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The Wednesday Word, Sept. 21, 2008: The Gospel and Faith, Part 1 

“Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God” Romans 5:1

Does God look for faith in a believer and then upon seeing it declares him not guilty? Well if you were to believe what many Christians say about this matter you would think yes, absolutely yes! But this thinking is a grim error for the gospel knows nothing of the sort!

Saving faith is not a quality within us. We are saved entirely by a work outside of us. Faith, however, takes a hold of the perfect salvation which has already been accomplished on our behalf by the Lord Jesus. Faith acknowledges that all things necessary to make us accepted before God have already been done in the substitutionary work of Christ Jesus. Faith takes hold of the good news that in our name and on our behalf, Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again. Faith sees that Jesus as our substitute and representative has met and fulfilled every legal and righteous requirement needed to restore us to God. Faith alone sees that the Christ event is sufficient and complete and that nothing whatsoever can be or needs to be added to it. But we must never think that faith is a quality in us that saves us.

Faith embraces the fact that Jesus Christ alone saves. Faith sees that He is enough; faith sees that He is perfect and sees that His work is complete. 

Since nothing can be added to Christ’s finished work, then salvation is not a matter of Christ plus faith. Where so many depart from the gospel is that they believe their faith makes them accepted to God. But faith does not make us accepted to God. We are only accepted in the acceptable One, Jesus Christ.

We must be clear about this, although we are saved through faith, faith is not our savior. Our Savior is Jesus Christ alone and our salvation is in Him alone! He is the object of our faith. He alone is the Savior. What faith does is to take a hold of Jesus and His accomplishments and make them our own. Faith grasps that our righteousness is not in ourselves but rather outside of us in Christ Jesus. But faith does not bring salvation into existence nor does it produce the righteousness by which God justifies us. What faith does, however, is to take something already in existence and enables us to reckon it as our own!

Faith is dynamic and continues to grow as it is bathed in the gospel. Romans 10:16 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our report? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Notice how the “WORD of GOD” and the “GOSPEL” are equated in this passage. They are one and the same! Faith will grow, therefore, as the gospel is expounded! The preaching of the gospel always brings and generates faith. This is why we must get away from the idea that the message of Christ is only for evangelic meetings! The Gospel is every bit as much for the believer as it is for the lost!

What a wonderful gift of God faith really is! It enables us to take hold of the ‘so great salvation’ that has been accomplished in Christ Jesus. When faith comes to our lives it agrees with God’s verdict that our human righteousness is no cleaner than a filthy rag. In the light of this, faith causes us to abandon all hope of ever being saved by our own goodness. The more we are bathed and washed in the gospel the more we will realize that it is not because we have been born again or been filled with the Spirit or have had this or that new blessing that we are fully accepted. Faith’s vision is not foggy! Faith sees clearly that we are not made more accepted in heaven because of experiences. Faith does not rest on our experiences no matter how intense they have been. Faith sees that our full acceptance before God rests entirely upon Christ's experience for us and not on our experience of God.

Faith also see that we are not saved because we are being good and are trying to be obedient to God: Faith sees, however, that the obedience of Jesus Christ is entirely superior to our faulty attempts at obedience and totally sufficient to satisfy all the demands of God’s holy and righteous character.

But surely this is a dangerous teaching! Are there not those who will twist this kind of thing and live like the Devil? Of course there are! But does that mean that we should, therefore, hold back from proclaiming the applications of the Gospel because some people may pervert them?

When the person of Christ and his doing and dying is preached, faith is generated and the believer is reduced to nothing. It is the preaching and application of the gospel which produces true humility in that it brings us to an end of ourselves. Faith will cause us to continually hold sentiments like these,

“Nothing in my hand I bring

Simply to thy cross I cling,

Naked come to Thee for dress

Helpless look to Thee for Grace,

Foul I to the fountain fly,

Wash me Savior or I die”.

Because gospel faith will cause us to see our bankruptcy and destitution, the gospel, when properly expounded to the church, will cause us to take up our cross and follow Christ. A truly destitute man has nowhere else to go but to Christ and nowhere else to look but up. He sees his spiritual poverty and it humbles him. He must now turn in reliance and trust to Christ Jesus who alone can do for him that which he cannot do for himself. The person of faith has no need, therefore, to be taught techniques of self-surrender and self- crucifixion. Self-crucifixion is both a spiritual and physical impossibility! Try physical crucifixion and see for yourself. You can hammer the nails into your feet and then maybe into one of your hands, but you just can’t hammer the last nail into the remaining hand. This is also true of self-imposed spiritual crucifixion---it is a myth!

With faith alone, such techniques are done away with because gospel faith reduces us to our proper place of brokenness and dependency. Jesus taught that true discipleship was to deny self, take up our cross and follow Him. This is exactly what happens when we receive salvation by faith alone. Faith fully agrees with and embraces God’s verdict that we, in ourselves, are nothing and that we stand in total need of the Savior. In that way we are broken; self is denied; the cross is taken up and we follow Christ. Faith sees that the true believer is already crucified with Christ and that He, Jesus Christ alone, is his life.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Oct. 1, 2008: The Gospel and Faith, Part 2 

Gospel Faith will cause us to give up our exhausting and useless efforts to do or feel something good in order to coax God to love us. Have you ever felt that at times you need to make that extra special effort at godliness to squeeze acceptance from the Heavenly Father? I've "been there and done that!" But to think like that is to walk in unbelief. The opposite of unbelief is faith and faith rests upon Christ alone to gain us approval and acceptance before God! 

Gospel faith will cause us to see that we have nothing yet possess all things. By faith, the scripture, "Having nothing-and yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:10) becomes a reality. The unsaved person, seeing the apparent contradiction, asks how we Christians have nothing, yet have all things. Perhaps a statement made more than one hundred years ago by the English preacher J.C. Philpot can help us. He said,

“It means, having nothing in self, possessing all things in Christ.----- My own beggary leads me out of self into His riches. My own unrighteousness leads me out of self into Christ's righteousness. My own defilement leads me out of self into Christ's sanctification. My own weakness leads me out of self into Christ's strength. My own misery leads me out of self into Christ's mercy.

"Having nothing-and yet possessing all things" 2 Corinthians 6:10. These two branches of divine truth, so far from clashing with each other-sweetly, gloriously, and blessedly harmonize.”

J. C. Philpot: "Spiritual Poverty and Heavenly Riches.”

Gospel faith is mighty, not in itself, but because of its mighty object, the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit always points away from Himself, so too, gospel faith will always point away from itself towards the Lamb of God. A faith-filled Church will be a Christ- centered Church and a Christ-centered Church will be a faith-filled Church. If there is no gospel center, there will be no exploits done for God. Without a Christ center, service in His cause becomes a chore. The Pastor will continually plead for volunteers to help with evangelism and other forms of service and yes, he’ll get plenty of ‘volunteers’ if he can make them feel guilty enough ----but what a mess they can make of the cause of Christ. 

If the gospel does not hold first place in our Churches it holds no place. Unfortunately, in today’s church, the gospel is continually being given a subordinate role. Either it is misunderstood and presented as Christ’s work within the believer or it is seen as useful only to get the lost saved. Like the ancient Christians at Corinth, many believers today are occupied with their experiences rather than by being occupied with Christ. The condition of the believer’s heart, like a spoiled child, is demanding center stage. If we are Spirit led, however, we will learn from Paul and his words of wisdom to the out of balance church at Corinth. They were in a mess because they were totally absorbed with themselves and their experiences. What does Paul say to them? Let’s read his words again, 

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

History is repeating itself! That which happened at Corinth and at other churches is once more happening to many of our Churches today. Well-packaged false teachings have come among the believers, saying, "You have the gospel. That’s fine - just what the Doctor ordered to start the Christian life. Now you must go on and rise higher in God. We bring to you the secret of the deeper life, the full gospel, the real secret of victorious living and the crucified life. " 

In short, Jesus Christ, His person, His work and offices have now become too boring and unexciting for many Christians. Church services are held and Christ Jesus is paid lip service only. We have lost the desire and the ability to gather together unto Him. On the contrary, Church meetings are now all about the believer and his Christian progress (divorced from the cross) and about how good he can feel. This is the road to apostasy! The gospel has been demoted to something unimportant for the Church. Christ Jesus has been given a back seat and will shortly be thrust out the door. But let Christ be preached and the Church will undergo revival. As the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit will generate faith. And faith will cause the believers to see that God became a man. Not only did He become man, He became our Man. Faith will see that this God Man, Christ Jesus, became our representative; and because he represents us, faith causes us to say, “When He lived I lived, when He died I died and when He rose again I rose again”. When the gospel is proclaimed and applied, faith sees we were in Christ when everything was accomplished. The believer can now say I have lived a perfect life because I lived it in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Faith also causes the believer to say I was punished, executed and buried 2000 years ago in Christ Jesus. In addition, the believer can now say, In Christ I rose again in newness of life out of that grave, I ascended into glory and, in Christ, I sat down on the right hand of God's favor (Eph. 2:5:6). In Christ, God purged me and perfected me: In Christ, I have been taken, not to the wood shed but to the throne of grace. Faith will cause us to embrace that we are,

“Buried with Him in baptism wherein you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God Who has raised Him from the dead. And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh has He quickened (made alive) together with Him having forgiven you all trespasses---.

By faith we see we are risen with Christ and now by faith we may seek these things which are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We now are free to set our affection on things above not on things on the earth. For by faith we see we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God (see Colossians 2:12-13, 3:1-3). 

Gospel mercies declare we have been washed clean in Jesus Christ and by grace have been taken into perfect fellowship with God. The good news is not “here are five steps to maturity” and “here are seven steps for growth”. The good news, when rightly preached and applied, is that the work is finished and ‘in Christ’ believers are already complete (Colossians 2:10). 

The gospel declares that God Himself broke into human history in the Person of His Son. He became our representative Man. What a demonstration of His amazing love. That he would become one of us is almost too hard to fathom. This event must shout volumes even to the deafest among us, for it declares that God is not against us ……for how can He be, seeing He has become one of us? He has become so identified with His people that all that He did was not only for us, but was exactly the same as if we had done it. I needed to strive with sin and win but failed; I just couldn’t get it together, so Jesus did it in my place. I had a great enemy, Satan, who wished to kill me and could have, but Jesus, on my behalf and in my place, destroyed his power. Faith can now boldly say, “I have won this fight and victory because I have already won it in Christ.” The final enemy I will face is death, but Jesus went into its very jaws and defeated it. Faith makes me confess that in Christ I have already conquered death and the reality of this confession will be finally seen at the day of resurrection. 

Many times in the Old Testament the question is asked of God “Who is like unto Thee”. For example,

“Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee! (Psalms 71:19). 

Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retains not his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy (Micah 7:18). 

Who indeed is like him? What did Buddha or Mohammed ever do for their people compared to Jesus? When Christ arose from the grave and was welcomed with joy into the presence of the Father with all honor and exaltation, His people were raised, welcomed, honored and exalted with Him. Neither Buddha nor Mohammed did this for their people! But gospel faith now says, “as certainly as God came to this earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, just so certainly have I gone to heaven in the Person of Jesus Christ.’ Let me challenge you---begin to make this your confession! 

Say it; don’t just think it! The gospel is not, as some would have us believe, about all the good things that God is going to do at some stage in the future, nor is it all about the good things God is doing now in our lives, but rather, this gospel proclaims the good things which He has already done in Christ. He has forgiven, justified, reconciled, redeemed and restored us to glory and honor in the Person of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-7; 2:4-6; Romans 4:25; 5:8-10, 18, 19; Colossians 2:10).

And That’s the Gospel Truth.

The Wednesday Word, Oct. 8, 2008: The Gospel and the New Birth

“Jesus is never seen until the Holy Spirit opens the eye. The water from the well of life is never received until the Holy Spirit has drawn it from the depths.”


Contrary to much of today’s evangelical preaching, we must state that the message of New Birth is not the gospel.

We have often touched on this subject in previous Wednesday Words, but now we need to give it a little more attention. Much as we value the necessity of the New Birth we must remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit within us and not the work of the Son for us. Yes we all must be born again, but to preach being born again is to preach the fruit of the gospel and not the gospel itself!

The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is, of course, vital. Unless God the Holy Spirit intervenes upon the will and the conscience, the dead sinner will remain dead, the unwilling sinner will remain unwilling and the desperately hard sinner will remain tough and insensitive. But, vital as the work of the Holy Spirit is, His work in us is not the gospel; it is not the perfect, finished saving acts of God in history in the person of the Lord Jesus!

Mark it down; Jesus coming into our heart is not the gospel! In fact, the command to “ask Jesus into your heart” is nowhere found in the Bible. Jesus never once commanded anyone to do anything of the sort nor did the apostles ever suggest that this was the way to salvation! As for Revelation 3: 20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me,” this was written to the Church. not to the unbeliever. so there is no warrant for using it as a proof text to support the practice of asking Jesus into the heart in order to be saved!

‘Ask Jesus into your heart’ is a well-meaning sentiment that, as far as I can ascertain, comes out of old time revivalism and as a phrase it was introduced into Christianity to counteract the dead formalism that had taken over so-called Christianity. In this day and age of rampant subjectivism, however, I venture to say that it has become a dangerous phrase because it conveys the impression that the one who has prayed this prayer is now saved simply because he has said this prayer. Salvation is now by formula---“just ask Jesus into your heart” Gone is the need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Gone is the need for faith alone in Christ alone! Yet, there are many preachers who maintain that to neglect to tell people to ask Jesus into their hearts is to neglect to preach the Gospel.

The greatest news in the Universe, however, is not that we can be born again; the greatest news is that God invaded this world in the person of His Son and became the substitute for sinners in His doing and dying. To cause people to major on the ‘doing’ of praying a formula prayer for salvation is far removed from trusting in the ‘done’ of the gospel.

The truth is, the Gospel is not about our heart at all; rather, it concerns God’s heart of sheer grace that was demonstrated to us, apart from us and outside of us in the Christ event in time and history. The gospel is not about how God acts in the believer, but rather about His saving acts outside the believer.

Because of the gospel event, the Bible declares that we are freely justified by grace (Romans 3:24). We are not justified because He has come into our heart. No! He has justified us freely by grace. ‘Freely’ is a wonderful word! Not only does it mean ‘without a cost’ it also means ‘without a cause’. There is no quality, therefore, in the human heart which causes God to save us. We are saved by grace and this grace was given to us, not when “Jesus came into our hearts”, but given to us in Christ Jesus before we were ever formed. He “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Timothy 1:9).

Grace, you remember, means that God accepts those who are unacceptable. He does not accept us because He has come into our hearts and changed us into something satisfactory. That then would no longer be grace. He doesn’t declare us ‘not guilty’ because He has found a new righteousness within us. The only perfect righteousness that He has ever found is the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus alone. On this point, I love what John Bunyan says in his book, “Grace Abounding for the Chief of Sinners.” At a particular time in his life he was going through deep torment of his mind and tells us,

"-this sentence fell upon my soul: Thy righteousness is in heaven. And I saw that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today and forever."

In Conclusion: The big issue before us in this matter of salvation is not whether or not Christ is in us, but rather whether or not we are in Christ! The ground of our acceptance before God is found entirely outside of us and not in us. We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” - Romans 3:24.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Oct. 15, 2008: The Gospel and the Holy Spirit

Christ's doing and dying are the sole grounds by which God treats us as being accepted and perfectly righteous. But surely, say one, we are made acceptable before God when Christ comes into our hearts! No indeed! As stated in last week’s Wednesday Word, the gospel is not about Christ saving us by coming into our hearts; the Gospel is the good news that sinners are saved by the finished, completed, saving acts of God in history in Christ Jesus. This is so far removed from the sinner’s heart that it was actually accomplished and completed 2000 years ago. This is Bible Christianity. All other religions teach that salvation is found in some process within the worshiper. The worshiper has to experience something or to do something. But Bible Christianity alone proclaims a salvation which is found in an event outside the believer. The Bible never once presents the gospel as being about Christ coming into our hearts!

I once met a drunk who told me he was saved because he’d asked Jesus into his heart! Since the time of saying this little prayer he’d never opened a Bible, prayed, associated with any believers or sought God to free him from the power of sin. But according to him, he was heaven bound; he’d prayed the prayer------That’s what the preacher had told him to do. Just ask Jesus into your heart and God will give you the gift of eternal life! Salvation had been reduced to a simple formula, “Just ask Jesus into your heart.” What a shock he will get on the judgment day and what shame will be there when the faithless pastor, who told him the lie, will have to give an account!

Yes, but what about the work of the Holy Spirit? Don’t we need to have the Holy Spirit? Don’t we need to be born again? Yes indeed, there is no such a thing as a non- born again Christian. In fact if we do not have the Holy Spirit we don’t belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). Every believer is born again and ought to be filled with the Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is a vital work. However, the Spirit’s work is the work God does ‘in us’ and it should never be confused with the work He has done “for us”.

The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration (The New Birth) is essential, but it is not the Gospel, it is a different work. It is, rather, as a result of the gospel that the Holy Spirit was sent forth in fullness to the church. The Holy Spirit was not poured out on the church until Jesus was glorified (John 7:39). Furthermore, Jesus promised that after He had completed His mission the Holy Spirit would come to magnify Him. Listen to these words of our Lord; He says,

“…….. when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you (John 16:13-14).

“He shall not speak of Himself, He shall glorify me!” This must mean that a church which is Spirit filled will not be pre-occupied with the Holy Spirit. To make the Holy Spirit the center stage of the Church, therefore, cannot possibly be the work of the Spirit, it is the work of man. The real Holy Spirit brings us to a Christ-centered life.

The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself, (neither does anyone who is filled with the Spirit). The Holy Spirit has come to declare the Christ. Just as Christ came and expounded the Father so the Spirit expounds, explains and glorifies the Son.

None of us can understand the magnitude and significance of the Christ event without the Holy Spirit. The implications of the Christ event would be lost to us without the ministry of the Holy Spirit to impact them on us. In fact, we must call into question whether or not those preachers who relegate the cross and its Christ to a position of minor importance have any measure of the Spirit at all.

The truth is this, had there not been a Pentecost we would not have grasped or understood the person and accomplishments of the Lord Jesus. It was at Pentecost, by the power and moving of the Spirit that we had the first gospel sermon of the New Testament Church. It was as if the disciple’s eyes were at last fully opened and they realized that they had walked and talked with the Lord of Glory. Consider how as Peter preached Christ on that day, how differently he behaved compared to some of today’s preachers. Here’s what he might have said had he been one of the men this generation, “Brothers and sisters we have just had the most marvelous experience. I’ve never felt like this before. God was all over me with an overpowering experience and I felt it from my head to the tips of my toes. I feel like I’ve been filled with a new power. I can see angels and I sense the Spirit moving all through me.”

Even if Peter felt any of this, he said none of it! He opened his mouth and spoke boldly about Christ crucified. He made no reference to himself, his experience or his feelings. The power of the Holy Spirit had made him into a gospel preacher. His message was now about events which had happened outside of himself!

Our human mind cannot fully comprehend the awe and wonder of the gospel. We need the Holy Spirit moving in us and drawing us to Christ and, as it were, explaining it all to us. God Himself made a visit to this planet in the Person of His Son. This is stunning, but it only really stuns us when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the magnificence of the event! It is striking to think that Christ did not make a grand and glorious entrance witnessed by the millions. Instead, the only announcement of His arrival was given by a heavenly choir, singing to a less than sold out performance, attended by a few lonely shepherds in the hills above an obscure little village. But with and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit we are allowed to hear that song in our hearts. The Spirit is here to enlarge Jesus, to magnify Him, to make us His worshippers and to build our faith and confidence in the Gospel.

If only we would allow the Spirit to magnify Christ! Instead we chase after supposed ‘deep things’ that in reality are very shallow. Failing to grasp that Christ embodies the ‘deep things’ of God, church after church leapfrogs over the gospel in the name of pursuing the Spirit! We must ask, therefore, which Spirit they are pursuing? If the ‘spirit’ doesn’t lead to an exalted and pre-eminent Christ then it is not the Holy Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:10 we read, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God." Since Christ Jesus is the only one who has fully exegeted and declared God (John 1:18) then these deep things must be discovered in HIM. We can do no better than quote what JC Philpot says of this verse: He writes,

“The Spirit of God in a man's bosom searches the deep things of God, so as to lead him into a spiritual and experimental knowledge of them. What a depth in the blood of Christ-how it "cleanses from all sin,"-even millions of millions of the foulest sins of the foulest sinners! What a depth in His bleeding, dying love, that could stoop so low to lift us so high! What a depth in His pity and compassion to extend itself to such guilty, vile transgressors as we are! What depth in His rich, free, and sovereign grace, that it should super-abound over all our aggravated iniquities, enormities, and vile abominations! What depth in His sufferings-that He should have voluntarily put Himself under such a load of guilt, such outbreakings of the wrath of God-as He felt in His holy soul when He stood in our place to redeem poor sinners from the bottomless pit-that those who deserved hell, should be lifted up into the enjoyment of heaven!”

(J.C. Philpot: The Things God has prepared for those Who Love Him)

The Holy Spirit is often pursued as if He was a fire or a hurricane of excitement, but in reality the Holy Spirit is not the God of the spectacle. We need, therefore, to beware of silly emotionalism, sentimentality and hype taking the place of the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit and being passed off as such. Far from the Spirit of God coming to us as a fire or the hurricane, He comes more often as the still, small voice. Yet this still small voice of the Spirit makes us believe impossible things, the most impossible of these being the gospel itself!

Have you ever considered the unlikeliness of the whole gospel story. Here we are on a tiny insignificant planet, un-noticeable in the vast array of galaxies and yet God the creator of all things has a special interest in us. Not only has He a special interest in us, but He has become one of us! Not only has He become one of us, but He has died the most cruel of deaths for us and taken responsibility for our sins and failures. Not only did He die for us, but He became a curse for us and not only did He become a curse for us , He became the greatest reject in the world for us!

The whole thing is impossible to believe unless we are possessed by the Holy Spirit. He gives us faith to believe, He opens our eyes to let us see that the baby born in the stable was the mighty God. He, the Spirit, births faith that we might see that our redemption and security are in the Lamb of God alone. He convinces us that our righteousness in in Christ alone! He shows us that, because of the blood, our conscience can be at peace. He assures us that we are fully accepted in heaven right now because of Jesus. He persuades us that there is a fierce judgment to come and yet witnesses to us that we can approach it with confidence because the Lord Jesus was slain as our substitute.

The Holy Spirit continually takes us to the Lord Jesus whom we have never seen and makes Him more and more precious to our hearts. He magnifies the Lord Jesus and causes our desires to go after Him. We could see nothing in Christ Jesus to desire were it not for the ministry of the Spirit. The great English preacher, William Romaine said it this way; 

“This is the way in which the Holy Ghost glorifies Jesus: He gives the believer such views of the infinite fullness and everlasting sufficiency of Emmanuel, that he is quite satisfied with Him. His conscience is brought into sweet peace through the sprinkling of the blood of the Lamb of God: and when guilt would arise and unbelieving fears disturb, he is enabled through faith in Jesus to maintain his peace; because, whatever rendered him hateful to God, he sees it removed by his adorable Surety: ----Thus he enters into the promised rest; thus he maintains himself in it.” William Romaine: Letter 11 (Dec. 29th, 1764).

The real Holy Spirit makes believers Christ conscious, not Spirit conscious. And this is part of the genius of God! The Spirit draws us to behold Christ and in doing so makes us more like Christ. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

The Spirit filled life is a joyful life because it is a Christ centered life. There is immense peace and joy in knowing that Christ has died and has taken responsibility for our sins. There is delight in knowing that He has risen from the dead. There’s pleasure in knowing Him in the reality of His resurrection and to know that because of Him alone, God is for us and not against us. There are times of near elation knowing that our righteousness is secure, in a person in Heaven and that now, because of grace, we are joint heirs with Christ Jesus. But in spite of all the wonderful feelings, we should never let them be at the center of our lives. Feelings are subjective; they save no one. No one can live before God with any measure of security based on feelings. But the Holy Spirit comes to us in the gospel and makes Christ’s experience for us the foundation of all our hope.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

The Wednesday Word, Oct. 22, 2008: Eight Gospel Mercies

For the believer, true guilt free, victorious living can only be realized through continual exposure to the gospel. There are no techniques or formulas for freedom. The true victorious life comes from beholding Christ alone. Far from being merely for the unsaved, the gospel is actually the essential message for every believer. Alas, in this day and age of formulas and the quick fix, this truth is missing from many of our pulpits. However, as the gospel is preached, applied and its mercies understood, God’s people will begin to walk in the freedom and joy of their ‘so great salvation’. today we want to briefly look at eight gospel mercies which pour out of the finished work of Jesus the Christ.

1) Forgiveness

The first gospel mercy we want to consider is total forgiveness for every sin. “Through this man (Jesus) is preached unto you forgiveness of sins’ (Acts 13:38).

Our forgiveness was bought and paid for at the cross. God said it; that settles it; I believed it; that settled me! Forgiveness is a mercy we take by sheer faith. No one ever saw God blotting out his or her sin, but we believe it has been done because God said so. As we learn to take God at His word, guilt will flee! Luther was asked if he felt like his sins were forgiven to which he replied, “No! But I’m sure that they are! Get thee behind me Satan!” You may be the feeblest believer who ever walked the face of the earth, but if you have trusted Christ as your Savior you have received the forgiveness Christ has obtained for you. The Lord has put our sins behind His back (Isaiah 38:17) Furthermore, 

“As far as the East is from the West so far has HE removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12).

It’s wonderful that our sins are forgiven, but even better to know they are forgotten; Hebrews 10:17 says,

"And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

If they are forgotten by God what are we doing digging them up and remembering them? 

The wisdom of this world says, “Blessed is the man who is rich and powerful.” But the wisdom of the Lord says,

“Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered; blessed is the man to whom the lord imputes not iniquity and in whose spirit is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1-2). 

2) Accepted as Righteous 

The second gospel mercy is acceptance as being righteous. We are accepted, in Heaven, in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6). This is a wonderful gospel benefit whereby God looks at us and says we never committed the sins in the first place. We have been acquitted of all charges and have been given a new righteousness in Christ. This is like getting our past expunged and being given a totally new identity. It’s like being in a witness protection program that is 100% secure! Since all things are now new, I have no time to run around the place feeling guilty. What do I have to feel guilty about? All the rotten wretched things I have ever done are under the blood: They are forgiven, forgotten, buried and done away with in Christ! I used to be under a curse as a lawbreaker (Galatians 3:10), but now Christ has redeemed me from the curse of the law having been made a curse for me at the cross (Galatians 3:13). God now reckons us as being righteous. That is why we read in 1 Corinthians 1:30,

"Christ is made unto us righteousness.”

Get absorbed in this truth and guilt will never take a hold of you. Bathe yourself in the knowledge that all your guilt and sin was charged to Christ’s account and that all His righteousness is reckoned to yours. We can never hear enough of this glorious truth! 

3) Adoption

It’s good to be forgiven and accepted as righteous, but it’s even better to be made a child of God. And that’s exactly what happens to us as a result of the gospel. We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). As one of His children, the Father loves you just the same way He loves Christ! We don’t have to try to make God love us. A child doesn’t have to cajole a good parent into love. It’s not, therefore, a presumption for you to say (and to keep saying), “God loves me.” The fact is, He’s crazy about you! Hard for us to believe isn’t it? That’s because we know what we are really like. We’ve taken a good look at ourselves and found that there’s not too much to love in there. Too often we don’t feel loved because we feel we are unlovable. We have, as some call it, ‘an orphaned heart’! But the more we know the gospel, the more we will realize that we don’t have to feel loved. We need to stop trying to feel His love and begin to believe His love. We are His children, we are in Christ and we are loved! Believe this gospel mercy and begin to enjoy life.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called Sons of God” (1John 3:1).

4) A New Heart

This is what the theologians call regeneration. Regeneration is neither a process nor an improving of the old nature. In the Old Testament the Lord prophesied through Ezekiel,

“A new heart will I give you and a new Spirit will I put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26).

God invades us by the Holy Spirit and makes us spiritually alive. What a wonderful work the Spirit does within us. Not only does He generate new life in us, He continues to work within every believer both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). He will cause us to know His will, to love it and to do it! He puts His laws into our hearts and writes them in our minds (Hebrews 10:18). All of this is a wonderful ‘Gospel Mercy’. As followers of the Lamb, we don’t have to work up a feeling of spirituality or need to feel guilty when we think it is absent. What we need to do is to, by faith, enter into gospel rest and trust the Holy Spirit to draw us out of ourselves to behold the glories of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The new heart has brought us alive unto God and the gospel. The Holy Spirit is now resident within us creating powerful new godly passions and desires. The Holy Spirit causes faith to grow in response to the Word and brings alive such promises as, “There is now, therefore, no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:21). 

5) Spirit of Repentance

Acts 5:31 says,

“Him (Christ) hath God exalted with His right hand to be a prince and savior for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” 

According to this scripture, repentance is a gift. What wonderful gifts God gives! He gives us repentance to come to Christ and continues to give us repentance as we grow and mature in Christ. In fact it is usually after we come to Christ that we find out what true repentance is. As Thomas Brooks, the old Puritan, said,

“A true penitent must go on from faith to faith, from strength to strength; he must never stand still nor turn back. Repentance is a grace, and must have its daily operation as well as other graces. True repentance is a continued spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing: 'My sin is ever before me'" (Psalm 51:3).

Thomas Brooks: True Repentance

Indeed, it’s often only after we begin to grow in God that we discover what sin really is. As the old woman said to the minister, “Pastor we didn’t know what sin was until you came to this church.” Thank God for His gift of repentance! It always leads us to the Throne of Grace where we confess our sins to Jesus our faithful High Priest. If we have sinned, what’s the point in killing ourselves with the guilt of our actions? Some people beat themselves over and over because of past failures. However, often times this is just another form of self-righteousness whereby they are saying to God, “See Lord, see how sorry I really am. Take note of this and forgive me because I am really repenting here.” But how foolish it is to try to impress God with our repentance! Take everything to the blood! That’s God’s provision for our guilt. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

6) Good Works 

One of the great gospel mercies is that God gives us power to do good works that please Him. We read in Ephesians 2:10,

“We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained that we might walk in them”.

Now remember this, forgiveness is not by works, acceptance as being righteous is not by works, adoption is not by works and the new heart is not by works, but now that we have all these things we are released to do good works. One of the reformers said, “We are saved by faith alone but the faith which saves is never alone.” And the good news is that God has uniquely tailored good works for us to enjoy doing for Him. He uniquely forms you: there is no one else like you and there are certain things only you can do for Him. Consider the wonderful way in which God orders and arranges our lives. First, He prepares good works for us to do; next He gives us the desire to do them; then He equips and empowers us perform them and finally He rewards us for actually doing them. What a deal!

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and your labor of love which you have shown towards His name in that you have ministered to His people and do minister” (Heb 6:10).

Consider how excellent this really is! He plans the works, promotes them to us, prepares us to do them and then rewards us as we get involved with His plan. What an amazing Father He is! 

Some people labor under the guilt of feeling that they can only please God if their works are perfect. The truth is, only one man pleased God because His works were perfect and His name was Jesus. Faith has united us to Him and now His works are reckoned as ours. I’m already a perfect worker in Christ Jesus. If I start from this vantage point then I’m setting myself up for a guilt free life! If on the other hand I see God as demanding perfection from everything I do I’m going to destroy myself. Someone says, “But what if I should mess up when trying to witness to someone? Won’t God punish me for that!” NO a thousand times no! There’s grace love and mercy flowing towards us through Christ Jesus. “But what about our failures?” Any and all failures we take to the blood and, by faith, see Christ as our penal substitute. Guilt can never trap a believer who thinks like this. I think I hear someone say, “But brother, aren’t you afraid that people will abuse the kind of freedom you seem to be advocating”? No I’m not! While I’m aware that there are some people that might misuse this truth, I don’t see any point in ceasing to proclaim it. Some years ago my cousin was killed when a snow-laden tree fell on her, does this mean that all trees and forests should be cut down? When we were kids, a young boy from our village, in Ireland, drowned while swimming in the sea! Does that mean that we should drain the ocean? Sometimes trees and oceans do terrible things. So it is with some people! I’m advocating, however, that in spite of the dangers of potential abuse, that we believers live in the gospel and enjoy the wonderful freedom afforded to us by His gospel mercies. What a marvelous thing it would be if all believers everywhere enjoyed being saved! 

8) Everlasting Life

Because of the gospel we are given, not life for a day or a month or a year but given everlasting life!

“Verily, verily I say unto you he that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47):

“He that believes on Him that sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

It has been argued that the term everlasting life also includes an idea of a certain quality of life. Here we see that part of this quality is the absence of condemnation. If you are in Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). If you are in Christ, there is no reason for you to be plagued by guilt. Believer, embrace the gospel and its mercies! Start living outside yourself and start setting your affection on things above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God (see Colossians 3:1-4).

These are but eight of many gospel mercies; if we embrace them they will revolutionize and transform our lives. Preaching, however, devoid of the gospel, urging us to try harder and harder, in reality, only brings guilt and death. Right standing with God is altogether by the blood of Christ and has nothing whatsoever to do with how we behave. ---“That’s dangerous brother” Yes, but again I say, so are trees and oceans! Let this truth sink into you, you will never be any more righteous than the blood of Christ has made you. You will never be more accepted that you already are in the ‘Beloved One’. Works could not get you into right standing with God and your failings cannot get you out.

Peace with God and freedom from all condemnation can only be obtained and maintained in the gospel. The Hymn writer got it right when she penned the following words,

“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the sin within,

Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died, my guilty soul is counted free,

For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me,

To look on Him and pardon me”.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

Paul told the Corinthian Church” I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Paul purposed that this should be the only point of knowledge in which he would claim to have any expertise. In Paul’s apostolic mind it was in Christ crucified that the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the eternal intentions of God were revealed. For Paul, the knowledge of Christ crucified was higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than eternity, and broader than the universe. In the light of this one great truth, Paul was able to say that he counted “all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3:8). But, would Paul get a hearing in many of today’s churches? I doubt it! This message of Christ crucified is not in style and “not in step with what the spirit is speaking” or so I’m told. The needs and concerns of the believer are now the focus of the Church! Our Church services are now believer-centered and not Christ centered. This week, therefore, we will look at the gospel versus the believer-centered believer.

The Wednesday Word, Oct. 29, 2008: The Gospel and the Believer-Centered Believer - Part 1

“Christian, should your eye ever be withdrawn from the cross, you will be sure to go backwards, to grow cold, and to forget that you were purged from your old sins (2 Peter 1:9). That cross is life, health, holiness, consolation, strength, joy; let nothing come between it and you.”

Horatius Bonar: ‘Follow The Lamb’

Paul knew that the knowledge of Christ crucified was the highest of all knowledge. Christ, His person, work and offices, are the hub and center of all divine truth. We believers are, therefore, to ‘Look unto Jesus’ and to occupy ourselves with Him. Ministers of the gospel are to preach nothing more than Christ crucified as the object of our faith, and nothing less than Christ crucified as the way of sanctification. The gospel we preach is about a Person…Jesus Christ. It’s about who He is, His doing, dying, rising, ascension and session (sitting down) at the right hand of the majesty on high. 

Now here’s something we must grasp: since the gospel is about Jesus, the gospel is, therefore, not focused on the believer. In the genuine gospel, the believer is not on center stage, rather, in the authentic gospel, the limelight falls on Christ alone. There are pastors who dispute this, but let me point out that ever since the fall of man, when sin entered into the human race, the focus of man’s attention has been on himself. Listen to the Father of our fallen race as he cowers in embarrassed fear before his Creator; he says, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). Notice how that four times in one verse he uses the personal pronoun “I”. Adam shows us by this one sentence that sin’s first warping of man’s character was to make him into a raging subjectivist. He, not God, is now the center of his universe. No longer does his life revolve around God and His glory. His life is now centered on himself and his condition.

And that, it seems, is exactly how so many churches want it to remain to this day. Life is all about us, the believer! We, not the Lord Jesus, are our chief concern. The preachers preach about us and how our lives can be improved: we sing about us and how much better off we are and how great it is to be Christians. It’s all about us! It’s ironic; man the rebel has made his experience the center of his concern and redeemed man, for the most part, has done the same. We’ve fallen for the trap! Man not Christ must be the center. Satan’s prophecy, “You shall be as Gods” has, in one very real sense, come true in that man has exalted himself to the center of all things even in the Church! The theme song of so many church people and preachers should be, “Oh come let us ignore Him” for Christ is continually being replaced by the believer as the center of everything.

On top of this we have many believer-centered fad doctrines, which bombard us day after day: Fortunately, like Jonah’s Gourd they spring up in a day and die the next. When pastors should be rescuing the flock from the wretched condition of subjectivism, caused by sin, they often, without knowing it, despise the gospel, placing the believer, his condition and experience firmly at the center of the church meetings.

Eastern religions teach their devotees to look to the inner being and to focus on their experience and condition. There once was a time when there was a great distinction between Christianity and Eastern Mysticism. No longer so!

I once had a good friend who was a devotee of a certain Indian Guru. He would sit for hours looking within and having all manner of wonderful experiences. When he neglected to meditate, his quality of life, he said, was not nearly as good. Meditation, he claimed, brought him peace and joy! He was a classic subjectivist. His experience and condition were the center of his life. He and his fellow devotees would congregate weekly and encourage themselves to keep growing in their experience. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Sound like they were having church! But it wasn’t church; it wasn’t Christian. The Lamb of God was not the center. Their experience was at the center. Mark it down; all false religions have some form of subjectivism at their heart and core.

Now let’s ask a question; over here we have this ‘Indian Guru’ group of people meeting to encourage one another in their so-called faith. They encourage each other in their experience and growth. The speaker speaks about them and how they can improve their quality of faith and life. They are the center of their meeting. Now here’s the question, is this a Christian meeting? Well of course not! Why? Because, as already stated, the Lamb is not the center! Jesus is neither the goal nor the sum and substance of their meeting. Now, in a different location, meeting on the same night, we have another assembly of people. They are not followers of the Indian Guru; they call themselves Christians. Christians? Why then is their meeting to all intents and purposes the same as the Guru group? It’s the same cat with different whiskers. They encourage one another in their experience and growth. Their speaker speaks about them and how they can improve their quality of faith and life. They are the center of their meeting. Christ and His glory are not the goal. So let’s ask, what’s the difference? Both meetings have the common denominator of self-centered subjectivism. “Oh no”, I think I hear someone object, “You are too extreme, the Christians are meeting in Jesus name!” Are they indeed? If in fact they are meeting in His name then let Him, the Lord Jesus, be the center. Let the gathering of the people be unto Him (Gen 49:10)!

That is one of the many reasons why Christians desperately need to be continually confronted by the gospel. We are subjectivists by nature. As Luther said, “We need to hear the gospel everyday because we forget it every day.” Mark it down; the gospel is God’s cure for subjectivism. The gospel proclaims a salvation that has taken place outside of the believer. It is a salvation grounded in someone other than us. Furthermore, it is a salvation grounded in concrete historical facts. Bible salvation is not centered in the believer’s experience, but rather in Christ’s experience for us on our behalf.

One of the great tragedies in our Churches today is that we take self- centered sinners and teach them how to be self-centered believers. Christ has been dethroned in what should be His own Church and the believer now reigns supreme. We are witnessing the day and age of the decapitated church. Christ the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23) has been all but expelled. The head has been chopped off. In all things, according to the Bible, Christ Jesus is to have the pre-eminence, but now that honor goes to the believer.

But you say, we have a lot of activity in our church! I’m sure you’re right! However, I remember as a small boy in Ireland standing in a farmyard and seeing a chicken getting his head cut off. Let me tell you, I’ve never seen such doings. That chicken got up and ran and ran. There was a flurry of activity but the chicken was dead. Activity, therefore, is not necessarily a proof of life. The Church that refuses to be Christ centered is actually dead while it has the appearance of action and life.

This is not to say that we Christians should not enjoy being saved or that we cannot have marvelous experiences of God. Far from it! But the point is, we dare not put our condition and experiences first. Christ Jesus must be given center stage in His own Church.

What a terrible trade has been made. The glories of Christ have been exchanged for an exaggerated emphasis on the believer’s condition. Gold has been replaced by brass! Yet the glories of our Lord Jesus remain infinite and unchanging for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

No subject ought to be dearer, then, to the heart of a believer than beholding and knowing the glory of the Lord Jesus-----and no subject can do the believer more good! Consider Him! He is the great savior from sin; He is our righteousness, our substitute and representative. He is the Lord, the one who has dominion over the entire world; He is the only Mediator between God and man. He is the Sovereign who became the servant. He is the Eternal Word who always was and always will be; He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is the anointed one, appointed and ordained of God for the salvation of his people; Jesus is the only reconciler between God and man. He created all things and is the sustainer all things. He is all of this and more, much, much more. Is it any wonder then that we are to occupy our time by looking unto Him? He is amazing!

And That’s the Gospel Truth!

Last week we considered how sin ruined us and turned us into raving subjectivists. We highlighted the awful problem of how sinners turn to Christ, but often the very church assemblies they join teach them how to remain self-centered by focusing on themselves instead of on Christ. This week we continue with the theme of ‘The Gospel versus the Believer-Centered Believer.’

The Wednesday Word, Nov. 5, 2008: The Gospel and the Believer-Centered Believer - Part 2

To grow in our Christian life we must practice looking unto Jesus, the one who lived and died for us and is now exalted in glory! There is no other way to run this race (Hebrews 12:1-2)! But how do we do this? How do we look unto Jesus?

The first thing that looking to Jesus means is that we must stop continually looking at ourselves and our condition. A dedicated believer-centered believer, however, cannot obey this instruction of Heb 12:1-2. He is too busy looking at himself and his experience. He has set himself up as a competitor to the gospel. Jesus, however, will tolerate no rivals! To look, therefore, unto Jesus we must take our eyes off ourselves and place them firmly upon the One who has bought and paid for us with His own blood!

The truth is, the believer-centered believer will not and cannot look unto Jesus for he is too self-absorbed. He reminds me of Oscar Wilde who quipped, “Come over here and sit next to me, I'm dying to tell you all about myself.” The believer- centered believer, you see, is engrossed in the great God self! Jesus, however, captivates the true believer, for Christ alone is the One who is the center of our conversation and life.

Gospel believers are to turn their eyes away from everything else and fix them on Jesus. We are not the center of the Cosmos! Our focus is to be on Jesus. After all, there is no one anywhere to compare with Him. J-E-S-U-S—just five letters--- but what a universe of power, grace and mercy is contained in that one name. What an amazing name He bears--- JESUS. It speaks of both mercy and grace---it is the purest gospel-name of all. The door to His presence is open to all believers and all of us have free access---all, that is, except the self-absorbed! As one old time preacher said, “Jesus sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.”

What a waste of time it is to continually focus our thoughts on our condition and experience. Just think about our experience versus the story of man’s ruin and redemption. It should teach us that regarding this matter of salvation, the focal point in not in us, but rather on events that took place outside of us. Consider this; in Romans 5:12 we read, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned.” We further read “For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” Rom 5:15. See how the entire ruin and redemption of sinners hinges upon the actions of two men! Our experience and condition are, therefore, not the central issue of redemption’s drama and should, therefore, not be the center of our Christian life!

The Rotten Inheritance!

When the first man, Adam, sinned, we all sinned. We were ruined because of him. Ruination was the legacy he left to all his descendants. What a rotten inheritance! We didn’t become sinners when we first experienced sin; we were already sinners when we were born. The poison was already in the blood. We were sinners at birth having become sinners in Adam. This had nothing to do with our experience! We weren’t there when Adam sinned. However, as the head of our race, he represented us and we were reckoned as being incorporated into him. When he stood before God, he stood not only for himself but also for us. It is vital, therefore, that we grasp that we neither became sinners because of something we did nor because of something we experienced. We became sinners because of something someone else did outside of us and apart from us. We became sinners because of an event which happened in the past, in history.

The Marvelous Inheritance!

Conversely, when God undertook our redemption He did not redeem us by doing something within us or in our experience. No, in fact it was quite the opposite for He accomplished His saving acts outside of us. Just as the first man, Adam, got us into trouble so the second man, Jesus, got us out! “Just as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). While we were dead in trespasses and sins, Christ died for us. Christ Jesus is now the new representative man. This was nothing to do with our experience! We weren’t there when Christ redeemed us. However, as the head of our new race, He represented us and we were reckoned as being incorporated into him. When He lived and died before God, He did so for us. All that He accomplished is now reckoned to us! What a marvelous inheritance! Just as our rejection before God was based upon the behavior of one man, Adam, so our acceptance before God now depends on another man, Jesus!

The big question, therefore, is, not whether or not we have had this or that experience, but rather, are we in Adam or in Christ. Who is our representative, Adam or Christ? As believers we are found in Christ alone!

Let me explain this business of representation a little further! Those who know me know I love to watch a good rugby match. I remember once when Ireland won a marvelous rugby trophy called the Triple Crown and how that after the match I declared, “we won’. But wait a minute, how could I possibly say; “We won”? I didn’t train or prepare myself to run around the field. I didn’t go to the gym and sweat and put myself through the rigors of extreme pain. But I was able to say; “We won”. A friend of mine, here in the States, heard of Ireland’s victory and said, “Congratulations on winning the Triple Crown”. I said, --- ----“Thanks”.

So let me ask you…had I gone mad when I said; “We won” and “Thanks?” Not a bit of me, for when Ireland played rugby they represented me. They won on my behalf and on behalf of everyone who identified with them. When they won, I won! Just so, when Christ Jesus came to this earth and stepped into this ‘vale of tears’ He did so on our behalf and in our name. He won the competition and gained our victory. By His death He put away sin (Hebrews 10:26); He crucified our old nature (Romans 6:6); He defeated Satan (John 16:11); He abolished death (2 Timothy1: 10); He perfected His people forever (Hebrews 10:14) and brought in everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24). When we look at Christ’s marvelous triumph we can confidently say, “We won.”

As believers we now have the opportunity to leave the tangled mess that is ‘us’ and occupy ourselves with the glory of God in Jesus Christ. As He lived we lived, as He died we died, as He rose from the dead we rose from the dead. It is a second rate and sub-standard Christianity that occupies itself with its own experience. Yet when pastors insist that the church is there to make everyone into religious subjectivists by keeping us focused on ourselves and not on the exalted Christ of the gospel, then the prospects for the future of our nation are bleak indeed. We urgently need to return to the gospel so that we can be delivered from believer-centered Christianity.

A note of warning: in the gospel, the good news from heaven, Christ Jesus is the center! Christ Jesus must, therefore, be the center of the church. When I say this, I mean just that. I don’t even mean that His work for us, vital as it is, must be the center, but Christ Jesus Himself. Let me explain: I have ministered in some Churches that were alarmed by the flagrant humanism growing in our midst. Some of these churches were holding the line and preaching the truths of the blood, the cross and the deity of Christ…. yet seldom have I discovered such bad and ungracious spirits as I did in their assemblies. They were the type of people who were waiting to pounce if there was any perceived doctrinal error. The grace of God had only reached as far as their heads. There was love for certain truths, but no apparent love for the Lord Jesus Himself. May God spare us all from such, for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living fundamentalist! Bonar hits the bull’s eye once more when he says,

“There are not a few who are so occupied with truth that they forget "the true one," so occupied with faith that they lose sight of its personal object, so given to dwelling upon the work of Christ that they overlook His person.

What and Who He is seems a question of small importance, provided they know that He has accomplished a work by which they may secure eternal life. "We are forgiven," they say, "we have peace; all is well." They take but little interest in the person of Him who has purchased these blessings. ---- The redemption is all, and the Redeemer is nothing, or, at least, very little to them. The sufficiency of His work is all, the glory and excellence of His person, nothing.

What is this but selfishness? We get all the benefit we can out of the work of Christ, and then have no desire for Him! And this selfishness introduces itself everywhere into the actions and thinking of this class of people.----- His truth is precious; His work is precious; but it is with Him that we have chiefly to do. It is Jesus! Jesus alone! Jesus Himself! whom we feel to be absolutely necessary!

We must go beyond truth to "Him who is true.” Truth is precious, but in itself it is cold. But the glory of the Gospel is this that it carries us up beyond truth to its living fountainhead! No, it brings us into the very bosom of Him who came out of the Father's bosom and has now returned to it, carrying with Him all those whom the Father has given Him; there, with Him to abide in happy fellowship, world without end!"

Horatius Bonar: The Night of Weeping

Believer-centered Christianity is a waste of time! In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we read "We all with open face, beholding, as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." This must mean, therefore, that endless hours of subjectivism will not actually improve our condition. We must look unto Jesus if we want to be changed from glory to glory! Christ is the image of his Father; He is God's masterpiece; He is the most excellent and perfect representation of the Father’s person given to men. As we look at Him we are transformed into His likeness! Who says so? God says so---(we just read it in 2 Corinthians 3:18)!

For a final thought, we need to ask, why is it that so many churches are believer-centered? Could it be because many church people are really much more interested in themselves than in Christ? Is it that culturally attuned leaders know this? Could it be that they conclude, “If we preach about believers, their growth and progress we are sure to draw a bigger crowd. Let’s face it; people aren’t hungering after Jesus these days. So if we are to be successful we need to be able to read the culture in which we live and trim our sails accordingly?” Could this be why Christ, His person, His work and offices are out of fashion in so many of our churches? He is not a big enough crowd builder! Christ alone is not a big enough ‘draw’ to have as the center of the Church. We must, therefore, we are told, have Christ plus psychology, Christ plus laughing, Christ plus the deeper work of the Spirit, Christ plus healing of the memories, Christ plus self-esteem, Christ plus visions, Christ plus prosperity, Christ plus church growth methods, Christ plus feeling good etc. Believing in and looking to Christ alone as the foundation, walls, cement and roof of the Christian life is not enough for many churches. There must be something else! Give us Christ plus contemporary music, Christ plus hymns, Christ plus line upon line teaching, we need more than Christ alone, we already know about Him---let’s move on!

It all sounds plausible, especially when you hear it often enough. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with having large numbers, in fact they are to be encouraged, but to build a big crowd while dethroning Christ Jesus is an act of betrayal and treason. Some pastors need to ask themselves, therefore, whether they want a Crowd or a Crown!

Here’s another scenario that possibly answers the question as to why many churches are not Christ centered. Perhaps Christ Jesus is not on center stage because it’s too risky. He would get in the way of our plans and besides that, we want to build our churches! --- But what if that wasn’t the same as Him building His? It may be too precarious to find out!

I believe, however, that the Holy Spirit is calling for a people who will love Jesus Christ and worship Him only. He is calling out a people who will live for Christ’s glory and His cause. He is calling for a people who will cast their crowns before Him and worship Him alone. In fact, such people are popping up in everyplace desiring to hear about Him and to look to Him. Such people desire to become gospel-centered believers. They have purposed, by the grace of god, to serve and glorify Christ alone and with the help and power of the Holy Spirit they are seeking to restore the person of Christ to His rightful place as the head of the Church.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

This week’s Wednesday Word will perhaps pluck corn on someone’s Sabbath! For some of you, it may cut across much of what you have been taught on being a new creation with the old passing and all things becoming new, but give it a listen and consider what I’m saying. Come now let us reason together (Isaiah 1:8).

The Wednesday Word, Nov. 19, 2008: The Gospel and the New Creature in Christ.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; (2 Corinthians 5: 17)

“A holy man is so far acquainted with the corruption of his own heart that instead of condemning others, he is apt to account them better than himself. The imperfections of a believer's sanctification make him continually depend on Christ for his justification.

John Mason; 1646 -1694

For years, one of the most puzzling verses in the entire New Testament was 2 Corinthians 5: 17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold all things are become new.”

At the beginning of my Christian life, however, far from being puzzled by this verse, I thought it was one of the easiest Bible verses to understand. There was nothing complicated about it for it explained the great change which had taken place in my life. I took it to mean what it said-----literally. It informed me that now that I was a Christian, I had a brand new life. The old life had gone, a new life had come in and everything was new. And it was true; everything was new. Before being saved I would never have read the Bible, but now I loved it and devoured it. I had hated prayer, except in emergencies, but now I found myself attending all night prayer meetings! I used to love to smoke weed and unlike a former President I did inhale, but when I became a believer the very smell of the stuff made me ill. I used to despise Christians, but now I loved being around them. Old things had passed away: all things were new! It would be safe to say that in many ways I had become transformed.

But as the years passed by I began to be troubled by my life. No it’s not that I wanted to start smoking again or become a drunk. Far from it! What began happening was that I started to get confronted by the horror which was still me. I found that I was still capable of thinking and planning all manner of lust and mischief. I also still had a vicious temper…only now it was more imbedded and more under control. Yes, under control, but still there. Troubling! Victory over sin was at times very temporary. It was seasonal at best! And by this time I was preaching----help---- and I found that every time I quoted this ‘new creature in Christ’ scripture to my listeners I now felt an unusual sort of hollowness. Quietly I thought, “You are being a hypocrite McKee,” I felt I should be saying, “Some things have passed away and some things have become new, but there’s still a lot of the old nonsense remaining!”

Then guest ministers would preach at my church and they would invariably tell us that the old had passed and all things were now new. I would inwardly flinch, but outwardly nod my head with the agreement of the ‘wise and knowing’. And as this line always drew amens of appreciation from ranks of the hearers, I began to suspect that I was the only one in the church who didn’t see this scripture as being true in their lives. Old things passed away and ALL things new? .. Not for me…some things had passed away and some things were new but not ALL THINGS!

Then I discovered Paul! I don’t mean I actually discovered him…I’d been reading him for years, but for the first time, I noticed a progression in his life. Actually it was more of a regression than a progression. When I followed his life and writings I found that in AD 56, he wrote to the Corinthians telling them that he was the least of the Apostles (1Corinthians 15:9). Then four years later, in AD 60, he tells the Ephesians that he’s the least of all the saints (Ephesians 3:8). Then, four years after that, he tells Timothy that he is the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

Least of the Apostles! -------- Least of all the saints! --------- Chief of sinners! And this is progress? Indeed, he seems to have everything back to front. You see, I thought that when salvation first took a hold of people, they came into the Church feeling as though they were the chief of sinners. After a while, they got their lives cleaned up a little and felt as though they has now graduated to become the least of the saints. Then finally, they got some kind of ministry and became, so to speak, the least of the apostles. Paul seems, however, to be walking in reverse! What was going on here?

There’s a famous story back in Ireland about a young man, who when walking to Dublin, stopped and asked how far it was to the city. Twenty miles was the reply. After two more hours of a brisk pace he stopped and asked again how far he was from Dublin and the answer came, 20 miles. After two more hours of vigorous walking, he again stopped and asked how far he was from the great city. Twenty miles was the reply. He sat down in the ditch, scratched his head and said, “Well at least I’m holding my own!”

The poor old Apostle Paul, however, didn’t even seem to be holding his own. When we Consider that he’s the Apostle who wrote most of our New Testament, it is astonishing to hear him say that he is the least of the Apostles. And it's extraordinary to read that he considers himself the least of all the saints….did the man not know the saints? Did he not know about the Corinthian fornicator and the saints who got drunk at church services? Was he unaware of the two squabbling women in Philippi who kept their assembly in an uproar? Yes Paul knew the saints and ministered to them daily, yet he calls himself the least of all saints. But when I read that he considered himself to be the chief of sinners, quite frankly I was stunned. What had happened to him? Had he lost touch with reality?

What kind of man wrote those verses? What sort of person made these confessions? Was it a new convert? Was it a Christian in a fit of backsliding or depression? Was it a carnal believer? No! Far from it, these were the confessions of a mature, ageing Christian in the last decade of his life. These were the words of one of the finest and greatest Christians ever to have lived. This same man goes on to tell Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7).

Therefore, we see these are neither the admissions of someone who has drifted away from the fold nor the declarations of a backslider overcome with sin. These are,---------- and get ready for this,-------these are the confessions of a man who is growing closer to God.

The truth is this, the closer we get to God, the more we understand that we are lost without Him. The closer we draw to Him the more we are convinced that salvation is all of grace and grace leaves no room for human merit. The closer we get to God the more we will realize that there is no hope within ourselves. We see there is nothing in us to commend us to the thrice-holy God.

Closeness to God always makes a person feel undone. Consider Abraham! The Lord had just told him He was about to incinerate Sodom and Gomorrah. He’d had enough of their wickedness and now stood ready to vaporize the whole vile mess. Abraham’s reply is astonishing: He says, “Lord, I’ve talked to You and I’m already incinerated.” Actually what he said was, “I am dust and ashes” but it’s the same thing (Genesis 18:27). Abraham had drawn close to God and had encountered true holiness: as a result, he felt as vile as the people of the doomed cities. He felt the same judgment they were about to get was due to him.

Consider also Job and his miserable comforters. Remember poor Job? He was afflicted with a plague of Sabeans, a plague of Chaldeans, a plague of wicked weather and because of these he lost everything. Then he endured a plague of boils, the plague of a nagging wife and then finally the plague of well meaning friends who just had no clue about what was really happening. These friends argued with the pitiable man that his afflictions must have been a result of sin in his life. He’d been bad to the widows or some such thing they reasoned. But each time they attacked, Job launched a stout and robust defense. After all, he was a God fearing and good man who had walked uprightly. But then God showed up! This changed Job’s tune! Check it out in Job 40:4 where Job admits to the Lord, “Behold I am vile”. His friends couldn’t get him to admit this, but now confronted with the very presence of the Almighty he sees that his own righteousness was non-existent compared to the Lord’s.

And then remember Isaiah? He was the great woe preacher of his day. His favorite text was, “Woe unto you’. He dealt out woes saying, “Woe unto this one and woe unto that one”. But one morning, Isaiah went to the Temple and there he encountered the Lord. The Seraphim were declaring, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory”. Isaiah took in the scene and immediately declared, “Woe is me, I am undone’. What had happened? The ‘woe to this one and to that one’ preacher had changed his tune. It was now ‘Woe unto me!’ What had changed? What was the reason for this outburst? The reason was that nearness to God had made Him feel undone! The truth is, and this may startle you, holy people never feel holy and those who feel holy are never holy people. The closer we get to God the more keenly we are aware of our own depths of depravity.

The closer we get to God the more we discover that sin is a much bigger issue that we first thought. At the start, for me, it was just a matter of cleaning up the external actions, but now, as the Holy Spirit led I could see that sin ran like a deep cancer. I love the quote from Mason at the beginning of this piece—it’s worth reading again. “A holy man is so far acquainted with the corruption of his own heart that instead of condemning others, he is apt to account them better than himself. The imperfections of a believer's sanctification make him continually depend on Christ for his justification.” I have found this truth to be very real. I am so sinful that sometime I don’t even realize that I’m sinful. Even the act of preaching can be a time of gross and vile sinfulness for me. You see, many times I find myself in competition with the Lord Jesus for who gets the glory in the sermon. Will it be Jesus or me? This has been a huge struggle! The difficulty is, my orphaned heart wants everyone to like me and wants them to think I am a great preacher. Not being satisfied with the acceptance of Christ alone I crave the applause of strangers. That, my friend is refusal to believe the gospel---it is wickedness of the highest order. In addition, how dare I use the Lord’s pulpit and the Lord’s message to carve out my own fan club! So what if my listeners like me? Am I here to glorify the Lord or myself? …And then the Holy Spirit reminds me that if I seek to please men I am not the servant of Christ! And thus the struggle with sin intensifies and all the more so as I grow closer to the Lord.

So where does this leave the scripture, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold all things are become new? Why it leaves it exactly where it should be! But is it true? Yes it’s precisely true! But what does it mean? It means exactly what it says! But clear up the mystery. There is no mystery! It says; if any man be “IN CHRIST”…that’s the key, that’s where the new creation lies! It is only in Christ that the old has passed away and ALL has become new. In Christ I am totally, fully and perfectly righteous…that’s new. The old sinful me, “in Adam”, has passed away. When I was “in Adam” I was a stranger to God but now “in Christ” I’ve been brought near…..that’s new! The orphan has now been adopted ---that’s new! I was once God’s enemy but now I’ve been reconciled, that’s new; the lost has been found, that’s new; the slave has been bought back, that’s new; the captive has been liberated and all because of the finished work of one man, Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me! Now that’s new and when the new arrived the old had to pass away. They cannot and will not co-exist. The truth is this, as a result and benefit of the gospel, I am a brand new creature in Christ. y status before God has been changed. I have a new righteousness which is totally outside of me in Christ. His righteousness is now mine and I am in Him. Although there are many new things in me and they are increasing, the place where ALL things are new is not in me, but in Christ.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

This week we take a slightly different turn in the WW. A number of readers have written asking for prayer for their situation and because of this and various reports I have received, I thought this week to look again at the Lord Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of the gospel.

The Wednesday Word, Nov. 26, 2008: Sinking Ships and Sleeping Saviors

Mark 4:35-41

In Mark 4 we encounter one of the great storm stories of the Bible. If the truth be known, all of us face various kinds of storms in our life. In fact, a number of the readers of the W.W. are going through some major financial storms right now. Just last Sunday I heard a brother say that, because of the current economic uncertainty, there almost seems to be a spirit of fear that has gripped many Christians. He may be right! This is why we need to hear more good news about Jesus. We need to know that the One who has bought and paid for us has the power, ability and willingness to take us through whatever storms we have to face. It is as we see Him in His majesty that we can easily trust Him. If there is one thing necessary in this present situation it is that we, as His followers, grasp the good news of Christ’s absolute power and sovereignty. Since HE is the sovereign ruler of all, He can calm the storms of our lives and deliver us. If ever we are to get through these and future days we must learn to look to Him alone and to trust in Him alone.

Do you really believe that your Savior is all-powerful? Do you believe that He has all the power necessary to get you through this present crisis? As we go to the Bible we see that there was something about Jesus, ----- a compelling, divine, majestic sovereignty ----that moved and conquered the hearts of men. Observe it at work, in this passage, as He tells his disciples to get into a boat and sail across the lake to the other side. Well what’s majestic about that? Consider this, these men were experienced fishermen and I’m sure some of them must have smelt the storm brewing; they knew how to read the signs. ----Yet they followed Jesus right into the storm. This is a case of divine majesty at work.

We see this divine majesty demonstrated throughout the life of Jesus. Think about how, for example, Christ walked up to Matthew, the businessman/tax collector, and simply said, “Follow me” and Matthew instantly got up and left everything. Christ did the same to Peter and the fisherman immediately left his nets. If you don’t think there’s anything special in this, just try it yourself. Just go into a thriving business and try commanding the owner to leave everything to follow you. That puts it into perspective doesn’t it? Jesus spoke and people followed. There is something majestic and compelling about Him.

Observe also how, in this passage, Jesus says with the same authority and majesty, “Let us go to the other side.” I’ve looked this phrase up in the Greek and do you know what it means? It means, “Let us go to the other side!” That was the word of the Lord. There was no way, then, for that boat to sink since Jesus had said they were going to the other side. So watch how these fishermen follow the carpenter and how the carpenter leads them straight into the heart of the storm.

We need to understand this; following Jesus is never easy! He has the persistent habit of leading His followers into difficult situations. We need to learn from this that the desire to have a trouble free life is a non-starter! It just isn’t going to happen. The good news, however, is that it’s there in the midst of the storm that we encounter God. He is the God who hears our cries. As Spurgeon says, “Because God is a living God, He can hear; because He is a loving God, He will hear; because He is a covenant God, He has bound Himself to hear.”

But back to our story: in the midst of the storm, the disciples panicked. They forgot that Jesus had spoken and had given His word. What word? That they were going to the other side. What we can learn from this is that between the receiving the promise of the Lord and the provision of the promise there is often a problem. And it’s there, in the problem, that Jesus demonstrates His divine power and majesty. It’s there, in the midst of the storms of our life, that He also tests us to show us whether or not we believe in His Word, His Majesty, His deity and His absolute power.

But something worse than the fact that Jesus leads them into the storm is that in the midst of the storm, He goes to sleep. Have you ever been in a storm and it seemed as if Jesus has forgotten you? It seems He is sleeping. Don’t panic! The storm may have come, but Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere, He’s right with you. Don’t be like the disciples. They forgot that Jesus was right there in the boat with them; they were in His presence, but they forgot this. They forgot He was there, they forgot His word to them, they forgot that they were going to the other side.

But, you know the story, the disciples have a panic attack and waken Jesus with the cruelest of words, “Don’t you care that we are about to perish?” Have you ever felt that Jesus didn’t care for you? One look at Calvary will expose the error of your thinking. See him there, suspended between heaven and earth, bearing our curse. See Him there, the dying lamb; the interceptor of the wrath of God. How then can you imagine that He doesn’t care for you?

Then, in one of the great scenes of the Bible, the Creator of the universe arises from His sleep, stretches Himself to His full height and rebukes the storm by calling out one word, “HUSH!” The winds got quiet, the waves got quiet and even big Peter got quiet. The disciples knew that they were in the presence of sovereign majesty. It’s no wonder then that they asked, “behold what manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey Him?” It’s no wonder that they were amazed; Jesus had just given them a revelation of His deity!

These men knew the Old Testament scriptures: they were beginning to connect the dots! They were beginning to see that when Jesus calmed the storm, He was demonstrating that He was the Lord, the almighty Yahweh of Psalms 107. Here’s what it says,

Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses. He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he brings them unto their desired haven. (See Psalm 107:23-30).

Here once more we are faced with incontestable proof that the Jesus of the New Testament is the Yahweh of the Old. In the Old Testament it is Yahweh to whom the people cry in the storm, but to whom did they cry in the New? They cried to Jesus, for Jesus and Yahweh are one and the same!

It is this same Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, who has undertaken our entire salvation. So what does this mean for us as we face the uncertainty of the future? What does His word say? To the Philippians who had supported the cause of Christ Paul says,

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19).

David says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Ps 37:25).

We need to learn to claim the promises like these and take them as our own. We would be well advised to memorize and meditate upon God’s promises and trust the One who stands behind them. Here are some more promises that I hope will be helpful.

Matt. 6:25-26 "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they??

Matt 6:31: 33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

Ps. 55:22 "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

1 Pet. 5:7 "Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you."

Ps. 31:19 "Oh how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!"

Ps. 22:26 "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek Him: your heart shall live for ever."

Ps. 63:5 "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips."

Ps. 103:5 "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."

Ps. 104:27-28 "These wait all upon Thee; that Thou may give them their meat in due season. That Thou givest them they gather: Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good."

Ps. 145:15-16 "The eyes of all wait upon Thee; and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."

Ps. 34:10 "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing."

Ps 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd I SHALL NOT WANT”

Ps. 23:5,6 "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the House of the LORD for ever."

Is. 49:10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them."

2 Cor. 9:10-11 "Now He that ministers seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causes through us thanksgiving to God."

Let’s conclude by saying, if the disciples had not have been in the storm they would never have seen the revelation of Jesus as the great sovereign deliverer, the Master of the winds and the waves. Something wonderful will come out of your storm. Trust Him with your situation; go to Him constantly, thanking Him for His supply.

The disciples approached Him in unbelief, but even then grace answered with provision and a demonstration of His majesty. How much more then should we, armed with faith and promises, go boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need.

For those who have difficulty understanding practical faith, I’ll leave you with this from Spurgeon,

“What is it to believe? To tell you as simply as possible: to believe is to give up trusting in yourself and to trust in Jesus Christ ----. The old country preacher said, “This here is how I believe — when I see a promise, I do not stand on the promise; but I say, that promise is firm and strong so I’ll fall flat on it. Now, if the promise will not bear me, then the fault lies with the promise, but, as for me, I fall flat on it.” Now, that is faith

And That’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 3, 2008: The Gospel and the Self-Righteous, Part 1

An old Anglican Bishop once remarked, “Everywhere the Apostle Paul went they had a riot, everywhere I go they make cups of tea.” I would suggest that if the gospel is preached correctly the preacher may very well get fewer cups of tea, for if preached correctly, the gospel will annoy and anger a certain group of church people…. the self- righteous.

Each of us needs to guard against becoming self-righteous and it is only by the gospel that we can be preserved from such a fate. So, what do I mean by ‘self-righteous’? There are three varieties of self-righteous people we want to consider in today’s Wednesday Word.

1) The “Not sure that I’m really a sinner” Self-Righteous Sinner.

The most easily distinguished group of self-righteous generally subscribe to the theory that they are indeed sinners, but quietly they are not really sure that they have their facts straight on this point.

The adherent to this class of self-righteousness is the person who, for the most part, is a religious individual who says their prayers, believes in right and wrong, is convinced they are as good as most people and, if the truth be known, perhaps a good deal better. All this business about people getting saved is a little irritating and to be told that they are a sinner whose only hope is an alien righteousness which belongs to and is found in someone else is, to say the least, somewhat irksome. These people have not yet discovered their complete wreck, ruin and spiritual insolvency. They know nothing of their personal depravity, guilt, and consequent danger.

I remember once preaching a series on, “Righteousness in Christ Jesus Alone”. I had just recently taken over as the Pastor at this particular church and had thought that, as the church was “Bible Believing”, these messages would be an exercise in strengthening the saints in the faith. How wrong I was! After a number of weeks there was an uproar and revolt among many of the leading ‘saints’. How dare I say that we were all sinners! How dare I judge them? Some of them left the church saying I had condemned and insulted them. Others stayed in and tried to convert me to having a more presentable message.

One of the horrors of sin is that it can take the message of the love and kindness of God towards us in Christ Jesus and treat it as a personal insult. Imagine the doctor diagnosing a terminal disease and the patient feeling affronted when he is told of his condition and being even more offended when he is told he cannot possibly cure himself and that his only hope lies outside of himself in the work to be performed by another.

2) The ‘Trying Harder’ Self –Righteous Sinner

But back to my story! Eventually, as the gospel was expounded week after week, God began to slowly change hearts. Some of my antagonists began to discover that their hearts were indeed evil, sinful and deceitful; The Lord began to graciously show them that, in themselves, there was nothing to commend them to Him.

But the human heart is a remarkable thing. Even after having been touched by grace it continues to harbor opposition to God. It is a wonderful thing to behold how self-righteous people will do their best to preserve their self-righteousness as long as they are able. Some of my one-time opponents began to come to me saying things such as, “We accept we are not saved by our righteousness, but we are still going to try the best we can to get into Heaven”. To rest in Christ alone seemed foolish and perhaps even dangerous to them. They still looked for something within themselves to recommend them to God. They were like the old Irish farmer who wore suspenders and a belt on his trousers just ‘to be sure to be sure!’

The gospel of course exposes the sheer folly of self-righteousness: if our righteousness can save us then we don’t need Christ’s. Conversely, if Christ’s righteousness alone can save, it is aggravated foolishness for us to attempt to contribute our righteousness to the equation. So I continued to reason with them that to trust in ourselves or in any religious ceremony, as a means to make us safer than we already are in Christ Jesus, is madness. Did we expect to be accepted in Heaven, I reasoned, because of something we had done? If that was the case, then Christ Jesus was the biggest time waster in history. Look at Him there, hanging on the cross, suffering the torments of wrath and sin. What was He thinking about? Did He not know that we could save ourselves by being good church people?

Bit by bit as Christ was continually shown to be our ONLY hope, these dear church folk began to see that there really is nothing we can bring to God to commend us but the doing and dying of Jesus Christ. They slowly began to see that the salvation of God does not stand on human works; rather it stands on the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Jesus.

By the way, anyone preaching the gospel will insult self-righteous people because there is an inbuilt offense in the cross. There should, therefore, be no surprise when un-saved, self-satisfied members of your family attack and reject you for your faith in Christ. The worst thing you can hear from them is for them to say, “Oh that’s nice that you believe in Jesus, whatever keeps you happy.”

3) The ‘Trusting in Repentance’, Self-Righteous Sinner

But self-righteousness is not always as obvious as the types I encountered in the group in that church. Sometimes it is much more subtle and hidden. This is one of the reasons why the gospel needs to continually be preached to the saints. I’ve also discovered there’s another group of self-righteous saints who are a lot harder to spot. Here’s the way they think. They say,

“We cannot boast of anything, we confess we are sinners; Lord we thank you that you have put away our sin because we have confessed it and have repented of it.”

This is a much more dangerous group to belong to than either of the first two. They seem closer to the truth, but look closely at what they are saying. They are still fatally flawed in their thinking for they are continuing to hold on to something other than Christ alone. They are looking for forgiveness based upon their repentance! What an imperfect and faulty foundation they have built for themselves.

What I am saying may seem odd to you, but, if it does, let me ask, do you for one moment think or imagine that your repentance is perfect? What about, for example, the sins you have forgotten? They have been somehow deleted from your memory card, but they are still there! You haven’t yet repented of them because you can’t remember them. And what about the sins you committed that you didn’t even know were sins! You need to repent of those things, but how can you since you didn’t know they were sins?

Although repentance is a vital truth, it is a foundation of quick sand. The only foundation that will hold in the Day of Judgment is the solid rock of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

“When he shall come with trumpet sound;

Oh May I then in Him be found;

Dressed in His righteousness alone;

Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.”

To trust in a foundation of repentance is to be no better off than a good Muslim. Many Muslims believe that it is necessary to repent and, if they repent, Allah accepts them. But the gospel teaches us no one is ever accepted because they repent. Although true saving faith and repentance are inseparable, we are accepted only because a sinless man, Jesus Christ, lived for us, died for us and rose again for us. And yes of course the kindness of God leads us to repentance, but our repentance is not something we should trust as our ground of acceptance before God. Our repentance is, at best, very flawed. As the great preacher John Berridge used to say,

“My repentance needs to be repented of, my tears need washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer.”

It is very hard for the self-righteous to let go of anything and everything he can point to within himself as his trust and hope. If the truth be known, it is very easy for any of us to slip away from the gospel and almost unknowingly trust something we have done as the ground of Salvation. But the Bible knows nothing of self-salvation. Spurgeon says,

“There is no comfort in the Bible for those who would save themselves. There are plenty of good words for sinners, and for those that are righteous in Christ; but for your ‘good’ people, not a word of comfort.”

The truth is this; Hell is full of ‘good’ people! They were so ‘good’ that they somehow became satisfied with a righteousness, which was totally inadequate for Heaven. It is only in Christ alone and His accomplishments on our behalf that we can rest. Only in Christ can the required perfect and flawless righteousness be found. Let’s stay honest before God. Let’s abandon all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and cast ourselves wholly upon Christ for our acceptance and right standing in heaven. Let’s side with the following sentiment from the great hymn writer, William Cowper,

“My God, how perfect are thy ways!

But mine polluted are;

Sin twines itself about my praise,

And slides into my prayer.

When I would speak what thou hast done

To save me from my sin,

I cannot make thy mercies known

But self-applause creeps in.

This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts,

How does it overflow!

While self upon the surface floats,

Still bubbling from below.

Let others in the gaudy dress

Of fancied merit shine,

The Lord shall be my righteousness,

The Lord for ever mine. “

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 10, 2008: The Gospel and the Self-Righteous, Part 2

God’s problem with us is not our sin it’s our righteousness!

Without realizing it, we often look for something to recommend us to God other than Christ alone. And much modern preaching helps us to do just that. Recently I watched a well know speaker, on Christian TV, urge the faithful to be financially generous with God. Had he left it there it would have been fine, but this preacher then challenged his listeners saying, “Don’t you want to see the favor of God on your life? Plant a financial seed and you’ll release the favor of the Almighty on all that you do.” In other words, “Do something and you’ll get favor” But this is wrong---entirely wrong! Favor is another word for grace---they are one and the same. Grace believers believe, therefore, that there is nothing we can do, and that includes giving, which can earn God’s favor. If we can do something to earn His grace, the gospel is demolished; grace is replaced with works and the believer has something to boast about other than the Cross.

Let’s say it again, God’s problem with us is not our sin it’s our righteousness. We so easily get caught up in the sin of trying to establish a basis of acceptance before God other than Christ alone. We refuse to rely entirely on the finished work for our justification before God. This is another reason why we need to be continually confronted by the gospel for the gospel will dismantle and strip away everything other than Christ alone!

On this matter, my friend Keith Lamb says,

“The problem God has with us is not our sin. We want to rid ourselves of sins. It is our righteousness that gets in the way. As long as I can recommend myself to God in any area I am unacceptable for the purposes of God. But when I finally decide to agree with God and confess that no good thing is in me, then I am in a position for God to do something for me and through me.”

(Keith lamb: The Lord’s Freedman p55).

Self-righteousness comes easily for many of us and, if we do not continually apply the gospel to our thinking we can effortlessly fall into its trap and be found to be closet Pharisees!

Pharisaism---what a curse! It is a matter of interest to discover that, according to the online Jewish Encyclopedia and other sources, there were several categories among the ancient Pharisees and when we examine them we discover that self-righteous Phariseeism is still alive and well and living in our churches.

But this modern day Pharisaism has learned how to cover its tracks. In fact pharisaical self-righteousness can be so insidious that we might actually be involved with one or more of its forms without even knowing. Let’s look then at some of the distinct types of Pharisaism and pray that the Lord will deliver us from their snare. May Christ alone be embraced as all our righteousness.

1. The Shechem Pharisee

This was the gentleman who was meticulous in his observance of the law, not because it was in his heart to honor God, but rather because he hoped that others would see just how good he was.

What about you? What about me? We look good, we are involved with the church, but our hearts can often be far from God! Furthermore, the Shechem Pharisee wanted to look good because he wanted to get something out of being perceived as a good guy! The Shechem Pharisee takes his name from events that transpired in Genesis 34. Shechem, the Hivite prince, became circumcised, not because he wanted to worship the one true God, but rather because in becoming circumcised, he thought he would get Dinah as his wife. He’s still around today. I’ve met him in the business people who get involved with church just to meet potential clients. These people talk a great talk, they say all the right words, but life is all about them and their advancement and not about the Lord Jesus.

Motives are so very important! Some years ago a young boy crawled out over the frozen lake and pulled his friend, who had fallen through the ice, to safety. He became an instant hero and when being interviewed by the press was asked, “Were you not scared?” “Yes”, he replied, “I was scared, but I couldn’t let him drown for he was wearing my skates.” Just like the Shechem Pharisee, the kid’s motives were selfish.

So what about you? Why are you involved in church? Is it because God has been rich in mercy towards you or is it that you have your own agenda?

2. The Wait a Little Pharisee.

He was the one who could always produce an entirely good reason for putting off doing a good deed.

In today’s church, these are the ones who always have a good reason as to why we don’t, for example, spend more money on evangelizing and missions. He is a hearer of the word, but not a doer. Rather than being honest about his condition, he again hides behind a veneer of righteous words and can pose as a master of sensible caution and prudence. Have you met him yet? He may be in leadership, he may have a large voice in a small committee, but mark it down, he is always the one to tell us why things can’t be done; and, on top of that, he has developed the knack of sounding pious and holy while doing so. He mistakenly thinks that his caution has made him more righteous than the rest of us and views God as being One as restrained and guarded as he.

3. The Bleeding Pharisee

This was a very interesting specimen. He was also known as ‘The self- inflicting Pharisee’. In Bible times women had a very low status. No Pharisee, for example, could talk to his wife or sister in public. But the Bleeding Pharisee wouldn’t even so much as look at a woman on the street. And-------- wait for it------to avoid looking at women he walked around with his eyes closed and thus kept walking into walls and sides of buildings! He bruised and wounded himself needlessly and thus was given the name of the Bleeding Pharisee!

The truth is, some people take things too far! There is a great truth about separation from the world, but some folk take it to the extreme! Some pastors, for example, won’t allow women to wear makeup or to wear nice clothes. It seems they insist that the womenfolk buy their outfits at

The problem with this is that these, and other standards, are imposed as the proof of righteousness. According to this thinking, God accepts us because of how we dress and do our hair. Of course these churches never express things as precisely as this, but in effect that’s what is being said! In churches like these there is, therefore, no need for the gospel, no need for the blood and no need for Christ’s righteousness. After all, in their minds, keeping up certain standards provides all the righteousness they need! Invariably the Bleeding Pharisee walks around with a sour expression and judgmental attitude! He’s not the type of fellow you’d want to have at your dinner party.

4. The Mortar or Humble Pharisee

This guy was so humble and pious that he wouldn’t so much as lift his feet when he walked. These gentlemen still attend our meetings today. They act as if they are such self-effacing brothers and sisters. They are so sweet that they’d give you diabetes. They are always talking in terms of the purity of heart, “Oh Brother I see such a pure heart in you; Praise the Lord for you brother!”

People who keep talking about me having a pure heart give me the creeps! It’s just not real! Christ alone was the only one who had a pure heart and we need to continually look to Him as our perfect righteousness. And yes, Jesus did say that the pure in heart were blessed, but any man who thinks he has a pure heart has deceived himself. Looking to our heart and reckoning it as pure is a self-righteousness which flies in the face of the gospel! At the back of it, the ‘Humble Pharisee’ wants us to be impressed with him and to believe that he is a wonderful brother. Rather than setting out to show that Jesus is wonderful, he would rob God of His glory and point people to himself!

5. The Timid and Fearing Pharisee

This Gentleman walked around in dread and fear of divine punishment. He saw God in terms of terror and judgment. All that he did, he did out of fear!

He is sometimes found in our churches today obsessing on the Lake of Fire and the idea that God is out to get us if we don’t shape up! Again, he has the disease of self-righteousness because he thinks that by shaping up and doing everything in an exacting manner he can find favor with God.

By the way, I believe in the Lake of Fire as well as the next man, but I also believe that the blood of Christ has doused its flames for God’s elect. The timid and fearing Pharisee, however, lives in fear that if he doesn’t do things perfectly, God will get Him. He’s continually looking over his shoulder. But, looking over your shoulder like that gives you a pain in the neck and makes you one. Listen to me; God is not out to get us! The blood of the Lord Jesus has exhausted His wrath. The fearful saint ought to rest in Christ’s redemption and stop trying to impress God with his own perfection.

6. The Ever Reckoning or Compounding Pharisee

This guy was also known as, “Tell me another duty and I will do it Pharisee.” He believed that every good deed he did put God a little deeper into his debt and every failure put him a little deeper into arrears with God!

This is one of the subtlest forms of Pharisaism and perhaps the easiest to fall into! It is self-righteous legalism at its worst. This kind of Pharisee thinks that he can earn God's approval and acceptance by performance. The problem with this thinking is that, if you can get God's favor by doing something then you deserve the honor! You have robbed Christ Jesus for he alones deserves the glory! He alone is our acceptance before the Father.

Of course no Christian would dare talk like that ----we know better! Don't we? We would never in our wildest dreams imagine ourselves as rivals of Christ. However, many of us fill our lives with practices which we, sometimes subconsciously, think will secure God's favor. Have you ever, for example, gone though a period when it was 'hard work' to read the Bible? In fact it was such a chore that you stopped. You felt far from God. And then, remember, just when you felt at your lowest point, you were called upon to pray at the end of a fellowship time. You froze! In your heart you felt like a stranger to God; you felt that your prayers would ricochet off the ceiling. But let's fast-forward three months. Now you are back reading the Bible each day and enjoying it and someone calls upon you to pray. This time it's easy. Heaven, you feel, is open to your requests! Why? Because you are making the effort!

But what's wrong with that? Everything! It's self-righteousness----you feel that your performance (or lack of it) can open or shut heaven. But if you think like that, Christ is no longer needed! You have fallen from grace! You don't need a mediator…all you need is good works! You don't need a High Priest, all you need is a quiet time. And this same self-righteous spirit works itself out into every avenue of Christian life from attending services, doing evangelism and going to prayer meetings.

Mark this down! The Lord God almighty wants you to know that all your sin is wiped away by the work of someone else, the Lord Jesus Christ! Your record of sin has been removed and Christ has become your righteousness. Of course it is right and proper to do good works, to read the Bible and to pray and evangelize, but these things can never make you any more righteous than you already are in Christ. Furthermore, not doing them cannot diminish the righteous that is already credited to your account!

So let me ask you! Have you read your Bible for an hour each day this week? You haven't? Does God now love you less? NO!!!!!

Did you pray for an hour each day this week? "Well actually brother yes I did!" Good for you! Does that mean that God now loves you more? NO!!!

Inside us all there's a secret lurking self righteous Pharisee going about looking for opportunities to establish his own righteousness. Serve him an eviction notice through the gospel! As we meditate on the gospel and its applications we will be delivered from all forms of Pharisaism.

And that is the Gospel Truth!

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 17, 2008: The Word Made Flesh

John 1:14, "And the word was made (became) flesh, and dwelt among us."

This verse is the shortest description of the Christmas story found in the 4 Gospels! It’s the Christmas story yet Bethlehem isn’t mentioned and neither is the manger! Mary and Joseph aren’t listed as spectators. There are no adoring shepherds; the angels and the Wise Men are absent, yet this is the story, the real story. This is, if you like, the story behind the story.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.

The infinite One became finite.

The invisible One became visible.

The incomprehensible One became comprehensible.

When the Word became flesh, God un-veiled Himself. What astonishing truths to meditate upon this Christmas season.

Which Word was it that became flesh? It was the same Word that already was in the beginning. We read in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word! ----- This phrase is rich with truth! It means that if we were to roll back the curtain of time we would find the Word. He was already there before the beginning. When was the beginning? We don’t know, but if ever we got back there we would discover that the Word was already in attendance. And this same Word became flesh; this Word became one of us, not to damn us, but to rescue us. Is this not a good reason for thankfulness this Christmas? Is this not cause for praise and adoration? God and man in one glorious person! God in flesh appearing, mighty to save! What rich and heart-warming truths to meditate upon.

Look at the manger and behold your God! It is staggering! Here is incontestable proof that God is not angry with His people; God is not frowning at us; God is not against us. He’s for us. He loves us passionately! Look and listen, there are no threats being issued from the manger. God has become one of us! Through Christ, His favor is resting upon us! Well may we sing “O come let us adore Him!”

God became a human, a real human, yet a sinless and perfect one and as a man He was, "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). And this is the way it had to be because only a sinless sacrifice could rescue sinners like us from the wrath which is to come.

And so it is that here in the manger we see the arrival of our representative, made human so that He could become our substitute. This Child of Bethlehem is the unfolding of the eternal purposes of God. In this child, God’s passion for us is fully displayed.

When we consider that this little one would go on to pour out His blood for our sins and would redeem and reconcile us unto God then perhaps, as we meditate on Him, our song will not only be “Joy to the World” but also “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 24, 2008: The Christmas Message by John Fonville

If someone were to ask you, “Is God pleased with you?,” how would you respond?

The joyful, astounding truth of the Christmas message is this:

God is pleased with you!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased,” (Lk. 2:14)!

Note carefully. God the Father is pleased with you not because of you. He is pleased with you because you are united to His Son! And this is what He says about His Son, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matt. 3:17).

Through the gospel and faith, the Holy Spirit brings a sinner into union with Christ. Once a man is united to Christ, whatever God the Father says about His Son, He also says about His adopted son! God the Father has blessed us in the Beloved (i.e., His Son; Eph. 1:6).

Regrettably, many believers think that God is displeased with them. They think they are unworthy to be in such a privileged status (i.e., of God the Father being pleased with them and of being united to Christ).

“Is God pleased with you?”

Many, through unbelief think consciously or unconsciously thoughts like, “Such an announcement is just too good to be true. I mean, how could God be pleased with me? Look at me! I am a wreck!”

However, consider carefully the following counsel by Walter Marshall,

“Now, you might think that you are unworthy to have such a great gift as union with Christ. Remember, however, Christ shed his precious blood to redeem you. That precious blood will enable you to miraculously advance in holiness through your union with Christ. Union with Christ is not a privilege you earn by your sincere obedience, or by your own attempts at holiness. Your union with Christ is not a reward of your own good works. Rather, union with Christ is a privilege that God gives to every Christian when they first become a Christian! Right when you enter into the kingdom of God, you also enter into union with Christ! This union with Christ is the foundation for all of your obedience to God. All of your good works as a Christian flow out of your union with Christ. All of your sincere obedience to the law is the fruit of your union with Christ,” (Gospel Mystery, p. 41).

This is indeed Good News!

The Good News of Christmas is that your privileged, favored, status with God (i.e., justification, adoption, union with Christ, etc…) is not dependent on your sanctification. Your status as a fully, beloved son with whom God is well pleased is not dependent upon your performance. Rather, it is solely dependent upon God’s promise to you through His Son!

The angels’ announcement to the shepherds speaks of the source of peace and blessing that is ours, namely that God has been pleased to bestow His undeserved favor upon men with whom He was formerly in deadly opposition. Peace, favor, justification, adoption, union with Christ, and all spiritual blessings that are ours flow from the divine favor of God.

God loves us more than we love ourselves. What an overwhelming joy it is to know that God’s favor rests upon me, an unworthy sinner!

Do you believe God is pleased with you?

The good news of great joy announced by the angel to the shepherds is that because a Savior, Christ the Lord has been born, a holy and righteous God is now pleased with you.

Glory to God in the highest! Rejoice!

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 31, 2008: The Gospel and our Relationship with God, Part 1

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Las Vegas, NV. The surrounding desert mountains glowed with their distinctive splash of southwestern colors. I was driving in my car, at peace with God and man, listening to Christian radio where the subjects under discussion were missions and evangelism. The man being interviewed, it seems, ran a program where they took summer missionaries to Europe and other parts of the planet. As I listened, he said, “If there are any high school kids out there who want to go as Summer Missionaries to Europe and tell the folks over there about your relationship with God then contact us at this address.”

I was shocked. I don’t wear false teeth, but if I had done they would have dropped out of my mouth! The scripture instantly came to mind, “Go ye into all the world and tell them about your relationship with God”! (I think it’s found somewhere in the Book of Hezekiah!) But before my blood pressure could calm itself, they then interviewed some kid who had made the trip the previous year. Let’s call him Bret! Why Bret? Why not, that was his name! Bret it seems was filled with the ‘Joie de vie’ and assured us that the high point of his life (to date) was to have been able to have traveled overseas last summer to tell the folks in distant lands about how they could be saved by having a relationship with God.

Let’s fast forward a few months. I’m now sitting on an airplane in Nashville TN. We are waiting to take off, but somehow there is a delay. A teenage girl of about 17 or 18 has taken the seat beside me. Having exchanged civilities she asked, “What kind of an accent do you have? Is it Scottish”? I explained it was Irish. “Oh cool” she said, “I’ve been in Scotland, but I never made it to Ireland.”

“What were you doing in Scotland?”

“I was there with my Church. My dad’s a pastor and we were there on a missions trip.”

“So are you a Christian?”

“Oh yes, very much so!” she replied

“That’s really interesting. May I ask you a question?”


“In your religion, how do people get to Heaven?”

“You get to Heaven by having a relationship with God.” She smiled.

“Does it say that in the Bible?”

“Oh yes that’s what the Bible says.”

“That’s great! Where does it say that?”

There was a pause after which she produced a Bible from her bag and began flicking through the pages. She looked puzzled , then said,

“I’m not sure where it says it, but it’s in here all the same.”

At that moment, quick as a flash, she re-opened her purse, took out her cell phone and called her Mum.

“Mum. I’m on the plane, it’s been delayed and a gentleman beside me is interested in finding out where in the Bible it talks about going to Heaven because we have a relationship with God.”

She began furiously taking notes, then hung up.

“That was my mum, she told me to show you John 3:16.”

“What does that say?”

“It says,” and she pointed to the text, “That God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

“That’s a great scripture! May I read it?

“Sure” she said as she handed me her Bible

I examined the text then said, “ This is a beautiful verse, but I don’t see anything in there about having a relationship with God giving you eternal life.”

“Mmmmh! I suppose it doesn’t actually say that.”

She looked at her notes.

“Well then, there is Acts 16:31, “Believe on the lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

“That’s another wonderful scripture," I said, "but where, in the verse, does it say that having a relationship with God takes you to Heaven?”

She then offered several more salvation scriptures and each time I agreed with the truth offered, but pointed out that these verses, like the others, said nothing about being saved by our relationship with God.

By this stage she was puzzled. I could have gone on with the game, but didn’t. I then produced my Bible and for the next hour or so taught her some ‘Gospel Truth.’

But isn’t it right to have a relationship with God? Yes indeed! We His people, have the Spirit of adoption causing us to relate so closely with the Father that we can call Him ‘Dad’ (Romans 8:15). In reality, as we are bathed in the gospel our relationship with God will flourish. Under the truth of the gracious, finished, redemptive acts of Christ we will be released to pursue loving God with all that we have. But our relationship with God, vibrant as it may be, can never be seen as the ground and foundation of our acceptance with Him. In fact the opposite is true. Our relationship comes as a result of having been put right with God through Jesus Christ alone, so this relationship can, therefore, in no way put us into right standing with our Creator.

Let’s face it; our daily relationship with God is no foundation for acceptance with Him. If we are honest, we will have to admit that no matter how pulsating our relationship with God is, at times it is often experimentally fractured because of our failures. Our relationship with God should, therefore, neither be compared to nor confused with the perfect work of God in Christ. Our relationship with God is not the gospel! Jesus Christ is our gospel! Since our relationship with God is not the gospel it is not, therefore, the power of God unto salvation. So why go and preach about our flawed and inferior relationship with God when we could tell people about Christ and His perfect relationship with the Father on our behalf?

I cringe when I think of all the resources being wasted sending kids overseas to tell people about their relationship with God. By all means send out summer missionaries ----it’s a wonderful idea---but in the name of all that’s good, teach them the gospel before you unleash them on an unsuspecting public. The sad thing is that many of the listeners in the foreign lands will not have heard the gospel before the arrival of the summer missionaries and will still not have heard it by the time the summer missionaries leave.

One of the great benefits of the gospel is reconciliation between God and sinners and it’s out of this reconciliation that relationship flows. However, it’s a false gospel that substitutes our relationship with God for the gospel truths of Christ crucified and justification by grace through faith. When our kids go on summer missions, the people in Scotland, Ireland and everywhere else need to hear the Good News---that is--- that in spite of all the bad news, in spite of all the sin and rebellion and ill-will of man towards God, God in His mercy, grace and righteousness broke into time and space in the person of His Son, became one of us and bore the penalty for our sin in His own body on the cross. The folks overseas need to hear that Christ Jesus has reconciled His people unto God by shedding His own blood. They need to know that the Lord Jesus Christ became a perfect sacrifice for sin and settled everything that was wrong between the sinner and God.

Furthermore, they need to know that salvation is finished and accomplished, not because of our believing it or by having nice feelings towards God, but because our salvation was purchased by the blood of Christ and it is this blood itself which God so highly esteems. The summer missionaries need to declare that without adding anything to the blood of Jesus, God righteously forgives sin and accepts the sinner as perfectly righteous in Christ.

The summer missionaries need to be clear that all charges against us have been dropped and we now, by faith alone, embrace this finished redemption. Now, because of that which has been done for us in the gospel, we can have a wonderful fellowship and relationship with our Heavenly Father. However, we cannot overstress that our relationship with God does not open the door to heaven. Rather, it is only because Jesus has opened Heaven’s door that we now may now have a relationship with God.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

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The Gospel and Faith, Part 1

The Gospel and Faith, Part 2

 The Gospel and the New Birth

The Gospel and the Holy Spirit

Eight Gospel Mercies

The Gospel and the Believer-Centered Believer - Part 1

The Gospel and the Believer-Centered Believer - Part 2

The Gospel and the New Creature in Christ

Sinking Ships and Sleeping Saviors

The Gospel and the Self-Righteous, Part 1

The Gospel and the Self-Righteous, Part 2

The Word Made Flesh

The Christmas Message by John Fonville

The Gospel and Our Relationship with God, Part 1


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