Jesus Christ, Our Great Prophet


Image from Ligonier
Image from Ligonier

Prophets were men who literally spoke the Word of the Lord. As they spoke, they did so with divine authority. For example, Moses and Aaron are both referred to as prophets in Exodus 7 because they were sent by God to proclaim his message to pharaoh. Prophets were not fortunetellers. They did not only foretell future events. Prophets functioned as the mouth of God. The prophets were like microphones. God spoke through them and they amplified exactly what he himself has said. The role of the prophet in the Old Testament was to bring announcements of judgment and salvation on the people of God. Prophets indicted the people for their sin. They also pronounced forgiveness from God (Isa. 40:1-2). And whatever the prophet spoke, God spoke.

According to John Frame, a prophet is one who has the “very word of God on his lips” (Systematic Theology, 900). Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and Jeremiah 1:9-10 show that the words of the prophet are the words of God. This means that when prophets spoke, they did so with the authority of God. But Jesus is quite different. Although he is definitely a prophet, he carried an authority that was greater than all the prophets before him. The religious leaders around Jesus were amazed and offended at the authority with which Jesus spoke. Why would this be? It cannot be because they didn’t think a man could speak with authority from God, for the prophets of old did that and they celebrated it. They were offended when Jesus spoke with authority, because of the way he did it.

In the Old Testament, prophets spoke with authority from God. Their words were God’s words. But, they did so in a certain way. They usually began their prophecies with the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” This was the prophets’ way of saying, “Look, what I am about to say is coming from the mouth of God himself!” They did not claim to have their own authority in speaking. Their authority came from God.

However, Jesus did not speak this way. He never once said, “Thus says the Lord.” Instead, Jesus said, “I say to you.” Jesus spoke as a prophet with authority from God, but he assumed the authority was not outside of himself. The authority with which he spoke belonged to him! This shows Jesus to be no ordinary prophet—he was a divine prophet, much greater than all before him. This authority that belonged to Jesus, also belonged to the Father. Jesus did not come to earth with a separate agenda from his Father. The message he brought was from God. The authority with which he spoke was from God. But Jesus was much more than just the next great prophet with a message from God. Jesus himself is the message. And Jesus himself has the authority to speak divine truth.

Jesus not only spoke the word of God; he is the Word of God (John 1:1)! Jesus not only pronounced forgiveness and pardon, he accomplished forgiveness and pardon. In fact, he has authority to forgive sins (Mark 1:15; 2:7, 10)!

While the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders taught a message that was bogged down with tradition and personal preference, Jesus taught a message that was straight gospel truth. He revealed the will of God, and God himself through what he said, did, and who he was.

Jesus is the prophet that all the other prophets were pointing to. They were the shadow. He is the reality.


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.

Does God Ever Get Bored?


ask-question-1-ff9bc6fa5eaa0d7667ae7a5a4c61330cThe following is from the Q/A session during the Wednesday evening children’s ministry, First Kids Discover, at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. This question originated from a fourth grade boy.


 

When we talk about something lasting for a really, really long time, one thing that comes to our mind is boredom. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about. School or work can become boring because it seems to last a really long time. Think about it.

You wake up every day and do pretty much the same thing. Doing the same thing day after day, month after month, and even year after year will cause us to be bored. Even something fun like a basketball game that lasts for a really long time can be boring. The longer something lasts, the greater the chance it will be boring. This is exactly why Major League Baseball has implemented new rules to increase the speed of the game.

Now think about God. God is eternal. This means he has been around forever! There has never been a time when God was not there. God was there even before the earth. Isn’t it possible that God could get bored? God never changes. He is always the same. Isn’t this boring? This is like asking if a fountain that is continuously overflowing with water is ever empty. The nature of the fountain makes the possibility for emptiness impossible. Likewise, the nature of God makes the possibility for boredom impossible.

Boredom is either an absence of joy or a stagnant joy. It is a satisfaction that reaches a limit or a ceiling. This is why we can get bored with things we like. This is why video game companies produce a new game every year. Even Call of Duty or Minecraft gets boring after a while. This is not possible in God because his joy, pleasure, and satisfaction are infinite. The psalmist puts it this way, “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

God is not only, never bored, but is in fact the most thrilling being in the universe. Not only does he never get bored, but also no one who comes to him will ever be bored again. Eternity with God will be filled with ever-increasing splendor and delight. Built into God and all who take part in his presence is a fountain of joy that never runs dry. Experiencing God through Jesus is a thrilling adventure with no end in sight. We will never reach the depths of God’s love for us. And we will never reach the summit of his glory. His grace extends further than we can ever see. And his joy captures us like a hurricane. The only kind of joy that will not ultimately bore you to death in the end, is joy in God which is a fountain for eternal life.

Since God is infinite in his glory, there is infinite joy to be found in him. Anyone who possesses this kind of joy will never be bored. This kind of joy has no limit or celing. It bursts through the clouds and up through the deepest galaxy. Standing before the joy of God is like standing before an endless ocean. With all the mystery and vastness before your eyes, not only can you trust that there is no boredom before you, but you can be sure there will be no boredom in you when you take the plunge into its glory.


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.

Throwback Thursday: How Important is the Scripture?


81pumFLRo-LThis quote is taken from the chapter by BB Warfield “The Biblical Idea of Inspiration” out of the new book edited by John MacArthur, Scripture Cannot be Broken. 

“The Scriptures are throughout a divine book, created by the divine energy and speaking in their every part with divine authority directly to the heart of the readers, is the fundamental fact concerning them which is witnessed by Christ and the sacred writers to whom we owe the New Testament. But the strength and constancy with which they bear witness to this primacy fact do not prevent their recognizing by the side of it that the Scriptures have come into being by the agency of men. It would be inexact to say that they recognize a human element in Scripture: they do not parcel Scripture out, assigning portions of it, or elements in it, respectively to God and man. In their view the whole of Scripture in all its parts and in all its elements, down to the least minutiae, in form of expression as well as in substance of teaching is from God; but the whole of it has been given by God through the instrumentality of men” (Scripture Cannot be Broken, 154)

Friend no matter where you are at in your life, your view of the Scripture is view important. It impacts your everyday life and how you live as a result. If you believe that the Scripture is the inerrant word of God, then you will live on those implications. But if you do not hold that the Bible is the word of God, then you will live on those implications. Friend, you cannot tip toe the line of biblical inerrancy. One has all of Scripture or none at all.

The Bible isn’t just a road map to become a “better person” like many popular TV preachers tend to advertise. The Bible shows the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners. All of Scripture testifies of Jesus Christ. That man has sinned, rebelled against God, but God has made the only way, sending his son Jesus Christ to bear the cross and our sin for our salvation. Friend, Scripture cannot be broken!

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.

Does God Love All Sinners?


ask-question-1-ff9bc6fa5eaa0d7667ae7a5a4c61330cThis question originated from a young Christian girl in the children’s ministry I lead. At First Baptist Church, East Bernstadt, we encourage our children to ask difficult questions. Then, we answer them as best we can. The last thing we want is to limit the heart and mind of a child. Doubts only slip into unbelief when they are ignored. So, instead of shunning doubts, we welcome them. We do not have all the answers, but our desire is to be open about any concern about life, death, Christianity, the Bible, God, Jesus, or whatever else.

The girl that asked this question has been thinking a lot about eternity, and she has taught me to think more about eternity than I currently do. Her question comes from this conundrum in her mind: “If God loves everybody exactly the same way, then why do some people go to heaven, but others go to hell?” If God does love everyone in exactly the same way, then his love is no good for those in hell. So, if there is a difference in the result of the love, isn’t it possible that there is a difference in the way God loves. This girl is questioning the nature of God’s love (in a good and healthy way). Is it as simple as we present it to children–“God loves all the children of the earth!” Or, is God’s love a little more complex than that?

From Hate to Love

First, before we can fully appreciate and grasp the nature of God’s love for us, we must first realize another biblical truth. The Bible tells us that God hates sinners. What?! Yes, you read that right. God hates sinners. Don’t take my word for it. Take God’s: “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers” (Ps. 5:5). The Bible doesn’t say that God just hates evil, he hates the one who does evil as well. Psalm 11:5 says, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” God doesn’t just hate wickedness, he hates the wicked one as well.

You see, it is not just my sin that God hates, it is me that God hates. This makes us uncomfortable. In fact, it was a little hard to write. But is this because it is an unfair treatment of God’s nature, or is it because we are so filled with pride that we cannot begin to see ourselves as deserving of hate? We have done evil by elevating ourselves above God. We have done wickedly by breaking God’s law and seeking satisfaction in everything but him.

It is so, so important to know that God hates you first, so that you can begin to understand his great love for you. If God did not hate you in your sin, his love for you in Christ would mean nothing. Jesus did not die for sin. He died for sinners! The tremendous hatred of God for sinners and the tremendous love of God for sinners collide in the cross of Christ. So, God hates all sinners in this sense.

God’s General Love for Sinners

But thank God the Bible does not stop there. The Bible also teaches us that God loves all sinners in a general way. Jesus puts it this way: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). In James we see that “every good and perfect gift comes down from above . . . from the father of lights” (Jam. 1:17). Historically and theologically, this has been called common grace. Theologian John Calvin once said in The Institutes of the Christian Religion,

“[L]et that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts” (Book II.2.15).

God even loves those who will never repent and believe in Jesus in this general way. He cares for their basic needs by allowing even the most evil people to have families, friends, food, and shelter. He gives them abilities to play beautiful music. He gives them knowledge to discover mathematical and scientific truths about the world. This means that even though some people clearly do not believe in Jesus, they are still loved by God in his provision for them and allowance of good gifts. No one can claim that their abilities originated with them. Every good thing that anyone has is the gift of God’s general love or common grace.

Special Love for Not-So-Special People

However, the Bible also does not stop there, thank God. God also loves some sinners in a special way. This is not because they are more special themselves. Quite the contrary. The testimony of the Bible is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In spite of how not-so-special we are, God loves some sinners in a special way. It is because he is especially gracious in sending his Son to die. For those sinners who repent and believe in Jesus, God loves in a special way.

This means that he not only gives them good gifts like family, friends, and food, he gives them the greatest gift of all, himself. It is from this special love that sinners are adopted as sons and daughters of the King of the universe. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirsheirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). God loves his children in a special way, which is more than the general love that he shows to all sinners. We are not only given the ability to create or write or play music, we are given the eternal kingdom of God.

Certainly God’s love for those who are in Christ is greater and more special and specific than for those who are dead in their sin. The pivotal question here becomes, “What is the key to eternal destination? Grace or ability?” If we answer with “grace,” then we can see God’s love in both general and special terms. If we answer with “ability,” then we can see that God’s love is the same for all, but eternal destiny is up to our own abilities. I praise God the Bible seems to indicate the former. God loves some sinners in a special way, not as a result of their ability, but as a demonstration of his grace.

Here is a simple and imperfect illustration I hope helps you understand. I love all children. I would do anything I could to care for a child in need. However, I will love my child in a special way. I will do more for him than I would for children that are not my own. It is the same with God. God loves his children in a special way and will do for them eternally more than he will for those that are not his own in Christ.


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.

Throwback Thursday: Carl Trueman on Martin Luther


91n23Upf5ILFriends, Carl Trueman’s new book Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom is terrific! I just want to start off by saying Carl Trueman is not merely a gifted historian and theologian, he is also an excellent writer. He has written some of the most helpful biblical and theological books on many numerous subjects. But I have anticipated this book for a long time. Crossway has done an excellent job in this series with picking some of the best writers and scholars to write on Calvin, Warfield, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, Wesley, Edwards, and now Luther.

Luther’s significance to Protestantism cannot be understated! In this book, Trueman shows us how important Luther is to the church. For example, Trueman says,

“For Luther, however, faith is the instrument, and there is no place for merit, either before or after the individual comes to trust in God’s Word and be united to Christ. Justifying righteousness is alien righteousness, and justification is always the extrinsic declaration of God, not based upon any intrinsic quality. Further, while Luther does regard the sacraments as important, they are not strictly speaking necessary for salvation, since faith is the one thing needful in this regard” (70).

Faith and justification were at the heart of the Reformation. Friends, faith and justification are at the heart of the gospel (Romans 1:17).

Trueman does not take to task Luther’s opposing views in theology and the sacraments. His goal in this book is to simply address Luther’s massive contribution to Christian living. For any Protestant, this book will be a joy to read. Luther is fun. Trueman is fun. We should be thankful for both of them.

As Luther once said, “When faith grasps the Word, the power of the Word is imparted to the believer as heat is imparted to an iron placed in the fire.”

Friends, 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.

Indifference or Obedience: How to Respond to God’s Grace in Christ


KneelingAtTheCross

When we are presented with a truth-claim, we must respond to it in some way. I think about the resurrection of Jesus. When you are presented with the truth claim that a man named Jesus walked the face of the earth 2,000 years ago, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, it forces us to respond in one way or another. We can reason and trust that this is true. Or we can reason and trust that this is not true. However, what we cannot do is remain indifferent. There is no indifference when it comes to the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son. Either Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead or he didn’t. There is no middle ground. And no matter which option we choose, our lives will be dramatically impacted one way or another by our response to the truth-claim of the resurrection of Christ.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul presents a few truth-claims to which believers must respond. Paul presents a truth about God’s heart and a command from God’s Word in this passage. First, we are commanded to pray for all people. And secondly, we are told the truth-claim that God desires the salvation of all people and Christ died as the sole mediator for all people. The question is, will you take the next step through obedient response or will you miss the opportunity through disobedient indifference?

As people of the cross, we have been commanded to pray for all people because God desires that all people be saved and Jesus died for all people. This all means that there is no one too bad or too different for God’s love or Christ’s salvation. God pursues all kinds of people on earth. In fact, the Bible says that God has a people from every tribe and tongue on earth (Rev. 5:7). This means that from every nation on earth, there are those for whom Christ died. In the most remote village and in the busiest city are people for whom Christ shed his blood.

Paul knew this to be true. And because there is only one God and only one mediator in Jesus, Paul knew and now we know that this means that all of those people on earth cannot come to God unless they do so through Jesus. So, not only was Paul urging Timothy to pray for all people because of these things, he was urging Timothy to go to these people and to not keep the gospel away from anyone.

Notice Paul’s response to the dramatic truth-claim of God’s grace in verses 4-6: “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7). Paul’s entire ministry was based on the fact that God desires global salvation and Jesus died for people from every tribe and tongue on the planet. Because the gospel is for everyone, Paul made it his goal to preach the gospel not just to people who look like him, but to anyone and everyone.

What about you? Do you have this attitude? Has the heart of God and the death of Christ for sinners caused you to desire all kinds of people in your family, circle of friends, and community to be saved? Has it caused you to pray for them? Are you willing to pray for not those who benefit you, but those who have little to do with you or even oppose you? Are you willing to share the gospel with those who make life hard for you? For those who are culturally miles apart from you? For those who do not do things the way you do? Does your prayer life, evangelistic outreach, and missions work in some way reflect the heart of God to save all kinds of people in Christ?

God uses the prayers of his people to accomplish the purposes of his heart through the work of his Son. You cannot be indifferent to the grace of God in Christ. You can be disobedient, though. Indifference to the gospel is just a quiet and subtle form of outright rebellion. And it is the evidence of an unchanged heart.

Instead, allow the grace of God in Christ to move you to respond with global prayer and global gospel proclamation. Respond to the great grace and love of God in the gospel of Jesus by sharing its message with your friends and enemies alike.


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.

Review: “Counter Culture” by David Platt


41O76wsT0VLDavid Platt. Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015. 288 pp. $19.99.

Rarely does a book convict my heart to the point that my emotions overflow in tears. Rarely do I find a book that causes me to experience a range of emotions stretching from anger and frustration to sympathy and sorrow. Many books convict me. Very few books break me. Counter Culture is one of those books.

The best way to describe Counter Culture is to say that it is a rarity. Counter Culture is a rare combination of cultural awareness, Christian conviction, and gospel hope as it addresses the most pressing and controversial issues in Western society.

Author and president of the International Mission Board (IMB) David Platt has developed a reputation for writing heart-wrenching and highly convicting books. Radical was a shot at the heart of the American Dream, and Follow Me was a dagger at the heart of nominal Christianity. In his third major work, Platt sheds light on the most serious issues in America and the world while showing Christians how to live and act in a way that counters culture while improving culture. He does all of this within a gospel-centered framework.

Platt takes a radical approach to social issues in Counter Culture. Instead of abandoning biblical conviction, like other young evangelical leaders have done, he relies on biblical conviction to address social issues. Platt inspires Christians and leads younger evangelicals like me to weep in conviction not because he leaves biblical orthodoxy, but because he unapologetically presents Jesus as the Bible presents him. And while Christian leaders, evangelicals in particular, are accused (often rightly) of harping on certain cultural issues while ignoring others.

Platt leaves no room for such criticisms. In the introduction, he discusses the trend of younger evangelicals standing up against poverty and global slavery. He writes, “What is problematic, however, is when these same evangelicals stay silent in conversations about more culturally controversial issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage” (xiii-xiv). He continues by establishing the primary premise for the entire book, namely, that within each issue addressed is an underlying issue we all have with God. He writes,

“What is the main issue in our culture today is not poverty or sex trafficking or homosexuality or abortion? What if the main issue is God? And what might happen if we made him our focus instead? In a world marked by sex slavery and sexual immorality, the abandonment of children and the murder of children, racism and persecution, the needs of the poor and the neglect of the widow, how would we act if we fixed our gaze on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God revealed in the gospel?” (xiv-xv).

Counter Culture begins with the premise that a gospel-centered worldview will inevitably counter the culture in which Christians live. In fact, Platt states the goal of the book in similar terms. “The goal of this book is not information about the gospel and social issues; it is application of the gospel to social issues” (20). What makes Counter Culture a rare gem is that rather than compromising the gospel for social issues or compromising relevance with self-righteous communication, Platt addresses social issues with a gospel mindset. In each chapter, he takes the truth of the gospel and applies it to the issue at hand. He basically asks, “How does a biblical worldview answer the difficult and controversial problem at hand?”

Another thing that makes Counter Culture a rarity is the amount of topics addressed in a compact book. Platt addresses nearly every pressing and controversial issue in the world today. However, the book is not overly long. This typically sets up as a light and insignificant attempt to combine bring brevity to complex issues. However, Platt is atypical in his approach, as he deeply and profoundly probes each issue while making it accessible to a wide audience.

What Platt shows in Counter Culture is that when it comes to issues like racism, abortion, sex trafficking, and same-sex marriage, the sole standard for living and engaging is the gospel. Living a life that is a reflection of God’s glory in person of Christ is living counter to culture. Addressing social injustices and moral controversies must be a personal commitment to the gospel. This book is not a call to community social activism. It is a call to gospel transformation, which changes the way we not only see each of these issues, but the way we live in light of them. For example, Platt writes,

“No matter how many red Xs we write on our hands to end slavery, as long as these same hands are clicking on pornographic websites and scrolling through sexual pictures and videos, we are frauds to the core” (124).

Basically, Counter Culture is a call to believe the gospel. Platt is clear that his “hope is that we would believe the gospel  of Christ and that our believe would move us to engage our culture” (22). This is where the rubber hits the road. Virtually every Christian can agree that we should stand against the social injustices of sex trafficking, poverty, and racism. But what about other issues that more directly require conviction that contradicts the culture? What about same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion and the fight for religious liberty? While we all will struggle with different issues, and while we cannot focus all of our energies on all of these issues, Platt writes we must be consistent in our trajectory toward them and the culture.

“What must be consistent for all of us, however, is that we pray, give, and go as he leads, and as we do, that we proclaim the gospel with conviction, compassion, and courage” (253).

Despite all that has been mentioned, I feel the most significant and compelling aspect of Counter Culture is what the book is not made of. This book is not a polemic against “the world.” In the past, those in the “radical religious right” would condemn the world for their views on homosexuality, abortion, sex, etc. However, in the process they would self-righteously overlook their own failures. This is not the case in Counter Culture. Humility drips from every page of the book. Platt confesses his own failures, particularly his silence on the atrocity of abortion (57-58). Instead of pointing his finger at those who ignore these social issues, he stands with his readers before the face of God ready to repent and respond to each injustice and issue presented.

While Platt boldly speaks prophetic biblical truth into the most pressing cultural issues of our day, he soberly helps his readers see with him that the greatest atrocity in the world is not same-sex marriage, abortion, sex trafficking, racism, poverty, or persecution. The greatest atrocity in the world is the presence of unreached people groups. Platt says,

“We have settled into a status quo where we’re content to sit idly by while literally billions of people die without ever hearing the gospel. Surely this is the greatest social injustice in the entire world, over and above all the other issues we have considered” (247).

Will a book suddenly wake Christians up to the massive social injustices in the world? If at all possible, Counter Culture will affect this awakening. But will a book like this mobilize Christians to actively stand against injustice and cultural rebellion against God with biblical conviction for the sake of the glory of God in the gospel and the joy of billions of people? Maybe. But it also has the possibility to overwhelm readers.

While soaked with the grace of God in the gospel and filled with admission of personal failure to stand with “conviction, compassion, and courage,” much like Radical, it has the potential to be burdensome. Personally, I left the book realizing my failures in so many of these areas. The question, “Where can I begin to help?” is the first rock of a load unbearable. However, Platt reassures that we are not alone and that we underestimate the possibilities with God.

“Some will say that these problems are complex, and one person, family, or church can’t really make much of a difference. In many respects, this is true, and each of these issues is extremely complicated. But don’t underestimate what God will do in and through one person, one family, or one church for the spread of his gospel and the sake of his glory in our culture. So do these things with the unshakable conviction that God has put you in this culture at this time for a reason” (254).

Christians today are tempted to either compromise their convictions or cower behind them. Counter Culture is a rare book that calls Christians to face cultural issues with gospel-centered, Christ-like, compassionate conviction for the sake of God’s glory in our culture. Readers will leave the book with repentance and resolve to stand firmly to counter culture whatever the cost.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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.

Delight Yourself in the Lord: Theological Musings on the Glory of Joy in God


Joy

There are times when meditation over Scripture or theological truths overflows into written word. Writing has been a means of sanctification for me. I learn and grow through working out my own doubts, concerns, struggles, sins, and attitudes through writing. At times, I am pleased to share some of my own musings with the hopes that it helps others to learn and grow in their faith. Ultimately I write to increase my own joy in God, which fuels a desire to see others find and relish joy in God.

In today’s post, I wanted to simply expose the nature of joy in God and how it encompasses the whole of the Christian life. Joy in God, as I argue in my first book releasing later this year, is the fuel for Christian living. The way we live our lives is highly dependent on where we find our satisfaction. This is why Christian Hedonism appeals to me. What follows are some theological musings on the glory of joy in God. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

The ultimate fulfillment of joy in man is found in the ultimate expression of love from God.

Never say that joy cannot be found in suffering. Eternal joy is found in the suffering of our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ.

In fact, joy is more profound, more real, more weighty and has more substance when found amidst suffering.

Joy in God is not dependent upon circumstances.

Joy in God is dependent on the grace of the joy Giver.

Grace enables and fuels joy in God.

Where repentance goes, joy in God swiftly follows.

Joy in God is found where repentance has left its mark.

Joy in God is the footprint left by repentance.

Repenting is not only necessary for salvation, commanded by God, and a requirement for admission into the Kingdom, it is also the most freeing, liberating, and relieving act one can make.

Resting in repentance is breeding ground for a multitude of joy.

Joy in God is satisfaction in God.

Satisfaction in God is contentment in God.

Contentment in God results from resting in an eternal covenantal bond of which the Cornerstone announces: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

Repentance is a marker of a member of this covenant.

Eternal joy in God is impossible outside of a repentant heart.

Joy in God is seen in dependance as well.

Holiness is the soil in which joy in God grows.

Rich holiness leads to healthy and plentiful joy in God.

And peace will always follow joy in God.

Pursuing joy in God is nothing more than the way of salvation, which is of the Lord.

Joy in God is the catalyst for neighbor-love and enemy-love, because it is the only proper, satisfying, and freeing way to love yourself.

If you want to love yourself well, you should run to the eternal fountain of God’s joy and drink deeply.

Loving yourself then can be holy and good and God-glorifying as the best teacher for neighbor-love and enemy-love.

Magnify the glory of God by being satisfied in him today.

Be content in the Lord our God today and by doing so magnify his all-sufficient grace and demonstrate your dependence on him.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

If you want to love yourself and your neighbor well, you will love God to the end of glorifying him through your satisfaction of him.

Seek their joy in God.

Even better, seek your joy in their joy in God.

Oh, the glory of God in his satisfaction of his people.

May we ever revel in and spread the joy and glory of his grace.

Under this theology we will enter heaven with full hearts and eager appetites.


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.

Throwback Thursday: Jonathan Edwards on the Suffering of Christ


christ-on-crossI have often heard fellow Christians say that when they need a good reminder of God’s love or the sacrifice of Christ, they watch a movie like The Passion of the Christ. “Whenever I watch Jesus suffer the way he did, it reminds me of just how much God loves me,” they say. Reenactments of the crucifixion are graphic and realistic (as realistic as possible) depictions of the means of the salvation of the world. When we see the blood and the brutality, we have before our eyes a semblance of the physical suffering of Christ.

I will not deny that watching The Passion of the Christ is emotionally moving. I will also agree that Christians need to be reminded of God’s love for sinners often. However, watching a movie will not even begin to scratch the surface on the sufferings of Christ.

There is a common error in the minds of many Christians regarding the suffering of Christ. They think that Jesus’ physical death was far worse than any other death in the history of the world. It is said that no one physically suffered the way Jesus did on the cross. And so, when they need a reminder of God’s love, they reflect on the physical sufferings of Christ.

But the reality is that there have been deaths in the history of the world that were worse than the death of Christ, physically speaking. Countless believers throughout history have been burned at the stake, drowned, and mutilated. Even recently we have seen 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded for their faith in Christ. So, Jesus’ death was not necessarily the most brutal or worst death in history. Tim Keller even makes the point that “there have been far more excruciating and horrible deaths that martyrs have faced with far greater confidence and calmness” (The Reason for God, 28). But why is this the case?

The physical sufferings of the cross, while great, pale in comparison to the spiritual suffering of the cross. It was not the physical pain of whips and nails that led Jesus to weep and groan in the garden of Gethsemane. Instead it was anticipation of a far greater suffering that was to come. Jesus, the Son of God, was not only about to bear the wrath of man through crucifixion, he was about to bear the wrath of God through taking the punishment we deserve. Keller observes, “Jesus’ sufferings would have been eternally unbearable” because in his death he lost the “infinite love of the Father that Jesus had from all eternity” (The Reason for God, 29).

The physical pain and suffering of Christ was nothing compared to his experience of his Father’s abandonment. No one captures this better than the great theologian Jonathan Edwards. He is abundantly clear on the importance on distinguishing between the physical and spiritual sufferings of Christ on the cross.

The sufferings which Christ endured in his body on the cross…were yet the least part of his last sufferings…If it had been only the sufferings which he endured in his body, though they were very dreadful, we cannot conceive that the mere anticipation of them would have such an effect on Christ. Many of the martyrs have endured as severe tortures in their bodies as Christ did…yet their souls have not been so overwhelmed (“Christ’s Agony” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2).

While it is possible for people to suffer the way Christ suffered physically, it is impossible for any of us to suffer as much as Christ did spiritually. He essentially experienced hell for all who would believe in him.

So, if you are a Christian who needs reminded of God’s love, look to the cross. If you are struggling to reconcile God’s love with your own suffering, look to the cross. In the cross, God himself suffered in the place of sinners like you and me. This puts his tremendous love and experience of suffering on full display, not because he died the most gruesome physical death of all time, but because in his death he bore the full wrath of God, which is the most excruciating form of suffering.


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.

25 Quotes from ‘What is Faith?’ by J. Gresham Machen


2625744For over a month now I have been slowly, yet gladly trekking through What is Faith? by the late, great J. Gresham Machen. Machen was probably the foremost Reformed theologian of the early 20th century. He founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He defended the ideals of the Reformation in the heat of the movement of liberal theology in American evangelicalism. And in a very real sense, he defended the gospel against fierce wolves who were attacking the heart of the Christian religion–the cross of Christ.

I cannot commend Machen enough to you. I can’t wait to get my hands on everything he wrote. What is Faith? is Machen’s classic work. Throughout the book, Machen describes and defines the nature of saving faith where he deals with all pressing issues relating to faith. What is Faith? gives a gospel-saturated answer to the title question. I leave this book a better communicator of the gospel, but also a more delighted Christian in the God of my salvation.

If my own word of recommendation is not enough to convince you to read Machen, then maybe Machen can draw you in. Although there are literally hundreds of statements in this work worthy of mention, I have captured twenty-five quotes that I hope whets your appetite for Machen.

1. “The Christian has within him a mysterious power of goodness, which is leading him by paths he knows not to an unknown and blessed country.”

2. “The salvation of the Christian is certain because it depends altogether upon God.”

3. “Christ, according to Paul, will do everything or nothing; if righteousness is in slightest measure obtained by our obedience to the law, then Christ died in vain; if we trust in slightest measure in our our own good works, then we have turned away from grace and Christ profiteth us nothing.”

4. “The gospel does not abrogate God’s law, but it makes men love it with all their hearts.”

5. “God’s law brings death because of sin; but God’s Spirit, applying to the soul the redemption offered by Christ, brings life.”

6. “If our being right with God depends upon anything that is in us, we are without hope.”

7. “To say that we are justified by faith is just another way of saying that we are justified not in the slightest measure by ourselves.”

8. “Salvation is as free as the air we breathe; God’s alone the cost, and ours the wondrous gain.”

9. “Men say indeed that they prefer to conceive of God as a Father rather than as a Judge; but why must the choice be made?”

10. “If we are to trust Jesus, we must come to Him personally and individually with some need of the soul which He alone can relieve.”

11. “It is one thing to follow the example of Jesus and quite a different thing to trust Him.”

12. “The greater be our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith.”

13. “True faith in Jesus always will result in action; but faith itself is not doing but receiving.”

14. “We fear God because of our guilt; but we trust Him because of His grace.”

15. “Appeal to God’s act alone can enable us to face every adversary.”

16. “If we possess God, then we can meet with equanimity the loss of all besides.”

17. “The justice of God is everywhere the presupposition of the Saviourhood of Christ.”

18. “Faith, though it is more than assent to a creed, is absolutely impossible without assent to a creed.”

19. “Faith is the acceptance of propositions.”

20. “Far from being contrasted with knowledge, faith is founded upon knowledge.”

21. “Acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is offered to us in the gospel of His redeeming work, is saving faith.”

22. “There is no virtue whatever in ignorance, but much virtue in a knowledge of what God has revealed.”

23. “Certainly, at bottom, faith is in one sense a very simple thing; it simply means that abandoning the vain effort of earning one’s way into God’s presence we accept the gift of salvation which Christ offers so full and free.”

24. “Christ has done nothing for us or He has done everything; to depend even in smallest measure upon our own merit is the very essence of unbelief; we must trust Christ for nothing or we must trust Him for all.”

25. “Our salvation does not depend upon the strength of our faith; saving faith is a channel not a force. If you are once really committed to Christ, then despite your subsequent doubts and fears you are His for ever.”


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. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.