“He will save his people from their sins.”

The Battle Cry

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)

I love these few words that the angel of the lord spoke to Joseph:

“for he will save his people from their sins.”

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8 implications of calling Jesus “Lord” by Jesse Johnson

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I recently preached 2 Corinthians 4:5 (“We do not breach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord”), and in preparation I came across this powerful list of 8 implications of preaching Jesus as Lord. These are from Murray Harris’s New International Greek Testament Commentary (p 332), where he writes:

Whenever worshiping Christians repeat the church’s confession “Jesus is Lord,” they are:

1. Implying that the Christ of faith was none other than the Jesus of history (Acts 2:34–36),

2. acknowledging the deity of Christ (John 20:28; Phil. 2:6, 9–11),

3. admitting the Lord’s personal rights to absolute supremacy in the universe, the church, and individual lives (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12; 14:8; 1 Cor. 8:6; Jas. 4:15),

4. affirming the triumph of Christ over death and hostile cosmic powers when God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9; 14:9; Eph. 1:20–22; Col. 2:10, 15) and therefore also the Christian’s hope of resurrection (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14),

5. epitomizing the Christian message (Rom. 10:8–9; 2 Cor. 4:5) and defining the basis of Christian teaching ( Col. 2:6–7),

6. declaring everyone’s accountability to the Lord, the righteous judge (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8),

7. making a personal and public declaration of faith (Rom. 10:9), which testifies to their being led by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3), and

8. repudiating their former allegiance to many pagan “lords” and reaffirming their loyalty to one Lord through and in whom they exist (1 Cor. 8:5–6; 1 Tim. 6:15).

It is good to be reminded that “Lord” is more than a title, and more than a name. It reveals the identity of Jesus, and compels a response from us that is more than simply a phrase we say–ie. there is more at stake here than saying “Jesus is Lord.” That phrase implies so much, that when rightly understood it alters our worldview.

Salvation Can only be Found in Christ

by Martin Luther

“…The devil does not intend to allow this testimony about Christ.  He devotes all his energy to opposing it and will not desist until he has struck it down and suppressed it.  In this respect, we humans are weak and stubbornly perverse and are more likely to become attached to saints than to Christ.  Within the papacy they have preached about the service rendered by these beloved saints, that one ought to rely on their merit.

And I, too, believed and preached thus.  St. Ann was my idol, and St. Thomas my apostle.  I patterned myself substantially after them.  Others ran to St. James and strongly believed and firmly trusted that, if they conformed, they would received all they wished and hoped for.  Prayers were said to St. Barbara and St. Christopher in order to avert an early and sudden death, and there was no uncertainty here.  So completely is man by nature bent on renouncing this testimony of John the Baptist.

For this reason it is necessary constantly to persevere and adhere to John’s testimony concerning Christ.  For it requires toil and effort to continue with word and testimony, for a person at death to be able to say, I must die, but I have a Savior concerning whom John the Baptist testifies; on him and on no other creature, either in heaven or on earth, do I rely.  However, that a person can die as cheerfully by believing in St. Barbara, in an indulgence, or in a pilgrimage to Rome, as in the man to whom alone John the Baptist points, is out of the question.  Also, that a person can build as strongly on monkery or monastery life as on holy baptism is a forlorn hope.

“What I am telling you is that it is easier for us humans to believe and trust in everything else than in the name of Christ, who alone is all in all, and more difficult for us for us to rely on him in whom and through whom we possess all things.”

Quotes are excerpted from volume five of Luther’s 7-volume set of sermons (page 79).

Why Some People Reject Jesus

By Scott Redd, Tabletalk Magazine

As an anthology, the four Gospels reveal two complementary responses to the person of Jesus Christ. Some people are inexplicably drawn to Jesus while others are just as inexplicably repelled by Him.

Philip is an example of the former. He leaves behind his livelihood to follow this itinerant preacher who beckons him to “follow me” (John 1:43). No questions. He just follows.

The crowds and disciples described in John 6:60–66 represent the latter.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60–66)

Having left their homes to follow Jesus and His teaching, the crowds already know that He preaches like no other rabbi and that He can handle adversity with insight and authority. They have seen Him perform miracles that defy explanation and point to deeper truths about His identity and purpose.

In spite of all of this, when they hear Jesus preach that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are integral to their coming to faith in Him, they leave in droves.

This passage deals with the inner spiritual dynamics of conversion. It is about the spiritual reality of coming to faith, the divine hand behind the act of believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Three Aspects of Conversion

From this passage, we learn about three significant aspects of conversion to Jesus Christ.

First, belief is more than swearing membership to a group. Saving faith is more than saying the right words, more than following Jesus in His teaching ministry and counting yourself as one of His disciples. The disciples who abandon Jesus in John 6 had previously given the impression that they were His followers—they had left their homes and jobs to travel with someone the religious authorities claimed was a fool, or worse, a madman. Even though they had given up so much, they were not ready for the heart of the gospel. Perhaps they accepted the teaching of Jesus the rabbi, but they did not accept the teaching of Jesus the divine Son.

Second, hypocrisy is common in gospel community, even when Jesus is the preacher. The church will always be filled with broken people, some of whom are drawn by the Spirit to repentance and faith, and others who are drawn by their sin to hardness and nominalism. Pastors and church leaders must remember that they are always preaching and teaching to a mixed audience. The best way to serve that audience is to lovingly, confidently, and prayerfully teach the whole counsel of God from the Scriptures.

Third, saving faith is the result of the Holy Spirit’s giving life more than it is the result of collecting empirical evidence. Jesus says: “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:62–63). To be sure, Christians should present the gospel in a way that is contextually sensitive, and yes, evangelists should seek to remove any offense that is not intrinsic to the gospel message. But Jesus is saying that He could take to flight before their eyes and His audience would still not believe if the Spirit did not regenerate their hearts and minds. Conversion is the work of the Spirit in attendance with gospel proclamation. Reason, experience, and imagination all play a role in salvation, but if the Spirit does not give life, saving faith will not result.

Comfort and Challenge

We should find comfort in the necessary role of the Spirit in our evangelistic efforts. Many will patiently listen to our gospel message only to politely walk away without a moment’s hesitation. We should always check our hearts and methods when this happens, but we should also remember that people walked away from Jesus as well.

We should be challenged when we realize that a person’s response to the gospel is ultimately out of our hands. Every Christian has someone in their lives who they believe could never come to saving faith. Jesus’ teaching in John 6 is proof that no one can escape the life-giving work of the Spirit if it is willed by the Father. Who are we to doubt the power of regeneration in the lives of those around us?

The Trinity and Evangelism

Last, don’t miss the Trinitarian tone of John 6 and how it helps us keep a balanced view of evangelism and salvation. No one receives the Son unless the Spirit gives life, as it is granted by the Father.

Keeping this Trinitarian foundation in view protects us from two common errors, one that sees conversion as arbitrary and the other that sees it merely as a matter of persuasion. Because the Father directly grants salvation according to His good pleasure, it is the least arbitrary of all human experiences. Because salvation relies on the regeneration of the Spirit, we know that conversion rests on something other than a well-framed sales pitch.

I’ll conclude with a third error that this Trinitarian teaching helps us avoid. Because of the revelation of the Son, we should resist the error that leads us to complacency in evangelism. In His humiliation and exaltation, the Son provided the groundwork for our redemption. As a result, for those who are in Him, there is every reason to proclaim His gospel with confidence in the light of our Trinitarian faith.

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Dr. Scott Redd is president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Joy in Heaven

When does all of heaven rejoice?

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7

Notice that it does not speak of rejoicing in heaven over someone who ‘accepts Jesus’, ‘invites Jesus into their heart, or ‘gives their heart to Jesus’. That should be significant to all that of us who share Jesus with a lost world.

I’ll leave it to you to figure it out. When you think you’ve got it, p,ease feel free to comment!

The Walking Dead?

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I have never watched a single episode of the TV series “The Walking Dead”, and I don’t recall buying or reading the comic book (graphic ‘novel’?). In fact, I don’t think I ever watched “Night of the Living Dead” back in the late sixties. I just thought that the movie (pictured above) was well, stupid (nothing personal). My opinion of the genre has never changed.

When I couldn’t remember listening to sermon series based on zombies, and having seen or hear a LOT of film based sermons, I decided to ‘Google’. I actually found some. After all, the concept of ‘the living dead’ is in the Bible! That’s right, the Bible talks about zombies! Who’d a thunk it? Check this out:

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11,12

So you tell me I’m not right in the head because verse 11 is speaking about ‘eternal’ life, and ‘life’ in v. 12 refers back to that ‘eternal life’:

Grammatically speaking, you might be right. You might think that living apart from Jesus Christ just means living this life separated from God, or without a relationship with God. And we all see people we know are living a ‘good life’, temporally and materially speaking. Maybe you’ve already tried to witness to someone you know who is living that ‘good life’ without Christ and found it to be a challenge. After all, it’s easier to share Christ with someone NOT living a great life down here. Maybe you hesitate to share Jesus with those who seem to lack nothing in this world because the chances of ‘success’ (a decision) are slim.

I’m not sure how well the sermons I found with zombie themes presented the very serious predicament of those living apart from Christ. A few missed the point altogether, from what I read. Therefore, here’s a visual reminder of something the Bible says about everyone living apart from Christ:

1 John 5_12

Do you know any of these folks?

Food for thought. . .

What is the relationship between apologetics and evangelism?

Easy, you say. Evangelism is sharing a specific message that Christ died for the sins of men, while Christian apologetics is defending the Christian faith against all comers. 9Marks offers an excellent summary of this relationship.

  • Difference 1: Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Apologetics is defending the truth of the Christian faith.
  • Difference 2: Apologetics addresses everything from the existence of God to the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. In contrast, evangelism is telling one specific message: the good news about what Jesus Christ has done in order to save sinners.
  • Difference 3: Another difference between apologetics and evangelism is that apologetics usually requires some level of intellectual sophistication. Apologetics can involve logical arguments, historical debates, philosophical discussions, interpretive disputes, and more. On the other hand, evangelism is simply telling others the message about Jesus Christ. That’s something every Christian—even a brand new Christian—should be able to do.
  • The link: However, the two can be closely linked. Apologetic conversations can lead to good opportunities to share the gospel. And evangelistic conversations will often lead to apologetics when non-Christians respond with questions or criticisms that require a reasoned response.
  • Bottom line: So, while Christians shouldn’t let apologetics distract us from sharing the gospel, we should also work to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).

Although I might be ‘preaching to the choir’ with this post, I thought a good reminder might be in order, based on recent experiences with a Facebook group I came across a few weeks ago. The purpose of group is stated as sharing the gospel and defending the faith (evangelism & apologetics) – both noble endeavors. Group members are encouraged to share their witnessing encounters with other faiths and encouraged to provide their favorite questions for challenging specific faiths/religions, i.e., Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

My main contribution to the group was that I share Christ with lost sinners in pretty much the same manner, irrespective of the religious persuasion. Begin or enter an ongoing conversation about spiritual matters, steer the discussion to the issue we ALL have with sin, and offer God’s solution through Christ. And of course I need be ready to engage in apologetics to defend the Christian faith. The gospel message is paramount, with apologetics running a close 2nd. That’s how I became unpopular with this particular group, whose zeal is to be commended! It seems that (I was told by the group ‘owner’) we need to refute the lies of other faiths to be able to share Christ

This morning I listened to a 45 minute encounter between a member of this group and a couple of JWs at a college campus (it sounded like one), in which the table manned by the JWs were offering free literature, and engaged the JWs in conversation. He went straight to the task of refuting JW teachings and was met by some excellent rebuttal from the JW viewpoint. In fact, if I were asked to ‘judge’ the quasi debate as an outsider, I would have to say that the JWs won. They were more articulate quicker with their Bible verses than our evangelistic brother was.

The whole thing was difficult to listen to due to it being a noisy campus venue, but I stuck it out for one main reason. I was waiting to hear something concerning the way manner in which a person finds salvation as a JW, compared to Christianity. In case you are wondering, the JW teaching is that salvation is based on faith plus works, while Christianity teaches salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. That is what I was waiting for, but it never surfaced. There was an amiable parting of the ways at the end of the encounter.

False religions all have an element of works for salvation, so going to the issue of how anyone is saved is a good principle to follow. My own most memorable experience with JWs was when a couple came to the door of our apartment when we were stationed in Italy. I let them tell me about ‘The Kingdom’ and how to enter it according to their church and when the time seemed right I gently interrupted and told them I wanted to see if I understood them correctly.

“According to what you are telling me, I can make it to the Kingdom if I believe the right things and do the right things?” They were thrilled! Then I asked them to read, out loud, Ephesians 2:8-9, from their Bible ( I knew those passages had not been corrupted because I had a copy of their ‘New World Translation.):

8By this undeserved kindness (grace) you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. 9 No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.”

That was it. They had absolutely no response. They had controlled the conversation, I asked them if I was understanding them, and then asked them to read to me from their Bible. The very passages they read out loud to me contradicted what they had been telling me. Hopefully, their silence and calm departure from my door meant that the Holy Spirit had begin to go to work.

So there you have two different encounters between Christians and Jehovah Witnesses. I hope they have been instructive. Let us hit the streets, travel the highways and by ways, share our faith with whomever God gives us the opportunity! And let us always endeavor to keep the simple the main topic of conversation!

Have a blessed day!

The Goal of Our Evangelism

We’ve all seen them – the reports of such and such evangelistic event having resulted in X number of decisions for Christ or professions of faith. In recent days, another mark of success has become the number of ‘spontaneous’ Baptisms that occurred immediately after the preaching, if not the very next Sunday or first opportunity to engage in a little dunking.

And while there is nothing wrong about those reports themselves (if they accurately report decisions, professions, and dunkings), they are most often used to measure success in terms of actual salvations that occurred at the event to which they refer, from large stadium and megachurch events to small church events and everything in between. Events are successful based on numbers of ‘decisions’ and/or ‘professions’. The same sorts of statistics appear in short introductions to Christian authors and ads for their books.

The goal of personal evangelism isn’t to obtain a decision for Christ or hear a profession of faith. The goal of personal evangelism is for God to save His people from their sins. Therefore the goal of the ‘evangelist’ should be to faithfully present the gospel message that Christ died for our sins. (NOT our self-fulfillment, as do many these days).

And while you are praying for opportunities to share the gospel, don’t just pray for an open door, or favorable circumstances to share the message. Pray that God would open hearts to receive it – the Lydia prayer. If God opens a heart to hear the gospel, no power in Hell can stop it from being heard and received with a glad heart. Whatever resistance to the gospel might be seen initially seen, the mighty hand of God will overcome it and souls WILL be saved.

Blessings to you as you continue to share Christ with those around you who know him not!