Skip to content

12

I've been thinking about blind-spots in typical evangelistic presentations.

First I considered the dangers of overlooking Trinity in evangelism.  Then I discussed the evangelistic importance of original sin (the doctrine, not the term).

Finally, let's explore "union with Christ" (again, the doctrine, not necessarily the phrase).  Here's why it's crucial for union with Christ to be a major category of thinking as we evangelise...

.

We offer a Person not a Package

The Gospel is God's offer of Christ.  Whatever blessings God might have for the world, they are all to be had "in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3ff).  Fundamentally God's gift is not a thing but a Him.  And what He desires from us is not stuff (we have no stuff worth offering anyway).  For some strange reason, God wants us. 

So the point of the gospel is not a transaction.  It's not like getting a mobile phone contract... you know the deal...  God offers a decent package, some nice extras and an easy payment plan.  We reach into our pocket and dredge up what's required.... no it's not that.

Yet so often I hear the gospel offered in terms of its fringe benefits - eternal fire-insurance, freedom from guilt feelings, a sense of Purpose in life... all for the low, low price of "repentance and faith."

In such presentations God's love is portrayed in contractual not covenant terms.  Which means God's love is not really portrayed.

.

We can avoid licence and legalism

People are always saying “If you offer salvation freely it’s too dangerous, because people will just take salvation and then go off and sin all the time!”  I want to say, Wait, which salvation are you talking about?

So often people think of salvation a little bit like those old films set in the middle ages.  Imagine some Lord snootily throwing his bag of silver to a servant girl as payment for a job.  The servant grabs the money and runs off out of the palace to enjoy life with the silver – and without the Lord.

Now if that’s what salvation is, then of course its free offer will mean licence.  They'll take the heavenly blessings and run away from Jesus to enjoy themselves.

But what's the response?  Well the legalist feels they must rein in their gospel offers.  They refuse to offer a "blank cheque" willy nilly.  No, no, they only offer salvation to those who really, really are committed to turning their lives around and submitting everything to God. And probably they should mean it too.  Like, really mean it.

You can understand this approach.  It doesn't sound very much like Jesus' whole approach to gospelling, but you can understand it.  If you think that the gospel offer is stuff, then putting a price on it seems the natural thing to do.  But salvation is not a stuff!

Salvation is far more like the Lord who loves his miserable servant and marries her.  He gives her himself.  And now they are one forever.  That is a very free salvation isn’t it?  It’s a much more gracious salvation than the licentious have  dreamt of!  Immeasurably more is offered in this salvation.  And it’s offered completely freely.  The girl isn’t expected to pay a penny for the privilege.  But she’s not given some blessings which she can go and enjoy elsewhere.  She is given the Lord himself.

Does such an offer make the hearer more likely to sin?  Rubbish. It’s the only power to save someone from sin.  Give them Jesus.  And offer Him freely, because that’s the only kind of salvation He offers.

When we do, we'll avoid both legalism and licence.  Because the offer is not a package but a person.  Therefore the response is, unmistakably, the receiving of a Lord and Saviour.

.

"Repentance and faith" are considered properly

As believers in "faith alone", do we have a place for "repentance"?

Is it some kind of pre-requisite for faith?  Or is it an obedience that we add to faith??  Do we call non-Christians to jump two hurdles, one called "repentance" and another called "faith"? That would be an odd position to adopt if we're "faith alone" people.

We've already said that "repentance and faith" are not our payment for gospel stuff.   Well then, what is "repentance and faith."

Well think of union with Christ.  He offers Himself to us like a Bridegroom to a bride.  He says "Be one with me."  If anyone receives Him, what have they done?  They've repented and believed.  Because they've received the LORD Jesus Christ as their Head in bonds of self-abandoning love.  There simply could not be a more all-embracing "repentance".

If the preacher makes clear that salvation is belonging to Jesus (and He to us), then many errors are avoided.  Our hearers won't be tempted to offer their repentance to Jesus as payment for salvation.  Nor should they despair that "they don't have it in them to repent."  They don't have it in them to repent.  New life does not lie in their resolve.  It's in Jesus.  And He's offered to them, even in all their helplessness.  Yet clearly, to receive Jesus is to receive a new life.

 

We do not offer repentance to God as a condition of our salvation.  We are summoned to repentance in the gospel because this is the very nature of life "in Christ".

.

We have a gospel that applies to Christians as well as non-Christians

Think of the “Get out of hell free” gospel.  Imagine that you've been evangelised by this and coughed up the requisite response (walking down an aisle and resolving to believe in substitutionary atonement, or whatever).  That gospel is not particularly helpful to me day to day, is it?  At one point, it helped me to get off the judgement hook, but now, I’m basically left to myself until heaven.  Which means "the gospel" and day-to-day living have no real relationship.

I need the gospel to get saved, but I need wisdom and hard work to get by, day to day.

Maybe a little "gospel-law" preacher will come and remind me not to take the mick and to try and be godly.  But their exhortations don't really arise from the gospel, do they?

Once I've trusted such a gospel, it has served its purpose.  It's not for me any more.  It's for unbelievers.

But if "union with Christ" is in view, that's like saying "the wedding ceremony" was everything, I don't need marriage day-to-day.  Bonkers.

The real gospel is Christ graciously given to me in the nitty gritty of my life, for better and for worse.  Which means it bears on everything.  

Which is good because the world rarely asks the question “What must I do to be saved?”  But our friends and family are constantly asking “How do I raise my kids?  How do I handle my anger?  What do I do about these panic attacks?  How could I possibly forgive that person?  Why is marriage so difficult?  What’s the way forward in this family breakdown?  How do I handle this bullying boss?  How can I cope when my dreams are shattered?  Why does food enslave me?  How can I be free of these addiction?  What’s wrong with me?”

The world is asking all of these questions all of the time.  These are the problems of a world that’s condemned already (see previous post).  This is part of the hell on earth that Jesus spoke about.  But Jesus also has a salvation for here and now.  The gospel also brings light and freedom into these pastoral situations.

Which means we can gospel people through pastoral problems and we can bring pastoral healing through the gospel.  The more we grasp this, the more effective we’ll be in gospelling.  Which brings us finally to...

.

Ordinary Christians might just realise that they too can evangelise.

If the gospel is a package deal, then it needs sales people.  And, to be honest, the package that most evangelistic presentations offer is so unappealing it really would take a special class of Christian communicator to make it attractive.  You’ve got to have a very good patter in order to sell a package of heavenly blessings.  (Especially if that package is basically: Bow to the Big Guy or burn forever).

But what if, what if, what if.... we offer a Person.  Jesus.

This is what’s helped me most in my own evangelism:  realising I’m not selling some gospel benefits, I’m offering a Person.  Jesus sells Himself.  I don’t need a hundred illustrations and some cracking mother-in-law gags and the gift of the gab.  I just have to talk about Jesus and let His magnetism do the job.

We’re offering a Person, not a mechanism of salvation.  We’re saying – “This is Jesus, let me paint Him in biblical colours for you, let me tell you that I love Him and why, let me tell you what He has done for me, let me tell you my favourite things about Him.  This is Jesus – do you want Him?  He’s yours, have Him.  Receive Him, He’s offered Himself to you, take Him now.’  That’s evangelism.  In a deep sense, that all of what evangelism is.  Just. Talk. About. Jesus.

And if the words don't come then guess what, it's not because "you're not a professional evangelist".  Words often fail me too.  You know why?  Cos I'm weak.  Cos nothing good lives in my flesh.  Cos I'm a sinner.  And if I haven't been receiving from Jesus, the Fountain of Living Waters, then of course the words will dry up.  Because I'm dry.

So then, return to the Source.  Get filled.  Receive again from Jesus, our Heavenly Husband, who loves us in spite of ourselves.  And then the words will come.  Feebly and falteringly.  But genuinely.  Because from the overflow of the heart the mouth will speak. (Matthew 12:34).

And as everyday people lift Him up in everyday circumstances, He will draw all people to Himself.  But it begins by realising this: the gospel's not a package, He's a Person.

.

Those are some reasons why "union with Christ" is a vital component of our gospel explanations...

So there you have it.  Three blind-spots in modern evangelism: the trinity, original sin and union with Christ.  If only we had a gospel explanation that gave them proper attention... perhaps one that was easy to memorise and share with friends... And maybe there could be a snazzy video presentation.  And a website with further explanations.  Maybe some tracts.  Heck, why not a book?  A cheap and cheery paperback - a give-away for friends.  One that laid it all out simply... that'd be nice.

i f   o n l y  .   .   .     i   f      o    n    l     y    .        .          .

#StayTuned

Slides for all talks

Three - God is THREE Persons united in love (Galatians 3:26-4:7)

Text    Audio

.

Two - The story of the world is the story of TWO men (Romans 5:12-21)

Text    Audio

.

One - Who are you ONE with?  Adam or Christ? (John 15:5; Rev 19:6-9; Heb 4:14-16; 1 Sam 17)

Text    Audio

.

Seminar on Answering Questions

Audio of opening teaching.

.

5

Rich Owen has just drawn my attention to this hymn on our union with Christ:

The meter is 88.88, does anyone have a favourite tune for that meter.  There are over 400 to choose from!

‘Twixt Jesus and the Chosen Race
Subsists a bond of sov’reign grace,
That hell, with its infernal train,
Shall ne’er dissolve, or rend in twain.

This sacred bond shall never break,
Though earth should to her center shake;
Rest, doubting saint, assured of this,
For God has pledged His holiness.

He swore but once the deed was done;
‘Twas settled by the great Three One;
Christ was appointed to redeem
All that the Father loved in Him.

Hail, sacred union, firm and strong
How great thy grace, how sweet the song,
That rebel worms should ever be
One with incarnate Deity!

One in the tomb, one when He rose,
One when he triumphed o’er His foes
One when in heav’n He took His seat,
While seraphs sung at hell’s defeat.

Blessed by the wisdom and the grace,
Th’ eternal love and faithfulness,
That’s in the gospel scheme revealed,
And is by God the Spirit sealed.

By John Kent, 1887.

 

2

Have you heard this one before?  I've just come across it.  Wonderful words!

1. Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love;
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

2. Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I'm under His care.

3. Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

4. Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus my Savior, abides with me still.

Words: Daniel Whittle; Music: May Moody

2

Sermon Audio on Matthew 3:1-17

There are many frustrations involved in being an Australian cricket fan in this country.  Many more in recent years!  But one of the biggest frustrations is the fact that in the middle of an international test series to decide the number one team in the world, the sports news in this country seems more concerned about the off-season exploits of club football.  Why?  Transfer deals.  Every club wants to find a man who will turn their fortunes around.  They scour the world trying to find the man who will bring them glory, who will lift the trophies, who will win them the silverware.  And they pay millions of pounds to secure this man.

But of course it’s a myth.  There isn’t one footballer who can really do all that.  But football fans pretend and hope against hope and spend ludicrous amounts of money, and take up all the column inches in the newspapers.

It’s a myth that one man can turn it all around, but imagine it works.  Imagine they discover the man who will raise the club to fresh heights.  He scores in every game, he takes them to the FA Cup final, he scores the winning goal in the dying seconds of the match.  And you’re there in the crowd.  And all season – even pre-season – he’s been your man, you’ve always trusted in him, you’ve always believed that he would be the one.  And you’re there in the crowd and everyone is going crazy, and he runs to the sideline, right where you are, and lifts his arms and makes a gesture like “This is for you.”  And you’re bellowing you celebrations to him, and you’re hugging total strangers, but you’re all on the same team, you’re all united IN the one man.  You are united TO your champion.  His victory is your victory, and you celebrate as though you had scored the winning goal.  You haven’t scored the winning goal.   You haven’t expended a calorie of effort in the victory, but your man has done it and you share in his glory.

That’s how Christians feel about Jesus.  He is the one man, the one man who comes to reverse our fortunes, the one man who steps forward to defeat all the powers we could never defeat.  The one man who wins victory and then shares His victory with we who believe in Him.  He is our Champion, and we need to understand that about Jesus.

...continue reading "Christ our Champion – Sermon on Matthew 3"

I'm always coming across it.  Do you ever hear this kind of statement?

Well yes it's important to be Christ-centred, but let's not forget the Father or the Spirit.

And I say...

Wh...

H...

Y...

Honestly, I don't know what to say to that.  It's hard for me to imagine the kind of God or gospel in which that sentence makes sense.

Because where does such thinking leave the mediation of Christ ?  Do we really believe in Christ as Mediator?

Or do we think it's about balancing our respect for the Persons?  As though 'being trinitarian' means standing before a loose association of deities and ensuring equal devotion.  That sounds more like speed-dating at the Pantheon.  Do we really imagine ourselves to be outside the Three, making sure we spend equal time at the feet of Each?  Have we forgotten that we are in the Son?  And nowhere else!  Have we forgotten that the Father and the Spirit are in the Son?  And nowhere else!

Or is that only an incidental point?  Is that only half true?  Or only sometimes true?  Because if it's just true - true true - then there's no way to be Patro-centric or Pneuma-centric except by being resolutely Christo-centric.

I know the Father as 'Him Who makes the Son Son.'  I know the Spirit as 'Him Who makes the Christ, Christ.'  And I don't know them otherwise.

But a theologian making a plea for equal time for the Persons... once they turn their gaze from the Son, how exactly are they going to view the Father?  They're not.  So this one to whom they turn when they look away from Jesus, who is that guy?

And what's he doing?  Clearly He hasn't committed all things into His Son's hands.  He's got a venture or two on the side that requires supplemental enquiries!

And where do they imagine themselves to be as they circulate around the trinity?  Do they think of themselves as a fourth individual at the heart of the Holy Huddle.  Well the Shack might put me there and some Christian art might put me there, and that might be an improvement on unitarianism. But that's not really where I am.  I'm IN Jesus participating in His Sonship and Anointing.  This is my only access to the life of the trinity.  Jesus is not just One of the Three, He is The Way.

I don't have a relationship with the Father and the Spirit except the relationship that Christ has with them.  I know the trinity not from some objective fourth perspective, but only from Christ's perspective.  Only in Him, and all that He is and does for me, do I know His Father and Spirit.

So, absolutely, don't forget the Father or Spirit.  Get to know the Persons in all their distinct glory and grace. But they are not outside of the Christ, the Son of God. And neither are you.

Rant over.

9

A sermon on 1 John 1:1-4

Audio here

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

It was a good meal, good friends, good wine.  People were relaxing around the table. One man seemed even more relaxed than the rest.  We’re told that

23 the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Jesus… Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him a question… (John 13:23,25, NIV)

This is the Apostle John – the author of this letter.  And the author of John’s Gospel as well.  John remembers this night very well.  He remembers leaning back against Jesus.  And the Old King James version is a lot more literal about the closeness here, even if it uses old fashioned language.  It says:

23 [John was] leaning on Jesus' bosom …

and in the next verse it describes him

lying on Jesus' breast (John 13:23, KJV)

He’s laying his head on the chest of Jesus.

John was one of the younger if not the youngest disciple.  And he calls himself “the disciple Jesus loved.”  Clearly he felt completely at ease with Jesus – leaning back on his chest.  Jesus had just washed their feet, He was teaching them about His Father and because it was Passover they would have been singing hymns around the dinner table.  We can imagine throughout Jesus’ arm around His young friend as John leant back on Jesus.

John knew he could find rest and peace and welcome in the arms of Jesus.  But he also knew just who Jesus is.  You see John begins his gospel reminding us that this Jesus is God’s Eternal Word, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The opening line to his gospel says, “In the beginning was the Word.”  In the beginning was Jesus. Before the universe – Jesus was there.  In fact He wasn’t just there, John chapter 1, verse 18 says Jesus was “in the bosom of the Father.”  To use the old King James translation.  In the beginning Jesus was in the bosom of the Father.

Jesus had enjoyed for eternity what John enjoyed for those few minutes.  Companionable, contented, joy and love.  That has always been Christ’s experience “in the arms of the Father” if you like.

And then, without breaking fellowship in any way with the Father, Jesus came down into our world as flesh.  As one of us.  Fully God and Fully Man.  So that we might rest in His arms.

...continue reading "In the bosom of Jesus in the bosom of the Father – A Sermon on 1 John 1:1-4"

Sermon on Proverbs
Audio Here

The book of Proverbs is a long and colourful fireside chat.  It’s the words of a father to his son.  Verse 1 introduces us to the father:

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel

Verse 8 addresses the son:

8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

In fact Solomon keeps saying, over twenty times in this book, “My son, my son, my son.”  The King is addressing the crown prince and saying, “Now boy, here’s what you need in life.”

When we read Proverbs we should be aware, we’re eavesdropping on a fireside chat.  It’s not a transcript of a real conversation.  It’s written in rich picture language and riddles and rhymes that need to be chewed over and slowly digested.  But it’s advice from Solomon to his son the prince.  And here’s what his advice boils down to:  Watch out for the ladies.  In particular there are two ladies you need to look out for.

There’s a lady called Wisdom – she is magnificent, she is heart-captivating, she is beautiful, she is more precious than rubies, she is everything you need.  If you get her, you lack nothing.  So whatever else you get in life, get her – get Wisdom – embrace her, marry her.

Then there’s another lady called Folly.  She is loud and flashy and deceptive and seductive and deadly.  She is the original femme fatale.  If you get her you lose everything.

So avoid her, ignore her, resist her, don’t be seduced, don’t be ensnared by her.

So, my son, watch out for the ladies.  Embrace Wisdom, shun Folly.

According to Proverbs, success in life is not ultimately a matter of the intellect. It’s not about having enough education.  It’s not about your IQ.  It’s not ultimately about having enough information to make wise choices.

And neither is success about the will – as though we just need to apply ourselves, be determined and resolved and just do it!.  No, Wisdom and Folly are matters of the heart.

Solomon says to the prince in Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Dear Son – your heart is everything.  What you LOVE will be a wellspring, it will flow out into every area of life.

Life’s not basically a matter of the mind, or a matter of the will.  At the deepest level, life is about the heart.  Our lives will be a success depending on what we love.  Or rather on Who we love.

Because Wisdom is very definitely a Person.  She is Lady Wisdom.

...continue reading "The Message of Proverbs: Watch Out for the Ladies"

Twitter widget by Rimon Habib - BuddyPress Expert Developer