Posts filed under ‘Christian Theology’

The Long Awaited King

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We All Long for a True King

Most of us have not experienced what it is like to live in a kingdom, under the true reign of a king. We are familiar with kingdom language. Michael Jackson once reigned as the “king of pop.” Budweiser notoriously declares in their advertisements that they are “the king of beers.” Even LeBron James refers to himself as “King James” and supposedly rules the hardwood. But in reality, this language is devoid of any lasting meaning, missing the essence of true kingship.

Why does this matter? In every society, there is the structure for leadership, a particular person or a body of people to reign over its citizens. Human society needs the structure of justice to deliver its people from the cruelty of the sinful acts of men. Human civilization needs to provide protection over its people to promote what is good and guard peace in the land. We all want someone to look to, to lead the way, to make the difficult calls in order to seek our welfare. However, as history has shown, we have never seen that perfect king-like leader. We have never experienced the perfect and pure rule of a king. Even our best leaders are flawed, and our worst leaders can be tyrants.

However, while the human experience leaves us longing for the perfect rule of a perfect king, the Bible provides us with a more meaningful, hope-filled understanding of true kingdom reign. In the Bible, kings are to reign over every domain of life in their land; they are to have real authority to be used for the good of the people. And while God rules sovereignly over the universe, in the Bible, kings are called to mediate God’s justice to the people. In other words, the kings of earth are to rule as God’s vice-regents, His under-kings. Nevertheless, even the promising kings of the Old Testament left the people longing for a greater king.

The Kings of the Bible

While Adam did not have the title of king, he was called to rule as a king on the earth. Before the fall in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were appointed by God to rule as His vice-regents to govern the earth and everything in it on His behalf. They were not only called to represent God’s sovereign rule by subduing creation but also to spread His dominion throughout the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Eden was established as God’s kingdom on earth – the place where God’s people would dwell in God’s place, under God’s rule. However, in Genesis 3 we see that Adam attempted to dethrone God and forfeit his under-king status by siding with the enemy. And Eden was lost.

Later on, once God had established Israel as His covenant people and brought them to the promised land, He appointed judges as rulers over them. In a sense, the judges represented God’s rule in the lives of God’s people by delivering them from the folly of their sin (Judg. 2:14-23). The judges came, they delivered, but with no lasting blessing or security. There was some relief but no lasting solution. The people of Israel then cried out for a king to bring security and to lead them in faithfulness to God. And partially, they received what they asked for.

The reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon gave Israel a glimpse of hope. With each new king, Israel yearned anew. However, with great hope came also great disappointment. Saul turns out to be corrupt and downright crazy (1 Sam. 15). While David was a man after God’s own heart, his adultery with Bathsheba and his crime of murder revealed that he was not the perfect king (2 Sam.11). David’s son Solomon may have ruled in wisdom and with great riches, but while Solomon’s reign began with such hope, it ended in horror (1 Kings 11:1-4).

As the king went, so did the people. One of the lessons we learn from the Old Testament is that unless there is a good king, no aspect of life will be as it should be. The Old Testament leaves us longing. Along with the people of Israel we cry out, “There must be someone better than this!” There must be someone better than these men.

The True and Greater King

“Kingdom” is one of the primary themes of the Bible’s storyline, and this storyline finds its climax in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our hopes for a greater king are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel accounts alone, there are more than one hundred references to the kingdom of God (or “kingdom of heaven,” as in Matthew). In John, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God as His kingdom (3:3,5; 18:36). Moreover, the New Testament writers indicate that the kingdom of Christ is the same thing as the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5; Rev. 11:15; 12:10). According to Jesus, He is the true King for whom all of humanity has longed.

Jesus is the perfect King who rules with justice. Jesus not only seeks but is able to bring lasting welfare for the people. So, even with their flaws, the good aspects of the Old Testament kings give us a glimpse of what was to come. In other words, all of the biblical accounts of earlier kings cast King Jesus’ shadow. Jesus is the last Adam who will reign and exercise dominion over the restored Eden (Rev. 22:1-5). Jesus is the true Judge and King who reigns in His unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:22-24,28). Jesus is both the son of David and the Son of God, the king from the line of David whose throne and dominion is everlasting (Luke 1:32-33).

With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom is present (Luke 17:20-22; Rev. 1:9). Yet, the kingdom is also future (Rev. 11:15). As Christians, we know that the full reality of His rule awaits His second coming (Matt. 13:30,39,47-50; 25:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:1). We also know that in Him, all of our hopes are fulfilled. Jesus is the true and greater King we have all been waiting for. Therefore, let us bow before the true King. He is worthy of our adoration and allegiance. Jesus’ rule extends to every aspect of our lives and therefore we serve him as under-kings in every realm of life (e.g., work, school, parenting, household chores, recreation, etc.).

And let us longingly wait for His return, when all things will be as they should. Eden may have been lost by the failures of the first king Adam, and no other human king has been able to restore it. But one day, Jesus will return, and with His return, His kingdom will be consummated and a greater Eden be restored.

October 30, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The ERLC National Conference: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage

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Watch the ERLC National Conference live here!

The ERLC National Conference begins today, October 27th. During this conference, the speakers will address “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches.

During this conference, speakers will equip you to defend marriage in the culture and strengthen marriage in the church by preparing you to address issues like:

  • How do we effectively minister to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender?
  • How has the divorce culture impacted marriage in our communities and our churches?
  • What does sexual faithfulness look like for a same-sex attracted Christian?
  • Why did God create marriage and why did he design it for the common good?
  • How should a pastor counsel a same-sex couple that wants to join his church?
  • How can churches minister to those who are single, dating, divorced or celibate?
  • How can Christians show the love of Christ to gay family members or neighbors?

Join all of us in attendance at the ERLC to explore what the gospel means for the future of marriage and sexual identity. The conference will be live streamed here: http://live.erlc.com/

October 27, 2014 at 6:30 am Leave a comment

41 Quotes from Michael Green’s “Evangelism in the Early Church”

GreenIn seminary I was introduced to Michael Green as part of my reading in an independent study on evangelism with Dr. John Hammett at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Green is a British theologian, Anglican priest, Christian apologist and author of more than 50 books. Green’s last appointment was Senior Research Fellow and Head of Evangelism and Apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford in 1997. If you are unfamiliar with Green, here is an introduction to his classic book Evangelism in the Early Church.

“Probably no period in the history of the world was better suited to receive the infant Church that the first century A.D., when, under an Empire which was literally world wide, the scope for the spread and understanding of the faith was enormous.”[1]

“By the second century Christians were becoming more reflective and self-conscious about the background into which the Church was launched, and began to argue that it was a divine providence which had prepared the world for the advent of Christianity.”[2]

“Wherever they went, Christians were opposed as anti-social, atheistic and depraved. There message proclaimed a crucified criminal, and nothing could have been less calculated than that to win them converts.”[3]

“Worse still, this worship of crucified Messiah was distinctly blasphemous. The Old Testament made it perfectly clear that anyone hanged on a stake was resting under the curse of God.”[4]

“In the first place, Christianity was new and almost by definition nothing new could be true.”[5]

“Christianity was ridiculous; for it proclaimed that the wisdom of God was exhibited in the cross of Jesus.”[6]

“The resurrection came to them as God’s vindication of the claims Jesus had made. They saw that he was “designated Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead”. And they continued to announce these joyful tidings with tireless zeal and boundless enthusiasm.”[7]

“The one who came preaching the good news (Jesus) had become the content of the good news (Jesus).”[8]

“The good news is only effective among those who repent, believe, and are prepared to engage in costly, self-sacrificial discipleship.”[9]

The Gospel has “clearly defined”[10] content.

The Gospel is “equated with Jesus. Once again the cross and the resurrection are central.”[11]

Now “repentance and faith are the essential human conditions.”[12]

“Evangelism is never proclamation in a vacuum; but always to people, and the message must be given in terms that make sense to them.”[13]

Paul employed the analogy of adoption {in evangelism], “this practice was common in Roman society.”[14]

The role of the apologist is to “minimize the gap between himself and his potential converts.”[15]

“They made the grace of God credible by a society of love and mutual care which astonished the pagans and was recognized as something entirely new. It lent persuasiveness to their claim that the New Age had dawned in Christ.”[16]

The intellectuals, too, made their way slowly into the Christian movement. They were…dominated by a concern for truth, and Christianity offered them One whom they believed was final truth in personal categories.”[17]

Christianity is “wisdom teaching.”[18]

“But what about the ordinary man- supposing, for a moment, that such an abstraction existed: what attracted him to Christianity? Undoubtedly the love of Christians had a lot to do with it, so did the moral qualities they displayed, the warmth of their fellowship, their manifest enthusiasm, the universal applicability of their message. Reconciliation with God had a lot to do with it.”[19]

“this added a new dimension to living here and now, without waiting for whatever might befall after death. The assurance and confidence of the Christians, who were quite willing to lose home comfort, friends, and even life in propagating their cause won its share of converts; so did fear of judgment…But perhaps the greatest single factor which appealed to the man in the street was deliverance, deliverance from demons, from fate, from magic.”[20]

“The very fact that we are so imperfectly aware of how evangelism was carried out and by whom, should make us sensitive to the possibility that the little man, the unknown ordinary man, the man who left no literary remains was the prime agent in mission.”

“the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.”[21]

“The very disciples themselves were, significantly, laymen, devoid of formal theological training. Christianity was from its inception a lay movement, and so it continued for a remarkably long time.”[22]

“But as early as Acts 8 we find that it is not the apostles but the ‘amateur’ missionaries, the men evicted from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution which followed Stephen’s martyrdom, who took the gospel with them wherever they went.  It was they who traveled along the coastal plain to Phoenicia, over the sea to Cyprus, or struck up north to Antioch. They were evangelists, just as much as any apostle was.  Indeed it was they who took the two revolutionary steps of preaching to Greek who had no connection with Judaism, and then with launching the Gentile mission from Antioch. It was an unselfconscious effort. They were scattered from their base in Jerusalem and they went everywhere spreading the good news which had brought joy, release and a new life to themselves.”[23]

“This must often have been not formal preaching, but informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes.”[24]

“There was no distinction in the early church between full time ministers and laymen in this responsibility to spread the gospel by every means possible, there was equally no distinction between the sexes in the matter. It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.”[25]

The “connection between belief and behavior runs right through Christian literature. The two cannot be separated without disastrous results, among them the end of effective evangelism.”[26]

“The fellowship which the church offered, transcending barriers of race, sex, class and education, was an enormous attraction.”[27] In fact, “the church cared so much about fellowship that the Jews and Gentiles converted to the faith broke down centuries-old barriers and ate at the same table.”[28]

“Christianity is enshrined in the life: but it is proclaimed by the lips. If there is a failure in either respect the gospel cannot be communicated.”[29]

“When we think of evangelistic methods today, preaching in a church building or perhaps a great area readily comes to mind. We must, of course, rid ourselves of all such preconceptions when thinking of evangelism by the early Christians.  They knew nothing of set addresses following certain homiletical patterns within the four walls of a church.  Indeed, for more than 150 years they possessed no church buildings, and there was the greatest variety in the type and content of Christian evangelistic preaching.”[30]

Speak to “inflame the heart of the hearer, drag him away from his sin, and convert him to repentance.”[31]

“In early Christianity there was no such distinction between the work of the evangelist and the teacher…both evangelized through teaching the Christian faith.”[32] “The preaching and teaching went together, and there was much practical work as well, the visiting of prisoners, the encouragement of those condemned to death for their faith, as well as working for a living and exercise of great abstinence in food, drink, sleep, money, and clothing.”[33]

Two points emerge in observing Paul’s interactions in Acts, “the intellectual content of his addresses must have been very stimulating. Here was a man who could hold his own, and presumably make converts, in the course of public debate, dialegomenos.”[34]

Now, it is important to mention that “Paul or anyone else in the early Christian mission through that argument alone could bring anyone into the kingdom of God. But they know it could break down the barriers which obstructed men’s vision of the moral and existential choice which faced them, of whether to respond to Christ or not.”[35]

“One of the most important methods of spreading the gospel in antiquity was by the use of homes. It had positive advantages: the comparatively small numbers involved made real interchange of views and informed discussion among the participants possible; there was no artificial isolation of a preacher from his hearers; there was no temptation for either the speaker or the heckler to “play the gallery” as there was in a public place or open-air meeting.”[36]

“with the Scriptures and prayer as their main weapons, backed up by their love, their burning zeal to share their faith with others, and the sheer quality of their living and dying that the early Christians set out to evangelize the world.”[37]

“The Christian Gospel was intended for all men everywhere. The early Christians had no hesitations on that point: it was the agreed starting point for mission. The very nature of God demands a universal mission: if there is but one God, whose will for all men is that they should be saved, then the preaching would be worldwide.”[38]

“It would be a gross mistake to suppose that the apostles sat down and worked out a plan of campaign: the spread of Christianity was, as we have seen, largely accomplished by informal missionaries, and must have been to a large extent haphazard and spontaneous.”[39]

“Evangelism was the prerogative and duty of every church member. We have seen apostles and wandering prophets, nobles and paupers, intellectuals and fishermen all taking part enthusiastically in this primary task committed by Christ to his Church. The ordinary people of the Church saw it as their job: Christianity was supremely a lay movement, spread by informal missionaries. The clergy of the church saw it as their responsibility…the spontaneous outreach of the total Christian community gave immense impetus to the movement from the very outset.”[40]

“Unless there is a transformation of contemporary church life so that once again the task of evangelism is something which is seen as incumbent on every baptized Christian, and is backed up by a quality of living which outshines the best that unbelief can muster, we are unlikely to make much headway through techniques of evangelism.”[41]

(more…)

October 23, 2014 at 6:45 am Leave a comment

Sermon: Learning To Be Quiet Before God (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

I preached this sermon at The Fellowship on Sunday 10/19/2014, from Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

October 21, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Sermon: The Purpose of Community

You will notice that I reference a woman named Carol Boo in the sermon. This past week Mrs. Carol tragically lost her life when a truck crashed into her home. You can find the news story here.

Carol was a committed member of our church. She loved Jesus, and served our church family faithfully for many years. On this particular Sunday, many of Carol’s family members and friends were present for the worship service. Mrs. Boo will be greatly missed by the Fellowship family. We are all thankful for the example of her life, and thankful that she is in the presence of our Savior Jesus Christ.

October 16, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Gospel Centered Teaching Conference: Stone Mountain, GA

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On January 24th, several members of The Gospel Project team will be teaching at the Gospel Centered Teaching Conference at Mountain Park First Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA.

Register for the Gospel Centered Teaching Conference

  • Trevin Wax, the managing editor of The Gospel Project, will teach on “Why We Need to Get Back to the Basics” and “Telling the Story of God’s Mission with an Overflowing Passion”.
  • Karen Jones, a content editor for Kids Ministry at LifeWay, will teach on “Giving the Gospel to Kids”. Children need the Gospel! Learn how to point your kids to Christ in every session while keeping the Gospel at the center of your teaching.
  • Andy Mclean, the editor for The Gospel Project for Students, will teach a session on “Giving the Gospel to Students”. Andy will provide a brief exploration to the student ministry landscape of our culture, and how a refocusing on the Gospel is the key that leads to the lasting heart change we desperately desire to see within the lives of our students.
  • And I will lead a session on “Giving the Gospel to Adults”. I will explore the importance of applying the Bible through a Gospel-centered lens in teaching, and show how the Gospel is not just for our conversion, but is for the ongoing transformation of our heads, hearts, and hands.

For more information on this one day conference, see the registration site.

October 13, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Show Them Jesus!

ShowJesusJack Klumpenhower is a Bible teacher and a kids ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world.

Klumpenhower recently wrote a book titled “Show Them Jesus“, which challenges the culture of low-stakes, low-expectations teaching and invites teachers to do nothing less than teach and treasure the good news of Jesus in every lesson.

Much of what Klumpenhower says in the book reaches beyond kids ministry and applies to teaching the Bible in general. Consider these questions…

  • Would this lesson still work if Jesus had never come and died for our sin?
    Without the cross, would the main point and the application I leave with the listener still hold together? Is it valid if there’s no atonement?
  • Would this lesson still work if Jesus had never risen from the dead?
    If our Savior were a corpse and we too had no expectation of eternal life, would the basic argument I’m making still be good? Could I make a case for the listener to keep listening?
  • Would this lesson still work if Jesus were not the reigning King who’ll return to judge the world?
    Would the things I’m urging the listener to do still sound sensible and wise? Even without the future hope we have, would this lesson be worthwhile?

If we can answer yes to any of those questions, we need to get back to the drawing board. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).”

September 23, 2014 at 7:05 am 1 comment

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