Monday, 31 March 2014

"But Now..."

At the heart of what we do in speaking about Jesus, is to call people to turn from serving dead idols, and to trust in the living Lord Jesus that they might have real life.

Here are three encouragements from the end of Pauls sermon in Athens to equip us to speak the gospel to our unbelieving friends. You’ll find it in Acts 17:30-31.

1) Speak Boldly
“…but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (v30)

This passage begins with a command. God commands everyone everywhere to repent. He calls them to turn from their rebellious ways and to submit to His rule in Jesus.

If we understand this we can speak boldly and urge our non-Christian friends, family and co-workers to ‘do a u-turn’. The God who alone has all authority demands repentance of every single human being, therefore we can speak boldly as we calling people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus.

2) Speak Urgently
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.” (v31)

The passage continues with a reason. This is the reason God commands all people to repent. The next big date in God’s diary is that day when all must stand before Jesus as judge. It will be a day of infinite joy for those who have trusted in Jesus, but a day of infinite terror for those who have continued to rebel against His rule. On that day it will be too late to repent. Every day is a day closer to that day. Therefore, we must have a ring of urgency as we speak.

3) Speak Confidently
“He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (v31)

The passage finishes with proof. Here is Gods proof that there will indeed be a judgment day: He has raised the judge from the dead. Jesus has been raised from the dead, and so shall all people shall be raised to stand before Him as judge. Some will go to everlasting joy in His presence and some to everlasting pain. That day will come.

As we speak and call people to repent in light of that coming day, we can do so with full confidence. Why? We have a historical and public proof from God that judgment day is coming.

Jesus has been raised. Therefore, let us speak the gospel boldly, urgently and confidently as we wait for His coming.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Embracing Weakness

About four years ago I came across a quote that has not stopped ringing in my ears to this day. Charles Spurgeon once told his students: "I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness”.
Spurgeon knew what it was to suffer. These words were spoken from experience. His wife was an invalid for most of their marriage, from the age of 35 he suffered almost constant and intense pain from gout, rheumatism and Bright’s disease, and battled with recurring depression from the age of 24.
Yet, Spurgeon knew and was convinced that the storms which battered him were the messengers of a gracious God, sent for his good. He said: “I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable ... Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house.”
Why good can come from God sending us painful afflictions?

There are many reasons He does this. Here is one big reason: It humbles us. It brings us to our senses and makes us inescapably aware of our weakness. This is the purpose of Paul’s thorn in the flesh: “…a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from being too elated.” (2 Corinthians 12:7). It keeps him humble. He cannot escape his weakness.

When we feel our weakness it grows us in dependence on God’s grace (“My grace is sufficient for you…” – verse 9), and it puts His power on public display (“…for my power is made perfect in weakness” - verse 9).

One of the most effective tools God has used grow me in Christian maturity is a chronic stomach problem. It has been painful at times. It has not been enjoyable. Yet it has done me a great good. It has humbled me. He has not taken it away. I carry around with me a constant reminder that I need daily to depend upon Him. Again and again it teaches me that I am weak but He is strong. All the glory must go to Him.

Don’t be ashamed of your weakness. Don’t be too quick to wish that God would take away that painful thorn in the flesh. It may be that it is precisely this affliction that is making you a much more effective instrument in His hands. The most powerful instruments in God’s armoury are the weakest. He uses broken tools to display His master craftmanship.

Let us embrace our weakness. Delight in the privilege of being taught to depend upon His grace. Rejoice in the opportunity to put His magnificent strength on public display. A humble Christian is a powerful weapon in God’s hands. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

It Starts with the Heart

I am quite confident that I am not the only one who finds talking about Jesus with non-Christians hard. I cannot be the only one who has sighed to themselves after an awkward conversation, “I wish I could be better at talking to people about Jesus. The words just don’t seem to come naturally to me.”

What is the solution? I could swat up on an outline of the gospel. I could spend time practicing clever answers to questions people ask. These are helpful and useful things to do. However, we need to start further back and deeper in than this.

We need to start with the heart.

We need to start here because our words flow out of our hearts. Jesus tells the Pharisees that “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) The Pharisees have been spreading some nasty rumours about Jesus. They claim that He works by the power of the devil (verse 24). Jesus tells them that the reason they say such evil things is because their hearts are evil. They are like a diseased apple tree that will only produce rotten apples. The fruit of their mouths shows up the rot in their hearts.

What is in my heart will eventually bubble out through my lips. This means that what my heart delights in most, my lips speak about most. If my heart is in love with sport, then I am going to spend most of my time talking excitedly about the latest football scores. If I have a heart that is in love with something other than Jesus, then I’m going to struggle to speak naturally and excitedly about Him. However, if my heart is a heart that is beating with delight in the Lord Jesus, then this will bubble out through excited lips.

This means that when I want to get better at talking to my friend about Jesus, the first place I need to work on is my heart. I need to grow my heart in enjoying the truth of the gospel, and allow it to be shaped by the gospel. I need to take the truth of the Gospel and work it deep into the soil of my heart. As we do this we will slowly find the fruit of natural and excited gospel conversations begin to grow.

Here are some practical pointers to doing this heart work:

1) Pray, pray, pray. God is the heart surgeon. Changing our hearts from idol loving hearts to Jesus loving hearts is the work of His Spirit. Cry to Him to do this work because we cannot do it.

2) Feast yourself on the Word of God. The Bible is the surgical scalpel that God uses to do this heart work. It alone goes deep into the heart. The more deeply we soak ourselves in the Word, the more our hearts will be growing to delight in Jesus, and the more naturally we will speak about Him

3) Encourage one another regularly with Bible truth. God has given us one another as fellow labourers in this work.

Now, I need to warn you. Heart work is hard work. It’s a daily slog. Keep at it, because it is the best type of work.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

There Are Worse Things Than Dying

A helpful thought from Don Carson to put things into perspective:
I do not know how many times I have sung the words, “O let me never, never / Outlive my love for Thee,” but I mean them.
I would rather die than end up unfaithful to my wife; I would rather die than deny by a profligate life what I have taught in my books; I would rather die than deny or disown the gospel.
God knows there are many things in my past of which I am deeply ashamed; I would not want such shame to multiply and bring dishonor to Christ in years to come.
There are worse things than dying.