This Resurrection Sunday, I’ve chosen a lesser known hymn to present to you. Although it’s not strictly about the Lord’s resurrection, it definitely highlights some of the ways we benefit from His having risen from His grave. Please enjoy this beautiful hymn and the glorious truths it proclaims.
Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center enumerates 9 Glorious Things The Resurrection Means To Us as a preparation for our Resurrection Sunday worship. Please enjoy this encouraging piece.
Having adopted New England as my home, I’ve often felt saddened and troubled by this region’s departure from its Biblical foundation. So I appreciated Elizabeth Prata for writing New England’s mission drift in The End Time. She shows the destructive power of compromise.
While you’re on Elizabeth’s website, be sure to read O to see ourselves as others see us. Or maybe not… I think it’s one of her finest essays.
I’m not overly fond of Mortification Of Spin, and have been thinking about canceling my subscription. But Todd Pruitt’s article, Bit-O-Vinegar on his 1517 blog, has made me reconsider. He encourages people like me who tend to be less than gentle about confronting error.
Over at Biblical Woman, Dorothy Patterson writes Ms. Independence Gets Married in response to one of her readers who married later in life (although it amused me, since I married at age 48, that her reader considered the late 20s marrying late). Patterson gives Scriptural advice that any bride should read.
On her blog, Wise In His Eyes, Rebekah Womble asks, Are Reformed Christians “All Head, No Heart”? She handles this common criticism with fairness and grace.
Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.
Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.
They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.
Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.
Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)
To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 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. (ESV)
Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.
The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.
During my years as a Charismatic, I remember using all sorts of Scriptures as proof-texts to validate whatever spiritual experience I happened to be practicing at the time. Most of the Charismatics I knew did the same thing to greater or lesser degrees.
At Christmas time, Matthew’s nativity narrative gave me and my Charismatic friends excellent proof-texts to substantiate our claims that the Lord spoke to us personally. Three times in Matthew 1 and 2, the Lord sent Joseph dreams, in which He spoke very clearly to instruct Joseph. For example, look at God’s intervention when Joseph learned that his fiancee, Mary, was carrying a Child that he hadn’t fathered.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. ~~Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
Naturally, we concluded that, since the Lord spoke to Joseph, we had good reason to expect Him to speak to us in dreams, visions, still small voices or what have you. Our conclusion certainly seemed reasonable at the time, granted, but let’s think through a few points regarding who the Lord generally spoke to in Scripture and why He spoke to them.
In the Old Testament, God spoke to prophets, or to people who would further the development of Israel (and the Messianic line). He didn’t speak to everyone in Israel, nor did He speak about inconsequential matters. He was building His nation, teaching them how to worship Him and separate themselves from those who worshiped false gods and committed abominable sins.
Likewise, in the New Testament He spoke to apostles and prophets until His Word was written down by some of those same apostles and prophets. Those apostles and prophets, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, built the foundation of the Church by the revelations that the Holy Spirit gave them. That revelation (at least the revelation that we needed) has been preserved in the Bible’s canon.
The Lord spoke to Joseph because Joseph would serve as the legal father of Jesus, thus legitimizing His claim to David’s throne. In turn, this claim validated Jesus as the Messiah. Had Joseph divorced Mary, Jesus would not have had this legal claim. Therefore, God had to intervene by speaking directly to Joseph. Notice that His instruction that Joseph name the Child Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
God spoke two more times to Joseph (Matthew 2:13-15 and Matthew 2:19-23), both times to protect Jesus from an early death and, again, to fulfill prophecy. The Lord spoke to Joseph for specific purposes that resulted in Jesus growing to Manhood, demonstrating Himself to be God, dying on the cross to atone for the sin of those who would believe in Him and rising from the grave to break the power of sin. God’s words to Joseph held eternal consequences.
God’s words to Joseph were vastly different from the things that present-day evangelicals (particularly Charismatics) claim to receive. Joseph, like other key figures in Scripture, played a critical role in God’s plan of redemption. That being the case, 21st Century Christians need only the Bible in order to hear everything the Lord wants us to know.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says that, in these last days, God has spoken through His Son. Praise God He spoke to Joseph back then, so that we would have His Son’s Word for all eternity!
Present-day evangelicals like the famous quote by Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Sadly, I first heard this quote from the pulpit of a church I attended. Sadder still, the pastor quoted it several times, encouraging us to practice “friendship evangelism.” Looking back, I have to wonder why an evangelical, at least one that (as a pastor) presumably had enough theological training to understand the distinctives of Protestant doctrine, would quote a Catholic mystic.
If you think seriously about it, the quote has absolutely no Scriptural basis! It sounds very nice, I agree, but it implies that our conduct, in and of itself, can lead another person to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking as a sinner, I certainly know that my day-to-day life won’t save anyone! I must use words, and specifically the Word of God, to proclaim the Gospel, directing people away from me and to the risen Savior. As the apostle Paul wrote:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, ~~1 Corinthians 15:1 (ESV)
Now, ladies, how can simply living a holy lifestyle, without ever mentioning Christ’s death, burial and resurrection possibly communicate the Gospel to anyone?
Our behavior can, and definitely should, adorn the Gospel. Long-time readers of this blog know how adamantly I believe that Christians must lead lives that demonstrate obedience to the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that a true reception of God’s grace leads to a lifestyle of repentance and obedience. But our personal integrity, despite its critical importance, can only communicate the deception that human morality gains God’s approval…unless we accompany that behavior by verbalizing the Gospel.
People must hear that all have sinned, and no amount of moral reform can atone for our transgressions. They need to hear that Christ shed His blood on the cross to appease God’s righteous wrath, and that the Father raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. They need to be told that only by trusting His finished work on the cross can they escape eternity in hell. Our behavior, in and of itself, not only fails to communicate that message, but could even potentially send the false message that we can earn salvation by how we live. And that, dear readers, would be the worst possible message.
Modern praise music doesn’t bother me in terms of style, but the content all to often focuses on us rather than exalting the Lord Jesus Christ. For that reason, I gravitate more and more towards hymns. Like this one. Perhaps you’ll be drawn into worship by its magnificent lyrics.
Responding to Andy Stanley’s recent suggestion that evangelical pastors should “take the spotlight off the Bible and back on the resurrection,” Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace argues, Andy Stanley — We Can’t Arrive at the Empty Tomb without a Bible. Buice demonstrates why Scripture provides the foundation for proclaiming the Gospel.
John turned 67 this past week, and I’ll turn 63 at the end of the month. Because we’re growing older, Donald Whitney’s article, Spiritual Disciplines and the Sinkhole Syndrome (on the Ligonier blog), cautions me against supposing that my “spiritual maturity” entitles me to ease up on personal prayer and Bible Study. Young people can also learn from this post.
Diane Bucknell, writing for Out of the Ordinary, explains why Contending for Old School Hermeneutics is essential in understanding and interpreting the Bible. Present-day evangelicals, who all too often approach God’s Word subjectively, would do well to consider her points.
Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason actually shows how to apply hermeneutics in his Soundbite of the Week: Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to Us Today? Praise the Lord for people like him who refuse to force interpretations on Scripture that the Holy Spirit never intended.
Although Erik Raymond writes A Couple Phrases I Wish Preachers Would Stop Saying So Often specifically for pastors and Bible Study leaders, his piece in The Gospel Coalition Blog actually applies to all Christians. Subjectively is such a major problem among evangelicals today; let’s not exacerbate this problem by using popular, but careless, phraseology when we talk about the Lord.
How can I resist mentioning Elizabeth Prata’s convicting essay, Etiquette of meeting a monarch in The End Time? Evangelicals don’t often think of the Lord as King of kings and Lord of lords. Our first taste of heaven may be quite humbling!
Out of the Ordinary also features Kim Shay’s post, The whole sentence matters, which examines 1 Peter 5:7 in its context. Her blog post gives us a different, more accurate, perspective on this well-known Bible memory verse.
Continuing my unplanned (by me) theme of proper Bible interpretation, 4 Practical Guidelines for Reading Old Testament Stories by George H. Guthrie reminds us that overall context unlocks Scripture’s meaning.
Denny Burk’s post, They’ll never come after the church…until they do reminds me of my reasons for starting The Outspoken TULIP 14 months ago. Ladies, we live in a time of growing hostility to the Lord and His Word, and we must do all we can not to compromise with the world’s values. Knowing Scripture, and knowing it accurately, is essential as this spiritual warfare escalates. I beg you, read the Bible in context and apply it obediently, regardless of the cost. These perilous times call us to live for His honor.
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