The Radical Gospel of Grace

Currently I am preaching through the book of Galatians.  Below is the transcript of the sermon I preached this last Sunday on Galatians 1:13-16.  The transcript is probably 95% accurate.  It’s what I bring up on stage with me.  The actual conclusion is different then what is written below.   If you would rather listen to the sermon, click here.

The Radical Gospel of Grace

We can boldly share the gospel knowing that God’s grace is so rich and powerful that it saves all who are called by it.

Galatians 1:13-16

3-5-17

  1. Introduction:John Paton (illustration primarily comes from John Piper’s book: Filling up the Afflictions of Christ.)
  2. 1606 eighty islands in south pacific were discovered.
  3. In 1773 the Islands were explored by Captain James cook and named New Hebrides (because they were similar to the Hebrides Islands of the NW coast of Scotland.
  4. The chain of islands is 450 miles long.
  5. If you draw a line from Honolulu to Sydney Australia it will cut through Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
  6. Today the population is 215,000
  7. John Williams and John Harris came as missionaries in 1839 to these islands.  They were killed and eaten within minutes of landing on on the island.
  8. In 1842 another team of missionaries arrived and were driven away in 7 months.
  9. John Paton at age 33, on November 5th, went with his wife from Scotland to the Island of Tanna.
  10. John Paton, before leaving, had led a very fruitful ministry in Glasgow where he helped those of lower-income with great success.  Many in fact tried to discourage him because his ministry was so successful.  But he was determined.
  11. One, Mr. Dickson was especially against John.  This is how He replied to him,
    1. Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will raise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” (58, Piper)
  12. In March the next year his wife and newborn son died of the fever.
  13. He served on the island for another 4 years under constant danger until he was driven off the island in 1862.
  14. He married again and in 1864 took his new wife Margaret to an island called Aniwa on Nov. 1866.
  15. This is how he described the people,
    1. The native people were cannibals and occasionally ate the flesh of their defeated foes.  They practiced infanticide and widow sacrifice, killing the widows of deceased men so they could serve their husbands in the next world.
  16. For the next 15 years John learned the language, built orphanages and loved on the people in Aniwa.  And the end of his ministry he saw the entire island come to faith in Christ.
  17. John Paton had left certainty for uncertainty.  He was leaving a place where he had been very successful to go to a place in which he might fail to be useful.
  18. What causes a man to leave all that he has and risk the life of his family to go live with cannibals? What causes a man to leave a successful ministry where he is respected to be with a people who would like to kill him. Today we are going to see the answer.  And the answer is the radical grace of God.

Read Galatians 1:13-16

  1. Life Outside of Christ
    1. Description of Paul
    2. In verses 13-14 we are given a description of Paul before he came to faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul hated the church.  He persecuted the church violently.  The word violent means “extremely more than necessary.”  Paul savagely attacked Christians.  In Acts we read that he arrested men, women, and children.  Paul was like a bull that had red in his eyes.  He didn’t just want to cripple Christianity, but he wanted to destroy it, he wanted to kill and bury every christian.  And there was none more zealous than he.  In verse 14 he said he was advancing beyond all those who were his age.
    3. In 1 Tim 1:13 when Paul looks back on his unsaved self he said he was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.
    4. Here’s the point: Paul hated Christianity.  There is no arguing him into heaven.  He will not be reasoned with. He’s the one that if you bring up Jesus he will begin railing on how dumb you are for holding to such pathetic beliefs. Paul’s heart is like granite, it is impenetrable to Christianity.  Not even a wrecking ball could dent his determination to persecute the church and put an end to faith in Jesus.
    5. Transition: What we have here is a picture of Paul’s spiritual condition.  And guess what?  It’s a picture of yours and and mine also.  We might not have been as fanatical as Paul or as outwardly rebellious as Paul but the Bible says our hearts were just as hard and dead as Paul’s
  2. Description of Humanity
    1. Jeremiah 17:9
      1. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it
    2. Romans 8:7–8 
      1. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    3. Ephesians 2:1–3 
      1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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.
    4. 1 Corinthians 2:14 
      1. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
    5. Here’s the point: we are all born rebellious.  We are all born determined to to hate Christ.  We are all born resistant to the grace of God.  No one can be argued into heaven.  If salvation is up to you and me then we are without hope.  If salvation is tied to yours and my ability to convince people of the gospel then we have no greater chance in saving people as we do going to the cemetery down the street and calling people to come out of their coffins.  We can yank and pull and drag people into the church to hear the gospel, but we have no power to save.
    6. So if we have no ability to save our selves or others, then what hope do we have?  How was it that Paul was saved?  How was it that John Paton saw an island full of cannibals transformed into believers of Jesus Christ?
    7. It’s grace.  All grace.  In Galatians 1:4 Paul said, Jesus came to “deliver us from the present evil age.”  Paul, the New Hebrides, you, me, we’re all saved by grace.  And that’s what we are going to look at verses 15-16.
  3. Saved to be in Christ
    1. Description of salvation.
      1. As we look at these verses notice how the pronouns change.  In verses 13-14 the primary pronoun is “i”, referring to Paul.  But in verses 15-16 the pronouns have changed to “He” and “His” referring to God.  Salvation is an act of God’s grace, for only God has the power to save. So while Paul described his sinful life from his point of view, we are now going to view His salvation from God’s view.
      2. Grace Chooses.
        1. First thing we see is that God has “set apart” Paul before he was even born.  To be “set apart” means to mark.  Paul says something very similar in Ephesians 1:4, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
        2. God’s plan of salvation reaches back before creation. God has chosen those whom will be saved. To some that might sound strange. But omniscience and sovereignty are meant to comfort us not frighten us.  In Psalm 139:15-16 we are told,
          1. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
        3. There is nothing that our God does not know.  He knows us before we were born.  He planned our days.  And He determined in the depths of time those who would be saved.  Here’s a text from Jeremiah 1:5, notice the role of God
          1. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
          2. God chose in the depths of time to create Jeremiah for the purpose of sending him to the nations as a prophet.
        4. Look at how 2 Timothy 1:9 describes our salvation:
          1. who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
        5. Paul says we have been shown grace in Christ before the ages began.
        6. I know these texts raise many questions, but the purpose of them is to draw our eyes to the majesty of the God who saves.  We have a God who is unlike man, powerful, all-knowing, Creator of all things, and He is the one who saves. And He marks us before we are born, before we have done any works, so that we would know that in no way have we earned our salvation but that it solely comes from God’s grace.
      3. Grace Calls
        1. The word “called” means to summon.  And what we see is that all who are marked by God are called to be saved. This summoning is not like a King sending his soldiers to trap and arrest an individual forcing them to come to him.  Nor is like when one of my kids tells the other, “dad’s calling you and in you’re in trouble.”  For when the child comes in that way they do so out reluctance, not joy.
        2. To be called by God is to be made new, meaning we have been given a new heart with a new mind with new desires that now long to run to God, to please God, to obey God and worship Him.
        3. When God calls us, we go from death to life.  Just as when God spoke creation out of nothing in Genesis, so when He calls us, He speaks life into our dead hard hearts.  Wrecking balls cannot dent our heart but God’s grace melts and makes them new. This is how Paul describes our salvation in Ephesians 2:5
          1. even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
        4. It’s the grace of God that saved Paul, and the grace of God gave you life.
        5. Now this coming to life, this salvation looks different in every person.  Just as every snowflake is unique, so also is every salvation.
        6. Stephen Smallman said that the new birth we experience in Jesus is like the whole gestation process of a pregnancy.  The labor pains of some people are long and pronounced, possibly lasting for years.  Others, the gestation period is short.  What this means is that some people hear the gospel for a long time and wrestle with it over months or years before finally trusting in Christ.  Others, like Paul seem to have a dramatic experience in which they quickly come to faith in Christ.  Some people easily point to the time they know they were saved.  For others it’s hazy because it appears to have happened over a period of time.
        7. John Paton said this, “Truly there is only one way of regeneration, being born again by the power of the Spirit of God, the new heart; but there are many ways of conversion, of outwardly turning to the Lord, of taking the actual first step that shows on whose side we are.  Regeneration is the sole work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart and soul, and is in every case one and the same.  Conversion, on the other hand, brining into play the action also of the human will, is never absolutely the same perhaps in even two souls–as like and yet as different as are the face of men.” (pg.214-215, What about Free Will).
        8. Let’s just step back from a moment and make sure we understand the point.  All whom God calls are saved and experience new life.  Some come quickly and some slowly but they all come.
        9. It’s this truth that gives us confidence to share the gospel with others. You see you are not responsible to save, that’s God’s job. And we need not lose hope or be discouraged when some seem resistant or even violent. For God changes some quickly and some slowly. But all whom God calls are saved.
        10. It’s this truth that has caused men and women for centuries to leave their comfortable lives to share the gospel in other parts of the world knowing that God will save. It’s this truth that frees us to share the gospel with our professing atheist friends knowing that God’s radical grace can melt their hearts.
        11.   It’s this truth that gives us such great confidence that as we share the gospel, there will be people saved.  And it’s this truth that comforts us when we mess up. Have you ever walked away from a gospel presentation thinking, “I should have said this”. Remember it’s God who saves. He perfectly uses our imperfections as a means to saving others.
        12. Know this, there is no one who can resist the call of God.  We all know those people who appear to be running from the gospel at full speed.  You mention Christ and they start sprinting.  If salvation was left to us, there would be no hope for them. But because of this radical grace that we have in the gospel, we confidently pursue them, praying for them, loving them, knowing that God’s grace can make their hearts new.
        13. It’s this radical grace that saved Paul when he was bent on not being saved.
        14. It’s this radical grace that propelled John Paton to leave Glasgow to go live with cannibals.  It’s this grace that sustained him as he lost his wife and son.  It’s this grace that compelled him to return to the islands with his new wife and preach the gospel for 15 years until the entire island came to know Jesus.  John Paton was not trusting in his efforts but He was trusting in the radical grace of God.
    2. Grace Delights
      1. In verse 16 we see that God was pleased to reveal His Son to Paul. God loves to shine His grace in the darkness of hearts that we would see Him and love Him.  Know this, God takes great delight in your salvation.
      2. Just as we don’t come kicking and screaming into the Kingdom of God, neither does God kick and scream as He saves us.  You see, He doesn’t save us because He owes and or is in debt to us.  He simply saves us out of delight.  This is grace: God freely saving us out His good pleasure.
      3. And God so delights in showing us grace that he doesn’t stop once we are saved. Ephesians 2:7 says,
        1. so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
      4. God will never cease to pour His rich abundant grace upon you.  When a million years of being with God has passed, His bucket of grace will not be any closer to running out than when He began.  God’s grace never ceases.
      5. If you are here today as believer in Jesus Christ, then know that God takes great delight in your salvation.  You are a work of God’s grace.
    3. Grace Purposes
      1. And lastly we see that those whom God saves He does so for a purpose.  God saved Paul so that He would take the gospel to the Gentiles.  God reveals His Son to us so that we would be saved and be used to reveal His Son to others.
      2. Ephesians 2:10 says,
        1. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
        2. The grace that saves you is the grace that is working in you right now that you would be used by God. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Esther Job, Ruth, Boaz, Solomon, Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, James, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla, Aquilla all of these and every believer have been called for a purpose.
        3. You have been raised from the dead, given new life in Christ, the Spirit now dwells in you right now that you would be used as an instrument of God for His glory.  You might be feel unqualified or insufficient.  But let me encourage you, the same grace that was sufficient to bring life into your soul will equip you for every good work God calls you into.  Because of God’s grace, Paul who once hated Gentiles is now devoted to sharing the gospel with them.
      3. Illustration: One time John Paton was surrounded by raging natives acting as though they might kill him.  This is what he said,
        1. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw Him watching all the scene.  My peace came back to me like a wave from God.  I realized that I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.  The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of Heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in Heaven and on Earth.” (75, Piper)
      4. You, right now by God’s grace share in the very divine nature of God.  You are a missionary and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you are in the words of John Paton, “immortal” until God calls you home.  God determined to save you and He is determined to use you.  You are called to demonstrate the love of Christ and to share the good news of grace of Christ.
      5. That might mean you pack your bags like John Paton, leaving all that you have in order to go share the gospel with unbelievers.
      6. It might mean you are a Father and husband who regularly shepherds his family on how to love God.
      7. It might mean you are a single working mom relying upon God’s grace to take care of your family and to show your children the joy that God gives.
      8. It might mean you are retired and able to volunteer in your neighborhood or here with the church regularly showing others the love of God.
      9. It might mean you take your coworkers to coffee that you would share the gospel and begin doing a bible study with them.
      10. It might mean you share the gospel at work risking your job for the sake of another’s salvation.
      11. It might mean you go to school boldly sharing the gospel with your friends which results in you being and labeled the christian kid.
      12. It might mean you are a wife and mother showing the tender mercies of God to your children as your serve them and show them the beauty of submitting to your husband.
      13. Bottom line: God’s saved you by grace so that by grace you would be used by Him.
  4. Conclusion:
    1. Our mission at Timberline and really the mission of every church is to make disciples who make disciples. And we can do it. But not because of our strength or how persuasive we are.  We can make disciples because we are armed with the the radical grace of God. The gospel of grace can melt the most brazen of hearts, it can move the most resistant of wills.
    2. Let us leave her today prepared to share the gospel with our neighbors, with our co-workers, with family members. And let’s be praying that we would be willing to leave the comforts of our home at any moment to move and share the gospel with other people groups.
    3. And let us never forget, we have a God who loves to reveal His radical grace. And all who are called by God are saved.
    4. Pray for unbelievers. 

Praise God for the Gospel

I just finished reading Romans 3. It’s easy to read 3:9-18 and think of the wickedness and evil of the world and other people. But if I read it that way then I miss the meaning. This text is not just about others but it is about me. It describes me apart from the grace of Jesus.

I am not righteous.
I don’t understand.
I do not seek for God.
I have turned aside.
I am worthless.
I do nothing good.
My throat is an open grave.
My tongue is deceitful.
My mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
My feet are swift to shed blood.
My path is full of ruin and misery.
I do not know peace.
I do not fear God.

Conclusion: I deserve the full wrath and judgment of God. I am full of sin. Sin naturally flows from me like water flows in a river. Because I am sinful, I am not good enough to save myself. I have no means of rescuing myself. I cannot earn or merit the help of someone else. I am helpless and hopeless.

And that is why verses 24-25 are so amazing. I am “justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.”

God’s grace in Jesus is what saves me. Praise God for His grace and mercy. Praise God that He is full of love and patience. Praise God for pursuing me when I ran from Him and wanted nothing to do with Him. Praise God for making me beautiful when I was not beautiful. Because of God’s grace in Jesus we who are helpless can have hope. Jesus has come to save and by faith in Him we are saved. May I never forget that glorious truth. May I never forget how wonderful and beautiful and necessary the grace of God is. Thank you God!

It’s Not The Same

As I was leaving a coffee shop today I was stopped by a person who professes to be a believer in Jesus Christ.  I have had many conversations with this person in the fast regarding Christianity.  However, today, our conversation was very different than all of our previous ones.  Somehow he began talking about Catholics, Buddhists, Christians and a few other religions and then all of a sudden, he said “it’s a good thing they all believe something because that is all that matters.”  I then gave him a , “wait, what did you just say?” kind of look.  I then proceeded to say, but you know that all those religions are not the same.  He then returned my look with his own dumbfounded look.  I continued by saying,  if what Jesus said is true, “I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Me”, then all those religions are wrong except for Christianity (John 14:6).  

He quickly changed the subject, we talked for a few more minutes, and then I left.  But as I left, I could not help but think, “how many professing Christians gather every week with the church and think that there is no real difference between Christianity and other religions?  How many professing Christians think that as long as you believe in something, then that is all that matters?”  

As I have continued to ponder those questions I am horrified to think that the number may be very large.  These questions have in turn made me think deeply about how I preach and generally talk about Christianity.  Do I talk to others (whether preaching, in a coffee shop, or wherever) in way that could be interpreted that all religions are the same?  Am I am clear that Christianity is different?  Am I clear in communicating that the claims of Jesus are exclusive?  Do I back away from presenting the truth  in order to prevent waves in a relationship?

What is clear, is that there are many people who profess to believe in Jesus Christ who are not aware of what the really means.  And if these people are telling others about Christianity, then there are continuing to muddy the water and causing great confusion.  

As Christians we must be bold and clear in communicating that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that only by faith in Him are we saved.  There is no other religion that can bring us into a right relationship with God, the Father.  And we must be clear that there are extreme consequences for rejecting the grace of Jesus Christ.  We must not hesitate in this, the water are already muddied.  Let us with love and by God’s grace tell others with clarity, who Jesus is and what He has done.  

The Radicalness of Adoption

In about 12 hours I will see our son Caleb for the very first time face to face. Words cannot express my excitement. My wife and I were matched with Caleb in Novemeber of 2012, and tomorrow we hold him. As I sit here in our hotel room counting down the hours till we see our son, I cannot help but begin to realize how much his world is going to change.
  • He will leave the only house he has ever known.
  • He will say good-bye to his foster mon and dad.
  • He will move to a country on the other side of the world.
  • He will begin to hear and learn a new language called English.
  • He will be surrounded by more toys than he knew existed.
  • He will be introduced to Christianity and be taught the difference between it and Buddhism.
  • He will be surrounded by white people (and he most likely has never seen a white person before).
  • He will go from a small town to a city.
  • He will no longer be an only child but he will have a brother and sister.
  • He will no longer live in a one room house but a house with many rooms.
  • He will no longer share a bed with the rest of his family but he will have his very own bed.
  • He will change from a Thai dominated diet to an Amercian diet.
  • He will become a American citizen.
  • And I am sure there are many more.

Because of our adopting Caleb, his world (and ours) will radically change. Now I don't mean any of these changes are bad, but they are very real. By the end of our trip, Caleb will have a new identity. And as radical as these changes are, they pale in comparison to the changes that take place when we are adopted into the family of God.

  • We go from slaves to sin to slaves of God.
  • We go from sons of the devil to sons of God.
  • We go from under the wrath of God to being at peace with God.
  • We go from condemned to glorified.
  • We go from unrighteousness to righteous.
  • We go from no family to an eternal family.
  • We go from separated from God to united with God.
  • We go from citizens of a temporal world to citizens of the eternal Kingodm of God.
  • We go from broken and shattered to made new and built on the cornerstone of Jesus.
  • We go from unholy to holy.
  • We go from spiritually dead to spiritually alive.

Because of God's adoption through Jesus Christ we are given a new identity and are radically changed. The doctrine of adoption is one of the greatest gifts we receive from God.

I thank God for adopting me into His family and I thank God for allowing my wife and I to participate in an adoption process. Even though I have not yet held Caleb or even touched him, God has already used him to increase my love for Him. Praise God for adoption.
My prayer as my wife and I continue forward is that God will help us be good parents to Caleb, that he will use our adoption to testify of how He adopts us, and that our love for Him would exponentially grow because of the family He has given us.
 
 
 

The Gospel is Everything

As Tim Keller said, the Gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity but it is the A-Z of Christianity.  The point is, the Gospel is Everything.  There is nothing as beautiful, humbling, awe-inspiring, life-transforming, horrendous, gracious, or as loving as the gospel. According to Dave Harvey,

“The gospel is the heart of the Bible.  Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the Gospel, presentation of the Gospel, or participation in the gospel.”

So what is the gospel?  The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ.  The gospel is that God sent His Son, Jesus, to this world that He would die on a cross so that all who believe in Him would be forgiven of sins, adopted into His family, and worship Him forever.  

And it is this Gospel that is the  hope of the world.  There is salvation in no one else but Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only one who has come from Heaven as a propitious offering so that man would have a personal peace-filled relationship with God.  

And it is this gospel that has forged the church and continues to forge the church.  What I mean is that the gospel has saved and formed the church and the gospel continues to save and form the church.  The church is a gospel forged people who have been given the mission to proclaim this amazing gospel to the world that more and more people would be continue to be reconciled to God.  

And so this blog will  primarily be focused on how the church is forged by the gospel and proclaims the gospel.