Celebrating the Good News of the Gospel

Bad News/Good News

Do you want to hear the bad news or the good news? It is important that we hear both and until you are recused from the bad news you cannot celebrate the good news. Continue reading Celebrating the Good News of the Gospel

What is Repentance?

Wrong Way Imagine the horrifying experience of driving on the wrong side of a busy road, and then to be confronted with a sign, “Wrong Way, Go Back”. The sign is designed to warn you of the potential danger ahead and the necessary action to be done so as to avoid the potential harm. Though such a sign may be startling, it is actually very gracious and helpful. Continue reading What is Repentance?

The Character of the Kingdom’s Citizens

blessed

In Jesus gave eight beatitudes that describe the true character of those who are citizens of His kingdom. The word “beatitude” is from the Latin meaning “blessing”. We could simply call these “the blessings”. The beatitudes are not given in a random order, but overflow into each other providing a complete picture of a kingdom citizen. Interestingly, the first and the last contain the same promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven“). These bookends show that this is a description of a kingdom citizen. All eight beatitudes state a condition and then provide a promise. When does the believer experience these blessings? In eternity they will be experienced in their fullness, however there is a true sense in which they can be experienced now.

1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3)
This is a reference to those who see themselves as spiritually empty before God. This condition is the opposite of pride and self-sufficiency. To be “poor in spirit” means to recognise one’s spiritual poverty and look to the Lord for mercy (cf. ).  Their reward is “the kingdom of heaven” which means they are a believer.

2. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (5:4)
The second beatitude describes the believer’s grief over his or her own sinful condition. This is the natural response of the recognition of spiritual poverty. The outcome of this kind of mourning is comfort, which is provided by the gospel (cf. Is. 61:1-3).

3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (5:5)
The word “meek” is not to be connected with the word “weak”. Biblical meekness is not weakness. It refers to those who are able to harness their command and conviction. The meek believer demonstrates power under complete control. The promise is that they will “inherit the earth”. In the future they will reign with Christ as He will have dominion over all things, but in the meantime they allow this hope to drive their efforts in the world today.

4.”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (5:6)
This is a description of a believer’s internal longing for righteousness. Because this can only be found in the Lord, it is the believer’s desire to conform to this. The promise of such a longing is a true and lasting satisfaction.

5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (5:7)
As a believer longs for the righteousness of God, it is only natural that they be merciful like the Lord. The promise is the provision of matched mercy.

6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (5:8)
To be “pure in heart” is to have our minds and emotions set upon the Lord. It is an unwavering commitment in worshipping Him from deep within. The great promise of this condition is to “see God”. The ultimate fulfillment will occur when we are with the Lord in heaven (). However, this is experienced now I the intimacy of unbroken fellowship.

7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (5:9)
The believer is not at enmity with God because Jesus Christ made peace possible (; :; :). Now the God’s people enjoy this peace, they are to be “peacemakers”. This occurs though the sharing of the gospel and the application of the gospel within the body. The promise “for they shall be called sons of God” means that the believer will reflect the character of the Father.

8. “Blessed are the those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:10)
The final beatitude may be a bit surprising at first and appear to be an anticlimax. We have just seen a great progression, then suddenly persecution. But this ought not to be a surprise (). To live as Jesus lived will inevitably lead to persecution and hardship in varying levels.

Jesus expands on this final beatitude by reminding His people of the reality and expectation of persecution. Though hardship may be experienced now, this has been an ongoing assault against God’s people in past ages. For this reason they are to hold onto the hope of the final reward in heaven (5:11-12).

5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

‘Renewing Minds’ and ‘The City’: two recommended resources

There is plenty (more than plenty) of good Christian publishing occurring in the fields of theology, apologetics, biblical studies etc. Evangelically-minded scholars from seminaries and theological colleges around the world really do pump out some good stuff. However, there is still, in my opinion, a lack of Christian scholarly writing and publishing in those fields not found in the classrooms of seminaries. I want to point to a couple exceptions, which I hope are the beginning of a growth-spurt in this area of Christian witness. Interestingly, both are Baptist.

There seems to be somewhat of a resurgence of distinctly Christian and Baptist higher education in the United States. Two schools leading the charge are Union University, in Jackson TN, and Houston Baptist University, in Texas. These universities both publish journals (which I subscribe to) which focus Christian thought. The first one is the journal Renewing Minds, from Union University.

renewing minds

Continue reading ‘Renewing Minds’ and ‘The City’: two recommended resources

The Priority of Pleasing God

Pleasing God

When it comes to living the Christian life, many are consumed by the preoccupation of pleasing people at the expense of pleasing the Lord. They are concerned about what others think about them and are concerned as to whether they are matching up to the standard of others. As a result, many start telling others what they want to hear; they fail to affirm their confidence in God’s word because they are frightened of offending people. When you consider the life of the apostle Paul, he was an individual who lived for an audience of one. He was consumed by the priority of pleasing God. Pleasing God should be the believer’s greatest ambition. Consider the following references:

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil”  .

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

It is clear that this is a biblical mandate, but what does it mean to please God? Continue reading The Priority of Pleasing God

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

The Dignity of Work

 idlphoto under Creative Commons

The doctrine of Work (NB: not “works”!!!) is a somewhat forgotten doctrine. In his excellent Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes notes the following: “[Work] was given to man before the Fall, before sin, before imperfection.”

This is a pivotal point, as it is sadly the case that in our day work is often viewed as undignified, evil, and demeaning. This is patently false! According to the Scriptures, work is inherently good. God actually withheld from growing the plants until he created Adam, for “there was no man to work the ground.” (). Once he did create Adam, the plants grew (). Implicit in this is the fact that God definitely wanted Adam to work, and that he wanted Adam to tend to his creation in his work. That would  be his primary vocation. Continue reading The Dignity of Work

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Is Christianity a Religion?

Picture credit: Wikipedia

In The Myth Of Religious Violence, William T. Cavanaugh analyses the use of the term “religion” and uncovers some very interesting things. Some of these things I may expand upon at a later date, but one part of the discussion I will quote below (p. 63). Here he quotes and paraphrases Augustine of Hippo:

‘For Augustine, religio means worship, the action by which we render praise. There is true worship and false worship. False worship is directed toward many gods, or toward mere created things. True worship is directed toward the one God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and so true worship is found predominantly in the Church catholic. There are, however, vestiges of truth everywhere and traces of the Creator in the creation. The impulse to worship is found in all human beings as the inchoate longing for the Creator, whom Continue reading Is Christianity a Religion?

Some excellent resources from UCCF

UCCF: The Christian Unions in the United Kingdom, have a couple of excellent websites. Both are vital resources for the Christian. I have utilised them for a number of years, now, and have not been disappointed at any point.

The biggest website is bethinking.org. This is an immense apologetics resource, featuring articles, talks, interviews, debates, and scholarly papers, all free of charge. Topics include culture & worldview, other religions, the historical Jesus,  evangelism, and many others. There are talks from some of the greats of Christian apologetics, including Francis Shaeffer and William Lane Craig, and you’ll be introduced to some excellent British apologists like Michael Ramsden and Amy Orr-Ewing. If you talk with non-believers (and I sincerely hope you do!) you should utilise this resource. It covers just about everything you want to cover.

The second website from the UCCF crowd is theologynetwork.org. This is another brilliant resource, this time focusing on theology, and church history. Mike Reeves is the dominant figure on this website, and he really is one of the best communicators in theology today. Again, there are articles, talks, interviews, and so on. Many of the talks are from UCCF staff training sessions, and so are good for someone looking to tuck into some meaty, but accessible, material. There are sections on basic Christian beliefs, biblical studies, historical theology (including an outstanding series of talks on important theological figures from the Apostolic Fathers through to the awful, but important, Friedrich Schleiermacher). Download some articles to read, or put some talks on your phone to listen to while driving. It’s good stuff.

Choosing to Have Fellowship with God

Photo credit: Some rights reserved, by Jill Clardy

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” ( ESV)

Why is it that even though we know God’s truth through the Bible, we choose to turn our backs on it? Do we know better? Do we think we can live our lives independent of God? Are we too lazy or not motivated? Do we think we have everything we need already? Are we ashamed to face God? No doubt there are many reasons why we may ignore or turn from God. I am saddened at how I find myself at times slipping back into my old ways of thinking, and therefore living. I know better but I don’t choose to act on it. When I come to my senses and remorsefully turn back to God’s forgiving arms I am left wondering why I do it. Why I even delight in doing it. Continue reading Choosing to Have Fellowship with God

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.