Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Gospel & Your Identity

The Gospel & Your Identity[i]

Incredibly Wealthy Slave

In Colonial US the story is told of a wealthy plantation owner who died and left an exorbitant inheritance of $50K to his chief of slaves.  The money was deposited in the local bank in the slave’s name, and several months passed without the slave making any draw on the money. Finally the banker called the slave to remind him that this huge wealth of money was available to him in his own account at the bank, and when he finally convinced the man that this wealth was indeed legally his… the slave meekly asked, “Then do you think it possible for me to have 50 cents to purchase a bag of cornmeal?”  This man was living in severe poverty while at the same time possessing a great fortune beyond his understanding!

The Blessed Beggar

I got off at the Pennsylvania depot as a tramp, and for a year I begged on the streets for a living.  One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, “Hey, mister, can you give me a dime?”  As soon as I saw his face, I was shocked to see that it was my own father.  I said, “Father, Father, do you know me?”  Throwing his arms around me and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Oh my son, at last I’ve found you!  I’ve found you.  You want a dime?  Everything I have is yours.”  Think of it.  I was a tramp.  I stood begging my own father for ten cents, when for 18 years he had been looking for me to give me all that he had.[1]

To grasp an understanding of who we are in Christ, we first must know who Christ is and what the message of the gospel has to offer.  “It [The Gospel] is the key to all doctrine and our view of our lives in this world. Therefore, all our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts and thinking and approaches to absolutely everything.” [2]

Consider Paul’s thoughts about the power of the Gospel when faced with the myriad of problems of the Ephesian culture which included the occult, magic, pagan worship and moral decay:
Ephesians 1:17-19
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  

Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] 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.

Ephesians 5:1-2 
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.[KK1] 
the Gospel’s power holistically transforms the human heart.
·       Blind people are made to see (2Cor.4:4)
·       Lost people are found (Lu.19:10)
·       Ignorant people gain wisdom (Eph.4:18)
·       The Noetic Effect of Sin is stripped of its crippling power (2Tim.3:8; Tit.3:3, 2:11)
·       Enemies of God are now invited to the Lord’s Table and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rom.8:7-8: Col.1:20; Rev. 19:16-19)
·       Dead people are given eternal life. (Eph.2:1-2:12)

God’s Definition of who you are, (your identity) is foundational to being able to glorify God

Key points to remember about your identity
1.     Truly Born-Again believers…
a.      …have their sin-debt and record erased (Col.2:14), therefore guilt need not be a nagging presence in your life. “Guilt for a believer need only last as long as it takes to confess it to God and embrace the grace found in the forgiveness and cleansing of the Gospel (1Jn.1:3-2:2). However, believers also grow in their hatred of sin and love for righteousness (Ps.97:10-12) and desire to have Christ formed in their hearts and lives (Gal.4:19; Col.1:27-28; Eph. 4:12-16)
b.     …have all of the Righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to their “account”. You therefore have great hope and confidence knowing that God “sees” Jesus’ righteousness as your own. God does NOT define who you are based on your own merit (Rom.2:20-25).
c.      …all this is a GIFT OF GOD, (Eph.2:1-9), a complete work of God (Jn.3:3-16) without regard to your own weakness and failure.
2.     Love (towards God and towards others) is responsive in its nature.  You can’t lecture yourself toward a greater love. Your love for God will grow in response to your knowledge of God and the Gospel (2Pet.1:3-11). This comes with time. Growth is a result of passive “beholding the glory of the Lord” in Christ (2Cor.3:18) as well as from active mind-renewal by reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word (Rom.12:1-2).
3.      Sanctification is not achieved merely by human effort, (e.g. self-directed anger, penance, hard work, etc.), nor is it realized by obsessing over sin, failures and guilt. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit (2Cor.3:18), energized and driven by love (Jn.14:15; 1Jn. 4), joy (1Jn.1:3) and “walking in the light” by confessing sin and fully embracing forgiveness because God “is faithful and just to forgive you” (1Jn.1:7-10).  Sadness and self-hatred cannot bring about God-honoring obedience… only love, joy and believing the Truth (Rom.4:3) will do that.
4.      You can only be empowered to do good because of this amazing truth that everything regarding your salvation has already been accomplished for you in Christ!
1 John 4:9-16 
9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

 Luke 7:47-48;   
47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

Galatians 5:6;
6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15;
 14For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.


[1] J. Wilbur Chapman As quoted by John MacArthur, Ephesians: New Testament Commentary, page 111
[2] Dr. Timothy Keller, The Centrality of the Gospel.
A comment about this quote from Dr. Keller-You might push back on this statement; however Dr. Keller is NOT saying that your cancer is due to your lack of understanding the Gospel. What he is saying, is our lack of understanding and embracing the Gospel is what causes us problems as we respond to the cancer or any other difficulty in life.

[i] Originally from Bringing the Bible to Life TRACK I, Session 3

 [KK1] All scriptures are from ESV

Kent Kloter

Friday, April 26, 2019

Wisdom: How to Make Big (& Small) Decisions

 A few weeks ago we had our annual counseling conference at BCC. This year we had a special Youth and Young Adult track titled Pathway to Life. In this track we covered 5 main topics which we are now going over during our IMAGE Sunday School class. Next week’s topic will be “Wisdom: How to Make Big (& Small) Decisions” so I wanted to discuss it a bit more for our youth parents this week.

There seem to be a few common, yet faulty views on decision making we tend to fall into. The first is when making a decision we should simply do whatever we want or “feels” right. While yielding quick results and conclusions, this way leads down a very hard path (Prov 13:15, Jer 17: 5-10). God does not intend for us to live life apart from Him and His direction. Joy, peace, purpose, & direction all flow from that. The second seems to be the complete antitheses. Someone making decisions from this view, rather than ignoring God’s direction, would hyper-spiritualize receiving God’s direction and would oftentimes wait to make a decision till they have received a specific statement or sign from God for what to and until then do nothing. While seemingly better on the outside, this view is just as displeasing to God Who calls us to act and holds us responsible to make decisions for the life, time, finances, relationships, etc He has stewarded to us (Matt 25:14-30).

So what does that mean? I’m not supposed to make decisions on my own without God’s direction, but God expects me to make decisions? Yes. =)

Below is a diagram I will endeavor to explain for how I would suggest as a model for biblical decision making that relies on and involves God while taking into account His expectation for us to act.

When you have a decision to make, whether involving 2 or 200 choices, you can follow this model. The funnel is set up with 4 sections or filters that will begin to weed out choices leaving you at the end with the best decision for you. Notice also, the funnel is built with prayer that pervades every layer.

We are called to bring our needs to God in the Lord’s Prayer and in many other places in Scripture (Matt 6:9-13, 1 Pet 5:7). This should be done constantly throughout your decision making process asking the Lord to lead you to the outcome He would desire, asking Him to help you understand His Word, asking Him to provide you with good counselors, etc.

Filter #1 - Biblical Commands:
What does the Bible explicitly say about your choices. Would any of your choices involves violating a specific law of God? Might you have to lie or “bend the truth” to accomplish one of them? If so, it should be stopped at this filter.

Filter #2 - Biblical Principles:
What are principles you can apply from the Bible to your choices or situations at hand? For example, Proverbs 22:7 states, “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” This is not a command to not borrow money, but it does give us a strong principle to be care that we not take on burdensome debt. Would one of your choices require you to take on more debt than is healthy? It should be filtered out at this level.

Filter #3 - Wise Counsel:
Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” God has given you people in your life to help guide you to make a wise decision. Who might some of them be? I would suggest those who know God’s Word well and have a vibrant relationship with Him are a good choice as they will more naturally be thinking like He does. Those who are older than you and have more life experience would be good also. Those who love you and really want what is best for you. My suggestion would be that as a youth some of the very best people God has probably placed in your life for this kind of counsel are your parents. Go to them. Tell them where you are at in your decision making process. Tell them the choices/options you still have left. Ask for their thoughts, pros & cons, other questions they’d have, etc to gain insight from them as you filter the choices.

Filter #4 - Personal Preference:
For some of you this one may have sent a funny feeling down your spine. I can just choose? Yes! But first notice two things. First, this filter is in the order of the funnel for the reason it is. It is not the first filter, but the last having been seeking God’s will and guidance throughout the process. Second, God says it is ok and good, and He’s built you to have preferences to be able to make choices. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” That could be stated this way… “as you are pursuing the Lord and finding your delight in Him, He will be placing His desires in your heart that you might desire them as well and follow after them.” God has given you the personality, joys, and passions He has for a reason. They are what make you, you and what allow you to make decisions in this final filter of the funnel. If you get to the end of Filter #3 and have the choice between a red or blue car with everything else being equal you can choose the color you like better! =) You don’t have to wait for a sign, lights from Heaven, a fireball to incinerate the other option, … You should give the seller your money and drive away with your new car happy and content that you have obeyed God completely and made a choice that is pleasing to Him.

* One Note * - What about when my choice doesn’t work out?
Does that mean you did something wrong, or stepped out of God’s will, or messed up the funnel, or… No. It simply means that a gracious, good God has chosen to allow you to suffer for your good and His glory like every other hardship and suffering you have in life. Our sins do have consequences, but God is not a vindictive God waiting for us to accidently make a mistake so He can hit us a good one. Nor do hardships and sufferings always mean we have done something wrong. Take a look at Job. He suffered for doing something right! =)

Here are a few questions you might use to generate discussions around this topic…
  • What are some of the bigger questions you think people face in life?
  • What are some ways you think people often make decisions?
  • What are some bigger decisions you’ve made in the past?
  • What do you typically do when you need to make a decision?
  • How might inaction be as displeasing to God as just doing what someone wants without seeking God?
  • Which parts of the funnel seem hardest for you to do?
  • What are some decisions you see yourself needing to make now or in the near future?
  • Would you be willing to let me walk through those decisions with you?

Here is a link for the audio of this session with Scott O’Malley:

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.: (Eph 1:15-17)

 - Phil

pic from: