Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Centered

Defining the Gospel

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

– 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NASB)

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  But what is the gospel?  I have attended many churches over the years but few ever spent much time actually breaking down what the gospel is or is not.  Some say they preach the gospel each and every week but all they mean by this is that they offer “the sinner’s prayer” for salvation at the end of their sermons.  Few really grasp the gospel.

Asking people what is the gospel is also difficult.  People just don’t know.  Depending on their church, they might define the gospel as Jesus dying for our sins, good works for people, or a host of other statements.  The gospel, biblically defined, is often not taught in many churches.

Over the past few years we have seen an influx of “gospel centered” ministries.  We now view everything as “a gospel issue.”  Whether it be work, sex, marriage, sports, entertainment, etc. everything is now said to be a “gospel issue.”  We have groups such as “The Gospel Coalition” or “Together For The Gospel” but is the gospel the main focus?  Are we really together for the gospel?  How many people even grasp what the gospel is?

In 1 Corinthians 15 we have Paul the Apostle defining the gospel.  He states in verse 1 that he wants to remind the Corinthians of the gospel which he preached to them and which they received.  He states in verse 2  that this gospel is what saved them.  In verse 3 Paul states that this gospel is of first importance meaning that this message takes preeminence above everything else that could be taught.  This gospel came not from men but from God (Galatians 1:11-12).

What then is the essence of the gospel?  Paul tells us in verses 3-5:

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Notice Paul’s movements here.  First, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  This is important.  Paul is not moving beyond what has been written beforehand in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament prophesied that Christ would die.  Jesus Himself taught His disciples from the Old Testament about Himself after His resurrection (Luke 24:44-48).  The Apostles were eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and they took not just His resurrection but the Old Testament texts and began to preach the gospel.  The Book of Acts records the Apostles preaching of the work of the Lord Jesus and it is clear that they took the Master’s teaching from the Old Testament and taught about Him to the lost.

All of this, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is based on the Old Testament.  The foundation for solid gospel preaching is not rooted in experience but in the Scriptures.  This was the apostolic authority and is ours as well (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  Peter the Apostle states we have a more sure word (2 Peter 1:16-21) because of the Scriptures.

So our preaching should be based on the apostolic authority of the Bible.  The gospel flows from Scripture and is focused on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel focuses on the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  He was buried and He was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).

Sadly this gospel is often lacking in many churches.  I download a local seeker sensitive church to hear what they are preaching these days.  Each week my iPhone downloads their Sunday service.  What do I get to hear?  The gospel?  Sadly no.  I hear positive twists on texts and I hear a lot of talk about how God wants to bless us, use us, and work through us to touch our neighbors but I don’t hear the gospel.  Sometimes sin is mentioned or repentance but little is said about the gospel.  Sometimes the “sinner’s prayer” is offered and I assume they think that is the gospel but I don’t hear anything of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

We must see how the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and all through the Bible impacts our lives.  I could write for days on this one issue but on a surface level, the gospel daily reveals to me that it was my sins that Christ died for.  This is clear in verse 3.  My sins.  I see my sins all the time.  My sins scream at me like demons hiding in the shadows.  My sins torment me in my dreams.  My sins are easy to find and easy to see.  But the gospel shouts to me that Christ died for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  My sins are not erased by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).   My sins are not washed away by penance.  My sins are not taken away by my own self-reformation.  My sins are only washed away through the blood of Jesus that He shed on the cross for my salvation (Matthew 26:28; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:24-25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:4; 1 John 1:7).  The death of Jesus on the cross speaks to my sins and while my sins condemn me, the Lord Jesus saves me not because of what I have done but because of His grace alone (Titus 3:5-7).

The gospel is not just Jesus’ death for my sins.  Without the resurrection, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-17).  Paul wrote in Romans 4:24-25:

24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Without the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there is no forgiveness of our sins.  That Christ died would prove nothing.  If Jesus is not raised from the dead then He died just like we will die.  But the Bible says that Jesus is risen from the dead.  A cursory reading of the Book of Acts shows not just the fact that Jesus died on the cross but that He was raised from the dead.  All four Gospels record the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  This is the main focus of the Christian message:  Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

How does this impact me?  Why is this part of the gospel?  Well again if Jesus is not risen, we are still dead in our sins.  But if Jesus is alive (and He is!) then we can be saved through faith in Him just as He said (John 5:24-25).  The focal point of John 20:31 is true:  Jesus is worthy of worship and praise as the One who shed His blood for our salvation and was raised for our justification.  Because of Christ, my sins are forgiven and I have peace with God through Him (Romans 5:1).  I have One who sits at God’s mighty right hand for my salvation (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus is now my faithful high priest who prays for me before the Father as my intercessor, my advocate (Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 2:1-2).  1 Timothy 2:5 states that Jesus is our mediator before our holy God.

This is the gospel.  The gospel is not self-reformation.  The gospel is not about trying harder.  The gospel is about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus all according to the Scriptures.  Jesus is the One who was prophesied about in Isaiah 53:

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

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

Then The Gospel Came…

Imagine a world where few are Christians.  Most of the culture is full of idolatry.  The love of money.  The love of sports.  The love of sex.  The political leaders are corrupt.  Politicians in general are corrupt and not trustworthy.  The leaders of the nation are pagans and they despise the gospel.  At every turn the nation is against the gospel it seems.  They despise biblical authority, despise its truth, attack the truth of the gospel, attack those who follow Christ.  They seek to cast Christians off as strange, aliens, and out of touch with reality.  In fact, they believe Christians just want to destroy their fun!

Sounds just like the wicked nation I live in.  But this nation is the Roman Empire at the time of the book of Acts.  A wicked depraved time.  One biblical commentary stated that the Roman empire was much worse in terms of Christian persecution, rejection of biblical authority, etc. than any time in history.  We might could point to the communists nations that openly hated God but few compare to the Roman Empire.  It heavily persecuted Christians and killed many of them including most of the Apostles for their faith in the Lord Jesus.  While the Romans were busy worshiping idols and the emperor, the Christians were calling for them to repent and turn to Christ (Acts 17:30-31).

What gives me hope is that the gospel transformed the empire.  From its humble beginnings in Acts 2, by the time we finish with the book of Acts we find Paul the Apostle in Rome preaching the kingdom of God (Acts 28:30-31).  The very next book in our Bibles is the book of Romans with a church alive and well in Rome (Romans 1:7).  The book of Revelation (which I know some will take exception with me here because of my preterism) was written to encourage persecuted saints of God (Revelation 1:9) in the Roman Empire.  The book of Revelation promised them victory (Revelation 2:1-7 for example).  They are told that Jesus is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).  Our victory is sure for Jesus is our King!  This was the hope for the saints of God!  It is our hope as well!

We look around at our wicked world.  Here in the United States we see violence, hatred, lack of respect for authority, pride, all types of wicked sins including idolatry and sexual immorality.  We see the wicked sin of abortion where millions of people are being slaughtered all in the name of conveyance and sexual sins.  We see lying politicians and corrupt leaders now openly attacking the gospel and questioning God’s absolute authority in all things.  We see Christians bowing their knees to the false gods of money, power, sex, sports, and all types of wickedness.  We no doubt live in an evil age.

Yet I have hope in the gospel.  The gospel promises the sure victory of Jesus (Psalm 110:1).  Jesus will win (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  The gospel will go forth and we have victory through Christ alone (Matthew 28:18-20).  The nations belong to our King (Psalm 2:8).  While the United States and other nations may be wicked, they will not last forever.  Only the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ will reign forever (Daniel 7:13-14).  I have hope that the gospel will win.  The nations will bow to the Lordship of the King.  Every knee in fact will bow to the glory of the Lord Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).

I write this  because it is easy to be discouraged.  Islam is growing.  The cults are thriving.  The false gospels are being preached.  Jesus is being attacked at every turn.  The national media hates the gospel.  The President of the United States is a pagan.  The nations reject the Word of God.

Yet Jesus is still Lord and He will reign forever!  I pray that the nations repent.  I pray that our nations turn to faith in Christ.  I pray for the gospel to go forth and sinners turn from their sins and turn in saving faith to the Lord Jesus.  I pray that God Almighty would have mercy and send a revival to the nations.  He can turn the tide.  The Lord turned the tide in ancient Rome and He can turn the tide in our wicked nations.  I pray He does for His glory and for His name.

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

Brief Thoughts on the Gospel Centered Movement

The gospel centered movement has been refreshing in many ways.  I have longed to hear the Church preaching the gospel and standing for the gospel.  The word “gospel” has become popular again among Christians and I am grateful for that.  I rejoice that many books and even songs are now coming out that focus on the gospel.  The gospel has become a point that we are now agreeing is essential and is what the Church must be built upon.

That said, I do see some problems beginning to arise in the popular gospel centered movement.  We would be best to avoid these areas as we preach the gospel to the lost and I believe we should keep in mind that we are to preach the full council of the Word of God and not merely what we like.  Let me give you three main problems I now see with the gospel centered movement as it presently is taking shape.

1.  Antinomianism.

Antinomianism means “no law.”  This is becoming a major theme among gospel centered preaching.  The problem is that many want to focus all on the gospel without the law.  We need both.  The law shows us our sins (Romans 7:7) and Paul said the law was good (1 Timothy 1:8).  The law prepares the heart for the grace of God as revealed in the gospel (Galatians 3:23-24).

Furthermore, those who preach all gospel seem to not care about personal holiness (a point I will make later).  The focus is always: gospel, gospel, gospel.  But the New Testament is equally clear that God has called His people to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The gospel does not mean that we can now live in sin and be proud.  The gospel is all about Jesus setting us free from the power of sin (John 8:31-38).  The gospel is all about grace that leads to holiness (Titus 2:11-12).  We need to preach the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7) and that discipline is good and flows from the gospel (James 2:14-26).

2.  Lack of Holiness Preaching With Warnings.

Gospel centered preaching can become so full of grace that we fail to warn people to forsake sin (1 Corinthians 15:34) and to repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We can fail to preach biblical holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and that God sent His Son to save us from His wrath and from our sins.  We must also warn people to abide in Christ (Acts 14:22-23).  We must preach the so-called “warning passages” such as Romans 11:20-22 or 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21 or 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  We must preach Galatians 5:1-4 or Galatians 6:7-9 and many more.  Certainly preach the grace and forgiveness of the Lord but also warn people to flee sin and to keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

3.  Too Much Focus on Self and Freedom.

Todd Friel points out that many gospel centered blogs now feature blogs on beer and wine.  While I am not saying that one drink condemns a soul,  I do believe that many are taking their freedom in Christ too far.  There are many disciples who have forsaken all alcohol and we must keep this in mind in our freedom (Romans 14:13).

While I am grateful that God has given me freedom in Christ, this freedom is to serve Him (Romans 13:10).  Galatians 5:13 says that we are not to use our freedom for our flesh.  God has redeemed us to glorify Himself (Ephesians 1:6).  2 Timothy 1:9 says that God saved us and called us to a holy life.  God didn’t call me merely to the gospel so that I could be free to do what I like.  God saved me by His grace for His glory and for a holy life that I might serve Him (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Conclusion

I am thankful for the gospel.  It is the gospel that saved me and kept me all these years (James 1:21).  The gospel is precious to me.  Recently I was praying and I begin to thank God for the preciousness of the gospel like a pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45-46).  The gospel is wonderful and the thought that Christ gave His life for mine is a wonder in of itself (Galatians 2:20).  I rejoice that Jesus died, rose again, and now sits at God’s right hand till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  I pray that the gospel will go forth.

But I also pray that the warnings I have stated will become part of our preaching.  The gospel is precious but the gospel is about Jesus saving me from both the wrath of God and from my sins.  Romans 6:1-4 is clear that those who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and His resurrection.  We now can walk in the newness of life.  Sanctification is not optional.  Sanctification flows from salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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