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The Gospel Truth About Jesus Christ

April 30, 2010 4 comments

Jesus Christ, the second Person of the One Triune God, is both fully God and fully man. There are seven major truths about Jesus Christ that we must understand in order to truly begin to understand and know Him:

  1. Deity
  2. Incarnation
  3. Crucifixion
  4. Resurrection
  5. Ascension
  6. Intercession
  7. Return

These six truths are perhaps best presented in Philippians 2:6-11. Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We see Christ’s deity in v. 6: “he was in the form of God.” John identifies the Man Christ Jesus as God in John 1:1, 14. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Both Paul and John, then, affirm both Christ’s deity and incarnation. The Hebrew writer also recognizes Jesus’ humanity in Hebrews 2:17. Jesus “was made like his brothers in every respect.”

In his humanity, Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). I wrote extensively about the crucifixion on Good Friday, so let us suffice it to say here that Jesus’ death reconciled us to God; he took our sins upon him so that we could receive his righteousness by (grace-given) faith.

Philippians 2 implies the resurrection, which would take place between verses 8 and 9. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:1-9, the gospel includes the fact that Christ “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Indeed, he was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).

After Christ was raised, he ascended forty days later (also implied between verses 8 and 9).

gospel pic for blog Now in heaven, Christ intercedes for us. Hebrews 7:22-25 reveals that Jesus is

the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

We also have the promise of Christ’s return. Jesus’ last words recorded in Revelation 22:20 are “Surely I am coming soon.” Indeed, Jesus is our Savior, God the Eternal Son who emptied himself by adding humanity to his deity. Christ Jesus died for us, was buried, and rose again the third day. He ascended to heaven where he now intercedes for us! And in addition to the glory of all this, we have our Lord’s promise that he is “coming soon.” Let us then, cry out with John the Revelator: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The Gospel Truth About Us

April 25, 2010 3 comments

We are all human beings, and we’re all sick. We need help, we need a life preserver thrown out to us, but we can grab it on our own. We’re dying, but not dead.

The above statements are all false. They might be well-intentioned, but they are not biblical. They are not gospel truths; they are false gospel lies. Yes, we are all human beings, but we are worse off than “sick.” Yes, we need help, but we couldn’t (and wouldn’t) grab onto a spiritual life preserver if God threw it right around us. We are not just dying physically; spiritually, we are dead in our trespasses and sins without Christ (Ephesians 2:1). We need to realize just how bad off we are in our natural-born state. And we need to realize just how truly heinous sin is in order to truly begin to appreciate Christ’s work for us on the Cross. Greg Gilbert writes in What Is the Gospel? that sin is “the breaking of a relationship, and even more, it is a rejection of God himself—a repudiation of God’s rule, God’s care, God’s authority, and God’s right to command those for whom he gave his life. In short, it is the rebellion of the creature against his Creator.”

This rebellion first began in Eden many thousands of years ago. Paul writes in Romans 5:12 that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sin entered the world by Adam’s sin of eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). “In Adam’s fall we sinned all.” Not only that, but we continue to sin throughout our lives! In our natural-born state, we choose to live in direct rebellion against God.

… all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12)

These verses clearly point out that “none is righteous.” No one on his or her own is righteous. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (3:23). Not only do we willfully disobey God, but we also willfully turn away from God—“no one seeks for God.” So much for the notion that we, though we are sinners, somehow seek after God and on our own beg for forgiveness. No, it is as Jesus said: we must be born again (John 3:3) and be brought from spiritual death to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1). We cannot do this—“the flesh profits nothing”—we must be reborn by the Spirit of God himself, so great is our peril (John 6:63).

Our sin is not just a broken relationship or negative thinking; sin is not just adultery and betrayal, but rebellion and treason also (Gilbert, 52-3). We have infinitely sinned against the infinitely holy Creator God. We reject him, we mock him, we deny his existence and righteous judgment. We stand in just condemnation to death and hell (Romans 6:23)! Like the Jews of Acts 13:48, we “judge [our]selves unworthy of eternal life”!

Notice in Jesus’ own words what will happen to the saved and the unsaved, respectively, at the end of time:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” … Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” … And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46)

Greg Gilbert aptly notes: “The images the Bible uses to talk about God’s judgment against sin are truly horrifying. It’s really no wonder the world reads the Bible’s descriptions of hell and calls Christians ‘sick’ for believing them. But that misses the point” (57). It does miss the point. We must realize that our sin is rebellion against the holy God who created us all to worship him and enjoy him forever. We must realize that we condemn ourselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:48).

What, then, is the solution? The Bible reveals that our righteousness is as “a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). We don’t seek after God, and we are indeed dead in our trespasses and sins (Romans 3:11, Ephesians 2:1). Our only hope is in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross for our sins and was raised the third day for our justification (Romans 4:25). Our righteous deeds will not save us; rather, they will condemn us by our doing them apart from faith in God. We do not have an inherent righteousness. To be saved, we must have imputed righteousness, alien righteousness, the righteousness of Another, which we receive by grace through faith. (This last statement will be unpacked more fully in the following two posts.)

The Gospel Truth About God

April 23, 2010 2 comments

For many people, God is “a kind, affable, slightly dazed and needy but very loving grandfather who has wishes but no demands, can be safely ignored if you don’t have time for him, and is very, very, very understanding of the fact that human beings makes mistakes—much more understanding, in fact, than the rest of us are” (Gilbert, 38-39). But this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible—the one true and living God—is the righteous Creator-King of the universe, worthy of all praise. To understand the gospel, we must first understand God, since it is “impossible to have faith in God without knowing the character of God. Faith is belief in God’s promises, which in turn are grounded in his character” (Thoennes, ESV Study Bible 2510). Therefore, in this post on the gospel truth about God, I will first unpack the idea of God as righteous Creator-King. Let us then consider Isaiah 40:28.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

 

creation of adam

First, we must notice that God is everlasting. God has always existed; no one created him, and he has no beginning. Furthermore, God will always exist; no one will destroy him, and he has no end. Jesus says in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Second, we read that God is Creator. Since God is the Creator, he exerts sovereign kingship over his created universe. God as Creator also means that he is the standard of holiness and righteousness. In fact, God proves his righteousness by Jesus’ death on the cross:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

Jesus death on the cross “show[s God’s] righteousness at the present time.” God is loving, but he does not leave the guilty unpunished. That is why Jesus bore that punishment for “the one who has faith in Jesus.” (More on Jesus’ death in a future post.)

Going back to Isaiah 40:28, the last sentence reveals the infinitude and majesty of God. He neither faints nor grows weary; “his understanding is unsearchable.”

In 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul also gives us an excellent list of some of God’s characteristics: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory to the ages of ages (original Greek). Amen.”

God, since he is Creator and holy, is the “King of ages.” God is immortal, and as Spirit he is invisible. He is the “only God” (cf. Isaiah 45:18).

We must remember, though, that this one God is Triune; He exists in three distinct Persons who are also One. We read in Hebrews 9:14 of “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God.” This is a direct reference to all three members of the Triune Godhead: God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Father. Jesus most clearly expresses this idea of Three-being-One in Matthew 28:19, when he commands his disciples to baptize converts “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” One name but three Persons. Divine math lesson for the day: 1=3.

The doctrine of the Trinity is very important to the gospel. In fact, a proper understanding of the gospel includes a proper understanding of the Trinity. God the Father elects those whom he will save in eternity past (Ephesians 1:3). Jesus, in either A.D. 30 or 33, died and rose again for our justification (Romans 4:25). In our present time, the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts and gives us the faith and repentance necessary to be declared righteous in present time before God (John 6:63).

To properly understand the gospel, we must properly understand these truths about God. God is righteous, God is creator, God is Triune, God is king. God is infinitely holy and “cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). In the next post on the gospel, we will look at the depth of how wrong we really are. Greg Gilbert (quoted above as Gilbert, page #) summarizes in What Is the Gospel?, p. 45:

Most people have no problem at all thinking of God as loving and compassionate. We Christians have done a bang-up job convincing the world God loves them. But if we’re going to understand just how glorious and life-giving the gospel of Jesus Christ is, we have to understand that this loving and compassionate God is also holy and righteous, and that he is determined never to overlook, ignore, or tolerate sin.

The Gospel

April 20, 2010 8 comments

gospel pic for blog

The gospel is often misunderstood, and many have misunderstood it since the early days of the Church. Today especially, there is mass confusion—or at least ignorance—about what the gospel really is. Some might think that the gospel is simply “Jesus loves you.” Others might cite “What Would Jesus Do?” Still more may easily say, “The gospel is about me getting right with God so I don’t go to hell.” These, however, are not the gospel (though the last one comes closer than the ones before it). Some reduce the gospel to a formula, the ABCs of becoming a Christian. “Admit, Believe and Confess,” the VBS mantra goes. This, however, is not even the whole gospel, or at least not the best presentation of the Biblical gospel. It is not that three steps are too few; it is that they do not present all the gospel truths to the extent that they should (it is more event- and [one-time] decision-driven than should be.) The 4-step model of the gospel presented by Dr. Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church is, I think, the best and simplest Biblical presentation of the gospel available to us:

  1. God. The God of the Bible is the one and only God. He is eternal and Triune (One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God is the Creator of the universe and still acts in this universe today. Not only did God create us, but he also “has acted to save people who have rebelled against him.” He does this of his own “great mercy” (1 Peter 1:3).
  2. Man. God made us in his image (Genesis 1:27-28). This means that we are “sub-rulers over God’s creation” by God’s ordinance and also that we are “spiritual and rational beings … communicate and establish relationships … [and have] souls [that] endure eternally.” But in Adam’s fall we sinned all … and we all continue “to fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we are separated from God. Indeed, we are “dead” in our sin (Ephesians 2:1) and on our own, none of us would ever seek to restore our relationship with God. In our sin, we justly condemn ourselves to hell by our actions. We judge ourselves “unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46) by our rebellion against God.
  3. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both fully God (John 10:30) and fully Man (Philippians 2:7-8). He lived a perfect life (Hebrews 4:15). Indeed, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus Christ gave himself to die on a Roman cross. He became sin so that in him we would become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the third day, God proved his satisfaction with Christ’s sacrifice by raising him from the dead. Jesus later ascended into heaven and will one day “come in the same way” as he went into heaven (Acts 1:11).
  4. Response. The proper response to this message is repentance and faith. Repentance is literally a change of mind; to repent is to turn away from love of sin and hate it; to repent is to turn toward the God we once hated and love him. Faith is to “believe and trust God’s promises in Christ, and to commit ourselves to Christ, the living Lord, as his disciples.” We must realize, though, that it is Christ who saves us, for repentance and faith are not our own works, they are “the gift of God … so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    Quotes without a source are taken from “God’s Plan of Salvation” by Mark Dever, pp. 2501-2503 of the ESV Study Bible.

In the coming days/weeks, I’d like to unpack each of these four parts of the gospel. I’d even like to possibly go even more in depth than this by looking at salvation from the perspective of eternity past to eternity future (possibly … I don’t know yet). I ultimately will provide a post (or series of posts) on personal evangelism, which is what we as Christians should do once we know the gospel and can articulate it.

I pray—and ask that you all join me in praying—that this series on the gospel will kindle in all our hearts a greater desire and love for God and his glory. I pray that we would become so gripped by the gospel and the glory of God that we “cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” in the gospel (Acts 4:20).

Categories: General Posts

Filled

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

What is it to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Ephesians 5:15-21 clearly teach us what it is to be filled with the Spirit:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This passage of a number of lengthy sentences explicitly tells us what it is to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit:

  1. Walking (living) and using time wisely,
  2. Understanding what the will of the Lord is,
  3. Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
  4. Singing and making melody to the Lord with our hearts,
  5. Always thanking God for everything in the name of Jesus, and
  6. Submitting to each other out of reverence for Christ.

These six things are what it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to live a wise life in the will of the Lord. In other words, we will spend our time for God and obeying Him as revealed in His Word, the Bible. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is also to submit to our fellow Christians “out of reverence for Christ.” Among other things, this means lovingly “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Not only are we to address each other in song, though, but when we are filled with the Spirit, we also sing and make “melody to the Lord” with our hearts. To sum it all up, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will have a thankful, submissive attitude that will reveal itself by the way we spend our time and by how we interact with others.

Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Ask and it will be given to you.” For us to be filled with the Spirit in this way (being filled more than we are already indwelled), we must ask God to fill us in this way. We must ask God to give us diligence in Bible study, since we will not know God’s will unless we read His word. Furthermore, we must ask for the desire to meet with other believers and praise God with them. Not only is this direct fulfillment of being filled with the Holy Spirit, but hearing sermons also enables us to better understand what the will of the Lord is.

“Making the best use of the time” and to “understand what the will of the Lord is” are the two most ambiguous aspects of being Spirit-filled. Practically and specifically, “making the best use of the time” involves Bible study, private and corporate worship, and prayer. Indeed, we “understand what the will of the Lord is” by reading the Bible. Therefore, let us read our Bibles, and in that way, we are being Spirit-filled.

One question remains, though: What is the will of the Lord? Most broadly, God’s will is for us to glorify Him: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). How, though, do we glorify God? We glorify God by trusting Him and obeying Him. One of the most important ways we should obey God is in obeying the Great Commission. It is for this reason that my next series of posts (due to start later this week) will focus on the gospel and personal evangelism. I will focus on the gospel first—it is the subject and basis of evangelism—and then conclude with one or two posts on evangelism. By providing a series of posts on the gospel and sharing the gospel (and also by providing a permanent page for that resource), I hope to encourage all of us to more often and more effectively obey God in this area, to His honor and glory.

Categories: General Posts

Descended

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

The Holy Spirit comes to believers in regeneration. Indeed, to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” beyond His indwelling, we must first be forgiven and restored, as Peter was. When we are saved, we also receive the Great Commission, Jesus’ command that we evangelize the nations. (After this series, I will be focusing on the gospel and its proclamation [with T4G references], Lord willing.) Before the Holy Spirit first descended on the apostles, we also have Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1-4, merely ten days after Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

How amazing this first coming of the Holy Spirit must have been! “Tongues as of fire” descended upon the disciples’ heads as the roar “of a mighty rushing wind … filled the entire house where they were sitting”! The Holy Spirit does not descend upon us believers in this way any more (and many deny modern speaking in tongues—that is a controversy I will not enter at this point), but the Holy Spirit does still descend upon believers. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and causes us to repent and believe, thus being justified:

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. –Ezekiel 36:27

From the larger context of these verses (and later passages in Acts), we also begin to learn what it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately after being “filled with the Holy Spirit,” Peter began preaching (in tongues) to the people gathered in that room (Acts 2:14-41). After the Sanhedrin release Peter and John from their custody shortly after this event, the early church all pray for boldness; in Acts 4:31, we read that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to preach the word of God with boldness.” These passages reveal that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can “preach the word of God,” we can share the gospel with others, “with boldness.” We learn that it is by the Spirit that we faithfully evangelize others.

Acts 13:52 also reveals another truth about being filled with the Holy Spirit: “the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” To be Spirit-filled is to be filled with joy.

Therefore, let us pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we may joyfully spread the gospel. It truly is good news (hallelujah)! … But without relying on the Holy Spirit, we do not truly proclaim it and we do not fully experience joy. Let us then pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we may indeed be filled with joy and proclaim the gospel of our Lord boldly.

Reflections on T4G 2010

April 15, 2010 Leave a comment

T4G 2010 was amazing. The preaching and speaking really moved me. I have learned much and will continue to learn from this conference. They gave away 20 books (I got 2 others from Southern Seminary) which more than covered the price of admission. The messages and talks were all wonderful and so timely, and the books are all wonderful, but none of this was my favorite part. My favorite part wasn’t even seeing a dear cousin of mine or spending a good bit of time with friends who are in the ministry and whose family is involved in ministry, though all of this and so much more was so wonderful. No, my favorite part of T4G was the worship, the singing and crying out to God (even in prayer). All of the songs were by nature worshipful. And all 7000 people in the conference sang their hearts out to God, myself included. Nearly every song brought tears to my eyes as we truly worshipped God “in spirit and in truth.” I have so much I can share with you, my blog readers, from this trip, and I will once I finish the Being Filled with the Holy Spirit series (which will hopefully wrap up this Sunday, Lord willing). But tonight I will focus and reflect on my favorite aspect of T4G: the worship in singing and praying.

We sang some familiar hymns that had additional verses, and some hymns we sang were less familiar. Some were centuries old, some not even a handful of years old. All of the songs were worshipful, and each time I and the other attendees sang a song, it was a true act of worship. You can’t put thunder and lightning (of a sermon) on paper. Now as I’m typing I realize that I can’t capture the presence of God’s Spirit in the public worship of God through song on paper (or screen, in this case), either. Suffice it to say that the singing was truly worshipful. Indeed, this conference was the most worshipful worship I’ve ever partaken in. Among the songs we sang were “It Is Well with My Soul” (which I will go into more detail about in a later post) and “All I Have Is Christ” (which will also be more detailed in a future post). All the songs were sung with an attitude of worship. To apply this to us, let us all, when we sing a song of praise, let us truly worship God in that moment. Let us think about what we’re singing and mean it.

The times of public prayer were also worshipful. The conference’s opening prayer time really set the worshipful atmosphere of the whole conference. John Piper’s prayer both before and after his message also provoked me into worshipful prayer. (Don’t worry, Piper’s prayer and talk will be dealt with in a future post, Lord willing). The prayer over Matt Chandler (which Dr. Piper also led) was also so powerful and Spirit-filled. God’s presence was palpable in Louisville these past three days. I pray that whether His presence is so greatly felt in the coming days or not, that I will start to act in light of the truth that His presence is always with me—and all Christians. Let that be your prayer, too; that in our daily lives, we live in acknowledgement that we are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3).

T4G was so timely. I hope to do a series on the gospel (and evangelism) after Being Filled with the Holy Spirit wraps up in the near future. This isn’t the last I have to share with you about T4G, but for now, this will have to suffice. Fellow Christian, be encouraged to “set your minds on things that are above.” Be encouraged to worship God in spirit and in truth, not merely singing words but meaning them in your heart to the point that you are overwhelmed with the glory and goodness and grace of God in Christ Jesus! Pray in all sincerity!

… and let us who are truly Christians be forever together for the (unadjusted) gospel.

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