Recommended Books for New Believers (for Anyone!)

Here are a few recommended books to read particularly if you are a new believer. However, these are good books for any Christian to read.

I have listed the books in an order that should build a solid foundation of the Christian Gospel upon which our faith is built. What books would you recommend?

What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
Gospel by JD Greear
Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson
Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson and Matt Chandler
Gospel as Center by various
Grace Transforming by Philip Ryken
A Hunger for God by John Piper
Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by JD Greear
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
Living the Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney
Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous
Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes
The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges
If God is Good by Randy Alcorn
The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges
The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges
When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch
Who Do You Think You Are? by Mark Driscoll
The Work of Christ by RC Sproul
You Can Change by Tim Chester

Other recommendations:
Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler
Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem
Basic Christianity by John Stott
Reason for God by Tim Keller
Reasons for Belief by Norman Geisler
Why Church Matters by Joshua Harris
Everyday Church by Tim Chester

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Other recommendations:
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Introverted Christian

Tim Challies is spot on. Hammer? Meet nail.

I am an introvert. But I have to do extrovert-type things at times. However, I must prepare mentally for my non-introverted activities, and those activities tire me out. Like speaking in front of people. I don’t fear it so much as I have to prepare for it.

This is what makes it difficult to be in a group setting in which the speaker / teacher specifically calls on me to answer a question.

Pure panic.

And then I provide the wrong answer.

But as Challies says, “introversion is what I am, not who I am.”

Who am I?

In timely fashion, Challies also wrote a review of Mark Driscoll’s new book, Who Do you Think You Are. Tim writes,

At the heart of it all is our identity as God’s image-bearers. We have been created in God’s image and this gives us inherent worth and dignity. We are created as worshippers, yet by falling into sin we worship all the wrong things, leading us to craft idolatrous identities for ourselves. Instead of being identified first and foremost in our relationship to God, we ignore the Creator and craft other identities. It is the gospel, the good news of what Christ has done, that transforms, or re-forms, our identity. Driscoll writes, “Only by knowing our false identity apart from Christ in relation to our true identity in him can we rightly deal with and overcome the issues in our lives.” Identity is a matter of life and death.

My identity is in Christ.

Struggle of Life

Have you struggled with the way life is and the way it should be?

People fall into one of three philosophies of thought when struggling through this tension: Theist (We can know God), Agnostic (I’m not sure God exists or that we can know), and Atheist (We cannot know).

For the theist, the presence of evil is proof God exists; for the agnostic, evil creates a huge question in the mind; Atheists see evil as proof God does not exist.

At best, I am a theist. At worst, I am agnostic of the variety. Doubting Dawkins and Atheism’s Strength demonstrate the achilles heal of Atheism. Atheism is not a tenable option for me.

One honest atheist explains (please pardon some of the wording),

In a godless universe shit happens without rhyme nor reason. Life is predatory from the ground up. Creatures eat one another by trapping unsuspecting victims in unusual ways, launching surprise attacks out of the blue, and hunting in packs by overpowering prey with brute force and numbers. Sometimes a creature just goes wacko for no reason at all. Humans are not exempt. Sometimes the wiring in our brains goes haywire and we snap. We too are violent and we inherited this trait from our animal predecessors. We also show care and concern to our kith and kin but we can lash out in horrific ways at what we consider an uncaring world.

David Heddle remarks,

On the one hand, a very illuminating observation. On the other hand it is nothing more than yet another attempt at the proof of godlessness by the existence of evil. Axiomatic atheism is, if you will, a one-trick pony: Bad things happen, ergo no god. They also throw in “show me god exists” – a reasonable request from their perspective—but this is a negative statement rather than a positive. The only positive argument atheism has is, as Loftus puts it, shit happens. He writes:

In a universe where there is an all powerful, perfectly good, all knowing God this tragedy is not what we would expect to happen.

Here Loftus is 100% wrong. He is operating under the misguided assumption that Christianity is a religion that teaches shit never happens.

The bible teaches us to enjoy life, God’s bounty, and temporal happiness. It also promises, like a prescription medication: side effects may include pain, despair, suffering, lapses into grievous sin, weakness, apparent senselessness, persecution, misery, and physical death. Why atheists think that fallen man in a fallen world behaving exactly as the bible tells us is somehow a problem for Christianity is unfathomable. Shit happens. Loftus is correct that a godless world predicts as much. He is incorrect that a world with the god of the bible does not. Both hypotheses fit the data.

Heddle is spot on. But further, I would say that many people see God as a Ivory-Tower God, a God that is disconnected from His creation in any meaningful way.

If God were an Ivory-Tower God, then Atheists would be correct

But God is not an Ivory-Tower God but a God who can identify with our suffering.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable.” We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

But more to the point, as Peter Kreeft goes so far as to say, “If good and evil exist, God exists. The struggle of life is a struggle for faith, but not just faith but faith in Jesus, our Emmanuel.


Listen

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (ESV)

A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 3

A right eschatology does not liberate us from the present; it liberates us for the present.

An Aside: Apocalyptic language and metaphor

As Matthew Malcolm4 shares,

If you’ve encountered the opinion that unless we interpret the Bible “literally” we are not doing justice to it, this could be a useful resource:

The Charge of Replacement Theology

What I’m finding is that those who charge Amillennialists as “Replacement Theologians” are establishing a straw man argument. The non-Amillennialist does not rebut the actual arguments of the Amillennialist, chiefly, the remnant of Israel is One, namely Jesus. He is the True Remnant of Israel, the True Israelite: read this post for details.

Because Jesus is the True Israelite (the True Remnant of Israel), everyone who believes in Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) becomes one (i.e. there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift).

This means that both Jew and Gentile are joint-heirs with Christ. This is not replacement theology. This is exactly the way it was meant to be in the first place.

Another way to look at it: Because Jesus is the True Remnant of One of Israel, Israel is expanded to include both Jew and Gentile, hence, this is Expansion Theology.

OR if you would like to keep pressing the point, Jesus replaces Israel (the unfaithful son) as the Faithful Son, the True Israel and then all who are joined in Him by faith becomes the New Israel — the two becoming one new man in Jesus:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. ~

The BIG Question

The big question non-Amillennialists need to answer is,

How is Jesus not the True Remnant of Israel– a Remnant of One?

This is not a liberal / Conservative Discussion

Charles Spurgeon5 (a Premillennialist but not a Dispensationalist) explains,

Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ so not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed at one time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about. These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body. Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way—they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.

Promises / Fulfillment

I have never read a persuasive argument for why we should have such a hard distinction between Israel and the Church. Because of the documentation I have presented, I am more convinced than ever that just as Israel is used in different ways (due to context – i.e. Israel as nation, Israel as true Spiritual Israel), the Church is used in different senses (i.e. physical representation of God’s people, the Church universal aka Spiritual Israel.

I do not see how we can get around this when there are promises made to Israel yet applied to the church.

Promises Made to Israel Fulfilled in the Church

Promise to Israel

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God. –

Fulfillment in the church

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.’ ‘And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God. –

Promise to Israel

Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ –

Fulfillment in the church

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. –

Promise to Israel

On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; –

Fulfillment in the church

Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. ‘And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ ‘Known to God from eternity are all His works. –

Spoken to Israel, Applied to the Church
Spoken to Israel

And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. ‘And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. –

Applied to the church

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…’But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. –

Spoken to Israel

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. –

Applied to the church

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; –

Spoken to Israel

My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. –

Applied to the church

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. –

Spoken to Israel

Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. –

Applied to the church

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ –

Spoken to Israel

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– –

Applied to the church

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’ –

Self-Condemnation of Dispensationalism

Charles Ryrie, in his early writings, makes this significant statement:

If the church does not have a new covenant, then she is fulfilling Israel’s promises, for it has been clearly shown that the Old Testament teaching on the new covenant is that it is for Israel. If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere else in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned. One might well ask why there are not two aspects to the one new covenant. This is the position held by many premillennialists, but we agree that the amillennialist has every right to say of this view that it is a practical admission that the new covenant is fulfilled in and to the church.

This is why I am not a Dispensationalist. This is why I am Amillennialist because everything I see revolves around Christ and the Amillennial position expresses that most clearly.

References

1See more about a Christological Focus in An Amillennial Rebuttal to Dispensationalism 2.
2The Greatest Challenge and Privilege of OT Preaching by Mike Bullmore Senior Pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin.
3Dispensationalists should “Re-interpret” by Bobby Grow and here is the article Bobby links to: « Sign this petitionMilbank on Gay Marriage »
Fundamentalist hermeneutics serves a secular, atheistic agenda
by Matthew Malcolm
4Apocalyptic language and metaphor by Matthew Malcolm
5Spurgeon, “Jesus Christ Immutable,” MTP, 15:8. via Charles H. Spurgeon and the Nation of Israel: A Non-Dispensational Perspective on a Literal National Restoration by by Dennis Swanson

See A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part One
See A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 2
SEe A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 3

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

10  Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” (ESV)

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (ESV)

23 and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’” (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (ESV)

11 “In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old, (ESV)

14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16 “‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’ (ESV)

28  “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. (ESV)

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Acts 2:16-21

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (ESV)

and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (ESV)

27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (ESV)

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. (ESV)

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. (ESV)

15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV)

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (ESV)

20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (ESV)

Grill a Christian

Todd Friel, of Wretched Radio, went to a public college and discussed Christianity with a group.

Grill a Christian (Part 1)

Grill a Christian (Part 2)

Grill a Christian (Part 3)

What Gospel-Centered Preaching Is and Does

Tim Keller writes,

“Christ-centered preaching converts doctrinal lectures or little how-to talks into true sermons.”

“The gospel brings news primarily, rather than instruction.”

Keller explains,

“In we learn that every single part of the Bible is really about Jesus. The Christ-centric preaching approach sees the whole Bible as essentially one big story with a central plot: God restores the world lost in Eden by intervening in history to call out and form a new humanity. This intervention climaxes in Jesus Christ, who accomplishes salvation for us what we could not accomplish for ourselves. While only a minority of Biblical passages actually give the whole storyline, every Biblical text must be placed in the whole storyline to be understood. In other words, every text must be asked “What does this tell me about the salvation we have in Christ?” in order to be understood.

This understanding of preaching, then, turns all preaching into narrative preaching, even if it is an exposition of Deuteronomy, Proverbs or James. Every sermon is a story in which the plot of the human dilemma thickens, and the hero that comes to the rescue is Jesus. Christ-centric preaching converts doctrinal lectures or little how-to talks into narrative preaching, but it is still careful, close Biblical exposition of texts.

The “informational” view of preaching conceives of preaching as changing people’s lives after the sermon. They listen to the sermon, take notes, and then apply the Biblical principles during the week. But this assumes that our main problem is a lack of compliance to Biblical principles, when (as we saw above) all our problems are actually due to a lack of joy and belief in the gospel. Our real problem is that Jesus’ salvation is not as real to our hearts as the significance and security our idols promise us. If that’s our real problem, then the purpose of preaching is to make Christ so real to the heart that in the sermon people have an experience of his grace, and the false saviors that drive us lose their power and grip on us on the spot. That’s the “experiential” view of preaching.”

Objection to Gospel-Centered Preaching

One objection to Christ-Centered preaching was expressed like this:

“While I would never want to take any emphasis away from the gospel, I would ask why those who have accepted the gospel need to be continually reminded of what took place?

If we assume for a minute that the gospel message is synonymous with telling how one can join a club (again, just assumption for a minute for understanding purposes). It would be as if you continually, week after week, twice a week, told the members of that club what must take place for them to join the club.

That sounds somewhat silly.

Likewise, we have already believed the good news. The good news that Jesus did come. While it is still good news, and while we should always rejoice in hearing that Jesus did come and die for our sins, we cannot forbid ourselves from learning other truths presented within the Word.

The Scripture speaks of the gospel, yes, but it does not only speak of the gospel. And while the gospel message may be the pivotal point and the climactic reason for all that is, this doesn’t mean that the gospel is all that there is”

Answering the Objection

I also can understand being a skeptic of Gospel-Centered Preaching. To reference the “joining the club” analogy, I must say that to equate the Gospel as merely an entrance to the Christian life is a misunderstanding of the real ramifications of what the Gospel truly is.

Scripture is like a great movie. Not every scene contains the main character, yet each scene pertains to the main character and would not make much sense without reference to the main character.

Think of Lord of the Rings. In the Two Towers, Gandalf told Aragorn to hold on and keep fighting. As far as Gandalf was concerned, the battle was already won. As soon as Gandalf showed up in the wee hours of the morning, all hope was instantly restored in those who were fighting. Even though Gandalf was not in much of the scenes at this point, it makes little sense for them to fight a seemingly losing battle without connecting what they are doing (fighting a good fight) to the one who has won the battle for them.

Likewise, even though Jesus is not specifically mentioned or even referenced in various passages, it makes little sense to preach to people “Do not lie,” and leave it at that. Yes, we should not lie, and it is good and right to tell the truth, just as it was good and right for Aragorn (and his allies) to fight for their lives and for that which is good, however, we must reference our doing (do not lie, love your neighbor, etc…) to Christ and His finished work. In the words of Paul, “It is Christ formed within us.”

Why shouldn’t we lie? Because it is wrong to lie? Yes, but a more profound reason is that as we partake of the nature of God (without becoming God, mind you – ), the natural result is that we will want to tell the truth simply because of the Spirit of Christ Who lives within us. Because of the Spirit of Christ living in us, we partake of the nature of God which by necessity precedes the law – the law is the natural expression of the nature of God. To merely preach and teach our duty alone and it only being right to do because God desires us to do so seems to miss the point of our doing completely. We are to do these commands and follow these statutes because Christ Who is the exact imprint of the nature of God () of which we partake has 1) already finished the full requirement of the whole law (fulfilling our duty) 2) exhorts us to do them in reflection and admiration for what He (Christ) has done for us and in our place.

So why must we make the Gospel central in our preaching? Because Jesus and His finished work is the means by which we partake of God’s nature. Without making the Gospel the central reference point in our thinking and doing, we cease to preach a Christian message. The Christian message is Christ has fulfilled the whole law for us and in our place and it, that is, the gospel, is then what motivates us to do His will.

24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (ESV)

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (ESV)

The Gospel in Everyday Language: An Interview with Milton Vincent

As I have mentioned in the past (in 2007 to be exact), I have recommended the booklet A Gospel Primer for Christians now a book you can get from Amazon. I liked the Primer so much that I contacted Pastor Milton Vincent, the author of the Primer, and requested an interview. He graciously accepted the opportunity.

This interview has encouraged me greatly, and I am sure it will encourage you, as well. For anyone, and I am sure this includes everyone, struggling with sin in any and every area of life, this Q&A should be fresh, cold water to your soul.

First off, I want to thank you for taking this time to answer questions from a no-name blogger whom you have never met. I really want to make this an opportunity of learning and gleaning the wisdom God has given you relating to the ministry of the Gospel and to share this wisdom with my readers.

For starters, would you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your ministry?

My wife and I are from Indianapolis, Indiana. We both went to Bob Jones University, and we graduated from there in ’87. I graduated from The Master’s Seminary in ’91, and a few months later I assumed the pastorate at Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church, where my wife and I have been ever since. I did teach English Grammar at The Master’s Seminary for two years and Beginning Hebrew at the seminary for four years. I have four children, Brooke (17), Brendan (15), Benjamin (11), and Breanna (9). I have a terrible golf game.

1. You have written a booklet called A Gospel Primer for Christians. Can you explain why you wrote it and what your hopes are for the booklet?

To the Christians at Rome, Paul literally says, “I am eager to evangelize you who are at Rome” (). Apparently, Paul felt that the Roman Christians still needed to be evangelized; and I have found the same to be true in my own life and in the lives of many other Christians to whom I minister. The Gospel Primer represents an attempt to meet the needs of Christians who, like me, feel the need for a simple tool through which they can evangelize themselves each day.

It had been a burden of mine since 2001 to write a gospel tract for Christian people, a tract which lays out for them the basics of the gospel, calls them to faith in that gospel, and shows them how they can come into a fuller experience of it. The Primer is that tract.

My hope for the booklet is simply that Christians will find the truths in it as helpful as I have found them to be in my own life. It has been rewarding in recent months to witness the interest in the primer and to hear of how it has blessed so many. This confirms to me that we all share the same basic need for the gospel each day.

2. Has your understanding of “the Gospel is for Christians” altered other facets of your theology? Why? Why not?

Yes and No. My doctrinal statement looks the same now as it did before. But my emphases are vastly different. Everything I say and do always goes back to the gospel. This wasn’t true of my ministry prior to 2001.

3. In your opinion, why do many Christians view the Gospel as only for unbelievers?

I don’t know, except to say that if I were the Devil, this would be one of my favorite lies. The gospel of Christ is so powerful that, after experiencing the defeat of seeing a person become converted, the Devil rushes in to tell them, “OK, you’ve experienced the gospel. Now let’s move on quickly to the deeper stuff”! This is a scheme that Satan has perfected all too well. Hence, we have Christians who are saved by the gospel, but who walk by the Law. They have entrusted their glorification completely over to Jesus, but have not learned the mechanics of how to leave their justification to Him also.

4. Would you explain your journey toward Gospel-Centeredness? Was there a watershed moment or sequence of moments?

Pardon the length of my reply. But since you asked, I will tell you.

I would have never acknowledged this to be the case, but I labored for most of my life to maintain my justified status before God, and I was always left frustrated in my attempts to do so. The “God” I believed in was easily ticked at me. When I would come into His presence to make right some wrong, His arms were tightly folded, and His eyes were slow to meet mine. I imagined an angry look on His face, and it was up to me to figure out some way to mollify Him.

I figured that if I beat up myself sufficiently in His presence, or pled with Him long enough, or just waited a few hours to put a little distance between me and my sin, then He might warm to me again.

This view of God would work for a short while, but after a couple weeks, the sheer quantity of times I failed God would reach a threshold where I was convinced that He was fed up with me. I also grew weary of always falling out of His favor and having to confess or work my way back into His good graces. Exhausted from such efforts, I would eventually give up actually trying to relate to God.

I would then go weeks and months where all I would do was simply try not to do anything too stupid or overtly sinful. But inwardly I harbored much sin, and, over time, I would find myself acting out in ways that would scare me and bring the Spirit’s conviction upon me. Feeling convicted over such sin, I would return to God as a prodigal and renew my efforts to please Him this time around. With a burst of energy, I would throw myself into trying to relate to God once again, only to end up a couple weeks later exactly as I had so many times before: frustrated, defeated, and exhausted.

I operated this way through college and seminary, and even through the first decade of my ministry as a pastor. All the while, I hung onto my faith, because I knew something better was available. I just didn’t know how to get to it. God was gracious to teach me many things along the way that continued to move me forward, but rest in Christ eluded me.

In April of 2001, I was in the fourth week of a season of renewal in my walk with the Lord. I was relating to God with renewed passion and was experiencing significant growth as a result. But the same wearisome agitation began to grow over me as the days wore by.

Driving home from work one day, my mind came back to the Lord after I had allowed my thoughts to drift for about ten minutes. I was instantly concerned about what I might have just been thinking about in the previous ten minutes. “Have I been thinking anything sinful?” I asked myself. “If so, then God would be angry at me for letting my thoughts wander so. Or maybe I wasn’t even thinking sinful thoughts, but perhaps God is still upset with me because I wasn’t thinking on Him instead.”

My mind began to agitate, and I winced under the Lord’s gaze. “Lord, are we OK?” I asked. “Have I thought any thoughts that have offended You? Do I need to make anything right in order to restore our relationship?”

I anxiously replayed my thoughts from the previous ten minutes. I felt I needed to do this in order to know what the countenance of God was towards me at that moment. If He was angry, then I had to get back into His good graces.

A feeling of nausea began to sweep over me. “Surely, relating to God can’t be this difficult!” my heart screamed. “Why is it so hard to stay in His good graces? I can’t keep track of every thought in order to make sure that He stays graciously disposed towards me! This isn’t possible!”

Feeling exhausted at the thought of a lifetime of having to tend so obsessively to keeping myself in the good favor of God, I felt an extreme urge to trash the whole effort.

The words of a hymn came to my mind and I began to sing them: “Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art . . . .” As I sang the words, I agonized over the fact that my own experience was far removed from the rest about which the songwriter spoke.

When I got home, I found that my wife and kids were not at home. So I grabbed my Bible and began reading out loud as I paced the floor in our living room. What led me to I don’t recall. But I’m glad I landed there, because the chapter saved my life.

I started reading: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have an introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we exult . . . .”

As I continued through the chapter, my soul was stirred by the inspired ravings of a man who exulted in, rather than worried about, his justified status before God. This justification brought him into a gracious standing with God that was accomplished and always maintained by Jesus Christ.

The more I read, the more I began to see something I had not seen before. As a justified one, I am under God’s gracious favor at all times because of what Jesus did! This favored standing with God has nothing to do with my performance, but only with the performance of Jesus! As I read through the length of the chapter, I began to see that my justification was not something to agitate over, but to exult in, not something to wrestle for, but to rest in. I stole a glimpse into and realized that even when I sin, God’s grace abounds all the more as He graciously maintains my justified status.

The above realizations may seem like no-brainers to some, but Paul’s teaching on justification hit me that day like never before. Indeed, I had always believed I was justified, but I guess I treated my justification as some sort of legal fiction that had little direct bearing on the mechanics of how God related to me and how I related to Him. I suppose I would have imagined God saying, “Yeah, technically you’re justified, but I’m angry with you anyway for what you did today!”

But now I realized that absolutely 100% of the wrath I deserve for my sins was truly spent on Jesus, and there is none of God’s anger left over for me to bear, even when I fail God as a Christian. Hence, God now has only love, compassion, and deepest affection for me, and this love is without any admixture of wrath whatsoever. God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always seeking to work all things together for my ultimate and eternal good. All of these realities hold true even when I sin.

Being justified in Christ doesn’t mean that God no longer cares about my sin. He does care, and He is grieved by my sin. But His gracious favor upon me remains utterly unchanged by my sin, and no wrath is awakened in Him against me. In fact, God favors me so much when I sin that He sends chastisement into my life. He does so because He is for me, and loves me, and He disciplines me for my ultimate good.

Over the next few days, I wrote out some truths regarding my justification on a 3×5 card, and I carried that card around with me everywhere I went. I would pull the card out and read it several times a day. As I did so, I could hardly believe my good fortune. I drank in the doctrine of my justification like a dying man drinking a tall glass of water in the desert. The way those truths put my soul at rest was indescribable.

So delicious was the good news regarding my justification that I began to fear that perhaps I had misunderstood something. With fear and trembling, I ran what I had learned by two fellow-pastors and by the elders of Cornerstone. I also consulted a few evangelical theology books to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding something. To my great relief, I got a green light from all of these checkpoints! They all confirmed that I was rightly understanding what the Scriptures taught regarding my justification.

I felt like a kid in a candy store. How did I not see these things before? The Gospel is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. And it’s true!

The 3×5 card soon turned into the front side of a half sheet of paper, and one side quickly turned into two. I called it “A Gospel Primer” and kept inserting it into our church’s Sunday bulletins to make sure everyone was getting the good news of the Gospel. I kept quoting the contents of the Primer to myself in order to remain mindful of the grace of God in which I stood, because I found it too easy to get out of “gospel mode” and fall back into a performance-based relationship with God. Eventually, the single-page primer turned into a 78 page booklet, now entitled, “A Gospel Primer for Christians.”

Released from the burden of having to maintain my righteous standing with God, I quickly found that I had enormous amounts of passion to put into growing in holiness and ministering God’s amazing grace to other people. I had never had such energy available for ministry before, because so much of it was consumed with tending to my standing before God. I also found the grace of the gospel producing in me a huge passion to love and obey God. In moments of temptation, I enjoyed saying to myself, “You know, I can commit this sin, and God’s grace would abound to me all the more as He maintains my justified status. . . . But it is precisely for this reason that I choose not to commit this sin!” In such moments I would walk away from sin with laughter in my heart.

To keep a long story from getting longer, let me close this off by saying that I still struggle with sin, and I daily fall short of what I know God wants from me. But, without question, the Lord allowed me to turn a significant corner in my sanctification in the Spring of 2001. There are still many areas of my life which I have not yet brought the gospel fully to bear upon. And I am still learning and growing in my experience of the fullness of the gospel. But, as exciting as what I’ve already learned is, I see Jesus standing there saying, “There is more.”

And to me, a hell-deserving sinner, that’s just plain crazy. God’s grace is amazing!

5. How do you stay Gospel-Centered in your preaching without allegorizing?

I’m still growing in my ability to be gospel-centered in all I preach, and I have much to learn. While I have found it worthwhile to put forth the extra effort to be gospel-centered in every sermon, I don’t always feel that I have nailed it the way I should. In fact, in some ways I feel as if I am in Kindergarten on this topic. Nonetheless, what follows are some meandering thoughts that reflect my thinking and practice up to this point.

There are clearly gospel texts in Scripture (, , etc.), and, of course, I preach what’s there.

If I am preaching a prescriptive passage in the Old Testament, I preach the text for what it says in its context, but then tell people that they can only hope to be what the text calls for if they are centered on the gospel. I can tell them that every command in the Law is specifically designed by God to serve as a tutor to show them their bankruptcy and bring them to Christ (gospel!). If they are already saved, then every command in the Law is designed to bring them back again and again to Christ and His gospel.

Where the gospel is not explicitly in the text (as is the case with many proverbs), I preach the text and then bring the gospel to bear on the application. I suppose in such cases I am not applying a gospel-hermeneutic to the interpretation of the text as much as I am providing a gospel method for thinking through the application of the text.

When preaching Old Testament narrative, I think one can always bring the gospel to bear on the interpretation and application of the text. As a case in point, one can preach on David slaying Goliath, and he can talk about God preserving His people (particularly David!) through whom the Messiah would come (gospel!). By way of application, the preacher legitimately can ponder the strong-mindedness of David and ask what resource is available to us today to give us that same courage in the face of our enemies, particularly the principalities and powers we must stand against. The gospel provides abundant fuel for courage. Other gospel connections can easily be made.

One caution is in order. I think the preacher does well to treat Old Testament passages in their original context, and he should do the work necessary to discern how they were intended to be understood by their original readership. Some preachers might bail out on this process and jump too quickly to the gospel. In such cases, they actually diminish, rather than enrich, the gospel appreciation that such texts are ultimately intended to cultivate.

If I preach the commands of Scripture, even New Testament commands, without pointing people to the gospel, then I am nothing more than a preacher of the Law. After preaching some command in Scripture, such as “let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you . . . ,” I frequently tell our people, “Do not walk out of here merely resolving to do a better job of obeying this command. Instead, start gorging yourself on the gospel and you will catch yourself doing exactly what this passage tells you to do.”

6. What is the most challenging aspect for you in preaching? What have you done to overcome these challenge(s)?

For me, the most challenging aspect of preaching is the preparation process. Studying with tools of exegesis in one hand and a sword in the other, dealing with the fury of hell that seeks to impede my advancement in the text, often serves to make preparation excruciating. I envy men who rave about how much they enjoy their sermon preparation. Perhaps one day this will be my experience. For now, it is often the most painful part of what I do (this is not to say that there are not moments of rejoicing!).

It helps me to go into my sermon preparation with the mindset of a soldier. Sentinels of hell have stationed themselves around every truth in Scripture, and the mindset of a warrior braces me to fight the necessary fight to get at those truths for my own benefit and the benefit of the people to whom I am called to minister.

7. What advice would you share with people who are aspiring Pastors/Elders/Counselors within a church?

If you can do anything else, by all means do it. And if you can do anything else, you probably aren’t called. Ministry is not for the faint of heart. It is gritty and often messy. If you wish to be comfortable, do yourself a favor and avoid ministry.

The downside to avoiding ministry is that, when you reach your deathbed, you will have lived but one life. However, if you wish to live a thousand lives, and truly laugh all of your laughter and weep all of your tears, then ministry is definitely where it’s at.

Also, it seems that the longer I am in the ministry, the more I become a “one-tool” pastor/counselor. The one tool I have in my tool box is the gospel; and I’m finding that it works on everything!

Whether preaching or counseling, always direct people to the gospel, and then let the gospel wield God’s power in their areas of particular need. Follow Paul’s example by teaching gospel truth and then helping people to reason their way from gospel truth to whatever practical issue they are dealing with. This will save you a huge amount of work in the long run, and you will see for yourself why Paul calls the message of the cross “the power of God.”

8. What are some of the challenges you face as a Pastor in California?

Probably nothing any other pastor doesn’t face. People are the same anywhere. Actually, one of the greatest benefits to pastoring a church in California is that churches tend to be more racially integrated out here. One of the centerpieces of the gospel is that the death of Christ has obliterated the racial and socio-economic distinctions that once divided us outside of Christ. The journey to a racially integrated church is fraught with fewer obstacles out here than in some other parts of the country. I am extremely thankful for this.

9. Who are your past/present heroes of the faith? What draws your attention to them?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. I look up to so many people! Rather than boring you with a long list of heroes, I will give you just four, two of them from the past and two of whom are alive today.

The Apostle Paul is my greatest hero and dearest brother in the faith. The Lord used his fanatical zeal for the gospel to give me light and show me the way forward when my soul was at a critical impasse.

William Wilberforce. He was a gospel-driven man who worked and spoke with great conviction of the rightness of his causes, yet he did so with a humble consciousness of his own sin and graciousness toward others.

CJ Mahaney. I know of no other man who exudes the spirit of the apostle Paul more than he. CJ speaks and emotes about the gospel the way I’ve always imagined that the apostle Paul did when he was alive. I love him for that.

Jerry Bridges. Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace has had a huge impact on my life, and I will always be grateful for his introducing me to the role of the gospel in the life of the believer.
_____________________

I would like to thank Pastor Milton Vincent for this interview. If you have any questions to ask him, I am sure he would not object (I previously asked if I could do a follow-up interview if needed). You can visit his church’s website at: http://www.cornerstonebible.org/

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (ESV)

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, 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.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, 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.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)


Listen

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he 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 redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)

Luke 15: The Prodigal Sons

The Prologue and Context of

“10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments [robes] of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” ()

I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan – the books, and the movie. And if you’ve watched the movie, at the very beginning is what they call the prologue – which actually takes you back 4800 years from the main events of the Lord of the Rings. And here’s why it’s doing this, it talks about the forging of the one ring and the nine rings and the rings that were given to the elves, it takes you through this massive history up to this battle for Middle Earth, and the reason it does that is it sets the entirety of the story in context. So if you don’t have the prologue and you just jump right in to Frodo, and Gandalf, and Sam, if you don’t know the prologue then you might as well be watching Mary Poppins. With a few more decapitations, obviously. The prologue is so massively important.

The Prologue for the Parable of the Two Sons is

The Fall
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
()

This is a description of our fallenness. Our nothingness.There are some things we need to recognize in what happens in this passage:

1) God’s Word was questioned – “hath God said,…”
2) God’s Word was twisted – “Ye shall not surely die:”
3) Man was said to be lifted up to be like God – “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
4) Adam and Eve exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served a created thing rather than their Creator ()
5) They are now characterized by worldliness

Life on the outside (of the garden) is dominated by worldliness. Let me repeat that. Life is dominated, on the outside, by worldliness. So, really the question is, how do we define worldliness? There are lots of definitions out there. What I want to do here is to give us a bottom line description of worldliness. And here it is – worldliness is performance based living. Worldliness is performance based living.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.()

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;6 But we are all as an unclean thing , and all our righteousnesses [righteous deeds] are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.7 And there is none that calls upon thy name, that stirs up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.()

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:()

Question: What is all of this saying?
1) Our sin is far worse than we can imagine.
2) Our sin touches every part of our being.
3) Our most righteous deeds are as a polluted garment.
4) Our sinfulness demands punishment by wrath and fury.

Question: What does all of this mean?
1) Your best and most righteous thought this moment is so tainted with sin, it is still enough to condemn you.
2) Your most thoughtful and selfless deed is still so tainted with sin, it is worthless before God.
3) Our worship and praise to God today is worthless because of our sin.

Hang with me! I know there are red flags waving in your head right now! Don’t worry! Stick with me, here! Now THIS is what I want you to get. THIS is what I want you to understand:
There. is. HOPE!

3 For what says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.()

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. ()

11 And he (Jesus) said, A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” And he divided unto them his living.
The younger son outright rejected the Father.
The Father divided his possessions between the sons.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
The younger son squandered his inheritance.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.’”
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
The licentious / liberal / squanderer / care free [insert descriptions here] type of person is more apt to come to his / her senses and repent.
22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, “Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.”
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

The elder son was angry because the Father took a portion of the elder son’s inheritance and gave it to the younger son. In other words, the younger son received more than what was traditionally provided when receiving an inheritance.

29 And he answering said to his father, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
()

Today I want to dive into worldliness. Well, not into worldliness but the subject of worldliness. Back to the Lord of the Rings, some of the most intriguing characters in that story are the Ring Wraiths, these nine human kings, great kings of old I think they’re called, who were given rings from the Dark Lord Sauron. And when they were given these rings they were bewitched by Sauron, they were enslaved by Sauron, and they actually became less than human. So that now they were no longer visible to the human eye. They were kind of in between physical existence and this other world, and they were enslaved to do his will. And you know, if you’ve seen it, they have these suped up monk robes, where the hood comes down and you can’t see the inside and they have these massive arm holes in the robes. And I remember asking the question, why are they wearing these robes? Well, Tolkien actually tells us why they’re wearing these robes. Listen to this, he says, “The black robes are real robes that the Wraiths wear to give shape to their nothingness.” These fallen men have a profound sense of their fallenness. They have a profound sense of their nothingness. And they wear these robes, not because they like robes, but these robes are their way of covering that fallenness, of covering this profound sense of nothingness.

You know the story of the Ring Wraiths is really not a fictional story. Well it is a fictional story, but it’s not because it captures all of our experience this side of the Fall. That we wear robes, we have a profound sense, we can’t articulate it and it takes years in your 20’s and 30’s and 40’s before you can really begin to get a sense of the depth of your own fallenness. But we wear these robes to cover our fallenness. We put on the robe of sex, we put on the robe of money, we put on the robe of power, we put on the robe of vocational achievement, we put on the robe of educational achievement, we put on this robe and that robe and we’re wearing all these different robes in an attempt to cover our fallenness, in an attempt to cover our nothingness. But we do not only put on robes of sex, money and power, we also put on religious robes. This is why James, for instance, talks about pure and undefiled religion, because we are a people, I am a person who will put on religious activity, I will put on social concern as a robe that is my attempt to cover my own sense of fallenness and brokenness. That is worldliness.

Younger Brother
There’s a great little book by Sinclair Ferguson entitled, Children of the Living God. Fairly early on in the book he talks about the prodigal son in to help us understand a little more about ourselves and how we Christians often perceive our relationship with God. He notes that when the prodigal son finally decided that it was time to return to his father, his plan was to tell his father that he was no longer worthy to be called his son. The prodigal son’s thinking was, “I really messed up. I dishonored my father profoundly when I asked for my inheritance and left with it. I’ve blatantly squandered and belittled his love. So, when I return, I’ll return as his slave not his son. It’s the right thing for me to do.” The reality is that the prodigal is absolutely blind to the enormity of the father’s love for him. “After all that I have done, he certainly cannot treat me or love me any longer as a son!”Sinclair Ferguson sees something in the prodigal’s thinking that parallels how we as Christians often think of God and His fatherly love for us: “Jesus was underlining the fact that – despite assumptions to the contrary – the reality of the love of God for us is often the last thing in the world to dawn upon us. As we fix our eyes upon ourselves, our past failures, our present guilt, it seems impossible to us that the Father could love us. Many Christians go through much of their life with the prodigal’s suspicion. Their concentration is upon their sin and failure; all their thoughts are introspective” (Children of the Living God, 27).When the prodigal son says, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants’” (), he is thinking in terms of wages earned rather than extravagant love and grace received.The only people who are truly able to turn their eyes outward in mission are those who knowingly live within and enjoy the loving gaze of their heavenly Father. If we are not confident of His love, our eyes will turn inward, and our primary concerns will be our needs, our lack, our disappointment, rather than the needs of those around us. As a result, we’ll be afraid to risk or do the hard thing even if it needs to be done. Or we will do the externals of missional living as an attempt to earn God’s acceptance or to keep him and our fellow-Christians off our back. We will relate to him as if we are wager earners rather than as His dearly beloved children, the ones in whom He delights. Granted, we may not know that this is why we’re doing what we’re doing, but it is what drives us from deep within. At best our hearts will be secretly ruled by thoughts like this, “I will pour myself out for the mission of God. Maybe then, if I do that, God will be pleased with me.” These ways of thinking or living do not flow out of the gospel of grace. The gospel is good news. It’s joy-news because it speaks to us of the Father’s love that has come to us in Jesus Christ.

Elder Brother
As Jesus makes clear at the beginning, this parable is about two sons (), both of whom are estranged from their father. The younger son manifests his estrangement by breaking the rules and the older son by keeping them. Neither son lives his life in loving communion with the father, which is the point of the parable. Both sons are prodigals, not just the younger one. The older son may have been on “mission” with the father externally—doing what he was “supposed” to do—but he certainly wasn’t on mission with him internally. Once it became clear to him that the father deals with his sons according to grace and not according to merit, his emotional capital and commitment evaporated. No longer was he capable of “serving” the father, nor did he have any interest in aligning himself with the father’s agenda: welcoming home lost sons.Deep underneath the different externals of these two sons’ behavior was the fact that in reality they were both “sons of disobedience,” “children of wrath” ().

Both of them were profoundly “at odds” with the father. But the beauty, the wonder of the Parable of the Prodigal Sons is that it is ultimately about the father’s love. It is the father’s love that is on display in Jesus’ parable—a love that in uninhibited joy embraces the younger son () and goes out to entreat the older to come in and enjoy the celebration (). In both cases, the father comes to these “sons of disobedience” to bring them into his joy, his home.As gripping as the Parable of the Prodigal Sons is, we must not forget that there is a story behind the story of the Prodigal Sons. Ultimately, the story behind the story is why this parable resonates with us so very deeply. The Story behind the story is the eternal love between God the Father and God the Son in the communion of God the Spirit. When the Son of God became man, he came from the Father’s side ().

In other words, the Son who became man was eternally “in the closest and most immediate proximity to the Father” (The Holy Trinity, 385-386), and he came that we might “receive the right to become children of God” ().We are the prodigals (both younger and elder) and Jesus, the true and eternal Son, came to bring us home. Man was created in the image of God to participate in the communion between the Father and the Son, but we were cut off from that communion because of our sin and rebellion. As C.S. Lewis puts it, as a consequence of the fall, we all now have a “longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside (“The Weight of Glory”).

The inside of that door, and the story behind the story of the Prodigal Sons, is the communion of love between the Father and the Son. God the Father sent His only true and eternal Son on a mission, and that mission was to bring many wayward and rebellious sons to glory (). That is the Story behind the story of the Prodigal Sons.George MacDonald sheds some light on what I mean:

“The secret of the whole story of humanity is the love between the Father and the Son. That is at the root of it all. Upon the love between the Son and the Father hangs the whole universe” (Proving the Unseen, 67) . . . “The love of God is the creating and redeeming, the forming and satisfying power of the universe . . . It is the safety of the great whole. It is the home-atmosphere of all life” (A Dish of Orts; Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespere, 103) . . . “The whole of the universe was nothing to Jesus without His Father. The day will come when the whole universe will be nothing to us without the Father, but with the Father an endless glory of delight” (Proving the Unseen, 72).

15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations. (ESV)

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (ESV)

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (ESV)

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (ESV)

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (ESV)

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. (ESV)

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (ESV)

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (ESV)

23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)

15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)

18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. (ESV)

in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (ESV)

20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (ESV)

28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (ESV)

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (ESV)