Friday, January 28, 2011

A Lengthier Explanation of the Gospel

Four words I use to help people understand the Gospel are God, man, Christ, and response.
• First, the Gospel starts with God. More accurately the Gospel is God. If we understand the Gospel to be good news, the good news is not just that we “get” Heaven. The true good news is that we receive God Himself. The reason the Gospel starts with God is because all things are by Him, through Him, and for Him. He sustains all things yet needs nothing. The true understanding of salvation is not that God needs us, but we desperately need God. In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures evermore. In His eternal plan, God spoke the world into existence and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed both God’s presence and provision. All would have been well if the first humans had obeyed God. Unfortunately for the world, they did not.
• Second, God gave Adam and Eve specific commands. As the Sovereign Creator, He had every right to do so. One of the commands given to our first parents was to not eat from a specific tree in the Garden. Tempted by Satan with the false promise of becoming like God, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the world has never been the same since. In Romans 5, we learn that sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve and along with sin came death. Adam and Eve were banned from God’s special place and their relationship with each other, as well as, with God was quite different. Yet, in the justice and discipline the Lord gave to them He also gave a promise. There would be an offspring of Eve that would eventually crush Satan.
• Third, the beauty of the Gospel is that the One who was offended is the only One who can provide a solution and He does. God is Holy, which means He is without evil. He hates sin. Because He is just, He must punish sin. The incredible picture of the Gospel is that God provides a substitute, Himself. Because of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God, man’s greatest need is reconciliation with God. In order for man to be reconciled to God, then God’s wrath needs to be satisfied toward sin. What we learn in Romans 3 is that God put Christ forward as a propitiation for our sin. In short, God the Father provided God the Son to absorb the punishment each of us deserved for our disobedience. The Bible also reveals that this was the plan all along and not just a reactionary decision. Before God said “Let there be light” there was already a Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. God’s action in Creation was done in full knowledge of the substitution that would be necessary for man to have eternal relationship with Him. In the cross of Christ, God lays on Jesus all of our sin. In becoming our sin, Jesus also becomes a curse (Gal. 3) and God the Father pours out His wrath toward sin. In the exchange, Jesus is given full responsibility for our sin and we are given the full benefit of His righteousness. God is both just and the justifier.
• Fourth, Christ’s righteousness will not be given to all, but to those who repent and believe. To repent means more than just being sorry for our sin, but to turn away from our sin. To believe means to trust that God’s wrath has been satisfied in Christ and we stand justified before God in Christ alone. The decision to repent and believe also means submission to Christ as King. Salvation is not just for those who voice prayers but for those whose entire heart and life is yielded to Christ. Of course all that we need to repent, believe, and yield our lives daily to Christ comes through Christ. Apart from Him we can do nothing. The good news of the Gospel is that Christ is our answer for justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Be the Somebody

In most congregations, there may be one person or even a small group of people who have a very special spiritual gift. This person (or group) has the keen ability to both observe and point out needs. Meeting the need, however, falls just outside of their area of giftedness. If you are wondering if you are in this group, just think back to the number of times you have shared the phrase, "Somebody needs to . . ." with your pastor, but then didn't volunteer to be the somebody. Variations of the phrase include "something needs to be done about . . .," "someone should . . .," or my personal favorite "I know of a need that hasn't been met."

I woke up pondering this special group of people this morning. Not because we have any at CrossPoint, but more because I was thinking about Luke 10. One of the most popular children's stories of all time is recorded in Luke 10: The Good Samaritan. I found myself meditating on how the Samaritan saw the need and met the need rather than saw the need and pointed it out for someone else to meet. The story would obviously be quite different if the Samaritan had traveled all the way to Jericho and told some of the folks in town, "There's a guy beat up pretty bad on the road to Jerusalem. I'm not sure he's going to make it. Somebody ought to help him."

Jesus is trying to emphasize in the parable what it means to love one's neighbor. If we take clues from the Samaritan, it means seeing a need in front of you and being willing to sacrifice your own resources to meet the need if necessary (no matter who the person is). The Samaritan sacrificed his time. It would have been a lot quicker trip if he didn't stop to help. The Samaritan sacrificed his oil and wine. Unless there was an oil and wine stand next to a lemonade stand on the way to Jericho, then the Samaritan used his own oil and wine to care for the wounded man. The Samaritan sacrificed his energy. He placed the man on the donkey, which means the Samaritan most likely walked. The Samaritan sacrificed a good night's rest. The text clearly says that the Samaritan took care of the man once he got him to the inn. The Samaritan sacrificed his money. He gave the inn keeper 2 denarii to meet the physical needs of the injured man and he promised to meet any other bills.

How many of you think the man who was beaten and robbed was grateful the Samaritan was not just a pointer-outer, but rather a meet-the-needer? How many of us are grateful that Christ was not just a pointer-outer? Without doubt, Christ not only saw our greatest need, but met it. How hopeless we would be if Christ only pointed out our sin, but did nothing to help us overcome it. How hopeless we would be if Christ only pointed out our need to be reconciled to God, but did nothing to help us achieve it.

Wouldn't it be cool if our congregations were full of people who not only pointed out problems, but worked to provide solutions? Wouldn't it be really cool if folks in our community sang "Like a good neighbor, (insert church name here) is there?" Don't seek "somebody" today, be the somebody. Whatever needs are brought in front of you today, be the somebody.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Kitchen Table

As I sit at my kitchen table tonight, I find myself overwhelmed. The little ones are asleep and our home group has all departed for their homes. Tara is diligently packing for a quick trip we are making this weekend. The only noises I hear are the sound of an ipod playing praise music and the washer and dryer performing their daily tasks. While I initially sat here to prepare a lesson plan for our Bible study teachers on Revelation 11 (and will still do that), I have found my heart and mind pondering many things. I find my heart full from having the privilege to walk alongside a group of people for 5+ years as their pastor. I've been blessed by the Lord to see fruit in each of those years both in our church and in my own life. I find myself thinking about how we have sent over 60 of our folks to replant a church in mid-city Baton Rouge. I rejoice in the Kingdom implications and pray other congregations will be like minded. I find myself disappointed in the Cooperative Program percentages of our state convention. I do value the work being done in Louisiana and believe it's just as important as anywhere else. I just also desire that we might be able to send more funds to more places who have never heard the name of Christ. I find myself overwhelmed that today people perished in our world without ever hearing the name of Christ, without ever holding a Bible, and without any eternal hope. I find myself burdened particularly for Pakistan. It seems that there are almost daily headlines of suicide bombers, turmoil, and persecution of Christians. The only hope for Pakistan is the Gospel. While the immediate chapter of my journey may not be in Pakistan, I find myself feeling that perhaps someday I might have the privilege of declaring the Gospel there. Should the greatest sacrifice be required of me, then may I stand with those in Rev. 12:11 who "loved not their lives even unto death." I find myself pondering the reality that life is a mist, a vapor, a wave, and then we proceed to eternity. I find myself wondering if the amount of treasure I've stored in Heaven will actually reveal that I thought more of the present world than the world to come. I find myself thinking I want to seize each day as an opportunity to love Tara as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I find myself realizing I need to do better at this. Yet in all this pondering and pontificating, I also find myself rejoicing. Rejoicing that one day a trumpet will sound and loud voices in heaven will say, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." Rejoicing that Christ was slain and by His blood He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Rejoicing that we who were dead in our trespasses have been made alive by God because the record of debt that stood against us has been cancelled as God nailed it to the cross. Rejoicing that Christ will destroy every rule and every authority and every power and even the final enemy, death. Rejoicing that the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. Rejoicing that the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Rejoicing we will always be with the Lord. Oh Father, help me to love you deeply, to live for you daily, and to lead my family and congregation diligently for the sake of Your name and renown. The washer and dryer have stopped.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Brief Explanation of the Gospel

Sovereign God says to all of us “Be holy as I am holy.” Unfortunately, the Bible informs us that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We are also told that our righteousness is as filthy rags. At this point, we are in eternal trouble. The greatest news, however, is that God provides a substitute in Christ. Christ does two things for us. One, He receives the punishment for all of our sin. Second, He gives us His righteousness. We can indeed now “be holy” as God is holy, because He gives us His very own holiness in which to stand before Him. Jesus makes very clear, however, that this privilege of holiness comes only to those who repent and believe (Mark 1). Those who do not deny self, take up their cross, and follow Jesus will have no part of His righteousness.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Christ and His Substitutionary Atonement

Over the past week, I've had the opportunity to have several conversations about the Gospel, as well as, different theological "camps." What we always want to keep in focus is Christ and His substitutionary atonement. Christ and His work upon the cross are the height of the Gospel. Everything else is derivative of this act. Whether you believe regeneration precedes faith or you believe faith precedes regeneration neither of these is the primary belief with regard to salvation. What you believe about Christ and the atonement is and will always be most important. May we be tenacious with regard to a Christological focus as we think on and share the Gospel.