Reasons To Rehearse The Gospel Daily. Day 5-Transformed By Glory.

REASONS TO REHEARSE THE GOSPEL DAILY

Day 5-Transformed By Glory

The glory of God is the most powerful agent of transformation available to mankind. It is so powerful that it transforms those who merely gaze upon it. The apostle Paul gives personal testimony concerning this stunning fact. “But we all,” he says, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” 14 From Paul’s testimony I learn that if I wish to become all that God wants me to be, I must behold His glory each day.

But where do I find God’s glory to behold? Indeed, the glory of God is revealed throughout all of Creation,15 but the Bible indicates, that outside of heaven, that the glory of God in its thickest density dwells inside the gospel. It is for this reason that the gospel is described in Scripture as “the gospel of the glory of Christ” and “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.”16 Consequently, as I habitually gaze upon the glory of the Lord revealed in the gospel, I can know that actual deposits of God’s very glory are attaching themselves to my person and transforming me from one level of glory to another.17 This transformation is deep and abiding, and unfadingly displays the glory of God to others.

14-2 Corinthians 3:18. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

15-Psalm 19:1. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God…” Isaiah 6:3. “…Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.”

16-2 Corinthians 4:4. “…the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” 1 Timothy 1:11. “…the gospel of the glory of the blessed God…” (literal translation)

17-2 Corinthians 3:18- “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Reasons To Rehearse The Gospel Daily. Day 4-My Daily Protection

REASONS TO REHEARSE THE GOSPEL DAILY

Day 4-My Daily Protection

As long as I am inside the gospel, I experience all the protection I need from the powers of evil that rage against me. It is for this reason that the Bible tells me to “take up”10 and “put on”11 the whole armor of God; and the pieces of armor it tells me to put on are all merely synonyms for the gospel. Translated literally from the Greek, they are: “…the salvation…the justification…truth…the gospel of peace…the faith…[and the]…word of God.”12 What are all these expressions but various ways of describing the gospel? Therefore, if I wish to stand victorious in Jesus, I must do as the songwriter suggests and “put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer.”13

That God would tell me to “take up” and “put on” this gospel armor alerts me to the fact that I do not automatically come into each day protected by the gospel. In fact, these commands imply that I am vulnerable to defeat and injury unless I seize upon the gospel and arm myself with it from head to toe. And what better way is there to do this than to preach the gospel to myself and to make it the obsession of my heart throughout each day?

10-Ephesians 6:13. “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day…”

11-Ephesians 6. “(11) Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (12) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

12-Ephesians 6. “(14) Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (17) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

13- 2 Corinthians 3:18. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Reasons To Rehearse The Gospel Daily. Day 3-The Power Of God

REASONS TO REHEARSE THE GOSPEL DAILY

Day 3-The Power of God

Outside of heaven, the power of God in its highest density is found inside the gospel. This must be so, for the Bible twice describes the gospel as the “power of God.”7 Nothing else in all of Scripture is ever described in this way, except for the person of Jesus Christ.8 Such a description indicates that the gospel is not only powerful, but that it is the ultimate entity in which God’s power resides and does its greatest work.

Indeed, God’s power is seen in erupting volcanoes, in the unimaginably hot boil of the massive sun, and in the lightening speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 millions miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled “the power of God.” How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith 9 and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!

7-Romans 1:16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes…” 1 Corinthians 1:18. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

8-1 Corinthians 1:124. “…Christ the power of God.”

9-Hebrews 4:2. “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” Ephesians 1. “(18) I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will also know…(19)…what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”

Reasons To Rehearse The Gospel Daily. Day 2-My Daily Need.

REASONS TO REHEARSE THE GOSPEL DAILY

Day 2-My Daily Need

The gospel is so foolish 3 (according to my natural wisdom), so scandalous 4 (according to my conscience), and so incredible (according to my timid heart 5), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as it should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the devil 6 than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.

3-1 Corinthians 1. “(21) for since…the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…(23)…we preach Christ crucified,…to Gentiles foolishness.”

4-1 Corinthians 1:23. “…we preach Christ crucified…a stumbling block [Gr. skandalon]…”

5-1 John 3. “(19) We will know…that we are of the truth, and will assure our hearts before him (20) in whatever our heart condemns us…”

6-2 Corinthians 4:4. “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…”

The Gospel For 31 Straight Days

Our greatest spiritual need is the gospel.  The gospel saves us and empowers in everyday, mundane life. As I have pointed out in the past one of the books that has helped me grow in my love and appreciation of the gospel is the little book “A Gospel Primer For Christians” by Milton Vincent. Every so often I pick this book off of the bookshelf and delight again in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Based on my ongoing need for the gospel I have made a decision. Everyday for the next 31 days I am going to post an excerpt from the “Gospel Primer” to strengthen my own faith and hopefully to encourage a few brothers and sisters along the way.

REASONS TO REHEARSE THE GOSPEL

Day 1-The New Testament Model

The New Testament teaches that Christians ought to hear the gospel as much as non-Christians do. In fact, in the first chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul tells the believers in the church that he was anxious “to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome.” 1 Of course, he was anxious to preach the gospel to non-Christians at Rome, yet he specifically states that he was eager to preach it to the believers as well.

To the Corinthian Christians who had already believed and been saved by the gospel, Paul says, “I make known to you the gospel, which you have believed…”2 He then restates the historical facts of the gospel before showing them how these gospel facts apply to their beliefs about the afterlife. This is actually Paul’s approach to various other issues throughout the book of 1 Corinthians.

In most of Paul’s letters to churches, sizeable portions of them are given over to rehearsing gospel truths. For example. Ephesians 1-3 is all gospel, Colossians 1-2 is gospel, and Romans 1-11 is gospel. The remainder of such books shows specifically how to bring these gospel truths to bear on life. Re-preaching the gospel and then showing how it applied to life was Paul’s choice method for ministering to believers, thereby providing a divinely inspired pattern for me to follow when ministering to myself and to other believers.

1-Romans 1:15 “So for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to [lit. “evangelize”] you who are in Rome.

2-1 Corinthians 15. (1) Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which you stand, (2) by which you also are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (3) For I delivered to you as of first importance…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Day 2 will be “My Daily Need”

Don’t Give Good Advice, Give Good News. Part 1 (Everyday Church)

…our goal is to offer good news that brings joy. That is the test of gospel pastoring. Is it good news? Is gospel good news?

What else might it be?

everyday churchFirst, it might be positive thinking but not good news. That is the sum of a lot of modern secular counseling. “You deserve it.” “You can do it.” “Life is not against you.” It is a call to break out of negative thinking. There is something in this approach. In many ways it is the best the secular world has to offer, and often it is effective. The problem is that sometimes negative thinking is right!

I am pastoring someone at the moment who is being told by her counselor that she deserves to get better. Now, I sympathize with her because she suffers from a condition in which people punish themselves. But does she deserve to get better? She does not think so; she knows she deserves God’s judgment, but Jesus has taken the judgment she deserves, paid it in full, and given her the reward that he deserves so that now she is a child of God. She does not need to punish herself, because the punishment was paid in full at the cross. That is good news without any pretending. So we need to be careful not to offer positive thinking in place of real good news.

Second, such counsel might be good advice, but it is not good news. It is all too easy, especially with broken people, to give a stream of advice. “Maybe you should buy cheaper, nonbranded products,” “Maybe you should spend less time with that person.” Maybe you should feed your kids food with less additives.”

The problem with such advice is twofold. First, it distorts your relationship with those to whom you offer it. If you are not careful, it puts you into the role of parent. Or it portrays you as a together person so that others need to become like you. Second, it is not the gospel. At best it might lead to reform, but it will not reconcile anyone to God or change hearts.

There is a place for advice; it can be an act of love. But we need to spell out for people the nature of what we are saying, especially if we are in a position of authority within the church. We need to distinguish between advice and the gospel because they carry very different levels of authority. Advice comes with the accumulated wisdom such as it is. The gospel comes with the authority of God, and that is a very different proposition. So we need to be careful not to offer good advice in place of proclaiming good news.

Third, we can proclaim law instead of good news. You would think good evangelical, justification-by-faith people would not do this, but we do! Law says, “You should…” You should not sleep with your boyfriend; You should read your Bible everyday; You should not get drunk; You should witness to your friends; You should not lose your temper. Does any of that sound familiar? That is not good news, not to someone struggling with those issues. It is condemnation.

What the gospel says is this: “You need not…”-You need not get drunk, because Jesus offers a better refuge; You need not lose your temper, because God is in control of the situation. That is good news! Sin makes promises. The gospel exposes those promises as false promises and points to a God who is bigger and better than anything sin offers. That is good news.

Taken from Everyday Church-Gospel Communities On Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

The Pastor’s Justification (1-The Free Pastor)

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly. (1 Pet. 5:2)

the pastors justificationCHAPTER 1-THE FREE PASTOR

Becoming a pastor is not real hard. It’s being a pastor that is hard

“Becoming a minister is easy. At the very most, you will need multiple years of theological training at great financial, mental and emotional expense to you and your family, an official approval from your denomination’s ordination committee or assessment council, and a divine call from God. Piece of cake. It’s being a pastor that is harder than all get out.” (p. 24)

“Pastoral ministry is a trove of glories and deaths. It is the kind of cross taking nothing can prepare you for except just doing it. “(p.24)

I remember John Piper speaking during chapel at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He said something to the effect, “If you have thin skin, don’t go into the ministry.” I was young, I was idealistic, and  I had no real idea what he meant. (You would think I would know what it is truly like after growing up as a PK.) After 12 years of ‘full-time’ ministry I get it. This calling is simultaneously amazing and painful… “a trove of glories and deaths” is a good description.

Self-pity is not the answer

“And yet, let’s not overthink it, brothers. Let us not think more highly of ourselves that we ought. Oh, we poor pitiful pastors, we sorry lot, we put-on unprevailers! We special class, whatever will we do with ourselves? We can nail self-pity to the cross, first off.” (p.25)

Self-pity is a subtle form of pride. I don’t deserve this. All I do is serve others. Self-pity is just thinking more highly of ourselves than we should and freakin out that others don’t see us for who we are. I have dabbled in self-pity a time or two. I know what it is like.

Enter the leadership cult

So what are we pastors going to do about it? Ministry is not easy, then again it was never portrayed as easy in the pages of scripture.

“Enter the leadership cult. What we need is know-how, the publishing Powers-That-Be reason. We lack skills, practical helps, and insider tips, and they’ve got just the evangelical gurus to deliver the goods. Don’t you want to leverage your synergy and catalyze your visioneering? Don’t you want to know the seven highly effective and irrefutable laws of unlocking the mystery of who moved your cheese’s parachute? Are you a starfish or a spider? This is all the key to revealing the quality ministry hidden inside of you and to taking your church to a whole ‘nother level. Whatever that means.” (p. 27)

My interpretation of what Wilson is saying? Much of what is written today about church leadership is good for kindling; that’s about it. As leaders we do need to have a vision for the church we lead. But the vision, at the end of the day, is not too terribly complicated. Immerse everything you do in the gospel, live in deep community and commit to the mission of making disciples. If the leadership book is not pointing me deeper into the truths of the gospel I’m not interested.

Shepherd the flock that is among you

OK. So let’s say that things at the church where you pastor are not…ideal. You want to move in a missional (think Acts) direction but your church has lost sight of what it means to truly be a gospel movement. What do you do?

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly. (1 Pet. 5:2) “And let’s not miss the importance of the seemingly obvious phrase ‘that is among you’. We frequently find ourselves trying to shepherd the flock of God that we want, the one we imagine them to be, the one we want them to be. But God through Peter commands us to shepherd the church we’ve actually got. Pastor, the people you currently have in your congregation are those whom God in his wisdom has dispensed to you. They might not be the people you’d handpick if you had your druthers, but be measured by the fact that God handpicked you to be a citizen of his kingdom. What on earth was he thinking?” (p. 30)

It is natural and good for leaders in the church to desire and work towards change. In fact, many churches today do need to grow from a Sunday morning event to a gospel movement seven days a week. Change is needed. The problem is when people don’t change as fast as the leaders think they should. Imagine how frustrated we would have been leading the twelve disciples? I would have killed Peter.  Jesus was incredibly patient and loved them right where they were at. Great challenge for pastors today.

Don’t settle for successful ministry

I have agonized, literally, over what it means to be successful in ministry. I have blogged about it, discussed it with the elders in my church and with other pastors. Successful ministry can quickly become an idol that we are bowing down to if we are not careful.

“Don’t settle for the false heaven of a ‘successful ministry.’ Because real success is faithfulness. Big church or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church-all churches are epic successes full of eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’ gospel and follow him. Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom with the ability to bind and loose on both sides of the veil only to those who reached a certain attendance benchmark. So do well, pursue excellence, and stay faithful. God will give you what you ought to have according to his wisdom and riches.” (p. 37-38)

What makes a pastor truly free?

This part, I believe, is the heart of the book. Where do pastor’s go to get a sense of approval in the work that they are doing? I usually go to all the wrong places.

“Pastor, will we seek justification in our reputations? In our church’s numbers and figures? In our retweets and links? In our podcast downloads? In a book deal or speaking engagement? In our own sense in a job well done? This is sand. Or will we look up and out, away from ourselves, away from the fickle fellowship, away from Satan’s accusations and insinuations, up to the right hand of the Father, where our righteousness sits, firmly fixed eternal? There is your justification, pastor, perfect and big, bigger than you and better than you but bled and bought for you and birthed in you, yours irrevocably, sealed and guaranteed through both your successes and your failures, through the pats on your back or the knives in your back. There is your justification, there in Christ, and because in him there is no shadow of turning, you are utterly, totally, undeniably justified. Brother, you are free.” (p. 39)

I really need to start EVERYDAY reciting these gospel truths! I usually live and act as if the success of the church is riding on me. How prideful. Besides that the weight is unbearable. All too often I am looking for approval from people and outward signs of success and I forget that in Christ I am perfectly approved and loved.

“The Pastor’s Justification: Applying The Work Of Christ In Your Life And Ministry” (INTRODUCTION)

the pastors justification

My plan is to blog and discuss each chapter of Jared Wilson’s new book, “The Pastor’s Justification.” The reason that I am taking the time to do this is because it will help me to process the message of the book (a message I desperately need) and I hope it will spur you on to think about the many ways you need to apply the gospel to your own life. I am not going to attempt to outline each chapter. Instead, I am going to cherry pick the parts that stood out to me and add some color commentary to it.

INTRODUCTION (Pages 15-19)

Pastors And Insecurity

“The pastoral fraternity is an interesting one. We are a motley bunch of fools. Different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations and traditions and, of course, theologies. But there is something both lay elders and career elders have in common, something I’ve seen in the the thirty-year senior pastor of a southern megachurch as well as the bivocational shepherd of a little, rural parish, the laid-back fauxhawked church planter and the fancy mousse-haired charismatic, and in nearly every pastor in between: a profound sense of insecurity for which the gospel is the only antidote.” (p. 17)

I knew after reading this section that I would like the book and was going to be deeply challenged by it. I have spent many hours talking with other pastors and insecurity is definitely something we all deal with. Culture is changing so fast, conferences and books are nonstop, fewer and fewer people are interested in organized religion, seminary did not equip us like we thought it would, and the list goes on and on. There are many days we just don’t feel up to the challenge. So what do I need?

“The right response…of this wearying battlefield is not timidity or a pity party, but clinging more desperately to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The justification for the sin-prone pastor-by which I mean simply the pastor-is the same it is for every sinner. There is no Justification 2.0 for ministers of the gospel. There is only the gospel itself-the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fusing this reality-the reality of eternal life-to the ordinary life of pastoral ministry is what this book is all about.” (p. 19)

Next up is Part 1-The Pastor’s Heart and Chapter 1, The Free Pastor.

“Getting To The Heart of Parenting” by Paul Tripp

Gettingtotheheartofparenting

Paul Tripp did a live seminar called “Getting to the Heart of Parenting” and had it recorded (video). It is now available to purchase. I can honestly say it is some of the best teaching I have ever heard when it comes to connecting the gospel with everyday parenting. Tripp goes beyond tweaking the behavior of our children and instead goes to the heart of the issue with heavy doses of the gospel. I definitely recommend this if you are looking for a resource for your Small Group or Adult Bible Fellowship. Excellent stuff!

Book Review: “Difference Makers: An Action Guide For Jesus Followers” by Scott Boren

photo“Difference Makers” by Scott Boren is a book written to encourage and challenge followers of Jesus Christ to make a difference for the kingdom of God in everyday, ordinary life. The book is written so that the reader can focus on one chapter per day. After you have done your reading you are encouraged to spend time prayerfully considering what God is saying to you through his Word.  Here are a few themes of the book that stood out to me:

Making a difference in everyday life: “Most difference makers have more in common with George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) than the heroes of the Avengers. They are ordinary people who make real differences in the small stuff of life, through the unseen actions that don’t appear significant and most often go unnoticed. They connect with neighbors and meet little needs. They befriend a homeless person and allow him to shower in their home from time to time. They tutor a child who needs extra help. However, the superhero trap invades our thinking. We assume that we have to do something big and noticeable to fix the world in order to make a difference. The call of the hero is the call to stand alone, to stand above the crowd, and to depend on one’s own resources to change what’s wrong. I always assumed that the real difference makers came in the form of preachers, foreign missionaries, and those who moved into the inner city to work with the impoverished. While I see no problem with taking on public roles that result in high-profile influence, we need to break the hero mentality and look at the ways God works in the world.” P.26-27

Emphasis on community: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). The ‘you’ in this sentence is plural. It is not talking about ‘you’ as an individual. It is about who you are as part of a new nationality, a new citizenship, a new way of living. We are chosen to be part of this people, who are priests to the world together…Difference makers are part of a difference-making society. If you want to serve people at a homeless shelter, then go with a friend or go as a small group. If you want to mentor a child at a local elementary school, find someone with a similar longing and go together. If you want to invest in a family in need, then work with a few other people. Don’t think about what you can do. Think about what God wants to do through a group of his people.” P. 62, 64

Importance of prayer: “God fights for us in ways we can’t, don’t, or won’t. Making a difference is rooted in the action of God, who never stops coming against the lies we so easily believe. The mission of God’s people is to put themselves on the line between the revelation of God’s love and those in need of that love. We put ourselves in this place through prayer. We see the war for what it is. We know that we cannot make things right without tapping into what we cannot see. For a neighbor experiencing domestic violence, we pray. For a co-worker who’s angry with God, we pray. For a family down the street who cannot afford to feed their kids, we pray. We pray not as an alternative to doing something, we pray so that we might have the power to step in with more than good ideas or what we think they need. We pray so that we might act in God’s power and make a difference beyond logical answers.” P. 139-140

Another great quote about prayer is found on page 120, “Prayer opens the door for entry into mission.” What a great reminder for all of us who want to get out there and start making things happen. We need to patiently wait upon the Lord so that we are operating in the power of the Spirit.

Challenging the consumer mentality: “No church is perfect, but that’s not the point. We often miss out on what God is doing through the church because we expect it to be exciting and stimulating. We expect it to meet our needs, and then we go about our normal lives. Of course, that is the pattern of our culture. We participate in very little that fails to meet our needs or entertain us. It is impossible not to carry this mentality into the church. We consume church. Unless we confront this life of consumption, we will never grow up to practice a life that makes a difference. We will move from place to place and fail to stay put long enough with a specific group of people in a specific place to be a specific colony of heaven. Making a difference requires a mentality of investment, not one of consumption. As long as we consume church-in whatever our preferred form-we will miss out on the experience of being God’s colony in a country of death. Being part of a church requires us to stay put, to contribute, to work through difficulties, and to love others even when it would be easier to leave.”

A gospel focus: I am undeniably a gospel junky. Which means I immediately want to know if the author of any Christian book is keeping the gospel central to everything they write. Without the gospel we end up with good advice, no power when it comes to spiritual transformation.  So I was happy to notice that Chapters 22-28 are really all about abiding in Jesus Christ, not merely as an individual, but as a community of believers. The emphasis on the gospel is critical because the idea of sending people out to live as difference makers without abiding in Jesus is a frightening thought.

A good and challenging book that really functions as a devotional that you would read everyday and pray over. I recommend it!