Salvation

Generational Discipleship

On Father’s Day this year (6/18/2017), I had the privilege of preaching at my church (First Baptist Tuscaloosa). The sermon title was “Generational Discipleship” from Deuteronomy 6, Luke 9 & 14, Psalm 78, Judges 2, and Ephesians 4.

Click here for the sermon outline.

Managers of the Gospel

“A person should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God. In this regard, it is required that managers be found faithful.” ~ ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

How are you managing the gospel which you have received?

I must admit, I’ve heard verse 2 (above) many times before. It wasn’t until today, however, that I really read verse 1 and saw that the “thing” which we are to be faithful managers of is the gospel (the mysteries of God) mentioned in verse 1.

Now that question is burning deep in my heart: how faithful am I in managing the gospel in my life? In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul said “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received.” Am I being intentional in passing along that which I say I believe is most important?

As a husband?

As a dad?

As children’s minister?

As a Christian?

Psalm 96:2 says, “proclaim His salvation from day to day.” So what am I doing with the gospel? Am I allowing the truth of the gospel to permeate and rule every area of my life?

God has chosen the people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God and equipped with the Word of God, to be about the mission of God to make disciples (Matthew 28).

In The Gospel Project we studied Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. Ultimately Jesus alone holds the power of the gospel message. We, as His disciples, are responsible, though, to spread the seed of the gospel wherever we go. “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Jesus said, “…in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Matthew 28:19 & Acts 1:8) I must diligently and consistently apply the truth of Scripture to my life while simultaneously letting the gospel of Jesus overflow into my decisions, my speech, and my behavior as a husband, dad, and every other role I step into.

God, give me strength and wisdom to manage the gospel well by spreading the seeds of the gospel in all the “fields” of my life. 

Life Worth Living

“But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:24‬ ‭CSB‬‬

What makes your life worth living?

Money? Notoriety? Legacy? Family? Job? In 21st Century America there is no shortage of things that vie for our affection. 

Both Paul himself and Luke record this laser-pointed focus on what gave Paul’s life value: Jesus. Luke records it here in Acts, and Paul wrote these words in Philippians 3:

“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” ~ ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:7-8‬

Oh, how I pray to have this outlook on life!

God, make my spiritual hunger and thirst so strong that I would count everything else in my life as lost in comparison to my satisfaction and purpose in You.

Foreigners No More

“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” ~ Ephesians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭CSB‬‬

What a glorious truth of the gospel! Though we were once far away, Jesus has brought us near. Though we were once foreigners, we are now citizens of the Kingdom of God with unrestricted access to the King. 

“Through him we… have access in one spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” ~ Ephesians‬ ‭2:18-20‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Generational Disciplers

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (CSB)

There is a lot packed into this passage. Let’s focus on a few key parts.

1. There is only one God. He alone is to worshiped.

2. God expects us to love Him with our entire being. He isn’t interested in simply getting a compartment of your life. . . even it’s the largest compartment. His desire is your entire life to be filtered through Him.

3. Older generations have a responsibility to train up younger generations. Yes, most directly, this falls to parents, but it doesn’t stop there (see Deuteronomy 4:9-10 and Titus 2:1-7). Each generation should seek to learn as much as possible from the previous generation and to invest as much as possible the generations that follow.

4. Once-a-week investment in younger generations will not suffice to pass the baton of faith. Part of older generations investment in the younger must include encouraging and equipping parents to lead their children in the faith.

God, grant me wisdom to learn from those who have gone before me and invest often in those that follow.

Creator and Ruler of All

“So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. . . God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.” Genesis 1:27-28a, 31 (CSB)

By setting in motion the minutest details of creation, God demonstrated His right to rule over the matters of the family from the very beginning. Did you notice the repetition in verse 27? “God created…he created…he created.” An emphatic point is being made here. God is Creator and set all things in motion according to His plan. Not only did God set all things in motion, but He also sustains all things by holding them together (See Colossians 1:17).

Have you ever thought about the following fact? God had infinite options at His disposal when creating families. He did not have to make man and woman the way He did. Within His design, God set forth a specific plan to create the human race as a replicable species with a special place within creation – His image bearers. Note that after creating mankind God “saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.” What happened next? He rested. He was satisfied and content with His perfect design.

As Creator God exercised His authority in His master plan. As His creation, our job is to submit to His plan. That’s easier said than done, of course, but let’s pray for the strength to humble ourselves before Him.

God, help me recognize Your authority over me and give me the strength and wisdom to willingly submit to Your created plan.

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack… He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1, 3‬ ‭http://bible.com/72/psa.23.hcsb

Curly from City Slickers

One my favorite themes of Scripture is God as shepherd. One who knows us, leads us, cares for us, provides for us, and protects us. In my mind I picture a shepherd who is both rough & tough. For some reason this guy (on the right) pops in my mind.

But our God is not merely tough, He also has a gentle hand to care for and nurture his flock (Psalms 23).

On this theme there is an old hymn (circa 1875) called All the Way My Savior Leads Me, which was re-arranged by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman in 2008. It was just a few years ago I became familiar with this song, but I love the lyrics.

Some of the lyrics that stir my heart are:

How could I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide

Gives me grace for every trial

Feeds me with the living Bread

O, the sureness of His promise
In the triumph of His blood

And finally the chorus:

You lead me and keep me from falling
You carry me close to Your heart
And surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me

In John 10, Jesus tells us what a good shepherd looks like. Jesus says “the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out …[and] goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” What a picture! The shepherd wants his sheep to have an abundant, fulfilled life (John 10:10) so no matter where he takes his sheep, he can be trusted that it will lead to life.

 

Living Life in a Spiritual Layover

Reflections on Philippians 3

Our pastor recently preached on Philippians 3 so it’s been a topic around our staff table. As others have rightly noted, this chapter speaks deep to the topic of spiritual maturity. Paul seems to define spiritual maturity (v. 15) as living an active life in the constant and continued pursuit of a relationship with Jesus and the resulting fruit-bearing Christlikeness that accompanies this intimate relationship. In other words, salvation (being born again) is not the equivalent of acquiring a ticket to heaven, and once acquired, the ticket holder is simply waiting to board his plane to heaven, as if waiting in a “spiritual layover” with nothing more to do than to enjoy to food, scenery, and amenities of the locale.

No. Paul says “I consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of know Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 7) and “my goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (v. 10). Our salvation is meant to propel us into active pursuit of Jesus and building/serving His church.

Paul’s goal in life and the reality of his salvation, as he recorded for the church in Philippi, was to know Jesus more and more each day. In verse 14, Paul says, “I pursue as my goal the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” I love this language! Pursue… it carries a such vivid imagery of action. I picture someone running as fast as he can, maybe in a race toward a finish line (which is imagery used elsewhere: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2, Hebrews 12:1) or after someone or something highly valued. His eyes and mind are focused on the end goal, but the race isn’t over. With each step, he works hard, “reaching forward to what is ahead” (v. 13). Salvation is active. Earlier in Philippians 2:12, Paul said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It seems by both Paul’s teaching and his lifestyle that he did not understand being born again as limited to something that happened at a single point in history (for him on the Damascus road in Acts 9). His life as a Christian began at a point in time, but it did not end there nor was it placed “on hold” there. He said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make EVERY EFFORT to take hold of it…” (emphasis added). Paul worked out (not for) his salvation… growing in Christ… learning about Him… worshiping Him… sharing Him with others.

In contrast to pursuing Jesus and subsequently becoming more Christlike, Paul later says that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18) and “they are focused on earthly things” (v. 19). While Paul does not use the same intesity of active imagery for those who are worldly, he does set the 2 things against each other. The Christian’s “citizenship is in heaven, from which we EAGERLY wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20; emphasis added). Enemies of the cross are focused on earthly things; Christians must be focused on heavenly things. Enemies of the cross pursue their own appetite and desires through the things of this world (3:19). Christians must “seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2) as we “stand firm in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1) and filling our minds with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, [and] whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8).

From a physical standpoint Paul learned how to be content in whatever circumstances he was in (4:11-12), but from a spiritual standpoint, he never settled for where he was or felt like his sanctification was complete (3:12).

My prayer is that I will follow Paul’s challenge and that you will, as well:

We should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:16-17)

The Gospel

img from: http://davemiers.com/what-is-the-gospel-by-greg-gilbert

Sometimes as pastors we say things like “When is the last time your shared the gospel?” or “Are you living a gospel-centered life?” But often times we forget or neglect that there are many who, though born again or saved, do not understand what the term “the gospel” entails. This is especially important for parents who want to make sure that their children hear “the gospel,” but don’t really know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes it’s because parents have heard it so many times that their memories (hearing it over and over again years ago) cloud the simplicity of the gospel, and sometimes it’s because parents are just learning it themselves. In any case, “the gospel” is “good news,” and as Jeffery Reed (lifeway.com/kidsministry/author/jeffreyreed) recently said “The gospel is good news, not a good recommendation or suggestion.”

The most explicit place in the New Testament in which the gospel is laid out is in 1 Corinthians 15:1,3-8 —

I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed…
For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; 
most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.
Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
This is a great place for adults to start as it lays out the outline or foundation of what Jesus actually did. This is the basics.
However, it is often necessary to take a step back from this outline (especially when talking with children) because there are a few critical questions that must be answered. For example, “why did Christ need to die for my sins?” or “what is sin?” The following was taken from 9marks.org/answers/what-gospel which helps walk through some of these questions in a clear way:

A good way to summarize this good news is to biblically unpack the words God, Man, Christ, Response.

  1. God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5Rev. 4:11Rom. 2:5-8).
  2. Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28Ps. 51:5Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
  3. Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:11 Tim. 2:5Heb. 7:26Rom. 3:21-262 Cor. 5:211 Cor. 15:20-22).
  4. Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15Acts 20:21Rom. 10:9-10).
If you have questions regarding this post, please, reach out to me or to a local pastor in your area.

Do Not Think More Highly of Yourself than You Ought

Today, I woke up with a few of verses on my mind:

“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.” Romans 12:3

“There is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

While the first verse is not specifically and directly in context with the second two, this warning is consistent throughout Scripture. I must not think highly of myself because I, in my flesh – my own will and strength, am not righteous. I have sinned (and will continue to sin) and fall short of the glory of God.

Sin…to miss the mark. The truth is I have missed and will continue to miss the mark, and so will you. The reason is that the mark we should be aiming for is perfect holiness. Don’t tune out…there’s a good chance holiness is not what you think.

This is NOT holiness:

 

Thankfully, there is more to our story.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

The wages, the penalty, the unavoidable result of sin IS death, but God has offered a gift through Jesus.

There’s an old worship chorus that says, “God has made a way where there seems to be no way.” God HAS made a way. His way. The only way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This gift of God, a relationship with Him, is not a buffet at which we can pick and choose which parts we want to hold on to and which parts we leave behind. But if we receive His gift, the Bible says that, through Jesus’ death on the cross and the willing shedding of His own blood, our sin, both past, present, and future, is washed away.

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

While the penalty has been paid, this gift from God is not universally applied to every human being. Why? I don’t know. The Bible only leads us to understand that there are 2 realities that exist in God’s plan.

1. “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:10

2. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9, 10, 13

EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Are you putting all of your hope in your own ability to hit the mark? Are you hoping that, in the end on the great cosmic scale, your good works will simply outweigh your bad deeds? The problem with this thinking is that, if there were a great cosmic scale, YOUR good would not be weighed against YOUR bad. Instead, your good (righteousness) would be weighed against God’s standards of Jesus’ righteousness, which is perfection. Certainly, you can see how unbalanced that scale would be.

If you haven’t already, confess trust in Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Accept His gift to cleanse you from your sins.

If you have made this confession, continue to trust Jesus. His ability to “keep you cleansed” is as certain as His ability to cleanse you when you first believed.

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