The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
- So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
- Till my trophies at last I lay down;
- I will cling to the old rugged cross,
- And exchange it some day for a crown.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
As far as lyrical content though, something about the concept of clinging to an old rugged cross just gets to me. It evokes a yearning in the quiet parts of my heart. There is something so old fashioned about it- and yet something so deep and primeval and gospel-centered. It’s not something you would ever hear today in our modern worship songs, and I find that tragic. Nowadays singing about the shed blood of the Lamb is considered too heavy and too depressing, and yet I find such a joy and satisfaction when I do. It really is wonderful, and this song is a classic. That having been said, the original version was written in 1912 by George Bennard (1873-1958).
After his conversion in a Salvation Army meeting, he and his wife became brigade leaders before leaving the organization for the Methodist Church. As a Methodist evangelist, Bennard wrote the first verse of the gospel song in the fall of 1912. Charles H. Gabriel, a well-known gospel-song composer helped Bennard with the harmonies. The completed version was first performed on June 7th, 1913, by a choir of five in Pokagon, Michigan. Published in 1915, the song was popularized during Billy Sunday’s evangelistic campaigns by two members of his campaign staff.
While I love the lyrics to this song, I really don’t care for the melody or the fact that every version I find is so sluggishly slow. It’s just not my thing, and so I’ve been searching for this song with a modern [or semi-modern] twist. In this case, I got a metal version of it, haha, played by Gregg Lancer, who sung it in 1990. The song itself is pure awesome and I can’t help but to crank it up and rock out to it, especially at the 3:34 mark when the harmony comes in briefly, and I recommend that all other do the same.
When Henry the Eighth of England died, he left three heirs: his son Edward and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Edward succeeded to the throne and was a staunch Protestant. When he passed away, the throne passed to his sister Mary, who was firmly Roman Catholic in her beliefs and who was determined to return England to union with the Pope. As it were, she insisted that the best way to deal with heresy was to burn as many heretics as possible. He reign was more or less disastrous and she quickly lost the affection of her people, as well as any chance of a peaceful religious settlement in England. This began the Marian Persecution. Of the nearly three hundred persons burned by her orders, the most famous are the Oxford Martyrs, two of which were Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.
Though both previously affiliated with the Church of Rome, with Latimer developing a reputation as a very zealous Roman Catholic and Ridley having been ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, over time though reading the scriptures and spending time with clergyman Thomas Bilney [who was also burned as a martyr] they became sympathetic and later adherents to the Protestant cause, abrogating their Catholic Faith. As it were, they both become bishops, Ridley of Rochester and Latimer of Worcester. Latimer in particular became especially well known as a popular and powerful preacher of the Gospel.
But when Mary came to the throne, Latimer and Ridley were quickly arrested, tried for heresy, and condemned to die together. They were both fastened to their stakes and Ridley was to be burned first. As the pyre was about to be lit and the flames about to be kindled, it was then that Latimer, aged 70 and an old man, spoke the immortal words to the younger Ridley, “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. For we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God’s grace shall never be put out.”
The torches were lit, and on 16 October 1555, both men were burned alive and sent their spirits up to God. They were martyrs for the faith, and their deaths would send shockwaves through the kingdom and would inspire nearly five centuries of men and women of God to stand firm in their faith, enduring what they must, so that they too mighty play the man to the glory of Christ and for the Kingdom of God. And that quote just crushes me. I mean it just destroys me and I can’t even imagine what it took to endure that. I just imagine the fear and terror and calm and resolve that must have been shuddering through these men’s bones, and then the special grace and peace that God may give those about to die in his name and for his name. There is something about hearing this story that gets me every time, and oh that I wish every believer might be acquainted with their story, and with that quote immemorial.
So this is an interview I did with Pastor Nick yesterday at his house. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I apologize if I sound like I’m rushing through the questions too quickly. In any case, one thing you’ll notice is that there isn’t a whole lot of back-and-forth, nor do I ask him to expand much on anything he said. This is deliberate, as the nature of this interview is to treat it more of a questionnaire; as if I sent him a list with all the questions and he wrote back his responses. As it were, I really appreciate Nick for putting himself out there and taking part in this. Kudos!
Question #1. How old are you?
I am 29
Question #2. How long have you been preaching or have been here in Fort McMurray
Well Fort Mcmurray I’ve been here for…I would say not even 14 months. Just over a year. I’ve been preaching for probably I would say a good part of 8 years.
Question #3. Did you attend a bible college or a seminary?
I attended bible college. I have a degree in cultural studies, cultural development and anthropology and I started seminary…I started the seminary process and would love to venture back into that.
Question #4. When did you know you wanted to be a pastor?
I don’t even know…I think it’s like I was telling you before it’s not even really a job it’s more of a lifestyle, it’s more of a…something I kinda fell into, and kinda a responsibility where people assume.. that side of you- assume that position and you kind of, you kind of end up sending your resumes to places- well the churches- and to places that kind of enable you to fill that role that people are already putting you in. So I don’t know if I ever would said “I want to be a pastor. That’s just kinda what I am in a sense. Even when I don’t have a position I think I will still kinda be in that role as a shepherd.
Question #5. What bibles passages have influenced your preaching, or influenced your ministry?
Question #6. What are three of your favourite bible verses? Are they the same ones as your preaching ones, or do you have any others that you love?
Question #7. What well known preachers do you hold in high regard?
Question #8. What is your approach to reading the bible? Do you follow a schedule or do you read the bible through in a year?
Question #9. How do you decide what to preach?
Question #10. Do you preach expositionally or topically and why?
Question #11. How so you decide which bible verses to use?
Question #12. How far in advance do you plan your sermons?
Question #13. Do you use commentaries when you preach and if so which ones?
Question #14. What bible version do you preach from and study from?
Question #15. What kinds of sermons are hardest for you to preach?
Question #16. What kind of topics do you find it hardest to preach? Money, sex, end of the world?
Question #17. How have you grown as a preacher in the last 5-10 years?
Question #18. When you preach sermons, do you gear them towards the older, more seasoned believers or the brand-new Christians?
Question #19. What do you think man’s biggest problem is? What’s our deal?
Question #20. What is the gospel in a sentence or two?
Question #21. What are three books that have changed your life, other than the bible?
Question #22. Where do you hope the Alliance Church is in 20 years?
Question #23. Do you feel called to this church for life? How long do you think you’ll be in Fort McMurray?
Question #24. If you could impart one thing to your flock- one thing that they would just really get, what would it be?
MGA. Seeing is believing. Pastor Glen Forsberg. October 18, 2009
This sermon, though titled seeing is believing, is primarily about the idea of arriving and settling, with the thesis being that God has a plan and purpose for us, and that for many people somewhere along the way we’ve settled in a place which falls short of what God desires for us and from where he intended us to arrive. Because of this, we need to become restored so that we can fulfill our destiny and arrive in the promise land.
The illustration he uses is that of the story of Abram [who would one day become Abraham] and Terah, his father.
Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan… [Genesis 11:31-12:1, 4-5]
He compares and contrasts the journeys of Abram and Terah, where Terah, though called by God to journey to Canaan, settled in Haran. Abram on the other hand arrived in the promise land of Canaan. Terah began the journey, but for whatever reason he tragically forfeited the objective. Likewise, there are many people that begin the journey of faith, but for whatever reason stop and settle along the way. We all have a destiny and a purpose for being on this earth. Not only this, but he also have a journey that God wants us to be on, but sometimes we tired along the way and decide to camp. Are you a settler or arriver? God understands when you settle, but he wants you to arrive.
At this point the sermon is speaking to those have started something-anything- and yet because of the stress or hardships or discouragements have given up faith and resigned themselves to a lesser fate/dream. At one point these people had a goal and had hope, and yet somewhere along the way the fire died, and the embers grew cold, and what was once to be completed was left half-done and covered in dust. And yet despite this, God wants to reinvigorate you and revive that hope and see you get up, shrug off the lethargy and the cynicism and the worries, and trust in him that he will help you arrive. God wants to download his wisdom into you, which is Christ in you, so that you can laugh and love and live and be joyful again.
Turning the page a bit, he talks about how the bible gets more exciting as time goes by. I completely agree and feel the same way. He spends some time chronicling how the bible has shown itself to be true and accurate and reinforced by archaeology time and time again. As well, he says he could name a religious group where archaeology complete refutes their history, but he doesn’t name them. I’m not sure why he doesn’t call them out, and so I will. He’s speaking of the Mormons, who are a misguided non-Christian cult and whose entire history in the book of Mormon is an utter and complete fabrication.
Pastor Glen goes on to talk about how God wants us to arrive at our ultimate destination, which is the New Jerusalem. As it were, there is a temporarily Jerusalem on earth that we should strive to reach. How do we do that? By keeping the journey. Abram didn’t just arrive in Canaan, but once he was there he built an altar to God. God promised him a son and Abram waited 25 years for the promises of God over his life to be complete, and that sometimes we may have to wait a long time as well. Lastly, he wraps it up by stating that we can’t see God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but we believe in Him and because we see him in everywhere. And God wants to restore us and bring us back into the promise land.
I think right off the bat the message was good and timely. The reality is that there are a ton of people who have settled and have given up hope and something deep inside of them desires to begin anew. Not only this, but because people have settled and have thrown up their hands and have not gone where God desires them to go, their spiritual walk has been stunted, and their faith has begun to retard or even regress. In my own life I can point to areas where I’ve settled in things I’ve started, and yet more often that not it’s when God has called me and asked me to so something, or God has desired to do a work in my heart, and instead of giving myself over to that I’ve instead done something else, believing that it was better to settled in my own selfishness than do the hard thing and arrive where God needs to bring me. And I think a lot of people feel the same way, and so this was in that sense very convicting, as well as inspiring for me to beg god to help me pick up some of the pieces of things in my life, and to carry me again on the road to sanctification.
On the other hand, the scripture he used, in my opinion, was not good at all. Or perhaps the scripture was appropriate, but he overstepped his bounds and built his case by reading into the passage things that simply were not there. For example, he says that Terah heard the voice of God telling him to go into the promise land, and that he began following the voice of God but then settled short. He makes this point several times, that Terah was hearing the call of God and obeying the voice of God and so forth. As it were, there is simply no evidence to support those claims, nor can it be reasonably inferred. Abrams father was a pagan, and though we can speculate as to why he left, we can’t with any certainty claim that he was being led by the spirit. As well, we also don’t know why Terah settled in Haran . Pastor Glen seems to assume that God had called Terah to the promise land, and the fact that Terah settled short indicates that he was settling for second best, or that things got too much difficult to bear. Haran was an important crossroads and commercial center. We don’t know his motives for leaving, nor do we know his motives for settling. Perhaps he left in the first place because someone told him of the richness of the land in Canaan. Perhaps he intended to go to Canaan and then found some great land in Haran and settled there, perfectly happy and content. And so all this part is pure eisegesis, and without throwing up some caveats and informing that it is speculative, it’s reading into the text and drawing out what is not there.
Lastly, at the end he made this comment “This church does not have a corner on God. One denomination doesn’t have a corner on God. Christianity does not have a corner on God. God sent his Son because he loved the world. The world! Jesus came for the world!” What does that mean? I agree with the first two, but the true God is only found within Christianity. All other religious systems have nothing. What does it mean that Christianity doesn’t have a corner on God? I’m not sure I’m following his train of thought and his meaning on that one.
In any case, like I said, a good and timely message and one which challenged me and convicted me. I just wish he would have taken more care with the scriptures, and not have read into it all that he did.
MGA. Joseph; Spirit Empowered Leadership. Pastor Glen Forsberg. October 25, 2009
The sermon starts off with asking the question whether we as believers want to be settlers or arrivers. The illustration he’s utilizing is from the journeys of Terah, and how Terah planned on going to from Ur Canaan but settled in Haran when instead. In this case Terah settled, but Abram was called by God to arrive in the land of Canaan. As it were, we’re exhorted that God wants us to arrive in the promise land as well.
He then quotes from Romans 8:28 and 29. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified”. [Romans 8:28-30 ] surmising that “Everything that happens to you in life will work together for your good and fulfilling that purpose that God has called you for.”
He quotes John 20:21-22 “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” and makes the case that we are called with the same mission that Christ had. That you can’t fulfill the plan of God with programs and policies and procedures. Rather we need the Holy Spirit, which is what gives us the power to fulfill the commission. It is essential.
As it were, the crux of the sermon comes down to the example set by Joseph. He begins by laying down some genealogy to provide us with some history and says at one point that God’s call began with Terah. I’m not sure how this is, as Terah was a pagan and there is no evidence to suggest that God was or directing him towards Canaan. And so to say that he was heading God’s call is somewhat specious and unverifiable. In any case, he takes some time and gives a very nice and thorough and succinct overview of the story, from about Genesis 37-50. I really mean that. He touched on all the major themes and events with adroitness, and I can certainly admire that. The meat of the sermon though is about the qualities of character that Joseph possessed.
1. Joseph was a Spirit led man. Joseph had security in who he was and in his father’s love, and was fearless. Insecurity is one of the most damaging ills in today’s society and nothing will kill a man quicker. The effects of insecurity are wide ranging, and only in Christ can we become truly secure.
2. Joseph was sincere. He shared what was on his mind with his family and was authentic in everything he did.
3. Joseph was trusting. He trusted the ones he loved and in turn later on earned the trust of others
4. Joseph was a serving person. He served his father, served Potiphar, served in jail, and later on served his brothers, despite all what had happened to him.
5. Joseph was saving. Through him others were saved, and he had a huge influence on people.
The sermon ends with fleshing out the idea that Joseph was the precursor to the promise land, and the question is asked; how many people can we take with us to the promise land while exhibiting the characteristic and qualities of Joseph.
This was an interesting sermon for me to listen to and think about and spend some time meditating on. It should be first said that there was nothing wrong with the sermon as it pertains to bible usage and the context of scripture, nor was it irrelevant for the audience. But the thing is that this is not my kind of sermon at all. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to craft a sermon the way this one has, using the man Joseph as our model for evangelism and for a moral compass. Because it seems that there wasn’t a lot of depth to the points he picked out, saving, secure, trusting, etc. There is a lot I could say about the character of Jesus, and I guess I expect a bit more depth than just that “Joseph was trusting.” It almost seemed as if the story of Joseph was being yanked from it’s historical context and being applied in an anachronistic way to today. In a way it almost felt like a Sunday school lesson, only updated for adults. I just think it could have been more. But again, this is not a bad sermon, it’s just not for me.
As well, as usual the oblique references to salvation and the gospel drive me up the wall, especially when doing the altar call. I’ve said this before; more often than not what is being presented is a vague, esoteric, are gospel-less gospel for mass consumption, and I can’t understand why they just can’t be clear and open about this. It doesn’t make sense to me that they offer such a vague pronouncement. It’s not even good news really, more like veiled double-speak for all intents and purposes.
That having been said, if I can hijack a bible verse he quoted, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified”. [Romans 8:28-30 ]
I would like to really focus upon the often memorized and quoted verse 28. The verse begins with “and we know.” This isn’t merely an assumption that Paul is making, nor is he engaging in profound philosophical speculation. Rather, he is presenting inspired truth in accordance with the revelation given to him. He knew and therefore we now know what proceeds to be true. There is no doubt as to its truthfulness or validity. The next phrase is “that God causes.” This expression asserts that God is the effective agent in the equation. Whether or not you view Him as the beginning, middle, end, or some combination thereof, actor in salvation, this verse confirms that He is active as the cause behind the argument which will be presented.
Before we look at what He causes, let’s look at whom it is that this verse is referencing. The promise is confirmed to “those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Surely this is to be interpreted to include any and every believer. Throughout Scripture, we recognize that a love toward God is foundational and however you interpret the element of His calling, it surely includes salvation. Therefore, whatever is being promised is being promised to all who believe. So, what is being promised? What is God causing? “All things to work together for good.” This is huge and we must focus ourselves upon this truth. What God has just revealed in His Word is that He will cause everything, every single thing or multiple things, indeed all things, to work together under His direction for our greatest good.
Now, a fundamental problem with saying that a Christian can lose his or her salvation is that we would have to say that God will not fulfill His promises, and this one in particular. To claim that a Christian at one time believed in the gospel is to say that this promise was, at least at that time, addressed to him as a recipient of its truth. Therefore, this Christian at one time loved God and God promised to work all things together for his good. And yet, that person somehow rebelled in such a way as to nullify God’s promise and fall from grace. How is it good [“all things work together for good”] to lose salvation and spend eternity in hell, separated from God? We have a flawed understanding of what constitutes good if it is not anchored to the promises of Christ’s presence. To be separated from Him is the very antithesis of good.
For those who would claim that it is possible to truly be converted and savingly believe in the gospel and then to commit apostasy and fall away from salvation, it is impossible to confidently say that God really causes “all things” to work together for good. They instead imply that “God causes all things to work in accordance with each man’s personal will.” What a far cry from the truth of Ephesians 1:11 which asserts that He “works all things after the counsel of His will.” His will, not ours.
Another aspect of this is the chain of events that God plays out. “These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. To say that you can lose your salvation, is to substitute SOME in place of THOSE, leaving you with “some who God foreknew He also predestined, some He predestined he also called; some he called, he also justified; some he justified, he also glorified” But that is not what it says, and is not biblical at all. If God predestined and called you to be saved [justified], then God says that those he justified he WILL glorify. Glorification does not happen in this life, but in the next, and that necessitates that those he called and justified will all find their way to glory.
Haha. Just sayin’
FBC. Hand-Picked Fruit. Pastor Brent Carter. October 11, 2009
The sermons starts off with a story from Pastor Brent’s childhood, of how he was picking berries in a field and was frustrated because he couldn’t find any. At one point he expressed his dismay and a man came and showed him that the berries were all underneath the leaves, and that while and when he couldn’t see any, there were tons of them the whole time.
This illustration sets the stage for the rest of the sermon, which is about reaching out to people and sharing the gospel with them. He references Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” to make his point. Interestingly enough this is a verse that Pastor Andrew used the week before when referencing our circles of influence. It’s not enough that we simply have power which the holy Spirit brings us, but rather we must put the power to use, which is for evangelism and in order to be witnesses.
He then quotes John 4:34 [The main text he uses is John 4] “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”. and says that we ought to have the same attitude that Christ has, in that our desire and our purpose should be to do the will of the Father and accomplish his will and work. Are we just Christians who do our thing? No we’re not, and we can’t be. We’re told that all born again believers are missionaries, we all have been commissioned by God to share our faith, and every believer is called to be a witness in some way.
He then shares some thoughts on witnessing, and how when it comes to this we need preparation and equipping and teaching He asks the question to his flock of how many people out there feel ready and confident to go out witnessing, and he surmises that most people probably don’t feel ready or that the thought makes them feel slightly uncomfortable because they’re not sure what to say or how to say it or explain it all.
He says there are two extreme beliefs that people hold. One person thinks they need a PhD in evangelism before they open their mouth, whereas the other thinks that any study or prep work is unspiritual, as it would only get in the way. These are definitely two extreme positions, and he offers a more balanced view, saying that preparation is needed in two ways. The first is individual walk. It’s a huge turnoff for some people when someone tells them how much they need Jesus, and yet they look at the person witnessing to them and they know their life is a hypocritical sham. People want authenticity and sincerity and the gospel must take hold in order for one to share it. As it were, emphasis is put on living a holy life, [Ephesians 2:10] especially because one of the greatest challenges today is that the church is indistinguishable from the world. [which is a great point] we are told that “The bible knows nothing of walk down the aisle and make a decision and go back to life as usual. That is not the biblical picture of what a believer is supposed to be. And the world knows that.”
The next point he makes is that preparation is needed to grow our knowledge of the gospel. We should be engaging with the scriptures and reading our bibles and we should become knowledgeable and skilled and adept at communicating it. We need to figure out the basics of the gospel, and grow and deepen in our ability to quickly and effortlessly disseminate it. We’re told that it’s tragic if you’ve been a Christian for 10 years and are no better at explaining it now as you were back then. And even moreso tragic than that, is if you’re no better at it 6 months from now than you are now.
He exhorts us that we get better at sharing the gospel by practicing, and he quotes 1 Peter 3:15. “ but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Because our hearts honour Christ we need to be ready and give our testimony when someone asks. We don’t have to go deep into the theology and give a 5 minute lecture, but rather we can keep it simple so that people can understand. We need to engage people with the gospel and be willing to share thoughts and questions with them that are more than surface level. If no one is asking us questions and issues of life and death and faith aren’t coming up in conversations with unbelievers, then that’s probably a good sign that our relationships are surface level, and we need to go deeper than that with people.
Pastor Glenn then gives us some principles from John 4, specifically verses 35-36.
- Someday principle. We can’t have the attitude of “we’ll witness someday when life isn’t so busy or crazy.” We always say that we’ll do it tomorrow, and yet every day it’s the same thing and we never do. We must do it now.
- Awareness principle. We need to wake up and be aware that there is harvest in front of us. If the harvest is all around, and we don’t know who is ripe and who is open and who is at that place, then we need to make gentle inquiries and poke and prod and tug a bit [he uses a really good tomato plant analogy] and listen and pay attention so that we can be aware of what’s going on and attentive to those who may be willing to receive and believe.
- Partnership principle. The body of Christ partners together to sow and water and reap. It’s not just one person who does everything, but rather we all work together for lost souls. You may just get a chance to plant a few seeds, and then someone else gets to water and then lead them to the Lord, while perhaps you lead someone to the Lord and it takes 5 seconds. That’s because other believers have come before you. And so we shouldn’t fight about it, but rather celebrate the fact that we are all workers in the harvest
He closes the sermon by issuing a challenge. We are told that we never know which person will be converted and what that man or woman might do for Christ. For all we know they could be the next Billy Graham [Billy Graham has gone off the rails and apostatized, last I heard, so that’s probably not the best example, but I know what he means] or the next Paul, and so we need to share the gospel freely. And so at the end he hands out apples, which represent seeds and the endless apples that might originate from a single seed, and that people who are committed to evangelizing should take one and share their faith and invite them to an event and so forth.
This is another good sermon by Pastor Brent and one which I enjoyed quite a bit. I’ve nothing negative to say about it, and so wanted to use it as usual to share some thoughts on a related issue. Well, actually, one thing I did want to mention was that it would have been nice to get a few thoughts on the Holy Spirit’s involvement in all this. God the Father calls people and the Holy Spirit is at work giving them faith. He is the one who ultimately saves, and some emphasis on the Spirit’s role would have been nice, if not necessary to get a more thorough understanding of this. As well, I wish he would have delved deep into why people are scared of sharing their faith and of sharing the gospel. You could do a whole sermon on that probably, and I think it would do a lot of good.
One thing I liked about this sermon is that it was about my favorite axe to grind, which is the gospel. I was struck by the question he asked the congregation about how many people there would be able to lay the gospel out simply and effectively, and with confidence. That’s something I wonder a lot about many congregations. For example, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be able to do a survey of different churches and ask the members “what is the doctrine of justification?” “what is sanctification?” “what is the gospel of Jesus Christ”. For some reason I get the feeling that the vast majority of the people would either not know, or would offer a haphazard and incomplete answer. I would wager that less than 5% of people would be able to tell the salvation process, from regeneration to justification to sanctification to glorification. Maybe that’s overly cynical of me, but that’s the distinct impression I get. I blame a lot of that on the teaching and worship songs, but we won’t go there, haha.Though I also wonder, if you laid out the biblical gospel, how many people would flat out deny it? Probably a few. How many people believe in works-righteousness? How many believe that their good works contribute to their salvation? How many believe Jesus was sinless? How many believe that Christianity isn’t the only way to heaven?
In any case, I wonder if a church would do a teaching time when they lay out the gospel and help teach it to people. Maybe give out an index card which they can memorize which has the basics of the gospel printed on it. That would be a great thing to do in small groups, to take turns practicing with each other on sharing the gospel and being able to spell out all the components with an economy of words and wealth of confidence. Maybe encourage the congregation to memorize Ephesians 2:1-10 and work towards having everyone know those verses by heart. I just can’t emphasize how important it is to have the gospel right. There’s hundreds of millions of people going to hell because they believe themselves saved. They hold to a false gospel which angels would be damned if they believe, and yet these people cling to it. It’s tragic and it breaks my heart, and the shepherds need to take such care that they train and equip the flock so that they can be safe and protected.
And note, if you’re a pastor and you’re reading this, I would love to write up a few questions in which you could pass out as a survey to see what people believe. I think some might be shocked.
Hey guys, sorry I haven’t posted anything in the last few days. I’ve had a crazy weekend and it’s been really busy and I wasn’t able to update to the extent that I wanted. But I am back with a new review, and have 5 sermon reviews planned over the next 2 days, including two by The Alliance Church which I’m very excited for. So thank you and enjoy!
I believe that from a bird’s eye view- salvation from 40,000 feet, all of us are sinners. We are born with original sin, and then sin early and quickly and often as we progress through life. As such, in our total depravity, God would be well within his right to send everyone to hell, and that would be good and just. But because He is loving and gracious and so merciful, He unconditionally elects some people to salvation. These people are predestined before the world even began. Why does He choose who He chooses? I don’t know. God only knows this is so, and why in this particular redemption He forms some to be vessels of destruction. But as for why He elects some, well, He does this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy. As it were, we are all sinners on earth; dead in our sins and hopeless and heartless. We can’t and won’t come to God on our own. We will never exercise our will or choose him on our own volition. We will never freely choose Christ because we are children of wrath and are at war with Him. And yet God calls some people. He breaks into their world and gives them faith and reveals himself to them. These people are irresistibly drawn to God through an irresistible grace, and because they now have faith, they can make that choice and repent of their sins and they put their faith and trust in Christ. Do you ever wonder why there can be room full of 100 people, all of them needing Christ, and then after a pastor presents a gospel message, only one man responds? A single man out of a multitude who was a wretched sinner who had heard it all a hundred times before, all of a sudden he just gets it, and his soul cries out for it, and he feels like he can’t live without it, and he believes it. What happened there? It was God calling him and giving him faith. This person is justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Once saved he begin a life of sanctification- with God drawing him to himself, as the saints persevere unto eternal life. These people will not fall away but will remain in Christ until they breathe their last, and then will be glorified in heaven on that day.
That’s the theology of it at 40,000 feet, but to bring this down to a smaller perspective, what it looks like on the ground level, is we live our lives separated from God and doing our own thing. One day we hear of the gospel message and all of a sudden it just clicks for us. We then say “I believe that” and we put our trust and faith in that. A pastor may give the gospel, and whereas our whole life we didn’t care- for some reason this time we get it, and we respond to it in repentance. After that, then begins the life of sanctification. It can be slow, and agonizing, and have deep, deep, ups and downs. But what happens is that our life changes. The sins we once loved we start to hate. What was once acceptable and enjoyable now becomes loathsome and shameful. Because we have the Holy Spirit in us, life is viewed through a different lens. We get baptized and we are buried and raise with Him. And so not only does our life start looking different, but we can also look outward to our baptism as a witness to our faith. And so our life is lived, year after year, growing more intimate with the Father, Son, and Holy spirit. Year after year we see the trajectory of our faith and works and fruits, while Christ ruthlessly goes after our heart and calls to attention hidden sins and desires and asks us to mortify them. By the power of the Holy Spirit we slowly put to death our sinful nature over the course of a lifetime, where near the end the sins that we brushed aside in our youth now ache and pain us. The Bible describes the characteristics of saving faith, and we look to those as witnesses. It’s not moralism, but rather a changed life through faith in Christ. We read his word and pray and go to church and love the brethren and find our fulfillment and our peace with God, knowing our sins are forgiven and always turning to God when we do sin. We take communion, understanding that we are eating the bread and drinking the blood of Christ, and our affections for Christ are stirred and magnified, and we rejoice in our intimacy with God and the grace we receive. We share our faith with others and witness to them and we direct them to Christ whenever we can, because people are saved through the preached word, and God uses our witness and our sharing the gospel as a means of saving people. All the while we run the good race, fighting the good fight, and keeping the good faith. And we have eternal life, and we rejoice in the security of Christ’s promise that no one can snatch us out of His hand and that security gives us joy and an even deeper desire to know God and even more reason to love Him. And this is life for as many years as God gives us, until we grow old, and quiet, and we pass away. From there, we find ourselves in the presence of God, not having to pay for our sins in any way, but knowing that Christ paid it all on the cross and deemed us righteous and holy, because through the shed blood of the lamb He is our righteousness, and we don’t stand before God as tainted and sinful, but white as snow; as white as the wool on the Lamb who was slain. God tells us “well done, good and faithful servant” and we spend an eternity with him rejoicing and magnifying the one who has loved us.
That is what I believe about salvation, and that is how my beliefs on the doctrines of grace manifest themselves in a practical way. Salvation may look a bit different from 40,000 feet, but it is same Gospel at ground level, and I rejoice in it.