How to Motivate Christians to Change: Authoritarianism, Pragmatism, or Gospelism?

December 30, 2013

“…On the left are the errors of pragmatism, and on the right are the errors of authoritarianism. What’s most striking to me is what they share in common.

At first glance, they look pretty different. Pragmatism is flexible. It says, “Let’s try this, or this, or this, or this, or this!” Authoritarianism is rigid. It says, “Do what I told you, now!” Pragmatism respects autonomy and the role of assent…Authoritarianism respects order and efficiency and completion…

Look beyond the surface and you will find a surprising number of commonalities:”

GG: 12 Similarities of Authoritarianism and Pragmatism

“1. Both pragmatism and authoritarianism are fixated on results.

2. Both define success by outward or visible change, and therefore they subject their methods to any number of metrics for measuring visible fruit.

3. Both depend upon human ingenuity to get the job done. They rely upon brains, brawn, or beauty to accomplish their ends. One strong-arms. The other strong-charms.

4. In the area of Christian ministry, unlike authoritarianism, pragmatism does not assume there is a “right way” to get things done but that God has left these things to us. So it sheepishly concludes, “My way is as good as any, I suppose.” But this, ironically, is not totally unrelated to the authoritarian’s “My way or the highway!” Both can overlook “God’s way.”

5. Listen to either the pragmatist’s sermon (“Seven Steps to a Healthy Marriage”) or the authoritarian’s sermon (“Repent or Else”). What might you hear?

6. Both exploit the flesh (whether through fear or appealing to appetite) in order to motivate action instead of appealing to the spiritual new man in the gospel.

7. Both start with the imperatives (GG: commands) of Scripture, not the indicatives of what Christ has accomplished.

8. Both loom heavily over the will, doing all they can to make the will choose rightly, apart from a consideration of where the will has its roots planted—in the heart’s desires. Shame and moralism are the favorite tools of both methodologies.

9. Both require outward conformity rather than repentance of heart. In so doing, they create only Pharisees.

10. Both overstep the boundaries of where the Bible has given us permission to go, whether by expanding the scope of corporate worship and Christian mission or by laying down commands where none exist. Both routes bind the conscience where the gospel does not.

11. Both are impatient, and want to see decisions made “today!” Since they do not recognize that decisions have their ultimate foundation in the heart’s desires, they feel successful whenever they produce a right decision, whether or not that decision was forced or manipulated.

12. Both rely on their own strength, rather than leaning on the Spirit by faith…

In short, Christian ministry works by the power of the Spirit and the Word, not by the power of the flesh.

Like a pragmatic approach, it makes appeals to people. It asks for their consent. It recognizes that a true act of faith cannot be coerced.

But like an authoritarian approach, it recognizes that Jesus is king and possesses authority. True actions of faith do not proceed from autonomous but manipulated actors. Rather, people must lovingly submit to his royal word.

Christian ministry loves and confronts. It honors and challenges. More than anything, perhaps, it speaks…and waits.” The Twin Temptations of Pragmatism and Authoritarianism by Jonathan Leeman

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Blake White: What’s the Difference Between Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, and New Covenant Theology?

December 23, 2013

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, and New Covenant Theology, wonder no more. Blake White has written a very helpful explanation.

Amen to whole article except 2 ideas I’d like to see New Covenant Theologians consider…

“The various contrasts (law/Spirit, sin /righteousness, flesh/Spirit, death/life, etc.) can be summed up under Adam and the Last Adam.”

True, but they can be summed up better under the more comprehensive themes old creation and new creation. (See Beale, et al.) Infant members, the Law/Decalogue/Sabbath, national Israel with it’s land and temple are all part of the old creation. But regenerate members, the Law of Christ, and the Church with its new earth and temple are all part of the new creation. That’s why New Creation Theology is a stronger polemic than New Covenant Theology against Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.

“Christians are bound to the example of Christ, the teaching of Christ and His Apostles (supremely in the love command), and the Old Testament interpreted and applied in light of the new covenant.”

The Old Testament interpreted and applied in light of the new covenant? I’ve seen New Covenant Theologians use this hermeneutic several times, but it seems unclear to me. Are they saying that we still directly obey some Old Testament commands? If so, I disagree for 3 reasons…

1. Are Christians under the New Covenant + part of the Old Testament, or the New Covenant alone?

2. How much of the Old Testament does Jesus fulfill, part of it or all of it (Mt. 5:17-18)?

3. Do Christians obey all Christ’s commands + some of Moses’ commands, or all Christ’s commands alone?

I hope to develop those 2 ideas more fully in 2014. Regardless of these minor issues, Blake’s article is well worth your time. I can’t encourage you enough to read it. What is New Covenant Theology? An Interview with A. Blake White by Josiah Batten

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After 19 Years of Insomnia, Brain Fog, ADD, and Fatigue, I Need Your Prayers

December 18, 2013

For 19 years I’ve suffered from weak adrenal glands (“mild adrenal insufficiency” or “adrenal fatigue”). So insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, and ADD have been my normal life 29 of 30 days/month.

I have tried more natural cures and alternative therapies than you can imagine. But with only partial success.

So I’m planning to get autologous stem cell therapy 39 hours from now: Stem Cell Therapy. Hopefully the Lord will regenerate my adrenal glands.

If the Lord heals me, I’ll worship Him. And if He doesn’t heal me, I’ll still worship Him because He’s still worthy. And He will fully heal me and you in the new creation.

Will you please pray for me? Thank you.

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Indicative-Imperative Balance Depends on Hearers’ Needs

August 30, 2011

By Greg Gibson

GG: Some wise words on how to motivate disciples to obey Christ…

“Many of you already know that on various blogs, including The Gospel Coalition, there has been a discussion concerning gospel indicatives and gospel imperatives in the sanctification process. It is not difficult to see how this debate has significant influence in the realm of biblical counseling…The crux of the debate seems to be the relative balance given to the communication of these two concepts in the sanctification process…allow the imbalances to drive you back to the text and find out what kind of balance the text of Scripture has…

I think the balance found is Scripture is an interesting one. There are some books, like the gospel of John, which have very few commands given to the readers (most of the commands take place between the various persons in the various accounts). John’s purpose is very clear according to John 20:30-31 – he wrote so that the reader would believe that the Messiah is Jesus and that by believing the reader would have life. So the whole book is given to prove two points and those two points would encourage belief. If I take my theology from John I would have to conclude that you give truth 90% of the time. Why focus on application? Why focus on command? Give truth and the rest will come.

In the book of James, however, imperatives are found in 1 out of every 3 verses. Apparently, James did not feel the same need to give long discussions of gospel indicatives before giving numerous commands. Admittedly, gospel indicatives still form the foundation of the command, but the way that James commands is a bit different than we find in many other books.

The book of Hebrews includes commands in about 1 out of every 10 verses. However, one must admit that the imperatives found in Hebrews are some of the most potent in the entire NT. What Hebrews lacks in quantity is more than made up for in potency. The ratio in Colossians is almost 1 in 3 verses (slightly less in Ephesians and 2 Timothy), while 2 Corinthians has an imperative to verse ratio of 1 to 15. Why the diversity? Why is the balance in one of Paul’s book so high and in a different book it is very low?

While these stats do not tell the whole story, they do give us a clue into how Scripture might encourage us to strike the balance. Maybe the Scripture demonstrates that there were different needs among the various peoples in various locations. Some folks needed to be reminded of all that Christ had done, while others needed a bit more exhortation. Maybe the wise biblical counselor will do the same. The wise counselor will not only exegete the meaning of the text, but they will also exegete the people they are trying to help. The balance of indicative to imperative is different depending on context.” Gospel Indicatives And Imperatives: Where Is The Debate Anyway? By Rob Green

GG: Here are 2 ways to maintain the Holy Spirit’s inspired balance:
1. Consecutive expository preaching through whole books of the Bible.
2. Avoid pet doctrines by emphasizing the explicit more than the alleged implicit.

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Simplistic Sanctification: No Single Key

August 13, 2011

By Greg Gibson

Have you ever searched for THE key to Christian growth? Here are a couple of helpful excerpts from an article “Sanctification and the Nature of the Gospel” by William Evans…

“According to Tchividjian and others, the heart of the gospel is the message of justification by grace through faith, and everything else is extracted from this center (GG: But most of the gospel messages in Acts omit justification. So did the apostles omit ‘the heart of the gospel?’)…The fact of the matter is that the heart of the gospel is not justification. Nor is it sanctification.”

“It is Jesus Christ himself, who is ‘our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption’ (1 Corinthians 1:30). The Apostle Paul came preaching ‘Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23) and more often than not he directed Christians, not to their own justification, but to the crucified and risen Christ in whom they are both justified and sanctified…”

“Over the years we have seen a number of Protestant quests for the ‘silver bullet’ of sanctification. The holiness writers told us that if we can somehow attain to that second work of grace all will be well. The Keswick authors argued that if we just ‘let go and let God have his wonderful way, our doubts will all vanish, our night turn to day.’ The problem here was twofold–these proposals were unbiblical and they didn’t work–and Reformed theologians of an earlier generation were right to cry foul.”

“Now some would have us believe that if we just really get the doctrine of justification then sanctification will inevitably ensue. The biblical picture of sanctification, however, is much more comprehensive…” Sanctification and the Nature of the Gospel by William Evans

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New Covenant Theology Interview: Hermeneutic, System, and Questions

April 15, 2010

By Greg Gibson

Here is a brief 7 minute and 20 second audio/podcast interview I did on New Covenant Theology. (Thanks to Uri Brito for providing the audio. Below are my edited notes from the interview…


New Covenant Theology is a hermeneutic that results in a system. First we will define the hermeneutic, then the system, and finally answer some questions…

New Covenant Theology Hermeneutic

Hermeneutic: The New Testament consistently interprets the Old Testament. We can see this New Testament hermeneutic in church history…

    A. Justyn Martyr: Called the Church the new Israel (despite being historic pre-millennial).

B. Many apostolic fathers: Non-Sabbatarians (did not believe God changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and did not apply the 4th command to Sunday).

C. “Pre-Anabaptists” like the Donatists and Waldensians (mostly Baptists), and Reformation Anabaptists rejected paedobaptism for credobaptism, and rejected church-state theocracy. (Agreement with their New Testament hermeneutic applied to ecclesiology is not necessarily an endorsement of all their other beliefs.)

This New Testament hermeneutic resulted in parts which were combined into a whole system by Jon Zens, John Reisinger, etc. starting in the late 20th century.

New Covenant Theology System

1. New Testament eschatology (contra Dispensationalism)
2. New Testament ecclesiology (contra paedobaptist, Covenant Theology)
3. New Testament nomology (contra paedobaptist and Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology)

IOW, Christ brought a new covenant with a new priest, new sacrifice, new temple, new land, new people of God, and new law.

New Covenant Theology Distinctives

1. Hermeneutic: New Testament consistently interprets the Old Testament (not author’s original intent/literal/grammatical-historical).

2. Scripture: Christ-centered Bible (not Israel-centered or covenant-centered).

3. God’s Purpose and Covenants: One pre-historical purpose revealed in historical, distinct covenants (not two purposes, or one Covenant of Grace).

4. Old Testament Prophecy: Promises to Israel fulfilled by Christ and believers (Jews and Gentiles) in the Church.

5. Church: Regenerate members (not believers and their children).

6. Law: Obey all that Christ commanded (not Antinomianism, or Moses’ commands).

7. Sanctification: Christ-centered growth (not law-centered).

New Covenant Theology Questions

1) In what sense is the Decalogue abolished?

My view is that Christ abolished the Decalogue for direct obedience, but not revelation and doctrine. Jesus and His apostles transferred 9 of the 10 Commandments into the New Covenant canon (New Testament), so that we obey them from the authority of the New Testament, not the Old Testament.

2) What about Matthew 5:17 in this debate?

It’s probably the most important passage on how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament. I’m not sure if New Covenant Theology has a consensus view, so I’ll explain my view.

    A. Law or Prophets means Pentateuch or Prophets (both parts of the whole Old Testament), not the Decalogue or moral law alone.

B. Fulfill means for eschatological/typological/prophetic fulfillment, not confirm for obedience.

C. “These commandments” are Christ’s commands, not Moses’ commands.

3) How does New Covenant Theology view the 4th commandment?

New Covenant Theology views the Sabbath command as fulfilled and cancelled by Christ. Many New Covenant Theologians distinguish between 2 Sabbaths: God’s eternal rest (salvation: Gen. 2, Mt. 11:28-29:, and Heb. 4) vs. Israel’s 24-hour, weekly rest (Ex. 16, Ex. 20, Deut. 5, etc.) We see Israel’s weekly Sabbath as a gospel picture of Christ’s eternal rest which we enter by faith. IOW, the type was Israel’s weekly Sabbath, and the antitype is Christ’s eternal rest (Col. 2:16-17) in the new creation.

4) How does New Covenant Theology view the Lutheran law/gospel distinction?

As a hermeneutic where the whole Bible can be divided into law or gospel, I’m not aware of a New Covenant Theology consensus. But for sanctification, NCTs clearly distinguish between indicatives and imperatives, especially since we see a contrast between the Old Covenant’s “if you obey, then you will be” in Ex. 19:5-6 vs. the New Covenant’s “you are” in 1 Pet. 2:9. Also in redemptive history, we distinguish between law-grace, not law-gospel (Jn. 1:17; Rom. 6:14).

5) Should we use the law in evangelism?

RE: Decalogue-evangelism, I agree with Doug Moo, “the popular notion that the Mosaic law should be preached as a preparation for the gospel, revealing sin and one’s need of salvation, has slim Biblical support. None of the examples of evangelistic preaching in the New Testament uses the law in this way” (Stanley N. Gundry, Ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 339).

Proof: Look at a Bible that shows Old Testament quotes in the New Testament. In Acts, you’ll see direct, explicit quotes from Joel 2, Ps. 110, etc., but not Ex. 20 or Dt. 5 (although they were implied).

When evangelizing, we can convict sinners by appealing to 3 different sources of law:

    1. The Old Covenant Law of Moses: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Ex. 20:4).

2. The New Covenant Law of Christ: “idolaters…their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire” (Rev. 21:8).

3. Conscience: “Idolatry is a sin” (no Scripture).

Summary of Christ and the Apostles’ Evangelistic Preaching on Sin:

    1. Jesus evangelized one Jew by quoting from the Decalogue, but not for conviction of sin (Mt. 19:16ff).

2. The apostles evangelized Jews by implying, but not explicitly quoting the Decalogue.

3. The apostles evangelized Gentiles by convicting of sin from the conscience, not the Decalogue.

Conviction of sin of unbelief in Jesus the risen Lord:
“he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (Jn. 16:8).

6) What is New Covenant Theology’s eschatology?

Most NCTs are amillennial., some are historic premillennial.

Edited 4/15/10

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Book of Colossians Outline: Christ Is Supreme

April 5, 2010

By Greg Gibson

The Book of Colossians Outline:
“Christ Is Supreme”
The Good News That Christ Is Supreme, the Fullness of God


Introduction (Col. 1:1-2)

Prayer: The Gospel About Christ Changing Lives (Col. 1:3-14)

Gospel Fruit: Hope of Heaven Motivating Faith and Love (Col. 1:3-8)

Gospel Growth: Know His Will to Live Worthy of Him, Pleasing Him (Col. 1:9-11)

Gospel Redemption: From the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light (Col. 1:12-14)

The Gospel That Christ Is Supreme (Col. 1:15-2:7)

Christ Is Supreme Over Creation (Col. 1:15-17)

Christ Is Supreme Over the Church (Col. 1:18-23)

Christ Is God’s Mystery Revealed (Col. 1:24-2:5)

Christ Is Supreme in Sanctification (Col. 2:8-4:6)

The Cure for Sanctification Errors Is Christ (Col. 2:8-2:23)

Philosophy’s Human Traditions: Jesus Is the Fullness of God (Col. 2:8-10)

Judaism’s Law of Moses: The Law Pictured Salvation by Christ (Col. 2:11-17)

Physical-Flesh Circumcision Was a Picture of Spiritual-Heart Circumcision (Col. 2:11-13)

God Cancelled the Law That Excluded Us (Col. 2:14; cf. Eph. 2:11-18)

God Won the Victory Over the Evil Spirits by the Cross (Col. 2:15)

Holy Times Were a Picture of Salvation-Rest in Christ (Col. 2:16-17)

Mysticism’s Spiritual Experiences: Jesus Is the Head (Col. 2:18-19)

Asceticism’s Human Rules: You Died With Christ to This World (Col. 2:20-23)

Christ-Centered Sanctification: Raised With Him Into New Life (Col. 3:1-4:6)

United With Christ in His Resurrection Into New Life (Col. 3:1-4)

New Life and Growth Are Like Changing Old Clothes for New Clothes (Col. 3:5-14)

New Life of Giving Thanks to God (Col. 3:15-17)

New Life in Personal Relationships (Col. 3:18-4:1)

Wives and Husbands (Col. 3:18-19)

Children and Fathers (Col. 3:20-21)

Employees and Employers (Col. 3:22-4:1)

Pray to Proclaim the Gospel About Christ (Col. 4:2-6)

Final Greetings (Col. 4:7-18)

(Book of Colossians Outline)

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Reformed Covenant Theology’s Inconsistent Hermeneutic

March 1, 2010

(Due to computer problems, I will not publish the Best Blogs Digest for Feb. Please check back in March.)

By Greg Gibson

Here’s some good news in Reformed Covenant Theology circles. Dr. Gary Crampton, seminary professor and author, has changed his view from paedobaptism to credobaptism. Praise God for Gary’s willingness to follow Christ wherever He leads, whatever the cost.

However, Crampton’s motive for changing is an inconsistently applied New Testament hermeneutic. Paedobaptist Covenant theology applies a New Testament hermeneutic to eschatology, but an Old Testament hermeneutic to ecclesiology and nomology. Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology applies a New Testament hermeneutic to eschatology and ecclessiology, but an Old Testament hermeneutic to nomology. New Covenant Theology is the only system that applies a consistent, New Testament hermeneutic to eschatology, ecclesiology, and nomology.

Here are some excerpts from Rich Barcellos’ interview with Crampton…

    Crampton: I am a Reformed Baptist, and an advocate of the teachings found in the London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Reformed Baptist Shorter Catechism…I have been struggling with the matter of paedobaptism versus credobaptism for almost twenty years.

    Barcellos: What are some of the main problems you encountered with paedobaptism that caused you to keep studying?

    Crampton: There were several issues that bothered me about the doctrine of paedobaptism. I will mention only one, and that is…

GG: Crampton’s answers are continued on the left below, and my edited comments are in [brackets] on the right…

Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology:

…there is simply no text in the New Testament (NT) wherein there is any mention of the baptism of infants. This is admitted by some of the finest paedobaptist theologians that have written on the subject. This means, as admitted and taught by these same paedobaptist theologians, that we must go back to the Old Testament (OT) to establish the doctrine. When it comes to the other NT sacrament of the Lord’s supper, however, the paedobaptist theologians do not apply the same hermeneutic principle. That is, the recipients of the Lord’s supper are determined by the NT teaching rather than the OT teaching. The inconsistency here is glaring.

New Covenant Theology:

…there is simply no text in the New Testament (NT) wherein there is any mention of the [Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday, and the whole Decalogue binding on New Covenant Jewish and Gentile believers.] This is admitted by some of the finest [apostolic fathers] that have written on the subject. This means, as admitted and taught by these same [Covenant] theologians, that we must go back to the Old Testament (OT) to establish the doctrine. When it comes to the other NT [doctrine of eschatology], however, the [Covenant] theologians do not apply the same hermeneutic principle. That is, the recipients of the [promised blessing to Abraham] are determined by the NT teaching rather than the OT teaching. The inconsistency here is glaring.

Another problem here is that the OT does not mention baptism of infants at all. What this hermeneutic assumes is that the Abrahamic covenant, wherein the male infants were circumcised, is still binding on the NT church on virtually a one-to-one basis, and therefore the infants of believers should be baptized. Another problem here is that the OT does not mention [Adam – the patriarchs obeying the Sabbath, and the Sabbath given to Gentiles] at all. What this hermeneutic assumes is that the [whole Decalogue including the Sabbath] is still binding on the NT church on virtually a one-to-one basis, and therefore [Gentile believers should keep the Sabbath.]

Again, I’m thankful that Dr. Crampton has taken a small step in the right direction. Now I’d like to challenge him and Reformed Covenant Theologians to come all the way out of the Old Covenant and fully into the New Covenant. It’s a better covenant.

Paedobaptist Reformed Covenant Theology applies an inconsistent, Old Testament – New Testament hermeneutic resulting in a new covenant, new priest, new sacrifice, new temple, new king, new kingdom, new land, but a partially old and new people of God, and partially old and new law.

Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology applies an inconsistent, Old Testament – New Testament hermeneutic resulting in a new covenant, new priest, new sacrifice, new temple, new king, new kingdom, new land, new people of God, but a partially old and new law.

New Covenant Theology applies a consistent, New Testament hermeneutic resulting in a new covenant, new priest, new sacrifice, new temple, new king, new kingdom, new land, new people of God, and new law: “…teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). New Covenant Theology is the only system where the New Testament consistently inteprets the Old Testament.

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“Born Again Into New Life With Christ” (Sermon Notes)

February 3, 2010

Intro: Why do so many converts fall away? Why are there so many hypocrites in churches? Because they were never really born again. Many people think born again Christians are no different than non-born again sinners. But they’re confused what it means to be born again.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, a religious Pharisee, ‘”I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (heaven)…unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (heaven)…You must be born again” (Jn. 3:3-7).

1. What Does Born Again Mean? 5 Misunderstandings
2. Why Do I Need to Be Born Again? 7 Reasons
3. What Is it Like to Be Born Again? 6 Pictures
4. How Can I Know if I’m Born Again? 5 Signs
5. How Can I Be Born Again? Hear the Good News

What Does Born Again Mean?
5 Misunderstandings

1. “I got baptized and joined a ‘born again church.” (But churches have hypocrites.)

2. “I had an emotional, religious experience.” (But Muslims have emotional, rel. exp.)

3. “I prayed a sinner’s prayer.” (But that wasn’t invented until the 19th century.)

4. “I believe Bible doctrine.” (But demons believe some doctrinal truths.)

5. “I changed from sinning to morality.” (But some alcoholics change without Christ. Trading one sin for another. Proud, self-righteous Pharisees. But when God gives new birth, He changes us from sin negatively to Christ positively: Treasuring Him, loving Him, fellowshipping with Him, worshiping Him, and obeying Him.)

Notice above, “I did…” But being born again is not what you do. It’s what God does to you. Example: You didn’t ask your parents to conceive you. They decided to conceive you.

Definition of born again: The Holy Spirit miraculously washes and changes us by giving new life, new understanding, new desires, and new power.

    “he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).

What are we born into? We’re born into “life” (eternal life), united with Christ in His resurrection life…

    “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:11-12).

    “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection…Now if we died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom. 6:4-5, 8, 11).

That’s why “born again” means we’re born into new life with Christ.

Why Do I Need to Be Born Again?
7 Reasons

1. Humans are spiritually dead, needing resurrection.

    “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, (satisfying) the (lusts) of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in (sins)” (Eph. 2:1-2).

Example: Preaching the good news to dead bodies in the cemetery.

2. Humans love darkness, and hate the light, needing new desires.

    “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (Jn. 3:19-20).

Example: Do you prefer to eat garlic or chocolate? Do you prefer sin or Christ?

3. Humans each have a hard heart, needing a new heart.

    “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).

    “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:17-19).

Example: Heart attack patient. Is your heart hard or soft toward Christ?

4. Humans can’t understand spiritual truth, needing new understanding.

    “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

Example: Rocket science.

5. Humans are slaves to sin and Satan, needing to be set free.

    “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (Jn. 8:34).

    “The Lord’s servant…Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

6. Humans can’t come to Christ, call Him Lord, or obey Him, needing new power.

    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn. 6:44).

    “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

    “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8).

7. Humans are blind to the glory of Christ, needing new sight

    “The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the (good news) of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

“OK, God says I need to be born again. But what does it mean to be born again?”

What Is it Like to Be Born Again?
6 Pictures

The Bible contains at least 6 pictures (metaphors) of how God radically changes us.

1. New birth (synonyms: born again, born of God, born of the Spirit, and regeneration)

    “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

    “everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (1 Jn. 2:29; cf. Jn. 3:5-8).

    “he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth (Greek: regeneration) and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).

The big picture: God’s goals for history include a born again universe, with a born again earth, filled with born again people…

    “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal (Greek: regeneration) of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. 19.:28).

2. Born Again Is Like a New Creation

    “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

    “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).

3. Born Again Is Like Resurrection From the Dead

    “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in (sins) – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ” (Eph. 2:5-6).

    “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1; cf. Rom. 6:4-5).

4. Born Again Is Like a Heart Transplant

    “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my commands and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

5. Born Again Is Like Circumcision of the Heart

    “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ” (Col. 2:11-13).

    “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live” (Deut. 30:6).

6. Born Again Is Like Being Healed From Blindness

    “The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4-6).

How Can I Know if I’m Born Again?
5 Signs

1. Born Again People Believe in Jesus

    “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (Jn. 1:12-13; cf. 1 Jn. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).

Faith in Jesus Christ alone, not self, Mary, Church, etc.

2. Born Again People Stop Continual Sinning, and Start Doing Right

    “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (1 Jn. 2:29).

    “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9).

    “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin, the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 Jn. 5:18).

Gradual, progressive growth, not sinless perfectionism. Example: Person who practiced lying for 50 years receives new birth.


3. Born Again People Overcome the World’s Ways

    “For everything in the world – the desires of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world…for everyone born of God has overcome the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 Jn. 2:15-16, 5:4).

4. Born Again People Love Their Christian Brothers

    “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 Jn. 3:14).

    “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7-8).

Who are you more comfortable with: Sinners or born again, Christ-lovers?

5. Born Again People Love God With All Their Heart

    “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live” (Deut. 30:6).

We’re born again into new life with Christ.

How Can I Be Born Again?
Through Hearing the Good News About Jesus

In the past, I didn’t understand, in John 3, why Jesus started explaining to Nicodemus “you must be born again,” then changed the topic to the good news. Now I understand: Because the way to be born again is by hearing the good news.

In John 3:3-7, Jesus explains 3 times to Nicodemus about being born again. In 3:9, Nicodemus says, “How?” Then in 3:13-21, Jesus answers by telling the good news about Himself.

    “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and lasting word of God…but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the (good news) that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:23-25, ESV).

    “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first harvest of all he created” (Jas. 1:18).

Do you need to be born again by God? Understand the good news about Jesus. Evangelists: Do you want to help others be born again? Tell them the good news about Jesus.

Christian: Be what you are. Live like you’ve been born again. What does the born again life look like?

    “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore…” (Eph. 4:24 – 6:18).

    “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as hose who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:4, 11-13).

Now do you understand why so many converts fall away, and why there are so many hypocrites in churches? Because they’ve never really been born again.

We’re born again into new life with Christ.

Recommended source: Finally Alive by John Piper

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The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Sermon Notes (Luke 15:1-32)

April 19, 2009

“God Rejoices Over Sinners Who Repent”

Both Non-Religious and Religious Sinners Need to Repent
The Parables of the Prodigal Son, Lost Sheep & Lost Coin
(Luke 15:1-32)

By Greg Gibson

Parable: Short story that shows a religious lesson.

Intro: The reason why Jesus told these 3 stories…”Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law complained, вЂ?This man welcomes sinners and eats with them'” (Lk. 15:1-2). Jesus answered with 3 stories…

1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Read Lk. 15:3-7; cf. Mt. 18:10)

    Theme: God seeks sinners to repent, and rejoices to welcome them. (Repent: Turn away from sin to God.)

2. The Parable of the Lost Coin (Read Lk. 15:8-10)

    Same theme as the Parable of the Lost Sheep, different metaphor.

3. The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Read Lk. 15:11-32)

    1st half: same theme as the first 2 stories. 2nd half: subtle rebuke to Pharisees.

3 Truths From the Parable of the Prodigal Son
1. Jesus Seeks Sinners to Repent
2. God Rejoices Over Sinners Who Repent
3. Self-Righteous People Don’t Think They’re Sinners Who Need to Repent

Three Actors in the Story:
1. Younger son: Non-religious, immoral sinners who later repent.
2. Father: God who rejoices over sinners who turn to Him.
3. Older son: Religious, moral, self-righteous people who don’t think they’re sinners who need to repent.

1. Jesus Seeks Sinners to Repent (Not for Friendship Alone)

    A. Jesus Didn’t Seek Sinners for Friendship Alone

    Jesus wasn’t lonely. He knew Psalm 1…

    “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2, cf. Ps. 26:4-5).

    Jesus didn’t have much in common with sinners, and neither do His followers…

    “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: вЂ?I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:14-17).

    No, Jesus didn’t have much in common with sinners? Do you brothers? Do you have any friendships for the wrong reasons? Dating unbelievers?

    So, if Jesus wasn’t lonely, and didn’t have much in common with sinners, then why did He befriend them?

    B. Jesus Seeks Sinners to Turn to God

    Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin, God has been seeking sinners to turn to Him.

    “But the LORD God called to (Adam), вЂ?Where are you?'” (Gen. 3:8)

    “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

    God promised Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).

    God sent Jonah to warn the Ninevites to turn from their sin.

    “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:17).

    “Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth, вЂ?Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great dinner for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their group complained to his disciples, вЂ?Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered them, вЂ?It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'” (Lk. 5:27-32).

    Jesus was always seeking sinners to turn to God. There He was talking with…

    • The demon-possessed man who lived in the cemetery, saying, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk. 5:1-20).

    • The sinful woman who anointed him, saying, “Your many sins are forgiven” (Lk. 7: 36-50).

    • The thief on the cross, saying, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:40-43).

    • Zacchaeus the tax collector, saying, “I must stay at your house today…Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk. 19:1-10).

    • Adulterous woman at the well, saying, “You have had 5 husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband…I who speak to you am (the Messiah)” (Jn. 4:1-26, 39-42).

    He sent the apostles on a mission to seek sinners, for: “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name” (Lk. 24:47; Mt. 28:18-20; Jn. 20:21-23; Acts 1:8).

    Brothers, do you have Jesus’ compassion and love for lost sinners? Are you a friend of sinners? Are you eating with sinners? Are you seeking lost sinners to help them out of sin?

    Yes, Jesus seeks sinners to turn to God.

2. God Rejoices Over Sinners Who Turn to Him

Some of the Worst Sinners Who Turned to God:
1. King Manassah: Idolatry, witchcraft, spiritism, child sacrifice (Read 2 Chr. 33:10-13)
2. Saul/Paul: Stephen martyred, persecution, arrests, jail (Acts 7:57 – 8:1)
3. Church at Corinth (Read I Cor. 6:9-11)

God has to humble sinners before they turn to Him. (Read Lk. 15:13-16) Sin is costly. $: Tiger Woods, gambling, alcoholism; Relationships: adultery

Have you turned away yet from your sin to God? (Read Lk. 15:17-20).

5 Signs of True Repentance
1. Right thinking about God: “When he came to his senses, he said, вЂ?How many of my Father’s employees have food to spare, and here I am starving to death'” (Lk. 15:17). Sin is like being out of your mind.

2. Confess your sin: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Lk. 15:18b).

3. Humility: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Lk. 15:19a).

4. Willing to serve God as your Lord: “make me like one of your employees” (Lk. 15:19b).

5. Go to God: “So he got up and went to his father” (Lk. 15:20).

Prodigal son saw his desperate need before repenting.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt. 5:3).

Notice the father didn’t greet him saying, “You stupid idiot…” or “You’ve sinned too many times…” Rather, the Father welcomed him home (Read Lk. 15:20, 22-24).

If you’re a non-religious sinner like the Prodigal Son, God will rejoice in you if you turn to Him. Go to Him right now, just like the Prodigal son did. Tell him, “Father, I’ve sinned against you. I’m not worthy of you. Let me serve you as Lord.” And, He will welcome you with a hug and a kiss because God rejoices over sinners who turn to Him.

3. Self-Righteous People Don’t Think They’re Sinners Who Need to Repent

Parable of the Prodigal Son is about 2 lost sons: liberal left and conservative right. Older brother thought he wasn’t a sinner: Listen, he said, “All these years I’ve been serving you and never disobeyed your orders.” (Lk. 15:29)

    “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
If you don’t think you’re a sinner, then Jesus didn’t come to save you.
How many sins do you have to commit to be a sinner?

    “God…commands ALL people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

7 Signs of Self-Righteous Pride
1. Laughing at the sins of others.
2. Criticizing others to exalt yourself above them.
3. Boasting about how good you are, “I did this, I did that.”
4. Saying, “I’m not as bad as that person.”
5. Saying, “I’m a good person.”
6. Saying, “I’m not a sinner.”
7. Complaining when ex-sinners receive forgiveness.

Pharisees were proud, self-righteous hypocrites, full of pride, deceit, and greed (Mt. 23). They claimed to know God, but when He came to earth, they killed Him (Acts 3:15).

1st century Jewish culture: tax collectors disrespected, Pharisees respected…

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: вЂ?Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself; вЂ?God, I thank you that I am not like all other men – thieves, sinners, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, вЂ?God, have mercy on me a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:9-14).

“(Jesus) said to (the Pharisees), вЂ?You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts'” (Lk. 16:15). Lust = adultery (Mt. 5:28) and hate = murder (1 Jn. 3:15).

“Jesus said to (the priests, elders, and Pharisees), вЂ?I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Mt. 21:31-32).

Proud, self-righteous people don’t understand that the only one good is God, not them.

    “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

    “None is righteous, no, not one…no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12).

Proud, self-righteous people don’t understand that they need God’s righteousness, not their own.

    “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8-9; Rom. 3:22, 4:1-5, 9:30-32, 10:1-4).

Proud, self-righteous people don’t understand that Christ is the only Savior, not a co-Savior to help you save yourself.

    “I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior” (Is. 43:11; cf. Hos. 13:4; 1 Jn. 4:14).

Proud, self-righteous people don’t understand that if we could earn salvation, then Christ didn’t need to die to pay for our sins.

    “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21).

Gospel means “good news.” Salvation by God’s free grace is good news. Salvation by works is bad news. Example: Unhappy nuns. Works salvation = joylessness (Gal. 4:15). Grace salvation = joy (Gal. 5:22). Salvation is by God’s unearned grace, not earned by your works.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8; cf. Rom. 11:5-6; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Tit. 3:5).

Proud, self-righteous people don’t think they’re sinners who need to turn away from sin. But, God rejoices over sinners who turn from sin to Him…

Christ came to save both non-religious sinners and religious sinners. If you’re a proud, self-righteous person, go to God right now just like the lost son did. Humble yourself before Him, confess your sin, and offer to serve Him as your Lord. Then, He will hug you, kiss you, and rejoice over you.

(Most Bible quotes are from the New International Version, 1978.
Some quotes are the author’s paraphrases.)

Edited 12/20/09

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