Wednesday, September 30, 2009

God is the Gospel Review - Pt 3

This entire section was such a blessing and I found it very difficult to ‘pull out’ a quote because the entire section is quote-worthy.
The creation of the material world, including our bodies with all five senses, was God’s idea. He did not do it mainly as a temptation to idolatry, but mainly as a display of his glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). That is the purpose of a million species of animals and plants, and a million galaxies. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4). Yes, if the thanksgiving is rooted in the sight of the glory of the Giver who is more to be admired than all his gifts, and supremely to be enjoyed in all his gifts (p 138).
It was also very special because by God’s providence, our family rented the Disney DVD Earth during the week I read this section, and as we watched this documentary (secular yet strangely missing all of the ‘millions of years ago’ allusions to evolution), we were enraptured by the majestic and spectacular images of God’s handiwork in creation. We were truly glorying in Christ for giving us such a planet to enjoy!
All the enticements to God that are not God are precious and precarious. They can lead us to God or lure us to themselves. They may be food or marriage or church or miracles. All of these blessings bring love letters from God. But unless we stress continually that God himself is the gospel, people will fall in love with the mailman—whether his name is forgiveness of sins or eternal life or heaven or ministry or miracles or family or food (p 143).
Piper then exposits Habakkuk 3:17-18 and Psalm 63:1-3 and Psalm 73:24-26 to illustrate this God-centered focus. He includes my favorite Augustine quote, “He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee which he loves not for Thy sake (p 144)”. Finally, he brings in Jesus and Paul.
Jesus put it like this: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). Jesus must be the supreme treasure of our lives, if we are true disciples of Jesus. Jesus died for us and rose again to make it possible for us to see him and savor him above all things with everlasting joy. This is the great good the gospel is meant to accomplish.

Therefore those who are permeated most deeply by the gospel speak like the apostle Paul: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:7-8).
Piper ends the section with an amazing Jonathan Edwards quote (imagine Piper quoting Edwards?!?):
The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is the wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they ar to rise to at the end of the world. The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the ‘river of water of life’ that runs, and the tree of life that grows, ‘in the midst of the paradise of God’. The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them (p 145).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

God is the Gospel Review - Pt 2

As we continue to look at Piper’s God is the Gospel, here is a quote from Chapter 3. Has anyone ever asked you if you would be happy in Heaven if Christ was not there? It is a good question.
Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel. (p 47)

If we are not captured by [God’s] personality and character, displayed in his saving work, then all our declarations of thanksgiving are like the gratitude of a wife to a husband for the money she gets from him to use in her affair with another man. … Perhaps you have heard people say how thankful we should be for the death of Christ because it shows how much value God puts on us. In other words, they are thankful for the cross as an echo of our worth. What is the foundation for this gratitude?

Jonathan Edwards calls it the gratitude of hypocrites. Why? Because “they first rejoice, and are elevated with the fact that they are made much of by God; and then on that ground [God] seems in a sort, lovely to them … They are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God and Christ make of them. So that their joy is rally a joy in themselves, and not in God.” It is a shocking thing to learn that one of today’s most common descriptions of the cross—namely, how much of our value it celebrates—may well be a description of natural self-love with no spiritual value. (p. 137)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Good sermon on being a 'Doer' of the Word

Just heard our associate Pastor, Bryan Neal deliver a sermon on 2 Tim 4:6-8 to our church at Countryside yesterday. I worked while I listened so I can't do it justice, but I will say it is worth the listen.

It has some sound preaching and gripping stories that illustrate what our desire for God's word ought to look like. Pastor Neal shared a story of a blind lady and the lengths she went to in order to 'read' the book of Mark, something we often take for granted. Also, he shared two stories from the antique roadshow and how they represent the right and wrong way to treasure the Faith.

Check it out (click here) and be challenged!

God is the Gospel Review - Pt 1

I picked up God is the Gospel for a couple of reasons. First, I was preparing for a formal opportunity to share the Gospel so I wanted to be clear on the message. I also want to internalize the truth of the Gospel so that I can communicate it going forward.

So grabbing Piper’s book, I quickly read the first chapter and was eager to dive into chapter two which looked as though it would provide a definition of what the Gospel was exactly. Here are the elements of the Gospel spelled out in this chapter.

  • There is a living God (Acts 14:15)
  • He Sovereignly reigns (i.e. ‘Your God reigns’ in Isa 52:7, Mark 1:14)
  • The King of the Universe (the Lord), the Messiah (Christ), has come to be a Savior (Acts 8:12, Luke 2:10-11, Rom 1:1-3)
  • Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (Mark 10:45, Jer 31:34, 1 Cor 15:1-3).
  • Jesus is Risen from the dead (2 Tim 2:8, 1 Cor 15:17)
  • The Gospel includes the promise of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16, 18; John 14:17-18).
  • The Gospel includes the promise of Salvation (Eph 1:13, Rom 1:16).
  • It includes the kind blessings that were purchased by the cross (Matt 4:23, Luke 4:18) partially now and completely in the age to come.
  • It includes peace with God (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18), and each other (Eph 2:14-18)
  • Eternal life (2 Tim 2:10)
  • Blessings of all nations (Gal 3:8,16; Eph 3:6)
  • The Gospel is good news of grace not human merit (Acts 20:24; Rom 11:5-6; Eph 1:4,6)
  • Jesus’ death makes God just in providing this grace (2 Cor 8:9, Heb 2:9, Rom 3:25-26)
  • Every blessing to redeemed believers flows to us by that grace (Rom 8:32)
Piper then explains the point of the book, namely that none of these elements define the Gospel completely, not even when you take them altogether. So what is the essence of the Gospel? Let us peak ahead to the last chapter:
The point of this book is that the Christian gospel is not merely that Jesus died and rose again; and not merely that these events appease God’s wrath, forgive sin, and justify sinners; and not merely that this redemption gets us out of hell and into heaven; but that they bring us to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as our supreme, all-satisfying, and everlasting treasure. “Christ … suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).
Now if that seems a little deep, or hard to comprehend, good. Read the book and be taught by this gifted teacher. I came away with a deeper passion for Christ and a better understanding of the Gospel.

This week I seek to entice you to pick up Piper’s book by giving some of the juiciest quotes each day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic by Walter Chantry

When you measure impact 'per word', Today's Gospel is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Other books are better, even on this topic (i.e. the Gospel According to Jesus?) But Walter Chantry’s little book (93 pages) attacks its enemy with the fatal precision of a God-guided missile from David’s slingshot (1 Samuel 17:45-50). Slumping to the ground is the stunned villain, the false gospel of America. In the name of organizational unity and unbiblical tradition, the evangelical church has created a monster, a man-centered gospel unable to truly change lives.

Chantry employs the best weapon of all, Scripture. The 'stone' that kills the giant is a masterful exposition of the Rich Young Man passage in Mark 10:17-31. Many other passages could have been looked at, and certainly other Scripture is brought in. But this book focuses on the evangelism of the Master in this instructive encounter, to show us how we fail to present the Gospel the way Jesus did.

In the introduction, Chantry spells out the gravity of the problem. He says American churches as a whole, are marketing a ‘product’ that is not the true Gospel and does not lead to changed lives.

By selling another gospel to our generation, Satan has been employing many sincere men in preaching a dethroned Christ The glories of the Savior are being hidden even from His servants because preachers will not give careful attention to the Gospel of God’s Word alone. Products of modern evangelism are often sad examples of Christianity. They make a profession of faith, and then continue to live like the world. ‘Decisions for Christ’ mean very little. Only a small proportion of those who ‘make decisions’ evidence the grace of God in a transformed life. When the excitement of the latest campaign has subsided, when the choir sings no more thrilling choruses, when large crowds no longer gather, when the emotional hope in the evangelist’s ‘invitation’ has moved to another city, what do we have that is real and lasting? … There has been a great deal of noise and dramatic excitement, but God has not come down with His frightful power and converting grace. (p 13)

Chantry attributes this lack of power to the use of an erroneous message in evangelism.

“On the shallow ground of man’s logic, large numbers have been led to assume they have a right to everlasting life and have been given an assurance which does not belong to them. Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the deluded with a perverted Gospel. Many who have ‘made decisions’ in modern churches and been told in the inquiry rooms that their sins have been forgiven, will be surprised as Tetzel’s customers to hear ‘I never knew you; depart from me’ [Matthew 7:23]. (p 15)”

Wow, comparing American evangelism to the errors of Rome in the days of Martin Luther!? That is pretty significant, no? But it is a good analogy because there are so many practices which have become traditional rituals and have almost universal acceptance. Yet these are not found in Scripture (i.e. the ‘sinner’s prayer’, the ‘invitation’, and 25 repetitions of ‘Just As I Am’ at the end of every evangelistic service.)

Chantry shows us through Jesus' encounter with the young ruler the essential elements that well-meaning believers are leaving out of the Gospel message to unbelievers. We need to be talking about the character of God (chapter 1), and we need to be talking about the Law of God (chapter 2). Lost today is the idea of repentance (chapter 3) that we see in other places in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 1:15; 6:12) and the rest of the Bible. Repentance needs to be reclaimed in a proper understanding of salvation. Finally, Chantry shows how repentance and faith (chapter 4) are the ‘siamese twins’ of the Gospel (p 57), both essential. A biblical view of assurance (chapter 5) is set against the ‘easy-believism’ of our day. Finally, this evangelistic message is shown to have success only in the power that comes from God (chapter 6), as we come full circle to the opening observation that today’s Gospel is powerlessness despite prodigious effort and campaigns.

This book speaks with prophetic clarity to a very real and dangerous threat to the church. Personally, I was saved out of this false gospel three years ago. As a young boy, I was given a false assurance of salvation based on a number of outward steps and a ‘decision’ that I made. For thirty years I was a self-deceived sinner headed for hell, if not for God’s mercy (Eph 2:3b-10). I have no doubt that many people have been challenged by this book to stop holding on to a ‘decision’ they made for Christ as evidence of salvation. Or a prayer that they prayed, or walking an aisle and having some emotional experience. Instead we ought to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). In addition, I have no doubt that many sincere Christians, through this book and the light of Scripture, have seen the errors in their evangelism and will seek to tell others the real Gospel. The Gospel that exalts God, not man. The glorious Good News of Jesus Christ, that is made available for broken sinners who-after seeing God in all His holy splendor-will be 'undone' (Isa 6:5) and begin to see themselves for the rotten sinners we all are (Rom 3:23), and run to Him in broken repentance and God-given faith in the Son of God.

I will close with one of the most eye-opening sections of the book. Chantry is teaching about the young ruler and his encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ. The rich young man runs up to Christ and kneels saying, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mk 10:17b)” Listen to Chantry:

Here is an outstanding fellow begging to know how he can get to Heaven! This is the evangelist’s dream! Wouldn’t you open your Bible and ask him essential questions? ‘Do you believe that you are a sinner? Do you believe that Christ died for sinners? Will you accept Jess as your personal Savior? Pray this prayer after me ….’ He would answer in the affirmative to each question with very little instruction. Just show him the usual verses. This rich man was ripe for our evangelism. Our inquiry rooms would have elicited his ‘decision’ in a few moments, and given him assurance of eternal life besides. He would be added to the statistic sheet and his conversion reported across the world. Such a celebrity might even merit a personal write-up in the big evangelical magazines!

Aren’t you a little disappointed to see Jesus handling this tender soul so roughly? How could our Lord use such obviously poor tactics with a sinner? He began with a rebuke [Mk 10:18], went on to talk about the Ten Commandments (of all things!) [Mk 10:19-20] demanded immense sacrifice as a condition of having eternal life [Mk 10:21b], and allowed the ‘fish’ to get away [Mk 10:22]! Didn’t He know how to lead a soul to Himself? If you are surprised, surely you are the one who doesn’t understand evangelism. (p 19-20)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The God Who Saves Bad People

This is a 'MUST LISTEN' (I say listen because I'd prefer just the audio in this case):

HT: Thanks, Dan!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Calvinist and Arminian Witnessing - Funny Videos

To all my Calvin-hater friends, enjoy this funny (if not a little creepy) video ...

And since it's an equal-opportunity blog, this one pokes fun at Arminians ...

Found these at the Founders blog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Christian Rap Artists interviewed on Albert Mohler Radio Show

Someone pointed me to these interviews and and I just recently found time to listen. Russell Moore (Together for Adoption) sometimes fills in for Al Mohler on his radio show, and has interviewed LeCrae Moore and Flame (Marcus Gray) on two separate occasions.

These men have been redeemed out of the 'hip hop' culture and are sharp, articulate, born again, and growing in grace. I think Marcus Gray is a student at Boyce College. They are creating music that is Christ-exalting and yet the highest quality! What other genre can you learn about terms like the 'hypo-static union', 'expiation', 'propitiation', and more, in such a fun way?

Anyway, chances are if you enjoy hip hop already, you'll enjoy these interviews. But even if you don't like hip hop, I say give them a listen and you may even praise God for gifting His sons in so many various ways! If nothing else it's kind of funny to hear Russell Moore talking about reaching the guy in the car next to you bumping the loud rap music. I didn't agree with all of the contextualization philosophies discussed by Moore, but it was a blessing to hear testimonies from these young men.

Click here for the Lecrae interview on July 16th.
Click here for the Flame interview back in July of 2008.

If you are interested in sampling some of these guys' music, they both have a MySpace where you can here some of their music. My personal favorite is 'Joyful Noise' because it has both of these guys praising Christ in some smoking tandem rhymes!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kevin DeYoung article: On Mission, Changing the World, and Not Being Able to Do It All

Apprently, this got blown all over the blogosphere when it was first published late last month (I'm just getting around to reading it). It strikes a really good balance, I think, between the important call to self-denying sacrifice that Christ calls for (Luke 9:23), and the ridiculous over-extension we often find ourselves in, which can lead to burnout. Check out this quote:
I’m not for a minute advocating a cheap grace or an easy-believeism. But the yoke still is easy, right? And the burden still is light, is it not? The danger–and it’s a danger I’ve fallen foul of in my own preaching–is that in all our efforts to be prophetic, radical, and missional, we end up getting the story of Pilgrim’s Progress exactly backwards. “Come to the cross, Pilgrim, see the sacrifice for your sins. Isn’t that wonderful? Now bend over and let me load this burden on your back. There’s a lot of work we have to do, me and you.” A cross, yes. Jesus said we would have to carry one of those. But a cross that kills our sins, smashes our idols, and teaches us the folly of self-reliance. Not a burden to do the impossible. Not a burden to always do more for Jesus. Not a burden of bad news that never lets up and obedience that is always out reach.
Read the whole article here.
HT: Steve

Come & Live! Free download

Get your FREE download of I AM Living Vol.1 at the Come&Live website. (Click here)

DesiringGod blog describes this ministry here ...
Come & Live! is an expression of the major themes of Don’t Waste Your Life (radical generosity, risk taking love, making others glad in God, missions, living simply for the sake of giving, etc). The basic idea is that the label is like a missions agency, the musicians are like missionaries, and you do not have to pay for the music. I am encouraged by how God calls men and women in different industries and cultures to find ways to make others glad in God within their context.

You can download for free without registration their first music sampler I Am Living Vol. 01. If you enjoy indie rock, hardcore, and alternative music styles you will find some tracks you will appreciate (there is a great variety). Also included is a sermon excerpt from John Piper.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jim Elliff's Autoblography

It's no secret I'm a ginormous fan of the teaching, preaching and writing of Jim Elliff. He is now writing his autobiography and making it available in installments on his website. Click here. His purpose is two-fold, to 'illustrate God's faithfulness' and to leave a record for his family.

I took chapters 1 & 2 on the bus last week. Without being too cliche, I smiled often, laughed (out loud-literally) and wept (not out loud), while nearly oblivious to those around me. Jim has a gift for writing and the Lord has given him much to write about! Like most of Jim's work, these chapters are short and very conversational, so travel back in time to read about how Jim's story began. Like me, you'll be anxious for more!

P.S. You can also follow Jim on Twitter here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are the 'Doctrines of Grace' biblical?

If you are wondering what the doctrines of grace are, and whether they are biblical, you can find your answer on a great website called The website has been redesigned of late and is a treasure-trove of rich Christian resources, both written and audio. In particular, I have found this particular Scriptural look at the doctrines of grace to be a huge blessing...


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Charles Spurgeon on Free Will

I get a daily devotional email that includes a quote from Charles Spurgeon. Lately there have been some great insights into Spurgeon's view of Free Will. Enjoy.
  • We declare on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, super-natural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will will ever be constrained toward Christ.
  • There is nothing I desire more to get rid of than my own will, and to be absorbed into the will and purpose of my Lord. To do according to the will of him who is most good, most true, most wise, most mighty, seems to me to be heaven. Let others choose the dignity of independence; I crave the glory of being wholly dead in Christ, and only alive in him.
  • Free-will doctine--what does it? It magnifies man into God. It declares God's purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God's will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent on human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice, it holds God to be a debtor to sinners.
  • Some set up the will as a kind of deity. It does as it wills with earth and heaven. But in truth the will is not a master but a servant. Men do not will a thing because they will it, but because their affection, their passions, or their judgments influence their wills in that
    direction. No man can truly say, 'I, unbiased and unaided, will to love God and not to love Satan.' Such a proud self-assuming language would prove him a liar. The man would be clearly a worshiper of himself.

About Me

Here is my testimony: mike