Thursday, December 20, 2007

CHBC Internship Fall '07

For those of you wondering what the CHBC internship is all about, here it is!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ten Reasons to go and Pastor a church in Scotland

This makes extremely sad reading. The only encouraging thing about it is that it is posted on a blog run by a handful of pastors in Scotland with far more biblical priorities:
At a seminar at a recent Christian gathering the 50 people in attendance were asked what their top ten priorities would be for a minister in a Scottish church. The final list is below, I'm not sure if they are ranked by importance, but looking at the list I'm not sure that it makes much of a difference.

1. Leadership skills
2. Developing Abilities
3. Recognising Abilities
4. Knowledge of denominational principles
5. Good communicator
6. People focused
7. Knowledge of church structure
8. Practical work experience
9. Management skills
10. Active participant in the community

There are many churches looking for pastors in Scotland, and judging by the above, many of them don't have in mind 1 Tim 3 or Titus 1. For that matter they don't seem to have the gospel in mind either.
Gospel-focused pastors from the English speaking world should seriously consider pastoring in Scotland and helping faithful pastors like those from Resolve to transform the view of ministry over there.

HT: Colin Adams

Spurgeon on Two kinds of Pride

Loving churches need humble pastors.

I've been deeply challenged today reading Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, Chapter 2 'Qualifications for Soul-Winning - Godward."

Here's a quotation: which form of pride do you tend towards?
There are two sorts of proud people, and it is difficult sometimes to say which of the two is the worse. There is, first of all, the kind that is full of that vanity which talks about itself, and invites other people to talk about it, too, and to pat it on the back, and stroke its feathers the right way. It is all full of its little morsel of a self, and goes strutting about, and saying, "Praise me, please, praise me, I want it," like a little child who goes to each one in the room, and says, "See my new dress; isn't it a beauty?" You may have seen some of these pretty dears; I have met many of them. The other kind of pride is too big for that sort of thing. It does not care for it; it despises people so much that it does not condescend to wish for their praises. It is so supremely satisfied with itself that it does not stoop to consider what others think of it. I have sometimes thought it is the more dangerous kind of pride spiritually, but it is much the more respectable of the two. There is, after all, something very noble in being too proud to be proud. Suppose those great donkeys did bray at you, do not be such a donkey as to notice them. But this other poor little soul says, "Well, everybody's praise is worth something," and so he baits his mousetraps, and tries to catch little mice of praise, that he may cook them for his breakfast. He has a mighty appetite for such things. Brethren, get rid of both kinds of pride if you have anything of either of them about you. The dwarf pride and the ogre pride are both of them abominations in the sight of the Lord. Never forget that you are disciples of Him who said, "Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart."...
In the matter of soul-winning, humility makes you feel that you are nothing and nobody, and that, if God gives you success in the work, you will be driven to ascribe to Him all the glory, for none of the credit of it could properly belong to you. If you do not have success, humility will lead you to blame your own folly and weakness, not God's sovereignty.

Want to read more? The text is online, and the book is in print.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Surviving Comparitively Well...

After reading this post from fellow Brit at CHBC, Graham Shearer (on the right), I realise that things could have been a great deal worse for me trying to be a Brit in the USA.
For that, Graham, I am profoundly grateful!

Who will be King?

It has all the great things about 2 ways to live, but is well pitched at children. So, though the pictures are the same (other than a rather better picture in frame one of a whole family of people living under God's rule, rather than merely an individual). The text is simpler. God's name is added to the crown to make it even clearer that we are talking about God!

Though the follow up panel could be clearer on repentance, the question that is being asked even through the title makes it very clear that one cannot claim to follow Jesus without him being the king of our lives.

Use it in your children's ministry!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth (almost) live blogging

Noah Braymen, intern at CHBC is blogging on every session of the Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth conference, meaning that I don't have to!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth Conference

This evening is the beginning of the Gospel growth vs. Church growth conference here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

We have in store a great conference - I hope that one of the lasting results of it will be to introduce a group of 250 pastors, largely from the US to the ministry of Philip Jensen, Tony Payne & Matthias Media.

Here's what we are up to....

7:00Session 1—The Beginnings of Gospel Growth (Tony Payne)
7:50Session 2—Church Growth Paralysis (Phillip Jensen)


9:00Session 1—Evangelism: What it is and what it isn't (Mark Dever)
10:30Session 2—A Fresh Understanding of Church (Phillip Jensen)
2:00Session 3—A Fresh Understanding of Gospel Growth (Phillip Jensen)
3:30Session 4—Resources for Gospel Growth (Tony Payne)
7:00Session 5—Bible exposition (Phillip Jensen; open to public)
8:15Panel Discussion—Tony Payne, Phillip Jensen, Mark Dever


9:00Session 1—Gospel Growth day by day (Tony Payne)
10:30Session 2—The task, the tactics, the telos (Phillip Jensen)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Occasional Communion: 2 test cases

After much debate on occasional communion over at the 9 Marks blog, and having thought through it all a little more clearly that I had a few years ago, I was faced with the decision twice over the last week: would I take the Lord's Supper (1) At Oak Hill College chapel. (2) At Spicer street church.

My decision. 1) Not at Oak Hill, because as a college I didn't feel it appropriate to share in what is a church ordinance.
2) Though Spicer Street practices what could best be called "occasional paedobaptism" I by no means felt that this should exclude me from the Lord's supper. Though I find the practise confusing it by no means stops Spicer Street from being a true, and in almost every way a very healthy church.

The worldview of Spiderman 3

I watched Spiderman 3 upon all the glory of a 6 inch screen on a flight last week.

Very interesting worldview presented:

Aunt May is certainly the character who comes across as the voice we are supposed to trust.

Some quotes from her:
"I don't think it's for us to say whether a person deserves to live or die."
"You start by doing the hardest thing, you forgive yourself. I believe in you, Peter. You're a good person, and I know you'll find a way to put it right."

And then it ended (don't read if you don't want to have the movie ruined) with an extraordinary scene where the bad guy who had killed Parker's uncle is seen not as the villain, but as a pitiful victim.
Flint Marko: [looks down at the crowd below] I didn't want this. But I had no choice...
Peter Parker: We always have a choice. You had a choice when you killed my uncle.
Flint Marko: My daughter was dying, I needed money. [flashback: Flint knocks on the car window with a gun]
Flint Marko: I was scared. I told your uncle all I wanted was the car. He said to me "Why don't you just put down the gun and go home?" I realise now he was just trying to help me. [Uncle Ben tells Flint to put down the gun and go home, just when Flint's partner exits a nearby building with the money]
Flint Marko: Then I saw my partner running over with the cash... and the gun was in my hand... [he shakes Flint's arm - causing him to shoot Uncle Ben. Flint realizes this]
Flint Marko: I did a terrible thing to you, I spent a lot of nights wishing I could take it back. [Flint's partner drives off with the car, but Flint stays by Uncle Ben's side]
Flint Marko: [to Peter] I'm not asking you to forgive me. I just want you to understand.
Peter Parker: I've done terrible things too.
Flint Marko: I didn't choose to be this. The only thing left of me now... is my daughter.
Peter Parker: [after a pause] I forgive you.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tell me more

A return to my ongoing but sadly occasional project of evaluating evangelistic and apologetic websites...
Next up is Roger Carswell's "Tell me More"

"Tell me More" is a series of short articles (about the right length for publication on a website) interacting with (particularly British) culture.

The thing I love about the site most is that the gospel is clearly shared in every article. Carswell knows that someone might just read one of his articles, or get sent it by a friend after a "religious" conversation.

So, if you have a conversation with a friend who seems to be getting all their ideas about religion from the BBC (or PBS in the USA) there is a great short article you could send them entitled "Don't get your religion from the BBC"
Here's a quote from that article, showing his transition between his exposition of the BBC's portrayal of religion to take the reader to the gospel...
The BBC portray religion as humankind’s long search for God. As humans, we were created to know God, but our wrongdoing, our sins, have cut us off from Him.
There is an incompleteness, an emptiness within us all. Spiritually we are dead, yet we know there is something wrong.
The truth is that whilst sometimes we would like to know God, we also run away from Him, and do our own thing. Instead of us searching for God, He has taken the initiative and come searching for us.
That is what the first Christmas was all about. God the Creator became like us whom He had created. He became a man and dwelt among us. It is as if He became our neighbour. Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.”
He then goes on to present a fuller explanation of the gospel. This is typical of the site.

Other brief articles undermine the presumption that political correctness is always a good thing, make use of the fact that we are all sick of spin.

The articles are not particularly sophisticated or high-brow, but are a great resource to use off the back of even the most casual conversation that you've had about religion.
Also on the site there are some more fully developed explanations of the gospel.
Good on Carswell to have a site that is so simple and so gospel-focused. I look forward to seeing if he will post more articles that will be useful for other conversations that people have had about the gospel, as the site is as yet fairly small.

Great posts on prayer

My friend from Oak Hill, Richard Perkins, has done a good series of posts on prayer.

some great quotes from the series.
Don Carson writes...
"It matters little whether you are the mother of active children who drain away your energy, an important executive in a major multinational corporation, a graduate student cramming for impending comprehensives, a plumber working overtime to put your children through college, or a pastor of a large church putting in ninety hours a week: at the end of the day, if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out"
‘Although abstractly I may affirm the importance of prayer, in reality I may treat prayer as important only in the lives of other people, especially those whom I judge to be weaker in character, more needy, less competent, less productive. Thus, while affirming the importance of prayer, I may not feel deep need for prayer in my own life’.
Philip Jensen & Tony Payne write...
‘Every time we open our mouths in prayer, we are saying, ‘I know you are able, I know you are willing, I know you are my creator and Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, and I know that you have promised to hear me when I call to you in prayer’.
John Bunyan writes,
‘Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God’.
There's more great stuff in the posts. Go Read!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Barriers to College Evangelism 4: Busyness

If the devil can’t stop us from evangelizing through isolation, fear or compromise, he will be happy to convince us that there are all kinds of good things that we need to do with our time. There will always be good things to do, but if we are unable to spend a significant amount of our time with Non-Christians seeking to share the gospel we are being just as unfaithful to the Lord as we would be if we never read his word, prayed, met with his people. We are also removing from ourselves one of the greatest joys that the Lord would have us share with him in. As Jesus shared the truth of who he was with a sinful broken woman, he said to his disciples, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” (John 4:34-36)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

9 Marks Weekender Blogged

The last weekend has been extremely busy with 50 pastors and future pastors coming in from around the country (and even from Scotland and Serbia)

Nobody has ever attempted to give a full blogging account of a weekender before this one.

This time Noah Brayman managed to find time on a very bust weekend to give a fairly full account of the weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Barriers to College Evangelism 3: Compromise

It is one thing to find a picture of the street reflecting a church. It is another to have Christians who reflect the man on the Street.

It is easy to think that we will better be able to befriend Non-Christians and witness to them if we are more like them. Doesn’t Paul say, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”? (1 Cor. 9:22). He does – and we need to ensure that there is no offence but the offence of the gospel in our friendships with Non-Christians. Yet we may not remove the offence of the gospel.

There are two ways we tend to remove the offence of the gospel.

1. We sometimes deliberately don’t talk about those aspects of the gospel that we think will be most offensive (judgment, hell, the exclusivity of Christ). When we do this we remove the part of the gospel that shows people that they really need Jesus. This might make us more popular, but it will cripple our evangelism.
2.We sometimes live lives that suggest by our compromised lives that the gospel doesn’t have the offensive implications of the need to obey the Lord Jesus. So we join in with the coarse joking, we have a few beers too many, we stretch the boundaries of sexual purity and join in with the latest gossip. Living like Non-Christians removes the vital witness of the transforming effects of the gospel, and denies our statements that Jesus has redeemed us from slavery to sin and brought us under his Lordship.

Dever's New book on evangelism now out.

Mark Dever's book on evangelism is now out.
Looking forward to reading the book.
Disappointed with the cover.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Barrier to College evangelism 2: Fear

It can be pretty scary mixing with non-Christians who seem to have thought through their opinions fairly deeply and who hold them very firmly. When professors seem to give weight to anti-Christian thinking this can be particularly hard. We begin to fear that the gospel will sound ridiculous, and so never speak about Christian things.
There are several things that we need to meditate upon.

i) We should not be surprised that people will use their whole intellect to oppose the gospel. Even the apostle Paul says of himself before his conversion, “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth”. (Acts 26:9)We need to recognize though that people’s opposition to the gospel is not primarily intellectual. It is moral stand against the Lordship of Christ dressed in an intellectual garb. The converting work of the Holy Spirit is well able to show people the folly of that stand, and it is as the gospel is shared even by fearful students that this will be happening on campus.

ii) It is as we fear the Lord more we can fear others less and love them more. If we are paralyzed by the fear of man it will stop us from loving them enough to share the gospel – their only hope for salvation. If we are gripped by the fear of the Lord, we will seek to honour him in declaring the Lordship of Christ, and the result will be a gentle, loving, compassionate sharing of the gospel with those who are lost. If we really fear the Lord, we will fear nothing else but will be content even in the face of great opposition. (Proverbs 19:23)

iii) Opposition to the gospel is well addressed in Scripture. Meditate of those passages in Scripture that hold out to us our eternal hope. They are intended for all who suffer – not just those suffering more than we do! (1 Peter 3:13-18) For more on suffering, see John Piper's reflections (HT: Justin Taylor)

iv) There is in the end no need to fear someone who is unable to remove our faith. Sharing the gospel will only ever strengthen faith. Our confidence that we will be kept in the faith is not in our ability to convince someone of the truth of the gospel (we have no such ability!) It is in the God’s committed sustaining love for us. He has already shown us just how committed he is by sending his Son. (Romans 8:31-38)

A great book to read to meditate more on overcoming the fear of man is Ed Welch's When People are Big and God is Small.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Barrier to College Evangelism 1: Isolation

One of the reasons that we don’t have a massive program of events for students at CHBC is that we love the Non-Christian friends of our students! It would be possible to fill up your lives with Christian meetings and socialize only with Christians when you had time to. We think it is hugely important that you spend time with other Christians in edifying conversation. But Christians are light. We must make sure that our light is shining before people, or the whole purpose of our light is wasted.

Why not pray for 3 non-Christians each day who you are trying to witness to, 2 groups of Non-Christians where you spend regular time getting to know them and building significant relationships and at least one opportunity to share the gospel each week? Once the Lord answers that last prayer, start praying for an opportunity to share the gospel each day.

There is another form of isolation that students can suffer from. This is when none of their Non-Christian friends know any of their Christian friends. They suddenly feel very alone trying to stand for Christ in those relationships. Whatever good relationships the Lord gives you with Non-Christians, try to introduce them to your Christian friends. This will multiply your witness exponentially. Not only does that Non-Christian now have more Christians who can witness to them, they also get the opportunity to observe the most compelling evidence of the truth of the gospel: the love that Christians have for one another.

I guess you've noticed this already....

I guess if you read enough blogs to get far enough down the list to read mine, then you already know that Sovereign Grace now has ALL their MP3 downloads for free.

These include talks by Dever, Mark Duncan, Ligon Grudem, Wayne Harris, Joshua Harvey, Dave Kauflin, Bob MacArthur, John Mahaney, Carolyn Mahaney, C.J. McCulley, Carolyn Mohler, Albert Piper, John Powlison, David Purswell, Jeff Ramsden, Michael Sande, Ken Sproul, R.C. Taylor, Justin Ware, Bruce

I've particularly enjoyed Mike Bullmore's message Things I learned about preaching from 15 years of having taught it

Comment on those you've found most helpful!

HT Colin Adams, Bob Kauflin

Friday, September 7, 2007

Unusual Opportunities 2: Loving those who are different from yourself.

As we noted in my last post, it is easy for students to spend almost all of their time with other students. This is a great opportunity for Christian students to demonstrate the transforming and unifying power of the gospel.

A Christian student who is a member of their local church, and is seeking to build significant relationships with the other members of their local church is going to seem unusual. People turn up to your dorm room, and you are hanging out with a recently married couple, or a single person of the same sex 15 years older than you. People ask you what you are doing that evening and you explain that you are babysitting for a family, or going to visit an elderly member of the congregation in their home, or going to visit someone who is recovering from an operation in hospital, or helping out with a bible study for young offenders.

Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). In an environment where people tend only to love people who are like themselves, the Christian love of those different to yourselves can give unusual opportunities for evangelism.: European, Asian, African, Native American (For some great reading on ethnicity see the latest 9marks journal and recent blog discussions 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ); young old, married, single, educated, disadvantaged, rich, poor, pretty, plain, able-bodied, disabled, healthy, sick. This love cannot be adequately demonstrated through membership in a campus ministry, but through active membership in a local church it will: Jesus will be honoured and the gospel will be displayed.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Unusual opportunities 1: Shared lives

There will not be another time where you will likely be living, working, relaxing, exercising, eating, thinking and socializing with one group of people. This means that there will never be another group of Non-Christians who will be able to observe your life at such close quarters, and with whom you will have such incredible opportunities for multiple conversations about the gospel.

Just think about this for a moment: once you graduate you will have various different groups of people whom you might seek to evangelise: your colleagues, your neighbours, your sports teams / interest groups, the people who eat in the same restaurants you do. I could go on. But while you are at College these might all be the same people.

This means you will be more observed that anyone else. It is quite possible to choose to hide parts of your life from colleagues, neighbours, sports teams, etc. It becomes hard to do so if they are all the same interconnected group of people. People will observe whether you are living for different things in a different way to every other student.

All this leads to many opportunities for gospel conversations, and for ongoing dialogue about the gospel.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The opportunities of evangelism on campus

With students returning to DC I am reminded once again of the unique opportunity that college life provides for evangelism.

College is perhaps one of the most unique opportunities for evangelism that you will have in your life. There will not be another time where you will likely be living, working, relaxing, exercising, eating, thinking and socializing with one group of people. This means that there will never be another group of Non-Christians who will be able to observe your life at such close quarters, and with whom you will have such incredible opportunities for multiple conversations about the gospel.What’s more, there is never a time when people are so self-consciously forming opinions about the world and their place in it as when they are students. What an incredible God-given opportunity!

In the coming days & weeks I intend to post several thoughts on the particular opportunities and challenges to evangelism on campus.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Introducing God

After a sad neglect of my blog for the last few weeks (and, to be honest, since my youngest son was born in April) I thought it was about time to continue my review of evangelistic & apologetic resources.

Introducing God is another in the series of evangelistic courses following the Alpha / Christianity Explored format of talk, meal & discussion. Written by Dominic Steele from Christians in the Media, broadly speaking it is an expansion and exposition of the Two ways to live gospel outline that I reviewed earlier.

The difference Jesus makes weekend

There are loads of things that I really love about this course.

1. A whole biblical worldview is presented. Two ways to live is a such a great outline of the gospel. It assumes no knowledge of the gospel. Like the bible itself it shows us our need of Jesus rather than assuming that everyone would inherently be interested. The whole plot line of the bible is outlined and climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus, with a very clear call to respond by repentance and faith.

2. Good decisions were made in expanding the two ways to live material. In a world unfamiliar with Christ it is good to have three weeks looking at Jesus, not two. Whereas 2wtl has cross and resurrection, IG has the authority, cross and resurrection of Jesus. The three mini-talks on the weekend are good at helping people to see a little more what the Christian life looks like, and therefore enables people to count the cost of discipleship well.

3. The material is flexible: you have the choice of using the videos of Dominic Steele's excellent talks themselves, or using the format (and PowerPoint presentations provided) and having live speakers who would be free to alter personal illustration, or change illustrations to fit their culture better. (If you choose the videos and are not Australian, you do get some interesting views into Australian culture, including the introduction of a Steggles Number One)

4. If you choose to use the videos, Dominic Steele is a faithful preacher, good communicator and passionate evangelist.

5. The talks are expository which helps people to see that the idea's are not the speaker's but the Bible's. They do a good job of expounding the texts rather than just reading into them.

6. The video's are extremely well produced - the talks are all given as live talks to a group that was genuinely going through the course. This both serves to give an immediacy to the talks, and helps to model to the group attending the course the ways in which they are invited to have open discussion about the material.

I have a couple of minor reservations.

1. In the videos there are depictions of Christ, including on the cross, I think from the Jesus film. Wherever one falls on depictions of Christ and whether they are permissible, within the church there have been enough Christians for whom this would trample on their consciences, and it adds so little that they would have been better left out.

2. At the end of a couple of the talks Dominic leads in a "sinners' prayer". Immediately after this Lee Hatcher (who introduces and concludes each video) gives a verbal assurance of salvation to those who have prayed that prayer. This is done a little carelessly, as if praying a sinner's prayer is equivalent to salvation. Better that affirmation of the credibility of someone's profession of faith is left up to the church in which that person is baptised.

Both these minor criticisms would be easily removed if you chose to do the talks live rather than using the videos.

On balance Introducing God is the prepackaged talk & discussion format course that I like best. I pray that the Lord would use it in Australia and beyond to bring people to not just be Introduced to God, but also to be granted repentance and faith in Christ Jesus as they are face with the choice we all face.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Two years at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Two years ago to the day (1st August 2005) I boarded a plane with my wife, daughter and son to move to Washington DC, and to be involved with Capitol Hill Baptist Church. They have been two fantastic years, and I am hugely grateful for...
1) The congregation at CHBC who have taught me do much about what it means to be a Loving Church. A couple of stories will illustrate the extraordinary love that only the gospel can bring about. An elderly member of the church was in hospital; she had so many visits from members of CHBC that the nurses asked her, "Who ARE you? Who are all these people!?" Her answer, "I'm a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and that is my family."

2) The elders at CHBC who have taught me that a plurality of godly elders are needed for a church to be well loved by being well fed. The elders are a great body of men who have been committed

3) The pastors: Thabiti Anyabwile was pastor at CHBC until he left for Grand Cayman exactly a year ago. One of my first experiences of Thabiti was the very kind way in which he was willing to befriend and love a brother like me who is rather different to me culturally. "Come into my office, have a seat... you seem a little awkward Mike, what's going on." I didn't dare to tell him at the time that my awkwardness was just a normal English way of behaving... but I guess he found that out later!

Andy Johnson is a great example of a strategic thinker. I've never known a church with such a strong desire to see loving churches planted in places where the gospel is little heard. Much of that desire has come from Andy discipling people into his own passion for the lost.

Michael Lawrence is an extremely gifted preacher, biblical theologian and counsellor who is willing to serve in a church where he gets many of the less pleasant jobs that would normally fall onto a senior pastor's shoulders. Why? Because he has a passion to train up future pastors, and CHBC is a good place to do that.

Mark Dever has patiently loved me for many years; the Lord has used him to shape my thinking as to how church should be loving and I should love the church more than any other man. It is privilege to serve with him.

Many of the lessons that I hope will last with me as long as the Lord gives me life, he has taught me through these four men.

One of the great blessing of being in a loving church is seeing my family so well loved. People love my children (a single lady in her twenties taking my daughter out to the cinema, countless people looking after our children out of love for Hannah and me to give us some time with just the two of us.) People love my wife (but then, she is very easy to love) in the way that they have spent time encouraging her and being encouraged by her to love the Lord more; in praying for her and with her; in serving her so well by providing childcare (and more than childcare, high quality biblical teaching to my children... My 3 year old was able to say "A is for Adoration, C is for Confession, T is for thanksgiving, S if for suffocation" - he couldn't quite manage "supplication"!) This level of care for my children has been Sunday morning (Sunday school and the main service) and Sunday evening so that Hannah has not been so well fed by the word for years.

My family and I have been back visiting the UK for the last few days; it has been a good time today to reflect on the Lord's kindness to us through one local church that the Lord has used to shape us since we were last in the UK. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is by no means a perfect church. But it has been a privilege to celebrate 2 years of being a part of this loving church.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Penal Substitution: the central model of the atonement

Don Carson has written an excellent article examining why Penal substitution is under constant attack. The whole article is well worth reading.

In the light of recent debate that would displace Penal Substitution from the centre of our understanding of the atonement, this paragraph is particularly useful: I hope the paragraph becomes a chapter:

One recent work that loves to emphasize the Christus Victor “model”--Christ by his death is victor over sin and death--somewhat begrudgingly concedes that penal substitution is found in a few texts, not least Romans 8:3. But this work expends no effort to show how these two views of the atonement should be integrated. In other words, the work in question denigrates penal substitution as a sort of minor voice, puffs the preferred “model” of Christus Victor, and attempts no integration. But I think it can be shown (though it would take a very long chapter to do it) that if one begins with the centrality of penal substitution, which is, as we have seen, grounded on a deep understanding of how sin is an offense against God, it is very easy to see how all the other so-called “models” of the atonement are related to it. The way Christ triumphs over sin and death is by becoming a curse for us, by satisfying the just demands of his heavenly Father, thereby silencing the accuser, and rising in triumph in resurrection splendor because sin has done its worst and been defeated by the One who bore its penalty. Moreover, in the light of such immeasurable love,
there are inevitably exemplary moral commitments that Christ's followers must undertake. In other words, it is easy to show how various biblical emphases regarding the atonement cohere if one begins with penal substitution. It is very
difficult to establish the coherence if one begins anywhere else.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"Choose Life" from UCCF

"Choose life" has been a great resource that UCCF has used for several years now. Alongside a massive project to attempt to distribute John's gospel to every College Student in the UK there is a website with a very simple presentation of the gospel.

1) Faithfulness of the gospel &
2) Clarity

I've lumped these two categories together for this review, for the problems I have with the site lie on the line between faithfulness and clarity:

The presentation of the gospel comes on four short webpages each with a key statement.

i. God loves the world and wants people to have eternal life
ii. People show by their lives that they have rejected God
iii. God still loves people and has sent Jesus to die so that they might be forgiven rather than condemned
iv. There will always be one of two responses to this news

As a four sentence summary of the gospel this is excellent. (You'll notice it fits pretty well into the categories that I said I'd be looking for: God, man, Christ, response)

There were, however, pieces of the picture that were at least unclear , if not missing altogether.

God is certainly described as being a loving creator. "This sums up God’s attitude to our world. He loves it. He created this world and the human race as an expression of his love". But there seems to be little about his holiness, or about the authority he has associated with him being the creator.

I like the fact that 'eternal life' is used as the way to describe what we are created for: but the description of that life is true but inadequate: "We can know God personally and be known by him." Note that this is described in symmetrical terms. We know him, he knows us. We love him, he loves us. For the gospel to make sense there needs to be greater clarity about the Sovereignty of God: he made us - we belong to him.

This would serve the purpose of the second page also making more sense: sin is well described as"rejecting God" and "our moral rebellion against God". This is a good description of sin. It would make more sense if God's rule had already been explained. Why does it matter if we rebel against God if our relationship with him is basically symmetrical?

Judgement is only hinted at at this point: "So people naturally continue to live in a way that excludes God and invites condemnation and death." It is laid out more clearly in the next page, with a good illustration.

God’s response to our rejection of him is not what you might expect!
He has, of course, every right to reject us. For the way we live in his world with
complete disregard for him is nothing short of scandalous. Imagine arriving home to find that intruders have helped themselves to the contents of your fridge, and are living as if they owned the place. How would you react? I’d guess that your response would reflect your moral outrage. This is not their property; they have no right to treat it as if it were theirs; and you will make sure that justice is done.

Yet, you'll notice that the presentation of judgement is what God might have done, but has decided not to in the gospel. This may be misunderstood as suggesting that the punishment of sin is something that is somehow contrary to God's nature.

There is at this point a good explanation of the cross.

On the cross Jesus, the God-man, willingly took upon himself the judgment and condemnation that should have been ours for our rebellion against God, so that we might be spared.

The section on response is good in what it says: we cannot sit on the fence, we are not morally neutral, we must believe in Jesus. But I was disappointed to see that there was not a clear call to repentance.

So, the gospel is there: but there are some crucial things that are not clear. And when you put the pieces of this gospel presentation together, I cannot but conclude that, though good in places, it is largely fearful of presenting God in any way that will not be appealling to someone in their natural state. Precisely the issues that the world hates about God are absent: his right to rule us; his determination to punish sin; the need for repentance.

3) & 4) Applicability & Responsibility
Elsewhere on the site there are some good places to deal with questions related to the gospel.

You can read John's gospel online, request a free hard copy of John's gospel, explore three follow up questions: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What does it mean to follow Jesus?
These questions are given good brief answers. The answer to the second question includes a good explanation of the necessity and sufficiency of Jesus' death for sinners. The third question, however, talks about receiving forgiveness but not about repenting or believing.

There is also a section for Questions, answering 15 of the most common objections to the gospel. I looked at a couple of these:

How can there be a God with so much suffering in the world?
How can a loving God judge people?

Both of these were exemplary short answers to extremely difficult questions: neither gave common false answers that tend to deny God's sovereignty. Both upheld the goodness of God. And most importantly for any apologetic questions, both took the questions back to the gospel. Fantastic!

Another means of follow up is the public forum.

It is a brave thing to have a completely open forum. I think that it is a good idea to have it: BUT, if you are going to have a forum, you need people whose responsibility it is to answer people's questions on that forum. Having browsed around a little, there seem to be some great questions from Non-Christians with no coherent response from Christians. So, one post asks two questions: a question about the Trinity is answered by a response that is modalistic. A question about the extent of the atonement goes effectively unanswered.

Opening up the site for questions that do not have a clear biblical response will give the impression that there is no clear biblical response available... So, I'm going to write a quick response to the questions asked now...

Any of you UCCF guys reading this: please get onto your site and interact with unbelievers who are asking serious questions about the gospel!

On the community life page the site does a good job of pointing people towards a local church.

5) Usability
The site looks great. It also has the advantage of the right-sized amount of text per page: about 200-300 words. Something I have totally failed on in this post! I should conclude...

This site is a great resource: well designed, clear, accessible, interactive. Greater clarity on God's holiness and our need to repent, and greater resourcing of the forum by those apt to teach would take it on a step from a very good site to an absolutely excellent site.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ultimate Questions

John Blanchard, Author of Does God Believe in Atheists? wrote a little tract called Ultimate Questions back in 1987. the tract has always been good, though the graphics now look a little tired.

Well, now the excellent text of the tract is available without the tired look graphics online.
Ultimate Questions presents the gospel through a series of twelve questions.

These really are Ultimate Questions, and provide a good framework for exploring the gospel.
So, going through the criteria of assessment for evangelistic sites:
1) Faithfulness to the gospel.
The gospel is presented fully and well. One key truth that is dealt with well here is the need for revelation if we are going to know God.
"God is beyond our understanding and we need him to reveal himself to us."
This is an important truth to communicate and useful to do so up front when
then presenting the gospel that we find in Scripture.
Another useful inclusion is a brief outline of the attributes of God. This is really useful for being able to talk about the fact that God deserves our worship, and how terrible thing our sin is that we would rob worship from the unique, personal, eternal, independent, spiritual, holy, just, perfect, sovereign, omnipotent God and take it for ourselves: tiny, sinful creatures.
However, having laid up so well the character of God and therefore talk about the personal offensiveness of sin, I feel the tract could have done a better job talking about what sin is.
Sin is described primarily as disobedience to God (a perfectly good biblical category) and lawbreaking. I wonder if exploring the categories of rebellion and idolatry would have helped to demonstrate the horror of sin more clearly.
The site is also very clear about the reality of hell, giving important warnings. Yet I felt that in 7 paragraphs about hell, perhaps more than one should have been spent focusing on the rightness of Hell, it being such an important apologetic question:
Hell is fair. The Bible tells us that God will judge the world with justice,
(Acts 17:31) and he is perfectly just in sending sinners to hell. After all, he
is giving them what they have chosen. They reject God here; he rejects them
there. They choose to live ungodly lives; he confirms their choice — forever. God can hardly be accused of injustice or unfairness!
Both the person and work of Christ are well presented, as are the need for repentance and faith.
2) Clarity
The site could certainly not be more clear, almost to the point of bluntness at times!
3) Applicability
I felt that the gospel could have been fleshed out a little more throughout. It is very clearly stated, but I didn't feel that it was 'reasoning with us'.
4) Responsibility
There is an excellent call to join a bible preaching church for everyone who repents and believes.
5) Usability
It's not particularly pretty, but a very plain text. It's all on one page. Some of the other things on the site where it is posted may be less helpful to Non-Christians.

Ultimate Questions is a very clear, straightforward presentation of the gospel. It would be a great thing for Christians to read to check that they are covering the basics when trying to communicate the gospel to Non-Christians. It would also be a really useful thing for someone to read who had showed some interest in the gospel and wanted to look into the gospel in more depth. Perhaps someone has looked at Two ways to Live, and wants more detail.
However, the lack of 'reasoning with us' presumes a great deal of interest on behalf of the reader. It might not be the first thing that I would give to someone who has shown only a passing interest in the gospel.

A more serious look at reasonable faith.

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.
His apologetics website, Reasonable Faith sets out to provide "an articulate, intelligent voice in defense of biblical Christianity in the public square."

Craig's apologetics seems to major upon what has been called classical apologetics. Using classical arguments for the existence of God such as the cosmological argument (the very existence of the universe displays the existence of its creator) the telelogical argument (the order in the universe displays the existence of a rational God) the ontological argument (the very definition of God as the greatest of all possible beings implies his necessary existence).

The other two major schools of apologetics, evidentialism and presuppositionalism are not unrepresented, but made subservient to the classical approach. So, for example, the anthropic principle is shown to be a subset of the teleological argument.

The site is comprised of debates, scholarly and popular articles, an open forum, a opportunity for Q&A with Dr. Craig, podcasts and, under construction, a page particularly for children.

If I can take my five criteria in reverse,

5) Usability
The site is very well organised, as you can see from the categories above.

4) Responsibility
My guess is that Craig expects this site to be used more in equipping Christians for apologetic conversations with Non-Christians than expecting Non-Christians themselves from reading the site.
The Q & A and forum gives an opportunity for people to interact with the ideas that on the site.
This having been said, I'd love to have seen more direction given to those who want to look more seriously and deeply into the significance of the existence of God.

3) Applicability

2) Clarity
The site is certainly clear in what it affirms.

1) Faithfulness

There are certainly many ways in which this is a faithful site. There are some of the best classical apologetic arguments for the existence of God that you will find.

There are however, some serious reservations that I have with the site.

a) There are times at which I think that his atheistic objectors have read the bible better than he. This is particularly evident in his debate with Edwin Curley. There Curley raises some good questions that are brought up by the bible's presentation of God:

God predestines only some for salvation. God sends the rest to hell. We inherit sin and guilt from Adam. God sovereignly permitted evil in his world.

These biblical truths do raise serious questions that the apologist must answer in a way that preserves these truths, but shows that they are consistent with a holy, loving God.

Criag's response:

I want to thank Dr. Curley for his very personal and sensitive remarks. In this speech, I hope to show, however, that most of his objections are aimed at a false target, at a conception of God which I, as a Christian, reject. What Dr. Curley offers is really seven deadly objections to the Calvinistic God, not the Christian God. It is only by equating Calvinism with Christianity that his objections have any force. And I just deny that equation. I am not a Calvinist.

As a Calvinist who believes that the bible presents a God who has not abdicated responsibility or sovereignty in favour of some kind of freedom of indifference among humans, I find this response devistating. Craig sides with the atheist when it comes to a reaction against the biblical portrayal of God.

Yet, readily admitting that Arminians can be Christians, this is not my biggest problem with the site. My biggest problem with the site is that it doesn't take every opportunity to draw lines to the gospel. Aplogetics is, as far as I can see, a helpful exercise in clearing away people's objections so that the gospel might be able to be heard. This means that I would love to see the gospel in every article.

The gospel is present in some of the interviews, but not nearly as prominent as I would like.
What good would it do anyone if they became theists through this site, yet never found the gospel?

So, in summary, Christians, go to this site to have some serious reflection on classical apologetics. But don't copy its preoccupation with apologetics to the exclusion of evangelism.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Not so seriously

In looking at William Lane Craig's apologetics site, I couldn't help noticing that he bears a remarkable resemblance to Face of the A-Team.

Well, here goes....! Reviewing 2 ways to Live.

Delaying the reviews of these websites can't wait for ever if I am to be true to my word. So I thought I'd start with the site built around my favorite gospel outline, Two Ways to Live.

This is a gospel outline based around 6 pictures with stick men and crowns.
I. We are created to live under the rule of the holy God.

II. We rebel against God's rule

III. God will judge and punish our rebellion

IV. In his love God sent his Son Jesus who lived under his rule but received the punishment sinners deserved when he died as a substitute for sinners on the cross

V. God raised Jesus from the dead to rule. He gives life and will return to judge.

VI. We all face a choice. Will we continue to live for ourselves and face God's judgment, or will we trust in Jesus' death on our behalf, and turn from our rebellion to live under his rule?

I first came across the Two Ways to live gospel outline as a teenager when one of the leaders at a Christian holiday that I was attending taught it to me to help me with my evangelism. I found it personally very challenging at the time, for though I knew all about Jesus dying for sinners, and assumed that I was a Christian, I hadn't been struck so clearly before that salvation is given to those who repent and believe.

This isn't however only my favorite gospel outline because it has been significant in my own life, but also because I think it does such a great job of presenting the gospel. (Only today as I was having a conversation with someone over lunch about how to share the gospel more faithfully, it was this outline I had in mind)

But, these posts are not merely to evaluate the gospel outline, but the website. So let's put to the test...

1) Faithfulness of the gospel.

God, man, Christ, response all there, all explained well. All not only talked about, but backed up by Scripture.

2) Clarity
This is another reason that I love 2 ways to Live. It is so clear! the six pictures are straightforward enough that an artistic Philistine like me can draw them, but give great clarity to what is being talked about. The gospel is about the rule of God being rebelled against, yet, restored in those who trust in Jesus' sacrificial death.
Only in light of God's perfect rule does the seriousness of sin, the rightness of judgment, the need for a Saviour and the call to repentance and faith make sense.

3) Applicability
Though there is a clear call to repentance, I wish that there could have been a little more about what repentance looks like. A little more on the cost of discipleship would have helped with this.
Another question that I have about the site is that there is little about the fact that to follow Jesus is not merely an individual pursuit, but we are called to follow Jesus in fellowship with others. The only mention of the need for fellowship is about how to continue living for Jesus if someone has already come to faith "and he’ll provide brothers and sisters to encourage you along the way (as you meet with other Christians)."
This seems a little weaker than "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness." 1 John 2:9

4) Responsibility
There is a contact page at the end where people can get in touch with people, whom I trust will follow up. Those who are not ready to repent & Believe are encouraged to investigate thoroughly.

all the things on the investigate thoroughly links are great things to do.
a) Read a gospel
b) attend a course such as Introducing God
c) Read a book such as John Chapman's A Fresh Start
d) speak with a Christian.

But strange, again, that attending a church is not mentioned.

5) Usability
The site is very simple, which is to its advantage. Each of the six pictures has it's own page, and each links to the next page, so that the gospel is well presented in bitesize chunks.
It's not too flashy, which again I like, as it is clear that the message is far more significant than the graphics.

So, 2 ways to live remains my favorite gospel outline.
The webiste presents that outline well.
I'd love to have sites present the gospel well, but also to point people to the community where that gospel is going to be displayed not merely in transformed individuals, but in the body of Christ.

So, if you are looking for a link to put on your church's website then this would work extremely well. 2 Ways to live would point them to the gospel. The church website would point them to the gospel community. What a great partnership!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More evangelistic sites

My promised reviews of evangelistic sights have been slow in coming, due to life with a 2 month old! However, in the meantime, here are some more sights that I've come across.

My brother, John Ross pointed out the site Glad you asked.
That in turn has links to...


Veritas Forum - Veritas Forums are university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life's hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life. Their talks are available online.

Josh McDowell - An apologetics web site with answers to many difficult questions.

The Zacharias Trust - The Zacharias Trust exists to try to answer the questions of honest sceptics about the truth of Christianity.

William Lane Craig - A resource containing articles and debate transcripts of Dr. Craig's work as philosopher, theologian, writer and speaker.

Institut für Glaube und Wissenschaft (Institute for Belief and Science) - Articles related to apologetics

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry - Information on doctrine, various religious groups, cults, Evolution, New Age, and related subjects.

Rational Christianity - Objections to Christianity explored and answered

Answers in Genesis - Apologetics with a focus on Genesis


Relevant Magazine- RELEVANTMAGAZINE.COM is a daily updated website covering God, life and progressive culture. They get beneath the surface and ask the questions no one else is asking.

Ministry and Media - A storehouse of pop culture information and programming ideas to help youth workers use media to relate the gospel to teenagers

London Institute for Contemporary Christianity - The LICC works to equip Christians to engage biblically and relevantly with the issues they face, including Work, Capitalism, Youth Culture, Media, Gender and Communication.

Damaris/Culture Watch - CultureWatch contains hundreds of articles and study guides on films, books, music, television and some of the developments within culture as a whole.

This is suddenly looking like a large project to review all these sites... perhaps I'll wait until my son is at least 3 months before I begin in earnest!

Are my Sermons really Christian?

One only has to read book reviews on the 9-Marks website to see that there is an epidemic among popular ‘evangelical’ books that say some true things about Christianity but fail to articulate the gospel clearly. They say a great deal about Jesus but fail to say that his penal substitutionary atonement is the only hope for sinners under God’s just and holy wrath.

Take just three quotes from the reviews in the latest 9Marks e-journal:


Most pointedly, I do not believe Simply Christian tenderly and clearly warns individual sinners of their peril or calls upon them to flee to Christ and to his cross as the only remedy for personal guilt and sin before a holy God. (Andy Davis on NT Wright)

ErwinmayanBut you still haven’t told the non-believer what exactly he’s beholding on the cross. He is, in fact, beholding the Son of God taking upon himself the wrath of God for the sins of all who repent and believe. That picture is amazing. But it’s more. It’s actually doing something, like paying for sin. (Jonathan Leeman on Erwin McManus)

The fact is, McLaren does not sufficiently call human beings to grapple with and exult in what God did for us in Christ. Put another way, he does not place concern for the here-and-now in the context of the eternal. That is a grievous error, for it is only when weBrian_color_at_wall_2 have a deep understanding of our eternal relationship with God, won by Jesus Christ, that concern for the present world is placed in its proper perspective. The Bible could not be clearer about this. Good works apart from Christ’s saving work are nothing. But good works springing from a heart that has been changed by God’s regenerating power are the sweetest of fruit. (Greg Gilbert on Brian McLaren)

My question is this: could the same be said about any of the sermons that we preach from the pulpit? I fear that I have preached several sermons which were Christian in what they said, but failed to get to the heart of Christianity in failing to articulate the gospel.

Preachers, remember that you have not adequately taught any Christian truth until you have shown how that truth relates to the center of Christian truth the gospel. Thus we cannot claim to have preached a Christian sermon if it does not call sinners to depend entirely upon the penal substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Will the gospel be clear in your next sermon?

This post appeared first on the Church Matters blog at 9marks

Monday, June 11, 2007

What to look for in Evangelistic Websites

As stated in my previous posts, I'm hoping to review various evangelistic websites.
But before I start out with any reviews, I'm going to lay out the criteria by which I will be assessing them.

1) Faithfulness of the gospel.

In any site for Non-Christians this is the most important thing. It could succeed at everything else, but if the gospel is not clearly and faithfully presented it has failed.

There are four main things that I'd look for:
  1. God: is it clear that God is the Holy, Loving Creator?
  2. Man: that we are made in God's image to worship him, but have rebelled against him and are therefore subject to his good and just but terrible anger.
  3. Christ: that he is the perfect God-man who died on the cross to take the punishment that sinners deserve, and was raised from the dead, and is now the risen Lord.
  4. Response: that Jesus calls us now to turn from our sin, submit to his Lordship, and trust him for our salvation.
2) Clarity
If the gospel is presented faithfully, how clear is it? Is it presented in a way that someone with no knowledge of biblical language might understand.

3) Applicability
How well has the gospel been applied to people's lives in various ways, so that people might see it's implications clearly? Are the implications of the gospel confused with the gospel?

4) Responsibility
Does the site take the responsibility to help people to know how they might find out more about the gospel?

5) Usability
Is it easy to navigate the site. Does it look good?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More evangelistic websites is an outreach to drug users in London. Written in Ali-G style English, there are testimonies of those who have turned from a life of drugs to a life of following Jesus. Sadly the gospel doesn't come across clearly. is a small site (which has the advantage of addressing a few key apologetic questions) Sadly it seems not to take the opportunity to share the gospel as it goes through the evidence for the resurrection and the reliability of the bible etc. is a good course to use with Non-Christians is a great course, which I have found useful. It is basically an expansion of 2 ways 2 live . is from the Billy Graham association. It present the 'bridge' outline of the gospel. It has a slightly bizarre invitation to pray with Billy Graham online! is the well known Alpha Course. While I have some reservations about the course, I love the video that my friend Al Duckworth has done to advertise it! (the picture above right is a snapshot from the video) is perhaps the most well-known creationist site out there. It is very professional, but I have many reservations with the wisdom of this as an apologetic approach. is a huge site for apologetics with Muslims. the gospel comes through clearly in several places, and less clearly in others.

Please keep letting me know of other evangelistic / apologetic sites. I hope to have some posts soon reviewing the different sites that I list.

Four implications of the fact that the LORD is one.

Having preached on Deuteronomy 6 last Sunday, I had the chance to do some reflecting on what is meant by the idea that "the LORD is one". This is the section from the sermon pointing out four implications of the oneness of God.

Did you notice, that the reason to love the Lord though isn’t merely because God Commands it? Before he commands to love him, he tells him something about himself that shows that me must love him.

Verse 4:

The LORD our God, the LORD is one

In the Hebrew there are merely four words here, but whether we understand these four words will make the difference between understanding the purpose of life or failing to understand it.

1) (cf 1 Corinthians 6:8) At the very least what is being affirmed here is complete monotheism. There is only one God and he has no rivals.

This reaffirms the first of the ten Commandments, that there is only one God and therefore he alone is to be worshipped.

But far more is implied that merely monotheism.

2) (cf Exodus 3) The idea is that because God is one he will not change.

That is in fact the significance of his name “The Lord” – literally YHWH meaning “he is”. We call him “He is” because he calls himself, EHYH, “I AM”

He is already perfect so he cannot change for the better, and he certainly will not change for the worse.

But more than that, as the eternal God who sees all things at once, he is entirely trustworthy. He will never make a promise and then have some unforeseen circumstance make him change his mind.

He will never do something and then think better of it.

Israel needed to know this on the brink of the promised land.

His power has not diminished. (He would be able to look after them in the land as surely as he was able to rescue them from Egypt
His love has not diminished. He is not like a forgetful spouse who wanders away from his marriage vows.

If you are following the Lord Jesus Christ today, take comfort in the character of God. It is his good and sovereign action that brought you to trust in Christ, and saved you. He will not think better of it.

Have you been weighed down by your sin this week? He hasn’t thought better of saving you. You may still approach him. Turn to him and love him once again. He did not turn you away the first time you turned to him. He will not turn you away if you turn from your sin and love him today.

3) (cf I wonder if you think that you have grasped the reality of Deuteronomy 6:4, just because you don’t believe that there are lots of gods, but know there is but one. Perhaps you are a Muslim, or a follower of Judaism, or maybe you don't follow any particular religion, but you like the idea that there is just one God. You are most welcome here.

I’d love to ask you a question, though.

If God is ONE, then he doesn’t need us. He may love us, but if he is really infinitely more significant than us, he is the one LORD, he doesn’t need us.

Yet, if he is at his very essence LOVE, how can he love if he is merely ONE. For him to be love, he must have an object of his love. Who do you think is the eternal object of God’s love. The object of his love that he had before he made the world?

Jesus is very clear that he is the eternal object of God’s love.

On the night before Jesus died, he prayed in the hearing of his disciples.

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of he world."
On another occasion, Jesus said,
“I and the Father are one."

He was clearly referring back to this verse. The Lord is ONE. Who is the LORD? 'I and the Father are One', says Jesus.

The religious leaders certainly understood what Jesus was implying as they picked up stones to stone him,

but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father.
For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

If you have not recognized that Jesus himself, together with the Holy Spirit are one God, then you haven’t understood this verse, and, according to Jesus, you haven’t understood what you were created for.
God’s oneness necessarily implies that he is also three.

4)(cf Romans 3:30) But more than that, God’s oneness means that His attributes do not contradict each other. He is character is consistent.

Be careful not to suggest that there is somehow division or conflict within God’s character. If we are not careful, we can end up saying things like, “I know God is holy and just, but in the end is love overrides his justice and he forgives.”

No: God is ONE. There is no internal struggle between love and justice within him. He will only exercise his love in ways that are consistent with his justice. He will only exercise his justice in ways that are consistent with his love for all that is good. His justice is loving justice. His love is just love.

The extraordinary news of the gospel is that God has provided a way to be just and the one who declares the guilty innocent.

I’m going to say that again: God has provided a way to be just and the one who declares the guilty innocent.

If there is only one thing that you are going to understand this morning it must be this, so I’ll say it again:

God has provided a way to be just and the one who declares the guilty innocent.

That is what we need. We are all guilty. If we want to know God as we were designed to we must be declared innocent. He is just – if we are declared guilty on the day we meet him, we will be sent to hell. He will not overlook his justice for the sake of his mercy. He is one. Yet we are all guilty

We are all made to perfectly love God. We haven’t. We have lived as if we were the only God, not Him. God in his love for all that is good, hates our rebellion against him, and in his justice will see that our rebellion is punished. We deserve to face that punishment ourselves in hell. But in his incredible love God has provided another place for his justice to be met. He sent his SON. The one who is himself God, whom he loved before the creation of the world. That same son he sent to live as a man. He lived a perfect live, but died on the cross taking the punishment that his people deserved.

He calls us now to turn from our sin, and put our trust in the death of Jesus, so that he might justly punish our sin, and justly declare us righteous.

It is right that the Lord commands us to love him:, for he is the one Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It’s as if we are great Picasso paintings. But we are unsigned. Who’s name will you put at the bottom of the painting? Picasso’s? or someone else’s?

Well, if you are a Picasso painting, then only Picasso is worthy of having your name at the bottom. You can’t say, ‘well, I prefer Monet” Picasso would be rightly insensed.

If the Lord is the only God, then only He is worthy of our undivided worshipping love, and he is right to command such love.