Monthly Archives: June 2011

Clarity In Appreciating The Gospel We Have

Today we take one more look at the gospel through the helpful direction of Greg Gilbert’s book “What Is the Gospel?”  With the gospel being so powerful and glorious, appreciation for the gospel should be a dominating factor in our daily life.

If you are a Christian, then the gospel calls you first of all to rest in Jesus Christ and to rejoice in the unassailable salvation he has won for you.

But even if repentance doesn’t mean an immediate end to our sinning, it does mean that we will no longer live at peace with our sin . . .The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that the one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.

How is it that I let the beauty and power and vastness of that gospel be crowded out of my mind so often and for so long? Why is it that my thoughts and emotions are often dominated by silly things like whether my car is clean, or what’s happening on CNN right now, or whether I was happy with my lunch today, rather than by these glorious truths? Why do I so often organize and think about my life as if I were wearing blinders, rather than in the light of eternity? Why does this gospel not permeate, all the time and all the way to the bottom, my relationships with my wife and children, my coworkers and friends and fellow church members? I know exactly why. It’s because I’m a sinner, and worldliness will continue to linger in my heart and war against me until the day Jesus comes back. But until then, I want to fight against that.

I wonder if your understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the good news that Jesus saved you even though you didn’t deserve it—is deep enough to swallow up the little criticisms you have of your brothers and sisters. I wonder if it’s deep enough to sink the offenses they’ve committed against you, even the most painful ones, and lead you to forgive them and love them just as Jesus himself has done for both of you. I wonder if the vastness of God’s love for you has increased your love for others.

Ask God to give you a new and fuller appreciation for the gospel.  Ask yourself these questions.  Is there anything that is more precious to me than the gospel?  Did anything affect my life more today, than the gospel?

Clarity In Our Need For The Gospel

We continue to have our understanding and appreciation of the gospel refreshed through the help of Greg Gilbert’s book “What Is the Gospel?”.  The focus today is to better understand our desperate need of the gospel.

Sin is a person’s rejection of God’s Creator-rights over him.

Sin is a lot more than just the violation of some impersonal, arbitrary, heavenly traffic regulation. It’s the breaking of a relationship, and even more, it is a rejection of God himself—a repudiation of God’s rule, God’s care, God’s authority, and God’s right to command those to whom he gave life. In short, it is the rebellion of the creature against his Creator . . . (sin) is not just betrayal, but also treason.

People often think human nature is like (a) quartz sphere. Yes, every now and then we may smear it up with dirt and mud, but underneath the grime it remains as pristine as ever, and all we really need to do is wipe it clean in order to restore its brilliance.

There is a huge difference between understanding yourself to be guilty of sins, and knowing yourself to be guilty of sin. Most people have no problem at all admitting that they’ve committed sins (plural), at least so long as they can think about those sins as isolated little mistakes in an otherwise pretty good life.

Sins don’t shock us much. We know they are there, we see them in ourselves and in others every day, and we’ve gotten pretty used to them.

What is shocking to us is when God shows us the sin that runs to the very depths of our hearts, the deep-running deposits of filth and corruption that we never knew existed in us and that we ourselves could never expunge.

Do these thoughts express how we understand ourselves as sinners?  If not read through any part of the Bible you choose, and ask yourself how God’s Word describes our sinful condition.

 

Clarity In The Gospel We Share

What Is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert is an outstanding and easy reading book on the gospel.  I found that Gilbert presents the gospel with great clarity.  Since the gospel is the most important reality facing every person in existence, I though it would benefit all of us to consider over the next couple days,some of Gilbert’s thoughts on the gospel:

At the heart of the gospel are the answers to four crucial questions:

1. Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?

2. What is our problem? In other words, are we in trouble and why?

3. What is God’s solution to that problem? How has he acted to save us from it?

4. How do I—myself, right here, right now—how do I come to be included in that salvation? What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else?

We might summarize these four major points like this: God, man, Christ, and response.

It’s become fashionable lately to present the gospel by saying that Jesus came to save humanity from an innate sense of guilt or meaninglessness or purposelessness or emptiness . . . To talk about salvation being from meaninglessness or purposelessness without tracing those things down to their root in sin may make the medicine go down easier, but it is the wrong medicine . . . It allows a person to continue thinking of himself as a victim and never really deal with the fact that he himself is the criminal.

Do we have this clear understanding of the gospel?  If not think through what Gilbert shares so that we can share it clearly with others.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6/27/11

Last week we saw the Bible emphatically teaches salvation is by faith alone.   James 2:14-26 is just as emphatic in telling us saving faith is life changing faith.

Not all claims of faith are genuine!

Verse14 warns some who “say” they have faith. They do have a faith; they are trusting in something (believing in God, going to church, a prayer once given). But “that faith” v16 is not any good, v17 is dead, v20 is useless. Because their faith, v17 does not have works, v20 is apart from works

Verse 19 indicates these are religious people who believe in God. Saving faith requires belief, but as v19 points out, demons believe in God. It is reasonable to say they believe many statements in our confession of faith

Verses 21-26 illustrate that the belief of genuine faith produces God pleasing activity. Belief without action does not honor God; belief that leads us to fulfill God’s heart is what honors Him

James 2 troubles some Christians. They think it contradicts salvation by faith

But James does not add works to faith; he stresses what saving faith produces. He does not belittle faith; rather he exalts the character of faith

James is being consistent with the rest Scripture

  • In Luke 6:44 Jesus said ‘each tree is known by its own fruit’
  • Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us in the same breath, that salvation is by faith, and that faith is meant to produce works

A true believer can have a season of dead works, but there must be evidence of life in them

The deception of counterfeit faith is a danger for religious people

However good a counterfeit looks, it has no value. Those of us who watch Pawn Stars on the History Channel, or those who are more sophisticated and watch Antiques Road Show on PBS, regularly see that counterfeits are clever, common and worthless!

The world endorses counterfeit faith, because it’s quiet and inactive concerning the Kingdom of Christ. Biblical faith is threatening to the world – it relentlessly puts Christ first.

Some are offended at calling anyone’s faith useless, but much of the world’s faith is useless

  • Faith never has more power than its object. For example, only a properly packed parachute will save you, regardless of the faith you channel into it.
  • Biblical faith has power, because Christ has died for sinners. Our faith is not saving us; our faith is trusting in Christ who saves us.
  • Other forms of religious faith are powerless, because only Christ has done what is necessary to save us. Acts 4:12 “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

What is the implication for those with dead faith?

Dead faith is not limited to those without any interest in God. Dead faith can sit in church week after week. If our faith is counterfeit, we are as condemned as those who curse the name of God

Asking how much change is enough to be real, is the wrong question. Looking for a fixed level of works is a form of salvation by works. We need to ask if our life reveals that God rules over our heart. Does our faith submit to God’s word and does it rejoice in his rule? When we see how we can be used for Christ, do we act upon it?

What are implications for those with genuine faith?

We need to ask what quality of workmanship is God receiving from us? 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

Improving our works does not necessarily mean doing more things. It means taking the things we do and making them serve God’s agenda. It means deepening our works so that they are God pleasing rather than self pleasing.

 

THOUGHTS ABOUT LIFE

 

Nathan Wilson is an author and university professor who has released a DVD series with the attention grabbing title, “Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl”.  The series is meant to stimulate a God-Centered worldview.  In watching a video trailer of the series, there was a brief snip by Nathan that should cause us to consider with new eyes, the opportunity we have to spend our life on Christ.

There are 8 million other people who could have been here instead of you.  Are you going to be ungrateful?  And when it does actually come time for the snowflake to melt; for humanity to pass on; at that very end we should know that living really does make dying worth it.

THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD’S WORD

I mentioned previously I am reading the book, “Reverberation: How God’s word brings light, freedom, and actions to His people”, by Jonathan Leeman.  From the chapter entitled The Word Acts, I have pulled out a few quotes that I suggest you read thoughtfully.  They do not need commentary by me, but they are worthy of contemplation by you.

“You can measure a person’s opinion of God by his or her opinion of God’s Word.  That’s why a person who loves God loves His Word, and the person who hates God, rejects what God has spoken.  God’s Word is an extension of Himself–His identity, purposes, affections and power.”

“To read the Bible is not merely an exercise in intellectual comprehension; it is an opportunity to stand before the throne of the King of the universe.  It’s an opportunity to encounter Him.  God communes through communication.”

“Do you want to measure your regard for God?  Then consider your regard for the Bible.  It’s Him addressing you and all the members of your church.  It’s Him drawing near with love and warning.  Are you listening?”

 

An Analogy For Life?

An interesting video on the life of an errant plastic bag has surprising similarities to the life that is spent without Christ.   The Life of a Plastic Bag

God Wants Us To Prepare For Ministry

If God requires pastors to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12), then we cannot ignore the reality that God expects every believer to be equipped.

As an encouragement, most important equipping happens immediately upon salvation.

The moment we were saved, we possessed the faith necessary to be saved – this means we know enough to share with someone else.  Even at the most basic level, we can tell people that we trusted in Christ and He saved us.

We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The person, who is responsible for convicting people of their sin and of the truth, lives in us.

We live and serve under the direction and power of God’s Word, which is filled with effectiveness:

“My word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

We have the “authority” of Christ to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel”

We are gifted by the Holy Spirit in specific ways that He has designed in order to bring blessing to the other members of our church (I Corinthians 12:7).

But for our effectiveness to deepen, we need ongoing equipping.

The most successful athletes in the world have coaches to help them keep improving.  Considering that as believers we have by far the most important agenda in the world, can we neglect out responsibility (and privilege) to grow stronger, wiser and deeper in what it means to minister for Christ?

Keep this in mind.  If we are not willing for input and correction, then we are not serious about maturing.  Part of being equipped is to be corrected.

Are we open to God using our life?   How do we show it?  Are we reading the Bible and good Christian books?  Are we under the authority of our pastors and do we give attention to their calling to equip us?  Are we asking for input and thanking God when it arrives?

Sermon Leftovers 6/20/11

Yesterday our guest preacher was Viktar Krutsko, Pastor of the prominent Bethlehem Church in Minsk, Belarus.  Viktar is also president of the Union of Baptist Churches for the nation of Belarus.  He is a man whose influence is felt in churches all over Europe and in many places around the United States.  I have known Viktar since my first visit to Belarus in January of 1999.

He began his message by asking us if there is anything that Christ has not done for us.  The obvious answer is a resounding No!  With this in mind, what does He receive back from us?

Viktar used Daniel 1:8 and Hebrews 11:24-26 which tell us how Daniel and Moses gave up the benefits offered by this world in order to serve the Kingdom of God.

1.  Daniel refused to “defile” himself with the rich offerings of the world, which ran against the law of God.  The world may consider us fanatical or narrow, but we should never apologize for the claims of God’s word upon us.  It is the world which should repent for ignoring the ways of God and for failing to consider Him in their ways.  Do not be afraid of how the world responds to our zeal for  Lord and all He asks of us.  In light of His wondrous mercies and goodness to us, we should be very watchful against anything that would defile us.

2.  In a similar way, Moses  refused the privilege he could have enjoyed as son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  Moses did not exercise every right he had open to him.  It is hard to refuse what we could have, but the greater question is what should we  have, and what is pleasing to God for us to have?  Those who live for themselves are at peace with the world, but as Christ followers, we choose to bring conflict into our life.  It is the conflict between our flesh and the new life we now live for Christ.

3.  Moses chose the people of God over the people of the world.  He recognized that his identity as a man who loved God, was bound up with the people of God.  Those who are spiritually mature, will reveal a high level of commitment for the church, because they are committed as Christ is, to serving the people of God.  If we ignore our responsibilities to our church, how can we say we love Christ who died for the church?

4.  Moses considered his life choices from a God-centered perspective.  This meant that he accepted the suffering and struggle that God assigned to him.  We naturally want ease over struggle, but what we should desire far above ease, is to please our Heavenly Father.  He should be more precious to us than any earthly pleasure.  The world prefers a silent Christ who makes no demands upon them.  But as God lovers, we should want to hear from Christ and learn everything we can about His rule over us.

5.  Moses looked to the reward that was coming.  An obedient life is often hard, and it is filled with many forms of submission and sacrifice.  But when we fix our eyes on the grandeur of what we will gain for eternity, we realize it is hard to consider anything we do for Christ to actually be a sacrifice.

Where can we grow in our commitment to God instead of having a commitment to the world?  Christ has done everything for us, what are we doing today for Him?

 

 

Our Capacity For Ministry

Yesterday we saw that God expects every believer to be in ministry, this means that God will give every believer the capacity for ministry.

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” II Corinthians 9:8

God’s expectations do not include gleefully watching us enter into ministry train wrecks (like Gomez Adams in the old Adam’s Family TV show).    Yes, God’s expectations do include  having us in situations that cause growth.  And His expectations do include leading us through situations that require faith.  But train wrecks are not His passion.

So what if our ministry for God, seems to be mostly failure?

Have you made your ministry a process of using your abilities, rather than depending upon God and His gospel?  Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Did you catch that – “nothing”. Do we approach our service to God as if Jesus was telling the truth?

Have you incorrectly defined success?   Success is being faithful to God in our heart and with His gospel.  WE cannot change anyone or fix anyone, if you are trying to do so, prepare to fail.  Yes, we should deeply desire for people to be changed, but “success” for us is whether or not we have been faithful.  It is not bound up in people’s responses.  Consider how many people had rejected Jesus ministry at the point of His crucifixion; was His earthly ministry a failure?

Being in ministry will always be a matter of being in over our heads!  Read the Bible, we see this coming from the mouths of God’s servants continually.  So what can help us to be increasing fruitful as we serve Christ?

The deciding factor is the Holy Spirit, who is always with us.  How amazing!  All that God is – is always living in us.  Can you think of a greater help that you could possibly receive?

In addition, our ministry is the application of God’s Word that never fails.  Nothing we can share or depend on is more wise or practical.  All believers accept that God’s Word is true, but some foolishly consider the Bible to be lacking in practicality.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” II Timothy 3:16

What could be more practical than the truth that guides us through life and into eternity.  Nothing is more practical than the nature of God, the works of God and the plans of God.

Lastly, God has established the Church to be a community where we are equipped, encouraged, refreshed and built up (Ephesians 4:11-16).  When we are in growing relationship with peoples who live to love God, we will be strengthened in those things.