Friday, January 27, 2012

Romans 8

Hello Project Ezra!  This week we will be reading Romans 8, a very well know passage.  We will be focusing on the beginning of the chapter, which talks about living according to the flesh or the Spirit.  Of course, we all naturally live according to the flesh, and only through the work of the Spirit is there any possibility of that changing.  The disturbing thing (although sadly not surprising, and completely expected based on what scripture tells us), is that so many claim the name of Christ while living 
completely in the flesh, and see no problem with that at all.

Modern evangelism, and sometimes I think modern Christianity in general, has either downplayed and neglected the truth of God’s anger and wrath to the point where those who do not spend time reading their Bible regularly (which is most) have a false view of a God who is all love and peace and comfort, and would never think of inflicting justice on anyone.  They believe He simply accepts people as they are (true to a point), and never cares whether there is any change (NOT true!).  I’ve heard this referred to as living as a practical atheist, professing belief but living as if God never gave us a law to obey.  I have to emphasize, as I have in previous posts, that I do not for a minute believe works are necessary for salvation, or that you can work your way into God’s favor by keeping the law.  However, the fruit we bear shows what kind of tree we are.   If our fruit is rotten, or non-existent, we have a problem. 

When approaching people on their sin, there may be occasions where it is appropriate to tell a person who is living in the flesh that, based on their confession and the fruit (or lack thereof) in their lives that they should be concerned for their salvation.  But be VERY careful with pronouncing anyone saved or damned.  That is not ultimately our place, it is God’s.  And although direct denial of basic Christian doctrine may seem to make their true standing before God obvious, I believe it is still more appropriate to point out what God says about the fruits of salvation and encourage people to examine themselves in light of scripture.   In open air preaching it is most appropriate, since you really don’t know who is walking by, or what they believe.  Self examination is something we should be doing ourselves every day, so use this opportunity to help others do the same.

All for His glory,



Do you set you mind on the flesh or the spirit?

Do you walk according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit?

More simply, do you live for this life, or the life to come?

Claimed belief, but a practical atheist?

Name the name of Christ, but live as though He doesn’t exist?

Set your mind on the flesh is death, set your mind on the spirit is life and peace.

Mind set on the flesh is hostile to God.  Alienated and hostile in mind, enemies of God through wicked works (Col 1:21)

Think you are basically good and friendly with God?

See what the Bible says about your standing before Him

None who does good, not one (Rom 3:10-12)

Our flesh desires sin.  Mankind are all by nature children of wrath.  (Eph 2:3)

God not arbitrary or unreasonable. 

God is holy and pure.  Can not tolerate sin

Under the wrath of God because of our sin

God is angry, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31)

Under the law of sin and death

Guilty before God

We desire what we have not earned, so we covet and steal

We desire sexual satisfaction outside of God’s parameters, so we lust and commit adultery

Wrongly put ourselves, our comforts and desires, first, leading us to lie and disrespect parents.

Desire to write our own rules, to live as we please, enjoy the pleasures of sin

We create a god in our minds who will allow us to

Not the God of the Bible, and can’t save or help us.

Claim Christ, and trample his Name under foot, in worse danger (Hebrews 10:29)

If you live according to the flesh, you will die

If you die in your sins, you will spend eternity paying for them.

Hell is real.  Not unbridled sin, unbridled pain.

Fire, pain, darkness for ever.

Hell Is not Satan’s domain.  God’s domain, like everything else.

Will not be tortured by demons.  Given the justice you deserve by God.

But despite our sin, we have a God of love and mercy

Even though we are faithless, God is faithful

Can be set free from the law of sin and death

The power sin has over you can be broken.

Power of sin and death broken in the cross of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, God in human flesh

Humbled Himself, lived the only perfect life

Became the perfect sacrifice on the cross

Laid down His life willingly (John 10:17-18)

Price for sin paid on the cross

Rose on the third day, defeating sin and death

If we turn from our sin and to Jesus Christ we can be saved.

Go to heaven based on His righteousness

Can not walk in God’s law on your own.

Can not walk in the Spirit outside repentance and faith in Jesus Christ

Only name under heaven by which we must be saved.

Turn to Christ and put your trust in Him alone

Only He died and rose, defeating sin and death

Only through Him can you be saved.

Turn to Christ today and live!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Exodus 34 – God by God’s Standards

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray you are all doing well.  This week’s reading will be another chapter that we have dealt with previously (though only sections of it), but which we will be taking in a different direction this time.  There is so much truth packed into scripture that there are many chapters we could look at over and over again, and find new truth and new springboards into the gospel every time.  Sure, some of the genealogies in the Old Testament are a little tough to get through, but even those show that the word of God is more than just a philosophical treatise.  It’s connected to history.  There are names and faces behind every passage, people like you and me who actually saw God work in those ways.  Every passage in the Bible is loaded with truth, and if we are missing it, you are simply not reading it enough.

Exodus 34 is, I think, one of the more profound passages in the Old Testament, and particularly because of verses 5 through 7.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on who God is, and what God is like.  But here, the Lord comes down, and the passage says that the LORD proclaimed the name of the LORD.  God told us what He is like directly!  In this chapter He talks about aspects of who He is that many people would prefer to forget, but which are essential to understanding His character and the gospel, such as His justice, and His jealousy.  People will still argue for their views of God, and say “that’s just your interpretation”, but when the words are proclaimed by God Himself, it’s hard to disagree without dismissing the Bible completely.  And better for them to reject Christianity outright than live in a false, nominal, empty faith that gives them a false sense of security but does nothing to make them right with their creator.

So, I am praying that this week’s chapter, and our preaching of it will, by the power of the Spirit, move people to abandon their self-made images of their own gods, their idols, and turn them to the God who not only exists in truth, but reveals that truth to us in His word.  I pray this outline is a blessing to you and others.

All for His glory,



What do you think God is like?

What does God say about Himself?

How do they compare?

Exodus 34 tells us – The LORD proclaimed the name of the LORD!

Merciful and gracious

Slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty

God is a God of love and mercy, but also a God of wrath and justice

He says there are not many roads to Him

Chapter says not to make covenants with others who will lead you toward idolatry

Idolatry called whoring after other gods.  Spiritual adultery 

Directed to destroy false images and altars, for the LORD, who’s name is Jealous, is a jealous God

God is jealous, and appropriate for Him to be so. 

Will not forgive your choice of another religion

Are you an idolater?  Have we been obedient to God’s commands?


God specific in His requirements.  None have obeyed.

Moses given plan for the Ark and Tabernacle, very specific

Only shadows of the sacrifice of Christ

God has insured that we can be set free, and the debt for our moral crimes paid              

Because of our sin, we deserve to be crushed under God’s wrath, and to spend eternity in Hell

It pleased God to crush His son (Isaiah 53) on the cross

Chastisement that brought us peace

Substitutionary sacrifice

Repent and trust in Christ alone

The only name under heaven by which we must be saved

Only He paid the penalty for your moral crimes

Only two choices

If you trust in Christ, His sacrifice will pay your sin debt

Or deny and reject Him, and pay it yourself in hell

While God has given you time, turn from sin and throw yourself on God’s mercy

Come to the good God today

Life is short.  None of us is promised tomorrow

150,000 die every day

One of these days will be yours

Repent and trust in Christ while there is time

Friday, January 13, 2012

Selections from Luke – Pride and Pleasure

Hello Project Ezra!  I pray you are all doing well.  This week’s reading will be a couple of selections from the book of Luke.  One is the story of Lazarus and the rich man, and the other is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.   These passages deal with the subjects of earthly pleasures and pride, and these two are the motivating force behind many people’s rejection of the Christian message.  First, earthly pleasure frequently becomes an idol.  How many people do you know that either claim the name of Christ while enjoying sin with little or no remorse, or who believe they can live a wild life and choose to repent on their deathbeds?  Both of these are symptoms of the same problem, the love of the world and of sin.  Many professing Christians are practical atheists, living as if no God exists, trusting in God’s goodness to overlook their sins when they stand before Him.  But the one thing they think will save them, God’s goodness, is the very thing that will end up condemning them.  A good God cannot allow evil to go unpunished.

And what about pride?  Much of the heresy in the Christian church stems from man’s desire to earn His own way to heaven, or to wrestle control of his destiny out of God’s hands, so he can have it for himself.  Everyone wants heaven, but people want to get there on their own terms.  People are willing to be obedient to God, but we want to pick their own list rules that are worth following, and throw the rest out, as culturally irrelevant or antiquated.  I would even argue that it is pride that led to the first sin in the Garden of Eden.  What was Satan doing when he encouraged Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, if not playing on their pride?  He uses the same tool today, and it is as or more effective now then it was then.

So the goal this week is to bring these sins to people’s attention, and show them how they have led to a false view of God and His law, and a false view of how we can be forgiven and allowed into heaven.  I have tried to make the outline a bit shorter and simpler this time.  Although I want to make sure you have all the material you need for a good open-air presentation, I also hope that as time goes on, Project Ezra will help you develop the tools you need to come up with your own open-air or one-to-one evangelistic presentation.  I will continue to include a more thoroughly written outline from time to time, but I will try to move toward more of a bullet-point format instead, and I hope to post it earlier in the week.  I like to include a lot of material, so we’ll see how well I stick to my own rules, but that’s the plan.  If there is a specific subject or area of your gospel presentation that you are struggling with, or need additional verses for, just let me know.  I’ll either contact you directly with more information, recommend some good resources, or maybe make it the subject of an individual blog post.  At any rate, whatever feedback you can give would be appreciated.

All for His glory,



Luke 16:14-31 (ESV)
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Here to tell the greatness of Christ and His great gift

Shared the stories of two sets of men

Two men justified, and two condemned

Those condemned thought they were fine

Pride and pleasure deceived them

Pride, the root of many other sins
            Makes us believe we deserve more than God has graciously given us
            Leads to neglect of God and His greatness, idolatry, coveting
            Tells you you’re worthy of heaven on your own
Tells you that you can earn your way by your own goodness.

The distraction of Pleasure
Not a sin in itself, if it is enjoyed within the boundaries God has given
Pursuit of it and riches above the pursuit of God, who gives all good things, is the ultimate foolishness
Pleasure and comfort become our gods

Don’t be distracted by things with no ultimate value

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Mark 8:36)


Glory of God in Jesus Christ surpasses all

We are estranged from God because of our sin (1 Cor 6:9)

LOOK AT THE LAW TO BRING CONVICTION OF SIN.  Remember, we should never use the law of God to encourage legalism.  The purpose of the law is to shut the mouth of the sinner, and stop them from justifying themselves, and to lead them to Christ that they may be justified by faith. (Rom 3:19, 7:7-8, Gal 3:24)

THE REALITY OF HELL AND JUDGMENT – Giving people a proper understanding of hell and judgment is important.  Many people think hell is a place of unrestrained sin, and that the devil 
rules hell.  Revelation 20 is a good place to start to dispel these wrong ideas.

May sound harsh, but God is just.  Must see sin punished (Ps 7:11)

We all love justice, just not for ourselves.  Our desire for justice ends where our sin begins.

Despite our sin, despite our evil, there is hope!

God is also loving, patient, merciful (Eph 2:4)

God demonstrated His love on the cross (Rom 5:8)

Our creator set aside His glory, humbled Himself (Phil 2:8)

Became a man, lived earthly life

Willingly went to the cross (John 10:18)

Suffered under the wrath of God (Isa 53:4-5)

Died for our sin.  Satisfied the legal demands of the law, nailing them to the cross (Col 2:14)

Raised for our justification, proved His power over sin (Rom 4:25)

Be like the tax collector.  Humble yourself before God, throw yourself on His mercy

Repent, turning from sin, turning to Christ (Acts 20:21)

Christ, only name under heaven by which you must be saved! (Acts 4:12)

Born again, transformed by God’s power.  Give you a new heart and new desires. (Eze 11:19-20)

 Turn to Christ today, while God has given you time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Acts 8 – Who Needs God?

Hello Project Ezra, and happy New Year!  I’m exciting to see what the Lord will do with Ezra this coming year.  Over the last two and-a-half years we have seen some amazing events and testimonies, and God has chosen to use Project Ezra to encourage many people to share the word publicly for the first time.  For those of you who have been faithfully participating, thank you!!  I love hearing your stories and testimonies.  They are so encouraging.  I hope and pray that you will introduce others to the group.  I know how hard it can be to get others, even committed believers, to join you in public evangelism.  I have dealt with the same thing.  But don’t quit!  The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, so let’s pray God continues to raise up laborers.  For those of you who are part of the group but have not, or have seldom, joined us in our readings, I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution.  Although it is often marginalized, even by those in the church, public evangelism, scripture reading and street preaching have tremendous Biblical precedent, and many of the lost will never come to church on their own.  It is our privilege to take the good news to them, so let’s do just that.

As I was going through the book of Acts, trying to decide which chapter to use, the question that struck me as I read Acts 8 was “Who needs the gospel?”  It may seem like an odd question, since as Christians we know that everyone does.  But I have seen that many people, and particularly those with advanced education or lots of money, who don’t believe they need the “crutch” of Christianity.  They think Christianity, and often religion in general, is something weak people need, for comfort and support, but it’s not for those who have their lives together.  Some will still attend church, thinking that it’s a good way to raise their kids, or out of a sense of duty to family or culture.  But in truth it is treated as nothing more than an accessory, to be put on or taken off as is convenient.   And, sadly, much of modern day evangelism, by its actions and methods, more or less assumes that to be true. 

What many churches are teaching about the gospel, and what many people have been told is the proper method of evangelism, is in truth false, and unbiblical.  For the past 100 years or so, the good news of Jesus Christ has been packaged not primarily as a means of escaping the judgment we all deserve for our sins, but as a way to improve your life.  This message tells people that a relationship with God with improve their marriage, help them raise their children, allow them to get along with family, friends and co-workers better, and a myriad of other promises.  It is fashionable to tell people about the benefits of being a believer, and to avoid talking about hell and judgment whenever possible.  After all, we don’t want to scare people away.  Perhaps you were raised in this type of doctrine.  I was, and used it myself when I first began sharing my faith, very tentatively, many years ago.  In fact, in my experience, most pastors have been raised, and taught in seminary, to do exactly the same thing.  It’s hard to completely condemn them for what they have been soaked in since their conversion, although faithful study of God’s word SHOULD have shown them their error.

I recall the first evangelism class I attended, at a church which will remain unnamed.  First, I must say that this church was very clearly orthodox.  However, when we were taught how to share the good news, we were told to avoid talking too much about sin, death, and hell.  It didn’t seem right to me that we talked about the gift of eternal life and left out the wages of sin, but I went along with it.  I remember going to see a young man who had visited our church, and after a short conversation, having our trainer lead him in a salvation prayer.  I volunteered to follow up with this “new believer” after the visit.  I would not claim to know his heart, but I can say that I rarely if ever saw him in church following that (although his wife attended regularly), and when I called, offering to get together and talk about his new faith, he seemed to have absolutely no interest in the things of God at all. 

What I believe happened there was a man with no understanding of God’s law, no understanding of repentance (because it was not explained to him), and thus likely no true conversion or faith.  I’m no fan of pre-packaged, recited prayers of faith, although such a prayer from a truly repentant heart could certainly be the means God uses to draw someone to Him.  However, if someone is merely draw in with the promise of spiritual benefits, and has no understanding of their sin and God’s holiness, and no understanding of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, then there can no true repentance, no true trust in Christ’s sacrifice, and thus no salvation.

So this week I hope we can, through the proper use of God’s law and the power of the Spirit, show people their need of the savior.  No matter how successful they are, or how happy they are, or how committed they are to their own faith system, only through the power of Jesus Christ can they be saved.  And that salvation, although it may bring trial, temptation and persecution, will also bring joy and peace in knowing that their sins have been paid for, and will bring an eternity of loving fellowship with God.   And when power of God is manifest, and a heart is changed, it will be clear.  Good works do not save anyone, but anyone who is saved WILL display Godly works and behavior, and the joy of their salvation.   

I pray this outline is a blessing

All for His glory,



Acts 8 tells the stories of two men, and mentions one other, who by today’s standards didn’t appear to need God.  They were successful, powerful, and even religious.

But they came to know the truth of their need, and the truth that their success was empty.  And more than that, they came to know the God of the universe, and what it meant to be seen as right in His eyes.

You may think that you don’t need the crutch of religion to live a happy, fulfilled life.  But before you leave, and dismiss everything I am saying, I hope you’ll stay long enough to challenge your own assumptions.

You may believe that faith in general, and Christianity in particular, is just a way to improve your life.  You may think it’s a good way to raise kids, or a good way to live a moral life, and it is those things.  But it is far more than that. 

In truth, the gospel, the good news of Christianity, is a means of rescue, a means of escape.  It is a means to save your life.  You have a deadly disease that is slowly killing you, and there is only one remedy available.

The men of power in Acts 8 came to know that.  Despite their success and position, they saw the truth of their perilous condition, the same condition that is true of you and I.

It doesn’t matter how well your life is going.  It doesn’t matter how much fun you are having or how successful you are.  No amount of power, influence, money or pleasure will profit you on the Day of Judgment

One day every one of us will stand before God and give an account for our lives.  The Bible says it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.

God is holy.  He is perfect and pure beyond our understanding, and if we are to earn His approval, we must be pure and holy as well.  Only none of us are, and none of us can be.

God’s word says there is a holiness without which no one will see Him.  And we are anything but holy.  We are sinful and wicked, and deserve nothing but God’s wrath and condemnation.

Look at yourself in light of God’s law.  He gave us His law as a mirror, to show us how we compare with His perfect, holy standard


So, when you stand before God, what will you say?  Your guilt will be clear, and your mouth will be stopped.

Every one of us is guilty before God, and any judgment he gives us is richly deserved.  And if you look at yourself in truth, you know that I’m right.

The judgment the Bible says will be given to the unbelieving, and those who reject God, is an eternity in hell.

The Bible describes hell as fire and burning sulfur, as outer darkness, and describes people in agony.  It is not merely separation from God.  It is horrific punishment, which we all deserve because of our moral crimes against God.  But we are praying you will see your danger and escape from it.

Despite all you have, all you know, and all you hope to accomplish, there is only one thing you really need.  You need forgiveness from your sins.  You need to be put into a right relationship with your God, your creator.

Without that forgiveness, everything else good in your life will burn away one day, and you will realize just how useless it was to store up earthly treasures rather than heavenly ones.

But there is hope!  The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope, and forgiveness.

God, who is rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love, has graciously provided a way of escape, so you don’t have to suffer the penalty you deserve for your sins.

That escape is the cross of Jesus Christ.  2000 years ago Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, and perfect in every thought, word and deed, came to earth and willingly dies for the sins of men.

When Jesus was on the cross God’s wrath, which we deserved, was poured out on Him.  Because of 
His love for His children, He laid down His life so that they could be saved.

He died a horrific death, and three days later He rose again from the dead, proving His power over death.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is our lawyer, our mediator for the Day of Judgment.  More than that, it says there is ONE God and ONE mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.  You come to God through Him, or not at all.

Through God’s great love, and Jesus great sacrifice, you can be saved from sin, judgment, and hell.
So what now?

Turn from your sin and to your savior.  Repent, and trust in Christ alone.

Only the God of the Bible is truly God.  Only Jesus died to pay for your sins, and rose to prove His power over death.  Only he was the perfect sacrifice, the perfect payment, so only through Him can you be saved.

Turn to Christ today, and live!  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live.

So turn today.  Forsake your sins, put all your trust in Christ alone, and be saved!