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Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

The friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.

—G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1993), 213.  Quoted in Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015), 65.

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He who clothes himself with light as with a garment

Stood naked at the judgement.

On his cheek he received blows

From the hands which he had formed.

The lawless multitude nailed to the Cross

The Lord of glory.

 

Today is hanged upon the tree

He who hanged the earth in the midst of the waters.

A crown of thorns crowns him

Who is the king of the angels.

He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery

Who wraps the heaven in clouds.

—Orthodox hymn for Good Friday, tr. by George Papadeas, in Greek Orthodox Holy Week and Easter Services (Daytona Beach: Patmos, 2007), 322; quoted in Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015), 59.

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Sometimes we’re hesitant to tell people the gospel because we expect that they’ll ask, “Who do you think you are?  How dare you tell me how to live?”  Paul’s self-introduction to the church at Rome reminds us of the answer: “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,  who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:1-4, NASB).  Though you and I aren’t apostles in the New Testament sense (specifically deputized eyewitnesses of Jesus, commissioned to found the Church and write down the Spirit’s words as the New Testament), we are Christ’s servants, bought and paid for, set apart for the purpose of living out and living for the gospel, the good news, of God.

What is this good news?  It is that God has kept all of the promises He made through the Old Testament.  Paul could have mentioned (and does elsewhere) that Jesus is the Seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15, who came to crush the serpent and roll back the curse; or that He is the promised Son of Abraham in whom all nations will be blessed; or that He is the greater Moses of Deuteronomy 18:15, bringing a better Law and keeping it to the full for our sakes.  But at the moment, Paul focuses on Jesus as the Son of David, the promised anointed King who would ensure that David’s line continues forever on the throne (2 Sam. 7:11-16).

Consider what God had said David was to do as king.  He defeated Israel’s enemies to protect his people, he led them to worship the true and living God (both by his written psalms and his living example), and he brought justice to the weak and oppressed.  But David’s track record was spotted; sometimes justice was ignored, and sometimes David’s sins set a very different model for his people.  And in the end, David died; as Peter put it so bluntly at Pentecost, “he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29).

But Jesus, the descendant of David, did not fail.  He has defeated all enemies—even sin and death!  He has shown us what it looks like to perfectly worship the true and living God, and by His sacrifice we are welcomed to worship with a nearness unimaginable to David (Heb. 10:19-22).  He sits enthroned at the Father’s right hand, ruling as the perfectly just Judge of the living and the dead.

But there is more good news!  Unlike David, this King’s reign will not end.  Like David, He faced death.  But unlike David, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead, vindicated by His Father, declared to be the Son in whom God is well pleased (v. 4).  Notice that Jesus did not just now become the Son of God; there was never a time when He was not the eternal Son.  But now Jesus is shown to be exactly who He claimed to be, because only the Holy Spirit could restore the dead to life, and in doing so the Spirit puts His seal of approval on the life, ministry, teaching, and atoning death of Jesus.

How does all this affect our evangelism?  It is this same Lord Jesus, the anointed King, who gives us grace and a commission to announce this good news to the nations, fully expecting that doing so will lead some to believe and obey Christ (v. 5).  Our message is not simply a set of values or morals, not simply a call to sign off on some key doctrines.  Our message is good news that God has kept all of His promises, that the King has come to rescue His people, and that this risen and undying King will stop at nothing to complete His kingdom.  And that King not only sends us, but He sends His Spirit to change hearts that otherwise would be as stubborn as ours once were.

This week, we will have an opportunity to talk with people at work, at school, at Walmart, wherever we go, about good news.  Who do we think we are, telling people that there is a King that they have to listen to?  Simply messengers, bought with a price—but messengers with a word that must not be ignored.

Previously posted [with slight formatting differences] at Bible Baptist Church Huntington’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bbcwired/timeline, on Oct. 17, 2015.

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How do I know if I belong to God?  Are we even supposed to ask that?  Growing up, I heard a lot of preachers say to look back to the day you believed, prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, got baptized, etc., believe God saved you that day, and never doubt again.

But here’s the thing: Paul doesn’t say that.

Instead, he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5).  He didn’t even give himself a pass: “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26-27).  In other words, “I’m watching myself like a hawk, guarding myself, because after preaching this gospel for so long I don’t want to find out in the end that I wasn’t the real thing myself.”  Remember, this guy’s writing part of the Bible!  So if we’re wanting to make sure we really belong to Christ, we’re in good company.

But if we’re going to raise this question, there are two dangers.  Some who read this are probably like I was for about twelve years—more comfortable than is safe.  I grew up in church, and from the time I was six or so thought I was a Christian; I knew the words of the gospel, believed them to be true, and was working really hard to do the right things.  When I had nagging doubts as I got older (largely because of ongoing sin that I felt guilty about but didn’t turn away from), I often hid behind “never doubt again” sermons and lulled myself back to sleep.

But others who are reading this are already losing sleep over this question.  “What if I’m just fooling myself?  I want to follow Christ, I love Him and want to please Him, but I fail so often.  What if at the end of the day I find out I wasn’t a Christian, after all?”  For such a person, raising this question out loud is painful and brings another wave of fear.

Aren’t you glad the Holy Spirit saw us coming?  It turns out we aren’t the first people to have to think about this.

Paul had spent only a few weeks or so in Thessalonica before riots broke out and he and his colleagues had to leave the city (Acts 17 mentions three Sabbaths spent preaching in the synagogue; there may have been a short time between that and the riots, but certainly not an extensive ministry).  Now Paul was in Athens, wondering how the new Thessalonian converts were doing under pressure, as they lost jobs, families, and homes for the sake of Christ.  But Timothy returned with good news: not only had they not given up, but they were growing by leaps and bounds in their faith and their love for one another (1 Thess. 3:1-6).

In their joy, Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote, thanking God that those whom they had seen start so well really did belong to the Father.  That certainty didn’t come from an apostolic gift of heart reading.  Their letter begins with a prayer of thanksgiving that gives three reasons for their confidence, and in turn points us to three ways to examine ourselves—three realities that mark the lives of those who belong to God:

I.  We will know we belong to God by our faith, love, and hope (v. 1-4).

II.  We will know we belong to God by the way the gospel has changed us (v. 5-7).

A.  Our response in the beginning (v. 5).

B.  Our ongoing response: a changed life (v. 6-7).

III.  We will know we belong to God by the way our lives tell and show the gospel to others (v. 8-10).

It was a great joy this past Sunday to be with brothers and sisters at Gospel Life Baptist Church in Keyser, WV, and to think together with them about these truths.  Audio may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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Repentance is, despite its oneness in essence, different in form according to the persons in whom it takes place and the circumstances in which it takes place.  The way upon which the children of God walk is one way but they…have varying experiences.  What a difference there is in the conversion of Manasseh, Paul and Timothy!  How unlike are the experiences of a David and a Solomon, a John and a James!  And that same difference we encounter also outside of Scripture in the life of the church fathers, of the reformers, and of all the saints.  The moment we have eyes to see the richness of the spiritual life, we do away with the practice of judging others according to our puny measure.  There are people who know of only one method, and who regard no one as having repented unless he can speak of the same spiritual experiences which they have had or claim to have had.  But Scripture is much richer and broader than the narrowness of such confines…The true repentance does not consist of what men make of it, but of what God says of it.  In the diversity of providences and experiences it consists and must consist of the dying of the old and the rising of the new man.

—Herman Bavinck, quoted in Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), 134-135.

 

Repentance isn’t so much a set number of steps to changing behavior as it is seeing Christ increasingly clearly, and so turning from ourselves to Him, over and over until we see Him face to face.  There are as many different stories of how our sanctification has progressed as there are stories of how we first came to know Christ as Savior and King—that is to say, as many as there are followers of the Lord Jesus.  The key isn’t so much how we come to repent, but that we come to repent, and keep on repenting until we reach the full measure of Christ.

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In the new covenant, the specific content of the new obedience involves putting off the old and putting on the new man (cf. Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)…Christlikeness is the end in view; sanctification is the transformation which produces it.  Now ‘I am the Lord who sanctifies you’ becomes ‘I am Jesus who by my Spirit will transform you into my likeness’.  ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ means ‘You belong to God’s family; Jesus Christ is your Elder Brother; his Spirit dwells in you, enabling you to follow in his footsteps; be like him.’  Holiness is Christlikeness.  As the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit is the agent of this transformation.

—Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), 142.

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Sanctification does not…make us become more than human.  Rather, men and women become fully and truly what they were created to be; now in principle, hereafter in fullness…[J]ust as we bore the image of the man of dust, we will bear the image of the man from heaven (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Jn. 3:2).

—Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), 140.

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