Archive for the ‘Good news’ Category
The cry of “Freedom!” has been a rallying point for many centuries. In many lands and nations, it has drawn the attention of men and women, and stirred them up to great and noble deeds. Freedom is something greatly to be desired, and greatly to be valued.
Suppose that you were a convict, sentenced to death. How would you feel? Surely your one desire would be that you might somehow save your life, and have your freedom once again.
How, then, would you respond if a messenger came from the judge and halted the execution, claiming “You have been pardoned! You are now free!” Would you turn your back on such a man? Would you mount the scaffold in defiance of such a message? Would you block your ears, assault the messenger, and reject the message? Surely no one would reject the message of peace and the messenger of pardon?
Each one of us is a slave of sin, under the judgement of a holy God. The sentence for sin is death, and that is the sentence that is pronounced upon every sinner, with the eternal punishment of hell to follow. Who would not desire the pardon of such a judgement?
There is a message of pardon, a message of hope, of peace, of freedom. That message is Jesus Christ, and him crucified. He has died in the place of sinners in order that freedom from sin and the love of God might be freely proclaimed. He himself said that he came ‘to set at liberty those who are oppressed’.
This is freedom indeed!
Jesus Christ has sent his church and his preachers to proclaim this good news. That is why we speak to people about the Saviour, and spread this news as far and as wide as we can. That is why I hope that you will read and consider these words.
How will you respond to this message? Will you block your ears and turn your back? Or will you receive the pardon for sins offered in Christ? Perhaps you want to hear more of this – the pardon of God in Christ is proclaimed Sunday by Sunday in many faithful churches. Hear the gospel; believe in Jesus Christ as he is freely offered to you, and your soul shall live.
Justin Taylor posts Roger Nicole’s summary of the gospel from a seminar on the atonement at Reformed Theological Seminary:
Moved by His incomprehensible love for mankind, the Triune God was pleased not to abandon our rebellious and corrupt race to the misery and hell that it justly deserved, but to undertake to save a great multitude of human beings who had absolutely no claim on His mercy.
In order to bring this plan into execution, the second Person of the Godhead, the Son, took unto himself a full human nature, becoming in all things like his brethren and sisters, sin excepted. Thus he became the Second Adam, the head of a new covenant, and he lived a life of perfect obedience to the Divine Law.
Identifying with his own, he bore the penalty of human sin on the cross of Calvary, suffering in the place of the sinner, the just for the unjust, the holy Son of God for the guilty and corrupt children of man.
By his death and resurrection he has provided the basis
- for the reconciliation of God to humans and of humans to God;
- for the propitiation of a righteous Trinity, justly angry at our sins;
- for the redemption of a multitude of captives of sin whose liberty was secured at the great price of His own blood.
He offered himself as an expiatory sacrifice sufficient to blot out the sins of the whole world and secured the utmost triumph over the enemies of our soul: sin, death, and Satan.
Those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ are thus to be absolved from the guilt of all their sins and are adorned with the perfect righteousness of Christ himself. In gratitude to him they are to live lives of obedience and service to their Savior and are increasingly renewed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This good news of salvation by grace through faith is to be proclaimed indiscriminately to mankind, that is to every man, woman, and child whom we can possibly reach.
The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
The Gospel of Luke, chapter 12, verses 16 to 21
What will you be relying upon on the night when your soul is required of you? Will you rest upon your money? Are you hoping that you are good enough for God? Are you counting on the fact that you are “spiritual” or religious? Do you think that God won’t have a problem with someone like you? Will you wait until just before you die to get ready? Are you hoping it will all end with death? Maybe you’re too busy to think about these things – too busy with your career, with your family, or just too busy having a good time?
Are you “taking your ease” without any eternal security? Have you ever paused to consider the uncertainty of this life, and the certainty of your death? What will you be relying upon when you face the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his coming?
Perhaps you have already realised that you have nothing to rely upon? You may have come close to death and found everything that you thought you could trust in evaporating, and leaving you without comfort.
Is there anything that will make you secure in this life, and in the life which is to come? Is there anything or anyone that you can rely upon now and forever?
The Lord Jesus said: “This is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 39 to 40).
“What are you relying on?” You cannot afford to give the wrong answer to this question, and the only right answer is Jesus Christ. Now is the time to turn to him. We hear daily of men and women dying: some die slowly, some die suddenly. Some see the end coming, others are surprised by it. How many more of whom we never hear are passing hour by hour into eternity? How few are truly prepared for it!
Put your faith in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of sinners like us.
Imagine that you are drowning. It is not a pleasant thought. The water is closing over you once again . . . the waves still sweep over you as you flounder in a raging sea . . . you can feel the current sucking you under . . . a record of your life rushes through your head . . . you can hear the surf pounding the rocks not far away, and threatening to pound you too . . . and you begin to sink for what may be the last time. But wait! All of a sudden a hand reaches out to you, and a strong voice bids you grasp that hand, and be raised up. With what tears of relief would you grasp that hand, and what joy would be yours when you realise that, exhausted as you are, there is enough strength in that hand to hold on to you even when your grip fails again.
Many men and women are in a similar situation every day of their lives. The storms of life wash over them, and waves of violence beat them, and rocks of distress pound them, and the current of grief drags them down, and they feel that they are sinking forever. In a raging sea like this, there is nothing to keep you afloat: all that the world has to offer is like a lead weight that only draws you under all the more quickly, and you become weary of fighting any longer. And yet a hand reaches out to you, and a strong voice bids you to grasp that hand, and be raised up . . . and many men and women turn away, and struggle on in their own fading strength, until they are swept away into darkness.
The hand belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he hears the desperate cries for help that go up from poor sinners struggling in the stormy waters. The sea in which you are drowning is the sea of sin, and there will come a day when you will sink for the last time, and the record of your life that passes before you on that day will be no comfort as you sink to death and judgement. Christ sends his people to warn those who are drowning of the danger they are in, and to point them to the way of salvation, but so many ignore the help at hand, and some even refuse to see the wind and waves that threaten to overwhelm them. And yet if you would only grasp Christ’s hand, then you would find that he is able to bear you up and to keep you safe. The storm may not be over immediately, but his hand that holds you will never let you go, and you shall be eternally safe.
That hand is offered to you this day. Christ reaches down and says to you: “Poor struggling sinner, weary and laden with pain and grief, will you not trust me? Will you not put your faith in me? Will you not put your hand in mine?”
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him” (Hebrews chapter 7, verse 25). Those whom Christ does not save will not be saved – there is no other hope. Will you not therefore come to him now, that you might be saved from sin and have eternal life? Will you not take the hand that he offers before you sink for the last time?
It is a new year.
Would you like a real change?
Would you like new surroundings? A new house, a new room, or new clothes?
Would you like new relationships? New friends, new colleagues, even a new family?
Would you like a new you? A new appearance, enlargements and reductions, a new nose or chin, a new waistline, or renewed health?
Would you like a new life? A completely fresh start, being a different person altogether, sweeping away everything that is, leaving it all behind, and starting over entirely?
One way or another, many of us would like – or may even long for – a makeover of some kind. We would truly love to change something about us and our lives.
Most of these changes are – at best – what you might call ‘cosmetic.’ That is, they are mere changes in appearance, manipulating externals without ever altering reality. As a result, they rarely make us happy. If you like, many of the changes we try to make are like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic: making a doomed vessel more pleasing to the eye.
You probably know by experience that such changes make little lasting difference. At best, they solve problems temporarily. At worst, they lock us into a downward spiral of more and more extreme changes, each one more desperate, expensive, or humiliating than the last. In either case, they present no final solution to problems.
Why is this? It is because whatever you do and wherever you go and whenever you change outwardly, what you carry within you remains the same. We carry our issues, our characters, our personalities, our problems, our sins, with us wherever we go.
What you need is the most radical change of all: an extreme makeover that lies utterly outside your own power of will or money to accomplish, but a change that will once-and-for-all alter everything about you for the better. It is a change that begins on the inside and works its way out, radically altering in lasting fashion our thoughts, feelings, desires, words, and deeds.
It is called “new creation.” It begins with the essential you, the heart and soul of who and what you are, and – over the course of time – works itself through your whole being. It is a new life that will reach its climax with a new body in a new heavens and a new earth.
Would you like such a change? Do you long for an extreme makeover of this sort? This is no gimmick or fable, no lie or scam. This is God’s own truth, his free and sincere offer: “If anyone is in Christ,” says the Bible, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Would you like a fresh start? There is nothing to pay, no forms to fill out, no waiting list, and guaranteed results. Faith in Christ brings new life in him. It is the only true solution to the otherwise empty search for a new you.
More from Abraham Booth’s The Reign of Grace, described by none other than Professor John Murray as “one of the most eloquent and moving expositions of divine grace in the English language.”
He speaks of Christ’s saving the thief on the cross at the very moment of his own greatest agonies:
Here we behold with wonder and contemplate with joy the conduct of the Lord Redeemer in making choice of one as his companion to glory, when he made his exit and left the world. Of one who had – not like Enoch, walked with God; not like Abraham, rejoiced to see the day of Christ, and longed for its commencement; nor like old Simeon, waited with ardent expectation for the consolation of Israel; but of one who, for aught appears to the contrary, had devoted all his time and all his talents to the service of Satan; of one, whom the sword of civil justice permitted not to live; and who, in the eye of the public, was less worthy of mercy than Barabbas himself, who was guilty of sedition and murder; was a vile incendiary and a bloody ruffian. Astonishing procedure of Jesus, the Judge of the world! When such a wretch is saved, who can despair? At that ever-memorable and amazing period, when the Son of the Highest was in the pangs of dissolution, Jehovah was determined to show, by an incontestable fact, that the salvation which was then finishing, originated in sovereign mercy, flowed in atoning blood, was equal to the wants of the most abominably wicked, and terminated in his own eternal glory, as its ultimate design. This, this is grace, indeed!
A few pages on, Booth hymns the manner in which grace reigns in the pardon of sin, summarising several paragraphs of his argument:
How glorious, then, is that forgiveness which is with God, that pardon I have been describing! It has every requisite to make it complete in itself, and suitable to the indigent, miserable sinner. It has not one discouraging circumstance to forbid the most guilty, or the most unworthy, applying to the ever-merciful Jehovah for it. It is full, free, and everlasting, every way complete and worthy of God. It was absolutely necessary to the peace of our consciences, and to the salvation of our souls, that it should be of such unlimited extent, of such unmerited freeness, and of such everlasting efficacy. Less than this would not have supplied our wants, or have served our purpose. If it had not been full, taking in every kind and every degree of sin, we must have suffered the punishment due to some part of it ourselves, and then we had been lost forever. If it had not been entirely free, we could never have enjoyed the inestimable blessing, for we have nothing, nor can we do any thing to purchase it, or to qualify for it. And if it had not been everlasting, never to be reversed, we should have been under continual anxiety and painful apprehensions, lest God should, on account of our present unworthiness or future failings, recall the blessing when once bestowed. But, being possessed of these properties, the vilest sinner has no reason despondingly to say, “My sins, alas! are too many and great for me to expect pardon.” None have any cause to complain, “I long for the blessing; it is dearer to me than all worlds; but my strong corruptions, and utter unworthiness, render me incapable of ever enjoying it.” Nor have any occasion to fear lest, after the comfortable enjoyment of the superlative privilege, they should forfeit it, and again come under condemnation and wrath.
Christian reader, have you rejoiced over the grace of God in Christ this day, that has flowed freely, fully and everlastingly toward you in all your misery and sinful wretchedness? Have you thanked God for loving freely one so vile as you are?
If you are not saved, is this free, full and everlasting pardon not precisely that which answers your most profound and pressing need? It is to be found in Jesus alone, in whom God saves sinners like us.
David Dickson lay dying on his bed, persecuted by the government of the day and under sentence of banishment. A friend came to see him, who had known him for about fifty years. As he sought to comfort the dying man, the friend asked how things were with his soul. David Dickson replied: “I have taken all my good deeds and all my bad deeds, and thrown them together in a heap before the Lord, and fled from both, and laid hold of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace.”
Most of us like to think of ourselves as good people, especially when someone suggests that we are bad. We are very quick to defend ourselves if someone exposes a flaw in our work or our character. There is almost always a “Yes, but . . .” in which we pile up our good deeds against whatever counts against us. We play this counting game in our families, at school, at work, and with friends. We do it all the time. We do it with God.
God’s law reveals our pride, unbelief and sin. Do you use God’s name to curse? Then you have broken God’s law. Do you use the Lord’s day to worship God? If not, you have broken God’s law. God’s law exposes disobedience and dishonour to parents, anger, hatred, murder, lust, adultery, greed, envy, theft, lies, gossip, slander, and covetousness. It points out sins in our hearts and in our lives. And what do we do?
“Yes, but . . .” We begin to pile up all the things that we think count in our favour. We’re trying to tell God that he’s got nothing on us, that we’re actually good enough to please him.
How wrong we are! God’s standard is pure and perfect. He requires, with perfect fairness and justice, absolute righteousness from us. Trying to make up for our sin with so-called good deeds is like trying to polish a dirty car with an oily rag: you can redistribute the mess, but nothing gets any cleaner. In fact, God’s Word tells us that all our efforts at righteousness – the best we have to offer – are like filthy rags that cannot cover our sin.
Our good deeds simply are not good enough. They may soothe the conscience somewhat, but they cannot satisfy a holy God. However, God – in his great mercy – has himself provided a perfect righteousness in Christ Jesus. He is willing to forgive both our sins and our poor attempts to cover them, and to put to our account the perfection of his Son, Jesus Christ, who came to this world to save sinners by dying in their place, suffering the punishment that we deserve, that we might obtain his righteousness.
This is the good news: that God has provided for sinners – through Christ Jesus – a perfect righteousness, offered to all who repent of their sins and trust in Christ for salvation.
David Dickson knew how to count up. He took all the deeds he knew were bad, and all the deeds he thought were good, and he threw them all aside, and turned to Christ. He died with peace and joy, trusting in Jesus Christ and his righteousness. What about you?