Faithful for the Future Day Fourteen

As we finish out this second week on the importance of declaring the gospel, I want us to observe one final truth.

 

Finally, and this should be very obvious by now, there is nothing more precious than the gospel.

 

Read Acts 20:24

 

These are the passionate words of Paul. Paul is saying that his life would be one huge waste and very insignificant if he did not testify to the gospel of grace. His burning desire was to finish the course—to complete the task—to reach the finish line—to fulfill his ultimate purpose in life. And what was that purpose?

 

To testify to the gospel of grace.

 

What words have we seen so far that define the gospel? It is the message of first importance. It is the power of God. It is the word of truth. It is life itself.
And now Paul calls it the gospel of grace. What is grace?

 

It is the glorious truth that we deserve all of God’s wrath and condemnation and eternal hell, but that in Christ who died as our sacrifice we receive all of God’s riches, blessings, and eternal life. We cannot earn this grace. It isn’t something that God is obligated to give. Instead, he graciously gives this mercy to us because of His infinite love.

 

It is truly amazing grace. The gospel is the message of God’s amazing grace toward ill-deserving sinners.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote this, “There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross.”[1]

John Stott, wrote this: “Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.” Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”[2]

My prayer and I pray that it is yours as well, is that we would be a gospel-centered church that stays focused on the main thing—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that we live in abundance of His amazing grace.

 

As we finish this week, spend some time meditating on the cross. Ask God to burn in you heart a passion for the gospel. Thank God for the power and truth and life and preciousness of the gospel.

 

 

 

[1]Martyn Lloyd-Jones quoted in Charles Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ? (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005), 139.

[2]John Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 179.

Faithful for the Future Day Thirteen

Yesterday we explored some glorious implications of the gospel for our lives.

 

But yet, we must take it a step further. This is where the rubber meets the road in a gospel-centered church. The gospel must translate into behavior and conduct in our everyday lives. We need to see the connections of how the gospel informs and influences how we live.

 

Read Philippians 1:27

 

Paul tells us that our lives must be lived in a way that holds up the gospel of Christ. So there is a connection between the message—THE GOSPEL—and our behavior or our walk. In essence, the gospel must affect how we live our lives as Christians.

 

We do not want to be moralistic or legalistic, but transformed by the gospel.

 

Let me give you three practical examples:

 

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 

In dealing with sexual sin, we can set up a bunch of rules and become legalistic to motive purity in this area. We can tell ourselves that we must not engage in sexual immorality and try to conform out of fear or legalism or trying hard to be good. All those efforts fail.

 

What does Paul gives us the primary motivation for fleeing sexual immorality.

 

The gospel!

 

How do I see that? Because we were bought with the precious blood of Jesus at a costly price and because of His death, burial, and resurrection, we are not our own. We belong to Him. We are His property through the cross.

 

Therefore, because of the cross—because of mercy, forgiveness, and salvation–we have peace with God. Because we have been bought out of bondage to sin and been freed to have a relationship with our Father through Jesus—we are to glorify God with our bodies.

 

Do you see the connection? Being a gospel-centered church means that in practical areas of our lives, we obey Christ because of the gospel. The gospel informs our behavior.

 

What about in the area of forgiveness?

 

We could forgive each other begrudgingly because of duty or because it’s the right thing to do. We can forgive with hard hearts. We can try hard to forgive. But all of these fall short of the Bible’s answer for why we are to forgive each other. And again, it’s rooted in the gospel.

 

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

Why are we to forgive one another? Because of the gospel. In the gospel, Jesus forgave us by shedding His blood. When we trust Him and are connected to Him in faith, then we see that the motivation for forgiving others comes from His act of love toward us. It’s not legalism or moralism, but informed by power of the gospel.

 

Or how about in our marital relationships?

 

How does a marriage function under the Lordship of Christ and in the power of the gospel. Does the gospel even show up in our marriages?

 

Ephesians 5:25 5 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

 

This is very explicit. I as a husband am to love my wife because of the gospel. That wording “for” is the preposition “huper” which means “in the place of” or “on behalf of.” It carries the idea of substitutionary atonement where Jesus died in our place absorbing God’s wrath that we should have endured because of His great love for us.

 

So husbands, the motivation for loving your wife is not to be good or because you’re supposed to, but because of the gospel—Christ’s death and love for you.

When you begin to see how the gospel influences and informs your actions and behavior and your walk with Christ, it will radically transform the way you live.

A gospel-centered church believes the gospel, embraces the gospel, sees the power of the gospel, proclaims and teaches the gospel, and then lives under the gospel as it influences our every day lives and daily choices.

 

Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to empower you with His grace to live a life worthy of the gospel. In what particular areas do you need strength?

 

 

Faithful for the Future Day Twelve

Over the past few days, we have seen the nature of the gospel. It is the most important message we can ever hear or share. It has inherent power. It has been entrusted to us to share so that God gets the glory in saving sinners. It is the word of truth. The gospel is also life!

 

But yet, what are the implications or results of the gospel?

 

These truths will affect how you think and how you relate to God. Embracing Jesus Christ as Savior and believing the gospel will produce things in your life that only God can accomplish.

 

Let’s just look at a few of them. And when you truly understand these realities and what they’ve accomplished in your personal life, they will radically change the way you live.

 

First of all, by trusting in Christ you have peace with God.

 

Read Romans 5:1-2

 

Instead of relating to God as our enemy or as an ominous judge who will punish us, we relate to Him as Heavenly Father who loves us, accepts us and blesses us. Only through Jesus, can we have peace with God.

 

This prevents a believer from despair and legalism. We don’t have to prove our worth to God through legalism and we don’t have to cower in despairing fear. Instead, we hold fast to the truth that through Christ we have ACCESS to God as our Father.

 

Secondly, not only do we have peace with God, but we are also free from condemnation, judgment, and His wrath.

 

Read Romans 8:1

 

Romans 8:1 is a mirror image of Romans 5:1. We have peace and we have no condemnation.

 

What does it mean that we are no longer under condemnation? How should this affect the way we think? The way we relate to God?

 

All of our sins have been imputed or credited or reckoned to Christ so that we are no longer guilty for them. Christ has taken our sin. In addition, the perfect life and record of Christ has also been imputed or reckoned or credited to us so that we are now counted as righteous in God’s sight. Based upon the work of Christ, God now declares us as not guilty in His sight!

 

In addition to peace and no condemnation, we also have God’s provision for growing in godliness because of the gospel.

 

Read Romans 8:32

 

Do you see the connection with the gospel? God did not spare Jesus. God sent Jesus to die in our place. Jesus was sacrificed as our substitute. That is the gospel.

 

But for what purpose? So that we could graciously be given all things? What are these “all things?”

 

Contextually, these “all things” link back to Romans 8:28-31—God’s loving us in eternity past, God’s predestination, God’s calling us out of darkness, God’s justifiying us, and God’s ensuring we will make it to heaven. In other words, all the blessings of our salvation that flow from the cross are included in these “all things” that God has graciously given us.

 

In additions, these blessings also pertain to growing in our Christian walk. Why do we grow? Why CAN we grow and glorify God and be more like Jesus? What gives us the power or the motivation or the strength to live the Christian life?

The answer: Because of the gospel.

 

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

 

So as a gospel-centered church, we must first get the message correct. The gospel message is the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life, died in our place by shedding His blood, and was raised on the third day to bring us into a relationship with God.

 

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,

 

So not only must we get the message correct, but we must also let these truths sink deep into our souls by preaching the gospel to ourselves everyday and realizing who we are in Christ because of the gospel.

 

Do you rejoice that you have peace with God? Do you stand in awe that your guilt and condemnation have been forever taken away? Do you rely on the power of God to give you all things needed to grow in Christ?

 

These are only available to you because of the gospel!

 

Spend some time in prayer thanking God for giving you “all things” in Christ through the gospel!

 

 

 

Faithful for the Future Day Eleven

The gospel is the most important message we can hear or share. The gospel has inherent power. The gospel is entrusted to weak people like us (jars of clay) so that in the end God gets all the glory.

 

But there is another aspect of the gospel. The gospel is the word of truth. We live it, share it, embrace it, and are transformed by it because not only does it have power but it is the truth.

 

Read Ephesians 1:13-14
Read Colossians 1:5-6

 

The gospel is the word of truth. It is absolutely true. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are undisputed historical facts that God has come down from heaven in Jesus and bought us in His blood. This action is powerful and the message is truth.

 

Notice that Paul doesn’t say the gospel is true. There would be nothing wrong with that, but there are many things that are true.

 

I was born in Kansas City, MO. That is true. I am 6’2”. That is true. Donald Trump won the election. That is true.

 

There are many things in this world that are true, but have no inherent power or the sovereignty of God behind them.

 

Paul says that the gospel is the word of truth. It is truth with a capital “T”.

 

So, not only is the gospel the most important message of all time. It is the greatest news anyone of could hear and receive. Not only is it powerful. Not only does God use it to open our eyes to the glory of Christ. Not only is it truth.

 

But, the gospel is also life.

 

Read 2 Timothy 1:8-10

 

This is an amazing passage that blows my mind. According to the Scriptures, when did you and I receive grace in Jesus?

In eternity past—before the ages began–before the foundation of the world, God set His electing love upon us and chose us for salvation to receive grace.

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ abolishes death and brings eternal life. We receive ultimate life through the gospel.

 

Not only eternal life forever with Jesus in heaven, but life right now here on earth in the power and presence of God Himself.

 

The gospel is life-giving. It destroys death. It defeats sin. It crushes Satan, and the gospel gives life.

 

That’s what the gospel is. First and foremost, the gospel is the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to save us from our sins and conquer death. The gospel has power. The gospel is truth. The gospel gives life. That’s what the gospel is.

 

Would you never get over the gospel!

 

Would you daily mine the treasures of the gospel as food for your soul?

 

There is a great book of prayers by the Puritans called “Valley of Vision”—they are powerful, deep, and very moving. I encourage you to find this book and meditate on the prayers.

 

Listen to one of the prayers: “Holy Trinity, continue to teach me that Christ’s righteousness satisfies justice and evidences your love; help me to make use of it by faith as the ground of my peace and of your favor and acceptance of me, so that I may live always near the cross.”

 

Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to always keep you near the cross.

 

 

 

Faithful for the Future Day Ten

It is vitally important that we continue to declare God’s gospel.

 

Why? Because the gospel is the MOST important message we can hear or share. And secondly, because the gospel has inherent power to save.

 

So not only is the gospel the most important message and not only does it have inherent power, but the gospel is the valuable treasure of the glory of Christ.

 

Where do we see the glory of Jesus shine most brightly and most brilliantly? What makes us worship Jesus more fervently?

The answer: When we see Him in the gospel. So in other words, the gospel informs our worship. Last week, we explored this truth of living for the glory of God. That everything we say and do should be for the glory and name of Jesus as we live our lives as sacrifices for Him.

 

So how do we glorify Jesus with our lives? By living in a way that shines the gospel, because it is there that Christ is seen most gloriously.

 

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4-7

 

We are in a spiritual battle against the forces of wickedness. Satan as the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers from seeing what? The glory of Christ in the gospel.

 

So when we proclaim the gospel, which has inherent power and is our primary message, God does something miraculous. He opens blind eyes through the power of the Holy Spirit just like on the first day of creation where He said “Let there be light”—He shines in the hearts of unbelievers so that they can now see what? The glory of Christ in the gospel.

 

Before in our spiritual blindness, Jesus and the gospel was foolish. It was a waste of time. Jesus was just a good guy who had some good teachings. Jesus was not worthy of devotion with our entire lives.

 

But now when God shines that light in lost peoples’ hearts and regenerates them or causes them to be born again, they now see Jesus and He is wonderful. He is glorious. He is worth pursuing. He is valuable.

And what is the gospel? Paul calls it a treasure in a jar of clay. Why a jar of clay? Why a vulnerable, “easy-to-break” earthen jar? Why are we commissioned as feeble people to carry this treasure?

 

God has entrusted to us the greatest message—the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that when all is said and done—God alone gets the credit and His name is praised because of the surpassing power belongs to Him.

 

So, let’s follow the flow of the importance of declaring the gospel. The gospel is the most important message we could ever share. There is inherent power in the gospel. When the gospel is proclaimed this power is seen in transforming sinners to embrace the glory of Jesus. And this treasure of the gospel is entrusted to people like us to share with others so that in the end God gets the glory.

 

As a “jar of clay” would you commit to declare God’s Gospel to broken sinners so that their eyes can be opened to the forgiveness that is only found in Christ?

 

Spend some time in prayer thanking God that He overcame your spiritual blindness and shone His light in your heart. Praise God that He opened your eyes to the glories of Jesus. Thank God that He has entrusted you with sharing this gospel so that He alone gets glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faithful for the Future Day Nine

Yesterday, we learned that the gospel or good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the MOST IMPORTANT message we can ever hear, share, embrace, and live by.

 

Let us explore another truth about why it is important to declare God’s gospel.

 

There is power in the gospel.

 

Read Romans 1:16

 

As a gospel-centered church, there is no greater truth that we can proclaim than the gospel. It has inherent power. There are many messages we need to preach. We need to preach and teach and share the whole counsel of God’s Word, but the primary message we need to camp out on over and over again is the gospel.

 

We often think that once we become Christians we are to move on to deeper things that will grow us in our Christian walk. We go off on tangents like creationism, or end times teachings, or parenting techniques or some new secret that the latest and greatest book or televangelist has come up with for us to grow.

 

These teachings in and of themselves are not inherently wrong. But yet, true growth and true transformation always comes back to the gospel.

 

A few years ago our men’s Bible study went through Jerry Bridges’ excellent book entitled “The Gospel for Real Life” and his thesis of the book is that as Christians we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.

 

He says this: “Why do so many believers live in quiet desperation? On answer is that we have a truncated view of the gospel, tending to see it as a door we walk through to become Christians. In this view, the gospel is for unbelievers. Once you become a Christian, you don’t need it anymore except to share with people who are still outside the door. What you need to hear instead are the challenges and how-to discipleship. . . . The reality of present day Christendom is that most professing Christians actually know very little of the gospel, let alone understand its implications for their day-to day lives. My perception is that most of them know just enough gospel to get inside the door of the kingdom. They know nothing of the unsearchable riches of Christ.”[1]

 

As Christians we need to hear the gospel over and over again. We need to preach it to ourselves over and over again. It is our bedrock. It is our ballast in the boat of our souls that prevents us from getting off course and being beaten by the wind and waves of the world.

 

Why? Because we are prone to wander.

 

We can all relate to the words in that famous hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” which says: O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”

 

We wander into either legalism or despair. If we lose track of the gospel in our lives, we tend to drift toward the performance trap. This is where we tend to work for God’s approval and do things so that God will love us. We are legalistic. We try hard to earn God’s acceptance. We are in a trap of performing so that God will somehow be obligated to love us and forgive us.

 

The other way we drift or wander is into despair or condemnation. We live in fear. We live our lives in guilt thinking that God is always upset with us and the we are so bad that we could never be loved by Him. That somehow we don’t deserve His forgiveness. We fret that we’ve sinned beyond His reach or that somehow we’ve lost our salvation. We have feelings of condemnation that lead to despair.

 

Both of these are wrong. The gospel centers us back to the fact that through Christ God relates to us as a loving Father. He accepts us on the basis of Christ. We don’t have to prove our worthiness to Him. We obey and serve Him out of gratitude and joy, not legalism or fear. And when we do sin, we cry out for forgiveness and we rest in the finished work of Christ on our behalf to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

 

In other words, being gospel-centered keeps us sane!!!

 

Milton Vincent in his book “A Gospel Primer for Christians” writes these very encouraging words: “There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemning of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.[2]

 

Would you spend time today “preaching” the gospel to yourself! Saturate yourself in the beauty of the gospel and meditate on God’s love for you in Christ.

 

The only way to fight feelings of pride on the one hand and guilt on the other hand is to daily overwhelm yourself with the glory of the gospel!

[1]Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross . . . Every Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), 14-17

[2]Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love (Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing, 2008), 14.

Faithful for the Future Day Eight

Welcome to our second week of this “Faithful for the Future” 21-day devotion.

 

Last week, we focused on the first aspect of Emmanuel’s mission statement: to display God’s glory. This week, we will spend time exploring the second theme: Declaring God’s gospel.

 

What is the gospel? If I were to go out today and stop people on the streets and ask them this basic question: “What is the gospel?” I would get a lot of different answers. “It is a type of music.” “It means to ask Jesus into your heart.” “It is something church people believe.” “I don’t really know.”

 

The Lord has burned into my heart a very strong passion. And it this: We must never lose our love, appreciation and understanding of the gospel. The gospel is central to all we are and do. The gospel should affect both our thinking and our behavior.

 

Most, if not all the battleground in the Christian life takes place in the mind. If we can have our thought life permeated by a true and clear picture of the gospel, then we will be sustained by His powerful grace to be faithful for the future.

 

In addition, the gospel must also affect our behavior and how we live our lives. This is tied to the first aspect of our mission to display God’s glory. The gospel should affect every aspect of our lives.

 

The word “gospel” itself means “good news!” It is an announcement of what God has done for us in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is not simply good advice. It is not a mere suggestion. Instead, the gospel is news to be proclaimed. It is to be announced. It is to be heard.

 

It would be like a headline on the Denver Post or Journal Advocate or the leading story on Fox News or the banner on Yahoo or MSN.com. It is announcing something that has happened such as “The War is Over!” If you go back and look at all the newspapers that announced the end of World War II—they were announcing an accomplishment of victory that had actually happened. They weren’t giving you advice, or a suggestion, but were announcing great news. That is the gospel.

 

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Paul tells us that this is the most important thing he received from Jesus. The gospel is the news that Jesus died for our sins. That He was buried, and that three days later, he rose again. This was all in accordance with the prophecies of Scripture.

 

So at its core—the gospel manifests itself in the historical facts surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and it centers on the cross.

 

It centers on the substitutionary atonement. It centers on the fact that Jesus died in our place bearing God’s wrath paying the penalty for sin that we deserved in order that we might be forgiven and saved and cleansed and accepted by God.

 

I want you to notice Paul’s wording here. The gospel is the message that we have received, but also in which we are standing. The gospel is the foundation that determines everything. This is the Perfect tense in the Greek, which means that we took our stand on it when we first believed and we are continually taking our stand on it in the present. And we are to hold fast to this gospel.

 

Paul is not teaching that we can lose our salvation here, but is warning us against a false type of faith. A faith or a believing that is in vain.

 

Remember, the devil and demons believe in Jesus. They know His word, but they shudder. They are enemies of Christ. So there is a faith that is non-saving. There is a faith that is superficial.

 

Matthew 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

 

When we trust Christ for salvation, we embrace Him wholeheartedly with our entire lives. We surrender to His Lordship. We take Him as our Treasure. And this is not just a one-time decision where we signed on the dotted line.

 

True saving faith means that you continually live a life of believing and trusting in Jesus and you hold fast to Him and you cast yourself continually upon His mercy to save you.

 

So, being a gospel-centered church means that we embrace the wonderful news that Jesus died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again and that we must all have a personal relationship with Him through faith.

 

Do you believe the gospel is of first importance? Are you believing in the gospel? Are you taking your stand in the gospel? Are you whole-heartedly committed to declaring the gospel—the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus!

 

Spend some time in prayer thanking God for His glorious gospel. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for your sins. Ask Him to burn this passion for the gospel in your heart and mind.