Sunday, September 22

This past Sunday night we saw that when the Gospel is being declared and its truth demonstrated it will probably not be long before it will also be disputed (Acts 6:9). In that message, I mentioned the importance of being ready to defend the truth of the Gospel. Like Stephen, we need to be able to engage people in conversation with the kind of wisdom and spirit that cannot be resisted (Acts 6:10).

One way we can prepare ourselves to have discussion about the Gospel is to make sure that we know the Gospel itself very well. Can you define the Gospel? Do you know the important Biblical terms associated with the Gospel? Can you communicate the essential elements and themes of the Gospel?

Another way we can prepare ourselves for discussion is to know the relationship between the Old Testament and the Gospel. Can you show from the Old Testament that the Gospel was not a new teaching? Do you have a handle on the important prophetic passages that foretell both the coming of the Messiah and His redeeming work on the cross? Do you know how Christ and His Gospel fit with the Old Testament covenants to Abraham, Israel (through Moses), and David?

I will be addressing some of these matters in upcoming articles. However, I would strongly encourage you to read carefully and thoughtfully through the book of Romans. In that book you will be strengthened in both your understanding of the Gospel and see its connection to the Old Testament as well.

Sunday, September 15

John Owen was a Nonconformist church leader and theologian who lived in the 1600s. I am reading his book "The Mortification of Sin" and have found it to be very helpful. Mortification is an important part of our growth in grace. It involves mortifying (putting to death) our lusts so that they do not rule us as they once did (Col. 3:5). Below are some quotes from his book (which you can find in digital format for free on Amazon Kindle and Google Play Books).

"The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin."

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

"When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone;"

"He that stands still and suffers his enemies to double blows upon him without resistance, will undoubtedly be conquered in the issue."

"This is one main reason why the Spirit and the new nature is given unto us,-that we may have a principle within whereby to oppose sin and lust...Not to be daily mortifying sin, is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God who hath furnished us with a principle of doing it."

"Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things:-[1.] It will weaken the soul, and deprive it of its vigour. [2.] It will darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace."

Sunday, September 1

In Romans 1:16, Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because "it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Greeks? One might wonder if Paul really knew the depths of depravity to which the sin of idolatry leads!

Actually, he did know. What follows in Romans 1 is a list of vices and abominations that arise from the rejection of God. Where the worship of the creature rather than the Creator abounds, homosexuality, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, malice, envy, deceit, pride, covenant breaking, and mercilessness abound (1:26-31). Paul also knew, first hand, that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for such people.

When he came to Thessalonica, idolaters "turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God" (I Thess. 1:9). When he brought the Gospel to Ephesus, "many of them also which used curious arts [magic] brought their books together, and burned them before all men" as a testimony to God's saving grace (Acts 19:19). The church at Corinth had members in it who at one time had been fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, and drunkards. By the grace of God they had been washed, sanctified, and justified (I Cor. 6:9-11).

Do not doubt the power of the Gospel! Do not look upon the lost around you and excuse your silence by convincing yourself that they could never be saved! Trust the power of God and preach the good news of Jesus Christ!

Sunday, August 25

Recently we have begun looking at the matter of growing in the Christian life. Spiritual growth is certainly important for our own lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is also important for those we are helping spiritually (our children, new converts, those struggling in the Christian life, etc.).

I would like for you think with me about how Christocentric our spiritual growth is. From beginning to end, progress in the Christian life centers on Jesus Christ. Knowing this should challenge us to focus on Christ as well as lead us to encourage those we are helping to do the same.

Christian growth is made possible through our union with Christ (John 15). Those who believe on Christ are brought into union with Jesus by His Spirit. He is the vine and they are the branches. From Him flows all spiritual life. Without Him we can do nothing. Through Him we can bear much fruit.

Christ is the destination of spiritual growth (Romans 8:29). What has God predestined believers to be? Conformed to the image of Jesus. What does spiritual maturity look like? Jesus. What does a church grow into? The fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. His life is our example.

The knowledge of Jesus is the sphere of spiritual growth

(II Peter 3:18). We grow spiritually the more we know Jesus. We learn about Him and the truth about Him draws us deeper in our loving relationship to Him. The Spirit changes us into His image as we behold Him in the Scriptures.

Sunday, August 11

I have recently come across some comments that I would like to pass on to you for the sake of helping our gospel labors. Both comments remind us of the importance of being intentional in our evangelism. The first was from an interview between two pastors and the second is from our own missionary to Germany, Don Vanderhoof.

One of the pastors I was listening to told of a man he knew who was always referencing the Gospel conversations he was having with people. This pastor, who I believe was young in the Lord at the time, asked about how he had so many opportunities. The brother replied that every week he prayed that God would give him people to talk to. I wonder how many of us would see our Gospel witness expand simply by regularly asking God to give us people to talk to and then...looking for them!

The Vanderhoofs recently sent an email to let us know that they were praying for us. One of their requests was for Gospel opportunities. After mentioning this request, Bro. Vanderhoof reflected, "Hopefully no one goes through life looking at their cell phone all day while the lost passes us by. I am often thinking, 'Eyes up, heart open, mouth and mind ready, and always asking how I can share the Gospel with the person to whom I am talking.' May God help us all!" Again, how might our Gospel labors improve this week if we simply kept our eyes up, our hearts open, and our mouths and minds ready?

Sunday, July 28

In my writing about connecting with God's people I have mentioned the "one anothers". Every Christian should be familiar with these as they are the duties we have toward one another in the church. As we help people follow Christ, we want them to see the importance of connecting with a local church where they can fulfill these spiritual responsibilities.

The Scriptures mention the following "one anothers":

Be kindly affectioned one to another (Rom. 12:10)

Edify one another (Rom. 14:19)

Have care one for another (I Cor. 12:25)

Serve one another (Gal. 5:15)

Bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2)

Be kind one to another (Eph. 4:32)

Forgive one another (Eph. 4:32)

Submit yourself one to another (Eph. 3:21)

Forbear with one another (Col. 3:13)

Teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16)

Comfort one another (I Thess. 4:18)

Consider one another (Heb. 10:24)

Provoke one another to love/good works (Heb. 10:24)

Confess your faults one to another (James 5:16)

Pray for one another (James 5:16)

Have compassion one of another (I Peter 3:8)

Use hospitality one to another (I Peter 4:9)

Greet one another (I Peter 5:14)

Sunday, july 21

"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake" (Mark 13:13). When it comes to giving the Gospel there are many things that make it difficult to actually move the conversation from generalities to specific Gospel truths about sin, judgment, Christ, the cross, His resurrection, repentance, and faith. One hindrance is, to put it bluntly, that we do not want to be disliked.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not for unnecessarily making people dislike us due to our arrogance, insensitivity, hypocrisy, or foolish ways of engaging them. Giving the Gospel should always be done humbly, graciously, and lovingly. However, could it be that some of us always stay in the general niceties of religious talk without ever getting to the Gospel because we don't like the feeling of rejection? Could it be we never quite "go there" in the conversation because we want to be liked?

The Words (as well as the example) of our Lord Jesus Christ rebuke us for fashioning our desire to be liked into an idol. "Ye shall be hated of all men..." There were people who hated Jesus. There were people who hated the Apostles. Is there no one who hates us because we have loved them enough to tell them the truth? I think we would all be better witnesses (including myself!) if we would settle it in our hearts that we are going to be hated. Let us be careful, wise, and gracious, but let us not worship the idol of acceptance instead of our Lord.

Sunday, July 14

Though it has been a while since I have written, we had been looking at the topic of connecting, particularly with God's people, the church. In this brief article I want to emphasize spiritual relationships with God's people.

We are strangers and pilgrims travelling through this world on our way to the next. As we travel, we face many temptations, troubles, and even persecutions. We battle fleshly lusts that war against our souls and the constant pressure of a world that wants to conform us to its image. One blessing of being connected to a church is that we are not alone in our journey!

However, the matter I would like for us to consider is this - are our relationships spiritual? Perhaps I could ask more specifically, are our conversations with one another ever spiritual? I will not say that it is wrong for us to talk about the weather, sports, or the basic mundane things of life, but should these make up the bulk (or as might sometimes be the case - the entirety) of our conversations at church?

Come to church mindful of the fact that your brothers and sisters are, like you, coming back into the trench from the battle when we gather. While not necessarily getting rid of all mundane conversation (which can be helpful in building connections), lets purposefully add spiritual conversation that comforts, edifies, encourages, challenges, and reminds us of the truth we so desperately need on the battlefield!

Sunday, June 9

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that if the Gospel is central to the mission of the church then it should influence the daily life of every church member. I then raised the question of whether the Gospel was shaping the lives of two groups, young people and those who are in the midst of family life. Now I want to raise the same question with our retirees and the older generation.

If you are retired or are retiring soon, in what way does the Gospel shape your life? Do you, as so many in our culture (and even in our churches) see retirement as an opportunity to seek first your kingdom and the pleasures and comforts of this life or are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Do you think of your retirement as being about having more time for yourself or more time for the Lord? What might you do for the sake of the Gospel that you could not do when you were working every day?

If you have been retired for a long time, how does the Gospel mission shape your life? You may say that you are slowing down and cannot do the things you once did. While this may be true it does not exempt you from Gospel labor. Indeed, our older generation often has long established relationships with neighbors and others in which the Gospel could be advanced without much physical labor at all. Praying requires nothing of us physically but is vital to the effort. The generation coming behind you needs to see the senior saints of our church crossing their finish line and going to their reward with Gospel zeal!

Sunday, June 2

An important part of becoming a fruitful Christian is connecting, not only with God but also with His people. While we would want to maintain a loving relationship with all obedient Christians, the group of Christians with whom we should be especially connected are the ones right here in our local church.

Connecting with God leads us to connect with His people for several reasons. First, the way we connect with God is through Christ and when we come into union with Christ by faith we necessarily come into union with other Christians! We become, in fact, interconnected members of His body (I Cor. 12).

Second, the example of the Scriptures indicates that when people came to God they gathered with each other (Acts 2:42-47). They did this not only for worship but also for the breaking of bread (fellowship). This gathering facilitates relationships between God's people. The writer of Hebrews tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25).

Third, the God given duties of the Christian life that we find in the New Testament assume and require a connection to other Christians, particularly those in our church. There are many texts that call us to exercise various Christian responsibilities (like exhorting, admonishing, teaching, comforting, loving, serving, etc.) to "one another". Without a basic level of relational connection with the people of our church, how are we to express our obedience to God?

Sunday, May 19

If the Gospel is central to the mission of the church then it should influence the daily life of every church member. I think we would all agree with this statement. However, it should raise the question of how much this actually happens. How much of our decisions and planning, our comings and goings, our thoughts and activity are actually influenced by the work of the Gospel? In this and the next article on this topic I want to raise this question to specific age groups.

If you are a young person planning for the future...what role does the Gospel have in your ambitions and aims? Have you thought about going into a career that would give you flexibility so that you can take missions trips? Have you thought of going into a field where you could make lots of that you can help fund Gospel labors among the nations? Have you considered pursuing the kind of work that will provide you opportunities for telling people about Christ?

If you are in the midst of family you shape your life and the life of your family around the Gospel? Do your children know there is a mission? Do you make conscious choices to build relationships with neighbors, coworkers, and people from the community for the purpose of declaring to them the good news of Christ? Is your home open to people who need Christ? Are you evangelizing your own kids with purposeful Gospel conversation and training?

Sunday, May 12

Fruitful Christians connect, grow, serve, and go. As we have seen in past articles, fruitful Christians connect with God. One particular way this is done is through God's Word, the Bible.

The Bible is God's Word to us. When we read it, we hear directly from God Himself. He tells us of His power, sovereignty, faithfulness, and love as we read the historical accounts of God's dealings with Israel. He tells us of His plans regarding His kingdom as we read the prophecies of the Old Testament. He teaches us how we are to live through the commands of His Son, Jesus, recorded in the Gospels and unpacked in the epistles. He lets us in on His purposes to bring all things under His Son, Jesus, as we read His revelation in the New Testament.

The Bible also becomes a means by which we communicate our love for God. God's interaction with His people, Israel, in the Old Testament indicated that obedience to His commands was how we expressed our love. Indeed, love for God was understood as affectionate loyalty to God (and thus His Word). Jesus affirmed the same in the New Testament when He said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. When we do what Christ teaches us to do and obey His commands even when it is costly to do so, we show the value we place on Him.

Connect with God through His Word. Hear His teachings and then show Him how much you love Him by doing His will!

Sunday, April 7

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Romans 10:1). The Apostle Paul did a lot of preaching. He preached in synagogues and in market places, homes and philosophy "lecture halls" (like Mars Hill). But in all the preaching that Paul did, He also prayed.

Prayer in evangelism is important. Prayer acknowledges our weakness and God's power. We cannot control circumstances that advance the Gospel, convict hearts of sin, or bring Gospel realities to bear upon the mind long after the conversation has ended. Indeed, we often struggle with even the most basic matter of speaking up! But God is able to do all the things we cannot and to give us boldness in our work.

Prayer is a means of expressing our burden for souls. In the verse quoted above, Paul connects his "heart's desire" to his prayer to God. The people of Israel were his own countrymen. They were his neighbors and fellow citizens. Paul knew that they had a zeal, but not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2). His heart was burdened for their salvation and prayer became the means of expressing that burden.

Do you pray for the salvation of the lost? Do you pray for God to work in their lives? Do you pray for your witness to them? Do you pray for God to open doors, give you boldness, and convict their hearts? Do your prayers express your dependence on God and your burden for souls?