Archive for the ‘Glory to God’ Category
Here is the gospel…
Over the years I have often fallen prey to guilt evangelism. I would hear a sermon on the lost and my heart would break and then I would get up, grit my teeth, and go tell someone about Jesus. I would witness to a few folks and then my love for the lost would grow cold again. I would read a book on hell and the horrors there and would again want to witness to people to keep them from going to that awful place. But yet again my love for the lost would grow cold.
The problem with me was that I was motivated to share my faith by guilt and not by love. I would have told you that I loved the lost and had compassion on them to want them to be saved but in reality, I was just feeling a bit guilty for not doing what I knew God wanted me to do and that was share my faith. I viewed evangelism as a chore to be done and not as an act of love and mercy enabled by the gospel.
True gospel centered evangelism is not focused on sharing my faith out of guilt. After all, I am not saved because I share my faith but because of the work of Christ. When Jesus uttered, “It is finished” (John 19:30), what part was not finished? He completed the work of salvation that God required and now He commands me to repent and believe the gospel (John 6:29). God has reconciled me to Himself in His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). This salvation is based all upon Jesus Christ and His shed blood and not my own works (Ephesians 2:1-10). While true faith works (James 2:14-26), saving faith focuses all on Jesus and the grace of God motivates me toward service (Titus 2:11-14). True faith does obey (Matthew 7:21-27) but true faith rests in Jesus and His righteousness and not my own (Philippians 3:7-11).
Guilt evangelism and gospel evangelism are quite easy to differentiate. Notice the contrasts:
- Guilt evangelism focuses on numbers; Gospel evangelism focuses on the glory of God.
- Guilt evangelism focuses on my efforts; Gospel evangelism focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Guilt evangelism appeases my flesh and soothes my guilty conscience; Gospel evangelism recognizes that Jesus has saved me by His grace and He uses me by His grace for His glory.
- Guilt evangelism makes me shed tears for the people; Gospel evangelism makes me shed tears for the blasphemy of God’s holy name and character.
- Guilt evangelism leads me to sow a few seeds here and there; Gospel evangelism seeks to sow seeds in every place I go for the glory of God.
- Guilt evangelism is focused on methods; Gospel evangelism is focused on the message of Christ.
- Guilt evangelism leads me to pray just a bit for the lost; Gospel evangelism leads me to pray for the salvation of souls for the glory of the King.
- Guilt evangelism places the emphasis on me, myself, and I; Gospel evangelism focuses on God alone.
- Guilt evangelism is satisfied by witnessing to a few people; Gospel evangelism is concerned that the Lamb may receive the reward of His suffering.
- Guilt evangelism rests in the ability of flesh; Gospel evangelism rests in the sovereignty of God.
I pray that you and I are motivated by the gospel and not by our flesh to share our faith. From the overflow of worship of our King comes the desire to see others saved and worshiping the King (Psalm 51:10-17). The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8). This power comes from the Holy Spirit and not from our flesh. The Holy Spirit enables us to be witnesses for the glory of Jesus so that the world can see our King. Both the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11) and the love of the Lord motivates us to be His witnesses (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). I pray that we all would be faithful witnesses for Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Peter 3:15-16).
Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:20-21; Revelation 22:17
I thought this was an excellent presentation of what it means to be gospel centered from a church website. It is here below.
What do we mean when we say that Christ Community Church is a gospel-centered church? We mean that the gospel is not simply the entry point into the Christian life but that it is also the foundation and power that shapes all we do as followers of Jesus Christ, both in our daily lives and in our experience as the corporate body of Christ.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is not only the fire that ignites the Christian life, it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing each day.
The gospel is the gloriously great news of what God has done through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy His own wrath (or settled opposition against sin which His holy nature requires) and to secure forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, a coming new creation free from decay, disasters, disease, evil, sin, and death and perfect righteousness for all who trust in Christ alone for salvation.
Therefore, the gospel is not what God requires. The gospel is what God provides! The gospel is not an imperative, demanding things you must do. The gospel is an indicative, declaring things that God has done. The gospel is not about human action, it’s about divine achievement. The gospel is not a moralistic “Do!” The gospel is a merciful “Done!” The gospel is not good advice – it’s good news! Our ministry values: worship, grow, connect, and reach are all gospel-driven. We at Christ Community Church want the gospel of Christ to inform and empower all that we do to the glory of God.
Amen! May we be more and more all gospel centered in lives.
This truth has been in my mind all day from 1 John 4:10:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
How precious is the love of our God for us. Let us lay aside differences over Arminianism and Calvinism and let us for a moment see how great is our Father’s love for us. Who can fathom the depth of His grace and mercy? Who can begin to swim in the ocean of His mercy? Who can ponder the greatness of our sins that God would send His Son to redeem us from the curse of sin through His Son?
I wonder at our Savior. I marvel at who He is and what He has done in saving me. I do not deserve His grace. I have not earned His forgiveness. All of this blessing comes to me simply because of the sovereign choice of our God. He chose to save. He chose to release me from the bondage of sin. He chose to send His Son. I did not earn this. I did not deserve this. This is love is simply from the hand and plan of a mighty God.
Oh for others to experience this love! Oh for others to know the blessing of repentance of sins and His great grace! May we be examples of His grace toward those around us who do not know His love.
Years ago while pastoring a small traditional church, I received a packet in the mail that told me that if I would pay this group such and such amount of money (seems like it was around $500), this group would come in and help our struggling church grow. They would do a survey of the community, break it down according to its demographics and would provide a sure plan for helping our church grow. They would provide a consultant who was “an expert in church growth” and would help me come up with ways to be more effective in our outreach, better at keeping visitors, and providing an atmosphere that was suitable for church growth. Ironically, God was mentioned only in passing. Nothing was said of prayer, of expository preaching, of repentance, of discipleship in a biblical sense, of biblical evangelism, of baptism. God was simply part of the means to the ends. The bottom line was man could teach me how to grow a church.
I take that view to Scripture and I look at the many failures in the Bible. I think of Noah and his failures. Here is a man who Scripture calls “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5 NASB) yet we read that only eight people repented at his preaching after over 100 years of preaching (1 Peter 3:20). 8 people after 100 years. That is not good results. Yet Scripture exalts Noah as “an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7 NASB).
I think about Moses. In many ways Moses was a success. He was from a wealthy family (Hebrews 11:26) yet because of his sin of murder, he was in the desert for 40 years. God brought him back to Egypt and he came only reluctantly. He led more than three million Israelites from bondage to the promise land but in the end, he himself didn’t even get to enter the promise land because of his sins. He had all the promises of God about the promise land but his own moral failures led him to miss the promise land. In many ways, Moses was a failure in the eyes of the church growth folks. Yes he did lead three million souls but he died with them wandering in the desert.
I think of Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; 14:17). Here is a prophet of God who was threatened, tried for his life, put in stocks, forced to flee from Jehoiakim, publicly humiliated by a false prophet, and thrown into a pit. He preached over 50 years and most rejected his prophetic voice. He preached that Judah should repent and turn to God but in the end, none heeded his voice and the Jews were taken into captivity by the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 52). The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s weeping over the status of the Jews. Jerusalem, the city of David, now was in bondage and forsaken by God and given over to the evil Chaldeans.
I think of the Lord Jesus Himself. Would Jesus be rejected from a church growth seminary? Here is a Man who did have large crowds following Him at times yet He often withdrew from them to pray (Luke 5:16). In fact, John 2:24-25 is a powerful insight into the ministry of the Messiah:
24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
Jesus would say things that often would make the crowds smaller such as His discourse in John 6 that ended with many disciples forsaking Him (John 6:66). Jesus would tell the crowds to repent (Luke 13:5) and He would tell them how hard it was to be His disciple (Luke 14:25-35). His parables and His actions show a Man who is not focused on having large numbers but is committed to doing the will of God perfectly. In the end, all His disciples forsook Him (Mark 14:50). After His resurrection, He appeared to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6) yet only 120 went to the upper room to wait as He commanded (Acts 1:4-5, 15). Here is a Man who once feed over 5,000 people (very likely near 10,000) yet in the end, He had only 120 people. Jesus never wrote a book. Never started a church. Never went far from His boyhood home. Never had much money. Died without the riches of this world, without the applaud of the people, and He was mocked in His death. I suspect Jesus would be viewed as a failure.
Even Paul the Apostle could be viewed as a failure. Yes he was a mighty man of God, planted churches, and preached the Word in many places but in the end, he was forsaken and alone in prison at the time of his death (2 Timothy 4:10-11). The church growth folks want us to believe that a clergy should be praised, held in honor, and adored by the people. You would expect crowds to mourn your loss because of your greatness to the kingdom of God but here is Paul alone in the prison cell and about to die. After years of warning and preaching and exhorting, people still are forsaking the faith and him (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4;3-4). Even his greatest church (Ephesus) would be rebuked by Jesus in Revelation 2:1-7 for having lost her first love. No applause from men when Paul dies. No weeping over his loss. No masses of saints waiting to see the beloved Apostle. Instead, we see him alone. Where is the fame? Where is the fortune? Where are the experts waiting to hear what Paul has to say?
I write all this to encourage you. Don’t allow pragmatism to rob you of being faithful to Jesus. Focus on pleasing God and not on what you can get out of it or the applause of men. Make Jesus your passion. Seek Him for Him. Serve Him for Him. Make heaven your goal. Don’t be fooled by the lure of money (1 Timothy 6:10) nor of the flesh. Seek to please Jesus and make Him the One that you look to. People will mock you for your witnessing, saying that it doesn’t work or you are only an embarrassment to God for passing out gospel tracts but remain steadfast (1 Corinthians 15:58). People will mock you for your “old-fashioned views” regarding the Bible being the inerrant and infallible Word of God but remain faithful in your preaching just like Jeremiah and allow God to glorify His name through you even if you must die. Preach hard against sin (when no one else will) and preach hard on repentance (when few will). The Lord will be exalted and that is our aim (Philippians 1:20-21). Don’t look at your bank account as a sign of blessing or curse. Don’t look at the people standing there hearing you weep over their souls. Make your aim focused on pleasing Jesus! Perhaps you will die alone and in prison and none will mourn you when you are gone but take heart, Jesus is there with you through it all (2 Timothy 4:17-18). Jesus has promised that He will be with us to the end (Matthew 28:20). May He be exalted through what others see as our failures. We may die without a church or without anyone noticing but Jesus will and He will reward us on that day.
Doctrine is important. Scripture is clear about this. Last night my little boys and I were studying from John 7 and here Jesus makes this statement about doctrine in John 7:16-18 (NKJV):
16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Adam Clarke wrote about verse 17:
I will give you a sure rule by which ye may judge of my doctrine: If you really wish to do the will of God, begin the practice of it; and take my doctrine, and apply it to all that you know God requires of man; and if you find one of my precepts contrary to the nature, perfections, and glory of God, or to the present or eternal welfare of men, then ye shall be at liberty to assert that my doctrine is human and erroneous, and God has not sent me. But if, on the contrary, ye find that the sum and substance of my preaching is, That men shall love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbour as themselves; and that this doctrine must bring glory to God in the highest, while it produces peace and good will among men; then acknowledge that God has visited you, and receive me as the Messiah promised to your fathers.
Doctrine must glorify God. Doctrine must focus on the work of the Lord Jesus.
In the Church of Jesus Christ, doctrine is vital. We read in Acts 2:42 that the disciples saved on the day of Pentecost continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 says that the purpose of Bible teachers is to help the children of God mature and not be confused by false teachings but to remain faithful to sound doctrine. 1 Timothy 1:3 tells Timothy to charge some that they teach no other doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:1 warns that the time will come when people will turn away from the faith and turn to teaching doctrines of demons. But Timothy is to remain in faithful doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6) and he is to be faithful in teaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13) for in so doing he will save both himself and others as well (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul praises elders who are teaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17) and he tells slaves to be faithful that the doctrine of God might be praised (1 Timothy 6:1). Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NKJV) is worth reading:
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that all of Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns that a time will come (and has come since) when people will not endure sound doctrine but will turn aside to myths.
I could go on and on. Sound doctrine is vital. It is important for the Church to study sound doctrine and to abide in the Word of God. We need to be faithful in Bible study and in sound exegesis. We need faithful Bible teachers who will stand up and teach the truth of God without fear of men (Proverbs 1:7). Sound doctrine is vital. It is possible to believe in lies and a false christ (Matthew 24:24). 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says that when people abide in sin and do not love the truth, at times, God allows a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. In essence, sincerity is not enough to be saved. We must have faith in one true God to be saved. I recently heard a prominent preacher say that Rahab the harlot (Hebrews 11:31) was saved and he was sure that she was not sound in doctrine. He also pointed to Acts 16:30-34 with the pagan jailer as another example of poor doctrine in which a person was saved. His point: God saves those who believe and not theologians. He went on to say that he hoped that those in cults would be saved despite poor theology. For instance, he went on to say that he hoped Jehovah’s Witnesses would be saved despite their false teachings. He believes that the JW’s teach salvation by faith in Christ.
There are many problems with his views. First, we don’t know the doctrinal understanding of either Rahab or the Philippian jailer. Yet we do know that the Israelites were worshiping the one true God in Joshua 2. In fact, Rahab acknowledges the authority of Yahweh in Joshua 2:9 by name. Rahab was not seeking the false pagan gods of her culture but the one true God in Yahweh. The same is true of the Apostles in Acts 16. Paul was clearly preaching the true God (Romans 1:16-17) and this gospel would set sinners free. Further, Paul makes it clear in Acts 16:31 that it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who saves (John 14:6). Paul was not praising the jailer for his faith in the false gods of Rome but he is preaching the true and living God in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1).
Now my point here is not to simply acknowledge true doctrine. I do believe that true doctrine is vital to the health of the Church and to salvation of the lost. We can preach false christs. We can preach another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We must be careful to abide in the teachings of Jesus (John 15:1-11; 1 John 4:1-6).
That said, I believe that we can abide in faithful doctrine and yet love doctrine above loving Christ. We must be careful to not fall in love with teachings about Jesus Christ while not loving the person of Christ. The person of Christ is our salvation. Salvation is not found in the teachings about Jesus as much as they are found in the person of Jesus. Jesus is alive. He is not dead. Jesus is not confined to a book. Jesus is the risen Savior. Certainly we must study His Word that He has given us to know Him more and more but the knowledge of His Word is to know Him and not merely about Him. We can know about Jesus while not knowing Jesus. It is possible to sit week after week under sound doctrine and still be lost. We can think we are saved because we think that salvation comes through knowledge about Jesus. This is not true. James 2:19 makes it clear that demons acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus but they are not saved. Demons acknowledge sound doctrine about Jesus. They acknowledge He is God. They acknowledge He is Lord of lords. Yet demons are not saved.
James 2:14-26 is important here because it is not enough, writes James the Apostle, to acknowledge the truth of God. We must allow the truth of Jesus to transform us. I know of people who would claim Christ. They would acknowledge that we are justified by faith. They would acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God and that Christ alone saves. Yet they abide in sin (1 John 3:4-9). They are not saved from the wrath to come (Romans 5:9). By their life, they testify that Jesus is not Lord of their lives (Luke 6:46-49; Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:3-6). They are not saved at all. They would claim salvation but they would not be able to point to what they are saved from. They are not saved from God. They are not saved from sin. They are not saved from the bondage of the devil. They are not saved from the fear of death.
True salvation is not simply doctrine. To love doctrine above Jesus would be idolatry. It is possible to love Arminius or Calvin or Edwards or Spurgeon above Jesus. Jesus must be our focus. Is the gospel of the Lord Jesus that saves me and not any flesh (John 1:12-13). Jesus is our salvation (Romans 3:22-27). Jesus shed His blood for our salvation (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7) and His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7). His blood frees us and empowers us to be kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:5-6). The truth of the gospel is contained in the powerful words of John 3:16. Our love should be for sound doctrine but even more for the person of the Lord Jesus who is alive and reigns forever. May our love and devotion be to Him always and not to our theological systems. I assure you that there will be many theologians in hell (Matthew 7:21-23) but the true saints of God are those who love Jesus and obey Him as Lord (Revelation 14:4).