The Main Thing

Rush Witt, in his book, Diehard Sins writes:

The gospel is the greatest reality in all the world, and it must become the greatest reality in the small personal worlds that we live in every day. Every heart that will be freed from sin is a heart that must first become overwhelmed by the life-transforming message of the cross. And our sense of awe over Christ and His good news must never fade from view.

The truth is that no one “gets” the gospel. None of us can corner it. We will never master the good news as though we could exhaust its power and move on to something better. The gospel must master us, as we continually explore its endless caverns of redeeming grace and truth. We should be careful, then, to avoid the trap that has ensnared many unsuspecting Christians. It is a serious error to believe that the Christian life must be undergirded by a more fanciful principle than the old-time message of the cross, such as man-made self-help principles or the “secret tricks” said to be hidden in modern psychologies…We must keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is the gospel. Are you being mastered daily by the good news of Jesus? (pg. 113)

As we often say at Redeemer, we never outgrow the gospel!

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Working for the King

During the sermon on Sunday, I mentioned a helpful principle from Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert’s book, The Gospel At Work. They say:

Who you work for is more important than what you do. (pg. 14)

This is the memorable and helpful truth I mentioned on Sunday. I wanted to take time here to provide more insight from their book.  They write:

You work for Jesus. That fact is the most important thing you can know and remember about your work. It’s much more important than the job itself, regardless of whether you’re a homemaker, a banker, a political staffer, a construction worker, a barista, or a corporate executive. No matter what you are doing you are doing it to glorify Jesus.

If you keep that one big idea in mind, it will change the way you think about your work and engage in your work. Why? Because when glorifying Jesus is our primary motivation, our work—regardless of what that work is in its particulars—becomes an act of worship. We are freed completely from thinking that our work is without meaning and purpose, and we are equally freed from thinking our work hold some ultimate meaning. (pg. 15, emphasis original)

That last sentence helps us understand why this truth of working for the King keeps us from two common pitfalls they emphasize.

First Pitfall: Being idle in our work. (pg. 16)

Second Pitfall: Making our work an idol. (pg. 16)

Working for the King motivates you to work diligently instead of being lazy. At the same time, this principle keeps you from worshiping your work because everything you do is for Christ’s glory.

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Worship Fuels Evangelism

Yes, I’m doing back-to-back posts from Elliot Clark’s book, Evangelism as Exiles. I shared this in the sermon on Sunday and I think it’s worthy of sharing again here. 1 Peter 2:9 says;

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Speaking of our call as Christians to “proclaim the excellencies” of God, Clark wrote:

We’re called to declare God’s praises to the world. So if we’re not faithfully proclaiming the gospel to those around us, it’s owing to the fact we’re not overflowing in praise to God. If evangelism doesn’t exist, it’s because worship doesn’t. (pg. 103)

Think on that last line for a moment. We love to tell others of the things we delight in. We will talk about our kids, hobbies, jobs, a good meal, and on we could go. Clark is saying if we aren’t sharing the Gospel, it’s because we aren’t delighting in the Gospel. He then continues:

While we demonstrate an incredible ability to proclaim the glories of endless earthly trivialities, we somehow stutter and stammer at the opportunity to speak with others about our heavenly hope. So it’s obvious our gospel silence isn’t because our mouths are broken; it’s because our hearts are. Because if we worshiped God as we should, our neighbors, coworkers, and friends would be the first to hear about it. (pg. 103)

These are strong words we would all do well to consider. Ask the Lord to stir your heart in worship as you reflect on the beauty of the Gospel. Start by meditating on the Gospel riches proclaimed in 1 Peter 1:3-5, 2:9-10.

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Appropriate Fear and Evangelism

This week I’ve been reading a new book by Elliot Clark entitled, Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers In Our Own Land. Clark is looking at how the letter of 1 Peter instructs Christians today as Exiles called to witness to Christ. I’m reading the book because we are currently studying 1 Peter. However, I wish I could have read it before my sermon on Acts 17:16-34 this past Sunday.

In one section of the book, Clark talks about how coming judgment should motivate our evangelism. His words compliment well Paul’s approach with the Athenians in Acts 17. Paul tells them that God created them, that they are accountable to Him as their creator, and that He will judge them at an appointed time in the future. In light of this coming judgement Paul calls them to repent. Paul is compelled by this reality to proclaim the Gospel.

Listen as Clark tell us how this reality motivates evangelism:

…the gospel must be proclaimed, because all will give an account to One who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5-6).

Have we really taken into account the end and outcome for our friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers? Is our failure to evangelize really an issue of fearing too much, or not fearing nearly enough? Do we cherish our comfort and others’ respect more than we cherish God’s glory and their deliverance? Will we love them enough to fear for them, to show them mercy and kindness by warning them and snatching them out of the fire? The consistent testimony of the New Testament is that if we have the appropriate fear for them and of God, we’ll preach the gospel. We’ll speak out and not be ashamed. (pg. 58, emphasis original)

He later wrote:

When we observe that our problem in evangelism is fearing others too much, we should note the form such fear takes. We typically aren’t running from people in terror…Rather, fearing others more than God usually demonstrates itself in trying to please them more than God. (pg. 59)

He concludes:

Christians who try to please people ultimately fail at pleasing God and fail at proclaiming his gospel. And far too often this is the problem in our evangelistic endeavors: We’re fundamentally committed to keeping people happy and having them like us, having them think we’re smart, contemporary, hip, tolerant, progressive, fun, approving—and the list goes on. We want to please them; and we want them to approve of us. (pgs. 59-60)

May the Lord give us a reverent fear of Him and a sincere love for others. When this happens, we will be motivated to proclaim the Gospel for God’s glory and their good.

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Growing Up In Christ

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3

On Sunday, I offered a quote from Ed Clowney on these two verses from 1 Peter. I wanted to provide the fuller quote because I find his words to be as beautiful as they are helpful. He wrote:

The goal of our growth is salvation, the full salvation in Christ that the gospel proclaims, and for which we are kept (1 Pet. 1:5). Again we see the alpha and omega of our hope. Peter writes to those who have already been given new birth by the word, who have already come to the Lord and tasted that he is good. Theirs is a sure hope, for their inheritance is kept for them and they are kept for it. Yet their hope is also future; they do not merely wait for it, they grow toward it, like flowers toward the sun. Faith is purified, love is intensified, grace is tasted as we are tested. (The Message of 1 Peter, pg. 80, emphasis mine)

In some of my reading the past few days, I was reminded of some words from Martin Luther that compliment well Clowney’s words. Luther said:

We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is the road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified. (quoted in Diehard Sins, pg. 66)

These words describe well the Christian life as we, by God’s grace, grow in holiness…as we grow up into what He has declared us in justification, righteous. As we press on, remember our hope:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6

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The Christian and Artificial Intelligence

Today the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) released a statement entitled, Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles. As the technology of Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to develop and progress, a whole host of ethical questions and considerations will arise as well. As is often the case when there is rapid advance, we are already behind in asking these questions and thinking hard on this subject.

The preamble to the statement from the ERLC states why it’s vital for us as Christians to think well on the issue of AI. It reads:

As followers of Christ, we are called to engage the world around us with the unchanging gospel message of hope and reconciliation. Tools like technology are able to aid us in this pursuit. We know they can also be designed and used in ways that dishonor God and devalue our fellow image-bearers. Evangelical Christians hold fast to the inerrant and infallible Word of God, which states that every human being is made in God’s image and thus has infinite value and worth in the eyes of their Creator. This message dictates how we view God, ourselves, and the tools that God has given us the ability to create.

In light of existential questions posed anew by the emergent technology of artificial intelligence (AI), we affirm that God has given us wisdom to approach these issues in light of Scripture and the gospel message. Christians must not fear the future or any technological development because we know that God is, above all, sovereign over history, and that nothing will ever supplant the image of God in which human beings are created. We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecendented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care.

Give special attention to the call of these final words of the preamble:

We desire to equip the church to proactively engage the field of AI, rather than responding to these issues after they have already affected our communities. In light of this desire and hope, we offer the following affirmations and denials about the nature of humanity, the promise of technology, and the hope for the future. (emphasis mine)

Yes, we must proactively engage now instead of being reactive later. I would encourage you to read the whole of the statement’s affirmations and denials as a launching pad to thinking through this issue biblically.

I began reading on AI about this time last year. I have to admit, I was concerned, if not troubled, by some of the predictions thinkers in the field were (are) making. Yet, as the statement above makes clear, my comfort was (is) the fact of God’s sovereignty over all things, including AI. Several weeks ago, I came across a lecture hosted by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in which Professor John Lennox discussed AI. I was very much encouraged by Dr. Lennox’s ability to show how the hope some people place in AI can only be found in Christ. Here is the video for those who are interested (note: AI is a broad field and here Dr. Lennox addresses some specific areas of the field. Just be aware that AI is broader than what is addressed here.).

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Jesus is King

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’” -Mark 8:34-35

In their book, Compassion without Compromise, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau, commenting on these verses say the following about discipleship.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, there were many people in the crowd…But membership in the crowd didn’t make them disciples. Jesus clearly taught them and us what it means to move from being in the crowd to becoming a disciple.

At the heart of discipleship is a self-denying submission to Jesus as Lord. Jesus describes a disciple as someone who has ‘taken up his cross.’ In the Roman world, only condemned criminals carried crosses…they were on one path—to the place of execution. (pgs. 64-65, emphasis original)

They continued:

The road to true life will sometimes feel like death. Disciples must be willing to say no to desires that seem undeniable and irresistible. We must say no to deep longings that seem to define who we are. (pg. 65, emphasis original)

Listen closely:

Every person who steps out of the crowd to follow Jesus must tread this cruciform path, denying self in obedience to the Savior. (pg. 65)

Jesus is King! Where does He make His Will known to us?

Scripture is really the revelation of our King’s will. It is the perfect, inspired decree of the man from Nazareth who ate with sinners, healed centurions’ servants, and told us that anyone was welcome to come follow him. There is only one condition: He gets to be King. We cannot call Jesus Lord if we ignore his Word. (pgs. 65-66, emphasis original)

Jesus is the King who came and died for His enemies. Through His life, death, resurrection, and soon return, He has defeated sin and death and leads His people into an everlasting life of true flourishing. This is a King we can trust and follow denying ourselves as we walk the cruciform path. Our King goes before us and we know the outcome…the cross leads to life.

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Intro to 1 Peter

This Sunday we will start our study through the book of 1 Peter. Please join me in praying for fruit in the life of our church as we study God’s Word together. As we prepare to begin, here is a helpful introduction to the book:

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Amazing Grace

Christian, are you still amazed by God’s grace? In his book, Knowing God, J.I. Packer asked:

What is it that hinders so many who profess to believe in grace from really doing so? Why does the theme mean so little even to some who talk about it a great deal? The root of the trouble seems to be misbelief about the basic relationship between a person and God…” (pg. 129, emphasis mine)

What is the nature of this misbelief? Packer answered:

(People) imagine God as a magnified image of themselves and assume that God shares his own complacency about himself. The thought of themselves as creatures fallen from God’s image, rebels against God’s rule, guilty and unclean in God’s sight, fit only for God’s condemnation, never enters their heads. (pg. 130)

Once we understand our relationship to God as guilty sinful rebels who deserve only His just judgment, then we begin to see the beauty of His grace. He wrote:

Grace is free, in the sense of being self-originated and of proceeding from One who was free not to be gracious. (pg. 132)

Yes, grace is free because the Lord does not have to offer it. He continued:

The grace of God is love freely shown toward guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity and had no reason to expect anything but severity. (pg. 132)

Don’t miss that, not only did we not merit, but we have demerited in our sin and rebellion. Understanding this leads us to be truly amazed by God’s grace. Dr. Packer shows us how:

It is surely clear that, once a person is convinced that his state and need are as described, the New Testament gospel of grace cannot but sweep him off his feet with wonder and joy. For it tells how our Judge has become our Savior. (pg. 132, emphasis mine)

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” -1 John 4:10

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Heaven’s Love Displayed

We long for, pray for, and strive for a gospel culture at Redeemer. You can simply search “gospel culture” on this blog and see a number of posts conveying what we mean when we say gospel culture. In his booklet, Understanding the Great Commission, Mark Dever gives a quick glimpse of a facet of gospel culture when he writes:

So much does Jesus love the church that he means to identify it with himself. Among other things, this means that our love for one another in the church should look like his love. “I give you a new command,” said Jesus, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). The church is to demonstrate heaven’s own love. Such one-another love is a distinctive of Christ’s disciples. By it the nations will know that we belong to him.

But it’s not just other Christians that we should love. We demonstrate God’s love for the world in our love for outsiders too. Jesus connects loving one’s neighbor with loving God. “Which command is the most important of all?” asked the scribe. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourselves” (Mark 12:28-31). The claim to love God brings a necessary horizontal element.

Now don’t miss what Dever says next:

You can have wonderfully rich quiet times, but if that doesn’t translate into how you treat other people, something is wrong. The normal, natural way for Christians to express our love to God is not merely in singing hymns to him, though that is wonderful. It is also giving ourselves in love to others.

Churches should be centers for such loving activity. It’s where heaven’s love shows up, first in the pronouncement of Christ’s love for us in the gospel, and second in our love for insiders and outsiders alike. (pg. 13, emphasis mine)

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