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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

Maybe you’ve experienced it. Surely you have at least witnessed it. Relationships have their ups and downs. Sometimes they deteriorate and sometimes they deteriorate to the extent that you don’t hear what each other is saying. The deterioration has a deleterious impact on your communication and it is so hard to recover. When you say something, the other person doesn’t hear what you are saying. Rather, they hear what they think you mean rather than what you actually are saying or what you mean. Sometimes your communication partner will even assign motive to what you are saying and by the time they process what came out of your mouth, it is nothing like what you actually meant. When you reach this state, you just don’t hear each other and it is hard to repair the relationship because you just don’t hear each other. You just talk past each other and the emotions heat up and you get angrier and angrier with each other.

This is where race relations are in this country. The different sides in the culture war are just yelling slogans at each other. People are yelling and not listening. The slogans used are employed to advance a particular narrative on race relations. Opponents are caricatured and very little listening is done.

Some chant “Black Lives Matter!” while others yell “All lives matter.” Some say “Make America Great Again” while others are infuriated by the slogan. The truth of the matter is, other than the rare exception, nearly all Americans would agree that black lives matter and that all lives matter. Nearly all Americans want America to be great. It is not the statement or slogans but it is the unspoken statements that make those on both sides of the culture war angry. It is the assumptions we are making about people when they use terms like “systemic racism” or “white privilege.” We aren’t communicating with each other. I feel like it is like the relationship that has reached that point where you just aren’t communicating. We just aren’t hearing each other. We are talking past each other and just getting angrier and angrier.

So, I am wondering if we have past the point of no return. How do we get to a point of where both sides can hear each other and listen to the legitimate concerns that both sides have in the race debate? Both sides have to be willing to listen.

Today’s cultural conversation is about police brutality against the black minority. One side of the cultural debate has a particular negative point of view about law enforcement. Is there anything that law enforcement can do in order to get the black community’s trust? Will the black community be satisfied with anything less than being freed of the shackles of police? Is there a way to move forward or will there be division in our society forever.

There is hope for our society. Change can happen but it won’t come through reconciling the two sides of the culture war. The change will happen through heart change and it must happen one person at a time. Hope is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else will change the strife and division that we see. It ebbs and flows but it is always there. Sometimes it is below the surface and at other times it erupts like it is now. But the strife is always there. It can only be overcome with heart change. The heart change I am referring to is the change that Jesus bring to a heart that is dead in trespasses and in sin and He comes and gives a new heart. This new heart views the world in light of God’s laws and the fact that we have committed sins for which we deserve death as our punishment. It sees others as better than ourselves and places the interest of others above our own. It sees others as people that are loved enough that Christ would die and take the penalty for their sins. Without this heart change and the transforming power of the gospel, things will not get better. May the prayer of our hearts be, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Soli Deo Gloria

 

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I have been involved in a conversation with a group of men about the gospel. We all understand that we are all sinners and we are under God’s wrath. As Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says that the penalty for that sin is death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are all separated from God because of our sin. We are all sinners without exception. We all deserve God’s wrath without exception. We all inherited our sin nature from Adam. We are sinners and we sin.

The interesting thing about conversations about the gospel is that, many times, these conversations end up focusing on what one must do to get into heaven. We talk about how some people think that they have done enough good deeds during their time on earth to get into heaven. Some people don’t even consider their bad deeds but think that the good deeds of their life will tip the scales in their favor, while their bad deeds don’t even make it on the scale. I think this a fairly normal conversation when people talk about works and the fact that nobody’s works are good enough to get them into heaven. We are all in need of God’s grace to get into heaven. No amount of good deeds and can tip the scales in our favor.

The more I reflect on these conversations about getting into heaven, the more I think that we are asking the wrong questions and we need to approach the discussion from a completely different angle. When I look at the words of Christ in the New Testament, I do not see him engaging people in conversations about whether or not they will get into heaven or even if they have lived lives good enough to merit entrance into heaven. It is clear that heaven and hell are realities and that heaven is a place where Jesus is preparing an eternal place for us to dwell with Him. But, His conversations usually center around people’s faith and repentance. He tells people that their sins are forgiven because of their faith or reflects on the sadness of situations such as the rich young ruler who loved his possessions more than following Christ. One thing we don’t hear Him ask is, “What will you tell the Father when you die and get to heaven?”

The reason we don’t hear Jesus ask the question about entrance into heaven is that the most important issue to be discussed is the reality and seriousness of people’s sin and their enmity with God. We need to repent and believe and then live a life of obedience and faith. John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus doesn’t say that He came so that people could go to heaven but that we could have an abundant life — now.

May we frame our gospel conversations around what is important. May we understand the seriousness of our sin and the depth of our depravity. We were dead in our trespasses and sin. By God’s grace, He provided His Son to take our punishment and in return we receive His righteousness. This is the great exchange. May we focus on reason Christ came to earth which was to take the wrath of God upon Himself on our behalf and redeem His people. It was not to give us life-after-death insurance to give us a way into heaven. May we have a biblical understanding of the gospel and may we preach that gospel to ourselves and to others!

Soli Deo Gloria

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I have recently been having some conversations with some Christian teenagers and it is apparent that they understand the importance of sharing their testimony of how they came to know Christ with non-believers.  I agree that it is very important to share what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.  However, a distinction should be made between our testimony and the gospel. Our testimony is not the gospel but it testifies to what the God has done in our lives through the gospel and His grace.

The gospel is objective truth.  It is universal truth that is grounded objectively, not subjectively.  Our personal testimonies are subjective.  The are grounded in the subject; that is, us.  Testimonies can change from one person to another.  Testimonies do not prove anything but merely illustrate what the gospel has done in our lives.  For example, a Mormon could also have testimony but that does not make their beliefs true.  However, you cannot argue with their experience because it is subjective and grounded in their experience rather than in some objective truth.

The gospel is truth.  It is objective and is grounded in God’s Word and in the historically attested event that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We defend this truth and we share this truth.  Our testimony testifies to this truth but the gospel is the good news and can lead the lost into abundance life which Christ came to give.  Our testimony cannot save anyone and it is only good news to us as the subject.

Let us share our testimony but let the sharing of our testimony point others to the main character of our testimony, God, not us.  May we use it as bridge to share the gospel with others and may truth of the gospel grounded in God’s Word lead to the expansion of God’s kingdom through the conversion of the lost.

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A friend of mine recently moved to a new city.  This, of course, meant that he needed to look for a new church home.  If you are relocating to a new city and need to find a new church home what are things you should look for?  There are so many things that one should look for but if we want to narrow it down to the most important things to look for in a church, what would those things be?

The first and most important characteristic that should exist is a commitment to expository preaching by the senior pastor.  By expository preaching I mean a particular thing that others might not mean when they use the same term.  I am referring to the pastor preaching through entire books of the Bible in chronological order.  Not the the books of the Bible are taught in chronological order but the chapters within the book are taught in chronological order and no section is skipped.  By doing this, the pastor can ensure that he is preaching the whole counsel of God and he is not just parking on texts that he likes.  The pastor’s message should come directly from the text and he should teach the context, the verses, and the particular words within the verses.

The reason this is number one for me is that the teaching is directed by God’s Word.  If the church and I disagree about some particular issues, it will be covered by God’s Word eventually.  I will be changed or the church will be changed.  If we all place ourselves under the authority of the Scriptures, we will all be in one accord eventually.

Second, and not far behind it, is a biblical understanding of the gospel.  This drives how the church will do evangelism and missions.  It will affect how alter calls are conducted.  It will affect how children are led to Christ.  Part of this will expose the church’s understanding of the doctrines of grace.  The doctrines of grace are important but not everything.  Although it is not the be all and end all of the church, the doctrines of grace affect how a lot of things are done.  A biblical understanding of the gospel also includes important theological truths such as penal substitutionary atonement.  This is also very important.  A theology of missions comes from their understanding of the gospel as well.

The third thing that comes to mind for me is a commitment to believer’s baptism.  This is the first step of obedience in the Christian’s new life.  It is important that only believers are baptized and only those with a credible profession of faith.

These are my top 3 requirements for a new church.  There are many other secondary issues but I think these are my non-nogotiables.  What about you?  What do you consider important when looking for a new church?

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I’ve heard on several occasions speakers at missions events try to throw a guilt trip on people.  Here is how it typically goes.  God’s plan to save the nations from hell is through the spread of the gospel.  We have failed in accomplishing this task so people are dying and going to hell every day.  Businessmen at companies like Coca-Cola and Apple have been able to develop plans for getting their product to the ends of the earth.  Shame on us!  If businessmen can get their product sold all over the world, why is it that we can’t get the gospel to all peoples of the world.  Businessmen are motivated by money.  We should be motivated by our love for our fellow man and our love for God. Why can we not get the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Do we not love God as much as businessmen love money?  Shame on us!!!

This line of argument makes my stomach churn.  It is definitely true that we need much more passion and abandonment in our efforts to spread the gospel.  We could probably do much more if we took the money we spent on football or basketball tickets and gave it to missions.  That is true.  However, the example I gave (and it is a real life example) implies that the gospel is something that is for sell.  It is not something that is for sale.  It is not something that we can get people to buy.  If people do not experience the effectual call of God then they will not respond to the gospel presentation.  Our job is to present the gospel.  Our job is not to present the gospel in a way that will appeal to them or get them to accept Christ.  Our job is to share the good news with them.  The rest is up to God.  We cannot convince people to follow Christ through better marketing or better strategy.  It is wrong to compare the gospel to something that is for sale.  

Let us not try to motive Christians to care about missions through guilt.  Let us motivate Christians to have a passion for the glory of God.  An outflow of Christians’ passion for God’s glory will be to see people from all nations worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  We are not selling something.  We have a story to tell.  It is a story that is costly.  It may even cost them their life if they choose to follow Christ.  

Jesus is not a brand to be sold.  He is Lord.  He offers forgiveness of sins but to follow him is costly.  People must weigh the cost of following Him whether it is losing jobs, families, or even personal freedoms.  It is not a matter of dropping a few bucks for some soft drinks or even a few hundred dollars on an iPod.  There is a much higher cost which we must we willing to pay as disciples of Christ.

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