Sinclair Ferguson – Preaching about grace detached from the person of Christ

Written by Matthew S. Miller on http://theaquilareport.com/

Sinclair Ferguson’s Reflections on the Gospel

in Scotland and in American Evangelicalism:

Substituting the Idea of Grace for The Person of Jesus Christ

At the 41st PCA General Assembly in Greenville, S.C., in June, Ligonier Ministries hosted a panel discussion entitled  “Christology in the 21st Century: A Discussion.”

The panel included Ligon Duncan, Robert Godfrey, Richard Pratt, R.C. Sproul, and Sinclair Ferguson. While the entire hour-long discussion is well worth one’s time (it can be found here), the opening minutes contained a question posed to Sinclair Ferguson, whose concise and probing answer deserves as wide an audience as possible within Western evangelical circles.

Reflecting on what the lessons the contemporary American church could draw from the waxing and waning of the church in Scotland since the Reformation, Dr. Ferguson homed in on how the preaching and presentation of the Gospel often disconnects grace from the person of Christ. Or, as he put it, how often those preaching and presenting the Gospel fall prey to ‘substituting the idea of grace for the person of Christ.’

Here is the whole of Stephen Nichols’s question and Dr. Ferguson’s four-minute answer for the benefit of those who have not seen or heard it. I believe it is a critique we desperately need to receive:

Stephen Nichols: “As we look through church history we see different examples of places where the Gospel thrived, and may not thrive as much today. Buffeted by centuries of secularism, a once-thriving church no longer thrives. Of course, I’m thinking of what you (Dr. Ferguson) affectionately refer to as ‘the only country,’ your homeland of Scotland. But I didn’t know, Dr. Ferguson, if you could give us some perspective – as [one familiar with] a place that may reflect more of a post-Christian era. And obviously, you’re very familiar with the American church. What observations do you have for us as we think about Christology?”

Dr. Ferguson: “Well, I think answering that question would actually take us back to the time of the Reformation.

“I have never read this in either a church history or a social history in Scotland but I don’t myself believe that Scotland was ever fully captured by the Gospel. I think medieval Roman Catholic theology was almost endemic in Scotland. And the Reformation obviously delivered many people from that. The season of the Great Awakening, which was also experienced in Scotland, and the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century, created great advance for the Gospel. But my own conviction is that the basic notion that justification came by a process, [and] that that process was attached to the activity of the visible church, has been dominant in Scotland – at the time of the Reformation and ever since the time of the Reformation.

“In that sense I think the contribution you would make from reviewing what took place in Scotland would be to understand how easily the church slips into turning on its head what theologians would call the indicative of the Gospel and the imperative of the Gospel: focusing on the administration of rites rather than the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the means by which salvation is applied. And I would actually put it this way: Substituting the idea of grace for the person of Jesus Christ. And I think as you trace the history in Scotland, again and again and again people would even speak about grace, but it would be detached from the person of Christ.

“And my own conviction is that is so endemic in the Western culture that it may actually be one of the most characteristic phenomena of evangelicalism – the departure from Christhimself as ‘full of grace and truth’, to something Christ can give us as itself our salvation.

“And one of the things that you notice in the preaching in Scotland is that more and more in the exposition of the Scriptures the focus is more and more not on the Christ that is in the Scriptures, but on how we put ourselves in the Scriptures to do what the Scriptures tell us to do. And my own conviction is that that’s just endemic in Western Christianity.

“Schleiermacher was hugely popular in Scotland – phenomenally influential in Scotland. And the place I see Schleiermacher most evidenced in the contemporary church world is among evangelicals. They would hate the name of Schleiermacher, but actually their whole approach to the Gospel is dominated by the kind of subjectivism and reading the Gospel out of your own experience that you find in Schleiermacher.”

 

But God… What man cannot do is altogether within God’s power

Photo via

(via) Banner of Truth Trust (09/10) by Kenneth McLeod

It is easy to see that the world is in a terrible state – with war, civil disobedience and crime affecting, in varying degrees, people across the globe. But, more fundamentally, we must recognise the terrible spiritual state of every individual human being, for frictions between nations and problems within individual countries and communities only exist because each human being is by nature a fallen creature with a sinful heart. Paul describes the fallen human condition in stark terms: ‘dead in trespasses and sins’, living ‘according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’, having ‘our conversation . . . in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind’ (Eph. 2:1-3). If sinners ignorant of the gospel focus on this list of terms which so emphasise the seriousness of their spiritual condition, they would be left entirely without hope – provided they really believed the accuracy of the testimony God has given in the Scriptures.

This makes the opening words of the next verse tremendously significant: ‘But God’. What man cannot do is altogether within God’s power. And while there can be no hope on the merely-human level, there is every reason for hope if we receive this further testimony from the Bible.

That God would rescue anyone who is ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ depends on what Paul next refers to: ‘God . . . is rich in mercy’. He is willing to do good to those who, spiritually, are in a desperate condition, who have rebelled against himself, whose enmity against him is such that they will resist his offers of mercy, who are under the power of Satan. It is mercy beyond what we could reasonably imagine that leads God to rescue sinners whose mind ‘is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (Rom. 8:7).

This speaks of human inability; no individual can, by his own power, bring himself to submit to the authority of God’s law. This is one of the consequences of spiritual death; just as a man or a woman who has died can no longer walk or talk, or even breathe, so a spiritually-dead sinner is completely unable to engage in any spiritual activity – to trust in Christ, for example, or to love God or to desire to live a holy, God-glorifying life. It is utterly impossible for sinners to do anything that will please God; they are spiritually dead. But God, in infinite mercy, can so subdue them that they submit to his law. Those who are now God’s children were unbelieving, resisting the gospel, but God the Holy Spirit has given them grace to trust in Christ. They had no love for God, for ‘the carnal mind is enmity against’ him, but the Holy Spirit, in regenerating the soul, implanted the grace of love. They lived in an environment of sin; they ‘were dead in trespasses and sins’; they did not want to be holy; but God has ‘quickened’ them (Eph. 2:5); he put new life in their souls and, from then on, their desire has been to live holy lives – to do what will glorify God.

Sinners are also ‘by nature the children of wrath’. They are guilty, not least because of original sin, and therefore subject to God’s anger – his righteous purpose to punish them because of their sin. It is because he is just that he cannot pass by their sin; he cannot treat their transgressions as if they had never happened; he must punish. Accordingly all unconverted sinners are under sentence of eternal destruction and nothing they can do can deliver them from that fearful situation. But God can deliver sinners, for he has given his Son to be their substitute – ‘for his great love wherewith he loved’ them. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

The love of God was acting in harmony with the justice of God; only thus could sinners be saved. Apart from the revelation God has given, it must have appeared impossible for sinners justly to escape the punishment which they so much deserve. But God, in infinite wisdom, was able to exercise mercy in perfect harmony with his justice, for the salvation of sinners. So when the Father gave the Son to a lost world in love, the Son must suffer and die; he must endure the full punishment that would otherwise fall on those sinners whom he was representing.

There are some sinners whose wickedness is so great that it may seem totally impossible for them to be saved – men such as Manasseh, who committed unspeakable crimes on a vast scale. But God showed that he was able to save this brutal king of Judah, which directs our attention to the greatness of the redemption accomplished by Christ. Yet, in this context, we should focus less on the greatness of Manasseh’s sin, although clearly his sins were unusually heinous, and place more emphasis on the seriousness of every sin, for every sin is committed against an infinite and pure God. We must never underestimate the seriousness of any sin, but however great the guilt of a particular sin – and the guilt of every sin is infinitely great – the redeeming work of Christ, being the work of a divine, infinite Person, is totally effective to blot out sin of every kind, for ‘the blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).

There are other sinners whose beliefs seem to stand in the way of their salvation. They follow some false religion such as Islam or Buddhism, or they adhere to some perversion of Christianity such as Roman Catholicism or Mormonism, or they claim to believe that there is no God, professing to be atheists and underpinning their unbelief by placing supreme confidence in the philosophy of evolution. But God is able to save them. However tenaciously they may hold on to their beliefs, God can make them willing to receive the truth about himself and about themselves. The Holy Spirit can bring them to submit to the whole of the revelation he has given to mankind in Scripture and lead them on to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the One who came into the world to save sinners. This is what took place in pagan Ephesus and Corinth during the time of the Apostles, and even in the case of a few people in Athens, where everyone seemed to show such disdain for Paul and his teachings.

We may notice a third group of people: those who accept that God exists and that the Bible is true, who listen to preaching and say their prayers, but who are still outside the kingdom of God. It might seem relatively easy for them to be converted, but the fundamental difficulty for them is the same as for every other sinner: they are ‘dead in trespasses and sins’. They do not believe, and they cannot believe. Their heart is in the world, and they are totally unwilling to come to Christ in order that they may be saved. It is completely impossible even for such people to be saved by their own efforts, although most others would describe them as good people – like Saul of Tarsus, for instance, who could look back on his past life and declare that, as ‘touching the righteousness which is in the law’ he was ‘blameless’. But God can save them. Christ’s redemption must become their only hope, and they must see that the work of the Holy Spirit is the only power that can change their hearts and set them on the way to heaven.

The world is indeed in a terrible state. Governments and commentators of every conceivable viewpoint may put forward endless suggestions as to how the situation in various parts of the globe may be improved, or even solved. There may indeed be a degree of merit in many of these ideas. Yet we must never lose sight of the fundamental human problem: man has gone away from God and, apart from divine grace, he will go on living out his life in a fallen condition, ‘dead in trespasses and sins’. But God is able to save individuals and communities and nations, because of what Christ has done. For that blessing we must pray earnestly and constantly. It must be our only hope, ‘for there is none other name . . . whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).



Kenneth D. Macleod is pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church in Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. He is the editor of The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from the September 2010 issue of which the above editorial has been taken.

www.fpchurch.org.uk

What Role does the Holy Spirit play in Apologetics?

street evangelismVIDEO by drcraigvideos For more resources visit: http://www.reasonablefaith.org

Dr William Lane Craig answers a question in this clip about the role of the Holy Spirit in his ministry and apologetics. He says there is a difference between knowing Christianity to be true and showing Christianity to be true. On March 21, 2013, Dr Craig spoke at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas on the topic of faith, science and philosophy. This event was put on by the Veritas Forum which hosts university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life. The style of this talk was more like a conversation than a lecture as Dr Craig shares much of his own personal story about how he came to faith in Jesus Christ.

Dr. William Lane Craig, FROM VIDEO: I have found it very helpful to differentiate between what I call ‘knowing Christianity to be true’, and showing Christianity to be true. I think that the fundamental way in which we know that Christianity is true, is through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. I do not think that arguments and evidence are necessary, in order for faith to be rational, or for you to know that God exists or has revealed Himself in Christ. 

So, I would say, that the fundamental way we know that Christianity is true is through the witness of the Holy Spirit, and reason and argument, then, can confirm the Spirit’s witness. The person who has good apologetics arguments, has in a sense a double warrant for his faith. He has the warrant provided by the Holy Spirit. And then, he has a double warrant, provided by argument and evidence. But, should he lack the argumented evidence, he can still be warranted, just on the basis of the Holy Spirit. That’s knowing Christianity to be true.

When it comes to showing Christianity to be true, we’re dealing with somebody else, and therefore, we’ll need to give them arguments and evidence to show them that what I know to be true, is true. And then, the role of the Holy Spirit will be to use those arguments and evidence, as I lovingly present them, to draw that person to Himself.  

So, in knowing Christianity to be true, the Holy Spirit is primary and argument and evidence is secondary. But, in showing Christianity to be true, argument and evidence is primary, and here the Holy Spirit is secondary, in using those as means by which He draws a person to Himself. Faith is trusting in what you have reason to believe is true. That reason doesn’t just mean arguments and evidence, that reason could be the deliverance of the Holy Spirit.

A recent film inside a Mormon temple detailing rituals and doctrines

VIDEO by Newnamenoah – the 8 minute video clip. See full film (1 hour 16 min) at the bottom of this post.

Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA....

Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Taken by myself with a Canon 10D and 17-40mm f/4 L lens. This is a 3 segment panorama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An intriguing look at Mormon beliefs that shows that the Church of Latter Day Saints has a whole ‘nother gospel, and it is certainly not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is pretty uncomfortable to watch how Mormonism borrows from Christianity and Judaism, yet denies the most central tenets of both religions. In Mormonism, the god Elohim is not all knowing (makes for a pretty weak god) and Michael is believed to be equal to Jesus. Some weird rituals are alarming, like where man calls on God „Oh God, hear the words of my mouth” and then Satan shows up and says, „I am the God of this world”. Five minutes later, everyone in the room is wearing the same sort of „apron” and chanting „Oh God, hear the words of my mouth.

It seems like this film is used as a training tool to those that are chosen to participate in these secret rituals. By the way, yes, plenty of masonic symbols are part of the rituals here too.

Purpose for posting this? We need to have a rudimentary understanding of other ‘faiths’ and have a basic understanding of what a Mormon believes in order to have conversations about the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

VIDEO by Newnamenoah Secretly filmed in 2012 by an ex Mormon. Filming contains the movie that is shown to Mormons to teach them about Mormonism. The first 20 minutes cover the Mormon version of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, in which the actor playing Satan introduces/talks about interaction with God in other worlds (planets)-a Mormon belief. At the 24th minute, the movie stops and the action begins inside the Mormon temple with the secret participants, who were not allowed to share any of the information with anyone else, including their families. There are secret handshakes and passwords for different rituals. Video length 1 hour 16 minutes.

Full film (1 hour 16 min)

Can We Know Things to Be True Through Faith?

 

VIDEO by drcraigvideos:
Dr William Lane Craig answers a question about the relationship of knowledge to faith? Is faith a way to truth? On March 21, 2013, Dr Craig spoke at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas on the topic of faith, science and philosophy. This event was put on by the Veritas Forum which hosts university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life. The style of this talk was more like a conversation than a lecture as Dr Craig shares much of his own personal story about how he came to faith in Jesus Christ. For more resources visit Dr. Criag’s website: http://www.reasonablefaith.org

Ravi Zacharias – Jesus among other gods

I thought I would repost this video ‘Jesus among other gods’ in light of today’s other post ‘How Shinto and Buddhist priests view religion in Japan‘. Ravi Zacharias explains how showing Jesus as the exclusive Savior who forgives our sin makes all the difference when presenting the Gospel to people of other religions.

English: Ravi Zacharias signing books at the F...

In his most important work to date, apologetics scholar and popular speaker Ravi Zacharias shows how the blueprint for life and death itself is found in a true understanding of Jesus. With a simple yet penetrating style, Zacharias uses rich illustrations to celebrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives.Jesus Among Other Gods contrasts the truth of Jesus with founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, strengthening believers and compelling them to share their faith with our post-modern world.(Editor’s review) Click here for an Encapsulated view of this book which is considered one of the best Christian apologetics books.

Jesus among other gods’ .

Ravi Zacharias: Jesus’s exclusivity is implicit in this claim. We will look at half a dozen questions Jesus answers to those who present these questions to him. No other claimant to divine or prophetic status would have ever answered those questions that way. there is a uniqueness, a marvelous uniqueness and so in this opening session we will be looking at one of those questions that was posed to Him that I have entitled: The anatomy of faith and the quest for reason.

There are six parts to this video. (Length 1 hour 22 min.) Pass the video to all your friends and make the time to watch it. Not only is it informative (biblically, philosophically and rationally) but it is also creatively edited with footage, and inspirational and faith building.

For more Ravi Zacharias videos visit my Ravi Zacharias page.

God is dangerous apart from Jesus

christ_alone

Piper: The reason Jesus’s name is used is because we have no rights to go to God, except through Jesus. If you try to go to God apart from Jesus, you may be incinerated. God is very dangerous apart from Jesus. He is angry apart from Jesus. He has put Jesus Christ forward to remove His anger and to clothe us with righteousness, so that we can walk right into the flame of His holiness and not be consumed. Jesus is the only hope that any prayer will be heard, so we come in Jesus’s name.

Teach your children what it means to pray in Jesus’s name. THIS IS NOT A THROWAWAY PHRASE! Everything hangs on this phrase. It means: In the name of the One, in whose worth , in whose righteousness, in whose sacrifice we come. And no other way. That’s true, not only for our salvation, but for our supplication. You all know we’re saved through Jesus, and you SHOULD know we pray through Jesus. And they really are the same mediator role. ‘There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” Don’t come any other way.

I am troubled when people feel like, ‘for the escape from mindless tradition’, we just leave off ‘in Jesus’s name’ from our prayers, and say nothing, except Amen. You don’t have to say it, BUT YOU HAD BETTER THINK IT! And if you’re thinking it, it wouldn’t hurt to say it, so that I know you’re thinking it. And not going any other way. It is not a throw away phrase. It’s not tradition. It’s right out of that verse and its massively important that we come in Christ alone to ask the Father for favor. We won’t get it any other way.

VIDEO by desiringGod

Citat

You’re On the Planet to Make God Look Good

Piper: Everything in your life, everything you say, everything you think, everything you feel, everything you do, all the relationships you have, have to do with God. One of the great things about preaching in the same church for 27 years (this was in 2007) is that the mission of the church and the mission of the preacher tend to merge. And the mission goes like this: I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things, for the joy of all peoples, through Jesus Christ.

So, when I say, „Everything you say, everything you do, everything you think, everything you feel, all the relationships you have have to do with God, I have something way more specific in mind than just ‘have to do with God’. I believe that God has ordained your existence, and everything you do, and say, and think and feel, and all the relationships  you have, have ordained those so they would make God look good.

You’re on the planet in order to say things, do things, think things, feel things, be in relationships in such a way as to make Jesus Christ  look like He really is, namely SUPREMELY VALUABLE. That is the mission statement of my life, I would like it to be the mission statement of everybody’s life

And, you should ask, „Do I devote my life, and I mean, down to the details. Do I devote the way I study, what I eat, what I drink, what I wear, how I do my hair, what movies I watch, what websites I go to and how long I stay there, what car I drive, where I live, how I do my work, where I work, what jokes I tell and like to hear, what kind of language I use, who my friends are, why, how I spent all my leisure time.” Are you asking how all those things do that, how all those things spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things, for the joy of all peoples?

How do I do all those things so that I make Christ look really great? So that I do them in a way that communicates ‘He is more valuable to me than all those things, than anything else?

VIDEO by DGJohnPiper from the message „Don’t Waste Your Life” September 19, 2007 (Photo above via thepraiseandworshipconnection.blogspot.com)

Related posts

Most Americans Don’t Understand Love

Piper: Most Americans don’t know what love is. I’ll state a definition that they might agree with and then I’ll give it a biblical translation. Maybe you would find people who would agree with the definition: Love is doing whatever you’ve got to do, at whatever cost to yourself, to make people as happy as they can be  forever. It cost Jesus His life to do this, to make people as happy as they can be  forever.

The biblical translation for that is this: Love is whatever you have to do, at whatever cost to yourself to help people have an all satisfying passion for Jesus forever. Those are synonymous definitions because Christ is the only source of everlasting joy. If you reject Christ, you don’t have joy- forever.

Therefore, the definition of love is eating, drinking, and doing whatever you do, in order to help people cherish Christ above all things. Seeing Him and savoring Him above all things. And that becomes massively helpful in what movies you watch, what you eat, what you drink, where you go, how you spend your time. Are people seeing in you and in your values- Christ as supremely important? Are you doing things that will cause them to read off of your life that you seem to be drawing your life from another place? That’s what love is gonna prompt you to show.

VIDEO by DGJohnPiper from the message „Don’t Waste Your Life” September 19, 2007

Related posts

E.H. Askwith on the Historical Value of the Fourth Gospel (Public Domain Ebook)

Photo via www.honesttogod.net

Here’s your chance to read a free (online pdf form) commentary book on the historicity of the Johannine Gospel (Gospel of John) and its relation to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). This book was written at the turn of the century.

Click here to access book in pdf format – http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk Go to bottom of page and click on Complete book as one file [5.6MB]  316 pages

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910. pp.316.
This book is now in the Public Domain

From the Introduction:

click to read book

click photo to read book

The writer of these pages sets himself the task of showing on internal grounds that the Fourth Gospel is a historical and not merely, as some present-day critics affirm, a theological document. In speaking, however, of the Gospel as historical we do not mean that the aim of the writer of it was primarily a historical one. His interest may well have been theological, as indeed he expressly states it to have been (xx. 31). But our contention will here be that the writer did not invent his story to teach theological truth. We believe that the things which the Evangelist records as having happened are real events, that they did take place. In saying this we are setting ourselves in opposition to much of the criticism of our day, which denies to this Gospel serious historical value, regarding it as irreconcilable with the Synoptic tradition of the life of Jesus Christ.

For the opposition to the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is based chiefly on internal grounds. Its external credentials might be accepted by adverse critics were it not for what they consider to be overwhelming objections against its apostolic authorship on the ground of in- ternal evidence. But, as it is, the external evidence is explained away because it is thought that the story of the life of Jesus in this Gospel cannot be brought into agreement with wnat is acknowledged to be the earlier story in point of time, that, namely, which we have in the pages of the Synoptists. Critics opposed to the Johannine authorship of the Gospel contend that having happened are real events, that they did take place. In saying this we are setting ourselves in opposition to much of the criticism of our day, which denies to this Gospel serious historical value, regarding it as irreconcilable with the Synoptic tradition of the life of Jesus Christ.

For the opposition to the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel is based chiefly on internal grounds. Its external credentials might be accepted by adverse critics were it not for what they consider to be overwhelming objections against its apostolic authorship on the ground of internal evidence. But, as it is, the external evidence is explained away because it is thought that the story of the life of Jesus in this Gospel cannot be brought into agreement with what is acknowledged to be the earlier story in point of time, that, namely, which we have in the pages of the Synoptists. Critics opposed to the Johannine authorship of the Gospel contend that both stories of the life of Jesus-that of the Synoptists and that of the Fourth Gospel-cannot be alike historical. A choice, then, has to be made between the two, and preference is shown for the Synoptic story. For it is argued that the Fourth Gospel is obviously a theological document, and its writer’s interests are theologically deter- mined, so that its genesis is explicable on theological grounds. While, then, the Fourth Gospel may be an interesting psychological study its contents are not history and are not to be so interpreted.

It is because the opposition to the historical character of the Fourth Gospel is based principally on its contents, and because the external credentials of the apostolic authorship of the book are explained away, not for the reason that they are trivial, but because they cannot outweigh the internal evidence, that we shall in these pages confine our attention to this internal evidence, and discuss the historical probability of the events which this Gospel records. (Pages 1-6)

1 Introductory
2 The Ministry of the Baptist
3 The Betrayal
4 The Trial of Jesus
5 The Crucifxion
6 The Resurrection (I)
7 The Resurrection (II)
8 The Cleansing of the Temple, The Feeding of the Five T|housand, and the Walking on the Sea
9 The Triumphal Entry, and the Last Supper
10 The Probability of a Ministry in Jerusalem
11 The Ministry of Jesus According to the Fourth Evangelist
12 Objections to the Historicity of the Fourth Gospel Considered

Here is Barnes & Noble author’s page for E. H. Askwith with several free downloads if you own Barnes & Nobles’ Nook Reader – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/e.-h.-askwith

Also, http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk is a fantastic website that collects Christian journals and articles from older periodicals and journals on Biblical topics. It’s worth subscribing to their updates, and browsing through their impressive collections.

Click here to read the entire book – The Historical Value of the Fourth Gospel

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).

The Record of the Ascension of Jesus Part 2

A study by  J. Hampton Keathley, III at Bible.org See part 1 here – An introduction to the Ascension of Jesus looking at Isaiah 6

 

The Record of the Ascension:
Its Confirmation and Significance

Prophet – Photo via vk.com

Prophets Anticipated the Ascension

It is important to realize the ascension of Christ has always been a part of the overall plan of God. The idea of the ascension was not some last minute idea thought up by hapless and hopeless disciples.

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted.

Belief in the ascension and its accomplishments has it source in the expectations and promises of Old Testament prophecy.

Psalm 16:8-11 I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever. (emphasis mine)

This prophecy traces Christ from the cross through resurrection back into His glory at God’s right hand through the ascension (cf. Acts 2:24-36).

Psalm 110:1-5 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.” . . .. The Lord is at Thy right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

Also compare:

Matthew 22:41-44 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42saying, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I put Thine enemies beneath Thy feet”’?

Christ used this Old Testament passage which anticipated the ascension of David’s son to God’s right hand to demonstrate just who Messiah was and what this should mean to mankind. Messiah would be David’s son but also David’s Lord–one who shared God’s throne as God Himself. The ascension is alluded to in the words “at my right hand.” This shows us an understanding of what the ascension means and teaches us about Jesus Christ is vital for right thinking and response to the person of Christ. (Cf. Psalm 68:18Eph. 4:8ff; Isa 52:13).

The Lord’s ascension was anticipated in the Old Testament and viewed as essential to a proper understanding of just who Messiah is and of His ministry to men. (Photo Jesus ascension.jpg)

Jesus-ascension-

Christ Anticipated the Ascension

The ascension was no surprise to the Lord. From the very beginning of His ministry, the Lord was not only aware that He had come to die for our sin, but anticipated both the resurrection and the ascension. Both were foretold in the Old Testament and Christ knew that like His death, the resurrection and ascension were essential for fulfilling God’s purposes and solving man’s dilemma. There must be both the DESCENT from heaven and theASCENT back into heaven.

There are some fifteen or more passages where the Lord speaks of the ascension or alludes to it in one way or another. That is not without significance. In each of the passages the Lord used the ascension much like the fact of the resurrection. He used it to authenticate His person and to give reasons for what He could and would do for man, and why the person and work of Christ demands a verdict–the verdict of faith and commitment.

The ascension is a vital link in the entire chain of events, all of which are essential. It is the link between His past finished work and His present and future work. It demonstrates Jesus Christ to be the final solution for man’s need of prophet, priest, and king (Cf. John 3:13John 6:62John 13:1John 14:1-2Luke 20:41-44).

New Testament Believers Witnessed the Ascension

The Time of the Ascension

There are some who contend that Christ ascended into heaven prior to the event recorded in Acts 1. A number of expositors teach that Christ ascended to heaven on the day of His resurrection based on the implications of John 20:17 and Hebrews 9:6-20. Let me suggest several reasons why this is unlikely:

(1) In Hebrews 9:11-12 the statement, “through His own blood” (or in the KJV, “with His blood”) has been taken to mean Christ took His actual blood into heaven. They say in John 20:17, Christ was telling Mary not to touch Him because this had not yet been done. But the Greek text here uses a construction which means “through the agency of” or “by means of.” It simply means that Christ was able to enter heaven once and for all by means of (or through) His death on the cross.

(2) The Lord did not actually say in John 20:17 He would ascend immediately, or at a time prior to the record in Luke 24 and Acts 1. “I ascend” is a prediction and illustrates what grammarians call a “futuristic use of the present tense.” This is a well established use in the New Testament (cf. A.T. Robertson, A Grammar Of The Greek New Testament In The Light of Historical Research, Broadman Press, p. 880).

(3) The only biblical record we have of His ascension is the one recorded 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:9-11Luke 24:50-53). Many able scholars have concluded that it is improbable that Christ ascended in a formal way to heaven until the event of Acts 1.

But that He did ascend and that we have the record is enormously instructive.

This record is a confirmation of the fact of the ascension by those who had access to this information and who very carefully examined the facts (Luke 1:3) And the record of the ascension is such that it gives us important information about its nature and meaning.

The Nature of the Ascension

For the purposes of our study, we are going to focus our attention on the account in Acts 1:6-11.

Acts 1:6-11 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. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; 11 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.”

First, we want to note the context in which the ascension occurs. This passage shows us there was concern and longing for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, and so there was the question about when. This would mean the reign of righteousness with Jesus Christ on the throne, and an end to the times of the Gentiles and the turmoil we now know in the world.

The Lord tells the disciples this was all in the Father’s sovereign plan and timing (vs. 7). In the meantime, they had the responsibility of representing the Lord to the world, a responsibility for which they would be adequately supplied by the power of the Holy Spirit once He had come to indwell the church, the body of Christ (vs. 8).

Christ’s ascension is immediately followed by the promise of the Holy Spirit and instructions regarding the purpose and mission of the church. The ascension is designed to provide an incentive to faith, courage, and a motivation to ministry.

Immediately after this commission in verse 8, the ascension occurred. The Lord was lifted up by a cloud of glory out of their sight and taken into heaven. He was ascending to the right hand of the Father from whence He would send the Holy Spirit to empower them for ministry. There also He would sit to represent them providing access into God’s presence.

Let’s note the words used for Christ’s departure and what they teach us.

Verse 9a tells us “He was lifted up.” This is the passive form of the Greek epairo and means “to lift up” as in the hoisting of a sail (Acts 27:40). This stresses that the ascension is upward and shows the Father was taking His Son up into heaven. The ascension was an act of exaltation and an affirmation of Christ’s person.

Verse 9b tells us “a cloud received Him out of their sight.” The Greek word “received” is hupolambano, “to take or bear up by supporting from beneath.” Literally the cloud “took under him.” He appeared to be supported by the cloud.

It appears that once Christ was in the atmospheric heaven, He was received by a cloud. Though we are not told so, this may have been like the cloud connected with the transfiguration, and which descended on the tabernacle in the wilderness and filled Solomon’s temple. Many believe it was the shekinah cloud, a symbol of the glory of God. In other words, it was a supernatural cloud, a symbol of the glorification of the Son. He was resuming His preincarnate glory–the glory He had before the incarnation.

Verse 10 describes the ascent by the words, “while He was departing.” “Departing” is the Greek poreuomai. This was a common word that meant to “go on a journey.” This suggests to us the ascension was a journey, not merely a disappearance. The Son of Man who was the Son of God was passing through the heavens into the heaven of heavens, into the very presence of God to appear there for us (cf. Heb. 4:14; 7:20; 9:24).

Verse 11 describes the ascent by the words, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven.” “Taken up” is the Greek analambano, “to receive up.” This is probably best understood as culminative or climatic and describes His reception into heaven. It describes the final results of the ascension and declares the fact of Christ’s arrival in heaven. By the testimony of two angels from heaven we are told He had reached His destination.

Everywhere we turn in the New Testament we find the Lord Jesus declared to be in heaven at the right hand of the Father in the PLACE OF GLORY, POWER, AUTHORITY, AND PROVISION FOR US.

The Response of the Disciples

What happened next is also important. We find the disciples almost trance-like and bewildered, staring after the Lord into the sky. The Greek text indicates they continued to stare or gaze up into heaven. Partly, I am sure because they were amazed and perplexed, but partly because they didn’t want to see Him go. Perhaps also they were waiting to see if He would soon return.

Suddenly, two men in white clothing, angels, messengers from God, appear beside them and address the disciples first with a question and then with a statement of promise.

The Question: “Why do you stand looking into the sky?”

I believe this question shows us how the ascension should and should not affect us. It may have been a gentle rebuke, but I think it is clear that the angels were calling the disciples’ attention to several important principles:

  • We should not be bewildered by the ascension nor stand transfixed or immobile just looking into the heavens. They (and we) should have expected it based on the Old Testament and Christ’s own predictions.SEEING THE LORD AS ASCENDED SHOULD HAVE A DIFFERENT EFFECT ON US.
  • We must know and believe that the ascension and session of the Lord is an important and necessary part in the plan of God for the church and for the world. We must trust in God’s plan. The Lord must be absent from us for a time.
  • The Lord’s departure means Christ’s exalted position in heaven and the promise of His return. But it also means that we have important matters to attend to as His people whom He has left here to represent Him.

The question posed by the angels implies “do you not understand what all this means to you?” It means Christ is exalted, but it also means the promise of His abiding presence with each believer in a very new and special way. It also means His sure return as King of Kings. The promise of His return means the establishment of His kingdom and His sure reward for faithful service with all the glories of the future.

The Reasons for Witnessing the Ascension

No one saw the Lord rise from the dead, but He was seen ascending into heaven by the disciples.

Men saw the results of resurrection–the living, glorified and resurrected Christ. But the act was not seen, only the results. To confirm the resurrection it was not necessary that men see him rise out of the grave. Knowing He was surely dead, men only needed to see clear evidences for the resurrection such as the empty tomb, the grave clothes as they were lying in the tomb, and the risen Christ who appeared over and over again.

By contrast, the disciples saw Christ ascend into heaven–they saw the act of ascension, but not the result–Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God. This they could not see except by prophetic vision (e.g., Stephen in Acts 7:55-56, John in the book of Revelation, or Paul on the Damascus road).

The act of ascension was necessary to confirm the result–Christ seated. One of the great doctrines of the epistles is Christ seated in heaven, exalted at God’s right hand and the historic act confirms that for us.

The Lord Jesus physically disappeared from off the face of the earth. Where did He go? Where was He? The ascension with the eye witness account of the disciples provides us with the answer and verifies this great doctrine of Scripture.

Christ’s ascension (the act seen) is the proof of the result (Christ seated as the victorious and exalted Savior).

What difference does all this make to us, to the church in the world? What are the consequences of the ascension? The consequences are so tremendous that the ascended and seated Lord becomes one of the great themes of the New Testament. Everywhere we turn we find references of the ascended and seated Christ, and this has all kinds of implications on the individual and corporate life of the church of Jesus

The Results of the Ascension:
Its Consequences

Culminations of the Ascension–what it ended

(1) It ended Christ’s humiliation and self-limitation (John 6:62Phil. 2:5-11).

Even during Christ’s appearances in His post-resurrection ministry, to some extent, He limited the manifestation of His glory. But through the ascension, though still possessing a glorified human body, the Lord assumed all of His former glory and authority.

(2) It ended His public ministry of words and works (John 17:4-11).

The ascension concluded His prophetic ministry and miracles accomplished by His bodily presence on earth (Walvoord, p. 224). His prophetic ministry and miracles would continue for a while, but only through the lives and ministry of the Apostles.

(3) It ended His redemptive work (Heb. 1:3; 10:12).

The ascension declared His work on the cross was finished. It demonstrated that there was nothing more that could be done for our sin and that He and He alone had accomplished our redemption (Note Heb. 9:11-12).

(4) It ended the Old Testament Covenant and declares the New Covenant to be better and in force (Heb. 8:7-13; 9:11-15, 23-10:1).

The ascension declared that the old Mosaic Covenant was no longer valid, that it was only a temporary covenant until Messiah-Savior could come.

Affirmations of the Ascension–what it says and teaches us about the Lord.

It Affirmed Christ’s Identification

It Affirmed Christ as the God-Man (John 6:62). In John 6 we have the great discourse on Christ as the Bread of Life. Because of His unique person, He is able to give eternal life. This is true because He is not mere man, but the God-Man, the one who came down from heaven. This was difficult to grasp and some grumbled over it. So what did the Lord do? He spoke of His ascension as proof of His origin. The ascension, like the resurrection, would prove His divine origin and that He had been sent of God to solve man’s sin problem.

It Affirmed Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King

(1) As Prophet

In John 3:2, the words “a teacher come from God” set the stage for this encounter. First, it shows his inadequate understanding of the person of Jesus. Christ sought to eliminate an incomplete grasp of His person because this is essential to faith and salvation. A teacher is a communicator of truth and Christ will show Nicodemus why He is able, above all teachers, to reveal God’s truth.

In John 3:13 our Lord shows Nicodemus He has the right and ability to explain and reveal heavenly truth because He is the true prophet, the one who came from heaven and who, following His finished work on the cross, would return–the proof that He had truly come from God. Note Peter’s grasp of this in Acts 3:19-26. (Cf. also John 3:13; 16:7, compare with 12f; 6:14)

As the great prophet and revealer of truth, He would continue this ministry through the apostles via the Holy Spirit (John 16:7, 12f).

(2) As Priest

Jesus’ ascension and return to the Father would demonstrate that He had successfully, as our great and righteous High Priest, offered the one sacrifice that effectively deals with man’s sin and provides justification–righteousness with God. (Cf. Heb. 8:1-2; 9:11-12; John 16:10)

In John 13:1-3 the ascension is mentioned twice because it is on the basis of His work as Priest (Christ in the presence of the Father) that He would be able to continue His ministry as our High Priest and provide continual cleansing. On the basis of His confidence in the ascension, He performed an act which symbolized His continuing ministry of cleansing us as our advocate in heaven at God’s right hand (John 13:4f, cf. 1 John 2:1-2).

(3) As King

In answer to who He was, Christ again made reference to His ascended and exalted position at God’s right hand, only now in connection with His second coming from that ascended and exalted position as King of kings. (Cf. Matt. 26:64.)

It Affirmed Christ’s Exaltation

As with the vision of Isaiah, it declared the Lord Jesus, the God-Man Savior, as high and lifted up. This included the following:

  • His Glorification (John 17:5Acts 7:55Rev. 1:12-16) It meant a return to His pre-incarnate glory, but it also constituted a glorification of His humanity where He is the Forerunner of all believers who will follow.
  • His Session (Eph. 1:20-23Phil. 2:9Heb. 1:31 Pet. 3:22) It declared that He was in heaven, at God’s right hand, the place of the highest honor and authority. It means the possession of the throne of God without dispossession of the father. It means all glory, authority and power is shared by the father with the Son.
  • His Intercession and Protection over His own (John 17:11f; Rom. 8:32f; Heb. 4:14-16) It affirms His continuing ministry for us at God’s right hand: kept by His presence with the Father and His work as High Priest. In this regard, it declares we have an advocate with the Father and a compassionate High Priest, one who cares for us with the greatest compassion and who both intercedes for us when we sin and prays for us in our need.
  • His Provision for spiritual power (John 14:25-26; 16:7-10: Luke 24:49f; Acts. 1:8-11) It provided the means of His gift of the Comforter. Without the ascension, there would be none of the ministries of the Holy Spirit as we know it today: no indwelling, no baptism into Christ, and no filling. This would mean the absence of power over sin and power for witnessing. We would be a helpless people.
  • His Distribution (Eph. 4:7-11) It affirmed His right to give gifts to His church.
  • His Preparation (John 14:3,4) It affirms His promise to prepare a home for His bride. When we lose a loved one who knows the Lord, one of the great comforts is the fact that our loved one has actually gone home and that we will someday be joining them.
  • Commission (Matt. 28:19f; Luke 24:44f; John 12:32; 14:12; 17:11-23; Mark 16:19-20). By His commission I am referring to His earthly ministry and that He intends to continue this through the church. Continue it through you and me as we make ourselves available to Him as the risen and ascended Lord through the Holy Spirit His gift for ministry. As with Isaiah, this vision of Christ and its consequences to us, should mean “here am I Lord, send me; do with me according to your purpose.”
It Affirms the Need of Celebration

It affirms our need to celebrate and respond in the worship of the Savior. Remember, worship is not just something we do in some special place. Worship may, as with Israel, be merely external and religious formalism. (Cf. Luke 24:51-53Col. 3:1)

True worship involves something we are, a people who count on the worth of God for the totality of our lives. Worship includes hearing God’s Word, confessing our sin, prayer, praise, singing and making melody in our hearts, but all of this can be mere religiosity.

What we must see is that true worship means we think, respond and act on the fact of our ascended Lord with obedience, with commitment, and availability to the plan of God for our lives.

It Affords Us With Motivation and Courage

The ascension provides every reason why we should endure and be bold in service for the Lord knowing that our labor is never in vain in the Lord. (Cf. Mat. 28:19Heb. 12:1,2).

It Affirms His Inauguration as King

The ascension anticipates the establishment of His kingdom and the fact that we will have the privilege of reigning with Him in the millennium and the eternal kingdom of the new heavens and earth. (Cf. John 14:28; 16:16;Acts. 1:11Ps. 110:1Heb. 1:13Rev. 5:1-11.)

It Demands a Response

Because of what the ascension means, it demands a response from us to the person and work of Christ. (John 6:62) Failing to assimilate the truth of Christ as the Bread of Life, as the source of our spiritual nourishment and life through feeding on Him by faith and study, the Lord challenged His audience (and challenges us) with these words: “What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?”

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

Essentials of Good Counseling

From DesiringGod.org via the Christian Post

5PIPER12xx.jpgThis paper was written by John Piper when his church was searching for a Pastor of Biblical Counseling. As Piper notes

It is not intended to say everything that needs to be said in defining Biblical Counseling, but rather to establish some of what is essential to the way we hope counseling will be done at Bethlehem Church.

Some Essentials of Good Counseling

God-centered, Christ-exalting, cross-cherishing, Spirit-dependent, Bible-saturated, emotionally-in-touch, culturally-informed use of language to help people become God-centered, Christ-exalting, joyfully self-forgetting lovers of people who spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

1. Use of language – (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 18; 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; Romans 15:14): Almost all counseling is talk. There is, of course, essential and heart-engaged listening and understanding; but counseling proper is speech. It is remarkable that people will pay $95 an hour for talk. But that is the power of speech, and God has designed it to be so. Therefore, the major issues surrounding counseling are about the worldviews that inform the talk.

2. God-centered – (1 Corinthians 10:31; Acts 17:28): A God-centered person treats God as central to all of life’s concerns, from the most simple and mundane to the most weighty and personal. God-centered language is speech that does not marginalize God or treat him as irrelevant or unnecessary. It makes explicit that all issues that matter are related importantly to God. All counseling issues are related to God at crucial levels, and counseling that tries to lead toward healing without dealing with God explicitly is defective.

3. Christ-exalting – (John 16:14; 17:5): Christ-exalting counseling is explicitly Christian and not merely theistic. All counseling issues involve the exaltation or the denigration of Jesus Christ. Either our attitudes and feelings and behaviors are making much or making little of Christ. We were created to make much of Christ. There is no true success in counseling if a person becomes socially functional without conscious dependence on and delight in Jesus Christ. This is the means and goal of all health.

4. Cross-cherishing – (Galatians 6:14): It is not enough to say that our counseling honors Christ. Some non-Christian systems, even Muslims,1 say this. Biblical Counseling must go to the heart of our problems and the heart of God’s solution, which always means going to the cross where the depths of sin and the heights of grace are revealed. There is no true exalting of Christ or honoring of God that does not cherish the cross. The decisive severing of pride and despair is the cross of Christ. It is the ground of humility and hope. There is no true mental health without understanding the desperate condition we were in without the cross, and without feeling the joy of deliverance from that condition through the death of Christ on our behalf.

5. Spirit-dependent – (Romans 8:6, 14; Galatians 3:5; 5:22-23; 1 Peter 4:11): Spirit-dependent counseling knows and feels that it is helpless to speak wisely and lovingly and to bring about true wholeness apart from the decisive work of the Holy Spirit in the counselor and the counselee. This implies a significant, explicit presence of prayer in the process of counseling. Counseling serves in the strength which God supplies so that in everything God will get the glory.

6. Bible-saturated – (Matthew 4:4; Romans 15:4; Hebrews 4:12): Bible-saturated counseling does not treat the Word of God as an assumed foundation which never gets mentioned or discussed or quoted. „Foundations” are in the basement holding up the house, but they seldom get talked about, and they are usually not attractive. That is not an adequate metaphor for the role of Scripture in counseling. The Bible has power and is the very truth and word of God. Even saints most familiar with the Scriptures need to hear the Word of God. It has a power to rearrange the mental world and waken the conscience and create hope.

7. Emotionally-in-touch – (Deuteronomy 32:2; Romans 12:15; Hebrews 4:15; 13:3): Biblical Counseling is done by a person who has a healthy awareness of his own emotions and those of others and what is being felt, even if not expressed, by himself and others. Counsel takes into account what people are experiencing and not merely what the Biblical truths are that come to bear on the problem. Good Biblical Counselors feel appropriate feelings and know when their emotions are out-of-sync with the situation. They sense what others are feeling and know how to adjust the way they speak the truth so that it fits the moment.

8. Culturally-informed – (Act 17:23, 28; Proverbs 6:6-8; Job 38-41): Biblical Counseling is aware of the historical, social, cultural, and family factors that shape the sin and righteousness of our lives. Biblical Counseling does not estimate cultural, social, or family factors above spiritual ones relating to the power of sin and grace, but it does know that theshape of sin and righteousness is influenced by family, social, cultural, and historical things that may help people distinguish between what is sin and what is not, and what is virtue and what is not. Believing that the root of every emotional and relational problem is sin profoundly affects the conception of how to heal, but it does not lead to simplistic estimations of how easy healing is.

9. To help people become – (1 Thessalonians 3:12; Philippians 1:9): Biblical Counseling is directed at changing people – the way they see and understand and feel God and Christ and sin and right and wrong and the world and other people. Biblical Counseling is about helping people change. It has goals. It is not neutral or disinterested. It has Biblically-shaped aims for people’s lives and relationships.

10. Joyfully self-forgetting lovers of people – (Philippians 1:25; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 16:14; 1 Timothy 1:5; Galatians 5:6): The aim of all health is God-centered, Christ-exalting love for people. Love is not possible where self-preoccupation holds sway in a person’s life. So self-forgetfulness is a part of true mental health. This is not possible to create directly, but only as one is absorbed in something worthy and great. The aim is to be absorbed in God and anything else for God’s sake. The truly healthy person is passionate for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

Notes

1For example, the Chicago Tribune reported that Muslim Fisal Hammouda said in an interview with Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, „We believe in Jesus, more than you do in fact.” (Sean Hamil, „Willow Creek Welcomes Muslim Cleric’s Perspective: Pastor, Imam Have Dialogue at Suburban Church, Chicago Tribune October 12, 2001)

December 12, 2001 | by John Piper

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org.

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?

The Parables of Jesus Christ

Here is a handy list of all the parables that are actually named ‘Parables’ in the New testament by the Gospel writer. photo via http://thechurchsite.net/ For a complete list of Jesus’s 46 parables see list at the bottom of the article.

Mark 4:33-34

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. The prophet Ezekiel, for example, wrote in parables, such as the eagles and the vine (17:1-24) and the parable of the pot (24:1-14). The word parable in Hebrew מָשָׁל is present in both vignettes (17:2 and 24:3). A parable is a story that presents comparisons to teach an important moral lesson. The root meaning of the word parable means a placing side by side for the sake of comparison. A parable envisions the whole narrative to generate the spiritual message, whereas a proverb, metaphor, simile, or figure of speech focuses generally on a word, phrase or sentence. The Gospel writer identifies a narrative with a spiritual meaning by specifically calling the lesson a παραβολή (parable). At times the Gospel writer begins the story with the term like, as „The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1).

The Parables are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Matthew relates ten Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, seven of which occur in Chapter 13 and are central to his Gospel. Examples of parables unique to each Gospel are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29); the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37); the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31); and the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14) .

The word parable does not appear in the Gospel of John. The related word παροιμιαν (figure of speech) appears in 10:6 and refers to the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Jesus, by calling himself the Good Shepherd, recalls the imagery of Psalm 23, „The Lord is my Shepherd,” and the Prophets (Isaiah 40:1-11, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Ezekiel 34). By doing so, he fulfills Old Testament prophecy as he identifies himself as the Messiah. The word παροιμίαν also appears in John 16:25 and provides insight into the message of Jesus: „I have spoken to you in figures of speech; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but tell you plainly of the Father.”

The following chart lists the important parables of Jesus Christ.
This list primarily includes those parables specifically named as such by a Gospel writer. (Via source JesusChristSavior.net)

THE PARABLES OF JESUS
PARABLE MATTHEW MARK LUKE
The Speck and The Log 7:1-5 6:37-42
New Cloth on Old Garment 9:16-17 2:21-22 5:36-39
The Divided Kingdom 12:24-30 3:23-27 11:14-23
The Sower 13:1-23 4:1-20 8:4-15
The Growing Seed 4:26-29
The Rich Fool 12:16-21
The Barren Fig Tree 13:6-9
The Weeds Among the Wheat 13:24-30
The Mustard Seed 13:31-32 4:30-34 13:18-19
The Leaven 13:33-34 13:20-21
Hidden Treasure 13:44
Pearl of Great Price 13:45-46
The Net 13:47-50
The Good Samaritan 10:29-37
The Invited Guests 14:7-24
The Heart of Man 15:1-20 7:1-23
The Lost Sheep 18:10-14 15:1-7
The Prodigal Son 15:11-32
The Rich Man and Lazarus 16:19-31
The Persistent Widow 18:1-8
The Pharisee and The Publican 18:9-14
Laborers in the Vineyard 20:1-16
The Tenants 21:33-45 12:1-12 20:9-19
The Wedding Feast 22:1-14 14:15-24
The Fig Tree 24:32-44 13:28-37 21:29-33
The Faithful or Wicked Servant 24:45-51 12:35-48
The Ten Virgins 25:1-13
Ten Talents or Gold Coins 25:14-30 19:11-27

source JesusChristSavior.net photo below via parables.png

and here is the complete list

  • The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
  • The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)
  • The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29)
  • The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.)
  • The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.)
  • The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31)
  • The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  • The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)
  • The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)
  • The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)
  • The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)
  • The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13)
  • The Closed Door (Luke 13:24-30)
  • The Doorkeeper (Mark 13:33-37; cf. Matt 24:42)
  • The Thief in the Night and the Faithful Servants (Matthew 24:42-51.; Luke 12:32-48.)
  • The Strong Man Bound (Matt.12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21 f.)
  • The Divided Realm (Mark 3:24-26; Luke 11:17-20)
  • The Unoccupied House or The Demon’s Invasion (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26)
  • The Importunate Neighbor (Luke 11:5-8)
  • The Son’s Request (Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13)
  • The Unjust Judge or The Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8)
  • Master and Servant (Luke 17:7-10)
  • The Servant Entrusted with Authority or The Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 12:42-46)
  • The Waiting Servants (Luke 12:35-38; Mark 13:33-37)
  • The Laborers in the Vineyard or The Generous Employer (Matt.20:1-16)
  • The Money in Trust or The Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27)
  • The Lamp (Matt 5:14-16; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16, 11:31) and The City Set on a Hill (Matt. 5:14b)
  • The Body’s Lamp (Matthew 6:22 f.; Luke 11:34-36)
  • The Discarded Salt (Matt 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34 f.)
  • The Patch and the Wineskins (Matt. 9:16 f.; Mark 2:21 f.; Luke 5:36-39)
  • The Householder’s Treasure (Matthew 13:52)
  • The Dishonest Steward (Luke 16:1-12) Revised!
  • The Defendant (Luke 12:58 f.; Matthew 5:25 f.)
  • The Unforgiving Official or The Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-35)
  • The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
  • The Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16)
  • The Two Builders (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)
  • The Two Debtors (Luke 7:41-43)
  • The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
  • The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45 f.)
  • The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
  • The Prodigal Son or The Loving Father (Luke 15:11-32)
  • The Two Sons, The Apprentice Son, and The Slave and Son (Matthew 21:28-32; John 5:19-20a; John 3:35)
  • The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)
  • The Lost Sheep (Matthew 28:12-14; Luke 15:4-7)
  • The Shepherd, the Thief, and the Doorkeeper (John 10:1-18)
  • The Doctor and the Sick (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5: 31 f.)
  • The Sulking Children or The Children in the Marketplace (Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35)
  • The Arrogant Guest (Luke 14:7-11)
  • The Bridegroom’s Friend (John 3:28)
  • The Bridegroom’s Attendants (Matt.9:15a; Mark 2:18 f.; Luke 5:34)
  • The Bride’s Girlfriends or Ten Virgins (Matt25:1-13)
  • The Tower Builder and The Warring King (Luke 14:28-32)
  • The Wedding Feast or The Unwilling Guests (Matt 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-24)
  • The Wedding Garment (Matthew 22:11-14)
  • The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
  • The Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-9; Matt 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
  • The Grain of Wheat (John 12:24)
  • The Weeds in the Grain or the Tares (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The Seed Growing Secretly (Spontaneously) or The Patient Husbandman (Mark 4:26-29)
  • The Mustard Seed (Matt13:31f.;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 f.)
  • The Leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20 f.)
  • The Budding Fig Tree (Matt 24:32 f.; Mark 13:28 f.; Luke 21:19-31)
  • The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  • The Birds of Heaven (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24)
  • The Flowers of the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27f.)
  • The Vultures & the Carcass (Matt 24:28; Luke 17:37)
  • The Tree and its Fruits (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-49)
  • The Weather Signs (Luke 12:54-56; cf. Matthew 26:2 f.; Mark 8:11-13)

FREE Ebook – Doctrine Matters by John Piper – Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching

Click on photo of book, or click here for download of FREE Online book in pdf, EPUB (iBooks,Nook) and MOBI (Kindle).

“What the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow” (p. 177).

About the Book

Doctrine Matters is the theological summary of one preacher’s lifetime of investment in a local church. Completing three decades of pastoral ministry at Bethlehem Baptist, John Piper gave a final sermon series on the doctrinal emphases from his years of preaching. These ten emphases, delivered as ten sermons in 2012 and now edited into this volume, embody the legacy Piper hopes to leave.

But don’t think that these messages are the memoirs of a retired pastor. You don’t store these truths away to collect dust. The vision of God in these pages doesn’t take a pat on the head—it turns the world upside down.

These doctrines are, as Piper says, “wildly untamable, explosively uncontainable, and electrically future-creating.” They make a difference. When you read these truths and immerse yourself in this biblical vision of our great God, you will want to act. You will want to build something. You will want to start things. You will be compelled to dream big and risk bigger for the glory of Jesus Christ. And we pray for nothing less.

Table of Contents

Editor’s Preface
1. God Is
2. The Glory of God
3. Christian Hedonism
4. The Sovereignty of God
5. The Gospel of God in Christ
6. The Call to Global Missions
7. Living the Christian Life
8. The Perseverance of the Saints
9. Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
10. Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

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.

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