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Christ, the Cross and the Cup

August 19, 2009

I thought this would be beneficial to post on HereWeStand and have asked the authors permission, though he wants to remain anonymous. It’s a short sermon written by a teenager, and really captures the heart of some core gospel truths. Have a read, and I hope, be encouraged. Grace and salvation appear more precious when seen in light of wrath and judgement, I applaud the writer for not skipping over such things.
Luke 22:39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.

Luke 22:40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke 22:41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,

Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

Luke 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22:45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,

Luke 22:46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Now many, many martyrs, who have died to the Glory of God, have gone to the stake, noose, and other terrible ways to die, singing praises to God. Yet we find that before Crucifixion, Jesus sweats blood (as recorded by Luke, who was a doctor). Sweating Blood is an extremely rare medical phenomenon only found where someone is in an awesome amount of anguish. Do you think that Jesus, fully God in the flesh, would have been scared by nails through his hands and feet, where many others have gone in pleasant song? By a few lashes, where others have recited Psalms in joy? Why would Christ be any different from these martyrs? Why would Jesus go in anguish, instead of joy? Or, more likely, do you think that Christ was pained over what was in the cup, that he pleaded to be removed from him if it were possible? It seems to be that the contents of this cup were no fizzy drink, but something of awesome devastating power. But to find out what was in the cup we must look back to an Old Testament prophecy, written by Isaiah, revealed by God.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:6 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.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Isaiah 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

Isaiah 53:9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Many centuries before Christ, Isaiah wrote these words, given by God. But in them we see why Christ sweated blood, for though he never did sin, God’s wrath that we deserve, was placed on him. He drank God’s entire wrath! He suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell, so that a select few may share his Glory. Why should I gain from his reward? I have no idea, but still He gives the awesome gift of salvation! And if you are not saved, or are not sure if you have been saved, or are clinging to some hope that being a “good person” will get you into Heaven, forget about it. Because there is one way into heaven, Christ Jesus. You must turn from your sins, have faith in Christ and pray for forgiveness and salvation while God still allows you to breath, for any moment could be your last. Look to the Cross, and see yourself there mocking, spiting and ultimately holding Christ to the Cross, with your nails of sin and you will see both your curse and your salvation.

To see this wrath that we deserve, we can look at examples of God’s wrath through the Bible. I think one of the best examples of God’s wrath is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord’s mercy had grown short for the homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah, so He took His wrath into action. He rained sulphur and fire down on these people. I imagine it would be something like today’s napalm, and agent that is like melted plastic on fire, that burns like acid when put out. It’s pretty nasty stuff. And God did not rain to hurt, and teach a lesson. No. Oh, no, no, no. He rained until every inhabitant was dead. Burning acid that rains and rains until two cities of people are annihilated! I hope we can agree that God’s wrath is no pleasant thing.

And when we come back to the Garden of Gethsemane and Calvary, we see the reason Christ was sweating blood. Sodom and Gomorrah was a miniscule part of God’s Righteous Wrath. He bore the entire wrath that we deserve, in one drink. Our God became lowly man, beaten and bruised, and finally crushed by The Father on that judgement tree, held by our sin, so that we may have eternal life. Walk worthy of your calling my brothers and sisters, for this calling is higher than we can ever imagine, so that we do not cheapen the work that was done on the cross. Soli Deo Gloria; To God Alone Be Glory Amen.

D.A Carson on the Gospel and Social Action

August 7, 2009

HT: Between Two Worlds

Last school year a group of students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School asked D. A. Carson to speak to them on “The Gospel and Social Action.” (The recording is rather poor; it sounds like someone from the audience recorded it from their seat.)

Gospel, Gospel, Gospel... don't break it!

Here are some notes taken by Andy Naselli. (some direct quotations but mostly paraphrase):

Preliminary Observations

1. Historical Perspective

It is useful to remember those instances in history when the gospel has so been promulgated and lived out that huge transformations in society took place. It is also useful to remember what happened in the wake of those transformations.
Many today who are becoming interested in the interrelationship of the gospel to broader doing-mercy-type deeds tend to run the stereotypes like this: “The previous generation came down either on the social-transformation side or on the gospel-fidelity side, and we want to put together both.” These stereotypes don’t work. Do not get yourself in the place where you are thinking self-righteously about those who have come before you. It’s so easy for any generation to start saying, “They did it this way wrong and this way wrong, but we’ve got it right.” Avoid casting what you’re trying to do on the background of a stereotype in which everybody else has got it wrong. It’s not good for you spiritually, and it’s not fair historically.
2. There are organizations today that turn on both their statements of faith and vision of ministry.

For example, there may be an astonishing diversity among churches that share the same tight statement of faith (e.g., churches within the PCA).
One Main Point (Fleshed Out in a Variety of Ways)

The fundamental issue conceptually is not only what we are doing but how we configure the undergirding structure of thought. (The fundamental issue is not necessarily about how we use our time, money, priorities, imaginations, etc.—that’s related but it’s a differentiable feature.)


1. Is social justice “part and parcel of the gospel”?

When I was first approached to speak to this group, part of the memo said this: “Faith Alive is a group that has a desire to engage in discussion about social-justice issues and discuss how compassion- and justice-ministries are part and parcel of the gospel.”
If the document had said “how compassion- and justice-ministries are part and parcel of biblical mandates,” I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. But when you say they “are part and parcel of the gospel,” then I want to know what you think the gospel is and how you find out.
Brian McLaren has argued that an essential part of the gospel is what Jesus makes out to be the first and second commandments (love God and your neighbor).
2. The moniker “transformation of self and society” brings with it a whole nest of related questions that are at the definitional level.

What is the gospel, and how do we find out about it? Is the gospel simply anything that you think is mandated by Scripture? How do you establish the pattern of biblical thought? If you think that anything is “biblical” provided you can attach a proof-text to it, then, of course, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, those who want to discount any attachment to social-justice issues, and those who want to pour all their eggs into the social-justice basket are “biblical.” The very meaning of “gospel” is news, great news, that must be proclaimed. It is good news about what God has done through Christ.
Many thoughtful theologians have rightly distinguished between the gospel and the effects of the gospel. Is transforming local public schools “gospel-ministry”? Not if you’re going to use “gospel” in the sense in which the NT does. But that’s different from distinguishing it as part of the effects of the gospel: we do good because we have been transformed and care for other people who are made in the image of God. But if you call this “gospel-ministry,” the long-term effect tends to be that we lose what the NT says is the gospel. The gospel gets so diluted that it becomes a Christianized moralism and nothing more.
Illustration: The film Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce) was brilliant in some respects, but do you know what was wrong about the film from beginning to end? The film casts Wilberforce as deliberating between vocational ministry (e.g., preaching) or freeing the slaves; after he chooses the latter, the film depicts the rest of his life with all the Christian elements moved to the background, and freeing the slaves thus is the gospel (for him). Historically, that is international-class rubbish of the first order. Wilberforce was a gospel-person all his life. That’s what drove him. He certainly did not confuse the gospel with freeing the slaves (one of the inevitable transforming effects of the gospel).
3. There are all kinds of entailments to that.

For example, when The Gospel Coalition Council Members were finalizing their foundational documents, they opted not to say something like, “We are concerned to save people’s souls and also to reduce suffering in this life.” Instead they affirm something like this: “We are concerned to save people for time and eternity and to reduce suffering in this world and the next.” The reason is that if you make a bifurcation at that point (i.e., so reducing suffering has to do only with this life), then somehow you don’t see the danger of the suffering in the next life.
That does not mean that you have the right to save souls—get people out of hell—but don’t care if they starve to death or if there is social injustice. But equally, it is not Christian to be very concerned that they get enough food in their tummy without ever talking about the gospel: “get them fat before we send them to hell.”
Illustrations: The ministries of Sandy Willson and Tim Keller.
4. The issue is not whether we should do good deeds. The issue is how to configure the undergirding structure of thought. It’s not just a theoretical matter.

What This Looks Like in Practice

1. What do you dream about? What is of central importance to you? What are you passionate about?

2. This has a bearing on your use of time.

If you become so consumed with genuine physical needs that you don’t have time for gospel proclamation, then you’re losing the gospel.
3. This has a bearing on whom you influence.

Students learn only a small part of what you teach them. They learn what teachers are excited about, what they talk about all the time.
If you merely assume the gospel while being excited about implications of the gospel, then the next generation may not even assume the gospel. Keep central what is central.
4. It is wise and important to address the relief of suffering, but put it on an entire scale, namely, relief of suffering both in this life and the life to come.

One way to preserve such a gospel-focus is to “preach hell”; that is a good test of whether you are interested in relieving suffering for time and eternity or whether your focus is on relieving suffering now. And if you preach on hell, those who are interested in only the social gospel won’t want to have anything to do with you.
5. When you speak of “the transformation of self and society,” you have to ask what you mean by that.

In terms of doing good, there can be some sort of transformation of culture.
But on the other hand, it is important to remember that that must not be set up as an absolute for Christians.
For example, try to convince the leaders of the underground church in Saudi Arabia that they must transform the culture in this way!
Unless you are a strong and dogmatic postmillennialist, the aim of the Christian is not the transformation of society.

Jono’s Comment: This is an extremely important issue in the church and one that scholars, pastors and all believers should be encouraged to think about and wrestle through. I am grateful for Carson’s opinion on this subject. Of course social action is mandated by Scripture, but the relationship between loving one’s neighbour and the gospel is one to be careful thought through. The implications of blurring the dividing line may be more dangerous than many think. Let us remember that the proclaimed gospel is a message, not a good deed or a believer’s life.

Rick Holland- Impact Bible conference session 1

June 3, 2009

Impact Bible Conference 2009,
@ Riverbend Bible Church, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Session 1: Rick Holland – Executive and College Pastor of Grace Community Church, Los Angeles.

“A re-introduction to the Apostle Peter”
1: Peter 1:1

Rick begins with a story of his first time in NZ, 20 years ago where he went parasailing with Donald Stevenson and Russel Hohneck (current Riverbend pastors) at Kiwi Ranch. Rick wound up being the test dummy and found himself at the end of 200metres/660ft of rope, instead of the prescribed 50. The instruction manual had been left on shore and Rick stayed airborne till he nearly got hypothermia while they got him down sans life-jacket in the middle of a lake. Instead of being given a towel to warm up, the pastors laughed and took his photo!

Rick calls for honesty in spiritual maturity, saying we need to not live like maturity is “on or off”, but acknowledge the reality of struggling.
Of all the biblical characters, Rick identifies most with Peter. Peter was radically transformed by saving grace.
He had a given name ‘Simon’, and was renamed by Jesus.
His name is mentioned 160 time in Scripture.

So just who was Peter?

1.Peter was a regular man.
Matthew 4:18-22
He was a blue collar fisherman from an unremarkable place- Galilee.
He was not chosen as a disciple due to a towering intellect or some other attraction, this was all of grace.

2.Peter was a Christ-exalting man
Matthew 16:13-20, specifically v16
“Peter was often running his mouth with his brain in neutral”
Rick calls people to see Christ as Peter saw him in this text, rightfully.

3.Peter was a fallible man
Matthew 6:21-33
Peter’s leadership got him in trouble. When Peter “took Jesus aside” it was if he grabbed him by the collar and told him how ridiculous his words were.
Jesus did not thank Peter for his concern and care, instead sharply rebuking him as in Gethsemane.
“Get behind me Satan”- Peter felt the rebuke of Jesus.
Peter’s theology had holes. Paul rebukes Peter for oppressing Gentiles in Galatians.
Peter was definitely not a good candidate for Pope!

4.Peter was an arrogant man
Matthew 26:30-35
Peter says that “ALL will fall away,” except himself.
Then Peter falls asleep and can’t event stay awake and pray despite his overconfidence.
Rick admonishes all not to become overconfident and proud, instead realising life is all of grace.

5.Peter was a passionate man
John 18:1-11 specifically vv10-11
Peter put a sword where his mouth was.
Peter was passionate and was ready to fight for the kingdom. But fighting would not pay for sins (v11).

6.Peter was a broken man
Matthew 26:69-75
Peter denied overtly, we can also deny covertly.
“But do we weep bitterly when we deny Christ is our Lord?”
Peter needed specific encouragement in seeing the resurrection, as he was broken.

7.Peter was a restored man
John 21:15-19
His restoration matched his denial, 3 times from Christ.
In writing 1 and 2 Peter, he did what he was commanded to do by Christ, to feed the sheep.
Peter experienced many highs and lows, and in 1 Peter he shows that he believes the Christian life was one completely of grace.

Two lenses of the Christian life

April 12, 2009

A devotional prepared for teens..
The Christian life could be viewed through two lenses. Both are helpful to consider. We talk about having been ‘saved’, but often don’t think through the consequences of that statement. Practically, what difference does being saved make in the Christian life? Consider these two lenses:
One lens considers the ‘from’. Leonard Ravenhill asks a question from this perspective…

“If I was to ask you today you were saved? Do you say, ‘Yes, I am saved’. When? ‘Oh so and so preached, I got baptized and…’ Are you saved? What are you saved from, hell? Are you saved from bitterness? Are you saved from lust? Are you saved from cheating? Are you saved from lying? Are you saved from bad manners? Are you saved from rebellion against your parents? Come on, what are you saved from?”

Another lens is the ‘to’ lens. What have you been saved to? Frustrated with the powerless ‘Christianity’ of his day, the late A.W Tozer said:

“Any objection to the carryings on of our present gold-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!” And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.”

What practical difference has Christ made in your life? Consider today your life through the twin lenses, the ‘from’ and the ‘to’.

“Father forgive them”- Good Friday message

April 10, 2009

I preached the Good Friday message at Howick Baptist on Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Below is the audio from this sombre day. Sombre, but hopeful!

Father forgive them

Of Preaching and resolutions for the pulpit

December 11, 2008

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about preaching. I’ve also read a biography of Jonathan Edwards, and read his resolutions, which were written between 19 and 21, the age I find myself today. As a result, it came to my mind to draft a list of preaching resolutions, to be read over regularly as Edwards intended for his own resolutions. But first, I’ve just read Dallimore’s brilliant 250 page biography of Spurgeon, towards the end is a quote which really summarises what I attempt to do in the work of preaching:

“During the 1880’s a group of American ministers visited Engalnd, prompted especially by a desire to hear some of the celebrated preachers of that land. On a Sunday morning, they attended the City Temple where Dr Joseph Parker was the pastor. Some two thousand people filled the building, and Parker’s forceful personality dominated the service. His voice was commanding, his language descriptive, his imagination lively and his manner animated. The sermon was scriptural, the congregation hung upon his words, and the Americans came away saying, ‘What a wonderful preacher is Josheph Parker!’ In the evening, they went to hear Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The building was much larger than the City Temple and the congregation was more than twice the size.  Spurgeon’s voice was much more expressive and moving and his oratory noticably superior. But they soon forgot all about the great building, the immense congregation, and the magnificent voice. They soon overlooked their intention to compare the various features of the two preachers, and when the service was over they found themselves saying; ‘What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus Christ!'”

The work of preaching will be extremely important in this new Reformation. Preaching God’s truth, God’s way will ultimately need to be done in such way so not as to come with mastery of speech and oratory, with the goal to impress the congregation as would a performer.

So, without further ado, here are my preaching resolutions:

Resolved, to preach the word.
Resolved, to live and preach to the glory of God.
Resolved, to declare God’s Sovereignty over all the world.

Resolved, that in these last days I shall remember that God has spoken to us by his Son, who he appointed heir of all things and head of the Church (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Resolved, to think upon the foolishness of the message preached.

Resolved, to remember the Father’s pleasure in using both the message preached and the method used.

Resolved, to see the role of preaching primarily as that of a herald and mediator.

Resolved, to look back and see that ‘Jesus came preaching’ (Mark 1:14).

Resolved, to believe in the sufficiency of the Scripture.

Resolved, not to forget that men and women in their natural state are dead in their sins and that dead men cannot be made alive apart from God (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Resolved, to rest not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Resolved, to remember that there is a famine in the land (Amos 8:11).

Resolved, to remember that sheep need food.

Resolved, to consider the healthiest diet of the church and hearers.

Resolved, to constantly think of biblical preaching as the most urgent need of the church today.

Resolved, to see true preaching as bringing and building a biblical, not humanistic worldview.

Resolved, to guard against false teaching.

Resolved, to view the work of preaching as more important than I currently do.

Resolved, to constantly remember that God’s people deserve more than half-hearted sermon preparation.

Resolved, to endeavour to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Resolved, to preach clearly.

Resolved, to preach with structure, so that the people may understand and be helped.

Resolved, that the scripture be applied to the audience of today.

Resolved, in preparation, to have the newspaper in one hand and the scriptures in the other.

Resolved, to think of the direct relationship between preaching, conversion and Christian living.

Resolved, to preach in such a way as to not bring unnecessary offence.

Resolved, to confront in love and gentleness as best I can.

Resolved, to preach dangerously.

Resolved, to preach in such a way as not to inspire awe as would a performer, or by the mere words of men.

Resolved, to present Christ and the glory of God for all to see.

Resolved, to believe more fully in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Resolved, through the text to preach Christ crucified, whether in the past, present or future.

Resolved, not to preach about God’s word, but to preach God’s word.

Resolved, to live the in light of the message preached so as not to disqualify myself.

Resolved, to preach the gospel to myself daily.

Resolved, to remember that Christ is coming back at any moment, as a result, to preach likewise.

-Till next time (hopefully soon!) Jono




Reformation Day

October 31, 2008

31st October 1517, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenburg. The world has not been the same since. Those of us in the Protestant Church, should be extremely thankful that the Lord used this man to bring Reformation.