Friday, April 25, 2008

Good Works and the Gospel, Part 1

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy--Titus 3:3-5a (ESV)

I. We do not save ourselves by our good works.

In Titus 3, Paul paints an almost hopeless picture of the unsaved sinner. His description applies to all of us. If youe a Christian like myself, it's a description of who we were and who we would be without God's salvation. If you're not a Christian, it describes you. Without God's grace, all we have is unrighteousness. Because of this, we deserve God's wrath for our sin. We need salvation.

The Gospel is the story of that salvation. "God our Savior appeared" and "He saved us." Listen to that again: He saved us. We aren't saved by ourselves or by our good works, but by God. So, the Gospel has no place for good works being our means of salvation.

II. God does not save us because of our goodness.

After convincing us that God saves us, not our works, Paul moves to God's motive for saving us. He answers the question, "Did He save us because he saw something good in us?" Absolutely not, Paul answers. "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy." God was not moved by our goodness to love us; He loved us while we were still evil. Romans 5:6 says "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." God is not enticed to save us by our works. He sees our righteousness as the "polluted garments" that they are. (Is. 64:6)

We have nothing at all to do with our salvation. The only thing we bring to the Gospel is our sin.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good Works and the Gospel

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.--Titus 3:3-8 (ESV)

How do good works and the Gospel relate?

In the next few posts, I'm going to try to answer this question from this passage in Titus 3. Here's my tentative series outline:

1) We are not able to save ourselves with good works.
2) God does not save us through good works but through regeneration.
3) Our regeneration produces good works.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

David Wells on the Spirit and the Word

From an interview on The A-Team Blog. . . ."The work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is tied to the Word written and the Word living. The work of the Holy Spirit is to illumine the Scripture he inspired in the first place and, second, to apply the work of Christ to people today. So, in this sense, the work of the Spirit coincides with the work of Christ. Why else would Scripture speak of the Spirit is the “Spirit of Christ” or “his Spirit”? When people start ascribing to the Spirit their own internal intuitions, senses about life, desires, and yearnings, they will soon find themselves adrift if they have not asked themselves two questions: first, have I checked what I am sensing against the (objective) revelation of God’s Word? Second, is what I am sensing leading me to a deeper understanding of, and more faithful service to Christ? If we have no answers to these questions, let us speak no more about the “Spirit”doing this and doing that!"

Friday, April 18, 2008

Treating Christ Well

Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.--1 Corinthians 8:12 (ESV)

In a chapel address at the Master's College, Mark Dever made the following statement: "Christ so identifies with His Church, that how you treat each other as Christians is the way you treat Christ." Now that is a convicting truth! Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians 12:27 that "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." In 6:17, he wrote "But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one with Him in spirit." Therefore, when we sin against our brothers, who are members of Christ, we sin against Christ. Gossiping about our brothers, lying to our sisters, or weakening the consciences of our fellow church members are ways in which we can sin against our very Savior.

No other truth in the Bible can give us such love for our brothers and sisters as this: They are part of Christ. We should give fellow Christians the love due to Christ. Anything short of this (admittedly rather high) mark offends Christ and sins against Him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Spiritual Gymnasium

Train yourselves for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.--1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

As I pedaled on a stationary bike this morning, I read this passage.  As I looked around at my schoolmates, I saw many people training themselves bodily.  But they were not alone, nor were they using their own equipment.  We needed the gym.  We could do some calisthenics outside, but the gym equipment took our exercise to a whole new level.  In the same way, Christians need the local church.

We can expect some growth in godliness through disciplines such as personal Bible reading, private prayer, and secret fasting.  But we severely hamper ourselves if we neglect God's spiritual gymnasium: the local church.  Preaching, corporate worship, and corporate prayer are essential duties of the Christian life.  Think on 1 Timothy 4:13--"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching."

As brothers and sisters in a local church, we fulfill the many "one anothers" of the New Testament.  We love one another.  We admonish one another.  We prophesy to one another.  We correct, protect, encourage, pray for, and teach one another--in the church.  Most of the New Testament epistles were written to churches for a reason.  The pattern for Christians that we find in the early church can be simplified to (1) Belief, (2) Baptism, (3) Church membership.

If godliness truly holds promise for both the present life and the life to come, we should be striving for it as hard as we can--in both our private lives and in the local church.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Cross-Centered Book

In the foreword to C.J. Maheney's Living the Cross Centered Life, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes, "The book you now hold in your hands is nothing less than a manifesto for turning your world upside down."  I have to agree with Dr. Mohler--this book aims at nothing less than shaking the very foundation of your life.

The subtitle to this book is "Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing."  C.J.'s passion, which is clearly seen in Living the Cross Centered Life, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He wants each reader to walk away from his book with a fresh focus on the Cross and a new passion for the Gospel.

Throughout the book, two things show up again and again.  One is C.J.'s humility.  C.J. is a nationally known minister who leads a movement of 75 churches.  His books are popular, his leadership is admired--he has every reason to be proud of his accomplishments.  But, again and again C.J. writes of his sin being poured out on Jesus.  Without wallowing in his shame, he humbly shares his struggles with sin and glories only in Jesus Christ.

The second recurring theme of this book is Jesus in our place.  Jesus suffered in our place.  Jesus took our iniquity in our place.  Jesus died in our place.  This book is like a giant neon sign that points to the Cross.  C.J. dives deep into the Passion of Christ and reveals the great glory of the Cross.  This book is a modern theological/pastoral masterpiece; I highly recommend it.