Thursday, January 15, 2009

Making Gospel Connections

I began a sermon series on the book of Ephesians back in September, 2007. With breaks over Christmas and summer, I am still working through that series. In September 2008, I began the series again at chapter 5. On September 27th, the day that Emily was killed, I was working at home on my sermon introducing the “household table” of 5:22-6:9. I finally preached that message – mostly unchanged – last Sunday (January 11th).

This is the first part of the introduction:

The most important thing that a church and a preacher can do for people is to help them make Gospel connections in every area of their lives.

The first and most important thing is clear communication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that people who are under God’s wrath and on their way to Hell may come to repentance and faith in Christ so that they are forgiven and clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

We are to be ambassadors of the Gospel – together, every day. The Gospel must be the centerpiece of our weekly worship service as well – singing, preaching, prayer – everything.

The Gospel is the Good News that God saves sinners like you and me through the life, death, resurrection and eternal reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel is news to be believed, not advice to be followed.
- Advice says, “If you do these things, if you are good enough, you might make it to Heaven.”
- Good News declares, “Believe this message that God in Christ has done all that is necessary for your salvation!”

The Bible makes it clear that the Gospel is for all of life – for real life. In our relationships as husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, at home, church, as citizens of Canada, we must be Gospel people if we claim to be Christians.

I paused at this point to make a last minute decision. I hadn’t decided until that moment whether I was going to mention the date on the top of that sermon (September 28) or the fact that I wrote it on that last afternoon of Emily’s life. I decided I would mention it – in spite of the fact that it might prove to be a distraction – because I wanted to testify to the fact that I am so thankful that Emily understood the Gospel and was being formed by God through it. This reality underscores the central importance of getting the Gospel right, living in it and applying it to real life.

I went on to say that the importance of the Gospel means that it must be lived out in the little, everyday details of home, work and neighbourhood. What Paul teaches in 5:22-6:9 is built on the foundation of the Gospel declaration that comes earlier in Ephesians. We can’t simply nod and murmur agreement with the wonderful message of Ephesians 1-3 and then rebel against God by rejecting the authority structures that He has established in the church, home and society. It all goes together.

It was hard to get through that introduction. It took me back to that afternoon of September 27. I am so thankful, however, that God is sovereign and that He has done all that is necessary to insure salvation for everyone who believes His wonderful Good News in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

God Sings

We've been studying the Minor Prophets in our Wednesday Bible study. Last night we looked at the first half of Zephaniah. When was the last time you read Zephaniah? I'd encourage you to do so - it's only three chapters.

When I was preparing for this study, it hit me like a ton of bricks that God could have ended this message at the end of chapter 3 verse 8. The book begins with catastrophic descriptions of God's judgment on his rebellious and profane people. One of the indictments of the people was that they were complacent (1:12) and had thought that God was just like them (he will do nothing, either good or bad).

After pronoucing judment on the nations, God's words turn to blessing, not cursing; restoration, not destruction. 3:9-20 are a beautiful picture of God's grace. Where did this come from? It certainly did not come from the nations or from Jersualem itself. This grace comes from God alone - according to His loving character and covenant promises.

3:17 is particularly beautiful:
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

After personally feeling the weight of God's righteous judment on my sin, I was moved to tears last night - and as I prepared this study. I was reminded that we really can't appreciate grace until we first understand the seriousness of our sin.

I can hardly imagine God rejoicing over me - I am still too full of sin. Is there anything more humbling and wonderful than God exulting over you with singing?

If you have owned your sin and trusted Christ as your Saviour and confessed Him as Risen Lord, then God rejoices over you. It is only as we are in Christ - forgiven and reconciled to the Father - that we are a part of this remnant, this restoration people of God.

God sings over His people. Are you one of them?