You’re Kidding, Right?

I was thinking about just a few people I know whose lives didn’t seem to be going right. Two guys I know were just in a terrible car accident – but they’re alive, and doing remarkably well. Yet for the rest of their lives, they may carry many scars from that accident. I thought of some people I knew through work – they’re in trouble at school, they’re at odds with their parents, they’re wrestling with where they live, their girlfriends or boyfriends, or who they are. Things just don’t seem to be going right for them.

My heart is heavy for them, and I have found myself often wishing that I had spoken to them differently when they told me of their heartaches and trials. I wish that I had spoken to them about the truth that has challenged me over the past few weeks. God is sovereign. God has each of our days planned. He is not caught off guard. He is not unaware of our circumstances. That has given me great comfort – and has brought me much conviction.

First, it has given me great comfort.
If I lived in a world where any decision was based on the human will, I would be terrified. Our will is bent only towards sin. If God was unable to control everything, how could I make it through life?

Now Tim, you’re thinking to yourself, are you implying that we don’t have free will to make decisions?

God’s Plan in Salvation

No. I believe we have “free will.” We obviously make choices. However, the will has the freedom to choose whatever it desires. Our will is a slave to sin, so we desire only sin. When it comes to Salvation specifically, I believe that “all human beings desire to flee from God unless and until the Holy Spirit performs a work of regeneration. That regeneration changes our desires so that we will freely repent and be saved.” (1) Additionally, I must agree with R.C. Sproul when he says:

“To be sure, for us to choose Christ, God must change our heart. That is precisely what He does. He changes our heart for us. He gives us a desire for Himself that we otherwise would not have. Then we choose Him out of the desire that is within us. We freely choose Him because we want to choose Him. That is the wonder of His grace.”

Or let’s look at what God’s Word says:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44, NIV)

“He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65, NIV)

“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36, NIV, emphasis mine)

God’s Plan in Life

That encourages me because for those who have been called, we are called to live worthy of that calling. Our will has been changed. We are no longer slaves to sin. So, when I speak to fellow believers, I can encourage them to endure the suffering they now face. I can encourage them to live “worthy of the calling,” realizing that God does have a plan. I can encourage them that God has not only planned the end, but also the means.

For those who have not yet been called, I need to respond with the gospel. I need to pray that God works in their life, and pray that he can work through me. I want them to see that whatever situation they’re in is within God’s plan. My desire is that it would be part of his plan to call them to salvation.

God’s Plan of Conviction

Secondly, it has brought much conviction in my life.
C.J. Mahaney has had a huge impact on my life in a number of ways. I was especially grateful last week as God used him to convict me of my sin of complaining – which has everything to do with what we’re talking about. Essentially, any time I respond to a situation with the words “I see no reason for this,” (2) I question God’s sovereignty. I tell him that I don’t believe that his plan is truly the best plan. I tell him that if I were in charge, I’d do it “oh so differently.”

I wouldn’t place those small, annoying moments in my life – like losing my pen, getting locked out of my car, stubbing my toe, or bleaching my favorite colored shirt. When those things happened, I often respond with “Come on!” or “You’ve got to be kidding me” or my famous line: “oh man!” It could be a sigh, a moan, a groan, or an angry outburst. They’re all telling God that I don’t believe in his plan or in his sovereignty.

And as C.J. pointed out last week, it’s only by grace that God doesn’t respond to our moans and groans with “I see no reason for you!”

That’s convicting to me. I constantly respond by saying “I see no reason for this” or “come on” or “you’ve got to be kidding me.” God isn’t kidding. It’s for real. And someday, we will see the reason. On that glorious day, when we finally see our savior, we will know why even those seemingly small and annoying things were placed in our life. We’ll know why the big things were placed in our life as well. And we will all glory forever in our redeemer. God will be glorified for all eternity.

1 – Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, by R.C. Sproul, page 180.
2 – Sustaining a Pastors Soul, C.J. Mahaney, Together For the Gospel 2008

Kindling For A Fire


For some reason, I haven’t been able to figure out how to write about my experiences at Together for the Gospel. I can only speak them verbally. I gained so much, and with 17 free books in my possession (plus the others I bought), I’m continuing to learn. In those few days, I was impacted by how much I didn’t know. I realized that my grip on the gospel was loose – too loose. I learned the great importance of penal substitution, I was hit hard by my total depravity, I was challenged in the area of race, I was convicted of my lack of passion, and I was made aware of my sin of complaining.

I had planned on going over each sermon and talk and writing something on it. Instead of doing that, I just want to return to blogging as a person who has been changed and strengthened in his faith.

I want to encourage you to get a hold of a couple of the T4G talks, particularly R.C. Sproul’s and John MacArthur’s sermons. It doesn’t matter who you are – male, female, teen, adult, called to ministry in the church or called to ministry in the workplace, mom, dad, pastor, writer, or random person stumbling across this blog. I’m certain that I could receive some backup on that statement from many others, particularly one young guy who went with my group last week after an original member couldn’t attend. He told me he was a completely different person. His thinking had changed. A passion for learning was lit in his heart.

I have that same desire for everyone who reads this blog now. I want the gospel to be clearly proclaimed. I want people to have a fire lit in their hearts. My desire is that God can work in you to create kindling that His Holy Spirit can light aflame.

// get together for the gospel resources //

Still Together

Well, at night I cannot log onto the internet in this hotel. I guess with 5000 men logging onto their Macbook Pros, it ties things up. So, I just wanted to drop you readers a note to let you know that I’m taking good notes, tons of pictures, and having a fantastic time. We’ve received so many free books – around 15, I believe. So I’m excited to hear John Piper this morning along with C.J. Mahaney, then start heading home so I can debrief, download the messages, and start reading and writing. God bless.

T4G Opening Session

The sound of 5000 men singing hymns is astounding. It’s overwhelming. It’s powerful. It’s loud. It truly overcomes you as you see thousands of men worshiping the savior, celebrating the cross, and rejoicing in our salvation. Looking around, I am greatly encouraged.

This day has been filled with so many experiences. Our group has seen God work in amazing ways, placing people in our lives at just the right time, or having someone speak a word at just the right moment. God’s power is clearly evident.

Ligon Duncan

Our culture is anti-doctrinal – or at least it believes itself to be. We, on the other hand, must understand that truth is for joy, and truth is for growth. We are commanded to live the truth.

A great truth that we learned in this session is that practice is inextricably tied to doctrine (or lack thereof.) The teaching of good doctrine promotes godliness in our livies. Truth does matter because theology is for our life. It guides our actions.

C.J. pointed out in the panel time afterward, and has many times said this, that we must be affected by what we hear, what we sing, and what we teach. But in order to be affected by the gospel, we must understand the doctrine behind it. His passion stems from his knowledge.

The four points that Ligon Duncan ended with were:

1. Doctrine is for God’s glory
2. Doctrine is for our assurance
3. Doctrine is for marriage (Ephesians 5:25)
4. Doctrine is about joy (Philippians 3:1)

Thabiti Anyabwile

I will have to spend more time on Thabiti at a later date. His message was powerful, and received a standing ovation as he was seated. I’m certain that many in the auditorium had trouble hearing him throughout the session, particularly in the section I was seated in. But by God’s grace I was able to take some detailed notes, which I’d like to share in a separate post at a later date. However, one of his opening statements may give you just a glimpse into what is in store (or you can just head to Tim Challies site for a summation of the message.)

“Race, like unicorns,” said Thabiti, “does not exist.”

This World Needs One Thing

“Can you spare a man 50 cents?”

Well, we’re in Louisville. Here, together for the gospel, excited, and looking forward to great things yet to come. But we’ve been hit already by our host city. Just one walk down the streets shows someone the emptiness, the brokeness, and sin of a city – and of this world. It’s thrown in your face as you’re asked for 50 cents on every corner. You have to move aside for the drunk guy on the street. You have to avoid the dark alley. You feel uncomfortable in the bright lights and blaring music.

This world needs one thing: the gospel. We’re here and we have it.

Taking Off

I wrote in my journal today that “the weather is perfect. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. I’m excited.” I’m excited about what God is going to do through me and those with me. He’s provided us with some beautiful surroundings, great friends, and his constant voice. He’s speaking to us this week, as always.

The fun stories are many, from seeing a man in handcuffs arguing with police in Maryland, wild turkeys grazing in Kentucky, a goat loose on the side of the road in West Virginia, and hilarious conversations and stories in the van.

But on the serious side, we’ve talked on topics ranging from Rob Bell to reading, from small groups to apologetics. It’s been awesome, and although the conference hasn’t even started yet, I’ve learned so much. There is so much more to come.

I hope that through this week the my grip on the gospel will grow stronger – and that I will begin to share that passion with many others around me.

Preachers Of The Cross

The dedication page of Preaching the Gospel reads: For the next generation of preachers of the cross. Not preachers of baptism. Not preachers of spiritual gifts. Not preachers of covenants. Not preachers of methods. Not preachers of non-essentials. Preachers of the cross.

It’s not that baptism, spiritual gifts, or covenants are bad things. The point is that we should be united on the Main Thing – the gospel. Less than a week remains before the opening session of Together For the Gospel 08. It is a conference not “to showcase our differences,” as Mark Dever says, but to “highlight what we agree on–we came together for the gospel.” I will be there, joining with hundreds of others uniting together in the gospel.

A.W. Tozer is quoted in preface to Preaching the Cross, saying “one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” Our declaration should like Paul: “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

When all our boast, when all our aim, and when all our focus is on the cross – all else fades away. The world behind me, the cross before me.

The main thing – the gospel – is and must remain the main thing. But what is this gospel?

Is This The Gospel?

She was nervous and I could tell. You know the feeling in the air – something big is about to happen. I was taking her money through a drive-thru window. She was balancing a tract on her lap. “The change is 37 cents,” I smiled and said. She took the change and glanced down at the paper in her lap.

I was tempted to tell her I didn’t need it, that I was a Christian, and that I would probably write about her on my blog someday. But I didn’t. I watched and waited. Finally, she moved.

“Here’s just a little something for you to read on break!” She smiled and said. “It tells you how to get to heaven.” She took off in her van as I stared down at the paper in my hand. That’s it? I thought. I’m just trying to get to heaven? What about my problems here on earth? What about this brokenness around me?

I knew she was nervous and afraid, and I was glad she had the courage to give me that tract that day. But I was dissatisfied with the message I was receiving, even in the tract itself. Was this the gospel?

Let’s Define It

John Stott wrote, “All around us we see Christians relaxing their grasp on the gospel, fumbling it, and in danger of letting it drop from their hands all together.” That is frightening – and so true of many of our churches.

In his post “The Gospel,” C.J. Mahaney offered Jeff Purswell’s definition of the gospel:

“The gospel is the good news of God’s saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God; his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for man’s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating God’s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church”

Paul put it this way: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4 )

That is the gospel. That is what we are uniting together on. We are keeping the main thing, the main thing.

The Gospel Gripped My Heart

I didn’t realize it until the other night as I was preparing to write these essays over the next week or so. It was just as I drifting off to sleep, listening to Josh Harris speak about “humble orthodoxy.” Josh exhorted his congregation to make sure that their hearts had been truly “gripped by the gospel.” You can talk all you want about the gospel, he said, but it means nothing when it has not gripped your heart. It has gripped my heart like never before.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

My mind flashed back to my conversion experience, when I realized my utter sinfulness before a holy and righteous God. My sin weighed heavy on my then, and it weighed heavy on my heart last night.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Oh, the gospel gripped my heart! I was dead in my transgressions. Yet God has made a way through his Son. Jesus took my place on a cross. Mercy and grace were extended to me through God’s innocent son.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6, ESV)

Those words over the years have grown sweeter and sweeter to me. Even as I type or write, I cannot help to begin to read those words aloud. They grip my heart. They bring tears to my eyes and joy to my soul. I deserved all of that. My sins are so great. So overwhelming. Once again, God was showing me my utter sinfulness – and delivering to me grace so amazing, grace so divine.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, ESV)

I have struggled over the years with focusing far too long on myself, and on my sin. I quickly fall into despair, focusing on how unholy I am. This is healthy only to a point. It is true that I am utterly unholy. I am full of sin — but Jesus is “more full of grace than I of sin.” The gospel does not stop at my sin. It focuses on Jesus – on the grace that is there for all who repent and believe.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26, ESV)

I thank God so much for his grace, and for showing me my need for receiving grace. I am free from condemnation. I have been justified by grace as a gift because God put Christ forward as a propitiation for my sin. His justice and wrath meant for me were laid on Christ.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:32-33, ESV)

I was saved many years ago, but this week my heart was truly gripped by the gospel.