Last blog, we saw that a gospel community needs to be built around what the objective truth of the word. But some might warn that this can be very dry–dry teaching and lecture with little emotion or involvement of the heart. It may even be legalistic–always stressing how we need to live as Christians. But being centered on the Word doesn’t need to be that way, nor is it supposed to be that way. In their book, Total Church, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis write: “Bible study and theology that do not lead to love for God and a desire to do his will–to worship, tears, laughter, excitement, or sorrow–have gone terribly wrong. True theology leads to love, mission and doxology (worship)…We should not expect an adrenaline rush every time we study God’s word…but when we study God’s word we should pray that the Spirit of God will not only inform our heads, but inspire our hearts.” (from Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis)
At New Hope, we have come to believe (along with many others before us) that the key to grasping the Scripture in our heads, and being inspired in our hearts, is to see that the gospel is both the central focus in Scripture and the key to how we change (our sanctification).
First, the gospel is the central focus in Scripture: It has been said that the Scripture is really a story–the story of redemption, or how God saves his people. And if this is right, then the hero of the story is Jesus, and everything leads up to his coming, dying, and being raised victorious after completing his quest to save a great multitude. When Jesus walked along the road to Emmaus after his crucifixion and resurrection, he hid his identity from two disciples and allowed then to express their confusion about all that had happened. Jesus then rebuked them saying, ‘”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ (Luke 24:25-27) Jesus himself makes clear that all the Scripture is about him, and his gospel work.
So everything points to him. As early as Genesis, the Scripture points to him when God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,and you shall bruise his heel.” What this prophecy means is that one day, the devil would inspire Pilate and Herod and others to crucify Jesus (you shall bruise his (Jesus’) heel). But it also means that Jesus would deal a death blow to Satan (he (Jesus) shall bruise your head). Amazing! The victory-through-death of Jesus predicted centuries before, and fulfilled in the pages of Scripture. Pastor Tim Keller is well known for pointing out that Jesus is the not only the fulfillment of the prophecies, but also the true and greater fulfillment of many biblical characters as well. For example, Jesus is the true and greater Moses, who lead his people not just out of bondage to human masters, but out of bondage to sin and death itself; he is the true and greater Solomon, who not just built the Temple, but is the Temple; he is the true and greater David, who represents his people and kills the giants of sin, guilt, and death, and so on. It all points to him, and his gospel work.
So he is the key to understanding every passage. When we read, we ought to ask, where does this fit in the great story of redemption? How is God revealing the gospel? How does it point us to Jesus?
These days, most people “check out” a church by “checking out” its website. If that’s you, or maybe you’ve been attending New Hope and and are asking what’s really important to us, we’d need begin with the WORD. Consider with me for a moment, the centrality of the Word in the life of a gospel community, or church. Because without the Word, we won’t know who we are (sinners), we won’t know what the gospel is, and we won’t know what our calling, or mission is. The Bible itself is clear about the central, authoritative, life-giving and life-sustaining role of the Word in a gospel community. Paul says that it is through the words of Scripture that we receive salvation: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Peter adds that it is through the Word that the new life we have in Christ is nourished, as the Spirit gives us understanding: “…long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you might grow up into salvation–” (I Peter 2:2). In John 17, Jesus teaches us that he gives us eternal life, and that eternal life means knowing the only true God. But how is it that we know the only true God? It is through the Word: “I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (John 17:3,8). Not only is the Word the means of giving and sustaining spiritual life. It also defines the authority of God’s servants who teach and preach. Their authority is both derived from the Word and limited by the Word. In other words, they have authority to pronounce and make clear what the Word says, to make clear the authority of the Word and to enforce the authority of the Word. On the other hand, their authority is not to exceed this, or to be based on the force of their personality or charisma. Pastors who forget this tend to use and abuse the church as if it belonged to them, when in fact it is the bride of Jesus!
Maybe this sounds basic, but it seems increasingly forgotten in many circles. To be specific, see if you have experienced these kinds of neglect or abuse of the Word.
The Word as inerrant, but not sufficient–In other words, we say the Word is truth, but when it comes to teaching, we resort to other things. For example, one popular television preacher has his congregation hold up their Bibles and say, “This is my Bible, etc.” and then puts it down and proceeds to talk about everything else but the Word. No. We need to study the text, and draw our nourishment from it, not the happy thoughts of a mere man.
The Word as pretext to say whatever I want–A variation of the above, but here, the verse is quoted and then made to say whatever the preacher wants to say. No. We are to humbly sit under the Word and learn what God says through it, not just hear it say what someone, however charismatic, wants it to say.
The Word as whatever it means to you–Here, it’s not what the preacher injecting his thoughts into Scripture–Here it is you who is encouraged to see whatever you want in the text. “What does this say to you?” we are asked. No. We need to ask, “What does God mean to say through this text?” Then we can ask what it means to us in our situation.
Experience, not Word as central--In this variation, we are encouraged to experience God apart from the Word. But experience apart from truth is dangerous. The experience we say is “of god” might not be from God at all. For example, a married man might say to his mistress “I feel God has brought us together.” He might feel that. But the Word says, “No, that is wrong. Go back to your wife.” So his feeling of what God wants is self-deceiving and altogether wrong. The same thing can happen when a church as a whole majors in experiences that are not rooted in the Word. We should experience God–joy, wonder, reverence, ecstasy, yes, we should. But it must be experience that springs from the truth of the Word and which is in line with the Word.
If we avoid this minefield of abuses, and stick with respecting the Word as the Word, we will see, over time, the benefits of spiritual health, depth, strength, and vitality!
How to lead sinners to the Savior.
“If you are eager for real joy, such as you may think over and sleep upon, I am persuaded that no joy of growing wealthy, no joy of increasing knowledge, no joy of influence over your fellow-creatures, no joy of any sort, can ever be compared with the rapture of saving a soul from death, and helping to restore our lost brethren to our great Father’s house.”
I just finished reading a short, very old book called “The Soul-Winner.” It is a compilation of talks that preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon gave during the late 1800s to preachers-to-be, Sunday school teachers, street preachers, and church congregants at prayer meetings. I recommend this text to all the faithful that long to participate in the great privilege of bringing the lost sheep of God into the fold of Christ.
First, Spurgeon rightly attributes the saving-work wholly to the power of Our Almighty God, and then proceeds to address the common characteristics of the preacher, the sermons, the prayers, and the lifestyle of those whom God uses to accomplish His redeeming.
Spurgeon speaks on many aspects of the “soul-winning” process including:
- What it is to Win a Soul,
- Qualifications of a Soul-Winner
- Sermons likely to Win Souls,
- Obstacles to Soul-Winning,
- How to Induce our People to Win Souls, and,
- The Cost and Reward of being a Soul-Winner.
What I found most encouraging from this book was Spurgeon’s analysis of the Sermons likely to Win Souls. Spurgeon said, “In order that you may impress the Word upon those to whom you preach, remember, that it must be impressed upon yourself first.You must feel it yourself, and speak as a man who feels it; not as if you feel it, but because you feel it, otherwise you will not make it felt by others.”
Though I am not a preacher in the church and do not write sermons, this teaching has very much influenced my daily evangelism. Before I speak up to share the gospel with an unbeliever, I first need to let it sink into my own heart. I need to recall my own separation from God, my own sin, and my own experience salvation through Christ. With that welling up faith in me, my message is much more believable, because I really believe it happened to me!
A second profound, yet simple teaching Spurgeon gives is that we must believe in the power of our message to actually save people. Do you believe that the gospel really can save? Spurgeon is humorous in some of his illustrations, remarking on those who lack faith in the saving-power of the gospel, saying, “They tremblingly believe that it is possible, by some strange mysterious method, that once in a hundred sermons God might win a quarter of a soul. They have hardly enough faith to keep them standing upright in their boots; how can they expect God to bless them?” I laughed at this description, and then paused to reflect on how often I have lacked confidence in this way. May God restore my faith in Him and His Gospel that He may use me mightily to lead others to salvation.
These two principles are among an array of jewels found in, “The Soul-Winner.” Find a copy, or borrow mine! I have been greatly motivated by it to passionately and confidently win souls for Christ, and I heartily desire for more to join in the privilege.
By Samantha Pane
Now at New Hope Community: Who was Jesus? What does it mean that he is the Son of God? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? We invite you for a study through the Gospel of Mark-Sunday mornings at New Hope! Service is @ 10:30 AM, we are located at 1600 E. Francisquito Ave., West Covina, CA
Hebrews 3:12-15; Preached September 15 by John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church, via video at New Hope September 30, 2012 see this link: 2012http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/eternal-security-is-a-community-project–2
I’m three months pregnant and beginning to feel anxious about my lack of good parenting knowledge. The nightmares of my children growing up to be terribly evil people and the world blaming me have not been fun. I’ve read that these bad dreams during pregnancy are quite normal, so I thought I would share what I’ve been doing to calm my fears.
I’ve begun to read a very interesting parenting book given to me called, Give them Grace: Dazzling your children with the love of Jesus, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. It is a book that instructs on gospel-centered parenting. I’m half-way through the book and have riddled it with a highlighter. I strongly recommend it to parents of all ages.
What has dazzled me the most about this book? It answers an intense question I’m sure many parents ask; “What parenting technique will make my children turn out right?” More specifically, Christian parents are asking, “What rules can you give me to parent my children so that they will become Christians?” But the authors’ response is not simply, “the gospel, of course,” but a seemingly disheartening, “none.” In fact, Fitzpatrick and Thompson teach that no parenting tactic, not even one that is gospel-saturated, will make a child good or ensure their salvation. “There are no promises in the bible of salvation, or even success for faithful parenting…God doesn’t promise our children’s salvation in response to our obedient parenting.” (pp.60 & 62).
The authors provide many examples in scripture of righteous, God-fearing parents raising children who ultimately disbelieve and rebel against God and community (e.g. the prodigal son story in Luke 15). They drive this idea home again and again: your parenting alone does not have the power to produce good or believing children. So what hope is there? Why should I even care about parenting my children well, especially by utilizing the gospel?
Our hope is this: God alone is good. God alone can save. And God will use your parenting to accomplish his will. We ought to parent our children in light of how faith in the gospel has impacted us. By grace God chose to save sinners like us. We were not saved because our parenting is good, or because of any other good work. He saved us because Jesus’ perfect record was granted to us by faith. The joy that we are saved by such grace ought to propel us to teach this message to our children and pray that God would have mercy on them and save them too. But even if we give them the best gospel-teaching and love them with the tangible love of God, they will not be saved unless God himself changes their hearts to believe.
In one sense, it is difficult to let go of my hope for control over my children’s future development and eternal destinies. But, in a far greater sense, I am relieved of such a daunting burden. If God is in control, I am freed from my deepest fear of failing to produce good children who love God. And I am also free to raise them with grace because I know that I have been shown amazing grace by God through faith in the gospel. My attention is reoriented away from trying to get my children saved to seeking to glorify God in the way I interact with them. God may perhaps use my life to save them! “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
I’ll end with the encouragement I have from this book: Only God has the power to save your children and give them the strength to walk in righteousness. And He is a gracious God! So take off those burdens, and put on the cross to which you have been given as parents (and prospective parents). Love God and love people. Teach your children the ways of the Lord. Discipline them well. Teach them the gospel. That is your duty, and you can do it. Then pray for their hearts to be made new in Christ. That is God’s duty, and He can do it!
To learn more, please get this book for yourself, it’s a good read.
God causes all things to work together for good for those that love him…”
Because I just can’t understand what God is doing in this mess I call my life.
At times, Joseph’s life looked more like a train wreck than a mess. Genesis describes how Joseph’s brothers viciously plotted against him, attacked him and sold him out as a slave. Yet 20 some years later, Joseph had been made Prime Minister of Egypt, and the lives of his brothers were in the palm of his hand.
Someone said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Yet this was not the case with Joseph. When he revealed his identity to his brothers, the shock paralyzed them-they could not speak out of fear. But Joseph comforted them: “…do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
Again and again, Joseph refers to God. He had a God centered perspective and a grasp of God’s providence—the Biblical teaching that God sovereignly works through all things for our good and his glory. He uses even evil acts to bring about his good purposes. God is the prime mover, and never commits evil. But he uses secondary “agents” who may indeed commit evil, so that his purposes are accomplished, not theirs.
There is great benefit to having this God-centered reality woven into our thoughts. James Montgomery Boice comments,
“By looking past secondary causes (his brothers) to God, who is the first cause, Joseph gained a stabilizing perspective on life and achieved a frame of mind out of which he was able to forgive and reassure his brothers. It is a perspective to be held by every Christian.”
Next blog: The many benefits of resting in God’s Providence
Pastor Pete Morehead
Jesus Defined Discipleship
Luke 14 records an encounter Jesus had with a crowd of people who were following Him. Perhaps this passage is the most definitive and clearest of Jesus’ teachings about discipleship.
Now great crowds were traveling with Him. So He turned and said to them: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.
“Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty? It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!” (Luke 14:25-35).
Jesus stated at least four conditions for becoming His disciple:
1. Jesus talked about the priority of a relationship with Him.
2. Jesus discussed having the right purpose.
3. Jesus told prospective disciples that their commitment must be long-term.
4. Jesus stated that disciples must be willing to give up material possessions.
Let’s look at each of these conditions and make application for followers of Jesus today.
(Don’t miss tomorrow’s blog post as we will cover, Discipleship Is Rooted in Relationship)
More to come on this topic, “Biblical Discipleship.”
Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!