Raised for Our Justification (Sermon Audio)

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
- Romans 4:23-25 -

On Resurrection Sunday I preached a message on Romans 4:23-25. I asked the question: What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean? And I showed from Romans 4:25 how Christ’s resurrection served to justify his people. In four points, I argued

  1. Justification comes from belief in God’s word, not our personal fancies
  2. Justification comes from belief in the God of history, not merely belief in historical facts
  3. Justification comes from belief in the Gospel, not our works
  4. Justification comes from Christ himself

On this last point, I aimed to show Christ died and rose as public person, not a private individual. In biblical terminology, Christ died and rose again as a Bridegroom purifying his bride, a Shepherd rescuing his sheep, and the Head of the Church justifying his body.

Accordingly, when Christ was raised from the grave justified his bride, his sheep, his church. It is a glorious truth, one worth pondering now and forever. Here’s the message.


Soli Deo Gloria, dss

 

 

 

Holding Fast to the Truth

truthLast week The Gospel Coalition posted a blog I wrote on the nature of truth. I argued that truth is inspired by God, incarnate in Christ, and progressively revealed by the Spirit as the Triune God effects redemption throughout the ages.

Here’s its summary:

Without coincidence, true truth is triune truth: it’s decreed by God (the Father), personified in God (the Son), and effected by God (the Spirit). Contrary to popular belief, truth isn’t based on personal feeling, self-understanding, or a contemporary situation. It’s based on God’s revelation, centered in the gospel, and revealed by the transforming work of the Spirit.

Unlike the mood of our age, truth isn’t something we can create, discover, or deny. Like the innocent man Pilate sentenced to death, truth has a way of coming back to life.

May we, like Jesus, make the good confession and hold fast to the truth.

You can read the whole thing here: Holding Fast to the Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Christ’s Resurrection Confers Glory Upon Shameful Sinners (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

gloryThis post wraps up a three-part meditation from our Resurrection Sunday Sunrise Service (part 1 and part 2).

The last thing to see about Christ’s resurrection is how God confers glory upon those who do not deserve it. In fact, this is again the difference between Adam and Christ: The first was created to glorify God, but failed. He led the human race into shame. By contrast, Jesus came into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). He took the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-8) and died shamefully so that he might arise gloriously and confer glory to all those who rise with him. Continue reading

What is Saving Faith?

faithOn Easter as we call people to repent of sin and believe on Christ, it is worth our time to consider the essential nature of saving faith. Therefore, from Romans 4 I have gleaned eight truths about saving faith. I am sure this list is not exhaustive, but I pray it will help you think about the kind of faith you have in Christ.

Saving Faith

1. Saving Faith responds to the one, true and living God. 

Verse 3 says, “‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” In context, this citation of Genesis 15:6 is the driving force for Paul to appeal to Abraham. In Romans 3 Paul wrapped up his argument that every Jew and Gentile has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (v. 23); the wrath of God stands to condemn all men for their sin (1:18; 2:5; 3:18), unless they have faith in God.

Thus as Paul explains what saving faith is in Romans 4, he quotes or alludes to Genesis 15:6 at least nine times (vv. 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24). Paul’s point is to show that those who believe in the God of Abraham will find legal pardon—i.e., God will reckon them righteous by means of faith in him. What follows are the stipulations attached to that justifying faith, but first foremost saving faith is faith in God. Continue reading

Christ, the Firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

firstAfter testifying to the reality of Christ’s resurrection (v. 20), the second thing Paul address in 1 Corinthians 15 is the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated by his resurrection. Verse 20 says that the Jesus who was raised from the dead is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The Feast of Firstfruits

The word “firstfruits” is a harvest term. It is the produce that first arises from the ground. In Israel it was to be dedicated to the Lord, as an offering of thanksgiving. For instance, Leviticus 23 commanded Israel to bring an offering of firstfruits in a festival that followed Passover and preceded Pentecost (vv. 9-14).

Historically, the feast which occurred on the “day after the Sabbath” after the Passover (v. 11) corresponded to the day when Israel was brought out of Egypt as God’s firstborn. Notably, this timing indicates part of the significance of this festival and the meaning of “firstfruits.” One old commentator writes,

The offering unto God . . . commemorated Israel’s separation from the nations, as a firstfruits of redemption. [It] symbolically signified the consecration of Israel unto God as the first-born unto Him from the nations, the beginning of the world’s great harvest. (S. H, Kellogg, Studies in Leviticus, 468)

In Israel’s history, this feast was meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and how that event confirmed their status as the firstborn son of Yahweh (Exod 4:22). That Christ would be called the “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20 corresponds to this reality. He is the Son of God; not only in his divinity but in his humanity. His resurrection designates him the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 1:3-4; 8:29-30). Continue reading

Christ’s Resurrection Awakens Indifference (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

risen

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 - 

When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about Christ’s resurrection, the first thing he addressed concerning Christ’s resurrection is the plausibility of resurrection itself.

Universal Indifference

In the Greco-Roman world, the most educated did not believe in life after death. The notion of a physical, embodied existence after death was laughable. And so, Paul had to defend the idea of resurrection in general, so that he could affirm the resurrection of Christ in particular.

The same sort of thinking occurs today. Well-schooled atheists deny Christ’s resurrection because they hold to a materialist view of the world. At the same time, many live for the weekend, the next ball game, or the next item to check off the bucket list. For them, the resurrection is not a matter of metaphysics but utility. They do not see the “cash value” of Christ’s resurrection and thus they remain quagmired in indifference. Continue reading

Raised with Christ: How the Dead Come Alive

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading Richard Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of SalvationHalfway through, the point that has had the most impact on me is his section on resurrection and union with Christ. His major point is that when Christ was raised from the dead, we who are in union with Christ, were raised too. Leaning on the firstfruits imagery of 1 Corinthians 15:20, he shows how Paul understood Christ’s resurrection as of a piece with our resurrection.

The implications of this are manifold, but let me mention three:

(1) In Christ, we experience the resurrection now in our “inner man” as God makes us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5). Thus, the resurrection is not simply a future reality for the Christian, it is a present reality. The future has been pressed into the present, such that Christ’s resurrection becomes ours and makes us alive, when the resurrected Christ sends his Spirit to enliven our dead souls.

(2) The bodily resurrection that we will experience when Christ returns is not a different or second resurrection. Rather, the resurrection of believers in the future is part of the same harvest. Like Christ, we will be sown into the ground, to be raised on the last day (not the third day), but in truth, we have full assurance of this resurrection because Christ has been raised from the dead.

(3) Those who are made alive in their inner man are the ones who will be physically resurrected at the second coming. To say it more forcefully, only those who have resurrection life now (expressed in faith, repentance, spiritual fruit, etc.) will be raised with Christ then, when the harvest is completed.

Altogether, his thoughts have been swirling in my mind as I prepare to preach Romans 4:25 this Sunday: “Christ was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” It is a glorious reality that Christ’s resurrection not only vindicates his righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16), but his justification/vindication is my justification/vindication by means of union with him.

Keeping all that in mind, I came across this video (HT: Glen Scrivener) which wonderfully depicts with “lightning bolt cords” the way that Christ’s resurrection raises me and you (if you are in Christ) from the dead. Take five minutes to watch, and marvel at how God justifies us by the death and resurrection of his Son.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

It’s About Scriptural Authority, not Sexual Liberty

bibleA few weeks ago, I responded to an article in our local newspaper that suggested that the loving thing to do is to embrace others who choose to pursue same-sex marriage. I thought it was going to be kept behind a pay-wall, but apparently, it is available online now. It’s entitled “Current debate not about sex, but following Scripture.” Here’s how it begins:

I don’t consider myself a person of faith. Maybe you can relate.

I grew up in the 1980s in a fairly typical home. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t read much of the Bible to me. And when they occasionally went to church, I slept in.

As I grew older, I thought my parents’ views on sex rather prudish: “Waiting to have sex until marriage. Ha! That was good for them, but not for me.”

As a teenager, I thought that a “committed relationship” was enough to rent a room on prom night. By high school, pornography had inflamed my lust.

As for homosexuality, I was too intoxicated with my own lusts to really care about that topic. In the mid-’90s, the mantra was “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I was happy to ignore the whole thing because I was living for me.

I didn’t care about politics—or preachers. I just wanted what I wanted, and cared little what people of faith had to say about sex.

Strangely enough, that all changed when Jesus Christ saved me from my empty hedonism.

You can read the rest of it at the Columbus Republic. And yes, I do explain my first line by the end.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Six Keys to Detecting the Prosperity Gospel

apjA few months ago Nine Marks ministries released an e-journal on the subject of the “prosperity gospel.” In that journal, I wrote about something that I have seen in ministry, what Kate Bowler has labeled the “soft prosperity gospel.” In my article, I listed five ways of detecting this form of the prosperity gospel. They are

  1. Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
  2. Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
  3. Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
  5. Soft prosperity largely addresses first-world, middle-class problems.

Today, on his daily Q & A program, Ask Pastor JohnJohn Piper lists six more ways to detect the softer prosperity gospel. In order they are, in question form:

  1. Does the preacher deal honestly with the biblical doctrine of suffering?
  2. Does the preacher speak about the need for self-denial?
  3. Does the preacher preach expository sermons, where the shape and content of the Bible forms the shape and content of the sermon?
  4. Does the preacher wrestle with tensions in the biblical text?
  5. Does the preacher live a lavish lifestyle that elevates him over most of the people in his church?
  6. Does the preacher elevate self and minimize the greatness of the glory of God?

If the answer to any or many of these questions is “yes,” then there is or is beginning to emerge in that church a message of prosperity preaching.

Sadly, the softer form of the prosperity gospel is rife within evangelical churches. We need to be aware of it, repent of it, and pray that God would give us grace to combat it in our churches and in the corridors of our own hearts. Knowing the signs of the soft prosperity gospel is a beginning place to address the problem.

To hear John Piper’s answer in full, check out his podcast “Six Keys to Detecting the ‘Prosperity Gospel.’” You can also read his thoughts about developing a philosophy of ministry that does not move towards the prosperity gospel: “Prosperity Gospel: Deceitful and Deadly.” For the whole 9Marks journal, visit here.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Reflections from Together for the Gospel

yumWhen I think about Together for the Gospel 2014, there is so much for which to give thanks! Before all the specifics of the week fade into the past, I want to share seven of them. May they be reasons to give thanks for your own time there or reasons to prompt you to come to Together for the Gospel 2016.

1. The Preaching. As expected, the brothers who preached at Together for the Gospel brought weighty, glorious, gracious truth for us. Beginning with Mark Dever’s hope-giving message from Isaiah 36-37, the preachers called us to place our confidence in God, his Gospel, and its power to save. Particularly helpful for me were David Platt’s and John Piper’s messages. Together, they challenged me to pray and plead that God would save and sanctify those to whom I preach. Likewise, Kevin DeYoung’s message was a needed encouragement to preach the Word. Since I missed a couple of the messages, I will be visiting the T4G website to listen and watch (for free until June 1). You should do the same.

2. The Singing. Like the preaching, the congregational singing deeply encouraged my soul. Continuing the pattern of “mere worship” (i.e., a style of music that emphasizes the human voice over amplified instrumentation), Bob Kauflin led us in song from “center-court.” The music richly described the gospel, but my favorite songs were those written or adapted by Matt Merker and that can be found at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Especially, in light of rising hostility towards Christianity, the song “He Will Hold Me Fast” comforted my soul.

3. Meeting and Making Friends. After the preaching and the singing, the reason I went to Together for the Gospel is to see friends—friends from college, from seminary, from ministry, and from a number of other places around the way. For instance, I had a chance to catch up with one of my oldest running mates in ministry. He and I met in college (ca. 2001), when we were both in Campus Crusade for Christ. Thirteen years later, it is a precious joy to see how God has worked in this brothers life. For me, chances to grab coffee or Qdoba with gospel-centered friends reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life. It also spurs me on to keep walking with God and praying for others to do the same. One of the sweetest gifts in the Christian life are friends who point us to Christ; at T4G I have reunited with and made many.

4. The ERLC Dinner. On the same note, it was a blast to catch up with a ton of brothers from Southern Seminary at the ERLC Dinner. In an evening sponsored by Dr. Russell Moore, my former Sunday School teacher and School of Theology Dean, it was a joy to see so many serving the Lord all over the country. Even more, the evening concluded with a Q & A about ethics and country music (go figure ;-) and the way that the ERLC serves Southern Baptists and beyond. It was encouraging to fellowship with young pastors, theologians, and ethicists who stand on God’s promises and lean into the public square.

5. The CBMW Conference. From one acronymed-ministry to another, the CBMW pre-conference, national conference was a hit. Occurring in the same room as the first T4G, more than 1300 men and women listened to John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Russell Moore, Danny Akin, Eric Mason, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Owen Strachan, and a panel of wise, godly women discuss topics related to biblical manhood and womanhood. The night before, the impossible was done, as a small army of kind-hearted servants helped pack bags and put out books for all the conference attendees. On the whole, this conference started the conference well and showed great promise for CBMW’s continuing voice among young evangelicals.

6. My Father-in-Law. With all the joys mentioned so far, the greatest joy of the conference was introducing my father-in-law to all the speakers, the singing, and the ministries represented at T4G. Upon the conclusion of the week, he wrote to me and said

I don’t know how to tell you how thankful I am that you invited me to the conference.  I would not have gone without your encouragement.  Truly the Holy Spirit spoke, challenging me on many fronts. The spiritual challenge, the fellowship and the wealth of resources combined to bless and overwhelm me, like getting a  drink from a fire hydrant!! 

My wife’s father is one of the most diligent servants of the Lord that I know. He is an associate pastor at Ashburn Baptist Church in Orland Park, Illinois. At that church, whose pastor happens to be his father, he leads in music, organizes (just about) everything, and makes endless visits—to name only a few of the things he does. He loves the Lord and the gospel, yet to date, he’s never been to T4G (or heard of Kevin DeYoung or Matt Chandler, if you can imagine). Consequently, he had a blast, was deeply encouraged, and edified to go back to Chicago and continue reaching the lost with ongoing zeal.

7. Prayer, Pleading, and Passion. Finally, and most importantly, I left T4G 2014 with a great burden to pray for the lost. John Piper’s final message in some sense completed for me a course in Christian Hedonism (i.e., Piper’s theology). For more than 12 years, his sermons and books have shaped my thinking about God, the gospel, and ministry. Yet, in all that time, I’ve never connected in Romans 9-10 the relationship between predestination and prayer. That connection was massive for me, and showed me how much farther I have to go in my theology and my prayer life. As I left T4G, I desired and still desire to be more zealous to pray for others and to tell them “Jesus wants you.”

All in all, the week was memorable, motivating, and Messiah-centered (forgive the forced alliteration). For me it truly refreshed my soul, and I pray it did the same for you, or that it will do the same for you in 2016 (April 12-14, to be exact).

In summing up this week, let me encapsulate seven things to make the most of Together for the Gospel, or any conference like T4G.

  1. Go for the content of the messages. Conferences are in vain, if the Gospel of God is not preached. And conferences are also in vain, if we are not letting the message speak to us. Plan to make time for the Word.
  2. Go to worship freely. For those who plan worship services, T4G is a glorious rest. To be able to enter the Yum Center without any care for service planning is tremendously refreshing. Still better than just the freedom from preparation though, the content of the songs, the testimonies, etc. is rich with fuel for worship.
  3. Make plenty of time to meet with friends. This is a doubled-edge sword. It was great to meet new friends and to “network.” But honestly (and I may be wrong in this) it was so much more enjoyable to go and reunite with old friends instead of just trying to met the latest author or blogger. I’ve done that before and it’s tiring. I love meeting new friends, but this week was so good because it was filled with old friends for whom I can be myself.
  4. Make time to pray, journal, reflect, dream, repent and recommit. As much fun as it is to see friends, make sure that during or after the conference, you take time to apply the truth that God shares with you. Life change happens when we look in the mirror, see the mess, and by God’s grace do something about it.
  5. Get to know ministries that matter. To say it differently, support those ministries which are solidly committed to the gospel and find out how you can encourage them and be apart of their work. T4G had a host of ministries worthy of your support. Make sure to engage with those brothers who are doing good work; they can serve your church and they need your support.
  6. Take someone with you. If possible, bring someone new. Or better, help someone else go. On my desk, I have the receipt of a pastor who paid for the hotel room of another pastor (and no, I’m not speaking about myself like Paul did of himself in 2 Corinthians 12). This brother-pastor has been a great encouragement to me, and it spurs me on to know (if only by accident) that he (with his church) footed the bill for someone else to go. May more of us do that, as we can.
  7. Finally, remember that the real work is not conference work; it’s local church work. As Albert Mohler closed the last session with the reminder that the important work is not what happened last week in Louisville, the important work is what happens every single week in chruches in Des Moines, Iowa, Auburn, Alabama, and Anchorage, Alaska—not to mention those brothers in other countries. It’s the work that goes on the churches that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ that is truly important.

For that reason, I give thanks for all that happened last week, and I look forward to Together for the Gospel 2016, but only through the maze and the haze of two more years of ministry that I pray will be twice as fruitful, by God’s grace, in part because of what I heard, read, discussed, and saw at Together for the Gospel 2014.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

[photo credit: Ivan Mesa's girlfriend]