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And That’s Why I Need Jesus

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15

I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins.  I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9).  There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins.  There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.

Psalm 32:15-18 reads:

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it!  I really do!  It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am.  Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Notice verse 10.  The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness.  Amazing!

Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins.  I don’t need to.  The point is not about me.  The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well.  If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18).  I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh.  They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins.  I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.  Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin.  Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you.  Let’s face it, we like sinning.  No, we love sinning.  That is why Jesus had to die for us.  Because we enjoy sin.

And that is why I need Jesus.  I like sinning.  I don’t want to like it.  In fact, I want to hate it.  Yet I find that I enjoy sinning.  I have sinned in many ways.  I have let many people down over the years.  Those who know me best know I am not perfect.  I never confess to be.  Oh there was a time I thought I was all that.  Not anymore.  I see my sins.  I know my sins.  I hate my sins.

It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect.  I have yet to meet a perfect Christian.  I have met arrogant Christians.  I have met prideful Christians.  I have been those myself.  Yet I have never met a perfect saint.  Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him.  They knew it.  I knew it.  Jesus knows it.  Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh.  They hate it.  I hate it.  Jesus still saves them.

So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning.  I can’t sleep.  I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  Yet I still struggle with sin.  I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification.  I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy.  I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus.  Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  So how can I be holy?  His reply:  look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him.  He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.

So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner.  You know that I sin.  Yet that is why I need Jesus.  I am not perfect.  I am not a perfect father.  I am not a perfect worker.  I am not a perfect saint.  I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me).  I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I thank God for sending such a Savior.  I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5).  My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That is me.

Like the Persistent Asking of a Desperate Beggar

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

– Luke 11:1-8

Persistence in prayer is something I think many of us need.  I know I do.  My prayer life tends to go up and down depending on many issues.  There have been seasons of prayer in my life where I was praying earnestly and full of faith.  Then there are times of prayerlessness.

In Luke 11 we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.  He gives them a model of prayer in verses 2-4 which are similar though not the same as Matthew 6:9-13.  The New King James along with the KJV add words to make these two texts match.  Most Greek texts do not have these additions.  I think this is important because the “Lord’s prayer” is not a magical prayer meant to be uttered and repeated over and over again.  The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples a model prayer.  Prayer is not just reciting words.  Prayer is not just reading prayers.  Prayer flows from the child of God to our Father who hears our cries.  The disciples surely knew this having watched the Lord Jesus pray.  It was His prayer life that they asked for Him to teach them.  Not His miracles.  Not His teaching style.  Not His leadership style.  It was the prayer life of our Lord that the disciples saw and asked Him to teach them about.

I have been around saints of God who knew how to pray.   They would walk and talk with God all the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  There was a persistence in their prayer life that was continually.  They walked with God like Enoch of old (Genesis 5:24).  Prayer was like breathing to many of these saints of God.  I have heard the stories of the great prayer warriors such as Leonard Ravenhill and E.M. Bounds.  I have heard of the prayer life of David Brainerd and David Livingstone.  I have heard of the prayer lives of John Wesley and George Whitefield.  Their ministries were marked with souls but also with prayer.  Wesley would often rise up early in the morning before the sun came up to pray.  Martin Luther would labor for hours in prayer.

Where are the men of prayer today?  In fact, many of the intercessors I know of are women.  I praise God for them.  I thank God for godly women who pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  The Holy Spirit placed women among the Apostles as they waited for the promise of the Father in Acts 1:14.  These women were praying along with the men of God. We need mighty women of God.  But where are the men who pray?  Where are the men known for their prayer lives and the ministries marked by prayer?

Our Lord teaches us here in Luke 11 that prayer is to be marked with persistence (v.8).  The ESV translates the word as “impudence.”  I like the old KJV here as it translates it “importunity.”  The MacArthur Study Bible states it like this:

It conveys the ideas of urgency, audacity, earnestness, boldness, and relentlessness – like the persistence asking of a desperate beggar.

I like that image.  Beggars tend to just ask and then move along.  They don’t tend to be very persistent.  Jesus states that we are to be persistence in our praying.  It is not because God is not willing to hear us nor answer us.  In fact, that is the opposite of what Jesus is saying.  Our Father hears us and He knows our needs.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need even before we ask Him.  If a friend will get up to give to the beggar what he needs, how much more will our Father give us what we need?

The balance is to pray the will of God.  The Lord Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent in asking for something, God will relent and give in.  As we pray the will of the Father, the Father hears us and He answers according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).  Jesus said that He always did the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38).  Jesus prayed to be close to His Father and to do His will.  Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father to do His will (Hebrews 5:7-10).

As we persist in prayer, we are submitting our selves to God.  We want to do His will.  Prayer prepares us to do that will.  When we truly pray, we are wanting to honor the Lord and to bring glory to Him.  This is not about us.  This isn’t praying about foolish things.  This is about praying for the glory and honor God.  This is gospel-centered praying.  Like beggars, we know that our Father is the best and He is our reward.  This is not about finding bread.  This is about finding and seeking the One who gives us bread.

Finally, a word about praying.  I don’t want condemnation to come over you.  I have lived before under condemnation about prayer.  When I was in college I read that if a minister doesn’t pray for two hours a day, they are not worth a dime a dozen.  I wept at that because I was not praying for two hours a day so I made up my mind to pray for two hours a day.  I was a failure to say the least.  My “prayer life” was more about staring at the clock to get in my two hours.  At one point I was up to praying an hour a day but I was not praying.  I was hitting the clock.  I was doing my praying for others to notice my “prayer life.”  I wanted others to pat me on the back for my prayer life.  I look back now with sadness on those times.  My prayer times were not powerful times with the Lord.  They were just words uttered for others to notice me (Matthew 6:5).

I long to just walk with God now.  I long to talk to Him like a friend, like a brother, like a father.  My little boys can just cry out and I’ll run to them.  They don’t have to say over and over again “Daddy” for me to run.  If they were in trouble, I would not come to them and say, “Do you really believe I am able to help you?  Seems to me that you haven’t been talking to me much and so I’m going to leave you be.”  No!  I help my boys because I love my boys and I want what is best for them.  The same is true of God our Father.

Hebrews 4:14-16 is so precious to me now.  My prayer life will never match the Lord Jesus’ prayer life.  He was perfect in every single way.  He bore my sins including my prayerlessness.  I am not advocating laziness in prayer.  Luke 11:1-8 shatters that.  There is a persistence in prayer lives.  In fact, Luke 11:9-10 speaks of this persistence further:

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

But the balance of this is to see that our Father is good and He wants to answer our prayers as the Lord Jesus states in verses 11-13 where He contrasts our earthly fathers with our heavenly Father:

11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

If our earthly fathers would not be evil toward us (we hope), will our heavenly Father be evil toward us?  Of course not!  Our Father is good and He is loving and kind.  The Lord Jesus demonstrated that perfect love (Romans 5:8-9).

The gospel enables us to pray.  We don’t come before our Father with our righteousness.  We come in the name of Jesus who is our salvation, our righteousness before a holy God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  We come in the name of Jesus because He is our high priest before the Father (Hebrews 10:10-14).  We come in the name of Jesus because He is our advocate and our friend (John 14:12-14).  Through the Lord Jesus, we are able to approach the throne of God and He hears our cries.

I rejoice in the Lord that He hears our prayers!  May God be glorified through the prayers of the saints of God (Revelation 5:8).

Justification by Faith in Galatians

The epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians is a precious book to turn to when you are struggling with your faith.  The book provides clear answers to our justification before God which is not based on our works or our moral goodness or our works of righteousness but is based on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our assurance is based on Jesus and not us.  This precious truth is a bulwark in times of trouble either from the flesh, the devil, or the world.  As you read the book of Galatians you feel the passion of Paul the Apostle to protect the gospel from error (Galatians 1:6-9) which clearly is pointing back to the first heresy to come into the Church in the Judaizers (Acts 15:1-5).

What is amazing about Galatians 2 is that Paul says that even Barnabas (the son of encouragement) was led astray by this heresy.  The great apostle, Peter, was led astray.  In Galatians 2:14 we read (NASB):

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

Live like Jews.  That was their error.  In Galatians 2:15-16 Paul makes it clear that these Jews understood that they were sinners (Romans 7:7) and through the law they knew they could not save themselves because of their sins.  Instead, these Jews knew that we are justified before God through faith in Christ and not by being Jewish.  His point is clear, our salvation is based not on keeping the law or what we do but is through faith in the Lord Jesus.

This is the key for our struggles.  We are not perfected by the works of the law (or law).  In Galatians 3 Paul begins by telling his readers that we are not made perfect by our efforts even after our salvation.  Our trust from beginning to end must be in the Lord God.  We don’t begin in the Spirit and finish in the flesh (Galatians 3:3).  Paul then points to our father, Abraham, as our example in the faith in that he trusted God and God reckoned it as righteousness (Galatians 3:6).  From the seed of Abraham comes our Savior, the Lord Jesus, who is the blessing of Abraham that God promised beforehand in Genesis 12:1-3.  This promise was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14).

The law was given for a purpose writes Paul the Apostle in Galatians 3:15-29.  The law shows us our need for salvation.  The law doesn’t produce righteousness (Galatians 3:21).  The law only shows me that I am a sinner (Galatians 3:24).  Paul’s defense here of the gospel is clear: we are not saved by the grace of God plus keeping the law.  The law shows us the need for grace!  The law is not bad at all.  It does it’s job which is to show me that I am a sinner in need of salvation.  The law condemns but it doesn’t offer any hope.  It only shows me that I have broken the law of God and deserve His wrath.

The solution to our sinfulness is not to try harder or to resolve to not to sin.  This will never work.  We are simply too weak.  Too human.  We need the grace of God that He has given to us in His Son whom He sent to redeem from under the law (Galatians 4:4-6).  We are not slaves of sin or slaves to the law but through Christ we have been set free to be sons of God (Galatians 4:7).  Paul turns again to the Old Testament to show that we are children of the promise, of Abraham and not of the slave woman (Galatians 4:12-31).  Our mother is not the law but is the promise of God that He has fulfilled in His Son.

Our hope now is the Lord Jesus.  God has set us free to look to Jesus and not to our flesh or to the law.  In Galatians 5:1-12 Paul turns to the Judaizers who were demanding circumcision as proof of keeping the law.  Paul says that what matters is not circumcision or what we do in the flesh.  Paul uses strong words in Galatians 5:12 by saying that those who want to circumcise should go and circumcise themselves and mutilate themselves.  They want to cut the flesh so bad, go all the way and mutilate yourselves then!  Paul is attacking this idea of circumcision hard because it robs Christ of His glory and robs the believer of the truth of justification by faith and not by what we do.  Paul adds that our call is to freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1, 13) and not to our flesh.  No doubt we are at war with our flesh (Galatians 5:16) but the answer is the Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:17-18). Those of us who belong to Christ are circumcised in Jesus and His cross (Galatians 5:24; 6:14).  Circumcision is not what counts but being a new creation in Christ (Galatians 6:15).  This is the true Israel of God and not merely the Jews who keep the law (for they are not the true Israel; see Romans 9:30-33; 10:1-5; 11:1-10).

Paul ends Galatians with powerful words that would have cut the Judaizers.  He ends with this:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren.  Amen.

Grace.  Such a marvelous word!  Paul ends by pointing to what saves us: the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This was what he preached in Acts 15:11.  It is grace that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We are not saved by the keeping of the law.  We are not saved by our works of righteousness (Titus 3:5).  We are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus.  Jesus came and bore our sins on the cross for our eternal salvation (Galatians 1:4).  This is our hope.  This is our assurance.  This is our salvation.

I don’t know about you but that is good news to this sinner.  I am far from being what I know I need to be.  I don’t pray enough.  I don’t share my faith enough.  I don’t give enough of my money to the poor or to missions.  I can see my sins.  I am not a perfect husband.  I am not a perfect dad.  I fall so far from Christ and His perfection (Romans 6:23).

But I find peace in knowing that I am saved by grace and not by works.  I love 1 Timothy 1:15 because Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous.   Jesus didn’t come to save perfect husbands or perfect dads.  He came to save sinners like me.  Jesus died because I am sinful and have violated His laws.  I know this.  The law condemns me each and every time.  But thanks be to God who gave me His Son.  This is my assurance.  This is my hope.  This is the reason why I keep going.  It’s not because I am just strong willed.  It’s not because I am disciplined.  I am not of those things.  I am a sinful man.  I fall short in many, many ways (Romans 3:23).

Galatians is for sinners.  Galatians is for people who struggle.  Galatians is for those who need grace.  Galatians is for those who are tired and weary of trying to live the “Christian life” only to fall short all the time.  Galatians is a book of hope for those who do long to love Jesus and be more like Him.

I pray this has encouraged someone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/03/2016 at 12:00 PM

Seeing “Us” in Scripture

I enjoy Chris Rosebrough and his podcast “Fighting for the Faith.”  Chris often uses satire and comedy to point out false teachers and teachings.  His podcast often has sermon reviews of both good and bad sermons and Chris will point out why they are that.  I am often amazed at what passes for sermons these days.  Much of what seems to be coming out of the seeker church is not even close to true biblical teaching.  It is more or less about “us.”  It is man-centered to its core.

I have written often on the need for expository teaching and more sound doctrine being preached.  Just this week while working I was pondering why people enjoy attending seeker churches where doctrine is minimized and those who desire to go “deeper” with their faith are criticized.  I want to ask them, “How can you sit under this guy and learn anything?  What has he taught you that brought you closer to Christ, deeper in your theological understanding of the gospel?”  Heck, most of the teachers Chris plays on his podcast have no gospel understanding.  The seeker churches are just “say this prayer and become a Christian” as their gospel.

I subscribe to a local church here in my city that has been sucking people from the more traditional churches (mainly Baptist churches) for some time.  They started at about 50 people or so and today have over 1000.  Because of their growth, church leaders often avoid criticizing them because of their growth.  They are instead esteemed.  I point out that growth is no indicator of truth.  Look at the cults.  Look at Islam.  Truth is not pragmatic.  Truth is truth and God’s Word declares the truth of God (John 17:17).  Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6).  God has given us His truth through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We need no other “truth.”  Yet many are unwilling to take the truth of the Bible and examine the teachings of large seeker churches because of their numbers.

Each week I get their Sunday services on my podcasts.  I listen to their sermons.  Why?  Because I want to know if they are preaching truth.  Often they are not.  In fact, they often are preaching nothing at all.  They are currently preaching through John but they are not expository nor are they dealing with their text.  They often just read the text and fill in stories about themselves or others to pass the time.  They are not false teachers.  They are “un-teachers.”  They are teaching neither bad doctrine nor good.  They are teaching nothing.  They just focus on “us.”

This is true nearly of all seeker churches that I know.  The focus is on “us” and not Jesus.  The gospel is not about the glory of God, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for our sins, along with His death, burial, and bodily resurrection from the dead where He now sits at the right hand of God to pray for us.  No!  The “gospel” of seeker churches is on “us.”  It is about “us” and our glory.  The gospel of seeker churches is about Jesus coming to give us an “abundant life” or to give us a “hope and a future” (both John 10:10 and Jeremiah 29:11 are seriously abused and destroyed there).

Just this past week I listened to two seeker churches Resurrection Day services.  Both were focused on “us.”  The gospel was not taught.  The focus was not on the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The focus was on God resurrecting your dreams.  Neither church preached repentance for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 24:47).  Neither church even mentioned repentance at all.  Both did mention sin but only in passing.  Sin is what keeps us down, what keeps us from reading our potential.  Gone is the truth of the gospel of repentance.

The gospel is not lost.  It is easily found in the Bible.  One can skip it.  One can downplay it.  But one cannot ignore it altogether.  Just reading the New Testament brings us face to face with our sins, with our inability to save ourselves by our good works, with the fact that we are enemies of God because of our rebellion against His law (Romans 3:19-20).  We find that our world is not getting better by works of the flesh but we realize that we must repent of our sins if we are to have peace with God (Acts 2:37-39; 3:19-20).  We find that repentance brings salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).  We find that Christ alone saves us from the wrath of God by His grace and mercy (Romans 5:1).  The gospel is focused on the person and work of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14 and notice how many times “He” is mentioned and we are not).  Salvation is not accomplished by making amends or trying harder or your good deeds (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is the gracious work of God wrought in us by His Spirit through the saving work of the Lord Jesus.

Until next time, keep loving and living in the gospel.

The Gospel Plus Nothing Else

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  The gospel is focused on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in shedding His blood for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 1:4).  The gospel is about the wrath of God being satisfied through the offering of the Lord Jesus for our sins for everyone who repents and believes the gospel (Romans 5:1-11).  We can add nothing to the gospel nor take anything from it lest we fall under the condemnation of Paul the Apostle (Galatians 1:6-9).

Why then should we add to the gospel by adding works as part of the message?  Why add that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus but add you must be baptized in this church or you must do this or that?  When we add to the work of Christ, we take away the work of Christ (John 6:29).  The finished work of Christ is done (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  Hebrews 7:27 says that Christ offered Himself up “once for all.”  This work of salvation is complete.  There is nothing to add to this work.  We are now saved from the wrath of God though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and by His grace alone through faith alone (Titus 3:5-7).

We need not add our theological systems in there either.  I know of a brother who once preached for all to come and repent and be saved (Revelation 22:17).  He gladly preached repentance to all people (Acts 17:30-31).  He called all to believe the gospel and be saved (1 Corinthians 1:21).  Yet somewhere along the way the guy started saying privately at first that only true Christians were Calvinists.  He then went public with his views and begin to rebuke anyone who was not a Calvinist saying that only Calvinists preach the gospel and only Calvinists are truly saved.  He now denies fellowship with anyone who is not a Calvinist and his acid test for true faith is Calvinism.

That is adding to the work of Christ.  If you have to say, “Repent and believe in the gospel but also believe in Calvinism as well to be saved” then you have added to the gospel and have denied the power of the gospel.  The gospel is not about Arminius or Wesley or Edwards or Spurgeon or MacArthur.  The gospel is all about Jesus as Lord.  The true disciple of Jesus (whether Arminian or not) professes the Lordship of Jesus and loves Him above all (Romans 10:9-13).  The disciple of Jesus is fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) since He is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The gospel then is not about Jesus plus your goodness.  It is not about Jesus plus you must believe in unconditional election to be saved.  The gospel is all about Jesus and what He has already done in saving lost sinners (Luke 19:10).  This gospel produces godly repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).  This is the will of God (2 Peter 3:9).

So my friends let us all preach Jesus plus nothing else.  Let us not preach Jesus plus our isms or Jesus plus our church or Jesus plus faith in our favorite theologian or preacher.  Let us preach Jesus!  He alone is worthy!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/31/2016 at 5:01 PM

In All Thy Doing, Give Them the Gospel

Handing out water bottles.  Painting an older woman’s house for her.  Cleaning the side of the roads.  Giving food and provisions to the poor. Helping the sick.  Taking care of poor people’s children so they can have a date night.  Washing cars for free.  Changing the oil of single woman’s cars (and not to meet them).  Buying groceries for a neighborhood and leaving them on their door steps with nothing asked in return.  Giving the guy at the corner of the intersection some money (he is holding a sign for it anyway).

All these are good works that people often do.  I could write more.  I even give out of my weekly pay to a charity (yes I am good).  Churches have long been the place for good works.  Most of the hospitals were started by Christians.  I was born in Baptist Hospital (Columbia, SC).  Many of the homeless shelters are run by Christians.  Many soup kitchens are maintained by Christians.  Many outreaches to run aways, to prostitutes, to homosexuals are run by Christians.  Clinics for drug addicts (such as Teen Challenge) are run by Christians.  Clinics for people with sexual addictions are run by Christians.

The fact is that the Spirit of God leads us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  None would deny that good works flow from our salvation (James 2:14-26).  Good works do not save us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) but they show our love for God.  Good works flow from a heart that has been washed by the precious blood of Jesus.  Even Paul the Apostle was clear that he cared for the poor (Galatians 2:10).

My fear in all this is that in all our doing, we miss the one thing that is vastly important above all others and that is the gospel.  Good works should never replace the gospel.  In fact, the gospel should be our first work.  The sinner must hear the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).  The sinner doesn’t first need our testimony or our good works.  They first need the gospel.  While we should help people (Galatians 6:10), we should never replace that with the gospel or for the gospel.

I know of some who claim to be sharing the gospel with the lost but they are only doing good works.  They are not preaching Christ to the lost.  They are not pointing sinners to the Savior.  They would say they are by their light (Matthew 5:13-16) but they are not verbally preaching the gospel to the lost.  This is where they fail.

Still others say that the we must “earn” the right to share the gospel with the lost.  The old quote is, “They don’t know how much you love till you show them how much you care.”  We are told that we must first do good works for people to earn their trust and respect.  Without this, the gospel comes across as meaningless (or so we are told).

Yet we don’t get angry with doctors who are forthright.  We don’t question doctors who appear as unfriendly or unkind.  We don’t question doctors who warn us of our lifestyles without first giving us a meal or building us a house.  We just listen to them and doctors leave it to us to follow their advice.

The Bible is clear that we must preach the gospel to the lost.  We must not hold back.  Isaiah 58:1 reads, “Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins” (NASB).  Jesus said that He had come to bring good news (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18) and we are to be His witnesses in this world (John 20:21).  The Spirit of God empowers us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).  We witness by declaring His gospel to the lost.  Good works help us but they are not the gospel in of themselves.

When we read the book of Acts we find the disciples preaching the gospel.  The Lord sent them to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel is a verbal message of redemption (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  The gospel focuses entirely on the Lord Jesus and His work in saving us (Romans 4:6).  Our gospel must be the verbal truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So here is my point.  Good works are good.  Good works flow from a truly redeemed life (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).  Good works do not save us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).  Good works can never earn God’s perfect righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) and even if we did good works all our lives and never sinned again, we have sinned enough to receive His wrath upon us (James 2:10).  This is not a case of our good works out doing our bad works.  Our sinfulness is not just in our works but in us (Romans 3:10-18, 23).  WE are sinful at heart and not merely in our actions (Genesis 6:5; Ephesians 2:1-3).  No good works can ever atone for our sins.  We have simply sinned too much and are sinful at heart.  This is why we look to Christ alone to save us.  Jesus was perfect and He never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).  Jesus bore our sins on the cross (Galatians 1:4) and His blood alone cleanses us from all sin (Ephesians 1:7).  The blood of Jesus alone is able to wash us from dead works (Hebrews 9:14) that we might serve the living God.  We must be born again (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3).  This happens by the grace of God alone.  We cannot earn salvation.  We cannot add to the work of Christ for saving us.  We must look by faith to Him alone to save us (John 6:29).

God saves us by His grace.  We the Lord saves us from sin, He transforms us completely (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This is why Jesus described this as the new birth.  We are born from above.  The Spirit of God comes into us and He makes us alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).  The Lord washes away our sins and forgives us completely (Hebrews 8:12).  The Holy Spirit now empowers toward holiness.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-17; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  We are complete in Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).  But this doesn’t mean that we are not being sanctified.  We are.  The Holy Spirit is helping us to be more like Christ.  He is taking us from being sinful enemies of God to being children of the King.  Good works flow from this relationship with Christ.  In Colossians, for example, Paul the Apostle lays our how Christ transform us.  He shows how we flee from sinning and toward godliness and holiness in all that we do (Colossians 3:5-17).  Paul shows us that our relationships are transformed because of the gospel (Colossians 3:18-4:1).  The gospel makes me new in Christ and I am able to obey the Lord because of the gospel.  The gospel is my motivation for good works.

This should flow forth in my evangelism as well.  The gospel is my foundation and authority.  I preach the gospel because of the Word of God and its truth.  I can proclaim that Jesus will save sinners because His Word clearly says that He will (Romans 10:13).  I can proclaim repentance because the Bible calls people to repentance (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  I can proclaim the wrath of God against sin because the Bible clearly teaches His wrath against sin (Romans 1:18-32).  I can preach against lawlessness because the Bible calls sin lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  I can call sinners to repent of their sins because they have sinned against the law of God (Romans 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

Now good works toward sinners flows from the gospel.  The gospel is the first good work they need to hear and see.  I come to the lost sinner with love for them and compassion on them because the Bible calls me to do this (Titus 3:1-7).  Sinners are bound in their sins because they are blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).  Sinners must hear the gospel and the Spirit of God must open their hearts to the gospel (Acts 16:14-15).  I can build them a house.  I can buy them groceries.  I can give them a book full of testimonies from other disciples.  But ultimately, I have failed that sinner if I don’t preach the gospel to them.  How can I say I love God yet ignore my fellow human being created in God’s image and deny them the gospel (1 John 3:16-18)? The gospel saves and I must preach to the lost the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16).

The bottom line is this: good works flow from salvation.  Good works cannot earn salvation nor secure our salvation.  Jesus died to save us from our sins which brings on us God’s just wrath but the Son of God bore our sins on the cross and we are saved from the wrath of God in Him (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Good works then flow from our salvation (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26).  Part of good works is the preaching of the gospel and this is the greatest way we can love sinners and that is to preach to them.  Sinners are going to hell without Christ and we must preach the gospel to warn them of the wrath to come.  We must preach the truth that Christ came to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and He will save sinners by His grace (John 6:37).  The Holy Spirit will empower us to preach the gospel (Acts 1:8) and He will help us to reach the lost.  The Holy Spirit opens sinners hearts for the gospel (John 6:44: 16:8-11).  I pray that I would be found faithful in preaching the gospel to sinners of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/26/2015 at 1:26 PM

When We Think About Open Air Preaching

There are many thoughts that may run through a person’s mind when I say, “open air preaching.”  Some contend that this is not for today, that our society is beyond wanting to hear preaching (which means “raised voice”).  Others feel that we should keep religion a private matter, that the church should be the place someone should go to hear preaching and the church should not go out to preach in the streets.  Some contend that open air preaching pushes people away from Christ instead of toward Him (a point I have blogged on before).  Others feel that we should do more “helps” instead of preaching in order to show people the love of God.

However, I think a simple way to look at open air preaching is not to imagine the crazy man screaming at folks who happen to walk by nor should we envision a man fighting the crowds as he screams about the sins of the society but we should view evangelism as the biblical mandate to simply preach Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5).  The Bible is clear that we are to be witnesses for Christ (Matthew 28:19) and contrary to some views, we are to actually open our mouths and share the gospel with the lost (Romans 10:14-17).  The gospel is communicated (Acts 1:8; 5:20; 8:4; etc.).  Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God is faithful to save people though the foolishness of preaching.  This doesn’t mean that we must be foolish in our preaching but rather the gospel itself will seem foolish to our hearers apart from the work of the Spirit to open their ears to the truth (1 Corinthians 2:14)

So when we consider open air preaching let us consider two things.  First, the gospel must be communicated.  So is the gospel being communicated?  In some cases, open air preaching is not preaching the gospel but merely agitating the crowds.  The gospel is not “God hates ______” but rather the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Secondly, the gospel calls people to repentance.  This is clear in the words of Jesus in Mark 1:15; Luke 13:5; 24:47.  The Apostles preached repentance in Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 17:30; 20:21.  Repentance is not merely saying “I’m sorry” for my sins but a complete change of mind and heart toward God.  True repentance requires the work of the Spirit (2 Timothy 2:25).

I have heard both the crazy open air preachers who seem to just want to make the crowds mad and then proclaim they are being persecuted when the crowds reject them.  Yet I have seen true open air preaching where the gospel is preached and yes people get angry because the gospel is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18).  Our jobs must be to proclaim Christ.  I don’t mind if a person is not an open air preacher so long as they preach Christ.  Do you preach Christ when you feed the poor?  Do you preach Christ when you give money to someone?  Do you preach Christ when you build a person a shelter?  The gospel must be heard to be believed.  I don’t doubt good works open the door for this but preach Christ and allow the gospel to save sinners.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/28/2014 at 11:40 AM

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