Saturday, May 19, 2012

Waging War On Sin

The apostle Paul exhorts the believer to wage war on sin.  He writes, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:12-14 NASB).

Jared Wilson, in his excellent post "Spare No Sin You Find," presents this message well.  He writes, "We don’t graduate from the gospel. We hold true to it. And it alone propels us out and empowers us to press on. Grace-driven effort flows from the joys and wonders of worship that flow from beholding the amazing gospel of God’s grace.

Were this true in you, the sin in you would become your enemy. Do you profess Christ? Have you received Christ? Then, 'Don’t just avoid sin; hate it' (Ed Welch). Be as intentional with your sin as Christ was. Carrying the banner of the gospel, which declares Christ’s conquering of sin and death, make bloodthirsty war with the sin in you. Watch for it, search it out, assassinate it with the word of God. Arm yourself with Spiritual armor, put on Christ, and spare no sin you find. Kill it, even as you trust the Spirit is killing it on your behalf. Because he is. And if he is, you should be too.

 You won’t drift into holiness. The Spirit will take you there. But God uses means to achieve his ends, and his earthly means of Spiritually sanctifying you is your pursuit of the righteousness of Christ. That we are 'being transformed' is a promise; that we should 'be transformed' is a command (2 Cor. 3:18; Rom. 12:2). This Spiritual tension causes Walter Marshall to affirm in The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, his classic work affirming that grace is not only the grounds of our justification but our sanctification as well, that the reader must 'endeavour diligently to make right use of all means appointed in the word of God, for the obtaining and practicing holiness.'”

Be encouraged brothers and sisters in your battle with sin, for our strength and confidence is in in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has declared, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NASB).  Let us put to death the deeds of the body and live!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thou Shalt Remember-Lessons From Newton, Goodwin and Paul

Biographer F. W. Boreham relates the following concerning John Newton, former slave trader and author of "Amazing Grace." Boreham shares that Newton "printed a certain text in bold letters, and fastened it right across the wall over his study mantelpiece:
A photograph of that mantelpiece lies before me as I write. There, clearly enough, hangs John Newton's text! In sight of it he prepared every sermon. In this respect John Newton resembled Thomas Goodwin. 'When,' says that sturdy Puritan, in a letter to his son, 'when I was threatening to become cold in my ministry, and when I felt Sabbath morning coming and my heart not filled with amazement at the grace of God, or when I was making ready to dispense the Lord's Supper, do you know what I used to do? I used to take a turn up and down among the sins of my past life, and I always came down again with a broken and contrite heart, ready to preach, as it was preached in the beginning, the forgiveness of sins.' 'I do not think,' he says again, 'I ever went up the pulpit stair that I did not stop for a moment at the foot of it and take a turn up and down among the sins of my past years. I do not think that I ever planned a sermon that I did not take a turn round my study-table and look back at the sins of my youth and of all my life down to the present; and many a Sabbath morning, when my soul had been cold and dry for the lack of prayer during the week, a turn up and down in my past life before I went into the pulpit always broke my hard heart and made me close with the gospel for my own soul before I began to preach.'" (You can find additional portions of Boreham's biography here).

The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy , testifies to the glorious gospel to which he has been entrusted, remembering the depths of his depravity from which he had found mercy from God:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-17 NASB)

Oh that we would never forget the depths of depravity from which we have found mercy by the grace of God and the redemption made sure in the salvation of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Best Warrant For Christian Mission" by D. A. Carson

As we walk through this Easter season, the Williams Creek Baptist family has not only been rehearsing the events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we've been celebrating what those events have done to reconcile lost and dying sinners with the holy and righteous God.  Any individual who has been made alive by the Spirit through this gospel message understands the call of taking this gospel to the four corners of the earth.  

The Lord has commissioned His church to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our church body is contemplating and praying about how we might sacrificially give to the support of this gospel kingdom work here in North America.  With this in mind, let me encourage you to read D. A. Carson's brief message which has been described as a "brief apologia for mission in a world that regularly despises mission."  His article is entitled "Take Up Your Cross And Follow Me." (You can find it here).  Carson concludes the following:

"But the best warrant for Christian mission is Jesus himself. He claims all authority is his, but he speaks not as a cosmic bully but as the crucified Lord. He insists that men and women have rebelled against his heavenly Father, but he joins himself to the human rebels so as to identify with them. He declares they deserve punishment, then bears the punishment himself. He claims to be the Judge they will meet on the last day, and meanwhile entreats them to turn to him, to trust him, and live. If one is going to follow a leader, what better leader than the one who demonstrates his love for his followers by dying on a cross to win them to himself? What political leader does that? What religious leader does that? Only God does that!

And then, in a small piece of mimicry, his followers are challenged to take up their cross and follow him (see Luke 9:23). If one of the results is a worldwide missionary movement, I for one will pray for it to thrive."

May we find ourselves fully surrendered to the Master's plan and fully participating in the life-changing mission of taking the gospel concerning Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Was The Fall

The apostle Paul describes the fallen condition of humanity in Romans 1:21-23, writing, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."  Jonathan Parnell, in his post "When People Look Like Satan", provides a powerful description of humanity's fallen condition, highlighting Greg Beale's explanation, Parnell writes the following;

"God made humans to reflect his image and advance the display of his glory over the created world (Genesis 1:26–28). But Adam failed in this commission. Rather than have dominion over the serpent he succombed to its craftiness. As Greg Beale explains, 'Instead of wanting to be near God to reflect him, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden' (Genesis 3:8 [so also 3:10])" (NTBT, 359).

Sin brought chaos and disorder. Things got all messed up. In fact, things became so backwards that Adam could be seen as actually supressing the image of God to reflect the image of the serpent, like a back-story to Romans 1:18–25.

Adam was the first human idolator who became something he was not supposed to become, looking more like the snake than he did his Creator. Beale explains how:
'Idol worship' should be defined as revering anything other than God. At the least, Adam's allegiance had shifted from God to himself and probably to Satan, since he came to resemble the serpent's character in some ways.
[He Lied]
The serpent was a liar (Genesis 3:4) and a deceiver (Genesis 3:1, 13). Likewise Adam, when asked by God, "Have you eaten from the tree of the which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:11), does not answer forthrightly. Adam replies, "The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12). Adam was deceptively blaming Eve for his sin, which shifted accountability from him to his wife, in contrast to the biblical testimony that Adam, not Eve, was accountable for the fall (e.g., see Romans 5:12–19).
[He Didn't Trust God's Word]
In addition, Adam, like the serpent, did not trust the word of God (with respect to Adam, see Genesis 2:16–17; 3:6; with respect to the serpent, Genesis 3:1, 4–5). Adam's shift from trusting God to trusting the serpent meant that he no longer reflected God's image but rather the serpent's image. . . .
[He Exalted Himself]
[Adam] not only stood by while his covenantal ally, Eve, was deceived by the serpent, but also decided for himself that God's word was wrong and the devil's word was right. In so doing, perhaps Adam was reflecting another feature of the serpent, who has exalted his code of behavior over and against the dictates of God's righteous standard. But, if not, certainly Adam was deciding for himself that God's word was wrong. This is precisely the point where Adam placed himself in God's place — this is worship of the self.
G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 359f., headings and full biblical citations added.
Adam was a deceiver. He didn't trust God's word. He exalted his standard above's God's in the worship of himself. Humans, created to image the majesty of God, rebelled and imaged the character of the serpent. This was the fall. And it's not just Adam's story, it's our story, too."

The result of this fall is death.  Death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23) and sin is the condition of all humanity (Romans 3:23).  But praise be to God, the story does not end here!  Through His predetermined plan of redemption, God would restore His glory by reconciling His people through the sacrifice of "His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16)  Paul further explains, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21-22.)

Having survived a powerful earthquake, the Philippian Jailer, "trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household'”(Acts 16:29-31). 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Serving The Local Body Of Christ

Are you committed to the local church?  Do you find yourself in your God-given position, strengthening, encouraging and building up the local body at Williams Creek Baptist Church?  The apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church, clarified, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).  In a very helpful and encouraging way, Tim Challies has provided an excellent challenge addressing our individual responsibility to serving the local body of Christ.  The following is an excerpt from his recent post entitled "Good Churchmanship".  Challies writes:

Churchmanship is a virtue that may also be fading into history. We all lead busy and multi-faceted lives. We have obligations at home and at work and we have relationships to nurture with family, extended family, neighbors, friends. Somewhere in that mix is commitment to a local church. For some people church ranks so highly that ministry always comes first, even at the expense of everything and everyone else; for some people church barely ranks at all and receives only the few moments that are left over when everything else has been taken care of.

Between these extremes is the virtue of good churchmanship. The good churchman is a Christian who truly and wholeheartedly dedicates himself to his local church, to the community of believers he loves. This is the Christian who who loves those people, who serves them, and who prioritizes them. This is a fading virtue we would do well to recover and to call one another to.

Here are some of the ways a Christian can face particular challenges in our time and in our churches and excel at churchmanship.

A Good Churchman Attends. Commitment to a community of Christians involves much more than just being there, but it certainly does not involve less than this. In order to be dedicated to a church—not just the church as institution but the church as people—you need to be present so you can be with people and actively engage with them. The good churchman knows that every time the church gathers, there are opportunities to pursue, to minister, to bless, and he is eager to take full advantage of every one of these times.

A Good Churchman Serves. The person who is dedicated to his church actively pursues opportunities to serve the people he loves. He looks beyond the formal ministries of the church—greeters and nursery workers and offices of elder or deacon—and continually looks for ways to serve other people, even, or perhaps especially, in ways that few will ever notice. His pursuit of people is always a pursuit of ways to serve.

A Good Churchman Disciples. There are so many skills and virtues that are better caught than taught, better modeled than explained. The good churchman knows this and is active in discipling others, even though this requires him to give of his time. Discipleship requires humility—not just the humility to know your weakness, but humility to believe that the Lord can use you in another person’s life despite your sin and failings. It was not pride but humility that motivated Paul to tell the church at Corinth, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me” and “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

A Good Churchman Grows. The Christian who attends and serves and disciples will almost inevitably be a Christian who shows steady growth in his understanding of the Scripture and in his application of its truths. This Christian life calls for a relentless pursuit of holiness, which is the product of an ongoing pursuit of God himself, which is in turn the product of a relentless pursuit of truth as God has revealed it in the Bible. The good churchman takes advantage of every ordinary means of God’s grace, he reads and listens and studies and prays, and through it all is more and more conformed to the image of the Savior.

A Good Churchman Submits. There are few tasks more rewarding and at the same time more trying than leading a church. The good churchman loves the leaders in his church, trusts them, and submits to their leadership. Submission to authority is increasingly counter-cultural in our anti-authority culture, but it is clearly taught and carefully modeled in the pages of Scripture. Rather than assuming that he knows best and rather than making bold statements with only a partial understanding of the facts, the churchman submits with joy and confidence.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"Jesus is Coming Back When?" by Joe Carter

For anyone who has been walking with us through the Revelation study on Wednesday evenings, you will find the article by Joe Carter, "Jesus is Coming Back When?", very insightful for the study on Christ's return as it relates to the Millenial kingdom.  Joe is one of the editors for The Gospel Coalition website.  Joe begins:

If you expect Jesus to return within the next forty years, does that make you an optimist or a pessimist?  The Pew Research Center released a survey in 2010 about what events Americans believe will unfold in the next forty years. One interesting question asked about the return of Jesus Christ:

As expected, predictions about whether Jesus Christ will return to earth in the next 40 years divide along religious lines. Fully 58% of white evangelical Christians say Jesus Christ will definitely or probably return to earth in this period, by far the highest percentage in any religious group. Only about a third of Catholics (32%), and even fewer white mainline Protestants (27%) and the religiously unaffiliated (20%) predict Jesus Christ's return to earth.  In addition, those with no college experience (59%) are much more likely than those with some college experience (35%) and college graduates (19%) to expect Jesus Christ's return. By region, those in the South (52%) are the most likely to predict a Second Coming by 2050.

But what does it mean? How does this fit into the overall views of Christians in America?

Not surprisingly, there are few areas of Christian theology more contentious or confusing than eschatology, the study of the end times. Should the Book of Revelation be interpreted literally or metphorically? Will Christ establish his Kingdom on earth or has his millenial reign already begun? Within evangelicalism there are four general points of agreement and four general perspectives on eschatology.

The four points of agreement are:

1. Jesus Christ will physically return to earth one day.
2. There will be a bodily resurrection of all people who have ever lived.
3. Satan will be defeated and constrained forever.
4. There will be a final judgment in which believers join Christ for eternity while nonbelievers are separated from God's presence.*
Joe provides an excellent overview of four distinct millenial positions.  You can find the article in its entirety here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Training Our Children In Worship

I came across a wonderful follow up to the previous post on "How to Listen to a Sermon" by Phil Ryken.  Its an article by Jason Helopoulos entitled, "Children In Worship-Mom Tested Tips" which you can find here.  I've included the post below which presents 14 helpful points on how to train and encourage your children when it comes to the gathered church in worship.  Jason provides the following helpful points:

  1. Focus on this moment throughout the week: Talk about Sunday morning worship all week long. Help your children to see that each week begins with this privilege (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-25).
  2. Model excitement about the Lord’s Day: Children learn a great deal by watching their parents. If Mom and Dad reluctantly go to church, then the children will reluctantly go to church. If Mom and Dad are critical of the preacher, sermon, etc. then the children will most likely be critical. Wake up early on Sunday morning and prepare for worship. Let the children see your joy and excitement.
  3. Implement family worship at home: A family that worships together at home will find it much easier to worship together in corporate worship. A child will find it natural to hear the Word of God, to read the Word of God, to sing the hymns, etc. This will also help our children to learn to sit still, to understand the importance of worship, to focus during prayer, etc.
  4. Read the passage during the week: Most sermon series are an exposition of one book of the Bible. This means that you know what you are going to hear read and preached in the week’s service—the next passage. Read it throughout the week and converse about it around the dinner table or during family worship. The children will then be familiar with the text that the pastor is preaching on. With this knowledge, give them some things to listen for in the sermon.
  5. Start early: Many believe that it is harder to introduce a five year old to corporate worship then a twelve year old, but this is not true. A five year old is in the formative years of training. They are not yet “set in their ways.” A few months of struggling with a four or five year old teaching them how to sit in corporate worship yields benefits for the rest of their lives.
  6. Use Moments in the Service: Use transitional moments in the service to whisper in your child’s ear how much you loved a certain verse in a hymn, how you need to remember to pray for the sick person mentioned, or how you were convicted by that application. It keeps them engaged and allows them to see you participating intently in the service.
  7. Use the Obvious Helps: We often forget to use the helps that are already available to us. For example: have an older child find the Bible passage or guide your finger over the text as it is read for a younger child. Use the bulletin and show your children where the service is at. Have them read the confession as you point along with each word.
  8. Sit near the Front: Children are easily distracted, so sit near the front where there are less distractions.
  9. Create an atmosphere in your row: Encourage your children to pay attention, to stand when everyone stands, to sing when they are to sing, to bow their heads in prayer when the congregation is to pray, etc.
  10. Enlist the Support of Other Members: Ask another member to lend a helping hand by sitting with your family. Surround yourself with other families that you have enlisted to provide you encouragement and not to fuss if your child is a little restless.
  11. Stop Worrying: Many parents are concerned about what other parents or members of the congregation think of their parenting skills or how annoyed someone else is with their child’s fidgeting during the service. DON’T! Commit as a congregation to welcome children into your services. This means that not only do our children have to adjust, but so do the adults. In reality, it is adults who have to adjust the most! Let’s just learn to have a little more tolerance on this front. If a baby is a little fussy, papers are rustling, or a few things are dropping on the floor it is o.k. As congregations, we need to willingly and joyfully join in this great privilege of welcoming our covenant children into corporate worship. And that takes some minor adjusting on our part.
  12. Affirm Your Children: When you leave the service and are on the way home, affirm your children. Ask them questions about the service and relay how the Lord blessed you. Encourage your children if they were well-behaved and let them know how wonderful it was to worship alongside of them.
  13. Be Consistent: It will take time for your children to learn how to sit still, sing the hymns, etc. Be consistent in your expectations and desires for them during the service.
  14. Do Not be Overzealous: Be patient with your children and shower them with grace. It takes children time to adjust and different children adjust or accept on different time tables. Your child may come into the service and sit attentively and quietly within a few weeks or you may have to help your child with this for months or even years (as has been our case!). Be patient! Love them and do not compare them to other children. God has blessed you with this little bundle of joy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"How to Listen to a Sermon" by Phil Ryken

I came across this wonderful post by Dr. Phil Ryken who is the president of Wheaton College.  Dr. Ryken counsels his readers on how to listen to a sermon.  You can find the full text here.  May this encourage and sharpen each one of us as we prepare for the great privilege to set under the preaching of God's Holy Word.  Dr. Ryken explains:

During the past thirty-five years I have heard more than three thousand sermons.  Since I have worshiped in Bible-teaching churches all my life, most of those sermons did me some spiritual good.  Yet I wonder how many of them helped me as much as they should have.  Frankly, I fear that far too many sermons passed through my eardrums without registering in my brain or reaching my heart.  

So what is the right way to listen to a sermon?  With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.

The first thing is for the soul to be prepared.  Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday.  However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before.  It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach.  In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God's Word.  This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.

The soul needs special preparation the night before worship.  By Saturday evening our thoughts should begin turning towards the Lord's Day.  If possible, we should read through the Bible passage that is scheduled for preaching.  We should also be sure to get enough sleep.  Then in the morning our first prayers should be directed to public worship, and especially to the preaching of God's Word.  

If the body is well rested and the soul is well prepared, then the mind will be alert.  Good preaching appeals first to the mind.  After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does his transforming work in our lives (see Rom. 12:2).  So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged.  Being attentive requires self-discipline.  Our minds tend to wander when we worship; sometimes we daydream.  But listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God.  It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear his voice.  We should not insult his majesty by looking at the people around us, thinking about the coming week, or entertaining any of the thousands of other thoughts that crowd our minds.  God is speaking, and we should listen.

To that end, many Christians find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand.  Although note taking is not required, it is an excellent way to stay focused during a sermon.  It is also a valuable aid to memory.  The physical act of writing something down helps to fix it in our minds.  Then there is the added advantage of having the notes for future reference.  We get extra benefit from a sermon when we read over, pray through, and talk about our sermon notes with someone else afterwards.

The most convenient place to take notes is in or on our Bibles, which should always be open during a sermon.  Churchgoers sometimes pretend that they know the Bible so well that they do not need to look at the passage being preached.  But this is folly.  Even if we have the passage memorized, there are always new things we can learn by seeing the biblical text on the page.  It only stands to reason that we profit most from sermons when our Bibles are open, not closed.  This is why it is so encouraging for an expository preacher to hear the rustling of pages as his congregation turns to a passage in unison.

There is another reason to keep our Bibles open: we need to make sure that what the minister says is in keeping with Scripture.  The Bible says, concerning the Bereans whom Paul met on his second missionary journey, "that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11; NKJV).  One might have expected the Bereans to be criticized for daring to scrutinize the teaching of the apostle Paul.  On the contrary, they were commended for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.  

Listening to a sermon--really listening--takes more than our minds.  It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God's Spirit.  Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us.  Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God's grace, and reassure us in the faith.  But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise.  We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise.

The last thing to say about listening to sermons is that we should be itching to put what we learn into practice.  Good preaching always applies the Bible to daily life.  It tells us what promises to believe, what sins to avoid, what divine attributes to praise, what virtues to cultivate, what goals to pursue, and what good works to perform.  There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word.  We are called to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22; NKJV).  And if we are not doers, then we were not hearers, and the sermon was wasted on us. 

Do you know how to listen to a sermon?  Listening--really listening--takes a prepared soul, an alert mind, an open Bible, and a receptive heart.  But the best way to tell if we are listening is by the way that we live.  Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard.  As the apostle Paul wrote to some of the people who listened to his sermons, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:2-3; NKJV).

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ

Our journey through the Gospel of John as a church has now brought us to the passion concerning the Christ.  John declares the significance of what he has written in the Gospel bearing his name; "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31).  The apostle Peter declares, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

The passion account concerning the Christ  engages specific historic events summarizing the betrayal, arrest, death (by crucifixion), burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  These events comprise what is known as the gospel.  Andreas Kostenberger has written the following article, "What Is the Gospel-5 Observations", which offers a concise explanation concerning what God has done in sending "His only begotten Son into the world."

1. Divine, not human: The gospel is God’s saving message to a world living in darkness and a humanity lost in its sin. The gospel is not a human message, nor was its conception a function of human initiative, but its origin and its impetus derive solely from God. For this reason our role with regard to the gospel is not that of evaluation, criticism or reformulation, but that of grateful acceptance and obedience. Humans are not equal partners with God as far as the gospel message is concerned; they are rather his commissioned representatives, charged with proclaiming the gospel in the exact form in which they received it (e.g., John 17:20; 20:21; 1 Cor 15:3–4).

2. Required, not optional: Acceptance of the gospel is not optional for salvation but rather required, owing to pervasive human sinfulness. As the Book of Hebrews states, “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”; “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time . . . to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb 9:27–28). Apart from believing in Jesus Christ, “God’s wrath remains” on people (Jn 3:36), and they are spiritually dead (Jn 5:24; Eph 2:1). People must be “born of God” (Jn 1:12; 3:3, 5; 1 Jn 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18), that is, be spiritually regenerated (Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:3). As Paul writes in his epistle to the Ephesians, “[a]nd you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit . . .” (Eph 1:13). Inclusion in Christ comes only by hearing and believing the gospel.

3. Christological, not merely theological: The gospel is not vaguely theological, as if it were amenable to various ways of salvation depending on a person’s belief in a particular kind of god, or depending on the degree to which people were able to hear the gospel presented in a clear way; it is decidedly and concretely Christological, that is, centered on the salvation provided through the vicarious cross-death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence Paul is able to speak of “the gospel . . . regarding his [God’s] Son . . . Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:2–4). Significantly, this gospel is not a New Testament novelty but was “promised beforehand through his [God’s] prophets [such as Habakkuk, Rom 1:17 citing Hab 2:4] in the Holy Scriptures” (Rom 1:2). Abraham already had resurrection faith (Romans 4; Galatians 3; Heb 11:8–12).

4. No other gospel: The messianic motif pervading all of Scripture and centering in the Lord Jesus Christ coupled with the risen Jesus’ “Great Commission” for his followers to go and disciple the nations inextricably link an understanding of the gospel as the exclusive message of salvation in Jesus Christ with the church’s mandate to engage in missionary outreach. This is clear especially from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, John, the book of Acts, and several of Paul’s writings. Conversely, any messages proclaimed in the name of Christ that feature a “different gospel” or a different Christ (such as compromising his simultaneous full humanity and deity, e.g. 1 John 4:2–3) are rejected. The church must engage in missions, because “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). If anyone confesses with his mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead, he will be saved (Rom 10:9; see also vv. 10–13).

5. No other name but Jesus: In light of the clear biblical passages mentioned above and in view of the strong and pervasive trajectory of scriptural references to the gospel there is no proper foundation for arguing for salvation apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ. Scripture makes clear that humanity is universally sinful, and that God’s wrath remains on every individual who has not placed his or her trust in Jesus Christ on the basis of his substitutionary death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. While there may be philosophical or larger theological objections to such a notion (such as the difficulty experienced by some of reconciling this notion with the love of God), while there may be commonsense concerns on the basis of human conceptions or “fairness” or other similar considerations, there can be little doubt that Scripture nowhere teaches, or easily allows the implication, that there is a way to salvation other than through explicit faith in Jesus Christ during a person’s lifetime (e.g., Heb 9:27–28). In fact, this is not an obscure topic; it is the central contention of the biblical message concerning the gospel, that “[s]alvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Impacting our Children for the Kingdom of God

In his recent post, Reading Biographies of Good Fathers to Become Good Fathers, Justin Taylor highlights a portion of John Piper's biographical message on Rev. Dr. John G. Paton's life as a missionary and the impact of his father as a man of God.

Rev. Dr. John G. Paton was a pastoral missionary to the New Hebrides in the Islands of the South Pacific during the 1800's.  His work was most difficult as he would serve with little noticeable fruit throughout decades of missionary service.  His legacy would reveal the sovereignty of God in the faithfulness of one's commitment to God's call, even amidst difficult circumstances and what appeared to be sparse outcomes.  But Paton understood the great principle of fruitfulness belongs to God as the apostle Paul would set forth, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6) Paton's legacy and influence upon his homeland of Scotland would serve the Great Commission of Christ, not only raising support for furthering missions around the world, but inspiring hundreds of missionaries to serve on the field. 

Here is a powerful quote from Paton's own Autobiography that Piper shares concerning Paton's father and the impact he had upon his life as a son and missionary.  He was walking with his father to board a train in Kilmarnock, where he would leave as a young man to study at a divinity school and begin his missionary service:

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene.

For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence—my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain!

We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!”

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted.

I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him—gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant.

But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time.

Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return—his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me.

I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me. (Autobiography, pp. 25-26)

Oh that we would faithfully pray for and love our children, with our minds ever in tune with God's great kingdom!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

As We Gather-As We Depart, Let Us Pray

In just a little while, the church will gather here at Williams Creek Baptist.  How shall we prepare for this momentous occasion as we assemble together to worship the most high God?  Let us begin with prayer.  Pray that God would be most glorified as we lift up His name.  Pray that your heart is surrendered and prepared for the teaching of His powerful Word.  Pray for the lost, pray for the weak and weary, pray for those who expound the Scriptures, pray for your family, pray for your brothers and sisters who are in the Lord...pray for God to move in this place of gathering, in this community, in this this world.

As we prepare to leave our time together this morning, let me encourage you to do one more thing: PRAY.  Charles Spurgeon charged his flock in this manner as they prepared to depart from the gathered assembly on the Lord's Day, January 6, 1861:

"Get alone, dear Friends, get alone this week! Pray for your children this week, and groan with God over your ungodly sons and daughters! Pray for your neighbors this week! Put God to the test! See if He does not open the windows of Heaven upon you. Be much in prayer and you shall be much blessed. And O poor Sinner! You who have never prayed beforethe year of Gods re deemed is come! This is the acceptable day of the Lord; if you seek Him, He will be found of you. 'Seek you the Lord while He may be found. Call you upon Him while He is near.'” (Charles Spurgeon, A Sermon for the Week of Prayer, January6, 1861)