Monthly Archives: July 2012

Glimpses of the gospel

The gospel, while clear, can be hard to verbalize.  It’s not because it hasn’t been perfectly laid out in Scripture or that it doesn’t have a defined content, but more due to the richness and depth and wonder and magnificence of it all.  If you were to ask 10 people what the gospel is, you’d almost certainly get 10 answers that are each distinct in some way.   It is a dynamic message that has so many implications and reveals so much about God and his plan for all creation.  And while it can be helpful to crystallize it into something like, “Jesus saves sinners” it’s just as true that the gospel speaks to how “God sanctifies saints.”  Words like cross, sin, substitution, penalty, hell, heaven, faith, believe, redemption, reconciliation, peace, wrath, sanctification, Adam, Jesus, resurrection, justification, adoption, salvation, union with Christ, freedom, victory and a whole host of other terms come to mind when we talk about the gospel.  Paul summarizes the gospel in this way:  “..that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:4).  And I’d suggest that Paul, who magnificently lays out God’s plan of redemption in the first 11 chapters of Romans, best captures the glory and awe of the gospel at the end of chapter 11, “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”  It’s a fitting exclamation point to what he has been telling the Romans up to that point.  We too must continue to bask in the richness of the gospel over and over, seeking to understand the depths and richness of this good news more and more and become just as drop-jaw amazed as Paul was.

Trevin Wax has compiled a rather large list of gospel definitions given by various theologians, pastors, and Christian organizations.  You can find it here:


“Zion” by Ordinary Time, enjoy!

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion;put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city

Wake up and turn the world upside down

Correction is not a welcome thing these days.  Introspection and examination are unpopular to folks who would prefer to be their own judge and make their own rules.  A “Keep Out!” sign is the tone that we like to set when it comes to critique from others, even in the church.  Yet without these, there is no opportunity for repentance.  Without a confrontation between a person “as he is” and “as he should be” there is no rub, no push, no understanding of the problem or realization of the sin.  And yet, it is God’s glorious design and pleasure to bring his children into the conformity of Christ in greater and greater measure through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and the chiseling power of his Word.   Holy holy holy is the Lord God almighty! It is central to who he is and central to what he is doing in the lives of those who have been bought by him with the blood of Jesus.  As we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification.  In fact, your life as a follower of Christ should be one of continual repentance, continual striving for holiness, continual pursuit of reflecting God’s glory in your thoughts, your actions, your desires….continual sanctification.

One of the great needs in the church today is repentance from giving our lives to the wrong things.  That’s why the book of Haggai is some a welcome indictment to the body of Christ.  It’s a stinging barb that leaves us clinging to the grace of God, amazed by his mercy toward us, and ultimately compelled to radically invest our lives in the right things.

If you’ve read Haggai, you know he was sent by God to deliver a message of repentance to formerly exiled Jews who had returned to Jerusalem.  As God directed, they had begun to rebuild the temple previously destroyed by the Babylonians, but the thunderous joy that had marked the beginning stages of rebuilding had trickled away and the building campaign came to a halt (see book of Ezra).  For 16 years the temple remained in fragmented pieces on the ground while the people had moved on to new agendas, improving their own homes and caring for their own needs.  Of course, they could easily rationalize their sin, saying we wouldn’t dare rebuild now.  How could we ever duplicate the magnificence of Solomon’s temple! No, no, no…we’ll wait, “the time has not yet come.”  In fact, there were apparently no outwardly gross sins.  These people were probably comfortable carrying out their  religious duties and content in their disobedience.  But what a gift to the people when Haggai declared, “consider your ways”…get to work…start building…the Lord is with you!  And what a magnificent response from the people – obedience to God’s command.  They had been awakened from their sleep and the temple was raised from the ground and finished within a few years.

Is it not just as easy for us to justify and coddle our sin, abusing the grace of God and ignoring his commands while throwing ourselves into selfish pursuits?  Even doing so under the banner of “God’s will”!  What dishonor, what shame!  So many of us drift through life pursuing defiled pleasures and ignoring the great commission that we’ve been given, which is nothing less than to turn the world upside down with the gospel!  What else have you put off that God has called you to do?  What will it take to shake you of your complacency?  What are we doing church!?  Do we not see the grand task set before us? Did the God of the universe not pour out his everlasting love on you, declaring you innocent in spite of your guilt, adopting you as his child and giving you eternal joy with him and the saints forever and ever?  What grace!  Do you not see the big picture of God’s redemptive plan unfolding in the world?  Like the man who found a treasure hidden in a field, would you not joyfully give up all you have to invest in that field? (Matthew 13:44).  God has set you free in Christ to live in joyful obedience to him.  Yes, it’s hard, but fight my friend, fight! He is with you.  Do not run back to the muck of worldly pleasures and invest in “bags with holes” as the people of Haggai’s day had done.  It’s all emptiness.  Serve Christ with all that you are, with singular focus.

Consider your ways! Give deep and precious thought to how you will give God glory with every molecule of your being.  Invest everything him.  Yes, we will continually fall short in our obedience, which is exactly why we must continually repent.  Pray that God would drive you to the very root and depth of your sin; feel its weight so that you will receive the full benefit of brokenness over it and the experience the full receipt of his grace.  Let God’s Word search and sift you so that you can see the wicked depths of the hole you have dug deep into the well of sin.  In your brokenness God will certainly fill this well to overflowing with his generous mercies!  His love toward you is steadfast and abounding.

There is no physical temple for us to rebuild today, but don’t miss this – we are the temple of God.  “…You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)  This is utterly amazing.  God is building his church to reflect his glory.  We are his presence in the world, an outpost of his heavenly kingdom.  So consider your ways.  Become thoroughly disgusted with your excuses.  Buy the whole field and give your life to the advancement of God’s kingdom, to the praise of his glorious grace.

The power of God’s words

I’ve watched a few of David’s Bowden’s videos, and I gotta say I’m impressed.  His poetry is filled with God honoring and thought provoking words.  His video, “I Believe in Scripture” lifts up the greatness and power of God’s words and plans revealed to us in the Bible.  Jesus’ words during his temptations in the wilderness come to mind, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  It is in the Scriptures that we find truth and life and encounter God in all his grandeur.  It is through these words that we are fed and sustained, and it is through continual meditation, study, and reading of God’s words that we will be changed from one degree of glory to the next. 

Check out David’s video here and be amazed by Scripture, God’s words.    

Is God concerned more for His glory or our happiness?

The Bible declares that the point of human existence is not happiness, but worship of the God who created all things and sustains all things.  And yet, most people live with their individual happiness and the happiness of others in mind, making themselves god.  I’m pretty sure that many if not most self-defined Christians have even adopted this view, creating a god of their own making who is, above all else, most concerned with their well-being, making God a servant to us.  This is deception and the watching world has caught onto this, believing that the Christian God is no more than a powerful genie.  And when the God of the universe is presented as a means to bring us fulfillment, health, advancement, victory, and progress… well many folks have already accomplished or believe they can accomplish that apart from him. Perhaps a person like this would think along these lines… “If God’s purpose in a person’s life is to help them advance…well, I am pretty sure that I have the talents, skills, and drive to do that on my own.  In fact, I really don’t want the extra boost he would give me if it means I have to sign up to a bunch of Christian rules and regulations.   I’d much prefer to set up my own rules and regulations, which are certainly more well-suited to my needs and tailored to my life goals.”

If you are a Christian, you give evidence of God in your life one way or another.   Do you promote a God that is deserving of glory and to be worshipped with love and reverence?  Or do you speak and live in such a way that makes God out to be a servant of human desire?  When you pray, do you pray “hallowed be your name!” or do you pray “hallowed be my existence!”  Is God the means to your end, whether it be for security, comfort, acceptance, influence etc., or is God the end?  Is God your reward?  Have you had the Holy Spirit so impress upon you that God’s glory is to be the grand and glorious pursuit of your life, or are you attempting to use God to enhance your life in hopes of dying happy?

When you share the gospel, do you offer it as a solution or program for improvement and ridding a person’s life of alcohol, marital distress, sadness, poverty and other problems?  Or do you show someone God’s holy character and his righteousness and the wisdom of his designs and the glory of Christ and how each person stands guilty before him, deserving eternal punishment?  Only then can the Spirit break a person, revealing to blind eyes the need for the light of Jesus!  The same Jesus who suffered, died on a cross and on the third day, rose to new life and conquered death, so that his name would be exalted among the nations as his kingdom advances!

If you are Christian, will you agree with me that God saved you when you were in rebellion against Him so that He, first and foremost, would be glorified and His name would be made great through you?  He alone is worthy of this, isn’t He?  Friends, God is not a means to an end.  He is the end.  He is the reward.  You don’t come to Christ, making deals with him in order to get something you want or to avoid hell.  You’ve probably never met Christ if you tried to bargain your way into heaven.  Instead, we come to Christ agreeing with his assessment of us…guilty on all counts.  And we receive the free gift of life by turning from our sin and trusting in our hearts and minds that Jesus has swallowed up the death we deserve.  We joyfully follow after him in the hope that his name would be exalted and treasured among people everywhere.  As the preacher Paris Reidhead once said, “Didn’t God intend to make man happy? Yes.  But as a by-product and not a prime product.”  Let’s lay down once and for all the pursuit of happiness and exchange it for the pursuit of making Jesus’ name famous in your family, your neighborhood, your county, state, your nation and beyond.  There is where true joy lies.

I’d highly encourage you to listen to this message by Paris Reidhead, whose words have bent my heart to write this post.   I hope it will impel us to consider how to joyfully orient our lives for the glory of God.