Great Gospel Resources

For Christian parents, grandparents, guardians and cargivers whose hearts are being moved by God to return to doing discipleship His way – beginning in the home – times have never been better. 

The wealth of gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources available to us today is nothing short of an amazing gift of our God.  But before I give you a list of resources to consider using in your homes or churches, let me remind parents of what I call “The Big Three.”

1.  Family Worship – consisting of singing, praying, reading and meditating on the Scriptures together in the home.

2.  Family Bible Study – parents actually opening up the Bible and teaching it passage-by-passage to children.

3.  Catechisms – a question/answer format that requires children to memorize biblical answers to the most important questions in life.  Catechisms were used ferociously in Christian homes of the past to inculcate children with a biblical worldview and sound Bible doctrine.  They are wonderful tools that God is blessing in my own home.

Friends, there are no substitutes for these three.  If you simply cannot make time to use the various other resources listed below, please do whatever it takes to teach the Bible, worship together, and catechize your children and family.  These three are simple, word-centered and require nothing more than a Bible and your voices and minds.  Worship.  Study.  Catechize.  The Spirit works through the Word, and the Spirit exalts the Word-made-flesh (Jesus).  The Big Three will help us make our homes Word-Saturation Zones for the glory of the Lord.

Assuming you are glorifying and enjoying God in your homes in worship, study and catechisms, and are hungry for additional ways to seize more moments for Christ’s glory, here’s a short list:

1.  Helping Children to Understand the Gospel – a wonderful resource for any adult in a position to consistently share the gospel with children, available here:  http://www.childrendesiringgod.org/resources/resource.php?id=3

2.  Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers – a great set of four books [The Gospel, The Mission, The Trinity, The Scripture] for pre-K children or early readers.  Also consider having older siblings read these to younger siblings.  Available here: http://www.monergismbooks.com/product.php?productid=18753&cat=357&page=1

3.  The Prince’s Poison Cup – a children’s book by R. C. Sproul that uses allegory to present the gospel message in a powerful and captivating way for kids.  The book comes with questions for parents to ask children after reading the story that will drive families into the Word.  Check out all of Dr. Sproul’s tremendous children’s books at http://www.ligonier.org/store/

4.  Sammy and His Shepherd – another super book by Susan Hunt that explains and applies the truths of Psalm 23 to children (and adults).  The questions in the back of the book are great at driving readers to the basic gospel message in the Bible.  This book is also sold at the Ligonier Store (link above). 

5.  Big Truths for Young Hearts – a book by Bruce Ware that helps adults teach systematic theology to children.  The theology in the short chapters seems best suited for late elementary children or “tweens.”  Check it out here: http://www.monergismbooks.com/Big-Truths-for-Young-Hearts-Teaching-and-Learning-the-Greatness-of-God-p-18376.html

6.  Christian Worldview for Children – by Brannon Howse.  This author actually has a series of these worldview books and they are all worth your time to read to and with your children of all ages.  If we are to have the “mind of Christ” then we must filter everything in life through the lens of the Bible.  Howse helps us do just that with these mince-no-words books.  Find them here: http://www.worldviewweekend.com/secure/store/       

7.  Family Worship – of all the fine books available on the topic, this one by Donald Whitney seems to present the case in the most straightforward manner.  Need pratical advice on how to begin or more effectively lead worship in your home?  Shop here: http://biblicalspirituality.org/

8.  Passion Hymns for a Kid’s Heart – a book of hymns with wonderful written expositions on the doctrines contained in the hymns, by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada.  Want to teach your children the great hymns of the faith and the doctrines of the Bible from which they are drawn?  Look no further than this series of books, available at Ligonier Store (link above).

9.  Need help doing expository studies through Bible books in your home?  Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio is producing some fine ones.  Currently he has studies in the Psalms and Proverbs available: http://www.generationswithvision.com/Store/

10.  I produce expository Book studies for member of the local church I serve, as well as catechisms.  But, for those wanting a formal catechism to use in their home, I recommend A Catechism for Boys and Girls available from Evangelical Press: http://www.epbooks.us/

11.  Firm Foundations: Creation to Christ – an awesome chronological Bible study for children that teaches the grand purposes and actions of Almighty God from Genesis to Revelation.  Get it here: http://www.ntmbooks.com/

12.  For creation apologetics and biblical refutations of all the lies of Darwinian evolution, there simply is no finer source than Answers in Genesis.  Do yourself the favor of becoming a frequent surfer at http://www.answersingenesis.org/

13.  To give your family a global perspective on the church of Christ, with emphasis on the persecuted church, employ the resources of Voice of the Martyrs, available at http://www.persecution.com/

Most of these resources would also be available at CBD or Amazon or other large retailers, but I have included the above sources because I believe they are deserving of our attention and pocketbooks.  So, whenever I can buy directly from these gospel-driven sources, I do.  Enjoy surfing their sites and soaking up what the Lord is doing through them.

Happy shopping!  May you all grow ever more serious about bringing your homes under the authority of Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6:1-4.  There’s joyful room for all (parents, grandparents, teachers) to join in the tremendous task of making disciples of the next generation.  

Join the Cross-Centered Homes revolution and never forget “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down!”

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Packer on Evangelism

Now that we have spent several weeks examining the basic gospel message, I thought a quote from J. I. Packer’s classic Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP, England, 1961) was in order.  From page 101:

Evangelism, we have learned, is a task appointed to God’s people everywhere.  It is the task of communicating a message from the Creator to rebel mankind.  The message begins with information and ends with an invitation.  The information concerns God’s work of making His Son a perfect Savior for sinners.  The invitation is God’s summons to mankind generally to come to the Savior and find life.  God commands all men everywhere to repent, and promises forgiveness and restoration to all who do.  The Christian is sent into the world as God’s herald and Christ’s ambassador, to broadcast this message as widely as he can. 

Amen, brother Packer.  Preach on!  And, let us not forget, the very first place God calls us to publish this blessed message is in our own homes, to our own children.  Seize every conceivable opportunity of every day to reinforce the gospel in your homes, and may God give us grace to live it out with our children day-by-day. 

Soli Deo Gloria!

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The Gospel (Pt 5)

“The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

We’ll end our discussion on the gospel where we began.  These words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 have helped frame our thoughts on the gospel.  We have been working through the phrase, “Repent and believe the gospel” backwards, asking first what is “the gospel” which Jesus says we should believe in?

We have seen the gospel is the message about God, mankind, and Jesus Christ.

If we are going to know, love, live and teach the gospel then we must think deeply about what the Bible says of God, ourselves, and Jesus.  Without these three elements, we do not really have the “good news.”  When we think of the gospel beginning with who God is (holy), then moving to who we are (wicked at heart), we are left wondering where the “good” of the good news is!  And that’s precisely the point.  It is then that we by grace begin to long for deliverance from sin and death and all that we are in the core of our beings.  It is then we are ready to learn of the Treasure of treasures – Jesus the Savior.

Having come to some sense of God’s absolute, uncompromising holiness, and our utter sinfulness, we are in a place where we see the beauty of the life, death and resurrection of Christ in our place.  The guilt of our sin transferred to Christ on the cross becomes a hauntingly beautiful thing to us.

What remains, then, are the gospel commandsrepent and believe.

To repent in the Bible means to have a change of mind and heart, to turn away from sin and one’s own inherent wickedness.  It involves a confession (agreeing with God’s assessment of us) and a determination to walk in the way of Christ.

To believe or have faith means to submit one’s life to, or to totally trust.  When Paul told the Romans to confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God had raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:9), he was requiring them to be willing to part with their heads in order to follow Jesus.  Indeed, as Paul was writing, Rome was not a very safe place for those who “believed” in Jesus and refused to call Ceasar “lord.”  This is far from easy believism.

Repentance and belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior are the essential gospel commands.  This is the required human response to the message called the gospel.  Repentance and faith in Christ always go hand-in-hand in the Bible.  One turns from sin and to Jesus alone for forgiveness and justification before a holy God.

Now here’s the kicker.  Salvation is such a complete work of God’s grace that we are told in Scripture that everything involved in it is a “gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:9).  Wow!  It’s all a gift.  This includes the conviction of sin and the compelling power of God bringing us to treasure the perfections of Christ (John 6:44, 65; 16:8).  This includes saving faith.  This includes repentance (2 Tim 2:25).  God saves us.  God gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead!  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

The Spirit of God mysteriously blows into the sinner’s life, giving new life in Christ, opening the heart and making it new (Acts 16:14; 2 Cor 5:17), just as He promised He would one day do (Ezek 36).  And the result of this great, regenerating move of God’s Spirit in the sinner is saving faith in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:1).  And, little wonder Christ alone is the object of saving faith; for He alone has made it all possible.

No more striving to be good enough.  No more praying some formulaic prayer.  No more simple “ABCs.”  No more trusting in the work of Christ plus our own efforts at being righteous.  No, what we see in the Bible when a sinner comes face to face with the Spirit applying the gospel is much more “native,” much more “real,” much less “flashly” and man-manipulated.  It’s the pure, unadulterated cry for mercy: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13).  It’s the helpless plea of a man bleeding out his last on the cross beside Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Makes me think the gospel really is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).  Know the gospel.  Love the gospel.  Live the gospel.  Teach the gospel.  Pray the gospel.  And center your homes on the gospel.  Then one day, by God’s immeasurable grace, you too may have the joy of hearing your children cry out to Jesus for mercy.

May God make it so, for the sake of His Son and our Holy Savior, amen.

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The Gospel (Pt 4)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

Most Christians have read this verse numerous times.  It comes early in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and seems to me to be the hinge or turning point in the sermon.  The sermon begins with the B-attitudes, which tell us the distinguishing marks of Kingdom citizens (those saved by God in Christ).  Then Jesus exhorts His followers to be salt and light so that the world might glorify the Heavenly Father (which means, by the way, Christians owe even their good works to God’s grace).

Then Jesus drops this bomb – He came to fulfill the entire Old Testament, even the smallest pen stroke!  I bet you could have heard a pin drop.  Then maybe some quiet mumbling:

“Did He just say He came to fulfill the Word of God?”

“That’s what I think He said, but we must have misunderstood Him!”

This truth is critical to the gospel – Jesus came to do what we could never do because of our sinful defect.  Jesus’ perfection substitutes for our defection!  Jesus perfectly obeyed God and His law.  Jesus is everything Israel could not be.  Jesus is everything we cannot be.  Jesus’ whole life is a substitute for sinners, including the death He died on the cross, and His resurrection from the grave.

Jesus is perfection personified.  His perfect work (life of obedience and sacrificial death and resurrection) is possible because of His perfect being.  He is all God and all man, the One and Only God-man, the One and Only Eternal Son of God.

No wonder God the Father boomed from heaven at Jesus’ baptism: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).  God is perfectly pleased with Jesus.  He can never be so with sinners like you and me (Rom 8:8).

To drive home the point even further, Jesus’ goes on in the Sermon on the Mount to bring His listeners to utter despair.  He tells them their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees if they are to make it to heaven.  The Pharisees were the religious “heroes” of the commoners.  They were considered “holy men.”  How could the common person with so little access to the Temple and the sacred scrolls ever attain to such a standard?

Jesus continues and tells His listeners that every one of them is a murderer, adulterer, and liar and are all therefore in danger of hell fire.  You see, Jesus was demolishing several hundred years of poor biblical interpretation and application.  The external religion of the Pharisees was never the intent of the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament).  No, no.  God’s law was meant to expose the desparately wicked heart in every person.  God’s law rightly read never leads to a feeling of self-righteousness; but rather despair and self-loathing as one is confronted time and again with one’s innate inability to obey Holy God.

Yet, Jesus said He came to render perfect obedience to God’s Law.  May God give us ears to hear, friends.  God’s perfect pleasure exists only in One Person – Jesus the Christ.  Yahweh had promised 700 years before the Sermon on the Mount:

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . He was crushed for our iniquities . . . it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief . . . He [Yahweh] shall see the anguish of His soul [the Suffering Messiah] and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53).

Oh friends, this is the good news!  God has crushed Jesus on the cross instead of crushing us.  Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross was a perfect sin offering, literally.  God gave Jesus what we deserve so He could give us what Jesus deserves (2 Cor 5:21).  Jesus, the only purely innocent man ever to walk planet Earth, became “a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

Jesus came as a man, was tempted as a man, and pleased God the Father perfectly as a man (Heb 4:15).  Yes, Jesus is fully God (John 1:1-3; Heb 1:1-4), but He is also fully man.  And as a man He could rightfully pay the price for man’s sin, for as the Medieval theologian Anselm put it, only man should rightly have to pay the penalty for man’s sin.  Yet, only God could possibly meet His own perfectly holy standard.  Jesus, the God-man, secured salvation for sinners who trust Him and Him alone.  His life for ours – O great exchange!

So much more can and should be said of Jesus.  But for now, let’s conclude by reminding ourselves that the gospel finds it fulfillment in Jesus.  Salvation is only in His perfect work and Person (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  If we trust anyone or anything else for a right standing with God, we are undone and doomed to hell.

God is holy.  We are not.  Jesus is holy in our place.  Little wonder, then, that Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Crystal clear, isn’t it?  No Jesus.  No gospel.  The great eternal plan of God to get glory by redeeming helpless sinners is brought to fruition in the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

 

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The Gospel (Pt 3)

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27).

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5).

Wow!  Something happened between Genesis 1 and Genesis 6, didn’t it?  Indeed, it’s called Genesis 3, aka The Fall of Man.  Though man was made the crown of God’s creation, bearing the very mark of the Maker, he sinned.  When Adam and Eve sinned they immediately became spiritually separated from God, and their posterity began to be born with the same internal corruption that was gnawing away at their own souls.

Disobeying God is ugly.  Sin is “cosmic treason” as R. C. Sproul has put it.  At the heart of sin is idolatry, namely self-worship.  The desire to “have it our way” is a malignant tumor growing in all of us.  God’s image, though still present in humanity, is warped and nearly invisible.  The earth itself even pays a price for all of this rebellion (Rom 8:18-22).  Yes, sin is ugly.  It brings with it death (spiritually in hell and physically in the grave).  Perhaps even more haunting is the gospel truth of how this resident sin renders us spiritually helpless.

The Gospel is a message about God, as we have seen.  It is also a message about us (humanity or mankind).  Who are we?  What is wrong with us?  Is anything even wrong with us?  And if so, is there a remedy?

The “pop-psychology gospel” pandered by the likes of Oprah teaches the human problem is external (societal conditions, environment, and the existence of Bible thumpers like me).  The solution then is internal, so we’re told.  We must “find ourselves,” “tap into our oneness with the divine,” “become enlightened via education,” and other such trash.

The Gospel of God is the polar opposite.  Look all you want inside yourselves, you will not find God there nor any spiritual power or ability to obtain what you most need – to be set right with your Holy Creator.  In fact, when we look into the mirror of the Bible, here is what we see of ourselves:

“Can the Etiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer 13:23).

“Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5).

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Is 53:6).

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Is 59:2).

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked . . . and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:1-3).

“Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Friends, God does not paint a rosy picture of us in our sinful condition.  No words minced, we are all born into a condition so grave that spiritually we are dead.  Physically alive, but nonetheless spiritually walking dead men and women!

Last time I checked, dead people don’t do much.  Spiritually, then, we enter this world completely helpless and inanimate and incapable.  Then, to add insult to injury, we begin to act in character – we willingly and joyfully sin against God.  We don’t love Him above all, nor do we love our neighbors and put their welfare above our own.

Jesus even said sin has rendered us unwilling to seek what is good and right.  We love evil more than good  (John 3:19-20).  This is our natural bent.  We sin because we are sinners.  We act in character, out of our internal rotteness.  This is precisely what Jesus taught people.  We have an internal problem, a heart cancer that if not somehow cured, is eternally terminal (Mark 7).

We are sinners, rebels against God and what He deems good.  Parents had better recognize this and make drastic changes in how they view, correct, discipline and instruct their children.  Little Johnny is not good and innocent.  Little Susie is hell bound and rightly deserving of it.  And, parents, so are we.

The gospel universally condemns mankind in sin and enemity with God.  And, worst of all, we cannot do anything to fix it in our own power.

“Sin when it is fully grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15). 

That’s hard to swallow, no?  But swallow it we must if we are to know and love and live the gospel.

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