Posts Tagged With: Gospel

Equipped Wednesdays Launch a Great Success

Pastors must be equippers.  Yes, we must preach, but we preach to equip.  Yes, we must teach, but we must teach to equip for the work and contribution to the kingdom of God.  Yes, we must visit and evangelize—in order to equip others for the gospel and in the gospel.

Last Wednesday, we reconfigured our Wednesday night times to be times of equipped—calling them the unoriginal but pointed title of Equipped Wednesdays.  The inaugural class?  Two Ways to Live

I only ordered 20 books—but God is moving in such a way at our church that 32 showed up. God is placing a desire in all of us to start knowing and sharing our faith. 

So if you’re in the area, come on out to Arapahoe Road Baptist Church here in Centennial on Wednesdays at 6 pm.  Below is a sample of what the presentation is about and how to present it (Australian accent optional):

Come on out!  It’s not too late!

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Links to Help Your Grip (4.13.2013): Kermit Gosnell Edition

This edition of Links is dedicated to the horrendous subject of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is on trial for murder and infanticide.

The Grand Jury Report from the Kermit Gosnell Trial

“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”

Kermit Gosnell and the Gospel (Russell Moore)

Yesterday I was typing the name “Kermit Gosnell,” and my phone auto-corrected the name to “gospel.” I shuddered momentarily. After all, what could be more contradictory than the name of a notorious abortionist on trial for child murder, and the good news of the mercies of God in Christ. My smartphone, it turns out, was smarter than I was.

8 Reasons for the Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell (Trevin Wax)

To put the Kermit Gosnell trial in perspective, consider other famous cases of child-killing. From Susan Smith to Andrea Yates, and most recently the horror of Newtown, we are accustomed to 24/7 news coverage of these types of tragedies. Not so with Dr. Gosnell.

Aurora, Newtown . . . Kermit Gosnell, and Abortion Clinics? The Culture of Death and the Culture of our Inconsistencies (Matthew Perry)

Do we really believe that pro-life people are bigoted and hateful because we, like civil rights people of the past, seek to give a voice to those who have no public voice or recourse? Why would so many be willing to stand up for those who do have some sort of defense, but refuse to do so to those who have the least ability to speak up for themselves?

We’ve Forgotten What Belongs on Page One (Kirsten Powers, USA Today)

Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations? It’s not your fault.

Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front Page Story (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic)

Grand juries aren’t infallible. This version of events hasn’t been proven in a court of law. But journalists routinely treat accounts given by police, prosecutors and grand juries as at least plausible if not proven. Try to decide, as you hear the state’s side of the case, whether you think it is credible, and if so, whether the possibility that some or all this happened demands massive journalistic scrutiny.

9 Things You Should Know About the Gosnell Infanticide and Murder Trial (Joe Carter)

7. On January 31, 1998, a then 15 year old Robyn Reid sought an abortion from Gosnell’s clinic. Once she was in the clinic, though, Reid, an 87-pound teenager at the time, told Gosnell she changed her mind about the abortion. She claims Gosnell got upset, ripped off her clothes, restrained her, and repeatedly told her, “This is the same care that I would give to my own daughter.” Reid regained consciousness 12 hours later at her aunt’s home, with the abortion having been completed against her will.

Below is 3801 Lancaster, an ongoing documentary about the atrocities that took place at Dr. Gosnell’s butcher shop clinic:

3801 Lancaster from 3801Lancaster on Vimeo.

Categories: Abortion, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What is the Gospel?

This past week, I came across a very transparent article written by a believer named Cornell. He shared about how his day usually goes, especially on the bus ride home. After a work day, he likes to sit alone in his world and read or simply pray and meditate. One day, this did not happen.

A man sat next to him and began to talk to him. After the initial annoyance, he began to see what a great conversationalist this man was. They talked about the literacy problem in Kenya and the western world, music trends, and other common ground topics that made him relax for about an hour. But he wasn’t fully relaxed:

I should have been fully relaxed and at ease by now. But I wasn’t. There was something that I was still holding back. Something that I felt would spoil this infant acquaintanceship. Numerous perfect opportunities for bringing it up came and went, but I ignored them all. I deliberately pushed it to the back of my mind and conveniently omitted it from the conversation. The truth of the matter is, I was ashamed of the Gospel. What’s even sadder is that this was not the first time it was happening. This is not to say that I am ashamed of the Gospel every time I choose to discuss politics over sharing it. But the circumstances surrounding today’s encounter were especially unique.

  1. I was on my way to church, to join others for the Wednesday evening prayers and Bible Study. The Gospel was bound to be on my mind.
  2. The e-mail I happened to be checking turned out to be today’s For the Love of God commentary by D. A. Carson, which I’ve been using as a guide through the Bible in the past couple of months. Today’s commentary was on Genesis 9 and this was one of the phrases that I picked from it, “… the problems of rebellion and sin are deep-seated; they constitute part of our nature.” Talk about a perfect cue for evangelism.
  3. I was wearing the T-shirt in the photo above (right). It’s written LIVE BY THE C.O.D.E. C.arrying O.ut D.iscipleship E.verywhere. Talk about a shouting hint.
  4. We stayed in that traffic for slightly over 2 hours.

So, it wasn’t for the lack of time or opportunity. I just didn’t feel like sharing the Gospel with the guy. I have found that there’s always a convenient excuse at the back of my mind every time I fail to share the Gospel with a friendly stranger on the bus. I can think of four excuses that made me shy away from sharing today:

He came up with four reasons why he didn’t share. (1) He didn’t want to be a killjoy, (2) he shared much about his love of certain styles of music, but also didn’t share that this was before he came to Christ—and was afraid he would compromise too much of the witness, (3) too many people listening. And lastly (4), even though he was a theology student and had preached, he didn’t know how in the day-to-day of a bus conversation with an unbeliever.

For the majority of us, we can relate to this. Talk about the Broncos, bring it on! Politic issues of the day, no problem! Gush about your wife and kids—I could give lessons on that. Share the gospel? We feel fine when it comes to common ground or about things we are passionate about. The gospel? Why should we be passionate about that? And if it’s so incredible, why do we find ourselves tight-lipped about it. It could be:

  • We’ve never surrendered to the gospel of Christ
  • We don’t know how to articulate it.
  • We are ashamed of it because we love what men think about us more than what God thinks about us.

But know this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is all that stands in the way of hell and eternal judgment for us. Receive it, it’s enough to save your soul and keep hell at bay. Reject it, and no amount of good works will be enough keep the penalty of our sin at bay.

1. Are we ashamed of the gospel—or eager for it?

Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Some are appalled that this notion—that the apostle Paul could ever have trouble in this area. How could Paul, after his conversion experience that was so spectacular, ever be ashamed of the gospel and of His Savior? As one commentator put it, it’s only when you have the capability of being ashamed that you could, by comparison, say that you are not ashamed. And before we put him up on too high a pedestal, some of you may recall from Romans 7:14-21, where he brings a bit of transparency to his Christian walk:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

Paul recognized that though the Spirit of Christ rested in Him because Christ regenerated and redeemed his soul, he was still in his body, his flesh. His flesh wanted to carry him in its desires one way, and the Spirit was carrying him in another way with His desires. So one of the issues Paul could well have dealt with was being ashamed of the gospel.

Jesus warned all of us about this. He told his disciples in Mark 8:34-38:

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[ will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

Jesus warned the disciples, knowing that they all would struggle in this manner—and that all of us as believers would struggle with this. But he makes the implications clear. We are His body, and we make Him known on the earth. And if we, as His body, are ashamed of him in the midst of this sinful generation that needs Him—He will be ashamed of us.

Even Pastor Timothy struggled with fear and shame in regards to the gospel and his calling.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. . . . But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:8, 12).

Why was Paul not ashamed—why was Paul to “eager to preach the gospel? In Romans 1:14, it says that he is “under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. . . . [and] to you who are in Rome.” An ‘obligation’ or (as some versions translate it, a ‘debt’)? What does Paul mean? It means that he is entrusted with the gospel as a steward—something that God gave for him to share.

2. The gospel serves as the power of God for salvation.

Notice that this is the “power of God” for salvation. It is not the “power of man” for salvation. Let me share with you that you are not saved by what you do. There were some in the Roman church (yes, in the church) who believed that they were saved by their own works. But notice in Romans where it says in Romans 2:3-5:

3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing upwrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

So many rely on the power of man to save them. In this context, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles and all their practices and all their wickedness (see Romans 1:24-32), and felt a moral superiority as a Jew, since they were God’s covenant people descended from Abraham as a physical nation. They had God’s law and knew His boundaries. The difference?

The Gentiles broke God’s law out of ignorance, the Jews condemn the Gentiles for doing what they themselves were doing as well. Their spiritual walk was one of sheer morality. But their morality was for everyone else—they failed to look in the mirror. What mirror? The mirror on the bathroom wall? No, the mirror of God’s Word! The gospel is the ultimate mirror. It exposes the power on which we rely.

Then Paul says, “To everyone who believes, first to the Jew then to the Gentile.” Again we come across the ‘belief.’ It’s not simply believing He exists (first chair), or believing that he is true (second chair). It’s the third chair—surrender! It’s only by God’s power we are saved. The apostle John said, “You must be born again” and “you must be born from above.”

Unamuno y Jugo, a Spanish philosopher and writer, says:

“Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself.”

I believe in many cases the world sees churches who only believe in a Christ-idea, but not Christ Himself! And when the crunch of life comes, we it exposes what is or is not there. Look at Romans 5:1-5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When we have surrendered to Christ and the penalty of our sin has been removed (justification), God grants a peace that passes all understanding. We have access to grace! We have joy in the hope of the glory of God! Suffering comes? We rejoice! It brings endurance, which develops character, which produces hope. How?

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit is sent by God to show us the Father, to convict us of our sin, to guide us into all truth, to regenerate us unto salvation by grace through faith, and will continue to counsel us in the days ahead. This is how we know of God’s power—it’s called change.

3. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God.

For the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, just as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So we are not saved by the power of man, nor are we saved by the righteousness of man. And notice what it says. For the righteousness of God is revealed. It is a righteousness, first, that belongs to God. Whatever righteousness or approval we may find from God originates from God and not from man. Also, notice that he does not say, “The righteousness from God is earned.” Remember the passage from Romans 5:6-8?

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Here’s the mistake many make when it comes to understanding the faith:

  1. “I have to be good enough in order for God to love me.” Yet, it says that Jesus Christ died for the “weak” and “ungodly” and “sinners.”
  2. “I have to do good things, but rely on Jesus to fill in the rest.” But Paul tells us that no one is good, not even one (Romans 3:9-10) for we must be rescued from the dominion of sin.

You see, we think we have to do something to help God along, to show we are of value. I read about an instant cake mix that was a big flop. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell — until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. Apparently people thought it was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.

People want to do something to help God along, but the more we try to do, the worse shape we are in. But the beauty of the gospel is that God has revealed his righteousness to us by His grace:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Look at these phrases:

  • Righteousness of God through faith in Jesus
  • We are justified by His grace as a gift.
  • Redemption is found in Jesus Christ.
  • The cross of Christ show’s God’s righteousness.
  • He is just (he must demand a penalty for our sin) and the justifier (he took the penalty for our sin).

Charles Spurgeon once preached:

Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ’s place, and Christ takes the sinner’s place, there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned once forever. God does not give a free pardon . . . and then afterward retract it and punish man . . . He says, ‘I have punished Christ; you may go free.’ And after that we may ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God,’ that ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ . . . . In the moment they believe, their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to be theirs, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them and accounted theirs, so that they are accepted.[1]

(This was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO on Sunday, January 13, 2012. You may listen to the sermon here or download the mp3.)


[1]Charles Spurgeon. Quoted by Wil Pounds: http://www.abideinchrist.com/messages/rom1v16.html.

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Beware of the Gospel Gaps: Spiritual Drifts Lead to Gospel Shifts

4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you (Galatians 2:4-5, ESV).

___________________

Paul’s concern for the Galatian church was to preserve the true truth of the gospel from not just the secular world outside the church, but from those who would add law to the gospel from the inside. Each person struggles with a gospel gap in their lives.[1]  Beware of submitting to something that will enslave you—only pursue that which will preserve you—the Gospel.

  1. Beware of the gospel gaps: “There are people who know the Lord, but whose live fail to produce the expected fruit of faith. Their lives are not characterized by peaceful, loving relationships, a sweet, natural, day-by-day worship of the Lord, a wholesome and balanced relationship to material things, and ongoing spiritual growth. Instead, these believers leave a trail of broken relationships, a knowledgeable but impersonal walk with God, a struggle with material things, and a definite lack of personal growth. Something is wrong with this harvest; it contradicts the faith that is supposed to be its source” (How People Change, p 2).
  2. Three kinds of blindness in how to deal with the gospel in the here and now:
    • Many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin.
    • Many Christians are blind to God’s provisions. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-9).
    • Many Christians are blind to God’s process. Beware of the extremes of “I have already arrived spiritually” to “I am just waiting for heaven.” He’s called us to a life of growth, not comfort.
  3. What are some counterfeit issues that fill the gap?
    • Formalism (logistics): Involved in every activity, every committee, teaches—but Christian walk is impacted very little. Problem: Formalism allows us to retain control of my life, my time, and my agenda. Blind to the need for God’s grace to rescue. Church life and personal life separate—fail to see the need to have the gospel affect all things.
    • Legalism (fundamentalists): A walking list of do’s and don’ts, having a set of rules for everything to evaluate herself and everyone else. God is a harsh judge who places unreasonable standards, yet condemns because we cannot keep them. No joy in life because there is no grace to celebrate. This is another gospel all together! 
    • Mysticism (charismatics): Careening from emotional experience to emotional experience, from one high to another. But between the highs, we fall flat and struggle with discouragement. We forget that most changes happen in life in the little moments of life. Danger is found in pursuing experience more than Christ. 
    • Activism (monastics): Activist Christians’ motto is “Stand up for what is right, wherever and whenever it is needed.” Danger is focusing more on defending what is right than a joyful pursuit of Christ. Focus is always on external evils—can take the form of modern monasticism: “World is evil, separate from it.” Even the monks forgot to look at the evil inside the hearts of those inside the monastery walls. 
    • Biblicism (scholastics): Know the Bible well, read commentaries, concern about “biblical worldview,” etc. We can study Christianity and not be Christ-lie. We can have a reputation for being proud, critical, and intolerant of anyone who lacks our understanding of the faith. This critical spirit is not well-received by those willing to learn and grow. Danger is to master the content of Scripture and systematic theology to the exclusion of communion, dependency, and worship of Christ. 
    • “Psychologyism” (psychatrics): One who sees Christ as a therapist for ‘hurting’ people who need spiritual healing. Focus on ones own hurts and victimization, and thus becomes self-absorbed and thus not seeing need for redemption! For these, the problem is unmet needs—the sin is against me rather than sin against God! 
    • “Socialism” (relational dynamics): Fellowship is what drives these believers. The interaction of relationships fuels the fire of their faith. The point here is to find someone(s) to whom we can relate. Our communion with people can replace a desire to commune with Christ. Church becomes a social club, and when this changes, so does our fire.

Never underestimate how spiritual drifts can bring gospel shifts, which can lead to false gospels.  A false gospel is no gospel at all!

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence,[b]4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[c] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[d] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that heis blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins (2 Peter 1:3-9, ESV).

 

[1]This term and the following lists of counterfeits are taken from Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp’s book How People Change (New Growth Press, 2008), 255 pages.

 

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Has Your Gospel Reduced to Christian Causes?

“Whenever you believe that the evil outside you is greater than the evil inside you, a heartfelt pursuit of Christ will be replaced by a zealous fighting of the “evil” around you.  A celebration of the grace that rescues you from your own sin will be replaced by the crusade to the rescue the church from the ills of the surrounding culture.  Christian maturity becomes defined as a willingness to defend right from the wrong.  The gospel is reduced to participation in Christian causes.”

— Tim Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change, p. 10. 

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How to Share the Gospel with Muslims

J.T. Smith at The Gospel Coalition gives a great article on How to Share the Gospel with Muslims.  His points are as follows as “words of counsel to all who seek to make Christ supreme among Muslims”:

  1. Ground yourself in the fact that God is sovereign in salvation. “We believe that a Muslim coming to faith is not intrinsically connected to our form of contextualization, but rests solely on God’s divine intervention (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 115:3; John 6:64-65) and our humble obedience to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 9:38, 28:19-20). God is not concerned with glorifying a method; he is concerned with glorifying his Son.”
  2. Be diligent in working to understand the local culture and determine the best way to present the gospel.
    1. Know Islam. We need to ask ourselves, What are Muslims longing for? What keeps Muslims from attaining this? Don’t be afraid to read the Qur’an or other religious sources. These things will give you great insight into Muslims hearts and minds.
    2. Use their language. When I say “language” I’m referring to two things. First, speak their actual language. If you want to see a church planted among Arabic-speaking Muslims, learn Arabic. If you’re working among Pakistanis, learn Urdu. If among Bengalis, learn Bengali. Second, speak the language (figuratively) that communicates to them. My wife and I lived and worked among Arabic speakers. We learned early on that we could not get people to listen by presenting a beautiful apologetic syllogism proving Jesus is God. We had to use stories, parables, and passages from their religious books.
  3. Center your gospel presentation on Jesus and the Bible.  “I am not against the proper use of the Qur’an in evangelism. I am concerned with how much we use it. We should not give it center place in our gospel presentation. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Muslims must believe Jesus is their savior, and this belief can only come from the Scriptures. The story of redemption cannot be told from the Qur’an.”
  4. Don’t force your ideas on them. “The gospel will take on a form of the culture that it is speaking to; if it doesn’t, it will not be understood. But the gospel will also speak with a prophetic voice within the culture that calls for transformation. It goes in and calls out. Our goal is to preach the gospel of Christ from the Scriptures and let the Spirit transform lives and communities.”

You can read the rest of this in full here

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Where Should the Pastoral Training Take Place?

When a passion for the church is added to a grounding in the gospel, a proper understanding of ministry calling begins to form. If you believe you’re called to pastoral ministry, you must see your potential calling in the context of the local church, where ministry is shaped and defined according to Scripture.

This makes sense. But think about it for a second. You might be in a church right now but considering hitting the road to get training somewhere else—seminary, Bible college, parachurch ministry. Funny thing about us evangelicals: we take men who are in the church out of the church in order to send them back into the church to do ministry for the church. Is anybody else confused?

Suppose you had a guy whose greatest dream was to make doughnuts. He couldn’t imagine a life where he wasn’t covered with flour and sugar, helping out in the little shop where he grew up. A dream stirs in his heart—he wants to make doughnuts for these folks the rest of his life. So what do we do with Doughnut Joe?

If we follow the common model for training pastors, we tell him he’s got to leave the doughnut shop and go to doughnut school—study the history of doughnut making, parse the intricacies of recipe texts, be able to cogently argue the merits of traditional doughnut design versus the modern fat-free varieties. You get the idea. Joe becomes a “professional” now. But that path takes him far away from the neighborhood shop where he’s always dreamed of carrying out his vision. Somehow we reached the point where the most commonly accepted approach to training pastors is to draw gifted men away from the local church and educate them largely outside it.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t about seminary bashing. I went to a great seminary while serving my local church. It gave me a deep appreciation for the key role that Christian educational institutions play in helping the church protect sound doctrine and train teachers and scholars for the advance of the gospel. But there are other important aspects to training men for ministry, areas where the Bible school or seminary can often bump up against limitations. I’m thinking specifically of identifying called men, evaluating their call, assessing their character, and positioning to be fruitful in their call. That’s the responsibility of the local church.

Dave Harvey (2012-03-07). Am I Called?: A Summons to Pastoral Ministry (pp. 52-54). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

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The Components of the Gospel Declared and Delivered

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, ESV). 

So Paul recognizes (and so must we) that the gospel is preached to us, received by us as a gift, is that by which we stand, and that by which we as Christians are being saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).  Yet, there is the concern by Paul that the Corinthians by their actions had believed in vain. 

Some of the Christians in Corinth were wondering what was the true importance of the resurrection.  Was it really necessary?  Yes!  In fact, Paul begins to outline that it is of “first importance.”  In other words, the gospel is not the gospel without a risen Savior—without a crucified and resurrection Christ!  Again, he breaks this down into four components in his defense of the resurrection, outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

First, Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.

Christ’s death was necessary.  He died on a wooden cross outside the camp, bearing the curse for us by becoming a curse on our behalf.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  What is this “cup”?  This is the cup of God’s wrath that is poured out on sin in judgment (Zechariah 12:2).  Since Jesus had no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), then he stood as the scapegoat, bearing the curse of the sins of the people outside the camp (see Hebrews 9-10).  Christ served as a propitiation for our sins, taking the wrath that was deserved and directed toward us, and putting it on Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:30).  Only in this manner may Christ make us righteous before God.

Secondly, we see “that he was buried.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:39-40:

39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The prophet Jonah (whom Jesus refers to not as a myth or a fable, but as a real, historical person) serves as a foreshadowing of what would happen with Jesus.  So many ask for a sign—Jesus provides one in Jonah, which in turn signifies the greater ‘burying’ in Christ who would be buried not for his own sins (a la, Jonah) but in payment for the sins of all who would believe.

Even King David prophecied about this is Psalm 16:

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

Peter clarifies this for his Jewish listeners in Acts 2:25-31 that this passage in Psalm 16 refers not to King David, for his tomb was clearly known to all as well as the bones it contained therein—but this was referring to another who was buried but did not see corruption or bodily decay.   This is King Jesus whom David prophecied would be resurrected. 

Thirdly, that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

This fact caught the two disciples by surprise, but it shouldn’t have.  Jesus told them in Luke 24:25-27 that this was foretold clearly in the OT.  Sin kills, and since Jesus bore our sins, He died—but He did not stay dead.  In those three days in the ground, he went into Hades to declare victory to those who rejected him in this life (1 Peter 3:18-21).  He showed them that it was all true and that He conquered!  And He came forth from the grave with that same message:  victory!  Death has been conquered, sin’s affects have been vanquished, and all those who surrender to Him have what He has (Ephesians 2:4-7).  There is no gospel without a risen Savior and Lord.

Lastly, and that he appeared … . 

Yes, there were eyewitnesses.  Cephas (a.k.a., Peter), the disciples, and “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”  He appeared to James, then to Paul (Acts 9:1-19).  This was within 10-15 years of the event and Jesus’ life and ministry, which were burned into their minds.  But also, with Jesus still being alive, His Spirit still worked, moved, led, and inspired their writings for a record for us (read the book of Acts, as well as 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

Eyewitnesses are well and good (in fact, every NT book was written by an eyewitness to Jesus life and ministry, or was connected to one who had).  But 2 Peter 1:19-21 tells us that the word of God is “more sure” than any eyewitness. 

But do not discount that there were eyewitnesses.

Recently, I had the chance to watch a Founder’s Day service at my alma mater, Palm Beach Atlantic University, that honored Dr. Ray Robinson, who served as our choral director and helped shape the School of Music and Fine Arts into a truly Christ-centered school.  It was a beautiful thing to behold being in the midst of that. 

In the weeks leading up to this, I was on a Facebook thread with a number of former students who were contacted to see if we could all make it to honor him.  Even though I graduated from there almost 20 years ago, I remembered so many details of that life-changing, life-altering, and in many ways life-saving time, that I not only could recall details of it, I could correct anyone who may have remembered various events incorrectly. 

Imagine walking with Jesus for 3 1/2 years.  Imagine being either for him or against him.  Do you think that this man, for whom more literature and art and music has been dedicated, could remember clearly the details of this Man’s life? 

Some of you may reject this, saying it’s a fable or a myth.  But I submit that if these things were not so, and with Paul and the apostles being so public, that each of these things would have and could have been refuted right there on the spot.  Christians, by and large, are not naïve.  They want to know if it’s true and are seeking out its truth. 

But we also know that this is a historical and spiritual book.  Satan wants you to deny it, even while he knows it’s true (James 2:19) and our flesh wants to deny it in its fallen form simply because we were born with the desire to want to have authority over our own lives.  If we believe the historical matters are true, then we have to deal with the spiritual matters that are just as true.  We are sinners destined for judgment (Hebrews 9:27-28) and must surrender to Christ who bore the brunt and the wrath of that judgment on the behalf of all who would believe. 

This gospel declared and delivered also demolishes all strongholds set up against it.  If you reject this, then what stronghold is holding you so strongly?  Is it that reliable?  Consider this gospel in the midst of your other considerations. 

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Distinctives of the Gospel (from 1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

In the resurrection chapter, also known as 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul gives a defense of the necessity of the resurrection to not only the church but also the world.  In the first two verses, Paul gives four distinctives of not only how the gospel affects believers as well. 

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

We must understand that the world ‘gospel’ means in essence “good news.”  I’ve been reminded that the gospel is not ‘good advice,’ telling us how we are to live in the future.  It is good news, telling us what has already been accomplished for us in Christ Jesus!

The gospel is preached to us 

Good news is heralded!  Too often, we are looking for a conversation about this in our times of corporate worship—but there are times when we need to stop and listen to what has already been done.  No conversation is necessary as to whether this is true or not.  Truth is absolute—never-changing.  Truth is not relative to the individual (“Well, that’s true for you, but it’s not true for me.”) 

Regardless of what others may say, the gospel is that which is heralded and proclaimed.  Paul says, “Him [being Jesus—see Colossians 1:27] we proclaim.”  There are times to talk about it, to field questions, to engage skeptics, and to strengthen believers in this.  But through it all, we do not waver in the fact that Jesus is alive—this is the essence of the good news!

The gospel is received by us.

When the gospel is received, no indication is given that we receive it based upon anything we do to earn it.   No, it is a gift we receive (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8 ).  This must be the language used when it comes to the gospel.  We hear much about ‘accepting’ the gospel, but this terminology is not found in Scripture.  We receive it as a gift from our Lord Jesus who purchased our salvation and provided forgiveness to God on our behalf.  We were objects of His wrath, “but God made us alive” (Ephesians 2:4). 

The gospel is that in which we stand

The resurrection matters because, without it, we have nothing on which to hang our hope.  The reality of the resurrection is that Christ accomplished that which makes us stand righteous before God—an imputed righteousness granted by Christ on our behalf (Romans 3:24-26).  Without this Good News, we can only rely on good advice to fuel our good works—neither of which will do our fallen selves any good at all. 

The gospel is that by which we are being saved.

The gospel not only justifies, removing the penalty of sin that was against us and putting that penalty on Christ—it sanctifies by progressively removing the power of sin by killing the flesh and empowering the Spirit! 

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A Sketch of our Process of Invite-Invest-Involve-Increase

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I’m getting to be more and more of a visual person the older I get.  My thoughts are (as I reflect on my own thinking) is that if I can not just write it out in prose, but put it in some sort of a picture, it helps galvanize and crystallize it in my own thinking. 

On Sunday, I preached on our Fifth Core Value: Unleash, and I shared this sketch on Sunday night.  I’ve been pondering this in my mind for a couple of years, and even shared it with my former church (Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, KY) that first came to my mind in a sermon on Titus 2:1-10.  Then I saw the Kentucky Baptist Convention incorporate the “invite, invest, involve” slogan in a number of other places.  So I can say with a good conscience that I didn’t steal it! Smile  

But we needed a process that built upon the great success here with our introductory ARBC 101 class. 

Be prepared for more sketches.  What do you all do when trying to get ideas and concepts more firmly in your mind?

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