Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA

Celebrating Christmas

by admin ~ December 28th, 2019

The celebration of Christmas doesn’t need to be preserved, because it isn’t required by scripture. We’ve got to believe in Christ and we’ve got to believe in His birth and celebrate His incarnation, but we don’t have to celebrate the holiday. The holiday can much more easily be crafted into something humanistic and worldly, conformable to lust, and it is, as anyone who reads this knows. This bleeds over into a profanity of Jesus Himself through the commercialization and sentimentality. How much separation is required to preserve the necessary one, Jesus Himself and the worship of Him, from the unnecessary one, the season or holiday? I’m writing to say that it should be considered. Something positive can be done to start. Put positive effort into filling your life up with Jesus Christ in all the ways that can be done, pushing out the negative or at least distraction. Whenever the biblical can take the forefront, choose for that to occur. Read scripture, pray, talk about Jesus to others, and leave out some of the vain pursuits. They might “make you happy,” but they are not the fuel for joy, the deep seated satisfaction that comes from God Himself. Being in church on Sunday and mid-week is one of them. Meditate on how your next year could result in greater work for God and personal Christian growth. With freer time, someone could do something for the Lord as an act of worship, giving to Him. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus. They treated Him like royalty, bowing to Him as Lord.

When Someone Likes Christmas

by admin ~ December 21st, 2019

There is a tradition for Christians to celebrate Christmas. It’s not a difficult thing to do, because almost everyone likes Christmas. The world even likes Christmas. It’s like an ink blot of a rorschach test, where you can turn Christmas into almost anything that you want. Almost no one will be surprised to find out you like Christmas and do things for it. Talking about Christmas is not the same thing as talking about Jesus in the way a Christian should. It could be, but very often it isn’t. Young people still will often say, they just love Christmas. They love the decorations, the music, the opening of the gifts. Do they love Jesus Himself? I would say in many cases, not so much. They don’t evangelize a single soul. They don’t exegete the real Christmas story to anyone, exalting in the salvation aspects of the story. So I’m asking and challenging, do you really care about Christ as Christmas? Does Christ mean something to you? What would Jesus have you do in honor of His birth? These are the common or normal acts of obedience that Jesus would want from you. These are the gifts to bring to Him. A believer in Jesus Christ would obey scripture: forgiveness, acts of love to others, hospitality, compassion, evangelism, praise, and prayer. Perhaps you could practice reconciliation with someone because Jesus was born to reconcile us to God. The elevation of love for and obedience to Christ is to put the Christ of Christmas in His proper perspective. What does Christmas mean if it doesn’t mean this?

The Liberty for Christmas

by admin ~ December 14th, 2019

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:5-6, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” These two verses relate to something Paul said previously in the chapter in verse 1: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” Certain issues are doubtful. Scripture doesn’t say they are wrong and doesn’t say they are right. Scripture is silent. Perhaps scriptural principles apply, but it is doubtful. Nothing is plain enough to make a clear application. Romans 14:5-6 talk about the celebration of days being one of these issues of doubtful disputation. Christmas is a celebration of days, esteeming a particular day above another. The purpose is to celebrate Christ’s birth, when we don’t know what the day is that Jesus was born. The bigger principle according to scripture is not having division in the church over something that is a non-scriptural issue. It’s permissible to celebrate Christ’s birth. We don’t know what the day is, but it’s even a good thing to celebrate it. Jesus’ birth is a definite teaching of scripture. It is something to be thankful for and to praise God for. Mary herself does this in Luke 1:46-55 in scripture. We would be following a scriptural example. It’s not just that, but the doctrine of the incarnation of God, that fulfills prophecy and brings salvation to mankind.

Elements and Circumstances of Worship

by admin ~ December 7th, 2019

The history of worship according to the New Testament in the church involves elements of worship and circumstances of worship. These two relate to what has been called the Regulative Principle of Worship, which in the Westminster Confession of Faith reads: “The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.” The elements of worship are the “what” of worship – the parts that are fixed according to Scripture. The New Testament shows the elements that are permitted and commanded by Scripture. The circumstances are the “how” of worship, the best way to worship God within the structure provided by the elements. They are not directly prescribed in scripture, so there is freedom within them according to circumstances. Like every other area of life, this freedom must be exercised cautiously and in a way consistent with scripture. Elements of worship are such as prayer, singing, offering, as we have listed in our bulletin. A circumstance is a choice between passing the plate or a box.

Good, but Less than the Gospel

by admin ~ November 23rd, 2019

When I explain the gospel, and as I teach it to our church, I start with ‘we’re all sinners, none of are good, we deserve a penalty, so we deserve Hell.’ That’s very unpopular, not the most unpopular but perhaps second or third most of what I say. After I’m done with that, I say, “Christ died for us.” I ask, “Do you believe Christ died for you?” Almost everyone believes in that already. I ask, but people immediately say, yes, no argument almost ever. Am I done then? Is that all necessary? Some treat the gospel like it ends there, “Christ died for us, died for you.” It’s necessary. They need to know that and believe it. Even if they say they believe it, it doesn’t mean they do, because they might still believe salvation also comes by means of good works, and it doesn’t. At one of his “Sunday services” that are making the news, covered by the media, Kanye West, who professes to have just been saved, says that salvation is as simple as “Christ died for us.” He says that there is too much made of the Roman Catholics and what they do, of the Mormons and their extra books, when it’s just as simple as Christ died for us. Is that true? Many, many think that. It’s not enough to believe Christ died for us. He died for us, and that needs to be believed, but it isn’t even the main thing. As John said, believe that Jesus is the Christ. The Christ is more at the center of the message, which “Savior” is a subset. He isn’t the Christ, if He isn’t the Savior, but it also means He is God, the Second Person in the Trinity, and Lord.

Sanctify

by admin ~ November 16th, 2019

The first time “sanctify” occurs in scripture is in Genesis 2:3, which says, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” It is also the first time the Hebrew word that translates “sanctified” occurs. You can read that God sanctifies the seventh day. This means God sets it apart. He makes a unique day, unlike other days. It isn’t a common day, because God sanctified it. Just because God sets it apart, it is set apart, very much like when He created light. He says, let there be light, and there is light. In the beginning, God set apart this special day. He wanted it to be separate. How does a day separate? It is treated separately, which is a physical treatment, what is done with it. It is separate in imagination, thought about differently, in a serious way. It is used different, unique activities, some that would be ordinarily done then not to be done. All of it is about God. You’ve got six days, which can be used for deeds and reasons that are more common. You can work and you can enjoy. Time needs to be designated for remembering, meditating, adoring, praising, exalting God, the things of God. God deserves the entire week. He deserves everything. But He has given us things. He says, set apart some of it as the point that it does all belong to Me. And then the rest of scripture goes on to talk about the doctrine of sanctification. God our Creator and our Savior wants this practice of setting apart. Let’s do that.

Sin of Sodom

by admin ~ November 2nd, 2019

If someone asked you what was the reason for God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, most people would say, “Homosexuality,” where the term Sodomy came from. Ezekiel 16:49 explains, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” The iniquity of Sodom was “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness.” One could even trace that to the problem of Lot, who pitched his tent toward Sodom, and it destroyed his family. Homosexuality isn’t in the explanation God gives. Perhaps Ezekiel provides the root, idleness, to the fruit, homosexuality. I want to talk about idleness. I don’t think it’s just laying around and not doing anything, a kind of couch potato. It could be that. However, idleness can be a lack of involvement in Christian work, where a single, couple, or whole family moves from one vacation or recreation type of activity to the next, but doesn’t have time to do work for the Lord. Opportunity to serve God in the church comes up, and it’s a no. Opportunity for recreation or fun and it’s a “yes.” The work for the Lord seems like a “stress,” to be avoided, but never the fun time, hours spent doing that. This is the idleness that can produce the desire for worldly things that turns people away from the Lord. God uses those already participating and He will use those more if they remain available to be used, even though they’re already busy.

Know

by admin ~ October 26th, 2019

The word “know” and all its forms occur 1,500 or so times in the Bible. “Know” assumes reality. In the Sermon the Mount, Jesus in Matthew 6:3 says, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” Of all that someone can see in this verse is the rudimentary idea that the left hand could know what the right hand does. He is instructing the left hand not to know, because it can know. With the understanding of “know” is certainty. The Bible assumes we can or do know things. In the same sermon, Jesus said in Matthew 7:11, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Jesus says that even evil people know something. They know how to give good gifts to their children. A few verses later, Jesus says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” So what is it? Can we know or can we not know? Jesus said, Ye shall know.” Bible believers should assume knowledge. Much of what the Bible says we can know, the world denies. Now even Christians deny knowledge. It is very much like a child who doesn’t do what he is supposed to do. He says, he doesn’t know, if he doesn’t want to be accountable for not doing what he should have done or what he was told to do. If no one can know, then no one is responsible; hence, everyone is free to do what he wants. A foundational truth of the Bible is that God created man to know. He can. Scripture says so.

Taking Strength from Doctrine of Scripture

by admin ~ October 19th, 2019

I take strength from certain doctrines of scripture about our church, which all relate to God. When Jesus said, “my church” in Matthew 16:18, He was saying, “His assembly” (church translates ekklesia, which means, “assembly”). At that point, there was just one in number. However, there is just one, His church, as opposed to anything else. It must be His church, that is, it must follow Jesus Christ, must have Him as its Head. He says, “the gate of hell shall not prevail against it.” As long as it is His church, the gates of he will not prevail against it.” If we are His church, then nothing can stop our church, except for what would contribute towards us not being His church. That brings me to other theological truths, that also relate to Matthew 16:18-19. When Jesus said that “upon this rock I will build my church,” the grammar speaks of Peter’s confession in the previous verses. He confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus confirms that flesh and blood didn’t reveal that, but Heaven did. Peter was genuinely saved with a true Christian profession that was from above. A church that is built upon a true gospel won’t be moved off of its mooring, set adrift toward destruction. The people of that assembly have God Himself indwelling them, so they will characteristically do what is right, which John addresses all through his gospel and through his first epistle. Peter speaks of the truly saved person, adding to His faith. These traits bring me strength and comfort.

What You Don’t Know, Let Go

by admin ~ October 11th, 2019

If you don’t know, then let it go. Scripture is plain. It is not intended to be mysterious. There are mysteries, but what scripture says is not a mystery, which is why Paul said, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). A child knows the holy scriptures, which are the Old Testament, and include Leviticus. He can know. Scripture was gives to us to know and to keep, so it must be understood. When you go to judge, be sure of what you are judging. Don’t assume. The point for judging anyway is to help, not condemn. It’s not to “catch” someone having done something wrong. If there is something wrong, and you know it, can attach scripture to it, then the point is to help the person, like Galatians says, restore and bear burdens. When that occurs, usually the approach is entreaty, and required with an older person. If a person won’t listen, then he might become an unruly person, and he must be warned. Warning sometimes must occur, but even that is so that someone won’t be hurt or worse, destroyed, by whatever it is. He may not react in the right way and the situation could change. Furthermore, remove the beam from the eye, like Jesus required in Matthew 7. This is why Paul in Galatians writes, “he that is a spiritual,” as a prerequisite. What is the point if there is nothing wrong? It’s not good. This is where Paul’s teaching on forbearance, forgiveness, not wrath or malice.