Yesterday’s sermon reminded me of a time when I was younger and a lady came up to my first pastor after he had preached about the gospel and said, “preacher, keep telling me that old story, over and over again.” It was one of those days at CLF yesterday…being reminded by God that the gospel is His power and the gospel of Jesus is all we need for spiritual heights and depths. It was a sweet day to be together.
Several thoughts/explanations: There are a several things that come to mind today (really started last night), that I think will be helpful to write about today.
- If you’ve never heard of The Bible Project, let me introduce it to you. As a matter of fact, go to the link at the end of the sentence and just see how they introduce the book of Colossians. Very informative and very helpful. https://thebibleproject.com/explore/colossians/
- I was asked a few questions yesterday after I preached, so I thought I would answers those here:
- In my sermon, someone asked if it’s appropriate for us to listen to podcasts or online stuff. My response to that is absolutely yes, it’s appropriate. The point I was attempting to make in my sermon is that many Christians while sincerely desiring to grow deeper and have a better relationship with God, are looking for a “secret” to that outside of the simplicity of Christ and His gospel. I know of Christians, who have replaced going to church, with podcast preachers. I know of Christians, who believe that they are growing more by listening to stuff online and they see no need for being in biblical fellowship. And I know of Christians, who are constantly in search of a “silver bullet” for spiritual growth. The point of the sermon was that Jesus Christ and His gospel are all we need for spiritual heights and depths. Podcasts can most certainly be helpful to this. They can confirm this. And God can use them as a great resource for learning and growing. But they don’t replace the gospel of Christ. I have a few favorite podcasts on pastoral ministry and church history, but I don’t believe my listening is for the purpose of gaining some new “secret”. Rather, it’s for education, confirmation, and encouragement. So…listen away…enjoy yourself…and rejoice in the gospel of Jesus!
- Someone asked if we are only to love Christians and how does this work in our love for non-Christians and more importantly, our evangelistic witness? The point of the sermon was the point that Paul made about the Colossians love for all the saints. Paul pointed out that they had a specific and noticeable love for other Christians. Just because he didn’t commend them for their love for non-Christians, doesn’t mean that they didn’t love non-Christians (not sure how all the negatives in that sentence works grammatically:). Rather, his point was that the fruit that they believe in Christ was evidenced by their love for each other. Now, what I find fascinating in Paul’s writings, is how much he points this out. And I find it interesting…how little we point that out in the American Church. The emphasis is almost always on loving the outsider…which we most certainly must do. The issue of Christian love is not either love the Christian or the non-Christian, but rather both/and…love both the Christian and the non-Christian. However, in the church, our love for each other, our unity together, our willingness to solve relational conflict…should show the non-Christian world, the incredible/miraculous power of the gospel. I’ve often wondered…if Jesus said that our unity/love for each other would reveal that God sent Jesus (John 17:20-23), then perhaps one reason that the world does not know that Jesus was sent by God is because we don’t do this very well. Our love for one another is an evangelistic tool that God uses…therefore, it should be emphasized from the pulpit.
- Someone also asked me about my point about personally not wanting to impact the entire world, but just my family and my church. Their question was a good one: so, is it wrong to want to have huge impact with my life? The obvious answer to this is that is not wrong to want to make a huge impact with our lives. As a matter of fact, we should want to make a huge impact with our lives, for the glory of God and the good others. The point I was making in the sermon is that when I was younger, I thought that God was lucky to have a person as gifted as me on his team (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, but it does express the pride of my younger days). I thought that it was my “right” or that I would make an impact. The older I have gotten and the more I have experienced in life, I have seen a major change in my heart/life/ministry, through God humbling me/changing me/redirecting me. And here’s what I’ve seen/experienced: the gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes; God has put His gospel in this world and it will increase/grow in its impact; and God has sovereignly placed me right where He wants me to teach/preach/show that gospel power. This has shown me that God doesn’t need me to make an impact in the whole world…His gospel power is powerful enough to do that…however, God has chosen, my His mercy/kindness/grace, to put me in a family, in a church, and a community to be His ambassador of this gospel. So, my thought is this now…I just want to be a godly man, godly husband, godly father, who applies the gospel to my whole life…and that, in turn, will help me make an impact in my world (no matter how broadly God decides that impact to me). I hope that makes sense.
- Which leads to my last thought on this: since the gospel is “the ladder for spiritual height and the shovel for spiritual depth”, how do we see it as enough for our spiritual satisfaction? How do I apply the gospel? How does the gospel affect all of my life?
- One of my favorite Jerry Bridges quotes on this topic is ““the gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it. … Christians are not instructed in the gospel. And because they do not fully understand the riches and glory of the gospel, they cannot preach it to themselves, not live by it in their daily lives.” And I have to admit, this quote, confirms the truth of the NT, and it has been a motivating force in my preaching over the last 12-15 years.
- We must see the gospel for all of life:
- How we treat others…is empowered and motivated by the way Christ has treated us.
- How we forgive others…is empowered by how God has forgiven us.
- How we welcome others…is empowered and motivated by how Christ has welcomed us.
- How we give of our time, money, and gifts…is motivated by the way Christ gave Himself for us.
- How we read our Bibles, pray, fast, or share the gospel…are all empowered and motivated by the fact that Jesus has given Himself for us and invites into a personal/intimate relationship with Him. These things are not done so that we could be right with God…they’re given to us because we have a right relationship with God.
- You can see the point…marriage, parenting, possessions, our employment, spiritual life…everything is to be seen through the lens of the gospel.
- How do we “apply” the gospel? In this, I’m sure others have found great ways to do this as well, so I’ll just share with you things that I do regularly and things I’ve learned to do.
- The first thing I do is that I pray the gospel out loud a lot. I start many prayers with thanking God for the reality of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. I thank God for forgiveness of sin, for being made right with Him through Christ, and for His empowering Spirit and grace at work in me.
- I also put to memory great texts of Scripture about the gospel, like some of these below:
- Romans 8:1-2, 31-39
- 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2
- Hebrews 8:7; 9:13-14
- I read good books on this subject. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent. A wonderful devotional book through various aspects of how the gospel changes us. It gives great perspectives on practical life and the gospel.
- The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. An absolute classic. I found myself worshipping Jesus when I read about how His obedience was transferred to my account before God. I still get emotional thinking about it.
- The Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. A tiny, but very practical book on this subject. I like this little orange book better than the latter version which combined 2 of CJ’s books. So, in my opinion, if you can get your hands on this one, do it.
- There are several others and many of you probably have books you’ve read on this as well. Please share those with me, because I’m always looking for more.
- When I sin in some way (which is a lot) and I take the time to examine that sin, I ask, “what is motivating this and where am I not applying what Jesus did for me?” This will help me see places where I’m not believing the truth of the gospel; not making it’s claims, my own; or simply not trusting God to help me. And then, I confess my sin…a lot. Some of you will notice, I’m not afraid to share my sin publicly. The reason for that is not necessarily courage…it’s more fear of God, that drives me to understand that “confession brings healing” (James 5:16)…so, I confess sin to my wife (even if I haven’t sinned against her); to my kids (so they can see that God is at work in dad); to my church (so they will know that I don’t see myself as any different than them), and primarily to God (but not in a condemned way, but more in a sober, thankful, and rejoicing way…like, “God, here’s what I’ve done…You know it…thank You for showing me this; thank You for forgiving me; I don’t want to do this again…thank You for your power to stop it.”).
Quotes I didn’t use, but really liked:
- “One important implication of this focus on Christ is a negative one: a “rules-oriented” lifestyle is not the means to true spiritual growth. It is this point that Paul singles out in his references to the false teachers, who were apparently promising ultimate spiritual power through adherence to their rules (2:16, 20–23). Paul is clear about the poverty of these rules to deliver on what they promise: they have the “appearance of wisdom,” “but lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (2:23). Of course, Paul does not mean by this polemic to dismiss the value of all “rules” from the conduct of the Christian life.” Moo, D. J.
- “We may, then, formulate a theology of rules from Colossians 2 along these lines: Rules must never take the place of Christ as the source of spiritual nourishment and growth; and any rules that we propose to follow must be clearly rooted in and lead back to Christ.” Moo, D. J.
- “The danger to ‘faithful brethren’, rooted and grounded in Christ, lies not so much in false teaching from outside the boundaries of the Christian church; Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, with their failure to confess Christ as more than the highest created being, make their converts among lapsed churchgoers and dissatisfied pagans, seldom from true believers. No, the danger for the enthusiastic young convert comes from error within the churches, teaching that is largely, even emphatically, Christian, but which has been influenced more than it knows by the spirit of the age.” Lucas, R. C.
- “Several times I have found myself saying, ‘Not again, Paul!’ as the apostle returns to familiar ground and leaves his readers no chance of evading or forgetting his meaning. It is as though he thinks the theme of Christ’s sufficiency to be of such importance that its implications must be spelt out at every opportunity. We shall be unwise to be impatient with this steady apostolic persistence.” Lucas, R. C.
- “The gospel of Christ is nothing less than the truth, beyond human invention and imagination.” Lucas, R. C.
- “The point is that the gospel is exerting its power widely, in many different places, and, by doing so, attests to its validity. The widespread experience of the gospel is testimony to its truthfulness over against the claims of the false teachers, who are propagating a local heresy.” Moo, D. J.
- “This meant that, from the very beginning, they understood that man can make no claim on God, however sincere or faithful he may think himself to be; that the heart of the gospel concerns not our commitment to God but his free and merciful offer to commit himself to us in Christ; that our acceptance of the Saviour is meaningless unless God has already freely accepted us in him; that the very essence of the story is not that of men striving to make Christ their Lord, but of Christ in sheer goodness and pity, undertaking for his own sake to make us his servants, despite the fact that we never cease to be unprofitable and undeserving of such a privilege.” Lucas, R. C. / This quote is one that I hope you will read over and over again.
- Excavation at Legion Field for the new turf project is now in full force. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that.
- As an avid sports fan, I always think it’s funny to listen to sport talk radio. One of the great joys of this, is listening to cities who are known for tons of whining…New York and Philadelphia, come to mind. And since my beloved Cowboys smoked the Eagles on Sunday night…Philly’s radio today was hilarious.
- New Zealand All-Blacks 46-14 over Ireland…next up…England…
- Our church has been hit by a few deaths of family members. Would you please pray for our folks? Some deaths were expected (still hard) and some were not. But for some reason, the Lord has seemed fit to bring hard news to us lately.