David Westerfield

Theology. Culture. Technology.

Tag: gospel Page 1 of 5

Hosea: Judgment and Forgiveness

In studying Hosea this past spring at Trinity, it was hard for many of us. The constant language of judgment seems to take on a life of its own, and as gospel people, on this side of the cross and resurrection, we think, “What’s the point?”

I came across this passage in the scripture readings for Lent (found here): “My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.” Psalm 119:120.

The difficulty of the language around judgment in Hosea and other prophets lies for many not in the fact that it’s there, but in the continual, repetitive nature of it. “Okay, I get it,” we say. But that seems to be the point. The repetition is meant to drive into us a remembrance (because we so easily forget!), as it was Israel at the time, the nature of God’s holiness and the healthy level of fear this should invoke.

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The Good News of the Kingdom of God

“Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” – Luke 8:1

The good news is not merely a pleasant report of reconciliation, though it is that, and in it we should and must rejoice. It is not merely a declaration of acceptance before Yahweh, though how extraordinary and wonderful it is indeed. It is not merely our statement of adoption by an awesome Father, now made his children.

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David Phillips on Justification from 2005 (MP3)

Classic Dave, preaching on Romans 4 and justification …

Crescendo of Exuberance – The Gospel and Worship

worshipThe whole point of worship is looking outside ourselves to another, namely Christ. When you’re caught up in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, you’re caught up to something outside yourself, its particular heights and depths, its colors, its sheer size. You’re not thinking about yourself or what you’re going to get out of it as a means to an end, emotionally speaking. You’re simply caught up in that object in itself. Now the effect of being caught up to an object so beautiful is emotion. Standing on the top of Long’s Peak causes me to weep, not because I went there for the emotional high, so to speak, but because it is awesome in itself. Emotion and the experience of it is the result though, not the end. Emotion happens naturally because the object of your focus is so incredible.

So it is with worship of God, particularly in a worship service, but even more generally in our daily lives. To the degree we’re enraptured by, or caught up in, the truth (doctrine) of who Christ is and what He’s done on our behalf, and to the extent we encounter Jesus himself in prayer in our daily lives is the extent to which we’ll be rightly emotive in our response at our worship services, I’m convinced. Music aids in that, but it is not an end unto itself (as most of us know), nor is it primary in kindling those emotions. Now music can be extremely encouraging of that goal when good or distracting if it’s bad and therefore should be done with excellence, absolutely. But my concern for the church is larger than the production of things: people can seem unresponsive in worship services because we’re not caught up in the excitement of the truth of the drama of the gospel and encountering the person of Christ in our lives. When we sing “God is good,” yes that’s absolutely true. But how is God good? What is it that makes Him so amazing and good? The job of the pastor and worship leader is to create these categories of thought as it pertains to the gospel. Being caught up in who He is and what He’s done, explained in a literary manner, with awesome music and a sermon centered on the Person of Christ? That’s a recipe for worship that’s honoring to the Lord, that looks outside ourselves to Another. There’s joy there, there’s excellence in music, which translates into some form of a response, which could be sitting down and weeping, or standing with arms lifted, or in some cases not showing emotion and yet exploding with joy inwardly.

This is where the hymns come in, as an example, particularly the more theological hymns. Sure, there are some dreadfully bad hymns, both musically and lyrically. But why are the hymns so great? Let’s take In Christ Alone, a modern hymn. The whole song, verse by verse, is a progressive explanation of the gospel, with a final crescendo of exuberance in our hearts at what God has done. That sings, that produces joy. Love Constrained to Obedience is about Christ fulfilling the law on our behalf, turning our duty into joyful choice now, something we desire to do out of love for the One who saved us. How Deep the Father’s Love is about the depth of His love, literally the theological nature of it, what composes it, its characteristics, its properties. Revelation Song is deeply theological and really just quoting Scripture to a great degree. Before the Throne of God is all about imputed righteousness, how Christ is our advocate, our high priest, how the Father sees us as He sees His own Son! When we think on these things in depth and combine that with the experience of prayer in our lives, it produces a something that wells up within us of love to God and sets our hearts ablaze with joy … and thus a response.

What I desire to see more of in my own life, as well as the larger church, is that we’re all becoming more gospel-centric, meaning marinading ourselves, our teaching and our music in these truths. Let every sermon point there as an application for the motivation unto obedience and worship, as opposed to being motivated by law. Let every song drip it. How does Christ fulfill the law for us? How is His obedience transferred to our account? Why is that amazing? How does that truth apply Wednesday afternoon? How can we take that application into our music? How does Jesus’s blood appease God’s wrath? Resurrection? On and on. These are themes that cause us to well up with joy. And joy is the end goal of the gospel. Joy in the face of Christ, seen in Scripture, experienced through the Spirit.

The Terror of Sola Studium (Zeal)

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2 ESV)

Going through this verse recently with my high school Bible study, I remarked on how this verse, along with probably Matthew 7: 21-23, are some of the scariest verses personally. Why? They reveal it is possible to know of the things of God, be zealous for them even, and miss the mark in salvation, meaning you lack saving faith. As in the case of the verses in Matthew, people claiming to know Christ perform all kinds of works in his name and on the last day Jesus declares, “I never knew you.” As in the case of the Jews who, in the majority, had rejected the Messiah, they were zealous for the law, the prophets, the Shekinah glory, and all the privileges God had given them as His people. And yet Paul says they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, and I take that to mean knowledge of the Gospel, namely, that Christ and His work is the fulfillment of all of the aforementioned. They missed the mark. A sad state of affairs for both groups as the end is the same. One group says, look at the works of our hands, is that not enough? Another group says, how zealous we are for the law and the prophets! How committed we are to the teachings! Yet they both miss the Gospel. Frightening. May this drive us to the foot of the cross and relinquish our works in favor of Another’s done for us.

Always Refreshing to Hear Again and Again … What is the Gospel? – Michael Horton

Promises for Believers

This is a great list of promises from God for believers, written up by Ken Miller at Christ Chapel Bible Church. There are certainly many others, but this is a great summation. Reciting the promises of God, from Scripture, is a sure way to stoke and kindle your faith. It is these promises that motivate the heart unto obedience and faith. Gospel-motivated obedience is sure to last if we return to these truths, and more, daily. Just trying harder is not the answer, because you rely upon your strength to maintain your own righteousness, which is sure to fail. When your perspective is changed to see you are completely accepted by God through the finished work of His Son, regardless of your moral record, “good” or bad, because of His works and promises, you are freed from the heart to obey. Meditate on these things, let them soak into your heart. In Christ alone, and His perfect work in His life, death and resurrection are these established for us, and by them we know that God is for us, when circumstances are excellent or terrible. This is solid ground to stand upon. What a sure, true and faithful word! You can hover over each of the verses to read these great truths!

  • Promises guaranteeing the safety and security of the true believer: John 5:24; 6:37-40; 6:47; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:1; 8:28-29; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:5; Jude 24-25
  • God’s constant care – 1 Pet. 5:7
  • God’s great faithfulness – Lam. 3:21-23; 1 Cor. 1:9; Heb. 11:11
  • God’s sufficient grace – 2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9; John 1:16-17
  • God’s eternal love – Jer. 31:3; John 31:1 ; Rom. 8:35-39
  • God’s unfailing promise – Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18; Num. 23:19; 2 Cor. 1:20; Rom. 4:20-21; Heb. 11:11
  • God’s abiding presence – Heb. 13:5; Deut. 31:6,8; Matt. 28:20
  • God’s mighty working – Phil. 2:12-13; Eph. 3:20-21; Heb. 13:20-21
  • God’s adequate supply – Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:19; Psalm 23:1; 34:10
  • The promise of God’s peace – Isa. 26:3; Phil. 4:6-7; 4:9; John 14:27; 16:33
  • The promise of God’s joy – John 15:11; Gal. 5:22
  • The promise of God’s rest – Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 4:1-11
  • The promise of forgiveness and cleansing from sins – 1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:5; Prov. 28:13
  • The promise of answered prayer – John 14:13-14; 15:7; 1 John 3:22; 5:14-15; Matt. 7:7-11
  • Promises for new strength – 2 Cor. 12:9-10; Phil 4:13; Isa. 40:28-31; 41:10
  • Promises for needed wisdom – James 1:5-7
  • Promises for needed help – Heb. 13:6; Isa. 41:10,13
  • Promises for needed comfort – 2 Cor. 1:3-5; John 14:16-18; 2 Thess. 2:16-17
  • Promises for needed guidance – Prov. 3:5-6; Psalm 23:2-3
  • Promises for needed faith – Rom. 10:17; Hebrews 11
  • Promises for victory over sin – Romans 6; John 8:31-36
  • Promises for victory over temptation – 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15-16
  • Promises for victory in the midst of trials – Heb. 12:5-11; James 1:2-12; 1 Pet. 1:6-8; 4:19
  • Promises for victory in the midst of suffering – Rom. 8:18,28; 2 Cor. 1:3-4
  • Promises for victory over the world system – 1 John 2:17; 5:4-5
  • Promises for victory over Satan – James 4:7; 1 John 4:4
  • The promise of reward for keeping God’s commandments – John 14:21,23; Psalm 19:11
  • The promise of reward for seeking God – Heb. 11:6; Matt. 7:7; Jer. 29:13; Deut. 4:29
  • The promise of reward for faithful living – 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 4:2-5; Luke 16:9-10
  • The promise of a future heavenly home – 1 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 21:3-5; John 14:1-3; Heb. 11:10
  • The promise of the return of Christ – John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 John 2:28-3:3; Tit. 2:13

The Gospel-Centeredness of John Calvin – The Gospel as the Foundation Unto Progressing in Holiness

Excerpted from the Institutes of the Christian  Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, Section 5, Christ as the Sole Foundation, As Beginner and Perfecter.

The below section from Calvin’s Institutes is an excellent summary of the foundation of Gospel-centered sanctification (progressing and maturing in holiness). Any other application of teaching apart from this foundation is basing our progression in the faith, at some level, upon our own working and toiling to “be good” (which is an oxymoron in light of Scripture), as opposed to submitting ourselves to His sovereign working in us of what is already true of us by the declaration of our justification before God’s throne. Living in light of what is already true of us in Christ is itself the motivation unto holiness. As Albert Mohler pointed out in his talk from the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010, “The Reformation was all about the recovery of The Gospel; the means of reforming the church was The Gospel.” This excerpt from Calvin is a perfect summary of what this means.

Only by a constant orientation to the Gospel, in particular that Christ is our righteousness (having none of our own with which to offer God in exchange for the eternal life of our souls), are we going to progress in holiness. Any other teaching is using law as a means unto progression in holiness which results in burnout, deadness, legalism, and oddly enough, legalism itself actually winds up resulting in the worst forms of license. The law was given by God to expose how far we fall short, not an instrument to motivate us unto holiness. It is an instrument whose design is to bring us low, to bring us into humility before God, so that we see how great the love of Christ is in the Gospel, that He Himself fulfilled the law in our place, died our death in our place, and rose again to seal, give life, and confirm all He has accomplished in our place. He is righteousness. Calvin shows us just how great this Gospel is and how it is the only true motivator unto holiness.

“…Christ, when we acknowledge Him, is given us to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle [Paul] does not say that He was sent to help us attain righteousness but Himself to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. Indeed, he states that “He has chosen us in Him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world,” through no merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” [Eph. 1:4-5, cf. Vg.]; that by His death we are redeemed from condemnation of death and freed from ruin [cf. Col. 1:14, 20]; that we have been adopted unto Him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father [cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:5-7]; that we have been reconciled through His blood [Rom. 5:9-10]; that, given into His protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling [John 10:28]; that thus ingrafted into Him [cf. Rom. 11:19] we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in Him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, He is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, He is our righteousness; while we are unclean, He is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given Him in heaven and on earth [Matt. 28:18], by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, He is yet our life. In brief, because all His things are ours and we have all things in Him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord [cf. Eph. 2:21].”

On Conversations About the Future of the Church

I keep seeing an ad on the right column of Facebook talking about the need “for a new conversation about the future of the church” … and my question is when did the existing “conversation” end, and better yet, why does it have to keep going on and on as if there is no definition laid out for us in Scripture?

In our gatherings on Sunday we need 1) Biblical worship that incorporates Scripture and solid doctrine, 2) Gospel-centered, exegetical preaching of the Word and sacrament (Michael Horton), which 3) the Holy Spirit uses to supernaturally transform His people more and more into the likeness of Christ, who 4) then take the Gospel out to the world through word and deed in their daily lives.

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The Liberal Trajectory Toward an Adjusted Gospel

Excerpt from Albert Mohler’s talk at T4G, entitled, How Does it Happen? Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel (Audio) (Video)

“You might want to notice that in the most recent issue of Christianity Today, the April issue that arrived to me just days ago, in the cover story, Scot McKnight says, ‘I can count on one hand the number of historical Jesus scholars who hold orthodox beliefs.’ A fascinating statement. But the moment you begin to entertain the notion that there’s a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, you have already bankrupted the faith.

“Adolph von Harnack, another one of the most important figures in modern liberal theology, made an argument that I have actually heard some evangelicals paraphrase without understanding the toxic source and the disastrous meaning. Harnack said Christianity is like a seed or a kernel that is surrounded by a husk, kind of like a coconut. And he said that the kernel is authentic meaning, but the husk is this … he called it the acute Hellenization of doctrine, it’s this elaborated doctrine, it’s creeds and confessions and propositional statements and Scriptural claims concerning Jesus Christ, Gospel, salvation, fall, eschatology. Long before Bultmann, Harnack said what we must do to rescue Christianity is to pay attention to salvaging the seed and let the husk go. Do you buy into that? You’ve already given it all away.”

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