Boasting Only in the Cross

20 million. That is the sold number of copies of William Paul Young’s book The Shack. Now a film, this author’s message has spread to an even larger audience. But is this a good thing?

Michael Gungor, from the popular band, Gungor (the one that wrote songs utilized in worship services around the US such as “Beautiful Things”) recently shook things up when he tweeted that if God needs to be appeased by blood, such a thing would not be beautiful, but horrific. What do Gungor and Young have in common? They both fail to see the glory that is in the cross.

Not many crueler methods of torture and execution exists that parallel to the suffering crucifixions dealt. Assyrians initiated the gory method by simply impaling humans and leaving them out for wild beasts to consume and scatter their bones. It was believed that since they did not have a proper burial, their spirits would be forced to wander the earth, never to rest in peace. The Romans perfected their work. They could keep people alive on crosses for days. Those crucified suffered the elements of weather, mocking, wild animals, and the mental/emotional torture of the knowledge that they would soon die. To be sure, there is nothing glamorous about the cross. Yet, Paul says in Galatians 6:14 that he would boast in no other thing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why then, would Paul glory in an instrument that excels in barbarism? By the cross, the world and all that it offers was nailed to the cross so that Paul could gain all that the crucified Christ has to offer. In Galatians 2:19–20, Paul declares that he was crucified with Christ, and the life he now leads in the flesh is not a life led by the flesh, but by Jesus. Such a life would not be possible if it were not for the cross. But what did the cross actually achieve?

Young, in his recent book Lies We Believe About God, states that if the cross was God’s idea, then God is—in his words—“a cosmic abuser” (see page 149). He goes on to say that the cross was a human innovation and that God submitted to humanity. According to Young, prior to the crucifixion, God already saved humanity, even before Christ even came to the earth. Are you seeing the problems yet? Can you see how Young and Gungor both fail to glory in the cross?

If God had already saved humanity, then it would not have been necessary for Jesus to come, to die, or to be raised from the dead. Likewise, humanity would be going in an altogether different path, for everyone whom God has saved has received God’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Here in lies the rub—humanity is not good, and the heart of mankind is desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10–12). The reason the world is in the condition it is in is evidence enough that all humanity has not been saved, but is in great need of salvation—hence the cross.

By the cross, God sent His Perfect Son to die on behalf of our sins. Though He was sinless, Jesus served as our substitute to take on our sin so that we could take on His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus did not obediently submit Himself to humanity, He humbly surrendered to the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39; Philippians 2:28). The cup Jesus asked to pass from Him, was a symbol of God’s wrath and is also utilized in Old Testament passages to signify God’s judgment (Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15). Jesus drank every drop from the cup of God’s wrath so that the stain sin has made would be erased by every drop of Jesus’ blood. This leads Paul to say that our sins are forgiven by the means of Christ’s blood (Ephesians 1:7).

While the truth of Paul’s statement remains true today—the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18)—it is imperative that we who believe in the power of the cross hold fast to the genuine message that is the Gospel, because by the cross the power of God is demonstrated as He saves those who believe in the true Gospel (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18). Such a Gospel leads us to boast in the cross, for by it we see our former lives end, and our new lives in Christ begin.

Loudly then we sing the line from “In Christ Alone:”

 

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live!

For His Glory,

The Most Neglected Discipline

Memorization. We shutter at the thought. We might pray, we might read our Bible, we might even tithe, but memorize Scripture, well that might be asking a little too much of us. While some might argue that it is not the most neglected spiritual discipline, it cannot be denied that it is one of the least developed practices within the Christian community. But what do we miss out on when we do not exercise this spiritual muscle?

When I was a child, I went through a Bible Drill program. I learned the order of the books of the Bible and well over 20 verses. Now, my kids are going through Awanas and they are learning the order of the canon, as well as numerous verses. They do this without complaining. In fact, they love it. They look forward to every Sunday night. When my wife and I pick them up from class, they usually begin sharing with us all the verses they are working on.

Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood we stop the emphasis of Scripture memorization. Apparently, this discipline was good enough for us as children, but not important enough for us as adults. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we do not understand the purpose and benefit of Scripture memorization.

What then prevents us from growing in the discipline of Scripture memorization? It is not our inability to memorize, but our ability to make excuses. We can memorize television stations and the schedules of our favorite shows, but then fail to even attempt at being the man who meditates on the law of the Lord for just a moment, let alone day and night (Psalm 1:2).

Still, we are quick to offer up reasons why we cannot grow in this discipline. We comment about our age, or inability to recall. Sometimes we say we just don’t know what to memorize. What we will not say is the true reason we make no effort to grow in this spiritual discipline—we don’t esteem the Bible like we say we do. But if we were to spend as much time in our effort to treasure God’s Word in our heart as we do justifying our ineptness, we would have already seen the growth that comes from meditating on God’s precious Word.

Casual Christianity has given way to a mediocre faith. We have tolerated a minimalistic approach to being disciples and making disciples, and the church is suffering for it. With an abundance of apologies, we miss out on a profusion of fruit. This is one of the reasons why I have led the church I pastor to pursue the discipline of Scripture memorization, so that we might enjoy the fruit that comes from dwelling on the Word of God.

Each month we focus on one verse or set of verses in hopes that our unified meditation would shape the culture of our church family and lead us to engage our community with hearts transformed by the Bible. This encouraged discipline now helps shape our worship services and stimulates a greater unity as we come together with one mind (Ephesians 5:1–2; Philippians 1:27). On the last Sunday of every month, we as a congregation, from the children to the senior adults, stand and recite together God’s Word. I cannot adequately describe the joy I felt the first time we did this together. I am more convinced now than ever of the need for churches to grow in the discipline of Scripture memorization. It is not about the quantity that is memorized, but the quality that comes from memorization. So let me encourage you to take up the discipline of treasuring God’s Word, as an individual, as a family, and as a church family, and discover what it is like to be a fruit bearing tree planted by streams of water.

For His Glory,

Gospel Centered Preaching: Ex-pos-i-tory Priority

My family and I have searched high and low for a home, and have finally found one. With a family of six, there are a lot of standards that have to be met in order to satisfy our needs. First it has to be large enough to fit all of us without having to stack bodies. With young children, we need a place where they can play outside, an open and safe space. But we also want to host people at the house, so the living area needs to be open and spacious too. With all this criteria, it is easy to see why it has taken us a while to settle on a home. When looking for a church family, what should be at the top of the list in priorities—music, small groups, mission work? I’d like to make a case that expository preaching should be at the very top of that list. In fact, I’d like to show you how expository preaching impacts all the other priorities that sit on our lists of qualifications, and how it enhances them. But first, let me start by answering an obvious question, what is expository preaching?

What is Expository Preaching?

Expository preaching in the simplest definition, is the preaching that presents the message of Scripture. This means that the pastor communicates the intent of the Bible and not the inverse, which would be the Bible speaking to his message. This kind of preaching would be called topical. Topical messages are essentially messages that speak to particular topics that the preacher would like to address, such as love, prayer, family, etc. In saying this, I do not mean that these pastors have not given themselves to prayer in seeking to discern God’s will and intent for the church. Also, I’m not saying that you cannot preach both expositionally and topically at the same time (topical exposition). I have done this for a few series at First Baptist. Topical exposition, while addressing a particular topic, still seeks to present the meaning of the text and allow it to speak for itself and not for the preacher.

The topical messages that are most dangerous, however, are the ones where the pastor has selected a theme, and strung together varying verses to fit that theme. In doing this, he has taken verses from their contexts and has forced them into his own. But every time we take a passage from its context, we remove it from its genre, from the surrounding that harbors its meaning, and from the author who intended its meaning. So consider a letter written to a spouse. The husband writes his wife saying that his heart is about to burst and that he is dying. Now as a reader of the letter, if I take just that phrase what am I likely to believe? This guy has a serious heart condition and could die at any moment. Yet, as the wife reads the letter, she reads it in its entirety. She understands that the husband is using exaggerated language to describe his love for her, and how miserable he is while he is away from her. Topical preaching is like the reader who takes just a phrase and uses it in a way that it was never intended, to speak to his intent and not the author’s.

Expository preaching then, is the result of seeking to know and understand a given passage of Scripture and the meaning the author of the text wishes us to discover. This means that the preacher has poured himself over the text, studied the overall context of the book it is in, the cultural environment that surrounded it in its historical setting, studied the words from its original language, and studied it in light of the Bible as a whole. Lastly, which should also be firstly, the preacher prays for discernment and understanding. He must depend on the Holy Spirit as he gives himself to the Scripture.

This is no small task, but it is necessary work. Such work reveals that the preacher understands that God’s Word is what brings life and hope, and not his own. The expositor believes that it is God’s Word that deserves the greatest of care and attention, and not his own. The preacher believes that God’s Word is sufficient, and teaches his congregation to depend on every word that comes from God and not his own. A pastor with a high view of Scripture inevitably will lead his congregation to hold a view as well. When God’s Word is elevated, it ultimately elevates everything else within the church.

How Expository Preaching Impacts Our Worship in Song

Music tends to set the emotional bar of a worship service. If the music falls flat, many churchgoers will leave looking for a church that will cater to their emotional need. Now notice, I have said nothing concerning the content of the music, or the spiritual depth of the songs. These songs could be filled with rich theological truth, but if the music is poor, the shoppers will go on to the next storefront to see their music priority satisfied. Some need music to set the mood for worship. This is an unfortunate thing that we must feel compelled to worship, as if swooned into it. Expository preaching then can rescue such a low understanding of worship and elevate it to high and wonderful place where God is exalted and the worshiper is satisfied.

In Psalm 103, the worship of David jumps out of the song. His praise erupts from within his soul, not because of the music, but because of God—he wants to praise the holy name of God. Yet, David cannot rightly praise the name of God if he has no understanding of what is associated with God’s name. It is here that we see David list all the actions that speak to the character of God. He forgives, He heals, He redeems, He crowns, and He satisfies. He deals with David in ways that he does not deserve. But God deals with David in a way that is consistent with His revealed character. In verse 8, David quotes Exodus 34:6. It is in that passage where God revealed Himself to Moses, declaring His name and all the characteristics associated with it—He is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in loyal love. This was a revelation that occurred 400 years prior to the time of David. Yet, because David has the Word of God, and a high view of it, his praise is then shaped by it.

While the psalm does not speak to expository preaching, it does reveal how important God’s Word plays into shaping our worship. Because David has a knowledge of the Scripture, the Scripture then guided his worship. When expository preaching is a priority in the church, the Word of God is elevated and the knowledge of God is increased. The church that grows in knowledge of the Bible, is a church that grows in knowledge of God, and the church that grows in the knowledge of God, grows in worship. At this point, it will not simply be the musicality that is most important in our worship, but the content. Our desire will be that God is rightly worshipped, and at the sound of His name and not the song, will praise begin to explode within the congregation.

How Expository Preaching Impacts Our Small Groups

Small groups or Sunday school classes center on many things. They focus on age, life stage, fellowship, and more. Community is a very important element of the local church. But on what grounds does the community exist? We could say that it exists on the basis of salvation in Christ, and I would be inclined to agree, but how do we know of the salvation that exists in Christ? The Bible. We know of the Gospel, not just because someone told us what it is, but because the Word of God has record of it and declares it (Romans 10:1–17; 1 Corinthians 15:3–8).

When we look at the early church and see record of their gathering, we find them fellowshipping, caring for the needs of one another, praising and praying, and devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching (which just so happens to be listed first, Acts 2:41–47). Their fellowship centered on the teaching of the apostles, whose teaching centered on the Word of God. We discover the high priority of the right teaching of Scripture. The church that has expository preaching as a priority will grow deeper in the Bible and develop communities that are biblically based, growing together in the Word as well as in life.

How Expository Preaching Impacts Our Missions

Christians want to be part of churches filled with a sense of purpose—missions ultimately satisfy this desire. It is a gratifying thing to discover a church not afraid to leave its comfort zone. These churches create and feel the sense of urgency to bring the gospel to their communities, as well as to the world. Yet, what creates this kind of desperation?

Expository preaching elevates the needs of missions by centering missions on the gospel. Of course, I could circle back to the previous section and talk about where we find the gospel, but instead, I’d like to speak to the fact of where we discover mission. In Matthew 28:18–20, we find what is known as “The Great Commission.” Jesus sent out His disciples to the ends of the earth with the gospel mandate. In this, Jesus delegated the responsibility of evangelization and discipleship to His church. The church then is to go with the message of salvation to all the world, seeing those who respond baptized, and then trained in the Word of God. The urgency is not contrived urgency, but a biblical one. The Bible presents the reality that people who die apart from Christ, will spend an eternity apart from Christ. Further, Jesus said He is coming quickly (Revelation 22:20). The seriousness of our mission is promoted through the exposition of Scripture. As believers are taught the teachings of Christ, there exists within those teachings a natural importance of mission, and those who obey what Jesus has taught will lead a life that goes out to the communities and the nations.

Expository preaching elevates the worship, discipleship, and mission of the church, because it elevates Jesus. When Jesus is exalted, He will draw people to Himself. Jesus is the center of the gospel, and expository preaching proclaims this loudly. This kind of preaching calls all people to lead a life centered on the gospel, centered on Christ. Churches who hold to an expository priority will find that this kind of preaching will impact every facet of the church. Given time, these churches will grow in health and spiritual breadth. These churches will find themselves hungering and thirsting for more of God and His righteousness, and be satisfied. So as you look for a church family to join, let me encourage you to find a church where gospel centered preaching is an expository priority.

For His Kingdom,

Gaining Saul. Praying for David.

 

Presidents tend to personify the people who voted them in. Our 45th president is no exception. He is an achiever of the “American Dream,” a reality television star, and a man full of pride. If there has ever been a president that was the paragon of America (good, bad, and ugly), Donald Trump is it—a president of the people, by the people, for the people. I have seen the protests, and many decry that Trump is not their president, but I assure you he is. Not only because he was voted into the White House, but because he is a product of America. Love him or hate him, we are all active participants in creating him. He is our Saul.

Gaining Saul

Israel desired a king like the rest of the nations (1 Samuel 8). What they got was Saul (1 Samuel 9–10). He was head and shoulders above the other men in Israel. Though he didn’t seem altogether impressive hiding behind supplies waiting to be anointed, he embraced his role as king with great fervor. He desired to please the people. He had the propensity of being a man of religion. He had the failings of being a king, not like the nations, but like Israel. He was disloyal and disobedient. He embodied the personality of Israel—he lacked the heart for God.

Now this is not to say that Saul had no good moments. In 1 Samuel 11, we find King Saul fighting against the Ammonites in order to deliver Jabesh-Gilead. After the conflict, some men in Israel wanted to see Saul’s opponents killed on account of they did not want Saul for a king. Again, we find another positive moment for Saul, who showed mercy on these men. Instead, he directed Israel’s attention to the Lord’s ability to provide victory. Unfortunately, this accomplishment did not characterize the remainder of Saul’s rule—remember, he lacked the heart for God.

Now what do I mean by “Saul lacked a heart for God,” but that Saul’s chief loyalty was not to God, but to himself. Saul acted on his behalf, as he pleased. Even in moments when he sought to satisfy his people (see 1 Samuel 13 and 15), this was for his sake. Leaders love polls that are favorable of them. Because Saul was more concerned about his chief desire rather than God’s command, neither he or his descendants would remain on the throne in Israel. The children of Israel wanted a king like the nations, instead they gained Saul, one of their own.

Americans wanted someone who would “Make America Great Again.” What they have gained is someone made great by America. President Trump has vowed to serve the American people and represent them in every way possible. I believe he is sincere in this. I think he truly desires to see the US ascend to new heights, no matter the cost.

After his presidential victory, there were some supporters who sought to shame and expose those not politically backing our now elected president. These cohorts feel that this victory for the White House is America’s greatest hope for any kind of brighter future. As a result, they have sought to silence and marginalize President Trump’s opponents. Such behavior and actions only worsens the tension within our country, even Saul knew this.

President Trump is the embodiment of the American people. He has an entrepreneurial spirit, self-confidence, and a fierce drive. No doubt he will attempt to “Make America Great Again,” and many will follow him and celebrate his efforts. Still, there will be moments (perhaps even already) when like Saul, our President will make rash oaths, poor decisions, and suffer lingering consequences (see 1 Samuel 13–15). At that point, regardless if you are a supporter or a dissenter, celebrating the shortcomings of others accomplishes nothing. Such behavior only furthers the divide. Instead of rejoicing in the inadequacies of our leaders, we should spend the time praying for them. The defects in our leaders should remind us of what we long for—while we have gained Saul, we are praying for David.

Praying for David

Things unraveled quickly for King Saul. His entire demeanor transformed after his confrontation with Samuel in 1 Samuel 15. Readers held out hope that Saul could reform and rightly fulfill his office as king, but this was not to be. The readers were left looking for one who would truly be loyal to God and maintain the throne of Israel in a manner that accurately portrays the rule of God. God informed Samuel that David was this man (1 Samuel 16).

When we find David tending the sheep, we discover someone not near as impressive as King Saul. He was ruddy, healthy, and had beautiful eyes, but he was also unimposing and smaller than his brothers. Yet, like Samuel, the reader is forced to learn a valuable lesson—the ability of a leader is not in his appearance, it is in his heart—David was loyal above all, to God. This was plainly affirmed in David’s clash with Goliath.

1 Samuel 17 highlights David uniquely as he stands in contrast to King Saul, his brothers, Goliath, and all of Israel. Here we find that only David was willing to duel the giant of Gath for the honor of God. Upon relieving the head of his opponent, the Israelite army rallied around David for a great victory. But it was clear to everyone, and especially the reader, this victory was not due to David’s ability, but the God to whom David was devoted.

Here David sets the standard for the future kings of Israel—one whose heart belonged to God. While David was not without his faults, he established a type that would take precedent in the Scriptures—a king who was just and right, and pursued God. Then as we read Royal Psalms such as Psalm 2 and 110 (both Davidic), we find ourselves longing for such a ruler. Jesus is such a king.

Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament Davidic expectation. He is not the embodiment of Israel or our world, but of God. All his energy is spent obediently in the effort to glorify his Father. Like David, his appearance was not one of great regard. You would not look at him and say “Gee, he looks like he could be some sort of king,” let alone Savior of the world. Yet, his actions portrayed that of God, who is understood in the Old Testament to be king of all creation (see 1 Samuel 12:12, Psalm 47:7, and 145). Jesus was deniable, expendable, and crucifiable. However, today he stands as the resurrected, ascended, and enthroned King of creation. Greater still, this king is the one we are praying will return very, very soon.

Three Takeaways

This recent election should alarm every believer, for America was deserving of both candidates. Both could equally be said to have been a product of the American Dream and embodied the American people. Both would still leave us wanting and waiting for true justice, peace, and prosperity. This said, America has spoken and has gained Donald Trump as president. Regardless of your political affinity, and how you feel President Trump will do these next four years, there are three things we can take away from this past election:

1. We Respect the One in Office

David was rightly appointed king, but someone else sat on his throne. Samuel anointed David while Saul was still king of Israel. This was of course by God’s command. Yet, while David had claim to the throne of Israel, he refused to claim the life of Saul. In 1 Samuel 24:10 we find David hiding in a cave with the fortunate chance to strike out at Saul, but refrained. It was not simply that he had respect for Saul, for we know that David is a fierce warrior and could easily take life. It was because Saul was anointed and appointed by God to represent God’s rule over Israel. To lay harm to Saul would be to fight against God himself. David refused to do this, but instead chose to honor the position of Saul in order that he might honor the position of his God.

As Christians, we honestly fail in this more than most. Sure, we respect the leaders we like, and demand others to do the same. However, should we not favor our elected officials, our respect for them dissipates. We have no problem speaking publicly (more so behind a lit screen) of our great displeasure of those appointed to govern us. Unfortunately, we are so reluctant to bend our knees and do the greatest thing we could possibly do for those whom we agree or disagree with—pray for them. We can accomplish so much for our president praying for him rather than posting our angry complaints against him or his naysayers. As President Trump assumes the top spot in America, we ought to respect him (this does not demand that we agree with him) as one who stands in fulfillment of Romans 13:1–7. Therefore, let us make it a discipline and do what Paul teaches us in 1 Timothy 2:1–4 and pray for our leaders. This is the greatest thing we can do for our president and our country.

2. We Remain Loyal to Our God

You think David would have packed his bags and moved back home to his dad after he barely dodged the spear Saul hurled at his head. It would have been understandable. But regardless of the obstacles David confronted, his loyalty to God would not waiver. Even when he had another opportunity to take the life of Saul and ascend the throne of Israel by force, David trusted that God would work out all the details and hold true to his promise. So David would wait on the Lord and trust in his word. What would we expect of someone who was characterized as having a heart for God? This was not a light infatuation, but a deep devotion to God. David’s confidence in God enabled him to endure  hardships and trust in God’s deliverance.

As Americans, we tend to swoon over America. We are proud of her. We are proud because of her. In many instances we are forced to look introspectively at ourselves to discover where our true allegiance is. We might say “For God and Country,” but what that means for many of us is “For Me and Country.” Let’s be honest, we are more concerned about our present comforts than we are about God’s commission. And this will remain true as long as we allow our earthly citizenship an equal standing with our heavenly citizenship—we will continue to strive for the luxuries of the ephemeral American Dream as a substitute of the eternally abundant life found only within Jesus Christ.

3. We Pray for the Return of Christ

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1). This royal psalm composed by David, represented the kings of Israel and their place before God. David understood that the enemies of Israel would suffer defeat because God was at his right hand. As time went on, Israel found themselves without a king and without a home, but they were not without a hope.

Psalm 110 is the most quoted and alluded Old Testament passage in the entire New Testament. The writers saw Jesus as the messianic fulfillment of this royal psalm. In his first advent, Jesus came and dealt a fatal blow to sin, death, and the devil when he died upon the cross. He entered their domain and laid waste to their forces. Upon his resurrection, Jesus fast tracked the demise of sin, death, and the devil. While their influences remain in effect today, and many succumb to their will, these lethal three presently operate already defeated. Likewise, this unholy trinity will receive the whole fruit of their labor in the second death. For in Christ’s second advent, the dead will be raised, justice will be served, and truth upheld. The return of Christ is the day we are longing for. Therein lies our hope. So while we might have gained Saul, we pray for David.

For His Kingdom,

The Future that Awaits: A Thought on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday

53 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. 53 years later, that dream is only partially realized. While we have seen segregated walls break down in many areas within our country, and freedoms given that were once withheld, there are still many walls that keep our nation from unity and peace. Within recent years we have seen racial tension steadily rise as the news media speaks concerning the violence that shakes our nation. With how this news is presented, one would think we are at war with ourselves, and that person would be right. War has broken out once again on the soil of our country, and fellow citizens are claiming the lives of fellow citizens. Not with guns and knives alone, but with words and hatred too. According to Dr. King, during the civil rights movement some found themselves and their destiny tied with the African American community. Today, we have not fully realized how our freedoms are inextricably bound together.

Dr. King had a dream, that “little black boys and black girls would be able join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” While this is more possible today than it was in Dr. King’s day, there still remains a gap between races and brotherhood. I will never fully understand the hardships  a person of another race may undergo, for I will never experience what they have. But this does not mean that I cannot empathize for them and suffer along with them in their oppression. For I too have a dream that one day we will be able to embrace those who look nothing like us, talk nothing like us, and act nothing like us with the kind of familial love one would extend to a distant kin. For you see, we are all made in the image of God.

There is rich theology in the children’s song “Jesus loves the little children of the world,” for “red, and yellow, black, and white” are all still precious in His sight. This is as true today as it was when God spoke the cosmos into existence. While I do not estimate that Martin’s dream or my own will ever be fully realized within our country or in this fallen world during my lifetime, one day it will. In Revelation 7:9, the author John shared a vision of a future expectation, saying, “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the lamb!

That is the future that awaits. Equality before the throne, justice rolling down “like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Every racial barrier broken, every wall of segregation torn down, and every race before the Savior, worshipping Him side by side, and hand in hand.

For His Kingdom,

A Gospel Centered Life

Is there a way our lives can be informed and influenced with a unifying message and have it shape every other aspect of how we live? Our lives are influenced by countless outside sources. Each day we look to the weatherman for his message, and it informs us on how we should dress for the day. Similarly, our kids come home with mounds of information that relay to us when signups for sports take place, or when picture day is going to be. This influences how we will align our schedules, our financial resources, and how we will lead our children. It is easy for us to become disjointed by the many forms of influence, crashing our loyalties into every rock we believe to be our anchor. How then can we regain stability in our lives and maintain a consistent purpose in our existence? The Gospel.

Consider this, think on the most defining day in your life and how that shaped who you are and how you live. For me, I could speak to the impact my wedding day had on me, or the days my four kids were born. Each of those moments transformed my life and how I think and how I function. When I married my wife, I no longer thought as a man who was single, nor behaved as one. My life, since March 31st, 2007 and forward, has been committed to grow and function in an ongoing relationship with my wife with her interests at heart. The same is true for our children. As each one entered the world, our lives grew in adjustment to their arrival. So now, I view life as a husband and as a father. But the Gospel informs and influences even those roles in my life and should yours too.

I can be a husband and a father outside the Gospel, but to do so would be to miss a central importance in both those roles. For if I fail to function as a husband informed by the Gospel, I will never love my wife in the way that she needs to be loved. The same is true of my kids. The Gospel then is the only unifying message that can inform and influence our lives in every regard. Until the Gospel captures us so, we will remain adrift pursuing all manners of fulfillment, but finding no satisfaction. It is then imperative that we begin to understand and apply how the Gospel unifies our lives in way that we have never experienced before. Below I’d like to share with you the two key areas informed and influenced by the Gospel—the way we think and the way we live.

How the Gospel Transforms the Way We Think 

In Philippians 1:27, Paul tells us to “Live our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” The word behind the translation “Live” is extremely significant to how the Gospel informs and influences our thinking. Most translations fail to capture the full mentality behind the word by translating the Greek term as “Live” or “Conduct.” Only the New Living Translation captures the essence of the verb in a way that best represents the term in our English language, translating it, “live as citizens of heaven.” The word refers to behavior natural to freed citizens. This is relatable for us as free American citizens. We celebrate all manners of freedom and our thoughts are influenced and informed by those freedoms. In fact, if someone attempts to impede on our freedom, we are quick to respond in opposition for our thoughts of freedom have conditioned our behavior. So when leaders threaten our religious freedom, or freedom of speech, we respond in ways that are natural to us as free citizens of the United States of America.

This is Paul’s desire for his audience. They lived their lives as freed Roman citizens and enjoyed that freedom. The thoughts of their citizenship impacted their lives in a way that reflected their free state. Paul says that the Gospel grants a higher citizenship that is found in the heavenly places in Christ. This citizenship supersedes any other earthly citizenship and should then inform and influence every thought in life. The Gospel then becomes the filter by which all things sift through. Every thought must be captured by the Gospel. As we watch a movie, as we hear a song, as we start a new relationship, the Gospel informs our perspective and inspires our motivation. Our thoughts must be elevated by the Gospel, for they dictate our action.

How the Gospel Transforms the Way We Live 

Americans are quickly spotted when traveling overseas. We tend to stick out like a sore thumb. The way we dress, the way we walk, and the way we order our food, all point to the fact that we are from an entirely different world. If you have ever left the country, or if you are a Texan and have left the state of Texas, then you have probably experienced something similar! When we travel, we still carry our citizenship with us. We might be in another country, but we still function as Americans. We hope for the same conveniences; we desire to speak the same language; and we are not even remotely ashamed of it. This is because we are not only American citizens and naturally think as American citizens, we enjoy being American citizens.

The Gospel is something to enjoy. As we begin to comprehend our citizenship in heaven, the excitement of such thoughts overtakes us, and our lives begin to demonstrate that we are not from around here. Our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is lived out best when the Gospel of Christ is enjoyed most. Then as we step out on American soil, we step out first not as Americans, but Christians, citizens of an otherworldly kingdom. As we pilgrimage through this life, we interact with others around us in a way that demonstrates the work of the Gospel in our lives. The hardships of others, social injustice, and the many troubles experienced around us are responded to in a way the presents the future hope and expectation we have as citizens of God’s rule. We fight back against poverty for there will be a day when poverty will not exist. We fight back against injustice, for one day only God’s justice will be enjoyed. We live expectantly in the midst of sickness and sorrow, for the future hope we have in Christ reveals that sickness, death, and sorrow will be no more. Such an understanding of our position in Christ fills us with joy and excitement, and impacts how we live. Again, our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is lived out best when the Gospel of Christ is enjoyed most.

Only the Gospel can bring stability and consistency in our lives. The more we view our world through the lens of the Gospel, the more we will be able enjoy a life centered on the Gospel. This enjoyment is ultimately an enjoyment in Christ. Because of Him “We live, move, and exist” (Acts 17:28), and for His glory we live our lives. A life in Christ is a life centered in the Gospel, and a life centered in the Gospel is a life worth living.

For His Kingdom,