Category Archives: Evangelism

Albert Mohler Blog: “Keeping the Evangel in Evangelism: Why Evangelicalism Can’t Abandon the Old, Old Story”

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. reflects on the centrality and urgency of evangelism in a post-Christian world. Mohler writes:

“Historical evangelicalism has always valued both theological principle and vigorous evangelism. Indeed, we cannot be authentically and faithfully evangelical without holding both of these features in tandem. The unity between evangelical theology and evangelism is not forced or fabricated. Our theological convictions should irrevocably give birth to our evangelistic fervor.”

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The Call to Repentance and the Championing of Grace

“We’re losing the nerve to call people to repentance.”

That’s what a retired pastor recently told me, expressing his concern that while the next generation loves to champion the unconditional love and grace of God, rarely does their message include Christ’s call to repentance. Younger pastors, he said, want to meet people where they are, in whatever mess they’re in, and let the Spirit clean them up later. God will deal with their sins down the road.

But in the Gospels, Jesus seems much more extreme. His good news was the announcement of God’s kingdom, and the first word to follow? “Repent!” No wonder Jesus didn’t tell the rich young ruler to walk with Him for a while until he stopped coveting. No, He got to the root of an unrepentant heart when He said, “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” In other words, Repent. Turn around.

“I’m cheering for the next generation,” the pastor said, “but I feel like an ogre for stressing repentance all the time.”

Maybe you feel like that pastor. You’re concerned that the evangelical church is shaving off the hard edges of the gospel. You agree with the sentiment recently expressed by Kevin DeYoung, that repentance has become the “missing word in our gospel.” And yet you are concerned that that you may appear harsh and unloving if you stress repentance. Shouldn’t we just focus on grace?

Who Separated Grace and Repentance?

Here’s where we so easily take a wrong turn. Wherever did we get the notion that the call to repentance is opposed to the championing of grace? When did truth and grace get separated? Or repentance and faith?

To think that the message of grace and the call of repentance are opposed to one another is to miss the beautiful, grace-filled nature of what repentance actually is. The call to repent is one of greatest expressions of the love of God.

Christians, We Are Repenters

During the years I spent doing mission work in Romania, I came to see myself not only as a Christian, but as a repenter – a derogatory term applied to Romanian evangelicals, but one that was embraced as an accurate description of the full Christian life. Martin Luther kicked off the Protestant Reformation by reclaiming this truth, that the whole of the Christian life is to be one of repentance.

That’s why it puzzles me whenever I hear Christians talk about repentance as if it’s a harsh word that needs to be “balanced” by grace and love. We could make the case that grace is even more scandalous and offensive. And love in action, as Dostoevsky wrote, is a harsh and fearful thing compared to love in dreams.

God’s Compassion Behind His Command

For some reason, Christians frequently pit God’s compassion over against God’s command. No, no, no. God’s compassion doesn’t do away with His command. God’s compassion is the basis for His command. God commands us to repent not because He is an angry tyrant who wants to squash our fun, but because He is a loving Father who wants our best.

Our youngest child is four. Let’s say that his idea of fun is taking toys and stuffing them into the wall outlets at home. As his father, I raise my voice and say, “Son, stop! Don’t do that again.” His four-year-old mind may wonder why I’m making such a big deal of his little game. Why is Daddy being firm? Why does he sound so mean? Why is he squelching my fun? Imagine a counselor who comes along and says, “You know, a father needs to show some compassion. You need to show grace.”

Amen to compassion and amen to grace! The question is: What form does grace take on in this situation? Would it be compassionate for a father to let his son run into danger? Would it be gracious to fail to warn a child of painful consequences? No. The father’s command—his warning and the raising of his voice—is not a failure of compassion, but the very way he demonstrates his love for his son.

The Call to Repentance as an Expression of Grace

Likewise, when we call people to repent, we are not opposing God’s grace; we are expressing it. The kindness of the Lord is behind His call to repentance.

When you read the Old Testament prophets, you see that their main message is Repent or else! But read a little closer. Their call is far from the comic strip with the long-haired prophet walking around casually with a sign, clear on the message but cold and distant to the reader. The striking aspect about the warnings we find in the prophets is how often God’s anger is expressed in a context of grieving and weeping. The angry, fiery God of judgment is the spurned Husband who wants to woo back His wayward people from the brink of destruction.

The call to repentance is the call to return home. It’s the call to be refreshed by our tears. It’s the call to be cleansed from all our guilty stains. We need the scalpel of the Spirit to do surgery on our diseased hearts, so that we can be restored to spiritual health.

Don’t pit the call to repentance against the championing of grace. Jesus didn’t. Paul didn’t. We shouldn’t either.

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The Young Roman Catholic Man Who Clenched His Fist

(Jordan Standridge – The Cripplegate) “So I asked him a third question, and I let him know that I ask this question in order to really get to the heart of what someone believes about how they are going to Heaven. I asked him, “If you were to die tonight, and were to stand before God, and He were to ask you why should I let you into Heaven?”

Let me tell you about a Gospel conversation I had recently that left an impression on my heart.

Tim was a very polite guy.

He was cordial and respectful. He listened carefully and was obviously raised well by his parents. He was well dressed and was very articulate. Tim was also very religious.

I start off every conversation with the same question I ask everyone, “If it applies, what are two reasons you stopped going to church?” Tim answered that he goes to Catholic mass every week.

So I asked him my second question, “Coming from a Catholic perspective, what would you say the Gospel is?” He said it was the Bible. When I asked him what the “good news” of the Gospel was, he said that it was the possibility to live a better life and to go to Heaven.

So I asked him a third question, and I let him know that I ask this question in order to really get to the heart of what someone believes about how they are going to Heaven. I asked him, “If you were to die tonight, and were to stand before God, and He were to ask you why should I let you into Heaven? What would you say?” He thought about it for a few seconds and said, “I don’t think I’d say anything. I would expect the Lord to know whether I deserve Heaven or not.”

So that began a 40 minute conversation. Back and forth we talked about the differences between what we were saying. I asked if I could share the Gospel with him, he agreed and listened as carefully as he could.

Overall I was incredibly thankful for the conversation, I thought it well really well. We smiled at each other and listened to each other respectfully. But what was obvious to both of us is that we clearly believed in two different salvations. He stated that he needed to take the mass every Sunday in order to, not only stay within the possibility of being saved, but to achieve salvation. He clearly understood the fact that his religion was performance-based and that mine was an instantaneous salvation.

At the end of our conversation, I gave him a tract and encouraged him to read some verses from Scripture. I also said what I always say, that death is around the corner for all of us, and that we must trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. Then, we shook hands and he walked off.

And then something happened.

As he began walking away, holding the tract in his hand, all of a sudden, he clenched his fist and destroyed the tract. I was shocked. Our conversation was among the most respectful I may have ever had. I knew he was frustrated with the idea that our salvation doesn’t depend on us at all, and I could tell that he was super uncomfortable with it throughout our conversation, but I never expected that level of anger from him.

As I thought through our conversation over the last few months, I am reminded of so many truths from Scripture.  View article →

See our Research Paper on Roman Catholicism

Source: The Young Roman Catholic Man Who Clenched His Fist

Billy Graham: Who is Jesus?

As the world remembers the life of the Evangelist Billy Graham, I’ve been taking the opportunity to listen to his messages.  This video was recorded in 1971 in Chicago.  The title is “Who is Jesus?”

Enjoy.

Billy Graham’s Timeless 1986 Message to Anyone Who’s Not Sure They’re Going to Heaven

Billy Graham’s death has ushered in a viral response across the globe, as people remember the powerful and life-changing messages that the famed Christian evangelist shared over his seven-decade career.

READ: 10 Celebs Whose Lives Were Completely Transformed by Billy Graham

At the core of Graham’s preaching was the gospel — the belief that accepting Jesus is essential to transforming the human heart and ensuring one’s eternal place in heaven.

One particular sermon that Graham delivered back in 1986 in Tallahassee, Florida, has re-emerged over the years, and with good reason, as it describes what it truly means to accept Christ. And that timeless message is worth revisiting.

“Decisions are made whether we make them or not. Time decides if you will not and time always decides against you. There’s a lonely arena in the depths of your heart where the greatest battle of life must be fought alone,” Graham proclaimed. “That’s your decision about Christ. Your parents can’t make it for you, the church can’t make it for you, your friends can’t make it for you, your girlfriend, your boyfriend can’t make it for you. You must make it yourself.”

And the evangelist wasn’t done there. He implored his audience to remember that their acceptance or rejection of Christ would decide where they’d end up in 100 years.

“If you’re not sure that you’re ready to meet God, if you’re not sure that you’re going to heaven … that your sins are forgiven, you come and make sure tonight,” he said.

Watch Graham’s powerful and timeless message below:

Will You Pray for Awakening? Download Your Free Prayer Guide

We live in a world that needs awakening. What is awakening? It is a powerful movement of the Spirit of God to convert many people to Christ and to renew in His church a zeal for His truth, for spiritual growth, and for missions. This was Dr. Sproul’s passion, and in the final years of his life, he was constantly in prayer for awakening. He prayed and labored to see nonbelievers and the church itself awakened to the true character of God. So vital is this concern to Ligonier Ministries, we made awakening the theme of our 2018 National Conference and dedicated the entire year to pray for awakening.

When just two men–Paul and Silas–prayed, the earth itself shook (Acts 16:25-26). To help as many people as possible join us, we produced this free prayer guide. Download it today at PrayForAwakening.com or order the prayer booklet in packs of 10 to share with your friends, family, and church community.

To use the guide, find the prayer that corresponds to the current week. Each week of the month focuses on a different group to pray for, starting with you and your family and expanding to larger communities. Please share your desire to #PrayForAwakening on social media.

February Prayer Focus:

  • Week 1: Pray that you and your family would be transformed by the renewal of the mind according to the Word of God. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2)
  • Week 2: Pray that you and your church would contend for the faith so that it may be proclaimed with clarity to your neighbors. “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
  • Week 3: Pray that your nation and city would treat the name of God as holy. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matt. 6:9)
  • Week 4: Pray that people in many nations would join themselves to the Lord by faith in Christ alone. “Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people.” (Zech. 2:11)

We hope this prayer guide encourages you this year and in future years. Join us in praying fervently for a mighty movement of God’s Spirit today, thankful that He has graciously promised to hear us, and confident that He will answer our prayers according to His will.

Don’t “Share Your Faith”

Code: B180129

Our postmodern culture gnashes its teeth at biblical evangelism. Their commitment to subjectivity and relativism cannot accommodate a religion that is exclusive, narrow, and declares non-negotiable truth. And that shouldn’t surprise us—Jesus told us to expect to be hated in the same way that He was (John 15:18).

Moreover, Scripture also warns against appeasing (James 4:4) or imbibing (Romans 12:2) the world’s values. But that’s easier said than done. We are called to separatism without monasticism—being in the world but not of the world. We can’t live our lives and engage our mission field without coming into contact with pagan culture.

For most of us it’s difficult to avoid marinating in the postmodern thinking of our friends, families, and colleagues. And we see signs of this even in the realm of evangelism.

The phrase “share your faith” is now deeply embedded in the evangelical vernacular. Most of us use it as a synonym for our evangelistic encounters, myself included. But those three words reek of postmodern subjectivity—a point not lost on John MacArthur:

It’s not your faith and you can’t share it. . . . That is a not-so-very subtle overture to the post-modern mentality that says my faith is my faith and I certainly would be happy to share it with you.

That’s not at all what we want to do. We want to explain the faith, the Christian faith, truth. And our greatest example for that is the Lord Jesus, who throughout His ministry presented the truth. . . . Jesus was relentlessly committed to the truth. He spoke the absolute truth into every situation. And either people accepted the truth, and rejected error, or they held tightly to their error and began to hate Jesus— because they saw what He was doing as an attack on them. And it was.

We don’t share it, we announce it. And it’s not your faith, it’s the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3 ESV). It is God’s gospel.

I rejoice that the Christian gospel rests on objective historical facts that transcend my own experiences or validation—God’s creation, man’s fall, and Christ’s redemption. I’ve watched in agony as Christians have vainly tried to duel with other religions and worldviews on the basis of personal experience. Those encounters rapidly degenerate into an endless subjective standoff. The experiential evangelist is powerless to refute someone’s experience with his own.

The truth of the biblical gospel crashes through all of those man-made barriers with God’s own written testimony. It doesn’t hinge on our personal skills or powers of persuasion. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Imposters Abound

Yet there remains no shortage of people willing to substitute “the power of God” with their own ideas and agendas. The prosperity gospel attempts to entice people into God’s kingdom through the offer of material riches. The gospel of Roman Catholicism offers salvation through religious hoops and human effort. The gospel of seeker-sensitivity hinges on their ability to attract people that don’t exist—seekers (Romans 3:11).

Meanwhile, proponents of the social gospel advocate charitable works and social causes as the redemptive answer for a world overrun with sin. While writing this article, I was alerted to a recent tweet posted by the political arm of an influential denomination. It simply said: “We are fulfilling the Great Commission when we welcome people from other nations to our country.” That is a blatant lie told by people who should know better! The Great Commission is a command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28), not to roll out a welcome mat at border checkpoints.

Works of compassion are meant to adorn the gospel, not replace it. When other adjectives encroach on the gospel (i.e., social gospel, prosperity gospel, etc.), it’s often an indication that it is no gospel at all.

Measuring Success

Our worth as evangelists can only be measured by our faithfulness to the message we have been called to preach. We find ourselves in good biblical company when most people reject the message we proclaim. Noah, Jeremiah, and even the Lord Jesus Himself, had relatively few converts by the end of their earthly ministries. Yet they all excelled in the sole metric of success for evangelists—they never deviated from the message they were called to preach.

That remains our benchmark for evangelistic success as far as God is concerned. He has called us to preach the gospel, both “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). We are to present God’s holiness, prosecute sinners, proclaim Christ, and plead with all men to repent and believe the gospel. God will draw His elect (John 6:44), and Christ will continue to build His church (Matthew 16:18).

Preaching is our job and converting is God’s. Woe unto us if we ever confuse that simple point.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180129
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Everything Begins with God—Including Evangelism

Code: B180115

In the beginning God . . . (Genesis 1:1).

God’s own story of redemption begins with Himself. And that’s where we should begin when preaching the gospel.

That’s not to say an exhaustive discourse on the character and nature of God, or a full-orbed investigation of His infinite attributes, is a prerequisite to understanding and believing the gospel. Even our Spirit-illuminated minds cannot fathom God in His fullness; how much can we expect the mind still darkened by sin to comprehend?

However, we cannot accurately present the gospel without first dispelling the false and idolatrous ideas about God that dominate the world. People today blithely fashion a god out of nothing more than their sentimentality and spiritual preferences. But that popular exercise is as futile as trying to rewrite the law of gravity, or wish it away altogether. God is eternal (Isaiah 57:15) and unchanging (Malachi 3:6), and demands our reverence on His terms, not ours.

God presents and defines Himself in Scripture as the true and living God. He says, “I am the Lord and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). Furthermore, God’s Word reveals that the one true God eternally exists as three distinct Persons.

Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is impossible to fathom, but John MacArthur points out that Scripture is both clear and nonnegotiable on this subject:

Though the fullness of the Trinity is far beyond human comprehension, it is unquestionably how God has revealed Himself in Scripture—as one God eternally existing in three Persons. . . .

The Scriptures are clear that these three Persons together are one and only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). John 10:30 and 33 explain that the Father and the Son are one. First Corinthians 3:16 shows that the Father and the Spirit are one. Romans 8:9 makes clear that the Son and the Spirit are one. And John 14:1618, and 23 demonstrate that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. . . . In other words, the Bible makes it clear that God is one God (not three), but that the one God is a Trinity of Persons. [1]

God must be presented as triune if He is to be proclaimed faithfully. Additionally, the Trinity takes on great importance in the realm of evangelism because all three Persons play distinct roles in the salvation of sinners. The Father elects (Ephesians 1:3–6); the Son redeems (Ephesians 1:7–12); and the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8), regenerates (Titus 3:5), and indwells believers (Ephesians 1:13–14).

Creator and Judge

The Bible introduces the triune God as the Creator of all things, including mankind (Genesis 1). As such, He rightfully claims ownership of His creation (Psalm 50:10–12) and demands worship from us, His creatures (Exodus 20:2–5Matthew 4:10).

But fallen humanity rebelliously refuses to worship the Creator. The open communion that should exist between God and man is now blocked by a wall of divine hostility (Psalm 5:5). God’s just wrath toward sinners may be an unsavory subject for modern sensibilities, but it’s a necessary truth to awaken the spiritual complacency of our age.

While the character and nature of God is an inexhaustible subject, the evangelist must labor to instill some sense of God’s supremacy and sovereignty in the hearts of sinners. He must explain why they should tremble at the thought of their future day in God’s courtroom (Hebrews 9:27)! John MacArthur laments the modern evangelistic trends that do just the opposite:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Much of contemporary evangelism aims to arouse anything but fear of God in the mind of sinners. For example, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is the opening line of the typical evangelistic appeal today. This kind of evangelism is far from the image of a God who must be feared. The remedy for such thinking is the biblical truth of God’s holiness. [2]

Holy

Scripture ascribes its strongest superlative when it refers to God as “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3Revelation 4:8).  Paul Washer points out that God’s holiness “is not merely one attribute among many but is the very context in which all other divine attributes must be defined and understood.” [3] Our evangelistic emphasis on God’s holiness is not meant to dispense with His other attributes such as love, mercy, and grace. Rather, His other attributes find their most profound meaning within the context of God’s holiness.

The word “holy” is translated from the Hebrew qadosh and refers to the otherness of God. As Creator, He transcends His creation and is utterly distinct from all that He has made. Regardless of size or splendor, nothing in creation even remotely approaches the perfections of God.

Why is it so critical to explain that the Creator of the universe is holy? Because we, in our sinful state, are the antithesis of everything He is. There is no greater dichotomy demonstrating our greatest need than the juxtaposition between a holy God and sinful men. John MacArthur points out the dire implications of that infinite gulf:

God is utterly holy, and His law therefore demands perfect holiness: “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44–45). . . . Even the gospel requires His holiness: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). “Without [holiness] no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV). Because He is holy, God hates sin. [4]

Putting God in His Place

When believers think about God in terms of the gospel, we usually emphasize His love and mercy. And while those are vital attributes woven throughout the gospel, we must not make the mistake of neglecting His triune nature, His sovereignty over creation, and His holiness. Doing so frequently results in the proclamation of a man-centered gospel—one that portrays God as little more than a hero swooping in at the last minute to save the day.

The truth is that sinners stand in God’s crosshairs. Sinners are God’s creation and it is His law they have violated. God is the Savior only because He is the One from whom sinners need to be saved, for “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7).

When we put God at the center of the gospel, we gain a clear perspective on the offense of man’s sin and the depth of his guilt. And that’s where we’ll pick it up next time.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180115
COPYRIGHT ©2018 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

The Dangers of an Oversimplified Gospel

Code: B180110

What needs to be conveyed to unbelievers in order that they might understand and embrace salvation?

Many of the modern trends in evangelism have tended to take a minimalist approach to the question. Unfortunately, the legitimate desire to express the heart of the gospel clearly has given way to a less wholesome endeavor. It is a campaign to distill the essentials of the message to the barest possible terms.

The glorious gospel of Christ—that which Paul called “the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)—includes all the truth about Christ. But American evangelicalism tends to regard the gospel as a “plan of salvation.” We have reduced the message to a list of facts stated in the fewest possible words—and getting fewer all the time: “Six Steps to Peace with God”; “Five Things God Wants You to Know”; “Four Spiritual Laws”; “Three Truths You Can’t Live Without”; “Two Ways to Live”; or “One Way to Heaven.” (This is not a critique of these specific presentations, but is merely an observation that we seem eager to produce and use “plans of salvation” that enumerate and consolidate the gospel message.)

Another trend, equally dangerous, is to reduce evangelism to a memorized script. Often, evangelism training consists of having Christians memorize a series of questions, anticipating that each question will fall into one of a few categories that has a preplanned response.

But the gospel is not a message that can be capsulated, abridged, shrink-wrapped, and then offered as a generic remedy for every kind of sinner. Ignorant sinners need to be instructed about who God is and why He has the right to demand their obedience. Self-righteous sinners need to have their sin exposed by the demands of God’s law. Careless sinners need to be confronted with the reality of God’s impending judgment. Fearful sinners need to hear that God in His mercy has provided a way of deliverance. All sinners must understand how utterly holy God is. They must comprehend the basic truths of Christ’s sacrificial death and the triumph of His resurrection. They need to be confronted with God’s demand that they turn from their sin to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior.

Furthermore, in all the instances where Jesus and the apostles evangelized—whether they were ministering to individuals or crowds—there are no two incidents where they presented the message in precisely the same terminology. They knew that salvation is a sovereign work of God. Their role was to preach truth; the Holy Spirit would apply it individually to the hearts of His elect.

The form of the message will vary in each case. But the content must always drive home the reality of God’s holiness and the sinner’s helpless condition. Then it points sinners to Christ as a sovereign but merciful Lord who has purchased full atonement for all who will turn to Him in faith.

Christians today are often cautioned about the danger of saying too much to the lost. Certain spiritual issues are labeled taboo when speaking to the unconverted: God’s law, Christ’s lordship, repentance, surrender, obedience, judgment, and hell. Such things are not to be mentioned, lest we “add something to the offer of God’s free gift.”

Worse still, there are some who take this reductionist evangelism to its furthest extreme. Wrongly applying the Reformed doctrine of sola fide (faith alone), they make faith the only permissible topic when speaking to non-Christians about their duty before God. Then they render faith utterly meaningless by stripping it of everything but its notional aspects. This, some believe, preserves the purity of the gospel. But what it has actually done is undercut the power of the message of salvation.

It has also populated the church with false converts whose faith is counterfeit and whose hope hangs on a bogus promise. Numbly saying they “accept Christ as Savior,” they brazenly reject His rightful claim as Lord. Paying Him glib lip service, they utterly scorn Him with their hearts (Mark 7:6). Casually affirming Him with their mouths, they deliberately deny Him with their deeds (Titus 1:16). Addressing Him superficially as “Lord, Lord,” they stubbornly decline to do His bidding (Luke 6:46). Such people fit the tragic description of the “many” in Matthew 7:22–23 who will one day be stunned to hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

If there is no simple description for an evangelistic conversation, then what should the evangelist say when proclaiming the gospel? What are the points we need to make clear if we are to articulate the gospel as precisely as possible? In the days ahead we’re going to lay out the basic, yet fundamental, building blocks for faithfully communicating the way of salvation to a sinner: the holiness of God, the depravity of man, the work of Christ, and God’s demands upon the sinner. These are truths we need to embrace as Christ’s people and master as His witnesses.

(Adapted from The John MacArthur Pastor’s Library: Evangelism.)


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TMS: The Perfect Model of Ministry

Matthew chapter 13 displays two key principles we can learn from the perfect model of ministry, who is Jesus Christ himself. He loves the lost, but never caters to their unbelief. He preaches the truth, but knows people will have different responses.

Love the lost

If you are modeling your ministry after Jesus, you truly love the lost. I don’t think there is any greater lesson that you can learn from the example that Jesus displays in Matthew chapter 13. Let’s begin by setting the context.

The final verses of Matthew chapter four introduce the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. Here we’re told that He was going throughout the land teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease. There has never been a person that walked this earth that has had a greater love for people than Jesus Christ.The news about Him spread throughout Syria and the people brought to Him all who were ill and He healed them.

His popularity spread. Why? Because He was really helping people. He cured every sick person brought to Him, no matter the severity of their affliction. Can you imagine the press? Can you imagine the number of people crowding in around Him seeking attention? And yet, He continued to give Himself away. He continued to go to the synagogues, continued to minister, continued to serve, continued to do miracles and continued to preach the gospel of the kingdom. That’s a glorious picture of the sacrificial love that Jesus has for the lost.

There has never been a person that walked this earth that has had a greater love for people than Jesus Christ. If you are going to be one of His disciples, you need to begin to manifest that same kind of love. You are going to have to have that same kind of a sacrificial servant’s heart and concern for lost people that Jesus had.

Don’t cater to unbelief

By the time you get to Matthew 13 though, you can see there’s a little bit of a change. At this point, Jesus has spent about a year ministering in Galilee. He has clearly articulated the revelation of His person as the Messiah.  He’s also made clear what is required to gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.  He’s proven Himself by countless miracles of all kinds that the power of God is on display in Him and through Him. The change in His ministry practice occurs when the people continue in their unbelief despite the abundance of revelation they’ve been given.

The people are indifferent.  They’re just looking for more wow moments. They are not considering the reality of the power of God that’s on display, nor the significance of the message that Jesus is proclaiming. So, Jesus begins to speak to the people in parables. He pronounces a woe upon them for not responding to the revelation they were given. He doesn’t cater to their lack of faith by making it easier to understand—He makes it harder.

When the disciples ask Jesus why He speaks in parables, He basically says He won’t cater to the people’s unbelief. The disciples were blessed.  Their eyes saw, and their ears heard. The reason Jesus still taught truths about the kingdom in parables, is because even though He wanted it to be harder for the crowds to understand, He still wanted to teach the disciples and those who truly believed. The basic principle on display here is that God loves the lost. He offers salvation to all who will come to Him.  But He never caters to unbelief.

Yes, when you talk about biblical ministry, there needs to be a heart for the lost. It shares the truth.  It begs people to be reconciled to God.  But it does not make concessions that compromise the integrity of the church to cater to people who are not responding to the revelation that they are being given.

Understand people will respond in different ways

This is a fundamental principle of ministry that will strengthen your heart in the hard days when you wonder if you’re even making a difference. Success in ministry boils down to one thing—Faithfulness.There are four different types of responses to the Ministry of the word of God. The examples come from the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-23

  1. The first type of person you can expect to share the gospel with is like the hard road upon which the gospel message, as a seed, lands on and then is eaten by birds. It has no lasting impact. The next day there isn’t any evidence that it was ever there.
  2. The second kind of soil is the seed that was sown on the rocky places. This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no firm root. The impact is only temporary. When affliction or persecution arises, he falls away.
  3. The third type of soil is the most difficult on a shepherd’s heart. This is the seed that falls among the thorns. It’s the heaviest, because they’re always with you. These are the people that are in your church because they’ve made a profession of faith.  They never defect, and they respond to an extent to admonishment and to instruction.  They will even affirm when confronted that they agree with it. But they just never really come all the way to saving faith.  There’s always something just a little off in the manifestion of real fruit in their Christian life.
  4. The last type of soil is the one we focus on and rejoice in. It’s the seed that was sown on the good soil. This is the man who hears the word, understands it, and brings forth fruit.

Don’t think that your ministry is useless because the only people you’ve led to Christ have abandoned the faith. You should expect to encounter people like this. There is no difference in the seed. There is no difference in the sower. The difference is in the heart that receives it, and you can’t control that. Success in ministry boils down to one thing—Faithfulness.  That’s it. Faithfulness to do God’s work, God’s way, for God’s glory.

Stop worrying about what the temporal visible results are. Yes, it’s heart breaking. Yes, ministry is going to be characterized by fixing love on people that aren’t going to love you or Christ and they’re going to disappoint you. But, instead of being disappointed, you’re going to have to grieve for them and keep finding a sense of joy and purpose and satisfaction from preaching God’s word.  You were faithful.  God is pleased with you.  Like Jesus who wept over Jerusalem because they wouldn’t receive the offer, you too can weep.  But, just like Jesus, you can be sure the Father is pleased with your faithfulness to preach, to appeal, and to invite them into the kingdom.

Our perfect model of ministry teaches us to love the lost in a sacrificial way, but never cater to their unbelief. We must keep doing the work of God for His glory regardless of how it plays out.

The post The Perfect Model of Ministry appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

8 Ways to Connect Evangelistically with Non-believing Family Members over the Holiday

Many of us will be hanging out with unbelieving family members this Thanksgiving week, and we’re hoping to be a good Christian witness around them. Maybe these ideas will help you move in that direction:

  1. Before you join your family, pray for God to give you opportunity, boldness, and clarity as a witness. That’s what Paul asked others to pray for him (Eph. 6:18-20, Col. 4:2-4), so follow his lead.
  2. Hand a note of gratitude to a family member. Surprise somebody with a Thanksgiving card, and let them know you’re thankful to God for them. Maybe that gift will open a door for a gospel conversation.
  3. If someone you haven’t seen for some time asks how you’re doing, insert a word about God’s hand in your life. It’s not that hard to say something like, “You know, God’s taken care of us this year through good and bad, and we’re doing well.”
  4. If you’re asked to say the blessing, don’t be afraid to thank God for the salvation He has provided. It’s an honest prayer, and it allows you to briefly share what Christ has done for us.
  5. Avoid unhelpful debates over the dinner table. It’s hard to speak about God’s grace when you’re raising your voice about such things as politics (and even sports, in some cases).
  6. Quietly, one-on-one let your family know that you pray for them. Ask what prayer requests they might have – and see where the conversation goes.
  7. Reach out to family members who are most unlovable. All of our families have them. They sometimes sit by themselves, or they might be obnoxious and loud. In either case, give them your time and attention.
  8. Make a phone call to a family member who’s not present at the family gathering. Take the initiative to engage in this conversation: “I really love you. I just want you to know I’m praying for you and would love to talk more about what Jesus means in my life if you’re open to it.” You never know who might be ready to talk.

What other ways would you add to this list?

Source: 8 Ways to Connect Evangelistically with Non-believing Family Members over the Holiday

CultureWatch: Two Humanities, Two Destinies

I remember some years ago a very liberal Christian attacked me for suggesting that there are actually two classes of humanity: the people of God, and those who are not God’s people. He thought that this was an unloving, judgmental and divisive thing to believe and say.

He believed that we are all one big happy family, and there should be no talk about two humanities, or two destinies, or the saved and the lost, or the righteous and the unrighteous, or sinners and saints. He felt that God was an inclusive God who embraces everyone, and we make things hard on sinners if we speak of two humanities.

Sadly many folks believe this lie, including some very popular Christian leaders of today. One noted writer whose books and films have been adored by countless Christians is William Paul Young. But he is one of those who believe that at the end of the day we are included in God’s love.

He is a universalist in other words, who thinks we all are ultimately saved, whether we like it or not. And the very hell he seeks to deny is where millions of folks will go, including those who believe his false teachings. I have written about his older book The Shack as well as his newest book. See here:

http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-one/
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-two/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-one/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-two/

two roads 4Many others have written about him and his damaging views, including James De Young. In addition to his earlier helpful writings about William Paul Young, he has recently penned an article which looks at his long-standing universalism which is well worth reading: burningdowntheshackbook.com/truth-versus-lies/

One sure way to dispel this faulty notion of one humanity which is all happily reconciled to God is to simply read what the Word of God has to say about this. When we do, we find that from Genesis to Revelation there is always talk about two humanities.

We have the saved and the unsaved. The godly and the ungodly. The righteous and the unrighteous. The redeemed and the lost. And this is found in the earliest biblical accounts of man. Just as soon as Adam and Eve fell, God told them about a divided humanity which would be continuous, extending throughout the generations. Genesis 3:15 says:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.

Here we have talk about a godly seed or line, and an ungodly seed or line. And the fact that God chooses some people to be his own also demonstrates how we have two main groups of people. The choice of Israel over all other nations is a prime example of this. We find this often discussed in Scripture.

In Exodus 8:22-23 for example we read this: “But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.”

Other texts speak of the crucial division between Israel and non-Israel. Exodus 11:6-7 says, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

And we find this in Leviticus 18:3: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” Consider as well Leviticus 20:22-26:

Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

The wisdom literature is of course filled with talk of the two humanities. Let me offer just a few of these passages:

-Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.
-Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
-Psalm 37:17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.
-Psalm 37:37-38 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
-Proverbs 3:33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.
-Proverbs 10:3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
-Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The prophets too spoke about this. Let me offer just two texts, the first one being Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

The second is Malachi 3:18:

Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

Things remain the same when we get to the New Testament. The gospels often dwell on this. Jesus led the way in emphasising this. As he said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

And consider Matthew 25:31-46 which speaks about the judgment between sheep and goats. Other gospel texts that can be mentioned include:

-Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
-John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God
-John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And in John 8:31-47 we read about the dispute concerning whose children Jesus’ opponents are. In verse 39 they say, “Abraham is our father”. But in verse 44 Jesus replies, “you are of your father the devil”. Whom, sure sounds like two different lines there – a godly and an ungodly line.

Jesus and the disciples also spoke about the two humanities in terms of the future resurrection and judgment. As we find in Acts 24:15: “I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”

Paul too speaks in such terms. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he says, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Peter also speaks about the two humanities. For example, 1 Peter 2:10 puts it this way: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” And this is clearly spelled out in the book of Revelation. Consider Revelation 20:11–15:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is just a small selection of the numerous passages which clearly delineate the two humanities and the two destinies. We are not all one big happy family of God. We are all born sinners, but only those who repent and put their faith in God can claim to be part of his household.

People may squabble over competing sports teams and boast about which side they are on. And folks can claim allegiance to a nation or a philosophy or a lifestyle, over against all the others. But the one thing that really matters is which side you are on when it comes to the two humanities.

That is the most important issue we need to deal with. Moses put it this way: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Joshua put it this way: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Jesus put it this way: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And John put it this way: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Please choose wisely.

[1910 words]

The post Two Humanities, Two Destinies appeared first on CultureWatch.

The Good News for All Time

Jesus. If he isn’t the epitome of good news for all humanity, hope is undoubtedly lost. Thankfully, our hope in the Savior is not misplaced or misguided, as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record the life, death, and resurrection of the risen King of Kings so we, like those throughout the course of history, would believe in and receive this glorious truth with a childlike faith (Hebrews 11:1).

Good News in the Beginning

God starts this story—though he has no beginning (Revelation 1:8). Since we think in a linear manner, it seems fitting to think about the good news in the context of the first humans. God created man and woman in the hopes that they would dwell with him forever, but their decision to disobey his kind provision led to spiritual and physical death (Genesis 2).

In his great mercy, however, the Lord continued to provide for the man and woman and their offspring. In the course of time, he showed the people how to atone for their recurring sins by way of a sacrifice (see Leviticus 4).

The blood of animals sprinkled on the altar was not enough for complete and total redemption. Accordingly, the son of God willingly laid down his life—once and for all—that we would be restored to God for good. And after tasting death for every man, Jesus was crowned with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:9), an unrivaled glory that will endure for all time.

Good News for Today

The good news started at the beginning of time, when God set in motion a mighty plan to draw all people to him like chicks to a hen (Matthew 23:27). The good news exists today too, in the here and now.

Two verses speak to this, and the first concerns an ongoing process noted in Philippians 2:12: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What’s Paul alluding to? Holiness. In the words of author Matthew Henry, “The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness.” Holiness is the daily process of becoming more like Jesus (John 3:30). Going after godliness with all our regenerated hearts, in the power of God’s Spirit, is good news for our spiritual growth.

The second passage that alludes to the daily reminder of the good news of God is tucked into Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” What a thought, to deeply know a faithful God who dispenses fresh mercy with each new sunrise. Every day begins with good news, a mercy that covers our worst sins and leads us toward confession, forgiveness, and repentance.

Good News for the Future

While we know that tomorrow will be greeted with mercy anew like today, what does the larger picture look like? What does the future look like?

If we backpedal to the resurrection of Jesus the Savior some 2,000 years ago, this translates into a different tomorrow for everyone who witnessed that unbelievable moment in time as the stone was beside the tomb. The twelve disciples for example, once stubborn and timid, were boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 5:29-32) to all who would listen to their message.

What does this mean for us as 21st century followers of Jesus? We are called to be ambassadors for Christ: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).


Jesus is the epitome of good news for all humanity, hope for the lost.


Matthew 28 closes with a comforting view for tomorrow and for the future: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Many of us interpret “end of the age” to mean “end of days” or “the end of time.” Regardless of your interpretation, what’s striking about this verse is that Jesus is likely referencing our end. Since he too is fully God, there is no end for him. He will endure forever.

Lastly, the good news reveals that the enemy will be defeated at the end of the age. The thief who comes to “steal and kill and destroy” will meet his well-deserved demise. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 20:10).

The future is one of hope, as what was started will surely be finished. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12: 1-2).

That’s good news.

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The post The Good News for All Time appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

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!”

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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?

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:

JESUS IS GOD

While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn’t decide or didn’t care. But Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means He claimed to be nothing less than God in human flesh.

Many people today don’t understand that Jesus claimed to be God. They’re content to think of Him as little more than a great moral teacher. But even His enemies understood His claims to deity. That’s why they tried to stone Him to death (John 5:18; 10:33) and eventually had Him crucified (John 19:7).

C.S. Lewis observed, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [Macmillan, 1952], pp. 40-41).

If the biblical claims of Jesus are true, He is God!

JESUS IS HOLY

God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3), therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:13).

As God, Jesus embodied every element of God’s character. Colossians 2:9 says, “In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” He was perfectly holy (Hebrews 4:15). Even His enemies couldn’t prove any accusation against Him (John 8:46)

God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

Our failure to obey God—to be holy—places us in danger of eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The truth is, we cannot obey Him because we have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. We are by nature rebellious toward God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we are incapable of changing our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. We might even be involved in various religious or humanitarian activities. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s hard for us to understand because we tend to evaluate sin on a relative scale, assuming some sins are less serious than others. However, the Bible teaches that all acts of sin are the result of sinful thinking and evil desires. That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences. We need to be changed inwardly so our thinking and desires are holy

Jesus is the only one who can forgive and transform us, thereby delivering us from the power and penalty of sin: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior, who paid the penalty and died for sinners: “Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He alone is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

Some people think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. But without a valid object your faith is useless

If you take poison—thinking it’s medicine—all the faith in the world won’t restore your life. Similarly, if Jesus is the only source of salvation, and you’re trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation, your faith is useless.

Many people assume there are many paths to God and that each religion represents an aspect of truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t claim to be one of many equally legitimate paths to God, or the way to God for His day only. He claimed to be the only way to God—then and forever.

JESUS IS LORD

Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him

The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection—the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).

True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).

It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That doesn’t mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him.

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The living God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the sovereign Lord, and the righteous Judge.

Who do you say Jesus is? That is the inescapable question. He alone can redeem you—free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
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THE gospel is the sum of wisdom; an epitome of knowledge; a treasure-house of truth; and a revelation of mysterious secrets. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind; and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it. Ah, dear friends! if ye seek wisdom, ye shall see it displayed in all its greatness. But turn aside and see this great sight!—an incarnate God upon the cross; a substitute atoning for mortal guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of Heaven, and delivering the rebellious sinner. Here is essential wisdom; enthroned, crowned, glorified.[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 41). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.


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.

Source: What Is the Gospel?


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! But it’s not just any good news; it demands a response! 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.

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” (Genesis 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.

How would you describe God’s character? Loving and good? Compassionate and forgiving? All true. God describes himself as “merciful and gracious, slowto anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Then God adds, “but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6–7). That explodes about 90 percent of what people today think they know about God. This loving God does not leave the guilty unpunished. 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, 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 . . . none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:23,10). Yet, we often think of our sins as not much more than violations of some heavenly traffic law. So we wonder why God gets so upset about them. But sin is much more than that. It’s the rejection of God himself and his right to exercise 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.”

This is the Bible’s sobering verdict: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Every one of us will be held accountable to God. The Bible warns that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

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!” Centuries before, God had promised that he would come as a great King to rescue his people from their sins. And here was Jesus saying, “The kingdom of God is here . . . now! I am that great King!

Eventually Jesus’s followers realized that his mission was to bring sinful people into that kingdom. Jesus came to die in their place, to take the punishment they deserved for their rebellion against God. 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. He is not just King Jesus the Crucified, but King Jesus the Crucified and Resurrected! 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. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned . . . He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree . . . the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (John 3:17–18; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

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!

Do you believe that you have rebelled against God and deserve his wrath? That Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died the death that you deserve for your sins? That he rose from the grave and lives to stand in your place as your Substitute and Savior? If that is your heartfelt conviction, you can tell him in words like these . . .

Jesus, I know I can’t save myself, and I know you have promised to save those who repent and put their faith in you alone. I trust you to forgive my sins and give me eternal life. Thank you for dying in my place to make my salvation possible!

If you’ve done that, then a whole life of getting to know Jesus lies ahead, beginning right now! There’s much more to learn from the Spirit of God who comes to live in all those who put their trust in King Jesus!

Note: (Adapted from Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel?, this tract uses evidence from the Bible to provide answers to the most commonly asked questions about Jesus Christ. )

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?


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


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


Comparison of Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Paul Washer, John MacArthur and others on The Gospel

Steve Lawson’s Impromptu gospel Presentation

The Gospel in Four Minutes

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner?

Do You Truly Know The Lord?

The Gospel: The Most Terrifying Truth of Scripture

What is Salvation?

Life for Eternity

The True Gospel

Part 1: “Man Apart From God”

Part 2: “What Is The Gospel”

Part 3: “Conversion”

Part 4: “Repent and Believe”

Part 5: “The Narrow Way”

Part 6: “Acceptance Beloved”

Saved or Self-deceived, Part 1

Saved or Self-deceived, Part 2


Beware These Seven Counterfeit Gospels

A friend of mine worked in a bank overseas for about a year, handling large amounts of money. During training, she studied various bills and learned their details, so she could easily discern counterfeits if they came along.

She studied the real thing so she could identify distortions.

The same goes for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to know the true gospel so we can identify counterfeit “gospels” and grasp how the truth applies to our lives.

But where do we start?

What Is the True Gospel?

Romans 5 answers three questions that we can use as a framework to help us grasp the true gospel:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:1-2, 8-9)

Saved from what? The wrath of God.

There is no gospel apart from the wrath of God and his righteous judgment against sinners (v. 9). This is an uncomfortable reality, but one we must hold to because ignoring or belittling sin does not mean sin goes away. Jesus is the standard—each one of us has fallen short and sinned against him.

Saved by whom? Jesus Christ.

Christians are saved from the wrath of God by the righteous blood of Jesus, the spotless sacrificial Lamb who absorbed the wrath on our behalf (v. 8). Only Jesus has the power to save desperate, dead sinners from God’s wrath by giving them eternal life in his Name, accomplishing what we never could.

Saved how? By grace through faith.

True faith says, “I bring nothing to the table. I come empty-handed, but Christ gladly gives himself to me.” For, faith is trusting that when I was dead in sin, Jesus did everything to purchase eternal life for me by his death on the cross and his resurrection to new life. And faith is trusting that Jesus did this apart from anything I have done.

Seven Counterfeit Gospels

As we seek to believe and proclaim the true gospel, we should be aware of these seven counterfeit gospels about sin, Jesus, and faith:

1. The Good-People Gospel

This one says, “We’re all basically good people. We make mistakes – nobody’s perfect – but we’re good people at heart.”

This claim is wrong and dangerous. Ignoring sin does not make it disappear. Recognizing sin means there is Someone to whom we will be held responsible. Even though our pride doesn’t roll with that idea, sin is real, and it’s a power we need rescuing from. No one is good, not one (see Psalm 14:3).

2. The Self-Esteem Gospel

This distortion claims, “Believe in yourself! You might have some struggles and issues, but you’re resilient. There’s a Savior who will give all you need to solve your problems.”

This dangerous false gospel masquerades sin as “insecurity” or “negative self-image,” rather than calling it what it is. Remember, belittling sin does not make it go away. When we belittle sin, we lose the gospel. For Jesus says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

3. The Expressive-Individualism Gospel

This one claims that Christianity is all about “being true to yourself,” “following your heart,” and “living authentically.”

But this idea runs counter to everything the gospel says. We’re sinners who can’t trust our hearts because they’re deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Apart from Christ, we’re slaves to sin, not free in ourselves (Romans 6:17). And our sin darkens our minds and blinds us to God’s reality so we’re unable to discover what’s authentic and true (2 Corinthians 4:4).

4. The Optional-Jesus Gospel

This belief says, “Jesus is a way, not the way. A person can find their way to God through a number of different spiritual experiences.”

To say that Jesus is optional not only goes against the Bible’s teaching about who Jesus is (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), but it thwarts the gospel. For if Jesus is not really the holy, righteous Son of God, who came to bear sin, absorb God’s wrath, and make peace with God through reconciliation so I wouldn’t be condemned forever, there is no good news to believe.


You can intellectually assent to the gospel—you can know it—without ever grasping it.
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Think about this: If Jesus is only “a way” to God, he’s either a lunatic or a liar for the divine claims he made, and his sacrifice on the cross was for nothing. It was a waste of a life. And if this is true, then “our faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

5. The Prosperity Gospel

This distorted view of Jesus says that he guarantees his followers a happy, healthy life with no troubles.

But the truth is this: Jesus suffered. Those who believe in him will suffer too. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

We must guard against the belief that Jesus is here to cozy up our lives and make everything easy for us. If we’re deceived into believing this, we won’t follow Jesus for long, for we will be disappointed, bitter, even hardened to God when things don’t go our way. The truth is, we follow a Suffering Savior in a fallen world affected by sin. Our Jesus did not avoid suffering, but entered into it to bring us salvation.

6. The Faith-And Gospel

This distortion claims that “faith and” something else is sufficient to save me: Faith andmy good works; faith and enough self-loathing; faith and a right understanding of God.

It’s hard to believe that God would give salvation as a free gift without requiring that we earn it. Because our sin-nature screams for independence and control, we want to have something to do with our salvation. But we cannot add one thing to the work and person of Jesus Christ. “It is finished” (John 19:30); death is defeated; evil is overcome.

7. The Faith-So Gospel

This opposite end of the spectrum is what theologians call “cheap grace,” which says, “Jesus is my righteousness and perfection, so I can live however I want because in the end, I’m saved!”

Yes, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1), but we are set free from sin’s power to live for Christ, not to remain in our sin and live any way we want. To take wrong advantage of God’s grace and forgiveness that “sin may abound” belittles what Christ did and cheapens his free gift of grace. Faith does not give us the freedom to stayin sin; it frees us from sin so our lives increasingly point to Jesus.

Grasping the Gospel

Friends, though we need to know the truth of the gospel from its counterfeits, we must know that the gospel is about the person of Jesus Christ and his grasp on us. You can intellectually assent to the gospel—you can “know it”—without ever grasping it, without ever marveling at what a miracle Christ has accomplished, without it ever transforming your heart.

But Jesus came so you would love him, walk closely with him, worship him, and see him at work in the realest moments and seasons of your life.

[An adapted version of this article originally appeared at Revive Our Hearts.] [Photo Credit: Lightstock]

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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.