Do You Know What You’re Reading?

It’s important for Christians to know what they are reading when they pick up an English translation of the Bible. There are so many to choose from that most Christians don’t even know the difference between many of the translations. It is easy to feel confused when the preacher is reading from the NKJV but the Bible in the hands of one of the congregants is holding an NIV Bible trying to follow along, or when someone reads from The Message and the hearer will find it rather difficult to find the same passage in an ESV translation.

Here is a quick breakdown of the 3 major categories of English translations of the Bible:

  1. Paraphrase translations

Paraphrase translations are typically one or a few people’s personal commentary and summary of larger sections of Scripture. It is important to know that when reading a paraphrase translation, you are not reading the Bible. Instead, you are reading someone’s personal understanding of the Bible passage. Paraphrase translations are vastly different from word-for-word translations and phrase-for-phrase translations in that they are not comprised of translation teams that are necessarily dedicated to the translation of the original languages, but are essentially the “translator’s” opinion based on another English translation of the Bible (usually a word-for-word or phrase-for-phrase translation).

A paraphrase translation of the Bible is really what every Christian should be attempting to do in their own mind when they study Scripture. They should be studying the Scriptures in such a way that they are able to paraphrase what they are reading. It is often said, a person can know when they have truly learned something when they are able to explain it successfully to someone else.

In my opinion, paraphrase translations shouldn’t even be considered translations, they should simply be called commentaries. Paraphrase translations are not inherently wrong to read, but when a person picks up The Message or The Passion Translation (or any other  paraphrase translation) they need to know ahead of time that they are not reading The Bible, but someone’s own interpretation of it.

Below is a helpful article of an interview with Dr. John Piper regarding his feelings about paraphrase translations.

What Do You Think About Paraphrased Bible Translations? | Desiring God

About the Lead Translator – The Passion Translation

  • Phrase-for-phrase translations

Translation Philosophy – NIV Bible (thenivbible.com)

NIrV Translators – NIV Bible (thenivbible.com)

Phrase-for-phrase translations attempt to assist the reader in understanding God’s Word by translating portions of the Scriptures one phrase at a time. Although this can be very helpful in understanding the meaning of the text, it is limited in its nature by leaving out possible key words and nuances that would otherwise appear in its original language or in a word-for-word translation. By far, the most popular translation in this category is the NIV translation.

  • Word-for-word

Translation Philosophy | ESV.org

Oversight Committee | ESV.org

Review Scholars | ESV.org

NASB Bible Info – Lockman Foundation

Aside from being fluent in koine Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic; word-for-word translations are the best translations of the Bible to read and study. Take a look at the differences between the translation philosophies and translating teams of the word-for-word translations compared to the phrase-for-phrase or even paraphrase translations. You will see that as you progress from one end of the spectrum to the other that the teams become larger, more qualified, with more accountability to ensure they are doing their absolute best to translate the original languages to modern-day languages.

I would recommend that every Christian commit to word-for-word translations (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV) for their regular Bible-study. Everything else can be used as supplementary resources for helping one understand the Bible (including paraphrase translations), but I firmly believe Christians will ultimate benefit the most from 1) the regular study of a word-for-word translation, 2) a community of believers to study the Word with and hold them accountable, and 3) commitment to a local-biblically sound church.

I hope this is helpful for you the next time you pick up your Bible to read God’s Word to be reaffirmed of your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and grow in His wisdom and direction for your life!

Pastor Corwin

Why Christians Can be Confident in Bringing Children into this Sinful and Broken World.

One of the most common deciding factors for couples trying to decide when it is the right time to have children is the current state of the world they live in. I have heard many couples and individuals speak about their hesitancy about having children of their own for concern that they would be doing those children a disservice by bringing them into a negative environment.

Sinful Patterns Can be Broken

When it comes to having and raising children, Christian parents should have the most confidence than anyone else in the world about bringing new life into our broken and sinful societies. The role of parents in their children’s lives can be seen well in the second commandment (of the 10 commandments) regarding the forbidding of idols when God makes the statement,

“I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands (of generations) to those who love me and keep my commandments.”

In this statement, God promises to visit the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation in the sense that when generations copy the sins that were modeled before them, those younger generations will suffer the same fate as those who were disobedient before them. God does not punish future generations for the sins of past generations, but He is a just Judge who judges righteously. However, God makes another promise that He will show His steadfast love towards the thousands of generations who love Him and keep His commands. In other words, in the same way that children will be punished for copying the sins of their fathers, children (to the thousandth generation) are promised God’s steadfast love when they follow in the footsteps of righteousness that should have been taught and modeled for them by their parents. The emphasis here are the “thousands” versus the third and fourth where God’s love is magnified above His justice. God will never tire of rewarding righteousness and those who love Him!

The hope this passage gives Christians is that cycles of sin can be broken through the obedience of parents teaching their children God’s Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every parent has the opportunity to choose what they will emphasize in their children’s lives, and parents who choose to emphasize the importance of knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will have the best chance of turning sinful cycles around that may have existed for several generations in their family. If someone is afraid of having children of their own due to addictions, abuse, neglect, or childhood trauma; they can be confident that their faith in Christ is enough to guide them in all righteousness when it comes to raising children of their own.

A Generation that Remembers

Another key passage that gives Christians confidence is Jeremiah 29:6;

“Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters, and multiply there and do not decrease”

In this passage God is speaking through the prophet Jeremiah after a false prophet (Hananiah) told the exiles of Jerusalem (who are now slaves in Babylon) that God would free them from captivity in two years. God’s message through Jeremiah was that they would, in fact, remain in exile for seventy years!

It would have made sense to the exiles to hold off from having children and establishing lives in Babylon if they knew they would be moving again in just two years. However, since God’s plan for them was to remain in exile for seventy years, He commanded them to get established (build homes and plant gardens) and have children so that they would not decrease. This becomes particularly significant when the exiles return to their land 70 years later and the current generation speaks about remembering the sins of their fathers and how they must turn from them and live obediently to God (Nehemiah 9:29-30). If the Israelites in exile were not faithful in having children, then how would there be a remnant of God’s people who could remember the sins of their past generations so that they can break the cycle of disobedience in order to bless future generations?

We see here that even during the most difficult times of oppression, there are still good reasons for God’s people (Christians) to have children. When we can be mindful of future generations, and not just our own, we can be confident that God can bless our children by allowing them to learn from our mistakes and go on to bless the next generation by leading them to a healthy fear and love of God which leads to a faith in Jesus Christ and eternal life.

Preserving What is Good

One last reason I will share why Christians can be confident to bring children into this sinful and broken world, is a New Testament example of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:13;

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men”

Jesus calls His disciples the “salt of the earth”. As salt was used primarily more as a preservative than for taste in the first century and Ancient Near East, I believe Jesus was bringing to mind the fact that salt was preserving something that was in a slow-constant state of decay (usually used for meat). The fact that the meat was constantly decaying and it was only a matter of time before it wasn’t good to eat anymore, the salt that would have been packed around the meat to preserve it would be the only thing keeping the meat from going completely bad.

Those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are to the earth as salt was to meat. Those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God and admit that they are utterly spiritually bankrupt without God’s intervention, are the presence left in this sinful and broken world that keeps it from being completely depraved and hopeless. The fact that the Spirit of God and Christ dwell in His people here on earth, is the only real goodness that exists. The only goodness that Christians can claim to have has been given to them in the form of God’s Spirit which dwells in them and empowers them to do the works of God in their lives.

If Christians truly want to save the world and change it for the better, one of the best chances they have is to have children of their own. God has placed parents in a god-like authority over their children. Who has more influence over the life of their child than their parent? I believe God created the family unit to be the most influential realm of our societies for good reason. If Christian parents are diligent in teaching their children about God and Christ and His saving message, then there is a good chance that the world as a whole would be directly impacted from Christians all around the world raising up a new generation of God-loving, God-fearing people.

If you are someone who knows that you eventually want to have children but are just concerned about bringing a baby into this sinful and broken world; my encouragement to you is to NOT WAIT (assuming it would be in the context of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman), because this world desperately needs more salt!

5 Tips for Family Worship & Devotions

If you are not already in the habit of regularly devoting time to some form of family worship/devotions, the thought of trying to establish something new in your household rhythms can be overwhelming to the point where you don’t even try anything. Whether you are married without kids, married with kids, or a single parent with kids, family worship and devotions can be done effectively many ways. What I am sharing with you is simply what my wife and I have done and tried in our own household, and not without some trial and error of course! The bottom line is this: How are you, as a Christian-parent, establishing the Word of God as a priority in your household?

Here are just a few tips to help you start or enhance your family worship and devotions at home:

1. Buying Family Bibles that are all the same word-for-word translation (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV)

Bibles can be expensive, and Bibles can be cheap. Our children’s ages are currently 9, 7, 6, and 3. The older three can read (at various levels), and they enjoy bedtime readings as a family. After struggling through times of reading from the Bible that was in my hands and having my kids either sit and listen or try to look over my shoulder and follow along, we finally ordered enough paperback Bibles for the whole family (each Bible only cost us $2 each on Amazon) to use for the purpose of everyone being able to follow along together. This has greatly improved the kid’s ability to participate in the readings, and has also increased their desire to want to take turns reading aloud!

If all your kids are older, or if it is you and your spouse, then it might also be beneficial for people to be reading from various reliable translations for the purpose of being aware how the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic) might be translated into English. This often is a good motivator for a deeper study into the English translations of the Bible.

2. Charles Spurgeon Morning and Evening Devotional

This devotional has been such an easy way for our family to hear the Gospel preached from various Bible passages. It has readings for every morning and evening for an entire year, and offers an exposition of a single Bible verse, where Spurgeon explains and teaches on that verse within its greater context of where it is located in the Bible.

It may require a little explaining to the children, but it is a great launching point for Gospel conversations around the table and practical applications of the Christian faith.

3. Kid’s Devotionals

I am generally very weary of devotionals that target younger audiences. They very rarely preach the Gospel, and often over-emphasize a behavioral-focused relationship with God instead of one based on faith in Christ and Christ crucified. However, kid’s devotionals can be a great way to get children introduced to a lot of Bible passages because they are often linked together with engaging illustrations, stories, fun facts, and activities.

I strongly encourage parents to have Bibles handy when reading through kid’s devotional books. There have been many times when I have had to inform the kids of the sad reality of how many of their devotions use the Scriptures out of context or use some obscure Bible translation that is nowhere close to any word-for-word translation, thus giving a misleading understanding of the passage.

I am not completely opposed to kid’s devotionals, but I can see the value in them as a brief introductory tool to getting kids familiar with the Bible. Parents, if you are reading the Word in your own personal time on a regular basis as well as participating in your local church’s teachings and studies, chances are that you will be able to provide a better “kid’s devotional” for your own children who you know better than anyone else and are aware of their present needs and concerns.

4. Catechisms

Catechisms are a terrific way to learn Biblical answers to the most foundational questions of the Christian faith. There are several reliable catechisms to choose from. One of my favorites is the Westminister Larger Catechism (1648), which is time tested and historically proven. Another one that our family has used is the New City Catechism. This is the shortest of catechisms (52 questions) that I am aware of but does a good job of covering the major topics.

Charles Spurgeon had this to say about catechisms:

I am persuaded that the use of a good catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times. Those who use it in their families or classes must labor to explain the sense; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as years pass.”

Catechisms are another resource that can easily be read and discussed at family mealtimes or devotional times in the morning or at bedtimes. They are formed in a way where the hearers are supposed to memorize the answers to be able to recite (or echo = catechism) them after the question is asked. Just as Spurgeon said, children will likely not fully understand what they are reciting or memorizing, but it is the parent’s job to help them grow in their understanding of them.

5. Watching Christian movies/tv shows together

Our children have enjoyed a wide range of Christian movies and television. Some are very poor theologically, some are very rich theologically, some are merely retelling of well-known Bible stories without any teaching of the text, and sometimes our children watch church services that are online from other churches and preachers we trust and enjoy.

Our oldest son, Elijah, was hooked on Greg Laurie from a young age (4 years old), and after watching one of his sermons when he was 6 years old, he sent an email to Greg Laurie’s ministry because he wanted to receive one of their free Bibles. Elijah still has the letter he got in the mail that was “from” Pastor Greg. Christian media, like kid’s devotionals, require a lot of discernment by its users. We have exposed our children to a variety of Christian media. Some of them have required us to inform our children of poor usages of the Bible and its teachings, and others we have had to help our children understand their meaning. Nonetheless, Parents have a wide variety of wonderful resources out there at their disposal to use for family worship and devotions. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Youtube: Bible Project, Beginner’s Bible, Group VBS, Lifeway VBS, Lifeway Kids, Samaritan’s Purse, Voice of the Martyrs
  • Rightnow Media
  • The Chosen tv show
  • PureFlix

Final Tips

Whatever you choose to do with your household to prioritize your faith at home, do not become legalistic or prideful in anything that you do or try. It can be very easy to want to hold to a very rigid schedule that can be burdensome or even impossible at times. Also, it can be just as easy to become prideful when new and healthy habits are established in the home and the temptation comes to want to compare what your household is doing to what others are not doing. Remember to be an encouragement to others, not a standard.

Also, remember that family devotions do not save your children or household, only God’s power through the Gospel can soften a person’s heart to be made new by Him. Do not use family devotions and worship to become a way of saving your household. Rather, let them be a way for your household to see just how much you love this God who saved you from your sins, and how much you want them to love Him the same way.

I hope this helps you fulfill Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6:1-4, Ephesians 5:25-26, and 1 Timothy 3:4-5.

May God’s grace, mercy, and peace be upon you in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Corwin

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

I know this title isn’t the cheeriest or encouraging, but I assure you that the overall message is one of great hope for all mankind. The phrase “the soul who sins shall die” comes from Ezekiel 18:4, when God is giving the prophet Ezekiel the words to say to Israel concerning their sins. You see, Israel was filled with people who felt God was being unfair to them in their captivity to the Babylonians, because they claimed that they were being unfairly punished for the sins committed by the previous generations.

God assures them in Ezekiel 18 that only “the soul who sins shall die”. In other words, God’s judgment is always fair and just. He will not hold others accountable for someone else’s sin. Each person will be rightly judged by their righteous and unrighteous deeds.

As God says “the soul who sins shall die”, He also tells us in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The hard truth is that we all deserve God’s righteous judgment and punishment for the sins we have committed. God does not excuse any sinful behavior, even when our sinful behavior was modeled for us by someone else (Ezekiel 18:14-18). Another important aspect of God’s righteous judgment highlighted in Ezekiel 18 is that we cannot count on previous righteous deeds to atone for future unrighteous deeds (Ezekiel 18:24).

My favorite part of God’s righteous judgment is found in Ezekiel 18:21

“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live.”

When Jesus Christ died on the cross as the Lamb of God and rose from the dead on the third day, He effectively became the righteousness that saves us from all our unrighteousness by becoming sin on our behalf so that we would be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21) Therefore, God dealt justly with sinners who are saved by their faith in Christ by pouring out His wrath on the sacrificial Lamb of God, whose blood was spilled for the forgiveness of sins.

Regardless of what kind of situation or life you were born into, no matter how horrid or godless your upbringing, you are given the opportunity to have all your unrighteousness forgiven by placing your faith and trust upon the Righteous One who came to save sinners such as you and me.

Just as “the soul who sins shall die”, the “soul who sins but places their trust in Jesus will live!”

The American culture is constantly seeking ways to ensure that those born into the most unfortunate circumstances will still have the opportunities to be among the most successful. America will always fall far short of having such a utopia, but I believe what they seek after is a shadow of what Christ provides for all people. Outside of faith in Christ, there is no better example of how even the most troubled soul, the severely abused, those who had the vilest upbringing, can experience the pinnacle of success and opportunity. All those who place their faith in Jesus shall become a son or daughter of the King of Heaven and will inherit the promise of eternal royalty in the kingdom of heaven.

I pray that if you are not already a son or daughter of the King of Heaven, that this is your moment of salvation, now and forever!

I will end this with the final words of Ezekiel 18, “For I (God) have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, so repent and live!”

We Are Not Far From Ephesus

18 “What profit is an idol
    when its maker has shaped it,
    a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation
    when he makes speechless idols!
19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
    to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
    and there is no breath at all in it. – Habakkuk 2:18-19

Ephesus was a city known for its worship of many Greek gods and goddesses. In fact, the Temple of Artemis (the ruins are still there today!) is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. When Paul preached the Gospel there and the people received the Holy Spirit and were baptized, it was an immediate threat to the idol/god-makers because the worship of an invisible God was going to put them out of business! In Acts 19, we read of Demetrius, who made silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, rallied together all the other god-makers, and convinced them that they needed to stop Paul and the “The Way” so that their businesses would not be jeopardized, and that Artemis would not be regarded as worthless.

God spoke through the prophet Habakkuk regarding the punishment of Judah for their constant involvement with false gods and idol worship. Israel and Judah had access to the One and only Living God, yet they had become easily distracted by the deception of gods that were made by the hands of other men.

The Greeks in Ephesus were deceived into believing that their handmade gods possessed real-supernatural powers. The Israelites were saved from Egypt, who also thought that their handmade gods possessed supernatural powers. When the Israelites were brought out of slavery to Egypt, God’s first command to them was “you shall not have any other gods before Me”.

As Christians, we were all brought out of slaver to our sin, which also involved the worship of false gods and idols. We are not all that far from Ephesus today! All around us are handmade gods and idols that beg for our attention and loyalty. I am reminded from an episode of the show The Simpsons, where the characters on billboards and store advertisement signs came alive due to the amount of attention people were giving to them. What was the secret to defeating them? Simply looking away. In this episode, all these inanimate objects immediately fell down lifeless as soon as people stopped paying attention to them.

I think this is a great illustration of the power (and the lack of power) that false gods and idols can have in our lives, all depending upon how much power we give them through our attention and loyalty.

Those who have been renewed by the power of Christ by faith in Him have literally turned their loyalty and attention away from all the lifeless gods and idols that we used to depend on as a source of live-giving spirit and fulfillment.

Money, TV, video games, hobbies, life experiences, alcohol, drugs, occupations, and food are all examples of creations of this world that are lifeless in and of themselves, but their value to us is fully dependent upon whatever value we are willing to give them.

God, the Creator of all things, is different. His value is not dependent upon us or how many people worship Him. No matter what, God is worthy of our worship! Those who deny that fact (thus denying Him) will come to realize their fatal error on the day they are judged for their sins and unrighteousness (Isaiah 45:22-24). Ignoring God does not simply make Him go away.

False gods are dependent upon us to give them life and purpose. With God, we are dependent upon Him to give us life and purpose!

Jesus said He came so that we may have life and have it fully! That life is promised to all those who put their faith and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins. As Christians, we rely upon the righteousness of Jesus to save us, not our own. We are unable to give ourselves eternal life, but it is Jesus who gives it freely to all those who come to Him.

Got questions? Email me at corwin@fbcwintrhopharbor.church.

Reflection questions

What are some ways you have shifted your focus from treasuring the things in this world to treasuring Christ and knowing Him?

How are you still tempted to give your attention and loyalty to things that are not truly life-giving?

What kinds of reminders can you think of during times of temptation that can help you resist giving into them again?

We Are All Ignorant

From this past Sunday’s sermon, we saw how Paul seems to be giving the benefit of the doubt to his theological opponents in Ephesus when he said in verse 7, “they do not understand what they are saying…”. This is significant because it seems that Paul is genuinely concerned for their souls and is not ready to consider them a lost cause in his evangelistic mission of the Gospel. He instructs Timothy to confront them with a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith. This is a reminder to us all that when we find ourselves in conversations or confrontations with opponents to the Christian faith, our goal is not simply to prove ourselves right and them wrong, but it is to prove the truth of the Gospel with the primary desire of seeing the other person’s heart softened towards the Gospel so that they would be saved of their sins by coming to an understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection.

There is hope for the ignorant. After all, we (Christians) are all ignorant of our sins to some degree. I believe it is a grace of God that He does not reveal to us all our sins at one time yet allows us to grow in our understanding of His holiness and our sin as we mature in our faith over time. I am convinced that if God were to reveal all our sins to us at one time, we would be overwhelmed by it! Yet by God’s grace, He made known to us our depraved nature so that we could come faithfully to Him in repentance and receive His forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection. We, as Christians, are no longer ignorant of our sinful state, but we are still discovering the depths of our sin as we grow in God’s Word and mature in our understanding of holiness.

The Apostle Paul even mentions later in 1 Timothy 1:13, “… yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” He is not shy about admitting that he, like everyone else, was simply dead in his sins due to his ignorance. Even though Paul writes very strongly about the destination for sinners who reject Jesus Christ, he is just as transparent about himself as being the “foremost of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

One of the reasons why every person still has hope for eternal life so long as they have breath in their lungs and life in their spirit, is because they are all simply ignorant of their sin, and at any moment God can soften their heart so that they can respond in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation. However, the danger is, for the person that remains ignorant of their sins and rejects God to the final moment of their life will no longer be ignorant of their sins. The moment a person dies apart from faith in Jesus Christ will be fully aware of the cost of their sins and will no longer be ignorant of the seriousness of their sins in their life on earth. When a person dies in their sins, their judgment is final and eternal. This reality should remind us of the urgency to share the good news of the Gospel with others!

Here are just a few reflection questions that I hope are helpful to you, and for some of you, it may very well just save your life!

  1. In what ways are you able to recognize God pulling you out of your ignorance towards sin?
  2. How do you feel that there is hope for every sinner who is currently sinning out of their ignorance?
  3. What implications does this have for who you are willing to share the Gospel with? Are there certain people/types of people that you generally avoid sharing the Gospel with because of the impression that they are too far gone in their sin?
    1. If so, what does this say about your understanding of God’s ability to change a person’s heart?
  4. How are you evidence that God can indeed change anyone’s heart?
  5. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”
    1. How does this verse impact you in light of what Paul writes about his own ignorance of his sin and being saved from it?

For more depth on this topic, I encourage you to listen to the sermon on 1 Timothy 1:1-7, which you can find on our audio sermon page at fbcwinthropharbor.church.

“If only…”

“If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” -Isaiah 48:18

The context of this passage comes when God is speaking to Israel about their continual disobedience to God and the reasons for their current state of suffering for their sins. Chapter 48 concludes with the promise of restoration and redemption for Israel, not by Israel’s own doing, but by God’s grace and mercy.

These words of God have implications both for life on earth as well as life eternal in heaven.

There will be plenty of instances in our lives where we will say, “If only…” and we can only hope and pray that God will use those moments to teach us about the importance of continually seeking to live obedient lives to the God that saved us from our sins and the punishment of them.

We can complete the “If only…” statement in so many ways:

“If only…

… I had followed God’s plan for sex and marriage.”

… I had followed God’s commands for friendships.”

… I had taken God’s warnings seriously.”

… I had a better grasp of my anger issues.”

… I had taken care of my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

… I had been the kind of parent that God commands me to be in Scripture.”

… I had been more forgiving.”

It’s easy to dwell on the “if only…” statements and allow them to haunt us and continually leave us feeling condemned or doomed, but we must take to heart how Isaiah 48 ends; with redemption! However, it is important to recognize the next statement of the verse, “your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.”

Rivers in the Old Testament are often used as a metaphor for their steady and constant nature. To have “peace like a river” is likely meant to cause the reader/hearer to imagine the quietness of a steady flowing river, that is free from obstructions and rapids. To have “righteousness like the waves of the sea” is likely to bring to mind the overflowing abundance of the ocean waves (being from California, the ocean waves is one of the things I miss the most!) God promises to fill those with His righteousness who hunger and thirst for it. Jesus said, “I come so that you may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

When look back on our “if only…” moments in life, we can often easily see how if only we had remained obedient to God’s instructions, it would have resulted in peace, not discord. Even though we are saved from the punishment of our sins through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, we cannot deny that we still suffer the consequences of our sins, in one way or another, here on earth. When we fall into sin, we are sure to rob ourselves of the peace of God that He promises to those who obey Him. We are left to suffer through and learn from the consequences of those actions, and it should humble us to the point to where we run back into obedience to God.

We also rob ourselves of the righteousness of God when we sin against Him. As Christians, we are to live as Christ would live (hence, Christ-ians). God’s people are called to be holy as He is holy. In this sense, we are robbing ourselves of the righteousness of God in the sense that we are not properly representing His holy name when we sin against Him.

Fortunately, the good news about our “if only…” moments in life, is that there is always redemption for those who put their trust in Jesus. The redemption may not be evident as immediate as other moments, but it is a promise of God that He will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him.

It should be evident that God offers us peace and His righteousness to us in this life on earth, but the bigger picture of it all should be our focus on the promise of redemption from all the ways we failed to pay attention to God’s commands. I might complete the “if only…” statement with, “If only…but God.”

If only we had kept God’s commands perfectly, but God knew that we would fail and He chose to save us from our sins. Do you see the beauty of Isaiah 48? God makes it clear to them all the reasons why they should mourn over their disobedience to Him, and as their hearts are changed to mourn for their sins, God responds to their humility by restoring and redeeming them back into His blessing.

As Christians, we have no fear of falling out of God’s eternal blessing, because Jesus’ death and resurrection was for sins for all time (Hebrews 10:12). God promises to cause us to be more and more obedient to Him until the day we die and go to Him. It is when we are with Him in heaven when we can say for eternity, “I have peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea” and there will be no “If only…” statements anymore!

My encouragement to Christians is try ask themselves when they are faced with temptation, “will this be one of those ‘if only…’ moments?” God promises a way out of all temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13) if we rely upon Him to strengthen us.

My encouragement to everyone else (those who do not currently have the forgiveness of their sins through faith in Jesus), put your faith in Him today! For those who suffer God’s wrath for eternity in hell will not be crying out, “If only…!”, rather they will be weeping in their sorrows and gnashing their teeth in anger at the God who is punishing them. There is no repentance in hell, but only a further and eternal hardening of one’s heart against God. Put your trust in Jesus and follow Him before your “if only…” moments run out.

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. – John 3:16-18

Covet Christ

This past Sunday’s sermon on the tenth commandment concluded our exposition of the 10 Commandments. It is interesting to see how God capped off the ten commandments with one that almost summarizes all 10. To covet (passionately desire) what belongs to someone else, or whatever does not belong to you, can so easily lead one to disobey any of the other 9 commandments. Perhaps that is why there is no specific penalty in the Law of Moses for covetousness of a neighbor’s possessions, because the penalty will likely result from the other 9 commandments that coveting leads to.

The tenth commandment is not just about being content with whatever God has providentially given you, but it is also to be fully satisfied and grateful for how He has chosen to provide for you. The blessings in your life will often look different from the blessings in other people’s lives. Why should we compare God’s blessings to one another? I am convinced that I cannot truly and genuinely rejoice with someone else in their blessings if I am harboring any covetousness of them in my own heart. When I covet my neighbor’s blessings, I am despising God’s loving providence in my own life. I would essentially be saying to God, “What you gave me is not good enough”.

Also, if I am not able to truly rejoice with someone else, it makes me think of how uncomfortable it would be for me if my friends weren’t able to rejoice with me when I am blessed in various ways. If I felt that my friends were resentful of my blessings, then I would feel that I would not be able to share what God is doing in my life with them, and that would be a great discouragement to me if I were not able to share about that.

When someone is healed, rejoice! When someone gets a much-needed job, rejoice! When someone is provided with a home, rejoice! When someone

All in all, I believe one of the most significant lessons we can take away from the tenth commandment is: Covet Christ. Just as the individuals in the nation of Israel were to be fully satisfied each in their own provisions that God had given them, Christians are to be fully satisfied in Christ. Christians are also to be constantly seeking a deeper satisfaction in Christ by pursuing holiness and striving to purge all evil that exists in our lives. We are to never be content with sin that remains in our proverbial camp. Seek out your sin. Expel it, as you can only do so with the empowerment of the Spirit of Christ that is in you (Romans 8).

Here are just a few reflection questions for you to consider this week:

  • In what ways has your heart and life displayed a discontent in your spiritual maturity?
  • Has a hunger and thirst for righteousness been evident in your life lately?
  • How does your contentment (or discontentment) compare to your desire for more earthly pleasures and possessions?
  • What are some ways you have been ungrateful for God’s loving providence in your life? What kinds of provisions do you tend to overlook?
  • Where would you currently place yourself on the spectrum below?

Got any other questions regarding Sunday’s sermon?

Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions regarding any of our Sunday sermons. I want to serve you the best that I can, and I will need your help in letting me know if I can help you in any way. You can either reach me through calling the church office or email me at corwin@fbcwinthropharbor.church.

What’s the Point of Stealing?

What’s the point of stealing? Perhaps the greatest deception of stealing is believing that something belongs to us once it is in our possession. Our instincts tell us: if it is in our possession, then it belongs to us. When we steal from others, we can easily justify it. When others steal from us, we want justice!

As Christians, we must remember that we do not own anything in our possession, but we are mere stewards of whatever God has graciously given us. We must also remember that everything God has given to our stewardship has been given for one overall purpose; to glorify Him. Just because God entrusted us with whatever temporary pleasures we enjoy, it doesn’t mean that we should use any of it selfishly.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will be able to see just how often we are guilty of believing what we have actually belongs to us. For a Christian to steal from another person (whether it is a faceless corporation, small business, or someone’s personal belongings) is to breach the trust that should exist between two human beings. To steal from another person also communicates the feeling that “What God has given someone else, should really belong to us”. This is a display of a lack in faith that God: 1) has already sufficiently provided for our needs, 2) will not be faithful to give us what we need in the future.

Stealing from one another in various ways is not the only way that Christians will often give into temptation, but stealing from God is something that we all are guilty of many times. Every moment that we deceive ourselves into believing that we are owners of what we have as opposed to stewards, we are guilty of stealing from God in those moments. It is in those moments when we will justify using what we have for our own selfishness and not for God’s glory first and foremost in mind.

One time I borrowed a car from a friend. Although this was a very gracious act of kindness on my friend’s part, I was still responsible to treat it in a way that my friend wanted me to treat it. I was not to: eat in the car, go more than a certain distance at a time, drive it in certain neighborhoods, leave the doors unlocked, as well as several other specific instructions he gave to me. For me to neglect his wishes in how I treated his car, I believe it is a form of stealing in that I would be treating the car as if it belonged to me.

If we can all relate to how we would feel if someone mistreated our possessions when they borrowed from us, then how much more should we be able to understand how God feels when we act as if we are owners of what He is allowing us to “borrow” for the time being. Here are some questions that can be helpful for Christians to better use what God has given them for His glory:

  • How can my home be better used for God’s glory?
    • Is my home-life honoring to Him?
    • Is my home a place where the Word is prominent
    • Is my home a place of peace and not strife?
    • Is my home consistently a proper witness to my neighbors?
  • Am I honoring God with my children in my parenting?
    • Am I taking my role as a Christian parent seriously in teaching my children God’s Word and the Gospel?
    • Am I allowing God’s Word to guide my parenting decisions?
  • Is my work-life glorifying God?
    • Am I a consistent witness for God in my: ethics, behavior, and integrity in the workplace?
    • Am I being too obsessed with how much money I am making/want to make?
  • Do I tend to have an idolatrous attitude towards my possessions?
    • How am I valuing God above what He has given me?

I hope these questions are helpful for you in maturing in your faith in Christ. These are the kinds of questions God places on my heart during my daily devotions, and He never fails to discipline, convict, and encourage me through His sanctifying Spirit!

I encourage you to also reflect on the passage below from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

“Or do you not know the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [1]

Even if, hypothetically speaking, stealing was the only sin you were guilty of; you would still qualify as being unrighteous before  a holy God and therefore deserving of His righteous judgment against you as a sinner and transgressor of His holy standard. However, when a person places their faith in Christ for their salvation (and not their own self-righteousness), they are promised to be washed of all their filthiness/sinfulness, sanctified in the image of Christ, and justified before God which results in eternal life.

This is the good news that we need to share with others.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 6:9–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Additional thoughts to: “Do not commit adultery”

Here are some additional thoughts to past Sunday’s sermon on “Do not commit adultery”.

With much of Sunday’s teaching dealing with Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 where Jesus expands on what constitutes as committing adultery as well as legitimate reasons for divorce, there are many questions that can arise out of these two passages.

Here are just a few topics/questions that I didn’t have time to address on Sunday during the sermon:

If looking lustfully is committing adultery in our hearts, is that enough to justify a divorce?

                Opportunities to look with lust are much more prevalent than they ever have been before. Not only is the majority of our media driven by sexual content to be more attractive to the average viewer, but our society has very little concept of the importance of dressing modestly. Also, seeing that we have all committed adultery in our hearts, we are all guilty of committing adultery. Does that mean that we should all be divorced? By no means! The physical act of adultery, engaging in a physical sexual act with someone other than our spouse, requires much more effort and neglect of moral boundaries that I think it merits the distinction between adultery of the heart and the physical act of adultery. With it being extremely easy to look at another person with lust (it only takes a millisecond!)

If the physical act of adultery has been committed, does that require a divorce?

                This is a tough one. I have seen several marriages be redeemed, through their commitment to Christ, from cases of physical acts of adultery. Through mutual desire to remain married as well as solid biblical counseling, the couples were able to work through the painful event in their marriage and thus be a beautiful picture of reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness (all are elements of our relationship with God!). I have also seen many marriages, unfortunately, end in divorce as a result of infidelity. If the guilty spouse is genuinely repentant, and both parties want to seek reconciliation, then I believe they are seeking a good thing. When it comes to broken relationships, very few people experience the joy of reconciliation. However, I don’t think that married couples are required to reconcile and remain married after infidelity. Of course, every situation is different and there are many variables (children, ages of children, financial situation, family support, the extent of the infidelity, etc) that make every case of infidelity complicated.

Is physical abuse a valid reason for divorce?

Yes. I believe that if a spouse is physically abusive to their spouse/family members, they are displaying a blatant hardening of their heart in the lack of concern for the physical well-being of their family. Also, if someone is physically abusive to their so-called “loved one”, it seems obvious to me that it is a form of adultery because they are behaving unfaithfully towards their spouse.  If a Christian is in a chronically abusive relationship, I would definitely encourage them to divorce; both for their own physical safety, as well as the safety of any other family members in the household. Remember, Jesus said the reason why God allowed divorce in the Law of Moses was because of the “hardening of their hearts”. I cannot think of many other instances that describe the hardening of someone’s heart more than an abusive spouse.

It is important for young Christians to know that godliness should be the #1 attribute they are to look for in a potential spouse. Godliness does not simply refer to their character and how “spiritual” they are, but it also refers to the fact that a godly person holds themselves accountable to God first and foremost. A wife’s confidence in her husband’s holiness should be in the fact that he is more committed in his relationship with God than he is to his wife, and vice versa. When one is solely devoted to the cause of Christ, that should bring any spouse great comfort, knowing that it is not their responsibility to change the other person, but they can be confident that their spouse is committed to changing for the better because of their sole devotion to their Lord.

If Deuteronomy 24:25-27 shows that God is aware of when someone is sexually abused, then why does He allow it to happen in the first place?

This question is very similar to the general question of “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”. In general, we can see in the Bible that it does not take long for one human being to sin against another human being (see Cain and Abel in Genesis 4). One of the greatest struggles for human beings to grasp is how God allows a person to commit evil acts against other people. We have all sinned against one another in various ways in a variety of degrees. In response to the question “Why did God allow that person to hurt me?”, I think one way of answering that is by asking the question, “How many times to God allow me to hurt someone else?”. I want to say this very sensitively, because there is a chance that the person reading this has been sexually abused and is still dealing with the hurt and trauma of that abuse. When we ask the question, “How many times did God allow me to hurt someone else?” it is only meant to put in perspective the fact that God, in His sovereignty, allows us to act upon our evil and sinful desires. If God were to prevent every person from sinning against one another, there would be no need for His Law. But since His Law came in so that “transgression would increase”, we are forced to deal with the fact that we have all willfully acted upon our sinful natures, and those sins are what condemn us to hell. If God prevented us from sinning, there would be no need for forgiveness. But by recognizing just how sinful we are, we are able to appropriately appreciate His grace and mercy and how His patience was displayed in us by granting us faith in Jesus Christ, when He could have righteously judged us before we received His salvation.

The answer to this question is not necessarily going to diminish the hurt and trauma for abuse victims, but I hope that some Biblical perspective can help them gain some sort of closure and a better understanding that God is faithful to all those who cry out to Him for help and salvation.

How does the 7th commandment give us guidance on our attire?

If we take Jesus’ definition of adultery seriously, in that even looking with lust is committing adultery in our hearts, then we should also take into account our motivation for what we wear (or not wear) when in view of others in public. If a person dresses with the intent of looking “hot” or “sexy”, then they are essentially encouraging others who look at them to commit adultery. If we also understand that committing adultery is deserving of the death penalty, then we would also be wishing death upon others by enticing them to look at us with lust!  On the other hand, sometimes it doesn’t matter how modestly one dresses, it will not prevent another person from sinning if they already have lust in their heart.

I believe that Christians should be mindful of how they dress in public and in photos, keeping in mind that if adultery is committed with a look of lust, then we should take it upon ourselves to not encourage others (especially our brothers and sisters in Christ) to look at others lustfully. At the same time, every Christian is personally responsible for guarding their eyes and hearts whenever possible, because non-Christians will have little-to-no convictions regarding dressing modestly.

I’m married to an unbeliever, should I remain married to them?

Instructions regarding a believer being married to an unbeliever are found in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, and are likely in the context of couples who were both unbelievers at the time they were married, and since that time one of them has become regenerated by the grace of God through Christ. The instructions are pretty clear: remain married as far as it depends on you and your faithfulness in the marriage for the purpose of potentially seeing your spouse saved as a result of your personal witness to them. If the unbelieving spouse wants to leave the marriage, then the believer in the marriage is to allow them to leave.

This, of course, is not an easy task by any means for the believing spouse. Their loyalty to Christ will be constantly challenged by there loyalty to their spouse. Since the other is an unbeliever, it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish the difference between being loyal to God and loyal to the spouse (as Jesus put it, “you will love one and hate the other”).

I will also say that a Christian should never desire to marry an unbeliever, because that is literally saying “I love worldliness more than godliness”. However, if  Christian has made the decision to marry an unbeliever, then they have the extremely difficult task of somehow not allowing their devotion to their spouse get in the way of their devotion to God. Sadly, when I have seen professing Christians marry non-Christians, it often reveals that the professing Christian’s faith was merely nominal and was not a significant part of their life at all, and this will show itself through the professing Christian’s quick transition into no longer attending church, fellowshipping with Christians, holding themselves accountable to God and His Word, and an obvious disinterest in the things of God.

Got any other questions regarding Sunday’s sermon?

Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions regarding any of our Sunday sermons. I want to serve you the best that I can, and I will need your help in letting me know if I can help you in any way. You can either reach me through calling the church office or email me at corwin@fbcwinthropharbor.church.