Get free email updates as I write new articles:

To Understand the Gospel, First Understand God

Gospel of GodThere are three things I know beyond the shadow of a doubt… There is a God. I am not him. Neither are you.

I know that if we were to make up our own “god,” he wouldn’t resemble the God of the Bible much. I know that because that’s what humanity has done repeatedly and still does today. It’s easier to serve an idol that looks like our idea of god than it is to serve the Living God. That’s why I cringe when people say things like, “Well I just think God probably doesn’t mind…” Whatever comes next is the result of idolatry – our shaping of a god in our image according to our likeness.

The gospel, we’ve said, is defined as the good news about the story of our redemption in Jesus Christ. But to understand the gospel, we first need to understand God (at least, what God has revealed about Himself), because the good news of our redemption flows out of the story of whom God is. Let me explain…

God is our all-sufficient Creator. We often talk about how unfair it is for anyone to go to hell, but we forget that God is an all-sufficient Creator who doesn’t need us at all – He simply wants us! “Our” gospel often says that God owes us salvation, but God’s good news comes from the fact that God is sufficient by Himself. He owes no one anything! But He saves by grace – that’s good news!

God is the righteous and holy One – He hates sin. John 3:16 could easily and truthfully be reworded to say: “For God so hated sin that He gave His only begotten Son…” It is because of His holy nature that He abhors sin. He is separate from it. For God to excuse or associate with sin in any way would be a violation of His holy nature. But He LOVES sinners so much that He came to earth and put on skin and associated with people who had sin in their lives – that’s good news!

God is love – He loves people. You can’t understand the gospel until you understand that God is love. Not just that He loves… but that He IS love! There’s a difference. He doesn’t just do loving things, He does loving things because He defines love.

The gospel, the good news, is that our all-sufficient Creator wants us and loves us enough to save us and redeem for Himself a family through the price of His own dear Son, Jesus.

Defining God’s Holiness

Holy Holy HolyDid you ever sing that hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…? It’s based on a couple of passages of Scripture, one of which was written by the prophet Isaiah…

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

– Isaiah 6:3 (ESV)

I think we often get confused about what holiness means, both in our own lives as well as in describing God with this word. But when we understand what God’s holiness is, it elevates our worship and deepens our relationship with Him.

Holiness is the characteristic of God that sets Him apart from His creation. One key word that helps us to understand God’s holiness is the word transcendence. You see, God’s holiness cannot be defined in terms of human goodness at all. He’s not just the sum of our good qualities. Instead, His holiness means that He is completely separate from mankind altogether. He is “set apart” in His own category and He is completely removed from the idea of sin.

James Montgomery Boice gives us four elements of God’s holiness to help define it…

  1. The element of majesty. God’s holiness is a part of His sovereignty.
  2. The element of will. He has spoken and continues to do what He does because He is holy.
  3. The element of wrath. His wrath is different from our wrath… the wrath of God is “the necessary and proper stance of God to all that opposes Him.”
  4. The element of righteousness. He is the ultimate ethical standard. He is absolute righteousness.

Knowing God’s holiness is knowing that in spite of His complete separateness from all that is sinful, He was willing to make a way, in love, for us to come to know Him through a relationship with His Son, Jesus.

photo credit: GlasgowAmateur

God, Help Me to Be Weird

Weird Book by Craig GroeschelI’ve just finished reading the weirdest book I’ve ever read – Weird by Craig Groeschel… and I’m glad I did. I don’t ever want to be normal again. As Craig puts it, “normal isn’t working.”

We’ve used various terms for the kind of lifestyle Groeschel is calling us to live – sanctified, set apart, separated, consecrated – but the bottom line is that believers should be choosing to live differently than the surrounding culture. Why? Because being “normal” means settling for society’s status quo.

Normal finances would include being over-extended, stressed out, and failing to give generously. Being weird with our finances means we’re going to be generous givers, smart savers, and sensible spenders. The normal marriage today is either falling apart or may as well be, but a weird marriage is one in which husband and wife love and date each other and are in constant pursuit of deeper intimacy. Normal parenting is permissive, absent, or even neglectful. Weird parenting is when we get thoroughly into our kids lives and influence them for Jesus.

Normal people are falling apart. Normal is a broad path. Normal really isn’t working. So I agree with Craig. I want to be Weird from this day forward.

My Great Eager Expectation for My Life

A few days ago, I quoted Paul from Philippians 1 as essentially saying, “live or die… I’m good either way.” This doesn’t simply mean being ready to die, it also means being ready to live. Paul also said in the same breath,

For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die.

~Philippians 1:20 NLT

[Read more…]

A Video for Every Man – Slow Fade

“People never crumble in a day. It’s a slow fade.” ~ Casting Crowns

How true! Failures of a spiritual or moral nature happen as we chip away at our own integrity, as Satan gains one little foothold after another, and as sin creeps up behind us. It happens little by little.

Everybody, but especially ever man ought to watch this teaching video by Casting Crowns explaining how their song, Slow Fade, illustrates Psalm 1.

Or here’s a link to Casting Crowns – Slow Fade Teaching Video.