What is the meaning of the Ascension of Jesus in the Gospels ?

By Bob Deffinbaugh via Bible.org Photo James Tissot 

Introduction

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Ascension_(L'Ascension)_-_James_Tissot

I had determined some time ago that this message on the ascension of Jesus Christ would be the conclusion of this series on the life and ministry of our Lord. When I began a serious study in preparing for this message, I came to a distressing realization: the ascension of the Savior was not considered worthy of emphasis by any of the gospel writers.

You will read the entire gospel of Matthew without finding any direct reference to the ascension. The same is true for John’s gospel. The book of Mark condenses this event into only one verse, and if you consult the commentaries, they will tell you that this verse may not be authentic. Luke’s gospel, in very general terms, relates this final event in the life of our Lord in one verse. I must conclude that for some reason the ascension was not considered essential to the purposes which compelled the gospel writers to record their accounts of the life and ministry of the Master. The purpose of this study is to answer the obvious question, “Why?” “Why do none of the gospel accounts make much of the ascension of Jesus Christ?”

Why Was the Ascension of Our Lord 
Not a More Important Theme in the Gospels?

Let me try to identify some of the reasons for this lack of emphasis on the ascension in the gospel accounts. While these reasons are largely inferential, they do help us to see this matter through the eyes of the gospel writers.

First and foremost, the purpose of the gospels is revealed in their title, ‘the gospel.’ That is, the authors of the gospels set out to present the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Technically speaking, the salvation was procured by the death of Christ and proved by the resurrection. The ascension did not directly contribute to the work of the cross in such a way as to be instrumental in achieving the salvation of men.233 In the light of the writers’ purpose to portray the good news of salvation, any part of Christ’s life and ministry which does not directly relate to their purpose would pale in the shadow of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. It is not that the ascension of Christ is unimportant, then, but that it is largely irrelevant to the purpose of the gospel accounts.

Second, the ascension of Christ was not a favorite topic for those who were so intimately involved with Him. As John put it,

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, …” (1 John 1:1-3).

Unlike Christians today, the disciples lived and walked and talked, and touched the Savior while He was on the earth in bodily form. Whenever He talked of departing them or leaving them, they were deeply distressed (cf.John 16:6,22). It was not something they wanted to happen, or that they wanted to think about.

Those of us who have had Christian loved ones die can understand the feelings of the disciples concerning the Lord’s ascension. While we know that God’s will has been done and that those who have died in Christ are with the Lord, we personally sense the loss of the presence of our loved ones who have departed, even though we anticipate spending eternity with them in the presence of our Lord. We do not, therefore, find great comfort or joy in reminiscing over the departure of our loved ones. So, too, I believe the gospel writers did not have any predisposition to write of our Lord’s departure to return to His Father.

Third, the ascension does not serve as a fitting conclusion to the life and ministry of our Lord. It somehow seems anti-climactic in the light of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It tends to conclude on a note of sorrow and separation rather than of joy, victory, and triumph.

What, Then, Is the Meaning of the Ascension?

We have seen that the gospel accounts hardly mention the ascension, and we have suggested several reasons for this to be the case. While the ascension may not be prominent in the gospels, it is paramount in the book of Acts. While Luke did not emphasize it at the conclusion of his first book (Luke), he highlighted it at the beginning of his second volume (Acts).

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

One of the most significant words in the book of Acts is that little word “began” in verse one. The first account, which was the gospel of Luke, was the report of what Jesus began to do and to teach. The book of Acts records what our Lord continued to do and to teach through His body, the church.

We are guilty of misunderstanding the words of our Lord upon the cross, when He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Savior could truly say “It is finished” with regard to the work of redemption, which was accomplished on the cross. According to the usage of this expression man’s debt for sin could be marked “paid in full.” But the Lord Jesus did not say, “I am finished” in the sense that His work on earth was completed. Only His work of procuring men’s salvation was finished. The work of proclaiming that salvation to men is still going on. That is what Luke meant when he spoke of what our Lord “began to do and teach” in the introduction of his second volume. The exciting thing to realize is that the ascension of our Lord was vital to the continuation of our Lord’s work on earth through His body, the church.

While the provision for man’s salvation was the work of our Lord which was completed on the cross of Calvary, the proclamation and application of the benefits of this work have continued through the centuries, through the church, the body of Christ. The ascension of Jesus Christ was central to the initiation and continuation of this work.

From a casual reading of the gospel accounts one would get the impression that Jesus ascended to His Father shortly after His resurrection. In Acts we learn that there was a period of 40 days that our Lord continued to manifest Himself to His disciples on the earth: “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The purpose of this forty-day period was three-fold as described in verses 3-5 of Acts chapter 1. First of all it was designed to convince the disciples of the fact of our Lord’s physical, bodily resurrection (cf. verse 3 above).

The remaining chapters of Acts reveal that the central truth of which the disciples were fully-convinced was that Jesus, though put to death, had risen from the grave:234

“This man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23,24).

“But you disowned the Holy and Righteous one, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of Life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15; cf. also 1:22; 4:2,10; 5:30-32; 7:56-60).

‘Many convincing proofs’ which happened over a substantial period of time, in a variety of circumstances, to a diverse number of people (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4-8), served well the purpose of convincing the disciples of the fact of our Lord’s resurrection.

A second purpose of the forty day period after the resurrection was to command the disciples.

“… appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, …” (Acts 1:3,4).

There was much that the disciples could not understand about the life and ministry of the Lord until after His death and resurrection. Now He could speak plainly of His work upon the cross and they could understand His teaching. But even now there were truths that they could not bear. Only after His departure, after the promised Holy Spirit came upon them, would they comprehend the great truths of the gospel. For this reason, Jesus commanded the disciples to wait until the promised Spirit was sent.

Third, the forty days enabled our Lord to clarify and correct certain misconceptions held by the disciples.

“And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth’” (Acts 1:6-8).

The Kingdom was a prominent theme in Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist came before Jesus and introduced Him as the King of Israel (cf. Matthew 3:2Mark 1:2-3), as well as the Lamb of God. Jesus frequently spoke of the Kingdom (cf. Matthew 5-7,13). The disciples were preoccupied with the subject, and particularly their role in it (cf. Matthew 19:28Mark 10:37f.). The religious leaders accused Jesus of being a king or of claiming a kingdom (John 19:12) and this Pilate acknowledged (Matthew 27:37). The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom (Luke 23:42).

Little wonder that the disciples should persist in bringing up the subject of the Kingdom after the resurrection. They were certain that it must be forthcoming. Our Lord found it necessary to clarify His teaching on the Kingdom that was to come.

Mark it well; Jesus corrected His disciples on the matter of the time of the Kingdom’s arrival, not on its essential nature. The commentators are much more critical of the disciples than Christ was. They would seek to change the disciples whole conception of the Kingdom; our Lord only dealt with the time of its inauguration. The disciples anticipated a literal, physical reign of our Lord upon the earth. Some Bible students would have us believe that such expectations were misguided. They suppose that Jesus spoke only of a spiritual reign in the hearts of men.

That’s a rather interesting thing, because our Lord does not correct the disciple’s concept of the Kingdom; He corrects their preoccupation with the timing of the Kingdom. Now if they were wrong in thinking there was a Kingdom to come after three years of teaching, they were also wrong after 40 days of post-graduate work. More than this, my friends, they were wrong after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Because one of the things you will discover later in the book of Acts is that when the apostles preached, they preached to the Jews that if they turned to Jesus as Messiah, there would be a restoration of the Kingdom.

Look, for example, in Acts chapter 3 after Pentecost. Peter and John are preaching as a result of the healing of the cripple who was outside of the temple, and who was healed. Peter says in verse 19: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

The expression ‘times of refreshing,’ was understood rightly by Israel as being the time of the restoration and the establishment of God’s Kingdom upon earth. “And that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20-21).

In other words, that which the Old Testament prophets had been speaking, that which our Lord Jesus came to establish, that is the message which the apostles preached. Until 70 A.D., they offered to Israel the opportunity to turn to Jesus as the Messiah, and promised that if they did, the Kingdom would be ushered in. Obviously, the nation did not repent and believe. And you understand that Israel, trying to forcibly bring the Kingdom in unbelief by rebelling against Rome, brought the power of Rome down upon them. Because of Jewish insurrection, Rome sacked that city and there was a massacre that was absolutely incredible to read about. Millions of Jews, it seems, died at that time. My point is simply this, the disciples had come to believe in a literal kingdom as a result of the teaching of our Lord, both before and after His resurrection.

Understandably, then, the disciples put this question to our Lord: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (verse 6).

I want to underline the phrase, “at this time.” That is the issue that our Lord calls to their attention, not the issue of the nature of the Kingdom. He is dealing not with their misconceptions about the Kingdom, but with their preoccupation with the time of its coming. That is where they were wrong.

Now you must understand the circumstances in which all of this occurred. Do you remember where this took place? Not Jerusalem. It was the city outside of Jerusalem—Bethany. Bethany is where the triumphal entry began (cf. John 12:1,9,12). This is where Jesus had raised Lazarus. People had gathered not only to see Jesus, but to behold Lazarus, and it was out of all of this that the crowd came to herald Jesus as the Messiah. So it was Bethany that was the point of origin for the triumphal entry.

Now can you imagine why the disciples would bring up the subject of the coming of the Kingdom? I suppose they thought, “Here we are at Bethany again. Maybe we’re going to have the real triumphal entry this time.”

One of the seminary students suggested that the Lord had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps it was the fulfillment of this promise to which they also looked forward. That may be. Here they were, Jesus was raised from the dead, the subject of conversation had been the Kingdom. Now there is this promise for which they are to wait. And you know how our minds always run wild in speculation when we are waiting for something and we do not know exactly what it is. All of these things must have come together, and the disciples were almost ready to burst with anticipation. And so our Lord responded to them, not regarding their concept of the Kingdom, but regarding their preoccupation with its time: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

You see, this is no correction concerning the anticipation of a physical, literal thousand-year reign. Our Lord granted that their understanding of the Kingdom was correct. He was simply saying, “Don’t get preoccupied with when it is to occur.”

There are Christians today who seem to be more interested about the precise timing of eschatological (that is, prophetic) events than they are with godly living (cf. 2 Peter 3:11-13). I am not saying we should not study prophecy. I am saying we should not become preoccupied with it to the point where we ignore our duty and our obligation to live godly lives and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the thrust of our Lord’s words in Acts 1:7-8. They were not intended to know the exact time of the Lord’s return and the establishment of His Kingdom. But as a result of His departure, the Holy Spirit would come, bestowing power upon them, by which they would witness to Jesus Christ at home and abroad (cf. John 14:7ff.).

In one sense the ascension is the final answer of our Lord to the question raised by the apostles. We cannot view the ascension of the Savior apart from its context with the paragraph—a section which centers in the question of the disciples concerning the coming of the Kingdom.

Verse 9 informs us that after Jesus had spoken the words of verses 7 and 8 He was taken from their sight into the heavens. The last words of Jesus concerned the matter of the Kingdom and our present responsibilities. The conversation was terminated by Jesus’ departure.

But more than this the ascension itself was the most forceful and satisfying answer to the question of the disciples:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

The ascension was a glorious event. Our Lord disappeared into a cloud, not ‘into the clouds’ (cf. verse 9). It may well be that this cloud was no ordinary cloud, but rather a manifestation of the Shekinah glory, even as it took place in the transfiguration (cf. Matthew 16:27–17:9, especially verse 5). Since the transfiguration was a preview of the coming Kingdom, the Kingdom must be quite similar. Now, in Acts 1:11 we are told that the return of the Lord Jesus will be like that of His ascension. It, like the transfiguration, must have been glorious, but it was viewed by a larger number.

The ascension was a display of the splendor and glory of the coming Kingdom. As such it was a reassurance to the disciples that this Kingdom was the same as they had previously been instructed.

What a beautiful way to dovetail a two-fold response to this pressing question of the disciples. While they were not to be overly concerned about the timing of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, they were assured of its certainty and its splendor. What a gracious event the ascension was. It served as an assurance to the disciples that their hopes would be realized.

One last passage remains to be considered in our study of the ascension of Christ and its importance to us.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-12).

The ascension was the final, incontestable evidence that Jesus Christ was the victor over Satan and his hosts. It is the measure of His victory, but also the measure of the power which has been bestowed upon His saints to carry out His work on earth until He returns.

The ascension was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come upon the church (and individual believers) in a different way than in times past (John 16:7ff.). But it was also an indication of the extent of the power which was made available to complete the task set before us.

This was a desperately needed event for who but His most intimate followers would sense most deeply His bodily absence? Who most needed assurance of His spiritual presence and power? And surely those of us who have never walked the dusty roads with Him and heard Him speak or felt His touch need this assurance as well.

Conclusion

Taking the various threads of which the doctrine of the ascension of Christ is woven we can briefly summarize its reference and application to Christians:

(1) Separation. In one sense the ascension was the bodily separation of our Lord from His followers. But we must quickly add that the Scriptures never record any mourning or tears concerning this. Undoubtedly this is true because, ironic as it may seem, our Lord’s departure inaugurated a time of even greater intimacy through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

(2) Consummation. The ascension symbolized that the work which our Lord was sent to accomplish in His physical body on earth has been finished. “… when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

(3) Glorification. When our Lord returned to the Father it was in splendor and glory. While His glory was somewhat veiled by His humble surroundings at His incarnation, His return was with even greater glory and honor because of the work He had accomplished. “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

(4) Confirmation. The ascension was, in part, a confirmation of Christ’s person and work. He returned to the Father. In this His claim to have come from the Father was vindicated. While no one could actually witness the actual incarnation of Christ in the virgin birth, His return was visible to His followers. The ascension of Christ is also a confirmation of our faith and assurance in Christ: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchezedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

(5) Transition. The ascension serves as a connecting link: between the work of Christ in salvation and that in our sanctification; between the gospels and the epistles; between what has been accomplished by Christ and what is still being done through His Spirit. It is even a transition in the ministry of Christ as well. Having completed His work on the cross in His flesh, He now intercedes for us as a sympathetic High Priest, as One Who has experienced our afflictions:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 5:14-16).

(6) Anticipation. The ascension also creates in our hearts a sense of expectation as we realize that He will return, just as He departed: “… This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11).

And so it is that we come to the importance of the ascension to Christians today. It is not primarily to be viewed as the conclusion of our Lord’s life and ministry, but as the introduction of a new phase of His ministry through His church, empowered by His Spirit. The assurance of His return and the measure of His presence and power in these intervening days is to be found, to a great extent, in His ascension. What a Savior!

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233 Lest anyone become upset by this statement, let me go on to say that it does have much to do with the application of men’s salvation, as we shall demonstrate later.

234 It is interesting to note that during His earthly life our Lord’s opposition came primarily from the scribes and Pharisees. These were men who believed in supernaturalism and such things as angels and resurrection. In the book of Acts the main thrust of the opposition came from the Sadducees, the liberals who did not believe in any resurrection (cf. Matthew 22:23Acts 4:11).

Paul Washer on the future suffering of America and on The False Christianity of North America

Paul Washer heartcry.com

thanks to Gabi Bogdan for referring this video yesterday, it couldn’t come at a better time with everything that is going on as it pertains to the hostility displayed towards Christian beliefs and the struggle to push orthodox Christian beliefs totally out of the public square. Paul Washer (as Gabi says) is prophetic in what he says about the suffering that will come, even here in what used to be the most democratic country in the world for a time. Paul Washer makes a great point in saying that Satan means persecution for evil, yet God uses it for good, and for more people to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:10-11 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

VIDEO by Imbeffie

The False Christianity of North America

Here is another video, Paul Washer: I am concerned with only one thing, that one day you will stand … in front of a Holy God and you will be judged. This is not a game, this is not something that has to do with culture. This has to do with the word of the living God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Life and death; heaven and hell. And it is an amazing burden for a preacher to stand in front of a group of people, knowing that some of you will hear my voice and go to heaven when you die, and others of you  will hear warning after warning, after warning, and you will not listen, and you will die under the wrath of God and spend eternity in hell. Christians, how do you know that if you die right now you are saved? (24 minutes)

VIDEO by joshoua00

David Platt – The Tragic Cost of Non-Discipleship

photo from video

David PlattDavid Platt @VergeConference 2013: Yes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has taught us well, that the cost of discipleship is great. To live with radical abandonment for His glory, faithful adherence to His person, urging obedience to His mission, this is costly. This is gonna cost us and the people we lead, our lives. But I submit to you this morning, that the cost of non-discipleship is far, far, far greater. The cost of non-discipleship is great for scores of people in the church, who are sitting comfortably right now, under the banner of Christianity, but they’ve never counted the cost of following Christ. Many, eternally deceived. There is great cost for all who settle for casual association with Jesus, and miss out on the abundance and satisfaction and joy that He has designed for us.

There’s a cost that comes to monotonous routine religious Christianity. So, don’t do it, and don’t lead churches like that! We’ll waste our lives away like that, and the cost will be great for us and the church, and our lives, And the cost of nominal Christianity will be great for those who are lost in this world: for people in our communities, in our cities, for people groups around the world who will go on without the Gospel because we’re content of not making disciples of all the nations. Because is our casual approach to Christianity, we are leaving them on a road that leads to an eternal hell. The consequences of casual, cultural Christianity in the world are tragic. Eternally tragic. So, I urge us, from the beginning of this conference, in view of the majesty of the King who has called us, let’s follow Him with abandonment for His glory, with dependence on His grace, with adherence to His person, and with urgent obedience to His mission.

Matt Chandler – Jesus is enough!

And He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. He is head of the body- the church. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything, He might be

  • preeminent
  • top
  • nothing above Him
  • nothing else to gain
  • nothing else to get

The goal, the end, what it’s all about is Jesus.

I’m gonna try to combat something here as hard as I can. Look at me:

  • following Jesus is not going to make you wealthy. 
  • following Jesus does not guarantee that you’re going to be healthy

The message of Scripture, and the Gospel of Christ is not that in following Him everything goes right, but that He is enough, no matter what happens. That’s the message of the Gospel, not that everything’s gonna be okay.

Every apostle in the Bible dies bad. They don’t just stumble in the street and get run over in a car. They get beheaded, they get crucified upside down. They get boiled in oil. They die poor, and they’re slaughtered. Spurgeon, the prince of preachers struggles with depression his whole life, and then dies. Christianity has been built and then carried through generations on the blood of men. Not on wealth! This is an absurd idea that would make Christ not preeminent- but, what He can give you. That is not Christianity, that is something entirely different.

Jesus is enough! He is enough! We pursue healing, maybe we get it, maybe we don’t. He’s enough if we don’t. Jesus is sufficient. Like in Acts, the apostles, they get arrested. And the court says, „If you don’t quit this preaching stuff, if you don’t quit talking about Jesus, we’re gonna beat you to death. And the response was simple: „Do what you think is right, as for us, we cannot help in speaking about what we have seen and heard. And they beat the mess out of them, and released them. ANd they did what? Rejoiced! I mean, they got beat nearly to death. This was the fruit of the Gospel in their lives. Beatings! And they left rejoicing!

This is not about what Jesus gets you. It’s just about Jesus!

  • preeminent
  • top of the chain
  • nothing else to want
  • nothing else to pursue

HE IS ENOUGH!

Voddie Baucham – Last sentence in the Book of Romans

Romans – 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– 27 to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

As we come to the end of this letter, Paul does not disappoint. It has been said that “orthodoxy always leads to orthopraxy”. In other words „right believing” will lead us to our right behaving, eventually. If we don’t believe rightly, we won’t behave rightly. But, it is also true, perhaps even more true that orthodoxy always leads to doxology. Doxology, or praise. When you know God rightly, you cannot help but worship God. And, it is quite ironic that there are those in our day, and those in our culture, who pit our knowledge of God, over and against our worship of God, as though we have to choose one or the other. As if we can only be heady Christians who know a lot about God, or we can be spiritual Christians who experience a lot with God. That is a false dichotomy. Nothing could be further from the truth. You cannot fully worship what you do not know.

You will never worship God rightly, unless you know God rightly. And here’s the beauty of it, because the knowledge of God is inexhaustible, we have an eternity growing in our appreciation for and worship of the almighty God. You cannot exhaust the knowledge of God. You cannot exhaust an understanding of what He’s done , and who He is, and because of that, you cannot and will not stop growing in your doxology, your praise. As Paul has walked through this, his magnum opus, the Book of Romans, and as he has dug more deeply than anywhere else in the New Testament, into this doctrine of our justification, it is only fitting, that as he comes to the end, he leaves us with this parting statement. If I had to give a title to this ending statement, it would be „Praise God for the Gospel!” That’s basically where Paul finishes.

I couldn’t help it, as I read through this passage and worked through this passage, through all of the implications here in this passage, I couldn’t help but just see the stark contrast between what we understand as worship and what Paul does here as worship. Because again, culturally, we’ve come to this place, where we believe that worship is purely experiential. That worship is about our experience with God. It is not about knowing God rightly. It is about encountering God passionately. If you read the lyrics of much of what we call worship music today, what you will find is that it is by and large not about God at all, but about our experience of God. About the way God makes me feel about me.

And so, when we gather, our desire is to bring ourselves to this cathartic experience of overwhelming ecstasy in how much God loves me. And how central I am in the grand scheme of things. We gather to make much of „me”, when what Paul does here, at the end of the Book of Romans is not to pause and talk about his experience, with these great truths. But, basically, to pause and say, „Before I go, let me remind you to praise God for the Gospel.”

In the text above, basically what you can do- there’s a bunch of propositional phrases and subordinate clauses in that sentence, and basically, what you can do is take all those propositions and all those clauses away and here’s what you get: „Now to Him”. Stop there. Cause, who is qualifying the Him? Stope there, and then it picks up in verse 27. You have another phrase there: To the only wise God. Go right after that, because that goes to describing this „Him”. So, if you put a line right after „the only wise God”, and you put a line right after „Him”, then, you’ve just connected those two. Here’s what you find: Now to Him be glory, forever more, through Jesus Christ. Amen. That’s his statement. The rest of this sort of explains the why and how there’s glory to Him, through Jesus Christ forevermore.

So, as we plow through this statement, let’s not actually lose sight of what Paul is doing here: Praising God for the Gospel. First of all, because the Gospel magnifies God. „Now to Him,” God is being magnified here. „To Him be glory, forever more, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Why through Jesus Christ? Because the gospel is the good news about what God has done in Jesus Christ. And that magnifies God. The Gospel magnifies God. That is why we worship God, that is why we thank God for the Gospel. That is why understanding the Gospel leads you to the right worship of God.

What is the Gospel?

Notice, first of all what Paul says here about God. He says that God is able, he goes on to say that God is eternal. Then, if you go down and look at verse 26, the last part of that, „according to the command of the eternal God.” So, God’s able, God’s eternal. He also says that God is singular, and that God is wise. So we see here a picture of God as able, as eternal, as singular, and as wise. So, God is magnified here, even in the words that Paul chooses to use to describe God. So, as he comes to this point of praise, as he comes to this point of worship, what he says is: If you’ve been listening and following all the way through the book of Romans, I’ve pointed you to God, by explaining to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I’ve explained to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we’ve seen that God is able. We’ve seen that God is eternal, so this is not an afterthought. We’ve seen that God is singular, there is no other God. And we see that God is wise. You couldn’t have figured this out on your own. But, beyond that, the Gospel itself magnifies this powerful, eternal, singular, wise God. If we understand the Gospel rightly.

What the Gospel is not

For the most part, we do not understand the Gospel rightly. We basically make 4 mistakes when we talk about the Gospel. And, this is what you and I encounter, when people say ‘the Gospel’. And why is it important here? Because Paul says „Praise God for the Gospel”. And, f you don’t know what the Gospel is, you are praising God for the law, and you are praising God for yourself. May it never be! Here is what the Gospel is not:

  1. Mistake #1 – We see the Gospel as (just) the plan of salvation – You ask the average Christian in our culture what is the Gospel, and they will not give you an announcement about what God has done, they will give you steps by which you get saved. Here is the danger in that: When you see the Gospel just as the plan of salvation, your understanding of the Gospel is truncated. So you are saved by the Gospel, but you are sanctified and you are kept by something other than the Gospel, if the Gospel is just the plan of salvation. Look at verse 25 again „now to Him who is able to strengthen you, according to my Gospel..” He doesn’t say „save you” according to my Gospel. If you read the Book, you know that God is able to save you according to His Gospel. It is the power of God to save.. (Romans 1:16). But, he says here that God is able to strengthen you, or to establish you. God is able to keep you, to make you firm, by the Gospel. The Gospel is not just how we get in, the Gospel is not just the plan of salvation. That’s a truncated view and it robs God of worship. Because, when we view the Gospel as just the means by which we are saved, and not the means by which we are also sanctified and kept, then we believe God does the initial work, and we do the rest. That’s a problem. (14)
  2. Mistake #2 – We see the Gospel as (just) the great commandment- there are those who boil down the Gospel, basically to the commandment, „Love God, love people.” There are thousands of churches out there whose statement is „We’re so and so church” and we’re about loving God and loving people. And, what it’s supposed to be is this sort of encapsulation of the Gospel. There’s a slight problem. That’s actually not an encapsulation of the Gospel. It’s an encapsulation of the law. That „Love God, love people,” it actually comes from Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39, where they ask: Jesus, what’s the greatest commandment, and they want to see which scholar He’s going to align Himself with. „What’s the greatest commandment?” There, Jesus says, „The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” By the way, that’s a summary of the first 4 commandments. So, „Jesus, what’s your greatest commandment?” His response, „I think 1 through 4.” And then He says, „And the second one is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the summary of commandments 5-10. „Jesus, what’s the greatest commandment?” „I’m gonna have to say 1-4, followed closely by 5-10.” ‘Love God, and love your neighbor is not a summary of the Gospel, it’s a summary of the law. It is bondage, but, it is only the Gospel that frees us to love God, and love our neighbor. It’s the Gospel that empowers us to do that. If you replace the Gospel with ‘Love God, love people,’ you have actually replaced the Gospel with the law. There is no salvation in the law. By the works of salvation shall no flesh be justified. That’s not the Gospel.
  3. Mistake #3 – We see the Gospel (just) as the great commission. In other words, when Jesus says to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe whatsoever I commanded you (Matthew 28:16-20) there are those who say, „That’s the Gospel”. That ‘the whatsoever I commanded you’, that’s the Gospel. That is another instance of replacing Gospel with law, by telling everybody to go out and obey everything that Jesus commanded. The Gospel is not all the moral teachings of Jesus.
  4. Mistake #4 – We see the Gospel (just) as personal testimony- There are many evangelism training methods, that teach you to go out and share the Gospel with people. And, what they mean by that is ‘share your story’ with people. You know how ironic that is? The Gospel is Christ’s story. (18)

Praise God for the Gospel!

by needanewstartcom

The Gospel magnifies God

The Gospel is an announcement, it is news. It is God centered news. It is an announcement of what God has done. It is Christ centered news. It is an announcement of what God has done in Christ. It is cross centered news. It is an announcement of what God has done, in Christ, through the cross, to save sinners. The Gospel is grace centered news. The Gospel is an announcement of what God has done, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, through His cross, through His active and passive obedience, laying down His life, on the behalf of sinners, who are saved by the sheer grace of God, as that death is applied to them. And the Gospel is eschatological news. It is news for the now, and the hereafter. It has implications for every aspect of our lives.

  1. Implications for how we love God, and love people.
  2. Implications for how we carry out the Great Commission.
  3. Implications for how we understand, let alone tell our story
  4. Implications for all those things

The Gospel is an announcement of news. You are not the Gospel. The Gospel is not your story. The Gospel is not something that happens in you. The Gospel is something that has happened outside of you.

The Gospel displays God’s power

Not only does the Gospel magnify God, but the Gospel displays God’s power. Verse 25 „Now to Him who is able”. God is able- you could spend the rest of your life unpacking that one, right there. But, what has Paul been writing about? By the way, there is in this last sentence, a recapitulation of the major points that Paul has been making. It’s glorious when you see it. Paul goes bak here- „Now to Him, who is able to strengthen you..” In Ephesians 3, there is a doxology in the middle of the letter, that sounds just like this. Ephesians 3:20-21 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Jude 1:24 24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. And it goes back to this in Romans 1:4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  and Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 

This is not just our justification. You go to Romans 8 and it’s the whole golden thread. This Gospel is not just how God gets us justified, but it’s how He gets us adopted, and sanctified, and glorified. All of it, right there in that chapter. And it is the Gospel, by which that is accomplished. In Romans 1:11 Paul says, „ I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.” What is the spiritual gift to strengthen them? The Gospel. The Gospel displays the power of God.

We see the power of God here. The power to save us, the power to strengthen and sanctify us, and the power to secure us. Paul says, „Praise God for the Gospel, because the Gospel doesn’t just magnify God, but it displays His power. God’s power saves. God’s power strengthens. God’s power keeps. Isn’t it interesting that here in this doxology, Paul doesn’t say, „Now, in light of what I have given you, hold on tight and work real hard. By the way, he’s not against holding on tight, and he’s not against working real hard. But, you have to understand that your holding on tight, and your working real hard is not what keeps you. It is a byproduct of the only thing that keeps you, which is the Gospel. (29)

The Gospel unfolds God’s providence

„according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but now has been disclosed through the prophetic writings, and has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith. What does he recap here? Salvation history. Paul, the Jew, the Benjamite, was anticipating the fulfillment of of the promises that God made to his forefather Abraham, and is now seeing the conversion of the Gentile world, the very fulfillment of the promises that he’s longing for, and beyond that, he gets to walk the ground and watch it happen first hand. So, when he says, „Praise God for the Gospel, he cannot help but recount salvation history, and what it is that God has done. We see this also throughout the letter, that which is revealed or manifested. That goes back to 1:17 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith, and 3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. Paul’s pointing back to it, here in his doxology. „Praise God!” But, not just praise God because I feel warm and fuzzy about God right now. Praise God because of the things I told you earlier. Praise God because of what I said in chapters 1,2,3,4,5. Praise God for all of these things I have just unfolded for you. Praise God for that which was present even in the writings of the prophets, but is only now being fully understood. Praise God for His timing in His bringing these things about in His fullness of time. Romans 1:2  the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Again, Paul is not just praising God because he’s finished writing, he’s praising God and he’s pointing back to what he’s written, much of it in the first chapter. Again, this is a bookend. WE PREACH THE GOSPEL, and THAT’S WHAT MAKES THEM OBEDIENT SONS OF GOD, because it unfolds God’s providence before us. How can you hear the Gospel and not pause in awe of the unfolding providence of God?

Kirk Cameron Interview at First Baptist Church Roanoke

Ray Comfort Kirk Cameron Todd Friel caricture

Dr. Bryan Smith had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Christian actor, Kirk Cameron. Kirk was at First Roanoke with the „Love Worth FIghting For” marriage event. This event was designed to strengthen and encourage the marriages in our church family (at First Roanoke).

Kirk first heard the Gospel at the age of 17, when he responded to a friends’ invitation and he attended a church pastored by Chuck Swindoll. He says that the biggest change in perspective for him was that it’s not about him, but that because this is God’s world, does God even care that he (Kirk) exists in light of his sins? Now, at about the same time, someone had given him a new age book to read which said exactly the opposite:  (that) „You are god, and you just need to feel that,” and although that fit very well with an egocentric celebrity, through God’s grace Kirk became a Christ follower.

Web Exclusive: Kirk Cameron – Full Interview from First Baptist Church Roanoke on Vimeo.

Discussing the legitimacy of Christ’s resurrection using historical evidence/dates in a way that is granted by skeptics

empty tomb

On February 27, 2013 at Convocation, North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students, Dr. Gary Habermas talked about how to defend the legitimacy of Christ’s resurrection using historical evidence/dates in a way that is granted by skeptics. In doing so, he provided students a way to defend the Gospel against arguments that say the New Testament was written too long after the resurrection for the information to be correct.

Dr. Gary Habermas is a distinguished research professor of apologetics at Liberty University as well as the department chair of Philosophy. He has authored over 36 books and teaches primarily in the Ph.D. program for theology and apologetics at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gary Habermas:

Easter gives a stamp of approval to Jesus’s ministry and what he taught. Usually, when I go to university campuses, I am asked to speak on the resurrection, and I tell them I’m going to start speaking on 1 Corinthians 15, and the interesting thing about this is that I can start by defining the Gospel, because that’s how Paul starts 1 Corinthians 15. Paul begins by saying, „I gave you the Gospel when I came to Corinth. And, paraphrasing Paul, he says, „Whatever you do with the Gospel will determine whether you will or will not be saved. What you do with the Gospel determines where you will spend your eternity. He begins with that, and I’ll just add this: Whenever the Gospel data, God’s side of the Gospel- there’s God’s side, there’s our side, what we need to do. But, on God’s side, these 3 facts are always mentioned when the definition of the Gospel is given:

  1. The deity
  2. The death,
  3. and The resurrection of Jesus.

Paul begins, and he says, I taught you that when I first came here. And then, you’ve got a response to make: Believe, which in Greek the synonym means to commit to, to surrender to, to trust, to commit, and that’s what we’re called to do with regards to Christ. The Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus who is the Son of God, who died for our sins, who was raised from the dead. What are we gonna do about it? Are we ready to make a lifetime,  indeed, an eternal commitment? Those 2 sides is what we call salvation. Facts + faith = salvation. But, faith by the biblical definition, which means your life will change, and so on…

Even on a skeptical look at the New Testament, here’s what a lot of people don’t understand, skeptics will quote the New Testament- they’re not opposed to using the New Testament.But, of course they will only use verses they think can be verified by other means. And, my point is that you can take those facts alone, and show that Jesus is raised from the dead. So, theoretically, the skeptic who gives you certain facts, they’re enough to show that Jesus is saved. In the timeline today, (I’m not gonna keep reminding you of this, but) virtually everything I say to you today is granted by the critics/ skeptics.

What makes a fact a fact. How do our historical tools work? How do we determine that George Washington was the first president of the United States? Or that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul? How do we determine these sorts of things? Two of the most important things you need are early reports (as close to the facts as possible) and eye witness testimony. Unfortunately, in the ancient world we rarely have these things.

Habermas goes through a timeline of 25 years after the cross

What are the historical facts that most historians accept?

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

Read more about this here –

Lee Strobel interviews resurrection historian Mike Licona

Passion Week A. Friday/Saturday: Jesus arrives in Bethany

This post corresponds to the related Google map of Jesus’ Passion Week you can access here.

This is a telling of the Gospel story and event of Jesus and Mary who annointed Jesus’ head with oil, one week before he was to be crucified. The Gospel is told by C.J.Mahaney and transcribed by Alex Chediak for a Desiring God conference in 2007. You can read the entire message here

Extravagant Devotion

We then were asked to open our Bible’s to Mark 14:1-11. C.J. read the text. C.J. assured us that his text, Mark 14:1-11, revealed a truly historic moment as it contained a profound pronouncement. Nobody else except this woman receives this promise from the Savior: „wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why her? Why now? Just her. Why her? C.J. wanted to help us discover „why her” so that we all might be affected by her.

The Mark 14 passage begins with disturbing descriptions of the chief priest: Only Jesus’ popularity and the threat of a riot slow have slowed them in their goal of killing him. That’s the backdrop to our passage. At the end of the evening, the chief priests will get some help from Judas.

The Alabaster Flask

And in between the intrigue of verses 1-2 and 10-11, there is a party taking place in Bethany. Jesus and his friends are gathered. They are in the home of „Simon the leper,” who – had he still been a leper – could not have been hosting the get-together. C.J. suggested he might have been previously healed by Jesus. John’s gospel, in a parallel passage, informs us that Lazarus was present, having recently been raised from the dead.

[C.J. joke: „Imagine being there with Lazarus. I’d find some way to recline next to him at some point in the evening. I’d have lots of questions for him. It’s not often you meet someone who has died. What was it like to die? Is it a bummer you have to do it again? What was heaven like? Who broke the news to you that you had to go back? How did they break the news to you? ‘Lazarus, your sisters won’t stop crying, now the Savior is crying, you’re going back, pal.’ And what was that like? Hearing the Savior say, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ Going from Paradise to the graveclothes. What was that like? If I’m disoriented by frequent travel, how disoriented is Lazarus?”]

John also tells us Martha is present; the quintessential servant, she is catering the party. And most important, the Savior is there. Presumably, he is the guest of honor. One would expect the atmosphere to be warm and friendly – there are no Pharisees or chief priests present. Only those with every reason to be grateful to Jesus are present (except perhaps Judas, who is still under the radar at this point).

Suddenly, a woman (John tells us it was Mary) stands by Jesus and proceeds to break an alabaster flask of very expensive perfume. She pours the entirety of its contents over his head. The fragrance fills the room. It was impossible to ignore this public, dramatic, passionate display of affection. The disciples do not appreciate this act, and they scold her. The scene is no longer festive. Suddenly there is a dramatic change in the mood and atmosphere. A voice says leave her alone.

The Savior then makes the profound promise: „wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Why? Why does he make this promise to her at this moment? What she has done must be told wherever the gospel is preached, because Mary uniquely exemplifies the transforming effect of the gospel, which is extravagant devotion to the Savior. She demonstrates the effect of the gospel by her extravagant love for Jesus. She was to be an example of piety to the church universal throughout history. Her story is told so that we might evaluate if we have been appropriately and effectively transformed by the gospel. Not just applause, but application: We should evaluate ourselves in relation to her.

Two points to be drawn:

1. Extravagant devotion is an evidence of conversion.

Earlier in Mark’s gospel we encounter a teacher of law who is told, „You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). It was surely both an encouragement and a warning to this man. You are near, but not in. Well, it is clear that Mary’s not simply “near.” She’s “in.” Big-time. This is what being “in” looks like.

Where there is a profession of faith without affection for and obedience to the Savior, it’s authenticity should be questioned. Be assured if you are truly saved. If you have genuine affection for the Savior, and genuine obedience to the savior, then you can have fresh assurance.

C.J. expressed concern regarding the prevailing tendency among many in the church to grant false assurance to those who profess faith in the Savior, but whose lives bear no evidence to the miracle of regeneration (namely, affection for and obedience to Jesus Christ). C.J. lamented that in the U.S. evangelical church, it is quite common for someone to retain the lifestyle of those in the world, but with the (false) confidence that they possess eternal salvation.

Where does that confidence come from? In his novel The Painted House, John Grisham describes a Sunday school teacher eulogizing a mean character Jerry Sisco, killed the night before: “She made Jerry sound like a Christian, and like an innocent victim. As baptists we’d been taught that they only way you get to heaven is by accepting Jesus. Accept Jesus, or you went to hell. That’s where Jerry Sisco was, and we all knew it.” C.J. exhorted us not to emulate the example of this Sunday school teacher who gave false assurance to someone whose life displayed no evidence of salvation: affection or obedience. We are not serving the children we have the privilege to lead if we impart false assurance to them. Let us not encourage assurance where there is the absence of affection for, or obedience to, the Savior.

Given the size of this conference, C.J. noted, he would be remiss to assume that everyone present is genuinely converted. „I think I can assume most everyone here is, but given the large number, it would be unwise to assume that all are converted, and perhaps even now God is drawing near those who have maybe even made a profession of faith, are serving in children’s ministry, but without evidence of affection or obedience. There are other things you are more passionate about than the Savior. If that is a description of you, I would warn you right now to receive this plea as an expression of God’s mercy. If you are not genuinely converted recognize that God is demanding you to turn from your sins to the Savior for the forgiveness of your sins. Because extravagant devotion is an evidence of genuine conversion.” (My paraphrase of C.J.’s warning)

If I witness a person who is unaffected by truth, uninvolved in the local congregation, and uninterested in spiritual things, that individual is very unlike Mary, and therefore unconverted. Extravagant devotion to the Savior cannot be concealed. It must find expression. It is evidence of true conversion. This is the significance of Mary.

2. Extravagant devotion is the increasing experience of the converted.

C.J. asked us to consider if we recognized ourselves in the following illustration:

A woman took her children to the park to break the monotony of the summer days. Instead, she broke her heart. A young attractive woman skipped to a picnic table in a secluded spot. The mother wondered who she might be so eager to see. The mother grew preoccupied with her children and forgot to watch. But when she did look again, it made her heart hurt. The young woman was reading her Bible. She had so eagerly run from her car to meet the Lord. The mother knew she had lost this passion. Something had happened over the years of her walk with the Lord. She would not now be one to skip to meet the Lord. She wept in the park for her loss.

The question C.J. put to us is: Are we still skipping? Now all who are genuinely converted can, at times, recognize themselves in this illustration. In the Mark 14 episode, we are sometimes more like those criticizing Mary than we are like Mary.

What should have happened there in Mark 14? As Mary stood over the Savior pouring out the perfume, affectionately, passionately, appropriately, over His head….quietly, everyone present should have gotten up and formed a line behind her and should have said to her, “Mary, could you please save some for me to pour? For he has forgiven all of my sins. Mary, can I pour some? For he healed me of my leprosy. Mary, thank you for your example. Can I follow your example?” That’s what should have happened.

So who do you resemble more? The arrogant and critical disciples? Or humble Mary, expressing her love for the Savior through this extravagant display of affection. How can we become more like her? How can we cultivate extravagant devotion to Christ?

Application: We must review and reflect upon the gospel.

We must regularly read, and meditate upon, the gospel, particularly the events surrounding Christ’s death. The transforming effect of the gospel is extravagant devotion to the Savior. Therefore, if extravagant devotion is diminished, it normally means the gospel has been neglected. Charles Spurgeon said:

Are you content to follow Jesus from a distance? O, let me affectionately warn you for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Savior’s face. Let us work to feel what an evil thing this is – little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Don’t stop at sorrow. Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only can you get your spirit aroused. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let’s go again in all the rags and poverty, and defilement of our natural condition. Let’s clasp that cross, let’s look into those languid eyes, let’s bathe in that fountain filled with blood – this will bring us back to our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart….The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard the more noble our lives become. Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.

How often do we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard? Those cries were all necessary because of our sins, and those cries were sufficient for our salvation. The transforming effect of those cries is extravagant devotion to the One who uttered those cries.

C.J. than cautioned that if we don’t intentionally review and reflect upon the gospel each day, we will inevitably review our own sin – and, consequently, be more aware of our sin that of God’s grace. Reflection upon sin should be a means, never an end. Cry out for grace, and be amazed by grace.

C.J. encouraged us to custom-design a play so that we can each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died. And express extravagant devotion each day through the experience of dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard.

If our affections have grown cold, C.J. suggested we consider restricting our spiritual diet to dwell where the cries of Calvary have been heard. Study a gospel, particularly the passion week. Study the Savior as he resolves to go to Jerusalem, as he is overwhelmed in the garden of Gethsemane, and contemplates the experience of God’s full and righteous wrath against sin.

C.J. movingly recounted Jesus’ words on the cross as we sat with eyes closed. He then encouraged us to have Christ-centered, Sunday school curricula, so that the attention of our children is drawn to Christ and Him crucified with regularity. Finally, he prayed that all present would be encouraged in their ministry and sense the Savior’s pleasure, even as we take appropriate measures to maintain our first love for Christ.

Books which C.J. commended for „dwelling where the cries of Calvary can be heard”:

J.I. Packer quote C.J. displayed:

The preachers’ commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary.

Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

I have posted this about a year ago, and I think it is a very good study on Gospel authenticity, as it is very detailed, so I am reposting it here together with my transcript of the entire session. This is one of those MUST READ/WATCH lectures because in most colleges in the US, your son or daughter’s religion class will teach your children that the synoptic Gospels are not authentically written by their authors, and they will date them much later than most scholars have agreed to date them and present their view as historically accurate.

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John’s Gospels ‘wordled’ (TNIV version). Wordle – Someone generated this “word cloud” from the text of the 4 Gospels. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

by Dr. Timothy McGrew (PhD Philosophy from Vanderbilt University), currently Professor, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University.

Video Intro from Dr. McGrew:

I teach at a secular university and one of  things that I see constantly is young people coming to university from our churches, good churches, Bible teaching churches, and falling away from their faith at the university. It is my contention that what we have given our young people is not what they needed: Bible stories, entertainment, even some devotional thoughts, but, they’re not being prepared for WAR. And, we’re sending them out with rubber swords and plastic armor and that is not enough. I always like to pick a Bible verse for a motto, and here I picked Deuteronomy 32:7: Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask your father and he will show you, your elders and they will tell you

If you hop online, in 5 minutes, you can find some of the wildest theories that have ever been invented. In this lecture Dr. McGrew is trying to show the genuineness of the Gospels. He defines

Authenticity and Genuineness

  • an ancient historical work is authentic if it gives a substantially  truthful account of the events it reports.

Authenticity is what we want in an historical document; we want to know if what it says is substantially true.

  • an ancient historical work is genuine if it was actually written by the person to whom it is attributed.

Showing the document is genuine helps to establish that it is authentic because it helps to rule out rival theories (e.g. that the document is a late mythical composition)

Dr. McGrew does 2 things in this lecture. First, he examines the genuineness of the Gospel, of it being the product of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, „just like they say”. Second, he considers the principal arguments of some people who dispute the genuineness of the Gospels.

The way Dr. McGrew argues that the historical evidence favors the traditional position. In making his argument, Dr. McGrew does not depend at all on the inspiration of Scripture, although he does in fact believe that the Scripture is inspired by God, but, in making the argument, he appeals only to evidence and criteria that can be applied to any historical document. He does not use theology to support his arguments (which is what Christians need to learn to do when arguing with atheists/non believers).

Point of departure when you walk into a University

The two statements below, made by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins are taken as „point of departure” (foundational) in universities.

Bart Ehrman – a former Pastor, now an apostate, who considers himself to be an agnostic inclined towards atheism. He is the principle guy people will go to if they are looking for a negative verdict on Scripture because he has been urning out enormously popular books aimed at sort of a church level audience, undermining fundamental points of faith. Here’s what he says about the Gospel: „Some books, such as the Gospels,… had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors, who probably did not write the (ascribed to apostles and friends of the apostles). From Jesus Interrupted 2009 pp 101-102

Richard Dawkins – (a) The Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. (b) Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. From The God Delusion 2006.

About this video:

Dr. Timothy McGrew lays out the case for the traditional authorship of the Gospels, while countering Bart Ehrman’s claims that the Gospels are forgeries. This is one hour of content followed by twenty minutes of Q&A. Uploaded by 

Augustine Against Faustus  33 6 (~400 AD)

Around 400 AD, Faustus was the first to systematically challenge that the Gospels were written by the men to whom they are ascribed. Here’s Augustine’s criterion for authorship: „Why does no one doubt the genuineness of the books attributed to Hippocrates? Because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or in the hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence? And the chain of evidence is exactly what he says we have for our Gospels. Here’s some of the evidence:

The Early Attestation of Authorship of the Gospels

  • Tertullian of Carthage (~207) Tertullian writes: „The Gospels were written by Matthew and John, who were apostles, and Luke and Mark, who were apostolic men. Mark’s Gospel is the record of Peter’s preaching. They tell the same basic facts about Jesus, including His virgin birth and his fulfillment of prophecy. They bore the names of their authors from antiquity and the ancient churches vouch for them and no others.” 

McGrew: So, Tertullian, writing just around the 200’s (AD) that „these books bear names and have been handed down to us, this is a tradition we received from far back”. And, that the ancient Church at Corinth, the Church at Rome, the churches that received letters from Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians); these ancient churches vouch for these Gospels and the authorship of these Gospels.

Why is Tertullian saying this? He is criticizing a heretic sect founded by a fellow named Marcion, who really hated the Old Testament and hated Judaism. (McGrew talks about how in Matthew you can find many references to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies as one example of what Marcion rejected in the Gospels). Marcion wanted nothing to do with the Old Testament or anything Jewish. So Marcion took the Gospel of Luke and trimmed out any OT or Jewish reference and published the rest of Luke in the 130’s AD. Marcion was very well off. He gathered a following and after his death, his followers kept on going. At around 200 AD Tertullian tells them they are following a false Gospel.

  • Clement of Alexandria (~180) Clement was a great teacher and head of a school in Alexandria, Egypt. He writes: Mark wrote his Gospel by request of his knowledge of Peter’s preaching at Rome. Matthew and Luke were published first; they are the Gospels that contain the genealogies. John’s Gospel was written at the urging of friends.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (~180) Iraneus was a bishop in France (very far away from Egypt and Clement) He writes: Matthew’s Gospel was the first written, it was originally written in the „Hebrew dialect” (Aramaic). Mark, a disciple of Peter, handed down in his Gospel what Peter had preached. Luke, a companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Joh, the disciple of the Lord, published a Gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia.
  • Muratorion Fragment (~170) This is a damaged manuscript that gives us a catalog of books that tells us something about the authors. The first page or so is lost because it starts with saying  Thirdly, Luke.… and it keeps on going.  So, it’s a pretty good guess that the first 2 pages were probably about Matthew and Mark. He writes: Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote his gospel from the reports of others, since he has not personally seen Jesus. John, who was an eyewitness, wrote his Gospel after the rest, at the urging of some friends.

McGrew: There is no dissenting views and virtually nothing contrary to show because there is no other tradition about the authors of the Gospels. The unanimous testimony of the Church coming down through the ages, coming towards the apostolic times is behind this traditional ascription to Matthew and Mark and Luke and John.

  • Justin Martyr (~150) Justin writes: The Christians possessed „memoirs” of Jesus which were so called „Gospels”. These were written by apostles and by those who were their followers. They tell us of such events as the visit of the Magi and His agony in Gethsemane. Justin’s pupil, Tatian, produced a harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron.

McGrew: Up until the middle of the 19th century we didn’t have a copy that anybody knew about of the Diatessaron. In 1888 a copy surfaced. It was actually always around, however, no one ever translated it and therefore no one knew what it was until 1888. This document opens with, „In the beginning the word was …” and continues with John’s entire prologue and writes a harmony of the 4 Gospels. So, Justin Martyr was quoting from the Diatessaron, which means all four Gospels, including John’s (which is usually attacked as being written hundreds of years after the fact) are not only in existence before the year 150 , but in use.

The apostle John died right around the turn of the century (~100) at extreme old age. He was probably in his teens when he was a disciple of Jesus. So the first reference  comes within one generation of the life of the apostle John. We have to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever literature has survived. A lot of it was written on papyrus and time and weather are not kind to papyrus. Unless it is in an extremely dry environment, it deteriorates and it’s gone.

  • Papias of Hierapolis (~125) Papias is recorded for us in Eusebius’ History. Eusebius was a voracious librarian. He put together all kinds of sources, some of which we’ve now lost. except for what was preserved in him. He gives us a couple of fragments from Papias. Papias writes: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down what Peter had preached accurately, though, not necessarily in order. Matthew wrote the oracles (a reference to his whole Gospel? to the sayings of Jesus?) in the Hebrew language.

Attestation of Authorship Summary of Facts

The attestation of authorship is not only significant and early, it is also geographically diverse, coming from every quarter of the Roman Empire:

– Tertullian in Carthage
– Clement in Alexandria
– Irenaus in France
– Papias in Asia Minor

Dr. McGrew: There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of the four Gospels.  In any field other than biblical studies that would be enough. The Bible is always held to a standard that is higher than the standard of any other work would be held to. So let’s look at more evidence:

Assessing Genuineness – External Tests

  • External Tests – Attributions of Authorship is strong and consistent.
  • Early use in other works –  Many early writers make use of the Gospel without naming or describing the authors (Ex. in preaching, or making exhortations, etc).This evidence takes us back even earlier than the evidence of attribution.

For these authors to make use of the Gospels as authoritative sources, means that they expected their audience to recognize their quotations and allusions and to accept them as authentic. Here’s some examples:

  1. Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp (~107): In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove’. Cf Matthew 10:16.
  2. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108): „Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Luke 6:20
  3. The witness of Basilides (~125) an agnostic heretic using quotes from the Gospel of John writes: that each man has his own appointed time, he (Basilides) says, ” The Savior sufficiently indicates when he says, ‘My hour has not yet come’„. John 2:4 and
  4. …this he (Basilides) says is what is mentioned in the Gospels, „He was the ‘light which lights every man coming into the world’„.Cf John 1:9
  • Early use – external evidence
  1. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108) quotes from or alludes to verses from : Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 Peter. Polycarp sat at the feet of the apostle John when he was a young man. He then passed on the Gospel to his own disciples when he was an old man. One of Polycarp’s people was Iraneus of Lyons. This unbroken chain takes us back to the very disciples themselves (John).
  • Early use – summary of facts
  1. The four Gospels and Acts are used copiously by the early church fathers
  2. Even heretics tacitly acknowledged their genuineness, which they would not have done if they could help it.
  3. Justin Martyr, in his first Apology-on the reading of Scripture: „And, on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities and in the country, gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” First Apology ch 67.  For the Gospels to be read as Scripture in weekly services, they must have been extremely highly regarded and well known to Christians throughout the world.

On a side note, did you know this author Thucydides c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian who is not mentioned once in any other writing for 250 years from the time of his existence? From a historical standpoint, the evidence for the Gospels isn’t just good, it’s great!

for more please visit The Library of Historical Apologetics at http://historicalapologetics.org/

After you view this video, you may want to read these  additional  articles:

  1. The Rationality of the Christian Worldview
  2. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels I
  3. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels II
  4. John Piper – How Are the Synoptics „Without Error”?
  5. The Real Roots of the Emergent Church (a documentary)
  6. Why I am not an atheist – Ravi Zacharias
  7. Belief in an age of skepticism – Tim Keller at University of California at Berkeley

Undesigned Coincidences – Evidence for the historicity of the Gospels Tim McGrew (via Logos Apologia)

Arial view of BETHSAIDA, Israel via http://jewishmag.com/

Video by Chris Putnam of LogosApologia

Do the Gospels contain internal and external evidence

that they are eyewitness accounts? 

One compelling line of evidence comes in the form of what is called „undesigned coincidences”. When one is telling a story, especially a story one has witnessed, one often hits the highlights and does not explain every detail. The focus is on what is important to the action. This is why two eyewitnesses will testify in different ways about the same event. Each person brings his own unique point of view in his description, due to his individual preferences and his predisposition. When telling a story, one gets caught up in what one actually remembers, and drops incidental references to significant facts. The sort of facts which are seemingly selected randomly by the memory of the individual. This is typical of the real memoirs, but not of legendary embellishments. When accounts from different eyewitnesses fill in the unknown details for each other, this is called an undesigned coincidence.

Here are 3 undesigned coincidences we are taking a look at, which show how the Gospels are pieces of an interlocking historic narration:

1. The miracles Jesus performed in Bethsaida

Such coincidences, especially when they are considered in their cumulative force, provide strong evidence for the integrity of the individual accounts. In Matthew 11:21 Jesus pronounces a curse on some cities in Galilee, saying, „Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  So, the question naturally arises: What is Jesus talking about? What were the mighty works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida? For Chorazin, we really cannot say. It’s one of those cases, where we realize that Jesus did things that we do not have recorded in Scripture, and Bethsaida is never mentioned elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew. In Mark and John, who do name Bethsaida a couple of times, tell us nothing that would make sense of Jesus’s words, as quoted in Matthew.

But, in Luke’s Gospel, we find the answer. Luke 9:10 reads „When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all they had done. And taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.” Immediately after this verse, and set in the same geographic location, we have Luke’s account of the feeding of 5,000. Now, here we have an answer to our question, about the mighty work done in Bethsaida. It was there that Jesus fed the 5,000.

Now, a critic, trying to get around the force of this coincidence, might point out that Luke gives out both the location of the miracle, and in Luke 10:13, Jesus’s pronouncement was on Chorazin and Bethsaida. Might Matthew have simply copied form Luke, forgetting to include the reference to Bethsaida? Most scholars, traditional and liberal, think Matthew did not use Luke’s Gospel at all in writing his own. No one, not even an honest and observant eyewitness, can report every event in complete detail. So, the alternative hypothesis of chance and legendary elaboration does not really explain the coincidence at all. And modern scholarship makes the copying hypothesis very unlikely. The best explanation is Matthew was simply reporting facts, as he knew they had occurred.

2. Why does Jesus address Philip in the feeding of the 5,000?

In John 6:5 , Jesus is preparing to feed the 5,000. He turns to Philip and asks: Therefore, Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him said to Philip, „Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?” Philip is a minor figure in the Gospels. After the calling of the disciples, Jesus addresses Philip directly only once, that we hear of. Why then, does Jesus ask this question of Philip? Why not Peter, James, or John, who are much more prominent figures? Why not Judas, who kept the money? Presumably, when John told the story, he wasn’t concerned with the reason Jesus chose Philip. But, if someone were forging the story as fiction, crafting a legend, he would have a literary reason for selecting a particular disciple as a character in his fictional narrative. Accordingly, a fabricator of fiction would not select a character without making the reason clear to the audience.

So, why did Jesus choose Philip? John’s Gospel does not really say why. Keep in mind that we just learned in the previous undesigned coincidence that the miracle took place in Bethsaida- Luke 9:10. Then turn to John 12:20-21. Here is Jesus teaching and some Greeks approach and want to speak with him, asking permission from Jesus’s disciples. Now, casually, in the course of reporting the request, John remarks, „Now, there were certain Greeks among those that were going up to worship at the feast; these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'”  

Now, here is a remarkable, interlocking  of the 2 passages in John and Luke-  BECAUSE PHILIP WAS FROM BETHSAIDA! (John 6:1-13; Luke 9:12-17: Matthew 11:21)There’s no other way that this could be explained, as having one of the authors copying from the other. John does not tell us where the miracle took place, and Luke never mentions Philip. And the coincidence is too tight and clear for a chance of a legendary elaboration to be a plausible explanation. (6:06) But, putting the 3 passages together, we find that they interlock, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This is what real history looks like. It has a ring of truth.

3. 

Two passages in Mark give us the setup for our third undesigned coincidence. In Mark 6:31, we find a reference to large crowds of people, so large and pressing, that they force Jesus and the disciples to withdraw. „And He said to them, ” Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) This passage sets the stage for the feeding of the 5,000. A little time later, Mark gives us another vivid description of the scene: Mark 6:39 „And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.” Two questions arise form these passages.

  1. Why should there have been particularly large crowds, just then? We are entitled to demand an answer with the evidence of the historic faithfulness of the narrative, if we could find one. 
  2. It is a bit odd that the grass should be described as green. In Palestine, there’s only a short growing season. After that, dry heat turns the grass brown, and it remains brown throughout the summer.

But, in John’s description of this setting, for this same miracle, we find the detail that explains both of these facts. John 6:4 reads: „Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.” At Passover each year, thousands of Jews travelled each year to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. That would definitely explain why a Galilean town would be unusually crowded at the time. As it happens, Passover falls every year, in the middle of the year’s growing season, when the grass would be lush and green. John doesn’t mention the crowds or the green grass. Though he does note that there was much grass in that place, John 6:10. Mark doesn’t mention the season was Passover, but, putting the two accounts together, makes for an explanation that fits everything together. And, no other explanation does the job so well. This has a ring of true history.

Even skeptics believe that Gospels were written at different times and places. Where the accounts are obviously independent, the odds against some kind of subtle collusion are astronomical. The best explanation is that they were writing about something that actually occurred. This undesigned coincidence supports the historicity of all the different accounts. When we overlap the Gospels in this way, these undesigned coincidence provide evidence the Gospel accounts are eyewitness testimony of actual historical events.

Eric Ludy – The Gospel – His blood was shed for more than just forgiveness…

thanks to Denise for reminding of me of Eric Ludy’s messages. Here is one of them setapartlife

Eric Ludy:

I am going to introduce you to the Gospel right now. YOU ARE A REBEL. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not,  I’ll tell you straight up: You are a rebel against the living God. This is your natural disposition. Why? Because you were born in sin. We are in a prison cell, and it takes the awakening and the grace of God, the prevenient grace of God to awaken us to the fact that we’re lost, and that we can’t get out. We’re headed towards destruction fast.

The enemy, because of our rebellion against God, has legal rights to harm and harass our life. There you are, behind prison bars, „Help, I need help!” You can’t get out. Those prison bars are stronger than anything. There is no way you can cut them. It is impenetrable, you cannot escape. You’re doomed. Because when the enemy comes at the very end, he will finish you off because he has a legal right to do it, and he will relish every minute of it.

In strolls your intercessor. He stands between you and that accuser, and He takes the hit that was rightfully yours. He takes the blow that was intended for you. That is an extraordinary reality, that he was turned to pulp, and He actually died for you. Over your prison cell it always said: Condemned. Separated eternally from God. Guilty. And then, suddenly it switches. When you realize what Jesus Christ has done, it says: Justified, it says forgiven, redeemed.

Here’s the problem: Most of us have stopped with the good news right there. The blood of Jesus Christ has been shed. I want you to know that is unbelievable news. But, we’re still in a prison cell. We’re thanking God, but we’re still in a prison cell saying, „Thank you for forgiving me, thank you for changing the sign on the outside of the prison.

And God’s word says, „COULD YOU CHECK THE DOOR to the prison cell?” Because, my blood was shed for more than just forgiveness. Forgiveness was the avenue through which He could make the escape for us. He isn’t just interested in the consequences of the penalty of sin, HE HAS ALSO DEALT WITH THE PROBLEM OF SIN. Test the door. It’s unlocked. The door to the prison cell is unlocked. WALK OUT! Smell the open air and the freedom and liberty in the life of Jesus Christ! (from the first 3 minutes of 12).

Watch – Betrayed with a Kiss – Eric Ludy

Paul Washer – America’s preachers are Gospel ignorant

Another clip of Paul Washer at the G3 Conference Uploaded by WretchedNetwork

Living by Vows by Robertson McQuilken (Classic Reading-Marriage)

This article is from the February 2004 Issue of Christianity Today:

Robertson McQuilkin recently  resigned as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina, after which he was named chancellor, a position that draws on his expertise while still allowing him to care for his wife.

As his wife suffered with Alzheimer’s, Robertson McQuilkin said, If I took care of her for 40 years, I would never be out of her debt.

After his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, college and seminary president Robertson McQuilkin found himself torn between two commitments, two divine callings. At the request of the CT editors, he shares the story of his struggle:

It has been a decade since that day in Florida when Muriel, my wife, repeated to the couple vacationing with us the story she had told just five minutes earlier. Funny, I thought, that’s never happened before. But it began to happen occasionally.

Three years later, when Muriel was hospitalized for tests on her heart, a young doctor called me aside. „You may need to think about the possibility of Alzheimer’s,” he said. I was incredulous. These young doctors are so presumptuous—and insensitive. Muriel was doing the same things she had always done, for the most part. True, we had stopped entertaining in our home—no small loss for the president of a thriving seminary and Bible college. She was a great cook and hostess, but she was having increasing difficulty planning menus. Family meals she could handle, but with guests we could not risk missing a salad and dessert, for example.

And, yes, she was having uncommon difficulty painting a portrait of me, which the college and seminary board—impressed by her earlier splendid portrait of my predecessor—had requested. But Alzheimer’s? While I had barely heard of the disease, a dread began to lurk around the fringes of my consciousness.

When her memory deteriorated further, we went to Joe Tabor, a neurologist friend, who gave her the full battery of tests and, by elimination, confirmed that she had Alzheimer’s. But because she had none of the typical physical deterioration, there was some question. We went to the Duke University Medical Center, believing we should get the best available second opinion. My heart sank as the doctor asked her to name the Gospels and she looked pleadingly at me for help. But she quickly bounced back and laughed at herself. She was a little nervous, perhaps, but nothing was going to get her down.

This time we accepted the verdict. And we determined from the outset not to chase around the country every new „miracle” treatment we might hear about. Little did I know the day was coming when we would be urged-on average, once a week-to pursue every variety of treatment: vitamins, exorcism, T chemicals, this guru, that healer. How could I even wife 1 look into them all, let alone pursue them? I was grateful to friends who made suggestions, because each was an expression of love. But for us, we would trust the Lord to work a miracle in Muriel if he so desired, or work a miracle in me if he did not.

One day the WMHK station manager, the program manager, and the producer of my wife’s morning radio program, „Looking Up,” asked for an appointment. I knew an occasional program she had produced was not used, but the response to her monologue of upbeat encouragement continued to be strong. Though the program was designed for women, businessmen often told me how they arranged their morning affairs so they could catch the program.

As the appointment began, the three executives seemed uneasy. After a few false starts, I caught on. They were reluctantly letting me know that an era was ending. Only months before they had talked of national syndication. I tried to help them out. „Are you meeting with me to tell us that Muriel cannot continue?” They seemed relieved that their painful message was out and none of them had to say it. So, I thought, her public ministry is over. No more conferences, TV, radio. I should have guessed the time had come.

She did not think so, however. She may have lost the radio program, but she insisted on accepting invitations to speak, even though invariably she would come home crushed and bewildered that her train of thought was lost and things did not go well. Gradually, reluctantly, she gave up public ministry.

Still, she could counsel the many young people who sought her out, she could drive and shop, or write her children. The letters did not always make sense, but then, the children would say, „Mom always was ,a bit spacy.” She also volunteered to read textbooks for a blind graduate student. The plan was to put them on tape so that others could use them. I was puzzled that those responsible never used them, until it dawned on me that reading and writing were going the way of art and public speaking. She was disappointed with each failure and frustration, but only momentarily. She would bounce back with laughter and have another go at it.

Muriel never knew what was happening to her, though occasionally when there was a reference to Alzheimer’s on TV she would muse aloud, „I wonder if I’ll ever have that?” It did not seem painful for her, but it was a slow dying for me to watch the vibrant, creative, articulate person I knew and loved gradually dimming out.

I approached the college board of trustees with the need to begin the search for my successor. I told them that when the day came that Muriel needed me full-time, she would have me. I hoped that would not be necessary till I reached retirement, but at 57 it seemed unlikely I could hold on till 65. They should begin to make plans. But they intended for me to stay on forever, I guess, and made no move. That’s not realistic, and probably not very responsible, I thought, though I appreciated the affirmation.

So began years of struggle with the question of what should be sacrificed: ministry or caring for Muriel. Should I put the kingdom of God first, „hate” my wife and, for the sake of Christ and the kingdom, arrange for institutionalization? Trusted, lifelong friends—wise and godly—urged me to do this.

„Muriel would become accustomed to the new environment quickly.” Would she? Would anyone love her at all, let alone love her as I do? I had often seen the empty, listless faces of those lined up in wheelchairs along the corridors of such places, waiting, waiting for the fleeting visit of some loved one. In such an environment, Muriel would be tamed only with drugs or bodily restraints, of that I was confident.

People who do not know me well have said, „Well, you always said, ‘God first, family second, ministry third.’ ” But I never said that. To put God first means that all other responsibilities he gives are first, too. Sorting out responsibilities that seem to conflict, however, is tricky business.

In 1988 we planned our first family reunion since the six children had left home, a week in a mountain retreat. Muriel delighted in her children and grandchildren, and they in her. Banqueting with all those gourmet cooks, making a quilt that pictured our life, scene by scene, playing games, singing, picking wild mountain blueberries was marvelous. We planned it as the celebration of our „fortieth” anniversary, although actually it was the thirty-ninth. We feared that by the fortieth she would no longer know us.

But she still knows us—three years later. She cannot comprehend much, nor express many thoughts, and those not for sure. But she knows whom she loves, and lives in happy oblivion to almost everything else.

She is such a delight to me. I don’t have to care for her, I get to. One blessing is the way she is teaching me so much—about love, for example, God’s love. She picks flowers outside—anyone’s—and fills the house with them.

Lately she has begun to pick them inside, too. Someone had given us a beautiful Easter lily, two stems with four or five lilies on each, and more to come. One day I came into the kitchen and there on the window sill over the sink was a vase with a stem of lilies in it. I’ve learned to „go with the flow” and not correct irrational behavior. She means no harm and does not understand what should be done, nor would she remember a rebuke. Nevertheless, I did the irrational—I told her how disappointed I was, how the lilies would soon die, the buds would never bloom, and please do not break off the other stem.

The next day our youngest son, soon to leave for India came from Houston for his next-to-last visit. I told Kent of my rebuke of his mother and how bad I felt about it. As we sat on the porch swing, savoring each moment together, his mother came to the door with a gift of love for me: she carefully laid the other stem of lilies on the table with a gentle smile and turned back into the house. I said simply, „Thank you.” Kent said, „You’re doing better, Dad!”

Muriel cannot speak in sentences now, only in phrases and words, and often words that make little sense: „no” when she means „yes,” for example. But she can say one sentence, and she says it often: „I love you.”

She not only says it, she acts it. The board arranged for a companion to stay in our home so I could go daily to the office. During those two years it became increasingly difficult to keep Muriel home. As soon as I left, she would take out after. me. With me, she was content; without me, she was distressed, sometimes terror stricken. The walk to school is a mile round trip. She would make that trip as many as ten times a day. Sometimes at night, when I helped her undress, I found bloody feet. When I told our family doctor, he choked up. „Such love,” he said simply. Then, after a moment, „I have a theory that the characteristics developed across the years come out at times like these.” I wish I loved God like that-desperate to be near him at all times. Thus she teaches me, day by day.

Friends and family often ask, „How are you doing?” meaning, I would take it, „How do you feel?” I am at a loss to respond. There is that subterranean grief that will not go away. I feel just as alone as if I had never known her as she was, I suppose, but the loneliness of the night hours comes because I did know her. Do I grieve for her loss or mine? Further, there is the sorrow that comes from my increasing difficulty in meeting her needs.

But I guess my friends are asking not about her needs, but about mine. Or perhaps they wonder, in the contemporary jargon, how I am „coping,” as they reflect on how the reputed indispensable characteristics of a good marriage have slipped away, one by one.

I came across the common contemporary wisdom in this morning’s newspaper in a letter to a national columnist: „I ended the relationship because it wasn’t meeting my needs,” the writer explained. The counselor’s response was predictable: „What were your needs that didn’t get met by him in the relationship? Do you still have these same needs? What would he have to do to fill these needs? Could he do it?” Needs for communication, understanding, affirmation, common interests, sexual fulfillment—the list goes on. If the needs are not met, split. He offered no alternatives.

I once reflected on the eerie irrelevance of every one of those criteria for me. But I am not wired for introspection; I am more oriented outward and toward action and the future. I even feel an occasional surge of exhilaration as I find my present assignment more challenging than running an institution’s complex ministry. Certainly greater creativity and flexibility are needed.

I have long lists of „coping strategies,” which have to be changed weekly, sometimes daily. Grocery shopping together may have been recreation, but it is not so much fun when Muriel begins to load other people’s carts and take off with them, disappearing into the labyrinth of supermarket aisles. Or how do you get a person to eat or take a bath when she steadfastly refuses? It is not like meeting a $10 million budget or designing a program to grasp some emerging global opportunity, to be sure. And it is not as public or exhilarating. But it demands greater resources than I could have imagined, and thus highlights more clearly than ever my own inadequacies, as well as provides constant opportunity to draw on our Lord’s vast reservoir of resources.

As she needed more and more of me, I wrestled daily with the question of who gets me full-time-Muriel or Columbia Bible College and Seminary? Dr. Tabor advised me not to make any decision based on my desire to see Muriel stay contented. „Make your plans apart from that question. Whether or not you can be successful in your dreams for the college and seminary or not, I cannot judge, but I can tell you now, you will not be successful with Muriel.”

When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, „in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part”?

This was no grim duty to which I stoically resigned, however. It was only fair. She had, after all, cared for me for almost four decades with marvelous devotion; now it was my turn. And such a partner she was! If I took care of her for 40 years, I would never be out of her debt.

But how could I walk away from the responsibility of a ministry God had blessed so signally during our 22 years at Columbia Bible College and Seminary?

Not easily. True, many dreams had been fulfilled. But so many dreams were yet on the drawing board. And the peerless team God had brought together-a team not just of professionals, but of dear friends-how could I bear to leave them? Resignation was painful; but the right path was not difficult to discern. Whatever Columbia needed, it did not need a part-time, distracted leader. It is better to move out and let God designate a leader to step in while the momentum is continuing.

No, it was not a choice between two loves. Sometimes that kind of choice becomes necessary, but this time responsibilities did not conflict. I suppose responsibilities in the will of God never conflict (though my evaluation of those responsibilities is fallible). Am I making the right choice at the right time in the right way? I hope so. This time it seemed clearly in the best interest of the ministry for me to step down, even if board and administrators thought otherwise. Both loves-for Muriel and for Columbia Bible College and Seminarydictated the same choice. There was no conflict of loves, then, or of obligations.

I have been startled by the response to the announcement of my resignation. Husbands and wives renew marriage vows, pastors tell the story to their congregations. It was a mystery to me, until a distinguished oncologist, who lives constantly with dying people, told me, „Almost all women stand by their men; very few men stand by their women.” Perhaps people sensed this contemporary tragedy and somehow were helped by a simple choice I considered the only option.

It is all more than keeping promises and being fair, however. As I watch her brave descent into oblivion, Muriel is the joy of my life. Daily I discern new manifestations of the kind of person she is, the wife I always loved. I also see fresh manifestations of God’s love-the God I long to love more fully.

Uploaded on Feb 1, 2007 by tkdmaster001

After his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Columbia Bible College and Seminary President Robertson McQuilkin found himself torn between two commitments, two divine callings.


David Platt – …son, you don’t ever have to worry about hell again…

a great video form Tyndale House at Tyndale House Publishers. For all of our no English speaking friends who use Google translate to read this blog, the transcript follows below the video. David Platt is a humble (though he possess many doctorates in theology) young pastor who boldly preaches the Gospel at the Church of Brook Hill in Alabama. Listen to David Platt sermons here-  David Platt Sermon Page.

Follow Me by David Platt – Tyndale House Publishers

David Platt:

david plattSo I’ve got this friend, I’ll call him ‘John’. John’s first exposure to the whole concept of hell was when he was watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon, when he was younger. And what was intended to be this humorous cartoon, all of a sudden turned into this nightmare, where Tom did something to Jerry and was thrown into hell, end result. And later, John was at his church and he was talking with an older man about what he had seen. And, the older man looked at John and said, „John, you don’t want to go to hell, do you?” John said, „No.” The man looked back at him and said, „Pray this prayer after me. Dear Jesus…” John kind of paused, there was some awkward silence and then he realized he was supposed to say exactly what the man had said. So, he said, „Dear Jesus….” and the man continued, „I know that I’m a sinner, and believe that Jesus died for my sins, I ask you to come into my heart and save me.” And then, when they were finished, the man looked at John and said, „Son, now you can know that you are saved from your sins, and you don’t ever have to worry about hell again.”

Is that true? Is this really what it means to become a disciple of Jesus? Is this really what it means to follow Him? You look back at the first disciples in the Bible, and when Jesus came up to them and said, „Follow me,” that was not an invitation to pray a prayer. That was a summons for these men to lose their lives. Somewhere, along the way, 2,000 years later, amid varying cultural ties and popular church trends, we have virtually missed that call. With good intentions, with sincere desire to reach as many people as possible for Jesus, we’ve taken challenging words from Christ and turned them into trite phrases in the church. And, in the process, we’ve drained the lifeblood out of Christianity, and replaced it with a watered down version of the Gospel that’s so palatable that it’s not even real anymore.

And the consequences are catastrophic. Scores of men, women, and children, culturally identify themselves as Christians, yet biblically they are not followers of Christ. Is that possible? Absolutely, it is. In fact, according to Jesus, it’s probable. He said, at the end of His most famous sermon, „Many will say to Me, on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in your name drive out demons, and perform many miracles?'” And, I will tell them, „I never knew you. Away from Me, you evil doers.”  Those are the most frightening words in all the Bible. And, as a Pastor, I stay awake some nights, haunted by the thoughts that many people, many people, who are sitting in church on Sunday will be shocked to stand before Jesus one day, and hear Him say to them, „I never knew you. Away from Me.” We desperately need to take a look at our lives and our churches, and ask the question, „Are we really biblically, personally, following Jesus? Eternity is dependent on how we answer that question.

Paul Washer – The Lost doctrine

man pray

  • The evidence of conversion is not a decision card filled out, it’s a life being lived out.
  • God commands every man, everywhere to repent of their sins and believe in the Gospel and to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance
  • I am absolutely not talking about a works salvation here. Ia m talking about a lost doctrine in the church: the doctrine of regeneration.
  • If there is a lost doctrine in the church today that has destroyed evangelism  it’s the doctrine of regeneration.
  • Regeneration is not merely a human decision. You do not get saved simply because you decided to jump out of the line going to hell in order to jump into the line going to heaven.
  • Salvation is a supernatural work of God, where by the power of God is manifest  to such a degree that it parallels or exceeds the very power of God manifested in the creation of the universe. The universe was created ex nihilo, out of nothing, but, when God saves a man He recreates him out of a corrupt mass. When people have truly repented, when people have truly believed, there’s a work of regeneration going on in which that person becomes a new creature. And, as a new creature, with a new nature, they will live a different life.
  • The evidence of regeneration is not that you made a decision once, in an evangelistic campaign. The evidence of regeneration is that your life is being transformed.
  • Do you think that God transforms just some of His children? The doctrine of a Christian living in a continuous state of carnality is absolute heresy. Do Christians sin? Yes. Do Christians fall into carnality? Yes. Can Christians walk in immaturity for a while? Yes. But, can Christians live a godless worldly life all the days of their life? Absolutely not! Why? Because salvation is a supernatural work of God whereby if any man be in Christ he’s a new creature (1 Corinthians 5:17) . And new creatures live a different way. That’s why, when people tell me today that there’s just as much sin in the church as outside of the church, there’s just as much divorce, pornography, and lying, and hating, and bickering in the church as outside the church- that is a lie. The church of Jesus Christ in America today is beautiful. She is broken, she is confessional, she is walking with her God, and when she sins it breaks her heart and she returns to Him. Your problem is what you’re calling the church IS NOT the church. If the church is as most people say, then every new covenant promise in the bible has failed. but God says in the new covenant He will make a people, and He will be their God, and they will be His people. And the law of God will be written on their heart, and they will walk in it. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
  • A dear friend of mine, called a very important Christian scholar in history, Doctor Dallimore, he said, „Doctor Dallimore,  I have a question: The Puritans didn’t really give invitations and things like we do today. How did they know when someone got saved? Dallimore said this, „Well, that was easy. Their life changed and they kept coming to church.” How do we know they got saved (because) they don’t come to church and their life has not changed. But (we say) they got saved because they raised their hand. Look at what we’ve done. Just look. Look. If you’re here tonight and you’re troubled about your soul, I won’t ask you to raise your hand, I won’t ask you to fill out a card. But, I will stay here til 6 in the morning, when my plane leaves, to counsel you.
  • You see, that’s the problem, isn’t it? People come forward, they sign a card, we talk to them 5 minutes about salvation, we declare them saved, and then we wonder why we have to pour so much discipleship  in them, and they still won’t grow. We’ve made the great assumption, we’ve passed them through an evangelical rite because they said all the right answers. We declare them saved and we never worry about it again. That’s wrong.
  • I’ll tell you this: If you repent  and believe in Christ today, if you have done that, He’s saved you. But, I’ll tell you this: If you’ve made a decision for Christ, you see Christ as Lord tonight and you profess Him in faith, He’s saved you. But, if you walk out of here and your life doesn’t change, and you don’t begin to grow- He who began a good work in you doesn’t complete it. (Then) what happened here tonight was not a genuine conversion. Because the evidence of genuine conversion is an ongoing work of God in the soul of a man. That’s the old way. That’s historical Christianity.
  • (Paul Washer gives an example of how to talk to your child who professed faith in Christ in their childhood and in their teenage years are in the world)- You need to approach them this way: You made a profession of faith in Christ, but every bit of evidence in your life, at this moment, dictates that maybe your profession of faith in Jesus Christ was false, and you are still in your sin, and if you died you would go to hell. Now, make your calling and election sure. Repent. Return to Christ.
  • You see how superficial our Christianity has become? Oh my dear friend, these things should not be so, but they are. Awaken to the Gospel, the real Gospel, not the reduced kind. It’s a Gospel of grace and a Gospel of power- that He who began a good work in you, will finish it. (Phil. 1:6)
  • Uploaded by illbehonest·

Tim Keller – Humble Cultural Engagement

Also from the same conference, watch – Os Guiness – Engaging an increasingly post-Christian culture in the west (Gospel & Culture Lectures)

Dr. Tim Keller speaks on cultural engagement with practical insights on how Christians should relate in the culture, and especially at their workplace.

Tim Keller is Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Dr. Keller:

I am here to talk about how a Gospel changed heart makes a difference, how a Gospel changed heart is crucial to a cultural renewal. In the last couple of years, some of the books I have been reading on cultural renewal have been moving towards a consensus. The consensus goes something like this, and this is an oversimplification: When it comes to how Christians relate to the culture- on the one hand, you’ve got a withdrawal mentality, that says, „Christianity is not really here to mend the world.” There is a liberal version of that, that basically accommodating culture? Why would Christians want to change things? There’s a conservative version of that that says that as Christians of the Church what we ought to be doing is just building up the church,  evangelizing, discipling. In other words, there’s the withdrawal mentality that says it’s not the job of Christians to try to mend the world.

On the other hand there is an extreme, which you could call triumphalism. And again, there’s a kind of liberal and conservative version of that. The liberal version is what you call liberation theology, which is a form of marxism. The conservative version is the idea that Christians ought to take power and make society the way that Christians think it should be. In both cases there is talk of some kind of triumphalistic kind of talk of transforming culture- we’re gonna make culture the way it ought to be.

All these writers are saying that this doesn’t fit in with what the Bible says and what the Gospel is. If you think about this, the Bible is a third way between legalism and what you might call license, the theological term is antinomianism. Legalism says: We can change ourselves with our own power, our own strength. Antinomianism , or license says: We’re just fine the way we are. The Gospel is: You’re saved by grace, through faith. You’re not saved by your own efforts and power, but, at the same time, once you’re saved, it changes you.

There is a consensus developing that humble, faith work integration- engaging culture as Christians, but, still working together for a common good,  a kind of cultural engagement that avoids these extremes. And it’s analogous to the Gospel itself. But, if you’re going to engage in this way, the Gospel has to change your heart.

  1. The Gospel actually gives your heart the humility  to appreciate the contributions of everyone out there in the field- christians and non christians. It enables you to humbly cooperate with others, who aren’t Christians to work for the common good.
  2. On the other hand, the Gospel gives you courage and insight to humbly and respectfully provoke the culture and to say, there’s a lot of ways in which work needs to be done in a different way, and public life needs to be conducted in a different way. There needs to be humble cooperation, respectful provocation and then
  3. Last of all, the Gospel shapes the way in which you lead in your vocation.

1. Gospel gives you the humility to work with others. There is a rhetoric out there that says, „Christians ought to go out and take back their culture.” And very often, the critique of that view is that it is not appreciating the fact that the world is filled with the glory of God, that God is at work out there, and through all kinds of people’s work, whether people are Christian or not, that He is doing His work.

Martin Luther had some fascinating stuff to say about this. Luther says: When you pray, „Give us this day our daily bread,” instead of God just having the bread appear on your table, what He is actually doing is He is working through the bakers, the merchants, the people who transform the flour. In other words, what God does is He in fact answers your request , and He gives you food through the work of other people. At one point, Luther looks at all the jobs that are out there and he says, „These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed, and do all things. Christians have to be profoundly appreciative of good work done on absolutely everything. You need to be looking out there and seeing God working in all kinds of people.

And, some of you heard that this is often called common grace. Common grace means that God gives good gifts and He works through people. It’s common grace, not special grace. But, the fact is that if you know you’re saved by grace alone, and if you’re a Christian, you know that God is at work in your life, despite the fact that you’re not great  in a lot of ways. He didn’t save you because you are a better mother or father. He didn’t save you because you are a better business person. He saved you just by grace. And you know that God works in people’s lives, even though they’re flawed. And that means that God really does do everything by grace. And out there, there are people who don’t believe what we believe. And yet, God has given them gifts of wisdom and of skill, and of beauty, and of excellence. And through their work, the human race’s life is better than it would have been otherwise. And we have to realize that those are real gifts.

Through the Gospel, Christians should be humbled, enough to see that God always works through grace, and always works through gifts. And when you look out there, you see the whole society, the whole world aflame with the grace of God- all over the place. There’s a tendency for Christians to be so negative about society, so negative about culture. And there’s a self righteousness in that that does not behoove people who understand they’re sinners saved by grace. So, the Christian Gospel teaches you to enjoy God’s gifts, wherever they are, and make you humbly cooperate with other people for the common good. (10:00)

2. Gospel gives you the courage & insight to humbly and respectfully provoke the culture. Christians know that all work is done for some reason. It’s either done for God’s glory, or it’s done for something else. And when work is not done for God’s glory, it’s distorted. When work is done for your glory, or for your status, or for your success, or for your particular tribe’s status and success, rather than for everyone else, there’s all sorts of ways then , that work is distorted in this world. It’s distorted by sin. The Gospel gives you the courage and the insight to tell the world that there is a way to work that is shaped by what we know is the character of God.

So you go out there humbly, respectfully. But, at the same time you have to have the courage and you also have the insight to know that the Gospel shapes the way in which you work, because the glory of God shapes the way in which you work. Everyone works for some reason, everyone works from a particular worldview. And when Christians move out into the world because they believe the Gospel, they think Gospel wise. They’ve got the courage and the insight to change the way work is done from the inside. Not in a triumphalistic way, taking over. Not failing to appreciate the fact that all kids of people who are not Christians, who don’t have a better world view might be doing a better job in your work than you are because of the way God tends to operate, because of the way God gives His gifts of grace all over the place.

Do you see the way God operates? You know you’re a sinner saved by grace, you know you’re completely sinful, and completely loved. There’s a paradoxical balance in the way Christians think. The longer you’re a Christian, and the more and more you learn to think in a kind of Gospel way. And, therefore, not only does it humble you to appreciate what other people do, but it actually emboldens you to say, „We’ve got to change things, the way they are.” There’s plenty of places where the way work is done and the way public life is ordered, changes need to be made so it’s more in line with justice, more in line with the common good.

3. The Gospel changes the way you relate to people in your profession. If you actually do have a Savior who saved you, by taking the blame for what you did; if you have a Savior who saved you, by putting your needs ahead of His own; if you have a Savior who saved you by substitutionary sacrifice- look at that and how you were saved and how you can actually relate to people. The Gospel creates a kind of transformational leadership pattern, in which you give credit instead of always taking it, in which you bear blame instead of always making other people take the blame, in which you lift up others instead of trample on people, so you can get up the ladder. You lift up other people instead. You don’t think people notice that? Oh, they do! You could call it the ethical side of work- Gospel wise. Not so much the shaping of the work through the world view, just the ethical side.

Putting all that together – If you see the implications of the Gospel, if your heart’s really been affected by the Gospel, so that you have this humility, that you wouldn’t have had, unless you knew you’re a sinner; and a boldness you wouldn’t have had, unless you knew you were completely affirmed by God, and therefore, what really matters is not your status, and not your success, and not how much money you make, but, just do a good job. If the Gospel has shaped you, so your relationships are such, that you know how to serve instead of use people everywhere, you’ll engage the culture. A Gospel shaped heart will create culturally engaged Christians that really will change the world.

 Uploaded by RedeemerCFW September 2012

Matt Chandler – The Message – Making it Explicit

matt chandler

What we’ve been called to do is far more difficult than we think, because:

  • If you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, if you are lost, the Bible says you are blind, that you are deaf, that your heart is hard. This is people being ignorant.
  • On top of that, you have what I would categorize- Religious lost people- People that speak our language, but don’t know our God. People who know the right phrases, they’ll have icehouses on their car, they’ll now our systems, they’ll wear our clothes, but, they don’t know our God. Even if  you try to rebel against where you’re from and you try to create a more pure version, in your eyes of what this is about, they will simply adapt your language and do the same thing they’ve been doing since Christ walked the earth. 

Because people caught in their sin, whether it expresses itself religiously or irreligiously, are dumb. And God takes you, and He takes me , dumb also, infuses inside us the Gospel message and sets us in the middle of dumb sheep… and they bite, and they’re constantly trying to get away. And, whatever romantic notion you have in your brain about what this is, I need to try and destroy it right now.

Our job, as undershepherds in the church of Christ is not in the middle with a well dispositioned ‘I love the mission’ sheep. Our job is on the borders. And on the borders they bite, on the borders they try to get away, on the borders they’re trying to help others get away, and on the borders it’s MESSY. It’s not clean, it’s not pretty. It is long, it is exhausting, no matter how large or small the size of your church is.

Confusion of what our message is and who Jesus Christ is, has always been there, even when Christ Himself was on earth. Let me show you some of this:

  1. The Pharisees and Scribes in Matthew 12:24 – Jesus is not only pronouncing that the kingdom of God is here, but He is also doing miracles and that is kind of a trump card on intellectual debate, isn’t it. If you’re debating ‘who’s from God?’ and one of you tells a dead guy, you’re not allowed to be dead (Jesus), and the dead guy comes back to life, you just won the argument. And so, Jesus is doing these miraculous signs and this is what the Pharisees and Scribes say about Him: „When the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons that the man cast out demons.'” So, to the Pharisees and the Scribes, the ruling religious elite of the day, Jesus Christ was (to them) demonically possessed.
  2. Others on the street – If you remember the story, where Jesus gathers His disciples and asks, „Who do people say that I am?” And this is what the word on the street is- Matthew 16:13-14 „ When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” So, He’s asking His disciples who the other people on the street think that He is. And so, they go through this list. Now, what do all those people have in common (that Jesus is compared to)? They’re dead. So, the ruling religious party of the day say He has a demon. Word on the street is that He is some kind of reincarnated prophet, some sort of reincarnated ghost. And the, it just keeps on getting more confusing.
  3. His family – in Mark 3:20-21 – it says, „Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” So, the ruling religious party of the day says He has a demon. Word on the street is that He is some kind of reincarnated ghost. Now, his family thinks He is crazy.
  4. His disciples – Now, what about the disciples? The disciples are with Him all the time. That group has to get it right. And so, you have the arrest, the crucifixion, the resurrection and in Matthew 28:16-17, most people know the back half of this chapter, but, it’s these 2 verses that are compelling. „Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Of the 11, some doubted. Now, think about that. You’ve got Christ crucified, risen, ascending into heaven and people are going, „Mm, I don’t know….” In the first century, when He’s there saying, „This is who I am,” there’s still all this confusion about who He is. And some of you, who know your Bible well, know that earlier He said, „Well, who do you say that I am?” to His disciples. And Peter answered, „You’re the Son of God.” But Peter – just as a general rule, if Jesus calls you the devil 5 verses later, you don’t get credit for that. If you nailed it, but then get called Satan by Christ, then you lost whatever points you got for nailing the quiz earlier.

So, there is this mass confusion about who Jesus Christ really is. In fact, in the Gospels, the only one that nails it when it comes to Jesus Christ are the demons. The demons are the only ones who nailed who Jesus Christ is when He was walking the earth: „We know who you are, the Holy one of God, You’ve come to destroy us before the appointed time.” I don’t know if you picked up on the lack of dualism in that. It’s not, „You’re here, let’s do it. Let’s fight to the end.” It’s, „Oh no, are you going to destroy us early? We know you’re going to destroy us, but we thought it was a couple of thousand years from now. Is it already that time? We weren’t paying attention. Why don’t you just throw us into the pigs?”

So there was this mass confusion about Jesus Christ, while Jesus Christ was actually here. Wouldn’t we be foolish to assume that there’s not great confusion even today? In fact, if you were to walk around and ask people, „Who is Jesus?” I think you would get all sort of answers. Some will call Him a great teacher- the ones that say He was a great teacher always makes alarms go off in my head, because He would be the only teacher that we would say is a great moral philosopher teacher, who we don’t like, nor believe any of His teachings.

By and large, you will get these junk drawers of who He is. For ex. I’m in Dallas, with a church on every corner, yet, that is no indicator of spiritual health or vibrancy. So that whole, „I don’t wanna plant a church, where there’s a church on every corner, I think that’s the wrong question altogether. And, in the middle of that, I can tell you: We lack in the city spiritual vibrancy. We got a lot of buildings, but not a lot of life transformation occurring. When I got to the VIllage (Matt Chandler’s church) in the conversations I had, I found out that some people were christians because- their parents were christians, or they were Texans, because they were baptized after kid camp, or because they were afraid they’d go to hell. So we found these people who were completely confused about what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was. As a matter of fact we found that we were baptizing a ton of people who went to church, had the testimony, but had no idea who Jesus Christ was. They grew up in church and really had no clue what the Gospel message actually was.

Published on Nov 14, 2012 thejourneystl 

From the November 2012 A29 bootcamp at The Journey, in St. Louis, Mo.

God’s people are prone to wander

If you pay attention to your Bible, this shouldn’t shock us at all. Not only were people confused about who Jesus was while He was here, but, even people who accepted later on Jesus for who He actually was, was prone to forget who He actually was and what our message actually was. God’s people are prone to wander. We are prone to leave the God we love.  We love, regardless of how many times it has failed us, the idea of our ability to better ourselves. We love taking it off Jesus and, „I’m gonna make this better, I’m gonna grow in this”. And apparently, every church in the New Testament struggled with that also because the apostle Paul, in particular, is going to pound into them the Gospel, over and over, and over again:

  1. Romans 1:13-15 – I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. Paul is talking to christians, and delayed because he is preaching the Gospel to people who already know it, people who already believe. The task that you and I have been given is to consistently and constantly, in every venue, and in every vein, bring people back to the understanding that our salvation, our hope, our sanctification is by the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone. And best practices are needed, and they are necessary. But, they will do nothing to transform the heart. I can give you 6 steps to romancing your wife’s heart. But, I can do nothing to have the Gospel of grace stir your heart towards your wife, so that you would love her as Christ loved the church. I can tell you to google romantic ideas for dates, and what a gift google is to men. But, I can’t in preaching, in teaching, in best practices give you a heart that loves your wife like Christ loved the church. I can’t do that. That’s God stuff.
  2. Galatians 1:6-9 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! There is only one Gospel, only one thing that can save us, only one thing that can sanctify us, only one thing that can carry us safely home. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s all you’ve got
  3. Galatians 2:20-3:6  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

    Faith or Works of the Law

    You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” If I can fix me, I can fix you, if we can fix other people (Because this has to move outside of you fixing you)… Here’s what I have learned about pastors: We completely get that we can’t fix us. What we don’t get is that we can’t fix others. What we believe is that we can fix others. The irony is you know you can’t fix you, yet you think you can fix others. Somehow, in your ignorant sinfulness, you’ve begun to buy into your ability to change other people. But, if you could do that, you nullify the grace of God and Christ will have died for nothing. You really think that God’s eggs are in your basket? God is not crossing His fingers hoping that I’m gonna be faithful. God saves. I don’t save. I’ve got no power. I’ve sat at the table with 2 different men and said it, and I’ve seen one man be confused by it and the other reborn by it. It is the Holy Spirit of God that granted life. I got no ability to change anyone, you’ve got no ability to change anyone. WHAT WE HAVE IS THE GOSPEL. So, regarding philosophy of ministry- I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to draw a crowd. But, just know: What you woo them with better have some substance. Cause lasers, smoke and trap doors, in the  end will do nothing to transform hearts. I don’t believe it’s difficult to draw a crowd. It’s impossible to transform hearts. You’d better feel that.

  4. Ephesians 1 & 2 – What’s that, but the Gospel at work? Philippians 1:12-17 with the apostle Paul is prison, saying, „If I’m free, or if I’m in prison, it just serves the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (21:00)

How you make the Gospel explicit

1 Corinthians 15 – verse 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. So Paul, writing to the church in Corinth- and can we just agree that regardless how dysfunctional your church is, that Corinth wins? But, here’s the thing, I think, you have to keep in mind when it comes to the church in Corinth: Big things are happening. People are coming in, but, it is messy. And Paul says, „Remember brothers, the Gospel. That you heard it and that you were saved by it and now you’re standing in it”. Which means, we don’t move away from the Gospel, we stay anchored to it, both as our justification and our sanctification. He (Paul) carries it even farther than that. He says, „It carries us on unto the end, if we hold fast to what we believed at first.”

That needs some unpacking. That means we are held fast, standing in the Gospel ‘til the end, if we hold fast to what we first preached, which was ‘Christ, and Christ alone’.  You don’t get to add to Jesus. You don’t get to add to the regenerating, sanctifying work of Christ and be held fast! You’re putting weight on it and you’re putting weight on you that you’re not meant to carry. So, if we see, in the Bible, the reality that people are not smart, we’re part of dumb people. And God has created and given dumb people a message herald to dumb people. How do we make the Gospel explicit so that people can hear about Jesus and know Jesus?

It has been my experience that way too many people in evangelical churches know Jesus Christ like I know Troy Aikman. I know about him, but I don’t know him. They know some statistics about Him (Jesus), but, they don’t know Him. So, how are you and I, as proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as leaders of churches going to make the Gospel explicit?

  1. The pulpit – In the pulpit, what needs to happen is: You’ve got to step out of your skin and step into the calling that God’s given you. Which means, the stage can’t be about you, it’s gotta be about the Gospel message. There’s one hero. It’s not you. There’s one person with the ability to save. It’s not you. One person who transforms, not you. You’ve got to step out of yourself and ‘all roads lead to Jesus’. You wanna talk about marriage? It leads to Jesus. You wanna talk about children? It leads to Jesus. You wanna talk about holiness? It leads to Jesus. You wanna talk about sex? It leads to Jesus. ALL ROADS LEAD TO CHRIST IN THE PULPIT. ALWAYS! That’s our message. That’s all we’ve got: The power of God unto salvation. The pulpit is the heralding of the good news of Jesus Christ.
  2. The children in the church– But, listen pastors, it can’t stop there. Let me ask you a question: What about preschool? You herald the Gospel in the pulpit and teach  morality to the kindergarteners. Here’s something that I find disappointing. As broken as, and you watched the political debates and the talk about education, as ignorant as the politicians in government say our students are, I find it interesting that the broken school systems think they can handle some advanced mathematics, some advanced science, but, we don’t think they can handle the attributes of God. So what’s it look like Pastor? You preaching the Gospel from the pulpit, but, morality in Sunday School, for the children?
  3. Your staff – What about staff culture? Your staff interactions, your team interactions reveal that you actually believe the Gospel. Let me ask you a question: Do the men and women around you, in your eyes, are they commodities that are there to meet your needs? Or, are they brothers and sisters in Christ? Sure, maybe you’re leading them and maybe you’re the chief under shepherd of the team around you that’s gonna serve. But, do you treat your team like commodities? Do they exist to serve your ends? Is there any concern in your heart, whatsoever, for them as Christians first? Any pastoral bones in your body towards your staff? 
  4. Church culture – A church that understands the Gospel celebrates. And, it celebrates in two ways. It celebrates above the shoulders. It worships in knowledge. Which means: It knows the attributes of God and the attributes of God stir up in our heart. Now, however, below the shoulders, the beauty of the God that we’ve seen, and that leads to worship. And that means that a church that has had the Gospel explicitly preached to them from preschool to puberty, into high school, into college, into adulthood, is a church that celebrates the beauty of God in worship.

There will come a day when we no longer need to exegete Scripture. In heaven, I won’t know in part, I’ll know in full and so will you, and so will all the people of God. But, you know what will never end? Informed, zealous, gut wrenched worship of our God. And when we explicitly proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where we create and cultivate cultures where we believe and practice it you are not a tyrant in your church, nor unaccessible and unavailable. I mean to say, that you have been so moved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that you have empathy, respect and love for the people that you’ve been called to shepherd. You’re gonna need it. You’re gonna need genuine empathy and genuine compassion, cause people are dumb and they’re gonna test you. They’re gonna test who you’re in this for. There are people who God has given into my care that honestly, I don’t like. So, what sustains us as men of God, what sustains us as those called to lead and shepherd people, who are dumb like us? The Gospel does. And it’s made evident, as we walk and pour ourselves out for others, as we explicitly make known our only hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, if the Gospel must be explicit, for genuine transformation to occur in the hearts and minds of our people, I would, if I were you, do an internal audit so see whether you believe it. And then, I would start really paying attention as to how that’s fleshing itself out on your team, and all those closest to you.

Hey, how’s the Gospel making itself evident in your marriage?

Do you just do things for your spouse so you can get in return? Because that’s not Gospel living. Gospel living says: You give, and then you give some more, and then you give some more. The irony to me, about marital difficulty among evangelicals is that we love God for loving us unconditionally, yet it seems like tyranny when He asks us to do that to our spouse. You wanna know how wicked you are? Watch how enticed your heart is to worship and make much of God, when it really sinks in that He loves you despite you. And watch how any expectation of you, loving your spouse like that, stir up in your heart feelings of injustice. How’s the Gospel working itself out in your marriage?

How quickly are you able to forgive?

How often do you feel like you have to defend yourself? How comfortable are you with other people getting praise on your team? What if you’re the leader behind the scenes, but, someone else is getting credit? How are you with that? What of someone’s not doing what you’re doing yet their growth starts to explode. Are you able to celebrate them? Or are tey your competition? These are all Gospel issues.

You’ve got to believe the Gospel yourself. I don’t think you’re gonna make it, if you don’t. And if you do, what have you won? Are you in this for the money? The fame? That’s all transient stuff. It all burns up. It’s safe to say that God’s not impressed with any of us. No, He is on it. He has just invited us to play. Oh, that you might feel the burden, of making clear to people who don’t see clearly what their only hope is. And I’m alright with you being haunted by it, losing some sleep over it. Working out your salvation with fear and trembling, wondering if you really do believe. Are you all in? Are you in rebellion, rather than in calling? My hope is simple: I hope we get a lot of church plants all over the world, that make much of JEsus Christ, tethered to the Word. And I wanna see people not only come to see Jesus Christ, but, mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ, until they multiply themselves, and multiply what’s next. But, in all things, might the name and the renown of Jesus Christ continue to grow and spread, and may His fame continue to cover the earth as the water covers the seas.

Have you ever thought about the reality that what God had promised Abraham in Genesis  12 and 15, we’re watching happen in our day? Has anybody picked up on how many Iranian pastors have been arrested lately? Pretty crazy, for a closed country with no christians, and for 6-7 pastors this year to be arrested. I mean, exploding in Africa, exploding in Asia, exploding in South America. I mean, this God promised in Genesis 12, and, you and I are watching it. And we’ve been invited to play.

Don Carson preaching at the Chinese Conference in Los Angeles (2 sessions)

The Good Samaritan

The Rich Man and Lazarus

These 2 sermons are from October 26-28, 2012: held in Los Angeles, CA- Chinese Conference sponsored by Kernel of Wheat Ministries. The text is in

Luke 16:19 The Rich Man and Lazarus. Carson: How shall we understand this story? Is Jesus saying that there is always a simple reversal?-

  • live life well, end in hell
  • suffer pain, enjoy great gain
  • if you’re happy here, you’ll be miserable there
  • if you’re miserable here, you’ll be happy there

d a carsona simple reversal? Now, clearly, there is some kind of reversal here. But, so much of Scripture stands against any notion that there’s always reversal. For example, in Scripture, there are at least some Godly rich people. Think of Abraham, Job, Esther, at least in his early days, Solomon, Philemon, probably Theophilus. Moreover, there are at least some poor who are wicked. The Bible is very compassionate against those who are poor through no fault of their own. And, especially compassionate towards those who are poor because they are oppressed. But, the Book of Proverbs can also consider some poor, who are poor because they’re lazy. The sarcasm drips off the page.

Moreover, one has to integrate this passage with the rest of the Gospel of Luke. All four Gospels, including Luke are rushing towards the cross. If our eternal destiny is founded on the simple reversal theme, we don’t need the cross, all we need is poverty. (That is why) it is important to read our passage within the context. (5:02)…

What is the very essence of idolatry?

Obviously, it’s possible to serve two masters, if neither one is asking for absolute control. But, where there are competing interests, only one can win. And, the particular application Jesus makes here is you cannot serve both God and money. Of course He could have made other applications: You cannot serve both God and power, you cannot serve both God and sex. Now, in all three cases- money, power and sex- there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Money can be very useful and do a lot of good. Power, rightly exercised can be reforming. And sex, within its God ordained constraints is everywhere pictured as a good gift. But, even a good thing becomes a bad thing, that (eventually) becomes the supreme thing. That is the very essence of idolatry. For idolatry, you don’t necessarily have to follow a bad thing. All you have to do is make a good thing the supreme thing.

That’s why elsewhere Paul says covetousness is idolatry. Because when you covet something, that’s what you want the most, so that becomes God for you. But Jesus tells us that you cannot have 2 masters. If God is God you cannot most want money. What we most want is what we most fantasize about, what we daydream about, what we thing about. So the task becomes very clear: You cannot serve both God and anything else.

Pharisaism

In verses 14-15, we find Jesus addressing the Pharisees directly. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. When it says that they sneered Him, almost certainly, they were sneering at him because they had money and He didn’t. So, among themselves, they were saying something like this: „Well, Jesus, you’re just some poor, itinerant preacher from Galilee. You don’t have money, so you don’t understand. We could be very Godly with our money,” they would say. „We tithe. We give alms for the poor. We can follow God and be rich. Don’t you see, that’s what we are?” They’re sneering at him. But, Jesus doesn’t back down. He says, in verse 15, „You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.

In biblical justification, God justifies the ungodly on the basis of what Christ has done. But, in self justification, we justify ourselves on the basis of what we do. To be quite frank, sometime, when we are formally thanking God for graces that we’ve received, our motivations are so complex that at the same time we are patting ourselves on the back for having them. And, instead of seeing that we should be people that are constantly asking God for His grace, we become people who are quietly self congratulating ourselves. That’s what’s going on in this text.

These Pharisees are justifying themselves in front of others, in the context of talking about money, then they’re saying things like this, „God must like me quite a lot, because he’s blessed me with quite a lot of money.” And so, when they came up to a spotlight in their brand new chariot, and came up to someone who was driving just a broken down donkey, they would not actually say, „I’m better than they are.” But, deep down, when the light changed and they took off in their chariot, they knew that they were better. It’s so easy when you have money to begin to rank yourself, as compared with others, on the basis of how much you’ve got. Now, let me insist again. There are Godly men in scripture with money like Job, for example. So, if you’re a job, you don’t need this comment I’m about to make.

But, if you are not a Job, I warn you that having a lot of money is so easily away of justifying yourself in front of others who have less. You develop a ranking system in the church- not on the basis of Godliness or evangelistic fervor, but, on the basis of money. What does Jesus say about that? Verse 15- „what people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” Now you see, it’s not the money God detests. He detests the money when people value the money so much as to make the money God. When they start to justify themselves on the basis of their money, then God detests it. Once again, we discover that the context is talking quite a lot about money.

The idolatry of possessions

At the end of chapter 15- The Parable of the Prodigal Son- (in which) a prodigal wastes His father’s possessions. Then at the beginning of chapter 16 – a dishonest servant wastes his master’s possession. Now, in the story of ‘the rich man and Lazarus‘, a rich man wastes his own possessions. In fact, we’re in a part of Luke’s Gospel where there’s a lot of emphasis on the idolatry of possessions. But, in principle, once again I must remind you that you could tell a very similar story  if you made sex your god, or if you made power your god, or if you made beauty your god, or if you made being a hunk your god. But here, the focus is on money. (18:30) There are still 40 minutes left of this message, which you can watch below. Uploaded by
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