Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…
The Gospel

Defining the Gospel

“At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe. This is therefore very ‘good news.’

Jesus’ life is good news, for his obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us. While we as sinners fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. Jesus’ death is good news because his death was a payment for our sin, and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because his victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own.”

- Joe Thorn, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself

The Prison of Conditionality

Yesterday in class I spend the majority of our time regarding sanctification on what it means to receive grace unconditionally. We especially in America that believe in programs, strategies and plans are about control and credit. We want to take control of our lives and we also want to glory in taking credit for being successful. When you talk about unconditional grace that is completely counter-intuitive to most people. Since this is fresh on our minds from yesterday here is an article that should further aid in our understanding of unconditional grace.

This from the Gospel Coalition Blog site

Gerhard Forde puts his finger on why the gospel is so scandalous:

The gospel of justification by faith is such a shocker, such an explosion, because it is an absolutely unconditional promise. It is not an “if-then” kind of statement, but “because-therefore” pronouncement: because Jesus dies and rose, your sins are forgiven and you are righteous in the sight of God! It bursts in upon our little world all shut up and barricaded behind our accustomed conditional thinking as some strange comet from goodness-knows-where, something we can’t really seem to wrap our minds around, the logic of which appears closed to us. How can it be entirely unconditional? Isn’t it terribly dangerous? How can anyone say flat out, “You are righteous for Jesus’ sake? Is there not some price to be paid, some-thing (however minuscule) to be done? After all, there can’t be such thing as a free lunch, can there?”

You see, we really are sealed up in the prison of our conditional thinking. It is terribly difficult for us to get out, and even if someone batters down the door and shatters the bars, chances are we will stay in the prison anyway! We seem always to want to hold out for something somehow, that little bit of something, and we do it with a passion and an anxiety that betrays its true source–the Old Adam that just does not want to lose control.

The good news of the gospel

“At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe. This is therefore very ‘good news.’

Jesus’ life is good news, for his obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us. While we as sinners fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. Jesus’ death is good news because his death was a payment for our sin, and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because his victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own.”

— Joe Thorn
Note To Self
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011), 30

What is the Gospel?

From the Reformation website;

The gospel is not behavior modification, becoming a better person or learning to become more moral. it is not taking the life of Jesus as a model way to live or transforming/redeeming the secular realm. It is not living highly communal lives with others and sharing generously in communities who practice the way of Jesus in local culture.

These may all be good things, but they are not to be confused with the gospel. Did you notice the one characteristic of all of the above activities has nothing to do with what Christ has done for us, but all about what we do for him. The true gospel, rather, is news about what Christ the Saviour, has already done for us (in his life, death and resurrection) rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. Christ's accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of the gospel. Above all the gospel of Christ brings good news, rather than instruction about our behavior. The gospel of not about what we do, but our acts inevitably follow in thanksgiving because of what Christ has done for us.Continue reading…

How to spoil the Gospel

The Gospel in fact is a most curiously and delicately compounded medicine, and is a medicine that is very easily spoiled.

You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to Faith, — Jesus Christ; and to substitute another object in His place, — the Church, the Ministry … and the mischief is done …

You may spoil the Gospel by addition. You only have to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done …

You may spoil the Gospel by disproportion. You only have to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. Once alter the proportion of the parts of the truth, and truth soon becomes downright error …

— J. C. Ryle, quoted by Peter Adam in
Hearing God's Word
(Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2004), 24

Speaking the truth in love

We need as a people of God, to get back to the word of God in our reading time, study time and devotion time. But as we do this it becomes critical that we have good and solid Biblical categories that under gird what we read and study. When these categories become deeply engrained you will see and grasp Biblical truth maybe like never before.

For example many in church think of "the gospel" primarily as what needs to be preached to those outside the church. And the Bible does teach us that the gospel is the only way that a person outside the church or a non-believer can ever be made right with God. However, what remains fascinating to me is how important, and the emphasis that the apostle Paul puts on preaching the gospel to those within the church. Since we are going to stay with the gospel for the next two months I want to continue in helping us to grasp this critical Biblical category.

Let's go to Paul's pray for the Colossians in Chapter 1:9-14. I want to show you in "the gospel principle" in this prayer.

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”Continue reading…

Preach the Gospel

Scripture is of no use to us if we read it merely as a handbook for daily living without recognizing that its principle purpose is to reveal Jesus Christ and his gospel for the salvation of sinners. All Scripture coalesces in Christ, anticipated in the OT and appearing in the flesh in the NT.

In Scripture, God issues commands and threatens judgment for transgressors as well as direction for the lives of his people. Yet the greatest treasure buried in the Scriptures is the good news of the promised Messiah. Everything in the Bible that tells us what to do is “law”, and everything in the Bible that tells us what God has done in Christ to save us is “gospel.”

Much like medieval piety, the emphasis in much Christian teaching today is on what we are to do without adequate grounding in the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. “What would Jesus do?” becomes more important than “What has Jesus done?” The gospel, however, is not just something we needed at conversion so we can spend the rest of our Christian life obsessed with performance; it is something we need every day–the only source of our sanctification as well as our justification. The law guides, but only the gospel gives. We are declared righteous–justified–not by anything that happens within us or done by us, but solely by God’s act of crediting us with Christ’s perfect righteousness through faith alone. - Michael Horton

The gospel for everyday life

In our SS class and the church overall we are going through an 8 week emphasis regarding “THE GOSPEL.” My plan is to continue this through the second week in June so that we can saturate, immerse and soak continuously in this wonderful truth. There are lots of good evangelical preachers over the past several years that are starting to ramp up their gospel center preaching. When I come across an article or website that I sense will say the same thing in a way you can understand it then I try to put it on our website. The following is an article from Tullian Tchividjian that helps to connects the dots of the gospel to how you live everyday life. I hope you find it helpful!

I once assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ” the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.” In other words, once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. All good theology, in fact, is an exposition of the gospel.

In his letter to the Christians of Colossae, the apostle Paul portrays the gospel as the instrument of all continued growth and spiritual progress, even after a believer’s conversion.

“All over the world,” he writes, “this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Col. 1:6). He means that the gospel is not only growing wider in the world but it’s also growing deeper in Christians.

After meditating on Paul’s words, a friend told me that all our problems in life stem from our failure to apply the gospel. This means I can’t really move forward unless I learn more thoroughly the gospel’s content and how to apply it to all of life. Real change does not and cannot come independently of the gospel. God intends his Good News in Christ to mold and shape us at every point and in every way. It increasingly defines the way we think, feel, and live.

Martin Luther often employed the phrase simul justus et peccator—”simultaneously justified and sinful.” He understood that while he’d already been saved from sin’s penalty, he was in daily need of salvation from sin’s power. And since the gospel is the “power of God for salvation,” he knew that even for the most saintly of saints, the gospel is wholly relevant and vitally necessary. This means heralded preachers need the gospel just as much as hardened pagans.

In his book The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges picks up on this theme–that Christians need the gospel just as much as non-Christians–by explaining how the spiritual poverty in so much of our Christian experience is the result of inadequate understanding of the gospel’s depths. The answer isn’t to try harder in the Christian life but to comprehend more fully and clearly Christ’s finished work for sinners and then to live in more vital awareness of that grace day by day. The main problem in the Christian life, in other words, is not that we don’t try hard enough to be good. It’s that we haven’t accepted the deep implications of the gospel and applied its powerful reality to all parts of our life.

As I see it, there are two challenges for preachers, those of us called to announce this good news. First is to help people understand theologically that the gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life but it’s also the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day. The second challenge, which is much harder for me than the first, is to help people understand how this works functionally.

Continue reading…

A cheap form of the gospel

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much, just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don't want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don't want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture, I want ecstasy, not repentance. I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don't want to love those from different races-especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but no so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Of course, none of us is so crass as to put it that way. But most of us have felt the temptation to opt for a domesticated version of the gospel. In some ways, this temptation is perennial. But perhaps it is especially strong today, owing to a number of developments in the Western world. - D.A. Carson

The gospel is God's story

What is the plot line or the story line of the Bible? It is a true story about the unfolding and progressive plan of God to redeem mankind. The story is not about how someone can have a better marriage, a more successful career, or even how to live a healthy lifestyle. But it is a story about mankind being at enmity with God so that the only reconciliation available is through Jesus Christ who died, was buried and three days later rose from the dead. The pronouncement of this event in history is called the good news. And it is good news because God has acted in the person and work of Jesus Christ to save people from their sins. The very sins that once kept them separated from God have been paid in full by the death of Christ on the cross. Also there has been a transferring of righteousness from Jesus to the account of every believer so that they now have the very righteousness of Christ. It is now that the believer can know with 100% confidence that God is for them and no longer is against them. This is really news, good news, the kind of news that makes an eternal difference in the lives of those who will receive it by faith.

Sometimes we get that turned around and end up making our story the subject of the gospel instead of Christ. Often times, since there is very little instruction for people, I hear about how someone got saved. It normally involves mostly a past tense discussion very little present tense and almost no future tense. My other problem is that the story may involve a person who recovered from an addition problem, or the mother decided not to have an abortion, or they survived cancer. Even though there is not an intentional misrepresentation of the "good news" never the less there is a distortion that can be hurtful. The unbeliever may think well if I accept this Jesus then life will get better because that is what has happened to those telling their stories. The young believer can feel despair in thinking that for some reason they are struggling because they just need to believe more. The point is that the main subject and story line in the Bible is Jesus. Therefore the main story line when we tell a story about the good news must be about Jesus. Continue reading…

The gospel according to Romans

This morning I want you to look with me at four questions that come from Romans 1-4. These questions are critical for us to ask and answer properly.

Question #1 - Who made us and to whom are we accountable?
In Romans 1 the apostle Paul teaches us that God created the world and that we are owned by Him, dependent on Him and therefore accountable to Him. In very plain language we learn that God has made Himself known to every man so that no one is without excuse.

Question #2 - What is our problem?
In Romans 1:18-3:20 Paul goes on to elaborate on the fact that we are all guilty of cosmic treason. In other words every person has rebelled against this holy and righteous God and stands guilty and condemned. Paul first talks about the pagan and then he starts on his own people the Jews and says they are also guilty. And in Romans 3:9 we read “for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;”

Question #3 - What is God's solution for the problem?
"But now," Paul says, in spite of our sin, now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law. In other words, there is a way for human beings to be counted righteous before God instead of unrighteous, to be declared innocent instead of guilty, to be justified instead of condemned. And it has nothing to do with acting better or living a more righteous life. It comes apart from the law.
So how does it happen? Paul puts it plainly in romans 3:24. Despite our rebellion against God and in the face of a hopeless situation, we can be justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Through Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection because of His blood and His life sinners may be saved from the condemnation our sins deserve.Continue reading…

Learning to REST n GRACE

The gospel is about GRACE, so if you miss grace you miss the gospel.


I want us to learn how to stand under the waterfall of grace during these next two months. At this point in our look at the gospel we are not going to talk about what we need to do but instead what has already been done.


If you are a first born or have a "Triple A" personality type or you think that doing is equal to being please listen up.

The apostle Paul, who outside of Christ, is who many believe to be our best New Testament theologian. I want you to notice NOT just what he writes but HOW he writes.

This is important because when you read the letters of the apostle Paul none of them start with what you need to do. He always begins with what God has already done. Because he knew to turn that around would be to miss the gospel. Paul marinates the imperatives of what we are to do, in the indicatives of what God has already done.

Two examples in order for us to see this clearly.

The letter to the Colossians is 4 chapters long;
In the first two chapters Paul talks in remarkable ways all that God has done for us in Christ. He talks about Jesus and His death and resurrection for sinners.
And then when he gets into Chapter 3 we have therefore in light of everything that I have already told you, now live this way.

The letter to the Ephesians is 6 chapters long;
The first three chapters teaches all that we have in Christ and all that has been accomplished by Christ.
Then starting in chapter 4 we have a therefore in order to encourage us to live this way.Continue reading…

Gospel saturation for Christlike transformation

We are getting ready to launch into a saturation of gospel teaching like never before in our class. As I said yesterday "we will never have a gospel reformation outside the church until we first have a gospel reformation inside the church." Many people inside the church assume that the gospel is only for people outside the church. They think that the gospel is for non-Christians only. This means that when God saves us, we move beyond it to deeper spiritual growth and development. But the key for us to realize is this, when God saves us He doesn’t move us beyond the gospel but rather He moves us further into the gospel. The gospel is NOT only the fire that ignites the Christian life but it is the fire that keeps the Christian life growing and going. Because Christian people continue to sin and the gospel is the only antidote for sin then the gospel is something that we need on a daily basis.

The apostle Paul in Romans teaches us that the "POWER OF GOD" is located in the gospel. He goes on to say that this power of God relates specifically to our "SALVATION." This salvation is NOT only that which justifies and glorifies us but right now is sanctifying us into the likeness of Christ. So what is the key that brings about this salvation which is done by the power of God? The key is "THE GOSPEL."

Here is a quote from Transforming Grace which I am presently reading by Jerry Bridges;

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever ‘well’ is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works, rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the ‘sweat’ of our own performance. Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to ‘try harder’. We seem to believe success in the Christian life is basically up to us; our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is very freeing and joyous experience. But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily.

I want to appeal to each of you in this email to prepare your hearts for these next two months. Ask God to give you a measure of faith to hear, embrace and live out the gospel so that Christ might be demonstrated as great. Please brothers and sisters do not treat this as ordinary or common or as something you think you have heard before! Plead, cry out and appeal to our great God for eyes to see, ears to hear and minds to understand the incredible treasures waiting to be mined from the gospel.

Don't miss this train

The gospel train will be leaving the station this Sunday Morning at 9:30 AM.
We are going to take an eight week tour that will take us from the Creation to the Fall to the Redemption and finally to the Restoration.


Tired Christians

The gospel is first and foremost NOT about something you need TO DO but what has already BEEN DONE. If you spend your Christian life trying TO DO (efforts to please God with performance) and forget what HAS BEEN DONE by Christ, then you’ll always be working on the wrong end of the problem.

This animation represents “HOW” many today live within the context of church. Always doing, serving, going and performing but never reading, devoting nor resting in what Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection. Are you aware Christian brothers and sisters
that there is obedience which dishonors God?

Do this do that the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands
A better word the gospel brings
It bids us fly and gives us wings!

Years ago Alan Redpath, one of the great preachers of his day said. “BEWARE OF THE BARRENNESS OF A BUSY LIFE.”

Gospel Driven Sanctification

This from Tullian Tchividjian’s blog site

Sinclair Ferguson. reminds us that any piety and pursuit of holiness not grounded in, and driven by, the gospel will eventually run out of gas:

The first thing to remember is that we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual … but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about us and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sinclair reminds us that the secret of gospel-based sanctification is that we actually perform better as we grow in our understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ’s performance for us, not our performance for him. In fact, those who end up getting better are those who increasingly realize that their relationship to God does not depend on them getting better. This means, as I said in a post a couple weeks ago, that Christian growth does not happen first by behaving better, but believing better–believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners (Col. 1:12-14).

God's love

This is from Of First Importance website

When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to Himself. We would almost think that God loved us more than He loves His son. We cannot measure His love by any other standard. He is saying to us, ‘I love you this much.’

The cross is the heart of the gospel; it makes the gospel good news. Christ died for us; He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat; He has borne our sins. God had done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that He loves us.

— Sinclair Ferguson, quoted by C. J. Mahaney in Living the Cross Centered Life

Test Yourself