God Provided A Way: Why Christians Need the Gospel


pexels-photo1.jpgWithout the gospel there are no Christians. It goes without saying that Christians need the gospel. Despite this truth, many Christians act as if they have no need for the gospel after the point of conversion. How often have you been sitting in a church service and tuned out a pastor who begins to explain the content of the gospel? Christians are tempted to think that once they have trusted Christ, there is no need to hear the gospel again. They think, “That’s not for me.” The job is done. What is the point of hearing the gospel week in and week out after one has already repented and believed? However, to cave to these tempting thoughts is spiritual suicide because of the sinfully seductive world we live in.

We live in a world filled with seductive sinful passions that entice our lingering flesh. Everything from television, books, magazines, and various websites tempt us to treasure pleasures that are fleeting at best and destructively damning at worst. We are also tempted with everyday social sins such as gossip. We all know the dangers of a prayer meeting gone awry, as too often we are left with a smorgasbord of gossip topics when we return home or head to work the next day. The destructive yet alluring “he said, she said” conversations can lure us in to the point that we are numb to the hurtful words that we speak.

These temptations and the rest are readily available to us everywhere we look on any given day. Facebook, Twitter, TV programs, newspapers, and casual conversations provide temptations to fall into sin at any moment. And if we are honest, we sometimes actively seek these venues in order to satisfy our sinful passions. Christians are called to holiness and to conform to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). So then, how is a Christian to live in a world filled with sinful seductions? How is a Christ-follower, a child of the Holy One of Israel, to survive in this daily battle of (or for) the heart?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the primary means by which we fight and kill sin. If you want to overcome the temptation that is vying for your heart’s worship, look to Christ and his gospel. One tremendous benefit of these dangerous temptations is the fact that they remind us of our dreadfully sinful condition and the pre-grace predicament all of humanity is in from birth (Ps. 51:5). All the more reason why our eyes should gaze upon the glory of God’s grace in the gospel—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provided the only way for us to be legally justified and paternally adopted by our holy and sovereign God.

Paul realized the necessity of reminding Christians of the gospel when he wrote to the church at Corinth, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Paul directly connects sanctification to reminding these believers of the gospel. Gospel reminders serve our sanctification.

The gospel is a sanctifying means of grace that we need on a daily basis. So as you take in your daily dose of sinful temptations through your conversations and mouse clicks, consider how to combat this satanic onslaught with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and most pointedly, the gospel. God provided a way for you to be made right with him and for you to be made like his Son. Your holiness was achieved on the cross, but it is being worked out in you every second of every day (Phil. 2:12-13). One means for you to grow into this blood-bought and Spirit-wrought holiness is to meditate on the glory of God’s grace in the gospel.

Do you find yourself neglecting your need for the gospel? Do you yawn when your pastor preaches the content of the gospel? If so, know that this kind of thinking is perilous to your faith. According to pastor and author Mitch Chase, “leaving the gospel behind in pursuit of Christian growth is actually the abandonment of the path to Christian growth.”

One way to remedy this gospel neglect is to remind yourself of the undeserved gift of grace of the gospel often. One exercise that I have found helpful is to put the gospel into words from time to time. Take a sheet of paper or open a blank document on your computer and simply write out the content and benefits of the gospel. Focusing on the power of God in the gospel will allow your eyes to gaze upon pleasures that are unending in Christ (Ps. 16:11) and provide the assurance that your battle for holiness is indeed being worked out by God in you and will be achieved in the last day (Rom. 8:30; Phil. 1:6).

God provided a way for you to be made right with him, and he is still providing a way for you to flee and fight sin. The means in both cases is the same—the gospel of Jesus Christ—for your justification and your sanctification. Jesus died to cancel the debt of your sin, absorb the wrath of God against your sin, and free you from the slavery of sin.

Here is just one example of an articulation of the gospel by K. Scott Oliphint that may help you fight sin this week or this month:

Man fell from his original state and consequently lost the ability and the will to worship and serve the Creator. The covenant relationship that, prior to the fall, existed in harmony with the Creator’s will was, after the fall a relationship of animosity and rebellion on our side and was one of wrath on the side of the Creator.

But there was still a relationship. It is not that man ceased to be a covenant creature after the fall. He was still responsible to God to obey and worship him. He turned this responsibility, however, into occasions for rebellion. Instead of walking with God in the cool of the day, man began to try to hide from God, to fight with God, to run from him, to use the abilities and gifts he had been given to attempt to thwart the plan of God and to construe for himself a possible world in which he was not dependent on God at all.

So God provided a way in which the obedience owed him and the worship due his name could be accomplished. He sent his own Son, who alone obeyed the spirit and letter of the law, and who also went to the cross to take the penalty we deserve in order that those who would come to him in faith would be declared not guilty before the tribunal of the covenant Judge.


*This post first appeared as a chapter in my book, Come to the Well. You can purchase a copy from Amazon, CBD, and other book retailers.


17498999_1870940272931412_6999370580315029592_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

March Madness Hope and Queen Esther: A Summary of Esther 8


rust-king-iron-bronzeEsther 8 ushers in the beginning of a final resolution to the story. Things have definitely started looking up for the Jews, but Haman’s death is only the beginning of their salvation, not the end. Much is still uncertain in Susa other than Haman’s decree that didn’t die with him. Esther senses the momentum she and her people have gained, and alongside Mordecai, who is elevated to Haman’s previous position, she pleads with the king for the salvation of her people.

Unlike her previous meetings with the king, Esther is not emotionally reserved this time around as she falls at his feet and weeps for her people. However, her cunning remains as she asks the king to save the Jews for her sake, not their own. The Jews’ only hope is not in the king’s kindness or mercy, but in his affection for the queen.

King Xerxes once again finds favor with Esther and gives Mordecai authority to write a second decree to combat Haman’s. Haman’s decree could not be revoked because it carried the authority of the king. So, a competing decree which nearly perfectly mirrored the first allowed the Jews to defend themselves against anyone who would come against them. The chapter ends as the kingdom’s fastest horses are sent out in blazing speed to take the new edict to the ends of the empire. The Jews who were once fasting and weeping are now feasting and rejoicing as they prepare themselves for battle against their enemies.

Mediation is an important theme in this chapter alongside God’s sovereignty in bringing about an ironic reversal of fates. Esther serves her people maybe not as the mediator they were looking for, but exactly the mediator they needed. Esther won favor with the king and won salvation from his decree of death.

Jesus is a better Esther. He stands in the place of his people and mediates for them before the King. Esther provides March Madness hope. When your favorite college basketball team wins another game in the NCAA tournament, they give you hope that they may win it all. But this hope is fragile. It is hope in a chance to win. The hope Jesus brings his people as their mediator is not like March Madness hope.

Jesus won favor with God the King through his sinless life and substitutionary death. But while Esther’s mediation gave her people a chance for survival, Jesus’ mediation gave his people a certainty of salvation.


17498999_1870940272931412_6999370580315029592_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Loving Delay: God’s Love and Glory in Your Suffering


mountains-nature-man-personChristian, have you ever prayed for something over and over again that resulted in no apparent answer from God, so much so, that it led you to question his love for you?

Battle of the Heart

This question is like a hardcore game of tug-of-war in your heart and mind. You know that God’s love for you is uninhibited, unbound, and unmerited. You know that he loved you despite your deliberate rebellion against him in sending Christ Jesus to die for you (Rom. 5:8). You know that God loves you because he adopted you; you are his child, and he is your Father. You know he loves you as the Holy Spirit sanctifies you and reorients your desires toward God. And you know he loves you because by his preserving grace you wake up each morning saying, “I believe in Jesus.”

Yet, at the same time, your heart is breaking at the sound of bad news; your faith is shaking with doubt, or your world has been completely turned upside down by tragedy, suffering, or some raging consequences of sin. You cry yourself to sleep at night. No one can say anything that can ease the pain. Broken relationships. Broken bodies. Broken health. Broken hearts. Just sheer brokenness fills your life. And so you pray. You pray, and you pray, and you pray. Each morning and afternoon, evening and night, you pray for God to lift the pain, cure the disease, mend the broken relationship. The cry of your heart could not be clearer. With the psalmist you cry:

I am weary with my moaning
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes (Ps. 6:6-7).

 Deafening Silence

But what comes out of these heart-wrenching prayers? What is the response of the God of the universe in whom you have trusted and to whom you belong to your humble, desperate cries?

…Nothing…

Silence. Piercing silence. Deafening silence. The suffering and the tragedy persist. The night will not end. You wonder, “Is God ignoring me? Does he even hear me?” This silence or delay from God seems surprising and uncharacteristic of his love. Can God truly claim to love us with the intensity that he says he does if he delays in answering our prayers?

I want you to see that in delaying, God is loving you. He loves you when you cry, “My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?” (Ps. 6:3). The basis from which all of this flows is the truth that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). His love for you is not something that must be learned or acquired; it is crucial to his character.

Loving by Delay: Example from John 11

An example of this can be found in John 11, which begins with a request for help from Mary and Martha. Their brother Lazarus had fallen ill. It is clear that Jesus loved this family, for Lazarus’ sisters refer to their brother as “he whom you love” (John 11:3). The one whom Jesus loves is sick and dying, and the ones who Jesus loves are pleading with him to help. Mary and Martha call upon Jesus to demonstrate his love for them by doing something about the illness. Just to be clear here, a family that Jesus loves deeply has been struck with tragedy. A brother is dying, and his sisters are crying. His love for them is real and deep, and this is how he responds:

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

The NASB uses the phrase: “This sickness is not to end in death…” Though Lazarus’ sickness would definitely lead to death in one sense (Lazarus does die), this illness does not end in death. In other words, the story does not end with Lazarus’ death. The sickness does not have the last word—Jesus does. But it may also be that Jesus says this with emphasis on the event’s purpose. The true end or purpose of what is about to happen is not death but rather the glorification of God in Jesus Christ. “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” So, the one central thing to Lazarus’ and his sisters’ suffering is the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Two things are clear so far: (1) Jesus loves Lazarus and his sisters, and (2) the suffering of this family (Lazarus’ illness) has its end or purpose as the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

John now moves to focus on Jesus’ love. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). What John is about to write must be taken with this knowledge fresh on our minds. He then writes something shocking, surprising, and seemingly scandalous. What we might expect from John in verse six would be something like this: “As a result of this love, Jesus immediately went to Lazarus and healed him from this illness.” This is what we would expect from the love of Christ poured out on those whom he loves. This is what we expect from him when we are suffering: immediate response and immediate healing. However, the story goes much differently.

So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (John 11:6).

John reminds us of Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus and then proceeds to tell us that the way he demonstrates this love is by staying two days longer where he was. He does not rush to Lazarus’ rescue; he delays.  In response to a desperate plea from the ones he loves, Jesus demonstrates his love by delay. The original Greek is much clearer than the English translation in verses 5-6. John essentially says that because Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he delayed in coming to his rescue. Delay was Jesus’ way of demonstrating his love for his friends.

Reasons to Love by Delay

But why the delay? Doesn’t Peter clearly teach that God does not delay? “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay” (2 Pt. 3:9). If Jesus loved this family, why would he wait two (what ended up being four) days to come to them? I believe there are two main reasons.

  1. To Magnify His Glory

Remember, the end or purpose of Lazarus’ sickness is that God may be glorified in the glorification of Jesus Christ. When Jesus and his disciples finally arrived, Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days. This is highly significant because of Jewish thought. At that time, there was a Jewish superstition that when someone died, the spirit of that person hovers over their body for up to three days, after which no resurrection or resuscitation would be possible. When Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ tomb after four days, there would be no question that any resurrection would be nothing short of divine. Nothing would be able to explain a resurrection at this point, and Jesus’ deity and glory would be on full display. Death does not have the last word. Jesus does. And he has the final word on your suffering as well. In the end, he will magnify his glory.

  1. To Magnify His Love 

How does Jesus show his love for this family in his delay? We have already seen that he shows his love for them by glorifying himself in Lazarus’ resurrection, which was magnified through delay. However, there is something more personally significant that happens when Jesus demonstrates love by way of delay. In his book Scandalous, D.A. Carson observes that oftentimes Christians act like immature children when we pray. He says this:

Sadly, many of us act like very young and immature children when we deal with God. We, too, want specific blessings now, now, now. But God takes the long view, and he understands that sometimes delay is what is best for us.

Our view of God is too often far too small. We view him, speak of him, and deal with him in human terms—and as Carson has demonstrated, childish human terms at that. Peter writes that the Lord does not delay “as some understand delay” (2 Pt. 3:9). Even though he is specifically referring to the second coming of Christ in this passage, it is clear that God’s delay is intentional and is not the result of some limitation of his power or love. Delay from God is evidence of his patience to accomplish his purposes in perfect timing.

Our view of God’s love is also too small. We feel that God does not love us if he does not answer or bless us immediately, but what we see in John 11 refutes that thinking. Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and yet he delayed in coming to them. He did not immediately relieve their suffering. God does not always immediately relieve the suffering of his children, and it isn’t always the case that he relieves our suffering at all. In these cases, with Paul we must submit to the truth that God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

Suffering to the Glory of God

Jesus showed his love for Lazarus and his sisters by delaying in relieving their suffering. Therefore, delay does not imply lack of love or neglect but rather it implies a higher wisdom and grander purpose.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:3-5).

God is glorified in the joy of his people, and when his people find joy in him amidst tremendous suffering, the worth of God radiates from his suffering people. The vision of God that we must take up in order to accurately view personal suffering is that of Romans 5:3-5. This vision is that the increase of character, perseverance, and future hope is more important than relief from suffering. Paul would later write, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). One means that God uses to work this joy out in us is delay. God’s love through delay produces perseverance, character, and hope—hope that will never fail us and hope that vanquishes all need for relief.

D.A. Carson is poignant on this point: “God is sovereign. He is wise. He is unqualifiedly good. Part of Christian maturation is understanding that even his delays are not foolish or stupid or mistakes or exercises in whimsy. He is to be trusted, and even the delays are to be improved upon by the way we respond to them.”

Likewise, John Piper exhorts, “We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or he delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving toward his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness.”

Christian, when your suffering will not cease, when the darkness over your soul will not lift, and when you feel your prayers are going unanswered, know that this is one of the innumerably glorious and mysterious ways that your God loves you. His glory and love are magnified in his delay. You can rest assured knowing that the grand purpose in suffering is the glory of God in the satisfaction of his suffering saint. Find solace and identification through suffering in these words from Christian poet, George Herbert:

Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

*This post first appeared as a chapter in my book, Come to the Well. You can purchase a copy from Amazon, CBD, and from many other book retailers.


Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God and founder of Grace Satisfies. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their two sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Delighting in a Difficult Doctrine: Four Reasons to Find Joy in Election


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The doctrine of election is without a doubt one of the most central yet most misunderstood doctrines in the entire Bible. Wayne Grudem defines the doctrine of unconditional election like this: “Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.”

Election is God’s free choice in eternity past of certain sinners that he would save based on his sovereign grace and according to the purpose of his will. Paul gives a biblical example of our election in God’s choice of Jacob over Esau (see Rom. 9). He concludes that God chooses to save some sinners to exalt the glory of God’s grace. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy…So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Rom. 9:16).

This doctrine is a hot topic. In fact, your blood might be boiling even now as you read this! Election can split churches and has split denominations. J.I. Packer sees this very thing when he writes, “Texts from Paul are waived like banners; the words ‘Calvinist’ and ‘Arminian’ fly like bullets; people blink and go red; everyone ends up fluttered and hot under the collar. Sometimes, looking back on these unhappy exchanges, we find ourselves resenting the very existence of the doctrine which occasions such high feelings.”

As a result of such heated discussions over the doctrine of election and the prospect for church division and angered congregants, many pastors ignore this doctrine altogether. This hostility is often the result of ignorance, as many rioters understand the doctrine of unconditional election in terms of its various caricatures. Still yet, there are those who object to this doctrine with more serious concerns.

Grudem gives six objections to the doctrine of election that are typically proposed: (1) Election mean ave no choice to trust Christ, (2) Election means our choices are not real, (3) Election means we are merely robots or puppets in the hands of God, (4) Election means unbelievers never had a chance, (5) Election is unfair, (6) Election denies that God wills to save everyone.

While we will not look at these objections in fuller detail here, it is important to note them so that we are clear that the objections and accusations against those who hold to this doctrine are serious. It has even been argued that according to a Reformed understanding of salvation, especially the doctrine of election, God is conveyed as a moral monster with little difference between him and the devil. One of Calvin’s earliest opponents, Frenchman, Sebastian Castellio, wrote in a letter to Calvin, “But the God of Calvin is the father of lies.”

Objections to God’s unconditional election of sinners to salvation shoot arrows directly to the heart of God’s character. As a result, any pastor who casually addresses this doctrine with a lighthearted attitude from the pulpit is only setting himself up for possible disaster.

In other words, the stakes are high for the pastor who preaches this doctrine. In biblical exposition, debate, and discussion, there comes a kind of warfare within Christianity, one in which there will be casualties. And so, we must approach it with extreme delicacy, humility, and tact. It is easy to understand why a pastor would choose to avoid ever mentioning this doctrine in his pulpit ministry. Nevertheless, a doctrine that is so central to God’s saving work in Christ and so abundantly clear in the Bible cannot simply be swept under the rug.

The path to avoiding uproar among congregants with regard to controversial topics in Scripture must be blazed with tact, not total ignorance. This doctrine must be probed carefully with theological and biblical precision. Still yet, it would be easy to write this doctrine off as a nuisance or unnecessar for the church. I mean, why create a tension that could so easily be avoided? I think Scripture provides us with four key motivational reasons that we can and should not only discuss the doctrine of election, but find true and lasting joy in it.

1. Divine Election Is Biblical

It first needs to be established that this doctrine must be preached, taught, and discussed because it is found in Holy Scripture. In Acts 20, Luke records Paul testifying to the elders in Ephesus, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, emphasis added). Paul held nothing back from them. He did not skip over anything because it was difficult or did not fit into the Ephesians’ little Hellenistic box. Neither should pastors today ignore portions of our doctrines within God’s word simply because they might cause some to get “hot under the collar.” James Montgomery Boice was adamant about the necessity to preach the whole counsel of God, especially the doctrine of election.

Commenting on John 10, Boice writes, “This is the doctrine of election which we have already seen many times in John’s Gospel and which we will see many times again. It is not liked, it is not often preached. But it is in Scripture and it must be preached, above all, by anyone who is serious about expounding the gospel.”

These are strong words. Boice is saying that the doctrine of election must be preached, especially by those who are serious about exposing the depths of the gospel, because at the heart of the gospel, and truly at its very origin, is an eternal plan and decree from God to have a people for himself.

We as Christians should not avoid the doctrine of election for the simple reason that it is in the Bible. There is no avoiding it. When Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, he taught him, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). All Scripture? Yes. Even passages on election? Of course! We should read, teach, preach, and discuss this doctrine simply because it is in the Bible, and we trust that God has inspired it for our good (Rom. 8:28).

2. Divine Election is a Great Comfort to Christians

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom. 8:28-30).

The great comfort of Romans 8:28 is rooted in the eternal prerogative of God to save sinners in Christ (Rom. 8:29-30). Christians find great comfort in the fact that our salvation is not based on any good or bad work. He foreknew us and chose us from eternity past according to his divine goodness, grace, and wisdom. The election of Jacob gives great insight into God’s elective purpose in salvation: “[T]hough they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Rom. 9:11-13).

Take comfort in knowing that your salvation is based on the work of God in his divine election, not in your work to become worthy of being saved. You can rest in the fact that God did not base your salvation on your performance or anything he saw in you. In hose you in spite of knowing how sinful you would be, according to the purpose of his will.

3. Divine Election is Uniquely God-Glorifying

[H]e predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to he purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:5-6, 11-12).

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13).

Divine election is a tremendous reason to praise God. Sam Storms writes, “In brief, election evokes gratitude. It is God’s gracious and loving action to which we contribute nothing and for which, therefore, God receives all the glory.”

The unconditional election of sinners presents us with a humble view of man and a high view of God. All praise and honor are due the one who chose us in Christ from before the world began.

4. Divine Election is an Encouragement to Evangelize

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10).

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16).

The source of courage to evangelize and the hope of all global missions is the truth that God has chosen a people for himself in Jesus. We can go to the nations with the gospel with the assurance that some will believe. No questions asked. We can risk all for the sake of the elect because we know with certainty that God has chosen persons from every tribe and every tongue (Rev. 7:9). May the divine election of God encourage you to boldly proclaim the gospel in your neighborhood and in all nations, knowing that success has been determined in eternity past through God’s tremendously gracious electing love.

Delight in Election

For these four reasons (and more) we should delight to read, preach, study, teach, and share the doctrine of election. Because of election’s appearance and highly practical function in Scripture, it cannot be ignored. J.I. Packer writes, “[W]e can hardly be right in treating the doctrine of election as an unedifying encumbrance when in Paul’s hands it becomes a motive and mainspring of worship and assurance and holy living.” The doctrine of unconditional election is a difficult doctrine for some, but it is without a doubt a delightful doctrine for all who embrace it, because it provides the greatest hope for dreadful sinners, the greatest glory to the lone worthy God, and the deepest joy for those in Christ.

*This post first appeared as a chapter in my book, Come to the Well. You can purchase a copy from Amazon, CBD, and from many other book retailers.

 


Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their two sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Throwback Thursday: Brian Walsh on the Postmodern Problem with Grand Stories


Throwback ThursdayChristianity is a story. That’s because the Bible is a story. One big, rich story spanning thousands of years. In my experience teaching and explaining the grand story of Scripture, I have noticed how much this excites children and teenagers. They love to trace the story. They love when I am about to teach a passage of Scripture and ask, “So, where are we in the big story?” The story of Scripture is one of glorious and grand redemption. God’s redemption of sinners through Christ for his glory is the primary theme of the story carried out from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Realizing this will transform the way you read the Bible forever.

But while this truth brings me (and truly nearly every person I have taught) much joy, many postmoderns are repelled by this metanarrative. Far too often, evangelicals are ignorant of secular worldviews. It is important to consider what the secular culture believes, so we can intelligently engage their positions and meet them where they are with the gospel. While the secular worldview has gone beyond even the postmodernism of the late 20th century, much of the secular worldview today can still be described as postmodern in nature. Why is the grand story of Scripture repugnant to the secular culture? In a book written in 1996, Brian Walsh gave a compelling answer.

Postmodern culture is deeply suspicious of all grand stories. Again, The Smashing Pumpkins prove to be insightful in this regard. In their infinitely sad song, “tales of a scorched earth,” they sing, “we’re all dead yeah we’re all dead/inside the future of a shattered past.” We live inside the future of a shattered past because that “past” told grand stories of Marxist utopia, technological freedom, or capitalist paradise. Yet we have come to see not only that these stories are unfinished, but that they are also fundamentally unfinishable, for the simple reason that they are fundamentally lies. The postmodern ethos insists that stories such as these that have so shaped our lives are not stories of emancipation and progress after all, but stories of enslavement, oppression and violence. And on such a view, any story, any world view, that makes grand claims about the real course and destiny of history will be perceived as making common cause with such violence and oppression. This characteristic of the postmodern shift is, I think, the most challenging to Christian faith. If there is one thing that Christianity is all about it is a grand story. How else can we interpret the cosmic tale of creation, fall, redemption and consummation that the Scriptures tell? Yet it is precisely this story that we must tell in a postmodern culture. In the face of dissolution of all grand stories, Christians have the audacity to proclaim, week after week, the liberating story of God’s redemption of all creation. It is, we insist, the one story that actually delivers on what it promises.

And that is the difference between the metanarrative of Scripture and the metanarratives of other ideologies and worldviews: The grand story of Scripture delivers on what it promises. Let’s not fail to continue to tell this story and pray that those we share it with find themselves in it as the people God has redeemed for his glory and our joy.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

3 Tips for Effective Teaching in Children’s Ministry


kids-handprint-clipart-dTrLRBbT9Children’s ministry can be one of the most frustrating ministries in the church. If you serve in children’s ministry there will be times when you will feel unappreciated. It is likely you are overworked. And people probably see your role as little more than glorified babysitting. On top of all of this mostly negative reaction from adults in the church, teaching and leading children is a monster all on its own. Children can be frustrating. Some weeks it doesn’t seem like they understand anything you are saying. Some weeks it seems their primary goal is to disobey you, or just get under your skin.

The goal of children’s ministry is for the church to come alongside parents and complement them in the discipleship of their children. Children’s ministers and ministry volunteers are not the primary disciple-makers in the children’s lives. But their role is crucial to the spiritual development and growth of children in the local church. So, I find it terribly sad that so many in children’s ministry feel unappreciated, overworked, and undervalued.

What makes all of this worse is when children’s ministry volunteers also feel ill-equipped to teach children in the church. With that in mind, I want to offer three crucial, fundamental tips for effective teaching in children’s ministry.

1. Show the Kids You Love Them

Man, this is crucial. Ask any teacher in a public or private school and they will tell you that until you show children that you truly care about them they will not listen to you. You have to earn their ears. Show the kids you aren’t just there to pass along information. Talk to them about their lives. Ask questions about family and school. By asking questions and getting to know them better, your prayers for them will be much more personal and intimate. And when you teach them the Bible your words will have weight behind them.

2. Show the Kids You Love the Bible

I want to be very specific here. The kids in your ministry need to see you run to the Bible for guidance, answers, and instruction for doctrine and godliness. When kids ask questions of a theological nature, let them hear you say, “Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this,” rather than “Well, here’s what I think about this.” They need to see not only the supremacy of the Bible, but also the sufficiency of the Bible in your life. Augustine once said, “Where the Bible speaks, God speaks.” Teach this. But let it also be true, “Where the Bible speaks, I speak” in the sense that when it comes to thinking through things about God, salvation, and life in general the Bible is our guide. We speak where the Bible speaks.

3. Show the Kids You Love the Gospel

Most importantly, show the gospel to kids through your words and actions. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Take sin seriously. Extend grace extravagantly. Teach forgiveness. Ask forgiveness when necessary. All roads in the Bible lead to Jesus. The key is learning how to navigate through the historical and literary contexts without abandoning the original intent of the biblical authors. But it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to see Jesus all over Scripture. It only takes eyes to see. See the gospel throughout Scripture and show the kids the multifaceted wonder of God’s saving grace. Show the gospel in your actions. Show that it isn’t just a message of empty words, but a message of power from a holy and gracious God.

Effective teaching in children’s ministry is not limited to these three tips, but they are foundational. Without them, you can use as many methods as you like, but you will not capture their minds or pierce their hearts. To accomplish this, we need to show them these three loves: kids, the Bible, and the gospel.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 09/30


coffee-newspaper

A Quick and Easy Guide to the Planned Parenthood Videos – Shameful silence from the mainstream media. Mollie Hemingway helps them do their jobs.

I Don’t Want Your Good Vibes. I Want Prayer. – Megan Hill: “There’s no substitute for our communion with the Father.”

Speak for the Unborn Leader Pleads for Life – Great look at the work of Andrew King and Speak for the Unborn.

Every Living Thing Matters – “The Every Living Thing Campaign invites Christians to celebrate the wonder and beauty of God’s creation and commit to compassionate living by signing the Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals.”

Lies, Carly Fiorina and Abortion – Ross Douthat: “There has been an impressive amount of angry liberal commentary, which has spilled over into the mainstream press coverage (or do I repeat myself?) of the issue, about how in the last Republican presidential debate Carly Fiorina allegedly cited an entirely imaginary video in order to make a crazy claim about Planned Parenthood’s brain-harvesting ghoulishness that’s totally unsupported by the facts.”

Pope Francis Met Privately with Kim Davis – “The Pope met privately with Kim Davis and her husband, Joe, at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C.”

Chipotle Church and the Problem of Choice – Brett McCracken: “Imagine if God were as fickle and restless as we are. But he isn’t. God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, even when the relationship is messy and embarrassing, should be instructive to us. A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and non-consumerist covenant.”

When You Get Home…? – Consider asking your spouse what they want in those first few minutes you get home from work.

4 Tips for Using a Study Bible Well – Helpful article from Justin Taylor. If you use a study Bible, be sure to check it out.

If a preacher isn’t first preaching to himself, better that he falls on the pulpit steps and breaks his neck than preach that sermon. –John Calvin

3 Things to Remember When You Pray


man-praying[1]As I was coming to the end of my study of 1 Thessalonians last week, I read a tiny two-word phrase so small that if it were not so profound I could easily pass through without even noticing. Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians by giving them succinct and specific instructions, most likely to supply what they are lacking in their faith. We all have room to grow, even beloved congregations. Hidden snuggly in this quick-paced list of commands are two that you can easily miss, but once you notice them you will never be the same. Who knew just five words could change a person so much? “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (v. 16-17).

These five words make up two whole verses. Whoever divided the Bible into chapters and verses must have realized the gravity of these words. Either that or he just randomly assigned verses and divided chapters. Yeah, the latter is probably true, but the point is, these five words are massively challenging for the Christian. Rejoice always? Pray without ceasing? Spend a little time meditating on these two commands and you will realize just how much you need Jesus.

But it got me thinking, while I’m praying without ceasing, while prayer is a constant attitude in my heart, what should be on my mind? How should I think about prayer? In another of Paul’s letters, I believe he gives us three things to remember when we pray. Philippians 4:6-7 calls us to pray in three ways. When you pray, keep these things on your mind.

[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  1. Pray for specific things.

The word “supplication” used in verse 6 refers to an urgent specific plea. There are some people who say they only pray for others; that they do not pray for themselves. This sounds very humble and holy, but it is very biblical and right to pray for specific personal requests. Jesus teaches us to pray this way when he tells us to pray for food and for deliverance from temptation (Matt. 6:11-13). It is good to pray for specific things going on in your life. As a Christian, you are a child of a heavenly Father who desires your good and joy in all things. It is good to ask God to provide for you, your family, and your friends. It is good to ask God to forgive you and protect you. This recognizes that all forms of provision and protection come from God. Be quick to call on God to help you when you worry personally about things in your life.

  1. Pray as you remember God’s goodness.

Notice that Paul tells us to pray “with thanksgiving.” Praying with thanksgiving means remembering all of the good things God has done and is doing. Praying with thanksgiving recognizes that God is not only able to answer your prayers, but he is also willing to answer them according to his goodness and wisdom. This is also encouraging when it comes to the way God answers our prayers. God does not always answer our prayers in the way we want or think he should. Sometimes we ask for things for which we do not understand.

We are like little children asking to eat playdoh. When a child asks this, his parents don’t give him what he asked for, but instead something better. Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we ask, but he gives us something better for us, even if we do not understand it. God does not always answer prayers the way we want. But he answers them according to his perfect goodness and wisdom. The way our prayers are answered is not dependent on how wise or good our prayers are. It is dependent on how wise and good God is. Know that even if there are a lot of bad things happening in your life or the world around you, they are only temporary and the God to whom you pray is eternally wise, good, and powerful.

  1. Pray expecting an answer.

This can be the most exciting and frightening part of prayer. It can be exciting to expect God to answer, because we can be confident that our loving Father gives us good gifts. However, it can also be frightening, because we are unsure of how God will answer our prayers. It can be frightening in another way as well. For example, if you pray for God to use you in any way he wants, you can be sure that he will answer this. But this might mean that he could send you to another country to share the gospel. It could mean that God could send you to have that awkward conversation with your neighbor or coworker about Jesus. Praying for an opportunity to share the gospel may just mean you will get that opportunity.

So we should pray with an expectant heart. We should pray expecting God to answer. He could say “yes,” or he could say, “no.” He could even say, “not yet.” We usually want a “yes” from God, but our Father who is in heaven knows what is best for us. Like a parent who only gives good gifts to his children, God does not answer our prayers based on what we want. This is because sometimes we want things that would not be for our best. When you pray, expect God to answer according to his glorious goodness and grace.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Like a Thief in the Night: Brief Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3


supermoon-moon_3455459bWhen I was growing up my dad was a high school baseball coach. That meant he was away from home a lot during baseball season and would get home really late, especially when the team played out of town. I remember as a kid always asking, “When will Daddy be home? When will Daddy be home?” “Soon,” my mom would answer. On the weekends she would let me stay up late to wait for him. I would go play a game or with some toys and then come back and ask, “Is he back yet? Huh, is he back yet?” I’m sure it was very annoying! But I really wanted to know when my dad was coming back.

Anytime astronomical phenomena occur, many charismatic (and other) Christians interpret these events as signs of the return of Jesus. Many in charismatic traditions have a seemingly insatiable desire to know exactly when Jesus is going to return. Many Christians sound like a rambunctious little child asking exactly when his daddy will be home. This seemed to be Paul’s experience with the Thessalonians. They were concerned about when Jesus would return.

The life of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels and Acts, consists of his birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent God the Son to earth. Jesus left the riches of his throne among angels in heaven to be born as a poor baby among farm animals on earth. Coming in full humility, Jesus revealed the Father to us in his life as he perfectly obeyed the command “Be holy as I am holy.” Jesus perfectly loved God with all his being and he perfectly loved his neighbor as himself. After living a sinless life, Jesus was convicted of crimes he didn’t commit and was crucified in the midst of criminals. While he was not a criminal, his criminal status was ascribed to him not only by Pilate, but by God himself. God treated Jesus as a criminal. Though he lived perfectly, he was treated as a sinner. Though he should have received reward, he received a curse–the curse of death on a tree. The one who gives life lost his own at the hands of his Father for the sake of his glory in his salvation of sinners. After giving up his spirit fully surrendering to the clutches of death, the King of glory was buried in a typical tomb. Dead. Gone. Done.

Or so they thought.

Three days later, Jesus arose from the dead. His Father accepted his sacrifice. He conquered sin and death by dying and rising in power over them. After Jesus died and rose again, he ascended in the presence of his disciples to the right hand of his Father. He reigns from his throne in heaven now.

One day Jesus is coming back again. He is coming back to bring his people home and judge his enemies forever. We can be certain that Jesus is coming back. He promised to return and we should pray for him to return (Rev. 22:20). But there is something we don’t know about Jesus’ return: we don’t know when it will happen. When will Jesus come back? We just don’t know.

The Thessalonians were worried about when Jesus was coming back. They wanted to know a date and time so they could be ready. There were many eschatological concerns in the Thessalonian church. But Paul said, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you” (1 Thess. 5:1). Paul is basically saying, “You know better than to ask such a thing!” Paul doesn’t know when Jesus is coming back. For all the blood moon fanatics out there, this is a word you desperately need to hear. If the blood moon has raised concerns over end times questions, let Paul’s words to the Thessalonians settle your soul.

He says, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). A thief doesn’t announce when he is coming to break in your house. He waits until everyone is either asleep or away from home. Thieves are sneaky. They always take us by surprise. We definitely don’t know when they are coming. In the same way, Jesus will return. He isn’t going to announce his return. He isn’t going to give us a certain date or time. He is going to return like a thief in the night.

This is a big deal for both Christians and non-Christians. For Christians, this means we must be ready at all times for Christ’s return. Not that we should always have our Bibles with us, but that we should strive to live out the gospel every day. The return of Christ for Christians will be a blessed day, for we were not destined for wrath, but to obtain salvation (1 Thess. 5:9). For non-Christians, the return of Christ will be sudden and they will be caught in the guilt of their sin. They will be caught off-guard, and like a family losing valuable things to a thief, non-believers will be shocked to discover that they have lost their lives at Christ’s return.

Non-Christians will be thinking, “There is peace and security” or “Oh, everything is fine” when in fact judgment is coming quick, like when a woman starts to have a baby (1 Thess. 5:3). The Day of the Lord will be a day when Jesus comes to earth. But unlike his first advent, this time around Jesus will come with a sword of judgment to wipe out all his enemies with one swift stroke. As we wait, we must cling to the gospel–the good news that Jesus is not only conquering Lion, but also a sacrificial Lamb. We must cling to and proclaim the truth that Jesus himself came under the stroke of that sword of judgment. He was judged in the place of all who trust in him. May this reality be power to live justly, humbly, and wisely as we wait for the second advent of Jesus. As Christians, we must not only be ready for Jesus’ return by walking in faith and love, but we must also share the gospel with non-Christians before it’s too late.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram.

Morning Mashup 09/28


coffee-newspaper

Injury Interrupted My Idolatry – From time to time, Desiring God will feature an article written by a professional athlete. They are always profound for me. This piece from NBA player Landry Fields is no different. Fantastic perspective.

3 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Pray for the Persecuted Church – Great post from Ruth Ripken on how to get your kids thinking and praying about persecuted believers.

Sex Belongs to Believers – John Piper: “The pleasures of sex are meant for believers. They are designed for their greatest expression by the children of God. He saves his richest gifts for his children. And as we enjoy his gift of sex, we say, by our covenant faithfulness to our spouse, that God is greater than sex.”

Springtime for Liberal Christianity – Typical excellent cultural and religious analysis from Ross Douthat.

The Cosby Conversation We’re Still Not Having – Thabiti Anyabwile: “What we are not discussing is how to prevent the many Cosbys in our homes, families, friendship networks, schools and churches from preying upon our daughters, sisters, and mothers.”

Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel” – Barnabas Piper: “Only when we can make the connection between the gospel and the centuries of racial inequality in the United States, the lasting impact on our government and social structures, and the insidious and subtle effects on our own minds and hearts is it a solution.”

The Eight Kinds of Commenters in the Christian Blogosphere – Excellent analysis of commenters on Christian blogs. I’ve experienced each of these. My favorite is the “heresy hunter.” They are so pleasant.

Why I Am a Complementarian – “It seems to me that on a very base level the problem of the feminist movement and the patriarchy movement, and indeed sin itself, is principally a lack of trust. We have, from the very beginning, been attempting to wrench what was not given in the search of what was labeled off limits.”

Why Students Hate School Lunches – Just one of many stellar pieces in the Sunday Review section of the NY Times this week. I love this line: “Consider that in France, where the childhood obesity rate is the lowest in the Western world, a typical four-course school lunch (cucumber salad with vinaigrette, salmon lasagna with spinach, fondue with baguette for dipping and fruit compote for dessert) would probably not pass muster under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, because of the refined grains, fat, salt and calories. Nor would the weekly piece of dark chocolate cake.”

Papelbon, Harper Fight Highlights Nationals’ Deep Problems – The dugout fight between Nationals teammates Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper has sparked much debate in the sports world. Personally, I agree with Papelbon’s principle, but not with his methods. Harper may be a NL MVP frontrunner, but he has a lot to learn.

The Art of Conversation – Tips for how men should engage in conversation.

42 Things We Learned from Week 3 – It usually takes a few weeks to gauge how the NFL season will go. Here is what we know after three weeks.

Spieth’s Stellar PGA Season – Young Jordan Spieth’s spectacular season broken down. I don’t think he’s the next Tiger, but the dude can play.

For us to be in love with ourselves is idolatry. For God not to be in love with himself is idolatry. –Zane Pratt