Advancing the Gospel

“Yes and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”

                                                                                                                                                Philippians 1:18b- 19

The Apostle Paul is writing a very joyful letter to the Church in Philippi, and dealing with some of the difficulties that he has been facing.  As he writes this Paul gives us the proper, Biblical perspective on the circumstances that we face in our lives.  As believers we are called to love and glorify God with every aspect of our lives.  At times it seems as if this is impossible on account of the overwhelming nature of our circumstances.  When we look at the context of what Paul writes here we discover his perspective, which must become ours if we expect to enjoy the love of our God.  Paul’s perspective was Gospel centred.  The one question that he wrestled with was whether the Gospel would be advanced by his circumstances.  The facts were that he was imprisoned, chained to a guard, and prevented from freely serving the Lord.  For us such circumstances would be an intolerable hardship.  For Paul they served to advance the Gospel cause.  So he rejoiced in them.

The Prophet Jeremiah calls us to a different perspective on life from what is normal for us.  He writes,

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man of his riches,  but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.”

                                                                                                                                                Jeremiah 9:23ff

In the book of Job we read,

“Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may.  Why do I put myself in such jeopardy and take my life in my hands?  Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; I will surely defend my ways to His face.  Indeed this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before Him!”

                                                                                                                                                Job 13:13-16

                The Job quotation hints at the defence which Paul gives for his ministry.  No matter what happens to him he is praying that the purposes of the Gospel will be advanced through his life or his death.  This is the joyful approach that we are to take to our circumstances.  Our prayer and our commitment must be that the Gospel purpose will be advance by what we are facing.

Reflections On The Cross

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”  Luke 6:22

This week I have begun a reading of “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge.  (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2015.)  This marvelous book is leading me into a deepening reflection on the cross of Christ.  Some of these reflections I hope to focus upon in these Blog Posts over the next few months.  Rutledge makes the powerful point that Christ Crucified is really central to the whole life of the Christian Church.

Today I just want to include a couple of quotations in order to sharpen our focus on the life that we are called to as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“This chapter has been about the primacy of the cross.  We have not yet said enough about the godless nature of it; that is the subject of the next chapter.  Episcopal v=bishop Philip Rhinelander, in the “Faith of the Cross”, summarizes for us the astonishing but insufficiently noted fact that the first Christians were determined to make the godlessness primary:

“If ever mortal men found a real hero on this earth, those men were the disciples.  They, indeed, were hero worshippers.  Then think of the horrid shock and shame which overwhelmed them at the Cross.  It was no splendid martyrdom for a great cause, no glorious conquest won at the cost of life; no epic to be sung and celebrated.  No, the Cross was simply an utter overthrow, a speechless failure.  It was all sordid, cruel, criminal, a gross injustice, and intolerable defeat of good by evil, of God by devils…..  He, their hero, their chosen leader, He was numbered with the transgressors.  He was cast out with a curse upon Him.  Think how loyalty would burn to right this wrong, to clear His memory, to save His reputation, to prove that gross outrage had been done to Him, to magnify the life so that the death might be forgotten…. But nothing of the kind seems to have occurred to the Evangelists.  They literally glory in the Cross…. They are clear, with an absolute conviction, that the best and most wonderful thing He ever did was…to die a felon’s death, between two robbers.  It was their hero’s greatest heroism that He was executed as a common criminal.”

To summarize then: the crucifixion is the touchstone of Christian authenticity, the unique feature by which everything else, including the resurrection is given its true significance.”

At the beginning of the next chapter Rutledge quotes from Kenneth Leech from “We Preach Christ Crucified”.

“In order to speak of the crucified God we need a theology of  abandonment, of dereliction, of an alienation so profound that it can only be expressed in a language marked by paradox and by great daring and risk.  The crucifixion of the Son of God by one of the most advanced civilizations in the ancient world does not seem to be an acceptable or reasonable method of redeeming the world.  There is something so outrageous and obscene about it that the agony of Gethsemane becomes the only comprehensible part of the whole saga.”

I hope this leads you into your own profitable reflections on Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

A Great Old Hymn

“Then David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God, that you have brought me this far?  And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant.  You have looked upon me as though I were the most exalted of men.”

                                                                                                                                                1 Chronicles 17:16-17

                Richard Cecil in The Life of John Newton (edited by Marylynn Rouse, Published by Christian Focus Publications, 2000) writes in Appendix 7 regarding Newton’s great hymn “Amazing Grace” that it was written to accompany a sermon on the above Scripture passage.  This was a sermon in which called God’s people to an attitude of mind that expressed real gratitude to God for all of His blessings to us.  Newton entitled the hymn “Faith’s review and expectation”.  The original expresses real hope and gratitude to God, responding in faith to the marvellous grace given in Christ.

Here is the version which Cecil preserves for us.

“Faith’s Review and Expectation

1 Chronicles 17:16-17

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

                That saved a wretch like me!

                I once was lost, but now am found,

                Was blind, but now I see.


                ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

                And grace those fears relieved;

                How precious did that grace appear,

                The hour I first believed!


                Through many dangers, toils and snares,

                I have already come;

                ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

                And grace will lead me home.


                The Lord has promised good to me,

                His Word my hope secures;

                He will my shield and portion be,

                As long as life endures.


                Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

                And mortal life shall cease;

                I shall possess within the veil,

                A life of joy and peace.


                The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

                The sun forebear to shine;

                But God, who called me here below,

                Will be forever mine.”

Psalm 26

    “I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells.”          Psalm 26:8

Wayne Jackson, in his “Examine me Lord — A Study of Psalm 26:Christian Courier”  quotes from George Rawlinson (1812-1902) regarding Psalm 26 that it has “all the notes of David’s style, is full of his thoughts and imagery, and is allowed to be his by almost all critics” (1950, 192).  He argued that the Psalm belongs to the time when the ark was at Mount Zion.  There is certainly nothing in the Psalm to suggest otherwise.

The Oxford scholar contended that a literal rendition of v. 8b is “the place of the tabernacling of your glory.”  In the wilderness, the place of God’s “glory” was in the tabernacle’s “Holy of Holies” (Exodus 40:34; Numbers 14:10).

That last thought caught my attention.  The glory of the Lord tabernacled in the House of the Lord.  It was there that He was revealed in all His awesomeness.  The focus is on the revelation of the Lord’s Nature as the one who redeems His people.  Earlier in the Psalm David writes, “For your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in Your truth” (Psalm 26:3).  That word Tabernacle refers to the Lord dwelling among us.  It caught my attention because it reminded me of the prologue of John’s Gospel where we read John’s testimony regarding the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the Only Begotten, of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  The word translated as dwelling in John’s Gospel is actually the word tabernacled.  What David was pointing to in Psalm 26 became reality in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Christ we see the glory of God revealed, full of grace and truth.  What a tremendous, faith building promise from God.  Here is grace and truth that exposes our sin and atones for it in His cross.  Here is our reconciliation with God through His shed blood.  His call to us is that we receive His grace through faith in Christ.


Looking Ahead in Faith


                “The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for man or linger for mankind.  The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue.”

                                                                                                                                                                Micah 5:7-8

                In reflecting upon the closing of the fifth chapter of Micah’s prophesy one thing becomes abundantly clear.  This is that the Prophet is looking ahead to the age of the coming Messiah.  Micah is describing the characteristics of the Kingdom of the coming Messiah as a perfect fulfillment of the covenant blessings of God to His people.  In Genesis 12:2-3 God says this to Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.”

That promise was deeply rooted into Micah’s consciousness.  As he thought and prayed about the situation that Judah faced in his days Micah could not get away from the thought that an all powerful, faithful God would not make a promise to His people that He could not, or would not keep.  All that they were about to face would serve to lead to the fulfillment of this promise.  They would be scattered into exile.  Many of them would not return, some would but others would remain scattered.  God’s promise would remain true.  When the Messiah came and set up His Kingdom they would be part of it.  Micah focuses his attention upon it and he sees three key points which must guide our understanding of the Lord’s purposes for those who are part of His Church.

1)      The remnant will be like dew from the Lord.  In Palestine the dew is heavy, and during the dry season it is a great blessing.  It comes without our working for it.  So too does the grace of God come upon us as a consequence of the Kingdom of God.  Wherever we are there is blessing upon the people.  Christians are a blessing as they pray for and minister to the people they encounter.

2)      The remnant will be like a lion among us, mauling and mangling all it encounters.  Again the image suggests something which is uncontrollable.   Having the Church among us brings us to a point of decision.  How we respond to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it lived and proclaimed by His people will determine how God treats us.  To reject Him is to experience a cursing, a judgment from God.

3)      Micah goes on to say that the final element of this Kingdom of the Messiah will be that the people of that Kingdom will be refined by God.  He will remove and destroy everything that we find ourselves trusting in that is not Him.  At the heart of the Gospel is the call to repent and to seek first, and only, the Kingdom of God.  That is, to seek Him alone.  We live in a culture that seeks so many other things.  Our hopes, dreams, and security are anchored on all kinds of “other things”.  We must seek Him alone.

Micah saw this for us.  He calls us to really be part of the Messiah’s Kingdom.  There really is no other way forward for us.

Real Health

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.””  Luke 5:31-32

Miroslav Volf, in his book Free of Charge (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005) writes about grace and forgiveness.  In a powerful chapter asking the question “How shall we forgive?”  Volf presents a moving description of just what real humanity is all about.  The Lord Jesus Christ revealed to us a genuine humanity in His Incarnation.  He became fully human while remaining fully God.  He then went willingly to the cross in order to die for us.  As Volf writes,

“Christ died to remove the stain of sin that sticks to me as long as I live.  Christ died in my place.  I don’t need to die to be freed from sin.  And because Christ died, I also don’t need to die when I forgive, when I unbind a sinful deed from the person who committed it against me.  Indeed, it would be preposterous for me to think that I could ever do such a thing — die as a substitute for my neighbours sin.  When Christ died, we all died in Him.  But my death is only my own, it can never be another’s.  In regard to the sin of another, as in regard to my own sin, Christ does everything alone.  When I forgive an offense directed against me, I don’t die, and therefore I don’t forgive exactly as God does.”

As Volf goes on he explores our calling to be fully human, even as he demonstrated that we are unable to be so.  We are sinners in need of the forgiveness which Christ gives us through the Cross.  His gracious gift to us leads to forgiveness and freedom from sin.  Volf had earlier described the way in which his own parents had lived out the reality of a costly forgiveness when they forgave those whose inattention had led to the death of their son Daniel.  Our forgiveness cost God the death of His only begotten Son.

When Jesus calls Matthew to become a disciple he opens Himself up to the Pharisees who in their self righteousness thought that a Tax Collector could never be a saved person.  In this attitude these Pharisees were demonstration their own inhumanity.  How often do we demonstrate the same thing when we look upon others, whether it is a person who has wronged us, or a certain group or nationality, or even someone who has behaved in a way that can only be defined as reprehensible by any standard we could ever apply.  Such people are defined, by us, as outside of salvation.

These are the very people however who Jesus went to the cross for.  All they need do is hear His invitation to come to Him, just as Matthew did.  They are to come in repentance and they will receive forgiveness from Him.

What a precious, forgiving grace He purchased for us on the cross.  The question is will you repent and believe in Him so that you might be forgiven and made to be fully human?




An Invitation

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?”

                                                                                                                                                2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Every Wednesday evening between the beginning of September and the end of June a group of us gather at First Baptist Church Brampton for a Bible Study.  It is such a joyful and wonderful thing to share together with a smaller group of Christian brothers and sisters a time of fellowship and prayer, while we look more deeply into the message of the Scriptures.  In the past few months we have been exploring the book of Psalms.  In this book we encounter the call of God that we might come to Him for refuge.  Refuge is found in faith and in prayer.  It is also found in our trusting in God’s Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here we find the promise of a coming Messiah who will be eternal God come as a human being to serve His heavenly Father.  He was to be born into the town of Bethlehem, and would be of the family of David the King.  The Psalmist tells us that this Messiah will lead His people into a deep and rich experience of the peace of God.  It is wonderful to discuss together the way in which this promise became living reality in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus Himself points to promises like this as He describes the purpose for which He has come.  The Apostle John records that Jesus taught that He is the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for His sheep.  The Psalmist pointed to that very thing as being at the heart of the Messiah’s ministry.  In His Cross and Resurrection we are reconciled to God.

As the Apostle Paul writes about this reality in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 he tells us that in these great promises of God we encounter the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the message of the Gospel God brings both judgement and hope into our world.  What our experience of it will be is determined by how we respond to the Lord Jesus Christ.  If we by faith put our trust and obedience in Him we discover that He is our Savoir, who brings into our lives the abundant grace and love of the Gospel.  If we reject Him by refusing to believe in Him then to us He becomes our judge.  The question is ‘Who is He to you?

Come and join us, if you can on Wednesday nights at 7PM so that you can share in the blessings we are experiencing in our Bible Study.


“Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”  Psalm 25:6-7

We are often asked about how we want to be remembered.  Just yesterday I led a funeral service for a dear sister in Christ who has entered into the Lord’s presence.  The service gave us an opportunity to reflect on how a person is to be remembered in life.  The word, used here in Psalm 25:6-7 can mean to mark something or to mention it.  How do you want the Lord to mark or speak about the life you have lived.  Do you want it to be based upon what you have done, the good and the bad things which characterize any life, or do you want it to be based upon His grace?

This is the beauty of the text which is before us.  David asks the Lord, Jehovah, to remember him according to His great mercy and love.  This is literally the Lord’s compassion and steadfast love or grace.  David is, I believe, examining the way in which the Lord has always dealt with His people.  We can trace through the Bible the wonderful account of how God has dealt with His people according to the principle of His grace.  He is the compassionate, gracious God who visits His people in order to redeem them from their sin.  David makes his appeal to God as one who knows that he has sinned, but who has put all of his hope into the promise of the redeeming love of the Lord.  In writing this it is entirely possible that David is focused upon God’s promise of a redeemer, or Messiah who come out of David’s House. The Lord is going to do something out of His own nature as our redeemer in order to reconcile His people to Himself.  David’s prayer is that God will remember His grace when He thinks about David.

The alternative is that God would remember David’s sin.  The youthful rebellion and ungodly behaviour that David knows marks his personal history is always before him.  We know that we always take our past with us as we move through life.  Even if we have done everything possible to leave it behind there will always be someone to remind us of it.  More than that we instinctively know that when we come to the end of our lives and stand before God in judgment that the one who is all knowing will hold us accountable.  That is unless He has chosen not to remember our sins.  This is David’s hope.  He cries out to God to remember not his sins.  This is because God has focused His attention on grace, which has been given through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  David’s hope is the hope that each one of us stands upon.

How do you want God to remember you?  Do you want God to look upon you in judgment according to all that you have done both good and bad?  Or do you want Him to look upon you in grace because your King, the Lord Jesus Christ has died in your place?



Approaching God


“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16


In recent months a conviction has been growing in my heart and soul.  This is that God is calling His Church to a life of Intercessory Prayer.  For me this means that I am being called to a deepening life of prayer.  The book of Hebrews tells us that we can approach the throne of grace boldly through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Christian life is lived through the cross.  There is no other means of grace but the cross of Christ.  To believe this and thereby to approach God for grace requires a cross centred life.  In the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ access to God has been opened to all who will come to Him in God’s way.  This is the precious truth that stands at the heart of our faith.

What I have been learning in the past few months is that we Christians have, as a result of this cross been called to a life that is characterized by this joyful access to the living God.   We can come with a bold confidence into God’s presence because God Himself has provided the way for us through the death and resurrection of Christ.  It is not owing to our holiness, but to the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can bring our needs before the Father.  Why is it then that we are so resistant to this life of prayer?  It seems as if we will try everything else first before we come to God in Prayer.

Raymond Brown in Christ Above All, his commentary upon the message of the book of Hebrews explores this question in the following words.

“P.T. Forsythe used to insist that prayerlessness is the root of all sin.  When we do not give time each day to earnest and believing prayer, we are saying that we can cope with life without divine aid.  It is human arrogance at its worst.  Jesus knew that He had to pray and did so, gladly, necessarily and effectively.  To be prayerless is to be guilty of the worst form of practical atheism.  We are saying that we believe in God but we can do without Him.  It makes us careless about our former sins and heedless of our immediate needs.  This letter urges us to come into the presence of a God who welcomes us and a Christ who understands us.  To neglect the place of prayer is to rob ourselves of immense and timely resources.  For the Christian the throne of grace is the place of help.”

This life of prayer is not just for our own personal benefit.  It is also one of the major weapons which we wield in our outreach with the gospel.  Intercessory prayer is vital.  Increasingly I am coming to see that this was a foundational practice in the lives of those who were effectively used by God in the past.  It must become one of the main pillars of present day ministry.  We truly must become committed to intercessory praying for the spread of the Gospel in the world around us.

A Wednesday Evening Bible Study

    “They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob.”                Psalm 24:5-6

It is such a blessing to gather together on an evening to reflect together with other Christians upon the Word of God.  When we study God’s Word and pray together there is an immense blessing which is received by those who are gathered together.  This past Wednesday Evening we gathered together to reflect upon Psalm 24.  Our reflections focused upon the following brief points.

1) In verses 1 & 2 we discovered that the Lord is the Sovereign owner of all that He has created.  We belong to Him and are therefore called to live in submission to His Will.  This provides the foundation for everything else that the Psalmist will tell us.

2) In verses 3 through 6 the characteristics of a true worshipper are described.  Such a person is holy in every way.  Only through holiness can we enter into God’s Heavenly Sanctuary.  Immediately we recognise that this can not possibly be describing us because we are full of sin.  There is only one who is holy and therefore able to enter God’s Sanctuary, that is our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Here is where great blessing is given to us however.  A careful examination of the wording of verse five, which describes all those who are seeking the Lord, reveals the Lord’s plan to bless us.

“He shall receive a blessing from the Lord.  And righteousness from the God of Salvation.”

The Psalmist points us to the imputed righteousness that the Lord gives to all who will genuinely seek Him in faith.  Abraham, we are told, believed God and it was imputed to Him as Righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)   It is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we are redeemed through His Righteousness, not through our own.  What a precious blessing this is.

3) In verses 7 through 10 we encounter a question and a promise which is repeated in order to establish it as a certainty.  The question is “Who is this King of Glory?”  The promise which follows in answer to the question is “The Lord strong and mighty in battle.”  The point is that the King of Glory, the Messiah is God mighty in battle.  He has come in to wage battle on the cross for us and in doing so He has triumphed over everything that keeps us from entering God’s Presence.  He has even triumphed over death, so that we may be raised with Him.

Such blessing through the words of the Psalmist.  Won’t you come and join us next Wednesday as we continue our reflections on the Psalms with Psalm 25.  May God richly Bless you.