Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Gospel in the Background

The Gospel in the Background

Does Seeker-Oriented Evangelism Make the Most of Every Opportunity?

by Todd Wilken

From 1925 to 1976 filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock made 53 films. Hitchcock’s films are considered groundbreaking classics. The name "Hitchcock" brings to mind title after title— "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Lifeboat," "Rope," "Vertigo" and "Psycho." Hitchcock’s films featured stars like Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Claude Rains, and Jimmy Stewart.

Alfred Hitchcock was also famous for making cameo appearances in no less than 37 of his films. He never appeared for more than a few seconds, he never spoke any lines on camera, and he was always well in the background of the scene’s action.

In your church, on Sunday morning, does Jesus appear only briefly, say little, and stay well in the background? In the preaching that you hear each week, does Jesus Christ Crucified have a starring role or only a cameo role?

In the Church today there is a popular strategy for evangelism that effectively, and in some cases intentionally, assigns Jesus Crucified a place in the background; it’s called Seeker-oriented evangelism.

The Preeminence of the Explicit Gospel Message

The Church has been given the clear command to proclaim the Gospel. If the Church does nothing else, she ought to do that. Moreover, everything else the Church does do ought to be driven by, and oriented toward that proclamation of the Gospel.

But what is the Gospel? St. Paul provides a concise definition:

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Christ died for our sins. This is the message of the perfect obedience of Jesus for sinners. This is the message of the suffering and death of Jesus for sinners. This is the message of the resurrection of Jesus for sinners. This is the message that the Church has been given to proclaim. This is the Gospel.

Just because Jesus is mentioned in a sermon, song or prayer doesn’t mean that the Gospel has been proclaimed. The Gospel is not the message of Jesus’ moral teaching, of Jesus’ example, or of Jesus as counselor, cook or cowboy. The Gospel is the message of Jesus crucified for sinners.

This clear Gospel message cannot be omitted, deferred or assumed in the Church’s preaching. It must predominate in all public preaching. People do not naturally know this Gospel, nor do they receive this Gospel by osmosis or gestalt it from passing references. They have to hear it clearly proclaimed.

This is abundantly clear in Scripture. Paul writes: I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:22-24), and finally, May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14).

Why must this Gospel be proclaimed? Because God creates saving faith in unbelievers and continues to strengthen the faith of believers only by means of this explicit Gospel message. Paul writes: I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16), and faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

More to come in future posts:::>

Friday, March 24, 2006

How to Respond to Horrifying Sayings of Jesus

How to Respond to Horrifying Sayings of Jesus
By John Piper
March 22, 2006
Letters From Cambridge #1
One of the things I am doing at this point in my sabbatical here in Cambridge, England, is reading through the four Gospels and collecting all the explicit and implicit commands of Jesus into various categories. I am driven in this endeavor by Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and . . . [teach all the nations] to observe all that I have commanded you.” So it is important that we are able to do that. We should teach and obey “all that he commanded us” because he has “all authority” in the universe. No one else has the right, the wisdom, or the love to tell us how to live. Only Jesus has that authority.
But when you read through the Gospels you find some horrifying things. If you don’t feel them as horrifying, you are not awake. I think they are calculated to wake us up form our domestication of Christ and his book. This one grabbed me because it relates directly to the issue of Jesus’ authority. At the beginning of the parable of the ten minas (or ten pounds) in Luke 19:14, Jesus describes the citizens’ relationship to the nobleman like this: “His citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” Then at the end of the parable Jesus says in Luke 19:27, “As for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me."
This is horrifying. Jesus says that people who do not want his absolute authority over them will be slaughtered before his eyes. What should our hearts and minds do with this kind of talk in the mouth and heart of our Lord?
1) First, we see what is really there: horrific language about the condition and the destiny of certain people. They are enemies. They do not want Jesus' authority over their lives. They will be slaughtered. Jesus will not have it done in a private place but before his eyes.
2) We bow before the judgment of the Lord and reckon his way to be wise and just and even loving for those who tremble at his word and repent.
3) We shudder at the terrible future that awaits so many people.
4) We are made to ponder what a moral and spiritual outrage rebellion against Jesus is—otherwise being slaughtered for it would be an unjust overreaction.
5) We feel vulnerable knowing the remnants of rebellion in our own hearts.
6) We fly from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16) to the cross where he has made an escape from his own wrath (“Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come,” 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
7) We feel the stunning, humbling, incredible truth that our escape from the torture that comes from Christ into the ecstasy that we will enjoy with Christ is by grace alone and not because of our righteousness (as Jesus said, “When you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty,’” Luke 17:10).
8) We feel pricked in conscience that there is too often a self-righteous contempt for rebellious people that rises in our hearts—and we add that sin to all the rest that make us good candidates to be slaughtered along with the rebellious.
9) We repent of our own rebellion and its many subtle forms, and find, by grace, a love for rebellious people rising in our hearts so that, unlike the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, it would really be our joy if one of these rebels against the authority of Jesus would be saved and join the celebration of grace—like Saddam Hussein, for example.
10) We are moved, in all our imperfections, as forgiven sinners, to move into the lives of rebels and warn them of their condition, and commend the work of Christ to them, and endure their derision, if by any means we might save some. This is not simple, and it is not easy. And I don't claim to do it well. But it is how I endeavor to respond to horrific things in the Bible.
Longing to be shaped by Scripture, not the world,
Pastor John

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Doctrines of Grace #5

5. Perseverance of the Saints (or Preserved in Christ for Eternity) Once God has saved elect sinners, he continues to keep and preserve them by his power and grace and will never let them go. Thus, they persevere to the end and can never be lost. If God did not do this, we would inevitably turn back again to the world, because of the sin that is around us and within us. Thus God enables his children to continue in faith and obedience throughout their earthly lives, then to pass into God's presence forever. This doctrine is not to be taken as a license to go on sinning, as if the believer is free to act in any way he chooses now that he is eternally secure in Christ Jesus. The true believer will show signs of a growing desire for holiness and an increasing loathing of sin. The one who attempts to use the grace of God as an excuse for sinful living is in all probability not a true believer, for where there is spiritual life, the fruit of the Spirit will become evident. Scripture references: 1 Peter 1:5; James 4:6; Philippians 1:6+19; John 6:39; John 10:28+29; Romans 8:38+39; Romans 8:8; Galatians 5:13-26.

John 10:28-29
28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[a]; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
Romans 8:30
30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Romans 8:38-39
38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 17
Jesus Prays for Himself

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.
Jesus Prays for All Believers
22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Doctrines of Grace #4

4. Irresistible Grace (All whom the Father draws, will come to Christ) When the gospel is preached, an invitation is issued by the Lord to all people to come to him for salvation. However, as the first article clearly states, the natural state of all people renders them incapable of responding to this invitation, except to reject it. So when God calls an elect sinner to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, he does so by sending his Holy Spirit to work a great change in that sinner's heart, enabling them to see their sin and their need of a Saviour and leading them to put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. The Lord, by his Spirit, irresistibly draws his elect to himself, raising them to spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus. Scripture references: Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37; Matthew 23:37; John 5:40; Ephesians 1:12,19; Ezekiel 11:19+20; Psalm 110:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

John 6:37
37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

Romans 8:28-30 The Golden Chain; The Order of Salvation
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[a] who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Doctrines of Grace #3

3. Limited Atonement (or Particular Redemption)
Put simply, Christ died only to save the elect, securing with absolute certainty their salvation. This is not to teach that there is anything lacking in the power of God, perhaps suggesting that he is not able to save all men. Rather, God's Word indicates that it was the Father's intention that his Son was to suffer and die only for his chosen people, atoning for their sins alone. Christ's atonement was limited only in extent, not in power, according to the sovereign will of God.

In the Bible we read that the Lord's servant (Jesus) would see the results of his work (his atoning sacrifice) and "be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11). But also, Jesus stated plainly that there are many who are heading for eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13). We can only reconcile these two statements if we understand that Christ died only for a limited number of people - for God's elect.

Scripture references: Acts 20:28; John 3:14+15; Galatians 1:4+5; Revelation 13:8; John 6:38+39; John 17:9,10+24; John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:21; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 8:33+34; Luke 1:68; Revelation 5:9; Isaiah 53:11.

Romans 8:5-10
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Romans 8:33-34
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Doctrines of Grace #2

2. Unconditional Election
(God is no respecter of man nor influenced by man.) God has shown us in his Word that from eternity past he has elected some sinners to be saved from the condemnation that is justly deserved by all, purely on account of his gracious mercy and love, not because of any foreseen merits in those sinners. Because of the fact of total depravity, salvation must originate with God, and we read in the Bible that it is God's sovereign will alone that has determined the recipients of that salvation. This doctrine does not render God unjust, for all are guilty and all deserve to suffer God's judgement. Rather, it emphasizes the grace of God by the fact that he has chosen some for salvation. Scripture references: Psalm 65:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:4,5,9,11; Romans 11:5; Romans 9:15,23; Psalm 103:11; 1 Peter 1:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Jonah 2:9.

Romans 9 (click to listen)
God's Sovereign Choice 1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised![
a] Amen.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Doctrines of Grace #1

1. Total Depravity
(or “Inability” – Man cannot save himself) The Scriptures clearly teach that the effects of sin have extended to all parts of our being, rendering us incapable of spiritual understanding and love towards God. Despite the heading of this first article, it does not indicate that all people are as wicked as they could possibly be in all areas of belief and practice. However, sin has so fully and deeply affected our lives that, spiritually speaking, we are in a totally hopeless condition, unable to do anything to get ourselves out of this fallen state. Our natural spiritual incapacity prevents us from being able to respond by our own strength to the call of the gospel message, yet this does not remove our guilt. We choose to follow the natural inclinations of our depraved hearts because when left to ourselves that is all we want to do. Scripture references: Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30; John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44+65; John 3:18.

Romans Revolution:
God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

Romans 1:18 - 25
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Law and Gospel

Law and Gospel (May/June 2003: "Good News: The Gospel for Christians")When God gives orders and tells us what will happen if we fail to obey those orders perfectly, that is in the category of what the reformers, following the biblical text, called law. When God promises freely, providing for us because of Christ's righteousness the status he demands of us, this is in the category of gospel. It is good news from start to finish. The Bible includes both, and the reformers were agreed that the Scriptures taught clearly that the law, whether Old or New Testament commands, was not eliminated for the believer (those from a Dispensational background may notice a difference here). Nevertheless, they insisted that nothing in this category of law could be a means of justification or acceptance before a holy God. The law comes, not to reform the sinner nor to show him or her the "narrow way" to life, but to crush the sinner's hopes of escaping God's wrath through personal effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else-someone who has fulfilled the law's demands. Only after we have been stripped of our "filthy rags" of righteousness (Isa. 64:6)-our fig leaves through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame-can we be clothed with Christ's righteousness. First comes the law to proclaim judgment and death, then the gospel to proclaim justification and life. One of the clearest presentations of this motif is found in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. In the sixteenth century, the issue of law and grace was more clearly dealt with than at almost any other time since the apostles. The lines were cut cleanly, and as the great Yale historian Roland Bainton rightly noted in his biography of Martin Luther, Here I Stand, it was the only real issue of the century.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

About the Broadcast on the White Horse Inn

I thought those interviews on the 02-26-06 broadcast (especially the first two) were very interesting (for a second I thought the guy was going to say that the Dali Lama was a better Christian than Jesus was). These interviews were done at an Evangelical Church (I assume in California).
The first interview was a lady who understood that the Bible claims Christianity as being exclusive, but she didn't agree with it or wanted God to be "more loving" to allow the "Good People of the Earth, and some bad people that are coming around, into heaven".

The second interview was a gentleman who was next to the first lady and he said that "the Dali Lama were better Christians than most Christians he knew". (something to that effect)

I wonder if you would get the same kind of responses if you were to ask the same questions in the Midwest like in Kansas.
I hear "Safe American" sermons that still ignore the fact that we in the church are sinners too. For example, the preachers here (and even the guest preachers) will get into what I call the "Name that Sin Game". They will only point out the sins that are viewed as extremely terrible to people in the Midwest (i.e. homosexuality, abortion, pornography, democrats, etc.) Kind of like the Pharisees pointing out the sins of the tax collectors.

The other ironic thing is they claim to be loving because they are burdened by having to be preaching on such difficult subjects, when all along they are preaching subjects that they will get a lot of agreement and nods (nods of agreement rather than nods of falling asleep) and some hardy "AMENS" from the audience. After all we're American Christians and we just won't stand for that kind of sin in our country.

Rather than if they were to preach that we are just as wretched and sinful as a prostitute and all those other sins that we like to name, and that we are ALL guilty and ALL in need of Grace to miss the execution of God's Wrath.
But, the truly difficult things that they wont preach on is God's Holiness, God's Righteousness, a God of Wrath, a God who Elects, a God who Predestines, and Certainly they won't preach the Gospel because that is preaching that we only do to reach those awful sinners outside the chruch.
You never hear about sins like "Not loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength... And loving your neighbor as yourself".

I get the impression that they think that they can actually do those two greatest commands and do them well. And maybe even perfectly.

Grace and Peace,


Coram Deo!!!