Lately, evangelicals have been telling us that social justice is a “Gospel issue.” A recent comment on one of my blog posts suggested that the Gospel teaches us to have unity despite theological differences (a point worthy of its own article). These sentiments, as well as similar sentiments I’ve heard throughout the years, prompt me to think that we need periodic reminders of what the Gospel actually is.
Most of you may decide not to read this article. Why waste time reading about something so basic? Do I have new insights into the Gospel? Perhaps a fresh take on it? Can I present it in a creative manner that makes it more interesting? More relevant?
No, I can’t. As a matter of fact, adding to the Gospel would lead me to damnation (Galatians 1:8). I have no interest in dressing it up for the purpose of making it more appealing and/or entertaining.
A year ago, we all breathed a sigh of relief. 2020, with its lockdowns, social distancing and masks, was finally receding into the rear view mirror. Two vaccines had been approved, and a third was pending. We heard vague promises that schools would reopen and we’d be eating indoors at our favorite restaurants again. My doctor assured me that, once people got their shots, mask mandates would end and I could use para-transit and public transportation without anyone questioning her note exempting me from wearing a mask. We greeted New Year’s Day 2021 enthusiastically. This year would be better!
I designed this quotation of Hebrews 1:1-3 as the front of the Christmas card that John and I are giving to our Personal Care Attendants this year. I wanted something unexpected — something a little more difficult for them to gloss over. Something that pointed to the deity of Christ in a way they may have never considered before.
As I worked on the graphic, wrestling with it for about an hour to keep the darker areas of the gradient from blending into the background, I read the passage several times. Although I’d originally intended on emphasizing the first and second verses, verse 3 captivated my attention. Amid testing colors and printing out samples to check how the graphic looked on paper, I grew increasingly amazed by how the writer of Hebrews moved from the sufficiency of God’s Word to Christ’s Incarnation to the atonement and resurrection in three verses. What a wonderful way to present the Gospel in a Christmas card!
The more I thought about this little fragment of God’s Word, the more I wanted to write a blog post about the rich teaching it contains. The writer’s economy in condensing the Gospel message into just three verses encourages me to remember the simplicity, and yet the profound magnificence of our Lord and Savior. We celebrate His birth precisely because He is the glorious One described in this beautiful introduction to Hebrews. So let’s spend a few minutes enjoying the teaching in this small portion of God’s Word.
All these beloved Christmas hymns exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, boldly proclaiming Who He is and why He came. Since my childhood, I’ve cherished each of them, growing more fond of them once I became a Christian. I love these hymns because they celebrate God’s incarnation. All Christians probably love them for the same reason.
Another beloved Christmas hymn stands out to me as perhaps the one that most magnifies Who Jesus Christ is. Its lyrics beautifully portray His glory and His humility. Maybe the other hymns I’ve mentioned do the same, but this hymn strikes a chord with me far more deeply. Over the years, it seems to grow more profound and wonderous in its depiction of the mighty God as the offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Enjoy these powerful lyrics that exalt our precious Lord Who was born to give us second birth. May your Christmas be filled with glory to the newborn King!
As a teenager, I liked the music of B.J. Thomas — especially “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” So I praised the Lord when, somewhere around 1979, he made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. I bought both of his Christian albums and wore out my cassette player by playing them.
Monday John put “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” on YouTube in honor of the weather. I then asked him to search for Thomas’ Christian songs (he had no idea that B.J. Thomas had recorded Christian songs), and we were pleasantly surprised that YouTube had quite a number of them.
Of course they were simplistic and a tad smaltzy. Most popular Christian music during that time period was. But John and I listened to several songs, hoping B.J. Thomas had a genuine conversion.
Many evangelicals assume that my eagerness for heaven stems from a desire to escape my disability. I understand their assumption. After all, Cerebral Palsy (especially such a severe case) imposes multiple restrictions on me, and those restrictions often carry a variety of subtexts. So of course one would conclude that the promise of a new body, free of the limitations currently thrust on me, holds a significant appeal for me.
In one sense, it does. But only when I view heaven in terms of how it will benefit me. And as I grow in understanding doctrine, I become increasingly convinced that most professing Christians hold an inverted view of heaven and its purposes.
Somewhere in my past, a friend posited the idea that heaven would be different for each of us, according to our interests, tastes and desires. Using her paradigm, heaven for me would be a giant art museum filled with works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Sargent and Rockwell. With cheesecake for meals. Her heaven would be stables of magnificent horses for her to ride and sturdy oak trees for her to climb.
A few days ago, someone told me that her three-year-old godson met his mother when she came to pick him up from preschool, greeting her with the words, “Look Mommy — I’m wearing a dress!” Horrified, his mother asked him why he was in a dress. He pointed to his teachers and claimed, “Them gave it to me!”
“Oh no,” the teachers argued, “we gave him a choice. We want our children to use costumes to express themselves.”
Some of my childhood memories come back as complete narratives. Every detail remains vivid, as does the progression of events. As a storyteller, I particularly enjoy recounting these memories, though John has heard all those stories so many times that I’m sure he’s sick of them.
Other childhood memories come in fragments, with both moments of sharp detail and many more moments so blurred that I can’t distinguish actual events from my guesses of what might or might not have happened. It’s one of those partial memories that I want to share with you today.
John and I watch far less news than we used to. You might say the same. It’s more depressing every day, particularly as we watch society’s determined rebellion against God’s Word and the Lord Himself. We feel hopeless, as well as righteously indignant.
We can’t live in denial of the growing lawlessness around us. Neither can we ignore the approaching persecution that will come against those of us who stand on God’s Word. Taking a Pollyanna attitude certainly won’t give the fortitude we’ll need in the coming days.
At the same time, we must resist turning into Debbie Downers. Amid all the negativity swelling around us, the Lord has blessed us with both temporal and eternal blessings, the latter of which not even the most corrupt government can take from us. Without denying the rising evil around us, we must focus on His goodness and remember reasons to praise Him.
Through Jesus, God has given us the precious gift of salvation! How can we refrain from rejoicing when we think of His goodness in covering the sin of all who believe in Him? How can we remain depressed when we contemplate spending eternity in His immediate presence? How can we not glorify Him for the great things He has done?
If you’ve been an evangelical Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of an evangelism tool called “The Four Spiritual Laws” John and I were even in a church that used this tool in its New Members Class (our present church does not use it, thankfully).
I want to write a few posts over the next few weeks going over these Spiritual Laws. While they do present the Gospel on a surface level that can be beneficial in witnessing to people, they fall short of offering a robust picture of our need for salvation and the Lord’s sufficiency in effecting that salvation. I commend the writers who developed these Spiritual Laws for their zeal in reaching out to the lost, but I believe we must hold their tract up to Scripture to determine its faithfulness to sound doctrine.