On October 31, 1517 in the average German town of Wittenberg, history was made. This was the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door and called for an open dialogue about the corrupt practices committed by the pope, the priests, and the bishops in the Church at large in the 15th and 16th century. Luther’s intent was merely to examine the practices with his academic colleagues in an attempt to purify the Church, but hindsight shows us that this actually turned out to be the first definitive step towards a world-wide transformation: the Protestant Reformation.
Nearly every non-Roman Catholic church today, including Southern Baptists like us, can trace our beginnings and core values back to this historic moment. The values asserted in the Protestant Reformation are commonly referred to as the 5 Solas, which can be summarized as: “We are saved by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus) according to Scripture alone (sola scriptura) to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria).” Notice that each one of these points has the word “alone” in it. This was intentionally added in order to oppose the prevailing view of the time that we are justified by faith with our works, grace with accumulated merits, through Christ and dead saints, according to the authority of Scripture with the authority of tradition, and that the glory for man’s salvation belongs partly to him, partly to God, and partly to other intermediaries.
It is hard to underestimate the importance of these doctrines in fact, the reformers saw them as absolutely essential to the gospel and it is my firm belief that we should too. Of course, we don’t have to know these specific theological terms, but we must affirm and defend the truth that they communicate. If not, then we run the risk of following a man-centered gospel, which is no gospel at all. Many of us have friends and loved ones who are caught in a variety of man-centered gospels who need to hear the truth in love. Christian, know your Bible, pray for your friends and loved ones, continue to learn from Church history, and share the truth in love.
“And he [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matt. 4:23). While Jesus was on earth, he preached a message of good news. But this wasn’t just any good news. It was the good news of God’s kingdom; his kingdom. For centuries Christians have debated the what, when, and how of the kingdom of God. Some argue that the kingdom of God is only in the future, while others argue for something more abstract that takes place in the present. I would simply describe the kingdom as the saving rule and reign of God. The kingdom of God is the place where The Lord’s will is taken seriously. Afterall, Jesus did pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10-11). This is why the gospel isn’t just a message of salvation, it is a message of transformation. There’s a new king in town and his name is Jesus.
So, what does the kingdom mean for us now? I like the metaphor of the church as an embassy of the kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 20, Paul says that Christians “are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” This political language was very fitting for the time of Paul’s writing. For Christians to proclaim “Jesus is Lord” was not merely a religious declaration but was unavoidably political. The Greeks saw this as a rejection of their emperor while the Jews understood it as a direct attack on their religious authorities. The church is a people who experience the rule of Christ together as those willingly submitted to his lordship above all else. We are a distinct people as citizens of the Messiah’s kingdom. We have a unique worldview, ethic, and purpose in life. We are emissaries for Christ, inviting people into his glorious kingdom and declaring that this king has come and is returning to wipe out the power of sin and to establish an everlasting heaven on earth. Our words should be similar to those of Jesus saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
“Who is Jesus?” Only three words, but this is the most important question that any person can ever ask. Many people may give an answer based on their personal experiences or repeat a definition they've heard so many times that it has lost all meaning to them. While personal experiences and carefully defined terms are critically important, we must always start with the Bible. So what does the Bible say about Jesus? Alot! In fact, the entire message of all 66 books is centered on showing us Jesus. For now, we will start with how Jesus Himself answers the question.
The New Testament commonly refers to Jesus as Lord, Christ (or “Messiah”), and Son of God because that is who He is. These are also probably the ways that many of us most commonly refer to Jesus, yet He used none of these titles to refer to Himself. Jesus likely even purposefully avoided using the term “Messiah” because of the incorrect political connotations the people in His day applied to it. Instead, His favorite self-designation was “Son of Man”. This phrase appears 81 times in the Gospels, but we cannot understand it without first looking to the Old Testament.
The Psalms (such as 8:4 and 144:3) use this phrase to mean “human being”. Jesus is truly a human being, but if we read the context of how He uses this phrase in the Gospels (usually “the Son of Man”), then we know that Jesus must also mean something more. The key passage for understanding Jesus’s self-designation is one that nearly every Jew during Jesus’s time would have known well. Daniel 7:13-14 says, “Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
So why would Jesus use this phrase “Son of Man”? He is God and man; this passage in Daniel provides the best imagery to communicate that idea to His contemporaries. He is a human being--He is the human being--and He is the One coming to rule and to be worshipped alongside the Ancient of Days. Paul uses this basic idea in Romans when he describes Jesus as the Second Adam who brings peace, life, and righteousness to all who are part of the new creation in Him instead of the conflict, sin, and death to all who remain part of the original fallen creation in Adam. Jesus can only represent us and bring us into life in the new creation if He is truly human like all the sons and daughters of Adam. Jesus can also only be a perfect offering to pay for sins if He is God, because no man can live perfectly and no man can pay for his own sins, let alone anyone else's sin. Jesus must be truly God & truly man. We cannot have salvation if He is anything different.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of Man.
Grace and Peace,
“’Even if I must die with you,’” Peter said to Jesus, “’I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same’” (Matt. 22:35). We sneer at Peter’s words when Jesus prophesied his denial. His bold declaration followed by his threefold rejection of Jesus within the same chapter informs us of his shaky commitment to the cause. However, the story of Peter’s denial, and his subsequent restoration to Jesus, illustrates the seemingly constant cycle of our own walk with the Lord. Despite being denied by all of His followers, Jesus pursued the cross to pay the debt of all of their sins—past, present, future—and of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2). Jesus resurrected, conquering death, and came to restore Peter before He ascended into Heaven. Even when our sin may not consist of something as grave as denying the Lord, we must seek to kill the sin which threatens to kill our faith and be restored by Jesus.
King David had seen many hard days. He ran for his life from his own people for years, watched his children and closest friends die, and was betrayed by those he trusted. Through it all, David declared God his “strength and refuge, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). God Himself called David “a man after [My] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). However, David was still human and failed when God stopped being a priority. In David’s best days, when God had given him peace all around, he committed heinous acts of adultery and murder. His plea to God for forgiveness was recorded in Psalm 51 and demonstrates for us the need for restoration.
David told God, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Ps. 51:3). The connection between him and God was disrupted, he recognized. Sometimes, when we feel far away from God, rampant sin may be blocking our eyes from the light—could anything else explain David’s oversight? David said, “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (51:4). Surely David had sinned against many others in his actions, but especially against the holy, inscrutable God he faced. Confronting sin reminded him of the infinite contrast between his sinful tendencies and God’s purity.
Before only God did he sin; only God could cleanse him. David pled to God, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). Hyssop was an herb used in the Bible to symbolize purification. Those healed of skin diseases were to be anointed with a concoction containing hyssop (Lev. 14: 1-7). During the first Passover in Egypt, the blood of a lamb was to be applied to one’s doorframe with a stalk of hyssop in order to be spared from God’s coming judgment (Ex. 12:22). David’s request, then, is to the God of forgiveness to remove that stain from his heart. “Create in me a pure heart, O God… restore me to the joy of your salvation” (51:10, 12). Sin deceives us with a trap: “It’s just natural,” or “It’ll be fun.” Yet, for the man after God’s own heart, delight in God was the cost. He wanted to abandon his destructive lifestyle and return to the only true satisfaction that quenches our restless hearts: God’s joy.
Outward duties cannot bring about inward restoration. David said to God, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it” (51:16). In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were the outward expression of thankfulness and repentance towards God. Though some falsely believed that the act of sacrifice pleased God, it did not. The sacrifice was an outward act to display an inward reality: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (51:17). Whether you are a regular church attendee, do good deeds, and tithe regularly, all of this is for nothing if you do not offer your heart to God. Mature Christians, new Christians, and non-Christians all have the same continual need: we must surrender our hearts, not merely our actions, to God. To Him we will be held accountable. He alone can restore our wayward hearts.
Grace and Peace,
A few months ago, I wrote an article on the objective aspects of salvation. There, I primarily focused on redemptive history and the accomplishments of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Now, we move to the doctrine of salvation as applied to individual believers. This is what is usually meant when one says “salvation.” All the subjective aspects of salvation hinge on one doctrine: union with Christ. It is through this wondrous union that we receive all the benefits of redemption. But these benefits must be viewed as results of the ultimate benefit of salvation; that is Christ himself.
The phrase “in Christ” along with its variants is used 79 times in the New Testament by Paul. Christians, those who are born of God, are indeed “in Christ.” This is the lens by which we should view ourselves before any other. When the Father looks at you or me, he sees the perfection of Christ in our stead. In Christ, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the Father, no longer far off but loved as children. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Likewise, we are also given new life in Christ. This is commonly referred to as being “born again” or regeneration. Through faith in Christ, we become new creations in Christ Jesus.
The three overarching events of salvation are justification, sanctification, and glorification; essentially we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. Justification is God’s act of declaring a person to be righteous. Not that the individual becomes righteous himself but that the righteousness of Christ is accredited to the account of that person. This is an important distinction because if a person were made righteous then that righteous status could be lost through sinning. But the one who is in Christ is considered to have the righteousness of Christ as their own. Think of it as courtroom language. Our only plea before a Holy God is Christ’s righteousness. Galatians 3:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” It is through faith in Christ alone that one is made right with God.
Now, we move to sanctification. To be sanctified is to be made holy. All believers are indeed sanctified at our conversion, but sanctification is also the lifelong process of being made like Christ. When we are saved, we do not instantly become sin-free. The Christian life is one of battling sin; putting off the old man and putting on the new. This is God’s purpose for us. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:28-29). Sanctification is a lifelong process. We all have our ups and downs. And unlike our initial conversion (justification), sanctification includes our working with God to be more like Christ, but we can rest assured that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).
Finally, we have glorification, the completion of our salvation. This is what we are all waiting for! The day when we will see Jesus face to face, be given a new resurrection body like his (1 Cor. 15), and live in unceasing harmony with our God. Those who are in Christ, who are clothed in his righteousness, will be saved from eternal punishment in hell and be reconciled to God. All to the praise of His glory!
Soli Deo Gloria,
While we don't know the exact circumstances David faced, we know that no matter what it was, he had the right reaction: to cry out to God for help! Whether it's doubt, temptation to sin, or a difficult circumstance, when we cry out to God, we say, “God, I am not God, You are God! I am weak, feeble, limited in knowledge and strength, but You are the Almighty!” In fact, that is the Hebrew word for “God” used here in verse 1: “El” means “God Almighty”. The image here is like a sheep running under the care of its shepherd, just as we run to Christ our Great Shepherd.
“I say to the LORD”--to Yahweh, the Great “I Am”, the Faithful and covenant-keeping One--that “You are my Lord”--my Adonai, my master, my Sovereign King. David begins the heart of his prayer by calling on God by His name. In Exodus 3, God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, and for the first time in history, He shares His name with man: “I am that I am” or “Yahweh”. That name is tied to the image that Moses saw: a burning bush that was not consumed or even singed by the fire that rested on it. The fire, which represented God, was self-sufficient, it did not need to use the energy from the bush as fuel for itself; its source of strength came from itself! So it is with God. He does not need us in order to accomplish His work, He is sufficiently strong, sufficiently joyful, and sufficiently able in Himself! And yet that same self-sufficient God loves His people and is pleased to save them. Even more than that, He is pleased to remain faithful to His covenant promises to them, no matter how much they doubt, complain, or even rebel against Him! This is the God that David needs--and that we need--the Faithful, Self-Sufficient God.
After David has called to his mind the character of God, he says “This God is my Master!”, the One whom I give total control over my life. I give Him total control over my circumstances, my attitude, my thoughts, my desires, and all the results of my life. He is my Master and I am His slave. Because He has shown Himself as the Faithful One and because He alone is self-sufficient, holy, and good, I know that He alone is the fountain of all that is good in my life! “I have no good apart from You, my God.” Jesus says something similar to us in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in Me and you will bear much fruit, but apart from Me you can do nothing.” Abide in Christ, for He is the Almighty, Loving Shepherd, Self-Sufficient King of All who has risen from the grave to bring us life, joy, and salvation!
Grace and Peace,
Nursing Home Ministry:
“On the first Sunday of every month at 3:30pm, the Peoples hold a mini-church service for the residents at The Guest House. A handful of hymns are sung followed by a short message. The Guest House’s residents are not able to live independently and very few of them ever get to leave the facility. Some never get visitors. Because so many of them can’t get to a church, we bring church to them! Over the years we have gotten to know and love these residents and they love us in return. All are welcome to join us on the first Sunday of each month at The Guest House 10145 Florida Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70815.”
Lee and Jessica Peoples
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m writing to you with great urgency today. We have been commissioned and commanded to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37-40). The urgency behind this letter is a result of the estimated 24 unborn neighbors of ours that are being murdered each day here in Louisiana (Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans). We should be greatly troubled by this! We as Christians believe life is intricately woven together and planned by God, and that life begins at conception. This is why we use the language of “murder”.
It is hard to hear the word “murder” and it should be. In the public square, you will hear abortion being called “a women’s right to reproductive freedom” among many other things. Abortion will continue to be tolerated as “good” in the public's eyes as long as we don’t call it what it is. They’ll call it a choice to be offered to a rape victim, a frightened young girl who is still in school, or someone in poverty, and you can persuade the public to think this is good. But we as Christian know that “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21) so we call abortion murder and see it as a legally established evil and injustice to children.
So, knowing that, what do we do? What do we, the church, do about children being murdered?
We do as commanded in scripture and love the Lord and our neighbor. We love the Lord by sharing his good news, the gospel, and by his grace may they have ears to hear! And we love our neighbor in this same way. We, by his Spirit alone, want to rescue parents and babies from not only the death of the flesh, but an eternal one in separation from the Lord. So, let me share a few ways our local church can make an impact on this specific audience with the gospel.
First, we can be boots on the ground on the front lines. We go to abortion mills in our surrounding areas and share the gospel! This is where we differ from generic pro-life groups because we care about their position before God! We want to share the gospel with mothers, fathers, workers, passer-bys, and anyone who would have ears to hear! We do this through the preaching of the Word, gospel tract distribution, holding attention-grabbing posters, and calling out to all those mentioned before.
Secondly, we pray. This is not a point to miss brothers and sisters! Another way to be a part, if you are not available to go out on site, is to love your unborn neighbors through intentional voting, and donating. You can donate gospel tracts, and newborn baby items to be bagged as blessing bags to moms who choose life!
Lastly, remember what John Piper once said: “We are not called to win, but to witness.” So, take heart, the Lord has already won, and every knee will bow and tongue confess the He is Lord (Rom 14:11). Therefore, we are burdened to share the gospel to all, so that they may be forgiven by the grace of God through his son Jesus Christ! We are all called to love our neighbor, and this is an opportunity for us to show compassion to our unborn neighbors!”
Grace and Peace,
The doctrine of salvation…what is it? If we want to understand the Christian faith, we must have a grasp of this doctrine. God’s central purpose in the world today is the redemption of fallen men and women. We as the church are called to make disciples of the nations. This involves sharing the gospel: the saving message of Jesus Christ. Our purpose in life is to glorify God by making the Good News (Gospel) known to the world. How can we honor God in fulfilling this purpose if we do not know what this message really is? It is our duty as disciples of Jesus to know what this salvation he accomplished is all about.
The best way to understand salvation is to know both its objective and subjective elements. The objective elements may be better understood as the story of redemption. The narrative includes Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. This is the story of both God and man unfolding throughout history and culminating in the revelation of Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of the world. Likewise, the subjective elements include the salvific work of Christ applied to individuals. These include union with Christ, conversion, adoption, justification, sanctification, and glorification. These will be examined in part II.
God’s work in the world is not static, it is dynamic. From Adam and Eve in the garden to the final judgment and new creation, God is working an incredible act in creation. The story starts “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1). Everything he made was good. He even called his best creation, humanity, very good. But we all know the story. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and to sin instead. The problem is a problem of idolatry. Rather than choosing to obey the commands of God, they believed their idea of right and wrong was better. This has been the problem of humankind ever since. And thus, they fell from the perfect state the Lord created them in, choosing a lie over the truth. Therefore, all men are separated from the Lord. These are acts one and two of the story of redemption: Creation and Fall.
Praise God, that is not the end of the story. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). When Christ said on the cross “it is finished” he meant that the work of redemption the Father sent him into the world to do was accomplished.
We might ask the question, “Why did Christ have to die on the cross?” or “What exactly did Christ accomplish on the cross?”
Sacrifice. In the book of Hebrews, Christ’s work is compared to the OT sacrificial system. Except, instead of offering the blood of bulls and goats Christ offered his own blood. He secured an eternal redemption for his people who are cleansed by his blood through his once-for-all sacrifice for sins. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).
Propitiation. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Christ removed us from the wrath of a holy God.
Substitution. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:6, 12).
Reconciliation. The death of Christ also brings an end to the enmity that exists between God and humankind. God “through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:18-19).
We cannot forget, the resurrection is an essential component of the gospel. There would be no hope of salvation if Jesus would have stayed in the grave. But Jesus did rise from the dead, reversing the curse of the Fall, and defeating sin, death, and Satan. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15: 56-57). And when the end comes, Christ will judge the living and the dead, create a new heaven and a new earth, and God’s perfect rule on earth with no sin or rebellion will be established. Those in Christ will reign with him and enjoy God’s presence for an eternity of unending worship. These are the acts of Redemption and New Creation; acts three and four. This is the gospel story.
The words “disciple” and “discipline” are closely related; this is not coincidental. To be a disciple is to be a “learner” or a “follower”. In our case, a follower of Christ. The words “disciple” and “Christian” can be used interchangeably because every Christian is called to follow Jesus; there are no “super-Christians”. Because our flesh wars against our spirit, we must be disciplined to stay on the path of following Christ, day by day and moment by moment, just as any athlete must be disciplined in order to win their upcoming competitions or a musician must be disciplined in order to put on a beautiful performance.
Because we know that love is much more than a feeling, we could say that the spiritual disciplines are simply different ways that we show our love for God, not to earn His love, but simply to respond to His love and act in love towards Him.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “this is the will of God, your sanctification…” Why? Is it because God is a tyrannical king who demands blind loyalty? Is it because God demands that we perform entirely pure and flawless works in order to enter heaven? NO! It is for three main reasons--which are really one:
1) that we might be holy as He is holy
2) that He may be glorified
3) that we may have joy!
These three reasons are so intertwined with one another that we cannot separate them and say one without saying the other two, but for clarity’s sake we will look at our one goal of discipline from these three different viewpoints.
Grace and peace,