Friday, April 30, 2010

Who He Is

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Humble Orthodoxy

“Is an attachment to orthodoxy necessarily accompanied by a rigid and unloving spirit? If we were to think of all the orthodox people we know, then we might conclude that that is sometimes the case. If we recollect all the unorthodox people we know, then we might come to the same conclusion! The real question is whether there is any likely or necessary connection between orthodoxy and lack of love. . . .

Any idea that love and orthodoxy are antithetical to each other is foreign to the teaching of Christ. Our Lord requires both. Let us therefore reject the sort of self-righteousness in which we congratulate ourselves on being orthodox and think that this somehow compensates for a lack of love. Similarly let us not think that Christ will overlook denials of his Word simply because we are loving.”

--Noel Weeks, The Sufficiency of Scripture (Edinburgh, 1988), page 237.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16
In the words of Noel Weeks, love and orthodoxy. In the words of Josh Harris, humble orthodoxy. In the words of the apostle Paul, speaking the truth in love.

As we live this kind of life, we are growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, who saw no conflict between truth and love, but always spoke the truth no matter how unpopular it was, and always did so in love.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:17
In the words of the apostle John, grace and truth. Not one. Both.

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Was Grace

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:32

Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17

The Works of God

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Savior and The Sheep

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Psalm 23:1-3

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
John 10:2-4

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shephered, and he will guide them to springs of living water...
Revelation 7:17

All The Way My Savior Leads Me
by Chris Tomlin (original by Fanny J. Crosby)

All the way my Savior leads me
Who have I to ask beside
How could I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide

All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread
Gives me grace for every trial
Feeds me with the living Bread

You lead me and keep me from falling
You carry me close to Your heart
And surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me

All the way my Savior leads me
O, the fullness of His love
O, the sureness of His promise
In the triumph of His blood
And when my spirit clothed immortal
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way
Jesus led me all the way

All the way my Savior leads me
All the way my Savior leads me
I love being a sheep who belongs to Jesus!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Key To Understanding Scripture

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures...
Luke 24:44-45
Don't miss the implications of what Luke says in verse 45. It was only at that moment--after Jesus told His disciples that everything written about Him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (the Old Testament) must be fulfilled--that the disciples were able to understand the Scriptures. Before that moment, they didn't really understand the Scriptures (which at that point in time was only the Old Testament since there was no New Testament), even though they probably thought they did. They didn't understand the Old Testament because they didn't know that everything written in the Old Testament was about Jesus until Jesus told them so.

Similarly, we will never really understand the Old Testament (and in my experience, we will never remain motivated to read the Old Testament)--even though we may think we do--until we come to it as that which is meant to teach us about Jesus, to point us to Him and to prepare us for Him. The key to understanding Scripture is to know that, from beginning to end, it's all about Jesus (Colossians 1:16).

So if we were to pickup our Bibles for the first time having never read them before (or advise someone who has actually never read the Bible), the best place for us to start isn't in Genesis, but rather in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (John might make the most sense since it starts the same way Genesis does). If we want to better understand the writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, then perhaps what we need to do is gain a better understanding of the writings of Paul and Peter. Because, as one person so concisely put it, "the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed."
When we start with Christ in the gospel and go back from there into the Old Testament, we find that the Old Testament eventually leads us back again to Christ.
-Graeme Goldsworthy, "Gospel and Wisdom," in The Goldsworthy Trilogy, page 343.
In other words, in all things (and especially our understanding of Scripture), Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13).

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Friday, April 16, 2010

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #9

C.J. Mahaney

Ordinary Pastors


I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
Some pastors are remarkably gifted and have tremendous influence in the church. As for the rest of us, not so much. Most of us are ordinary pastors. Ordinary pastors don’t write books, let alone best-selling books. Ordinary pastors aren’t well known. An ordinary pastor pastors an ordinary sized church.

As ordinary pastors, we are predictably tempted to compare ourselves to other pastors, especially at a conference like this. It’s easy to lose the joy of being called to pastoral ministry because we become more focused on comparing ourselves to others. And we easily become discouraged. Too often ordinary pastors are discouraged pastors.

So this morning we want to look to the true definition of pastoral ministry so that instead of comparing ourselves to other pastors, we will be encouraged, so that we will be joyfully sustained in service to God’s people over the decades.

We can’t be like other remarkably gifted pastors but we can be and we are called to be faithful. It’s not about gifting, it’s not about influence, it’s not about fruitfulness. It’s about faithfulness.

1) Faithful to the Message

Preach the Word. Timothy would have recognized this as a reference to the gospel. Paul doesn’t need to clarify that to Timothy at this point. He’s telling Timothy, “Be faithful to preach the gospel.” Pastor, never assume that those in your church have sufficient knowledge of their need for the gospel.

We will experience temptations to stray from this gospel. We must be faithful to preach this gospel. And in order to do this, we must resolve to be unoriginal. If we don’t do this, we’ll be distracted by all that is new, trendy, and popular and that which is of secondary importance rather than the original old message of the gospel which is of first importance. If we don’t resolve to be unoriginal, we will lose sight of what matters most.

You might not look like much. Where you meet might not look like much. Church might not run smoothly. But if we’re being faithful to the charge to preach the gospel, there is power under the hood. And the church will be edified. And the lost will be evangelized.

Whitefield and Wesley may preach the gospel better than us but they can’t preach a better gospel.

Whatever our church demographics are, our charge is to preach the gospel whether people are indifferent or antagonistic.

We must not only be familiar with the message, but we must also be familiar with the people we are preaching to. We need to prepare to preach the Word in view of the people that we are preaching to. We need to spend time with the people so that we can discern how to best to serve them specifically as we preach the Word to them.

Faithfulness to the message requires godly character in general and patience in particular. Patience is essential, not optional for a pastor. Pastoral ministry requires not just patience but complete patience. We must not only be exegetically precise and theologically accurate but we must be completely patient with people. The latter is the most difficult. It’s much easier to study and prepare a sermon than to be patient with people. If we don’t cultivate this patience, our frustration and irritation will eventually surface in our ministry.

How does a pastor cultivate this complete patience?
  • Frequently meditate on God’s patience with you. Daily reminders of God’s patience with me protect my soul from sinful impatience with others.
  • Remember that sanctification is a process and not an event. Sanctification is a very slow process. We’re so tempted to expect our people to comprehend and apply truth quickly when it has taken us years to comprehend and apply those same truths.
  • We must learn to trust in God’s timetable. Ministry is frequently illustrated in Scripture with agricultural metaphors, based on a timetable of long seasons.
Don’t assume that you are sufficiently patient.

2) Faithful to Your Ministry

This is what the life of an ordinary pastor looks like: he is sober-minded, he endures suffering, he does the work of an evangelist, and he fulfills the ministry. This is the day in and day out of pastoral ministry.

One of the hardest things for a pastor or ministry to do is to just keep doing the same thing. We need to be less distracted by and attracted to new things. We just need to keep on doing the same thing.

3) Faithful to the Savior

Paul issues this charge to Timothy to fulfill his ministry in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, the Savior who he’s to stay faithful to.

In verse 8, Paul is looking forward to receive his reward from His Lord. And he’s calling Timothy to do the same, to look forward to receiving commendation from the Savior.

On the last day, there will be a parade of ordinary pastors who will stand before Jesus and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful ordinary pastor.”

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #8

Matt Chandler and C.J. Mahaney

Preparing Our People For Suffering


Matt Chandler:

We may not be suffering right now. But if that’s the case, the suffering will come. And we would do well to prepare for it.

When I got to The Village, it quickly became clear that the church did not have a theology of suffering. And so I began to try to build into them a theology of suffering. I did it in small ways like, for example, when going through the sermon on the mount. Jesus tells the parable about the house built on sand and the house built on rock. What I wanted to draw their attention to was that even though the house on rock didn't come crashing down, both houses experienced the storm. It wasn't just the house built on sand. I wanted them to know that we as Christians don't get spared from the storms of life.

But what I have come to realize over these past couple of months is the amazing grace and mercy of God in that even though I thought I was preparing my church to suffer through my preaching, this whole time it has really been God preparing me to suffer.

The truths of the gospel that we’ve been talking about are not ambiguous in their applications and implications.

I have always known that Jesus is my treasure, that He's everything, that He's enough. But only now do I really know that Jesus is my treasure, that He's everything, that He's enough in a way that I couldn't have otherwise known.

C.J. Mahaney:

5 implications:

1) The topic of suffering should inform the teaching diet of our churches. Teach through the book of Job, Habakkuk, or 1 Peter.

2) Draw attention to living illustrations of glorifying God in the midst of suffering.

3) Develop a curriculum of supplemental materials, books, and articles on the topic of suffering: How Long, O Lord? by D.A. Carson, Treasuring Christ and the Call to Suffer sermon series by John Piper (1, 2, 3, 4, Q&A), When God Weeps by Joni Erickson Tada, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper, Beside Still Waters quotes from Charles Spurgeon

4) The most effective way to prepare the church for suffering is to preach the gospel to the church. There is no more superior way to prepare our churches for suffering or to comfort them in the midst of suffering than to preach the gospel. Those who recognize that their suffering in this life is never as great as their sins find the greatest joy in the midst of their suffering. Because the great mystery in life isn’t “Why do I suffer?” but “Why would the God who I have sinned against suffer in my place?”

5) Where and when possible, let’s be there at their side when they suffer.

“Trust God’s heart when you can’t trace His hand.”

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #7

Ligon Duncan

Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?


This morning is an address on church history. It’s not an address from Scripture. But the Word of God is our only final authority on rule and practice. So last night’s address is much more important than this one. This message is a study of the book of God’s providence.

When we study church history, we are studying the history of God’s providence with our people. If we don’t pay attention to the story of God’s dealings with them, we are missing out on much to learn from and be edified by.
It’s a good rule after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to three new ones.... Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and especially liable to make certain mistakes. We all therefore need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.... None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books....The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds and this can only be done by reading old books.
-C.S. Lewis
So this morning’s message is a study on patristics, the earliest church history prior to the council of Nicaea (325 AD).

One view of the church fathers says that the reformers theology of grace was wrong. This view says that the church fathers were the closest Christians to Jesus and the NT and so their understanding of Christianity and the NT must be authoritative and determinative of how to really understand Christianity and when we read them we find an understanding of Christianity that does not square with our Protestant view.

Another view says that the gospel was lost during the early years of church history up until about the 1600’s and didn’t reappear appear until the days of the reformation.

Neither of these views is accurate, sufficient, or helpful. How should we read the fathers instead? We should read the fathers respectfully, carefully, and under the authority of Scripture.

Our greatest concern in studying the church fathers isn’t to read what they said about a particular doctrine and then state whether that doctrine is true but rather we learn what they said about doctrines in order to help us read the Scriptures and know what it says. They help us read the Bible better. But we should do so realizing that sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong.

A reading of the church fathers that helps us realize that they sometimes get it wrong is consistent with what Paul and Jesus tell us to expect. It’s consistent with the doctrine of total depravity because none of us gets it completely right.

The church fathers were best at polemics (refuting false teaching). They will serve us best where the truth of Scripture was under attack during their own time. If you read the fathers, when they wrote about doctrines that were not under attack they were all over the map and often got it wrong. But when they wrote about doctrines that were heavily under attack, they almost always got it right and gloriously so. Herersy served the church to help get the Bibles proper understanding rightly understood and communicated to the people of God.

The church fathers shows us how to respond to culture because they didn’t react directly to culture. They first went to Scripture and then from Scripture to the culture.

How do the fathers and the study of the fathers help us?

  • They help us in the status of the Old Testament

  • Hebrews for the first couple hundred years of Christianity worked primarily out of the original Hebrew of the Old Testament because the Bible had not yet been compiled. The Bible of the earliest Christianity was the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible can teach us salvation through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone (2 Timothy 3:15).

    One of the things the Gnostics did was to reject the Old Testament. When the Gnostics did this, the way the church fathers pressed back was to show that not only does the Old Testament prove that Jesus is the Messiah who is sent from God but they show that the New Testament proves that the Old Testament is the authoritative Word of God because Jesus and Paul address it as such.

  • They help us in the status of the New Testament

  • The church fathers helped to identify what should be included in the canon by asking whether each book bore the marks of apostolicity and inspiration. Was it written by an apostle? Did it bear the authority of God? They didn’t determine what goes into the Bible. But they confirmed whether something belongs in the Bible or not.

  • They help us understand the person of Christ

  • The father help us against liberalism

  • The fathers help us have a gospel motivation in living the Christian life. We cannot battle the desires of the flesh with a command. We can only battle the desires of the flesh with the power of the Spirit through the gospel.

Did the fathers know the gospel? Yes and no. Yes, if you mean, “Was the gospel lost in the days of the early church fathers?” No, it wasn’t. Did the fathers speak of things like justification and imputation sufficiently enough for the understanding of the gospel to be sustained for the life of the church? No. Was what they said helpful? Yes.

This teaches us that we cannot assume the gospel. They’re like the man born blind. All he knew was that once he was blind and now he sees. He knew he that was changed. But what he knew wasn’t sufficient for living by grace for a lifetime. Whenever we assume that the gospel is known, we put the church at risk of losing it.

The reason the fathers weren’t as clear about doctrines like imputation and justification by faith alone as the reformers is because they weren’t fighting the same battle the reformers were in the 16th century. Their battles were different and they didn’t have to articulate these doctrines as precisely as the reformers did.

Where should we go if we want to begin reading the church fathers?
  • Start with Augustine’s confessions.
  • Then read the apostolic fathers.
  • Then read Tertullian.
Read them with respect, faithfully, and under the authority of Scripture.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #6

John Piper

Did Jesus Preach the Same Gospel Paul Preached?

Full manuscript

Many people think that the gospel that Jesus preached is different from the gospel that Paul preached. When we talk about justification by faith, are we moving away from what Jesus taught in favor of what Paul taught?
“If you don’t have imputation, you don’t have Sola Fide (justification by faith alone). If you don’t have Sola Fide, you don’t have the gospel.”
–R.C. Sproul (from yesterday's session)
Jesus did preached the gospel of justification by faith alone through the imputation of His righteousness. Jesus did preach the same gospel that Paul preached. That’s the thesis of this message.

If you faithfully interpret the deeds and message of Jesus as He is in the four gospels, you will be in more accord with who Jesus really is and what He really did than all the critical scholars of history. Where you meet and fellowship with the living Christ more than anywhere else is in the gospels. If you linger with him there, He won’t be a stranger to you. And you’ll be able to meet Him when you die.
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.”
Luke 18:9-14
Every single verse of the gospels is meant to be read in the shadow of the cross and what Jesus accomplished there. Luke shows us that Jesus identifies Himself with the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who makes many to be counted as righteous (Luke 22:37, Isaiah 53:11-12).

Luke 18:9-14 is about justification because Jesus concludes by saying that one man leaves the temple justified and the other doesn’t. So the point is how one gets justified and how one doesn’t get justified. He doesn’t teach us everything about justification here. But He does teach us a lot. Three things He teaches us about the Pharisee:

1) His righteousness is moral – The Pharisee lists out his moral qualifications. He isn’t an extortioner, he isn’t unjust, he’s not an adulterer. He doesn’t break the law. And that’s what he trusts in.

2) His righteousness is religious – The Pharisee fasts and tithes. These are spiritual disciplines. This is what he trusts in.

3) He believes that this moral uprightness and religious devotion is a gift from God – The Pharisee thanks God for his moral uprightness and religious devotion. He acknowledges that God has given him grace to walk uprightly.

The issue here isn’t whether or not the man is a legalist. He’s not trusting in himself to make himself righteous. That’s what legalism is. He’s trusting in himself that he is righteous because God has made him righteous.

His mistake is not that He is trusting in self-produced righteousness. His mistake is that he is trusting in God-produced righteousness. And this parable shows us that this is the wrong basis for justification. He’s looking at the wrong basis. He’s looking at the wrong person. He’s looking at himself and what God has made him as the ground of his acceptance with God. He’s trusting in imparted righteousness.
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'
Luke 17:10
When Jesus speaks in this verse, it’s as though He had the Pharisee of Luke 18 in view. It’s not a question of whether or not the Pharisee has done all of his moral and religious deeds of righteousness. Even if he has done them all, he’s still an unworthy servant, like the servants of Luke 17:10.

The tax collector went down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee. Why? What did he do? He looked away from anything in myself, unlike the Pharisee. He knew that if he looked within himself, he had no foundation to stand on. He had nothing to commend himself to God. And he probably recognizes that, like the servants of Luke 17:10, even if he had done everything he was supposed to he would have nothing within himself to commend himself to God.
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
In putting our faith in Christ, we are counted righteous in Him. We are joined to Him and we are seen as perfect because of His life of perfect obedience.

Are there clues in Luke that Jesus thinks along these lines of our being counted righteous in Him?

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus in Luke 18, Jesus acknowledges that he has done everything that he was said he did just like the unworthy servants of Luke 17:10. That’s not the issue here, whether he’s telling the truth or not. But he still lacks one thing. How does 1) selling everything he has, 2) giving everything to the poor, 3) coming to follow me amount to one thing? It sounds like 3. What Jesus is trying to say is that his attachment to his possessions needs to be replaced with an attachment to Jesus. If this man would be perfect, he needs Jesus. He can only have everything He needs to be right with God if He has Jesus. Those three things amount to one thing: embracing Jesus as His everything. That's the one thing.

Seven implications:

1) Jesus taught the doctrine of justification by faith on the basis of an imputed righteousness, not an inherent righteousness (which the Pharisee had). “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).

2) No matter how moral you are, religious you are, righteous you are and whether God has worked that in you or you have worked it in you, don’t trust in it. Trust in Christ alone, in His work on the cross, His blood and righteousness.

3) Take heart in your struggle with indwelling sin and remember that your standing as an adopted child of God is not based in yourself but in Christ alone. When Satan accuses us of how we’ve never done anything perfectly, what are you going to do? How will you endure being a fallen human being before God? Only because of Christ’s righteousness.

4) Don’t forget that all moral transformation that pleases God is the fruit and not the root of justification. Not even a belief in the sovereignty of God can enable us to escape from lovelessness. The fruit of love only grows from the root of justification by faith. It will never grow from a root of trusting in ourselves that we are righteous. The only fruit that will grow from that root is contempt for others.

5) Never forget that all your good attitudes, good intentions, and good deeds will serve at the judgment not as the ground of your acceptance but only as the public fruit and evidence and confirmation that you were born again and that you had faith in Christ who alone is your righteousness. You can only please God with an action that flows from the confidence that He is already totally on our side because of Jesus’ obedience.

6) The gospel of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us is universally, globally needed and should be spoken to every person of every people group in the planet. The first father of all human beings, Adam, failed and we all failed in him. The second father of all human beings, Jesus Christ, never failed, never for a moment. And He did that for the nations. Every people group, Buddhist, Muslim, Animist, Hindu, they all have the same problem. They’ve failed in Adam. And they need the second father, Jesus, to be the ground of their acceptance with God.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:18-19
7) Give Christ all His glory in the work of salvation and not just half of it. The main purpose of the universe is that Jesus be glorified and that the grace of God be glorified through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus did two things on the cross. He bore the punishment I deserve. He removed my sin. That’s only one thing. The other thing He did was that He was the righteous One who perfectly fulfilled all righteousness. And His obedience becomes mine by imputation when by faith I’m united with Him. He bore my sin AND He became my righteousness. And if you strip the latter away, the cross is sliced in half. His glory is cut in half. We don’t want to stand before Him on the last day and hear Him say, “I did so much more…”

Therefore, knowing that Jesus preached the same gospel as Paul, let’s say with Paul:
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…
Philippians 3:8-9

Together For The Gospel 2010: Breakout Session

David Platt

Gospel Theology Necessitates Urgent Missiology


There are about 6.8 billion people in the world. The most liberal estimate would put the world at 1/3 Christian. Even if all those people really are genuine believers, that still leaves over 4.5 billion people who are perishing. The Joshua Project tells us that about half of those have little to no access to the gospel right now. 645,000 people groups who have no access to the gospel. We don’t have time to play games. Gospel theology necessitates urgent missiology.

If we believe the gospel, then we will be compelled to sacrifice our lives for the sake of getting this gospel to the ends of the earth. And if we are not passionate about taking the gospel to the ends of the earth and giving our lives and the churches we lead to that cause, then there’s reason to question whether or not we really believe the gospel.

Some within the church ask the question, "Can those who are have never heard be saved?" But what they really should be asking is "Can those who have heard and don’t take the gospel to those who haven’t heard really be saved?"

Have we not created entire missions structures so that we can send out checks and never have to go do missions ourselves? The core issue here is do we believe that people are going to hell without hearing about Christ? If we really do, then gospel theology necessitates urgent missiology.

Here are 8 simple truths from the book of Romans that show us that gospel theology necessitate urgent missiology. When Paul wanted to get the local church to mobilize and support missions, his strategy was to give them the gospel.

1) God’s revelation is universal (Romans 1:18-20) – This is general revelation. There is not one person on the planet among the 6.8 billion people who is hidden from the revelation of God. God is making Himself known in moment to His creation.

2) Man’s depravity is terrible (Romans 1:21-1:32) – This is a fundamental truth that we can’t assume is a foundation in the hearts of many in our churches.

3) All people stand infinitely guilty before a holy God (Romans 2:1-3:20) – If you were to ask what happens to the innocent guy in Africa who has never heard the gospel when he dies, based on the authority of the Word of God, he’s going to heaven. The only problem is that that God doesn’t exist. And there is no innocent man in Africa or Asia or anywhere else. All people are guilty and that’s why we need the gospel.

4) All people stand eternally condemned before a wrathful God (Romans 2:6-11) – God will give to each person according to what he does. There’s a common thought among followers of Christ who think that certainly if someone has never heard the gospel, they would not be sent to hell. Certainly God will welcome them into heaven. The problem with that not only is Scripture but that if that were the case (that people were going to heaven because they have no gospel), then what is the worst thing we could do for their eternal state? Tell them the gospel. This misses the whole point. We stand condemned not because we have heard and haven’t responded but because we have all offended a holy God whether or not we’ve heard.

5) God has made a way of salvation through the atonement of Christ (Romans 3:21-26) – Even this we are tempted to minimize. We are not saved from our sins because of what some soldiers decided to do to Jesus on the cross. We are saved from our sins because Jesus consumed the full dregs of the cup of His Father’s wrath. This is good news to the nations.

6) God has decreed the means of salvation to be faith in Christ (Romans 3:27- Romans 5) – We don’t go to the nations with a list of things to do. They already have that. The more we see the gospel in our context as a list of boxes to check off the less we will have the ability when we go into their context and call them away from that.

7) God ordains His church to proclaim the gospel to all peoples (Romans 10) – Christ sends His servants to those who haven’t heard. What do His servants do? They preach the gospel. As servants of Christ, we are all called to proclaim the gospel. When we preach, people hear. When people hear, they believe. When they believe, they will call on the name of the Lord. And in calling on the name of the Lord, they are saved. The only breakdown here is when servants who are entrusted with the gospel do not go and proclaim it. Is our theology going to propel us there?

8) God ordains His Son to receive glory form all peoples (Romans 1:1-5, 16:25-27) – Jesus is the resurrected Lord and what that means is that He is worthy of the obedience of all nations. The reason we go is because God has ordained His Son to receive glory from all peoples. This is what drives us. People who believe that Christ is worthy of glory among all peoples will sacrifice their lives and spend the resources of the church to make sure that His gospel and His glory are made known to the ends of the earth.

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #5

John MacArthur

The Theology of Sleep!


Mark 4

This passage is a magna carta from Jesus on the topic of evangelism. Crowds were pressing in on Jesus. They were attracted by his power over demons, disease, and death. But as large as the crowds were and as fascinated as they were by His miracles, very few of them were true believers.

What is wrong? Why is it this way? That there are so few true believers? The flesh would respond by saying that we need a different strategy. This one isn’t really working. This is how the flesh always responds to evangelistic disappointment, to low numbers. It’s no different today.

In the wake of this, Jesus gives us a whole chapter on evangelistic instruction. Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God as the domain in which He reigns before He comes. It’s a field in which the crop grows, but the farmer goes has no idea how. The wonder of the gospel is that you sow the seed and you go to sleep and it grows. We don’t know how. The only human act in the work of the gospel is to sow and go to sleep. Paul uses this same imagery in 1 Corinthians 3. Spiritual birth and spiritual life, the seed that grows, is a divine miracle (John 3). When we look at the story of the thief on the cross, the only way that the one thief could embrace Jesus as Savior while the other mocked Him is because the power of God had come upon his soul. There’s no human explanation for that.

The parable calls us to sow the seed and go to sleep because we’re not in charge of the results. The earth produces by itself. The Greek term for “by itself” is where we get the word “automatic” from. It grows automatically. Because God makes it grow automatically. We are the means that God uses but we are not the power. Spiritual life and regeneration are divinely automatic. But there are essential elements in that divinely automatic operation that must be there.

How do we approach evangelism?
  • Humility – because it’s really not in our power to do the work. We don’t want to live under that ridiculous illusion. In the work of evangelism, we are not the issue. The sower in the parables of Mark 4 isn’t described by adjectives because the work of the gospel doesn’t really have anything to do with him. It has everything to do with what the seed the sower sows, the Word of God. While salvation is divinely automatic, it is the work of God, it can’t occur apart from the message of the gospel clearly and fully communicated.
  • Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen." Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
    Luke 9:18-22
    During his life and ministry, again and again Jesus told his followers not to keep quiet. He told them not to tell anyone when He healed people. He told them not to tell anyone when He raised people from the dead. He told them not to tell people when they realized He was the Messiah. Because He wanted them to wait until after He died and rose again to go and tell everyone that He was crucified and rose again for the salvation of sins.

    What is the parable of the four soils about if it’s not about the sower? It’s about the soil. The soil represents the heart. We can sow the seed but we can’t change the heart. We can’t affect people’s hearts but we can communicate truth to their minds, the truth of the gospel.

  • Obedience (Mark 4:21-22)– because we know we are the means by which the light comes. How will they hear without a preacher (Romans 10)? We are to be lights in the world. It’s not within our power to change hearts but it’s within our responsibility to be obedient to let our light shine so that God can use us to do His divine work in transforming hearts.

  • Diligently (Mark 4:23-25)– usefulness in gospel labor is directly proportional to our sowing and our eternal reward.

  • Confidence (Mark 4:30-32)– because we know that God has determined an exponential outcome. What’s going to be the final outcome? What should we expect with this little tiny seed kingdom? It explodes to become a tree in which all the nations find their shade.
We should sow the seed humbly, obediently, diligently, confidently, and leave the results to the Lord.

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #4

Thabiti Anyabwile

“Fine Sounding Arguments” – How Wrongly “Engaging the Culture” Adjusts the Gospel


Engage the culture. Win the culture. Transform the culture. Change the culture. Create culture. There’s a lot of talk about the gospel and culture these days. It’s an important topic but one fraught with ambiguities, dangers, and pitfalls.

What do we mean when we speak of culture?

When we think about culture, we generally think about ways of being: beliefs, perspectives, ideals, worldviews. There are many different understandings of what culture is.

But at what level should we change culture? Pop culture? Ethnic culture? Political culture? High culture? All of the above?

What is the objective, the goal of winning or transforming the culture? How do we know we’ve attained our goal? What does that look like?

Is this really what we are called to do?

Colossians 1:24-3:4

If we set out to engage the culture (whatever that means), we will most likely see the gospel adjusted in that process if we are not careful.

1) Paul’s Purpose (1:24 – 2:5)

Paul is a minister in order to make the Word of God fully known. And he wants to make the Word of God fully known in order to present the church as mature in Christ. His purpose is that every Christian embody Christ spiritually, be conformed to Him completely. This is Paul’s passion.

Paul is doing everything he can to grab his listeners by their ears through the Word of God and raise them up, as it were, to Christ. Is this what we are consumed with? Is this our goal in all that we do?

But there’s a danger: it’s possible for a particular view of the ministry to sound right but to be wrong and to lead us from the things of Christ, the goal which we are to be focused on. There can be a mission drift that draws us to good things, but in so doing take us from the main thing.

A lot of these fine sounding arguments come by trying to draw us to a focus on the kingdom of God as something so much broader and wider than our salvation in Christ.

Is it the purpose of the church to win the culture, engage the culture, or transform the culture? This kind of language signifies that mission drift is already happening.

Paul doesn’t deal with issues by addressing people within the culture. He addresses issues by addressing the church. He engages the culture by engaging the church.

2) Paul’s Philosophy (2:6-2:15)

Paul argues that since the Colossians have responded to the gospel by receiving Christ, they should now walk in Him. The Colossians should walk as those who have been taken captive by Christ. He uses an agricultural metaphor to talk about being rooted in Christ. He uses a building metaphor to talk about being established in Christ.

And the way Paul goes about doing this is by teaching his people to live in the fullness of the gospel (verses 9-15) so that it will flesh itself out in every aspect of their lives.

When it comes to our philosophy of the ministry, are we captured by Christ or are we captured by the world’s ideas and traditions? Paul wipes away all the worlds philosophies or principles as any kind of basis for the Christian life. He sets the gospel over and against the traditions of humanity, the philosophies of the world. Paul sets forth the gospel as an antithesis. Christ cannot be reconciled with the world.

There’s a tendency to underestimate the lethal potency of the world and its philosophies. When we press in on the world, the world presses back. If we assume that something that is secular is safe and neutral, then we are already being deceived by fine sounding arguments.

If our engagement of the culture is uncritical and we come to depend on its philosophies and traditions, those philosophies and traditions become Trojan horses that we bring back into the camp which end up waging war on and displacing the gospel.

3) Paul’s Practices (2:16-2:23)

A worldly outlook on life leads to a worldly approach to ministry and life. We must help the people shed the snakeskin of their natural cultures in order to embody the new culture that the gospel calls us into. The kingdom of God has its own culture that the gospel brings us into.

There has always been the city of man and the city of God (taken from Augustine). This is the way it has been since God began the nation of Israel. When God called Abraham and created the nation of Israel, what was He doing? He was calling those who were pagan worshippers (city of man) to come out of their cultures and to become a new culture with a new way of living, including a new law and new practices. The nation of Israel was a new way of being because Israel didn't exist before God called Abraham. Abraham didn't hold on to his old culture. He left it behind.

The NFL Pro Bowl provides a great illustration of this. All the best players in the league come together in one game to represent their conferences and play against each other. One team usually wears white jerseys and the other team wears blue jerseys. But even though the players come to represent their conferences and they show this by the color of jersey they wear, they also show that they are representing their individual teams because they all have different helmets to make clear which team they really belong to. They make clear which team they really belong to also by the fact that they don't come to play hard in the Pro Bowl. They just play for fun without giving it their all. Sadly, this is the way it seems to be in many churches. We come to church to wear our same colored jerseys but we are all wearing our own cultural helmets because that's who we really play hard with.

There’s a threat: we try to make the gospel fit into our own cultures. For example, we only listen to a certain type of music. The church is multiethnic, but it’s not multicultural. There is a new way of being that God has created through Christ and the gospel.

4) Paul’s Perspective (3:1-4)

We’ve all heard the saying “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.” But that doesn’t in any way fit with what Paul says here. He says the opposite. The only way for us to live is to be heavenly minded. We are to be looking for and leaning toward the place where Christ is. Even if we engage the culture with a heavenly mind, we might be drawn away. But Paul continually presses us up into Christ.

It’s Christ, Christ, Christ.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #3

Albert Mohler

How Does It Happen? Trajectories toward an Adjusted Gospel


When an airplane crashes, we are determined to find the cause so that we can in the future avoid that same disaster happening again. But sadly we don't have anywhere near that same kind of urgency when it comes to theological disaster.
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. 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 1:8-9
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.
1 Timothy 6:3
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:8-14
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 3
The New Testament is really clear about the realities of a false gospel. Yet there is seeming ignorance to the danger of false gospels in the church today. But if we love Jesus, we must love and guard the gospel.

Underlying the thinking of this postmodern age is the assumption that the world has change, that what has been true of us in the past is no longer true today. From Nietzsche to Freud and every modern day philosopher, these assumptions have been made in different ways. So the assumption is that the gospel must change. Christianity must change...or die.

Theological disaster is almost always at the hands of those who would claim to save Christianity rather than marry it. They think that they need to save Christianity from itself. This temptation has been constant.

Picture the church as a raft that is on a river and is getting ready to enter into some turbulent rapids. The raft is filled with lots of weight, which represent doctrine. It's been said that the church only has two options: either head for the shore and hold on because that's the only way it's going to survive with the weights (this is fundamentalism). Or start throwing the weights out of the boat in order to be able to make it through the rapids without capsizing (this is liberalism).

This is what leads to theological disaster. How does this theological disaster take place? There are 8 trajectories.

1) The modern trajectory - We can't believe in a modern explanation of reality and New Testament miracles at the same time. So we must de-mythologize the gospel. We must get rid of the supernatural. We lose confidence in the Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. When we begin to lose the supernatural in Christianity, we are walking down the modern trajectory.

2) The postmodern trajectory - We live in an age in which we don't have to worry about the question of truth. We don't have to answer the historical questions. The reader is the location of meaning and truth rather than the text.

3) The moral trajectory - Our modern moral consciousness is superior to the moral consciousness contained in the Scriptures. We see this in the example of the cross being called "divine child abuse" or "cosmic child abuse." We see this when people speak of God having to be fair, saying things like it's not fair for God to send people to hell.
4) The aesthetic trajectory - We are too easily seduced after the Fall by the merely beautiful, by the superficial. We don't need bloody crosses. They don't look nice. When we're afraid to preach texts because they're unpleasant, we're walking the aesthetic trajectory.

5) The therapeutic trajectory - All we know is that we are sick and need therapy. We need to medicate. We see ourselves as ill, sick, or afflicted rather than as evil or depraved. The therapeutic trajectory points to a self-diagnosed problem, a self-defined solution, and a self-realizing eschatology.

6) The pragmatic trajectory - We have a problem, and so we solve it. All solutions must be pragmatic. Ministers define their ministries as a product within a market and they are reduced to managerial in function. Pragmatism produces crowds that are not churches and results that are not regeneration, but at least it's immediate.

7) The emotional trajectory - We are dependent on an emotional experience. We lean towards that which brings an emotional reward. We dismiss that which comes at an emotional cost. We preach what we feel like preaching or what we think our people feel like they need. But we must preach the Bible, however we may feel about it.

8) The materialist trajectory - What we can see is more real than that which we cannot see. This is prosperity theology. Prosperity theology follows a trajectory that is not only false but makes God out to be a liar. This is where we come to think that we can have our best life now. This trajectory comes from seeking instant gratification.

Two dangers that will easily lead us down any of these trajectories:
  • Succumbing to doctrinal fatigue. We grow tired of continually having to preach against the tide.
  • Embarrassment. We feel foolish for preaching what we preach knowing that people will think we're crazy and ask or think to themselves, "Do you really believe that?"
This is what leads to us beginning to bargain away the faith.

Back to the analogy of the raft, our task isn't to avoid the rapids or to get rid of the weights. The boat is Christ's church, which is His bride. It belongs to Him. We must trust Him.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:66-69
How will we respond to this same question that Jesus asked His first disciples?

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #2

R.C. Sproul

The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel: What I Have Learned In 50 Years


We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
2 Corinthians 6:11-7:1
Paul is addressing one of the principal problems that has plagued the church since the days of Abel.

Two of the most important concerns that are before us today and how they have developed over the last 50 years:

1) The Danger of Messing with “Mr. In-Between”

In the Old Testament, one of the problems the people of God dealt with in every generation was syncretism, which means to blend the elements of pagan religion (worship of foreign gods such as Baal and Asherah poles) and the religion of Israel. This kind of synthesis can be referred to as “Mr. In-Between.”

In the history of evangelicalism, the first synthesis that took place was that between naturalism and historic Christianity. This led in the 19th century to what we know as “liberalism.” This kind of synthesis happens when instead of choosing between a thesis and its antithesis, we take what we like from each and create a new thesis which is a synthesis of the two. But then what happens is that there arises an antithesis to that new thesis, and you go down the same path leading to creating a new thesis from the synthesis of the two and the cycle continues. This is how heresy has evolved over the ages.

Out of this liberalism, Karl Barth and others called the church back to a transcendent understanding of God. But this wasn’t a call to orthodoxy. They gave no room for an objectively inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible.

Trying to synthesize the orthodox view of God and of Scriptures with existentialism led to a decline in the church’s view of the Bible as the Word of God.

Then attempts to create a synthesis between historic Christianity and Marxism led to what we know as “liberation theology”: free speech, free sex, and such.

What followed was a synthesis between analytical thought and Christianity, which led to “the death of God” movement.

Synthesis between process philosophy and historic Christianity, coupled with a humanistic understanding of the free will of man, led to what we know as “open theism.”

All of these movements mess with “Mr. In-Between.” None of them is satisfied to declare from one generation to the next that which we have received from the apostles, which doesn’t need to be made more palatable to the world by being dressed up in pagan philosophy.

2) The Danger of Messing with the gospel itself

Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide were the two doctrines that seemed like the bedrock that all of evangelicalism could build on. But then confidence in Sola Scriptura began to be compromised. And then eventually we hit rock bottom when controversy erupted over Sola Fide, for example, when the “lordship salvation” discussion arose. Then Evangelicals and Catholics Together document arose to unite Evangelicals and Catholics on issues like abortion, marriage, and other social issues but in so doing also implied that Evangelicals and Catholics have a unity of faith in the gospel, but the reality is that Evangelicals and Catholics don’t believe the same thing about faith in the gospel.

At the heart of this discussion on the nature of faith is the topic of justification and imputation. Is the ground of my justification something I can get for myself? Or is it something that must be alien to me, that I must get from somewhere else? There is no “Mr. In-Between” here, no matter what some have tried to say.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together represents the ultimate synthesis that obscures the great antithesis of the gospel.

And today, we see attempts to improve the gospel. But the gospel is primarily about Jesus, who He is and what He’s done.

Our greatest challenge is with respect to our personal fidelity to the gospel. Because the gospel is the great antithesis. And that means we have to be willing to embrace conflict. Nobody likes conflict. But as Paul says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

It’s not our gospel. It’s God’s gospel. And there’s no way to

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #1

Mark Dever

The Church Is The Gospel Made Visible


To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord...
Ephesians 3:8-11 (emphasis added)
We begin with one question to open our time together: How do our churches make the gospel visible?

How many of our churches are of use to the gospel? Or how many of our churches would be of better use to the gospel if they were simply not there?

We can advance the gospel by our life together as a church. Or we can do damage to the gospel by our life together as a church.

How does the local church display the great truths about the gospel, about God, about Christ, about humanity, about our response?

Nothing that follows is to diminish the verbal nature of the gospel. God’s Word is where the gospel is set forth clearly. But the church reflects and clarifies the gospel for the people around us.

1) How is God’s nature and character displayed in the church?
  • His holiness – distinct lives point to a distinct God. The lives of the members of our congregation should be marked by the holiness of God. For example, the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5). Are our churches marked by holiness? Or do we just say that our churches are churches for “sinners”? There is a difference between sinners and repenting sinners. Those demonstrations of repentance are what reflect God’s holiness. Satan wants us to think of holiness as bondage but in reality holiness is freedom. We are to be a community that reflects a life that the rest of humanity dreams of.
  • His love – we are to be distinct from the world by the kind of love we have for others despite the inconvenience it may be to us. If we don’t have this kind of love in our churches, we are just like another club.
  • His authority – David’s last words (2 Samuel 23:3-4) show us that authority is a good and life giving thing. Ever since the Fall, Satan has been trying to tempt us to think otherwise. He wants us to think that love and authority can’t go together (e.g. Satan wants Adam and Eve to believe God can’t love them by forbidding them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). But God can love us and rule us and correct us because He’s trustworthy. When we affirm and yet are willing to gently correct each other, it reflects the goodness of God’s authority. God has rights to authority over us not only in creation but especially in having bought us by the blood of Christ. Authority matters a lot because authority abused tells a lie about who God is. Do our churches show the world around us something better about God’s authority? Through our lives together in the church, we want others to see Satan’s lie about authority (that it’s a bad thing) for what it really is…a lie.
2) How is the truth about human beings displayed in the church?
  • We reflect the value of human beings because they are made in God’s image. This should be reflected by relationships in our communities that cross natural boundaries that would otherwise separate us. A local church is not for people of one occupation, or for college students, or for any one demographic, but to reflect that all human beings of every diverse kind are all made in the image of God.
  • We reflect the teaching and understanding that we are totally depraved. The church is not an assembly of the self righteous. Is our church a community in which people are seeking to be righteous in themselves or where people acknowledge that we’re all sinful? Is our church one that demonstrates humility? This has many implications. We should not be afraid to use the law to show that we are all sinners, both those who are lost and those who are saved. A good understanding of depravity sets us up to explain church membership because we show that we’re not done with this earthly journey when we’re first saved. Our churches should not give the sense that we’re all completely done and OK in this life. We should not only give a clear verbal explanation of the gospel but we should show by our lives that we really believe and understand our need for it. We should be a church that openly confesses our sins to each other. Everyone in the world knows that something is not right and we are the ones in all the world who can tell them the reason why. And non-believers shouldn’t just see this reflected in their individual relationships with Christians but in the way the believers within a church relate to one another.
3) How is the truth about Jesus Christ displayed in the church?
  • Jesus is invisible to us right now, but the church is the community in which this unique God-man is in a metaphoric sense made visible in His person. We are His body. We are His temple. We’re filled with His Spirit. Unless we live this out, Christ won’t be made known.
  • Our lives should display not only Christ’s person but Christ’s work. We are forgiving because Christ has forgiven us. We can be humble because we know we’ve received much grace through Jesus. We love others because we have received God’s love through Jesus. The main way we demonstrate that we love God is through our love for others. We know God has loved us not just because He has created us but because He has loved us through buying us with the blood of Christ. We should show the kind of love for each other in our churches that confuses the categories of the world around us so that they interrogate us and we can tell them about how we’ve all been brought together: people from every tribe, tongue, and nation through the blood of Christ. We should be churches that show the world how Christ breaks down all of our barriers, especially generational ones. We should especially seek in our churches to remove generational segregation. We should seek in our churches to remove denominational segregation. We can pray for and partner with other churches that don’t agree with us about everything but agree with us about the gospel. This is how we show the work of Christ. This is what we want to show. Unless we live like this, the cross, matter how correctly it’s taught, remains only an abstract idea.
  • Part of the way we help the gospel not to be adjusted is by having healthy local churches.
4) How is the right response of the gospel displayed in the church?
  • Our churches are to both teach and model repentance. We make clear our need for grace. We personally confess and turn from our sin. We repent of our selfishness. The Christian life is personal but it’s not private. We are to repent and witness repentance in each other.
  • Our churches are to both teach and model faith. We are all acting on things that we cannot see. We are acting on promises that God has made to us, promises that He holds out for the future yet which are to shape our lives in the present. We should hold out God’s promises again and again so that we can call forth each other to believe by faith. We can’t find a time in our Christian lives when God’s promises have not been true to us and for us. That’s why we make central the preaching of the Word, because we are certain of God’s promises, and it’s only through His Word that we come into contact with His promises.
Do we see how Jesus’ plan for evangelism is the local church? Do we want to be better in our evangelism? Then we need to work on growing as a church to be what Jesus meant for us to be. The church is the appearance of the gospel in the world. Christians, not just as individuals, but as God’s people bound together in purpose are the clearest picture of who God is and what His will is for our lives. The church is the pattern for God’s work and the means that He uses to bring about His glory. We need to ask ourselves, “What kind of gospel is my local church making visible?”

Thursday, April 08, 2010

26 Inches Is A Pretty Low Throne!

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Revelation 19:16

[He is seated] 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...all things [are] under his feet.
Ephesians 1:21-22

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Night Before The Dawn

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are all about Jesus Christ, who He is and what He's done. But as we meditate on His person and work through the events of this weekend, may we be strengthened by knowing that for every Good Friday of our lives that we will walk through...
...that I may know him...and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...
Philippians 3:10
...there is a Resurrection Sunday just around the corner.
...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection...that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11
Good Friday and Easter Sunday show us that the darkness will always give way to the dawn. The two always go together. All because of Jesus.

So please help us, Father, to know what is the immeasurable greatness of Your power toward us who believe, according to the working of Your great might that you worked in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated him at Your right hand in the heavenly places, 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. Thank You, Jesus, that You rose and conquered the grave. In your awesome name, Amen.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Together For The Gospel

Lord willing, I'll be flying to Kentucky in less than two weeks to attend the Together For the Gospel conference. I went two years ago and--besides the fact that God turned my life upside down through this conference--I absolutely loved it.

But, in my opinion, I think John Piper's decision to invite Rick Warren to the Desiring God National Conference this Fall (which he shares about below) is a better demonstration of what it truly means to be together for the gospel than the conference that is called by that name because here we can see where the rubber really meets the road. It's one thing to go to a conference called Together For the Gospel where the truth of the matter is that the majority of those in attendance think and minister much like you do (which I'm really looking forward to and which Piper will also be speaking at!). And something completely different to live that out in real life with brothers and sisters in Christ who think and minister much differently than you do.

So may the conference in Kentucky two weeks from now bear the kind of fruit in the lives of all who attend that can be seen in John Piper through his desire to partner with and learn from a good brother like Rick Warren for the glory of Jesus Christ. Please pray for us.