Throwback Thursday: The Shocking Gospel Message

Originally posted September 11, 2018.

The Gospel and Love

The Gospel, in and of itself, isn’t about our responsibility to love other people.

Does that statement shock you? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Traditionally, the Christian culture equates doing good to others and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves with genuine Christianity. And without argument, Jesus and His apostles taught that the command to love others is second only to the command to love God.

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Regaining A Sense Of Wonder About God’s Love

Photo of the Public Garden in Boston

Back in the 1980s, I wrote and directed with the Drama Ministry at the church I attended. One year, three of us collaborated on a musical depicting Christ’s earthly ministry. I didn’t write the Last Supper scene, but the person who did write it included a hauntingly beautiful song entitled “How Can He Love Me?” The actor portraying John (the beloved disciple) sang it to expresses his amazement that Jesus loved him.

I don’t think many Christians wonder how the Lord could love them. The idea that God loves us is pretty much a given, even among people who don’t profess to be Christians. And in evangelical circles, we find it a little too easy to take His love for granted.

I know I do. Hopefully you’re honest enough to admit that you struggle with the temptation to have a lackadaisical attitude towards His love.

Why have we lost our sense of awe that God would love us? In pondering that question, I’ve come up with a two-pronged answer. Put simply, we’ve lost an understanding of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

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The Four Spiritual Laws Say That God Created You To Have A Personal Relationship With Him — Is That True?

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.

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If You’re Not Amazed, You Ought To Be

Would you say that many Christians lose their sense of wonder that God saved them? Would you say that sometimes you lose your sense of wonder that He saved you? I have, from time to time.

Yet as we study Scripture, it’s hard to miss His amazing love for sinful, writing creatures like us. How incredible that Jesus would bear the Father’s wrath for us, taking our sin and giving us His righteousness! Nothing in us could ever merit such love, grace and mercy.

To His praise, He faithfully reminds us that He indeed has bestowed this incomprehensible love, grace and mercy on those of us who believe. He fills the pages of Scripture with innumerable examples of His love despite our persistent rebellion against Him. And when we see how undeserving we are of His love, we can’t help but be completely and utterly astounded.

How can it be that God the Son should die for me? I ought to be amazed more often!

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Not A Tweet Any Professing Christian Should Endorse

I had never heard of Kristen Howerton before. I have no idea whether she professes to be a Christian or not. If she doesn’t, I can shrug off her recent tweet. Non-Christians can be expected to say the sort of things she said.

If she does profess to know Christ, however, her recent tweet troubles me, as it should trouble any Christian. Beth Moore’s evident endorsement of that tweet also troubles me. Read the tweet for yourself:

The problem with a professing Christian as visible as Beth Moore has little to do with the question of systemic racism. I really don’t want to address that question in this blog, primarily because such a discussion would distract from the purpose of this ministry. But I definitely want to explain why the sentiments Howerton expressed (and Beth Moore endorsed) conflict with the Gospel.

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What COVID-19 And George Floyd’s Murder Demand

Praise the Lord for the sensible Christians out there who encourage us to use these troubled times as opportunities to present the Gospel! Too often, we get so embroiled in controversies that we lose sight of our main responsibility to tell the world about Christ. Thankfully, a number of people ranging from John MacArthur to my own pastor have emphasized the vital necessity of evangelism as we face both COVID-19 and the fallout from the murder of George Floyd.

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Flashback Friday — Worthiness: Ours Or His?

Originally posted April 19, 2018:

Rich In Mercy

The logic goes that Jesus died for us because He saw something in us worth saving.  That perspective certainly sounds reasonable, and I’d venture to say that every one of us would love to believe it. Doesn’t it thrill you to think that the Lord saw something special and valuable in you? That you were worth saving?

Once again,  however, this interpretation of Christ’s death subtly shifts attention from Christ’s mercy and grace to us. It neglects the wretched condition of our souls by insinuating that we actually deserved God’s notice.  In fact, it pretty much implies that He had an obligation to save us. Could we even say that He is lucky to have such magnificent people in His kingdom?

As much as the idea that we possess something of intrinsic value appeals to us, nothing in the Bible supports it. On the contrary, God’s Word repeatedly emphasizes our unworthiness as a backdrop to His wondrous grace. Let me take you back to Ephesians 2:1-10 for a moment.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

Verses 1-3 paint a particularly nasty picture of us, don’t  they? By  nature, it says, we were children of wrath. What value could a child of wrath, dead in sin and ruled by fleshly passions, possibly have? Why would a holy God have any compelling reason for shedding His innocent blood for any of us?

Verses 4-7 answer that question. The Lord lavished His salvation on us in order to display the riches of His grace and kindness. Our salvation points, not to any imaginary worth on our part, but to His generosity in saving such undeserving sinners.

The purpose of our salvation, then, is to showcase the Lord’s character. What a wonderful God He is to extend that degree of compassion on worthless sinners who merit nothing but His wrath. Although nothing about us commends us to Him, Jesus willingly went to the cross to accept the Father’s wrath — wrath that we deserved! His atoning sacrifice highlights His graciousness and compassion, revealing what a loving God He is!

He is the worthy one, not any of us. Worship (which means the ascribing of worth) goes totally to Him. How utterly magnificent that He would choose to love vile creatures like us! The more we understand that we had no value in and of ourselves, the more we want to worship Him for His inexplicable mercy and grace.

Verse 10 completes the beautiful picture of God’s grace in saving us, declaring that He regenerates us into His workmanship. Though we have no worth of our own, Christ gives us His worth, graciously using us as His agents of good works. At this mercy, we can only praise Him.

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His Glories Now We Sing

Happy Resurrection Day! All of us are joyfully celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well we should! Those of us blessed enough to watch livestreaming services from our own pastors will hear various implications of His resurrection, and those who don’t have a church with such capabilities can enjoy the service from my home church, First Baptist Church Weymouth. If you miss the livestream at 10:30 a.m. EST, you can still play the video at your convenience.

Rather than posting a hymn exclusively about Christ’s resurrection this year, I’ve decided to post one celebrating the totality of His ministry and focusing on how His ministry glorifies Him as our matchless King through all eternity.

So often we emphasize the benefits Christ’s resurrection brings to us. That emphasis is entirely appropriate! But if we limit our appreciation of His resurrection to its effects on us, we forget that ultimately it is about His glory. This Resurrection Day, let’s magnify Jesus Christ, Who died and rose on high.

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Snap, Crackle, Pop — My Back And More Bedrest

Tulip SamplerOkay, folks– I guess the title of this post sums up why I haven’t been blogging these past few weeks. The “pulled muscle” ended up being a compression fracture in my lumbar region, meaning that the advice to sit in my wheelchair that I received from my February 28th visit to the Emergency Room was exactly opposite of what I needed to be doing.

On March 8th I got out of bed and tried to sit on the toilet. As I was screaming in pain, John called 911 and the Randolph Fire Department escorted me back to Milton Hospital. This time they did a CAT scan, which showed the fracture at the L2 level. So I’ve been lying in bed eating Tylinol and Motrin as I’ve had Lidocane patches on my back.

Just to complicate matters, my evening PCA has been out for three weeks with a fractured arm, so John’s been having to scare up people to help in her absence. Now with the Covid19 virus, we’ve had to ask his PCA to take a leave of absence (he works in a grocery store and is therefore exposed to a large number of people) so we’re having to find people to help him get up. This is the first time since I was diagnosed with the fracture that John has been able to type a blog post for me.

Please pray for both of us. I am improving, and hope to work on the blog post I started writing on March 7th. I expect to be doing a little typing by the end of next week, but I don’t think I should write that whole post in one sitting. And pray for John as he balances all of his obligations with helping me. I miss blogging. I miss my readers. May God protect all of us during this trying time, reminding us of His sovereignty and love.

 

Rejoice With Us

TheLordIsMyStrengthWoodcarving
One of the best reasons for sending out prayer requests is that more people can praise and glorify the Lord when He graciously answers those prayers. His loving provision strengthens our faith and assures us of His intimate care.
We conducted three interviews for the PCA job. Two of the candidates were very good, but one particularly stood out. I confess to feeling anxious about the transition, since the PCA who is leaving has been with us for twelve years. But mostly I feel relieved and grateful. The Lord has once again shown Himself to be faithful — obviously He will also be faithful in this transition period.
Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. Please rejoice with us at the Lord’s goodness.