If God Could Save Paul He Can Save Anyone

PaultheApostleOne of my favorite verses in the Bible lately is this:

“They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”” (Galatians 1:23).

It’s a powerful testimony that if God can save Paul the Apostle he can save anyone (see also Acts 7:54-60; Acts 9; Gal. 1:11-24; Phil. 3:1-11). Paul’s background as a Pharisee gives us hope that God can save religious people today who are trusting in their own self-righteousness for salvation. His background as a persecutor of the church gives us hope that God can save even the worst of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are currently in rebellion against God.

So keep praying and keep sharing Christ. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes! (Romans 1:16)

How a Leftist Lesbian Professor, Who Once Despised Christians, Somehow Became One

There are so many encouraging and edifying things in this article by Rosaria Butterfield: “My Train Wreck Conversion: As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians. Then I somehow became one.” Here’s a quote from the article that demonstrates the kind of love and friendship that we need to show unbelievers:
“Something else happened. Ken and his wife, Floy, and I became friends. They entered my world. They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken’s God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy. And because Ken and Floy did not invite me to church, I knew it was safe to be friends. . .Then, one ordinary day, I came to Jesus, openhanded and naked. In this war of worldviews, Ken was there. Floy was there. The church that had been praying for me for years was there. Jesus triumphed. And I was a broken mess. Conversion was a train wreck. I did not want to lose everything that I loved. But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world. I weakly believed that if Jesus could conquer death, he could make right my world.”

You can also watch an interview with her here.

You can buy her book, The Secret Thought of an Unlikely Converthere.

Finally, you can read a thoughtful book review of her book by Carl Trueman here.

Sow Faithfully and Wait Patiently for the Harvest

Recently I preached a sermon on Galatians 6:9-10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We can easily grow weary in doing good and there are various reasons for this. But one reason that we can easily grow weary in doing good is because we sow and sow and sow and sow and we hardly see any fruit, if any at all. And so, we grow impatient, frustrated and weary. And this is why Paul says in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

At the Valiant for Truth blog, I was reminded of this truth once again. One pastor encouraged the pastor and author of this post with the following words,

“Don’t think that Sunday is when people are sanctified. Be prepared for a lifetime of ministry to your congregation, one where you will see them struggle with certain sins and shortcomings for years. Be prepared to labor at great lengths and be long-suffering. Over time, you will see Christ sanctify his people. It just probably won’t happen in one day as a result of one sermon.”

This is so true and yet so hard to remember. Pastors and Christians in general get easily discouraged in doing good to others because of the lack of fruit that they see for all of their sowing. But God’s Word encourages us that “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

In his commentary on Galatians Philip Ryken gives a couple illustrations of this point that have greatly encouraged me in my ministry. He writes,

“The harvest will come. It will come at the proper time, a time determined not by the seasons or the weather, but by the will of God. Whether it comes during this life or when Christ comes again (cf. 1 Tim. 6:15), the harvest will come in God’s own good time. In due season, those who do good will reap their reward. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).

Until the harvest comes, we must keep sowing. A good example of what it means to sow and then to wait for the reaping comes from the life of William Carey, the first modern missionary to India. From the day that he arrived on the subcontinent in 1793, Carey began to teach the Bible to anyone who would listen. This he continued to do for the next seven years without winning so much as a single convert to Christ. Not surprisingly, Carey sometimes got discouraged. On one occasion he wrote back to his family in England: “I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing, and thus I hope; a little time blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either choked with weeds, or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in his strength.” Though he sometimes grew weary in doing good, Carey refused to give up. In 1800 he finally began to reap what he had sown, baptizing his first Hindu convert in the Ganges River. This was the firstfruits of a great harvest among the Indian people.

Or consider another example, this one from the colony of Virginia. It concerns the conversion of a man named Luke Short at the ripe old age of 103. Short was sitting under a hedge when he happened to remember a sermon he had once heard preached by the famous Puritan John Flavel (d. 1691). As he recalled the sermon, he asked God right then and there to forgive his sins through Jesus Christ. Short lived for three more years, and when he died, this inscription was put on his tombstone: “Here lies a babe in grace, aged three years, who died according to nature, aged 106.”

But here is the remarkable part of the story: The sermon Short remembered had been preached by Flavel back in England eighty-five years before! Nearly a century had passed between the sermon and the conversion, between the sowing and the reaping. But a man reaps what he sows, and at the proper time Flavel reaped his harvest.

This is a reminder not to evaluate ministry on the basis of immediate results. Too many churches, especially in America, want to taste the fruits of their labours the day they are planted. Yet most spiritual produce takes time to grow. A long time. Often it takes years before parents, teachers, or ministers are able to see their work pay off. “Be patient, therefore, brothers,” wrote the apostle James, “until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand”” (James 5:7-8).

And so, if you have grown weary in doing good. . .to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 5:9-10), remember these words from the Apostle Paul “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 5:9). In thankfulness for God’s grace to you in Christ, sow faithfully and wait patiently for the harvest.

Speaking as Christians in Ways that People, Even Children, Understand

As Christians we can often use theological words that most people don’t understand unless they were raised in the church or study theology in their spare time. These are good words and I am certainly not advocating that we jettison words like justification, sanctification, propitiation, or other words that are in fact found in the Bible (e.g. Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Jn. 2:2). I even use these words in the pulpit, but I usually try to explain what they mean. But we can help others to understand these words better and what they mean for us today if we talk about them not just with theological accuracy but also with words that connect to our everyday experience as humans. I’m talking about translating them into words that anyone can understand, even a child.

This is one of the biggest challenges for a pastor when he preaches. And this has sort of been on my mind lately ever since I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller entitled “Justification By Faith” in which he described our justification in such a way that anyone listening to him would have walked away knowing how immensely practical this doctrine is for our life. Justification is really a universal longing to be validated, to be approved, to be accepted by others. But we won’t ultimately be satisfied by the approval of men. Only will we truly be satisfied when God, our Creator, approves of us and says “you are forgiven AND I, I ACCEPT YOU in Christ as righteous.”

As I have been continuing to think in these ways, the following thought popped into my head as I was studying today: At least three of our deepest longings and needs as humans are met in Christ, for those who have faith in Him. In our justification in Christ, we find acceptance (the best kind possible. . . acceptance before our Creator). In our sanctification in Christ we find fruitfulness produced by the Spirit (the best kind possible, fruitfulness that benefits not just myself but others and fruitfulness that will last). In our glorification in Christ we experience the latter two (acceptance and fruitfulness) perfectly in the presence of our Triune God and each other and thus are eternally happy. In sum, in Christ we find acceptance, fruitfulness and happiness (and much much more!). Now we experience all these things as a foretaste by the Spirit but when Christ returns we shall experience them as a consummate reality, all for the glory of God!

I’m sure you could describe our justification, sanctification and glorification all from slightly different angles (e.g. justification=approval, validation, worth, righteousness, in God’s sight; sanctification=fruitfulness, productivity, good works, progressively becoming a better person (by God’s standards); glorification=the whole enchilada. . .your best life later. . .all that we long for and truly need. This is just me trying to translate the benefits we have in Christ (such as justification, sanctification, glorification) in words that most people understand today. Any thoughts?