SHEPHERDS, DAY THREE: “If we seek to please God, it does not matter whom we displease.”

Steve Lawson at Shepherd's Conference 2009

Dr. Steve Lawson, Shepherd's Conference 2009

Once again, this final “official” day of the Shepherd’s Conference was a bright, sunny, and beautiful California day.  The first session of the day was begun with Grace’s Sunday night worship team, which is the more contemporary styled service.  They led a really wonderful medley of songs all pointing to the holiness of God: God of Wonders, Indescribable, Be Unto Your Name, Holy Holy Holy, and Refiner’s Fire.  John MacArthur followed this with some biblical reflection on God’s holiness in regard to evangelism.  One particular quote I wrote down was “You have an ally in the heart of every unregenerate man, that is the law of God written on the hearts of men.” (Romans 1)  He then encouraged us to use the law in our soul-winning to show man his need of a Savior in relation to God’s supreme holiness.  Phil Johnson, director of Grace to You, then preached from Titus 2:7-8 on “Sound Words.”  Here are my notes:


Intro: I am concerned about the “pornification” of the pulpit, which is often justified in attempts to be relevant in the name of contextualization.  Referred to a New York Times article about Mark Driscoll.  Asked the question “What language is suitable for the pulpit?”  Referred to Ed Young’s “7 Days of Sex” challenge which was picked up by the Dallas Morning News as well as Time Magazine.  Referred to the Triple X Church, whose goal is to minister to those in the porn industry.  Referred to a church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that was kicked out of a school by the school board because the flyers being distributed in the community were deemed to be pornographic in nature.  Said that Young Evangelicals often claim that such language is essential to reach our culture, but this is a lie!  Why is this so pervasive?  Said that people want to be cool.  Contextualization is becoming an excuse for corrupt speech.

  • Titus 1:10-14 does not provide support for corrupt contextualization.
  • Sanctified behavior is the companion of sound doctrine.  Sound doctrine is not enough in itself (2:1).
  • Titus is called to instruct other young men in how to live in a pagan, pleasure-seeking culture.  Dignity was expected of both older and younger men.  The Cretan culture was not to influence the Church.
  • Three areas of instruction were sound behavior, sound doctrine, and sound words.  These three areas are intertwined in the text and overlap in their application; however, we are going to focus on sound words.
  • Titus 1:5, those whose minds and consciences are defiled are unfit for ministry.
  • Ephesians 5:12, some things are too shameful to speak of.
  • Two kinds of profanity to avoid: (1) coarse, rude language and (2) irreverence, especially to God [3rd commandment]
  • Ephesians 5:4 defines corrupt speech in three ways:
    • obscenity, impurity
    • buffoonery, stupid silly talk with regard to sexual innuendos
    • crude joking, witty in a risque sense
  • Objections to this message:
    • Paul used skubalon “dung” — but it was not considered a “bad” word in that culture.
    • Galatians 5:12 — sarcasm but not gutter talk, just forceful and sarcastic.
  • Paul was never nicknamed “The Cussing Apostle.”

After a good lunch, I was ecstatic to watch probably the greatest classical guitarist in the world, Christopher Parkening, play before the second plenary session.  Chris is a follower of Christ and member at Grace.  He has a wonderful testimony and I own several of his recordings.  It was really nice to hear him in person.  Following that performance, Pastor Steve Lawson from Mobile, Alabama, spoke on “Guarding the Gospel” from Galatians 1:6-10.  I had heard that they refer to Steve as “Thunder” because he is quite a loud preacher.  He was great.  Here’s my notes:

Intro: Every generation of believers has had to fight to protect the purity and exclusivity of the Gospel.  In these verses Paul is waging war against the Judaizers who were mixing law with grace and works with faith.  The Gospel is a hill worth dying on, as many in our heritage have given their lives for.

4 Main Headings

1. Paul’s Amazement (vv. 6-7)

  • Paul is perplexed, in shock and awe, that the Galatians are going AWOL on God.  They were deserting him, a military term.  It is in the present tense middle voice, indicating that is was ongoing and being done by the Galatians themselves willfully.
  • God Himself is the Gospel.  There is solidarity and unity between God and His Gospel.  
  • Every attribute of God is most visibly and beautifully put on display thru the Gospel (e.g., holiness, wrath, righteousness, grace, immutability, power, truth, and sovereignty, etc.).
  • To depart fromthe Gospel is to depart from God Himself.
  • Illustration: Joel Osteen on Larry King Live.  Here is the part Steve quoted:
    • KING: Because we’ve had ministers on who said, your record don’t count. You either believe in Christ or you don’t. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don’t no matter what you’ve done in your life, you ain’t.
    • OSTEEN: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you’re a believer in God, you’re going to have some good works. I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m a Christian but I don’t ever do anything …
    • KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?
    • OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …
    • KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t they?
    • OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

2. Paul’s Adversaries (v. 7)

  • They were changing the true Gospel and reversing it into a false gospel–that faith/grace are not enough.
  • Ch. 2:21, Paul answers the false gospel.
  • J.C. Ryle said that if we believe that Christ is the only way of salvation, our sermons will be filled with Christ.
  • What is the true Gospel?  (vv. 4-5; 2:16)

3. Paul’s Anathema (vv. 8-9)

  • Anathema means to be consigned to destruction, to be damned.  Paul is rightly seething.
  • Luther said Paul here is “breathing fire.”  No room for passivity.
  • Paul reloads for verse 9.  Paul repeats the verse to indicate the severity of their action.
  • They should go to Hell now before they take other people with them.
  • This is no time for dialogue; it is a time for declaration!

4. Paul’s Aim (v. 10)

  • Who is Paul trying to please?  Every Christian must wrestle with this question.
  • Paul is not courting the popularity of the world or the Church.  He is looking for “Amens!” from Heaven.
  • If we seek to please God, it does not matter whom we displease. (Matthew 6:24)

Lawson closed with a quote by Adrian Rogers, “The problem with preachers today is that no one wants to kill them anymore!”

This is the first time in my life I have ever observed what happened at the end of this message.  As Steve gave his conclusion and walked off the stage, 3500 pastors stood to their feet in ovation, clearly not for the preacher but in solidarity for his message of keeping the Gospel central in our preaching and protecting it with our very lives.  It was stirring.

Finally, tonight, John MacArthur closed the “official” part of the conference with a lecture on the topic “Why does evil exist?”  I say “official” because the conference is actually intended to conclude after a special communion service on Sunday afternoon.  I will be staying for Sunday.  Here are my notes on John’s final message to the pastors:

Intro: “The biblical God is holy, loving, all-knowing, etc… but evil is rampant in the world; therefore, God does not exist.”  This is the way many people logically  put God out of their minds.  We need to have an answer to the question of evil in the world.  Is the best we can do recite Deut. 29:29 and claim ignorance?  The Scripture gives us the answer.  It’s not a short answer.  Why did God put a sinful creature and a talking snake in a garden?  If Adam and Eve or Lucifer is at fault for evil, it all comes back to God who created them.  This issue is known as the problem of theodicy.

Let’s start by talking about what we know is true:

1. Evil exists, massively dominating our world.

  • Natural evil: calamity, impersonal, cursed creation (Romans 8 “Creation groans…”)
  • Moral evil: personal, cursed race (Romans 3:10ff)
  • Supernatural evil: Satan and his minions (Rev. 12)
  • Eternal evil: Hell, pervasive, the only thing that exists there is evil.

2. God exists and He is sovereign. (1 Chr. 29:11-12; Psalm 115:3; Deut. 32:39; 2 Kings 17:25; Lam. 3:37-38; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 4:11; Prov. 16:4; Psalm 103:19; Isaiah 14:21)

  • His sovereignty is absolute, irresistable, and infinite.
  • The greatest Holocaust to ever hit the earth was the Flood.  God did it.  We know how many survived; do we know how many drowned?  Some estimate 30-50 million.
  • He allowed sin to curse everything He had made good.
  • Nothing is outside His plan or control.

3. God wills evil to exist. (Isa. 45:5ff)

  • And yet, He is holy, does not “look upon sin” (Habakkuk), does not tempt any man.
  • Arminians try to rescue God from being responsible for evil by reinventing Him.
    • God has limited power or self-limits Himself.
    • God has limited knowledge (process theology/openness theology).  God is learning.
    • God has to be made in their image so He can be accepted to them.

How do we answer the question of evil?

1. It’s just a metaphysical reality; good must have an opposite force in the world for balance.

2. Free will theology: God has allowed free because it is the highest good.  God had to allow for the possibility of evil to protect free will.  God cannot act as the primary agent in any human decision.

3. God has a purpose for evil. Here, MacArthur quoted from the following section of the Westminster Confession:

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”  (Chapter 3, Sect. 1)

What is the divine purpose of evil.  The purpose of evil is to demonstrate the glory of God.  Supporting passages: Romans 3:5; 5:8; 9:22-24; 11:33-36; 9:14-16, 19-21)

“God has just as much right to put His wrath on display as His grace on display.”


7 responses to this post.

  1. How in the world did I not see you? Did you meet up with the SI guys on Monday?


  2. Didn’t I meet you on Wednesday morning with the other SI guys at the fountain?


  3. ok, ya…did meet you briefly. I didn’t put the face on your Avitar and your real live face together to make the connection!


  4. Posted by charles on March 26, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Steve Lawson refers to God as an architect just as Freemasons refer to their God as an architect. Lawson is a SBC pastor. The SBC is masonic controlled with over 1000 masonic pastors. Lawson is a wolf in sheeps clothing. So is Al Mohler, who holds leadership positions in 2 UN-NGO’s. So is Mark Dever a change agent in the church. Too bad Macarthur allows SBC leaders in his church!!


  5. Posted by PhilipT on March 26, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Where exactly did you get your information? From what I have seen, men like Mohler and Lawson have initiated a conservative reform of the theology at their schools and churches. How exactly would a freemason agree with these ( principles?


  6. Charles,

    This issue was dealt with 16 years ago. Old news. Read the following to see the SBC’s clear opposition to free masonry:

    I would absolutely agree, by the way, that God is an architect, a designer of everything that exists, and so should you. That does NOT mean that I or Steve Lawson or anyone else uses that term in the same way that Freemasons do. That is an ad hoc fallacy.

    While I disagree with Al Mohler in a couple areas, I fail to see the relevance of your point. I know where you’re going with this, but it is frankly a stupid argument.

    You should be careful about accusing spiritual leaders.

    I will delete further posts of this conspiratorial nature. You are not welcome to post such material here.


  7. Posted by David Jones on February 15, 2010 at 6:42 am

    I’ve just stumbled across this post. If anyone’s still monitoring it, here’s my comment:

    Pleasing God demands (stress demands) that we treat fellow believers with respect. So often when we talk about pleasing God, we forget this and think it’s acceptable for us to have all the truth and none of the grace. So much christian dialogue is uncivil and insulting to those who take a different view. This is wrong and does not please God. The extent to which our hearts are sanctified is revealed by the way we treat those that we disagree with.

    Sadly, most of the more conservative part of the christian spectrum (particularly but not just fundamentalism) is a marked by a reactionary and agressive spirit that does not reflect well on those who exhibit it. We may feel other christians are wrong, maybe even in serious error, maybe not even christians, but they are still our family.


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