Location: 2007 Clement Rd. Lutz, FL 33549
Sunday Service Times:
"Little reflection is needed for us to realize that our desires are very often ill-formed, ill-targeted, or ill-timed, or all of these at once. When we pray, ‘we know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (Rom. 8:26). We often do not know our true needs or even the true desires of our heart. We certainly are limited in knowing the needs of others. Our solution to a problem may not be the best one, and our sense of urgency may not at all be God’s and based in reality. But we desire and pray all the same, and God brings our desires and prayers under His discreet management so as to satisfy His purposes and our desires more fully than we could have thought. Unwise yearnings get corrected, unworthy desires fall away, as the Spirit processes our requests, interceding for us ‘according to the will of God’ (Rom. 8:27). In time we may very well be relieved that He has wisely discriminated among our desires. For now, we may very well be burdened with a keen sense of loss.”
~ Ron Horton (1936-2019)
As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine--so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good.
Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.
Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.
Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.
Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.
Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would exalt us.
Our great God knows exactly what we need.
His Providence is wisely designed and sovereignly sent for our good!
Let God send and do whatever He wills--by His grace, if we are His, we will face it, bow to it, accept it, and give thanks for it. God's Providence is always executed in the 'wisest manner' possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God.
~ Don Fortner
The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
"To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists:—God imposed His wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in His sight: ‘If the Lord should mark iniquities, who should stand?’ Ps. 130:3. We might all go to cast all that we have ‘to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty,’ Isa. 2:20-21. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of their sins? You will say, ‘because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died from partaking of the fruit of His death? If He did not, then did He not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.”
~ John Owen (1616-1683)
“For as, when a portrait painted on a panel has disappeared in consequence of eternal stains, there is need of Him to come whose the portrait is, that the likeness may be renewed on the same material; because for the sake of His picture the material itself on which it has been painted is not thrown away, but the likeness is retraced upon it: so similarly, the All-holy Son of the Father, being the image of the Father, came into our sphere to renew man made after Himself, and to find him as one lost, through the remission of sins; the which He Himself says in the Gospels: ‘I came to seek and to save that which was lost.’ Wherefore also He said to the Jews: ‘Except a man be born anew;’ not signifying, as they understood Him, the birth from women, but meaning the soul regenerated and re-created in the image of God.”
~Excerpt from On the Incarnation of the Word of God
Scripture rightly assumes that believers will often forget that God disciplines His children. In fact, both primary passages dealing with the discipline of the Lord encourage us to not forget this word of exhortation.
Proverbs 3:1, 11-12 My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; 11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
Hebrews 12:5-6 And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."
Do you disregard God’s discipline? Have you forgotten this simple exhortation? Before you answer this question, can you remember a time in your life that God disciplined you? If you are like me, you may have to think for some time. You may even wonder if God has ever disciplined you. Hebrews 12:8 states that every believer has partaken of the discipline of the Lord.
Hebrews 12:8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
You have either partaken of His discipline or you are not a true believer. Now, consider again the question. Do you disregard God’s discipline? If you cannot think of a time that God has disciplined you, then you are either not one of His children or you have disregarded His discipline. I suspect that many of us have disregarded His discipline just like the believers in Corinth did.
1 Corinthians 11:28-32 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
What does it mean to disregard His discipline? To disregard the discipline of the Lord is to not recognize or to dismiss every trial that we face as being unrelated to God’s discipline. Now, you may rightly argue that not every trial is God’s discipline. We will cover this soon; but, for the moment, I think we ought to wrestle with every trial that God allows us to go through.
We ought to ask, is this trial from God? Or, better yet, we ought to ask, “is there any sin I need to repent of?” Have I sinned against a holy God? Am I living in sin?
At the start of our Sunday morning service, we take time to pray and confess our sin before God. Why do we do this? Because, by nature, we dismiss our sin. We think lightly of the wickedness of our own hearts. I confess, my sins hardly seem egregious to me. But in God’s sight, even the slightest sin is utterly repulsive to a holy God.
Oh, that we would understand the wickedness of our ways. May God open our eyes so that we might see how bad we are.
Until we get a glimpse of our own wicked heart, we can not understand why God would discipline us. If you are still wrestling with the discipline of the Lord, then you are not seeing your sin as God sees it. May God open your heart to the cesspool of your own wickedness and may you recognize that God must discipline you in order to produce any lasting fruit in your life. He does this through discipline.
I. God does discipline His children (v. 9-10).
For some reason, the author of Hebrews assumes that we are going to doubt this truth. We instinctively question the discipline of the Lord. In fact, the primary purpose of Hebrews 12:5-11 is to teach that God does, in fact, discipline His children. In verses 5-6 the author argues from the book of Proverbs. This argument ought to be enough to convince us of God’s discipline for His own children, but the author picks up that question again in verses 9-10.
Hebrews 12:9-10 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
The author argues that since our earthly fathers disciplined us, we ought to expect that our heavenly father disciplines us. In fact, we didn’t think it odd that our earthly fathers disciplined us. Look at the text with me. The author says that we respected our fathers for the discipline that they gave us.
Our viewpoint was probably a bit different as children. We may not have respected the way in which our parents disciplined us, but as time passed, we came to appreciate it.
a. We respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us (9).
So, since our earthly fathers disciplined us, we ought to expect that our heavenly father will discipline us.
Let me take a moment and explain a phrase in the text that seems odd in the English language. Look at verse 9 with me. The text says that we submit to the Father of spirits. Notice how the translation does not capitalize the word spirit. This ought to give us a clue. The word spirit is not a reference to the Holy Spirit.
The Greek text is clear on this point. Notice the phrase “earthly fathers” earlier in the verse. This phrase referred to our earthly parents. The Greek text literally says, “fathers of flesh”. So, the NASB translated that phrase as earthly fathers. Later in the verse, we have the phrase “Father of spirits”. That phrase could be translated as heavenly Father. We should be able to see a clear distinction – fathers of flesh and father of spirits. The Father of spirits simply means heavenly Father.
This morning, quite a bit of attention has been given to the legitimacy of God’s discipline. Yet, our heart bucks against this truth. We don’t want to believe it. We don’t want to accept the fact that God disciplines His children. But believe it. It is true.
What does it look like to believe the discipline of the Lord? It starts by reminding ourselves that our current trial may be God’s discipline. We ought to always ask ourselves, “is there any sin that we need to repent of?”.
Now, I said earlier that trials alone do not prove that God is disciplining us. In fact, we need to look no further than Job.
Job 1:8 The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."
In God’s own words Job was a righteous man. Yet, he faced severe trials. Those trials were not God’s discipline. So, trials alone are not an indication of God’s discipline.
Secondly, we should be careful not to assume that trials in another Christian’s life means that they are under God’s discipline. In fact, this is precisely what Job’s friends did. They looked at the trials that he was facing and assumed that God was disciplining Job for some sin. But they were wrong.
We should be careful not to assume that another Christian is under God’s discipline.
We should also ask if we are, in fact, His children. What does it mean to be a child of God? A child of God is a person who believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is both Lord and Savior.
By now, we should be fairly convinced that God does discipline His children. But why? Why does God discipline His children?
b. They disciplined us as seems best to them, but God disciplines us for our good (10).
God’s discipline is not entirely different than our own parent’s discipline. Our parents discipline us as best they can for our good. Certainly, there are examples of horribly bad parents, but for the most part, parents want what’s best for the child. We want our children to succeed. We want them to be good people. We want them to have character.
So, we discipline as good as we can. But God’s discipline is always good. We saw in verse 9 that submitting to God’s discipline brings life. We see in verse 10 that God’s discipline is good.
Now this does not mean that it feels good. Oh no, God’s discipline hurts, but it is effective.
II. God’s discipline is effective (11).
An athlete trains hard for the competition—that training is certainly not fun. But hopefully, that training is good. Hopefully it produces results.
a. At the moment of discipline, it is grievous.
The text tells us that the moment of discipline is painful. It hurts. Maybe it’s emotional pain. Maybe it’s sickness. Whatever the discipline is, it hurts. There is no way around it. No part of it is joyful. But it has a certain effect.
b. But later, discipline produces the fruit of righteousness.
We can endure because the discipline of the Lord produces lasting fruit. No one likes the work and labor involved in farming, but we enjoy the fruit that is produced because of the labor. That is the same with discipline. We don’t like to be under God’s discipline, but the fruit of righteousness is well worth the discipline.
As we take a step back and look at the overall picture, we start to see the point of this passage. Do you remember the main point of this section? The main idea is that we must hold firm to our faith. Well, how do we hold firm? We endure because of God’s discipline. God’s discipline is a catalyst to help us endure.
Now this passage does not address our response to God’s discipline. How should we respond? David’s response to God’s discipline is helpful.
2 Samuel 12:12-23 12 'Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'" 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." 15 So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick. 16 David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. 18 Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, "Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!" 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, "Is the child dead?" And they said, "He is dead." 20 So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, "What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food." 22 He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' 23 "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
David repented, then accepted God’s discipline. Jeremiah Burroughs writes that “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of mind that freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” We ought to accept His discipline with contentment.
How will you respond this week? When you are facing trials, will you even acknowledge the possibility that God may be disciplining you. You may need to repent.
Question 1: What is fellowship?
1. To have fellowship is to be bound together going the same way (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Question 2: With whom do we fellowship?
1. Believers fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:13, Philippians 2:1), with God the Father (1 John 1:3), and with Jesus (1 John 1:3). We have fellowship with the Godhead because we walk in truth (1 John 1:5-6) and because Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7).
2. Our fellowship with God enables us to have fellowship with other believers (1 John 1:3).
3. Believers must break fellowship with those who claim to be Christians who are living in unrepentant sin (1 Corinthians 5:11).
4. Believers cannot have true fellowship with unbelievers (1 John 1:3).
Question 3: What is our common fellowship as Christians?
1. Believers share in Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10)
2. Believers are partners together in the Gospel (Philippians 1:5).
Question 4: What does it mean to be devoted to fellowship?
1. Believers are to provoke other believers to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
2. Believers are to restore repentant believers to fellowship (Galatians 6:1).
3. Believers share in the needs of other believers (2 Corinthians 8:4; cf. James 2:16).
Question 1: Should we view Acts 2:42 as the foundational text for the local church today?
1. Acts 2 is the founding of the first church. You would expect to see the foundational text on the local church when the church was founded.
2. The apostles were the elders of this church. Of all people, they should have known what the emphasis of the church ought to be.
3. Acts 2:42 implies that they devoted themselves to the Word, prayer, fellowship, and Lord’s Supper indefinitely.
4. If Acts 2:42 does not give us the marks of a biblical church, what other text(s) should we go to? Matthew 28:19-20 is written to the disciples.
Question 2: What is the content of the apostle’s teaching?
1. The content included the Old Testament.
Question 3: Where does the authority of preaching come from?
1. Not from persuasive speech (1 Corinthians 2:1, 3).
2. Through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4).
Question 4: What is the purpose of the apostle’s teaching?
1. All scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
2. So that the man of God may be complete (2 Timothy 3:17).
Question 5: What does it mean to be continually devoted to the apostle’s teaching?
1. To give attention to the public reading of scripture (1 Timothy 4:13).
2. Faithfully preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
"The births of royalty today do not go unnoticed. The advance of media communication has made it possible for the entire earth to know within minutes the birth of a new prince or princess. Such was not the case in the first century. When Jesus was born, the record of that event was not published in any newspaper, trumpeted over the airwaves, or heralded across the internet. Secular historians paid no attention to it. Only two (Matthew and Luke) authentic accounts were produced, and they were not composed until at least fifty years after the actual birth. These narratives form an integral part of the New Testament. Upon them rests the traditional belief of the church in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ."
~Excerpts from The Virgin Birth (pg. 81)
by Robert Gromacki (current theologian)
“Abel’s sacrifice was for no other reason preferable to that of his brother, except that it was sanctified by faith: for surely the fat of brute animals did not smell so sweetly, that it could, by its odour, pacify God. The Scripture indeed shews plainly, why God accepted his sacrifice, for Moses’s words were these, ‘God had respect to Abel, and to his gifts.’ It is hence obvious to conclude, that his sacrifice was accepted, because he himself was graciously accepted. But how did he obtain his favour, except that his heart was purified by faith.
‘God testifying…’ He confirms what I have already stated, that no works, coming from us, can please God, until we ourselves are received into favour, or to speak more briefly, that no works are deemed just before God, but those of a just man: for he reasons thus,—God bore a testimony to Abel’s gifts; then he had obtained the praise of being just before God.
This doctrine is useful, and ought especially to be noticed, as we are not easily convinced of its truth; for when in any work, anything splendid appears, we are immediately rapt in admiration, and we think that it cannot possibly be disapproved of by God: but God, who regards only the inward purity of the heart, heeds not the outwards masks of works. Let us then learn, that no right or good work can proceed from us, until we are justified before God.
~ Excerpt from Calvin’s Commentaries (Hebrews 11:4) by John Calvin (1509-1564)
Mankind bears the image of God. Every single person, male and female, bears the distinct mark of God. In contrast, no other created being in heaven above or earth below can make this claim. Mankind sits at the pinnacle of creation—placed there by God Himself. The importance of the image of God in mankind cannot be overstated.
Yet, despite the importance of this great truth, ambiguity persists. Some may rightly wonder if clarity is even attainable. Precision must be realized. Topics like murder and slander depend on a clear understanding of the image of God in man (cf. Gen. 9:6 and James 3:9). The Church has neglected her responsibility to articulate a biblical response to abortion because she has neglected to articulate the meaning of the image of God in mankind. Until clarity on the image of God is realized, topics like abortion will lack clear biblical direction.
To understand the meaning of the image of God, one must recognize that the image of God must be unique to mankind. No other created being possesses any characteristic of the image of God. This truth eliminates many of the possibilities of the meaning for the image of God. For example, the image of God cannot be attributes of God. Animals display characteristics like love and loyalty, yet animals do not bear the image of God. In fact, a dog can often be more loyal than a human. Therefore, the image of God in mankind cannot be attributes of God. Similarly, some have argued that the image of God is relational. Genesis 1:27 points out the relationship of the Godhead in the trinity during the creation of man (i.e. “Let us make man in our image…”). Again, relationships are evident in many created beings. Yet, no other created being bears the image of God. Therefore, the image of God cannot be relational. The image of God is unique to mankind.
Many have pointed out the connection between rule and the image of God found in Genesis 1:27-28. Ruling appears to be a result of being made in the image of God. Mankind is made in the image of God; therefore, he rules over creation. This does not mean that mankind will rule, but rather, that mankind has the intrinsic right to rule. The image of God, then, must be the intrinsic right to rule. The intrinsic right to rule is the God-given authority to rule. For example, the first-born son of a monarch in England has an intrinsic right to the throne—although unrealized until the day of coronation. At what point does the first-born son of a monarch have the right to rule? Did this intrinsic right occur at birth? Did it occur at the first heartbeat? No. At every moment of life, the first-born son of the monarch has an intrinsic right to the throne. Similarly, mankind has an intrinsic right to rule at every moment of life.
No other created being bears the image of God. When the Church argues against abortion based on a heartbeat or the ability to feel pain, she has denigrated the image of God in mankind. Does not a cow or a chicken have a heartbeat? Is it not legitimate to take the life of a cow in order to provide nourishment for mankind? Taking the life of a human is wrong merely because it mars the image of God—it takes away the intrinsic right to rule.
Since the image of God in mankind is evident at every stage of life, no individual (except a government [Romans 13] or in self-defense) has the right to take a life. Abortion is wrong because taking a human life is wrong. Abortion is not wrong because it stops a heartbeat. Abortion is wrong because it takes away the intrinsic right to rule that is stamped on every human being at the moment of life by God Himself. The Church must not fail to articulate from the Bible why abortion is wrong.
Pastor Dan Benitez
A proclaimer of the glories of God.
Sunday Service Times: