The King Has Come: Two Christmas Sermons on the Kingdom of Christ

TorahOver the last two weeks, I have preached two sermons on the significance of Christ’s birth.

These messages have considered many ways that Christ’s birth fulfilled the promises of God’s kingdom to David, but also how Christ’s birth confronts our world and the governing authorities who are reigning in unrighteousness. Too often our Christmas hopes are shaped by Victorian England, especially Charles Dickens and his famous A Christmas Carol. Likewise, the troubles of life often press us to make Christmas as un-worldly as possible. We want to escape from political turmoil, cultural upheaval, global strife, and every other worldly discomfort. Yet, against the sentimentality of Dickens and the strident folly of earthly politicians, a biblical view of Christ’s birth calls us to reconsider the world around us.

To that end, these two sermons are meant to train our eyes on Christ and to see all the ways that the birth of Jesus recalibrates our hopes and grounds our faith in Christ’s eternal kingdom. Christmas is not a season where God’s Son makes peace with the darkness or causes Scrooge’s to be less sinful. Rather, it is when the light of the glory of God, veiled in humanity, shines into the darkness. At Christmas, we need to let the truth of God’s unassailable kingdom strengthen our faith and purify our hope. To that end, I offer these two messages. May they be a blessing to you, as you celebrate the birth of Christ this holiday season,

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

What John the Baptist’s Bullhorn Teaches us about the Good News?

jason-rosewell-60014When John came preaching “good news,” it may not have sounded like the good news we think of today. In fact, in our day it seems that any call to repentance, to deny self, or to do hard things is either dismissed as unloving or labeled legalism. And yet, to think biblically about the good news requires us to see how Scripture presents the gospel, both in content and tone. And thus, it is worth meditating on how John the Baptist in Luke 3 presents the gospel with many exhortations.

In Luke 3:18, the good doctor summarizes John’s preaching ministry with these words, “So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.” This summary statement follows three ‘paragraphs’ outlining the content of John’s message (vv. 7–9, 10–14, 15–17) and precedes the arrest of John the Baptist by Herod the tetarch (vv. 19–20). For our purposes, it is worth considering what John said in order to see how he presented the gospel. Continue reading

The Gospel Preached Beforehand

Yesterday I preached a pair of messages on the “gospel preached beforehand.”  In Galatians 3:8, Paul writes, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

I have thought much about what the contents of that ‘gospel message’ would have been, and yesterday I sought to explain from Genesis 12, 15, 17, and 22, how the Lord proclaimed the good news to the patriarch Abraham.  In short order, I argued that the content of the gospel can be witnessed in God’s promise of grace (Gen 12), justification by faith that results in a covenant relationship (Gen 15), circumcised citizenship in the kingdom of God (Gen 17), and the necessity of the Lord’s sacrifice, substitution, and resurrection (Gen 22).

Only when all of these elements are included do you have the full gospel message. Maybe I saw too much Christ in the Old Testament, maybe not enough. Tell me what you think.

Here is the sermon audio. The first message begins in Luke 24 and turns to look at Genesis 12, 15, and 17; the second message covers Genesis 22 with an introductory excursus asking this question: ‘Since we have the full gospel (Heb 1:1-4), why should we spend much time on the gospel preached beforehand?”

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Gospel Saturation: The Third Mark of a Healthy Church Member

What does it mean to be Gospel-Saturated? 

That is what we considered on Sunday night — this post is a few days late — when we took another look at Thabiti Anyabwile’s book What is a Healthy Church Member?  His third mark of a healthy church member is to be filled to overflowing with the gospel of Jesus Christ–that is, Gospel-Saturated. 

Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk with wine which leads to debauchery [or dissipation] but be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  If I had to take a guess at what gospel-saturation looked like, I would say that just as someone is under the influence of alcohol, gospel-saturation would look like someone who is visibly manifesting the fruit of the Spirit and boldly proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ–after all, to be most “Spiritual” is to be most Christ-centered (cf John 16:13-14).  Consider the apostles on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).  

In thinking about growing in gospel-saturation, here are five suggestions to help you grow in your understanding and application of the gospel. 

1. Memorize the Gospel.   Obviously, your confidence in the gospel is only as good as your knowledge of it.  The best way to do this of course is to read the Bible, because from Genesis 3:15 to Revelation, the whole Bible is a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yet, for a new Christian or one who has not spent a lot of time in the Bible, one of the best things you can do is memorize the turning points of the gospel– things like that God is the holy creator who made us for his glory, that all mankind is sinful and desrving punishment, that the sovereign plan of salvation has been in effect since the fall, and that Jesus Christ’s law-fulfilling life, substitionary death, and justifying resurrection and victorious ascension have secured salvation for all those who repent from sin and believe on Him.  This would be a start.

Here are a few other resources to help you memorize the key turning points of the gospel.  Select one and memorize it–and more importantly memorize the Scriptures contained in each–so that you can better know the gospel and share it with others.

2. Learn to summarize the Gospel in 30 Seconds.  Call this the Elevator Gospel.  If you were in an elevator, on the 95th floor of Sears Tower and the cable snapped, could you share the gospel in the 30 seconds you had before impending death?  Or for those twitteratis out there, could you tweet the gospel in 140 characters or less?  These guys did

Now hear me: THE POINT IS NOT TO SHRINK THE GOSPEL!!!  Or to think that the gospel can be distilled into less than the full canon of Scripture.  But, THE POINT IS to so imbibe and embrace the gospel that you are able to communicate it at any time, anywhere, to anyone.  The goal is to arm ourselves with the gospel so that we can preach to ourselves or witness to another, which leads us to our next two points.

3. Preach the Gospel to yourself.  The gospel does little good for others, when it is not first changing your life.  Because we sin repeatedly every moment of every day, we need to learn how to apply the gospel to ourselves.  To paraphrase Martyn LLoyd-Jones, we need to spend less time listening to ourselves, and more time preaching to ourselves.  This is the model of David in Psalm 103:1, where he commands his soul to bless the Lord (cf Psalm 42-43).  Yet, to do this we must fill our minds with heart-stirring gospel truths.  As you seek to preach the gospel to yourself, consider just a few verses to begin with: Psalm 103:1-5; Lamentations 3:21-26; Romans 5:1; 8:1; Galatians 2:16-21; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 1:9-2:2.  For more gospel-saturating verse suggestions, see Desiring God’s Fighter Verses.

4. Think about the Gospel.  This sounds simplistic and obvious, but really, how much time do you think about the gospel?  For you own sanctification, gospel meditation is necessary.  As you encounter sin, you must take time to see how the Cross of Jesus Christ is the singular, God-given means of forgiving your sin, cleansing your righteousness, and building up your faith.  See C.J. Mahaney’s book, The Cross-Centered Life, for more here.  At the same time, gospel-rumination prepares you for creatively sharing the gospel with others. 

What do I mean?  Well, I can remember the time that walking on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, coming back from a Campus Crusade evangelistic outreach, I was approached by a jewelry salesman offering som “mighty fine watches and rings.”   Like a dunce, I said no thanks and moved on.  I thought later, what if I had replied, “No, I am not interested in any of your jewelry, because I already have the pearl of greatest price!  Can I tell you about him?”  Now that would have been quite an evangelistic conversation starter, but because I wasn’t thinking that way I missed that opportunity.  So, we must learn to think (creatively) about the gospel, so that as we fill our minds with Scripture and meditate on the gospel, we will be more equipped for the next traveling salesman.

5. Order your life around the Gospel.  In What is a Healthy Church Member? (p. 43), Thabiti suggests that Christians should order their daily and weekly routines in such a way that they are constantly on the look out for gospel-sharing opportunities.  Whether at the grocery, Starbucks, the gym, the neighborhood park, or the local newstand–if those still exist– we should look for people with whom we can build relationships and share the good news of Jesus Christ.  In doing this, we are fulfilling the Great Commission and letting the Holy Spirit work in us to confirm the gospel we believe. 

Now, with these five suggestions in place, I can already hear some detractor saying that I have shrunk the gospel by advocating a 30 second, memorized list of verses.  Maybe.  But that is not my aim, so much as I am trying to think how we, as finite witnesses, can better know and make know the gospel.   In sum, I am simply trying to think through ways of practically applying the gospel to daily life.  I would love to hear how you do it, and how we can better become gospel-saturated Christians.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss