It Won’t Happen Over the Internet: Accomplishing the Great Commission in Our Generation


There has been a great resurgence of both Reformed theology and the work of missions in young people over the past couple decades. This is no coincidence. Big God theology leads to risk-taking work to reach the unreached. For those of us who are confident that Jesus has sheep that are not in the fold that he must bring in also (John 10:16), are committed to sending and going to the nations with the gospel, which draws Jesus’ flock home.

This dual resurgence of both Reformed theology and missionary zeal among young people has people looking forward to the accomplishment of the Great Commission. Could millennials really be the final push of taking the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth? Oh, how I pray this to be true of my generation.

But along with a desire for big God theology and a push for missions, millennials are more individualistic than generations before them. Much of this is due to the rise and reign of the Internet. The Internet has led many young, restless, and Reformed Christians (myself included) to take the gospel to the ends of the earth from a dorm room, office chair, or couch. We can watch Netflix and share the gospel simultaneously. And we have mastered this gospel multitasking.

Still, I fear that the Internet and our reliance on it has slowly but surely stagnated the surge of missions work. When we convince ourselves that we can proclaim the gospel to the nations from a laptop, we will be less likely to jump on a plane to move to an unreached people in the Middle East. We begin to convince ourselves that we can “Go and make disciples” without language learning or culture crossing.

I fall into the trap of individualistic thinking often. I see that hundreds from various nations read my blog and convince myself that I am reaching the nations right where I am. Now, of course we can reach the nations from home. It is not required of us to sell our homes and move to the Amazon Rainforest. But, biblical discipleship and the fulfillment of the Great Commission cannot be done from a dorm room or a study. We young, restless, and Reformed can smoke cigars, grow beards, and read Spurgeon all day long, but until we turn our hearts toward the nations, our big God theology will continue to be too small. However, when we do set our gaze on our global God, he will turn our gaze to the nations and show us that some of us must go.

For a while, I got in the habit of trying to spark gospel conversations through social media. I would either message people I noticed posting particular statuses, or I would get involved in Facebook debates. It was and still can be a great way to engage people with the gospel that live miles away. The Internet is an amazing resource for which I am truly thankful, because we are no longer limited to our geographic locations to proclaim the gospel. But I have learned through study and experience that truly impactful discipleship cannot happen through text messages or Twitter mentions. Truly impactful discipleship happens in the nitty gritty of life. Truly impactful discipleship happens face-to-face, hand-in-hand. When we go out to coffee with our lost friends rather than bash them on Facebook, we can truly impact their souls for Christ. When we cross a culture or an ocean to learn a language and live among a people, we can truly impact them with the gospel.

In his introduction to the book, Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy, David Mathis argues that the fulfillment of the Great Commission “won’t happen over the Internet.” He captures my concerns perfectly.

[T]he computer will never replace the missionary–because the Commission doesn’t call for mere exchange of information, but for good old-fashioned disciplemaking.

Discipling the nations requires more than dropping a translated tract or piping in a recording, or even a well-produced video. Disicplemaking requires more than a low-bandwith, user-friendly website in multiple trade languages. Disciplemaking means getting your feet wet, and your whole body, in baptism, and teaching not just what Jesus commanded, but to observe all that he commanded. It means doing the long-term grunt work to entrust the gospel to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. It means older women training younger women holistically. It means being “among” the people we hope to reach with the gentleness of a nursing mother and the strength of an encouraging father. It means an eagerness to share not only the gospel, but our own selves, providing a life example to imitate, and empowering the disciples to practice what they have learned and received and heard and seen in us. Full-orbed disciplemaking cannot be accomplished remotely. It won’t happen over the Internet (Cross, p. 6).

I desperately hope my generation accomplishes the Great Commission. But if we do it, it will not be because of our clever quotes and blog posts. It will be because of our sacrificial commitment to give our lives for the sake of the joy of all peoples–peoples that we touch with our hands and love with our lives.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Fishing With Jesus: Why Did Jesus Perform So Many Miracles?


Have you ever thought about the reasons why Jesus performed his miracles? Many of us take the purpose of the miracles for granted. I think I see more pastors and Christians miss the point of Jesus’ miracles than anything else in the Gospels. Its like they turn to the Gospels and forget how to draw out the intended meaning from a text. Is the healing of a blind man really an example that Jesus provides for us to follow? Am I really supposed to walk up to people who are blind or sick and heal them? Maybe. Maybe not. But was that the primary purpose of Jesus’ healing miracles? What about Jesus’ miracle of turning water to wine? How about his divine food pantry he developed from a few fish and loaves of bread? And what about all of those fish he caught in Peter’s boat? What is the purpose in all of these miracles?

Each miracle deserves its own answer, but they all carry one overarching message: Jesus Christ is the Lord God. Miracles are an attestation to God. John Frame argues that miracles attest to God’s control, authority, and covenant presence (all following quotations taken from Frame’s Systematic Theology pp. 129-131). He writes that miracles are “the result of enormous power, the power of God.” They attest to God’s total control over the world. Miracles are also “signs” that bear God’s “supreme authority.” Frame continues, “Miracles are revelation. They show the character of God, the person and work of Jesus, the blessings of redemption, and its fulfillment in the messianic banquet.” Finally, miracles are “wonders” that communicate the covenant presence of God. It creates a “religious awe, arising from the sense that God is present.” Frame concludes, “As displays of God’s control, authority, and presence, miracles may be defined as extraordinary manifestations of God’s lordship.”

So, while there may be specific purposes in each miracle of Jesus, there is one overarching purpose, namely, to communicate the divine nature of Christ. Let’s take a look at one particular miracle to see this ultimate purpose.

In Luke 5, Luke tells us the crowds were surrounding Jesus to “hear the word of God” (v. 1). As four fishermen were washing their nets, Jesus stepped into one of their boats to use it as a platform from which to teach the people. He sat in Simon Peter’s boat and taught the people for a while. Then, he asked Peter to do something crazy.

“And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’” (v. 4).

Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face? Peter was an expert fisherman. Jesus was a carpenter. In Peter’s eyes, Jesus was a gifted teacher and maybe a prophet, but he was definitely a carpenter. In other words, he was not a fisherman, yet he was telling a fisherman to take his boat to a certain spot on the lake to catch some fish. Jesus was asking a man who had spent all night on the sea without catching one fish, who probably hadn’t gotten much sleep, to take him out to sea and throw out his newly cleaned nets to catch fish that probably were not there. Insane, right?! But something about Jesus must have caught Peter’s attention.

He replied, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). Peter is saying, “Look, we are expert fishermen and we didn’t catch anything all night. But, out of respect to you, I will take you out to see what we can do.” When Jesus took Peter and Andrew out to sea, he gives them the fishing tale of a lifetime.

“And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink” (vv. 6-7).

Not only did they catch a few fish, but they caught so many fish that the fishermen’s boats began to sink from the weight of the fish in the nets. Now these boats were not small. They were likely around seven feet wide and twenty-seven feet long. This was a catch that even Peter and his partners had never seen before. It just wasn’t natural. It was a miracle.

Now what is the purpose in this miracle? Why did Jesus do this? Later, we will see a specific purpose, that Jesus was teaching them about the nature of salvation and what he is going to empower them to do. But the ultimate purpose found in this and every other miracle is that Jesus is shouting with full clarity: “I am God!”

Jesus had just demonstrated his great power and authority. He showed that he is in control of nature and creatures. While professional fishermen could not catch one fish, Jesus goes to basically the same spot and caught thousands of fish. He was able to do this not because he was a gifted fisherman, but because he is God! Only God could show this kind of power over nature. When God rescued his people from Egypt, he sent ten plagues. All of them showed that he was in control over nature, life, and even death. He sent swarms of frogs, gnats, and locusts. Jesus was not just showing himself to be a carpenter who was a good teacher. He was showing himself to be God in the flesh who has power and authority over nature.

The problem with many pastors’ hermeneutics is that they are to self-centered. They focus the point of the story or miracle on the people they are preaching to. Instead of seeking to communicate what the passage communicates about God, they use the passage to say, “This is about you!” What typically follows is some bland and disingenuous call for service in this-or-that project or ministry. The point of Jesus’ miracle catch is not, “We need to go where the fish are!” but, “This Jesus is the Lord God who rescues us from sin and death!”

We should see in Jesus’ fishing miracle that he is God in the flesh, the Lord over all creation. If even the frogs and fish obey his command, then surely his people should do whatever it takes to obey his command as well. The catching of fish depended on Jesus’ word. Obeying Jesus, pleasing God, and leading others to salvation in Christ all depend on Jesus’ word too. Even better than a phony fishing tale or a Christian’s poor interpretation, Luke tells us the true story of Jesus catching thousands of fish to show us that this Fisherman is God.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 04/13


Today is the day my wife was due to give birth to our son. But instead of holding a baby boy, I am holding a cup of coffee. Lord willing, we will meet Jude Adoniram face to face very soon, though it feels like we already know him. Until then, I wanted to share some thought provoking and interesting articles I came across over the weekend and early this morning.

Why All Christians Must Seek Public Justice – I have seen way too many of my southern Kentucky friends speaking out against social justice. It saddens my heart to see so many friends who are faithful in church attendance and Bible study see little to nothing wrong with the recent killings of young black men by white police. I know it is a controversial and touchy issue, but I wholeheartedly agree with this piece: All Christians must seek public justice.

Sometimes Flight is the Best Fight – I generally love to read anything Jon Bloom writes. This is why: “In the kingdom of the heart, the commanding hierarchy is this: King Delight rules and he tells General Desire what to want. General Desire then issues commands to Lieutenant Will to act on the want.”

Telling the Truth about Abortion Politics – Joe Carter: “While we may align with a political group, Christians should not be beholden to any party. We should hold all political parties accountable when they are espousing unbiblical and anti-human ideas. If this gets us called “partisan,” then that is the price we must pay. The American church has a serious problem if we are more worried about being mislabeled as “partisan” than we are in protecting innocent human life.”

TGC National Conference – The Gospel Coalition’s biennial national conference begins today at 1 pm. If you are like me and will not be in beautiful Orlando, follow this link to watch the live stream.

New ESV Bible App – The ESV Bible app has finally updated. Be sure to check out all of its new and exciting features.

Justin Spieth Wins The Masters – A star was born in Augusta this weekend. Well, the golf world was honestly not surprised, as Spieth has been a rising superstar for a couple years now. But, with a Masters runner-up finish last year, and dominating win this year, Jordan Spieth is set to fill the void of the fading stars of golf.

“Your problem is not so much that you love your career or family too much, but that you love God too little in proportion to them”  –Tim Keller

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Thy Word is Truth: 13 Reasons to Trust the Bible

BibleChristianity and the church stand or fall on the reliability of Scripture. As a reformed-ish Southern Baptist, I hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. This means when I read, study, teach, or preach the Bible, I believe I am seeing, hearing, speaking, and proclaiming the very word of God. The entirety of my faith and knowledge of God, truly the only way that I know God, flows from the river of the Bible. This grand Book is more than a masterpiece of human literature (though not less). The evangelical view of the Bible is that it is God’s self-revelation, and therefore entirely authoritative for the Christian’s life and the church’s practice.

Along with this view is the clear implication that if the Bible is not true, or if it is manipulated, then the entirety of the Christian faith falls apart. While the existential work of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection are the rockbed of Christianity, the truth of which would not be diminished if the Bible did not exist, the testimony to this historical reality is absolutely crucial for the work of Christ to benefit us. The only way for us to know God is for God to reveal himself to us. He does so through the person of Christ and the Scriptures.

Without the Scriptures, we would have no ground to stand on, and truly, we would have nothing to say, and our faith would be non-existent. But because we believe God has clearly spoken in the Bible, we cannot keep quiet. The ultimate question for all Christians is this: Can you trust the Bible?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, reformer John Calvin once wrote, “So far as human reason goes, sufficiently firm proofs are at hand to establish the credibility of Scripture.” He proceeded to give thirteen reasons the Scriptures are worthy of our full trust and devotion. Hopefully this summation of his discussion will help give you greater confidence in the message of the Book you will read and share this week.

1. The Superiority of the Message

Calvin stated, “Scripture is superior to all human wisdom.” According to Calvin, Scripture is uniquely majestic and impressive. Contrary to popular criticisms, the Bible is not contradictory, which makes its unifying message both awe-inspiring and divine. The “heavenly” nature of Scripture is found in the fact that over the course of thousands of years, through various cultures, and from the pens of a great variety of men, the Bible carries a unifying message and theme. This is simply amazing.

Calvin marvels at the fact that though the language of Scripture is plain enough to be understood by all, its majesty is found in the “grandeur of subjects,” not language. In other words, we do not stand in awe of Scripture because it possesses the literary eloquence of a Victorian novel, but because “the force of the truth of Sacred Scripture is manifestly too powerful to need the art of words.”

2. The Decisive Content of Scripture

Calvin admits that great portions of Scripture, especially the prophets, possessed an eloquence of speaking that “yields nothing to secular writers.” But, no matter the style, whether beautiful poetry or rugged prophecy, the “majesty of the Spirit will be evident everywhere.”

3. The Great Antiquity of Scripture

The message of the Bible extends backward of some thousands of years. It is no mere coincidence that the message of Scripture has been passed down so many years. We are well to marvel at such antiquity.

4. The Truthfulness of Scripture (as shown by Moses)

Calvin argues that Moses is a great example of the truthfulness of Scripture due to how personally involved he was in his writings in the Pentateuch. For example, the best way for Moses to leave a personal legacy would be for him to establish the priesthood from his sons. But he doesn’t do this. The priesthood is established through Aaron. Why? Because that was the word of the Lord.

5. & 6. The Strengthening Nature of Miracles

There are numerous miracles recorded in Scripture. We often take them for granted. But for Calvin, they serve as a source to strengthen Scripture’s own claim to inerrancy. Moses and other writers would have a lot of nerve to testify to a miracle that didn’t happen to those who would know whether or not the event was true or not. For people who came out against Moses so often, testifying to a false miracle would have definitely incurred the wrath of Israel.

7. & 8. The Fulfillment of Prophecies

Calvin also argues that it is hard to argue against something that existentially proves itself to be valid and true. This is especially true when the fulfilled prophecy is contrary to what Calvin calls “human expectation.” He asks, “When David was anointed by Samuel, what visible reason was there for the transference of the kingly power?” None of us would naturally assume that lowly David would be not just the next king, but the king from who the ultimate King would come. However, this is the testimony of Scripture, and when such un-expectations are fulfilled, we must marvel at its reliability.

9. The Transmission of the Law

Similar to his argument from antiquity, Calvin finds tremendous support for the reliability of Scripture in the fact that it was continuously passed down. We must never neglect texts that survive thousands of years. And when texts have been preserved thousands of years and continuously held as authoritative and divine, we would do well to take notice and find reason for reliability.

10. The Preservation of the Law and Prophets

Piggy-backing on his point on transmission, Calvin shows why these texts have survived for millennia. The Scriptures have survived numerous attempts to stomp out Christianity and its sacred writings. This is not an accident, as it is evidence for God’s hand in the preservation of his word. The Scriptures have survived ungodly monarchies, invasions, exiles, dictators, and various persecutions. With Calvin, we should “ponder here how much care the Lord has taken to preserve his Word.”

11. The Character of the New Testament

Calvin says that the New Testament is both simple and heavenly in its character. Calvin claps a thunderbolt of argumentation down on critics of the Scriptures. He essentially says that you cannot honestly come away from the New Testament, particularly John, Paul, and Peter, and deny its heavenly nature. He strongly declares with maybe not-so-convictional-kindness, “Let these dogs deny that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles; or even let them discredit history. Yet the truth cries out openly that these men who, previously contemptible among common folk, suddenly began to discourse so gloriously of the heavenly mysteries must have been instructed by the Spirit.

12. The Unvarying Testimony of the Church

While the consensus testimony of a body like the Church should not be the primary defense for the reliability for a doctrine, it should definitely not be ignored. Calvin writes, “Since the publication of Scripture, age after age agreed to obey it steadfastly and harmoniously. By countless wondrous means Satan with the whole world has tried either to oppress it or overturn it, to obscure and obliterate it utterly from the memory of men–yet, like the palm, it has risen ever higher and has remained unassailable.”

A bombardment of human arguments against the reliability of Scripture has hit the church, yet it stands firm in its 2,000 year submission to the Bible. The church has remained uninhibited. The church stretches across both time and cultures, but all hold to the supremacy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture. In the words of Calvin, “Such agreement of minds, so disparate and otherwise disagreeing in everything among themselves, ought to move us greatly, since it is clear that this agreement is brought about by nothing else than the divine will.”

13. The Testimony of the Martyrs’ Blood

Calvin’s final reason for the reliability of Scripture is that it is soaked with the blood of martyrs. He writes, “It is no moderate approbation of Scripture that it has been sealed by the blood of so many witnesses, especially when we reflect that they died to render testimony to the faith; not with fanatic excess, but with a firm and constant, yet sober, zeal toward God.” Pascal’s words are apropos: “I believe the witnesses that get their throats cut.” It is one thing to claim to believe a text is inerrant and inspired by God. It is quite another to die for said belief. Countless men and women throughout the history of the church have given and lost their lives for the Scriptures. Though not the primary reason for the Bible’s reliability, it is worth recognizing that people do not intentionally lose their lives for falsehoods. People have been losing their lives for the Bible since the beginning of the church.

Even with these reasons and many more that could accompany them for the reliability of Scripture, I cannot emphasize enough that these facts will not grant you a saving knowledge of God. In the words of Calvin, “yet of themselves these are not strong enough to provide a firm faith, until our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty there, lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy.” So, if you struggle to trust the Bible or have friends who hesitate to embrace Christ because of doubts over Scripture, you can reason for Scripture’s reliability, but ultimately we must rely on God’s grace to grant true saving faith and confidence in the Bible.

Take courage in your evangelism and defense of Scripture, because as Calvin reminds us, “But those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known.”

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Throwback Thursday: George Whitefield, Deism, and Cultural Impact

pgeorge-whitefieldIn the beginning of Arnold Dallimore’s volume 1 work on George Whitefield, he addresses the spiritual and moral corruption in Britain in the mid 1700s. Dallimore starts off this chapter by stating “The history of the eighteenth century demonstrates that true revival is the work of God-not man- of God who is not limited by such circumstances as the extent of human sin or the degree of mankind’s unbelief” (paraphrased, p. 19).

Dallimore displays in that chapter the rise of Deism and the questioning of Christianity. This century attacked the Bible, attacked pastors, and attacked Christ. But from these attacks from the end of the 1600s into the 1700s, there are men such as Bunyan, the Wesleys, Whitefield, and Edwards. These men stood on the solid foundation, preached the gospel, and changed the culture.

One could look at their generation, and our generation and see many similarities in moral and spiritual corruption. We need to preach the gospel. True revival is not the work of man, but of God. I hear from many men and women who say there is no hope in this generation, everything is going to hell in a hand basket, things are getting so bad. But then you look at previous generations and things weren’t so great.

Yeah, sure, things may be bad right now. Every generation has their problems, but they only have one Savior. We need to preach the gospel that changes lives. The gospel found in the scriptures. There is hope in Jesus! As Christians, Jesus transforms our thoughts, our actions, and our motives. So friends, be reminded of the gospel that has the power to save. Because you only get one life, and it will soon pass! Only what is done for Jesus Christ will last!

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.


The Weeping Warrior: Holy Anger in Christ’s Tears

jesus-weptTim Keller (man, I’ve been on a Keller kick!) once wrote, “Evil is an intrusion into God’s good creation. And often evil and suffering occur without regard to an individual’s relative moral decency.”

Evil, suffering, and death. Three enemies of mankind. Three products of mankind by the Fall. While these three enemies are far from God, not a part of his original creation, and the last enemies to be defeated, they are all under God’s control. In attempts to understand how God relates to evil, suffering, and death, many place God under a microscope. They limit the extent of his knowledge or they distort the level of his control. They try to bring God down to our level. Surely God could not have total control over evil and suffering, for if he did we would not see so much of it! Right. What we are actually saying is, “Surely if we cannot see God’s purpose in evil and suffering, then he must not have anything to do with it.” In order to defend God’s existence by making him look like the “good guy,” we totally misunderstand and misrepresent him. In trying to make excuses for God, we totally miss him. Make no mistake. God is utterly and totally sovereign over suffering.

However, this does not mean God is coldly indifferent to evil and suffering. Oh, quite the opposite. In his magnificent book, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?, David Bentley Hart vividly describes where God stands in relation to our enemies. Namely, evil and suffering are his enemies as well:

Our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred…As for comfort…I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy.

Hart finds greatest comfort in the face of evil and suffering from the fact that evil and suffering are the enemies of God. Standing over a grave or visiting a cemetery, while filling us with deep sorrow, should also fill us with comfort. We should not just feel comfort in knowing our loved ones who died in Christ are with God, but also because their deaths stand as the enemy of God, albeit under the sovereignty of God.

So, God is definitely sovereign over evil, suffering, and death. But he is also with us in the trenches of suffering and death. This means much more than God consoling you through your suffering. God’s position toward your suffering is much more in line with your natural inclinations than you may realize.

In John 11, Jesus comes to visit a family very close to him when his friend Lazarus died. Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) plead with Jesus to come when Lazarus took ill. Jesus intentionally lingered in coming to Lazarus, because he desired his glory to be displayed through Lazarus’ resurrection. But when Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead. Then, Jesus does something unexpected: he wept. Jesus wept (John 11:35). Now, everyone around him assumed it was because of his great love and compassion for Lazarus that he wept. Makes sense, right? We all weep when our close friends die. But it does seem a little strange for Jesus to be expressing any kind of significant emotion because he knows that he is about to conquer Lazarus’ death. But the following verses suggest something grander is at hand. Jesus was expressing a deeply human emotion, but it was not simple sadness.

When Jesus approached the tomb of his friend, just before he brought the dead back to life, the Bible says he was “deeply moved again” (John 11:38). So, the earlier weeping is connected to Jesus being “deeply moved.” Our English translations do a very poor job of capturing the idea and meaning of the Greek word in this case. Reformed theologian B.B. Warfield comments on the word: “What John tells us, in point of fact, is that Jesus approached the grave of Lazarus in a state, not of uncontrollable grief, but of irrepressible anger.”

Wow. Jesus was not weeping out of sadness. He was so enraged with anger that he cried. So, his emotion was an insatiable I-can’t-see-straight kind of anger. As Jesus stands toe to toe with death, he stares it down with indignant anger. I love this picture of Jesus. Down in the trenches with his people, not holding our hand, but sharpening his sword, whetting his fierce appetite for the destruction of death. The enemy for which he chiefly came to destroy is bearing down. And much like two rival teams at tip-off, Jesus’ passion for God’s glory brewed a holy hatred of sin and death, which ignited a death-defeating work of resurrection power.

Warfield (with the help of Calvin) expresses better than anyone the concept of Christ as our weeping warrior. The in-the-trenches picture of Christ for which I have been arguing is on full display in Warfield’s commentary on this passage:

The spectacle of the distress of Mary and her companions enraged Jesus because it brought poignantly home to his consciousness the evil of death, its unnaturalness, its “violent tyranny” as Calvin phrases it. In Mary’s grief, he “contemplates”–still to adopt Calvin’s words–“the general misery of the whole human race” and burns with rage against the oppressor of men. Inextinguishable fury seizes upon him; his whole being is discomposed and perturbed…

It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words again, “as a champion who prepares for conflict.”…What John does for us in this particular statement is to uncover to us the heart of Jesus, as he wins for us our salvation. Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. He has not only saved us from the evils which oppress us; he has felt for and with us in our oppression, and under the impulse of these feelings has wrought out our redemption.

Jesus Christ is not a distant general commanding troops into battle formations. He is a King, a weeping warrior, leading his people into battle and conquering their enemies for them. And he does this with vibrant and holy passion, hating most that which robs God of glory and his people of joy. Take comfort in the holy anger of Christ’s tears as you face evil, suffering, and death in your life. Hate with a holy hatred sin and death, and in doing so embody the way of your Suffering Savior who died so that all that enrages him and you is no more.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Far Better Things Ahead: The Suffering Christian’s Greatest Hope

far betterWhat is the Christian’s greatest hope in the face of suffering and death?

Tim Keller argues in his book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, that the Christian worldview best deals with realities of pain and suffering not because it teaches improvement, but because it teaches complete restoration. Our current condition is not later improved, but later perfected. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “There are far better things ahead than what we leave behind.” This is especially true because of future restoration and glorification of all who are in Christ and creation itself.

The hope of a Christian who is suffering under the unbearable weight of immense tragedy is not merely found in the fact that at death, the suffering ends and the sufferer is in a better place. While there is tremendous hope found in the “absent from the body, present with the Lord” consolation, the greatest hope comes at the second advent of Christ. The reason we can confidently say this is because the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection is not fully consummated until he returns in judgment over his enemies when he completely restores the earth to the glory for which it was created.

Keller caused me to reflect on this truth. And I can say that when I consider those in my family who died young or in a horrendous way, I find that I have greater comfort when thinking about the future resurrection of their bodies than merely thinking about them in the presence of God now (as great as that is!). I have been mostly exposed to the spiritual, non-physical aspects of new creation theology. It was very sanctifying to start thinking of the certain eschatological future residence of believers as being physical. Though there is no absence of joy whatsoever in thinking of our future eschatological home in terms of being in God’s presence outside of an actual physical place, there is almost a special feeling of joy that can be found in realizing that this home in God’s presence will be somewhat familiar to the place we call home now.

This was an edifying read for me, and Randy Alcorn’s words on the doctrine of the New Earth make total sense and spoke directly to my heart on the matter.

The biblical doctrine of the New Earth implies something startling: that if we want to know what the ultimate Heaven, our eternal home, will be like, the best place to start is by looking around us. We shouldn’t close our eyes and try to imagine the unimaginable. We should open our eyes, because the present Earth is as much a valid reference point for envisioning the New Earth as our present bodies are a valid reference point for envisioning our new bodies.

I miss my cousin. I find comfort in knowing he is with Jesus. I’m even a little jealous of this! But, I find greater comfort in knowing that one day, his impressive arm and body, which struck out countless batters will be fully restored in a glorified state that we cannot even imagine.I look forward with great hope to this day and instead of closing my eyes to imagine being in God’s presence outside of a physical place, with eyes wide open I will anticipate walking in an abundantly joyful, satisfying, and perfectly renewed/redeemed Earth with the God whose glory shines in it all.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

A Prayer for the Suffering Christian

sufferingFor the grieving Christian, community is crucial. The church is to bear one another’s burdens. We come along side one another to provide love, comfort, care, and grace. However, while the church is an invaluable source of comfort for the suffering Christian, it is imperfect and finite. The church cannot be there in the middle of the night when the torment of isolation and despair ring like a constant and annoying alarm clock keeping the suffering Christian up all night. As good and helpful and consoling as community is, the tormented soul needs something more to withstand the darkness of suffering.

Thankfully, the Christian soul does have something greater than community. We have the Christ. He is both the great Sovereign and the great Sufferer. He is the only one who can truthfully look into our suffering and say with full integrity, “I’ve been there.” He is also the only one who can powerfully say to us, “I am working this for your good.” Christ is both at work in your suffering and identifying with your suffering. So, what I would like to do here, is provide a prayer for the Christian who may be suffering today. This prayer is a way for you to express your humble trust in the only one who can fully supply you with satisfaction in your suffering by being the King who is your Friend.

Father, help me to rest in you, trust in you, and rejoice in you.
Though I walk in darkness, I know Jesus is the light of the world.
Though I feel lost, I know that I am found in Christ. 
Though I feel empty, I know Jesus desires for my joy to be full in you.
Though I feel lonely, I know that Jesus is the only friend I have who will never leave me or forsake me.
He is mine and I am his—forever this will be.
And although I am confused and uncertain, I know that you are omniscient.
Help me to marvel at your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways.
Cause me to rejoice in Christ and trust in the future grace of his lordship over my life.
May I learn longsuffering and patience from you.
Give me grace to do these things.
In the name of the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ my God and King and Savior, Amen!

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

The Death of Death in the Greater David


The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. –1 Corinthians 15:26

The teacher gave two strikingly opposite descriptions of two men. One man’s name was Goliath. He was a Philistine. He was a tremendously terrifying warrior—the best of the best among the army of the Philistines. He was a mountain of a man. His armor was impressive. He possessed an arrogant confidence. This is the guy all the kids love to think about and the one we indirectly encourage many of them to become like.

However, the teacher moved to describe another “man.” This other man’s name was David. He was the son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah. He was a shepherd boy, the youngest of his brothers. He was armed with only a slingshot and a few stones. Yet, he also exhibited a confidence, a vibrantly humble and dependent confidence in “the living God” (1 Sam. 17:26). He was fearlessly confident in Yahweh (v. 37). He was a Savior. He was not the savior Israel wanted, but he was the savior Israel needed.

Similarly, we all face a gigantic enemy. His name is Death. In the words of Jeremiah, “For death has come through our windows, has entered our palaces, to kill off the children–no longer to be outside! And the young men–no longer on the streets!” (Jer. 9:21). Death haunts every human. Regardless of race, language, culture, time, gender, or worldview, death relentlessly pursues us all. We can do nothing to control it. We can do nothing to avoid it.

Despite the various rungs on the ladder of life on which we all stand—some higher, some lower—death crushes the ladder itself and we all lie together in the rubble of death’s blow. In his book on the death and resurrection of Jesus, Captivated, Thabiti Anyabwile writes, “We deserve death because of our sin, but we hate it because of life.”

Death is a valiant enemy, one that for thousands of years has destroyed even the strongest and most noble of mankind. Death does not discriminate. The 90 year-old woman dies warm in her bed and the 10 year-old child dies cold in the street. And much like Israel, we all stand before this dark enemy with sheer dread. Who among us will go out to face this conquering devil?

Enter: Jesus. Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary. Like David, he was born in Judah, in Bethlehem. He was a carpenter, an ordinary guy. He was not wealthy and in his adulthood had no place to call home. Yet, there was something unique about this ordinary Judean. Jesus was the Son of God. He carried with him divine authority. And he showed himself to be the long-awaited Messiah. However, he was not the Messiah, not the Savior Israel or we want, but he is exactly the kind of Savior we need. Indeed, he is the only Savior.

Jesus is the greater David who conquers the enemies of his people. He is the hero we wouldn’t expect, but just the hero we need. He is called the one “who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Jesus conquered death once for all, but he did so by succumbing to death itself. Death forever died the day Jesus died. Through suffering, Jesus ensured suffering’s eternal defeat. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later he delivered death a blow far greater than death itself gives. In Christ alone we see death’s demise and the restoration of all things.

Therefore, in the death and resurrection of Jesus we see both life and death. Jesus grants us what death takes and grants death what it so loves to give. The only true and lasting hope in the face of death is the hope we find in Jesus, the greater David who died not only to give his people life, but to destroy death. As Anyabwile puts it, “Though we see people still dying, a time fast approaches when the experience of death will be done away with.”

So, as you see death and face death, do so with real sorrow and real joy. Real Christlike sorrow because we hate that which robs life (John 11:35). Real Christ-empowered joy because by his death and resurrection, Jesus achieved eternal victory over death. Death, my friends, is done.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).
Christian, when you are faced with death look to Jesus. Not as some super spiritual fantasy of comfort. Look to Jesus for real, earthy sorrowful-yet-always-rejoicing kind of comfort. Stand firm. Do not succumb to fear or temptation. Death does not have the last word for those who are in Christ. Jesus, the life-giving Savior, has the last word. When you see death or stand at the precipice of death, say confidently,
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 03/30


After taking a couple months off from serious blogging, I hope to return to a more regular schedule. I have taken more ecclesiastical responsibilities, and my wife and I are eagerly awaiting the birth of our first son, Jude. So, I have stepped aside from regular blogging, but I feel ready to jump back on the horse, so to speak. We will see where I am in about three weeks, though.

There are many wonderful articles in this morning’s Morning Mashup. I hope you check out each of them!

A Prison Pastor’s Advice for Parents – “A white supremacist, a Native American gangster, and a black drug dealer. Three prison inmates whose life stories differ in the details but unite around the same temptations.”

The Savior’s Tears of Sovereign Mercy – A beautiful piece from John Piper that will do the job of ushering your heart into the right place for Holy Week.

Four Truths About Complementarian Marriage – Attention all married or soon-to-be-married couples: Don’t miss this post from 9Marks. Whether you are engaged, have been married nearly two years (like myself), or have been married fifty years, this is a fresh and helpful reminder about the sweetness of God’s design for marriage.

Short-Term Missions: Redefining Success – Before you hop on that plane for your next short-term mission trip, check out this helpful article.

Discrimination Against Gay People in Indiana? – I’ve been hearing a lot about Indiana lately. And since the Hoosiers’ basketball season ended weeks ago, I’ve kind of been wondering why! Denny Burk helped enlighten my ignorance.

How They All Got There – This is a look at the journeys of each of the four teams comprising the Final Four. While my bracket was horribly busted early on (thanks a lot, Virginia and Iowa St.), I did rightly choose three of the four teams in the Final Four with the exception of Michigan St. With the rest of BBN, I truly hope Wisconsin does assault Kentucky from the three point line the way they did Arizona.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba.