Baptism

Baptism

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

- Romans 6:1-5

WHAT IS BAPTISM?

“Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.” (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article VII. I)  

Christian Baptism is important for multiple reasons. It images the story of the Gospel to all who see it and communicates the following truths:

  1. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. 
  2. The Christian’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection.
  3. The Christian’s new life received by the Spirit. 
  4. The cleansing and washing away of sin.

Baptism also plays a role within the life of the congregation by:

  1. Initiating the one baptized into the full life of the church family.
  2. Calling the one baptized to submit to the leadership of the church.
  3. Calling the church to love, encourage, and exhort the one baptized.

WHY SHOULD A PERSON BE BAPTIZED?

First, a person should be baptized in order to obey the commands of Christ. Baptism plays an important part in the Great Commission where Jesus instructs his followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Second, a person should be baptized as evidence that a person is a disciple of Jesus (Acts 2:37-41). Similar to circumcision, which was the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament, the sign of the covenant within the body of Jesus is baptism. Those who are immersed in the baptismal waters are marking and associating themselves with the crucified and risen Lord, as well as his bride. In the early church, baptisms weren’t observed in private baptistries, but in public bodies of water. This was highly scandalous and often led to the believer’s persecution. 

Finally, when a believer is immersed, he or she imitates and follows in the baptism of Jesus. Romans 6:3-4 says, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?

Any one who has believed on the name of Jesus Christ—his life, death, and resurrection—and received his grace that is freely offered should be baptized. Again, we confess that baptism is not a work of man that makes up something that is lacking in the cross, but is an act of faithfulness to the command of Christ. R.C. Sproul writes, “I [assert] that baptism is not necessary for salvation. However, if you were to ask me, Is baptism necessary for the Christian? I would say, ‘Absolutely.’ It is not necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for obedience, because Christ, with no ambiguity, commanded that all of those who belong to Him, who are part of the new covenant family, and who receive the benefits of His salvation are to be baptized in the [name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] .”

HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE BAPTIZED? 

We practice baptism by immersion the following reasons:

  1. The Greek word baptizo literally means to plunge, submerge, or immerse. 
  2. The act of immersing most vividly depicts the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is important because we believe that upon believing in and receiving Jesus Christ, the Christian is now united with Christ—He receives our sin and the blow of God’s wrath, and we receive his righteousness and sonship. In addition, water serves as a method of God’s judgment on sinful men (see the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6-7). When a believer passes through the waters, he or she expresses that God’s judgement has been satisfied by Christ. 

WHERE SHOULD A PERSON BE BAPTIZED?

We do not prescribe a specific location for baptism. Our hope is that you might share in your baptism with the rest of our church family so that you might have the opportunity to boldly declare your faith in Jesus, and that we might share in celebrating God’s work of grace in your life. 

If your baptism takes place offsite, we prefer that pictures or video be taken so that we might share in the occasion.

RELEVANT PASSAGES AND RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Matthew 3, 21, 28
Mark 1, 6, 7, 10, 11, 16
Luke 3, 7, 11, 12, 20
John 1, 3, 4, 10
Acts 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 18, 19, 22
Romans 6
1 Corinthians 1, 10, 12, 15
Galatians 3
Ephesians 4
Colossians 2
Hebrews 6, 9
1 Peter 3

BOOKS
What is Baptism? by R.C. Sproul (free electronically for Amazon Kindle & iBooks)
Understanding Baptism by Bobby Jamieson
Believer's Baptism by Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright  

ARTICLES
"Waters That Unite: 5 Truths About Water Baptism" by David Schrock
"Baptism Is A Church's Act" by Bobby Jamieson

 

Advent

Advent

Emmanuel. 

You'll be hard pressed to find a name loaded with more meaning than this glorious name. In the book of Isaiah we are told, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." Jumping to John 1, we see this light has a name. Jesus. Emmanuel. 

This light shines in shines into the darkness, dispelling it with along with its fear and shame. When you hear this, you'd expect the coming of Emmanuel to be loud and accompanied by an introduction fitting a King—but you'd be wrong. St. Athanasius (299-373 AD) wrote about this very thing in his short work On the Incarnation. When asked why God came into the world in such a lowly fashion. He answers:

[T]he Lord came not to be put on display but to heal and to teach those who were suffering. One being put on display only needs to appear and dazzle the beholders; but one who heals and teaches does not simply sojourn, but is of service to those in need and appears as those who need him can bear, lest by exceeding the need of those who suffer he trouble the very ones in need and the manifestation of the divine be of no benefit to them (§ 43)."

Advent is crucial for our understanding God and ourselves. No other season shouts from heaven, "I have not forgotten you!" The interesting thing, of course, is that this shout sounds familiar. As familiar as a newborn baby's cry.


This season, set aside time each week to marvel at our God who didn't rescue us from afar. He didn't commute... He moved in—a heavenly refugee of sorts. Below you'll find a list of Advent guides to use for personal and/or family devotion. I hope you see the light of the world anew this season. Merry Christmas and Happy Advent!


God's Design for Marriage & Sexuality Recap

God's Design for Marriage & Sexuality Recap

Last week we wraped up our series on God's Design for Marriage and Sexuality. Our desire to walk through this question was prompted by the SCOTUS decision, however, this was not primarily a series about homosexuality. This was primarily a series on the beauty of God's design. Rejection of God's design didn't happen in the SCOTUS decision, but in Eden. 

This Sunday in our Gospel Project Bible Study classes we will be looking at Human Rebellion from God's design. We will look at the root and consequences of our rebellion. In Genesis 3 we see a rejection of God's design, and every subsequent rejection of God's design stems from these moments. When Adam and Eve fell, their relationship with God ruptured. Furthermore, the relationship between Adam and Eve ruptured. 

It's remarkable to me the difference between Adam and Eve's relationship in chapter 2 and chapter 3. In chapter 2, upon waking up and seeing his bride from his side, Adam sings! "This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!" But in chapter 3, Adam says to God, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Adam song turns to mourning. His joy turns to shame. What first brought excitement was transformed to blame and enmity. 

What is the medicine for this enmity? This broken marriage? The Gospel. In Genesis 3:15, God preaches the first evangelistic message: "I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." The seed of the serpent—sin, death, strife, toil, evil, and suffering will be crushed by the seed of the woman—Jesus Christ (for an excellent article on this, click here).

We do believe that homosexuality is a deviation from the perfect design of God, but so is fornication, divorce, and pornography. We cannot scream against homosexuality and turn a blind eye to these other things that grieve the heart of God. It should grieve us and move us to love those steeped in sexual sin. We each stem from Eden, so we are all sexually broken, whether we know it or not. 

Our response is Micah 6:8, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?" If the church is not a safe place for the sexually broken, then it is not a safe place for any of us. And if we do not welcome the broken, then we don't really believe the God of grace who welcomes us despite our evil. 

Let us not take upon us a task not given to us. As Pastor Tim said, "You are not to be a crusader to un-gay someone, or to do away with gay marriage. That's the Holy Spirit's job. You don't have the ability to convict anyone of any sin... Our job is to introduce people to the loving Gospel of Jesus Christ and when they put their faith and trust in Jesus, we disciple them to look more like [Him] every single day." May we steward our task well for the glory of God!


Sermon Recap: God's Design for Marriage

Sermon Recap: God's Design for Marriage

Last Sunday we began our series on God's Design for Marriage and Sexuality. We began with 4 major premises that are a given in today's culture. 

1) Pornography is a given. This does not mean that everyone is actively engaged, addicted, or looking for pornography. This does mean that pornography is unavoidable. You can't watch TV without seeing scantily clad cheerleaders or a Victoria's Secret commercial. In addition, the internet is fully accessible to everyone through various modes (computer, tablet, & phone). Therefore, it's important for us to be on guard, and also train our children how to live in a sex saturated culture. 

2) Sex is expected. Today it is fair to assume that the average couple is sleeping together, and many times are unashamed in that admission. 

3) Gay is okay. Many grew up in a day when homosexuality was taboo and was just conceptual. Now, many of us have dear friends and family members that are gay or struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA). This  has caused what was once conceptual to become personal. This actually allows us to love them better. If we treat them as concepts and not as people, then we will never be heard. 

4) Marriage is a capstone, not a cornerstone. Many of us were raised with these instructions: "Get good grades in high school. Get into the college that will equip you and give you the credentials you need to get the job you want. Make money and enjoy life. Then, when you've had your fun, settle down with a spouse." This promotes that marriage is settled for the latter part of your life—live first, then get married. The truth is all your life you have been designed for marriage to be your cornerstone unless God has called you to be single.  

We looked at two key passages of Scripture—Ephesians 5:22-33 & Matthew 19:3-9.  We learned:

Marriage is one man, one woman, for life, and practicing gender roles. 

The Purpose of Marriage

1) Marriage is intended to image Christ in the world. Marriage images Christ's intention to mankind, the only proper response of mankind to Christ, and what happens when mankind responds to Christ properly. The husbands call is to image the love of Christ to the church by loving his wife. The wife's call is to receive the love of the husband and submit to him as the church receives the love of Christ and submits to him. The husbands call to love should be modeled after and image Christ's self-sacrificial emptying of himself for the joy of the church. The wife's reception and submission images the church's response to the love of Christ. The benefits of this proper order is love, trust, security, and intimacy. 

2) Marriage is intended to sanctify the husband and the wife. When God's design for marriage is followed, the husband and the wife are sanctified and they become more and more like Jesus Christ. When we fail to walk in God's design for marriage, then we often thwart God's sanctifying purpose for marriage. A spouse is a tool in the hands of God to make you holy. 

his Sunday we will look more specifically to the Supreme Court's decision and how Christians ought to respond. On one hand we must be bold, but we must not ostracize those who experience same-sex attraction. Join us this Sunday. 

Grace So Glorious

Grace So Glorious

This Sunday we will be introducing a new song called Grace So Glorious. I'm really excited about the Gospel truth that is presented in this song and as we sing together, you have the opportunity to not only proclaim the truth of the Gospel over your own heart, but also into the heart and life of those who will be singing along with you. Corporate worship isn't complete in singing alone, but singing is actually commanded in Scripture as a vital aspect of the gathered people of God (Psalm 95:1; Psalm 33:2-3).

The reason I chose to introduce this song is because this Sunday Pastor Tim is teaching on Ephesians 5:18, which instructs us to live filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is another way of saying living in light of the grace and glory of God. In our minds, we tend to separate the ideas of grace and glory. Grace is God's unmerited favor toward us and glory is something ethereal that speaks of God's power and perfection. The reality is the relationship between these two concepts is inseparable. The Puritan Pastor Thomas Brooks said this:

"Grace and glory differ very little. One is the seed,  the other is the flower. Grace is glory militant. Glory is grace triumphant."

We often ask God for grace so that we can live for his glory, as if grace is given to us so that we are then able to "make God proud." But grace isn't simply a means for us to live for God's glory. Grace IS God's glory actualized in our lives.

Ephesians 1:5 says, "In love he predestined us for adoption as songs through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of His glorious grace. 

How to Respond to Confession

How to Respond to Confession

One of our hopes in making disciples at Coggin is that we be a part of a culture where we don't have to pretend like we've got it all together. Living with an a polished veneer is a type of self-preservation that may lead others to think highly of us, but in the end it's a false image that breeds false hope in a false savior. Our efforts of self-preservation are a tendency of the flesh that we pray the Spirit breaks in us, because when we admit that we're not all put together and that we are desperately in need of the grace of God for our continual shaping into Christ's image, then and only then will we know what it means to walk in freedom.

However, if this is truly to become a part of our culture, then not only do we need to learn how to  lay aside the polished veneer and confess our sins, but we also need to know how to respond when someone confesses sin to us. It's something you may not think about until the moment comes and you may end up feeling dumbstruck or respond with "Okay, Thanks for sharing." Here are a few things to keep in mind as we fight for one another's joy in Christ.

1. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. 

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when hearing the confession of a brother or sister is to interject comments or questions too quickly. Confessing sin can be very difficult and finding the right words may take time, so we must always guard our tongues and allow the person confessing sin to lay out their heart on their terms. A sure fire way to stifle confession is to be impatient or chatty. In moments of silence you may feel the need to make a joke to lighten the mood or share one of your experiences to spur them on. Fight that urge and instead pray silently that the Spirit would empower them to obedience. 

Not only should we be quick to listen and slow to speak, but we should also be slow to anger.  Our anger can be kindled in several ways, but two include: 1) the sin being confessed is a direct offense to you. 2) Reoccurring sin that you know is destroying the joy of your brother or sister. Whatever the case, respond with grace. 

2. Point them to the Gospel. 

The way we respond with grace is by pointing our friends to the Gospel. The essence of the Gospel is not I obey, therefore I'm accepted, but I'm accepted, therefore I obey. So, our response should never resemble "Well, just try harder this week." Such a response is lacking of two major components to Christian confession that must be present. The first is assurance of pardon. Our knee jerk reaction can at times tend to be encouragement void of the Gospel, which amounts to spurring one another to good behavior. When someone confesses sin to you, this is an amazing opportunity to be obedient and share the Gospel with someone in need. The Gospel isn't just for those who are apart from Christ, but for those who belong to Him as well. This provides an opportunity for you to remind your brother or sister of the God who loved them so much that he sent his only Son to take their place on the cross where He absorbed the full wrath of God on their behalf and settled their debt. Now risen and securing their place in God's family, there is now no condemnation them because they are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)! Christian confession is only distinctly Christian when there is assurance of pardon. We all crave this assurance even when we don't realize it, because deep down we know that if we confess our sin, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Therefore, your responsibility as a brother or sister is to point your friend to the one who is faithful, just, and promises to cleanse. The second aspect our response often lacks is the power to go and sin no moreThis is an extension of the assurance of pardon. In order for us to leave with any power for the upcoming fight, we need to be reminded of the indwelling Spirit who works in us both to will and to work for God's good pleasure (Philippians 2:16). Fuel for the fight will never be found in exhortations to behave ourselves, but only comes when we kill the flesh by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Remind your friend to humbly rely on the Spirit of God and the word of God.

3. Pray for them.

James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins one to another AND pray for one another that you may be healed. Pray for him or her on the spot and use that time to remind yourselves once again of the God who has cleansed us of sin, buried us with Christ in baptism, and raised us to live the resurrection life. Then, commit to pray for them and with them as they walk in repentance and faith.

Learning how to respond to those who confess sin is just as important as learning how to confess sin. Confession without assurance and empowering to walk in holiness puts us in danger of losing sight of our dependance on the Spirit and our redemption that's been won through Christ. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Make the most of a person's confession by pointing them to the Gospel of Jesus. Pray for your brother or sister—that the Spirit of God would restore and empower them to walk in newness of life. 

Fight Club Resources

Fight Club Resources

At Coggin, we believe in the necessity of the church, each other, for the Spirit-filled life that Christ has redeemed us to walk in. This is why we are encouraging everyone to get plugged in to a Fight Club. These are small groups of 2-3, men with men and women with women, who come together for a two-fold purpose: to fight for faith and against sin. Click below to learn more.

After you've chosen your group and set a meeting time, you might be thinking, "What next?" When you come together, remember the grid for discussion is Text-Theology-Life. The best course of action is for your group to pick a book of the Bible and read through it.

When you come together, ask questions that try to unpack the Gospel truths presented. What is being said about God? What attribute of God is being highlighted here? What is being said about man? What does this say about our sin, our plight, and our redemption? How does this foreshadow, display, or unpack the person and work of Jesus Christ? These are by no means the limit, but when we talk about Gospel truths, we mean those things that pertain to all mankind and are centered on the the Good News of Jesus Christ.

As you discuss these things, you ask questions that pertain to your specific situation. How do the truths presented here speak to my struggle with sin, my victories, or my trials? What is the Spirit calling me to believe about God and His word? What is the Spirit calling me to believe about myself in light of Him? What conviction is the Spirit working in my soul? 

As you voice your struggle with sin, be specific. It simply isn't effective to say, "I struggle with sins of pride." What particular sins do you entertain? When do you entertain those sins? Why do you believe you entertain those sins? What Gospel promises are you actually rejecting when you entertain those sins? How is Jesus better than the sins we entertain.

Satan is crafty in that he appeals to our desires—so when we discuss our sins, we must get to the root cause, not simply the fruit that hangs on the limb that's connected to the trunk that springs from the root. 


SUGGESTED MATERIAL

We understand that you may need some guidance along the grid of Text-Theology-Life, so here are some suggested materials that we will add to as we become aware of more.

1) The Bible. I realize that this may sound like a given, but it's so easy for us to move quickly from the Bible to a study or commentary on what someone else has to say about the Bible. Spend the bulk of your time chewing on the passage that your group has agreed on. A good study Bible with Gospel connections and theological notes would be helpful. The ESV Study Bible is an excellent choice. 

2) Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson. Pastor Jonathan is the one who gave us the vision for Fight Clubs and helped us think through some of the biblical, theological, and philosophical points of discipleship. This book would add more understanding regarding where we (the leadership) are hoping to lead our community.

3) Know the Bible Series by Crossway Publishers. These are 12 week studies done on various books of the Bible that aren't meant to be commentaries, but pointed discussion questions on the theology and application of the books. Because they are 12 weeks in duration, they are more focused on big picture and broad brush glances at the books they cover. 


Remember, these groups are meant to be simple. God has freely given us his Spirit, His Word, and His people to help us fight for faith and against sin. If you will keep these core tenants as the foundation of your Fight Club, then your group will fight well. Fight for one another and point each other to Jesus!

 

Fight Club

Fight Club

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The fact that Satan is looking to destroy us should make us watchful and sober-minded. However, it does not mean that we should live in fear.

THE LORD HAS GRACIOUSLY GIVEN US MEANS TO COMBAT THE WORKS OF OUR ADVERSARY.

1. The Spirit of God that indwells every believer. He is our helper that makes us holy and guides us into truth.

2. The Word of God. When Satan tempted Christ he responded with unashamed confidence in the word of God—“It is written…”

3. The Church of God. Paul writes, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2).”

 

THE PURPOSE OF FIGHT CLUBS

Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Our purpose in these groups are two-fold:

1) To fight to believe the promises of God (we are told if we do so we will live). Knowing and believing the Gospel promises of God must come first, or else we are just modifying behavior. True and lasting change comes when we wage war against the flesh by the Spirit.

2) To know and fight our sin (what do you struggle with? when do you struggle with it? what’s your surrounding environment when you entertain certain sins?). Failure to know and fight our sin leads to death. “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:15).”

HOW DOES A FIGHT CLUB WORK?

1) No more than 3 people to a group. The group may grow, but in order to remain effective, should multiply into 2 groups if the number surpasses 3.

2) The group should keep focus on the Gospel. Remember, we fight by the Spirit—any other means leads to failure. We do this by applying this grid to our discussion: .

Text: Agree on a common biblical text and commit to read it devotionally as a group. Ask the Spirit to lead you into truth and shine light on     the darkness that exists in your heart. The Spirit may lead you to repent of sin, rejoice in a promise, or meditate on an insight. Every time you gather, make the Word of God your focus.

 Theology: Work through the verses in your group (in community). Try to understand the central truth of that passage that applies to all people, everywhere, and always. Ask how the person and work of Jesus informs the passage. This is not to be confused with practical application… that comes next.

 Life: How does the passage speak to your situation? Share your lives. Be honest about your failures as well as your successes. Challenge one another in having a person in their life that they are actively trying to engage with the Gospel. Pray as a group, asking God to help you trust His promises, as well as asking Him to give unbelievers the same gift of faith. A few elements that should exist in every Fight Club is an environment where Confession, Repentance, Admonishment, and Encouragement is fostered and celebrated.

TYPES OF FIGHT CLUBS

There are two types of fight clubs—peer and mentor. Peer groups focus on brother to brother/sister to sister type relationships, while mentor groups focus on mother to daughter/father to son relationship (1 Thessalonians 2). Whatever the type, you should focus on how the gospel applies to your lives. We also encourage you to reproduce what you learn by multiplying fight clubs after a season in order to spread God's grace to more people.

THE CHALLENGE - START A FIGHT CLUB

 You may already be doing something like this, but I invite you to adopt this structure. Fight Clubs are not to be confused with Bible studies, nor are they meant to replace Sunday Morning Bible Study. These are supplemental to the growing life of the mind and can be helpful in ensuring the connection between our heads and our hearts. These groups are simple, biblical, and missional. We avoid legalism and behavior modification by promoting Christ-centered Scripture reading that drives us to celebrate our successes and shed light on our failures. We also avoid sinful license by taking sin seriously and seeking to live by the Spirit, not by the flesh. 

REMEMBER, THE AIM IS TO SEE OUR DESIRES SHIFT FROM SIN TO CHRIST. TO DO THIS WE MUST FIGHT FOR FAITH AND AGAINST SIN. FOR EVERY LOOK AT SIN LOOK TEN TIMES TO CHRIST!

1. Read up further on the purpose of fight clubs from Pastor Jonathan Dodson, author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship.
2. Pick some people. Fight Clubs are relationally driven, so pick people you want to go deep with. Start by checking with friends or those in your Sunday School class. Establish an agreed upon level of confidentiality and make the commitment to one another. Without a true commitment to one another, Gospel-Centered Discipleship will always elude us. Once you form your group, or if you need help forming a group, use the form below and we'll contact you!
3. Set a time. The first thing you should do once you set your group is sync your calendars. Without a set time there will always be things that pull you away from what can be a vital catalyst for change in your life.

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FIGHT!



What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

 

One of the worst things that could possibly happen in the church is for the people of God to forget the centrality of the Gospel, not only in our justification (right standing before God), but also our sanctification (process of becoming more like Christ), and ultimately in our glorification (the finished work where we are perfectly conformed to Christ image). The most beneficial thing for the people of God to do is to constantly meditate on the Gospel, viewing all of life through the lens of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Even still, it is of the utmost importance that the church continues to remind herself of what the Gospel is and what it is not, because slipping into error at this point can result in a faulty view of God, people, and the rest of creation.

What the Gospel is Not

The first common misconception of the Gospel is that it is simply submission to a moral code of conduct. One of the great difficulties in interpreting the biblical text is how to understand the moral imperatives. Jesus was often asked the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What is interesting is Jesus never gave the exact same answer, and what is revealed in that is Jesus wasn’t interested at all in what that person could, or would do, but rather He was after their heart. Perhaps the best example is seen in Matthew 19:16-30, in the story of the rich young man. After the man insisted that he had obeyed the law without fail, Jesus then said, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The young man’s reaction is evidence that what he claimed to be true about himself, namely that he was a righteous man, did not extend from an intrinsic reality or renewed heart. He was resting his justification solely on the belief that he had kept the entire law. However, Jesus clearly instructs us that our righteousness can do nothing in regards to our standing with God (Rom 3:10-31; 4:5). 

A second misconception that is often made about the Gospel is that it is a ‘get out of hell free card.’ Now, there are few that would actually be so bold as to define the Gospel this way, but if we would simply examine how we often describe the Gospel, or how we share the Gospel with others, perhaps we would see that too often it gets boiled down to escaping hell. The intention behind sharing the Gospel this way does not originate from a wicked place, but rather a place that understands the reality of hell and how awfully it truly is. However, what tends to happen is a type of ‘one-and-done’ evangelism, whereby we share that Jesus came to die in order to forgive our sins so that we can spend eternity with Him and not go to hell. There really isn’t anything particularly wrong with that statement. As a matter of fact, Paul wrote essentially the same thing, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:3b-4).” However, if we make our escape from hell the point, then it can lend itself to being primarily man-centered (Christ died ultimately for you) and fear based. Perhaps, this method of sharing the Gospel is not far reaching, but Christians should always remember that heaven is not for those who are afraid of hell, but for those who love God and respond to Him in faith (Eph 2:8, 9).

A third misconception that has been made about the Gospel is that it is to be understood as social liberation. It is clear from the lives written of in Scripture that the Gospel has definitive results on society as those redeemed live, work, and play within a specific social structure. However, movements have arisen from within Christianity that emphasize the immanence of God, the structure of society, human companionship, and Christ as a model of correct ethics as the central focus of the Gospel. Thus, the emphasis is not on the person and work of Jesus Christ, rather man’s responsibility to alleviate oppression. The command to ‘look after widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27),’ is clear and Christians are called to impact the culture. No true Christian would contend that social concern is a responsibility of the church, but it simply is not the Gospel as it is biblically defined. 

What is the Gospel?

    First and foremost, the Gospel is rooted in the nature of God and is made known and accomplished for us by the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the attributes of God were on display. Christians profess that God is both just and merciful in that, because He is holy, sin must be punished in accordance with His justice. However, God desiring to show mercy to sinful men, offered to us His Son, on whom His wrath was poured so that He might extend mercy to us and not give us the punishment we deserve (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10; Eph 2:1-9). In his crucifixion on our behalf, Jesus assumed our sin and became sin for us, so that in his death we might be made righteous before God (2 Cor 5:21). However, the Gospel not only centers on the death of Christ, but also on his resurrection. As a matter of fact, Paul writes that the work of salvation is impossible and incomplete without the resurrection (1 Cor 15:12-17). Therefore, at its core, the Gospel is rooted in God’s nature and is accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, which justify those who believe (Rom 5:9).

    Secondly, the Gospel is the story of Scripture. In the previous section it was mentioned that a Gospel that is just concerned with the forgiveness of sins and escaping hell is ultimately man-centered and fear based. Here is why the Gospel that Paul is describing is different from that Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4, Paul writes, “For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. Paul does not simply have a ‘forgiveness of sins and escape hell’ view of the Gospel, and that is clearly seen by the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.” In Paul’s mind, Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, was the totality and summation of all that was written about in the Old Testament. Paul knew well that a summary of the Gospel, much like what is written in 1 Corinthians 15, does not make sense divorced from the whole of redemptive history. Thus, the Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ as written about in the Gospels, but it is also the broad narrative of the entire scope of Scripture—to put it simply, the Gospel is the story of God.

    Finally, the Gospel is the restoration and reconciliation of creation to the Triune God. The Gospel is often presented as it has been presented above—that Christ bore the sins of humanity, received the blow of God’s wrath on our behalf in order that we might stand justified before the Father and spend eternity with Him. However, the Gospel also has a broad cosmic scope, whereby all of creation will be renewed. In Revelation, John writes that he saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first had past away. Then he said that the one that was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new (Re 21:5).” Now, it is important to note that describing the Gospel as it is described above is not wrong, but there is an important element to the recreation of all things that reminds us that God is seeking to set right all that went wrong in the fall (Gen. 3). If we neglect this, then we are in danger of missing out on a glorious aspect of the Gospel and we are in danger of robbing God of the worship that is due Him.

Conclusion

    Remembering the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the role of every believer. We not only begin with the Gospel, but we also walk according to it and will ultimately end in it. Proper understanding and meditation upon the Gospel will guard the church from losing sight of its mission, which is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that [Christ] commanded (Matt 28:19). Let it never be said that we have forgotten the Gospel that we once joyfully received. May we never believe we have matured beyond it, and may we never be deceived into believing it is something that it is not.

Medicine for the Discontent

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:11-13

Discontentment is a seed of destruction that is easily stirred in the heart, even of those who have experienced overwhelming mercy and deliverance. Take, for instance, the people of Israel who were brought out of slavery from Egypt. The Lord provided for all of their needs, but grumbling and complaining were never far from their lips. The manna wasn’t good enough and water bursting forth from the rock was not sufficient to keep their gaze on the God who had been merciful to them. They focused so intensely on what they did not have that they seem to have forgotten the work done among them. Not only did they long for what they did not have, they also began to view their former slavery through rose colored glasses. “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger (Ex 16:2-3).” 

What’s at the root of Discontentment?

1. Ungratefulness and Entitlement  

The first and primary root of discontentment is our attitude towards God. It is rooted both in our ungratefulness for what God has graciously done, and in an attitude of entitlement regarding what we think God should be doing. In actuality, it is an anti-Christian, anti-grace state of mind, where we deceive ourselves into believing that we’ve earned what we have, yet deserve more.

2. Selfishness

I have found that when I am discontent, it is not only my attitude towards God that is perverted, but also my attitude towards others in need. Discontentment reveals our self-exalting, self-gratifying tendencies. Think about it, when you are worried or anxious about what you do not have, are you the least bit concerned with the needs of your neighbor? It appears to be impossible to display Christian love to others while also exalting the self. Paul says, “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (Phil 2:4-5)” Discontentment is opposed to humility and counting others more significant than yourself.

Medicine for the Discontent

So, how are we to make war against our discontentment? The medicine for the discontent is rejoicing. I do not mean to simply cheer up, but a process of renewing the mind. Again, Paul helps us here in Philippians when he writes, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (4:8-9).” We rejoice and are made content by God’s grace when we think upon Christ, his person, work, and his transforming us in Spirit.

In other words, discontentment is not going to simply go away. I am not an advocate of sitting by and hoping you stop struggling with certain sins. I am a firm believer that putting to death the deeds of the flesh requires intense effort that is Spirit-filled and grace driven. I am encouraged by the words of Paul that are mentioned at the beginning of this post where he writes, “for I have learned in whatever situation to be content.” Contentment is not natural and must be learned. Yet, we are given greater hope still. We are not left to our own devices, for they only stir up more discontentment. We can do all things through him who strengthens usPaul finds his contentment in the strength that Christ gives, not in his own ability and singing “hakuna matata.”

Therefore, Christian, when thoughts of discontentment arise in your heart and mind, turn your gaze to your Redeemer who bought you with his life and who is now at work in you. This requires effort, but effort that is rooted in Spirit that works in you. Rejoice, because he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion and he will supply all of your needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.