Go to Jesus and count the cost

Go to Jesus and find him to be everything you’ve ever needed. And as you go to him, count the cost. For some of you, in the moment of conversion, counting the cost is a quick and easy thing. In that moment, when God supernaturally flicks on the eyes of your soul and you see God, fiercely holy, in all his white purity—it is immediately clear that no sin can be in his presence; hell seems to be opening its mouth at your feet, sin feels like shackles around your hands and ankles; you know immediately that your condemnation is totally just and right—you are a sinner, you have no excuse, and all out of the blackness all you see is the wounded, bloody hands of Jesus, reaching down to you in grace. There are no other options; Jesus alone can save you, and through him alone can you be forgiven. And in that moment, counting the cost is easy—you could easily suffer a hell on earth if it means eternity with Christ.

But for others, it doesn’t happen that way. Some stand at a distance and examine Christ. They put him under the microscope. They think hard about the claims of the gospel and take their time to make an informed decision. This is good. This way is the most common way people get saved. Some are awakened in an instant, as if a bomb of grace went off under their bed. Others are slowly nudged awake. This is counting the cost.

Peter says, “as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men.” Christians, this is our leader and example—Jesus is the living stone rejected by men. We follow him. And if our leader was rejected by men, so will we. It comes with the territory. Count the cost.

Peter will later tell his audience not to “be surprised when the fiery trials come upon you, as if something strange were happening to you.” Why should they not be surprised? Because trials come with the territory. Count the cost.

Romans 8:16-17  says that we are heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. But it doesn’t stop there—Paul gives a condition for his truth. He says that he are fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him, in order that we may also be glorified in him.” In other words, Paul seems to be saying that We are fellow heirs with Christ if we share in his sufferings. And if we suffer with him, then we will be glorified with him. In short, suffering is part and parcel to being an fellow heir will Christ. It comes with the territory. Count the cost.

When Jesus called Paul on the Damascus road he said to Ananias, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” It comes with the territory, count the cost.

Acts 14:22 says, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” It comes with the territory, count the cost.

Jesus in John 15:20 “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” It comes with the territory, count the cost.

When Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians, he said it was so that  “no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” It comes with the territory, count the cost.

Paul writing to Timothy said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It comes with the territory, count the cost.

Do you want to count the cost? I’ll help you. It costs you everything. Your whole life. Your plans, your dreams, your family, your friends, your comfort, and your security (earthly security, that is), your petty hidden sins, your selfish agendas. Quite possibly, your dream house, dream car, dream life. That’s what it costs you. In return, you get salvation from hell, and your sins that hold you condemned. You get promised eternal life in glory with Jesus Christ, peace with God and adoption into God’s family—God will be your Father, and he will love you relentlessly and grace you lavishly for eternity. And God will throw in some heavenly joy just to give you a foretaste of your true home. Need help deciding?

Let me, and every true follower of Christ, with resounding joy, say: “It’s worth it!”



Christ was foreknown before the foundations of the world

I often write out my thoughts before I teach on a passage. The greater context is 1 Peter 1:17-21, but here I’ve written my thoughts on verse 20, which says “He was foreknown before the foundations of the world.”

He refers to Christ, the unblemished Lamb of God. Even before he condescended into human history in the form of an infant, Christ had a plan to die a bloody death.

There are two books in the Bible that start with the words “In the beginning.” Genesis and John—and they are both speaking of the foundations of the world. Genesis starts, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And John starts, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I want to take these two passages and look at them together. They are both talking about the same time period (the beginning), and they both have different perspectives. Obviously Moses is writing before the incarnation and John is writing after.

John says, “In the beginning was the Word.” In the Genesis account, after the first verse that gives the summary description of the creation event, Moses gets into more details as to how God created the universe. We read that the earth was “formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The picture is ominous—formless, void, darkness—all words they bring negative feelings. And then, to change all that, God speaks. A command proceeds from the mouth of God. Words go flying through the void. And the power of those words causes a universe.

The first words were like this: “Let there be light.” And there was light. God’s creative act was one that involved speaking words—and his word caused the universe to exist.

Now back to John. John says, “In the beginning was the Word.” I take that to mean the word of command, the creative act of God. The “Let there be” is the Word of God. The Word that is bringing things into existence throughout Genesis 1 is the same Word spoken of in John 1. And as John says, it is both with God and it is God. Then, as John describes, that same creating Word, in verse 14, becomes flesh and dwells among us. In short, the Word that created the universe is none other than Jesus Christ himself. Hebrews 1:2 makes it perfectly clear, “he appointed [his Son] the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” and verse 3, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus does that.

Peter is telling his audience that the plan of Christ was foreknown before the foundations of the world. Before mankind existed it was determined that Christ would be the Savior of mankind. Before Adam and Even were labeled sinner, it was ordained that Christ be sent to earth to die for sinners. Before there was ever such a thing as murder, Christ determined to be murdered.

When Christ scooped down into the dust and formed a lifeless man, he looked ahead to the day when he would clothe himself in flesh, walk among men, and be betrayed and denied by them. When God created a beautiful garden he knew that it would be a garden where he would sweat drops of blood in anticipation of his coming crucifixion. As Christ formed hills he knew he would ascend one with a cross on his scourged back. Christ created trees knowing that he would be nailed to one. As Christ created the elements of iron and steel, he knew that spikes would be driven through his weary hands. When the words came forth “Let there be light,” Christ knew that darkness would envelop him in death.

When the angry mob surrounded the tired, trembling Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, they did not know that they were arresting the Creator of the universe.

It’s no wonder that they fell back when Jesus said, “I am he.”

Do you need to be saved?

It first helps to define salvation by what it saves us from. Salvation is as valuable as what it saves you from. The reason why many people don’t choose Christianity is because they don’t think they need to be saved. Overall, their lives are pretty good and the idea of needing salvation seems ridiculous. To someone who has not recognized the weight of their sin and the heat of God’s wrath and the joy of God’s presence, there’s no need for deliverance. Saved from what? they ask, as if we were telling them they needed to be saved from candy canes and lollipops. Life has treated them nicely so far, and no sense of need for salvation has ever risen to mind. And this is perhaps the saddest of all circumstances.

It’s sad because it does not matter how much one feels the need for salvation. Every human needs it. It’s as if an asteroid the size of Alaska is blazing toward the earth at sound barrier breaking speed and no one knows it. The entire world carries out the normal routines of life—not knowing that certain death awaits. They don’t feel their need for salvation. Perhaps you don’t feel your need for salvation. But regardless, you need to be saved. Everyone needs to be saved; there is a day when God will judge the living and the dead—and you will be in the throng of those awaiting the verdict of the gavel.

Why do you need to be saved? Because Romans 1:18 teaches that the God’s wrath is poured out against all the wickedness and ungodliness, and every human being is inherently wicked and ungodly. Every human being is thus in danger of being thrown into God’s wrath. This is what all mankind needs to be saved from. Jesus said, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” God’s wrath is on every human being. Unless one does something about it, namely, believes in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s wrath remains on him. It stays there, meaning it was there, it is there, and it will be there unless you get this salvation.

So to have salvation is to be saved from the wrath of God. It is not to be saved from the difficulty of life. It is not to be saved from poverty. It is not saved from an angry parent, or an unruly mob, or an incompetent or tyrannous nation. It is far bigger than that. It is to be saved from God’s settled anger. His wrath is on you because of your sin. You are in imminent danger. You can do nothing, you can say nothing, you can hope in nothing—except the one way of escape he provided—Jesus Christ. This wrath is removed by belief in the Son. That is, belief in Jesus saves from eternal wrath. The one who finds Jesus will be led to safety before the asteroid hits.

Do you need to be saved?



When sharing the gospel makes you the fool

Yesterday I went to an evening service at my church, but before I entered the building, two young nice-looking high school seniors came walking toward me. There didn’t go to the church, so I introduced myself and inquired as to what brought them. They were two students at New Jewish Community High School who were assigned to visit a protestant church service. They found our website online and gave us a visit.

It didn’t take long to get talking about spiritual things. It started when I asked them about their beliefs regarding Judaism, Jesus, and the Torah. The conversation began before the service, and ended well after the service. We ended up talking for almost two hours.

One of the boys was particularly bright, and we engaged in most of the conversation. He wouldn’t call himself an agnostic, but that’s what he was. He believed he simply couldn’t ever know if there was a God. He was a total moral relativist, admitting that murderous terrorists were not necessarily wrong– they were virtuous in their own system. He had all the big questions most unbelievers have: If there’s a God, why all the pain and suffering? Why aren’t prayers answered? Why has religion been the source of all conflict for thousands of years?

He was a genuinely kind person. He wasn’t demeaning or insulting, and he was reasonable. He admitted when he was wrong and he seemed to think hard about things I said.

I shared the gospel several different times. Whenever I did, I asked them to genuinely repent and put trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. And whenever I did, he smirked, like I was some fool wrapped up believing in some crazy myth. I don’t blame him, the cross is folly to the world.

He caught on fast how the Christian gospel is exclusive. At one point, he said, “So wait. Are you saying that no one can go to heaven unless they are Christian?”

Me: Unless they repent and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, they won’t go to heaven.

Him: So we’re not going to heaven?

Me: Not unless you repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins.

Him: What about someone who has never heard about Christianity? Someone who has never had the opportunity to hear about it?

Me: It breaks my heart, but Jesus said that “No one comes to the Father except through me.” People need Christ.

Him: Wow.

It maybe would have been easier to say “Well, I don’t know about that.” But the Word of God clearly tells us that unless people hear and respond to the gospel, they will not be saved (Rom. 10:17).

The whole idea of grace was brand new to them. They were shocked that all it took to get into heaven was repentance and faith.

Him: So I can punch you in the face, repent, and still go to heaven?

Me: Yes, but if it’s true faith and repentance, you won’t want to do those kinds of things anymore.

Him: So a serial killer can repent and go to heaven?

Me: Yes. And he’ll be forgiven. And he’ll stop killing people.

Him: I never knew that’s what you guys believed. But what if I do more better things than you? (He went on to humorously tell a story of how he saved his drowning cousin when he was younger). That good deed ought tip the scales in my favor a bit, right?

And so I went into the fallenness of man, and the doctrine of original sin, which he disagreed with. Which makes sense, because if there’s no universal moral code, there’s no such thing as sin. He obviously didn’t feel any need to repent.

Anyway, they walked away knowing full well what they were rejecting. I challenged them to read the Gospel of John and make an informed decision about the person of Jesus. I let them know their eternity depends on what they do with Jesus. And I prayed all the way home that Matt and Ben would accept their Messiah.

Sometimes, sharing the gospel isn’t so glorious. Sometimes, sharing the gospel makes you the fool. Let it be so, for

“We are fools for Christ’s sake”

1 Corinthians 4:10

Please pray for my friends that God would open their eyes to the reality of Jesus Christ’s gospel.

Love Wins: Why I’m optimistic

Yet again another post about Rob Bell. I couldn’t resist. I had to write this.

Let me begin by saying that I haven’t read Rob Bell’s book and I don’t plan on it. The initial video trailer was enough to indict, and the corresponding interviews (with Martin Bashir, and George Stephanopoulos) and book reviews (DeYoung, Mohler, Burk) are enough to render him guilty as charged.

From the day “Rob Bell” started trending worldwide on twitter I have been thinking about how Love Wins will impact the American conception of Christianity. And I’ve concluded that while Love Wins is a devastating departure from orthodox Christianity, there might be some ways to look at this situation with optimism. Let me explain.

First of all, let me say what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that Love Wins is a great way to help us step outside our theological comfort zones and consider alternative views of God. Unfortunately, a lot of the blogs I stumble across are in defense of this idea that deviant teaching is good because it shakes people up and helps them reconsidered their staunchly held views. They’ll say something like, “Well if Rob Bell is over there on the left, and you’re over the on the right, we should appreciate Bell because at least he’s helping bring people to the balanced middle.” Others will simply get angry at all the people calling out his defection, saying things like “this is why the world doesn’t like Christianity.”

So much is wrong with those statements it’s hard to figure out where to begin.

The statement about Bell bringing people closer to a balanced center only works in a post-modern world that doesn’t like to admit the reality of an absolute truth. If there is no fixed truth, then the best we can be is somewhere is the middle of two extremes. But if there is a fixed truth, and that truth is know-able, then even slight deviations from the truth are dangerous (and untrue, believe it or not). Ultimately, this whole debate comes down to an issue about who the holder of authoritative truth is. Does the Bible hold knowable, definitive truth? That’s the big question.

If the answer to that question is yes, then to drift toward the “balanced middle” is not good. Because it’s drifting from truth. And like I said, if there is no definitive truth, let’s just walk the balance beam until we die, and make no bold claims because ultimately we’re simply not sure about anything. But if truth can be nailed down, it makes no sense to drift away from it because, again, that would to believe something that’s not true. Which is stupid. So our calling is to establish the truth by understanding what the Bible says. Once that’s established, it does us no good to change things around to make them more palatable. Which is exactly what Rob Bell has done.

So the reason I’m optimistic that some good can come out of this not because it’s “shaking things up” and helping us out of our theological comfort zones.

I am optimistic this can benefit the church because a line in the sand has been drawn. If you’re with Bell, you’re over there. If you’re not, stay. There’s no standing on the fence anymore. Bell clearly espouses a false gospel, and to endorse Bell is to endorse a heretic. The American church used to be so broad and all-encompassing that it was incredibly difficult to distinguish the wheats from the tares, but Bell’s bold assertion of universalism, which opposes scripture, minimizes Christ, and despises the cross will make the true gospel glaringly different than the one popularized by Bell. The lines are drawn. Such an attack on the most important message in the universe is not something to hem and haw about. The fault-line in evangelicalism is deeper and wider because of this book-quake, and now the gap is too big for anyone to straddle. Pick sides.

But don’t take it from me. I’ll let the Apostle Paul do the real dirty work: “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). That’s more harsh than anything I have to say.

I’ll say it very clearly: Rob Bell has deviated from the saving gospel, and is propagating a gospel that does not save. Don’t listen to him.

And though I know that in the wake of this book will be many– maybe thousands of people deceived by the falsehood of its teaching. But this is my optimism: I hope it becomes apparent that Bell’s gospel has no power to save, and that the true gospel blazes brightly against it.

I hope and pray that the glorious difference of our gospels gets highlighted. I hope that as Rob Bell takes interview after interview, curious viewers think hard about the controversy and go to the Scriptures to see which is true. I hope this ignites thousands of conversations about the true gospel. I hope it refines the church’s collective ability to articulate the gospel. I hope the potential devastation of Bell’s concepts are minimized by stalwart keepers of the faith, who cling tightly to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” I hope they guard the good deposit, and entrust it to faithful men.

I am deeply saddened by this apostasy, but I am optimistic in our sovereign God, who will get his glory.

* * *

This post assumes the reader kind of understands the claims Rob Bell’s new book is making. If you are not sure what it’s all about, take some time to watch the book trailer, some interviews, and then read some other reviews.

The main problem with Bell’s book is his belief that it is unjust of God to condemn sinners, and therefore he is obligated to save everyone eventually, no matter how they respond to Jesus in this life. Instead of outrightly denying orthodoxy, he simply redefines terms. The product of all this man-centered, Bible-neglecting theology is a castrated gospel that can’t save.

I hope this doesn’t create a firestorm, but if you have any questions or comments, they’re more than welcome.

Who We Are

This is what we’ll be going over in youth group for the next few weeks. Check it out, read the related scriptures, and look ahead! If you’re especially observant, you noticed that the first letter of each word spells GOSPEL. This is what we want to be about.


Romans 1:16-17

Open and accepting.

James 2:1-5


2 Peter 1:16-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17


Luke 11:1-13

Engaged in Evangelism.

Romans 10:13-17

Loving One Another:

John 17:20-21

Some words to a scared, dying man

Clement Read Vaughan, writing to his old friend who was about to die and fearing death, wondering if he’d have enough faith to die well. He gave the metaphor of a traveler coming to a chasm over which a bridge was built:

What does he do to breed confidence in the bridge? He looks at the bridge; he gets down and examines it. He don’t [sic]  stand at the bridge-head and turn his thoughts curiously in on his own mind to see if he has confidence in the bridge. If his examination of the bridge gives him a certain amount of confidence, and yet he wants more, how does he make his faith grow? Why, in the same way; he still continues to examine the bridge. Now, my dear old man, let your faith take care of itself for awhile, and you just think of what you are allowed to trust in. Think of the Master’s power, think of his love; think how he is interested in the soul that searches for him, and will not be comforted until he finds him. Think of what he has done, his work. That blood of his is mightier than all the sins of all the sinners that ever lived. Don’t you think it will master yours?…

Now, dear old friend, I have done to you just what I would want you to do to me if I were lying in your place. The great theologian, after all, is just like any other one of God’s children, and the simple gospel talked to him is just as essential as it is to a milk-maid of a plow-boy. May God give you grace, not to lay too much stress on your faith, but to grasp the great ground of confidence, Christ, and all his work and all his personal fitness to be a sinner’s refuge. Faith is only an eye to see him. I have been praying that God would quiet your pains as you advance, and enable you to see the gladness of the gospel at every step. Good-bye. God be with you as he will. Think of the Bridge!

Your brother,


From Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon, cited from The Life And Letters Of Robert Lewis Dabney (1903), by Thomas Cary Johnson

Thanks Grace Brethren College Group

Here’s a short blog thanking the Grace Brethren College Group for having me and my family for the weekend. We really enjoyed it. Everyone was gracious and friendly, and I was especially encouraged by the groups overall desire to know God and his Word better.

One of my greatest joys in life is working alongside like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ for the cause of the gospel. This weekend, as physically tiring as it was, refreshed my soul. The conversations I was able to have with friends old and new shed some light of God’s grace. I have been praying for you all, and still am, that you would see the immeasurable value of the gospel, and that it would compel you to completely pour out your life for Christ. If God, by my feeble efforts to show you this, would be merciful to change some lives, I would be overjoyed.

There is still much work to do in this world. Press on, friends, Christ is coming soon!

Ray Ortlund is a goldmine

His posts, which are always very short, readable, and encouraging, regularly hit me right on time. Need a new blog to follow for 2011? Here it is.

Two blogs to sample the gospel goodness.

Creating a gospel culture

  • The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Ephesians 2:1-9).
  • The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Galatians 2:11-16).
  • The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Ephesians 2:14-16).
  • The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Romans 6:20-23).
  • The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Romans 5:2).

The highway to strength

Our shortcomings and our failures stare us out of countenance, and then are we painfully weak.  But this also is the highway to strength: ‘When I am weak, then am I strong.