My thoughts about our amazing God and Savior!

WorkOutYourOwnSalvation

Why Would You Not Work Out Your Own Salvation?

[12] Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

One of the reasons this is an often misunderstood passage is because usually when I hear it quoted or referenced, only half of it is quoted. And honestly there is a bit of mystery to it, at least to me anyway, because we see the intersection of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. That topic is way too large for me to even begin to tackle here, but I did have a few thoughts I’d like to share that may help us think rightly about this passage, where we are both encouraged and exhorted.

Two Ditches

We have to avoid the two ditches. The two ditches I see being antinomianism (no law) or works-based righteousness. Misunderstood, this passage could serve as a springboard for someone to twist Scripture and lead others astray, possibly missing the gospel all together.

The antinomian’s cry would be “I’m not under the law, I’m under grace!” And right they are, if “the law” is understood as the Mosaic covenant by which God’s acceptance comes through obedience. He or she might also say “I’m a child of the King!” Again, absolutely correct, as we rightly understand the beauty of the doctrine of adoption.  Yet what they tend to either not see or forget is that the New Testament is chock full of commands and rules (laws) that are given to born again, Spirit-filled believers, saved by grace through faith. And the God they call Abba, Father is still the same holy, just, Almighty, Creator of the universe that He was before they were adopted, and is still infinitely worthy of respect and obedience! He is our Father… and He is still God.

At the same time, it is equally destructive to take this passage and beat people over the head with it; making genuine believers doubt their salvation because they aren’t working hard enough. This passage does not teach works-based righteousness or salvation. To teach that you would have to divorce this verse from the grace-filled teachings seen throughout the entire Bible. Real Christians still sin. Thankfully the gospel is exactly that… Good News! The good news that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone saturates the New Testament (Eph. 2:8-9).

Along the same lines, neither does this passage teach that you can lose your salvation, if indeed you have been converted to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have space here, again, to get into the AMAZING doctrine of eternal security, but suffice it to say that once you have been born again by grace alone you can’t be unborn. You did nothing to earn it to begin with and nothing you can do will make the Father unadopt you!

Gospel Empowered Obedience

So, what then does it mean? Why IS it here? I think the Holy Spirit tells us this for a couple of reasons (there certainly may be more!). Reminder and exhortation. I think He is reminding us of the salvation we already have in Christ, and the fact that we have been made alive so that we can obey God and grow in holiness. We are to work out what has been done on the inside of us. We are to live like the new creation we actually are. It is an exhortation to live in a dark world as lights pointing people to the One, True, and living God.

I love Paul’s writing style. He follows up a heavy command like this with the beautiful promise and reminder of God’s grace. “for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Christ gives us the command to humble ourselves, serve, love. Christ provides us with the ultimate example of humble sacrificial service. Christ saves us and places His Spirit in us so that we both desire to obey and have the power to obey. And Christ mercifully forgives us when we selfishly disobey, leading us to repentance.

ALL of the Christian life is grace! Why would we not work out our own salvation…?

Romans5Prayer

Praying Through Romans 5

Any time I get a chance to teach the Word of God to the people of God, I am extremely thankful and humbled. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to my faith family at The Gathering on a Wednesday night–our prayer service. The normal format is our pastor will walk us through a chapter or section of a book (currently Acts). He teaches us what it means, tells us how it applies to us today, and guides us in prayer based on that section of Scripture. It has really been a great format for involving the entire church body in biblical prayer together.

The message below is my teaching and prayer through Romans chapter 5. If you can ignore the Southern accent, I pray that God would use it in your life to help you understand Him, His Gospel, and the effects of the Gospel in your life more deeply for His glory and your good.

Romans Chapter 5 Teaching & Prayer

 

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Romans 5 Outline & Prayer Guide PDF

ChurchSign

Church Sign Confusion

Okay, so I’ve wrestled with this post for years–literally. I would write a few sentences, save, rewrite, save, delete, and so on. I would get it like I thought I wanted it, pray about posting it, and decide I probably shouldn’t because it may paint me as a church hater or it might not be as helpful as I want it to be. Anyway, it’s about church signs. Those annoying signs that are supposed to be witty or funny that actually make Christians look like idiots or bigots. Not all church signs fit this description, but this post isn’t about those.

My wife and I usually just make fun of them to ourselves and don’t make a big deal of them to anyone else, even our kids. And living in the South, we have no shortage of church sign fodder. But, every now and then there comes a sign that crosses a theological line that I just can’t take. They’re not cheesy, corny, dumb, or fortune-cookie-esk. They trample the grace found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They cheapen the sacrifice of our Lord just to produce some little play on words or cliche. Enter, the sign I saw today.

I will start off by giving the people of this local church the benefit of the doubt. I do love my brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s why I want to point out the error I see in thinking without slandering their character. I would like to think that they really love Jesus. I would like to think they understand the Gospel and don’t mean to twist it. I would like to think that they don’t really believe what the sign says. I would like to think that they, well, they  just didn’t think this one all the way through before they put it up. But you see, that’s part of the problem. The sign portrays, in more ways than one, that a lot of Christians don’t think deeply. We don’t think deeply about what we believe, what we read, what we say, etc. We just live on a steady diet of cliches and Bible verses snatched out of context.

“Christianity is not a religion, it’s a lifestyle,” read the sign as I strained my neck looking back at it to make sure I saw what I thought I saw from my ’94 Accord. What?! No matter how you interpret their use of the word religion here, it teaches the exact opposite of what the entire New Testament teaches about justification.

Let’s say that religion here means religious works–trying to get to heaven by adhering to religious or traditional practices. I would agree with that being wrong. But now the sign reads “Christianity is not about religious works, it’s about living the Christian life.” So it’s not about works, but it is? Huh? Where is grace, mercy, forgiveness? Where is the Gospel? I mean, if this is what “Christianity is,” don’t you think we should get this right?

Let’s say that by religion they mean a set of beliefs (per the dictionary). So now the sign would read “Christianity is not a set of beliefs, it’s a lifestyle.” So, it’s not about faith, it’s about works. Hmm. I think my Bible teaches it a bit differently than that. We have become so afraid of the word religion that we have forgotten that a religion is a set of beliefs–doctrines. We are saved by God’s unmerited grace–get this–through faith (what we believe) says Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 1:16, Romans 3:24, and 3:28!

It is what we believe that changes how we live, not the other way around. So, Christianity is not about a lifestyle. Christianity is about faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:2). The “lifestyle” is a byproduct of God graciously saving and justifying wicked sinners, making us His children, placing His Holy Spirit within us, and conforming us to the image of Christ from the inside out.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ESV) (emphasis mine).

Brothers and Sisters, let’s think deeply about this undeserved grace that we have been given–there is so much to be explored. Let’s seek to represent our faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ accurately and well, with love for the lost in our culture. Let us think before we spout off one of our cliches that may not be biblical. Let us be Berean-like (Acts 17:10-12) as we consider how we and others are using the Bible. Finally, let us “contend for the Faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)

Gospel Importance

Gospel Importance Pt.4: Centrality Pt.2

This is the last post in our Gospel Importance series. Gospel Importance Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3. We’ll just pick up right where the last one left off. I was talking about why it’s important for Christians to remember the Gospel.

The Gospel Reveals God’s Righteousness

[17] For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith… (Romans 1:17, ESV)

[26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:26 ESV)

God is righteous and just. He will not leave sin unpunished. In His wisdom He made a way for His justice to be upheld and offer grace and mercy to sinful people at the same time. God’s wrath against us because of our sin will be meted out justly, either in Christ on the cross (when we believe and repent) or on us in Hell for eternity. If we die without Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness, God’s wrath remains on us (John 3:36).

[36] Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36, ESV)

We not only serve a loving God who forgives our sin, but also a God who is just and full of righteous wrath and hates sin. This should, again, make us extremely grateful for His undeserved mercy. And it should burden our hearts for those who have not heard this Good News. This is the story (Good News & bad news) that our culture rails against, calling Christianity closed-minded and exclusive. The gospel of Jesus Christ is simultaneously exclusive (only those who believe in Him will be saved) and inclusive (all are invited to believe in Him).

The Gospel Shows God’s Love For Us

[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, ESV)

[16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] ForGod did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17, ESV)

[4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5, ESV)

The gospel reminds us that we are loved… right now. God doesn’t love some future, more mature version of you and me when we will finally “get it right.” He loves us now. He loves us personally, not just us a humans. You. Me. He loved us when we were at our worst-His enemies. We should be comforted by the fact that in Christ we are fully known and yet still loved!

I’m always telling my kids I love them. I mean like, multiple times every day! I’m always hugging on them and kissing them (whether they want it or not). Why? I could say, “well I told them once that I love them and I go to work every day to provide for them and that should be enough.” No. Although they are in my family, and that will never change, my desire is that they be continuously reassured of my love for them. Because, there will be times when they are tempted to think that I don’t love them, that I don’t have their best interests at heart. The continuous display of verbal and physical affection makes them secure in their position in our family. I want them to know that they can never not be my children. How much more does God love us-His children? How much more do we need His constant affirmation that He loves us and His love for us will never change because it is based on His choice to love us and not our performance?

The Gospel Destroys Our Pride

[1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—… [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-5, 8-9, ESV)

We were just like “those sinners” we talk about and to whom we minister and reach out. We were on the same path to destruction as they are and the only reason we are not now is all because of God’s unmerited grace towards us. He sovereignly chose to love us. We are tempted to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We get caught up in our own awesomeness.

The Hope of the Gospel Drives Faithfulness and Perseverance

[12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.[13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,[14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)

The gospel gives us hope that this life of pain and suffering and striving with sin is not all there is. Hope that this life is as close to Hell as we will ever be. We have the hope that this is not our best life now. The gospel gives us hope and the fuel we need to do the things that the world says are stupid or a waste of time. Let’s face it, if the gospel isn’t true, Christians do some really dumb stuff. Giving away your time, your money, raising your kids a certain way, treating your spouse a certain way though they don’t deserve it, etc..

We Never “Outgrow” the Gospel

We never leave the gospel behind. We never cease needing the gospel. We are to grow deeper IN the gospel. We are tempted to think that Christian maturity can happen outside of the gospel. We are tempted to think that maturity requires us to get stronger and stronger, needing God less and less because “we got this” or need to gain some type of adolescent independence. Real maturity understands its weakness and utter dependence upon God’s wisdom, His love, His grace, His strength. Paul prays that the Ephesians (and us) grow in our understanding of God’s glory in the gospel so that we may be filled with the fullness of God.

[16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,[17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:16-21, ESV)

[16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19, ESV)

The more we think rightly about the Gospel the better we see God’s holiness, perfection, wrath, and justice The better we see our sin, rebellion, wickedness, and hopelessness. This should make us overjoyed and eternally grateful for His love, grace, mercy, and wisdom.

We need to hear the Gospel daily (Bible reading, audio bible, sermon podcasts, etc.). We need to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves! This is not just “mind over matter” stuff. No. The gospel has power–it is the power of God!

This is the Good News and we’ll spend the rest of eternity understanding God’s love for us in the gospel! If the gospel fails to excite or motivate you, you’re in a dangerous place!

[2] if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2b)

Is believing the gospel the pattern of your life?

Christian, remember the gospel.

Live from the Gospel.

[1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, (1 Corinthians 15:1-2a)

Gospel Importance

Gospel Importance Pt.3: Centrality Pt.1

This is the third post in our Gospel Importance series. Gospel Importance Pt.1, Gospel Importance Pt.2

This is where I want to spend most of my time. So, I’ve decided to break this last part of Gospel Centrality into 2 parts. How does the Gospel continue to impact the lives of believers? Why does Paul continually remind those who are believing of the Gospel? We know that the Gospel is God’s power to convert unbelieving sinners, but I want to focus on how and why the Gospel is (or should be) at the center of our lives as Christians.

It looks like a long post, but a lot of it will be Scripture. I want us to see this in the Word. I want us as Christians to see God’s power at work in the Gospel to keep believers. Oh, that we would be able to plumb the depths of God’s wisdom, grace, mercy, love, and righteousness in His Gospel. I want us to see why we never outgrow the Gospel, we only dive deeper into the Gospel.

[1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ESV)

Paul is writing to believers-Christians. This seems to be a habit of his. He said to the believers in Rome that he wanted to come and preach the Gospel to them (Rom. 1:16). There are, I believe, at least two reasons he does this. The first is to remind them of the content of the Gospel–making sure they stand firm in the true Gospel. The second is to remind us of who God is, who we are, and all He has done for us in the Gospel. Remembering, meditating on, and growing in our understanding of the Gospel is to be at the center of who we are. It is the power from which we live our daily lives.

Several images come to mind as I think about how this might look. The first set of images shows how the Gospel affects us from the core of who we are, changes us, and gives us power to do the things and be the people God has called us to do and be. The third may be a bit silly, but came to mind as I though about power coming from our core (without which we couldn’t live), driving all our actions.

gospel-power-plant1
gospel-power-plant2
ironman_gospel_centrality

Why remember and focus on the Gospel?

The Gospel Saves Us

[1]…which you received… (1 Corinthians 15:1)

[12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12, ESV)

[21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

As we ponder the Gospel we are reminded that we are no longer under God’s wrath. The penalty for our sin has been paid in full. We don’t have to live with our guilt, condemnation, and self-pity. If God in Christ has forgiven us we can rest in His promises. This also helps us extend forgiveness to those who have sinned against us and offer God’s forgiveness to unbelievers.

The Gospel Keeps Us

[1]…in which you stand… (1 Corinthians 15:1)

The Greek verb (hē’-stā-mē) translated “stand” means “to cause or make stand.” The Gospel gives us the power to continue standing in the Gospel! If we are truly saved, we cannot get “unsaved.” He has promised Himself to us forever. He won’t withdraw His salvation from us because we still struggle with indwelling sin. This is the essence of covenant love.

Yes, we recognize that we were created in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), but our standing before God isn’t based on those works (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Christian life is one of simultaneous work and rest. We work in the strength Christ supplies as we rest in the salvation Christ supplies.

[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30, ESV)

The Gospel Frees Us

[2]… by which you are being saved… (1 Corinthians 15:2)

[6] 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. (Philippians 1:6, ESV)

It frees us from the power of sin and will ultimately one day free us from the presence of sin. There was a point in time when we were regenerated (born again) and sealed with the Holy Spirit. And one day we will have complete and total salvation from sin and its effects. Until then we live in the “Already but, not yet.” We are already saved, but the fullness of our salvation has not yet been realized.

We are no longer prisoners or slaves of sin, forced to do what it wants. We have been given power over sin by the Holy Spirit through faith in the Gospel. We are being conformed to the likeness of Christ through the Gospel.

It’s God’s Power to Save All Who Believe and Are Believing

[16] For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… (Romans 1:16, ESV)

[9] because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, ESV)

[17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.(Romans 10:17, ESV)

The Gospel is God’s power to save or give faith to unbelievers, but it is also His power to save believers. The word “believe” in Rom. 1:16 is in the present active tense, so the verse could read “for everyone who is believing. Believers need to hear and trust in the Gospel as much as unbelievers do!

We can have confidence that when we share the Gospel, some will believe. The Message is the power of God, not our polished presentation of it. We do want to understand and present the true Gospel well, but realize the Holy Spirit brings them to faith, not us.

I love how Donald Whitney said it: “Sharing the Gospel is like walking around during a thunderstorm handing out lightning rods. You never know when or where lightning will strike, but you do know what it will strike-the lightning rod of the Gospel. We don’t know who or when He will save, but we know He will use the Gospel to do it.”

We Get Distracted

[3] For I delivered to you as of first importance… (1 Corinthians 15:3)

It’s easy to get distracted from the Gospel. Unfortunately, the ministry that derives its power from the Gospel can so quickly veer from its centrality. The context of the verse above is set at the end of a long section of 1 Corinthians where Paul lays out a lot of doctrine (beliefs about specific topics) and ecclesiology (rules or guidelines for Christian worship). These things are very important otherwise Paul wouldn’t have spent a lot time giving us direction and instruction in them. We all too easily get caught up into thinking that the specifics are of first importance. We tend, at times, to major on the minors.

Not only do you and I get distracted with the “things of the church,” but we also get distracted in our daily lives. It’s easy for us to forget the bearing and impact the Gospel has on every decision we make. It’s easy to forget the Gospel when we have to discipline and correct crazy kids all day long. It’s easy to forget the Gospel when we have project deadlines at work that are stressing us out. It’s easy to forget the Gospel when we’re tempted to spend more than we should on that new trinket that we think will satisfy. We are forgetful creatures, prone to seek love and meaning in the things of this world.

Most things you and I think about throughout the day are common or unimportant. Some things are important. Few things are very important. But the Gospel is crucial-of first importance! We need to get it right and think about it often!

Gospel Importance Pt. 4: Centrality

the gospel of jesus christ

Gospel Importance Pt.2: Content

In the last post we talked about the importance of Gospel Clarity, or what the Gospel is and is not. Now I want to look at the content of the true Gospel. You could ask the same question: “What is the Gospel?” Or more clearly: “What is this news and what makes it so good?” What is it that makes this the best news anyone could ever hear? What is it about this news that has the power to create spiritual life from death?

It is important that we understand the Gospel rightly and communicate it clearly. I’m not implying that one must communicate the Gospel eloquently or that you have to be a skilled theologian in order to see someone saved. The message contains the power, not the messenger and his delivery of it.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV)

The Text we’ve been looking at for Gospel Importance is 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

[1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ESV)

We see that Paul is reminding them of a very specific gospel-his gospel, or the one he preached. The one he received from Jesus Himself (Acts 9; Gal. 1:11-12).

[1]… of the gospel I preached to you… [2]… if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…

He tells us that if we leave the true Gospel, our faith is in vain. He gives us a reason for this in Galatians where he says that other “gospels” can’t save you because they have no power because they aren’t really gospels at all–they are not good news!

[6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9, ESV)

There were many false gospels in Paul’s time in the early church. Some trying to add things to the gospel, some trying to take parts out of it. I believe this is one of the reasons Paul wrote about the Gospel so much–to clarify it.

This is very applicable to us, seeing as there are many false gospels and their prophets promulgating their lies in our culture today. We have everything from the gospel minimalists, (claiming that even if some parts of the Gospel aren’t true living the way of Jesus is still the best way to live), to the witchcraft of the prosperity gospel, to everything in between.  I believe it is vital that we spend some time rightly understanding the Gospel Paul preached, lest we believe in vain.

What is the gospel? What is this news we believe and preach?

[3]…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

…that Christ…
God the Son–2nd member of the eternal God-head. Sinless. Perfect. God. The One through whom, by whom, and for whom the world was created. This was no mere man, though He was a man. Christ is the title given to Him, not part of His name. It means anointed One, Messiah. So much more time could be spent here (as on all the other points), but we’re just getting a brief overview.

…Christ died…
He literally, physically died. None of this swoon theory stuff. A trained Roman executioner made sure he was dead by thrusting a spear under His rib cage, bursting His pericardial sac. He was dead! He chose to die. He didn’t have to die. That’s one of the advantages of being God; you don’t have to die if you don’t want to.

…for our sins…
He didn’t die for our prosperity, health, self esteem, etc. He took care of our greatest need. He took the Father’s wrath that we earned and deserved. He gave his life for His enemies so that we could become His children.

…that He was raised on the third day…
All of our hope hinges on the resurrection! If Christ was not raised our hope in His atoning death on the cross is in vain. The resurrection proves He is God and that He has the power to do what He said He would–give eternal life to those who believe (John 3:16-17). It proves that His payment for our sins was sufficient. If Christ is raised, we have confidence that we too will be raised to be with Him forever!

…in accordance with the Scriptures.
God had a plan from the beginning that He alluded to throughout the Old Testament. The Old Testament is full of prophecies about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Messiah that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled completely. This also means that it is the Scriptures which define what the gospel is, not you, me, the church, or our culture.

This is the News that is the power of God. This is the Good News that brings life to its believers. This is the Message God has used to create and sustain disciples for centuries. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever… and so is His message.

Gospel Importance Pt. 3: Centrality

gospel_importance

Gospel Importance Pt.1: Clarity

The Gospel is for believers! It is not only the power of God to convert unbelievers, it is the power of God to save those who are believing. It is the door by which we enter the house and the house itself! Every room we explore is an exploration deeper into beautiful Gospel truths.

[1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ESV, emphasis mine)

If there is anything we need to get right, this is it. Over the next few posts we’ll look at three components of the Gospel that I pray will help Christians think rightly about the Gospel and live from the power God supplies through it. We’ll look at Gospel clarity (What is it?), Gospel content (Of what does it consist?), and Gospel centrality (How does remembering it give us strength day to day?).

Gospel Clarity

At times we can confuse the Gospel with the effects of the Gospel. Most of the time this is unintended, even well meaning, but tends to muddy the waters a bit when it comes to the true Gospel message. Here are a few things to think through as we grow in our understanding of the gospel impacting our lives and how we might share this news–the greatest news ever-with others in our culture.

The Gospel IS News

At it’s simplest it is a report of an event. It is the good news of what a loving God has done, in Christ, for sinners. It is news about something that happened at a specific point in history. It can be proved. It is NOT some esoteric system of beliefs that only the deep thinking or spiritually minded people can understand. The news is presented and either believed or not believed.

It MUST be Preached

Since the gospel is news it has to be proclaimed, preached, told. It can not be lived. We can’t live the gospel in front of others. We can’t live news. We live our lives as Christians who, by God’s grace, believe the Gospel–in front of others. But our lifestyle and even our love won’t save people. God may use our lives to draw people or to pique their interest, but He will use the Gospel to save them. “Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words” may be well intentioned, but wrong. People can not believe news they haven’t heard. Read more

Holiness

Holiness? Are You Serious?

I’d like to start off by laying again the foundation that we keep coming back to and should never forget. We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ’s work of redemption on our behalf alone. Once this salvation has occurred in our life and shown itself through repentance and a changed life by the power of God the Holy Spirit, it can never be taken away from us!

A lot of the material I cover in this article I owe to Kevin DeYoung, whose book, The Hole in our Holiness, really brought home to me the importance of seeking to live a holy life. It is a doctrinally sound book that encourages born again believers to seek to live in holiness without giving us a bunch of moralistic checklists. I’m thankful to him for writing it and I pray that God uses it in many lives to bring glory and honor to Himself as I pray He continues to mature and build me up in the faith.

The following is a combination of my study notes for the Men’s Group I lead and thoughts and notes from DeYoung’s book which again, is well worth your time in reading. Read more

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Context Matters

In biblical interpretation, context matters – a lot. The context of the passage dictates how it is to be interpreted. In missing this crucial point many Texts have been snatched out of their original context and given meanings they were never intended to have. Each Scripture or passage only has one meaning, not many. It cannot mean one thing to me and another thing to you. Either you, or I, or both are wrong. There can be many different applications of a passage, but only one meaning.

Contexts to keep in mind when looking at a specific passage:

  • Context of the whole Bible. What is the big picture and over all story? How does this passage fit with the whole story? The Bible is not an instruction manual that we consult when things aren’t going our way. It is not God’s love letter to us. It is God’s self revelation to us of His will, His character, His glory, His sovereignty, His story, and how He displays His glory through choosing a people for Himself to love and save.
  • Context of the letter or book you’re reading. What is the cultural setting of the addressed people? What was the intent of the human author in writing it? To whom was it written? What was going on there?
  • Context of the passage itself. What topic or idea is being explained or debated? What people group is being addressed (Christians, unbelievers, Pharisees, etc.)? It’s helpful to keep the passages directly before and after the section in question in mind while interpreting.

Two texts I hear/have heard misinterpret most often are the story of David and Goliath & Phil. 4:13. In both cases the story or context has nothing to do with us in any way being the heros or focus of the story. But, in our narcissistic culture, they get snatched kicking and screaming out of their contexts and taught in a way that makes us look good or helps us look within ourselves to do something really awesome. We love to think that God is on OUR sideline, cheering US on in OUR pursuits, you know, He’s there just in case we need Him.

In the story of David and Goliath, we become David, facing down our giants. With God’s help and a few smooth stones, we can defeat our bullies, overcome our hardships, conquer our fears, or defeat the opposing football team that beat us earlier in the season so we can go to the state playoffs. You get the point. In actuality this story (that really happened) is a picture of how Christ defeats our enemies (sin, Satan, death) for us as we look on like scared, paralyzed Israelites. If you consider all WE gain from HIS victory… this is a much better story.

In Philippians 4:13 Paul says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I can’t help but think of how much disappointment this verse must cause people when it is misinterpreted to them. One of the most grievous misuses of this Text I see in my part of the country is in the area of sports, which happens to be a very influential god down here. A runner falls behind in a race. A boy stands on the free throw line at the end of the fourth quarter with his team down by one. Insert any underdog in any sport, ad nauseam. Then all they have to do is continue to think to themselves “I can do all things through Christ,” and boom! supernatural strength. Given this meaning the verse simply is not true and can’t bear the weight we place on it. The Bible is not a magical book from which we can pick and choose verses to chant for good luck.

The context of Philippians 4 is suffering and contentment. Paul is saying that he can endure all kinds of suffering and be content in any situation through Christ’s strength. This is much better news than “Jesus will help you win your sporting event” because hard times are coming for us all!

The point being, read the verses in context and allow them to say what they say instead of forcing them to say what you would like them to say. We trivialize the Bible when we make it about us. It does TALK about us, but that is NOT the same as us being the point of it. Christ is always the point of the Bible.

Romans 8

The Power of the Preached Word

Romans 8:31-39 contains some of the most inspiring, beautiful, motivating promises in all of the New Testament. We are promised, if we are in Christ, that: God is for us, we have everything we need in Christ, no charges brought against us will stand, because God is our justifier, we cannot be condemned, Christ Himself is interceding for us, none of the trials mentioned (Rom 8:35-39) can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ!

We are not, however, promised that we will be kept from the trials, only that they will not ultimately defeat us. In Christ we have the ultimate victory – life eternal with Him! So many of us, myself included, spend most of our lives trying to avoid the trials mentioned instead of following Jesus whole-heartedly and depending on His strength and grace to get us through. Because we have the promises proclaimed by Paul, we can confidently and boldly abandon ourselves to the cause of Christ.

In his message to The Gathering, B. Taylor did an outstanding job communicating these truths to us. I encourage you to listen to his entire message “The Motivating Power of Our Future Hope of Glory.” He expands on the depth of the promises God gives us in the gospel and what it means for us, the Church. This has really made me examine my own life and repent of trying to shield myself and not trust Christ. My favorite part of the message is at the very end when he reminds us that, “There are zero commands in this passage.” To turn this into a “do” passage would be to confuse the meaning of the whole thing.

This is a phenomenal message simply because he stayed true to the gospel saturated Text! He realized that he did not have to give a big moralistic, motivational speech. Men preach the Word and it is the Spirit of God through the preached Word of God that motivates and changes lives!

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God's Self-glorification

God, in His wisdom, has chosen to glorify Himself through saving sinners. This is wonderful news! The following is a post I wrote several months back as I was studying through Ephesians. Since this is one of my favorite topics, I thought I would repost it here. I’d love to here your thoughts on it.

There are some major, overarching themes in Ephesians that are fantastic and empowering when we take some time and examine them. I’m not going to examine them all in detail in this post, but we’ll take a look at a few of them.

  • God’s glory (majesty, holiness, apart-ness). – Eph. 1:6, 12, 14
  • God’s wisdom in working His plan and purpose. – Eph 1:5, 8, 9, 11
  • God’s love for His children and the blessings we have in Christ. – Eph. 1:3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13-14, 19

In looking at these verses and themes, if you pull any of them out of context or out of the whole and base your doctrine or theology on those, you could run into one of a couple of ditches. Read more

pragmatism

Rest in Christ!

I love how in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1 – 7:29) Jesus gives us the Beatitudes first! Christ gives us the promises of God saying you and I, as Christians, ARE blessed before He gets into telling us how we should respond in faith to these promises. We are not blessed because of anything we did or can do. The Beatitudes are not things we are to strive for in order to obtain the blessings. They are not a “todo list” we are to check off each day. They are promises in Christ to us as believers.

We have such a tendency to look at the Sermon on the Mount and turn the entire sermon into a list of do’s and don’ts.  For example: “If I’m really meek I will inherit the earth” or “If I mourn I will be comforted”, etc. We place thoughts like these right along side “I need to try and be salt and light.” This only proves that we love the law. We run back to it every chance we get. We love the imperatives (commands) more than we love the indicatives (statements of fact). This is one reason we have such a hard time, in our Western culture, resting in Christ. We even take His statements and promise of blessing, that he accomplished for us, and turn them into things we must do or strive to earn! Jesus says: “You ARE blessed” and “You ARE salt and light” because of Him. Read more

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Theology and HTML Code?

I believe the reason a lot of people don’t study their Bible more in depth or tackle theology and doctrine is because they don’t see how all this “stuff” relates to their daily lives. We live in such a pragmatic society that if someone can’t see how something directly effects their day to day life why, bother with it? Though I don’t believe pragmatism (truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences) is something we should praise or endorse, nevertheless, I will try to show how taking the time to dig a little deeper in your studies can benefit everyone, every day.

Theology and studying doctrine can sometimes seem a bit intimidating or overwhelming simply because there are some big words we have either never heard, seen, or understood. Taking the time to dig into the Word, commentaries, and other theological works from trusted men will help us break these large words into smaller, more manageable parts. As we begin to understand the parts, we can then begin to understand how they relate to the whole, and the next thing you know we magically know what we believe about an issue and why we come down where we do on it.

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The Atoning Work of Christ

Being the beginning of Holy Week, I wanted to take a look at Christ’s death on the cross, or His atoning work. These are notes from my latest Sunday School lesson, so they’ll be in more of a bullet point format. It begins with His words at the Last Supper (Mt. 26:26-69).

Atonement

What is it?

  • The work of Christ in His perfect life and death on the cross to earn our salvation.
  • Not just that He died for our forgiveness – that would have only made us morally neutral.
  • But also He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father in all righteousness (Mt. 3:15) so that we could become the righteousness of God in Christ (Phil. 3:9, 1 Cor. 1:30).

What were the causes of the Atonement?

  • The love of God (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8).
  • The justice of God (Rom. 6:23, Gen. 2:17, Rom. 3:23).
  • In our culture, especially in my generation and younger, we tend to place so much emphasis on the love of God that we forget that He hates sin so much that He sent God the Son – perfect, spotless, sinless, blameless, holy, who enjoyed perfect communion with the Father and Spirit for all eternity – to die on a bloody cross taking the full force of the Father’s anger, wrath, and hatred.
glory-cycle

Thoughts From Ephesians 1

There are some major, overarching themes in Ephesians that are fantastic and empowering when we take some time and examine them. I’m not going to examine them all in detail in this post, but we’ll take a look at a few of them.

  • God’s glory (majesty, holiness, apart-ness). – Eph. 1:6, 12, 14
  • God’s wisdom in working His plan and purpose. – Eph 1:5, 8, 9, 11
  • God’s love for His children and the blessings we have in Christ. – Eph. 1:3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13-14, 19

In looking at these verses and themes, if you pull any of them out of context or out of the whole and base your doctrine or theology on those, you could run into one of a couple of ditches.

Bless-Me Theology

You could end up thinking that God is all about you or us as humans. This theology focuses on God’s blessings toward us and thinks that God exists to bless and make much of us. God is all about making you feel good, making you successful, blessing you with a great job or lots of material things. Some things you might hear people who believe this way say are:

  • “Just look at all the riches we have in Him.”
  • “I’m a child of the King, therefore I deserve this or that.”
  • “We are blessed with blessings in the heavenlies.”
  • “See God’s love for you. He would never let anything bad happen to you. It’s not his will.”

When God is all about you, you are all about you and everyone else should be all about you also. When this is your attitude, if you don’t get your way, you get angry at the people around you and upset with God because He didn’t give you what you wanted or “deserve.”  Of course we would never say this is what we believe, but our actions, or rather reactions, when we don’t get what we want sometimes prove otherwise.

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