VBS 2019

Join us June 13th-15th for our Vacation Bible School! Our theme this year is “In the Wild.” Hope to see you there!

What: Vacation Bible School

When: June 13th-15th, 6:30pm-8:30pm

Where: Antioch Baptist Church, 135 Cook Rd, Portland TN 37148

Why You’re Not a Hypocrite (Even if You Feel Like It)

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1

We’ve all heard it before: “I don’t go to church because Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites.” If you’re like me, I immediately have two reactions when I hear that. On the one hand, my sensible mind responds with an eye roll because the people that say things like this have usually been burned by some past religious experience for which all believers must now pay the price. But, on the other hand, my heart sinks a little because… honestly, yeah, I do feel like a hypocrite sometimes. In fact, it has been my general pastoral experience that many Christians often feel hypocritical. So, are we? Is this a fair statement? Are Christians “just a bunch of hypocrites?”

Well first, let’s acknowledge Jesus’ warning in Luke 12:1. Jesus would not warn his disciples to beware of hypocrisy if it wasn’t a very real and viable danger. Hypocrisy, according to Jesus, is the putrid fruit of self-righteousness. Jesus strongly confronted the cold, dead, self-righteous religiosity of the Pharisees throughout the Gospels. In short, Jesus told his disciples “Don’t be like those guys.” They appear holy, they appear zealous, they appear as if they “have it all together,” but they are rotten to the core. And, yes, it is possible for true believers to develop such a disposition (at least in part). Jesus warns us to avoid this. Self-righteousness is useless if we are declared righteous in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 8:1).

But what about the ones who are not self-righteous? What about the ones who are deeply aware of their indwelling sin and struggle to make sense of it all? What about those who mourn over their failures and sin, the ones who don’t have it all together, the ones who feel a tension between their confession and their reality? What about the ones who read about the standard but never quite feel like they’re able to obtain it?

By the Apostle’s own words (cf. Rom 6-8), even Paul felt such a tension. In Romans 7:24 his struggle crescendos with the cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of death?!” Biblical Christianity never claims sinless perfection this side of eternity. In fact, sound theology leads us to the exact opposite conclusion: While we have been declared righteous through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 5:1), we will not be made completely righteous until the end (cf. Rom 8:30). Therefore, we don’t claim to be sinless. We don’t claim to be “better than” anyone else. We don’t claim to be “holier than thou.” We only claim to be forgiven! If our only boast is the cross of Christ, then the charge of hypocrisy loses all merit. That is why Paul doesn’t conclude with self-deprecation: “Man, I’m such a hypocrite.” No, he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation (Read: Hypocrisy) for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

Hypocrisy is the putrid fruit of self-righteousness. It blossoms when we plant within ourselves the mistaken belief that we have obtained a higher level of moral and spiritual maturity than that of others (cf. Gal 6:1-5). Hypocrisy thrives when our standard is no longer vertical, but horizontal. I understand that we can feel hypocritical at times. How can someone who claims to have experienced the love of Christ continue to… (fill in whatever blank you wish here)…? But this is the experience of every believer as the Holy Spirit convicts us and conforms us to Christ. No, this isn’t hypocrisy at all! This is evidence of the authenticity of the believer. This is the experience of the child of God learning the delicate dance of grace, the gentle balance between resting in Christ and working out our own salvation. Hypocrites usually don’t feel hypocritical. No, they feel self-gratification, entitlement, achievement, and pride. So, if you “feel like a hypocrite,” well, that probably means you’re not one.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Matthew S. Rickett

Emphasizing the Gospel

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6

It’s funny how emphasis can completely change your understanding of a sentence. For example, take the sentence: “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow.”  How are we to understand this?

  1. She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that someone else is flying to Hawaii.
  2. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies canceled plans.
  3. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she is getting there another way.
  4. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she might be flying from Hawaii.
  5. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she is going somewhere else.
  6. “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow” implies that she is going some other day.

So, which is it?!

Biblical doctrine can be quite the same. Two churches with the exact same confession of faith can place their emphasis in different areas and end up sounding completely different. I believe this helps to explain the culture and tone of Antioch Church. While we believe in Christian growth and sanctification, we place our emphasis on the finished work of Christ. Rather than trying to evidence our justification by our sanctification, we believe that our justification will inevitably (though, not always pretty!) lead to our sanctification. Yes, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10), but without salvation by grace alone (Eph 2:1-9) they result in nothing.

In other words, many believers approach the Gospel backwards. They are focused on “life application,” transformation, growth, etc. This all points to the reality that they’ve truly been born again. Yet, Paul always started his letters with the Gospel first. He reminded his readers of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and therefore, we can expect to see the Holy Spirit slowly conform our life to Gospel imperatives. In fact, in Phil 1:6 he states positively, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That’s a promise. If you are a believer, then he will finish his work. No if’s, and’s, or but’s! Therefore, we emphasize God’s good work before our own. And, isn’t it refreshing to be able to simply rest in the knowledge that God is going to finish what he has started in you? You’re a work in progress. You’re HIS work in progress.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Matthew S. Rickett

Facebook Live

Can’t be with us in person? Join us on Facebook Live every Sunday! We will begin streaming shortly after 10am when the sermon the begins.

 

It’s OK to Disagree Sometimes

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Yesterday during the graduation dinner, Ray and I had one of our perennial debates. We discussed (rather lively!) our views of evangelism- its purpose and method. We went around and around debating the effectiveness and appropriateness of street ministry as opposed to one-on-one personal evangelism. We agreed that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but nevertheless landed at different comfort levels on the spectrum of evangelistic methods. When we were done, we still disagreed… then ate some pie!

Our society has largely lost the ability to disagree amicably. If you haven’t noticed, we live in very polarizing times. People yell over each other, disagreements are taken personal, and the slightest differences are an affront to opposing parties. In such polemical times, the world desperately needs to see Christian brothers disagree… over pie! One of my favorite quotes is attributed to St. Augustine: “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, charity.” While Ray and I agree that evangelism  is an essential, the particular or preferred method is a non-essential. These conversations are how “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). I am thankful for faithful brothers and friends like Ray who think differently than I do about matters. It causes me to think through my own positions and to stretch and grow. This is good and this is biblical.

Our historic creeds and confessions help us to clearly identify what are “essentials” and what are “non-essentials.” A healthy church doesn’t demand 100% unanimity on every issue. Actually, it’s quite the opposite! A healthy church will promote the diversity of its membership, the unique perspective of the individual, and the spiritual gifting of the body. It is a sign of Christ-like maturity when a church is able to discern between the essentials and non-essentials and isn’t threatened by a diversity of thought. When a church is able to unite around orthodoxy despite their varying backgrounds and perspectives, there you find a thriving, healthy body.

In short, it’s ok to disagree sometimes. I’ve been married for 15 years this summer and I can tell you that my wife and I disagree… A LOT (I know, I should just listen to her!). But we stay together because our relationship is grounded in something deeper than our arguments. We agree that the Word is our ultimate authority, we believe that marriage is a life-long covenant, we believe that Jesus is to be glorified in our home. Or, to put it another way, we are united around the essentials. As it regards the church, God has brought us together- with all of our uniqueness, with all of our giftedness, and with all of our convictions. So, let’s celebrate this diversity and “sharpen one another…” preferably over pie.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Matthew S. Rickett

An Open Letter to Anyone Who Has Ever Been Hurt by the Local Church

“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…” Eph 4:2

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry. Maybe you grew up in an environment of legalism? You weren’t allowed to be human- no mistakes, no struggles, no doubts, no failures. Your religion was about all of the things you couldn’t (or, shouldn’t) do rather than about the Gospel of King Jesus. Maybe you had an abusive pastor or teacher? Perhaps he wasn’t who you thought he was? Was he controlling? Did he fail morally? Was he incorrigible? Maybe you were made to feel “less-than” because of life choices or circumstances? Maybe you discovered a spirit of narrow-mindedness that refused to answer or even validate your questions or concerns? Maybe something happened and you felt betrayed by those you once considered close family and friends? Maybe you were taken advantage of financially or otherwise? Maybe you realized one day that everyone around you is hypocritical and who they are on Sunday isn’t who they are on Friday nights? Did someone say something to hurt you? Were you treated with disrespect? Was the church cliquish? Cultish? Demanding? Were things said about you that weren’t true? Was there one or two controlling personalities that required appeasement… or else? If so, I am sincerely and truly sorry. 

The church isn’t perfect. But, you know that, don’t you? This doesn’t take away the hurt, the heartache, or the stress. You’re not perfect either. But, you’re expecting me to say that- something like: “We’re all sinners, we all need grace, the church has room for one more hypocrite, blah, blah, blah.” But, that seems pretty dismissive and indifferent, doesn’t it? So, what’s the answer? Where is the healing?

As a Pastor, let me acknowledge what you’ve already discovered: The church will let you down. The church is people, people are sinners, sinners sin, and sin can hurt. But this is not a surprise to God. So, Paul encourages unity in Ephesians 4 and exhorts the local church to “bear one another in love.”  Think about it: If everyone got along then we wouldn’t have to “bear one another.” But, how can we bear someone that has physically, sexually, emotionally, financially, or spiritually abused us? How can we bear the gossip? How can we bear the legalist? How can we bear the back-biter? How can we bear those who have hurt us so deeply?

Oh, friend, what a complicated and messy question! Here’s the deal, where reconciliation is possible, seek it. Take a friend, take a pastor, or someone to arbitrate. This is ideal. Paul and Barnabas split ways over a “sharp dispute” (Acts 15:36-41), but it appears that Paul let go of any grudge he may have held (Col 4:10). One missionary team became two and the Gospel continued to move forward in power. But, sometimes reconciliation isn’t possible. In these cases, I plead with you, don’t turn away from the local church. You only hurt yourself when you neglect the ordinary means of grace (preaching of the Word and sacraments). As messy and complicated as it might be, God gave us the covenant community (i.e., the church). And, while I can’t speak for every church, I know what a blessing it is to be a part of a good one (like Antioch!).

I realize that this might not help at all. Just know this: God loves you deeply. He has given to you the covenant community as a gift. You have been given spiritual gifts to use in the context of community. The church is better with you there. Yes, there will be times of disappointment. There will be times of hurt. There will be times of downright despair and stress. But the church is the means by which the Gospel is furthered, where the saints are encouraged and equipped, and, of course, where King Jesus is glorified. I know you hurt. I’ve been hurt too. That’s how I know that healing is possible. I hear you. I see you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Matthew S. Rickett

 

The Gospel is Life-Changing

“Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” James 1:18

Annie Lobert grew up in Minnesota. She lived the quintessential American life… until she was sexually abused as a teenager. The shame led her deeper and deeper into darkness. She became a prostitute and eventually a call-girl for wealthy celebrities and politicians. She became drug-addicted, strung out, and ultimately, hopeless. Eventually, she cried out to God in desperation. Now, she runs a ministry called “Hookers for Jesus.” She helps women caught in sex trafficking, prostitution, and porn. To date, her ministry has helped countless women come to know Jesus and find hope and recovery.

John Newton was a slave trader turned abolitionist. Saul of Tarsus was a murderer turned Apostle. Martin Luther was a monk turned reformer. These stories are so profound because it highlights a fundamental truth: The Gospel changes lives. It is impossible for a person to pass from darkness to light, to become indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to be given the ongoing and sustaining gifts of faith and repentance, to be raised to newness of life and not be changed! Granted, we will never be perfect this side of eternity, but genuine faith is not content with our broken condition. It yearns for conformity to Christ. The Gospel declares, “It is Finished!” But, faith responds in obedience as the law of God is spiritually tattooed on our hearts. Genuine repentance turns a person away from sin. Thus, prostitutes become missionaries, slave traders become human rights activists, murders become preachers, and monks become reformers!

This Sunday we start a 13-week series through the book of James. James mentions Jesus only twice (1:1, 2:1) and there is no direct mention of the Gospel. Yet, he presupposes his audience understands this central truth. Thus, he acknowledges the Gospel of grace as he writes, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…” (1:18). James is less about “Christian growth” and more about genuine faith finding it’s expression in conformity to Christ. This book channels the longing of our hearts towards King Jesus rather than providing a template for behavioral modification. We dare not pursue sanctification without the life-transforming grace of conversion. If we miss this, we’ve missed it all.

This week, spend time reading and meditating on the book of James. My prayer is that this short book will be used by the divine author to shape your faith into the image of King Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Matthew S. Rickett