The Gospel Dispensed

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As Easter approaches, Christians all over the world reflect vigorously on the event of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, where Paul gives the Corinthian church (and by the Spirit’s preservation of the Scripture, Paul gives us) four pieces of how the gospel is dispensed.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Cor 15:1-2).

  1. The gospel is preached: The Good News of Christ gets out through the act of preaching. The gospel is not ultimately discussed in an effort to provide a consensus among a myriad of opinions. The gospel is heralded, proclaimed–preached. Romans 10:14-15 shows the role of preaching in the economy of God in salvation.
  2. The gospel must be received: You can receive the gospel or reject it. Just because this gospel is preached does not mean it will have its effect. God works in our unrighteous heart that does not seek after him (Romans 3:9-12) to transform it so we will receive it. This gospel is not simply an intellectual quest–it is a spiritual gift! And what is received must be put into practice (see Philippians 4:9-10). The way you can tell that someone has received the gospel is that they live out the gospel (thus the final clause: “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain).
  3. The gospel is that in which we stand: The gospel is our anchor. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is of first and foundational importance (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We stand because He arose and is alive.
  4. The gospel is that by which we are saved: The gospel does not merely justify (take away the penalty of sin) but the gospel continues its work in the Christian’s walk by its sanctifying work. We are rescued from the penalty of sin (justification), being rescued from the power of sin (sanctification), and will ultimately be rescued from the presence of sin (glorification).

Movie Saturday: C.T. Studd–Gifted Athlete and Pioneering Missionary (2018)

C. T. Studd had it all. Born into a wealthy upperclass family in England, he studied at Cambridge University and went on to become one of the country’s most celebrated athletes. But Studd realized that fame and flattery would not last, and as a Christian, he sensed a profound calling to forsake the things of the world and live for the world to come.

Director: Gary Wilkinson

Starring: John Holden

Hudson Taylor: Into the Heart of the Dragon –Full Movie

An intimate portrait of the influential missionary’s life and legacy.

A striking docudrama filmed on location in China and the UK. James Hudson Taylor was one of the most influential missionaries of the nineteenth century. Founder of China Inland Mission, he spent a total of 51 years spreading the gospel in China. Taylor was unique in his time; he adopted the dress and customs of the Chinese people, showing great respect for their culture, and his organization was strictly non-denominational. Generations of Christian evangelists have followed in his footsteps.

When Tempted to Lash Out at a Fellow Believer, Remember… : Devotional for February 10, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Exodus 25-27, Psalm 90, Philippians 1

Did you know that the moment you surrendered to Christ, you became a partner in the gospel with every other believer on the planet?  God sent the apostle Paul to plant and establish churches all through Asia Minor, into Rome, and likely into Spain.  As he won many to Christ who rescued them from their sins both now and eternally, what God used him to do is acquired more partners in the gospel. 

So Paul leads off his letter to the Philippian church with this prayer of thanksgiving.  “Dear Lord, every time I think of these believers in Philippi, I am grateful and have joy because of having them as partners!”  I wonder, would Paul be able to say that of me?  Would he be able to say that of our churches here in Denver?  Would he be able to say that of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church.  As we see from the Ephesian church in Revelation, Christ told them they had lost their first love.  The essentials had moved to the peripherals, and the peripherals move to the essentials.   

What are the essentials? 

First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity

While we could spend weeks on each of these issues, what we do see if a Christian or churches compromise on any of these doctrines, we undermine the gospel.  The gospel is not simply believing a set of facts, but it’s a surrender to all that Christ has revealed about His nature, His work in rescuing us, and how He aims to work in us!  That’s the good news—God will not hold us according to our sins, but will rescue us according to His grace. 

We are partners in this and because of this.  And the apostle Paul modeled this partnership.  Look at the first three words of this letter:  “Paul and Timothy.”  Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father.  Paul was 12 years older than Timothy (Paul born in AD 5, Timothy born in AD 17), making them 45 and 33, respectively.   Regardless of their backgrounds, they were ‘partners in the gospel,’ ‘servants of Christ Jesus,’ and ‘saints.’ 

So the next time we lash out at a brother or sister in Christ, either in person or on social media, remember they may well be a partner in the gospel of Christ. May that change our attitudes moving forward.

Sometimes You Just Need to Shake the Dust Off Your Feet and Move On

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I had a gentleman call the church asking to “talk about the Bible.” He asked a question that let me know he was from the Watchtower Society–the Jehovah’s Witnesses (no, I won’t link to them). He asked me a question that’s common coming from this cult: “How can you say that Jesus is eternal if He died?” When I tried to develop my thoughts to answer this question, he kept interrupting. When it was clear there was no conversation to be had, only an argument, I told him that we were not going to agree and that I would end the conversation. His response? “Why are you running away?”

Friends, there will be conversations where someone will call or engage you that does not want to really hear your side but simply wants to win. Don’t allow your pride to keep you engaging in that regard. Matthew 7:6 says, ““Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Some will not receive the gospel message. So, you plant the seed and move on.

Now, this gentleman got elevated. That’s how I knew it was time to move on. This is not about wins and losses. It’s about planting gospel seeds, praying the soil is ready.

Oh, how would I have answered him? Well, it seems that from their own Scriptures the deity of Christ is on display. You can read about it here.

Pretenders on Sunday? Devotional for January 26, 2022

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Today’s Bible Reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 45-46, Psalm 108, Galatians 2

In his commentary on Galatians, Philip Ryken noted, “When the fear of people overcomes the fear of God, we are likely to deny the gospel. Unless we are willing to stand up for God at work on Monday, we are just pretending at church on Sunday.” Does that describe us? Even strong Christians will struggle with the fear of man—so recognize it and fight against it (Galatians 2:11-14). 

The pillars of the church in Jerusalem received Paul and his gospel ministry to the Gentiles, even giving “the right hand of fellowship to Barnabus and me” (2:9).  All that was needed by Paul was not to give them the Law of Moses or to circumcise, but to simply “remember the poor.”

Yet, in Antioch, where only 10% of the population was Jewish, leaving the Christian church with a multicultural flavor—of which Peter fully embraced (see Acts 10-11) when the “men … from James” came, Peter “separated himself, fearing the circumcision party” (2:12).  His influence caused others to do the same—even the “son of encouragement,” Barnabas, Paul’s partner!

Beware of how you influence and who you influenceLeaders (whether paid or influential) can influence by fleshy attributes:  looks, personality, intellect, age, etc.  Yet, people are people, and all people are fallen.  We need the concrete truth of the gospel to anchor us and provide our footing. 

The apostle Paul let the fear of God and the gospel of God drive his actions—even as the new guy standing up to Peter.  Paul reminded Peter that this was not merely an ethnic or religious ritual issue.  “Their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel” (2:14).   Peter was being inconsistent and a coward.  It was OK for him to eat with Gentiles, but not OK for Gentiles to eat with Jews. 

Pretenders on Sunday? We must let the gospel drive all of our actions! Do we?

A False Gospel is No Gospel at All: Devotional for January 25, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading plan from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 43-44; Psalm 24; Galatians 1

So the recovery of the blessed doctrine of Scripture and Scripture alone is our rule of faith.  And what did Scripture teach?  Scripture teaches that salvation is by ‘grace alone.’  In Galatians 1:6, Paul in sheer exasperation tells the Galatian church,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

Notice Paul says that they are deserting the God who called you “in the grace of Christ” and are turning to a “different gospel.”  Paul is saying, “The grace of Christ is the Gospel.”  The Gospel is the Good News.  The reason we see that the Gospel is such good news is only truly possible when we see that our soul is in such bad shape!  In Galatians 3:10, the Apostle Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 in saying, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”

You say, “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m not as bad as so many others are.  I may not be a Christian, but I am a good person!”  You say, “The Book of the Law is not my authority.  I don’t see it like that.”  Well, in a situation like that, your opinion is not only missing the mark but misses the point.  What matters is what God says!  And whether we see it as our authority or not, it will be the standard by which we will be deemed fit for heaven or not. 

During the time of the Reformation, the church taught that salvation could be bought by indulgences.  The Pope at that time (Leo X) wanted to build St. Peter’s Basilica and used this horrid doctrine of indulgences on the people so they could buy salvation for their family members who were in purgatory.  “When a coin clings in the chest, a soul flies up to heavenly rest,” indulgence-advocate John Tetzel would say.  Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church questioning this practice.

Without grace, we have the law looming over us and we live in fear of its dictates.  But we also must not add to grace.  The Reformation was a fight over the Scripture’s teachings of grace alone.  Not grace partly, then us coming along partly so that we may decide for it and ultimately earn it.  Grace stands alone — otherwise, it’s not grace.

From my sermon from October 30, 2005, preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.

Be Thankful the Cross Wasn’t the End: Devotional for January 24, 2022

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Today Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 41-42, Mark 16

In the majority of our Bible translations, Mark 16 contains a rather startling insertion between vv. 8 and 9.

SOME OF THE EARLIEST MANUSCRIPTS DO NOT INCLUDE 16:9-20.

… which means that some of the earliest manuscripts do include this last section. I commend to you this article to delve more into this and to help you keep your confidence that this last section is canonical and belongs in the Gospel of Mark.

What I pray you will consider is this: what if the message of Christianity really ended where Mark 16:8 ends:

“And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

That, my friends, is not “good news.” This would be like every other hero who died–followers going to the graveside. The problem with Jesus’ death is that they claimed He was the Messiah and would reign as their King over all other kings and Lord over all other lords. To believe such in Roman times was the death penalty.

Yet, the story does not end with them being “afraid.” In fact, Jesus’ death galvanized the apostles and followers to such a degree that none of them feared death, and nearly all of them (save John) were martyred.

Be thankful for the cross–but be thankful that the cross was not the end. The tomb is empty. Christ is alive. Now, let’s go forth in boldness in His name!

New Sermon Series on the Gospel of Mark Starting Sunday

This coming Sunday, our church will begin going through the Gospel of Mark. The question is, “Why Mark?”

First of all, pastors pray long and hard for what to cover next in the worship gathering. I try to pivot between Old Testament and New Testament, as well as pivoting between genres (gospels to psalms to epistles, etc.).

But why Mark? For established churches like the one I’m blessed to undershepherd, going through the gospels brings us back to the basics, back to the foundation of the One on whom His church is built–Jesus Christ. Seeing how Jesus preached, what it meant to follow Him, how He interacted with the disenfranchished, and how He interacted with the religious legalists. Jesus came on a mission that was focused on the message found in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”

How Jesus preached. With authority. In the synagogues. With parables. With clarity (to the disciples). In a boat. In the country. In the cities.

Jesus is the Son of God. Both the Father and the demons (along with a Roman soldier) affirmed Jesus as the Son of God.

Mark is a gospel that is on the move. Notice how many times the word “immediately” is used.

Jesus always had an eye on the leaders as well as “least of these.” While many religious leaders struggled with Jesus, others sought Him out for help, great and small.

And much more.

Join us as we look at the beauty of the Gospel of Mark.

My Favorite Bible Reading Plan for 2022 and How I’ll Tackle It

If you plan on reading through the Bible in 2022, I recommend the Five Day Bible Reading Plan. It goes through the Bible in a semi-chronological manner, giving you a good flow of biblical history.

I plan on using the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible–Large Print to go through the reading plan. Capturing the insights God gives in the same Bible you’re reading helps not only you but those who may read them later on (like your children or grandchildren).

Last, I did a video about the pros and cons of Bible Reading plans that will be helpful for you to consider:

What are your favorite Bible Reading plans?