Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel
FREE Report, "Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West & What to Do About It" presents the 3 Biblical reasons why the gospel is hindered in the western world, and what the Bible says to do about it. A number of excerpts taken from Amazon''s #1 Bestseller in Christian Apologetics, CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED.
by Jon J. Cardwell http://justificationbygrace.com Anniston, Alabama ©2010-2012 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com CONTENTS Treacherous Times 2 Treacherous Hearts 6 Gospel Obstacle One 6 Gospel Obstacle Two 10 Gospel Obstacle Three 14 Training in Righteousness 17 What to Do About This 1 17 What to Do About This 2 18 What to Do About This 3 20 Trusting in Christ Alone 23 Glorifying God 24 Enjoying Him Forever 27 Trinkets for Growth in Grace 31 1 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Treacherous Times Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith… 1 Timothy 4:1 AVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED why some churches, most especially a huge number of them in the United States, must struggle from time to time to come up with something more exciting, more interesting, and more attention-grabbing than the Sunday previous? Why is there sometimes heard among preachers, an air of bragging, quite frankly, over how many baptisms were performed by their church, or how many souls were reached with the gospel? When you heard pastors and preachers say something like this on the radio, television or the Internet, did it sound to you like Jesus Christ was exalted? Although there are exceptions (and I thank God for that), many times when I hear some preacher going on about how many letters to the ministry he has received, how many baptisms he has performed, how many new members his church has received, etc., it most often grieves my soul to the core. Where is the honor and glory unto Christ? The apostle Paul warns the young pastor, Timothy, that there will be an occasion, “the latter times,” when there will be a departure 2 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com from the faith. What does that mean? Will people stop believing? No. Men and women have and will always believe in something. It may not be the Lord Jesus Christ, but there will be a trusting faith upon something. What the old apostle was speaking about, however, was the kind of departure that Jude writes to the church about: a departure from “the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). The faith is the truth of redemption in none other than the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Most specifically, this departure will be a departure from the eternal gospel truth of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 A departure from the faith will mean that men will give “heed to seducing spirits.”The vanity of pride, the exalted heart, will be lured away by doubts about God’s Word. The subtle and enticing “Yea, hath God said,”1 uttered by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, will cause men to doubt the truth of Christ’s sufficient sacrifice and the power of His resurrection. Further, a departure from the faith will mean that men will give “heed to... doctrines of devils.” The double-minded man, being one who is unstable in all his ways,2 will want his spiritual cake and eat it too. The doctrines of devils are filled with half-truths, mimicking that which was said by the dragon in Eden of old: 1 Genesis 3:1 2 James 1:8 3 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.3 “Ye shall not surely die” was a half-truth. Adam and Eve certainly did not die right away physically. Adam lived to be 930 years of age, but they did die immediately spiritually. That is evident in Adam’s and Eve’s actions: attempting to hide their shame through their own efforts; and hiding in the trees, attempting to run from God when they heard the voice of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. “That in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” was another half-truth spun by the serpent. Adam’s and Eve’s eyes were opened to their sin, to their shame, and to their disobedience to God. When losing their innocence and falling into unrighteousness, although they could tell the difference between good and evil, their rebellion against God fractured their relationship with God; and so being dead in trespasses and sins,4 they had no power to carry out that which is good, holy, and righteous. The divided heart of the covetous will fall prey to demonic teaching, which goes beyond merely doubting the truth of the cross of Christ, but will minimize the truth of its sufficiency. These devilish doctrines will paint Christ as a good teacher, but deny His righteous perfection as a man. They will teach that Jesus Christ was a mere example as a martyr, yet deny the sufficiency and excellence of His substitutionary atonement. 3 Genesis 3:4, 5 4 Ephesians 2:1, 5 4 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Finally, in the latter times there will be an outright denial of the cross of Jesus Christ― reprobates “speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” This is that defiant heart of rebellious creatures, “who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing” (Hebrews 10:29). Understanding the kind of times in which we live, and having briefly considered the three basic behaviors prevalent today, we may now examine the three primary obstacles to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the western world. 5 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Treacherous Hearts The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 E ARE DESCENDANTS of our fallen father, Adam, so in our flesh dwelleth no good thing.5 We have a sinful condition with a tendency toward an exalted heart (pride), a divided heart (idolatry and covetousness), and a defiant heart (adultery and uncleanness). These are the three basic obstacles or hindrances, if you will, to the gospel. John, the beloved apostle, writes it in this way: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:16 OBSTACLE ONE. The lust of the flesh is the defiant heart, which is that rebellion against God, against His Christ, and against the work of Christ upon the cross. This is the first obstacle to the gospel of Christ. Paul says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are 5 Romans 7:18 6 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). The blessed spiritual is not compatible at all with the fallen creation. They are in direct opposition to one another. They are at odds and in constant conflict. This lends to us a foundational understanding of the economy of heaven as it pertains to those things spiritually applied on earth. AN OBSTACLE TO THE UNSAVED HEARER The lust of the flesh is that condition akin to the defiant heart. John Bunyan, the author of the popular allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, refers to this state of the unbeliever, or temptation to the Christian, as adultery or uncleanness, in his treatise Christian Behavior. This sinful condition or temptation is adulterated because the lust of the flesh is impure. It is fallen since we are descendents of disobedient Adam; and therefore, as his children, we carry his corruptions. The scriptures tell us that no flesh will glory in God’s presence.6 It will not glory in God’s presence because it cannot glory in His presence. The lust of the flesh is an obstacle to the gospel among unbelievers because those with such behavior are walking in defiance against God, loving not God, but those things in the world, or even in the spiritual realm, that can feed the fleshly lust. The truth of the gospel is spiritual truth and must be received by revelation from the seat of heaven, by the Son of heaven, and through the Spirit of heaven. Again, in another place, Paul tells 6 1 Corinthians 1:29 7 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com us, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). In other words, the good news of Jesus Christ must be announced in the power of the Holy Spirit; it must arouse the soul through the power of the Holy Spirit; and it must arrest the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. The lost soul is deaf the call of the Spirit of Christ, blind to the truth of the Spirit of Christ, and dead to the life and love of the Spirit of Christ. Because he is natural, he must, by the Spirit, be made alive because he is dead in trespasses and sins;7 he must be made to hear because he is deaf and uncircumcised of ear;8 he must also be made to see, because he is blind and uncircumcised of heart.8, 9 Now, that is certainly an obstacle and we realize that it must be overcome by the Spirit of the Lord; yet, if God has ordained the means, method and manner to proclaim the gospel of His crucified and risen Son is the foolishness of preaching by wretched sinners redeemed by God’s grace, then it would seem that those He has called to preach and proclaim His gospel might recognize this: For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be 7 Ephesians 2:1, 5 8 Acts 7:51 9 Matthew 5:8 8 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:13-17 AN UNDERSTANDING FOR THE SAVED WITNESS How does this truth affect the preacher, teacher, herald, and witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It tells us that, although He has ordained to use fallen souls such as you and me, we must rest in Him for power and rely upon whatever the results. We must be submissive to God in every bit and every whit of the promulgation of the gospel; therefore, prayer prior to preaching, teaching, sharing or just talking about Christ, not only empowers us to do so, but comforts us to trust in a good God, who is always good and will always do the good, wise and glorious thing according to His eternal plans and holy pleasure. AN OBSTACLE FOR THE ONE PREACHING The lust of the flesh is an obstacle to the gospel among believers who are presenting, promoting or proclaiming the gospel because those with such behavior, like the unbeliever as mentioned 9 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com earlier, are walking in defiance against God, loving not God, but those things in the world, or even in the spiritual realm, that can feed the fleshly lust. Such a one behaving in accordance with and craving the lust of the flesh may be saved or unsaved. If he is saved, this lust of the flesh is an area in that person’s life, and whenever it creeps in, it lusts against the spirit in that soul and wars against the fruit of the Spirit to bring him to submit in favor of his fallen flesh, rather than the grace of God in the love of Christ. There’s so much more that I would like to bring forth concerning this, however, we just don’t have the time and space within this report. Nevertheless, we can see how all the means that God has ordained for our Christian walk, Christian work, and Christian witness, have been appointed for our benefit in private, family and public practice: prayer, meditation, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, etc. OBSTACLE TWO. The lust of the eyes is the divided heart. This is the second obstacle to the gospel of Jesus Christ in western civilization today. Now, this isn’t merely the physical eyes with which we have our sight, but it speaks of the eyes in a metaphorical sense, which is connected to the condition of man’s heart, the seat of his character and understanding. Unto character we have this truth from God’s word: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The lust of the eyes as the condition of man’s divided heart also pertains to the seat of our understanding; and basically, it refers to our perception and apprehension of truth, as Jesus says, “By 10 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15).10 AN OBSTACLE TO THE UNSAVED HEARER The lust of the flesh is that condition akin to the divided heart. Again, looking to Mr. Bunyan, he refers to this state of the unbeliever, or temptation to the Christian, as idolatry. This sinful condition or temptation is idolatrous because the lust of the eyes dismisses, even in part, the exalted glory, excellence, and sufficiency in God alone through Christ alone. It is a compromising act, word or thought that doesn’t deny God outright, and may even acknowledge Him and have an esteemed place for Him, yet, the sinner’s soul esteems and values some other thing as equal to or greater than God. Jesus presents the glory and estimation of God and His Christ at a point in His ministry when multitudes followed Him. He turned to them and said: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-27 10 Isaiah 29:13-14 11 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Anything or anyone that competes with interest in God through Jesus Christ should be esteemed as hated in comparison. The Master illustrates it by taking the most precious relationships we know on earth, and tells us that they must be utterly hated and cast off if they hold a place in our hearts equal to or greater than God in Christ. AN UNDERSTANDING FOR THE SAVED WITNESS How does this truth affect the preacher, teacher, herald, and witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ? This is an obstacle to unbelievers because they find satisfaction in those idols they value; yet, because idolatry certainly cannot fill the vast void that is made by spiritual death that comes by trespasses and sins. It could be said that the sin, or temptation, of the lust of the eyes is similar to the old saying that one wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want fire insurance, so to speak. They want to escape the flames of hell while enjoying the pleasures worthy of condemnation, never realizing that the flames of hell are the righteous wrath of God passing judgment upon the hatred against God and the rejection of Jesus Christ. This is why there can really never be any such thing as one who is a “carnal” Christian, so-called. True Christians do engage in carnal sin because of their weakness in flesh,11 but they are repentant of their deeds with godly sorrow, and do confess those sins by the grace of God.12 As there is no such thing as a “carnal” Christian, then one who confesses Christ, yet walks in a manner 11 Romans 7:18-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1 12 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:7-10 12 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com of worldly carnality can only be one of two things: (1) a backslidden Christian, who must repent of his sins else he will have no peace until he does;13 (2) a false confessor of Christ who will receive eternal judgment except he repent of his sins and believe with trusting faith upon Christ alone for salvation.14 AN OBSTACLE FOR THE ONE PREACHING The lust of the eyes is an obstacle to the gospel among believers who are presenting, promoting or proclaiming the gospel because those with such behavior, like the unbeliever as mentioned earlier, are walking the fence in some areas of life with regard to God. Likewise, as with the previous obstacle being the defiant heart, the divided heart, the lust of the eyes, will distract the preacher of the gospel form a focus upon Christ alone. The only remedy is the prayerful submission to the truths of God’s Word to exalt the Person of Christ and the work of Christ above all else by the means of grace mentioned with regard to putting away the lust of the flesh. OBSTACLE THREE. The pride of life is the exalted heart, which desires heavenly blessings, but doesn’t want them God’s way, that is, through Christ’s atoning death. This is the third obstacle to the gospel in the western hemisphere. Pride 13 Luke 22:32, 61, 62 14 Matthew 7:21-23; Acts 8:20-24 13 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com also wants God’s power and God’s approval without a desire for God Himself. Pride desires the rewards of heaven without the redemption in Christ, neither a true, honest, and humble relationship with Christ. Simply, the pride of life is esteeming oneself with greater honor than is due— basically, it’s pride, and pride is the selfish heart. AN OBSTACLE TO THE UNSAVED HEARER This sinful condition or temptation is idolatrous, but in this case, it is self-idolatry. It is a compromising act in the same way as the lust of the eyes; yet, it exalts self rather than something or someone else. Again, as with idolatry, it may not necessarily deny God outright, and may even acknowledge Him and have an esteemed place for Him, yet, the sinner’s soul esteems and values himself as equal to or greater than God; or esteeming oneself with a value that is different from what God says in His Word. Pride not only says, “I know better than others…,” it also says, “I know better than God.” As with the illustration in the second obstacle, the same scripture addresses this issue of pride as well as Jesus said: If any man come to me, and hate not… his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26, 27 Therefore, it is not merely anyone or anything that competes with interest in God through Christ, it also includes self; and we should lament that condition if pride snatches us away from 14 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Christ. The unbelieving hearer must have as much of the power of God’s Spirit to overcome pride, as much power as to overcome the previous two obstacles to the gospel. AN UNDERSTANDING FOR THE SAVED WITNESS How does this truth affect the preacher, teacher, herald, and witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ? This is an obstacle to unbelievers because pride says, “I’m right and you’re wrong; I know and you don’t; it’s my way or no way.” The selfish heart finds gratification and satisfaction in oneself, and therefore, if the message of the gospel doesn’t appeal to what such a person believes to support his own views, and especially his own view of himself, Christ becomes an inconvenience at best, and an offense at worst. To this type of heart, Jesus Christ is not all important. To this kind of soul, Jesus is merely a resource, not the Redeemer; He is just an aid to success and not the Author and Finisher of faith; He is only a help for an inconvenient circumstance and not the Holy One of Israel. AN OBSTACLE FOR THE ONE PREACHING The pride of life will be an obstacle to the gospel among believers who are presenting, promoting or proclaiming the gospel because those with such behavior, like the unbeliever mentioned earlier, will have trouble following apart from the perceptions of his own esteem. Pride keeps him from submitting to the Holy Spirit. Pride keeps him from submitting himself to other believers. Pride keeps him from submitting fully to the truth of God’s Word. 15 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com These are really the three basic sins and temptations from which all other sins stem: uncleanness, idolatry and pride; or as John presents them in his epistle— the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. During these last days, the sins that spring from these three main obstacles to the gospel are easily dismissed by so many that profess a saving faith in Jesus Christ. This, my brethren, ought not so to be. And when we dismiss sin, any sin, lightly, we bear witness at how superficially we trust in the glorious Sacrifice of Christ. So what do we do about it? What can be done? Many will immediately answer: PRAYER. Yes, we most certainly need to pray; nonetheless, let us prayerfully consider this three- fold training in righteousness from God’s Word. 16 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Training in Righteousness Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 ECAUSE THESE SINFUL TEMPTATIONS so easily beset us, we need to cling to the cross and cleave to Christ; we need to embrace God’s grace and keep the truth of Christ crucified as a reality in the depths of our souls. On several occasions,15 the Lord Jesus gave the disciples specific instruction in order to handle the three basic temptations common to man: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”(Matthew 16:24). WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS 1. Let him deny himself. This would be the first thing we want to see spring for from our redeemed lives. Selfishness, fullness of self, is the ultimate defiance against God. Self-fullness is exemplified in the indictment against Satan through Isaiah: 15 Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; 17 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Isaiah 14:12-14 A true denial of self cannot defy the living God. Worldly interests, which are found apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ, will appeal to and encourage self in some way, shape or form. Satan’s wiles and devilish deceptions will do the same. I will ascend opposes God’s grace. I will exalt my throne opposes God’s sovereign order. I will sit also upon the mount opposes God’s authority. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds opposes God’s judgments. I will be like the most High opposes God’s holiness.16 To deny self would be to act according to the essential heart of the truth that John Baptist had spoken concerning himself with respect to Jesus Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:20). WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS 2. And take up his cross. One of the most significant characteristics surrounding idolatry and the people of Judah in the days of old was that they still maintained all the externals of worship unto Jehovah God. 16These are not the only things the “I wills” of Lucifer speak upon in the passage from Isaiah 14:12-14. Additionally, disagreement may arise as to what each Satanic statement implies; however, we will be unable to cover this topic in depth within this treatise without taking away from the point at hand, Christ crucified. May this suffice us for the time being. 18 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com They were as James calls “double minded… unstable in all [their] ways” (James 1:8). These are they that are “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6). Speaking of the people in the northern kingdom of Israel, Hosea says, “Their heart is divided” (Hosea 10:2). The Lord Jesus said it like this in the Sermon on the Mount: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 The divided heart is subdued by the gospel of Christ crucified because it takes up the truth of Christ’s cross as a personal possession.17 This is not a life, action or attitude of self-sacrifice. Surely, certain things will be eliminated from the Christian life; and certain things will be sacrificed. Yet, self-sacrifice is never the essential center of this truth. When we present our bodies a living sacrifice unto God, we do so by His mercies.18 Therefore, as taking up our cross has its source in God’s mercies, then taking up our cross has its origin in Christ crucified― the ultimate and eternal expression of God’s mercy for mankind.19 17 Possessing the cross is examined more closely on pg.92 of the book, Christ and Him Crucified, in the subsection titled, “Our Pilgrimage with the Gospel.” 18 Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 19 Some may oppose this view that the cross we are to take up his the truth of Christ’s cross. The argument that will most likely be used is that this could not possibly be the context by which Christ’s disciples understood His statement because He had not yet been crucified. To that we must remember that Jesus said many things that would not be understood by His disciples until after His crucifixion, and after the Holy Spirit had been given, who will guide us into all truth. John, the beloved evangelist, comments upon that very thing: “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). 19 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com It is only at the cross of Jesus Christ where a divided heart may be transformed into a heart devoted unto Jesus alone. It is only at the cross of Christ where the instability of life may be rooted and grounded upon that solid Rock of ages. It is only at Calvary’s tree where covetousness can be cast down and all our idols upon the high places torn from our hearts. WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS 3. And follow me. The prideful person, the haughty heart, can never follow Jesus Christ. Arrogance will never allow anyone else to take the lead. This is why God opposes the proud.20 The very opposite of pride is humility; and it takes a divine and supernatural humility to follow He who is the most humble of men that ever walked the face of the earth: Jesus Christ, the Righteous.21 With regard to humility, God’s Word provides us specific instruction on that: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10).22 This is an interesting statement that should be considered from two important points: first, as a commandment of God unto His people; and second, in its promised reward as a result of obedience to the commandment― our lifting up, or as Peter says in his epistle, that God “may exalt [us] in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). To the first point, as a commandment from God― it would seem 20 James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5 21 Philippians 2:7, 8 22 The same thing is said very similarly by Peter in 1 Peter 5:6. 20 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com an incredible thing to suggest that this is some kind of “how-to live the Christian life” when surrounded by and living within the context of God’s grace. You may be thinking, and rightly so, “Wouldn’t my obedience in efforts to be humble somewhat cross the line into legalism? Wouldn’t my efforts to be humble suggest that God’s grace needs help to be real through my humility?” That would seem to humbly and gently place us upon the horns of a dilemma, wouldn’t it? Let’s take a look at the second point of humility first, in God’s exalting us who have humbled ourselves in His sight― then we can more readily answer the first point, of the commandment of God to humble ourselves. When we have humbled ourselves, it would seem rather an oxymoron to think that the reason we are humbling ourselves is so that we might be lifted up, exalted as Christ, and lavished with honor, as if we did something apart from the grace of God. No, that’s not it at all. Although it is true that when we are glorified, we do receive an amazing and incredible honor when this mortal puts on, by God’s grace, immortality and incorruption; and that shall be our exaltation in due time.23 Yet, in the meantime, while we are being sanctified, transformed from glory to glory, and being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, gradually by God’s grace, when there is true humility in the presence of God, He lifts us nearer Himself, nearer to Christ― and with that greater illumination of the majesty of the Master, nearer that unapproachable light, we are further humbled, bowing down in our hearts, as we receive an increased glimpse of the eternal splendor and infinite holiness of our Redeemer: “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”24 Then in 23 1 Peter 5:6 24 Isaiah 6:3 21 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com abject humility and in honesty stripped bare we utter, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”25 Understanding this, the commandment of God to humble ourselves is, therefore, a response to the initial revelation of the unbridled majesty of Christ crucified, risen, ascended, and ruling and reigning upon His throne— high and lifted up. 25 Isaiah 6:5 22 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Trusting in Christ Alone Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalms 73:25, 26 S THAT ALL there is to it? Is there anything else we can do? Actually, I believe that there is. Recognizing that it is by God’s sovereign will that a soul is saved according to His plans and purposes, which are in His good pleasure, and that He has ordained the foolishness of preaching as the primary means for the gospel to be conveyed to a lost and dying world, we should also recognize that we can no more manipulate a soul into heaven by our preaching than we can coerce God to bend His will by our praying. Yet, embracing the very core of that truth, we are not fatalists; neither are we cold or callous over the condition of men’s souls. No. We are passionate to see God receive great joy over one sinner that cometh unto repentance. And neither are we pragmatists, suggesting that these things mentioned earlier, and the things to be mentioned to close this, are works required for salvation or sanctification. We desire to see God glorified with every breath, every action, every word, and every thought of our 23 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com lives. This is really nothing more than trusting solely and wholly in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Still, you may be asking, “Well, what more is it that we can do?” For the answer to that I must take you to the first catechistical statement of Charles Spurgeon’s A Puritan Catechism: Q1. What is the chief end of man? ANS. Man’s chief end is to glorify God,26 and to enjoy Him for ever.27 I would like to suggest applying these two elements for a practical, joyful, empowering, daily worship of our God through Christ. GLORIFYING GOD. The purpose of man is two- fold: (1) to glorify God; and (2) to enjoy Him forever. Let’s look first at how to glorify God. Our scripture proof for the answer to our first catechistical question is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Eating, drinking and whatsoever we do about covers every situation and circumstance you and I would encounter on this planet. We exist to bring God glory. How, then, would we go about to bring God glory? I’m so glad you asked. Let me tell you. 26 1 Corinthians 10:31 27 Psalms 73:25, 26 24 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com At the very beginning of that the letter in which Paul writes these words above, he writes to the believers at Corinth: But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 It is in Christ Jesus, by whom He is and all He has done, that God is most glorified— He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. God’s purpose in Christ is summed up in the statement he makes a few verses afterward, For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 The apostle condenses the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ in one expression: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. This is the sum of the gospel. The cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest manifestation in the entire eternal universe of God’s purpose in Christ; yet, it will not be fully realized until the return of Christ, which will reveal the effects of God’s eternal plans and purpose in Christ by the cross. Then, what is the purpose of the cross? It is simply this… The purpose of the cross is for the entire universe, for all eternity, to find glory in God through Christ; and to glorify God in Christ. Let us, therefore, begin with the cross of Christ in our prayers, our meditations in scripture, our fellowship and interactions with 25 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com believers, and our witness to the world in our behavior and conversation. And as our prayers, meditations and all other graces begin at Christ crucified, may our thoughts, words and good works also spring forth from the divine truth of the gospel of Christ crucified; may its blessed truth permeate our considerations and contemplations; may it capture our every conversation and discourse; may it empower every deed, duty and action. When we teach, may our doctrine overflow from grace abounding by the atoning Sacrifice of Christ. When we preach, may our proclamation ascend to the throne of grace because of the mercy received by the precious blood spilled at Calvary’s tree. When we discipline for growth in grace and strengthening in faith, may it be seasoned with the salt and light of Christ’s propitiation. When we discipline for correction in Christ’s church, may it be full of mercy because of the offering made by the soul of the Son of God at Golgotha. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord;28 but let our praise be unto God through Jesus Christ, whose soul was offered a sacred Sacrifice, who shed His precious blood for the remission of sin, who paid a debt He did not owe for a debt we owe and could not possibly pay, who received in the perfections of His person, the 28 Psalms 150:6 26 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com unrestrained wrath of God as that glorious propitiation. Praise ye the Lord! Hallelujah. ENJOYING HIM FOREVER. The second part of the catechism’s answer says that, not only were we created for the purpose of bringing glory unto God, but also to enjoy God forever. We are created to find our good pleasure in God by and through Jesus Christ, just as God has created us for His good pleasure in Jesus Christ. Our scripture proof for this was sited at the beginning of this chapter, Psalms 73:25-26, Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalms 73:25-26 To enjoy God forever is certainly not divorced from who Christ is and what He has done. It is quite the contrary. Christ is our portion, our inheritance. If we have not Jesus Christ, we have nothing. Additionally, to glorify God in Christ, to glory or boast in God through Christ, and to find glory in God by Christ, is to rejoice with eternal joy by the good news of whom we have in heaven, which we would not have at all except God became a man in the incarnation, lived a righteous life that you and I cannot possibly live, to die the death of the cross, buried, risen, ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father until He come again. Does not this make all other joyful pleasures insignificant in comparison? 27 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com When was the last time you broke out in spontaneous praise unto God just because your soul was overjoyed with the goodness that is God? When was the last time you just stopped and prayed; not because you had a petition to bring before the throne of grace, but instead, just because you do take pleasure in spending intimate time with your heavenly Father? When was the last time you just sat in prayer and reflected upon the glorious communion of the Trinity praying with you, and interceding for you? When was the last time that you just opened your Bible to read, not out of duty to get your portions in and done, not out of necessity because you had to prepare for a lesson, but just because you wanted to enjoy sitting at the feet of Jesus so that the Spirit of Christ may whisper with a still small voice the blessed truths and exalted excellencies of Christ found in the scriptures? If you’re a preacher, whether open air or before the assembly of believers, do you take pleasure in that blessed calling; that the lips upon your face, which at one time blasphemed God with the most vile offenses, but now, since you have been saved and the grace of heaven has been poured upon you, do you rejoice with a shout that those same villainous lips are allowed to proclaim Christ, and Him crucified? We often become so busy with the work of the ministry or the how-to-do-its of growing in grace that we seldom take the time to just open up the Bible for the joy of reading it; praying just for the 28 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com joy of telling the heavenly Father that we love Him; to utter Christ’s name in praise just because we can. Perhaps I can illustrate a bit better with a story that Corrie ten Boom used to tell when she was a “tramp for the Lord.” Here’s my paraphrase of that story I heard her tell long ago. Corrie was scheduled for a series of meetings in Germany to speak of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. At one point during those meetings, she met with many of the pastors and professors from the churches and seminaries taking part in the meetings. When she came in to meet the ministers, she gave them a box of chocolates from Holland, which they were grateful to receive, and delighted to eat right away. The ministers predominantly discussed many academics issues, scholarly perspectives, and deep theological concerns. At a moment when the conversation waned, Corrie finally spoke. She asked, “Did you enjoy the chocolates?” “Jah! Jah!” was their gleeful response. “That’s good,” she smiled with that familiar twinkle in her eyes. “I see that you did enjoy them. When you ate your chocolate, none of you asked me how it was made. No one asked about the ingredients or how long it took to cook the recipe; you just ate them. You need to do that with your Bibles! Read it!” 29 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Now, certainly Tanta Corrie wasn’t telling them to get rid or doctrine, theology or scholarship. She did this to emphasize that they shouldn’t exalt one at the expense of the other. Their studies in theology should have brought them the same kind of joy in just reading the Bible for the joy of reading it. I believe that this happens when the truth of Christ crucified is not the heart and soul of our doctrinal Christianity, our experiential Christianity, and our practical Christianity. Well that’s it. I hope this has been a blessing to you. Most of what you have read has come from excerpts of Chapter 8 in my book, Christ and Him Crucified. There have been several changes and a great number of things added, and I have just paused to pray… that this has ministered to you with blessing, edification and encouragement. Please take the time to read the next section which will encourage you with more upcoming FREE eBooks and reports, as well as specials on items, and other great resources. 30 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com Trinkets for Growth in Grace But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 F YOU HAVE RECEIVED this free report by responding to an ad or clicking on one of my Facebook pages, you have already signed up to receive my newsletter. Now, you can unsubscribe or “opt-out” at any time, but if you’re passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ, I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO KEEP YOUR SUBSCRIPTION… and if someone has sent this Free Report to you, please subscribe to my new eNews, “Preaching Christ Crucified.” Go to this link if you have a Facebook account, https://www.facebook.com/Christ.Crucified/app_153502018052890, or go here if you’re not on Facebook, http://justificationbygrace.com/gospel-obstacles/index.html I respect your privacy and will never sell, give away or in any way divulge your email address or personal information. 31 Three Primary Obstacles to the Gospel in the West JustificationByGrace.com SPECIAL FREE GIFT. 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