Category Archives: Theology

The Heart of the Gospel

   In all the world there is not, never has been nor will there ever be anything to compare to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Simple in its truth, yet profound in its origin it is the only power that has the ability to transform the lives of sinful men.

   In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he describes the presentation of the message of the Gospel. In verse seventeen of chapter one he states:

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 non effect.

   I have emphasized the phrase, “cross of Christ,” because it is the very heart of the Gospel. It is the cross that reveals our sinfulness as well as the righteousness of Christ.

   The message takes precedence over everything else. Baptism is not wrong, but it is no substitute for the power of the cross. There is certainly nothing wrong with wisdom, in fact God places a high premium upon it, but wisdom cannot replace the proclamation of the cross.

   Paul clearly states that he has been called to preach the Gospel. His conviction concerning his call and his determination to let nothing neutralize the cross are a direct testimony to the centrality of Christ’s crucifixion to the message of the Gospel.

   There are those today who do not believe the cross is essential to the content of believing unto salvation. Some choose not to preach the cross for fear of repulsing the lost with the message of a “bloody salvation”. Some preach the cross, yet do not believe it is necessary for one to be aware of the death and resurrection of Christ. I would submit that without believing in the cross, there is no hope of the lost being saved.

   Verse 18 tells us that this message of the cross is not just for believers, but for those who do not believe, as well.  Consider with me the words of verses 21-24.

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 stumbling block, 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 desire of the unbelieving Jews to see a sign was to establish in their mind the credentials of the Messiah. The unbelieving Greeks desired the wisdom of a god. In other words, if they were going to believe in Christ, it would be on their own terms. Those, however, who placed faith in Jesus did so by believing on God’s terms, that is receiving the message that was given to them, the message of the cross. Only those who embraced this truth experienced the transforming power of God unto salvation.

   To those Jews who believed, the cross became the power of God. To believing Greeks it became the wisdom of God. Both of these were superior to the expectations of man. Literally, the cross has become the credentials of Jesus Christ to the world. When we remove the cross from the message of salvation, we have gutted it, rendering it no more able to save than baptism or earthly wisdom.

   Jesus, Himself, pointed to the crucifixion as His credentials in John 20:24-29. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive, until Jesus pointed to the scars of His crucifixion. The Lord used the cross to establish His identity, even among His own disciples.

   How can we do less than proclaim the message of the cross? How dare we elevate our wisdom above God’s plan and think that it is not essential to power of salvation? I’ll cherish the cross, I’ll proclaim it, I’ll remember it, I’ll hold it forth as the last and only hope of salvation for fallen man.

In the Words of a Child

“Preacher, can I please be saved?” the little six-year-old boy asked me during the invitation after yesterday’s sermon.

I instructed him to have a seat on the front pew and I told him I would talk to him after the service. When everyone was gone, he and his mother joined me in my office where I had the privilege of showing him the truth of the gospel and leading him to Christ.

As he called on the Lord to save him, he reached a point in his prayer where he said, “Jesus, I want to stop doing bad things and start doing good things.” I was not asking him to “repeat after me” or anything else. This was what was in his heart as he asked God for the gift of salvation.

With all of the debates and definitions that surround the word “repentance”, I must say that this is about as clear and biblical a definition as one will find.

Humility and the Will of God

   It has been a couple of weeks, but I would like to share some more thoughts on determining the will of God. I think there are times when the will of God is clear, but our own perception may be clouded by a lack of humility.

 Consider the words of Paul in Romans 12:3:

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

While this verse is introducing a discourse upon the role of believers as members of the body of Christ, the use of the word “for” would imply a continuation of the thoughts immediately preceding it concerning the will of God.

I am convinced that a lack of humility before God will always prevent us from discerning the will of God. I have written before about the satanic nature of pride and how it is at the heart of every sin.

If we are trying to decide if God is leading us to do something or not, one thing we should consider is the reaction of our flesh to the decision. If the step we are about to take causes our opinion of ourself to go up, then perhaps God is not in it. If the thought of following through on a decision fuels feelings of self-satisfaction or self-righteousness, then we should consider the fact that God’s will always brings glory to God, not man.

The will of God can be discerned only when we lay our life, along with our will, pride and ambition, on the altar of surrender. When we forget about self-preservation, our own advancement and the fulfillment of our own dreams we can enter into the perfect will of God.

I know that every time I have found myself outside the will of God, it is because I allowed pride to override humility, and I elevated myself above the authority of God in my life. Without exception, I was following my own desires, avoiding my own dislikes, or pursuing selfish ambition.

It was John the Baptist who said, “He must increase but I must decrease.” Is it any wonder that Jesus described him as being the greatest among men? John realized that the more of self that was laid on the altar of surrender, the more glory he would bring to Christ.

May God help us to lay aside the pursuit of our own fulfillment and to follow after His glory alone. When we do that, the will of God will become much clearer.

Proving the Will of God

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.   Rom. 12:1-2

In discussions on the will of God, it isn’t long before this text comes up and rightly so. It is one of the clearest and most pertinent scriptures pertaining to the matter, and of course, scripture is where we want to go to form our belief.

I appreciate all of those who have been participating in the discussion thus far. So far we are finding some slight differences of opinion, but hopefully we will all find common ground in this text, even though we may apply what we find differently.

There is a progressive development in ability to discern God’s will. It begins with our surrender to God. We will never be able to fully perceive or perform God’s will until we are yielded to Him. We must be willing to adopt the attitude that Christ showed in Gethsemane. The problem is, many of us treat surrender as if it is an act of death, but God wants us to live for Him.

The second step in this progression is rejection of the world. We cannot yield ourselves to God and still hold on to the things of this world. I think Jesus said something about “you cannot serve two masters.” Instead, our lives should demonstrate the ongoing transformation that is taking place inside our minds as God continually and progressively conforms us to the image of Christ. The more Christ-like we become, the easier it will be for us to comprehend the will of God.

This brings us to a place where we can prove the will of God. Three stages of His will are presented in verse two. I have heard some say that these are three terms that describe the same thing, but I believe both the Greek and English grammar indicate otherwise.

It should be our goal to “prove” or discern the perfect will of God. Many Christians grow to the point of doing that which is “good” and progress  no further. As some comments in the previous post indicated, it is God’s will for each of us to love God supremely and to love one another as we love ourself. This is “good” for all believers to do.

Could the “acceptable” will be the application of the “good” will? We find in the Bible how we are to show that love. James teaches us the meaning of Christian compassion. I John teaches us the definition of Christian fellowship. Ephesians teaches us about unity and worship. Etc., etc.

If this is the case, then perhaps the “perfect” will of God dictates the details of when, where and to whom we are to minister the grace of God. I do believe that God is concerned with the intimate facets of our life. The Bible simply says too much about our steps and paths being directed by the Lord for me to think otherwise.

My responsibility in determining the will of God is to yield myself to God, surrendering to His desire to conform me to the image of Christ. As He progressively performs this work of sanctification in my life, His plan for me will become increasingly clearer.

This chapter reveals some other factors that I hope to engage next week. In the meantime, feel free to express your thoughts on this topic.

High Notes

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog-spotting tour. I’ve come across a few gems this week that I wanted to pass along to you.

Dan Burrell gives an outstanding post on the Lost Discipline of Reverence. This post really reinforced some things I have been learning lately.

Frequent commentor here at Heavenly Heartburn, T.A. Blankenship, has a good set of reasons for expositional preaching.

The discussions at K.C.’s blog never lack for depth. He has a good one going now on the topic of judgment.

I always get a blessing out of Dionna Sanchez’ devotionals. She has one on keeping God in our focus that will encourage you.

 There’s a new blog on the block, SBC Impact is a group blog to which frequent visitor Tony Sisk contributes. It has a good collection of writers and seems to be focused on accentuating the positive aspects of SBC thought instead of dwelling on controversy.

Alan Knox is presenting an outstanding series on the topic of church elders at his blog. You really need to check this out. 

Finally, my brother is asking a good question concerning the future challenges of Christianity.

Enjoy and come back tomorrow for another exciting edition of Weekend Survey.

The Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of Man

   I have been involved in a couple of good discussions with my friends at World From Our Window recently concerning the way that God sovereignly interacts with the free will of man. (Let me state up front for those new to this blog that I am a non-Calvinist/non-Arminian.) I was going to comment on this post but my answer seemed to be getting too long so I decided to write a post on the matter.

   As I consider the interaction of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, I see three possible positions.

1.  God sovereignly dictates every nuance of every thought, word or action of every man, rendering man as nothing more than a dangling marionette in the hands of a divine puppetmaster.

2.  Man is a completely autonomous being who is free to do as he chooses without divine influence or consequence.

   Most of us would agree that these are two extreme positions that have no basis in scripture. The first is so fatalistic as to remove any semblance of hope or worship. The second is little more than atheism. We must use care so as not to allow our aversion to one of the extremes drive us too close to the other.

   Surely the truth must lie in a balance between the two. There is never a moment, circumstance or action in the course of man’s history in which God has not, is not or will not be sovereignly involved. The question is, “What degree of control does God exercise?”

   I believe that God and God alone can answer that question.

   Some have suggested that the idea of man having a free will is somehow a denial of the sovereignty of God. If it is God who created man with a free will, omnisciently knowing how man will exercise it, omnipresently influencing man to use it for God’s glory and omnipotently holding man responsible for how he exercises the free will, how is His sovereignty denied?

   Some have stated that because God is sovereign, He must be in absolute control of every circumstance. To think otherwise, some say, is to leave the door open for open theism. As long as we don’t forget the omniscience and foreknowledge of God, we will never be in danger of straying into that pit of heresy.

   Let us consider the weather. Some would look at storms and say that God controls the direction of every hurricane, tornado and dust devil that comes across our planet. The Bible teaches us that “God has his way in the whirlwind.” I have heard some describe a tornado as “the finger of God.” Truly there are times when you look at the path of such storms and it seems that perhaps God is personally directing the path of the twister. At other times, these storms move in a seemingly indiscriminate manner. Has God left that storm to its own devices? I think not. Such storms seem to be directed by the normal ebb and flow of atmospheric conditions. These conditions are created and sustained by God. Therefore, we can say that God is in control whether or not He chooses to directly alter the path of the storm.

   My point is this. It is neither denying the sovereignty of God nor open theism to say that He creates a being or a system designed to function in a certain way and then allows that being or system to function in the way in which He designed it. If it is God who has given man the free will, then it is not usurping the sovereignty of God when man exercises it. If it is God who sovereignly holds man accountable for the use of his will, then God’s sovereignty is not eroded. In fact, I would go so far as to say, if God’s sovereignty can be usurped or eroded then He is not sovereign. If He is not sovereign, He is not God.

   I am thankful that God has created man with the capacity for free will. I am also thankful that there is not one moment, circumstance or aspect of my life in which He is not sovereignly involved.

Play It Again

   I posted this hymn last year about this time. Since then it has been one of my most popular posts, particularly in search engines. To me, it is one of the most magnificent hymns that we sing in the church today. I hope that it will add a small measure of joy to your celebration of the resurrection of our Lord.

Hallelujah, What a Savior

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name

For the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude

In my place condemned He stood

Sealed my pardon with His blood

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we

Spotless Lamb of God was He

Full atonement, can it be?

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die

“It is finished,” was His cry

Now in Heav’n exalted high

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

When He comes, our Glorious King

All His ransomed home to bring

Then anew this song we’ll sing

HALLELUJAH, WHAT A SAVIOR!