Category Archives: gospel

how would you define Christiantiy?

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“The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father…Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption…The truth of our adoption gives us the deepest insights the New Testament affords into the greatness of God’s love. Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be – adoption through propitiation.” J.I. Packer

“Observe, concerning the first advent, that the Lord was moving in it towards man. ‘When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.’ We moved not towards the Lord, but the Lord towards us. I do not find that the world in repentance sought after its Maker. No, but the offended God himself in infinite compassion broke the silence, and came forth to bless his enemies. All good things begin with him.” Charles Spurgeon

“That justification-by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with his acceptance for the future-is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. We all stand by nature under God’s judgment; his law condemns us; guilt gnaws at us, making us restless, miserable and in our lucid moments afraid; we have no peace in ourselves because we have no peace with our Maker. So we need the forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God, more than we need anything else in the world; and this the gospel offers before it offers us anything else…But contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship-he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.” J.I. Packer

“I once knew a good woman who was the subject of many doubts, and when I got to the bottom of her doubt, it was this: she knew she loved Christ, but she was afraid he did not love her. ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘that is a doubt that will never trouble me; never, by any possibility, because I am sure of this, that the heart is so corrupt, naturally, that love to God never did get there without God putting it there.’ You may rest quite certain, that if you love God, it is a fruit, and not a root. It is the fruit of God’s love to you, and did not get there by any the force of any goodness in you. You may conclude, with absolute certainty, that God loves you if you love God.” Charles Spurgeon

at the cross

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i heard a “new” song today… i’m not actually sure how “new” it is, but as soon as I heard the truth in the lyrics, I was just freshly reminded of God’s amazing grace to me.

I wasn’t able to find a video of the song online, but here are the lyrics…  and here’s the link to the artist’s website: Pocket Full of Rocks (you can listen to song samples on their website).

Dark was the stain of my sin
Ever more guilty within.
Searching for rescue where none could be found
until from that hill I heard the sound.
of mercy that triumphs over judgment,
of grace abounding greater than my sin.

At the cross, at the cross, where there’s room for me.
At the cross, at the cross, I am finally free.
At the cross, at the cross, burdens roll away.
At the cross.

Oh what a glorious plan.
God reaching down to fallen man.
To all of us broken, lost and undone
Hear no as heaven bids us come.
Find mercy that triumphs over judgment
Find grace abounding greater than our sin.

At the cross, at the cross, where there’s room for me.
At the cross, at the cross, I am finally free.
At the cross, at the cross, burdens roll away.
At the cross.

Such beauty through tragedy,
You giving your life for me
Unspeakable reverence as I bow here
with those that You’ve redeemed
We sing hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, to our King.

At the cross, at the cross, where there’s room for me.
At the cross, at the cross, I am finally free.
At the cross, at the cross, burdens roll away.
At the cross I am finally free.  I am finally free.

prison clothes and the King’s table

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ever feel like you are underdressed for an occasion?  you show up for a party in jeans and a sweater and everyone else is dressed up?  imagine that the President invites you to the White House for a dinner party… would you show up in jeans?  of course not.  You would be embarrased if you were so drastically underdressed and i’m sure you’d feel very out of place. 

growing up for the first 20 years of my life in mostly fundamentalist churches, I often heard something like this as an encouragement to wear your best clothes to church on Sunday… to dress up when you come into the presence of the King to show reverence and respect.

but the reality is, God looks much deeper than the outward appearance and examines what is truly at the heart level.   I am not saying it is wrong to wear nice clothes to church, but personally, I am not of the conviction that God is impressed by my pantyhose and knee-length skirt.  He is impressed by a heart of humility that seeks to serve his Body and worship Him for His holiness. 

but all too often I am tempted to think that because God looks on the heart, I am in trouble.  that He knows my sin and I often feel ashamed to stand before the King with prison clothes on my heart.  Aware of His holiness, my sin can feel so condemning and overwhelming.

I’m so grateful for times when God reminds me that this simply is not true.  That Jesus died not only to save me from hell, but to release the chains that are around my heart that is so prone to sin.  I am not captive to those sins anymore.  Those prison clothes are not what defines my heart.  My heart has been changed and is now ruled by Jesus Christ.

but it often doesn’t feel like that does it?  condemnation.  shame.  regret.  fear.  those things can often overcloud the 3 words so precious to me:  “it is finished.”  as Martin Lloyd Jones stated in his book Spiritual Depression, its exactly at those times that I need to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself… to start talking truth from God’s Word. 

Several years ago, I read through the Bible in 3 months.  There were a few passages that jumped out to me at that time.  One was the first five verses of Zechariah 3…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

I shared this passage in Care Group Friday night along with an impression that God wanted to encourage those in the group that struggle with this very thought… with the thought of standing before God in our prison rags… that He wants to remind us that through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are accepted… our clothes are changed, our chains are gone and we are invited in as a child of God as a result of His amazing grace.

Yesterday at church, it was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit move.  Someone came up during worship and shared the exact same passage… Zechariah 3:1-5 and the exact same encouragement to the body of Christ.  It edified my heart to see God working in various means to build up and refresh his church.  And from such an “obscure” passage… 

After care group on Friday, someone shared with me another passage along the same lines… 2 Kings 25:29:

So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.

I think this accurately displayes who we are in Christ.  I pray that God encourages each of you who know Him with the hope found in the truth that we were… “once your enemy, now seated at your table.”  Jesus, thank you.

God answers prayer…

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I got an email from a friend of mine today.  We’ve been praying for years for her grandma’s salvation…  and this is what she had to say today about that…  I was so excited that I had to share it with you all too…  :)  Praise God that He draws hearts to him… even when we lack faith in trusting Him to save…

 

… Just wanted to let you know that God is so good! That through Him all things are possible, that He indeed does answer prayer. I learned a lesson last night about God’s faithfulness, that there is no hopeless situation. God does hear our prayer, He does love us. I also learned last night how faithless my prayers are and how faithless I can be. But despite all that He does hear them. I know I’m babbling and caring on and repeating myself, but I can’t help myself. I’m so excited and so happy. I keep getting teary eyed. I bawled last night.

My Grandma called me last night with the best news! She had been to visit Dr. Davis (He’s the pastor of First Baptist Durham) a wonderful man of God. My whole family highly respects this guy. Anyway he took her through Romans 9 and God reached down and touched my Grandma’s heart and saved her!!!!! I need to stop thinking about this; people won’t understand why I’m crying. :)  But I can’t stop thinking about it and praising God! It’s surreal in a way… it’s wonderful!

thoughts on “the room”

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I remember the first time I read this story by Josh Harris called “the Room” (see post below).  It was shortly after I had become a Christian and I was reminded in such a powerful way of the amazing grace shown to me.  What a cause for rejoicing.  What peace this story brought to my soul.

How I need this reminder though every day… not just 5 years ago.  This past week, I was having a conversation and the other person accused me of something falsely.  I tried to point out that what they were saying was not the truth and the response I heard was “well, you are a liar.  you have shown a consistent pattern in your life over many years of lying.  things like that don’t change.”

How happy I am to know that those words are simply NOT true.  It is an accusation that Satan tries to use quite often in my life to cause me to despair.  But I know without a doubt that I am not that same lying punk kid I was 5+ years ago… the gospel has the power to change lives… even mine.

How do I know this?  I mean, if you look at my life, you still see lots of sin.  I hurt friends, I fail God, I don’t live with the righteous obedience that He requires of me.  So  how can I say so confidently that I am not the same person anymore?

Its because I’m no longer bound to my former sins any more than Jesus Christ is still bound to the cross on which He died.  The resurrection proves that His death was sufficent.  Those precious words “it is finished” applies for every CURRENT struggle… not merely the pre-salvation ones.

I pray my friend understands this truth one day… that the gospel does indeed have the power to change a wretch like me.

I’m not at all excusing my sin or saying that its not serious. My sins were so serious that Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for them.  But I have the confidence and hope that in His suffering and death, my condemnation, guilt and shame were absolved.

what a glorious truth!

the room

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(by Joshua Harris)

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order.  But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked”. I opened it and began flipping  through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 16 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With”.  The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused.  I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.  And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him.  Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me.  I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door.  There were still cards to be written.

the gospel in 10 words…

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someone asked me the other day if i would describe the gospel to them in ten words or less…  it was a great exercise for me, as I am not often the most concise person.  :)  and it was a great reminder that i need to constantly be reflecting on what the gospel is and how God has changed my life…

so here are my ten words:

Christ’s death: rescued from self-made destruction, adopted as God’s child.

 

How about you?  How would you describe the gospel in 10 words?  Feel free to leave comments below…

when the dots don’t connect…

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lately i seem to be back into a season where the dots just don’t seem to connect.  i’m weary.  physically i’m weak.  emotionally i’m tired.  spiritually i’m worn down and dry.  mentally i’m… well, i guess i’ve never been right in that area… :)

i have failed to cling to my hope in Christ.  i’ve failed to trust Him to provide.  i’ve questioned whether God really wants what’s best for me.  i’ve accused Him of forgetting me… or simply leading me on only to later disappoint.

i’m powerless to lift myself from the pit that i am in. 

and then i’m reminded of the gospel… Christ came to lift me from my own self-made destruction and misery.   He came to give me a rock of hope to cling to that will never fail… not in physical pain, loneliness, confusion, darkness… never.  He promised He would never leave me. 

that applies not only to the day He redeemed my soul 4 years ago but for today as well. in the middle of a migraine, He holds me.  In the middle of my questioning His goodness, He holds me secure in His arms of love.  In the middle of loneliness, He never leaves my side.  In my tired weariness, He reminds me that He is the God who watches over me and He never sleeps.  There is never a moment when He is not in control of every event of my life. 

I’m reminded of the hymn “Be Still my Soul.”  While visiting Covenant Life a few weeks ago, we sang this song… its been in my head ever since.  It is such a great example of “talking to yourself” instead of “listening to yourself.”

 I think my favorite line is “be still my soul your Jesus can repay from His own fulness all He takes away.”

In the past few years, its obvious with even a brief glance at my life that God has taken much.  He’s taken friends.  He’s taken people I looked to and respected.  He’s taken a sense of belonging and home.  He’s taken my health.  He’s taken much more. 

But I have the promise that He will never take His presence from me.   And knowing that, nothing else matters.  I’d rather Him take my health, security and comfort than to leave all those and take His presence.. 

That is the reason that my soul can be still.  That is the reason my weary soul can find hope.  I am just praying for grace that God will connect those dots…

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.   Trust in him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt you better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul: your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to your Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all your words and ways,
So shall He view you with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

the resurrection

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Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone but in every leaf at springtime.  Martin Luther

 

Our Savior’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.  John Locke

 

the entire plan for the future has its key in the resurrection.  Billy Graham

 

Christianity in its very essence a resurrection religion.  The concept of the resurrection lies at its heart.  If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.  John Stott

 

In the whole story of Jesus Christ, the most important event is the resurrection.  William Lyon Phelps

 

The resurrection of Christ is a fact.  BB Warfield

 

Prior to the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples were timid and fearful, even hiding when Jesus appeared to them.  Following the resurrection; however, they were all transformed into bold witnesses to what they had seen and heard,  even to the point of dying for their convictions

Had they not truly witnessed the risen Jesus they undoubtedly would have recanted of their teaching and opted for a simpler life free of suffering.  They certainly would have told the truth rather than dying for a lie.  Is it really plausible to assert that a group of scattered liars would remain loyal to one another and die for their lying in poverty and disgrace when riches and power could be obtained by their recanting?  Apart from the resurrection, is there any way to account for the transformation of Peter, a coward who denied even knowing Jesus before His crucifixion and resurrection, but afterwards became the fearless leader of the early church and was himself crucified upside down?  Mark Driscoll

 

It is impossible that the disciples could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated had not Jesus actually resurrected from the dead and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew of any other fact.  Simon Greenleaf