

There are cases when a Christian will say, “I don’t enjoy God, I never have enjoyed God, I don’t even know what it would be like to enjoy God, and I don’t even know if I want to.”  There could be a variety of causes for this, but before we consider anything else, we ought to consider this, that you are still in your sins.  Paul describes the condition of every person apart from a supernatural work of grace…

Continue reading “If You Don’t Enjoy God, You May Not Be Saved”

Sin Keeps Us from Enjoying God

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:7-10)

Far too often, Christians do not enjoy God.  They believe in the Lord.  They are active in church.  In many cases, their life revolves around church.  But they do not enjoy God.  For too many Christians, the life of faith is cloudy and dismal, the duties are heavy and the rewards are light, and the Christian walk is more burden than blessing. We are afraid of God, afraid of messing up, afraid that we are a disappointment to God. We go through the motions of the Christian life. We approach our calling in Christ as if it were a job chart with no reward other than the fire escape at the end. Too many Christians have lost their joy in believing.

In order to understand this dynamic in the Christian life, I want to invite you back to the time in the history of the world when mankind first lost their joy in their walk with God. 

Continue reading “Sin Keeps Us from Enjoying God”

Four Ways to Enjoy God

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

The most important – and often the most neglected – emphasis of the Christian life is to enjoy God.  The ancients developed what has become a staple of practical Christianity:

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

To glorify God and to enjoy Him… But how many Christians ever think about enjoying God?  To many, the Christian life is all duty and discipline and doing.  We make sure we read our Bible every day.  But we don’t have time (or perhaps, we don’t take time) to enjoy God in what we read.

In a previous post, I pointed out that we relate to God the way one person relates to another – understanding, of course, that God as a Person is on an entirely different level than we are.  Still, it is possible for us to enjoy Him on a personal level because God is a Person.  If we would enjoy God, we must enjoy Him the way one person enjoys another.  That requires attentiveness and affection in our interaction with God.

God made us to enjoy Him.  Certainly then, He wants us to enjoy Him.  That is good, because it would be impossible for us as finite men to enjoy an infinite God otherwise.  God has made it possible for us to relate to Him and to be delighted by Him. 

We love him, because he first loved us. (I John 4:19)

In this, the initiative is not ours, but God’s.  Delight is our right response to God’s loving overtures.  God delights in us, and that is why we can delight in Him.  In fact, the Bible says more about God seeking us and desiring us than it does about us seeking God and desiring Him.  The entire gospel story is the story of God seeking His lost creation in order to restore us to fellowship with Himself.  The groundwork for fellowship with God is laid in Jesus Christ, and through His saving work on the cross it is possible for us to enjoy that fellowship.

I want to make four quick points from Psalm 27:4 that will show us how to enjoy God.

Continue reading “Four Ways to Enjoy God”

What It Means to Enjoy God – And Why We Don’t Enjoy Him

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

If I were to describe what I see as the biggest struggle believers have in their Christian walk, near the top would be the struggle to enjoy God. 

This is certainly not our only struggle.  Christians struggle with many things – some common to us all, some unique to the individual.  We struggle with certain besetting sins.  We struggle to rest in the Lord. We struggle to live according to the instructions of God’s Word.  And we could list many other struggles.  But I see this one struggle as perhaps bigger than all the others – the struggle to enjoy God.  Christians may ask, why don’t I enjoy God? 

While many factors may explain why we don’t enjoy Him, our failure to enjoy God cripples our walk with Him. Too many Christians feel this dread of God that goes beyond the “fear of the Lord” taught in Scripture.  In our approach to God, we are plagued with doubts and fears.  Will he accept me?  Is He angry with me?  Some may even wonder, does God really love me? Does He love me as much as He loves someone else?  We know that God loves the world, but in a practical sense, we worry that God overlooks me, that He is displeased with me and disappointed with me.

Where do we begin to overcome our own doubts and fears?  We read our Bibles; we pray.  But for too many Christians, we don’t know how to walk with God beyond that.  To add to our dilemma, personal devotions can have a way of choking the life out of us, especially when they become a task on the to-do list.

More than a few Christians, if they could be completely honest, would say, “I really don’t enjoy God.”  Some don’t enjoy God and don’t want to.  They are angry with God or (more commonly) indifferent towards Him. 

Others don’t enjoy God but want to.  They might not know how to enjoy Him. Maybe they know how to enjoy Him but feel that they are currently hindered from enjoying Him. No doubt some are frustrated that they don’t enjoy Him, or that they don’t enjoy Him the way they once did, or the way they want to. And some Christians enjoy God just about every day. 

I do not write this as one who fits in that last category; I write as one who has had my own share of struggles with this.  In part, my own experience has motivated this topic: I haven’t always found this easy.  I wish it were.  I think it should be.  I wish I could lay aside my sinful nature and win this victory once for all.  But so long as I continue in my sinful flesh, I believe that I will struggle with it.

Continue reading “What It Means to Enjoy God – And Why We Don’t Enjoy Him”

Why It Stinks to Be an Atheist

A man recently told me that what he dislikes about religion is all the absolutes.  “There are no absolutes; that’s just a fact.” 

I try to tamp down the baffled look on my face.  But I wonder what would happen if he ever listened to the sound it makes when his lung-air strums his vocal chords.  One atheist described laughter as diaphragm spasms.  Apparently, our brain sparks occasionally produce an arch, resulting in what some might describe as “rational thought,” though the ration is illusory and ultimately meaningless.  If you know what I mean.

Welcome to the hollow world of atheist thought.  Not that I question an atheist’s ability to be rational.  They manage quite well in certain areas.  I have even had conversations with atheists which they insisted were meaningful and coherent.  I don’t dispute it.  I just want to know how they explain it. 

Because if, as the atheist claims, all the world is a product of impersonal forces – the collision of matter and energy – or perhaps, lightning striking mud, then what we really have going on is this gigantic chemical reaction which members of the press somberly describe as “breaking news.”  Sometimes the chemicals fizz; sometimes they pop; sometimes they experience diaphragm spasms; sometimes they debate.  But the chemical activity from one beaker to the next really doesn’t matter because it isn’t really anything anyway.  Some brains spark rationally, and some quite irrationally, and that is what chemicals do given certain temperatures and atmospheric pressures. 

Continue reading “Why It Stinks to Be an Atheist”

The Mormon Hope Podcast

A few weeks ago, Pastor Brandon Vaughn from Grace Baptist Church in Logan approached me about doing a podcast with him. His goal is to provide helpful materials to our LDS neighbors as well as apologetic information for our fellow believers who desire to evangelize their neighbors.

The Vaughn Family from Southern Logan

We get off to a rocking start (think rocking chairs) in this first episode. He does all the setup, editing, posting, and promotion, and I provide that wonderful voice of mine along with a few donated brain cells per session. Let me encourage you to listen to this when you have a chance. If you can’t sleep at night, go ahead and turn on our podcast – it is sure to make you sleep more soundly. I intend to share the weekly episodes on Facebook, so I probably won’t write about it much on my blog.

The leash is NOT for my wife

The first episode is available here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1645945

You can subscribe, according to buzzsprout, by copying and pasting the URL from the address bar (provided here) into the podcast app of your choice. https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1645945.rss

I’d offer more helpful advice, but I’m plumb out…

The Gospel Cure to Racial Hurt

In the Beginning

Racial hostility didn’t begin in 1619, nor does America own the patent on it.  Many long centuries before the founding of America, sin plunged the world into a pandemic of racial and ethnic hurt.  In Genesis 10, God called the nations of the world to scatter, subduing the earth.  In Genesis 11, mankind united against God under the leadership of Nimrod and built the Tower of Babel, “lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”  At the Tower of Babel, we find the launch pad of racism. 

Genesis 11:1 tells us that “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech” – humanity united against their Creator God. God sent them to subdue the earth, but mankind refused to be scattered. They could not forget the absolute destruction caused by the flood, and they refused to believe God’s promise, symbolized in the rainbow, that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. Rather than rest in His promise, men united to protect themselves and their offspring from such a tyrant God. They built a tower to the heavens in the vain delusion that if God again sent a flood, they would be able to escape it. As Matthew Henry explains,

God had told them indeed that he would not again drown the world; but they would trust to a tower of their own making, rather than to a promise of God’s making or an ark of his appointing.

Ethnic hostility is rooted in sinful man’s antagonism towards a holy God. When the nations refused to spread throughout the earth and subdue it for God’s glory, God introduced disunity between the different families of the earth:

Continue reading “The Gospel Cure to Racial Hurt”