Tag Archives: Christ

The Gospel Message

Recently I had the privilege of teaching on the topic of “Evangelism and the Believer”, a subject addressed in chapter 11 of John MacArthur’s discipleship curriculum Fundamentals of the Faith.  Before beginning a discussion on the believer’s rights and responsibilities to share the Gospel, it’s critical to explicitly define the Gospel.  As J. Mack Stiles asserts in his book Marks of the Messenger, we can never assume the Gospel.

I remember being asked “What is the Gospel?” recently in an interview and my first reply was “Based on what definition?”  The reason I responded as such was because so often it seems we are confused with the term Gospel and I knew the question that was being asked was not really, “What is the Gospel?”, but instead “How would you share the ‘Plan of Salvation’ with an unbeliever?”  So where did this confusion over the Gospel come from?  Well, I have a hunch it’s rooted in “decisionism” or an attempt by man to seal a quick decision for Christ through a 5-miunute “Gospel” presentation.  It’s seems we’ve adopted this approach and made it into “Tract-theology” such that no one really needs to think biblically anymore about what the Gospel really is.  All we really need to know are 4-Spiritual Laws or how the bridge between God and man can be built.  Don’t get me wrong, tracts have their place, but they cannot be a substitute for the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, we see a progression of the Gospel, from the Old Testament proclamation of the promise for Good News to the 4 Gospels which proclaim that the Good News has come, to the Epistles which proclaim that the Good News is Jesus Christ.  But what is this Good News?  More specifically, if there is Good News, certainly there must also be bad news; otherwise the Gospel would just be ‘news’.  In other words, what makes it so good? 

This is where I think the helpful little book by Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel, is so beneficial.  Essentially, it summarizes the redemptive narrative found from Genesis to Revelation into 4 useful points, each of which the Bible speaks to exhaustively.  Below, I want to briefly take a look at each point, just loosely using Gilbert’s book as a guide. 

God

Any discussion on the Gospel must have its source in God.  This is true whether in a witnessing situation or just unpacking the realities of the Gospel from Scripture.  To this point Gilbert asks 2 questions” Who made you? and To Whom are you accountable?  The answer to each is God.  So who is God?  Genesis 1 says God is the Creator of the world (1:1) and man (1:26).  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:19-20 that God has revealed Himself, “namely His eternal power and divine nature” through His creation, such that man is without excuse for not knowing Him.  God is not only Creator, but Sustainer of His creation (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3).  He is not hands-off, as deists would like to think, but He is a very personal, interacting, God.  As such, this means His creation, namely man, is accountable to Him (Romans 9:21).

In addition to this “general revelation” of God through creation, God has also provided “special revelation” of Himself by way of Scripture.  1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” God’s character begins with His holiness, as all other attributes by way of this are likewise holy.  In Exodus 34:6-7 we read of God revealing additional attributes of His character to Moses, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.’”  Summarizing the attributes God lists we see that He is:

  • Merciful
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in steadfast love
  • Faithful
  • Forgiving
  • Just

But we’ve encountered a major problem here.  In verse 7 we see the following statement, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”  Which is it?  Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin? Or not clearing the guilty, i.e. punishing the guilty?  It seems this is a paradoxical statement that contradicts itself.  Hang on to that thought; we’ll come back to it in a minute.

Man

Our next point, upon which Gilbert briefly summarizes the Gospel, is Man.  Here, we may ask What is the problem? Or perhaps more directly stated, What’s wrong with the world?  As we saw earlier, God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26) and called His creation good.  However, in Genesis 3, we read of the Fall of Man, the familiar story of the serpent, Satan, deceiving Eve to eat of fruit, which God had forbidden.  Eve, upon eating the fruit, subsequently shares it with her husband Adam.  In Genesis 3:15, we see a summary of man’s fall and a brief preview into our next point, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Because of Adam’s sin, all of his posterity likewise fell with him.  In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  What is the problem or what’s wrong with the world?  You are!  And me too.  All of us are what’s wrong with the world because all of us have sinned.  Think what’s wrong with the world isn’t sin?  Just watch the evening news and you’ll see man’s depraved sinful nature being  put on display.

The second question is Am I in trouble?  If you and I are what’s wrong with the world because of sin and as we learned earlier we are created by God and are accountable to Him, then the obvious answer to the question of ‘are we in trouble’ is a resounding yes!  Sin is a violation of God’s law in act, attitude, or thought and all men have violated God’s law.  His law is the righteous standard by which He judges us and hold’s us accountable.  Romans 3:23 says that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  What is the trouble that we’re in?  Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death….”  The wages of sin, i.e. what you and I have earned as a result of our sin, is death.  Not merely a physical death, but a spiritual death.  Cursed and cast into hell under the wrath of God.  Are we in trouble?  You better believe we are and it has eternal consequences.

Christ

Here we ask, Did God provide a solution to the problem?  In other words, How can what is wrong with the world be made right?  We read of how God did this in that familiar passage from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  In short, God provided the solution to the question, that only He could answer, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.  Could the solution have simply been to destroy everyone and everything and start over?  Yes, but while this would have put the justice of God on display, it would not have put the full character of God on display.  What of His mercy?  His love?  His grace?  You may say, well what about the flood?  God destroyed everything except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.  Yes and while this certainly put His mercy on display  for them, justice was not fully satisfied because the sins of Noah and his family had not been punished, as well those sins “passed over” before and after (Romans 3:25).  The only way to make what is wrong with the world right, the only way that God could declare that He is a God that forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin” while “ by no means clear[ing] the guilty” was through the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The Apostle Paul wonderfully summarizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”  

God’s standard of perfect obedience to His law could only be met in the person of Jesus.  Through His perfectly obedient and sinless life Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.  While God’s justice could only be satisfied through the death of Christ on the cross in the place of guilty sinners.  This allowed God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:26 Which brings us to our final point.

Response

What makes this good news for you?  As we’ve learned, the Gospel is good news.  It’s good news because it saves from the bad news which says every single one of us are guilty sinners deserving of death, hell, and the wrath of God.  This good news is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live among a sinful, rebellious people, to take the punishment of all who have faith in Him, and to reconcile the relationship between the sinner and God through the redemption that is in Christ’s shed blood.  What can you do right now to share in this good news?  Ask God for mercy.  God has commanded that everyone repent, or turn from their sin, and place their faith in Jesus Christ.  Unbeliever, your response is to obey that command, crying out in godly repentance for your sin and then trusting that Christ alone can save you because of who He is and what He has done.  Repent and believe the Gospel.

Believers, the good news of the Gospel didn’t end for you upon your salvation, even though you’re justification was complete.  The good news for you began there.  Because of the Gospel, God calls you to obedience also through worship, holiness, and a life given to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Gospel isn’t a one shot deal, it’s a lifetime of understanding and a daily reflection on the facts that God made you and you are accountable to Him, that you are what’s wrong with the world, but in spite of that God sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and be raised again so that what is wrong could be made right for the one who repents and believes.  Keep repenting and believing the Gospel.

 

Theology in Song

The song below, Glorious Day as performed by Casting Crowns, and originally written in 1908 as the hymn Oh Glorious Day, by Rev. John Wilbur Chapman is rich with theological themes.  Every time I hear the song I can’t help but notice how filled with doctrine this song is, such that it truly causes me to reflect on the glorious work that God has done for His children and then to worship Him for it.  In Psalm 66:1-4 the psalmist says, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!  So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.  All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. Selah.’”  What is the source for singing praises to God?  A right understanding of who God is and what He has done is the source for a fountain of worship.  Everything in the believer’s life should flow forth from a right understanding of who God is and worship is no different.  I’ve summarized some of the more overt theological themes from the song.  Understanding their place in reality makes them much more than mere words in a song.

  1. Heaven filled with His praises – Doctrine of Angels
  2. When sin was as black as could be – Doctrine of Sin
  3. Born of a virgin – Doctrine of the Virgin Birth
  4. Word became flesh – Doctrine of the Incarnation
  5. Living He loved me –Doctrine of the Atonement – Active Obedience/Sinlessness
  6. Dying He saved me –Doctrine of the Atonement – Passive Obedience/Propitiation/Substitutionary Atonement
  7. Buried He carried my sins far away –Doctrine of the Atonement – Expiation
  8. Rising He justified –Doctrine of the Resurrection/Doctrine of Justification
  9. One Day He’s Coming – Doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming
  10. Bearing Our Sins – Doctrine of the Atonement – Penal Substitutionary Atonement
  11. My Redeemer is He – Doctrine of Redemption
  12. Took the nails for me –Doctrine of the Atonement – Penal Substitutionary Atonement
  13. The grave could no longer conceal Him – Doctrine of the Resurrection
  14. Then He arose, over death He had conquered –Doctrine of the Resurrection
  15. Now He’s ascended  – Doctrine of Christ’s Ascension
  16. One day the trumpet will sound for His coming – Doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming

Sharing Christ at Christmas

This Christmas don’t just look at it as a time for food, gifts, and fellowship with friends and family, but look at it as an opportunity to share Christ with your loved ones.  Most of us know how difficult and sometimes awkward it can be to bring up Christ with family and friends because we have a fear that it might make the other person feel uncomfortable.  Most people would probably prefer to share Christ with a complete stranger than with someone with whom they have a preexisting relationship.  Why is that?  It’s likely a deceitful scheme by Satan, because truthfully sharing Christ with those closest to us should not only be a priority, but it should be something we feel comfortable doing.  To ease into this conversation, try sharing how the Lord has blessed your life this year, the things He has taught you, or the growth that you’ve made and then invite others to do the same.  For those who may not have anything to share, invite them to share areas in their life where they would like to see God work in the coming year and then encourage them to seek Him daily in prayer and reading of His word such that they might see those changes made.  Below is an encouraging sermon by Charles Spurgeon on sharing the Gospel during the holidays.  Some great advice from a wise sage and well worth the read.

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Going Home: A Christmas Sermon*
C.H. Spurgeon
December 21, 1856

The demoniac’s story

This poor wretch, being possessed with a legion of evil spirits had been driven to something worse than madness. He fixed his home among the tombs, where he dwelt by night and day, and was the terror of all those who passed by. The authorities had attempted to curb him; he had been bound with fetters and chains, but in the paroxysms of his madness he had torn the chains in sunder, and broken the fetters in pieces.

Attempts had been made to reclaim him, but no man could tame him. He was worse than the wild beasts, for they might be tamed; but his fierce nature would not yield. He was a misery to himself, for he would run upon the mountains by night and day, crying and howling fearfully, cutting himself with the sharp flints, and torturing his poor body in the most frightful manner.

Jesus Christ passed by; he said to the devils, “Come out of him.” The man was healed in a moment, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, he became a rational being—an intelligent man, and what is more, a convert to the Savior.

The demoniac’s commission

Out of gratitude to his deliverer, he said, “Lord, I will follow you wherever you go. I will be your constant companion and your servant, permit me so to be” [Mark 5:18].

“No,” said Christ, “I esteem your motive, it is one of gratitude to me, but if you would show your gratitude, go home to your friends and tell them of the great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.”

Christmas is suited for sharing the gospel with family and friends.

True religion does not break the bonds of family relationship. True religion seldom encroaches upon that sacred—I had almost said divine—institution called home. It does not separate men from their families, and make them aliens to their flesh and blood.…

Christianity makes a husband a better husband, it makes a wife a better wife than she was before. It does not free me from my duties as a son; it makes me a better son, and my parents better parents. Instead of weakening my love, it gives me fresh reason for my affection; and he whom I loved before as my father, I now love as my brother and co-worker in Christ Jesus; and she whom I reverenced as my mother, I now love as my sister in the covenant of grace, to be mine for ever in the state that is to come.…

For my part, I wish there were twenty Christmas days in the year. It is seldom that young men can meet with their friends; it is rarely they can all be united as happy families….I love it as a family institution, as one of England’s brightest days, the great Sabbath of the year, when the plough rests in its furrow, when the din of business is hushed, when the mechanic and the working man go out to refresh themselves upon the green sward of the glad earth.

Aim to share the story of God’s grace in your life.

It is to be a story of personal experience: “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.”

You are not to repair to your houses to preach. You are not to begin to take up doctrinal subjects and expatiate on them, and endeavor to bring persons to your peculiar views and sentiments. You are not to go home with sundry doctrines you have lately learned, and try to teach these. You are to go home and tell not what you have believed, but what you have felt—what you really know to be your own; not what great things you have read, but what great things the Lord hath done for you; not alone what you have seen done in the great congregation, and how great sinners have turned to God, but what the Lord has done for you. And mark this: there is never a more interesting story than that which a man tells about himself.…

Go home, young man, and tell the poor sinner’s story; go home, young woman, and open your diary, and give your friends stories of grace. Tell them of the mighty works of God’s hand which he hath wrought in you from his own free, sovereign, undeserved love. Make it a free grace story around your family fire.

By sharing we edify believers.

If you want to make your mother’s heart leap within her, and to make your father glad—if you would make that sister happy who sent you so many letters, which sometimes you read against a lamp-post, with your pipe in your mouth—go home and tell your mother that her wishes are all accomplished, that her prayers are heard, that you will no longer chaff her about her Sunday-school class, and no longer laugh at her because she loves the Lord, but that you will go with her to the house of God, for you love God.…

Cannot you imagine the scene, when the poor demoniac mentioned in my text went home? He had been a raving madman; and when he came and knocked at the door, don’t you think you see his friends calling to one another in affright, “Oh! there he is again,” and the mother running up stairs and locking all the doors, because her son had come back that was raving mad; and the little ones crying because they knew what he had been before—how he cut himself with stones, because he was possessed with devils. And can you picture their joy, when the man said, “Mother! Jesus Christ has healed me, let me in; I am no lunatic now!”

By sharing we reach lost friends and family.

I hear one of you say, “Ah! Sir, would to God I could go home to pious friends! But when I go home I go into the worst of places; for my home is amongst those who never knew God themselves, and consequently never prayed for me, and never taught me anything concerning heaven.”

Go home to them, and tell them, not to make them glad, for they will very likely be angry with you, but tell them for their soul’s salvation. I hope, when you are telling the story of what God did for you, that they will be led by the Spirit to desire the same mercy themselves.

Be alert for one-on-one opportunities to share your story.

Do not tell this story to your ungodly friends when they are all together, for they will laugh at you. Take them one by one, when you can get them alone, and begin to tell it to them, and they will hear you seriously.…You may be the means of bringing a man to Christ who has often heard the Word and only laughed at it, but who cannot resist a gentle admonition.

Don’t expect this sharing to be easy.

For I hear many of my congregation say, “Sir, I could relate that story to anyone sooner than I could to my own friends; I could come to your vestry, and tell you something of what I have tasted and handled of the Word of God; but I could not tell my father, nor my mother, nor my brethren, nor my sisters.”

Overcome this fear by sharing to honor your Savior.

I know you love him; I am sure you do, if you have proof that he loved you. You can never think of Gethsemane and of its bloody sweat, of Gabbatha and of the mangled back of Christ, flayed by the whip: you can never think of Calvary and his pierced hands and feet, without loving him, and it is a strong argument when I say to you, for his dear sake who loved you so much, go home and tell it. If Christ has done much for you, you cannot help it—you must tell it.

Share your story with gratitude to God.

No story is more worth hearing than a tale of gratitude. This poor man’s tale was a grateful story. I know it was grateful, because the man said, “I will tell thee how great things the Lord hath done for me.” A man who is grateful is always full of the greatness of the mercy which God has shown him; he always thinks that what God has done for him is immensely good and supremely great.

Share your story with humility.

It must be a tale told by a poor sinner who feels himself not to have deserved what he has received. Oh! when we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with deep sorrow, remembering what we used to be, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things. Why, then, my eyes began to be fountains of tears, those hearers who had nodded their heads began to brighten up, and they listened, because they were hearing something which the man felt himself and which they recognized as being true to him, if it was not true to them.

Tell your story, my hearers, as lost sinners. Do not go to your home, and walk into your house with a supercilious air, as much as to say, “Here’s a saint come home to the poor sinners, to tell them a story.”…

Do not intrude yourselves upon those who are older, and know more, but tell your story humbly; not as a preacher, but as a friend and as a son.

Share your story truthfully—don’t embellish it.

Do not tell more than you know; do not tell John Bunyan’s experience, when you ought to tell your own. Do not tell your mother you have felt what only Rutherford felt. Tell her no more than the truth. Tell your experience truthfully, for one single fly in the pot of ointment will spoil it, and one statement you may make which is not true may ruin it all.

Tell your story seriously—don’t share it flippantly.

Let them see you mean it. Do not talk about religion flippantly; you will do no good if you do. Do not make puns on texts. Do not quote Scripture by way of joke. If you do, you may talk till you are dumb, you will do no good, if you in the least degree give them occasion to laugh by laughing at holy things yourself. Tell it very earnestly.…

Perhaps when you are telling the story one of your friends will say, “And what of that?” And your answer will be, “It may not be a great thing to you, but it is to me. You say it is little to repent, but I have not found it so; it is a great and precious thing to be brought to know myself to be a sinner, and to confess it, do you say it is a little thing to have found a Savior. If you had found him too, you would not think it little. You think it little I have lost the burden from my back; but if you had suffered with it, and felt its weight as I have for many a long year, you would think it no little thing to be emancipated and free, through a sight of the cross.”

Don’t neglect your personal devotions during Christmas.

When you are at home for Christmas, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if your friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them, and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God.

Rest upon the Holy Spirit’s help to share.

Do not be afraid, only think of the good you may possibly do. Remember, he that saves a soul from death has covered a multitude of sins, and he shall have stars in his crown forever and ever.…Let your reliance in the Holy Spirit be entire and honest. Trust not yourself, but fear not to trust him. He can give you words. He can apply those words to their heart, and so enable you to “minister grace to the hearers” [Ephesians 4:29].

Remember that this story you share over the holidays is the story that will be on your lips eternally.

When we go home to our friends in Paradise, what shall we do?

First we will repair to that blest seat where Jesus sits, take off our crown and cast it at his feet, and crown him Lord of all. And when we have done that, what shall be our next employ? We will tell the blessed ones in heaven what the Lord hath done for us, and how he hath had compassion on us.

And shall such tale be told in heaven? Shall that be the Christmas Carol of the angels? Yes it shall be; it has been published there before—blush not to tell it yet again—for Jesus has told it before, “When he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.”

Poor sheep, when you shall be gathered in, will you not tell how your Shepherd sought you and found you? Will you not sit in the grassy meads of heaven, and tell the story of your own redemption? Will you not talk with your brothers and sisters, and tell them how God loved you and has brought you there?

Perhaps you say, “It will be a very short story.” Ah! It would be if you could write now. A little book might be the whole of your biography; but up there when your memory shall be enlarged, when your passion shall be purified, and your understanding clear, you will find that what was but a tract on earth will be a huge tome in heaven. You will tell a long story there of God’s sustaining, restraining, constraining grace. And I think that when you pause to let another tell his tale, and then another, and then another, you will at last, when you have been in heaven a thousand years, break out and exclaim, “O saints, I have something else to say.” Again they will tell their tales, and again you will interrupt them with “Oh, beloved, I have thought of another case of God’s delivering mercy.” And so you will go on, giving them themes for songs, finding them the material for the warp and woof of heavenly sonnets.

*From http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/cj-mahaney/post/2010/12/14/Spurgeon-on-sharing-the-gospel-during-Christmas.aspx