Category Archives: The Gospel

One Way to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness Who Comes to Your Door

I just had a Jehovah’s Witness come to the door.  She seemed like a nice lady.  She had a Jamaican accent (or at least that is as sophisticated as I am at judging Caribbean accents).  I could have listened a long time.  She was inviting me to a convention downtown that would take no offering and was free.  I said I wouldn’t be going and she asked if I was acquainted with Witnesses.  “Yes,” I said, “I had not too long ago met with some of your people and gone through the little book.”  She knew exactly what book I was talking about and said, “Yes, it is a very nice book.”  I immediately answered, “No, it is not a nice book.  It does not give Jesus the honor he deserves.”  “Oh, we believe in Jesus,” she said.  “But you don’t believe he is God,” I said.  Her instant reply was, “But Jesus never called himself God.”

I didn’t go further with her but I wish I had responded this way:

“Ma’am, if you have the slightest openness to hearing contradictory evidence to your claim, I would be happy to share it with you.  Are you open to receiving an opposite viewpoint?”  If she said yes I would have directed her to Revelation 22:12,13, which reads,

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

The speaker is identified in verse 16 as Jesus.  And he calls himself the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  So I would direct her attention then to Revelation 1:8,

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

Do you see the dilemma for the Jehovah’s Witnesses here?  Jesus takes the same titles as the “Lord God.”  That is blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.

I remember sitting across the table from the Witnesses with whom I went through the little book and I remember laying out this passage to them.  It was at this point that the woman (it was a couple I was meeting with) took a book out of her purse and began looking up the answer to this passage.  I never heard what that answer was, though I am sure they have one.  It must not have sounded convincing to her.

Now let me be clear about something.  Even if Jesus never did directly say, “I am God,” (though he has indeed by claiming these titles), the rest of the New Testament very clearly proclaims it (John 1:1, for example, which, by the way, cannot be translated the way Jehovah’s Witnesses translate it in their New World Translation, see John 1:1 translation).  And if the apostles and prophets of the New Testament teach it, it is true.


Ephesians 2:8,9 — Conversations with God

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

Father, these are some of the most amazing words in Scripture.  So clear, so exact, and yet I’m tempted to take them for granted.  They have been so quoted as to feel trite at times when in fact they are world changing.

To acknowledge that my rescue from death comes not by works of obedience I have done, but by trusting in Jesus’ provision of sacrifice, is at once humbling and worldview changing.  Every major and minor religion trades in the coin of good works as the means to salvation, often not even differing that much on what those works are.  But Christianity is uniquely different, trading in the altogether different currency of faith and grace.

We can’t boast about why we should merit Your salvation.  We can’t stand before You or anyone else and list our credentials for getting into heaven or the kingdom.  We must receive the rescue as a gift, totally unmerited except for the merit of Jesus earned on our behalf.

Thank You for Your indescribable gift!

But once we have given up earning our own way and have received this gift of all gifts, we have every confidence that You have rescued us from our terrible plight because of Your imcomparable love for us.  You have made a way where there was not way.  I’ll boast in You rather than myself.


Ephesians 1:7-10 — Conversations with God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ…In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

A third blessing You have blessed me with, Father, is redemption through the blood of Your Son, Jesus.  You purchased me to Yourself by covering my debt that I owed You with Your own sacrifice.  This sacrifice freed You to forgive my sins and is yet another evidence of the richness of Your grace. 

It seems there is no end to how much You love us, for You lavished on us this forgiveness, covering even the most vile of our transgressions.  There are some of us who were convinced that our crimes were too great, too heinous, to be forgiven.  But Your grace has known no bounds.

Indeed, to a population of trespassers who could hold their collective wisdom in a thimble, You gave an additional blessing of all wisdom and insight by making known to us the mystery of Your will.  How else could we have known the extent of Your love and that it was really ours to receive?

Jesus is the embodiment of this kind intention of Yours to fill us in.  He came to tell us about You and about the rescue available to castaways drowning in an ocean of sin and rebellion.  He began a new administration of Your grace that is suitable to the finalization of Your plan to redeem the human race.  Jesus is the sum of all things and His administration of Your grace is the summing up of all things in heaven and earth.  We are looking to this finalization of Your plan when He establishes His kingdom here.  I can’t wait, Lord!

Father, there has been much reflection on why You deemed it the right time to send Jesus, why that was the fullness of time.  it seems a history of rebellion and exile and restoration had prepared Israel for the Messiah.  The success of world super-powers like Greece and Rome in creating a need for and ability for speaking one universal language by most people on earth made preaching this fullness of times easier.  it does not seem that the world was any darker nor more enlightened than any other time.

But in Your infinite wisdom You considered what we now call 5 B.C. (or B.C.E.) the right time for the Son of God to take on a human nature and be born as a human child.  The uneasy relationship between Israel and her Roman conquerors set the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion.  And the rest is history.

It is still the fullness of times and the administration of the gospel is still in full force, but it seems we continually need a kick in the pants to keep our energies up.  I need constant motivating and I thank You for helping me along.  My daughter asked, or should I say remarked in disgust, yesterday, “Are Christians now considered extremists?”  I suppose we are.  May we ride that wave to glory, Lord!  May we be identified with Your Son, the extremist.


Unity and the Glory of God (Theology for Living from Philippians)

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings.  All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 20-23)

For Paul, everything revolved around the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so he was most excited to greet those who had embraced this gospel and send greetings from those whom Christ had found through the gospel.  Such were those who had received his witness while in prison in Rome (we believe).  Once again Paul has a chance to emphasize that nothing can thwart the gospel, not even the great apostle’s imprisonment.

It is this unity of believers in the gospel that then becomes his most powerful message.  For even though nothing can thwart the gospel, disunity among believers can hinder it.  Disunity is the single most dangerous enemy of the gospel.  Unity is the most powerful base of our witness to the truth of the gospel.  When we stand together as one our enemies get truly scared.  When we fight, they laugh us to scorn.

And though we say that, for Paul, everything revolved around the gospel of Jesus Christ, we might also say that an even higher level of importance for him was to give glory to God.  But it is this same devotion to the gospel that brings God such glory.  It is His gospel, it is His message to a lost and dying world, it is His means of restoring His creation to its original beauty.

Would you bring Him glory?  Devote yourself to His gospel.  Would you be devoted to the gospel?  Devote yourself to the unity you must have with your bothers and sisters in Christ.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus,” the love that moved him to sacrifice his rights and agendas, “be with your spirit.”


Joy and Peace in the Gospel (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4-7)

It seems a little odd that right after Paul mentions the names of the prime combatants in the church conflict (with whom, of course, most everyone has taken sides) and asks other leaders to help them resolve it, that Paul would not stay more immediately with this topic.  But in point of fact, he is on topic.

The enjoinder to rejoice in the Lord is tantamount to saying, “Rejoice in what God rejoices about,” which is the saving of souls who are in darkness by holding out the word of life in unity with one another.  The gentleness that is to be evident to all is that gentleness of interaction with one another in the Body of Christ that views one another as more important than oneself, that is concerned not only for one’s own interests only but also for the interests of others.

And that kind of selflessness extends itself to unbelievers, also.  They sense that the most important thing to you is not your personal agenda, your pet doctrines or behavioral distinctives, but the person in front of you — them.  When that is the case, it is not the individual who is offensive but only the gospel itself.  And that is what we want.

The flip side of this is freedom from anxiety.  The Philippians had been anxious about Paul’s imprisonment because they felt the gospel was limited by his personal limitations.  It was not, of course, as we have seen.  Confidence in the gospel and in the Lord’s ability to have it make progress, frees us to make good decisions in love, not desperation.  And that helps us stay in unity, as well.

When we hand over all our concerns to God in prayer and experience His incomparable peace guarding our hearts and minds, we are ready to be a part of the progress of the gospel.  We are able to see each other not as enemies to our selfish ambitions but sisters and brothers who can stand firm in one spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

NOTHING is more important than the progress of the gospel.  NOTHING!


Dealing with Disunity (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 1-3)

We learn at last the key players in the conflict at Philippi.  Two women (remember, women played key roles in the church at Philippi from the very beginning, Acts 16), two fellow warriors at Paul’s side, are not of the same mind.  We will see more clearly what they are fighting about at the end of the letter.  But for now, Paul appeals to other leaders in the church to help bring unity after begging the two women to pursue the same.

Paul has just finished teasing out the implications of the true gospel and it is this gospel that each player in the conflict agrees about.  This is what they can stand firm over in the Lord together.  This is what has brought them the certainty of reward in the kingdom.  To what greater issue could they give their attention?  And yet they were divided over such a lesser concern.

How were Paul’s true companion and Clement and the rest supposed to help these sisters come to unity?  Paul doesn’t spell it out.  But he is quite familiar with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18 (see 1 Corinthians 5) and no doubt mentions the overseers and deacons at the opening greeting to his letter to highlight their authority and responsibility for bringing church order.  Perhaps the next step was to challenge these women with the authority they possessed from God when they agreed together in prayer about the solution to this problem.

What are you out of sorts about with someone at your church?  Were you wronged and needing to confront them in love just between the two of you to find a solution?  Are you the wronger?  Have you enlisted the help of wise witnesses you both trust to help you resolve this, if indeed you cannot find a solution on your own?  Have you taken it to the authorities of the church to prevent this leading to further disunity?  Nothing is more important than the unity of the church behind the true gospel.


Setting Aside the Counterfeits (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.  For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verses 17-21)

One of Paul’s responsibilities, and a responsibility of all spiritual leaders, is to identify counterfeits to the true gospel.  Given the rebellious nature of human beings and the very active influence of Satan, there should be a high expectation of distortions to the message of life.  Paul leverages his own example of orthodox living and orthodox doctrine, then he begins to describe those in particular, the Judaizers, who are threatening all of Paul’s church plants.

Not everyone is agreed that these are “the enemies of the cross” to whom Paul is referring.  To some it looks like Paul is describing a group who seeks to push the limits of godly morality.  “Their god is their stomach” sounds to them like those who eat greedily. “Their glory is in their shame” sounds like taking pride in their willingness to push the boundaries ethically.

But in the context Paul has only identified one group of false teachers.  These appear to be people who teach the Jewish law as the standard of holiness and focus on the requirements of circumcision for males and kosher food laws for all.  With that in mind, “their god is their stomach” means their focus on keeping kosher has become their idol; “their glory is in their shame” means they rest confidence in circumcision as their badge of honor.  In all this “their mind is set on earthly things.”  What God designed as a picture of ultimate spiritual truths to be revealed when the new dispensation arrives, these false teachers are still clinging to and giving saving power to instead of looking at faith as the basis for salvation.

By way of contrast, Christianity, God’s new revelation in Christ contained in “new wine skins” (Matthew 9:17), is focused on heaven.  Though the Philippians might take pride in their Roman citizenship, the real reason to boast is their heavenly citizenship.  As citizens of heaven we need no longer be enslaved to earthly elements.  We are people of the last age, the age of the resurrection.  When Jesus comes He is going to resurrect us, make our bodies like His, with all the attributes of a body made suitable for the kingdom.

Focusing on the coming resurrection when Jesus returns to rule on earth helps us stay moored to the true gospel.  We are not trying to muster our own law obedience in order to earn God’s love.  We are operating in God’s already abundantly outpoured love.  We are depending on what Jesus can work in us (the willing and the doing of His good will, 2:13), something He is able to do as the resurrected one.  We are free from the earthly elements that so many have clung to as a means of earning God’s love.  We are in training to recognize the false so we may more readily embrace the true.