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The Feminine Curse

Really thoughtful post by my friend Amber Van Schooneveld on the difficulty of properly interpreting Genesis 3:16:

I’ve been thinking about differing interpretations of the curse in Genesis 3:16. When I told my husband this he said, “Do people think about that kind of thing?” Read: “Who cares?” Isn’t this the kind of theological hair-splitting that divides people and leads nowhere? My answer is no. I think our interpretation of this particular verse has serious ramifications, and so I am jumping in.

T4G made me look like a girlyman

Carl Trueman:

When invited to do a breakout at T4G, I had initially said no, not being a big conference person. I was ultimately persuaded by the fact that the preponderance of attendees are officebearers in the church; and by the fact they put the guy who cries on my case (yes, that bit is truly pathetic, I know). Last Sunday, as I packed my bag to leave, my wife asked me if I was looking forward to going. No, I replied, but it will give me something to write about.

Indeed it did. And not quite as I expected. I went a sceptic; I returned encouraged.

Some people are going to get hurt

Short, powerful video for the Doubting Dawkins campaign:

[tentblogger-vimeo 39992349]

Blue Like Jazz

CT’s review of the new movie based on Don Miller’s book:

While the movie raises valuable questions about Christianity, offering good answers is another matter entirely, and perhaps outside of what a movie like this should do. As Don undergoes a complete unraveling of his spiritual identity, we realize he’s really never been given a good picture of what true Christian faith looks like. That the church is full of hypocrites, like his mom and the youth pastor, is no great revelation; that Don was weaned on a version of the gospel that seemingly has more to do with therapy than with Truth is horrifying.

Through Grace Let My Will Respond to Thee

Compassionate Lord,

Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest. Let me this day know Thee as Thou art, love Thee supremely, serve Thee wholly, admire Thee fully. Through grace let my will respond to Thee, knowing that power to obey is not in me, but that Thy free love alone enables me to serve Thee. Here then is my empty heart, overflow it with Thy choicest gifts; here is my blind understanding, chase away its mists of ignorance.

O ever watchful Shepherd, lead, guide, tend me this day; without Thy restraining rod I err and stray. Hedge up my path lest I wander into unwholesome pleasure, and drink its poisonous streams; direct my feet that I be not entangled in Satan’s secret snares, nor fall into his hidden traps.

Defend me from assailing foes, from evil circumstances, from myself. My adversaries are part and parcel of my nature; they cling to me as my very skin; I cannot escape their contact. In my rising up and sitting down they barnacle me; they entice with constant baits; my enemy is within the citadel.

Come with almighty power and cast him out, pierce him to death, and abolish in me every particle of carnal life this day.

Adapted from “Morning,” Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Kindle Edition)

Beware the Exhibition of Doubtful Spoils

All hurry to get members into the church is most mischievous, both to the church and to the supposed converts. I remember very well several young men, who were of good moral character, and religiously hopeful; but instead of searching their hearts, and aiming at their real conversion, the pastor never gave them any rest till he had persuaded them to make a profession. The thought that they would be under more bonds to holy things if they professed religion, and he felt quite safe in pressing them, for “they were so hopeful.” He imagined that to discourage them by vigilant examination might drive them away, and so, to secure them, he made them hypocrites. These young men are, at the present time, much further off from the Church of God than they would have been if they had been affronted by being kept in their proper places, and warned that they were not converted to God.

It is serious injury to a person to receive him in the number of the faithful unless there is good reason to believe that he is really regenerate. I am sure it is so, for I speak after careful observation. Some of the most glaring sinners known to me were once members of a church; and were, as I believe, led to make a profession by undue pressure, well-meant but ill-judged. Do not, therefore, consider that soul-winning is or can be secured by the multiplication of baptisms, and the swelling of the size of your church. What means these dispatches from the battlefield? “Last night, fourteen souls were under conviction, fifteen were justified, and eight received full sanctification.” I am weary of this public bragging, this counting of unhatched chickens, this exhibition of doubtful spoils. Lay aside such numbering of the people, such idle pretence of certifying in a half a minute that which will need the testing of a lifetime. Hope for the best, but in your highest excitements be reasonable. Enquiry-rooms are all very well; but if they lead to idle boastings, they will grieve the Holy Spirit, and work abounding evil.

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner

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The Prince’s Poison Cup Desktops

Nathan W. Bingham:

In The Prince’s Poison Cup, R.C. Sproul focuses in on the atonement to show that Jesus had to endure the curse of sin in order to redeem His people from their spiritual death. Through Justin Gerard’s vivid illustrations, this children’s book is brought to life.

As we know many of you like to freshen up your desktops with new wallpaper, we are wanting to share some of those beautiful illustrations with you. They are available in a variety of sizes and we encourage you to share them with family and friends.


Mark Altrogge:

What an awesome thought – Christ represents us in heaven!  The perfect, spotless, Lamb of God pleads his own blood and righteousness on our behalf at the Father’s right hand. He’s the perfect representative! He doesn’t forget a single need. He never takes a break. He knows exactly what it’s like for us.  He knows just what to say and ask for on our behalf.


A review by Matthieu Richelle:

Whatever the case, it is clear that the secularization theory points out reality: a few centuries ago, Christianity was a dominant religion with a huge influence in countries like France and England, whereas today, it is only a marginal phenomenon there. But the “spiritual interpretation” of these factual data is where many evangelicals will probably have the most questions. To what extent is the historical influence of Christianity a reliable witness of the actual spiritual effects of the gospel in the past? Can we equate the influence of the church and of the Bible on society, politics, literature, politics, philosophy, and so on with what we regard as the true effects of the gospel: transforming lives by spiritual renewal thanks to the faith in Christ? To what extent does church attendance help us in measuring actual faith?

Don’t Guilt Trip the Gospel

Jared Wilson:

I was visiting a local church in our town outside of Nashville, TN once on their first day in a new building. It was also the someteenth anniversary of their launch. The place was packed and the expectations were high. At the close of the message, a fellow took to the keyboard to play a invitational hymn and the preacher began to entreat anybody who felt moved by the message to come forward. I hadn’t experienced a public invitation in many years and it took me right back to the church services of my childhood. So I was not surprised when, after reaching the end of the hymn and seeing nobody approach the altar, the keyboardist was instructed to keep playing. The hard sell began. Still nobody budged.

God’s Forbearance is Not Infinite

[A] central myth of our time is that God is infinitely tolerant, that Jesus is infinitely tolerant. There is of course a smidgeon of truth in such assertions. Despite his unlimited power and untarnished holiness, the tolerance of God is displayed in his forbearance with sinners (Romans 3:25; Acts 17:30). He might be expected to provide instant justice, but instead he is long-suffering (to resurrect a word that has largely gone out of use), longing for our repentance (Romans 2:1-4). Scripture repeatedly says he is “slow to anger” (e.g., Exodus 34:6). He is so much more forbearing than his own people are that sometimes they are driven to question his justice (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 13).

Nevertheless God’s forbearance is not infinite. Scripture also declares that “he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7). The Bible anticipates the coming of a day of wrath “when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16; cf. Acts 17:31; Revelation 14:18; 19:1-3; 21:8). More important yet: God is better than tolerant. He does not merely put up with our sin and anarchy; rather, he is unimaginably kind and loving, demonstrated most overwhelmingly in the fact that he has sent his Son to pay the price of our sinfulness and restore us to himself. To talk about the tolerance of God apart from this richer biblical portrayal of God is to do him an injustice. His love is better than tolerance; his wrath guarantees justice that mere tolerance can never imagine.

D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Kindle Edition)

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I Met a “Celebrity” Pastor Yesterday

David Murray:

I met a “celebrity” pastor at T4G yesterday.

I can confidently report that he was normal.

In fact, he was more normal than many “normal” pastors I’ve met. He was warm, friendly, engaged in our conversation, didn’t try to get away after the initial pleasantries, and wasn’t continually looking over my shoulder for someone more interesting or important to talk to. And I have to say that most of the well-known pastors and preachers I’ve met have been similar.

T4G 2012 Resources

The audio and video of all the plenary sessions for this year’s Together for the Gospel conference are now online—I’d highly encouraging listening to all the messages, especially Ligon Duncan’s.

1,600 Martyn Lloyd-Jones Sermons—Free

MLJ Trust has made the audio of all 1,600 sermons by Dr. Lloyd-Jones available as free downloads. Please visit, listen and give to help this wonderful ministry as the Lord allows.

Our Modern Idol: The Early Church


When we as Christians think about our modern-day idols, the things that trip up our feet and slow us down, we often list things like money, relationships, or careers. But I think we, as a whole, have a much holier-sounding idol: The Early Church.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s offerings include audio and video downloads of the T4G 06 and 08 conferences, the Animatic DVD of Dr. Sproul’s excellent children’s book The Prince’s Poison Cup, and more.

Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy #T4G12

My notes on John Piper’s message on Jude 24–25 (paraphrased)

My message has two parts. In the first part, I will try to draw you into my amazement that I am still a Christian and perhaps you will find yourself amazed that you are still as well. In the second part, I would like to draw you into an analysis of how that came about as we look at the book of Jude, and in particular the last two verses:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

My amazement that I am still a Christian.

I still love the ministry of God’s Word, still love my calling as a husband and a father. I complete this year 60 years of being a Christian, 32 of being in the ministry… And this is a monumentous year for this will be the last year I’m at T4G as a pastor.

When I think about finishing these laps of my race, I’m amazed that I’m still a Christian. There were days when my marriage was under attack, days when my spirit was so dull that I doubted my faith… so I’m amazed!

If the decisiveness of my faith must come from me, it will not come at all because it is not there. I am amazed that I am a Christian, and still love the ministry. And I have this sense of wonder, that may be close to what Jude felt when he personalized it and said, “Now to him who is able to keep ME from stumbling and present ME blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” I think he was amazed at that, at the keeping of God.

That’s what it took to keep me. It took glory, and majesty and power and authority, working before the beginning of time, until the end of time and working even now—and that’s what it took to keep me in the ministry.

This is how doxologies work: They ascribe attributes to God that account for the things we’re so excited about. They exude passion. That’s the way they work. The attributes account for the actions that we’re so amazed at.

There are three of them:

  1. He is able to keep you from stumbling
  2. He presents us before the glory of God blameless
  3. He presents us before the glory of God with great joy

Those three things he has done. What accounts for that is a Savior, the glorious God, the Lord Jesus Christ, working on it before time, working on it every minute, working on it til the end of time—that’s what he’s amazed at. That’s what it takes to be keep us a Christian.

Do you have any idea of the degree of the glory to get you alive and keep you alive until the moment you see Jesus? How would you talk about that? How would you explain it? Do we know the degree of glory and power and majesty that it took? No we don’t. We have no terms for measuring such things. How do we quantify the power or the force an eternal Spirit with no physical dimensions at all moving a created spirit into being and keeping it there?

Is it like pounds? Kilowatts?

God creates spiritual life when we are dead. We know that. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Once I had no spiritual life. Then God the Spirit acted and my spirit came into being, or spiritual life came into being. I am spirit born of the Spirit. This is not like a demon. This is Holy Spirit, God-sanctified spirit, brought into being by the new birth.

It’s not the kind of life you’d have if the Holy Spirit left. If the Holy Spirit left and you disunited with Christ, you wouldn’t be. There would be no life. Therefore, the life we’re talking about is having the Holy Spirit and being united with Christ (which are interrelated terms) . . . If he’s not there, I have no life.

So he creates that and then for 60 years, having begun before eternity and having been at work every second of my life and pledging to do so until eternity, he is keeping me a Christian. And if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be a Christian.

It is all a work of God. Which is why I said that if the decisive cause were to come from me, it would not come because it is not there. I bring nothing decisive to my creation. No more than the universe created itself, nor is it kept by itself, it is kept by Christ Jesus.

No Jude is clearly amazed by this—and he must sense what it takes. And it must be very great. So, how are you going to measure that, so you can join him in the amazement?

I can only think of two ways for you to measure that:

1. To think about the fact that creating and sustaining spiritual life is something we cannot do, but something God does. The difference between the nothing I bring and his action is infinite. The difference between nothing and something is an infinite difference. It is immeasurably great.

2. If all that just sounded confusing, then just read it in the text. What did it take to keep you a Christian? It takes glory and majesty and power and authority. And I assume Jude chooses those words to tell us that it takes just about all he’s got to keep us.  Though we can’t measure the kind of force, this text is saying it takes glory and majesty and power and authority from beginning to end to keep you a Christian. You should be absolutely stunned that you are a Christian.

How does he do it?

Now I want to draw you into an analysis of how that happens. How did God do that? How does God keep me from making shipwreck of my Christian life? How does he keep me when Paul’s strategies in 2 Cor 4-6 seem so far off? How does he keep me when I’m not depressed because there are false converts in my church but I fear I may be one? How does he keep me when he holds out a treasure to me that I want almost as much as anything and says, “You can’t have it”? How does he keep me alive, how does he keep you alive, being, loving, serving, fathering?

Notice that the book in verse one and ends (24-25) with a strong statement that God is decisively capable of keeping you.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ…(Jude 1:1 ESV)

We are called, beloved, kept. Where a person is called, they are kept. He will sustain you to the end, guiltless… when he calls, it means you will be kept.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30 ESV)

This is the framework of the book—it is a book about being called and kept by Christ.

Now, sandwiched in there is this warning. Though he wanted to write about the glory of the gospel, he was urged to warn against those in the church—professing Christians who are not called and not kept, who crave physical sensation and not Christ. They don’t prize the God of grace, they prostitute the grace of God. He’s warning them about this people, this kind of error.

Then, after all these warnings, Jude tells us what we must do and what we should do not only for ourselves to be kept (v .20-21), but also what we must do for others to be kept (v. 22-23).

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… (Jude 1:20-21 ESV)

“Keep yourselves…” Whoa. There goes your message. Or. Not.

“…keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

This message is all over the Bible. Keep yourselves in the love of God because GOD keeps you in the love of God. This is the mystery of not only sanctification but preservation.

Keep yourselves in God’s commitment to keep you!

How do we do this?

There are three verbs: Faith, prayer and waiting. Faith is the main one–trust more, be more reliant on God’s ability to keep you. The next is prayer. The last is that you wait. You’ve prayed and now you wait.

God has committed to keep you. Keep yourself in his commitment to keep you. Trust that he will keep you. Pray that he will keep you and wait for God.

This is so simple. I suppose as I’ve bent over the prayer bench in my prayer nook, I suppose the most common prayer has been “Keep me from temptation . . . help me!” You know what’s happening there? God is keeping me. . . . and I am amazed. How many days there have been where I’ve felt “I can’t do it, I can’t preach the sermon, I don’t know how it’s going to do!” But here I am and I look back and it’s God.

My praying and my trusting doesn’t rob him of any of his power and majesty and authority and glory—because it’s by the Spirit. My praying is a gift, my faith is a gift.

I keep myself by being kept. God keeps my by enabling me to do self-keeping things. And I must do these things—and sometimes they take effort. And in that effort, you say, “It’s of you!”

There’s a way to do effort by faith.

The glory and the majesty I think consist very much in the power and authority of God to keep you that way. What’s glorious and majesterial in God’s keeping you in praying and trusting? And his answer is his power and authority!

You don’t need to get this all sorted out in your head. You need to say, he’s got the power and authority to do it—to keep you.

One more observation: When he acts on you this way to keep you and to stir you up from within so you do the self-keeping work, he is fulfilling the New Covenant.

I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (Jeremiah 32:40 ESV)

That’s the keeping of the New Covenant. The terms of the New Covenant are that I have a people, I am going to keep them, put a new heart of flesh in them and keep them so they will not turn away.

We know the New Covenant was bought by the blood of Jesus. We see that in the Last supper. And when he shed his blood for his sheep, he paid for all of them. That’s what he’s achieved. So when you read verse 25, that’s what you should see when you read, “to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.”

When the glory and the majesty, and the power and authority, are moving in to rescue my wavering heart, it’s coming through the blood of Jesus Christ—and when I am granted to awaken from my stupidity and allowed to see the glory and majesty and dominion and authority of Jesus, it’s through his blood.

Don’t underestimate the power of the gospel to keep you. He will not let your foot be moved. He keeps, he will not slumber. The Lord is your keeper, your shade upon your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep your life from this moment and forevermore because it has been bought for you by the blood of Christ.

Therefore, keep yourselves in the love of God.

The Fulfillment of the Gospel #T4G12

My notes from Matt Chandler’s message on Revelation 21-22 (paraphrased)

One of the things that has really marked my own heart this week but there’s this kind of huge objective evidence in the room that God loves you and desires to bless you. IF you listen to the refrain of the week, there’s something in the air, it’s God saying, “I’m here, I haven’t abandoned you.” And I just felt like I’d be a fool if I didn’t remind you of this before unpacking Rev. 21.

So I want to continue with this theme and frame it this way: I believe that hope is necessary for all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, but I believe that hope is especially necessary for those who are in the work of Christian ministry. We are in this strange position where we get to see the glory of Christ Jesus at work. We get to see marriages restored, watch people baptized and say “this is who I was and this is who I am,” seeing the spectacular work of regeneration. And yet we’re also sort of a spiritual first responder whenever tragedy strikes.

It’s a front row seat for the fallenness of this world. For pastors, we’re often in right after the paramedics. Sometimes we’re in before the paramedics because the damage doesn’t require them… so it’s unbelievably important for the man of God to have his soul anchored in the hope of God.

The first fruits of hope have already been sown.

The fact is, early on God already told us he’s going to fix this mess. There’s this refrain over hundreds and hundreds of years that this fix is coming, this freedom is coming, this hope is coming—and then he actually came in the person of Jesus Christ. He lives the perfect life, he dies on the cross, and he rises again to show the bill has been paid.

And then he came to get me. I wasn’t looking for him, but he called me. And he called in some really weird ways. Think about all the different ways he called—think about the ones we’ve heard so far. He calls, he woos, he rescues sinners. And I want to point this out because of the hope it brings. He didn’t ask my opinion, he didn’t wait to answer all my questions before he owned me. . . . When I feel that hope kind of slipping, I have to remember that he brought me to this place and the Spirit does not lead and ask me to own and carry it. The Spirit calls me to trust him.

And that takes us to Revelation 21.

Graeme Goldsworthy said that hope without time is a delusion. We’re not a delusional people—we’re not gambling. We’re not hedging our bets! But people on the outside looking in think we’re delusional. And that’s where you can contextualize to a fault, trying to make it so cool and people like it—but it will always have a stink of death if you’re preaching in your fullness.

And what I want to do is show you the finish line:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:1-8 ESV)

Now I want to point out just a couple things—that could be a year-long series. So we fly over some of this, but I want to point out that this is a beautiful picture of the world renewed. You’ve got a renewed heaven and earth. This is not ethereal, it’s not Tom & Jerry, with you in a robe playing a harp.

Isa. 35:1—the desert will bloom with roses

Isa. 65:5—the violence this world knows will be lifted

Hab. 2:14—For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

So much of the imagery in our text is all over Isaiah, Ezekiel… But not creation only, but also resurrected bodies! We have these bodies that are getting old, getting crickety and wasting away, but someday we’ll have resurrected bodies.

So here’s where I want you to get your head: There will be a day when looking forward to this day will no longer be necessary.

I love the way that C.S. Lewis puts this in the Last Battle:

…the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

But the angel just keeps going:

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9 ESV)

Now why does that matter? We’re called to defend the bride, to protect her… and some day we’re going to get to see her.

So all this work, all this grace-fueled effort, we’re going to get to see the fruit of all of this! Surely this will be more spectacular than the day where the door swung open and you saw your earthly bride. And we get to see the bride:

 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Revelation 21:10-21 ESV)

The first time we see the church in the book of Revelation it’s in chapters 2 and 3, and it probably lines up with our ministries now. Ephesus had sound doctrine but lost their love for Jesus. In Smyrna, they faced tribulation and poverty. In Thyatira they loved the sensuality and sexual immorality of Jezebel, in Laodicea, they were lukewarm…

Some scholars say things like, “these are ages of the church”—I see it and say, “that’s Tuesday.” But this is where we find her in chapter two, but it’s not what we find in 21.

But where is everyone?

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 ESV)

Looking out at the work, there are some that you can see and say, “that’s gold!” But so much is wood and straw that’s just going to be burned off. So you need to wait and trust and see what God is doing… So someday the Church will stop being the suffering servant and eventually we’ll see the Church in her glory.

But there’s more:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23 ESV)

Sometimes it feels like we’re dealing with shadows—experiencing glory after glory, morning by morning, but we hit a wall. There’s a time when there won’t be a temple, there won’t be a worship time, there will be a time when and we’ll experience glory in ever increasingness.

By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:24-27 ESV)

Eventually, there will be a time when all the nations will walk by the light of the Lord. It’s the fulfillment of what David was talking about last night. How much better for the redeemed will things be when all things are restored and put back together.

Now I want to be careful—I don’t want to put my mind in this place as a form of escapism.

This view needs to drive me today. We need to let this view drive us to be faithful today so that we can see that day. If my time’s up, then I want to go be with Jesus, but if my time’s not up, this picture drives me into being faithful. To drive me to protect the purity of the bride. It doesn’t make me want to escape, it makes me want to be faithful.

Here’s where I think at times—you’ve got to get over you. When our hope drains, it drains because we’re not high enough, seeing what God is doing. We’re hedging our bets. You kinda belief this, but you don’t really believe it. You’ve got one foot in this work, trying to get all this stuff just in case—you’re straddling two worlds and it’s not going to work. My encouragement to you is just sell out. It’s this view that has Paul calling this life “light and momentary . . . not worthy to be compared.” Paul’s not hedging his bets, he’s all in.

And I want to challenge you—some of you I want to sell out. But some of you I want to take some hope from you; you’re like Jeremiah, all excited until he gets beat up and says, “You seduced me!” And so you need to repent. But for those who believe this, we need to hold to this hope.

So hope is important for the man of God. It’s important for the man who shepherds the Bride of Christ. There is a finish line. There is a time when all things will be made new. The hard things will be remembered no more. We’ve been entrusted with this—God help us all.

The Underestimated God: God’s Ruthless, Compassionate Grace in the Pursuit of His Own Glory and His Ministers’ Joy #T4G12

My notes on Ligon Duncan’s message on 1 Kings 19 (paraphrased)

Discouragement is no stranger to the lives of faithful pastors and faithful Christians. And today, I want to give special encouragement to discouraged faithful pastors and Christians.

There are things we are meant to learn in our disappointment. Some of you start out in Christian ministry thinking, “If I am faithful to God, doing his bidding, trusting his grace, empowered by his Spirit, I will not have the crushing darkness as part of my experience.” And then it comes. And you’re left asking, “Why is this happening? What’s happening to me, O God? What am I supposed to do with this? I didn’t think it was going to be like this. I didn’t see this coming…”

What do we do with that?

God wants us to know that as we study our disappointments, we’ll see what we love. When the bottom falls out, you will learn things about what you love that you never knew before. And it won’t always be pretty.

You’ll learn what you believe when the bottom falls out. When the crushing disappointment comes. And you’ll learn where you really rest, where you find your satisfaction…

In our disappointments, we are tempted to forget that God is God and God is good. In every deep disappointment, in every deep discouragement, we are tempted to forget that God is God and God is good—and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching people, you will still be tempted to forget.

And we are tempted to idolatry. We are tempted to think that there’s a greater treasure that is being withheld or taken away, a treasure greater than what God has already given to us.

First Kings 19 is not where you want to be in ministry; you want to be in chapter 18. That’s where Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal. That’s where you want to be in ministry. You don’t want to be in chapter 19. And isn’t it a total shock that you can get from 1 Kings 18 to 1 Kings 19? I’ve read it a thousand times and I still don’t get how we get there.

But that’s where we are today.

I wonder what are your greatest losses in life?

What are your unfulfilled dreams? Your unsatisfied plans and longings? Your hopes and dreams that you’ve had taken from before your very eyes?

I don’t’ ask whether you have them, I ask what they are.

And the question is, what do we do with them? What do we do with them. Because how we respond there, might be the most important thing we do in life.

I wonder what you do when you ask why, and you’ve heard no answer? Good things, you’ve longed for. Godly things… you’ve had them and they’ve been taken away or you’ve never had them at all.

I wonder if the Lord’s ever brought your greatest treasure before your eyes and said, “You can’t have it.” And if he’s brought it again, and he’s said, “You still can’t have it.”

The story of Elijah is the story of a ministry of power. No one since Moses had this kind of power. He hoped for great things, godly things, but he walked through his entire life knowing what it’s like to have his hopes dashed. He knew what it’s like to be disappointed, but he also testifies to the Lord’s unrelenting, ruthless grace in the pursuit of his glory and his minister’s joy.

Even people who believe in God’s sovereignty can fail to believe God

Elijah’s experience a powerful display of God’s power at Mt. Carmel. He’s just outrun a chariot. And he meets this messenger, and it’s a message from this woman, his enemy, who says, “You think I’m impressed . . . ? By this time tomorrow you’re going to die.” You might not expect this message. And you might expect that Elijah would say, “I’ll be right here—who are you going to bring? Did you forget what just happened?”

But what happens? It’s like he’s forgotten the sovereignty of God. This man, who faced the prophets of Baal, this man is a disappointed man. He has seen the entire dream of his ministry go unfulfilled. You see this in the wilderness when he says in verse 10:

“I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10 ESV)

His world has come crashing down around him. He saw his dream for Israel come crashing down around him—he hoped on Mt. Carmel that the nation would turn and trust in the Lord and God to be glorified in Israel. And in the wake of that, he gets this message, “You’re going to be dead by this time tomorrow.”

There’s no way a man can be discouraged like this who doesn’t love his message—he longs to see God glorified and when it doesn’t happen, his world almost comes to an end.

Maybe you long for conversions—and when they don’t happen, you’re disappointed. The church down the street has conversions by the thousands, and you have 65 people who can’t even get along. Or maybe you’ve been blessed with conversions and an edifying ministry, but your own son is a stranger to the Lord. There is a despair, a discouragement that comes to God’s faithful servants. And when it comes, you learn where you rest, you find where your satisfaction really lies.

This is what’s happened to Elijah. And so he runs and keeps running into the wilderness.

Even people who fight against idolatry can fall into it

Elijah had forgotten his name—this is a theological crisis going on. He has forgotten what he’s been preaching and the God he wants Israel to embrace. His name means “My God is Lord.” “The Lord—He is God” is his message and he’s forgotten it. It’s evident in his message and in the way God comes to him (v. 11-13).

He sends in a whirlwind, the mountain is dissolving, but God is not in it. He brings fire and an earthquake, but God was not in it. This is what Elijah wanted, he wanted a spectacular display that would turn the people back to the true worship of the Lord—and it does not happen. God does not answer yes to his prayers that he would operate in the spectacular. He operates in the whisper.

This is confirmed in the errands he sends him on. In verses 15 and following, he tells him that this is going to happen through the King of Syria, through another king of Israel and through another prophet. It’s like Moses, who at the end of his life, sees the Promised Land and hears, “You’re not going in.”

When you hear a voice that says you should have what you want be sure that it comes with a hiss. But when you hear a voice that says, “You see all this, it’s good, it’s wonderful—you don’t get to have it,” you can [joyfully] say, “That’s just like you Lord, that’s how you deal with your most faithful servants. . . . You ruthlessly crush their idolatries because of your compassion and grace because you want them to have a greater joy. . . . not because you’re not good, but because you are good. You wean them away from their desires so they are left with nothing but you.”

Elijah’s message to Israel was to give up their idolatry and return to the Lord and God refuses to let Elijah preach that message and not believe it himself. He will not let you preach a message that you have not believed and experienced yourself.

Elijah wanted God to be exalted, but he had a way he wanted it to be done.

Do you realize that when our Savior was in the garden, praying, “Father, take this cup from me . . . but nevertheless, not my will but your will be done,” that he is fighting a battle against idolatry and he’s winning?

God loves Elijah too much to let him keep his idol. And then what does God do? He puts him on the shelf. This is effectively the end of his ministry. He doesn’t end well.

Listen to the notes from the ESV Study Bible:

Is Elijah back on track as a result of his trip to Mount Horeb? The closing verses of ch. 19 suggest not. There is no mention here or in the upcoming chapters of Elijah’s ever meeting (or trying to meet) Hazael and Jehu (see vv. 15–16). One never reads of Hazael’s being anointed, while it falls to Elisha to arrange the anointing of Jehu (2 Kings 9:1–13). Even Elijah’s response to God’s command about Elisha seems less than wholehearted. There is no mention of his “anointing” of Elisha as his prophetic successor; he merely enlists him as his assistant (1 Kings 19:21).

The Lord is hard to his servant. See what happens when the Lord sidles up to Elijah at Horeb, what does he do? He says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He’s not looking for information, he’s rebuking him…

Elijah is so despondent that when God says he’s going to show him his glory, there’s no evidence that he left the cave until the whisper. And when he did, he wrapped his face in a cloak. He just wanted to die.

So the Lord puts him on the shelf. And we don’t see him again until we see him again in 2 Kings 2:

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.

Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. (2 Kings 2:9-12 ESV)

You think God doesn’t know the greatest desires of his servants’ hearts? You think he leaves his servants on the battlefield? A call goes out from heaven and God says, “You bring him in fire and in a whirlwind!”

And why did Elisha need to see this? Because he had to give testimony to the inspired author of 2 Kings. Do you really think that God does not know the greatest desires of his servants’ hearts?

This is not the last time we see Elijah in the Bible. There comes a time again when God tells Elijah, I want you to go down to a mountain again. In Luke chapter 9, we read:

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31 ESV)

Elijah here sees the glory of God—he looks into the eyes of the Savior of the world! That’s what Elijah saw. He saw, “Lord it wasn’t enough that all the Northern Kingdom would reject their idolatry and turn to the Lord, you wanted men, women and children form every tribe and tongue and nation to see the glory of God. It all makes now.”

And that’s how God works. He gets at our most fundamental idolatry and he crushes it in his unfathomable love and we go on in our lives understanding that

Don’t underestimate God. Don’t underestimate his ruthless, compassionate commitment to his glory or his commitment to your everlasting joy. He will pursue you compassionately and ruthlessly and rip out the idols that would otherwise consume you and destroy you.

I want to ask Elijah what the Lord said to him after his return from the mount of Transfiguration—and I want to ask him what he said. Because there we see the Lord give him more than we could ever ask or even think when we think that the Lord had taken away more than we ever wanted.

That’s the God you preach. That’s the God we proclaim. Don’t think that he will use you as his servant and leave you to writhe in your disappointments because he has a plan for your everlasting joy in your declaration of the gospel that gives everlasting joy to all in the nations who embrace it.

The Lord does not treat his servants lives as cheap.

Believe that. And as we live between 2 Cor 4-6, do not lose heart because at those very moments comes the greatest tests. What you do in those moments means everything. Can we not because of Paul’s instruction say we shall not be despondent like Elijah but say, “Lord, this is what you built me for.”

Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions #T4G12

My notes from David Platt’s session (paraphrased)

I have one overarching truth that I want to communicate as clearly and as biblically as possible: A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions. Another way to put it, pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.

I want to show you this in Revelation chapter 5. And I want to be clear on a few underlying premises so you can understand where we’re going and hopefully defuel some objections:

Local mission and local ministry are totally necessary. We should never neglect this at any point. There are hurting people, broken marriages in our churches. We must not neglect local ministry to the body, nor should we to the body. I want to encourage ever member of our body to make disciples in our local community.

Global missions is tragically neglected. I was near Yemen not too long ago—it has approximately 8 million people in the northern part of the country. How many believers are there? They estimate no more than 20-30. There are more Christians in our Sunday Schools than in the entirety of Northern Yemen. They are among the 2 billion people globally who are unreached—they have no access to the gospel. They’re not just lost, they are lost and have no Christian, no Church to share the gospel by which they might be found.

Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead the way in global missions. To the pastor belongs the privilege and the responsibility of the missionary problem—George Pentecost. It is the responsibility of the pastor to feel the weight and fan the flame of global missions in every local church.

Pastors love people. They want to see people  be saved and worship the living God. That is Global missions.

What drives all of this—rock solid confidence in the sovereignty of God over all these things. And I want to show you that in Revelation 5. From this text, I want to show you four theological truths and four practical applications.

Four Theological Truths

Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand. The palm of his hand contains God’s sovereign decrees for the final glorification of all believers and damnation of all unbelievers. It is all in the palm of his hand. Nature, the sun, the stars—he is sovereign over all. There is not a speck of dust that exists apart from the sovereignty of God. Our God charts the course of countries. He holds rulers in the palm of his hand. Our God is sovereign over every single world leader—over you, me, everyone.

He creates all things, knows all things, has authority over all things. He has all the rights! Christian, you have no rights. God along has all rights. He has the right to save sinners and he has the right to damn sinners.

What about human responsibility? Man makes decisions, God is sovereign over them.


Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see. Twentieth century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity. . . . Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his listeners, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.

Brothers and sisters, God does not need you, he does not need me. He does not need your church or mine. They all could drop dead and God would still make his name great among the nations. He involves us not because he needs us but because he loves us. But be sure of this, that our sovereign God holds the fate of all things in his hand.

The state of man before God apart from Christ is utterly hopeless. (Rev. 5:2-4) The fate of all things are in these scrolls—who is able to open them? The silence of heaven testifies to the state of man. John is weeping. There is no one apart from Christ who is worthy to open the scrolls. See the need. Apart from Christ, man is separated from God, condemned by God . . . Thomas Watson said thus it is in hell that they would die but cannot. Do you see why John is weeping? This is no casual matter. We say things like “You have a hell of a time” or “you played a hell of a game” and it just shows we have no idea what we’re talking about.

Just pause for a moment and contemplate the state of the unreached in the world. People who exist before God apart from Christ who have never even heard of him. Now they have heard of God, or rather have seen him (Rom. 1). Every unreached person has knowledge of God—even if they haven’t heard the gospel, they have seen him, have knowledge of him and rejected him. People ask me about the innocent man in Africa who never hears the gospel—what happens to that guy when he dies? That’s easy: He goes to heaven. The problem is, there’s no such thing as an innocent man.

There are over 2 billion people in the world whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell. Forever.

They know he exists.

They’ve rejected him.

They deserve his wrath.

And that’s where their stories end.

They exist before God apart from Christ and they are utterly hopeless in their state.

But there is hope.

The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the Sovereign Lord of all.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Branch of David has come and he has conquered and we need weep no more. Men have come, women have come, generation after generation, every single man and every single woman succumbed to death. But then came another man, unlike any man before or after. This man did not fall prey to sin. This man was not enslaved to Satan, this man would crush that snake.

How has he conquered? Isaiah prophecies that the Lion would suffer as a Lamb, being crushed for our sins. He is the slaughtered Lamb of God and yet he stands. He has not only defeated sin, but he has defeated death. The one who has defeated death bears the marks of death.

In verse seven we are astonished to read that he is the one to take the scroll from the hand of the one who sits on the throne. Jesus walks up and takes the scroll. The slaughtered Lamb rules as the Sovereign Lord over all. God doesn’t share the spotlight with just anyone—he only shares the spotlight with himself.

[Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7-11 ESV)

The atonement of Christ is graciously, globally and gloriously particular.

Follow this:

            And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

He has ransomed you—he has purchased you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

Christ purposed to purchase you—you! Don’t forget this. Before the sun was even formed, before a star was even put in the sky, before mountains were ever established on the earth, almighty God on high set his sights on your soul and he purposed to save you. He sent his Son according to the purposes of his will to save you.

We’re talking about unreached people—and we need to remember that you and I had nothing to do with where we were born. God the Father purposed that we would be born in a nation where we would be reached.

It is gloriously personal, but it’s also globally particular. There are over 11 thousand people groups in the world—and God has purposed to save men and women from among all of them. The atonement is globally particular. Matthew 28:19-20 is a command to make disciples of all the nations. And if there are people groups that are unreached, then we have missed the point of the atonement. Particular atonement is driving global missions.

If we believe that God has purposed to reach people from among all people groups, what drives passion to reach them? Guilt? No, it’s glory–it’s our belief that God has purposed to reach people from all people groups!

In his sovereignty he has ordained to make for himself a kingdom of priests from all peoples and nations. (Rev. 5:11-14)

This is what we live for, this is what we die for.

Four Practical Applications

Let us lead our churches to pray confidently for the spread of the gospel. God’s sovereignty does not negate prayer. God’s sovereignty necessitates prayer. Pastors, let’s teach our people to pray, “Your Kingdom come!” Tell them about Matthew 24:14 and tell them to pray for that! Show them how to pray for Saudi Arabs and the Brahman of India and assure them that every one of their prayers is piling up at the altar of God and one day God will bring about his kingdom.

Let us lead our churches to give sacrificially. Christians in North America give about 2.5 percent of their income to their local churches and the local church gives about 2 percent to global missions. That means that for every $100 we earn, 5¢ are given to global missions. By all estimates, we are the richest people to ever live—why? I’m convinced Psalm 63 has the answer. The Sovereign God has ordained that we be wealthy so that he may be glorified in the world.

Let us lead our churches to go to unreached peoples. We must lead our people to do wise short-term missions, mid-term and long-term missions. There’s no question that in the New Testament that we see Timothy-types and Paul-types. There are men and women in your church whom God is calling to pack their bags and spread the gospel through unreached people groups. Are you encouraging them? Are you taking time to speak specifically to them, leading your church to fast and pray for them and just waiting until he answers? Are you listening to see if he’s calling you to this?

Let us lead our churches to die willingly for the spread of the gospel to all people. Pastors with a high view of God’s sovereignty will lead people to die for the spread of the gospel. We’ve already seen how the gospel compels us to go, but we are also confident as we go because we know that nothing can happen to us apart from the sovereign will of our good and gracious God.

Do not dread suffering, God has ordained suffering. We must embrace suffering. We should not seek suffering, but we should embrace it. How did the gospel spread from Judea to Samaria? Through the stoning of Stephen. Satan’s attempts to stop the Church only serve to spread the Church.

Will we lead people in our churches to embrace suffering as God’s means for spreading the gospel? Will we lead them to die willingly?

Pastors, let us be finished and done with puny theology that leads us to paltry approaches to global missions.

Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort #T4G12

My notes on Kevin DeYoung’s message on 1 Corinthians 15:10 (paraphrased)

In my perception, I believe all the good we see in this new resurgence—and there is much that is good that ought to be celebrated—we are known, I hope, by our commitment to the Scriptures, to biblical manhood and womanhood, to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, to the doctrine of justification by faith and to the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These ought to be celebrated.

But there are two areas in which I believe that we need to grow. The first is in global missions, in calling young men and women to go to the outermost parts of the world with the gospel.

The other is personal holiness. We are to strive for progressive, personal, actual holiness without which we will not see the Lord.

Is there anything more important than this? Do you not want to see the Lord? Because there are some who will not be in his presence. If there is not a desire and fight for holiness, you have to wonder if you are saved.

Those most passionate about the gospel of God’s free grace should be most passionate about the pursuit of godliness. The question in this message is not about why, but about how we grow in holiness. What will we do to help and say to those we serve to grow in itty bitty steps toward godliness?

In 1 Cor. 15:10, Paul writes:

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Here he says two things that seem contradictory, but are not. If we are to grow in holiness we must hold these two things together. He says, I’m working hard—but all that hard work I’m doing, it’s the grace of God in me. So we need to know two things:

  1. We need to work hard
  2. We need to experience God’s grace working in us

Growth in holiness requires Spirit-powered, gospel-driven, faith-fueled effort.

So what do these things mean? How does it work?

We use these phrases all the time, but we don’t communicate how it works—“bathe it in prayer,” “soak in the Spirit,” and so on—some are biblical, but they become clichés when we don’t explain what they mean.


This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is power. (Eph. 3:16:“…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”)

The Spirit, Romans 8 says, this Spirit that dwells within us is the same that raised Jesus from the dead. This is good news! Defeatist Christians who do not fight sin are not being humble, they dishonor the Holy Spirit who strengthens us with spiritual power.

The Spirit is light. He reveals sin. (John 3) He will expose the world’s sin—he turns on lights! This is what happens when you really preach with power and conviction—rats are going to scurry. Sinners do not want to walk in the light, but when you preach part of what you’re doing is shining a bright spotlight onto people’s sin. The Spirit works to reveal sin and to reveal truth.

He throws a spotlight on sin and truth but he also draws our attention to Christ. When the Spirit converts and regenerates the heart of the sinner, it is never apart from throwing a spotlight on the glory of Christ—causing them to see Christ!

We become what we behold. We look at Christ to become like Christ. And when the light comes on and you run to the darkness, the Bible causes that resisting, quenching, grieving the Spirit.

Spirit powered sanctification shows us our sin and shows us our Savior.


Good deeds flow out of the good news, but how? How does it work?

It drives us to good deeds out of a sense of gratitude (Romans 12). It is not a desire to repay God, but a sense of gratitude for all that he’s done. Gratitude—the kind of experience of humility that comes with gratitude tends to crowd out the unseemly attitudes. If you have an anger problem, you can be sure you’ve got a gratitude problem. The gospel drives us to godliness out of gratitude.

It drives us to godliness by revealing to us who we are. If we are dead to sin, why live in it? If we have been raised with Christ, why continue in it? If you have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places, why live in hell? Here’s where you must do Spiritual warfare with the Sword of the Spirit and remember that there is no condemnation in Christ (Rom 8:1).

Here, I think is the central motivation for holiness in the New Testament: It’s to be who you are. To understand your union and identity in Christ and be who you are.

Our culture resonates with an idea that is true: You cannot be someone other than who you are. “We’re just born this way,” as the song goes. As Christians, we come along and say, “You’re right, but the gospel tells you can be born again. You cannot be who you are not, but if you are in Christ, you can be like him.”


Here’s where we have to be careful—we’re saved by faith, but we’re also sanctified by faith. But we have to understand what we mean by saying “by.” We’re justified by faith—it’s not anything we do. We come along and say, we’re sanctified by faith and it just confuses people. It’s better to use the language that Scripture uses, that we’re sanctified as we believe in the promises of God, as we look to our identity in Christ… and we live in them. Look at the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Here, Jesus gives a promise. Be meek, inherit the earth. Jesus says, “if you want to be great—be meek. I don’t know if you’ll have a big church, a big house, but I’ll give you the earth.”

Faith fueled sanctification believes the promises of God, believing with all our hearts that God’s promises are true and living as if they’re true.


I’m not saying that we’re justified by faith and the work is just our own apart from it. The call of Christian preaching should never be to make people better apart from the faith, belief—but we must not let “effort” become a four-letter word in our vocabularies.

Luke 13:24, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Phil 3:12-14, 2 Pet. 1:5

Christians work. We work to kill the flesh and be alive in the Spirit. Ryle said that the child of God has two great marks about him: His inner peace and his inner warfare. We are at rest with God and never at peace with sin, and the flesh.

Is sanctification monergistic or synergistic? Those are the wrong terms to use. Who sanctifies you, you or God? Yep. God sanctifies me as I work out my sanctification. We cannot simply say, “Look to the Lord.” We can’t simply say, “Get gripped by the gospel.” We don’t want to fall into “let go and let God.” Sanctification is not by surrender, but by divinely driven toil and effort.

Let me drive this down to us and apply it—how does this work?

Pastors, you know and have been hearing that being a pastor is hard work. We work long hours, weekends, we don’t have the luxury of knocking back early Friday afternoon and coming back Sunday evening. We work hard. Sometimes you do have to leave the vacation early. Sometimes you do miss the soccer game. Sometimes you’re working on a sermon and it’s a labor of love—but sometimes it’s a lot more labor… The people who get bored by their sermons first are the pastors. They’re the ones who are always introducing new gimmicks. But we’ve got to be working hard as we preach. We’ve got to toil. Struggle with his energy. To proclaim him and present others to him in Christ.

It is not possible to work too hard, just like it’s impossible to talk about the gospel too much. But you can approach work in a very truncated way. So no one here is in danger of working too hard—we’re in danger of working foolishly.

Work hard at fighting distracted. Work hard at resting. Work hard at being present at home. Work hard at guarding your day off. Working 80 hours is easy—working 40, 50, 60 takes effort. You have to guard your time, to schedule. It’s the easiest job in the world to be an unashamed workaholic and be totally lazy.

What does it mean to give this vision to our people? I think many of us are getting scared of telling our people that the Bible would have them do some stuff and not do some stuff. The Bible’s full of commands. If we’re not teaching our people to obey the commands of Jesus, we’re not fulfilling the Great Commission.

People talk about the dangers of legalism and anti-nomianism: On one side, you have to do all of these things on the other, you have these folks who say, it doesn’t matter how you live. But here’s what I think is plaguing our churches: The world looks at us and the world is very concerned that we’re homophobic. I think God’s much more concerned that we might be nomophobic, afraid of the Law. We might be afraid of the third use of the Law. We need to get a grip on this.

We’re good with using the Law to convict and lead to the gospel—but then you could say that the gospel leads to the Law. We should not be afraid to say that the Bible insists that God’s people obey its commands.

If you preach on David and Bathsheba, and you don’t preach about the problem of sexual sin, you’re not teaching the text. In Luke 18, Jesus shares a parable encouraging people to pray and not lose heart. There’s a way to preach this so that everyone in your church feels guilty for everything in it. You don’t preach legalistically—so what do we do? We need to infuse the gospel into the command.

We preach not just the content but the mood of the content. You cannot assume that everyone in your church only needs a kick in the pants or only needs a hug. If it’s not gospel of me to exhort these people to obedience, I just shouldn’t say it. Making an effort is not somehow sub-holy. Don’t give people have a Savior, don’t give them half of grace. Give them the grace that will change how they live.

These issues matter because some of us here and some in our churches are stalled out in their sanctification because of lack of effort. They need to toil, fight in Spirit-fueled, gospel-driven, faith-fueled effort. Without this, it’s like teaching pigs to fly. When it comes to sanctification, holiness does not happen apart from trusting and trusting does not put an end to trying.

Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist? #T4G12

My notes from Thabiti Anyabwile’s session on 1 Timothy 1:12-17 (paraphrased)

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ 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. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

At an evangelism conference in the United Arab Emerits, an evangelist asked, “What do you think is the greatest hindrance to the spread of the gospel in the Middle East?” He suggested that the greatest hindrance of the gospel is the Christian’s lack of confidence in the gospel. I was stunned—I hadn’t thought of that. And there was this sense of dawning that I lacked confidence in the gospel. Now, I trusted in the gospel, I believed the gospel, but as he continued his exposition of Romans 1:16… I found myself asking, “Thabiti, is there any evident mark, any compelling evidence, that certifies to others and to your own soul that you have a deep and unshakeable confidence in the gospel?” And I wanted to ask you the same question. Do you have confidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the ability to transform the hearts of even the worst of sinners? Or do we underestimate it’s ability…?

The title of this talk asks “Will your gospel transform a terrorist?” Who is that person? Now, that could be the radical Muslim or Hindu burning churches. Or it could be the prostitute down the street or your third grade teacher… fix that person in your mind and ask:

Am I confident—down in my bones with Romans 1:16 styled unashamedness—that the gospel of Jesus Christ will transform this person?

Is Romans 1:16 really our boast?  Is that boast obvious in our lives and ministries?  If not, what do we need to do?  How do we need to repent of our unbelief?

Today, I want to hang our thoughts on three points.

The great change in one terrorist’s life (1 Tim 1:12-13)

Paul writes to encourage Timothy, his protégé, to deal with falsehood and false teachers that were destroying the life and witness of the church.

We’ve all had the experience of hearing “our song” on the radio—we hear it and it takes us back. For Paul is the gospel like that. He gives us in v. 12-17 a picture of the before and after. He shows the transformation. He starts in verse 12 with the “after “ picture. After the transformation, he’s a thanksgiving servant of Christ, a steward of the gospel and he’s thankful for it. He’s now the man God uses to strengthen and confirm the church. He is amazed at where his strength comes from—Christ is giving him strength! (Gal 2, Col 1:28-29) He’s a man transformed—but that’s his after picture.

Verse 13 tells us that he has a past. “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” He blasphemed and slandered God. He persecuted the church, a violent man, persecuting the church even to death. He was an anti-Christian, anti-church terrorist. Acts 7 we get the glorious sermon Stephen preached that cost him his life . . . and at the end of the chapter beginning at verse 54, we read:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. (Acts 7:54-8:1)

When we first meet Saul, he is approving of the murder of Stephen. This was not a prank—this was his career. He was systematic, moving from house-to-house. He was zealous! Paul creates the position and argues for himself to fill the position. In Acts 9, he shows initiative in this persecution, he is looking under every rock to find all that follow Christ and have them imprisoned. When Paul gives his testimony in Acts 26, he says:

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11 ESV)

This is the man who pens 1 Timothy. And when I see this before and after, I have this question: Why do you think that Paul remembers these things so vividly? I wonder if he still saw the faces and heard the voices of all those he persecuted.

Sin is like ketchup on a nice shirt—you might be able to dab it off and wash it, but the stain is still there. I remember sharing the gospel with a woman at a basketball outreach and she said to me, “Honey, God gave up on me a long time ago.” What she needed was for me to be confident in the gospel because she had no confidence of her own.

So we need confidence in the gospel, but the other question that jumps out to me is why do you think Paul jumps into this career of persecution—why does he jump into this destruction? Because he was lost.

What do you think happens when Christians lose key words from their vocabularies, like “lost”? When you lose the words, you lose the understanding. We used to speak about people being lost, but we don’t talk about that much anymore. What do we lose? What happens if this understanding is lost from our vocabulary?

How might be define lostness? A convinced blindness and misdirected affection that leads to eternal damnation. Paul thought he saw, but he didn’t. He acted in ignorance and unbelief. He saw darkness and thought it was light. Paul is the very fulfillment of what Jesus prophesied when he said that a time was coming when those who persecute you will think they’re offering a sacrifice to God. It wasn’t just that Paul was wrong-headed, he was wrong-hearted. He delighted in the darkness, even though he was convinced of his own rightness.

When we lose this understanding, we lose the need for repentance, for substitution, the majesty of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We lose wrath and hell because man isn’t rebelling against God, he’s simply on a journey, a seeker. We lose missions and evangelisms because no one needs saving.

The great cause of that change (1 Tim 1:14-16)

So we saw that Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man—what caused the change? The gospel.

The gospel supplied his need. In v. 13, he speaks of the mercy he received. He speaks of it as a kind of waterfall of grace and love and mercy poured out on him. I suspect that Christ wrote so frequently of being in Christ because he was so aware of his life outside of Christ. He’s come to see how all the blessings of God are bound up in our being in Christ. He reflected on it so much because he was so familiar with the bankruptcy of life apart from Christ. All that he lacked is now supplied in Christ.

The blasphemer is given faith. The persecutor is given grace. The violent man is given love. All that once ruined him is renewed in Christ.

In verse 15 Paul tells us the gospel is trustworthy. It’s like this verse is a neon sign flashing, saying “here, put your confidence here!” He tells us to put our confidence in the gospel because it is trustworthy. Here’s how he describes it—Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul regards himself as the worst. Notice how the Scriptures tightly pack the gospel into one verse (Mark 10:45, John 3:16). The gospel is packed into this one tight succinct statement that explodes into the world.

In verse 15, we’ve got a tightly compact message that we could stretch out into eternity and never explore the depths. Christ Jesus came into the world—from where? From glory! How, in the Incarnation! To save sinners—who is that? All of us, you and me. And Paul says, put your confidence here.

He also tells us that the gospel reaches the worst of sinners and makes them trophies of God’s glory. He says that Christ saves sinners, of whom he was the worst. Why did he do it? “God showed me mercy so that others would have a faith-inspired example of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.” If Paul’s example is compelling enough to make others believe, then it ought to compel us to preach with confidence. The purpose of our unredeemed past is to magnify our redeemed future. We must preach with that kind of confidence, the kind that says, “If God can save that guy, he can save me!” We ought to have this reliance on the gospel.

The great celebration of that change (1 Tim. 1:17)

What should this reliance look like? I have nine points:

  1. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would position ourselves around the worst of sinners looking for gospel opportunities.
  2. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would share the gospel slowly and clearly. If the gospel does the work, then we only need to release it.
  3. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would redirect our fears from man to God. We would fear being unfaithful more than being unfruitful.
  4. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would endeavor to preach the gospel in every sermon. On what Sunday do we have no lost people in our services? We ought to unpack and apply the gospel in every message. You realize that God only has one sermon? From genesis to revelation, it’s preaching the redemption of sinners through Christ Jesus.
  5. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would be careful with new converts and evangelistic methods. With new converts, we would resist the temptation to view Paul’s conversion as paradigmatic of all conversions. Not everyone’s struck down blind on the Damascus Road. If our confidence in our method or in the gospel? Are we organizing our methods and services that subtly betray our confidence in the gospel?
  6. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would study the gospel in deeper and more varied ways. We would make ourselves serious students of the gospel, studying in deeper and deeper ways.
  7. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would preach to open eyes, not just convey information. (Acts 28:29) Unless people are brought to see that their ideas about Christ and God, they won’t know where to turn.
  8. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would ask ourselves a question: Is my confidence in myself or in the power of the gospel itself? This is a real, subtle danger—to put our trust in ourselves rather than the gospel. For me, it shows up in impatience, in depression, in “fainting spells…” Brothers, beware of that shift of moving from relying on the gospel to relying on ourselves.
  9. If we’re confident in the gospel, we would preach the gospel in such a way that their faith would rely not on the cunning and craftiness of man but on the power of God. We want to preach in the Spirit’s power, to give us unction, to give us clarity, words, phrases… that their lives would rest upon the power of the gospel.

Now look at the celebration that this confidence brings. (v. 17) Paul didn’t write this verse as a systematician, but with a heart that rejoices and celebrates the gospel—so it may be with us as well.

False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church #T4G12

My notes on Mark Dever’s session on the importance of a healthy local church (paraphrased):

Why should you as a pastor be concerned about your local church beyond the obvious ways that you would be in your day-to-day life? Why should this topic matter to you? Tonight, I want to bring a message on this topic to you—False conversions: the suicide of the church

Our text for tonight is 1 Tim. 4:16:

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

My fellow pastors, could it be that many of our hearers aren’t saved? Maybe even some of our members?

Some might ask, what’ the problem with false conversions—I mean, as long as people are really becoming converts, what’s the issue? A fear of false conversions could lead to graceless suspicion and legalism, won’t it? Why give time to a problem that the Bible tells us is an inevitability of ministry in a fallen world?

I want to address you as interested Christians and brother pastors to help you understand that this is a problem, and what we can do about it. So tonight, I want to look at the plan, the problem and the source of the problem.

God’s Plan

God has an overarching purpose to get glory to himself through people. So he calls Abraham to himself in Gen. 12 and gives that great promise that all people would be blessed through him. He rightly wants his creation to know him in his glory.

God’s plan is to make himself known and make his name exalted among the nations

(Psa. 86:8, Psa. 22; Psa. 36)

This is what God says he will do, and is doing.

But how will he? How will he do this thing?

Through Jesus Christ, and specifically through the Church of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28). So as we go through the book of Acts, we see this taking place. It’s not merely the story of people coming to faith, but it’s the story of the planting of congregations.

That’s been the plan from the beginning that his name would be made great through his people bringing him glory through the nations.

I hope you’re encouraged that what you’re about is even bigger than what you thought it was when you came in tonight.

The Problem

But that brings me to the problem—that God’s people in the Old Testament were unfaithful (Psa. 106). When God’s people were in exile in Babylon, God told them over and over again that he does all things for his name. God’s name was blasphemed among the nations because of God’s people. That’s why he exiled them. Whatever God did to his people, whether blessing or cursing, it was all done for the sake of his name so that the nations will know that he is the Lord.

This is what God does—he does everything for the sake of his name. And non-Christians hate this message. Christians love it. You preach that message from your pulpit and you’ll get a very quick read on what’s going on in your church.

So he does all things for the sake of his name—can we see echoes of this in the New Testament?

Matt 5:16, 1 Pet. 2:12 = yes.

But the problem is that we’ve built systems today where we’re building whole congregations where it’s not one person, but the entire congregation are false congregation.

Let me give you four aspects of the problem:

1. It’s a problem for the expression of our love for sinners—it’s not right to act as though a man or woman is a convert when there’s no evidence of their conversion accept for a record in 1947. That’s not loving to them.

2. It’s a problem for the church’s internal love—the entire congregation is affected by this. What are the implications of many false converts within the church? Hundreds? Does it make our life less loving, hopeful, joyful? What toll does it take on its leaders?

3.  It’s a problem for our witness. Our witness is subverted. It appears that we have no better hope than theirs. We’re to be a light to the world, but if our lives don’t evidence it, hope vanishes.

4. God’s name is defamed. God sets apart a people for himself for his own glory—but what he sets apart for himself becomes grounds for his name to be defamed. False converts slander the glory of God.

All of that is gone wrong when we have churches that are characterized by members whose lives are indistinguishable from the world.

What’s the Source of the Problem

Why are there so many churches where the people don’t evidence the fruit of the Spirit, where there’s no evidence of conversion? We have to look at three aspects:


There are too many warnings against false teaching in the New Testament. The Scriptures are rife with these warnings. If God has this great plan that he’s about, and if we to be a part of this plan, even though our character by itself is insufficient to display his glory on its own, but when we come together something happens—the teachers have a special calling and accountability over this. I think the text I started with is a good summary of this:


We need to know that we can teach the wrong things with disastrous results. We know that saving faith only comes by hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ—so what will false teaching do? Will it be ignored? False teaching will bring converts, but false converts. Five truths that were being distorted then that are still being distorted today:

God’s judgment is coming. (2 Pet. 3). When you get this teaching right, when you teach the doctrine of judgment and hell regularly, there’s a mercy that becomes evident within our congregations.

We should be judged by God (Rom. 1-3). We are lost, depraved and fearful under the sure judgment of God. We need to know and feel our own helplessness. We need to know that because God is good and we are not, we deserve God’s judgment. God should judge us—we should be clear on this in our teaching. Imagine how much that humility mentioned above would grow as we apply this understanding to our own life—that God judges and that we deserve to be judged. If we think seriously and biblically about sin, how much sweeter is God’s mercy.

Our only hope is in Christ. We must make it very clear in our teaching that we are to trust not in who we are or what we are done, but in Jesus Christ, his substitutionary work and his resurrection. We must be wary of any denial of Christ’s work on our behalf. We must be wary of any denial of Christ’s resurrection. We must preach and teach clearly on who Christ is and what he has done. Now, you can make converts without this—but it’s converts to fatalism.

We don’t see the fullness of our salvation in this life. Christ’s death and resurrection secure for us forgiveness and reconciliation with God, but it’s an error to teach that Christ’s work is primarily for benefits in this life. Our primary posture in Scripture is waiting—we wait for his return. It’s why Paul said that if for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied above all men.

We can deceive ourselves and others about our relationship with God. Please teach this clearly—it is counterintuitive in our culture, it is clear in our Bible. We must be clear in teaching that we can deceive ourselves. “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” When we get this, there’s a child-like reliance on him that can mark our congregation with great joy.

Think about the people you’ve baptized in the last year? Do they believe these things? Have they been taught them clearly?

Teach these things—and remember that false converts hire false teachers. There’s a symbiotic relationship between false converts and false teachers. If you want to be sure that your successor is denies the gospel, just admit a bunch of false converts into membership.


It’s an error to present a church without holiness. Unholiness may thrive in some churches because pastors are afraid to confront sin. It may thrive where there is no accountability. Preach on 1 John to teach this. There is a wonderful health and beauty and freedom in holiness—it frees us to help us understand how we are to live, as God’s Spirit remakes us into more and more of his likeness.

It’s an error to present a church with no suffering. Left to ourselves, we would all avoid poverty and sickness. But such goals are too small. Jesus saves us from ultimate bankruptcy and suffering, but he saves us into suffering in this life. Health and wealth teachers are FALSE teachers—we must be clear on this. But we have to be mindful in the ways in which we’re subtly doing the same thing. What do miserable Christians sing? What if I’ve lost my job, what if I’ve had a terrible fight with my wife? How can we lead those who are hurting to hope rather than push them away? Our churches should have room for great joy, but it should be in the context of understanding where people are at. So are all people called to suffering? The truth is: no cross, no crown. In this world you will have trouble.

It’s an error to present a church without love. You want to present the church in a godly way, you’re good with suffering. You’ve got a grim willingness to suffer. But if love does not mark the church, you might attract spiritual hobbyists, but not people who are willing to inconvenience themselves for the good of others. 1 John teaches that if we walk in the light, we will love one another. We know that we have passed from death to live because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love. One of the most striking needs our world has is churches full of Christians who are sacrificing for one another and showing great love to one another.

Brother pastors, when we get some crucial things right about life and about doctrine, we’ll start to show light to this world.

Solving the Problem

So how are false converts suicide to the church and how can we solve the problem?

Always be evangelizing—and as Spurgeon says “steadily and well.” Ask yourself how you’re evangelizing and if it’s creating false converts.

Always be shepherding sheep. Re-center your thoughts on the individuals to be shepherded. With each person you take into membership, you’re telling them they’re giving evidence that they are born again and spiritually fine. Do not forget that God has called you into a great role in people’s lives. Don’t just try to get your numbers straight—remind yourself that God cares for each one of those people.

Always remember the account you’re going to give to God. Our accountability to God reminds us of the huge role we play in God’s great plan.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

The Power of the Articulated Gospel #T4G12

My notes on Albert Mohler’s message on Romans 10 (all notes are paraphrased):

I don’t know what it would be like to do this ministry without friends. I know there are some men who are called to preach and teach alone, I don’t know how you do it, but God bless you. But in ministry we desperately need friends who are with us for the long haul.

The theme of our meeting is the Underestimated Gospel. We want to be together for the gospel, but we do not want to underestimate it—or to use a term coined by our George W. Bush—we don’t to misunderestimate it. We need to stand together for the gospel. Compromise on the gospel has led to false teaching, the corruption of movements… And this means at times that we need to be painfully candid about what the gospel is not. We’re surrounded by false gospels, misunderstandings of the gospel and understandings of the gospel that just fall short.

The gospel has enemies, but it is sometimes underestimated even by its friends. In Romans, Paul writes that “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation…” We want to be gospel people in a gospel movement, we want to live gospel lives and bear gospel fruit and send gospel people out on gospel mission, but we might still underestimate it.

Carl Henry wrote a book called A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration. This is good and right and necessary. But first it must be articulated. It must be heard.

Paul’s great apostolic concern in Romans 10 is about the need to hear the gospel in order to be saved. All throughout the book of Romans, Paul shows us our need and the centrality of the gospel. And what we find here in chapter 10 is the whole machinery of salvation. Several things we should see:

The word is brought near.

The Word of God came near to us in Christ and now in the preaching of the gospel, the Word is brought near to us. The Word has to be brought near to us. It was brought near to Israel, a reference to the closing words in the book of  Deuteronomy, where God reminds them that they did not seek God, but he drew near to them. He’s writing to Gentiles, who are saved because the Word was brought near to them. That’s one of the great privileges of ministry—that as we are brought near, we preach so that the Word might be brought near to those who are perishing. If the one who knows the gospel is close to one who does not know Christ but does not proclaim the gospel, there is no salvation. Articulation is necessary so that the one who hears may believe and may confess and in doing so may be saved.

The apostle Paul in his ministry was all about bringing the Word near—the saving Word of the gospel.

The power of the gospel to save.

This is where we rightly refer to the well-meant offer of the gospel. We are to preach the gospel to all people everywhere in the firm, unshakeable belief that if they hear and respond, they will be saved. Romans 10:13 there is no asterisk, there is no footnote—if sinners believe and confess, they will be saved. We don’t present the gospel with one hand behind our backs; we don’t hide behind the sovereignty of God to say, “well they might believe, they might not.” We live this, we teach this, that if we preach the Word, sinners will be saved. We are to be indiscriminate in our preaching of the gospel. We are to be like the sower who indiscriminately sows the seed of the Word and the Lord brings the harvest.

In verse 12, Paul makes it clear that there is no distinction in terms of our need for a Savior and the provision. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, first to the Jew and then to the gentile.” And so there is no distinction.

The necessity of articulating the gospel.

It is not brought near without words. Our ministry is multi-phasic, but it is most essentially verbal. The gospel requires words in order to be heard, in order to be received. It even requires words in order to be rejected!

These days it’s increasingly popular to quote Francis of Assisi, as saying “Preach the gospel always if necessary use words.” While this didn’t emerge until 200 years after him and this sounds like Francis, it sounds like those who think that we can bring the gospel near just by being there, or by being kind or nice or loving. And while we are called to do those things, we must articulate the gospel. We much use words. We must speak.

We certainly don’t want to expect that Christians should preach the gospel but not live without evidence to back it up. We really can’t do much of importance without words. Most of what we do requires words. Just imagine any formative experience in your life and think about how you can communicate this without words? We are made in the image of God and we have a speaking God. And because God speaks, we must speak also.

Even the formation of language begins with words. Even before the written word exists, we begin with spoken words. Linguists speak about how humans are the only creatures that make gestures, but they’re also aware of the limits of gestures. Even the gestures for “yes” and “no” may not be as clear as they need to be.

Here is the indictment: We are dead in our trespasses and sin so [gestures] we are lost without words. We are lost without words. We have in our midst who are hearing this message by means of American sign language. It is not mere gesture. It is the communication of words. We use the only words that we have available to us, human words, but when those words are used to articulate the gospel, they are more than words—they convey the power to save those who are perishing.

Without preaching, there is no believing. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. We’re not just talking about the auditory experience, but we’re talking about the internal calling, the effectual calling, but we know that the effectual call is part of our call to preach.

God has chosen in his sovereignty that the whole machinery of salvation requires the articulation of the gospel—God has not been frustrated by the fact that the gospel is communicated by words, he has chosen this means.

We are, then, to preach and teach, to contend, but also to persuade.  How will they believe if they never hear? As evangelicals, we believe in the power of the gospel, we believe in the articulation of the gospel—it’s only in recent years that we’re hearing “stop talking and show me the gospel.” We need to show people the fruit of the gospel, but we must articulate the gospel.

Before you can demonstrate the power of the gospel, you must first articulate the power of the gospel. We cannot articulate the gospel without words. The only means of reaching those who are perishing is by articulating the gospel through words.

We cannot preach or teach or tell the gospel without words. A pattern of right words reminds us of our responsibility to get the gospel right. We are here because we want to live the gospel and we do not want to underestimate its power. We never want to underestimate the power of the articulated gospel.

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is Lord.