Archive for the ‘Excerpts’ category

Jeremiah Burroughs: The Sum of the Gospel

November 3, 2010

Ligonier Ministries has posted an excellent excerpt of Gospel Conversation by Jeremiah Burroughs wherein he gives this great summary of the gospel:

The gospel of Christ is the good tidings that God has revealed concerning Christ. As all mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, put under the sentence of death, God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in the chains of eternal darkness, yet He has thought upon the children of men and has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again.

The second Person in the Trinity takes man’s nature upon Himself, and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with sin. He answers for it by suffering what the law and divine justice required, and by making satisfaction for keeping the law perfectly. This satisfaction and righteousness He tenders up to the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls that are given to Him.

And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this atonement unto sinners for atonement, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall not enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall through Him be received into the number of those who shall have the image of God again to be renewed unto them, and that they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

That these souls and bodies shall be raised to that height of glory that such creatures are capable of, that they shall live forever enjoying the presence of God and Christ, in the fullness of all good, is the gospel of Christ. This is the sum of the gospel that is preached unto sinners.

What Is Profoundly Stupid

August 5, 2010

Jared Wilson:

What is profoundly stupid is the sheer amount of innovation, creativity, energy, ambition, and astounding levels of human wherewithal that go into crafting the most amazing worship experiences Americans have ever seen inside churches where the gospel isn’t preached. I can say this because there’s only one thing we hold that the New Testament calls “power,” and that’s the gospel.

Read the whole thing.

Preaching that rejects the gospel enforces legalism and lusts after self-help.

July 15, 2010

A very important excerpt from Graeme Goldsworthy on the kind of preaching that rejects the gospel:

” . . . we are all legalists at heart.  We all love to be able to say that we have fulfilled all kinds of conditions, be they tarrying, surrendering fully, or getting rid of every known sin, so that God might truly bless us.  It is a constant temptation to want to take our spiritual pulse and to apply the sanctification barometer. . . . The preacher can aid and abet this legalistic tendency that is at the heart of the sin within us all.  All we have to do is emphasize our humanity: our obedience, our faithfulness, our surrender to God, and so on.  The trouble is that these things are all valid biblical truths, but if we get them out of perspective and ignore their relationship to the gospel of grace, they replace grace with law.

If we constantly tell people what they should do in order to get their lives in order, we place a terrible legalistic burden on them.  Of course they should obey God; of course we should love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  The Bible tells us so.  But if we ever give the impression that it is possible to do this on our own, not only do we make the gospel irrelevant, but we suggest that the law is in fact a lot weaker in its demands than it really is.  Legalism demeans the law by reducing its standards to the level of our competence.

[ . . .] In practical terms, if we as preachers lay down the marks of the spiritual Christian, or the mature church, or the godly parent, or the obedient child, or the caring pastor, or the responsible elder, or the wise church leader, and if we do this in a way that implies that conformity is simply a matter of understanding and being obedient, then we are being legalists and we risk undoing the very thing we want to build up.  We may achieve the outward semblance of conformity to biblical pattern, but we do it at the expense of the gospel of grace that alone can produce the reality of these desirable goals. To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as he wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self-help and self-improvement in a way that, to call a spade a spade, is godless.”

— Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 118-19, emphasis mine.

When Justification Is Marginalized

July 7, 2010

Check this powerful excerpt describing nominal Christianity evidenced when “the dynamic of justification” is marginalized:

“The ultimate concern of most church members is not the worship and service of Christ in evangelistic mission and social compassion, but rather survival and success in their secular vocation.  The church is a spoke on the wheel of life connected to a secular hub.  It is a departmental subconcern, not the organizing center of all other concerns.  Church members who have been conditioned all their lives to devote themselves to building their own kingdom and whose flesh naturally gravitates in that direction anyway find it hard to invest much energy in the kingdom of God.  They go to church once or twice a week and punch the clock, so to speak, fulfilling their ‘church obligation’ by sitting passively and listening critically or approvingly to the pastor’s teaching.

[ . . .] Since their understanding of justification is marginal or unreal–anchored not to Christ, but to some conversion experience in the past or to an imagined present state of goodness in their lives–they know little of the dynamic of justification.  Their understanding of sin focuses on behavioral externals which they can eliminate from their lives by a little will power and ignores the great submerged continents of pride, covetousness and hostility beneath the surface.  Thus their pharisaism defends them both against full involvement in the church’s mission and against full subjection of their inner lives to the authority of Christ.”

– Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 204-05 (emphasis mine).

Cloaking Cowardice with Custom-Made Bushels

March 31, 2010

Don’t know who wrote this at Ligonier, but this is excellent:

Martin Luther declared that a new Christian must withdraw from the world for a season, but upon reaching spiritual maturity he must embrace the world as the theater of redemptive activity. His message was, “Away with the cowards who flee from the real world and cloak their cowardice with piety.”

Perhaps the greatest need for our day is the need to market Jesus Christ. The church must become expert in marketing, not in the slick Madison Avenue style but in an aggressive, yet dignified way. The marketplace is where we belong. It is where needy people are found. It is not enough for the church to hang a welcome sign on her door. We dare not wait for the world to come to us.

God never intended the Christian community to be a ghetto. The church is not a reservation. Yet the pervasive style of modern evangelicalism is that of a reservation or a ghetto. We can argue that it is the secularist agenda to put us there and keep us there. But such arguments won’t do. We are there because it is safe and comfortable to be there.

The secularist hates the light and is quite willing to offer us a bushel for it. Shame on us when we buy custom-made bushels and willingly place them over our candles. To hide the light or to restrict it to a reservation is to do violence to the gospel and to grieve the Holy Ghost.

Church-as-reservation, custom-made bushels, doing violence to the gospel, cloaking cowardice instead of embracing the world as God’s theater of redemptive activity–I think we can all respond with “Ouch!” and “Oh me!”  But seriously, this little devotional raises some huge issues in the life of the church as well as our personal lives that call for repentance and faith.  May God help us to never to hide from His mission in our man-made bushels while grieving the Holy Spirit!

The Gospel and Satanic Oppression

March 21, 2010

Some very sobering words from the pen of John Stott:

The world’s opposition is strong and subtle. And behind these things stands the devil, bent on ‘taking men alive’ and keeping them prisoner. For the devil hates the gospel and uses all his strength and cunning to obstruct its progress, now by perverting it in the mouths of those who preach it, now by frightening them into silence through persecution or ridicule, now by persuading them to advanced beyond it into some fancy novelty, now by making them so busy with defending the gospel that they have no time to proclaim it.

–From “The Message of 2 Timothy” (The Bible Speaks Today series: London and Downers Grove: IVP, 1973), p. 126.

Pray that I/you wold:

1.  Clearly proclaim the gospel in its simplicity
2.  Boldly proclaim the gospel in spite of opposition
3.  Remain in the gospel as my only message to the world (and to myself)
4.  Give myself to the preeminence of the gospel call above everything else

Stott calls this “Satanic oppression” and I believe he is right.  The devil would want nothing more than for us to minimize the work of the gospel in our lives, to destroy it, to have us get beyond it, to ignore it, to change it, to be silenced as bad stewards of it, and simply pretend that it does not matter.

Sword and Trowel on Church Planters

March 8, 2010

Last week, Tom Ascol posted an excerpt from The Sword and Trowel (the magazine edited by Charles Spurgeon) from the June 1869 issue wherein Edward Leach penned the following words (emphasis mine):

We honor the men who, subsisting on scanty and humble fare, battling with adversity, and living down prejudice, are seeking to the best of their ability to plant new churches in apparently unhopeful districts. With the accent of conviction on their lips, the truth of God in their hearts, and undying perseverance leading them on, they must succeed in breaking the dreary monotony of a sinful village life. Their preaching may not please the highly cultured; their methods of working may not suit this decorous age; their unambitious lives may fall flat upon the feverish world; but their faithfulness to God, and persistency in his service, shall be rewarded with the divine “Well done, good and faithful.” We know no greater heroes than these sufferers of contumely and hatred, who so gloriously bear up and strike dismay into the enemy’s camp. Their imperfections are not worthy to be weighed with their virtues. If England is to be evangelized, it must be by such men. Fit them, train them to as great a degree of perfection as mortal man can bear–no standard is too high for God’s ministers but let not culture destroy Christian simplicity (it does not in the truly great); let not learning quench earnestness and enthusiasm; let not supercilious affectation snub them, or selfishness despise them.

May God continue to raise up in this generation men who are trained and fitted to take the gospel to the “apparently unhopeful districts” of our nation and around the world!

John Calvin on the Glory of the Gospel

February 28, 2010

Tullian Tchividjian received this excerpt from a friend where John Calvin wrote a preface for Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament in 1534. Load your wagon with this gospel gold from Calvin!

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 sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Margin for the Marginalized

February 25, 2010

From Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

Jesus’ eating with sinners is a wonderful declaration of the riches of God’s grace. But notice how this grace plays out in practice. It results in Jesus spending time with the despised and marginalized.  It means Jesus has time for the needy.  They are his priority. He does not focus on the professional classes, the lawyers, the doctors, the respectable middle classes. Such people are welcomed if they will associate with the ragtag group who makes up the community of Jesus–after all, Luke himself is a doctor. But Jesus goes out of his way to welcome the poor, the marginalized, and the needy.  (emphasis mine)

Have you ever thought about Christ-likeness in this way?  If the goal of the Christian life is to be transformed into His image, to become more like Christ, then shouldn’t our lives display margin for the marginalized, making the poor and needy our priority?  Does our community of believers look anything like the community of Jesus?  Are we demonstrating the grace which we have received vertically from God in a horizontal way to others in our city?

Nathan Finn on Spiritual and Structural Problems in the SBC

February 24, 2010

Nathan Finn writes an excellent piece at Between the Times regarding the two natures of the problems in the SBC.  I have been told in person and elsewhere via conference calls by denominational employees that the problem is spiritual, not structural, and all that we need to do is keep doing what we do while hoping for revival.  I’m grateful that the GCR Task Force has not bought into this line of thinking and is attempting to make some significant reform.

Here’s an excerpt from Finn’s article:

The structural and the spiritual coincide. To argue otherwise is to perpetuate a false dichotomy. Structure to varying degrees reflects spiritual concerns, and at times spiritual issues are exacerbated by structural shortcomings. The SBC needs a renewal in both areas.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Universally His, Subject to His Will, Devoted to His Ends

January 3, 2010

In his book, Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards argues that the chief of all distinguishing signs of true and saving grace is Christian practice.  In a list of supporting reasons why he believes this to be the case, he speaks of the practical exercise of holy affections in making a “full choice” of God.  Starting off 2010, I thought these convicting words of Edwards would be well worth our attention:

“[T]he holy Scriptures do abundantly place sincerity and soundness in religion in making a full choice of God as our only Lord and portion, forsaking all for him, and, in a full determination of the will for God and Christ, on counting the cost; in our heart’s closing and complying with the religion of Jesus Christ, with all that belongs to it, embracing it with all its difficulties, as it were hating our dearest earthly enjoyments and even our own lives, for Christ; giving up ourselves, with all that we have, wholly and for ever, unto Christ, without keeping back anything, or making any reserve; or in one word, the great duty of self-denial for Christ; or in denying, i.e., as it were, disowning and renouncing ourselves for Him, making ourselves nothing that He may be all.

[…] A having a heart to deny ourselves for Christ tends to a denying ourselves indeed, when Christ and self-interest stand in competition.  A giving up of ourselves, with all that we have, in our hearts, without making any reserve there, tends to our behaving ourselves universally as His, as subject to His will, and devoted to His ends.  Our heart’s entirely closing with the religion of Jesus, with all that belongs to it, and as attended with all its difficulties, upon a deliberate counting the cost, tends to a universal closing with the same in act and deed, and actually going through all the difficulties that we meet with in the way of religion, and so holding out with patience and perseverance.”

– Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 319-20 (emphasis mine).

The Many Ways of Destroying the Church

December 17, 2009

D.A. Carson:

“The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful.  Raw factionalism will do it.  Rank heresy will do it.  Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it–admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul.  Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it.  Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God.  Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism–all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church.  And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

– D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 83-84.

We ought to be ashamed we are no more affected with the gospel.

November 9, 2009

One of the most sobering and soul-stirring quotes from the pen of Jonathan Edwards:

If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn what great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we are no more affected with the great things of religion.

God has given to mankind affections . . . that they might be subservient to man’s chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is, the business of religion.  And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters than in religion!  In things which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honour and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity.

But how insensible and unmoved are most men about the great things of another world!  How dull are their affections!  How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters!  Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small.

How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of His giving His infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in His dying agonies, His bloody sweat, His loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory–and yet be so cold and heavy, insensible and regardless!

Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here?. . . Is there anything which Christians can find in heaven or earth so worthy to be the objects of our admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

[ . . .] God has so disposed things in the affair of our redemption, and in His glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though every thing were purposely contrived in such a manner as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly.  How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust that we are no more affected!

– Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, 51-53.

Living the Day Before

November 5, 2009

Some excellent words by Michael Spencer:

Live each day as the day that all of the Gospel is true. Live this day and be glad in it. Live this day as the day of laying down sin and taking up the glad and good forgiveness of Jesus. Live this day determined to be useful and joyful in Jesus. Live this day in a way that, should all things change tomorrow, you will know that the Lord is your God and this is the day to be satisfied in him.

Read the whole thing.

Who Will Go? A Great Commission Plea from the Prince of Preachers

October 26, 2009

Charles Spurgeon spoke of a message “which weighed on him” that should weight heavily on us.  Hear his impassioned plea:

“I plead this day for those who cannot plead for themselves, namely, the great outlying masses of the heathen world.  Our existing pulpits are tolerably well supplied, but we need men who will build on new foundations.  Who will do this?

Are we, as a company of faithful men, clear in our consciences about the heathen?  Millions have never heard the Name of Jesus.  Hundreds of millions have seen a missionary only once in their lives, and know nothing of our King. Shall we let them perish?

Can we go to our beds and sleep, while China, India, Japan, and other nations are being damned?  Are we clear of their blood?  Have they no claim on us?  We ought to put it on this footing–not, ‘Can I prove that I ought to go?’ but, ‘Can I prove that I ought not to go?’

When a man can honestly prove that he ought not to go, then he is clear, but not else.  What answer do you give, my brethren?  I put it to you man by man.  I am not raising a question among you which I have not honestly put to myself.  I have felt that, if some of our leading ministers would go forth, it would have a grand effect in stimulating the churches, and I have honestly asked myself whether I ought to go.  After balancing the whole thing, I feel bound to keep my place, and I think the judgment of most Christians would confirm my decision; but I hope that I would readily, and willingly, and cheerfully go abroad if I did not feel that I ought to remain at home.

Brethren, put yourselves through the same process.  We must have the heathen converted; God has myriads of His elect among them, we must go and search for them somehow or other.  Many difficulties are now removed, all lands are open to us, and distance is almost annihilated.  True, we have not the Pentecostal tongues; but languages are now readily acquired, while the art of printing is a full equivalent for the lost gift.

The dangers incident to missions ought not to keep any true man back, even if they were very great, but they are now reduced to a minimum.  There are hundreds of places where the cross of Christ is unknown, to which we can go without risk.  Who will go?

[ . . .] Surely there is some self-sacrifice among us yet, and some among us who are willing to be exiled for Jesus.  The Mission languishes for want of men.  If the men were forthcoming, the liberality of the Church has provided the supply, and yet there are not men to go.  I shall never feel, brethren, that we, as a band of men, have done our duty until we see our comrades fighting for Jesus in every land in the van of the conflict.  I believe that, if God moves you to go, you will be among the best of missionaries, because you will make the preaching of the gospel the great feature of your work, and that is God’s sure way of power.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon, “Forward!” in An All-Around Ministry (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000), 55-57.

God, give us such hearts that bleed for the peoples who do not know you and tears that plead for your glory to be seen and souls satisfied forever in Jesus.