Too Small

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Eph. 1:7

We make the gospel too small. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is not only an experience at an altar call, but it transcends that solitary experience to an encounter with the living God that affects our entire lives. The gospel is forgiveness, but also it is empowerment to live in victory over sin. The gospel is the message of life, but also it is divine life flowing in and through us. The gospel is a changed heart that is no longer motivated by self and it is a life lived for Christ and others. Do not allow the gospel to be too small in your life. Allow the gospel to saturate your life with Christ’s victory over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small.

A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small.

A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small.

A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small.

A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.

Fred SandersThe Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 109.

The Gospel in Four Words

 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matt. 11:28 ESV

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered our greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. The gospel is the proclamation that our sins are forgiven and we are under condemnation no more.

This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance where upon we receive Christ’s righteousness and are granted right standing in the Father’s sight. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transform our entire beings making us new creations in Christ.

The gospel is summarized by Jesus’ words, “I will give you.” “I,” salvation is found in the person, Jesus. “Will,” it is the Father’s desire to make this salvation available to anyone who comes. “Give,” the gospel is a gift, a gift of grace alone. “You,” salvation is about us and God’s love for us.

‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’ You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’ He does not want anything. Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’ Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation. ‘I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.

Will you come and have it? It lies open before you.”

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175. Italics original.

HT: Ray Ortlund

 

The Simple Gospel

 

Preach Christ 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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. 15:3-4

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered our greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. The gospel is the proclamation that our sins are forgiven and we are under condemnation no more. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance where upon we receive Christ’s righteousness and are granted right standing in the Father’s sight. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transform our entire beings making us new creations in Christ.

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.

The world needs to be told of its Saviour, and of the way to reach him. Justification by faith should be far more than it is the daily testimony of Protestant pulpits; and if with this master-truth there should be more generally associated the other great doctrines of grace, the better for our church and our age. . .

We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel. Man’s fall, his need of a new birth, forgiveness through an atonement, and salvation as the result of faith, these are our battle-axe and weapons of war.

We have enough to do to learn and teach these great truths, and accursed be that learning which shall divert us from our mission, or that wilful ignorance which shall cripple us in its pursuit.

Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 1875-94 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 87-88, paragraphing mine.

HT: Desiring God

Coming to Christ

One Thing and One Thing Only

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.

Matt. 11:28 NLT

In the early eighties, I worked with the Agape Force in Tacoma, Washington. We all reached out to one older man and his family for several months. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was convicting him and drawing him to Christ. However, he refused to yield his whole heart and soul to Christ’s Lordship.

Who would direct his life? Jesus or him. This tug-of-war was THE major issue. It was odd, he wanted to do spiritual things and think he was spiritually-minded, but he refused to give his whole heart to Christ. As an alternative, he joined the Mormons, then the Witnesses, then a motorcycle group, and then . . . . You get the picture, he did everything, but come to Christ. Salvation is simple, but not necessarily easy: yield your whole life to Christ and trust his finished work on the Cross. You see, God asks just one thing and one thing only–come to Christ.

When a person turns to Christ empty—that they may be filled; sick—that they may be healed; hungry—that they may be satisfied; thirsty—that they may be refreshed; needy—that they may be enriched; dying—that they may have life; lost—that they may be saved; guilty—that they may be pardoned; sin-defiled—that they may be cleansed; confessing that Christ alone can supply their need—then they come to Christ. This, and nothing more than this, is coming to Christ.

J.C. Ryle, Tract: Come!

HT: J C Ryle Quotes

 

 

“The Gospel Actually Makes Them Free”

Free Indeed

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36 NIV

We often sell the gospel short. We don’t believe that God can really change a life: freedom from sin, healing from brokenness, and transformation of character. God loves us as we are, yet God loves enough not to leave us as we are. He can free us and others from the sin that so easily binds us.

For sin’s human captives, God never intends anything less than full deliverance. The Christian message rightly understood means this: The God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, by the power of the gospel actually makes them free. To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 27.

A New Reality

His Seal Makes a New Community

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal (Greek: arrabōn) on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Cor. 1:21-22

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin is one of my favorite figures in church history (1909-1998). You may not have heard of him: bishop in the Church of South India, street preacher, theologian of the post-modern age, lover of the sacraments, Holy Spirit led and directed, and missions pioneer.

Gratefully, I had the opportunity of meeting Bishop Newbigin about year before his passing. I attended a special missions conference held in Newbigin’s honor at Beeson Divinity School. This conference would be his last formal speaking engagement before his passing. In our conversation, Newbigin was gracious, unusually anointed of the Holy Spirit, and a fine conversationalist. Officially, he spoke twice that day and continued to be a powerful preacher of the Word though blind and weak.

This quote is a little longer than I normally post, but these thoughts from his seminal work, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, are quintessentially Newbigin.

This presence of a new reality, the presence in the shared life of the Church of the Spirit who is the arrabōn of the kingdom, has become possible because of what Jesus has done, because of his incarnation, his ministry as the obedient child of his Father, his suffering and death, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and his session at the right hand of God. When the apostles are asked to explain the new reality, the new power to find joy in tribulation, healing in sickness, freedom in bondage, life in death, this is the explanation they give.

It follows that the visible embodiment of this new reality is not a movement that will take control of history and shape the future according to its own vision, not a new imperialism, not a victorious crusade. Its visible embodiment will be a community that lives by this story, a community whose existence is visibly defined in the regular rehearsing and reenactment of this story which has given it birth, the story of the self-emptying of God in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Its visible centre as a continuing social entity is that weekly repeated event in which believers share bread and wine as Jesus commanded, as his pledge to them and their pledge to him that they are one with him in his passion and one with him in his victory.

Instead of the celebration of the sabbath as the end of God’s old creation, they celebrate the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, as the beginning of the new creation. In this they find enacted and affirmed the meaning and goal of their lives as part of the life of the cosmos, their stories part of the universal story. This story does indeed lead to a glorious end and is therefore filled with meaning, but the end is not some far distant date in terrestrial history. The end is the day when Jesus shall come again, when his hidden rule will become manifest and all things will be seen as they truly are. That is why we repeat at each celebration of the Lord’s Supper the words which encapsulate the whole mystery of the faith: “Christ has died, Christ has risen: Christ shall come again.”

Lesslie J. Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 120 [paragraphing mine].

HT: Euangelion

Without the Gospel . . .

Without the Gospel Everything is Useless and Vain

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1 Cor. 15:13-14

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered our greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance where upon we receive Christ’s righteousness and are granted right standing in the Father’s sight. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transform our entire beings making us new creations in Christ.

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

John Calvin, preface for Pierre Robert Olivétan’s 1534 French translation of the New Testament

HT: Tony Reinke

Evangelical First and Foremost

Why I Am an Evangelical First

For I delivered to you as of first importance (emphasis mine) what I also received: 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 15:3-5 (ESV)

In the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.), we adhere to the biblical, historic theology of convergence. Convergence theology affirms the person and work of the Spirit (Charismatic), the beauty of Christ and his finished work on the Cross (Evangelical), and the historic church’s sacramental worldview with its Eucharist-centered life and Trinitarian worship (Sacramental).

I affirm convergence theology as the model and practice of the Book of Acts and the early church. However, the Charismatic and Sacramental streams are subservient to the message of the Good News. Why place the Evangelical stream at the head? We cannot enjoy the sacraments and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless we have experienced Christ first in all his saving work. We must be saved before we can know the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and experience the fullness of Christ at the Table of the Lord (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Therefore, I am grateful for Evangelicalism for without this movement, I would not have known the justifying grace of God. The Evangelical message is the message that saves, delivers, and heals. Evangelicalism preaches the Biblical gospel:

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered my greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transforming our entire beings making us a new creations in Christ.

In summary: the gospel is salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

So what is Evangelicalism or the Evangelical stream? Listed are two definitions: the first, focuses on Evangelical belief, and the second, identifies Evangelicalism’s historic roots.

An evangelical is someone who embraces the solas of the Reformation (salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, according to Scripture alone), resonates with the emphasis on the new birth and the reviving work of the Spirit found in the Great Awakening, believes in the complete trustworthiness of the Bible contra the liberals and modernists, accepts the responsibility of world evangelization and social engagement as modeled by countless missionaries and reformers, rejects the obscurantism that marked parts of fundamentalism, and, in distinction to the pragmatists and postmoderns, affirms the importance of doctrinal propositions and the knowability of truth.

Kevin DeYoung via Evangel blog

At its heart [evangelicalism] is a theological core shaped by the Trinitarian and Christological consensus of the early church, the formal and material principles of the Reformation, the missionary movement that grew out of the Great Awakening and the new movements of the Spirit that indicate “surprising works of God” are still happening today.

Timothy George, ”Foreword,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism

I am an Evangelical first and foremost because Christ and his finished work on the cross is the first and foremost message of the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Christ comes first in the Christian life because Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:17-18 NKJV).

HT: Evangel blog at First Things

I’m a Tim Keller Fan

The Penalty, Faith, and the Gospel

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel (emphasis mine) I preached to you, which you received,in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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. 15:1-4 (ESV)

I am a Tim Keller fan because Tim Keller gets the biblical gospel right. I enjoy listening to his audio messages because they are cross-centered, grace-saturated, and Christ-exalting. You can find his sermons at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church or The Gospel Coalition websites. Transform your spiritual life by listening for free to the “Prodigal God” sermon series.

The Gospel: His Love, My Flaws

The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 181.

The Cross Pays Our Debt

The cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 193.

Weak Faith in a Strong Branch

Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you is a branch sticking out of the edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and seems more than strong enough. How can it save you?

If you’re certain the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If instead your mind is filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 234

HT: Of First Importance

He Didn’t Say It

st-francis-of-assisi-posters

Preach and Live the Gospel

Faith comes by HEARING and HEARING through the WORD of CHRIST.

Romans 10:17

Mark Galli posts an excellent essay on the Christianity Today website that dispels the notion that Francis of Assisi taught, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” Galli refutes the modern idea that talk is cheap and living the truth is the only requirement of preaching the gospel. However, Francis preached, Jesus taught, and the Apostle Paul declared the saving truth of salvation by faith through grace AND they lived holy and exemplary lives.

I’ve heard the quote once too often. It’s time to set the record straight-about the quote, and about the gospel. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough-that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it. The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age. . . .

“Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. . . .

That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel” Christianity Today magazine, May 2009 (Web only).