Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Gospel (Page 1 of 2)

Conversations That Count

I’m excited about what God is doing in our city, in particular, in some of the local churches in our city. Below is the info for an event being hosted by Grace Toronto and run by the Ezra Institute (which is run out of Westminster Chapel). The event is coming up on Saturday, May 29 and will help us learn how to engage people in conversations and relationships that go beyond the weather and sports and get to the more meaningful matters of life.

If you, like me, would like to learn how to better love and share the gospel with your neighbour, then this is a great event for you to consider attending!

The Answer to Everything

I’ve been preparing lately to begin preaching through the book of 1 Timothy at GFC. Any time you begin a new book, there is always a lot of background reading that you have to do to set the stage for where the book is going to take you. Most of what you read never makes it into the sermons, but it helps you understand what are the main themes of the book, what’s the historical context, what’s the background of the people being talked about, and things like that.

In particular, I’ve been reading today all kinds of speculation about what the doctrinal problems were that faced Timothy and Titus in their local churches. Since Paul doesn’t specify in any of the three letters exactly what the heresy is that they’re dealing with, we’re left to fill in the gaps by putting together hints and drawing inferences — not ideal exegesis.

Anyway, this thought struck me as I was reading: ‘Isn’t it interesting that God never details for us what the doctrinal problem was; I guess he didn’t want us to know. I wonder why that is…?’

Then I got to a particularly helpful section of Mounce’s commentary where he says, basically, it doesn’t matter on one level what the issue was; Paul’s answer to everything is the gospel.

Ding! The bulb above my head flicked on.

The very fact that the individual errors aren’t highlighted serves to draw those problems to the background and highlight the one great thing that’s the answer to everything: the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s the point. No matter what the problem is in your local church, the answer is always found in a right understanding of what God has done for a fallen people in his Son Jesus Christ, by the power of his Holy Spirit.

And here’s how Mounce concisely summarizes that glorious gospel, the answer to everything:

God has acted in grace and mercy through the death of Christ with an offer of forgiveness, to which people must respond in faith, turning from evil, receiving empowerment through God’s Spirit, and looking forward to eternal life. (William D. Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles, WBC v.46, lxxvi.)

So if you want to be a part of the answer instead of a part of the problem in your church, ask yourself this: Am I focusing on the gospel? Is the gospel part of my conversation? Do I speak it with others? Is it an essential part of my ministry in my local church?

The gospel is glorious truth, and one that we can never major on enough. That’s what Timothy and Titus had to be reminded of and that’s what we must remember.

Way to God

Christian Communicators Worldwide has launched a new website called ‘Way to God‘. I looked it over a little bit this morning and was thrilled with what I saw. Of course, that should come as no surprise. Jim Elliff and co. are in the habit of producing great resources for Christians who are eager to pursue Christ and share the gospel. This website is no exception.

In one section they answer many popular questions about the Christian faith. Here is a small sampling of some questions they tackle.

  • What does it mean to believe in Christ?
  • Is there any evidence for the existence of God?
  • Is there historical evidence for Jesus outside of the Bible?
  • Aren’t all religions basically the same?
  • Is the Bible a trustworthy document?
  • Won’t I be accepted by God if I try to live a good life?
  • If God is good, why do so many bad things happen?
  • Is it necessary to go to church to be a Christian?
  • How many times will God forgive me for the same thing?
  • How do I know that God has answered my prayers?
  • Can homosexuals and lesbians go to heaven?

In another section they have several life stories of those who have found God in Christ. Their backgrounds range from Mormonism to Roman Catholicism to ‘Armstrongism’ and more!

There are many useful articles, as well as a free book offer. But one of the greatest features of this new site is that they host several free audio books. Pursuing God, Wasted Faith, The Eaglet, and Dialogue on Christianity are all available for you to listen to online for free.

This is a tremendous resource for Christians as well as those who have questions about the Christian faith. But don’t take my word for it…

Check out Way to God for yourself!

Daddy, Did Jesus Do That?

My daughter Susannah is almost two. I love her just about to death. One of her favourite things to do (just like her daddy) is to go outside in the rain. It thrills her to no end to run around and splash in the puddles and get soaked by the falling rain.

A few nights ago when it was raining, we stayed outside and talked about where the rain comes from, who makes it, and who sends it. The answer, of course, is that the rain comes down from heaven and is sent by God. Throughout the Scriptures rain is a picture of God’s faithful provision even for unfaithful people.

Like most conversations with Susannah, I really didn’t think she was listening too carefully. She was wanting to get down and run around some more, not sit with daddy and philosophize about the biblical-theological import of rain. But as it turns out, she was actually listening closer than I thought.

Today, as we were outside (playing in the rain again), I pointed to ‘Auntie Janis’ car’ and said, ‘Look, Susie, it’s wet!’ As she always does, she reached out and touched the car to make sure daddy wasn’t pulling her leg. She looked at her now wet hand, then at me, and said, ‘Daddy, did Jesus do that?’

It’s a funny thing how words just sometimes have more impact when a child speaks them. 

The rain we were experiencing today was a result of Hurricane Ike. The answer to Susie’s question is the answer that so many people need to hear in this world today. ‘Yes, Jesus did that.’

Ah, to have the faith of a child. For us adults, there are a million follow-up questions. We are quick to try to justify God and show all the reasons why we would deny the plain truth that Jesus sent the storm: he would never desire suffering; he can never cause evil; he would never want anything bad to happen. And it goes on and on.

But the reality that we must face is that God controls the weather. God appeared to Job in a whirlwind. When Elijah prayed, it didn’t rain for 3.5 years. Jesus calmed the stom on the Sea of Galilee with zero effort. He reigns providentially over all creation and all weather-patterns. Whether you want to say ‘God sent it’ or ‘God didn’t stop it’ really makes no difference (although one is much truer than the other). Either way, it’s from the hand of God.

When God sends storms, it is mercy. It is mercy because it proclaims to all that the real storm of final judgement is coming. None of us can escape it. No early warning system or evacuation plan could ever save us from this. This very minor, very localized display of the power and the fury of God should cause us all to question, ‘Am I prepared to face the real thing?’

Survival kits, flashlights, thousands of jugs of bottled water will do us no good. When the end comes (and it will come in a flash, without TV networks showing us radar images days and weeks ahead of time), the only thing that will matter is whether we’ve trusted in Christ or something else. The storm is coming, and only the Christian, with his house built on the rock of Christ’s teachings will be able to withstand it. When the fury of God’s wrath beats on our shores, and the anger of his judgement floods our houses, only the Christian will escape.

The Christian is the one for whom there is no more wrath. All of it–the full storm front–has all been borne on Christ, and we are safe. The fury of the storm has been sated, and only the peace and calmness of God’s goodness remains for us.

Praise God for his merciful reminders in storms. Praise him for his mercies in Christ.

Passing It On

An old professor of mine used to say ‘The teacher’s questions become the students’ dogma.’ In other words, what the teachers fancies with, the students accept and develop.

Don Carson puts it a slightly different way. He relates the American Mennonite experience as somewhat paradigmatic of what can happen in any church setting. He says, roughly, that the first generation of Mennonites believed the gospel, and saw that it had certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and believed in the social entailments. The third generation denied the gospel, but was committed to the social entailments.

Every Christian parent and every Christian teacher I know wants to pass gospel-belief on to the next generation. But how do we do that? I would suggest, based on the above insights, that the way to pass the gospel on is to be excited about it.

As Carson has often related, he understands that as a teacher, most of what students hear will be forgotten. But what do students remember? Ultimately, students remember what excites their professors. Children will have impressed on their hearts and minds what was most important to their parents.

Do you want to pass gospel-belief on to the next generation? Then let me ask: What excites you? What occupies your thoughts? Your time? Your imaginations? Do you spend more time on hobbies than on developing gospel-passion and gospel-living?

Everyone laughs when children first begin to imitate their parents and do things we unwittingly do, but they clearly see. It’s funny. They are observant, they notice what we do, even when we don’t. Why would we expect any less when it comes to our spirituality?

What do you speak about most at home? What issues get you most passionate? What causes get you to get excited at the drop of a hat? What habits in your life are the most consistent? What priorities are evident in your home?

These are the things you will pass on… whether we are intentional about it or not.

So let’s be intentional! May it never be said of us that we passed on causes or diets or health-awareness or gender equality or views on parenting or anything that is less important and less eternally significant than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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