Richard Phillips – He Came to Save Sinners

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There are times when we have to seize the moment. In football, the quarterback sees his wide receiver breaking free from the defenders and knows that the time has come to throw the ball. In romance, a young man reaches for a phone to ask a pretty girl out for dinner, knowing that the opportunity will never come again. The same is true in evangelism. God presents us with opportunities to point others to Jesus, and it is important that we know what to say when those opportunities arise.

I had this experience recently while sharing the gospel in a small town outside Kampala, Uganda. Several Ugandan Christians and I were walking through an impoverished neighborhood when we came across a group of women boiling stew on their porch. When we approached, they invited us inside their home. In some ways, it was a difficult situation. The women, along with a couple of men inside, were Muslims. Only one of them spoke English, so I had to speak with them through an interpreter. But when we brought up Jesus Christ, they were eager to talk and asked many questions. How important it was that I was able to share briefly and clearly who Jesus is and what He did for our salvation. God blessed that conversation, and it resulted in six Muslims professing faith in Jesus Christ.

Even more dramatic was the opportunity presented to John the Baptist when Jesus returned to the area where John was preaching. John had spoken of One greater than himself who would come, and now here He was. Seizing the moment, John cried out, “There He is!” As part of this important witness, John made clear and essential statements about Jesus’ person and work, statements that make up Christianity’s essential message of hope to the world. We need to be able to make such statements if we are to present the gospel’s message of hope.

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Richard Phillips – 4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

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Not just any fatherly involvement can reach the hearts of our children. To really open up a child’s heart, a father must observe the work-and-keep model of Genesis 2:15. There must be the working — as a father nurtures and cultivates the soil of a child’s heart. And there must be the keeping—the correction that, as we will see in the following chapter, is to be exercised in a relationship of joy and love.

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who assure me that their fathers hardly ever praised them, but constantly criticized and berated. I meet people all the time who tell me that their fathers beat into their heads that they were losers who would never succeed. I can scarcely imagine what that is like. There is only so much a pastor can do to remedy such an upbringing, and the best he can do will include pointing such a person to the effective healing love of our heavenly Father, who can do far more than any man. But as fathers we can ensure that our own children are raised with the rich fertilizer of fatherly affection and esteem.

A godly father plants good things in the hearts of his children. He plants:

The seeds of his own faith in Christ.
A longing for truth and goodness.
His hopes and dreams for the godly man or woman the child will become.
His own confidence that the child has all the gifting and capacity needed to serve God faithfully in whatever way God may genuinely call.

A godly father works these things into the soil of his child’s heart as he shares his own heart, listens to and molds the child’s heart, and waters these tender plants with faith and love.

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Richard Phillips – What Is Faith? The Answer from Hebrews 11

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What is faith? No better answer is given in perhaps all the Bible than in the great eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews. Here a tapestry is unfolded, depicting great examples of faith from the record of Old Testament heroes.

In great castles, dark tapestries hang on musty walls to portray the exploits of great knights and lords from long ago, preserving the virtues and valors that made the kingdom great. Hebrews 11 is no musty hallway! It is a spiritual walkway adorned by the weaving of God’s living Word, depicting faith as the key virtue by which God has made His kingdom great. Hebrews 11 is often called the “Hall of Heroes.” But the true hero of this chapter is God who gives faith to His own, by which the smallest of men and women have done great things in His strength.

Hebrews 11 shows that faith is so important because God’s people are beset with weakness, poverty, and difficulty. This is why verse one tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The context for faith is a life in which things are hoped for but not yet seen or possessed. Faith grasps things that are promised by God but are so far unfulfilled in our experience. We hope for power in the midst of weakness; we hope for peace in the midst of conflict and for joy in the presence of sorrow. For all these reasons, God’s people require faith to persevere in a difficult world.

What, then, is faith? Faith is believing God’s Word in order to lay hold of things that are promised and make them real in our lives. Faith is the mode, or the manner by which we possess heavenly things on earth. The point is not that faith creates the things we hope for—this is the false teaching of many today who use this verse to ascribe creative power to our faith. Instead, faith receives from God the blessings He gives. God gives forgiveness, peace, and spiritual provision. He promises a “city with foundations,” in which we will live forever (Heb. 11:10). Faith is the evidence of these things in our lives, the conviction that draws strength from them to follow God.

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Richard Phillips – What Is Legalism?

rp_RickPhillips.jpg Last Sunday I taught a lesson in the New Members’ Class on Law and Gospel in the Christian life. This is an important subject for all of us, and it has been made more important in recent years because of the large amount of erroneous teaching on it within Christian and even Reformed circles. It occurred to me this week that it would be good to review these matters with the entire congregation. I therefore intend to cover several topics, starting this week with the question, “What is legalism?”

The question of legalism is important for two reasons. First, there is such a thing as legalism and we need to know how to avoid it. Second, there are many false accusations of legalism that are hurled against the Bible’s actual teaching, and these too are to be avoided. So, what is legalism? I would define legalism in three categories: 1) seeking to be justified before God by our own works; 2) adding human laws to the actual laws of the Bible; and 3) an approach to sanctification that is excessively reliant on human effort and forgetful of God’s grace.

The first, and classic, form of legalism is to seek justification before God by your own works. This is the universal approach to salvation apart from Jesus Christ. Most people think they just have to be “good enough” and they will be accepted by God into heaven. Their problem is an ignorance of God in his holiness and perfect justice, coupled with a denial of their true sinful condition and a false conception of sin’s offense before God. The true situation is that God is perfectly holy and his standard is nothing less than perfect holiness in the creature. He says, “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). Not only are we not perfectly holy but we are thoroughly corrupted by sin. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” This is true both with respect to our guilt – we have actually violated God’s holy law and are guilty of it – and of the condition in which we were born as part of a fallen race: “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked… and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3). Moreover, whereas we tend to downplay sin, God says, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). When you add this up, there is not one single person, apart from Jesus Christ, who is able to be justified before God on the basis of his works. As Paul explained in Romans 3:20, “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

This is why the very heart of the gospel is justification not by works but through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul explained: “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Christians are justified not by their own works but by Christ’s work, which we receive in faith. Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and Christ lived a perfect life before God that fulfilled on our behalf the demands of God’s law. The Bible therefore teaches an “imputed righteousness.” This means that through faith we are justified because Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed, or credited, to us before God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states this classically: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

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Richard Phillips – 4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

Childs-Heart_620 Not just any fatherly involvement can reach the hearts of our children. To really open up a child’s heart, a father must observe the work-and-keep model of Genesis 2:15. There must be the working—as a father nurtures and cultivates the soil of a child’s heart. And there must be the keeping—the correction that, as we will see in the following chapter, is to be exercised in a relationship of joy and love.

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who assure me that their fathers hardly ever praised them, but constantly criticized and berated. I meet people all the time who tell me that their fathers beat into their heads that they were losers who would never succeed. I can scarcely imagine what that is like. There is only so much a pastor can do to remedy such an upbringing, and the best he can do will include pointing such a person to the effective healing love of our heavenly Father, who can do far more than any man. But as fathers we can ensure that our own children are raised with the rich fertilizer of fatherly affection and esteem.

A godly father plants good things in the hearts of his children. He plants:

The seeds of his own faith in Christ.
A longing for truth and goodness.
His hopes and dreams for the godly man or woman the child will become.
His own confidence that the child has all the gifting and capacity needed to serve God faithfully in whatever way God may genuinely call.
A godly father works these things into the soil of his child’s heart as he shares his own heart, listens to and molds the child’s heart, and waters these tender plants with faith and love.

At the core of godly fatherhood is exactly this kind of emphasis on sharing his own heart and developing his child’s heart. What can we do to forge such a parent-child bond? It is often observed, and rightly so, that quality time cannot substitute for quantity time. So what kinds of quantity time must fathers spend with their children?

I have an approach to this that involves four simple categories: Read, Pray, Work, Play. That is, I want to forge a relationship with each of my children as we read God’s Word together, pray together, work together, and play together.

Read

First is the father’s ministry of God’s Word. There simply is no substitute for our children hearing the Word of God read from our lips, with its doctrines explained clearly so they can understand, and the message applied to their hearts. (This is not to denigrate a mother’s equally important ministry of Scripture.)

It is not sufficient for fathers to send their children to church, Sunday school, Christian camp, or private Christian school. You must read the Bible to your children yourself. Obviously, our children must see some correspondence between the Bible and our lives. But even as we work out our own Christian growth, we must read God’s Word to and with our children.

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