RSS

Category Archives: The Gospel

Beauty From the Ashes

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37; NASB

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote, but if there was ever a day to start again, it’s today.

31 August brings out a lot of mixed emotions in me.  On one end, it’s the birthday of two of my really good friends, Justin and Veronica (on that note, happy birthday guys).  On the other end, it marks eight years since watching my family lose a very close relative.  Today also would have been the birthday of an old friend, who was taken from us far too soon in 2008.  And throughout recent chaotic events within my family and personal life, the weight of the world easily becomes too much to bear.  And it’s nights like this one at 2:35 in the morning that I remember this struggle doesn’t have to be mine alone.

I struggle sometimes with God’s ability to turn the impossible into reality.  I can’t wrap my mind around the simple fact that He takes the worst and creates beauty from it.  From Tommy’s death, I believed it.  From the time I learned of Matt’s disappearance and death, I knew that from this, God would accomplish the “impossible”; whatever that was.  And I still believe it.  But here I am, eight years later, and I still didn’t believe I had seen the “impossible” accomplished yet.  I expected God to show up in some miraculous form to do some sort of mind-blowing action and instantly reveal that this was the reason for the past events and struggles, but it never happened the way that I made myself think it would.  So I struggled with knowing that all things can be accomplished through Christ.

But God…

“For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.  You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:10-11; NASB

Through everything, I find my utmost comfort in the simple fact that the Gospel exists.  If there was anything that was the most impossible thing to accomplish, it would be Salvation.  The world and its predisposition for sin ultimately ends any hope of justification on our part.  Yet God gives it to us.  The one thing that cannot be obtained was made available by the Cross.  There, in the centre of the Cross, was the heart that was given unto death so that mine could be free.  The irony is that the origin of life is found in one death, and through that one death, everything is made new in the sight of the Creator.  Nothing remains but His Glory.  And if He can take the wretched, lost soul I was and sanctify it from the bondage of this world, then He can accomplish anything.  The “impossible” that I’ve longed to see has been in front of me this whole time.  Salvation is the great, glorious impossible, and Christ is the foundation of it.  I’ve seen it time and time again, I will continue to see it for the rest of my life, and there is nothing that brings more joy to me than to see or hear someone be brought from death into life.  Thinking back over times I’ve witnessed this or heard stories of it happening, I see where God showed me the impossible being accomplished.  God sent my friend Matt Cooper into the deserts of Senegal this summer.  Matt left behind in Senegal a new believer named “Stephen”, who in his short time as a Christian, has already led multiple people to Christ.  The first time I heard Stephen’s story, I was left speechless.  When I heard of his evangelism in Senegal, I was left in tears.  And it is times like this that God continually uses to give me the strength to press on.

Tonight I got to meet with a few close friends of mine to plan the start of a new event on campus at UT Knoxville.  More details are to come, but if you will be in Knoxville on 20 September at 7:00pm, you need to be there.  In the words of Ben Moser, “Something special is coming for those of you who wouldn’t mind seeing what Jesus is about.”  To meet with a group of guys who all have a passion for teaching, for prayer, for worship, and to see the Gospel spread and plan a way to do so was one of the more encouraging moments I’ve had lately.  Throughout the planning and the conversations and the laughter, the idea of the impossible arose.  And it became clear what our goal should be.  Between all of the churches, ministries, and organizations that pour in resources, time, people, money, and effort into the UTK campus, the Gospel should have reached the entire student body on this campus a long time ago, yet it hasn’t.  The only thing stopping it is us.  There is a major collegiate campus less than a mile from where our meeting was tonight with nearly 28,000 students that call it home.  One Man forever altered the history of the entire world, so why hasn’t a multitude of people not impacted a measly 28,000 students?  As I have stated many times before, the Gospel cannot be tamed, yet we never let loose its full power or potential.  And while reaching an entire campus seems “impossible” to most, so was my salvation at one point before the Cross.

But God…

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 31 August 2011 in The Gospel

 

Cultivating Godliness in Seminary…and in College

The following is a post by Nathan Finn from Between the Times; a blog written by professors from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. While it is aimed at students in seminary, the same principles apply to all Christian students who are going off to college. Whether you’re a rising freshman or a grad student, the topics in this post will aid you in strengthening your walk with Christ during your collegiate years.

Cultivating Godliness in Seminary
Nathan Finn

When I was preparing to enroll at Southern Seminary to begin my M.Div. studies, more than one person counseled me to not allow my zeal to fizzle while in seminary. While some of that counsel probably reflects my membership in a tradition that is still somewhat suspicious of theological education, I suspect that many other aspiring seminarians have received similar advice. And for good reason—each of us know of someone whose faith withered in seminary, even in orthodox seminaries. By God’s grace, I really believe I loved Christ more when I finished seminary than when I started, in part because I attended two fine seminaries, but also because of some steps I took to try and cultivate godliness during seminary.

I want to share some strategies for cultivating godliness while in seminary. It is my hope that these suggestions may help some seminary students to stay close to the cross and grow in their faith while pursuing their theological education.

  1. Join a good local church. At Southeastern, we begin encouraging students as early as New Student Orientation to join a solid local church and become actively involved. My criteria for a good local church include several factors: gospel-centeredness, adheres to sound doctrine, expositional preaching ministry, evangelistic, sees itself as a servant to the community, cultivates gospel community among members, is hesitant to allow new members, including seminarians, to immediately exercise leadership responsibilities (especially teaching).
  2. Join a good church-based small group. It doesn’t really matter if it is a home group or a Sunday School class (or both) so long as it focuses on building gospel community through life-on-life discipleship, sound teaching, accountability, and outreach. In my opinion, the best small groups at least occasionally share meals together and are not by design limited to only one age group. Some seminarians will prefer groups and churches that are seminary-heavy, while others will benefit from groups and churches that have less of a seminary presence. (As an aside, lots of seminarians are looking for a mentor. I’m convinced that if you join the right church and involve yourself in the right small group, much mentoring comes naturally through gospel-centered, life-on-life relationships.)
  3. Make personal devotional time a priority. It is tempting for every seminarian to substitute class work, especially edifying assignments, for personal devotional time. Don’t succumb to this temptation! Spend regular time studying, meditating upon, memorizing, and seeking to apply Scripture. Spend regular time praying, both for yourself and for others. When you have to go a few days without personal devotional time, try to block out an extended time that you can recharge through Scripture reading and prayer.
  4. For married students, make family worship a priority. This may seem a bit awkward at first, especially for those who did not grow up in families that prioritized this discipline or for married couples who don’t have any children. But press on—this is one of the most important things you can do to cultivate godliness while in seminary. Read the Bible together, pray together, and sing together. If you have no children (we didn’t at the time) or if you have older children, I recommend working through D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (now available online), which includes daily devotions based upon Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s classic Bible-reading plan.
  5. Share the gospel with unbelievers, especially unbelievers with whom you are building a personal relationship. If you attend an evangelical seminary, chances are you will take a class or two that requires you to engage in personal evangelism. But in addition to whatever curricular requirements you might have, try to share the gospel with others as often as you can. Consider participating in your local church’s outreach ministry. Volunteer with other area ministries. Build relationships with lost neighbors, co-workers, and/or others with whom you come into regular contact. If you are in an urban area, try street preaching. If you are near a university, assist with a campus ministry. The sky’s the limit, but do something to impact lostness, even while you are a seminary student.
  6. Commit to read at least one edifying book each semester in addition to whatever books may be required. I know this is tough for some students, especially those who read slowly. A good seminary overwhelms you with reading! But it is well worth your time to spend even five or ten minutes a day reading on a good book that has nothing to do with class. Some of the books that I think would be helpful along these lines include Paul Miller’s A Praying Life; C. J. Mahaney’s Humility; Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship; J. I. Packer’s Knowing God; . . . Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel?; Sinclair Ferguson’s The Christian Life; Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life; any book by A. W. Tozer or Jerry Bridges. (Note: If you read any of these books for a class, read a different book as your “extra” edifying book—no cheating!)
  7. For those who aspire to be pastors, also read at least one good biography and one good book about pastoral ministry each semester. My favorite biographies are Courtney Anderson’s To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson and George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life. As a general rule, the older a biography (especially of a pastor or missionary), the more edifying it is—and the purpose here is edification, not academics. Good books on pastoral ministry include Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry; Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students; . . . Tom Ascol, ed., Dear Timothy; John Armstrong, Reforming Pastoral Ministry; Curtis Thomas, Practical Wisdom for Pastors; Collin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine; D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry.
  8. In addition to your local church and the seminary’s chapel, listen regularly to good preachers. Podcast preaching that will give fire to your soul and shape your own preaching. Listen to good conferences (most of the good stuff is free) and be encouraged by pastors and others who are on the front lines of gospel ministry. If you can save up the limited financial resources at your disposal, try to attend at least one good conference a year in addition to the conferences hosted by your school. By the way, a good seminary will host good conferences that will help you grow in godliness and inform your own approach to ministry.

    Cross-posted from Between the Times.

     
    Leave a comment

    Posted by on 8 August 2010 in Helpful Tips, The Gospel

     

    The Astounding Gospel

    I’ve been asked why I love hearing the Gospel message preached so often and why I constantly find a way to link it to almost every Biblical topic. It’s because the Gospel never ceases to astound me. The fact that God’s love for us is so vast that He sent His Son as the sacrifice to bring us to Him is something that truly amazes me. I can’t hear it or read it enough.

    Ephesians 2 lists what is, in my opinion, the most straightforward presentation of the Gospel. Verses 1-3:

    1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

    We are hopeless, helpless beings.  We cannot obtain perfection because of our fallen, sinful nature. It is impossible. Nothing we can do can please God for everything we do is through the fallen world. We are, quite simply, lost.

    But God…

    4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

    But God…

    Those two words change everything. Through Christ, the payment has been made. The debt is cleared and the stains are washed away. Through Christ, God cleanses us and adopts us as His children, never to be separated from Him for eternity. Only Christ can save us, and only God could have made the way for us to be saved.

    Folks, that simple message there gives me more hope than anything this world offers can. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (below) reaffirms this. Our focus isn’t on the things of the world, but on the things of God. If this isn’t the same for you, then you need to recheck your priorities.

    16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

    On a side note, linked here is my favorite presentation of the Gospel message. This is from my home church in Cary, North Carolina; First Baptist Church (www.caryfbc.org). Check it out when you get a chance.
    http://www.caryfbcext.org/audio/sermons/20100228-1800.mp3

     
    Leave a comment

    Posted by on 20 June 2010 in God's Love, Grace, The Gospel

     

    The Offensive Cross

    Once during a concert, Derek Webb said the following: “The Cross  is both beautiful and offensive, and it must be both. There is no other Gospel for you to preach.”  It’s a bold statement, but it’s a statement that has validity.  There is nothing more offensive to some than the message of God’s salvation through Christ.  But the question remains of where this offense comes from.  Was it due to Catholicism’s resistance to the Protestant Reformation?  Is it due to Athesim’s and Secularism’s slow creep into the schools?  Is it because of the jihad declared by radical Islam against all things Judeo-Christian?

    Or is it because even Satan himself knows that the power of the Cross cannot be contained.

    Mark 5 tells the story of a man possessed by demons who encounters Christ.  The power of the presence of Jesus forced even the demon to fall at the feet of the Saviour and worship Him (v.6).  James 2:19 says that the demons believe in the one Triune God and tremble at their belief.  But throughout all of this, the offense remains.

    Ephesians 1 explains how a person must be “enlightened” by God to understand anything about God and salvation.  For anyone to understand the processes of God, they must allow their hearts to be opened up by the Holy Spirit to receive the knowledge.  Man, being imperfect from the fall, is a finite being and cannot grasp the infinite wisdom of God on his own accord.  For man to be able to do so would mean that perfection can be obtained without Christ’s sacrifice, which it can’t (John 14:6, Philippians 3:3-14).  So therefore, to those rejecting Christ and living in the flesh, controlled by the masters of the fallen world, the Gospel presents a terrible offense.

    What this means is that the Gospel must be offensive to some.  The demons may tremble at the Gospel, but they still resent it.  They fight it at every corner.  In response, Christians begin to lay down and succomb to the temptation to disregard parts of the Gospel.  The Gospel becomes somewhat tamed down.  It’s labeled as “just a prayer” or “making a committment to follow Christ” when in fact it is so much more.  It is about being fully sold out to the call of Christ and going wherever He leads you.  As Christians, we are the bride of Christ. Our lives should reflect as such, but they rarely do.  We know that the very Gospel we believe makes the enemy falter, yet we act as if we are afraid to fight even though God is always on our side.  Will we be successful every time?  No.  Should that statistic stop us?  Not at all.

    The Gospel cannot be tamed.  It cannot be whitewashed into something more managable.  It isn’t politically correct.  It isn’t en vouge.  Not all of the cool kids believe it.  It isn’t always safe to proclaim.

    But it is good.

     
    3 Comments

    Posted by on 10 June 2010 in The Gospel