Category Archives: Evangelism

Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray

The Master’s Seminary is pleased to announce the publication of a new book, Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray.

This volume serves as a sequel to Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.

The book’s contributors are comprised of TMS professors and/or pastors at Grace Community Church. Here is a list of the chapters included in this volume:

Foreword by John MacArthur

Section 1: The Church and Contemporary Issues

Chapter 1: When the Church Goes Astray: Evangelicalism’s Misguided Quest for Popularity and Prestige (Nathan Busenitz)

Chapter 2: Rock-Star Religion: Countering the Church’s Celebrity Culture (Tom Patton)

Chapter 3: The Crescent and the Cross: Engaging Muslims for the Sake of the Gospel (William D. Barrick)

Chapter 4: When Truth Meets Love: The Church’s Response to Homosexuality (Alex Montoya)

Chapter 5: Is This Jesus Calling? Evaluating a Bestselling Book in Light of Biblical Truth (Jesse Johnson)

Section 2: The Church and Sound Doctrine

Chapter 6: Who’s In Charge of Your Church? Submitting to the Headship of Christ in Everything (Michael Mahoney)

Chapter 7: Nothing But the Truth: Why We Cannot Compromise Our Commitment to Scripture (Abner Chou)

Chapter 8: The Hallmarks of Heresy: Discerning the Difference Between Doctrinal Confusion and False Teaching (Michael Riccardi)

Chapter 9: The Charismatic Question: Are the Miraculous Gifts Still in Operation Today? (Nathan Busenitz)

Chapter 10: Things That Should Not Be Forgotten: Why Church Leaders Should Care about Church History (Nathan Busenitz)

Section 3: The Church and the Great Commission

Chapter 11: To the Ends of the Earth: God’s Global Agenda to Reach the Lost (Irv Busenitz)

Chapter 12: Compassion Without Compromise: Thinking About Social Justice in Light of the Great Commission (Jesse Johnson)

Chapter 13: Fit for the Master’s Use: Proclaiming the Gospel from a Platform of Personal Piety (Carl Hargrove)

Chapter 14: Global Risk Assessment: Threatening Trends Within Evangelical Missions (Mark Tatlock)

Chapter 15: To the Praise of His Glory: A Call to Remember the Church’s Ultimate Priority (James Mook)

The post Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

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The Unchanging Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Code: B170227

John MacArthur

[Note from the Editor: This week’s blog posts are adapted from John MacArthur’s newest book The Gospel According to Paul, and also correlate with our current radio series. Click here to learn more about the book, or here to listen to the radio broadcast.]

There is only one gospel. That theme reverberates throughout the writings of the apostle Paul—literature that makes up almost half of the entire New Testament. While he emphasizes different aspects of the gospel in various passages [The Gospel According to Paul examines several other prominent passages: Romans 3:9–26, 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Ephesians 2:1–10, Titus 2:11–14], they are all consistent and work together for a full-orbed understanding of the doctrine of salvation.

Consistency and Integrity

Anyone who suggests that Paul introduced an altered or embellished version of the apostolic message would have to contradict every point Paul ever made about the singularity of the true gospel. Although he expounded the gospel far more thoroughly and painstakingly than any other New Testament writer, nothing Paul ever preached or wrote was in any way a departure from what Christ or His apostles had been teaching from the start. Paul’s gospel was exactly the same message Christ proclaimed and commissioned the twelve to take into all the world. There is only one gospel, and it is the same for Jews and Gentiles alike.

It was the false teachers, not Paul, who claimed that God had appointed them to polish or rewrite the gospel. Paul flatly repudiated the notion that the message Christ sent His disciples to preach was subject to revision (2 Corinthians 11).

Paul made it clear that the surest way to twist Scripture to one’s own destruction is by altering the gospel—or even by passively tolerating those who preach a modified gospel. He strictly cautioned readers to beware “if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted” (2 Corinthians 11:4). He said alternative gospels are rooted in the same brand of deception the serpent used to deceive Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3).

And while the one, true gospel is inexhaustible in its breadth and depth, it is at the same time clear enough to be expressed in simple terms through historical events and theological principles.

Core Elements

For anyone familiar with Paul’s writings, one of the first texts that will come to mind as a succinct summary of the gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1–5. Paul himself identifies this passage as a digest of essential gospel truths.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which 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 according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared.

Verse 3 would be better translated, “I conveyed to you the principal matters.” That’s the true sense of what he is telling them. What Paul clearly has in mind here are the elements of gospel truth that come first in order of importance. He goes on to give an abbreviated outline of historical facts in chronological order. He names four events that constitute the key climactic events of the whole gospel narrative: the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances of the risen Christ.

This is significant for several reasons. First, it is a reminder that the gospel is grounded in actual history. The Christian faith is not a theory or a speculation. It is not mystical, as if based on someone’s dream or imagination. It is not an abstract philosophy or an idealistic worldview. Much less is it merely a list of sterile doctrines that have been relegated to a formal statement of faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ is divinely revealed truth established in the meticulous historical fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies, documented by mountains of irrefutable evidence, confirmed by a series of public events that no mere mortal could possibly have engineered, and corroborated by an abundance of eyewitness testimony.

On the other hand, by listing facts of history as matters of primary importance, Paul is by no means dismissing or even minimizing the doctrinal content of the gospel message. Nor is he suggesting that the Christian faith rests on bare historical facts and eyewitness testimony alone. Twice in this short passage Paul reminds us that these events happened “according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the true ground and foundation of saving faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It’s not “faith” merely to believe that these events occurred. True saving faith will also embrace the biblical meaning of sin, atonement, divine grace, and other elements of gospel truth—the doctrines that explain why the historical facts are so significant.

Indeed, loaded into the simple statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is everything Scripture teaches about the penalty of sin, the principle of substitutionary atonement, and the sinless perfection that qualified Christ to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In other words, what Paul says here in very few words has significant ramifications for hamartiology (the doctrine of sin), soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), and Christology (the doctrines of the person and work of Christ). So his short list of historical facts in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 is laden with far-reaching doctrinal implications.

The Problem in Corinth

Context is crucial. Paul wrote this chapter to deal with a doctrinal error, not as a dispute about the facts of history. The Corinthians already believed in Christ’s death and resurrection. What they questioned was the future bodily resurrection of believers who die. So Paul was writing to defend that point of doctrine. He does so by outlining the gospel message with a list of historical events that no one in the Corinthian assembly of believers ever would have questioned. “So we preach and so you believed,” he says in 1 Corinthians 15:11 (emphasis added).

His review of commonly believed gospel facts in verses 1–5 was therefore merely a prelude to the central point of the chapter. Paul states his main point plainly in verses 16–17: “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Conversely, if Christ was raised from the dead, then there’s no reason to be skeptical about the future bodily resurrection of the saints. “If Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12). The whole of chapter 15 is an exposition of that simple argument.

Four Historic Events

What concerns us here, however, is the brief gospel outline Paul gives in verses 3–5. He cites four events from history to construct a firm skeletal framework for the weighty doctrinal substance and spiritual significance of the gospel message. By naming these four historical facts rather than stressing the doctrine, Paul is not suggesting that the gospel’s doctrinal content is irrelevant or inconsequential. Paul would never indulge in that kind of reductionism. (The whole book of Galatians proves how strongly he believed in doctrinal soundness, especially in the matter of gospel preaching.) Here he is merely summarizing and outlining—not truncating—the message. By repeatedly using the phrase “according to the Scriptures,” he makes it clear that a right understanding of and true belief in these four events necessarily entails a proper view of the gospel’s doctrinal implications.

Furthermore, none of this would have been new to the Corinthians. Paul founded that church and pastored it for more than eighteen months before his ministry took him elsewhere (Acts 18:11,18). The Corinthians had received sufficient teaching from Paul so they already knew quite well the crucial doctrinal implications of the statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the first point of the outline Paul constructs.

In the days ahead we’ll examine four events that frame the pivotal doctrine of Christ’s atonement, and how all the other core gospel elements flow out it.

 

(Adapted from The Gospel According to Paul.)

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170227
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Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is (Video)

Red Grace media has published Unpopular The Movie, and it’s wonderful. This half hour movie is Christ-centric, accurate, clear, and presents the Gospel in a devastatingly biblical way. When you hear/read the Gospel, unvarnished and with open ears and open eyes, it singes the heart and devastates the soul. It is incendiary. Even as a long-saved person, it will try your emotions, and bring you low. We ALL need The Gospel.

Here, Emilio Ramos, Dr James White, and Paul Washer quietly discuss The Gospel. The background music is unobtrusive, the setting is thoughtful, and the presentation of the Gospel is accurate and beautiful. The movie is as much for the saints as it is an evangelism tool for the unsaved. Here is Red Grace Media’s synopsis:Unpopular The Movie is a Evangelism resource for the church. Unpopular is a gospel presentation by Emilio Ramos, Dr James White of Aomin.org, and Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society. Unpopular is meant to serve as a tool to evangelize non-Christians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. To stay up to date visit http://www.unpopularthemovie.com

Mr Ramos said,

We live in a culture that glorifies sin. That trivializes sin, that makes sin less heinous than it is. It is very deceptive to look at sin in a way that makes sense to us. If we see ourselves in the way that the culture tells us to see ourselves, then man can remedy his condition through technique. But if we see ourselves the way the Bible tells us we really are, then the only remedy for our sin is the work of the Savior.

This is good. Watch it!

Sin, repentance, the cross…are the most upsetting and controversial doctrines on the entire earth. They are presented here, along with God’s love and mercy.

Listen and watch for yourself. We all need the Gospel, all the time. Let its truth and the majesty of a holy and righteous God who accepts sinners into His family through His slain and resurrected Son, Jesus. Then share.

—————————————

Further Reading

The Gospel According to Jesus, by John MacArthur

Source: Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is

When Christians Act Like Mormons

Jordan Standridge shares his concern that in their approach to evangelism, many evangelicals actually look more like Joseph Smith than Jesus. In this piece over at The Cripplegate, Standridge lays out three areas in particular where Christians are tempted to behave like Mormons. He writes:

The other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”

Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!”

View article →

See our Research Paper on Mormonism

Taking Back Christianese #5: “Just Ask Jesus into Your Heart”

In this way, as noted above, this phrase can actually backfire on itself.  While intended to prevent false conversions, it can (if misused) actually lead to false conversions.  People can think they are saved because they “asked Jesus into their heart” with no awareness of how to evaluate their own spiritual condition.

Some of us grew up in churches where it seemed every Sunday included an altar call. Congregants were invited to walk the aisle and to make a “decision” for Christ.

During these occasions, very specific language would be used to explain how a person becomes a Christian.  “Just ask Jesus into your heart,” was the common refrain, usually followed by an appeal to Rev 3:2, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”

Thus, we come to the next installment in the “Taking Back Christianese” series.  Our purpose here is to evaluate the phrase, “Just ask Jesus into your heart.”  Like most of the phrases in this series, it can have both positive and negative aspects, depending on how it is used.

Why Do People Use This Phrase?

Despite the association with modern day revival-style churches, this phrase actually has a long pedigree, even in Reformed circles.  As some have pointed out, even certain Puritans used language that was similar.

And the reason for the usage of this phrase is not hard to find.  Concerned about the prevalence of false conversions, many pastors were keen to emphasize that salvation is not something attained just by attending church or being born into a Christian home.  Salvation is personal and individual.  Each sinner has to respond to Christ for themselves.

There is a bit of irony however to this motivation.  Although this phrase might have been used to prevent false conversions, its misuse can, in fact, heighten the problem of false conversions.  More on this below.

What is Correct or Helpful about This Phrase?

No doubt the Puritans embraced a version of this phrase precisely because it emphasized the personal, heartfelt response that needed to be true of every converted individual.  The Gospel has both corporate and individual aspects to it, and the latter cannot be forgotten.

Indeed, this is plainly laid out in Scripture.  Familial and corporate ties are not enough to be saved, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Thus, this phrase rightly reminds us that the Gospel requires a response from individuals.  It is not something that can be assumed or taken for granted.  Christ must be believed upon and embraced.

In this way, this phrase is a very helpful reminder of the importance of conversion. And this reminder is seriously needed in Reformed circles today. We talk about a lot of things as Reformed believers–justification, sanctification, adoption.

Read More

 

What Is the Gospel?

This post is adapted from the tract “What Is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert.


A Message from God

What exactly do Christians mean when they talk about the “gospel of Jesus Christ”? Since the word “gospel” means “good news,” when Christians talk about the gospel, they’re simply telling the good news about Jesus! It’s a message from God saying, “Good news! Here is how you can be saved from my judgment!” That’s an announcement you can’t afford to ignore.

Why Is the Gospel Good News?

So, what is the good news about Jesus Christ?

Since the earliest Christians announced the good news about Jesus, it has been organized around these questions:

  1. Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?
  2. What is our problem?
  3. What is God’s solution to our problem?
  4. How can I be included in his solution?

Christians through the centuries since Christ have answered those questions with the same truth from the Bible.

  1. We are accountable to God.
  2. Our problem is our sin against him.
  3. God’s solution is salvation through Jesus Christ.
  4. We come to be included in that salvation by faith and repentance.

Let’s summarize those points like this: God, Mankind, Jesus Christ, and Our Response.

God

The first thing to know about the good news of Jesus is that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Everything starts from that point, so if you get that point wrong then everything else that follows will be wrong. Because God created everything—including us—he has the right to tell us how to live. You have to understand that in order to understand the good news about Jesus. To understand just how glorious and life-giving the gospel of Jesus Christ is, we have to understand that God is also holy and righteous. He is determined never to ignore or tolerate sin. Including ours!

Mankind

When God created the first human beings, Adam and Eve, he intended for them to live under his righteous rule in perfect joy—obeying him and living in fellowship with him. When Adam disobeyed God, though, and ate the one fruit that God had told him not to eat, that fellowship with God was broken. Moreover, Adam and Eve had declared rebellion against God. They were denying his authority over their lives.

It’s not just Adam and Eve who are guilty of sin. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is the rejection of God himself and his authority over those to whom he gives life.

Once you understand sin in that light, you begin to understand why “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s not just physical death, but spiritual death, a forceful separating of our sinful, rebellious selves from the presence of God forever. The Bible teaches that the final destiny for unbelieving sinners is eternal, active judgment in a place called “hell.”

But . . .

Jesus Christ

The word “Christ” means “anointed one,” referring to anointing a king with oil when he is crowned. So, when we say “Jesus Christ,” we’re saying that Jesus is a King!

When Jesus began his public ministry, he told the people, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus died on a cross, the awful weight of all our sins fell on his shoulders. The sentence of death God had pronounced against rebellious sinners struck. And Jesus died. For you and me!

But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus the Crucified is no longer dead. The Bible tells us that he rose from the grave. Jesus’s rising from the grave was God’s way of saying, “What Jesus claimed about who he is and what he came to do is true!”

Our Response

What does God expect us to do with the information that Jesus died in our place so we can be saved from God’s righteous wrath against our sins? He expects us to respond with repentance and faith.

To repent of our sins means to turn away from our rebellion against God. Repentance doesn’t mean we’ll bring an immediate end to our sinning. It does mean, though, that we’ll never again live at peace with our sins.

Not only that, but we also turn to God in faith. Faith is reliance. It’s a promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from your sins. If God is ever to count us righteous, he’ll have to do it on the basis of someone else’s record, someone who’s qualified to stand in as our substitute. And that’s what happens when a person is saved by Jesus: All our sins are credited to Jesus who took the punishment for them, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus is then credited to us when we place our trust in what he has done for us! That’s what faith means—to rely on Jesus, to trust in him alone to stand in our place and win a righteous verdict from God!

Source: What Is the Gospel?


Our Time is Short

Read: Recommitting Your Life To God and Jesus Christ – Restoration and Forgiveness With God and Jesus Christ (Updated Version)


What is The Gospel?

God made everything out of nothing, including you and me. His main purpose in creation was to bring him pleasure.

The chief way in which we as humanity do this is through loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.

Instead of this, we have sinned against our loving Creator and acted in high-handed rebellion.

God has vowed that he will righteously and lovingly judge sinners with eternal death.

But God, being merciful, loving, gracious, and just, sent his own son, Jesus Christ, in the likeness of man to live as a man; fulfilling his perfect requirements in the place of sinners; loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.

And further, his son bore the eternal judgment of God upon the cross of Calvary, as he satisfied the eternal anger of God, standing in the place of sinners. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though he was perfectly sinless, that he might declare sinners as perfect.

This glorious transaction occurs as the sinner puts their faith (dependence, trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ as their substitute. God then charges Christ’s perfection to the sinner, and no longer views him as an enemy but instead an adopted son covered in the perfect righteousness of his son.

God furnished proof that this sacrifice was accepted by raising Jesus from the dead.

God will judge the world in righteousness and all of those who are not covered in the righteousness of Christ, depending on him for forgiveness, will be forced to stand on their own to bear the eternal anger of God.

Therefore, all must turn from sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord.


Do You Know Him?


What Is the Gospel?

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the gospel.

The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it –or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith–and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.


The Gospel In A Nutshell

Now, with regard to this rule of faith—that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend—it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics.

Tertullian, “On Prescription Against Heretics,” Chapter XIIl


What Is the Gospel?

This post is adapted from the tract “What Is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert.


A Message from God

What exactly do Christians mean when they talk about the “gospel of Jesus Christ”? Since the word “gospel” means “good news,” when Christians talk about the gospel, they’re simply telling the good news about Jesus! It’s a message from God saying, “Good news! Here is how you can be saved from my judgment!” That’s an announcement you can’t afford to ignore.

Why Is the Gospel Good News?

So, what is the good news about Jesus Christ?

Since the earliest Christians announced the good news about Jesus, it has been organized around these questions:

  1. Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?
  2. What is our problem?
  3. What is God’s solution to our problem?
  4. How can I be included in his solution?

Christians through the centuries since Christ have answered those questions with the same truth from the Bible.

  1. We are accountable to God.
  2. Our problem is our sin against him.
  3. God’s solution is salvation through Jesus Christ.
  4. We come to be included in that salvation by faith and repentance.

Let’s summarize those points like this: God, Mankind, Jesus Christ, and Our Response.

God

The first thing to know about the good news of Jesus is that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Everything starts from that point, so if you get that point wrong then everything else that follows will be wrong. Because God created everything—including us—he has the right to tell us how to live. You have to understand that in order to understand the good news about Jesus. To understand just how glorious and life-giving the gospel of Jesus Christ is, we have to understand that God is also holy and righteous. He is determined never to ignore or tolerate sin. Including ours!

Mankind

When God created the first human beings, Adam and Eve, he intended for them to live under his righteous rule in perfect joy—obeying him and living in fellowship with him. When Adam disobeyed God, though, and ate the one fruit that God had told him not to eat, that fellowship with God was broken. Moreover, Adam and Eve had declared rebellion against God. They were denying his authority over their lives.

It’s not just Adam and Eve who are guilty of sin. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is the rejection of God himself and his authority over those to whom he gives life.

Once you understand sin in that light, you begin to understand why “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s not just physical death, but spiritual death, a forceful separating of our sinful, rebellious selves from the presence of God forever. The Bible teaches that the final destiny for unbelieving sinners is eternal, active judgment in a place called “hell.”

But . . .

Jesus Christ

The word “Christ” means “anointed one,” referring to anointing a king with oil when he is crowned. So, when we say “Jesus Christ,” we’re saying that Jesus is a King!

When Jesus began his public ministry, he told the people, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus died on a cross, the awful weight of all our sins fell on his shoulders. The sentence of death God had pronounced against rebellious sinners struck. And Jesus died. For you and me!

But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus the Crucified is no longer dead. The Bible tells us that he rose from the grave. Jesus’s rising from the grave was God’s way of saying, “What Jesus claimed about who he is and what he came to do is true!”

Our Response

What does God expect us to do with the information that Jesus died in our place so we can be saved from God’s righteous wrath against our sins? He expects us to respond with repentance and faith.

To repent of our sins means to turn away from our rebellion against God. Repentance doesn’t mean we’ll bring an immediate end to our sinning. It does mean, though, that we’ll never again live at peace with our sins.

Not only that, but we also turn to God in faith. Faith is reliance. It’s a promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from your sins. If God is ever to count us righteous, he’ll have to do it on the basis of someone else’s record, someone who’s qualified to stand in as our substitute. And that’s what happens when a person is saved by Jesus: All our sins are credited to Jesus who took the punishment for them, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus is then credited to us when we place our trust in what he has done for us! That’s what faith means—to rely on Jesus, to trust in him alone to stand in our place and win a righteous verdict from God!


Ravi Zacharias explains the gospel in two minutes:


The Gospel on 5 Fingers

The five main components of the gospel can be remembered on 5 fingers of one hand. Here they are:

1) Jesus’ birth
2) Jesus’ life
3) Jesus’ death
4) Jesus’ resurrection
5) Jesus’ ascension

Obviously each point can be elaborated on depending on how much time you have. Here’s the short version:

1) Jesus’ birth – Jesus, God himself, the creator of the universe, the Messiah, became a human being – took on flesh, and was born of a virgin.

2) Jesus’ life – Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father. Though he was tempted in every way as we are, he never once sinned.

3) Jesus’ death – on the cross, Jesus himself took all our sins and paid for them. God the father counted all our sins to Jesus as if he himself had personally committed them. Then Jesus bore God’s wrath towards sin – the punishment we deserved – as a substitute for us.

4) Jesus’ resurrection – within 3 days, Jesus rose physically from the dead, proving that his sacrifice for sins have been accepted by God, since the punishment for sin was death. Jesus was seen by numerous people after he rose including 500 at one time (1 Corinthians 15).

5) Jesus’ ascension – Jesus ascended physically into heaven where he reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. And someday he will return to the earth.

That’s the gospel, the good news, and if we believe in Jesus Christ and this good news and call upon him he will save us from our sins and give us eternal life.

That’s a simple way to remember the gospel – five fingers. Even a child can do it. So ask God to give you opportunities to share his good news today.


Please take the time to watch this clip, so that you might understand the authentic Gospel


This is the Gospel:

Friend, God is holy. There is a God in heaven who has created you and me, and He is the authority over both of us. He is perfectly holy. “In Him is Light, and there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). And the problem with that is that if we want to have fellowship with God, we have to be light and no darkness at all. And yet here’s the problem: we are darkness. We are sinful. We’ve all broken His law. We’ve all lied, stolen, we’ve all looked with lust, we’ve all been angry with our brothers in our hearts. We’ve all fallen short of the glorious standard of perfection that God requires (Rom 3:23). And there’s nothing we can do about it. No amount of works, no amount of contrition, no amount of bad feelings, no amount of church attendance, no amount of Bible reading, no amount of evangelism can earn forgiveness of our sins and the righteousness which God requires (Titus 3:5; cf. Isa 64:6).

And yet God is gracious, and He loves us, and as His creatures He wants to display His glory in us by rescuing us from that. And so He sent His Son—God in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ—to be born as a helpless little baby (John 1:14; 3:16; Col 2:9). God of the universe, Sustainer of the universe, Himself being sustained in the womb of a teenage Hebrew girl, and upholding the world by the word of His power (Heb 1:3) while He is upheld by the nutrients from her own body! Unspeakable! And in great humility, He grows up with the growing pains of life in a fallen world, though He Himself never being with any sin—without sin entirely (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 7:26). And He lives a perfectly righteous life. The way that you and I have failed to live before God—the way that we have failed in thought, word, and deed, and fallen short of God’s glory—Christ never did. Not even a thought. He loved God, His Father, perfectly. He always walked in perfect righteousness. He lived the life that you were commanded to live, that I was commanded to live, that we failed to live. He lived that perfect life that God is worthy of.

And not only did He live for us, He died for us. He went to the cross. Our sin demanded death. Our sin demanded eternal punishment. Our sin demanded wrath—just wrath exercised on us for eternity (Rom 6:23). But because of the infinite worth of Christ’s person, He was on that cross. And on that cross, God exercised upon Him the full fury of His own anger (Rom 3:24–26; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:10–14), that was rightly due to me and rightly due to you, and that you will experience if you don’t turn from your sin and trust in this Messiah. Christ was born, lived, died, and was raised (1 Cor 15:3–4). And He rose from the grave after being dead, demonstrating His victory over sin and death.

And now God promises that if you turn from your sin, if you repudiate all that you are and all that you were and all that you love, and you turn away from a life of pursuing sin—and if you repudiate not only your bad works but your good works, if you turn from trying to earn your salvation by all the good deeds that you might want to do as a moral person—if you turn away from all of that (Acts 17:30–31), and you trust in Christ alone for righteousness (Phil 3:7–8; cf. Rom 3:28; 10:4), God promises that He will forgive you. He will have treated Christ on the cross as if Christ lived your life. And He will then treat you, justly and legally and righteously, as if you lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). And you can be saved to know the God you were created to love and enjoy. You can have the fullness of joy, the eternal pleasures that are at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Ps 16:11), and begin even now, because eternal life is to know God (John 17:3).

Friend, would you repent? Would you turn from your sin and trust in this perfect Savior to avail for you before God, to pay for your sin and to provide your righteousness?


A Gospel Presentation

God is Holy

The Bible teaches that the entire universe was created by God. And that God who has created everything has spoken to humanity in the Bible. And the Bible tells us that a fundamental characteristic of God is that He is holy. 1 John 1:5 says, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” That’s a way of saying that He’s entirely pure. God’s character is one of perfect moral uprightness. He is the essence of all that is good—so much so that, as the verse says, He can have absolutely no fellowship with “darkness”—no fellowship with that which is not perfectly holy, righteous, and pure.

God’s righteous character was expressed in the law He gave to Moses and the Israelites. You’ve heard of the Ten Commandments. They summarized the perfection of God’s character. These laws were directives for how people who were in a proper relationship with God must act.

We are Sinful

The problem is: all of us are sinful. We have all broken God’s law. All humanity has “gone astray like sheep, and each one of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We’ve tried to live our lives without God, according to our own standards, in our own ways. Whether we’re drug addicts and murderers, or white collar, well-to-do, upstanding citizens, we do what we do because we want to do it, with no consideration for God and what He would have us to do. The Bible calls that sin. It is the missing of the mark, the falling short of God’s standard of righteousness.

And in your heart of hearts you know you’re a sinner. I don’t know anyone who would say that they are perfect, even by their own standards. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” And if God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all, then in order to have fellowship with Him, we’d need to be perfectly holy like Him. But we’re not. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are stained by the “darkness” of our sin. And this is a problem, because if darkness can’t dwell with light, and we’re darkness and God is light, we’re cut off from a relationship with Him. We become absolutely incapable of doing the very thing we were created and designed to do: to enjoy a relationship with our Creator.

There is a Penalty for Sin

But it’s not just that we and God can’t be friends. There’s a penalty to be paid for sin. The Bible tells us that that penalty is death, Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” But the death that Paul talks about there isn’t just physical death. It’s not like we pay for our sins by going out of existence. The death talked about in that verse is a spiritual death. This is hell: eternal conscious torment. Jesus Himself calls it “a furnace of fire,” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:50).

The idea of hell grates against the sensibilities of modern people, because nobody thinks they’re really bad enough to deserve something like eternal torment. They might admit that they’re not the greatest of people, but surely they don’t deserve that. But their reasoning is skewed. The punishment for sin isn’t merely measured by the sin itself. In other words, while there are qualitative differences in the experience of divine punishment, murder, lust, and lying all receive the sentence of an eternity in hell. That’s because punishment for sin is measured by the One sinned against. All sin is fundamentally a sin against God, and He is infinitely holy. Therefore, sin against an infinitely holy God demands an infinite punishment. That’s why the punishment is so serious: because God is actually that righteous.

And so the bad news is that we’re sinful, separated from God, and doomed to spend eternity in hell. There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t simply tell God we’re sorry and we won’t do it again. What would you say about a judge who let a guilty, convicted criminal go free because he was sorry and said he wouldn’t do it again? You’d call him an unjust judge. But God is a perfectly just, perfectly righteous Judge. God’s justice demands that sin be punished, and the only payment is eternal spiritual death.

God Became Man

But the Good News is: God saw the miserable condition of humanity, and took pity on us. He knew that there was no way we could ever earn our way back to Him. We could never pay for our sins. But just when man was absolutely hopeless, when we were all doomed to spend eternity in hell with no way to pay our penalty, God the Father sent His Son to the earth on a mission. He was miraculously born to a virgin. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit miraculously conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb. And so being conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was God. And being born to a human being, He was human. This is the greatest mystery in the universe. As finite human beings, we can’t entirely wrap our minds around this, but it’s true: Jesus was fully God and fully man.

He lived for 33 years on the earth. He grew up just like every other child. He became a carpenter like Joseph, His earthly father. The great difference, though, between Jesus and every other human being, was that He never sinned. Never once did He ever break God’s law. He always loved God with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength in everything He did. He never sought satisfaction outside of the Father Himself. He never disobeyed His parents, He was never selfish, He never spoke sinful words. In a word, He lived the life that you and I should have lived, but failed to live. He lived a life totally worthy of God, a life that was purely “Light,” like we said before, with no darkness at all.

Jesus Paid the Penalty

And because He was perfectly righteous, He was fit to be the substitute for sinners. The Bible records for us that the Jews plotted to kill Jesus because He preached a message that was very different to the religious establishment of His day. It was against the Jewish law to put people to death, so they sought help from the Romans, who were the governing body in Israel. Because the governor, Pontius Pilate, feared that the people would riot if he didn’t give them what they wanted, he agreed to crucify Jesus.

At the same time, Scripture also tells us that God sent His Son to die this way. It was all part of God’s plan. God used the sinful desires of the Jews and the Romans to accomplish something for His own good purpose. On the cross, Jesus suffered for sins. But He didn’t suffer for His own sins. He had no sins. He lived an entirely perfect life. No, on the cross, God “caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

The verse right before that, Isaiah 53:5, says, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” What was happening on the cross was: God was carrying out the punishment against my sins—i.e., the pouring out of His wrath—on His innocent Son. Jesus voluntarily laid down His life in order to pay the penalty for sins. On the cross, God treated Jesus if He lived my life. And because I believe in Him, He treats me as if I lived Jesus’ life. See, because God is perfectly righteous, the only way to get to heaven is to be perfectly righteous. But because Jesus was perfectly righteous, and traded places with me on the cross, the perfect righteousness I need to go to heaven is His righteousness applied to my account.

After Jesus died, God miraculously raised Him from the dead three days later in order to show that He was satisfied with His sacrifice. Jesus was dead, but then He came back to life! It was a miracle. The Bible says God did this to “furnish proof to all men” that this message is true (Acts 17:30-31).


Law or Gospel — Which comes first?

Sometimes in life, the question is posed to us, “Which do you want first — the bad news or the good news?”

In response to this question, some choose to hear the good news first. It appears they desire to be thoroughly overwhelmed with the positive before getting their dose of the negative.

Others choose differently. They would rather hear the bad news first, get it out of the way, and put behind them their wonder and worry. Then, after processing the ramifications of the bad news, they hope to soothe the pain an end the conversation on a good note with positive vibes.

Well, Scripture does not offer us options. The Bible makes the choice for us, and it chooses to present the negative before the positive. The Bible declares bad news before declaring good news. It first presents the holy, wise, beneficial and condemning Law, then it publishes the “good tidings of great joy” or the Gospel. (Is. 60:1-2)

Understanding God’s Law

God’s Law was first presented in the opening chapters of Genesis. Some of it was stated; all of it was written upon man’s heart. Adam and Eve were to be entirely holy and obedient. They were to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, all the time. Whether they ate, or drank, or whatsoever they did, they were do to it all for the glory of God. As image-bearers, they were to keep up God’s image. As men and women created in his likeness, they were to be like God. Vocationally, they were to enjoy and steward the garden and all God’s creatures. Relationally, they were to love one another and populate the planet. Ceremonially, they were to enjoy and glorify the Lord by walking with him in the cool of the day and never eating from the forbidden tree. These were some of their obligations, and as long as they performed perfectly they were guaranteed life in the family and kingdom of God.

However, things soon went from glorious to ghastly. Outside of them, they experienced the testing of God and the temptation of Satan. Within them they chose to question God’s truth, wisdom, and affection. Then, drawn away by their own lusts and enticed, they followed their internal sinful inclinations and externally ate of the forbidden fruit. Therefore, the holy, wise, and beneficial Law became a harsh taskmaster. It showed them the standard, showed them their guilt, and plagued their consciences. It encouraged them to hide, fear, and religiously self-medicate. It declared them wicked, separated from God, at enmity with God, and deserving of death, and it promised this for both them and their children. Yes, the Law of God promised to give them that which they deserved. It promised to pay them based upon performance, and this proved to be very, very bad news.

Understanding God’s Gospel

God, through the Law declared to Adam and Eve who they were, what they had done, and what they had justly earned — condemnation. Then God mercifully, graciously, and lovingly went to work. He performed on their behalf and promised them an eternity of undeserved blessings:

He predetermined to love his enemies.
He sought out his enemies while they hid from him in fear.
He called to the man and woman who vainly had self-medicated themselves.
He promised to rescue them and their children; they would be removed from Satan’s family.
He promised to do so by means of a special Son – one to come who would be fiercely bitten yet ultimately victorious.
He promised to damn the Evil One.
He then covered or clothed Adam and Eve by means of his ceremonial sacrifice.
He perfectly performed for and made promises to them who had performed so wickedly for him.
Friends, are we seeing the difference? The Law presents our duty to perfectly perform, and it only results in bad news. For there is none who keep all the Law, all the time, both internally and externally. However, the Gospel is not like the Law. The Gospel presents not our duty to perform for God, but it presents God’s performance and promise for us. Through the Law we lose our credentials to be a part of God’s family and enjoy his kingdom. Through the Gospel we gain credentials that cannot be earned or lost.

A Great Illustration

Perhaps nowhere is the distinction better seen between Law and Gospel than on Calvary’s cross. On that day, the Law had placed a criminal beside Jesus. There he was guilty, vile, dying, hopeless, and still hurling insults at the Son of God. He was getting that which he earned and deserved. He was being treated justly and fairly. His payment was based upon his performance, and he had hell to pay. The Law had nothing good to say to the thief on the cross. But then God went to work; Jesus granted the Law-breaking criminal complete pardon, intimate communion, and never-ending paradise. These blessings were not based upon any labors of his own, but only based upon the performance and promise of God. These blessings were not earned; they were a gift. A divine swap occurred. Jesus (The Law Keeping Man) received that which he did not deserve so that the thief (The Law Breaking Man) might also receive that which he did not deserve. And this is a fantastic picture of the Gospel. Communion with God that was lost by man seeking to keep the Law, was granted to man as a gift of God.

Responding to the Gospel

Therefore, how should we respond to the Gospel? While believing in divine sovereignty, what is our human responsibility?

Let us make the Gospel our Gospel. Along with the Apostle Paul let us call it “mine.” The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit offer this gift to you. They command you to receive it and enjoy it. If you find yourself with faith, willing to repent and receive, call out to Jesus in prayer right now. Call Jesus, “My Jesus.” Call Jesus’ righteousness, “My Righteousness.” Call Jesus’ Gospel, “My Gospel.” (Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:8) Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. As a matter of fact, if you draw near to God, it is only because he has already been drawing nearer to you.

Let us not water down the Gospel. This is always our tendency, to add human works to the sufficient work of Jesus Christ. Friends, re-read the letter to the Galatians. If we must perform, it is not Gospel. If we must labor, it is not Gospel. If it involves our works, it is not Gospel. If it is conditioned upon us in anyway, it is not Gospel. If it is a contract, it is not Gospel. If it can be lost, it is not Gospel. The Gospel represents the unilateral work of God on behalf of men. The Law ought never be divorced from the Gospel, but it must never be confused either.

Let us celebrate the Gospel. William Tyndall wrote of the Gospel, “It makes a man’s heart glad, and makes him sing, dance, and leap for joy.” It is the best of news. It means we can sabbath. It means we can boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence. It means we are seen as Christlike image-bearers. Give God the celebratory praise he deserves. He has labored perfectly on your behalf, give him reverent and radical praise and worship.

Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel. (Rom.1:16) Paul wrote, “Woe if I do not preach the Gospel. (1 Cor. 9:16) He wrote, “How beautiful are the feet of those who spread the Good News.” Friends, just as Adam and Eve were to physically reproduce, we are to spiritually reproduce around the world. This is our mission. This is our great mission. This is our Great Commission. Let us be humble, for we cannot make someone believe. Let us be zealous, for God has a tendency to honor those who labor hard. And let us become flexibly relevant in order to better spread the Gospel. (1 Cor. 9:22-23) As Gospel-lovers and Gospel-beneficiants, let us do that which is Lawful and bring in the Gospel-harvest.

Then, let us live Lawfully in accordance with the Gospel. Now that we have been saved from having to perform, let us perform. Yes, with Gospel-eyes, let us look at the Law and enjoy practicing that which is holy, wise, beneficial, and worshipful. Living in the power of the Gospel, let us enjoy becoming more and more like Jesus — the Author and Finisher of our Faith. And when we look at the Law, let us not get frustrated and despondent. Instead, let us glory in the Law, for there is the description of who we are in Christ today, and it also shows us all we will be in glory tomorrow when our old flesh is finally exterminated.

Bottom line, the Law shows us how to perform for God, but the Gospel shows us how God performs for us. This is radical. This is crazy. This is beautiful. This is truth.


Our Response

And now, God promises that…

  • if you acknowledge that you are a sinner—that you have broken His law,
  • and if you admit that there is no way that you could earn His favor and His forgiveness,
  • and if you purpose to turn away from your life of sin and commit your life to Him,
  • and if you trust in Jesus’ righteousness alone for your acceptance before this holy God,

…then He will have treated Jesus as if He lived your life, and will treat you as if you lived Jesus’ life. You will be saved from the penalty of your sin, and will be able to enjoy fellowship with God forever in heaven, and even fellowship with Him starting now.

In other words, if you believe that you’re a sinner and deserve God’s punishment because of your sin, but you also believe that God sent Jesus to endure that punishment in your place, and that His sacrifice is the only way you can be forgiven, then God promises that He will forgive you and you will be saved. You’ll know the God who created you.

Don’t Waste Your Life

God designed your soul. And He designed you so that, just as a car engine is designed to run on gasoline, you’re designed to run on Him. He is what life is about. All of the disappointments, discouragements, and uncertainties of your life find their resolution in Him. And all of the satisfactions, fun experiences, and joys of life find their consummation in Him. Everything good in our lives is like a trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to the feast of God Himself. And everything bad in our lives is a reminder that life lived apart from knowing God in Christ is not the way it was meant to be.

And I also don’t want to see you waste your life. God created us for the purpose of rightly knowing and worshiping Him. That’s the meaning of life. That’s where true happiness and satisfaction are found. When you don’t live your life for that purpose, you waste it. So many people go through life seeking that happiness, but never find it because they don’t know what life is really about. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to suffer God’s wrath eternally for your sin. I want to spend eternity in heaven worshiping God with you, praising Him for how gracious He was to forgive our sins because of Christ’s sacrifice.

Receive Forgiveness

So would you receive Christ? Would you acknowledge your sinfulness before God and admit you can’t do a thing about it? Would you turn from your sin, and seek to live your life in submission to Jesus Christ? Would you trust in Jesus alone for your righteousness before God? Would you join me in worshiping the God we were created to know?

Source


Ready to start your new life with God?

Who do you think that I am?

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.

Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.

Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more


Resource Links

CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.

Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!

30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.

New Believers Guide
The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.

Jesus Booklet
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.

About Christianity
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed


The Perseverance (Security) of the Saints

Notice all the Scripture references!

It is not just a handful of texts that teach the perseverance of the saints: the entire gospel sustains and confirms it. The Father has chosen them before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), ordained them to eternal life (Acts 13:48), to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). This election stands (Rom. 9:11; Heb. 6:17) and in due time carries with it the calling and justification and glorification (Rom. 8:30). Christ, in whom all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20), died for those who were given him by the Father (John 17:6, 12) in order that he might give them eternal life and not lose a single one of them (6:40; 17:2); he therefore gives them eternal life and they will never be lost in all eternity; no one will snatch them out of his hand (6:39; 10:28).

The Holy Spirit who regenerates them remains eternally with them (14:16) and seals them for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The covenant of grace is firm and confirmed with an oath (Heb. 6:16–18; 13:20), unbreakable like a marriage (Eph. 5:31–32), like a testament (Heb. 9:17), and by virtue of that covenant, God calls his elect. He inscribes the law upon their inmost being, puts his fear in their heart (Heb. 8:10; 10:14ff.), will not let them be tempted beyond their strength (1 Cor. 10:13), confirms and completes the good work he has begun in them (1 Cor. 1:9; Phil. 1:6), and keeps them for the return of Christ to receive the heavenly inheritance (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:4–5).

In his intercession before the Father, Christ acts in such a way that their faith may not fail (Luke 22:32), that in the world they may be kept from the evil one (John 17:11, 20), that they may be saved for all times (Heb. 7:20), that their sins will be forgiven them (1 John 2:1), and that they may all be where he is to behold his glory (John 17:24). The benefits of Christ, which the Holy Spirit imparts to them, are all irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). Those who are called are also glorified (8:30). Those who are adopted as children are heirs of eternal life (8:17; Gal. 4:7). Those who believe have eternal life already here and now (John 3:16). That life itself, being eternal, cannot be lost. It cannot die since it cannot sin (1 John 3:9). Faith is a firm ground (Heb. 11:1), hope is an anchor (6:19) and does not disappoint us (Rom. 5:5), and love never ends (1 Cor. 13:8).

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 270.

Ours is Not a ‘Nice’ Gospel

I have lost track of the number of times I have been accused by other Christians of being unloving, judgmental and ungracious – usually when I seek to share biblical truth, or even just quote from Scripture or a mighty man of God. I can get attacked for simply encouraging other believers into a deeper walk with God, or urging them to live a more circumspect Christian life.

Why is that? How can fellow believers actually get angry with you for sharing Scripture or urging them to a more devout and serious life? I can answer that one for you: they have traded in the biblical gospel for a gospel of “Nice”. They have simply stopped reading the gospel of Scripture and have instead imbibed of the world’s gospel of “tolerance,” “love,” and “acceptance”.

The world of course always gets it wrong when it comes to biblical truth. They twist and distort God’s good intentions for us, and they offer us a glamourous repackaged message which will lead people to hell, not to God. And so many believers today are woefully biblically illiterate, so they just parrot what the surrounding culture says, not what God Almighty has said.

jesus-12Thus they get upset at believers who quote from the Bible, quote from the great men and women of God, and offer stirring challenges to be all we can be in Christ. Instead they run with cotton candy humanism, urging us to have “our best life now,” telling us we can be rich and never suffer if we are Christians.

I write about all this because I am back in the gospels again, as I am every time this year. If you read through the Bible in a year, beginning on January 1, you would have just finished the prophets and are now back in Matthew. And I am amazed at how things just jump off the pages, despite the fact that I would have read Matthew’s Gospel umpteen times now.

In the opening chapters of Matthew we find what are the first recorded words of the gospel message being proclaimed in public, first by John the Baptist, and then by Jesus. And believe me, they have absolutely nothing to do with the watered-down syrupy gospel message we mostly hear today in the West.

Indeed, if I were to simply repeat what John and Jesus said, I would be roundly rebuked by most believers today for being unloving, unkind, judgmental, and un-Christlike. They would rebuke me big time for not being nice and gentle and loving and agreeable.

So just what did these two say as the first recorded words of their ministry? Let me share them here – they may shock many of you. We do not read them saying, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” We do not hear about how God accepts everyone and just wants us all to get along and be happy.

We do not read about coming to Christ will solve all our problems, keep us wealthy, solve our low self-esteem issues, and make us King’s Kids. We find no prosperity gospel here, nor a hyper grace gospel. What we find is radically, powerfully different.

We read the very first words to come out of the mouth of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7-12:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Wow, did you get that!? The very first words out of his mouth are, “You brood of vipers!” And then he savagely chews them out, demanding repentance and a changed life, and he even warns of hellfire to boot! Man, that sure does not sound like the gospel proclamation heard today in most Christian circles!

You can just hear all the Gospel of Nice believers getting bent out of shape here: ‘How ungracious John. How unloving. That was not very Christlike of you. You are turning people off. You should be ashamed of yourself for being so unloving and so judgmental! We must love people, not judge them. It is all about relationship, not angry words and denunciations!’

Well, surely Jesus would not be so rough, so abrupt, so bigoted, and so unloving, you might say. Um, have a look at the first recorded public words of Jesus to the crowds as found in Matthew. As we read in Matt. 4:17: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’.”

And the call for repentance, along with very hard, tough words, continue throughout all four gospels. The truth is, Jesus often said some shockingly harsh and tough things, which most namby-pamby believers today would find highly offensive, unloving, and – get this – un-Christlike! See here for more on this: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/10/21/un-domesticating-jesus/

And this rough and tough public ministry is true of the disciples of Jesus as well. Things are no different with the early church. We have hard-core calls for repentance in the book of Acts, along with less than flattering, no-nonsense words of rebuke and proclamation by the disciples. This was no Gospel of Nice they were sharing, but a tough love gospel which demanded a serious response.

Indeed, the simple fact that the love of God is never once even mentioned in the book of Acts is most telling indeed. If the heart of the biblical gospel was simply an undefined and anaemic love, love, love, then you would expect to see it mentioned dozens of times by Peter, Paul and the others. But we never hear the word – not once!

Instead we hear a lot about repentance, and the radical call of true, life-changing discipleship. Nowhere in Acts do we read about having your best life now. Nothing there promises the new convert riches and a life of ease. It is the exact opposite in fact.

When Peter was asked for a monetary handout by some poor person, he did not preach a sermon about how coming to Christ guarantees a life of wealth, luxury and the good life. Instead, he said this: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

And he was even more “unloving” and “ungracious” in his reply to Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (vv. 20-23).

And consider some of the first words spoken by the Lord to Ananias concerning Saul just after his conversion experience: “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).

Hey wait a minute! You can’t say that sort of stuff to a new convert! ‘All that he must suffer?’ What are you trying to do – turn him away? Indeed, most believers today would angrily balk at this and say that is not what we should be telling a new believer. That will turn people off. We must tell them all the goodies we get when we come to Christ. You certainly don’t warn them about a life of hardship, suffering and persecution!

These are just a handful of examples of what John, Jesus and the early disciples publicly proclaimed in their days of ministry on planet earth. And it sure does not sound anything like what we usually hear today. Most church leaders would not even allow these folks into their churches, saying they are way too harsh, unloving, unkind, and judgmental.

So instead we mostly just hear a Gospel of Nice today – a gospel that will offend no one, upset no one, provoke no one, anger no one, and challenge no one. But it is a gospel message that will save no one as well. There is no power, no life, no Spirit in such a fleshly gospel. It is the anti-gospel.

Sure, you will get plenty of people flocking to your church if you proclaim a gospel-less gospel. Just look at what we see happening at Lakewood Church in Houston. The masses will always rush to hear a feel-good, humanistic, self-help message that guarantees them all their wildest desires and fantasies.

Such a “gospel” will not save anyone, but will send millions of people to a lost eternity. Give me the real gospel of John, Jesus and the disciples any day. That is what we desperately need to hear – not the accursed Gospel of Nice which flatters people while sending them to hell.

[1635 words]

The post Ours is Not a ‘Nice’ Gospel appeared first on CultureWatch.

Ray Comfort: Why I Don’t Pray The Sinner’s Prayer With People

Ray Comfort is known for his expertise in evangelism, yet he does not believe in leading converts through “the sinner’s prayer.”

Comfort is no stranger to methods of evangelism. You might know him best from his role of co-host on the show “The Way of the Master,” but he is also the founder of Living Waters ministry and author of over 80 books.

The following short clip answers the question why he doesn’t believe in leading people through the sinner’s prayer. To illustrate this point, Comfort gives the analogy of a husband who has cheated on his wife and comes to ask forgiveness.

The post Ray Comfort: Why I Don’t Pray The Sinner’s Prayer With People appeared first on ChurchLeaders.com.

Gospel Preaching in the Early Church

(Today’s post is adapted from Keith’s article “Evangelistic Preaching in the Book of Acts,” originally published in Expositor Magazine.)

Evangelistic preaching has a rich heritage.

The first evangelistic sermon of the Church Age was preached by the Apostle Peter nearly 2,000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost. Luke records the essence of Peter’s message in Acts 2:14–40. Luke reports five more evangelistic messages in the book, two further by Peter (3:12–26; 10:34–43) and three by Paul (13:16–41; 14:15–17; 17:22–31).

In addition to these six sermons, Acts states that the Word was declared (4:31; 8:4, 25; 11:19; 13:5, 49; 14:25; 15:35, 36; 19:10) without giving the specific content of the sermons. Acts is a book that emphasizes evangelistic preaching.

However, the purpose of Acts is not to prescribe a model of evangelistic preaching for the church. Acts was written under the direction of the Holy Spirit by Luke to a man named Theophilus, a Gentile believer in Jesus Christ, “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).

Through an accurate historical narrative in two volumes (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), Luke demonstrated to Theophilus how the gospel message initiated by Jesus had come to the Gentiles through the ministry of the Apostle Paul and his ministry team, which also included Luke (Acts 16:10).

Gentile Christians like Theophilus could be certain that it was God’s plan that the gospel had come to them and that the gospel to which they had responded was the true gospel. Therefore, Luke gives special attention in Acts to the gospel preached first by Peter and then by Paul, verifying that it was the same message they both preached. Thus, there is in Acts a special emphasis on evangelistic preaching.

The first two sermons preached by Peter in Jerusalem were addressed to “Men of Israel” (2:22; 3:12). In both, he specifically indicted both the leaders and people of Israel for the sin of killing their Messiah (2:23; 3:13–15, 17). But God had validated the claims of Jesus as not only Lord and Messiah (2:36), but also as God’s servant (3:13, 26), the Holy and Righteous One (3:14) and the Prince of Life (3:15), through the resurrection (2:24–32; 3:15) and the exaltation (2:33–35; 3:21) of Jesus.

All of this took place in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (2:25–28, 30, 34–35; 3:21–25). The Israelites needed to repent, acknowledging their sin, and to change their mind concerning Jesus as Lord and Savior that would result in different conduct (2:38; 3:19), with the personal response of baptism indicating their repentance (2:38). The result of this repentance would be forgiveness of sins (2:38; 3:19), the receiving of the Holy Spirit (2:38), and salvation (deliverance) from the coming judgment (2:40).

The third evangelistic message preached by Peter was to the relatives and friends of a God-fearing Gentile named Cornelius (10:1–2, 24). The Lord prepared Peter to go to the Gentiles through a vision concerning unclean food (10:9–16, 34). Even though Cornelius had renounced his pagan idolatry and had embraced Israel’s God (10:2), he still needed to hear what God had done through His sending of Jesus who proclaimed peace (10:36; cf. Luke 2:11, 14) with His message validated by His miracles (10:37–38). This Jesus died and was raised from the dead (10:39–41) and had been appointed by God as the Judge of all men (10:42).

As the Old Testament prophets have testified, through faith in Jesus comes the forgiveness of sins (10:43). At this point, Peter’s message was interrupted as the Holy Spirit fell upon these Gentiles because they had believed the message (10:44). This was followed by their baptism and fellowship with the Jews who had accompanied Peter (10:45–48). Later, in Jerusalem, the belief (faith) of the Gentiles in Jesus was equated with the repentance which leads to life (11:17–18).

The three evangelistic messages preached by Paul are shown by Luke to have parallels with the three sermons of Peter. The first, like Peter’s Day of Pentecost sermon, was also addressed to “Men of Israel,” though Paul adds “and you who fear God” since there were Gentile God-fearers like Cornelius in his audience at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (13:16).

Paul began the sermon by stating the Old Testament anticipation of the Messiah which culminated in the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist for Jesus (13:17–25). He then used the more affectionate address, “Brethren” (13:26; cf. 2:29), adding “sons of Abraham’s family and those among you who fear God.” Paul, like Peter, directly indicted the Jewish leaders for killing Jesus (13:27–29; cf. 2:23); but God had raised Him from the dead (13:30; cf. 2:24–32) with the apostles as witnesses (13:31; cf. 2:32; 3:15; 10:39–41).

Paul confirmed Jesus’ resurrection by quoting Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, and Psalm 16:10 (13:32–37; cf. 2:25–32). Through Jesus, there was the proclamation of forgiveness of sins (13:38; cf. 2:38) and justification (13:39). If the message of salvation in Jesus was not heeded, there would be certain judgment (13:40–41; cf. 2:40). This sermon reflected what Paul consistently preached in the Diaspora Jewish synagogues and Luke showed how it was the same essential evangelistic message that Peter preached to the Jews.

Paul’s second evangelistic sermon followed a similar experience as Peter’s second message. Both came after the healing of a man lame from his mother’s womb which resulted in a gathered crowd (14:8–13; cf. 3:1–11). But while Peter addressed Jews, Paul, along with Barnabas, spoke to pagan Gentiles at Lystra (14:14–17).

This sermon was another sample sermon, this one showing how Paul addressed Gentiles. Paul indicted the pagans on the basis of creation and urged them to turn from their idols to the one true God. This was more fully developed in Paul’s third evangelistic sermon in Acts 17:22–31.

Again, Luke parallels his account of Paul’s third message with Peter’s. He provides a narrative background as to how Paul came to speak in Athens as Peter had in Caesarea (17:16–21; cf. 10:1–33). In both cases, the apostles found themselves invited to speak before an assembly gathered to hear them. But Paul was to address intellectual pagans, not God-fearing Gentiles.

Paul began by noting that the Athenians acknowledged a God of whom they were ignorant (17:22–23). This was the God of creation who cannot dwell in mere human temples and cannot be represented by idols made by human hands (17:24–29). Even Greek writers like Epimenides and Aratus inferred the latter (17:28). This God of Creation has now commanded all men to repent, think differently of idolatry, or they will face certain future judgment. This judgment is assured by the resurrection of a man from the dead (17:30–31).

Like Peter, Paul’s third message was interrupted, but not by a response of faith (10:44), but by a response of unbelief regarding the resurrection (17:32). Thus, Paul was not able to urge the Athenians to embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, though a few did believe (10:34).

What does the contemporary evangelistic preacher learn from the narratives and sermons recorded in Acts? Primary is the truth of the sovereignty of God in evangelistic preaching. In each case cited above, it was God who arranged the circumstances for the preaching. Miracles gathered the assembled crowds (2:1–13; 3:1–11; 14:8–13) to whom the preachers spoke, or the preachers were invited to speak by others (10:33; 13:13:15; 17:19).

In none of these cases was the preaching the direct result of the speaker’s initiative; God brought about the preaching event with those He had determined would hear the message. Further, it was the Lord who had called and commissioned the preachers, Peter (1:2) and Paul (9:15). Finally, it was God who brought about the response (2:37; 4:14; 11:18; 13:48; 14:18; 17:34).

Also significant is the consistency of the message. First, there was the clear statement of the hearers’ sin. The Jews were indicted because their sin was climaxed by their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. For the Gentiles, they had rejected the revelation of God in creation and had turned to the worship of idols.

Second, there was the validation that Jesus was God’s instrument of salvation. This was validated by the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy to those who knew the Scriptures and by the resurrection of Jesus to Jew and Gentile alike.

Third, the sinner needed to respond with repentance concerning his sin and faith in embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Fourth, those who did not repent and believe faced a certain future judgment if they rejected the one way of salvation, Jesus. This was the message that Theophilus had heard and believed, and Luke affirmed that it was true. This is the same gospel message that the evangelistic preacher proclaims today because it is as true today as it was in the first-generation of the church.

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Human Identity in Crisis

Things have changed. The “Four Spiritual Laws” or “Evangelism Explosion” no longer work for many. People are losing their identity. They long for human rights and personal dignity, but these things only come from God the Creator, whom they reject. The Gospel is still the answer, which they unknowingly long to hear. The God who created us in His image restores our fallen identity by the death of His Son, who stood in our place to bear our sin and has become, by grace, our new identity.

 

A few weeks ago Rush Limbaugh announced that the fastest growing crime in the West is identity theft. It is true that we hear a lot about illegal hacking in the news cycle, as individuals, businesses and even nations have their deepest secrets exposed. But the real crime is the theft of the source of human dignity, namely, the Creator. The removal of God from cultural consciousness, eliminates the true source of human identity. According to a recent study, 91% of adults agree that “the best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself” and 86% say that “to be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire the most.””[1]  The radicals smell imminent victory. Progressive professor Mark Tushnet, of Harvard Law School declares: “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won….taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers.”[2] There will be no accommodations or exceptions.

In once “Christian” Scotland an evangelical youth group from Texas offered a free concert in a shopping center. National newspapers compared this to Nazi or ISIS indoctrination.[3] In these conditions, we are losing the Christian identity of our Western culture but we are also losing our individual identity.

In these new conditions, liberated from God, people believe they can create their own identity–males who think they are female and females who believe they are males, or a 58-year old husband and father who now is sure he is a six-year-old girl.True human identity now depends on how we individually define ourselves sexually.[4] And just recently Hugh Hefner, creator of Playboy, confirms this, declaring the victory of the sexual revolution that he helped begin in the 1960s.[5]

At truthxchange we have often focused on the rise of homosexuality and the presumed right of same-sex attracted people, some within the church, to self-identify as “gay” and to practice homosexual sex legally, thereby denying the image of God as male and female. (See our conference, October 7-9, 2016). However, this is not the only problem. One of the major causes of identity loss is the massive fixation on pornography-even in the Church!

The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking: 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly; 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis; 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be).[6] In 2016, the Barna Research Group discovered that nearly 40% of “practicing Christians who actively seek out porn” feel comfortable with how much porn they use. Only “1/3 of practicing Christian porn users” say they “feel a sense of guilt when they use porn.” In the culture at large the results on teenage sexting are equally disconcerting for the rising generation. “Teens and young adults [are] coming of age in a culture…that encourages and rewards the pornographic impulse.” The rising new identity is pornographic.

A sensitive article evaluating the Barna report makes some valid points:

  1. Pornography isn’t going away anytime soon;
  2. Our moral trajectory is convoluted.”Teens and young adults surveyed said it was worse to not recycle (56%) than to look at pornography (32%)”;
  3. Porn destroys sex and marriage. “[P]eople’s perspective on the purpose of sex is moving away from “an expression of intimacy between two people who love each other” and toward “self-expression and personal fulfillment…”;
    4. Deception is deadly.Barna found that “if you use porn often, you’re more likely to feel okay about it.”

If porn destroys marriages, what will happen to the general moral tenor of our society? The young people of today will become the public officials of tomorrow, brainwashed into serving their desires and fantasies and unable to make sound judgments.

The Bride of Christ must be above reproach. She must offer wise and serious marital counseling for those caught up in this perversion, and intentionally teach her children from their earliest age to avoid this satanic trap.

Things have changed. The “Four Spiritual Laws” or “Evangelism Explosion” no longer work for many. People are losing their identity. They long for human rights and personal dignity, but these things only come from God the Creator, whom they reject. The Gospel is still the answer, which they unknowingly long to hear. The God who created us in His image restores our fallen identity by the death of His Son, who stood in our place to bear our sin and has become, by grace, our new identity.

[1] The Barna Research Group’s 2016 survey, The Porn Phenomenon.

[2] Laurie Higgins, “Harvard Law Professor to Conservatives: You’re Losers, Live With It,” BarbWire, (June 30, 2016).

[3] http://www.wnd.com/2016/07/christian-youth-choir-likened-to-nazis-isis/#!

[4] See a very useful article on this report by Gareth Kell: http://theaquilareport.com/12-observations-after-reading-the-porn-phenomenon/.

[5] http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2016/07/10/hugh-hefner-declares-victory-sexual-war-republicans/.

[6] A 2014 survey, Proven Men Ministrieshttp://www.charismanews.com/us/45671-shocker-study-shows-most-christian-men-are-into-porn

Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism. This article is used with permission.