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Miles McKee Ministries

The Wednesday Words for the Year 2011

To view article. click on title

The Believing Believer

Faith Demanded!

Nothing in Faith that Saves!

Laying Hold of the Truth

The Danger of Our Strength

An Incomplete Gospel?

Without Strength!

Is Christ Alone Enough? Part 1

Is Christ Alone Enough? Part 2

Gospel Grace

The Danger of Resting on Feelings

Law Work!

Law and Terrors Versus the Cross

The Terrors of Conscience and the Gospel

The Gospel and Our Worship

Selfish Salvation? Part 1

Christ Is All!


Satisfied with Jesus

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 1

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 2

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 3

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 4

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 5

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 6 - The Spirit and the Gospel

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 7

The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 8 - The Gospel and New Covenant Lifestyle

When God Became a Man


Wednesday Words for 2008

Wednesday Words for 2009

Wednesday Words for 2010

Wednesday Words for 2012

Wednesday Words for 2013

Wednesday Words for 2014

Wednesday Words for 2015

Wednesday Words for 2016

Wednesday Words for 2017

Wednesday Words for 2018

The Wednesday Word, Jan. 5, 2011: The Believing Believer

In the gift of the Holy Spirit we have the gift of Christ Himself (John 14:18). What splendid grace from the hand of the Father!

How we thank God for the precious ministry of the Holy Spirit. We easily forget that none of us would have become believers without His regenerating power. It is the Holy Spirit alone who draws us to the cross and fastens us to the Savior. He is the great revealer of Christ. If we think that people can come alive to God without the power and action of the Spirit, we have yet to learn the extent of human sinfulness and helplessness. We were dead (destitute of power, lifeless) in trespasses and sin and, therefore, needed divine intervention to bring us to life (Ephesians 2:1;2:5).That’s why we read in Ephesians 2:8-9,

"By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."

The Spirit generates faith (Gal 5:22) and it is this faith that actively links us as sinners to Jesus the sinbearer. Faith recognizes that salvation is something that God has already accomplished outside of us, in the person of Jesus (Acts 13:32-33, 38-39). But remember, faith itself does not qualify us to receive God’s acquittal. Salvation is an undeserved gift of grace received by faith, but it is not created because we have faith. What Spirit generated faith does is to receive the truth concerning the Son of God as it recognizes the sufficiency of His great sacrifice for our sin. Faith makes the gospel personal for us. Faith sees that the great Shepherd has laid down His life, not just for the sheep in general (John 10:11) but for us in particular.

Faith sees that the Lord Jesus came to this earth for the express purpose of ransoming, not just people in general (Matt 20:28), but came to ransom us in particular (Gal 2:20b). Faith also sees that Christ came not merely to say something about our sin, but came to do something about our sin.

Faith also sees that Christ came, not primarily to preach the gospel, but that we would, in Him, have a gospel to preach. Faith sees that this Christian life is not about us and our performance but about Him and His performance.

“The best obedience of my hands

Dares not appear before thy throne;

But faith can answer thy demands,

By pleading what the Lord has done.”

Faith is not something that buys us salvation; Christ alone has bought us. By faith the believing believer sees that we have been purchased by God's own blood (Acts 20:28) and that no further payment is necessary!

But what if my faith is weak?

All of us at times suffer from weak faith, yet a weak faith cannot undo what Christ Jesus has accomplished at Calvary. We are ‘in Christ’, (1 Cor 1:30a; 1 Cor 15:22). ---We are in covenant union with Christ and are now found in Him. Our strength of faith, therefore, is not our security. Remember, faith is not the purchaser of our salvation, Christ alone has bought us! A weak faith may indeed sometimes interfere with our enjoyment of salvation, but our security is in Christ alone. He is our covenant head (Rom 5:15-21). All that He has is ours! We may feel like the lowest and the least; we may feel that we are too weak to even grasp the promises ---but no matter, the promises have already grasped us. Our Savior has already taken a hold of us and He will never  let us go (Heb 13:5).

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Jan. 19, 2011: Faith Demanded!

God demands immediate faith from all who hear His gospel. This is only reasonable, for He is the author of the message. But not everyone greets His good news as welcome news. Those, for example, who would work for His favor or who assume that they already have it, disdain the truth of the only acceptable saving righteousness being found outside of them in Christ alone. But God gives no approval to the self-righteous or indeed to any form of self-righteousness. The sad truth is this ------ all who depend on a performance-based religion are under a curse (Gal 2:6; 3:10).Why so? Because no one can perform to God's standard. God, being perfectly holy, demands perfect holiness from us. God is the perfection of holiness and He thus bars all imperfect people from joining Him where He lives. Again, this is only reasonable for it is His Kingdom; He makes the rules! To dwell eternally with Him then, either we have to (a) be perfectly holy ourselves or (b) we have got to find someone who has been perfectly holy in our place. In the gospel, the good news, Christ is our perfection and sanctification: He is all our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). Do you believe this?

But the self-righteous deceive themselves into imagining that their works are more vital for salvation than those of the Lord Christ. They imagine, for example, that God applauds them because they have performed an act of faith. However, mark this down, although salvation and faith are inseparable, our salvation is never found in our actual act of believing or trust.No one gets saved without faith or trust (Ps 16:1, Nahum 1:7, Rom 15:12; 2Cor 1:9), but the testimony which faith receives is not the testimony of itself. On the contrary it is the testimony that  faith receives is the testimony concerning the Lord Jesus and His doing, dying and rising again in our place----- in which case, belief of the gospel and confidence in the person of the gospel (Christ Jesus) are inseparable.

Furthermore, when we receive the Father’s testimony concerning His Son it is the very same thing as having confidence and trust in God Himself (John 6:29). Conversely, when we reject the gospel we reject God Himself. In some places we are said to be saved by the knowledge of God or of Christ. That simply means that we come to know God as He has made Himself known in Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:11; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 2:20). It is no wonder then that we read, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

The Scriptures speaks of trust or faith being the thing that saves us. In and of itself it does no such thing, but it saves us by taking a hold of the One who saves to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). Faith is demanded from the hearer of the gospel, but remember, salvation is not found in our act of believing itself. Salvation is exclusively discovered in the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus, the one who has conquered death and is alive forevermore.

“A man there is, a real man,

With wounds still gaping wide,

From which rich streams of blood once ran,

In hands and feet and side.

This wondrous man of whom we tell;

Is true almighty God;

He bought our souls from death and hell;

The price, ----His own heart's blood.

Salvation is never given as a reward for believing, rather it is the one believed upon who alone is our salvation.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Jan. 26, 2011: Nothing in Faith that Saves!

Let’s continue with the thought from last time. As we discovered, faith is nothing in and of itself—there is no saving quality in it. How faith saves is that it lays a hold of Christ (1 Tim 6:12a). Faith grasps that saving merit is found in Christ alone (Rom 3:24). Faith understands that it is not because Christ is in us that we are saved, but salvation is ours because of the accomplishments of Christ 2000 years ago. The summary of our faith is this, Christ Jesus is our Saviour; He is in heaven; He is our righteousness and right standing before God; He is our treasury of grace and mercy; He is on the throne of Omnipotence and He is our ever living High Priest (Heb 4:14, Eph 1:11; I Cor 1:30; Rom 3:21-26, Col 2:3). Furthermore, faith knows and grasps that the righteousness that justifies is imputed to, not infused into, the believer,(Rom 4:6; Rom 10:3-4)! . Faith sees these things and grasps that our entire hope is in one man and one man only, the heavenly man. Our hope is in no man on earth and certainly never in us.

John Bunyan in his “Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners” writes of how one day he was in turmoil as to his standing before God. He says,

“Suddenly a sentence fell upon my soul---Thy righteousness is in heaven. And I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say was my righteousness; so that, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, “he lacks my righteousness” for that was just before Him. I also saw moreover that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better nor my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, ‘the same yesterday today and forever. My chains fell off, I was loosened from my afflictions and my temptations fled away-------I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God. Now Christ was all; all my righteousness, all my sanctification and all my redemption (1 Cor 1:30).”

The righteousness which is imputed to the believer is Christ Himself. When we talk of the word ‘impute’ or ‘imputed’ some folks get confused. Perhaps the concept is a little difficult to understand at first. However a clear illustration of its meaning can be found in Philemon where Paul writes to his friend about the runaway slave Onesimus. He says, “If He hath wronged thee or oweth thee ought, put that to my account.” In a similar manner, our entire sin and guilt has been charged to Christ’s account and Christ’s entire righteousness has been credited to ours (Phil 3:9). This is imputation and it’s a truth that stabilizes and frees us the more we let it seep into the depths of our understanding.

So let us say it again, we are not made right with God by any quality within us; nor does the performing of an act of faith save us. If performing an act of faith was the ground of our salvation, it would make faith a qualifying work for salvation; in which case, grace would no longer be grace (Rom 10:4; Rom 11:6). Luther said correctly, “Grace cannot stand it when we want to give something to God or establish merit or pay him with our works. This is the greatest of blasphemies and idolatries and is nothing less than the denial and even the ridicule of God.”

If faith itself carried within it some merit necessary for salvation it would mean then that Christ’s work was, in reality, unfinished. If faith itself was the finishing touch that made Christ’s work complete it would mean then that Christ’s work then was imperfect, ineffective, incomplete and unsuitable for us. If faith itself carried within it some necessary merit, we would then be called to rest in Christ plus our act of believing on Christ! But to make our faith any part of our confidence before God would be to lean on a rubber crutch (Gal 2:16).

“Now to the Lamb that once was slain,

Be endless blessings paid;

Salvation, glory, joy remain

Forever on thy head.

Thou hast redeemed our souls with blood,

Hath set the prisoner free

Hast made us kings and priests unto God,

And now we reign with Thee”

And that's the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Feb. 2, 2011: Laying Hold of the Truth

Speaking of one of his political opponents Winston Churchill said, “He occasionally stumbles across the truth put manages to pick himself up and hurries off as though nothing had happened.”

Alas, some professing believers are also like that.

For the gospel driven believer, however, truth is of utmost importance. In the Bible we encounter such expressions as these:"Those that know the truth;" (1 Tim 4:3b); "Those that obey not the truth;" (Romans 2:8; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:7);"The truth as it is in Jesus;" (Ephesians 4:21); "Belief of the truth;" (2 Thessalonians 2:13);"Acknowledging of the truth;" (2 Tim 2:25);"The way of truth;" (2 Peter 2:2);"We are of the truth;" (1 John 3:19); "Destitute of the truth;" (1 Timothy 6:5);"Sanctify them through thy truth;" (John 17:17);"I speak forth the words of truth;" (Acts 26:25);"The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13).

It would seem obvious then that truth is no slight matter with God. We must, therefore, be careful at all times to tell the truth about Christ and His gospel. There can be no room for compromise.

So what is the truth concerning Jesus?

He is the eternal Word (John 1:1); God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16); the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:8; 1:11; 21:6; 22:13); the True Light (John 1:9-12); the Bread of Life (John 6:48); the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25); the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd (John 10:11;Heb 13:20;1 Peter 5:2). the only way of salvation for "Neither is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4;12).

The big question is, not whether or not we know these scriptures, but rather, do we stand by them and proclaim them? --Are they a part of us? Has their truth taken a hold of us? Has the word of the Lord become the Voice of the Lord to us? As Luther said of the words of scripture,”These are not words for reading, but for living.”

Before he was saved, the apostle Paul was the ringleader of the self-righteous and a violent enemy of the Lord Jesus. But, with great grace and power, the Lord Christ apprehended Him and reduced him to nothing. From that point onward Paul went in pursuit of his new Master. He was like a man possessed having discovered a new love and passion. The reality of Christ and His purposes on earth now consumed him. Paul now walked by faith, believing the truth of the gospel not just generally, but personally (Gal 2:20). He was now gospel driven!

The gospel will not allow us to merely live with the theory of God or with speculation about Christ----- for the gospel is the explosive power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). As we honor the words of God and trust what they say about Jesus we not only honor the One who wrote them, but we also enjoy their life giving power. We glorify Christ in believing what He tells us. If the word says we have full right of access by the blood of Christ to the Father, we believe it. If the whisper comes that we do not, we smell the bad breath of the Devil.

What a privilege we have to take a hold of the truth of Jesus by the Spirit through the written word, to delight in Him, to worship Him, to enjoy Him, to work for Him and to thank the Father for who He is and for what he has done..

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Feb. 16, 2011: The Danger of Our Strength

God is neither stingy with grace nor does He dispense mercy with eye drops.  He’s generous and doesn’t feel put out when He has to send His Spirit to awaken the spiritually dead (Eph 2:4-6). He knows that because of our inbuilt hatred for the truth, it takes the supernatural power of the Spirit to convert us into believers. As Bonar says, “Believing is the simplest of all mental processes; yet we still need the power of God to believe from our hearts.”

Have you realized that you can neither change your heart nor do any good thing to recommend yourself to God (Romans 3:10)? It’s good for us to see the fix we’re in apart from grace.  However, most of us are unaware of the full extent of our helplessness and guilt and for this cause there is little rejoicing in the gospel.  Our helplessness and guilt are far greater and far worse than we suppose (Jeremiah 17:9). The truth is this; it is because of our warped and imperfect view of ourselves that we continually attempt to recommend ourselves to God.  At times we seem very unaware of our ruin, weakness and inability and thus fail to realize that our supposed strength will actually keep us away from God.

God commands us to rest in the crucified Christ (Matt 11:28). In the light of this command, to bring something we have supposedly done for Him as a basis of acceptance is to refuse the promised rest of Christ alone. It’s sheer foolishness. Our consciences cannot be calmed by any of our works. If indeed our works have pacified our conscience, we have deceived ourselves for God is not propitiated by any of our efforts. May we put away all self-righteousness and approach the Father in the merits of Christ alone plus nothing.

Just as when we first came to Christ we came as undeserving sinners so we still cannot come to Him in our own name or righteousness----- even after many years of Christian service (Philippians 3:8-9). We continue to be saved by grace through faith, not by any efforts to induce the Father to accept us. The command to believers is to believe---to continue to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!  He alone is our sufficiency.  If we do not believe the record that God has given of His Son, we make Him a liar (1 John 5:10). To rest, therefore, in something other than the person and work of Christ alone is to walk in unbelief. To walk in unbelief is to believe the lie that something more needs to be added to Christ Jesus (Gal 2:18; Gal 2:16; 2 Cor 3:5)! To walk by faith, on the other hand, is to receive the truth concerning Christ and His accomplishments on our behalf.

The deceiver, the prince of darkness, would love to take us away from the hope of the Gospel.  He’s a religious sort of fellow, always encouraging us to establish an alternative righteousness to that which is found in Christ alone (Gal 2:21).  If then you are building your hope on your own righteousness plus the righteousness of Christ your hope is not in Christ alone---- you are yet in unbelief.

Think about it; if our guarantee of salvation depended partially on our attainments, how could we ever be certain of salvation? How could we ever be assured that we had accomplished enough to secure our salvation (Gal 3:3)? But, the work of Christ was a work undertaken for those who could not attain (Rom 5:6-8); it was accomplished for those who could not save themselves. It was a work devised for sinners, undertaken for sinners, accomplished for sinners, finished for sinners, and received by God for sinners. And God has given assurance that this work is accepted in that He has raised Jesus from the dead (see Acts 17:31).

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

The Wednesday Word, March 9, 2011: An Incomplete Gospel?

At times, some professed believers have told me that they lack the peace of God. Have you ever felt like that? If this is your case, the smartest thing you can do is to examine which gospel you have embraced (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)!  If you know nothing of the peace of God, you need to take time to see if you really have believed the gospel of grace or have merely understood something that looks like it (Galatians 1:6)!

Maybe the gospel you have received contains no peace.  Maybe you’ve got a hold of some facts about the real gospel, but you have missed the joyful sound (Ps 89:15).

On the other hand, you may be saved, but you just don’t know your gospel inheritance. In John 14 we are presented with the priceless last will and testament of our Lord. In verse 27, he says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” This is excellent------- notice whose peace it is.  He says it’s “My” peace.  It’s the same peace that He enjoyed!   What an incalculable inheritance.  --------He left us His peace! What a gospel gift! Yet we so often do not enjoy what we have been given. We are rich, but we often don’t realize it!

Remember the story of the man who sailed to America, but he had just enough money for the passage and none for the meals.  After a few days his supply of sandwiches ran out and from then until the boat docked in New York he went hungry.  As he was disembarking one of the crew said, “I noticed that, during the voyage, you would often walk past the restaurant while the rest of the passengers were eating. I even saw you looking in through the restaurant window. Why didn’t you come in and eat?” The man embarrassedly replied, “I didn’t have any money for meals.”  “No money for meals!” the shocked steward exclaimed, ----“the meals were free; they came with the price of the ticket.”

So many Christians remind me of that poor unfortunate man. They are saved and holding out for heaven, but have not yet realized that an abundance of spiritual meals are included in the package.

Peace is just one of these ‘meals’. The gospel brings us both the peace of God (Phil 4:7) and peace with God (Rom 5:1). It’s His peace! But you say you enjoy neither. You say, “If I could just feel something, if I could just feel the gospel, I would have peace!”

There’s the problem!  In reality, if you think you need to feel something you suppose that the work of Christ is unfinished and incomplete!  Peace with God, in your thinking, comes through Christ plus feelings! That lack of feeling, you think, is the little inch of distance that you have to get removed before the completeness of Christ’s work is available for you! On this matter we could learn from Luther who one day was asked, “Do you feel that your sins are forgiven?” “No” he replied, “but I’m sure that they are. Get thee behind me Satan.”

If you are depending on your feelings you have the wrong gospel!  True faith believes that Christ has finished His work of salvation completely (Jn 19:30). True faith sees that salvation is not received by Christ plus feelings (Eph 3:12). True faith causes us to see pure grace and overflowing love coming from the cross (Jn 3:16). True faith embraces that all charges against us are dropped because of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:6-7).  True faith does not need to feel these truths before it believes them, but true faith believes and then quite often feels what it believes. When faith embraces that we already have peace with God we often then begin to enjoy the peace of God. Through faith we often receive our feelings, but we never receive our faith through feelings!

A professing Christian approached a preacher telling him that he was really worried about his salvation because he didn’t feel anything. He had come to Christ as a repentant sinner and had called on the Lord to save him. But “nothing had happened”, he said------he felt nothing.   The judicious preacher asked,”Was Noah safe in the Ark?”  “Yes indeed,” replied the man. “Well then, what saved him” asked the minister, “his feelings of being safe or the Ark itself?” Instantly the man realized the point the preacher was making, “I see it now,” he said “it is Christ alone who saves.”

The gospel is complete: no feelings are required to finish the work!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, March 23, 2011: Without Strength!

‘Without strength’, is a literal description of our state apart from Christ (Romans 3:12; Romans 5:6).  We have no ability to save ourselves. We are helpless! You may argue the point, but God won’t.  In His mind it is perfectly clear. He says that we are so weak and destitute in our natural state that we cannot hear His words (John 8:43) or even see His Kingdom (John 3:30). It is when we get a sight of our utter spiritual impotence that we realize that Christ alone must be our salvation: if He doesn’t save us then we will not be saved.  It is those who are without strength whom the Lord saves. In fact, so long as we think we have some strength to perform ‘the great act of faith’ we cannot be saved. Bonar remarks that it is when we find out that we have no strength we will cease to work, and believe!

Jesus commanded the man with the withered arm to stretch out his hand (Mark 3:4). That man was thoroughly helpless, yet he was commanded to do the very thing which he couldn’t do--- the thing which Jesus only could enable him to do. Notice how the Lord did not tell him to do anything which might prepare him to have faith.  The religious unbeliever, on the other hand, always tries to avoid the truth of his inability and attempts to get to God by his own efforts.  He is a past master at devising plans to help God to save him. The religious man always invents some kind of a horrible little ladder on which he thinks he can climb from his wretched pit.  He hopes that God will take note of his efforts and when God sees his sincerity He will step in and help him. But this is sheer nonsense. He is like a child standing there pulling up hard on his shoe laces in the hope that he can somehow take off and propel himself through the air. We laugh at the child for we know that in spite of his sincerity and efforts he cannot defy the laws of gravity. Yet the child has more chance of “taking off” than the man, assured of his own strength, has of getting to heaven.

Christ didn't save us because we were strong; He saved us in our utter weakness.  Christ alone has provided for our inability and it is only as we realize our continued lack of strength that we are in a position to receive the all-powerful help of the Holy Spirit.  It is only as we know that we continue without strength that we can now attempt great things for God for our strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Here’s the truth of the matter: until we come to terms with the extent of our weakness, we are in no condition to receive help from heaven. If we hold on to some concept of self-ability we actually reject the help of the Spirit. Just as the person who is holding on to some supposed remaining goodness to save him dismisses Christ’s work at Calvary so our notions of self- sufficiency and strength dismiss the willing help of the Spirit of God! If we do not see that we have no strength we will not believe correctly and our service will be very limited. He is the Creator; we are the creature and not vice-versa. He says we have no ability or strength. Believe Him on this one.

As believers, however, we are experts at expending our tiny stock of imagined strength in holding fast the ropes of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. We need gospel strength which comes from resting in the strength of Jesus. We are not called to be strong in ourselves but are called to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might (Eph 6:10). This we will never do, so long as we imagine that we have strength to believe and to finish our salvation (Rom 8:7-8). Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9; Ps 27:1).

Sometimes as believers we get so low because of our lack of strength.  We don’t even seem to have strength to meditate on the Word or to think about the Lord.  We don’t seem to have strength to stand against sin. We despair at times that we will ever see His face. However, our salvation does not depend upon our strength, but upon His. Even without strength we can keep looking at Calvary and see the conquering Christ's rescuing us (see Ps 121).  It’s at the cross that we get our daily supply of gospel strength. As Spurgeon said, “There’s no place like Calvary for creating confidence.”

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, April 5, 2011: Is Christ Alone Enough? Part 1

OK, we’ve said it before, but it needs to be said time and time again, faith does not actually save, it is the object of our faith Who saves us. Our act of faith, no matter how sincere, is nothing apart from its resting place---the crucified and risen Christ .  Our peace and rest cannot come from any performance or spiritual discipline (Eph 2:8-9).  But deary me, we know the theory of this truth yet it doesn’t often translate into real life.  It seems that we have an unceasing ability to add things to the finished work of the gospel.

To grow in the enjoyment of gospel peace we need to focus much less on our faith, repentance and prayers etc, and instead  look on Him, the Lord Christ (John 3:14-15; Num 21:6-9). It is in Him that salvation lies. It is in Him and His accomplishments that we find our resting place. Looking at our faith, on the other hand, is a disastrous exercise for it ministers either to our self-righteousness (if we are satisfied with our faith) or to our sense of despair (if we are not)!

If, however, we feel that we must measure the quality and quantity of our faith, before we can rest in Christ's work, then we have, without knowing it, concluded that the work of Christ is insufficient.

Someone asks, “Do you mean that our acceptance with God comes about without any sanctification in us?” Great question!  Here’s the answer: ----although we do not deny that the believer grows in grace and in the knowledge of God and will be careful to maintain good works, our acceptance with the Father is not based on any work performed within us or by us.  In Christ we are already fully sanctified by the will of God for we read, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all--------For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:10, 14).

Our sins were purged and put away 2000 years ago (Heb. 1:3; 9:26). Eternal redemption was obtained for us 2000 years ago (Heb. 9:12). We can’t improve on that---and better yet all this has been done according to the good pleasure of the will of God, to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:5-8). It is God's pleasure to have a people cleansed of all sin who, in the name of Jesus, can approach Him without the slightest hesitation or doubt. The Father now sees us and welcomes us, not because of our appreciation of Christ, but because of His. He alone estimates the true value and power of the blood of the one perfect offering of Christ.

We must, therefore, learn to cease from all self-righteous attempts to perform any act, or do anything whatever, in order to maintain His acceptance and favour (Rom 4:4-5). May we always see that the one great work of the Son of God done upon the cross is sufficient (2 Cor 3:5).

As soon as the Holy Spirit shows us the entire sufficiency of the great wrath offering made for sinners (John 19:30), we will cease our attempts to act or work to gain the Father’s acceptance. Instead of trying to perform, we will receive, by faith, that which Christ has done on our behalf. The Holy Spirit neither enables us to do something which saves us nor contributes to our salvation by some deep mysterious work within; on the contrary, His work is to detach us from our own effort and performance. The Spirit will lead us to be entirely satisfied with the salvation that the Saviour has already accomplished and finished.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, April 20, 2011: Is Christ Alone Enough? Part 2

Let me ask you a question. Are you more conscious of your sins than you are of the fact that they have already been paid for and taken away?  If this is the way you think you still believe that Christ‘s work is not enough for you. As gospel driven believers, however, we need to concentrate, not on our sins, but on the fact that Jesus has paid for them. The Lamb of God has taken them all away (Jn 1:29)! The past cannot make us prisoners. Our focus is now centered on Him, the Lord Christ. It is because of His doing and dying alone that we are forgiven, accepted and redeemed! And when He purged our sins He really purged them---they and their memory are gone.

But there’s even more on which we can center our attention! Not only has Jesus taken away our sins, He has also brought us to God (1 Peter 3:18)!  This is good news for we could never have found our way there in the first place. But Jesus, by His person and performance has already brought us to Him.

The good news is that, there’s even more good news. For example, He, as our Great High Priest, is at this precise moment exercising His ministry for our benefit! As our penal substitute He bought us for God and as our High Priest He brings us to God. By the ministry of His priesthood He now sustains, keeps, maintains and protects every one of His blood bought people.

Our High Priest has now given us free and open access to the Father.   Someone asks, “Exactly how near has He actually brought us to the Father?”  The Hymn writer answers that question when He says,

So near so very near to God,I nearer cannot be, For in the person of His Son, I am as near as He.”

We are brought to God “in Christ”. Indeed, there is no possibility of standing before God other than by standing in Christ. That’s why  Peter tells us, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18).

You don’t have to feel that, just believe it. We are a redeemed people whom He has purchased for Himself so that we would be with Him forever. Jesus promised us, "that where I am, there ye may be also"(John 14:3). We, therefore, will lose this nearness to God only when Christ loses His ----and that will never happen---for He is God manifest in the flesh.  We may fail, fall and flat out sin---we say this to our shame, but our High Priest retains our nearness to God!  Although, the religious, self-righteous man rejects this statement, the truth remains that access to God is not founded upon any religious system based upon our performance. Our nearness to God is based on Christ and His finished performance alone.

The Father values the finished work and person of His Son and our salvation rests on the fact that God sees Him and is satisfied. It is impossible that God will ever reject the sacrifice and person of His precious Son. The Father, on the basis of Christ alone, has legally declared us both not guilty and  reconciled. As repentant blood bought believers we can move past the domination of our failures because Christ alone is enough.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, May 11, 2011: Gospel Grace

It is only through the gospel that we can live an abundant life (John 10:10)---a life that enjoys the grace of guilt free living informed by a conscience that is cleansed by blood

(Heb 9:14).  Now, as a result of the abundance of grace, demonstrated to us in Christ, we can learn, among other things, to be gracious one with another.

As we learn to be ‘Gospel Driven‘, not ‘Law Directed‘, we have the privilege to absorb ourselves in the powerful knowledge that God Himself came to this earth as our personal representative.  As such, He substituted for us in both His life and death. When He was declared beloved, we were declared beloved. When He died we died; when he arose we arose.  As He is accepted so we are accepted; as He is loved, so we are loved.  Through the gospel we now have every benefit and promise gained for

us by Christ,. We are now in Him and in Him have been adopted as Children of God.  When He hung on the cross God’s disfavour towards us rested on Him and now, because of Calvary, God‘s favour rests on us. Knowing then the immensity of the grace we have received, how is it that we can now be un-gracious and mean to those whom

we feel have sinned against us?  How strange we are! The gospel, however, when embraced, releases us to be kind one to another tender hearted forgiving one another  even as God for Christ‘s sake has forgiven us (Eph 4:32).

As we steep ourselves in the good news, the gospel and its applications, we come to appreciate more and more of the grace that has been given to us in Christ and because of this we ourselves become more gracious. By the gospel we are enabled not only to abandon our own righteousness, but also  to see that because of grace alone we are now reckoned as being perfectly righteous with neither perverseness nor iniquity found in us (Numbers 23:21). May we be at least, helped do the same  for those who have sinned against us and who are now seeking our forgiveness?

We are saved by immense grace and this immense grace of the eternal God has appeared in the person of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11; Jn 1:14).  Our redeemer is full of grace and truth" and "of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace” (Jn 1:16).  Literally we have received grace "piled upon" grace. Just as there are continual arrivals of waves on the sea shore so we are constantly receiving wave upon wave of God’s inexhaustible grace in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the grace of God in human form.  His grace is Glorious (Ephesians 1:6).   Abundant (Acts 4:33); Rich (Ephesians 1:7); Manifold (many-sided,) (1 Peter 4:10) and Sufficient (there is never a shortage) (2Cor 12:9).

Surely then, in the light of these gospel truths we can learn to be gracious one to another? You see it’s one thing to know the words of the song of grace, but quite another to know the melody.

The following is a great illustration of the application of gospel grace:

In the 1800’s London had two famous preachers, Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker.  On one occasion, Parker commented about the poor condition of children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. Word of this came to Spurgeon, but by the time it arrived, it was reported to Spurgeon that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself.  Spurgeon blasted Parker from his pulpit and the attack was printed in the newspaper and became the talk of the town. Londoners flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal.

Here’s what Parker said:

“I understand Mr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage,” Parker said. “I suggest we take a love offering for the orphanage.” The crowd was delighted; ushers had to empty the collection plates three times. Later that week, there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon.

“You know, Parker, you have practiced grace on me,” he said. “You have given me not what I deserved; you have given me what I needed.”

May we all have the grace to live as though the gospel is real and that grace has indeed arrived in the person of Jesus the Christ.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, May 17, 2011: The Danger of Resting on Feelings

Because it is true that repentance and faith go hand in hand, there are those who think they are unqualified to ask for mercy. They are concerned that they do not feel repentant enough to ask for salvation. They know that they need the Saviour, but think they lack a sufficient amount of feelings to qualify for grace.

If this is so of you, let me ask you a question. Does your lack of being totally miserable about your sin alter the gospel? Does it in any way change the good news? Does your lack of feelings mean that the gospel is no longer for the undeserving and unlovable? Does your lack of feelings change the graciousness of the Lord Jesus?

In reality you are attempting the impossible for you are trying to receive grace by works.  You think you will deserve grace if you show God how bad you feel about your sin. However, this course of action is impossible because grace is reserved exclusively for the undeserving who do not work for it (Rom 4:5).

Here’s some good news. The gospel suits us —it fits us like a glove! It meets us where we are and announces to us the Christ who saves undeserving  sinners. “But” you say, “ I don’t think I am sufficiently sorry to qualify for the gospel.” Listen to me, although God gives a godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:9; Rom 2:4), being tearfully miserable about your sins will not make you more welcome than you already are, nor will it persuade God to be more kindly disposed to you than He is in Christ.

Yet, in spite of this, some people insist that  true repentance comes only with tears.  If this is so, we must ask, “What’s the going rate for tears nowadays?---Just how many tears does God require? Does he want a bucket full?  A half a bucket full? And while we are at it, what size is the bucket anyway?

Listen to me, you are not disqualified from the gospel because of the lack of feelings.  Faith does not spring out of feelings, feelings grow out of faith. The less we feel the more we have an opportunity to trust. Nevertheless here’s the thing, we cannot feel properly until we have believed. This is also so with repentance: all true repentance has its root in faith. Although no one is saved without repentance, repentance is not a condition or cause of grace: it is always the result of grace.  Repentance can never earn God’s grace and forgiveness. All grace and forgiveness has already been earned for us by the Lord Jesus.  The legalist, however, wants you to get all emotional and weep over your sins, but this is not required to move God towards you. God has already moved towards you in the person of Christ Jesus. It was not the prodigal son’s repentance that earned the Father’s love. The Father loved him apart from his works either good or bad.

Often, as believers, we want to feel saved rather than to simply rest on Christ alone. Again, here’s some good news----we don’t have to feel the fact that Christ is made unto us righteousness (1Cor 1:30). Likewise we don’t have to feel the fact that, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life (Jn 3:36). Nor do we have to feel the fact that, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life (Jn 5:24) or even feel the fact that He that believes on me (Jesus) has everlasting life (Jn 6:47).  These facts stand firm whether we feel them or not!

We are saved apart from feelings for it is written, "He that cometh to God must believe (not feel) that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him"(Heb 11:6). Faith, not feelings, takes a hold of the Finished Work. Without faith no one can even call on the Lord for we “Cannot call on him in whom they have not believed?" (Romans 10:14).

If we insist that we have to feel something before believing then we have  promoted feelings to an essential part of salvation.  This is a grave error indeed! If we try to work up feelings to be accepted by God then we are seeking grace on the basis of works.  This is a matter far short of the glory of the gospel.  Do feelings have to drop miraculously into our heart to enable us to receive salvation? No!  Does the Lord anywhere command that our level of feelings must be correct before He will save us?  No! To believe and promote this wretched teaching  would be a damnable lie, a delusion and a sin.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, June 1, 2011: Law Work!

It has almost become a mania in certain circles to insist that a ‘Law Work’ must be done in the un-regenerate to prepare them for salvation.  It is being said by some that no one can receive salvation unless they first feel utterly miserable about their sin of breaking the Law of God. Some even go as far as to suggest that the unsaved make a list of their sins and grieve over them before they come to Christ. This teaching, it seems, is a reaction against the many false conversions characterised by the lack of repentance.

But is this the way to revival? I think not! Horatius Bonar says, “Few things are more dangerous to the anxious soul than the endeavours to get convictions, and terrors, and humiliations, as preliminaries to believing the gospel. They who would tell a sinner that the reason of his not finding peace is that he is not anxious enough, nor convicted enough, nor humble enough, are enemies to the cross of Christ.”

Of course it is true that Christ saves sinners and only sinners. The publican in Luke 18 approached God as though he himself was the worst of sinners. He  literally cried out  “God be a mercy seat to me THE sinner.“ So there is no argument here, Christ saves only sinners; he heals only the wounded and finds only the lost.

But here’s the question, does Christ require extensive preparation through the Law before we can come to Him?  If He does, then we are saved by Christ plus our extensive preparation.  If this is the case then Christ requires some manner of worthiness before He saves, the worthiness of preparation.  Thus salvation, in this scheme of things, is no longer free and gracious, it is earned and deserved. In this scheme of things the gospel is no longer the power of God unto salvation. The new power of God unto salvation, in this theory, is now our preparation by the law and not Christ Crucified. But this is nonsense for holy and pure as the law is, it has not in its entire history produced one single case of salvation (Rom 3:19-20).

By the Law comes a knowledge of sin  (Rom 7:7-9). Thank God for that! The Law  convicts me of my inability to save myself. That, however, is not the point. The question is, is it essential to have what is called a "law-work," preparatory to faith in Christ? Let me put it this way, must I be entirely ruined and reduced to dust and ashes by the Law before I am qualified to believe? What if I’m only a little bit ruined?  Must I wait for more conviction before I flee to Christ? Must I have any other qualification other than to be unqualified for salvation?

For an answer to these questions we ought to consult the apostolic preaching of the New Testament. There we have the preaching of the gospel by people who knew what they were talking about.  In the Book of Acts, we have a number of anointed soul winning sermons, but interestingly enough, in not one of these are the listeners told that they had broken the Law of Moses. The very thing that pricked the hearts of the thousands at Pentecost was not the Law but the gospel, the good news of Jesus of Nazareth.  Of course the apostles, like any good preachers, were careful to apply the message to their hearers. Peter  concluded his sermon on the day of Pentecost with these piercing words, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ"(Acts 2:36). Horatius Bonar says of this , “These were words more terrible than law; more overwhelming than those heard at Sinai. Awful as it would be to be told, "You have broken the whole law of God;" this would have been nothing compared to, "You have crucified his Son."

The sin of crucifying the Lord of glory was greater than the breaking every law in the book. Here was their condemnation, they had crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. That was their sin. Their actions condemned them. They were brought to an awful sight of the cross and this produced sorrow for sin.

Of this Bonar says, “The gospel was the apostolic hammer for breaking hard hearts in pieces; for producing repentance unto life. It was a believed gospel that melted the stubbornness of the self-righteous Jew; and nothing but the good news of God's free love, condemning the sin yet acquitting the sinner, will, in our own day, melt the heart and soften human rock-work into men."

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, June 6, 2011: Law and Terrors Versus the Cross

We believe in the Law of God, but the Law can save no one.  Why then do so many of our new breed of street evangelists major on law and not gospel? The Law on its best day is anaemic by comparison to the preaching of Christ Crucified. Now, don’t think for a moment that I’m against street preaching, I’ve done plenty of it myself, but there’s a new breed out there and although they say we are saved by grace, some of them have a list of DOs and DON’Ts to give us before we are qualified to receive the gospel.

Consider this, when we tell people to give their hearts to Jesus we are preaching law to them.  We are giving them the legalistic formula of “put something in and you’ll get something out.” In this case it’s give something (your heart) and you’ll get something back (salvation). But this is gospel preaching in full throttle reverse. Salvation is a gift---we don’t give something to God to get a gift! We accept the free gift of salvation receiving, by faith, God’s gift, Jesus himself.  We do not give Him anything---otherwise it is not grace.  Notice that the scriptures tells us that God is the giver, Romans 8:32 says,  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" It is after we are saved that we continue to give Him our hearts, not because of a demand to do so in order to gain salvation, but because of the response to gospel love, not law.

Law can show us our terrible need, but it cannot save. Even for the believer, the preaching of the law will not cause us to grow the slightest bit in grace. Spurgeon said, “I have often striven to overcome sin by the thought of the punishment attached to it but I have very seldom found myself in a frame of mind in which my heart would receive that reason. I believe that to the most of us the terrors of the law, although they ought to be exceedingly terrible, have but little power to check us from sin.” (CHS: Sermon 208: Righteous Hatred)

As the old hymn says,

"Law and terrors do but harden;

All the while they work alone."

But what about repentance, don’t we command people to repent and then believe? The word repentance signifies, in the Greek, "a change of mind;" It’s a great truth and we should never be afraid to tell people about this great subject. However, this word ‘repentance’ in the preaching of some is more associated with law than with gospel.

So let’s ask, does repentance come through the law or through the gospel? According to some, we must first get repentance and then we are qualified to believe the gospel. But is this true? If that is the truth of the matter it means that salvation comes through law and not by grace for there is something we must do first in order to qualify for grace.

When repentance is placed before faith, as a qualification for faith, the gospel has been plundered. Faith and repentance go together, they are related (Acts 20:21), but we dare not make the mistake of insisting that repentance in any sense is a preliminary qualification for faith. "It must be reckoned a settled point," says Calvin, "that repentance not only immediately follows upon faith, but springs out of it...” (Institutes, Book III, ch. 3 , sect 1). Justifying faith is the means of true repentance not vice versa.

God asks us for nothing in return for salvation, not even our repentance. He is the giver we are receivers. Listen again to Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"

He gives, we receive.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, June 15, 2011: The Terrors of Conscience and the Gospel

Those who read up on the history of revivals often get fascinated by the subject of the terrors of conscience. Some folks have gone so far as to say that we need this sort of thing today. It is true that terror of the conscience  may sometimes go before faith, but this kind of terror is not to be confused with repentance.  Indeed, the truth is this, terrors of conscience and the Law have the tendency to draw men away from the cross and not to it.

Let me illustrate. Several hundred years ago, in Northern Ireland, a Presbyterian minister by the name of Glendinning began to preach in a place called Sixmile Water in County Antrim.  In accounts I’ve read, Glendinning arrived and, “Seeing the lewdness and ungodly sinfulness of the people, he preached to them nothing but law, wrath, and the terrors of God for sin.”  Multitudes were brought to cry out in terror and swoon under the Word. People were carried out of doors as if dead. But no one got saved.  Why?  The reason is that the poor minister knew only Law and not gospel! Eventually, the neighbouring ministers came to Mr. Glendinning’s aid and brought the “stricken people” to an understanding of grace and salvation. (See, The History of the Irish Presbyterian Church; Editors Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D., and Rev. Alexander Whyte, D.D.).

True sorrow for sin, however, is gospel birthed. It comes from apprehending the mercy and grace of God in Christ. The broken heart is the result of our believing the gospel of God's free love in the death and resurrection of his Son. Nothing will melt the heart like a view of Christ  and His dying love. What a dangerous anti-gospel business it is to try to get convictions, and terrors as preliminaries to believing the gospel.  If God sovereignty does that’s fine, but the preacher who insists that  sinners can only find gospel peace if they get anxious or convicted enough is an enemy of the cross of Christ.  Furthermore, they who insist that the sinner must pray through for conviction of sin and or pursue endless amounts of self-examination and self-improvement in order to believe in Christ, are teaching the very essence of a false gospel.

Christ asks no preparation of any kind whatsoever, whether outward or inward, for us to come to Him. If a person will not come as they are, they can not come at all. It is not

self-prepared or self abased people whom Jesus receives, but "sinners." He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). This man receives sinners

(Luke 15:2).

And here’s something else: how we begin is how we continue!  As believers we continue to come to God as we did in the beginning with nothing in ourselves to recommend us. We continue to come to God by Christ alone plus nothing.  This means that, as believers, we dare not trust in our accomplishments or doctrinal rectitude to win us favour at God’s throne; nor do we need to make vast improvements in our character to qualify us to pray to Him. We are called to trust that in and by Christ Jesus alone, one perfect, unchangeable and unalterable work has been accomplished on our behalf. Through that one offering of Christ our consciences are made perfect (Heb 9:7-15).  At this very moment, through the gospel we have such an assurance of being set apart for God by the blood of Christ, that we can approach Him boldly and in full liberty without efforts of self-improvement (Heb 4:16).  Our sins are already purged (Heb 1:3) and nothing offensive, whether guilt or defilement rests upon us (Eph1:4).

We can’t improve on our standing with our vain pledges of re-commitment, re-dedication and re-doubled efforts. So great is the power of Christ that those he has already sanctified by His blood cannot be separated from Him (Heb 10:10; Rom 8:35-39).

As gospel driven believers we learn to define ourselves by the finished work and not by our sins and failures.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, June 22, 211: The Gospel and Our Worship

Did you know that if you are in Christ you are already a perfect worshiper? This may come as news to some, but it’s good news all the same. I know, I know, you’ve probably been told differently and informed that real worship, perfect worship, is demonstrable worship with hands being clapped and raised. Some others will have insisted that no, real worship is found in the quiet and silent assembling of God’s people. Still others maintain that to have perfect worship you must have the proper day of worship insisting that the proper day is Saturday while yet others argue for a Lord’s Day (Sunday) observance. But here’s the truth of the matter, neither worshiping on a certain day nor having a particular form of worship can present us perfect before the Father.

The great problem we have in the arena of worship ministry is that very often our form of worship or day of worship subtly replaces the gospel. The gospel concerns the amazing saving work Christ has done outside of us and for us in history. Every thing Christ did was perfect. That means He worshiped God perfectly on our behalf. He prayed and praised perfectly on our behalf. Every day to Him was a Holy Sabbath perfectly set apart to the Father. Now here’s the thing; the gospel lets us know that in

Christ Jesus we are just as righteous as Christ Himself. Indeed, His very righteousness has been reckoned to us (Phil 3:8-9; Rom 4:6; Rom 4:22-24; 2 Cor 5:21). This means,

among other things, that we have already worshiped God perfectly in the person of our substitute.

Of course, as we attempt to follow the Lord we will embrace some form of worship. This is right and proper; but the danger lies in the fact that we so easily think our form

of worship gains us approval from God. In our estimation, our form of worship is the only one that God really endorses. If, however, we believe this way, we do not yet

understand the gospel. We have swapped the gospel for religion. Religion, by the way, is not the gospel. Religion is man’s way of saying and doing things, but the gospel is God’s way of saying and doing things in Jesus Christ.

We are accepted in Heaven because Christ fulfilled all righteousness not because we speak in tongues, have the gift of prophecy, raise our hands, dance our feet and shout

Amen! We are only accepted in Heaven because of what Christ Jesus did on our behalf when He was on earth 2000 years ago. Christ Jesus alone, not our form or day of worship, has opened the door of Heaven for us. It is only through His shed blood that we have access to the Father, therefore, we praise, pray and worship in His name alone. Christ not only paid it all he has done it all. He has substituted for us perfectly in His life on earth. He has worshiped, prayed and praised perfectly on our behalf. To hold on to some system of worship and imagine it over rides Christ’s perfections in worship is to depart from the gospel in favour of religion.

Since, Christ’s worship and obedience was perfect, we should never put our style of worship into competition with His. Our faith must always be directed towards Him, His doing and dying and exaltation. Christ is our full acceptance in Heaven.

We are so quick to point out to the unbeliever (and rightly so) that there must be nothing added to Christ’s work for us, yet we, as believers, foolishly add our forms of worship to the finished work and somehow think that because we worship this way or that we have additional acceptance in Heaven. But in the light of the gospel that is nonsense!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, July 6, 2011: Selfish Salvation? Part 1

Have you ever heard someone say, "I ‘m concerned about the motives that led me to seek Christ; they were very selfish. I was not seeking the glory of God"?

Selfish?  Not seeking the glory of God? Yes indeed, that’s probably true. Most if not all of us were like that, we were concerned only for ourselves when we first trusted Christ for mercy. When we saw our wretched lostness, neutral feelings about our condition tended to melt away.

Through the gospel, the Holy Spirit often imparts a sense of impending and imminent trouble that causes us to turn to God. Although these motives for self-preservation do not qualify us for salvation, they most certainly do not disqualify us from the same.  Our first trusting in Christ is usually motivated by self interest. But is this wrong? Some might say that a man who fled from a burning house was selfish or self-centred, yet others of us would say that he had good sense. Similarly, when the Spirit of God gives us  impending wrath, it is a great motivator to flee from imminent doom by ‘selfishly’ crying out for mercy. There’s nothing wrong with that!

God, in His grace, often gives us fear and indeed uses fear in this matter of salvation. Noah for example, was moved by fear and built an ark for the saving of his house (Heb 11:7).  Was that selfish?  Was that self-serving?  I suppose one could argue so, but, again, others of us would call it wisdom.

The Lord in His grace often uses fear to get our attention. For example, He appeals to our fears when He says, "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die (Ezk 33:11)?" Furthermore, in the most famous gospel promise of all, there is the mention of  perishing (Jn 3:16). Surely the thought of perishing motivates a sobriety in our thinking? To act upon such God given motivations could strictly speaking be called selfish, but to not act upon them, would be rank folly.  Some people really need a good dose of God given fear, or as Paul says, "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11). In no way is it wrong to fear perishing and to flee to Christ for refuge.

Don’t let anyone fool you.  When people talk of ‘higher motives’ in finding Christ it is just more hot air. Those who say that in coming to Christ we should be prompted only by the glory of God or a love for Christ are talking through their baseball caps. Among all the millions of believers who have ever lived, just how many began their Christian life by some supposed higher motive? Certainly not the Philippian jailor! He cried out in a fit of selfishness, "What must I do to be saved"(Acts 16:30)? He was motivated by an imminent sense of personal danger. And did the apostle rebuke him for this? Did he ignore his question and say, “Don’t be so selfish”?

No. He answered immediately, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

There is nothing wrong with these so called ‘selfish’ motives in this matter of coming to Christ. When your body is in pain, is it selfish to want the pain to go away?------- No!

Since when has it been selfish for a sick man to go and see the doctor? ------Never!

Likewise, it is not wrong to flee to the Great Physician, the Lord Christ, to hide ourselves in Him from the wrath that is to come.  It is not wrong to dread hell, desire heaven and to determine by God’s grace, to avoid God’s verdict of condemnation.

Don’t let Satan ensnare you with the deceptive nonsense that to cry out to Jesus for mercy is an unacceptable act of selfishness.

The Father will never rebuke you for coming to Him in this way.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, July 20, 2011: Christ Is All!

Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your faith? Have you ever thought that if only you had a better quality of faith then you could be sure of your salvation? This is dangerous thinking for we are never called to have faith in faith.  Since when does the Bible say, "Being satisfied with our faith, we have peace with God”?  ( See Romans 5:1).

Satisfaction with Jesus, His person and work, not satisfaction with our faith, is what the Father is looking for. We are never called to be satisfied or even occupied with our faith. We are, however, called to be occupied with Christ and His objective, outside of us, finished work! As believers we should be careful to avoid backsliding into subjectivism, but backslide we will if we continually focus on our experiences and level of faith.

Gospel faith takes a hold of Christ and His accomplishments on our behalf and causes us to set our affection on things above where Christ is (Col 3:2). Gospel faith takes us out of ourselves and away from  dwelling on our experiences. The very essence of faith is to be satisfied with Christ and His substitutionary work done on our behalf. Christ is all (Colossians 3:11); faith sees and rests on this!

If your desire, however, is to be satisfied with your faith, you are evidently dissatisfied with Christ.   You are not thinking like a gospel driven believer. Your thinking has somehow been re-arranged. The gospel driven believer, on the other hand, is learning to be dissatisfied with self, and to be satisfied with Christ. Remember, John the Baptist's words, "He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)? For the gospel driven believer, growth can be explained with these three little words, “He must increase.”  He, the Christ who has conquered, death, sin and  the grave must increase in our understanding, appreciation and love.  For Him to increase does not mean an increased  inward self- occupation with our warm fuzzy subjective experiences, but  rather it means enjoying being occupied with the risen and exalted Christ. When He, the risen Christ of the Cross, is increasing, everything else that vies for our attention is decreasing.


Near the pulpit, in an old church in the Highlands of Scotland there is a sign that says, “No man can give at once the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.”  This is just another way of saying that, he must increase but we must decrease.” With the Lord’s help may we learn to be thrilled with faith's glorious object, the Lord Jesus. May we learn to focus on Him, not on faith and certainly not on our experience of Him.

Faith, no matter how perfect, is nothing in and of itself. Faith, however, points us to Jesus. It commands us to look away from ourselves and even itself and look to Christ, the risen, exalted, crucified Lord. Faith agrees that, "Christ is all" (Col 3:11). Faith constantly urges us to look to the One who says, "Look unto me” (Isaiah 45:22).

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Aug. 24, 2011: Dissatisfied?

If salvation required that our faith, love and repentance had to have a sufficiently high level before the Lord accepted us, none of us would be saved. Take the matter of faith for example. Does God require us to have a certain level of feeling in our faith before He saves us? Of course not!   He doesn’t ask us to feel lost or saved, for if He did none of us would know whether or not we felt lost or saved enough. He  does, however, want us to know that outside of Jesus, we are lost (Rom 5:12) ---and in Christ we are saved----we don‘t have to feel this! He wants us to know this and believe these truths for this is what His Word teaches. He wants His word to be enough to persuade us of the truth apart from feelings (Prov 30:5).

The gospel needs no authentication from our feelings. The Scriptures are true whether or not we feel them to be true (Ps 33:4). Faith knows this and latches on to the truth! Faith, not feelings , knows that  in Christ there is everything we need for our salvation (2 Cor 9:8; 2Cor 3:5: 2 Cor 12:9)?”

Furthermore, on this question of loving God I’ve heard Christians say, "I don’t think I love God enough." Well, what did they expect? Do you know of anyone who has a perfect love for the Father other than the Lord Jesus? Now here‘s some good gospel truth; since we  have been reckoned as having Christ’s perfect righteousness then, in Him, we have already loved the Father perfectly.  This is wonderful!  Does this not release you to love the Father more? Or are you now walking contrary to gospel by demanding a perfect love from yourself? The bigger issue, however, is not your love for Him, but rather, Christ’s love for the Father on your behalf.

As for this matter of repentance, some folks feel that they haven’t repented enough. Shock! Horror! None of us have!  And do you know what? if we  were satisfied with our repentance no one could put up with us for we would be filled with all manner of pride and self-righteousness. Repentance is a vital truth, but do you think that God will take note of your repentance and on the basis of such forgive your sins?  Is your repentance greater than the blood? Do you think that your repentance can atone for your sins and purchase God’s favour?  If all that’s needed to secure salvation is repentance then Christ could have stayed in Heaven and not have bothered with the cross.

So tell me this, on what basis would you rather approach the thrice-holy God, with your repentance or with the Lamb’s blood?  Do you think your repentance now gives you that which only Christ can provide? Are you still trying to find the ground of peace in the perfections of your repentance?  If so, you are yet in the grip of self-righteousness!

As a young, but learned clergyman, James Hervey, the 18th century English preacher asked an old ploughman what he though was the hardest thing in religion.  The old man replied that Hervey was a learned man and that he would like to know what he thought on that subject.  “Well” said Hervey, “I think it is to deny sinful self.  “I disagree,” said the old Christian, “I think there is a harder thing than that and that is to deny righteous self-----to deny ourselves a proud dependence on our own works and struggles and efforts and prayers for justification before God.”  Hervey afterwards said that at the time he thought the ploughman an old fool; but, said he, “I have since learned who was the fool---not the pious ploughman, but the proud James Hervey” (Gal 2:21).

Christ alone is our resting place.  To be satisfied with Him is enough, for He is enough!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Aug. 31, 2011: Satisfied with Jesus

If we were smart we would line up with the Father’s thinking about the Lord Jesus. In that way we would be satisfied with Christ and thus place ourselves in the very centre of the will of God concerning salvation (John 20:31). The Word declares, that those who rest on Christ are doing God’s work (John 6:29). The first thing, therefore, that the Father asks of us is to come into agreement with Him about His Son. Nothing more is required, but nothing less will do! The Father will not receive us on any other basis than that of the sufficiency of His Son.

“But”, says someone,” I must be a righteous person within myself before God will accept me!” Well actually---NO! Our acceptance is not grounded on our worthiness, but on Christ‘s for the gospel concerns,  "His Son"  (Rom 1:1-3). The gospel is, therefore, not about us and about how internally holy we can become. Indeed satisfaction with our supposed inward holiness is like a wilderness path for a stray dog, it is dangerous and leads nowhere. However, satisfaction with Christ Jesus leads to glory, for Christ is ALL (Col 3:11).

The Father has said of the Lord Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”(Matt 3:7). Notice the superlatives, Christ is not merely the Son, He is the beloved Son. The Father is not merely pleased, He is well pleased with Him. When, therefore, we are well pleased with the beloved Son, we are in wonderful agreement with the Father.

Are you satisfied that Christ has kept the Law perfectly on your behalf? We make problems for ourselves when we forget the necessity of a fulfilled law and view the gospel as some sort of modified, relaxed legal arrangement with God.  This kind of false thinking says, “Keeping the Law is irrelevant when it comes to salvation.”   God, in this kind of thinking, was too strict in Old Testament times for He demanded perfection, but now in the New Covenant He’s a more relaxed version of God. As one young girl naively put it, “ God in the Old Testament was God before He got saved.”

In this new relaxed theory of things, Christ lowered God’s demands because the commandments were too strict. Now we have milder terms more suited to our weakness. But this is sheer nonsense! Think about it, if the former law was too strict  it was, as Bonar says, “neither holy nor good.” Is it too strict to demand that we love God with everything we have? Has God so lowered His standards that His fundamental requirements are now obsolete? God forbid! Faith, however, does not invalidate the law; it establishes it (Rom 3:31). God still demands perfect law keeping and our faith now rests in the One who has perfectly kept every aspect of the Law on our behalf.  We are saved not only by Christ’s blood but also by Christ’s perfect law keeping---He’s the one who both kept the law’s precepts and paid the Law’s penalties. Christ’s perfect doing and dying are now imputed to us, reckoned as ours and received by us by faith alone. This is staggering!

God has nowhere relaxed His standard.  It is by the perfect keeping of a perfect law that we are saved; otherwise it would be an unholy and unrighteous salvation. Thus Christ alone is our only hope for He has kept the law for us; he has magnified it and made it honourable (Isa 42:21); and thus we have a holy and righteous salvation. Legally, Christ has both lived and died in our place, therefore, when God saves us he does so, not only as a matter of love and mercy, but also as a matter of Justice.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Sept 21, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 1

Paul was, apart from the  Lord Jesus, the greatest apostle we have ever seen. We can learn much about authentic New Testament ministry when we listen to him.  He says,

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor 1:17-18

Did Paul write this on a slow day when there wasn’t much ‘apostle-ing’ going on? Had he taken off his apostle’s hat when he penned those lines? No, on the contrary, in these verses we discover the heart of genuine apostolic ministry. We see that true, New Testament, ministry centres in and on the gospel, embracing it as the very power of God.

Paul makes no secret about the authentic apostolic message saying,

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." 1 Cor. 2:2.

Many have, incorrectly, taught that the Corinthians were such babies that Paul could preach only the simplicity of the cross to them. Had the church been mature, these folks tell us, he could have preached ‘deep things’ to them. But this is sheer nonsense! The truth is quite the opposite; Paul, as an apostle, had nothing deeper to teach than the gospel. (I wish some of those who claim to be modern day apostles knew this!).

Adolph Saphir puts it this way:

“To know Jesus Christ and Him crucified is not the minimum of knowledge but the maximum of knowledge; that to know “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is not to know little but to know all; that here is not a descent from a loftier region, but an elevation into the highest sanctuary; that in “Jesus Christ and him crucified” all doctrines, all God’s teachings, and man’s experiences culminate; and from “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” all duties, all works, all ministries are to emanate and to be evolved.”

Adolph Saphir: Christ Crucified: Cpt 1, The Center of the Gospel

We hear much today about the restoration of the 5 fold ministry of Eph 4:11.  Would that today’s “apostles” would emulate Paul for Paul had no more profound a message

than Christ and Him crucified.   Paul knew that Christ personally embodied the five fold ministry. Jesus was:

The apostle, Hebrews 3:1

The prophet, Heb 1:2

The evangelist, Lk 19:10

The pastor/shepherd, John 10:11

The teacher, Matthew 7:29

Furthermore, when Paul determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified he determined to bathe his hearers in the fullness of God. As an apostle, Paul knew that Christ was both the power and wisdom of God (1Cor 1:24). There was, therefore, no more profound a message than the gospel. Far from being only for beginners, Paul goes on to explain that the knowing and preaching of Christ crucified was, “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1Cor 2:4). As a result of gospel preaching, their faith would stand, “in the power of God” (1Cor 2:5).  The gospel, in Paul’s inspired mind, was not merely for beginners, but for the building up of all believers to whom he ministered.

It is, likewise, the gospel, the good news of Christ and the application of His finished work, that builds us up in the most holy faith.  If, however, we expose ourselves to a steady diet of subjective, believer centred teaching, we will grow stagnant and wither.   God has erected a Throne of Grace in the gospel.  When we go there, we meet the King in His beauty.  When we see Him and encounter Him there we will never again be satisfied with a man centred message.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Sept. 28, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 2

Paul proclaimed the gospel evangelistically (1 Cor 4:15), but he knew that this was far from its exclusive use. Unfortunately, today, many preachers don‘t have this insight. According to them the gospel is primarily for the lost.  They foolishly imagine that spiritual growth is divorced from the gospel and its application. Yes indeed, Paul preached evangelistically, but as an apostle, Paul’s central burden for the Churches was to establish them in the faith. This apostolic ministry of establishing, however, was accomplished only through the preaching of the gospel. He writes,

“Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, ------(Rom 16:25).

According to this scripture, gospel preaching establishes believers. It is the gospel of Christ that makes the believer stable and steady. Paul tells the Corinthians the same thing when he writes,

“Now he which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God; (2 Cor 1:21).

Mark it down, we are established in Christ and no where else!

The gospel of Christ is the primary power in establishing and confirming the people of God.  Yet, in spite of this, many believers are encouraged to run ‘hither and thither’  to seek  new life changing blessings from some ‘new move’ or other of the Spirit in various parts of the world. However, these ‘new things’ are a damp squib; give them enough time and they will fizzle out. They promise much, they deliver little. The gospel alone will build Christians and make them sturdy!  Why? Because the gospel is the heart of authentic New Testament ministry!

But what is the gospel? It’s important that we get this right. Every preacher I’ve met  claims to preach and understand the gospel and its significance, but most of them don’t. They have failed to see that the gospel is the good news of a person. It‘s about Jesus.  It is the good news of His offices, His doing, dying and rising again.  He is the one who is presently seated on the throne of grace applying all His redemptive riches to His blood bought saints. When this ever-living crucified Christ is ministered and held before the people they find Him to be both beautiful and precious and discover in Him the road to spiritual strength, stability and godly character.

But many people in Paul’s day could see no beauty in Jesus.  Paul says in 1 Cor 1:21,

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

The unsaved still laugh at the gospel and strange as it may seem they are not so far removed from the ‘believer’ who sees no use for the gospel other than as  a doorway doctrine. Such a person sees no power in the finished work to transform.  He wants transformation by rules and principles, but not by grace alone.

The gospel centered believer, on the other hand, delights that the gospel is both the power and wisdom of God.  Being the power and wisdom of God, the  New Covenant minister also knows better than to restrict the gospel to evangelistic meetings.

The gospel is the power of the all-powerful God: So just how powerful is Omnipotence? It defies description! The gospel is also the wisdom of the all-wise God: so just how wise is Omniscience? We can not express or fathom such things: But this we know, the power of the Omnipotent and the wisdom of the Omniscient are bound up and manifest in the gospel.  A true New Testament minister knows this and would, therefore, never take us away from the centrality of Jesus to focus us on a subjective, man centered message.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word Oct. 12, 2011, The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 3

It is sad to say but the gospel is often rejected in many of today’s churches.  Indeed, the appeal of many modern preachers is positively anti-gospel. . “We must move on to the deep things,” they tell us as they hurriedly turn to Hebrews 6:1 and following verses. “See what it says,” they declare with full confidence, “It says,

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ let us go unto perfection not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms and the laying on of hands and of the resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment.”

Yes indeed, that is exactly what we should do! We are called to go on to perfection and a thorough reading of Hebrews shows us that Christ and His New Covenant are the perfection spoken of.

The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were strongly considering going back to Judaism. Since God does not walk backwards, the writer to the epistle urges them not to take that wretched backward step.  He exhorts them to put imperfect Old Covenant thinking behind them and move fully into the New, and better covenant. There’s nothing left for them in Judaism. He tells them,

“The law made nothing perfect but the bringing in of a better hope did” (Heb 7:19).

The book of Hebrews is a call to get immersed into Christ our gospel. In Christ, we have a full revelation of the mind, will and purpose of God (Heb 1:1-2).  In the Old Testament the prophets pointed to the ‘Future One‘, in the New Covenant Jesus pointed to Himself. In Jesus, we have left the shadows of the Old Testament and have embraced the substance, the fulfilment of all the types and shadows. The Old Covenant was flawed in that,

“ the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect” (Heb 10:1)

But Christ Jesus, by His one all-sufficient offering of Himself, has "perfected forever", them whom God has set apart (Heb 10:14).

We are told, therefore, to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Note, it is the principles of the doctrine of Christ we are to leave and not Christ Himself. Since the word  ‘principles’ is the Greek word ‘arche’ (beginnings or origins) we are called to leave the origins and first principles of the gospel and move into the gospel itself.

This entire catalogue of doctrines presented in these verses of Hebrews 6 is found in Judaism. Notice how it says, “doctrine of baptisms”. According to the New Testament we have but one baptism, not many (Eph 4:5). Furthermore, the word translated as ‘baptisms’ is literally the word for washings (baptismos). These baptisms refer, therefore, to the ceremonial washings under the Law of Moses.

Leave the beginnings and get into the gospel is the message of Heb 6:1-2! Many of our new preachers, however, have reversed this, teaching the very opposite.  According to them, the gospel is for beginners and now we must move into the deep things of God by the Spirit. But how is this possible?  How can  God have a deeper work for us than the work which is already finished and complete? How can the Spirit take us away from the One whom He has been sent to magnify? We should ask, therefore, when we are offered any new and ‘deeper work’, will this work of the Spirit take me nearer to the Christ of the cross or will it once more make me the centre of my focus? Anything, which makes my experience, feelings the core of my Christian life, must be shunned as being sub-standard.

There is no deeper work of God than the Christ event, the gospel. There is no more profound experience than Christ’s experience on our behalf. It was His experience on our behalf which was and is the gospel. We cannot improve upon being complete in Christ (Col 2:10) and being already blessed with all spiritual blessings in Him (Eph 1:3)!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Oct. 19, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 4

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: ---For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

Paul equates the preaching the gospel with the preaching of the cross of Christ. They are one and the same. This is the heart of New Testament power ministry!

“But” says someone, “we must have Holy Ghost power to have an authentic New Testament ministry. “ Indeed we do! Who’s arguing? However, today we often encounter a silly passion which chases spiritual power in all the wrong places. The truth is, we don’t have to run all over the place chasing after power. New Testament, spirit filled power is already  centered in Christ and His finished work. According to scripture, Christ is the power of God (1 Cor 1:24); likewise the “preaching of the cross” is  the power of God (1 Cor 1:18) and  indeed “the gospel” itself is declared to be the power of God (Rom 1:16). What a threefold witness! Paul, therefore, being filled with the Holy Ghost preached Christ and Him crucified. This was and is the most powerful apostolic message available for the saved and lost alike. Let’s measure those who claim to be today’s apostles by this standard of ministry! Authentic, Holy Ghost ministry centers on Christ, His person, work and offices and indeed His glory.  As we read in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit makes us witnesses unto Christ Jesus (Acts 1:8).

The authentic New Testament minister preaches a person, the God man, who lived perfectly, died perfectly and rose again from the dead. This God/Man is the Christ of the cross. When we talk about the cross, however, we are not merely referring to a piece of wood on Golgotha’s hill. We are focusing on Christ crucified, the one whose entire life was a cross.  He was the One who continually laid down His rights, riches and reputation and then died as our substitute.

Authentic New Testament ministry always points people away from themselves to the Lord Jesus and His perfect obedience on our behalf. The New Testament minister points us to a salvation that is not only by grace, but also a salvation which is already complete in Christ. Because of this, the true New Covenant minister will not cause us to dwell on anything the Holy Spirit has done within us. He will not urge us to focus on our ‘sanctification’ or in some new way of being Spirit filled nor will he dwell on some new experience or blessing. True apostles, like Paul, will cause us to look to doing and dying of the God/Man who is now resident in glory. They will continually bring us to His throne to magnify exalt, worship and behold the perfections of the One who is enthroned as Lord above all (Col. 3:1-4).

In addition, authentic New Testament ministry will continually point us to the righteousness, completeness and blessing which is already ours in Christ alone. Man’s way of ministry is to build up man and tell him how fine he is. God’s way of ministry, on the contrary, is to throw man into the dust of self- distrust so that he can trust and glory in Christ alone. It is only as the cross demolishes him that the believer becomes established in Christ! This offends the flesh, but it is authentic New Testament ministry!

Christ alone, is our hope, confidence and delight (Jer. 23:6). An authentic New Testament minister knows and teaches this!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Nov. 1, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 5

The heart and passion of authentic New Testament ministry is the good news of  Jesus Christ. For this reason, Paul wrote to the Church at  Rome saying, “And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ”  (Rom 15:29). In Paul‘s apostolic mind, his visit would be for the purpose of bringing the gospel to the Roman believers. Paul, unlike many today, did not discount the gospel as being something un-necessary for believers. In fact, in Paul’s inspired thinking when it came to edifying and establishing the church, the gospel was an inescapable essential.

To grow in grace we walk by faith in that which has already been accomplished in and by Christ Jesus. Fellowship with God does not rest on an inward process of supposedly being made holy and mature. Our inward condition can not mediate between us and God. Christ Jesus is the only mediator and way to the Father. Authentic New Testament ministry, therefore, does not focus believers on themselves and their supposed progress towards perfection. The truth is, perfection is not something that God requires at the end of our Christian life: He demands perfection before any right relationship can begin and this perfection is legally found in Christ alone.

Furthermore, concerning authentic New Testament ministry, Paul tells the Ephesians,

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;” Eph 3:8.

Notice how the riches of Christ are unsearchable! This means they are so plentiful that they can not be numbered.  In a sense, Paul is telling us that there is no one sufficient for the task of being a gospel minister because the subject of Christ is so vast and deep. We can only, as it were, scratch its surface. Yet many of our modern preachers want to by-pass Christ in favour of ‘principles‘, ‘keys to life’ ‘deeper life’ and other assorted man centered fancies..  It is as if they see no beauty in Jesus (Isa 53:2). The following verse is not on their top ten list,

“Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Wealth that can never be told!

Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ!

Precious, more precious than gold.”

An authentic New Testament minister, however, is absorbed with the person and work and offices of the Lord Jesus. Paul, 38 years after his conversion, still yearned to both win and know Christ (Phil 3:8, 3:10). When he speaks of ‘winning Christ’ he’s not speaking of gaining Christ’s righteousness. He already has that! What he means is, in much the same way that an unsaved man may seek to gain the whole world, the follower of the Lamb wants to gain all there is to have of Christ. That is why Paul spent his life looking unto Jesus and continually  mining gems from His unsearchable riches. Ah, but I think I hear that voice again---remember that voice? The voice of dissent which continually says that we need to move on from and not into the gospel. This time, we should let Andrew Bonar answer that rascal.  In his sermon on ‘Winning Christ” Bonar says,

“If ever we begin to think that we have seen all that we need to see in the Person of Christ, we have made a very great mistake - a mistake that will affect all our after-growth. No; through eternity we shall be exploring the person of Christ. For in that person everything that is wondrous meets. There you have the Creator and the creature in one, the finite and the Infinite, the visible and Invisible. There you have humanity married to Divinity. A most wondrous mystery, the person of Christ, God-man! Let us always take Christ's person with us, whatever subject in connection with Him we are about to explore.”

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Nov. 16, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 6: The Spirit and the Gospel

In authentic New Testament ministry the Holy Spirit and the gospel are never put into competition with each other.  Paul writes,

“Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so ----I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Rom 15:19)

To the Thessalonians he writes,

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, --” (1 Thess.1:5).

The Spirit and the gospel, therefore, must not be seen as two truths competing for our loyalty. There is only one focal point - the Christ event: the Spirit comes to reveal, unfold, magnify its significance to us (Jn 16:13).

When Paul preached the gospel he preached in the power of the Spirit.  Under Spirit anointed gospel preaching, God sovereignly commanded the light to shine in the darkness and people were supernaturally translated from the kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of God’s dear son (2 Cor 4:4-6;Col 1:13).

Through the years, I’ve observed, however, that much modern preaching lacks evidence of the Holy Spirit's work. There’s a pretended power, but not a genuine one.  ‘Salvation’ is now ‘accomplished’ by a personal decision, a raising of the hand or a giving of the heart to Jesus. This, however, is far removed from authentic New Testament ministry where the Lord majestically moves in authority.  Years ago I discovered that we can sometimes, in our own power, persuade people to follow so called salvation formulas. This, again, is far removed from salvation through the power of the gospel.

In addition, under Spirit empowered gospel preaching, saints are built up and established in Christ.  Once more the Spirit and the gospel go hand in hand. Yet not everyone ministers this way. There are, as a result, many who sit under subjective, man centred preaching being taught to focus on their experiences and condition. However, here’s something worth remembering, the Holy Spirit never causes us to be occupied with that which is happening within us (Jn 16:14).

When we are genuinely filled with the Spirit we are occupied with the Lord Christ, the very glory of heaven. He is our life (Col 3:4). As Spirit filled believers, the Spirit causes us to become absorbed with the One who laid aside His royal crown and humbled Himself to become one of us. Although He was the Majesty of heaven, He was placed in a feeding trough at birth. Although all things were made by Him, He was unrecognized, despised and rejected. Although He unfolded the identity and character of God, we esteemed him not. Even so, He lived, died and rose again in our name. By Himself He conquered sin, Satan and death. As he rose from the grave and ascended to glory he led captivity captive. He is now exalted and glorified and in him, this glorious one we live and move and have our being. It is in Him that we are now blessed with all spiritual blessings. It is the Holy Spirit Himself who draws us to Christ our life. Far from being in competition, with the gospel, the Holy Spirit draws us out of ourselves to where our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3).  In fact the Holy Spirit delivers us from the wretched inward looking, self focused life and releases us to be absorbed with the revelation of Christ.

Therefore, wherever and whenever the Spirit is moving in power, there we find believers occupied with gospel truths such as Christ our Representative, Righteousness and Redeemer; Christ our Substitute and Surety; Christ the Way and the Truth; Christ our life; Christ our Good, Great and Chief Shepherd; Christ our High Priest and Intercessor; Christ our Prophet and Perfection; Christ our King ruling and reigning for His people; Christ guiding the affairs of human history toward the day of His coming in glory. When there is preoccupation with Christ Jesus, there is the true evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in power.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Nov. 30, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry: Part 7

The gospel is the good news of a person; it’s not a proposal. In the gospel, we proclaim Christ the God/Man who lived perfectly, revealed the Father perfectly and died perfectly. We preach Christ the mediator and substitute, the eternal Word made flesh who, having successfully accomplished His purposes, rose from the dead and ascended to the throne of heaven (John 1:14; Eph 4:8-10).  He is enough to bring the dead to life, to give strength to the weary and refreshment in every situation.

Christ crucified is the centre of authentic New Testament ministry. Him we preach (Col 1:28)! Being that the cross was a place of death we see that Christ’s entire life was, in one sense, characterised by the cross. In order to save us, He, as a man, ‘died’ to all divine entitlements that were His by sovereign right.

Consider this:

In the gospel we preach Christ Crucified, the revelation of the Father (1 Cor 2:2; Jn 14:9). But what is God like? Look at Jesus and you’ll see Him (2 Cor 4:6). He is the God of the cross. He the God who was entirely willing to lay down all rights, riches and reputation in order to save His people. This is why we preach Christ crucified for in Him we bring God to the people and the people to God.

As Adolph Saphir says,

“All the decrees of God are comprised and centre in the person and work of the incarnate son.--God has only one purpose; to manifest Himself, to show forth His glory, to reveal His perfections and to show them forth in His only begotten and well beloved son, and in Him as in Jesus Christ crucified.” (A. Saphir: Christ Crucified; Lectures on 1 Corinthians 2; Lecture 4)

Thus authentic New Covenant ministry makes known the God of the cross in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 7, 2011: The Gospel and Authentic New Testament Ministry, Part 8 - The Gospel and New Covenant Lifestyle

For Paul, the gospel was no mere entry-level doctrine. In the mind of the apostle, the gospel actually determined and empowered New Covenant lifestyle.  He writes to the Philippians,

“Only let your manner of life be becoming to the gospel of Christ: ----(Phil 1:27)

There is a newness of life, a gospel lifestyle which comes when we are saved.  This is not, however, as some would have us believe, a lifestyle married to law and divorced from the gospel.  It is, rather, something which actually gets its vitality from the very gospel itself.

The gospel teaches believers how to live the Christian life. It’s not only for evangelistic meetings. Paul tells the Romans,

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4).

Paul is saying, look what happened through the gospel, you were buried and raised with Christ, now walk in the newness of life which is already yours. Much of today’s preaching tries to get us to walk in newness of life, but since the preaching is usually devoid of gospel it can not produce the desired results. Churches, therefore, who have made it their purpose to teach us how to live the Christian life are doomed to fail unless the gospel is on centre stage. To teach “how to” and not relate it to the gospel is merely to plunge the church back under law.

When Paul, for example, wanted to teach the saints how to live a lifestyle which would not offend others in the church, he didn’t bring them law he brought them  to the gospel saying,

“---Destroy not him with your food, for whom Christ died. (Rom 14:15).

He doesn’t say, “Guys, you know it’s not the right thing to offend your brother with what you are eating. You are destroying him. Cut it out!”   No, as an authentic New Testament minister he brings them to the gospel and then makes application. He tells them, Christ died for your brothers so don’t destroy someone for whom Christ died.

Paul didn’t teach ethics and lifestyle apart from the finished work.  When he wanted his people to behave in a certain manner he didn’t merely issue edicts and pronouncements, he employed his apostolic understanding and brought them back to the gospel. For Paul, there was no question that changed lives came by the power of God unto salvation---the gospel of Christ!

Take another example, when he wanted believers to learn not to please themselves he again  brought them back to the gospel: he wrote,

“---Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Rom 15:1-3).

In addition, when Paul wanted the church to be welcoming and friendly he tells them,

“Receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Rom 15:7).

Paul here reminds his readers that as Christ received us we should receive each other.  But how did Christ receive us? He received us on terms of pure gospel grace.  It was grace alone and not our righteousness that motivated Him.  He didn’t wait for us to straighten up, rather he received us apart from our performance. And that is how we are to receive each other.  He does not bring us to the law saying, "We need to receive one another for you know that is the right thing and you need to do the right thing now you are saved.”  No!  He once more brings us, back to the gospel to empower us to live the gospel life style. That's authentic New Testament ministry!

Preaching the gospel and instructing believers how to live are not two separate and unrelated things.   Mark it down, believers will not be empowered to live as Christians if there is no gospel ministered to them. Why not?  Simply because the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.

Then there’s the matter of forgiveness. Have you ever heard a sermon on forgiveness? I wish I had a dollar for every sermon I’ve heard on that subject. However, merely telling people to walk in forgiveness does not make them walk in forgiveness. Why not? Again it’s because there is no gospel along with the exhortation. But here’s how the Apostle Paul taught on this matter,

“And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you Eph 4:32.

“---forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” Col 3:13.

See how once more, to empower them to live the gospel lifestyle of forgiveness, he brings them back to the gospel.  Paul points out that God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us.  Did God forgive us just because He was kind?  Did He forgive us because His wrath against sin had mellowed? No, God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake.  We therefore are to forgive in just the same way.

Another marvellous example of how Paul (if indeed Paul wrote the book) used the gospel to teach lifestyle is demonstrated all the way through the book of Hebrews.  Remember, the goal of Hebrews was to dissuade some Jewish Christians from departing the faith and going back to Temple worship. These Hebrew Christians were suffering persecution, trials and hardships.  Their faith was being shaken.  As we read Paul’s mighty exhortation to these believers, we notice that once more, he does not merely tell them what they should and should not do.  If Paul was your average modern day preacher, however, he would simply have said something like:

“Brothers, what else do you expect.  It’s a hard road and we all go through tough times.  Now then lads, straighten up and fly right!”

However, although Hebrews is a strong exhortation to do just that, this is not how the great apostle approaches things. Paul rather, unfolds to them the glory of the very centre of the gospel, the great High Priest.  He takes them to the Christ who was crucified.  He tells them to “consider Him”.  He presents the cross, the blood and the identity and superiority of the Lord Jesus.  He takes them to the heavenly sanctuary and shows them the very fruit of the gospel, how Christ Jesus is our representative and perfection and that in Him there is no more remembrance of sin.  As he establishes the entire superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, he once more, like the true apostle he was, looses the power of the gospel of Christ upon his hearers.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Dec. 21, 2011:  When God Became a Man

I really enjoy the Christmas season.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe for one moment that December 25th was Jesus’ actual birth day and yes I agree with you that Christmas is way too commercialised and it’s true that there isn’t a red nosed reindeer to be found anywhere in the Bible-- but I still like the idea of remembering the birth of Christ and singing about it.

At the heart of the Christmas season we have the wonderful message of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But who is He?   The prophet Isaiah takes the guess work out of this matter for in Isaiah 9:6-7 we read,

‘-- unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

This scripture is one of the most translucent declarations of the identity of Christ. Here we see clearly His dual nature (His humanity and deity).  By the way, if we don’t understand that Christ Jesus was both fully God and fully man, we will get confused not understanding that sometimes He speaks as God and at other times speaks as man. The child who was born is both the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father.  Faith embraces this fact.

John Owen, the great Puritan says,

“----That the Mighty God should be a child born and the Everlasting Father a Son given unto us may well entitle him to the name Wonderful”

John Owen: The Works of John Owen: Volume One: Chapter 3: p47 The Banner of Truth Trust

So great is the mystery of Christ that He is at the same time the child born and the mighty God!  We may not understand how He can be both, but Isaiah plainly states the fact of the matter. Look at your Saviour and worship: He is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father.  You have to change the text (as indeed some have) to avoid the grand conclusion that Christ is indeed our God. It was our God who came to the manger. It was our God who purchased us with His blood.

Furthermore, do you see how the text declares Christ’s eternity? Only God is eternal. Everything else has a beginning.  But Christ is called the “Everlasting” Father!  Some have rendered this “the Father of Eternity” while others say it should be translated “Author of Eternity.” Call it any way you like, it doesn’t matter, His Godhead is proved.

Spurgeon throws some excellent light on the eternity of Christ on his sermon on this passage saying:

“He (Christ) is here pictured as the source and Father of eternity. Jesus is not the child of eternity but the Father of it. Eternity did not bring him forth from its mighty bowels, but he brought forth eternity. Independent, self-sustained, uncreated, eternal existence is with Jesus our Lord and God.

CHS: His Name, The Everlasting Father: Sermon # 724

As gospel driven believers, the incarnation is such a vital part of our message that we don’t even have to wait until Christmas to mention and celebrate it.  No indeed, in the gospel, we continually remember the wonderful truth of the birth of Christ.  The good news is that the eternal God came here Himself and did something about our predicament. The Eternal One took on Himself flesh and blood and lived, died and rose again on our behalf.  The Scriptures are clear on this matter.  It doesn’t, therefore, have to be a white Christmas this year to make us happy for our hearts are already rejoicing in the incarnation.

And that’s the Gospel Truth

The Wednesday Word, Jan. 4, 2011: Is Christ the Mighty God?

Have you ever heard of the Council of Chalcedon? It was during that Council, in A.D. 451, that the Church affirmed Christ to be one person with two natures.  Christ, they said, was both fully God and fully man. However, was this teaching of Chalcedon merely a 5th century invention or as some say, “a figment of pious imagination?” No, indeed no! Chalcedon took its lead from the prophet Isaiah who, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave us the key to understanding the mysterious constitution of the person of Christ.  Let’s look again at what he says in Isaiah 9:6:

“Unto us a child is born-…and His name shall be called the Mighty God”

Before we go any further, let me ask you, is a child who is born a human?  Of course it is!  But Isaiah goes on to plainly declare that this child is also, “the Mighty God”--in Hebrew, the ‘el gibbor.’ Only God can be called the El Gibbor as we read in Isaiah 10:20-21, "… The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God (el gibbor)."

The child of the manger was ‘el gibbor’ clothed in humanity.  This child is the Mighty God. So let me ask, how many mighty Gods are there?  Both the Bible and logic know of but one, and the scriptures declare that this mighty God and the Lord Jesus (the child born) are one and the same!

If we believe that Christ is human, but not the Mighty God then we are rejecting the clear record of the Bible.  We are, in fact, treating the Bible like a giant cafeteria where we pick and chose the things we like!

Isaiah, in this one scripture (Isaiah 9:6), has given us the key to understanding the mystery of Christ’s identity.  This promised one is to be both God and man, both human and divine. This key unlocks the door to the understanding of Christ’s person.  If you throw away this key, the door of understanding concerning Christ won’t open. He is one person with two natures; He is both the child born and the mighty God.

Here’s a heart warming word from the powerful pen of Spurgeon on this matter:

“………come and put your trust in Jesus Christ, he is “the mighty God.” Oh, Christians, believe him more than ever, cast your troubles constantly on him; he is “the mighty God;” go to Him in all your dilemmas, when the enemy comes in like a flood, this mighty God shall make a way for your deliverance; take to him your griefs, this mighty God can alleviate them all; tell him your backslidings and sins, this mighty God shall blot them out. ----

CHS: His Name-The Mighty God: Sermon #258

Jesus is the Mighty God! There is no gospel if this is not so. If you do not believe in His deity and yet you are trusting Him to save you, then you have placed your trust in a Jesus who, in your estimation, is less than God. Not only do you not believe in the Bible, but you are also following a different Christ than the one revealed in God’s Word.  With respect, we must conclude that your Christ is a Christ of the imagination and human concoction.  The awful thing about this is that your Christ cannot save you. With a Saviour less than divine you have a toy Saviour, a supposed saviour who cannot save for He is not the Mighty God!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

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