6 Essentials for Proclaiming the Gospel

proclaim it

I have read dozens of books on evangelism. I have sat in conferences and seminary level courses on how to share my faith. I have equipped churchgoers with tools to present the good news to neighbors, strangers, and foreigners. On paper, I have a lot of knowledge and experience sharing the gospel, but in reality I still feel inadequate when it comes to personal evangelism.

I find the Book of Acts an indispensable and encouraging guide for proclaiming the gospel. It is heads above all other resources on evangelism available today. I am able learn all I need to know to share the gospel in the 21st Century by how 1st Century church did it. Acts is filled with case studies, one of which you and I will study together today. In this case study, I will share six essentials for proclaiming the gospel by plagiarizing another mans sermon, Paul’s sermon that is.

1) Stand in the midst the lost (Acts 17:22a)

Our text begins with “Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus,” literally it means “high place” and it rests above the city of Athens on top of Mars Mill. It was sort of a temple to the human brain, a forum for philosophical talks. Why would Paul stand in the middle of a crowd of philosophical eggheads? To understand Paul’s present situation you need to go back in Acts and hear the undergirding motivation for his trip to Athens (cf. 9:15; 16:10; 17:16ff). What you discover is that Paul has a deep rooted, God-given burden for people to hear the truth about Jesus. His burden for the lost leads him to stand in the midst of the lost.

You might ask, why doesn’t my heart beat for the lost, like Paul? Why do I struggle so much just to love my neighbor? Remember, a burden for the lost is birthed and nourished by the Spirit of God setting your heart blaze for the lost.

Charles Spurgeon said,

“The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest, too. But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy, too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child or your hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start up at once and begin to cry, ‘God, give me converts or I die.’ Then you will have converts.”1

Undoubtedly, you have a burning passion for the gospel, however, one must never assume that just because one serves God as a career that you are actually living out the gospel or proclaiming it often and well. When was the last time you stood in the midst of the lost and spoke about Jesus? Does your heart ache for the lost? Will you die if God doesn’t give you converts? Stand among the lost.

2) Know the people to whom you are speaking (17:22b-23a)

Paul was in Athens, the seat of the worlds intelligentsia. It was home to philosophical legends like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno who have influenced human thought ever since. In Paul’s day, Athens was a city in philosophical flux, particularly between two parties of thought: the Epicureans (pleasure seeker) and Stoics (long-sufferer). Both quests for truth were polar opposite, and therefore, truth was thought of as unknowable, yet the people continued to spend their days talking about the newest philosophical fads at Areopagus (v.21). Athens was Starbucks on Steroids!

Paul knew the people to whom he is speaking because as he toured Athens he took good notes. He walked in the shadow of the Acropolis. He saw temples filled with a smorgasbord of gods. Upon invitation by the local philosophers, he said with kindness and clarity, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship…”

Are you a learner of people around you? What do you observe about their beliefs and culture that are different or even similar to yours? How would you describe their God? In their words and deeds, how do you see their beliefs lived out each week? How are they struggling? What questions are they asking? What do you observe?

Now you will never know another culture completely like you know your own, however if you walk around, sit with people, and ask questions you will learn a lot. Yesterday, I sat with a father who lost his 4-year old son through an unexpected accident. The boy who was sleeping on a mat when in the night a car backed over the boy crushing him to death. I regarded many men come to my neighbors mat, greet him politely, and then each guest proceed to repeat short prayers. I heard these prayers at least a dozen times within the 10-minutes that I sat with him. I was broken for him and the others who were praying. I perceived they are very religious.

3) Seize interest in the gospel by using common ground (17:23b)

Interestingly, Paul doesn’t rest with just learning about people and culture, he turns his observations into a provocative statement. Can you imagine ears perking up? Especially, as he says, “I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…” Paul seizes their interest by using the one thing he has in common with the Athenians. What is their common ground? Worship. Paul sees at the heart of Athens is a quest to understand life, a desire to find meaning and significance, and a hunger to worship, even if they did not know exactly what it was they were worshiping. Isn’t that the quest of all men? People want to know what matters most. People want to worship something or someone bigger than them. Worship is at the heart of the matter.

Albert Einstein echoes this in his 1932 credo,

“The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as of all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all there is.”2

A.W. Tozer clarifies Einstein’s words by saying,

“Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring and awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause (the ultimate truth), but which we call Our Father Who Is in Heaven.”

Paul uses worship as a springboard to say, “This unknown God that you worship. Yeah, I know Him. And you can know Him too. This God you say you cannot know, in Him, I live, I move, I have my entire being.” It’s an audacious statement Paul makes and in a sense he says, “I know God, therefore, I know Ultimate Truth.” How is Paul so confident that God knowable? He met Him on the road to Damascus (cf. 9:5).

I find that the religious culture I live in can be accurately summed up by this phrase, “ignorantly worshipping an unknown God.” My heart is burdened when I see people praying to a God they do not believe is unknowable just to continue with religious traditions and expectations. My neighbor believes that if God wills he will go to paradise one day, but he will never really know the God that He is praying to, but I’m sure that he will always pray. A religious façade has become his god. The form of his worship becomes more important than the one he is worshiping.

Listen, if your faith is not rooted in Jesus Christ, you too are ignorantly worshiping an unknown God. If your daily life would go on as normal if God were no part of it, you are ignorantly worshiping an unknown God. When your devotion lies in the practices of your church or tradition rather than the person of Jesus Christ, you are ignorantly worshiping an unknown God. If your knowledge of how to worship exceeds your knowledge of who you are worshiping, you are ignorantly worshiping an unknown God. If the gospel ceased to be your sufficiency, dependency and satisfaction, you are ignorantly worshiping and unknown God.

4) Make sure your message is saturated in Scripture (17:24-29)

Have you noticed that Paul’s sermons are saturated with Scripture? What Paul understands it that the power in a message is always in the Spirit of God through the Scripture. Paul is not the authority, he has another authority. Scriptures are his authority. In short, Paul will use the Scripture to give the Athenians a crash course on God 101. And without a doubt, this is one on the most beautiful treatises on God in all of Scripture.

  • God is the omnipotent Creator (v.24a). Your world begins with God, not you.3
  • God is omnipresent (v.24b). You cannot limit or localize God. He doesn’t dwell in tiny hand-made shrines,4 He dwells in hearts.
  • God is completely self-sufficient (v.25). God doesn’t depend on us; we depend on God for everything.5 This is the most humbling verse in Scripture and a good verse to remember as you serve others.
  • God is sovereign sustainer and ruler (v.26). He is intimately involved within history and geography.6
  • God is a gracious pursuer (v.27; Romans 1:19-20). God has placed within each man a GPS (Godward Pursuit System), a homing beacon that is questing for the Most High.
  • God is a revealer (v.28a). God imprints Himself everywhere, even in secular poetry and art (creation and heart).
  • God is the life-giver (v.28b). God is the Father of all humanity.
  • God is eternally priceless (v.29; Romans 1:22-23). People make idols of God from precious things because they have a high view of God, but He is incomparable to any object or form.

Why does Paul give this treatise on God and His character? Remember, when Paul entered Athens, he was provoked within his spirit when he saw the city full of idols (v.16). He was deeply torn and his heart stirred because the God of Scripture is stirred by idolatry too. God is jealous and angered and does not share His glory with another. He is provoked to crush any substitute, “high place”, or Areopagus in this world and in your lives. God alone desires the high place because He is the Most High God. The Scripture says there is no adequate substitute for the living God.

5) Boldly proclaim the whole gospel: call for repentance (17:30-31a)

As Paul presents the living God to Athens, he doesn’t just say “Believe in Him.” Yes, belief in God is critically important, but it’s not the whole gospel. Many people believe in God, but it doesn’t change their life. That’s why Paul, like Jeremiah, walks into an idolatrous hot bed and proclaims, “Repent!” He says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed.”

Who is “the man God has appointed to judge the world”? Jesus. Jesus is the blazing center of Paul’s gospel. Jesus is what makes the gospel shine. Athens could no longer claim ignorance or hide from the light. They were now cognizant of Christ, the Judge, and they stood before Him guilty and condemned (just as are those to whom you share the gospel). Yet Paul gave them a life-changing proposition: humble yourselves before Jesus and repent. If not, now, when? When Jesus judges you on the fixed and final day? It is better to face Jesus today as Savior than tomorrow as Judge.

6) Proclaim the gospel expectantly, but leave the results to God (17:31b-34)

Notice the different responses to the gospel? (vs.32-34) Not everybody responds with immediate repentance. Some doubt (mock), some wait to hear more, and some believe. We find out that at least two women were changed by the gospel, including a member of the Areopagus council. Even if no one believed, the mission to Athens wasn’t a failure. God be praised!

God calls us to proclaim the gospel (v.31b); he doesn’t call us to convert people. God holds us responsible for faithfulness; not fruitfulness. He calls us to scatter seeds, water and till peoples souls; not harvest them. Paul was simply a vehicle—a voice box of the truth. It took the Holy Spirit to convince people of that truth, it is the Spirit that opens eyes to have faith in His Son, like Lydia (cf.16:14). Conversion is the work of God and God alone. We can expect results in good faith. So let’s do God’s work in God’s way with God’s power and leave the results to Him.

In high school, I worked at Schmidt Sporting Goods. It was a great high school job. I got sweet deals on new shoes, Packer gear, and I got to watch sports while working. It was also a great opportunity to mingle with many unbelievers. During the evening shift the customer flow would slow and I’d have time to talk to other employees. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever see a breakthrough. No one ever came to church with me. No one repented and turned to Jesus. However, 10-years later, long after our days working together, I got an email from a fellow employee. He shared a story from that summer. He jump out of a boat into a murky lake. Unknowingly the water was shallow and he snapped his neck. As he lay in the hospital paralyzed he recalled our conversations at work, he also had another close friend who was shared the gospel with him regularly. He gave his life Christ that summer. The seed I planted, another watered and tilled, but God opened his eyes and produced a harvest.

You might not see the results of the gospel in your lifetime. Keep sharing. Continue praying. Never give up.

Advertisements

the gospel without borders

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 4.13.44 PM

Gospel and missions, which go together like macaroni and cheese. The gospel is simultaneously at work in us and through us. Inwardly, our desires and motives are being changed as we repent and believe the gospel. As we are moved by Christ’s love in this way, we are compelled to outwardly engage those around us with the same kind of redemptive love. The gospel is active, it’s on a mission, in us and through us.

In Romans 1:8-17, we see Paul’s motivation for gospel ministry. Missionary ministry. Paul is fired up about the global scope of the gospel because God’s fired up about it. This is what I talk about when I speak of missions: “Missions is the activity of God’s people partnering with God’s mission.” Let’s see how this is made practical in Romans 1.

1. THE GOSPEL MISSION BEGINS WITH YOU, THE CHURCH (8-13)

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (v.8)

Who’s the “you” Paul refers to when he says, “I thank my God for all of you”? He’s referring to the Christians in Rome. Although this letter was first to the Christians in Rome, it is also a letter for you. This letter is a gift from God to the church of every generation.

Why is Paul thankful for them? They are spreading their faith to all the world. They are not just expanding their facilities (or home churches); they were expanding the fame of Jesus’ name to the nations.

1.1 THE GOSPEL MISSION THROUGH THE CHURCH IS BIRTHED THROUGH PRAYER (9-11)

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.”

Like most letters, including Romans, Paul begins by sharing how he is praying for that church. I love reading Paul’s prayers. He loves the church. He constantly prays for them. He pleads with God to be with them. What Paul understands is that mighty movements of God are birthed through prayer. It’s not about Paul or His mission. It’s about His God and His mission.

Prayer serves to showcase whatever is on your heart; it reflects your passions. If you do not pray consistently and fervently for the nations, pray for workers for the harvest, pray for the reach of the gospel, pray for Christ’s glory to be made known in all the earth, you do not have any reason to believe that those things will happen through you or the church.

When God burdens people to pray for missions, He lights a fire that is not easily extinguished. Churches and their people begin to pray, then to give, and then to go. The first missions endeavor on record emerged from a period of worship, prayer and fasting among the members of the church in Antioch (cf. Acts 13). Christ Himself established prayer as a precedent for missions. “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest'” (Matt. 9:37–38). Whenever the church joins together to pray for God to send workers, He does.

Prevailing prayer stirs the heart and opens our eyes to see what God sees, to love what He loves and to long for what He longs for. Spending time in the presence of One who loves and pursues the nations cannot help but be contagious.

1.2 THE GOSPEL MISSION THROUGH THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY CALLING (11-13)

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.”

The church is beautiful. It’s beautiful because Jesus is the Groom and we are His Bride. We are incomplete and insufficient without one another. If I am not pouring into the church or allowing the church pour into me, I am forsaking God’s means for my spiritual growth and together we are forsaking our calling (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). Paul longs to pour into the church, but he also longs for it to pour into him. He wants to be mutually encouraged by their faith. Paul wasn’t a super saint. He wasn’t a one-man-show that could function solo.

Serving the nations can be discouraging, lonely and difficult. What Sarah and I miss most about our home church is their fellowship and spiritual nourishment. We miss our small group where we were confronting sin in love. We miss sitting under the pastor’s preaching. We realize how much we need the church, we need their prayers, we need their encouragement, we need their fellowship, we need their nourishment, we need them to ask us the hard questions, and we need them to come with us.

Mission is a community calling. Paul desired a harvest among the Romans. As we go to the nations, you are going to your community. The harvest is not in the pew, it’s beyond your parking lot. Go to it. Missions begins with you, the church, your prayers and your common calling.

2. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS YOUR JOYFUL OBLIGATION (14-15)

“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

An obligation is an action we are bound to by commitment. It’s a word that reminds us of a burden or duty or chore, yet why is Paul eager (joyful as a monkey in a fruit market) to preach the gospel to all people? Remember, Acts 9? Remember how he was changed by the gospel on the road to Damascus? People transformed by the gospel have a joyful obligation to propagate the good news. Paul is under obligation by Christ to preach the gospel to all peoples, not just his people. The gospel mandate to “make disciples of all nations” is our joy. Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

If the gospel is not your joyful obligation refresh yourself with the gospel again. Notice, who is Paul eager to preach the gospel to? Romans. Why Romans? In other words, why is he eager to preach the gospel to Christians? To Paul, the gospel is not just initial saving faith; it’s a call to continue to walk in faith each day. The gospel is not the ABC’s of your faith, it’s the A-Z’s of your faith walk. Everything you do from your spiritual birth to death is rooted in the gospel. That’s why it is your joy it is to preach the gospel to all people, including yourselves again and again each day.

The gospel calls us to action. The gospel cannot be contained within the four walls of the church, but it will not rest until it has reached the four corners of the earth. “My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). This verse stands as the slogan for many missionaries and church planters. To act on the gospel is to obey it and proclaim it until all have heard. It is not enough to cut checks each month to families who are serving around the globe and call it missions. It’s when all the church is going to all the world. That is missions.

Certain countries build barriers and make it hard for Christians to cross borders, but God is there. God is at work. Look at China and read the story of Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man. Or look at the Iron Curtain and read the story of Brother Andrew, The God Smuggler. These are just a few of the stories showing how God busts through man-made barriers. Walls of fear between your neighbor build brick by brick, but those barriers are invisible to God. The gospel sees no barrier or border (i.e. race, status), therefore, you must see no border to the gospel either. The gospel without borders is missions.

The scope of the gospel is global and local. It starts with the border closest to you. The person who butts up to your property. The grumpy guy who is particular about his yard and yells when your dog runs through it. Silent Sally who you barely hear a peep from the apartment across from you. It’s your mission to bring the gospel to your neighbors. It’s your joyful obligation.

Our family parked in Philly for 3-months. It was there we had our daughter Sophia. We lived in a parsonage and we had neighbors that we really wanted to share the gospel. It was a family with teenage children. I knew I should reach out and befriend them. But my sense of “should” had no motivating power. It was law, not gospel. My love was conditional—if we had more in common, if we were here longer, it would be easier. Two-months passed and we made very little contact with our neighbors. Until one day, Sarah was backing out of our driveway and our neighbor was backing out of their driveway too. Our cars collided in the middle of the street. The opportunity to connect with our neighbors appeared suddenly. The majority fault for the accident was our neighbors and they we’re quite ashamed. In the days that followed we were able to have conversations with our neighbors. Sarah especially showed love, kindness, and grace. She even took time one evening before we were about to leave for Quebec to share with them the gospel. It was her joyful obligation with a little help from an accident.

3. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS FUELED BY A PASSION FOR THE GOSPEL (16)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Have you noticed that Paul talks about the gospel constantly? You do not have to guess Paul’s hobbyhorse. If you’re in a conversation with him for one-minute you can bank your bets on him directing the conversation to the gospel. Paul boasts boldly and bountifully in the gospel. It’s his passion. It’s his mission. He has no shame because the gospel has erased all and any shame he had before or after Christ. The gospel has set him free from shame. The gospel might bring shame upon Christians from a sinful world, but it’s message will remove the shame that stains the world.

According to Paul, the gospel is not just something that saves; it is the only thing that saves. It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. So without the gospel there is no missions, and missions is not missions without the gospel. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Mission is a label put on many things. We can do a lot of good things that we ought to do (i.e. care for widows, orphans, build homes for habitat, feed starving children, cure aids, etc.) all motivated by a passion for God and compassion for needy people, but is this missions? Let it be known, healthy in hell isn’t our mission. Ministry without the gospel it is not missions. “Missions is the activity of God’s people partnering with God’s mission.” And God’s mission, from before the foundation of the world, has been to redeem a lost and broken world. Paul alludes to this earlier in Romans 1,

”Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” (Romans 1:1-6)

If reaching the nations with the gospel is God’s passion, I want it to be my passion too. May our prayer mimic Amy Carmichael who wrote, “Give me the love that leads the way, The faith that nothing can dismay, The hope no disappointments tire, The passion that will burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod: Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

4. THE GOSPEL MISSION IS ROOTED IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD (17)

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

People desperately need hope, they need God’s love and goodness, they need His righteousness; a righteousness that originated in God, was prepared by God before time, is revealed in the gospel of Christ, and is offered to all. Missions is about God giving faith to people who previously had miscued faith and no faith in Christ. The gospel is God’s means to open blind eyes to the beauty of Christ’s righteousness,

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11; cf. Romans 3:21-26)

To recap, missions begins with you, the church, through your prevailing prayers and your community calling. Missions is your joyful obligation. Missions is fueled by a passion for the gospel. And missions is rooted in the righteousness of God. How are you actively partnering locally and globally with God’s mission?

a short story of the gospel

1. Where sin came from.

Holy creator God. Righteous Judge. He created angels (including Satan). Satan was prideful and wanted to be god (Is.14:13-14), but instead became and enemy of God and was cast from heaven.

2. How we became the children of Satan.

God created heavens and earth and mankind. Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in the garden to eat the fruit to be as wise as God. A lie. They bit the fruit. God cast them from the garden and were accursed and not allowed to come into His perfect heaven (Rom.6:23; 3:23). They obeyed Satan’s voice rather than God’s.

3. How God adopted us into salvation.

God came to earth in the form of a man. His names was Jesus.He came to live a perfect life and die as the sacrifice for sin. After He died He resurrected from the grave and ascended into heaven conquering sin and defeating death. Jesus brought eternal life to all who believe on Him and follow Him (John 3:16; Mt.28:19-20; 11:28-30). You receive His Holy Spirit and become a new creation.

4. What will happen when Jesus returns.

He will come back as judge. Until He returns we must be a part of His church, be willing to suffer for His name, and live as His child.

Adapted from Preach and Heal by Charles Fielding (Appendix E)

daily responding to the gospel

If there is no invitation to respond to the gospel by living in the light of it each day it is no gospel.

If you do not daily respond to the gospel it is wasted.

The gospel is not a collectors item or trophy your keep on the shelf or in storage to remind you of an event past. It is the classic car you drive. It is the little league game you relive every day. There are no such thing as glory days or good old days when it comes to the gospel. It’s everyday.

As Jerry Bridges says, “Preach the gospel to yourself daily.”

from unknown to renown

Today 2.6 billion people are completely unreached with the gospel. They do not have a church or gospel message in their midst. Nearly 4 billion people are unengaged by the gospel. Meanwhile the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam—are making inroads along with a variety of cults and New Age philosophies. People are not shy to hide their beliefs like this bumper sticker I saw Friday, “Born-again pagan.”

The religious culture and climate of North Africa has been unreached for nearly 1200 years. Islam has long taken root and is blossoming even to this day, which can be heard from the daily prayers echoing from the tall spires of the local mosque. Islam mixed African animism is woven into almost every fabric of their lives from mealtime, to family makeup, to laws, and to greetings. To call them to Christ is to call them to live counter-culture.

I am sure you are around people every day that are unengaged with the gospel. You could say these people are ignorantly worshiping an unknown god. If you are like me you might wonder, how am I going to reach all these different kinds of people? How do I reach out to hardnosed sibling or parent, question asking co-worker, or philosophically intelligent neighbor? There is no cookie-cutter method. However, observing the apostles in Acts 17 you can learn some valuable principles for making known the gospel of Jesus Christ Here are three truths to keep in mind:

1. GO WHERE THE GOOD NEWS IS NOT [Acts 17:16-23]

It might seem obvious, but in order to reach the unreached or unengaged, you got to go where they are. In Acts 17, God directs Paul and Silas to crowds of unreached in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. Wherever they went they met a mixed bag of people. Some were unruly and hostile, some studious and skeptics, and some eager to examine the Scripture. Where do you begin with the wide variety of crowds God has placed around you?

First, ask God for a burden for the unreached [16]. Evangelism is something that doesn’t come natural to many Christ followers. In fact some dread it. Ask God for Christlike compassion for those you would normally ignore. I have been able to remedy this by paying closer attention to the forgotten people around me [waitress, postman, store clerk, etc.]. I will pray for a desire to reach them. Then ask them how they are doing or how I can pray for them. It is amazing to see the opportunities God opens up along the way.

Second, learn about the unreached around you [17-18a]. Paul was in Athens, a pagan and philosophical capital. Athens is city similar to university towns like Madison or West Lafayette. It’s a town where the average person has plethora of PhD’s. Home to philosophical legends like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. As a secular city center, Athens was a melting pot of culture, philosophy, the arts, and a smorgasbord of gods. Towering above the city on Mars Mill sat the Areopagus. It was sort of a temple to the human brain that served as the chief courtroom and a place to hold philosophical discussions.

Two schools of thought dominated Athens. First, Epicureanism emphasized a world governed by blind chance, with the absence of an afterlife, gods were distant and uncaring, and the pursuit of pleasure was the only thing worth seeking. Second, Stoicism emphasized a world determined by fate, where human beings must pursue their duty. As John Stott said, Athens “resigned themselves to live in harmony with nature and reason, however painful this might be, and develop their own self-sufficiency.” It was a culture with a lot of similarities to ours today that challenged truth.

Third, expect opposition to absolute truth [18b-21]. The thinkers of Athens call Paul a “seed-picker,” which is a slang term [i.e. bird eating mixed grain] for a peddler of second-hand philosophy—an intellectual scavenger that picks and chooses what he wants to believe. However, Paul was no intellectual slouch. He was a straight-A student under Gamaliel in Jerusalem. He was an expert in the law. And when he came to Christ, Christ, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit shaped his worldview. Viewing life through a biblically based, Christ-centered worldview is foolish to those who do not know God [1 Corinthians 1:17-21].

Proverbs says, a fool is one who does not consider all sides of a situation. Paul teaches that Gentiles “walk in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding” because of their “ignorance and hardened hearts,” [Ephesians 4:17–24] and their thought are “vain babblings” [1 Timothy 6:20]. In fact, all around you is undeniable and inescapable proof of God—for He has made Himself known through Creation and Christ—and all men are “without excuse” [Romans 1:19–20]. The knowledge of God is “suppressed in unrighteousness”, which places men under His wrath because they “know God, yet they glorify Him not as God.” Expect opposition when speaking up for Christ.

Fourth, uncover common ground [22-23]. Paul did not have much in common with the people of Athens. Certainly he had no common ground of agreement with their erroneous philosophies. He did not try to make the gospel more palatable or tolerable. But he did see one thing they had in common—worship. Everyone worships. They worshiped their knowledge and an unknown God, while Paul worshiped a knowable God.

I find it interesting that the Omega people we are reaching out to claim their roots to be with Solomon and the Ethiopians eunuch, but for centuries they have followed Muhammad the Prophet. Most Muslims have a fascination with the Bible and Jesus Christ. Pray for hearts open to hear the gospel. The Quran commands to read the Christian Scriptures including the gospel [Injil], which will introduce them to the Prophet, Priest and King.

2. QUICKLY POINT PEOPLE TO CHRIST & THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL [Acts 17:24-31]

I am sure Paul had a certain level of frustration with his audience. He probably wondered, “How am I going to reach this puffed up knuckleheaded people?” Notice he doesn’t scream at the audience, he does sweep them off their feet with irresistible oratory or amazing argumentation, he doesn’t sell himself to the audience, he simply shows them a soul surrendered to Christ. He deflects the attention off himself onto his Savior. This is key to any apologetics or heated spiritual discussions: point people to Jesus.

First, the power of persuasion is always in the Spirit of God [24-29]. Paul points to the character of Christ. And this is how Paul preaches Christ: He gives them a brief history lesson on God 101.

  • Christ is the omnipotent Creator [24a]. He owns the deed to His creation, since He has created all things.[1]
  • Christ is omnipresent in His children [24b]. He does not dwell in temples made with hands,[2] but hearts.
  • Christ is completely self-sufficient [25]. He needs nothing from man; man depends on God for everything.[3]
  • Christ is sovereign sustainer [26]. He’s not distant or indifferent, but as ruler of all He’s intimately involved.[4]
  • Christ is a gracious pursuer [27; Romans 1:19-20]. He creates man and pursues their affection. He has placed within each man a GPS [Godward Pursuing System]. Your homing beacon searches and finds rest in Christ.
  • Christ is the center of Worship [28]. Even Greek poets acknowledge we are from God.
  • Christ is eternally priceless [29; Romans 1:22-23]. People make idols of God from precious things because they have a high view of God, but He is incomparable to any object or form.

Paul’s theology revolves around his Christology. Jesus is the blazing center of his universe. Athens could no longer claim ignorance, but were now cognizant of Christ and His character. The Son of God goes from unknown to renown. They could ignore the facts [as many do], but the unknown God is made known. Like a set of keys you’ve been looking for, but all the while they are in your pocket. He has not only made Him known; he’s revealed His renown!

Second, the character of Christ calls people to repent [30-31]. Paul challenges the foundations of pagan philosophy and calls the philosophers to full repentance. Paul is like Jeremiah walking into idolatrous hot bed preaching one message, “repent!” with little response. They are a people who have long thought they were god. They equated themselves with god. But God is not your co-pilot; He doesn’t even want you in the cockpit. Paul describes an incomparable Christ. He is like no one and no one is like Him.

However, God is knowable through His Son Jesus Christ. And the mystery of all ages has been revealed in Christ. The age of ignorance is over. Gentiles can know Christ too [cf. Ephesians 3:4–6]![5] In Romans 10:13–15 Paul says,  “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” And “For there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

Paul is not arrogant or a pompous jerk, but is gentle and humble in his approach. He is bold when confronting them with Christ for He knows Jesus is judge.[6] After His resurrection Jesus charged the apostles “to preach unto the people and to testify that this is He who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead” [Acts 10:42]. This truth Paul shared in the Areopagus. The power in Paul’s preaching was provided by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.[7] The same power is available to you [Matthew 28:19-20]. The power is in the gospel—God is holy, man has fallen short of God’s glory, but Jesus pays man sins debt, and man’s hope is to respond with faith and repentance. That is the gospel.

3. PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL BOLDLY, BUT LEAVE THE RESULTS TO GOD [Acts 17:32-34]

Paul was simply a vehicle—a voice box of the truth. It takes the Holy Spirit to convince people of that truth. He does God’s work in God’s way with God’s power. Not everybody responds with immediate repentance. Some doubt, some wait to hear more [sometimes the hardest to reach because they are no longer ignorant yet choose to reject the truth], but some are ready to commit to Christ. The mission to Athens was no failure. The gospel was preached and at least two people got saved that day, including one member of the Areopagus council. Two people had a radical turning point.

What are the implications today for you and me? First, today is the day of salvation. Preach the gospel boldly to all men, not hold back, but bringing them face-to-face with Jesus Christ. Second, today is the time to mobilize the church to send out locally and globally. If your church is completely inward focused you are missing your mission. Third, today is the day to live out the gospel with your life. The gospel is not just the ABC’s of your salvation; it is the A-Z’s of working out your salvation with fear and trembling. This is the desire of our family’s heart—we long to live out the gospel as parents, as husband and wife, as people living in North Africa spreading the fame of Christ name among the unreached.

Are you ignorantly worshiping an unknown god? If your faith is not rooted in a gospel-centered relationship with Jesus Christ, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. If your daily life would go on as normal if God were no part of it, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. When your devotion lies in the practices of your church rather than the person of Jesus Christ, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. If your knowledge of how to worship exceeds your knowledge of who you are worshipping, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. If the gospel ceases to be your sufficiency, dependency and satisfaction the day after you trusted Christ as Savior, you are ignorantly worshipping and unknown God.

Jesus has made Himself known. His renown will last the test of time. Only His name prevails beyond the grave. Do you know Him? Make Him known! “Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” [Psalm 135:13-18]


[1]  cf. 14:15; Exodus 20:11; Psalm 24:1, 146:6; Isaiah 37:16; 42:5

[2] cf. 7:48-50; 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1–2

[3] cf. 14:17; Psalm 50:9–12; Isaiah 42:5

[4] cf. Genesis 1:28; Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 2:21

[5] There are two parts to the mystery of Christ: 1) Gentiles are not second-class citizens in the body of Christ: “there is neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:14). Both are fellow heirs of the same inheritance. 2) This Gentile privilege comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where Christ is preached and believed, Gentiles are grafted into the tree of God’s people. In Colossians 1:26 Paul says that this mystery was “hidden for ages and generations but now is made manifest to his saints.” And in Romans 16:25 he says that the mystery “was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed.”

[6] cf. Psalm 9:8; 96:13; 98:9; Daniel 7:13; John 5:27; Romans 2:16

[7] cf. Acts 17:18; 4:2; Romans 4:25; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

thumb licks [10.21.11]

What’s a good question? How to evoke curiosity the right way.

The gospel or Justice, which? Balancing the mission of the church.

In defense of Disney princesses. The benefits are more than just their beauty.

Three rules for polemics. Tim Keller weighs in on a debated issue.

The world is built on discipline.  An open letter to college freshmen.

10 reasons Christians should care about science. Can faith and science reconcile?

Little big world. See what an unordinary Nikon camera can do looking at God’s micro creation.

Victor-y. Overcoming cancer as a kid. Be inspired.

thumb licks [9.18.11]

10 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking. Great for leaders and anybody for that matter.

Without the Gospel, It’s Not Missions.

Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk About Sin? A good question with good insight.

Who is Responsible for a Child’s Education? Is it the parent or the school?

Lonely Me: A Pastoral Perspective

Is Patience Dangerous?

to all those who love Christ and His gospel

To all those who love Christ and his gospel,

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,

all wisdom, folly before God;

strength is weakness, and

all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,

brothers of Jesus Christ,

fellow townsmen with the saints,

citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

the poor are made rich,

the weak strong,

the fools wise,

the sinners justified,

the desolate comforted,

the doubting sure, and

slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.

– John Calvin [in his preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.]

[HT]

thumb licks [7.7.11]

God’s Beautiful, Holy, Good—and Crushing—Law

The apostle Paul, a Jewish rabbi who had extensive respect for and acquaintance with God’s law (Acts 22:3) had some very shocking thoughts about it once he came to faith in Christ. Although he heartily agreed that it was “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), and although he knew the beautiful nature of God’s law, he also knew that the law could never bring sinners to life because no one could obey it. He confessed that all his obedience (and it was extensive) had no more value than a pile of manure (Phil. 3:8). He wrote: “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.” (Rom. 3:20) What then? Are we Jews [who have the written law] any better off [than Gentiles who didn’t]?

Hijacked by the Gospel

While studying Galatians 1:11-24, I am struck once again with how utterly supreme God’s loving plans are for us in Christ. Paul, captured always by the vision of the original capturing vision of Jesus on the Damascus road, appeals again to the singular transforming power of the gospel by appealing to the way it powerfully transformed him. He was headed one direction, resting in his own sovereignty over his life. But the One who had set Paul apart before his life story even began called him in grace and was pleased to reveal the Son to him (Gal. 1:15-16). His life was never the same. Paul was writing his own life story, but Jesus stole his pen… He got hijacked by the gospel.

Find Out Right Now Whether You Have a Pride Problem

When’s the last time you crept out of your house to worship at the feet of a sculpture created in your own image?  Never, right?  While you probably haven’t done that, it’s likely that you’ve asserted your claim to the title of “Center of the Universe” in other, sometimes subtler, ways. Ever honk at another car while driving because you thought it was slowing you down?  Ever neglect a household responsibility because you thought someone else ought to do it?  Ever dwell on a compliment someone paid you? If we take an honest look at our lives, we’re likely to find evidence of pride under every rock and around every corner.

Worship God by Serving the Poor

The words in chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah have affected me for years. In that Scripture, God tells us the Father sees our relationship with the poor (or lack of it) as something serious. It is impossible to serve God with all our hearts and at the same time miss out on God’s call to care for the needy. The Scriptures say the way we care for the poor is tantamount to the way we see God. The prophet makes it clear that we must have a relationship with the poor if we hope to please God with our lives. 

But in today’s church, most of us don’t know a single person who is needy. How can we obey God if we aren’t connecting with the poor on a regular basis? We can’t. 

Something needs to change. We need to hear the call of God to those in need.

Texting Teens: Typing Replaces Talking [INFOGRAPHIC]

Has texting taken over as the primary form of communication for today’s teens? We found our answer with this Infographic from Lab 42, which polled 500 social-networking Americans aged 13 to 21.

How Important is the Bible?

Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament


Are you a Sunday School teacher or lead an ABF, Bible Study or small group? Do you pastor or preach from a church pulpit? Do you enjoy leading devotions for your family and children from the Bible? Do you simply love studying the Scripture? Part of our duty when teaching, preaching or studying is to take notice of how Jesus and the Gospel are vivid in all of Scripture. I have recently come under great conviction concerning the way I teach and preach the Old Testament, and thought I would pass on some of these insights to you.

Jesus is the golden thread woven through the entirety of Scripture from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. The Old Testament, like the New Testament, speaks and directs its listeners to the climatic redeeming work of Jesus Christ. The NT is the exclamation point on Jesus’ redeeming work.

How is Jesus Christ seen in the OT?

  • In Genesis, Jesus is involved in Creation, the promised seed after the Fall of Man, the only hope to escape the wrath of God, models our Great Patriarch.
  • In Exodus, Jesus is our Passover Lamb slain for mankind’s sin.
  • In Leviticus, Jesus is our sacrifice, temple, and High Priest.
  • In Judges, Jesus is our righteous judge.
  • In Ruth, Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer.
  • In 1 & 2 Kings, Jesus is our King of kings.
  • In Psalms, Jesus is our Good Shepherd.
  • In Song of Solomon and Hosea, Jesus is our Bridegroom.
  • In Lamentation and Jeremiah, Jesus is out weeping Prophet.
  • In Daniel, Jesus is the fourth man in the fiery furnace.
  • In the major and minor prophets Jesus is our Restorer.

Thoughts on Preaching, Teaching, and Studying Jesus Christ in the OT:

  • Do not preach or teach from the OT simply as moralistic truth, teach also its overarching missional message in Christ. With that said, there are some great lessons on godly living from the characters in the OT and you would not be misusing OT texts when pointing these out. You can learn patience from Job, passion from David, the consequences of jealousy and disobedience from Saul, and perseverance from the prophets.
  • Alistair Begg comments about how to study the entire Bible, “Read the Bible traveling from the mouth of the river [NT] to it’s various tributaries [OT].”
  • Over 300 prophecies in the OT touch on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
  • Numerous types of Christ are seen in the OT: Adam [Genesis 2; Romans 5:9]; Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20; Hebrews 7]; Isaac [Genesis 22]; Passover Lamb [Exodus 12; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8]; High Priest [Exodus 28; Hebrews 4:14-15]; Sin Offering [Leviticus 1; Ephesians 5:2]; Atonement [Leviticus 16; Hebrew 9:28]; Kinsman-Redeemer [Ruth 4; Acts 20:28]; Suffering Servant [Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45]
  • Christ used the OT in His teaching and considered it the authoritative Word of God [Matthew 23:2-3; 22:29]. Jesus considered the OT as historic fact, not myth.
  • Jesus referred to OT characters as real people of real faith: Abel [Luke 11:51]; Noah [Matthew 24:37-39]; Abraham [John 8:56]; Lot [Luke 17:28-32]; Elijah [Luke 4:25]; Elisha [Luke 4:27]; Jonah [Matthew 12:9-41].
  • Jesus came to fulfill the OT Scripture [Matthew 5:17-20]

When preaching or teaching Christ and His gospel from the OT it needs to be the unhurried. Don’t by pass the opportunity to connect the OT to Jesus of the NT. The OT is like a dimly lit furnished room and the NT is the window that let’s the light shine in brightly.He is the ultimate climax of any message from any passage. This is consistent with how the NT authors used the OT and how Christ Himself used the OT. In Luke 22:27, it says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

For a really great message on “Studying the Scriptures and Finding Jesus” check out how Al Mohler explains how the Old Testament is just different. And this recap on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

your faiths firm foundation

What do these names have in common? Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Babe Ruth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Beethoven, Mozart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson. The only thing in common among all the names is that they are all dead. Now if I were to add the name “Jesus” to this list would it change your answer? Jesus died, but He didn’t just die—He conquered death. He conquered death through His resurrection.

There are many modern attacks on the truthfulness of Christ’s resurrection. Have you watch documentaries on the Discovery Channel or History Channel that dispute the facts of the resurrection? There are also many books like The God Delusion [Richard Dawkins], God is Not Great [Christopher Hitchens], or the popular book The Da Vinci Code [Dan Brown] that do not buy the idea of the resurrection of Jesus. Some people think Jesus disappeared to Hawaii where Elvis, Hitler and JFK are all hiding out in a bunker playing poker. Others seem to think that Jesus was swooned or asleep; He couldn’t have been dead and then resurrected.

How would you address theses attacks? What difference does it make if Christ had a bodily resurrection? Without a bodily resurrection all of Jesus’ claims would be false and followers of Christ would have no hope of eternal salvation. His resurrection is the foundation of the gospel and your faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity and its core truth claims would not hold any weight nor would your faith. Paul faced a similar situation with the church that he planted at Corinth.

You can have complete confidence in the reality of Jesus & His message [1 Corinthians 15:1]

Gospel. What comes to mind when you see that word? Gospel literally means “good news” or “breaking new.” Before discussing the good news, let’s discuss the bad: You deserve death; there’s nothing that you can do to earn salvation because sin condemns you to eternal death and separation from God. But the Good News is the gospel!

What is the gospel? The good news is that God loves His creation so much that He came down from heaven for you [Philippians 2:5–11], lived for you [John 14:19], died for you, and rose from the dead for you [Romans 4:25]. And if you respond through repentance of sin and have faith in Christ, He blesses you with eternal life [John 3:16]. Paul says that you must “take your stand” on the gospel. What does he mean? You must base your life on its truth [cf. 15:58]. By taking a stand for the gospel you are demonstrating confidence in both the Messenger and His message.

You can know the reality of the gospel because you can experience it now [15:2]

When Paul said, “by this gospel you are being saved,” he wasn’t speaking about something just in the past but something present too. The idea that one is “being saved”—while salvation is instantaneous—means you can still experience the power of the gospel on a daily basis. How is your life different since you became a Christian? Today you can experience the gospel in your decisions, your relationships, your school activities, your work, and your life—right now. The gospel not only changes your future destiny, but your present realities.

What do you think Paul meant when he said, “Otherwise, you have believed in vain”? He was emphasizing that true faith endures over time. In Hebrews 3:14 it says, “For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” An enduring commitment to the gospel shows genuine faith in Christ. Real followers of Christ do not give up when life gets hard, or doubts come like a flood, or you just don’t feel like following today.

Your faith has significant evidence for the case of the resurrection [15:3–8]

The detective shows on TV [i.e. NCIS, Monk, Psyche, etc.] solve cases by following evidence and eyewitnesses, and that’s what Paul did too—he followed evidence of the dead and of the living. When Paul referred to the witness of the dead; he read the prophets from long ago who foretold what Jesus would accomplish. Can anyone say with confidence who will be the president of the United States in 20 years? Who will be the hit band or movie star in the year 2145? Prophets foretold in detail Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection hundreds of years beforehand.

Fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies: Genesis 3:15 (the seed of the woman will crush the serpent), Genesis 12:3 (the seed of Abraham will bless all nations), Psalm 2 (the supremacy of God’s Son), Psalm 22 (the description of His death), Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth), Isaiah 9:6 (the deity of the Messiah), Isaiah 52:13–53:12 (the specifics of His death, including taking on our sins), Isaiah 53:11 (His resurrection), Micah 5:2 (the place of His birth), and Zechariah 9:9 (His entering Jerusalem on a donkey). These prophecies show us that Jesus is God and Savior.

Paul adds another line of evidence—the evidence of the living. What effect do eyewitness testimonies have on a court case? It usually serves to prove or disprove an event. In 1 Corinthians 15:5–8, we see other eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrection: Peter, the Twelve, more than 500 others, James, the apostles, Paul himself. Why do you think that Paul emphasized the testimony of these eyewitnesses? Eyewitness testimony is always more powerful than secondhand information, and some of these were still alive and could tell their stories [one eyewitness could be duped, but over 500?]. Both the living and the dead come together to build a case for the resurrection of Christ.

You can have the hope of being raised from the dead, just as Jesus was [15:20–24]

Let’s say I had a mystery bag full of food. Without knowing what it was would you be willing to try it? No body wants to be the first one to try it. This is like what Christ did. He tasted death, so you would have to be afraid. His death and resurrection give you hope.

Paul calls Christ the firstfruits. This phrase has its roots in the Old Testament, usually refers to the Jewish practice of offering the first of a crop to the Lord in recognition that the entire harvest belongs to Him [cf. Leviticus 23:9–14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17].  During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the priest waved the firstfruits of the harvest before the Lord, and a perfect lamb was sacrificed [Mark 14:12]. Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb of God who was sacrificed to pay the price for your sins. His resurrection was a sign of the future resurrection of all believers.

Christ’s resurrection marked the beginning of a heavenly harvest of the kingdom of God. When Christ comes again, all who belong to God’s kingdom will be resurrected. How does that truth offer hope? Christ was raised, so you will be too. Death is not final for believers. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:25-26]

“Without the belief in the resurrection the Christian faith could not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even had they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, His crucifixion would have forever silenced any hope of His being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad and shameful end of His career.” William Lane Craig

Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the heart of the gospel. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope that you have in Him is certain. The evidence for Christ’s resurrection is clear. You can be confident in your faith. Make know the reality of His resurrection as you live out the gospel.

Many times in His earthly ministry, Jesus brought hope to hopelessness. Every day, you see people who feel hopeless and need the gospel. Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian church to remind them of the gospel. Write a letter to someone who needs to hear about the resurrection. Instead of writing what they need to do, tell them what you know about Jesus—and how the gospel has impacted you. Take ownership of what you know; write to encourage others in the gospel.

i love the world

I love lots of things. I love Taco Bell, IKEA, Swedish Fish, Wisconsin, VW’s, my wife, and traveling around the world. I understand that is a random list of things. How can a list of things that are so good be so bad?  Everyday things that are good can be twisted towards evil, in turn, ruling my heart and distracting me from wholehearted worship towards God.

John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” [1 John 2:15] But then in another place John says, “For God so loved the world…” [John 3:16] and Jesus says, “As [God] sent Me into the world, so I have sent [believers] into the world.” [John 17:18] So on one hand, I am not supposed to love the world, but God loves the world. And on the other hand, I am not supposed to love things in the world, but Jesus sends His followers to live in the world. Okay, let’s decipher and answer: What is the world? Should or shouldn’t I love the world? How can I love the world?

What is the world?

I am going to begin with biblical worldview of the world. The gospel message sums up the biblical worldview of the world. The gospel is a belief that the Bible is absolutely true in that God is a loving Creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God. In other words, since God is my Creator I am responsible to Him, but I have rebelled against His authority, therefore I need a Redeemer to restore me to a right relationship with God, so I must respond the gospel of Jesus Christ with wholehearted commitment.

According to the gospel, God created the world and the world God created He created “good”. The “good news” does not begin with Jesus, it begins with the good world created by Jesus. The Bible says that God’s creation worships Him and honors Him as the Creator. However, the sinful fall of man has tainted the world. The Bible says that creation and humanity groan for the day when they will be recreated. The world I am called to love is the world God created, not the sinfully rebellious, self-centered, God-forsaken; independent-spirited that marks worldliness.

How can I love the world without loving the world?

First, love the world by enjoying the world God created. All of creation enjoys and worships God, so must I [Psalm 19:1-4]. God created the world for His glory. The created world does not just sit still in its place, it shouts out constant worship to its Creator. Creation worships a real and tangible Creator whose fingerprint is on that creation [Romans 1:19-20]. Not all created beings acknowledge God as Creator, rather they ignores Him [Romans 1:18] and worship the creature over the Creator [Romans 1:21-25].

God created the world good for you [Genesis 1-2; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; 6:17]. Eden, which means “pleasure” or “delight”, was meant to be that for the humans He created to indwell the garden. The garden was a sanctuary of God’s goodness. How can I practically enjoy the world God created? Take a walk outside and breath in the fresh air. Worship God’s worldwide beauty in how He formed the planet, scattered the stars in the sky, carved the mountains, plains, deserts. Worship God in how He made the human body works from the smallest electron to the beat of the heart to the mysterious brain. Worship the simple ways God cares for you,

“The earth feed us. And clothes us. And shelters us. Think of grass for a moment—possibly the most abundant form of vegetation on the planet, in its myriad varieties in all climates. We eat grass, one it has become meat from grazing animals whose only diet is daily grass. We drink grass, in the form of milk and curds. We wear grass, in clothing made from wool or shoes made from leather. Millions of humans still use grass for effective thatched shelter from sun and rain. Grasses are woven in ropes baskets, and floor coverings. Grass alone provides humans with incalculable benefits and supplies so much of our needs, even before we go on to talk about cultivated grasses that produce the vast variety of nourishing grains we shake into our cereal bowls in the morning.”[1]

God created the world as your home, a temporary home. The world is your temporary residence, not your eternal dwelling place. You are a temporary steward of the home God has given you. The Bible says in this present world you are strangers and aliens to this world [Hebrews 11:13]. You are homeless and God is calling you home. Your time here on earth is worship practice for what is to come afterwards. To a home that He will recreate [Revelation 21:14] not filled with worldliness.

Second, love the world by serving of the world. In Genesis 1:28, God give you a creation mandate: care for creation as a royal steward [cf. Genesis 2:15]. As a dominioneer, you are charged to take care of everything God has created on earth, spread yourselves out in population, and spread the popularity of God’s fame through your obedience. You were made in the image of God to bear His name, to work, to rule, and to serve as God’s steward [Genesis 9:1].

Remember at the end of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, when Sam was giving a speech to Frodo to continue on the journey of carrying the ring of burden?

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was, when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going… because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

What is good in this world? What in this world is worth fighting for? God. God is what this world is about. Your life now matters. Your work, family, sleep, and daily routine all matter. Every square inch of the earth you trod matters. Every second of life is significant. God rules it all. He owns it all. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”[2] God is supreme over every sphere you enter and roam.

Third, love the world by shining the light to the darkened world. People tend to fight for the spotlight. We want the spot to shine on us. However, the gospel reminds us that we are not the central actors in this divine drama. It is not about me. My fame will fade. The story that matters, which all history focuses upon is: Jesus Christ. He is the Light of the world [John 8:12]. He is the primary light. We are just secondary reflectors of His light, like the sun and the moon.

The best way you can love the world is to be an ambassador of the gospel to a darkened world. Shining His light into it through your words and deeds. The way you live, the way you work, and the way you talk all reflect on the God you love. Your first mandate was to subdue the earth [Genesis 1:28] and your final mandate is to make disciples of all peoples [Matthew 28:19-20]. Both mandates spread the fame of God’s name along the way putting the gospel on display.

In conclusion, Should or shouldn’t I love the world? Yes and no. No, I should not love the things in the world that steal my affection for God and rob me of wholehearted worship. Yes, I should love the world God created. How can I love the world? I can love the world by enjoying God’s creation, ruling over His creation as a servant, and shine His light to the darkened world.


[1] The Mission of God’s People, Christopher J.H. Wright, Zonderzan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2010. Pg. 54

[2] Abraham Kuyper, Sphere Sovereignty. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI. 1988. 488.

leaving Ephesus (marks of a servant)

When you write a letter how do you usually end it? What is your customary salutation? I suppose it depends on the kind of letter you are writing. If you are writing a love letter you’ll probably end with something mushy like, “As the sunrises or sunsets you are forever my love.” If you are writing to a friend separated by a long distance you might express how much you miss them. If you are writing an apology you might conclude with one last, “I’m sorry.” How does the Apostle Paul conclude such magnificent epistle following exhortations about the work of Christ and walking in Him?

At the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he mentions a man named Tychicus who is also referred to elsewhere in the New Testament.[1] Tychicus is not a name that would come to mind when people are asked to identify key people of the Bible. His name sounds like a guy who had a stuttering problem. His name is not a significant name of the Bible, but he has a significant purpose in the gospel. Sometimes I feel quite small spiritually next to the spiritual giants of the Scripture. I don’t feel like I quite measure up with Paul, John, Joseph, Moses, Abraham or David.

Likewise, you may feel as if they are “little” in relation to the “big” people of the Bible, “I just play video games, listen to my iPod, and eat Cheetos for breakfast.” However, Paul clearly states in Ephesians and throughout his letters that the work of the gospel is contingent upon a lot of people who are faithful to God and are equally “big”. For the sake of the gospel, you have something to offer. What do you have to offer? Being a servant of the gospel. How do you do that, you ask? Let’s look at Tychicus:

Key Marks of a Servant of the Gospel [Ephesians 6:21-22]

The first mark of a servant of the gospel is SELFLESSNESS [v.21] Tychicus is given the intimate title of a “beloved brother” He is as close as a brother to Paul because they have labored together for Christ, which has bonded them together like superglue. Selfless people care more for the concerns of other than their own.

The second mark of a servant of the gospel is STEADFASTNESS [v.21] Tychicus was a “faithful minister.” He did what he was told. Paul gave him a simple task, ‘take this note and walk it to Ephesus’. Don’t you think as he walked he was thinking, “I wish I could do bigger things for God? Do I have to be a lousy mailman my entire life? I suppose I only matter to the dogs.” All the while he is carrying the Word of God in his hands. You can still reading his mail to this day and be transformed by it through the power of God.

The third mark of a servant of the gospel is SERIOUSNESS [v.22]. The gospel is serious enough that it needs to be sent out. Paul’s sends out Tychicus with the scroll filled with encouragements for the followers of Christ in Ephesus. Tychicus ministry was walking. He could walk. He walked seriously. His name made the Bible as a professional walker. You might think that your ministry is small and insignificant, but God can use you as a mighty deliveryman of the gospel.

The fourth mark of a servant of the gospel is SENSITIVENESS [v.22]. You know Tychicus is an encouraging servant because he is commissioned to “comfort your hearts.” This Paul’s reason for sending him to Ephesus: he serves others with sensitivity. He is the kind of guy who sits with one sitting alone and talks to him in a way that shows he cares. He does not manipulate, unrelated, or castrate to get a convert. He genuinely cares and believes the gospel changes lives.

In Romans 16, there is a casting call of dozens of ordinary servants [men, women, young, old, rich, poor, married, single, etc.] who are doing big things for God: Phoebe helps people. If your car is broken down and need a ride, call Phoebe. Need a baby sitter? Call Phoebe. Priscilla & Aquila, a husband and wife team, are both great Bible teachers. They used their house as a center for gospel ministry. ­­­­Rufus’ mom is the kind of mom who gives out kisses and cookies. This reminds me of my adopted mothers who I have blessed by since being a pastor. I love these prayer warrior women. They are often forgotten servants. And the list of little-big servants of the gospel goes on and on.[2]

Someday, I will meet Tychicus. I look forward to shaking his hand and hugging his neck, and thanking his service for the gospel of Christ. If I approach him in this manner I should not come empty handed with shallow words, but readily share of my own opportunities of delivering the message of the gospel through my words and walk.

Key Words of a Walk in the Gospel [Ephesians 6:23-24]

Why should servanthood be my middle name? May these gospel-centered words of Paul in the closing statements be motivation for you to serve humbly and boldly: peace, love, faith and grace.

PEACE. If you are not a follower of God you do not know peace because you are an enemy of God and rebel against His cause. Unbelievers are lazy, lack listening ears, and lift their middle finger to God. They would rather be god than let God be God. You are not a good god. When you sin you are fighting and warring against God. This will cause your life to be chaos rather than peace. Only friends of God know peace.

God pursues peace in His people. Paul calls you to armor yourself with shoes with readiness to engage the wicked enemies in the world with the gospel of peace [6:15]. The gospel is the only means of real and permanent peace. The Middle East peace process, African tribalism, or your family’s conflict will never be resolved completely unless the gospel of peace rules your heart.

LOVE. God does not love you because you are good looking, talented, or loveable. You are not cute and loveable. Your sin is disgusting and gross. You are like a dirty chalice pouring out dirty water. No matter how much you polish and shine your chalice is still a cesspool of sickness and sin. The only way to change the chalice is to tap into the Living Water. He will overflow your cup with new life. You are really bad, but Jesus is really good!

He loves you because He made you. He even loves His enemies. He loves those who killed Him. If you were in the crowd you too would have cried out, “Crucify Him!” Yet Jesus responded lovingly, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are saying.” His love is unparalleled. He is the only being able to love the entire world. You cannot love anything but yourself and a few things immediately around you. He loves you passionately, sacrificially, unconditionally and actively. He demonstrates His love for you practically through His Son. He stood, suffered and died in your shoes.

FAITH. There is an inherent desire in every man to gain merit with God by good deeds, karma, or morality. 7 billion people walking this planet have faith in the 3 pound piece of meat in their melon: a scientist has faith in his theories, a philosophers has faith in his mind, a religious church-goer has faith in his systems. You feel guilty because you want God to smile upon you but don’t think you quite make the cut. Many around Jesus did not believe because they could not see, hear or touch Him. They trusted in their hands, eyes and ears, rather than trusting God. The problem is you are the problem. You need God. All you need is to trust God. He smiles upon His Son. True believers have faith not in their work, but in the finished work of Christ on the cross. That is the essence of the gospel.

GRACE. This is the most marvelous word. Paul saves the best word for last. You do not deserve God. In fact, you deserve the sewer soaking in the stink of your sin. Peace, love, and faith are all gifts of God’s grace. God is a giver. He is not passively sitting in a castle ruling from a distance, He got off His throne and pursues His people with peacemaking, love-sharing, and faith-building grace. By Grace, He has showered you with riches in His Son. Don’t reject the gift of God. The ultimate folly of man is to not receive the free gift God openly extends to you. Walk in the gospel of peace and love through faith by His grace.

35 Years Later [Revelation 2:1-7]

Paul wrote the letter to the church at Ephesus approximately 60 A.D. A generation later, approximately 95 A.D, the apostle John wrote Jesus’ words to this church. They were doing some things exceptionally well. They are enduring patiently under trials and hardships for the sake of the gospel. However, Christ had one contention with them. Do you see it? “They have abandoned the love they had at first.” What does He mean by this? They were not walking as servants of Christ like they were a generation before. In response, Christ charges them to turn back to Him and walk as conquistadors for the King until they reach Paradise.

How quickly it is to forget the gospel and walk in it daily. Let our leaving of Ephesus be a reminder to you and me to rehearse the gospel daily and commit to know, speak and live the gospel everyday. Leaving your mark on this planet for eternity is by a willingness to serve of the Most High King and be His messenger, keeper, and ambassador of the Gospel. The gospel transforms.


[1] Cf. Acts 20:4; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12

[2] Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:5-22, Philippians 3:19-30

are you ready for warfare?

Do you go out with your armor on? There are many careers that wear armor, but none more common than the armed forces. It is not uncommon to see a soldier dressed in battle gear on the news. In Jesus day it was not uncommon to see a Roman soldier or centurion. Paul uses this as an illustration to teach followers of Christ a valuable spiritual truth.[1]

You are at War [Ephesians 6:10-12]

Paul makes it clear. Christians are living in a war zone. Here is how your spiritual war is described: First, the war is intensely ferocious [v.12]. It is intensely ferocious because your enemy has one purpose in mind—to destroy your heart and distract you from following God. Your enemy might seem like a friendly foe that offers opulent peace treaties and enticing bribes. He is no friend; he is a ferocious foe in camouflage seeking to ransack your heart with baits and traps.

The spiritual war in which you are engaged is against the “principalities, powers and rulers of darkness.” [v.12] These evil rulers are lead by sergeant Satan the sly strategist and his band of menacing minions. Satan is so sly that he uses your strengths against you. Just as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness he can even distort the Word of God to get his way with you [cf. John 4]. Evil is a Weapon of Mass Destruction and the enemy is as nasty as an Al-Qaeda terrorist. The spiritual war is staged on the battlefield of “heavenly places.” It is waged in a spiritual realm in your midst, but unseen to your naked eye.

This is not the kind of war where you lob grenades, shoot semi-automatic guns, send computer-guided missiles, or have sea and air arsenals. This battle is fought as a wrestling match [i.e. hand-to-hand combat or guerrilla warfare]. Wave after wave of evil savages struggle against you in a continual onslaught seeking to sidetrack and devastate you spiritually. They do not take prisoners of war; instead they look to execute their captives.

Second, the enemy is scheming to take you down hard and fast [v.11]. Satan is not the red-horned, tail-wagging, pitchfork-carrying goofball you commonly see depicted in modern cartoons. He is dark, but is referred to as the Angel of Light. He is incredibly beautiful and intelligent, but is known for being a deceiver and father of lies. He is cunning, tricky, deceptive, and like a predator waiting to devour you like a juicy prey.

What kind of schemes does Satan slyly strategize against you? [cf. 4:22-29] Satan’s weapons of trade are taking little things and making them look big and taking big things and making them look little. He gets you to carry tomorrow and yesterday around today. He makes sin look fun, refreshing, and freeing, but in reality it is guilt-ridden, old as dirt, and bondage. Most importantly he gets you to live contrary to the Word of God and the cause of Christ.

Third, the only way you can win this war is with God’s power [v.10]. “Be strong in the Lord,” is like a war charge towards the troops. This phrase did not originate here, but in the OT.[2] God used this charge towards His nation and its commanders reminding them He will fight right along side them even go before them [cf. 5:8, 11]. Often God fights for His people who are against insurmountable odds. God is a warrior and spiritual warfare champion, which is a source of courage and comfort in the heat of an intensely ferocious war.

Arm Yourself for Battle [Ephesians 6:13-17]

Soldiers of Christ are charged to stand. [vs.11-14] Three times in this passage Paul tells you to stand so you do not fall [vs.11, 13-14]. The enemy—Satan and his cronies—are powerful forces that cannot be faced alone in the power of your own might. Armor might seem clunky, bulky and difficult to wear. However, if you were in danger you would not think twice about putting on thick armor. God has supplied you with a complete storage shed of weapons to wield for this war:

Weapon Physical Purpose Spiritual Purpose
Belt of Truth Keeps your armor up. Keeps arms and feet useful for action. Be prepared. Protection against hypocrisy and false gospels (1:13; 4:15, 21, 24, 25; 5:9; cf. Luke 12:35-37)
Breast of Righteousness Protects your heart and vital organs Protection against condemnation (4:24; 5:9)
 

Shoes of Readiness

Helps you to run well and stand strong. Durable for long distances. Firm footing. Protection against fear. Bearing the message of the gospel of peace (1:2; esp. 2:14–18; 4:3; cf. 6:23; Romans 3:21-26).
 

Shield of Faith

Protects you from a variety of attacks. Dodging and distinguish fiery arrows. (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 5:12; 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7; Proverbs 30:5; 1 Peter 5:8-9) Protection against dangerous temptation: doubt, disobedience, discouragement, and despair (1:1, 13, 15, 19; 2:8; 3:12, 17; 4:5, 13; Romans 10:15)
Helmet of Salvation Protects your head and your precious noggin Promise of ultimate victory (1:13; 2:5, 8; 5:23)
Sword of the Spirit

[Only offensive weapon mentioned]

Offensive weapon to wound and kill enemy. (Revelation 19:15) Battle is won with the Word of God. Truth defeats deception (1:13; 5:26; cf. Hebrews 4:12-13).

The Bible describes you as a soldier and you are called to wear special armor. You are in a spiritual battle. It is a fight for your life. Armor is not an option it is required to even have a chance to face your foe. Why must I take my armor seriously? You are able to withstand the intense battle and stand firm under immense pressure because you have God’s armor. Only He is able to keep you from falling, therefore, stand tall [cf. 1:20-23]. Each of the pieces of armor is a call to arms that deal with the character of God within you. The armor must be “put on.” Therefore, spiritual warfare is an external counterpart to Paul’s emphasis on inward growth and the edification of the church [cf. 4:12, 16].

Don’t Forget to Watch and Pray [Ephesians 6:18]

Be on guard. One of your greatest weapons is prayer. In the midst of the battle you can call on your commander-in-chief without using the red-phone. God is a unique commander. He is not oblivious to your warfare, He is right there with you. Therefore, when you pray to God you are not surprising God with your needs or trying to change God’s mind; rather you are acknowledging His presence and asking how He wants to change you through the battle.

How should you pray? Be committed to a lifestyle of persistent prayer in the Spirit. This brings your prayers in line with God’s will; making prayer about God’s agendas not yours. If you want to know how to pray look at Jesus [cf. Matthew 6:9-13] who praises God’s greatness and glory [v.9], agrees with His will [v.1], and acknowledges dependence upon God for daily survival [vs.11-13]. Prayer is powerful weapon because it is direct communication with the battles Conqueror and King.

Ground Yourself in the Gospel [Ephesians 6:19-20]

Why is the gospel such a big deal? Why can’t you win the spiritual war without being grounded in the gospel? The gospel is where you choose sides. The gospel chooses the winning side of the battle. In the gospel, Christ defeats death, sin, and the powers of evil, partnering you with the power of Christ to be able to fight against your foes.[3]

How can I ground myself in the gospel? First, pray for opportunities for the gospel [v.19a]. Second, proclaim the gospel [v.19b].[4] Rather than proclaiming your personalities, talents, influence, and spiritual affluence, proclaim Christ. Don’t get hung up on side issues like: politics, culture, end times, or Christian patriotism. Each of these issues is not wrong to discuss, but they can be distractions derailing you from getting to the Gospel. Stick with the gospel; it’s the power of God unto salvation.

Third, proclaim the gospel with boldness and without excuse [vs.19c-20]. You are an ambassador of the King of kings and Commander-in-chief of the armies of heaven. Speak as His representative with boldness, eagerness and unashamed passion making known the mystery of the gospel [Romans 1:16]. Remember the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who do not know the gospel. Be prepared to offend people with the gospel. Sometimes the gospel brings on more foes and persecution.

In conclusion, Christian, you are at war with a ferocious enemy in a hostile world. Have a wartime mentality. This war is a difficult fight with evil foes. Ephesians 6:10-20 is a clarion call to arm yourself for battle with the weapons God makes readily available to you. Don’t forget to pray agreeing with God concerning your need of His presence, power, and utter dependence upon Him for victory. Finally, ground yourself in the glorious refuge of the gospel. In the gospel, you will find rest and safety in the secure arms of your Savior and Warrior King Jesus Christ who has fought the battle in your stead, defeated the foe, and claimed eternal victory. The battle truly belongs to the Lord. Have you put your armor on today?


[1] Throughout Ephesians 6:10-20on spiritual warfare Paul’s sustained imagery is drawn from the prophecy of Isaiah, which describes the armor of Yahweh and his Messiah (11:4–5; 59:17; cf. 49:2; 52:7).

[2] Cf. Joshua 1:6-9; Deuteronomy 31:6-7, 23; Zechariah 10:12

[3] Paul often asks for prayer for himself and his colleagues, particularly in relation to their ministry of the gospel (Rom. 15:30–32; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:3, 4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1, 2; cf. Phil. 1:19).

[4] Great passages to proclaim the gospel of Christ: John 1:12; 3:16; Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:13; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:27.

cross-centered relationships

What is at the center of your of your life? Your center is what is your main thing, your top priority, and the thing you most passionate about. It is what defines you. Your center is clearly seen in what do you talk about or what is on your mind the most. Commonly it is a relationship, passion, career or cause. Have you seen your center change over the years?

What is the one thing God says must be our center? In 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul says that our first importance is the cross of Christ—the gospel. The cross is like a hub with spokes to a wheel. It affects everything you do—your passions, career, causes and relationships. It wasn’t until I came to know Christ and begin a relationship with the God of the universe that I realized my relationships with my parents, friends, and authorities could be different.

For those who do not know God the cross is silly and stupid. “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18] People hate the work of Christ because it runs so contradictory to the way people think and live. The cross is foolish because people do not make the connection from what Christ did on the cross to how it impacts their life. The cross is crucial to all our relationships. If you say you have a relationship with God, the proof of it is how you view your relationships. How does the cross impact my relationships: with my parents, friends, authorities, or dating partners?

1. The cross is the means to change my motives within relationships [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]. Jesus went to the cross not because he thought it was going to be fun or a vacation to the beach. It was hard, painful, and torturous. He could have backed down, but He didn’t. He was motivated by love and joyful obedience, even when people mocked Him and beat Him and bullied Him.

First, my relationships must be motivated by Christ’s love. This is often difficult because we are motivated by getting things from people. We are consumers. We view our relationships as people owing us attention, love, and respect [note Pharisees: John 12:43; Luke 7:47]. We say to our parents, “You owe me a nice room with privacy. You owe me new clothes for school and respect for my possessions.” We think our authorities and friends should treat us fairly and respectably. If you think people owe you it will frustrate you because you often do not get what you want.

My esteem does not come from self or others, but comes from Christ. I have Christ-esteem [v.15]. The question is not what do people owe me, but what do I owe them? “Owe no one anything, except love each other.” [Romans 13:3] “Walk in love as Christ loved you.” [Ephesians 5:2] “The love of Christ controls us.” [v.14] I owe others love because God commands me to love one another [Colossians 3:12-17]. If I am a genuine follower of Christ I am able to love others because He has loved me [1 John 3:7-21]. The cross is proof of His love [1 John 3:16]. The cross shows just how horrendous my sin is, but how immense is God’s love. The cross puts me on equal terms with everyone else. I am no better, and no worse.

Second, my relationships must be motivated by joyful obedience. I am willing to submit to others authority in my life because I see it has benefitted me to submit to God’s authority. God protects and provides. No longer do I need to live in the frustration of being a man pleaser, but in the joyfulness of becoming a God pleaser. My motivation as a follower of Christ is not what other people think about me, but is God pleased with me [2 Corinthians 5:9].

2. The cross is the means of dealing with conflict in relationships [2 Corinthians 5:16-19]. The cross challenges my attitude towards those I have something against [v.17; cf. Titus 3:1-11; Colossians 3:8-15]. Often when I have something against another person I want to control the situation by letting them feel my pain or know my hurt. However, God says that vengeance is not yours and when we take wrath into our hands we make a mess of the situation [Romans 12:19]. Only God can be God. So how does God desire us to deal with conflicts?

What if I have sinned against someone? What if I have blow it and messed up a relationship? As a new creation in Christ I seek reconciliation and forgiveness for your sin. What if they do not accept my forgiveness? You cannot control their response. You have done your part. Trust God to minister to them [v.18-19]. What if it is physically impossible to ask for their forgiveness because of death or distance? If death take your unforgiveness to God, but if not write a letter or call the person you have something against.

What if someone sinned against me? If someone has wronged you and you are struggling with thoughts of bitterness or rage seek their forgiveness for your sinful attitude. You can, “Forgive as Christ forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:32] because “Love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8] Love is powerful.

What about those who don’t seem to deserve my love? Have you heard it said, “Hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me”? The Bible says, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.” [1 Thessalonians 5:15] What does it say about you if God can forgive sins eternally, but you cannot forgive someone? The proper response is to confront in love pointing them to the cross. In the cross, there is no one undeserving of God’s love.

Some people are fire starter while others are fire extinguisher. Who are you? An attitude of humility, gentleness, and understanding can diffuse many arguments, tensions and disagreements. “If any man is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” [Galatians 6:1ff] “Let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” [1 Peter 3:8-9]

3. The cross is the means to restore broken relationships [2 Corinthians 5:20-21]. The cross makes our relationship right with God and gives us the ability to reconcile our earthly relationships because we are ambassadors of reconciliation [v.20]. The cross attacks the issues that hurt relationships. The cross attacks and defeats sin. The cross does not tear down a relationship with God it builds up. Teenagers are champs at knocking others down with their teasing and tearing words. This has no place in the life of a Christian, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” [Romans 14:19]

How has the cross impacted your relationships with God and others? The proof of your relationship with Heavenly Father is seen and heard in your earthly relationships.

Quick Q&A on Cross-Centered Communication in my Relationships:

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like at home with my parents? What if my parents are on my case? What if we do not get along What if they have does something to you that scarred you really deep? Begin with the road towards reconciliation and obey joyfully as to the Lord [Ephesians 6:1-3]. As you honor your parents you are really honoring God.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like at school with my teachers or at work with my boss? Trust God who appoints all your authorities [Ephesians 6:1-9; Titus 3:1ff] Even if some are unfair or unreasonable God has placed them into their positions of authority. Remember your boss is ultimately God. The way you work can be a shining light for God’s glory.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like with my friends? If you see your friends sinning be willing to confront their sin [cf. Matthew 18:15-17]. This is what good friends do—they hold one another accountable. A loving friend does not sympathize with sin; rather they help their friends overcome sin. Also, humbly accept confrontation for your sin too.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like in my future marriage or dating relationships? [More on this the next few weeks] Check out: 1 Peter 3:1-7, Ephesians 5:22ff, and 1 Corinthians 7.