I’m Not Ashamed.

This past Sunday our congregation heard from Romans 1:16-17 during our morning worship. These two short verses contain Paul’s justification for his conviction that the gospel must be believed and proclaimed throughout the world. The gospel is the dynamic, saving power of God for all who believe in Jesus. Its power is found in its revelation of the righteousness of God.

Paul was, therefore, not ashamed of the gospel. He was proud of it. He lived by it. He proclaimed it to the world. He devoted his life to it.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the followers of Jesus had the same pride in the gospel? The Church would be empowered, and the world would be changed for the glory of Christ.   Marriages would be strengthened, parents would rear their children in godly homes, people’s finances would reflect godly priorities, business owners would treat their employees with grace, employees would work hard as working for the glory of Christ, politicians would exhibit godly character and make appropriate decisions, the poor and hurting would have their spiritual and physical needs met, and missionaries would be sent around the globe. Men, women and children would live their lives boldly with Christ as their goal and his Word as their guide. They would seek his glory and the good of those around them. It would be awesome in the truest sense of the word.

But, sadly, we know the reality. We struggle with fear. We have doubts. We cower in the face of opposition. We fall to the temptation to be ashamed to build our lives on the gospel story — a story about a man who claimed to be God, lived 2000 years ago, died on a cross and then rose from the dead, a story that the non-believing world labels a fairy tale.

Paul faced the same temptation. John Stott, following the lead of the Scottish pastor, James Stewart, argued that Paul would have never boldly asserted that he was unashamed of the gospel had he never been tempted to be ashamed of it (Stott, Romans, 60). Boldness and pride are relative words that find their fullest meaning in the context of fear and shame. So, when Paul emphatically stated, “I am not ashamed of the gospel…”, he meant that he had learned to overcome the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel through the power of the risen Christ living in him in the person of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel is fanciful unless your eyes have been opened to it by the Spirit of God and your heart has been touched by his transforming grace in Christ. But, when that happens, you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the story is true. It is absolutely true. You, then, willingly build your life on it because it is the power of God. You proclaim it because it reveals the righteousness of God, not only to your soul, but to the world around you. And, you love it because it tells you about Jesus who is your only hope in this life and in the life to come.

May we be like Paul who learned through his experience of the power of God in his life to overcome the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel and strove to live a bold Christian life and to proclaim Christ daily. And, may our confession be that which he wrote to Timothy, “But I am not ashamed, for I know I whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2Timothy 1:12).

5 Helpful Practices for Sharing Jesus with Our Friends

We all have friends and family members that aren’t involved in a church. Some may be members of a church, but they aren’t by any means active. Others currently aren’t members of any church and probably have never been members of a church. We love them, and, like Paul, we feel obligated to share Jesus with them (Rom. 1:15). But we wonder how to do it effectively.

I offer you the following five helpful practices for sharing Jesus with your friends. May the Lord bless you with a rich harvest among your friends and family for his glory.

  1. Know the Gospel Story. By definition, the gospel is news to be told, and it can’t be told effectively if the one telling it doesn’t know it fully. We must make sure that we understand the Who, the Why, and the How of the gospel. The Who is Jesus. The gospel is about him; it is his story. The Why is our sin and his love. We have sinned; therefore, we have a broken relationship with God. But, he loves us so much that he wants to restore our relationship with him. So, he sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and die a perfect death in our place. His life, death and resurrection gives us the forgiveness of sin, a restored relationship with him, and new life in him. The How is faith in Jesus. How does this forgiveness and new life in Jesus become ours personally? Through faith in Jesus. The gospel is simple, but we’ve got to know it in order to share it.
  2. Pray for God to Open their eyes to his Truth. Our friends are naturally blind to the truth of God (2 Cor. 4:3-4). They do not instictually recognize that Jesus is the answer to their problems and the Lord to whom they should be giving their worship. While they may be aware of their brokenness, they aren’t aware of that Jesus is their only hope for a Savior. God must open their eyes to the truth about Jesus. Because this is the case, we can’t hope to see our friends come to faith in Jesus if we aren’t praying for them. Blind eyes are only opened by the Holy Spirit, and he is moved to open those eyes by the prayers of his people. Prayer is often the last place we turn, but it should be the first.
  3. Speak the truth of Christ to them regardless of the direction in which the cultrual winds blow. The gospel is not always culturally cool or socially acceptable. It is, however, the “power of God for salvation to everyone who beleives” (Rom. 1:16). If we want to see our friends be saved in Christ, then we have to speak the truth to them regardless of whether or not it is the cool or acceptable thing to do. We are often tempted to be ashamed of the gospel and to be afraid of rejection from our friends on the basis of the gospel. We have to overcome those temptations and fears. We must be courageous as we proclaim the truth of Christ winsomely and patiently to our friends.
  4. Serve them as you serve Jesus. We are vessels of God to be used for his glory. We have been entrusted with the gospel by Jesus, and we are obligated to live it out and proclaim it to our friends. Therefore, we must be willing to serve our friends as we serve Christ in hopes of winning them to Jesus. Our priorities must shift from a focus on ourselves and our lives to a focus on them and their lives. We must support them, encourage them, meet their needs and spend time with them. An old timer once told me when my daughter was born that you “spell love with TIME.” We must demonstrate our love for our friends by spending time with them.
  5. Invite them to Church. Jesus promises to be found when and where his people gather for worship. One of the best and non-confrontational ways to share Jesus with our friends is to invite them to church. There they can interact with other Christians, make new friends and encounter the living God who is always present when his people are gathered for fellowship and worship.

Why We Love the Apostles’ Creed

imagesDuring our recital of the Apostles’ Creed in Sunday’s worship service, I heard a young woman’s distinguished voice over the rest of the congregation. I thought to myself, “Man, she really believes this creed.” When I spoke to her after the service, I said, “I love the conviction and passion in your voice when you say the Creed. I heard you above everyone else.” Her response was golden; she said, “I love the Creed. I love to say it! It means so much to me.”

I’m with her. I love the Creed. And, I love to join along with my fellow worshippers saying it each week. The Creed holds a special place in my heart, and the hearts of many others, because it ties us together as the people of God and reminds us of the faith that is ours in Christ Jesus. I remember how, as a child, reciting the Creed Sunday after Sunday with men and women, young and old, was an encouragement to my faith. These brothers and sisters – fathers and mothers – shared the faith that I had in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a great reminder that we are the family of God and equals in Christ!

The Creed also helps remind us each week of just what it is that we believe as orthodox Christians. It is a basic summary of the things – things like: God is Trinity; Jesus is fully divine and fully human; the resurrection from the dead; the forgiveness of sins – that every Christian should believe. In addition, the Creed enables us to proclaim to visitors what we believe as a congregation. Chester ARP Church is an Apostles’ Creed congregation.

I pray you love the Creed too. May the Lord bless you and keep you in his grace.

In Christ,
Clint

Give Thanks in Everything — Thanksgiving 2014

give thanks printI haven’t written in a while, but since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I thought I would write a brief piece on the importance of “giving thanks in all circumstances.” The majority of this piece originally appeared our congregation’s November 2014 newsletter.

It won’t be long until we are sitting around a table with our family and friends eating our fill of turkey and pie, swapping stories, and enjoying the company of others. And, we’ll be thankful — thankful for all kinds of things, for the blessings we experience, for everything in our lives.

It’s easy to be thankful for those good things in life, isn’t it? It’s easy to be thankful for the smell of children’s freshly washed hair, for the beauty of the fall foliage, for the love of family and friends, for the memories of loved ones who’ve gone to their heavenly home, and for the many other blessings we experience each and every day. But, it’s not so easy to be thankful for the difficult things, the sad things, the challenging things.

Paul says, though, that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances,” for it is the “will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). That’s a pretty powerful and convicting statement! It is the will of God for us to be thankful in all circumstances — good and bad. Why is this so? The answer is simple. First, giving thanks is a recognition that our God is a good God regardless of whether or not we consider certain circumstances and things in our lives to be a burden or a blessing. And second, giving thanks expresses our unwavering trust in Him and his perfect plan for all things to bring about his glory and our good. His glory and our good is not dependent upon our understanding, but on his goodness.

So, let me encourage you to fulfill the will of God by being thankful for all a things this Thanksgiving season. Be thankful for all the usual good things — faith, family, God’s word, and creation. But also, be thankful for the difficult things in life — daily problems, sufferings, and inadequacies. It is these difficult things that remind us of our need for a Savior and of our dependence upon him.

The Bible Is Mankind’s Book

I recently read an essay by B.B. Warfield, a 19th century Princeton theologian, in which he made the claim that Christianity is the chief among the world’s religions. The reason for this, he said, was that Christianity has the Bible – “the book of the ancient world, the book of the Middle Ages, and…the book of these new days of ours.” He further wrote that the Bible is “mankind’s book. Other books may belong the a people, an age, a stage of human development: this book (the Bible) belongs to all peoples, all ages and all stages of growth, whether of the individual or of the race – unifying them all and welding them into one vitalized and vitalizing whole.”

Now, I know this is not the most popular claim in today’s society, which celebrates religious pluralism, a relativistic view of truth, and the ever-changing value system of tolerance. But, think about it for a minute. Where else can you find the answers to life’s big questions – Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? What is wrong with the world? How does the world get fixed? And, what will ultimately happen to me when I die? – answered in a succinct and hope-filled way? Nowhere. And, what other religious book has the rich, storied, and reliable history of the Bible? None. The Bible we have today is the same as the one that the Jews read before Jesus’ birth, the same as the one Jesus read, and the same as the one that Christians have read throughout history. It has, therefore, shaped the lives of countless men, women, congregations and societies. No other “holy” book can make that claim. The Bible is the book of books.

As Christians, we posses the word of God in the Bible, and I want to encourage you to take full advantage of it. It is the story of God. It is your story. Therefore, read, study, learn, memorize, and thank God for it. May God bless you as he instills his truth in your heart and draws you closer to him as you read and study the book of books.

 

The NT365 Experiment: Romans 9-10

After a week away and reading through some difficult texts, I’m glad to be back writing. I must say, though, that the text is no less difficult. For me, Romans 9-11 are perhaps the three hardest collection of chapters to understand in the whole Bible. They just don’t sit well with me intellectually, emotionally, or pastorally. They’re hard. But, they’re exceedingly important because (if I understand Paul right, and that’s a big if) God’s faithful fulfillment of his promises to the Gentiles rests on his faithful fulfillment of his promises to Israel.

The ESV Study Bible comments in its explanatory notes on 9:1-11:36,

“Paul has made it clear that God’s saving promises have been fulfilled for the Gentiles. Indeed, the church of Jesus Christ now enjoys the spiritual blessings promised to Israel: the gift of the Spirit (8:9); adoption as God’s children (8:14-17); future glory (8:17,30); election (8:33); and the promise of never being severed from God’s love (8:35-39). Paul now asks in chs. 9-11 whether the promise of God made to ethnic Israel will be fulfilled. If his promises to the Jews remain unfulfilled, how can Gentile Christians be sure that he will fulfill the great promises that conclude ch. 8?”

So, our hope in the salvation of God provides in the gospel through faith rests upon God’s faithfulness to fulfill ALL of his promises, not just those to he made to the Gentiles . He is a great and faithful God who will fulfill all his promises of salvation, and he will fulfill them in the same way — through the finished work of Christ, gospel proclamation, and a faithful response to his grace. Notice the following three sets of verses.

  1. The finished work of Christ and his righteousness — “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their (Jews) own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:3-4)
  2. Gospel Proclamation — “How are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?…So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17)
  3. Faithful response to his grace — “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13).

May the Lord bless you as you read (and reread) Romans 9-10. Its tough, but it’s good. Don’t lose heart.

 

 

The NT365 Experiment: Romans 3

What is there to say about Romans 3 that Paul has not already said? I could attempt to explain the chapter in 500-600 words, or I could simply quote the most glorious passage of all Paul’s Epistles and let him speak for himself. I think that’s what I’ll do.

Romans 3:21-31 (ESV)

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

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

Now, What do I do? 

  1. I respond to Jesus in faith. I am justified (made right before God) by grace through faith. So are you.
  2. I celebrate the finished work of Jesus and his cross. I celebrate that he has atoned for me with his blood. He has done so for you too. You should celebrate with me!
  3. I worship a God who is both the just and the justifier of my life as I come to him in faith. That’s an amazing truth. God is just. He also make you just. And, in doing so does not contradict himself. Worship him with me.