Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wilberforce & salvation!

There is a famous story from the days following the Great Awakening. It concerns two prominent men of that day, William Wilberforce, the member of Parliament who was so instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire and his friend, William Pitt, the younger, who was once Prime Minister of Britain.

Now Wilberforce had become a devout Christian and Pitt was a Christian only in the nominal, formal sense. One common among the upper classes in Britain in those days. But, notwithstanding this difference in viewpoint, the two refined gentlemen remained personal friends.

But, as Christians will be, Wilberforce was concerned for his friend and wanted him to find Jesus Christ. After many attempts, Wilberforce finally prevailed upon Pitt to accompany him to hear the renowned evangelical preacher, Richard Cecil. Cecil was a gospel luminary in that second generation of Awakening men, a good friend of John Newton.

So the two men went along to the service. According to Wilberforce, Cecil was at his very best that day and preached the gospel in a most powerful and elevating way. Wilberforce himself was carried away by the sermon and wondered the whole time what his friend Pitt was thinking as he heard this masterful presentation of salvation in Christ.

Well, he didn't have long to wait before finding out. As they were still making their way out of the building after the service, Pitt turned to his friend and said, "You know, Wilberforce, I haven't the slightest idea what that man has been talking about." And, of course, he didn't. He couldn't grasp it. It made no sense to him. What was light and life and the plainest sense to Wilberforce was so much confusion and silliness to Pitt.

But the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (see 1 Cor. 2.14). Indeed, it is this fact that explains why, in the Bible, no one is ever surprised by unbelief. Jesus never was. Paul never was. Unbelief is mankind's natural state and it will never be surmounted unless the Holy Spirit works.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


What is Cross-living? Sounds like the title to a new TV mini-series. What does Cross-living have to do with a world of pleasure seekers?

Jesus stated in Luke 9:23 - "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross daily & follow me." When Christ died on the cross for sinners he not only stood in my place, doing what I never could do, but he also showed me how to Cross-live.

Christ’s death saves us from eternal death but not from the cross life! He died so that we could be glorified, but not to keep us from being crucified. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross daily." For the Christian the cross of Christ isn’t merely a past place of substitution. It’s also a present place of daily putting to death. That is Cross-living!

We can never let the cross lose its crucifying power in our life! We can never let it slip into the muted & murky past as though Christ died for sinners so that we can live for pleasure. That is pleasure-living!

Eternal pleasures are coming! Many are already here! (forgiveness & acceptance & holiness & healing). But just like Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, so it is with us in this fallen age (Hebrews 12:1-11). Since most of the joy we long for is still over the horizon, we are to "…go forth to him outside the camp, bearing abuse for him. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14).

In other words if you would save your life you must lose it & if you would follow Jesus you must take up Cross-living daily. The huge calamity of much contemporary Christianity is that Cross-living has no appeal. And practically what it means is that Jesus lived in poverty so that I might live in wealth. And the more stuff we have the more we honor the cross - so goes the prosperity gospel.

So what is Cross-living? Plainly put it is taking up my own cross & dying to self, daily.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Word of the Cross!

Note: It's been some time since I posted. Thought I might show a couple paragraphs from today's sermon. I'm currently preaching through 1Corinthains.

In verse 18 of 1 Corinthians 1, the Apostle Paul begins by saying: "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…" They are perishing precisely because they don’t know themselves to be perishing. They have no idea of their desperate need for salvation. As Paul says of himself in Rom 7, Christ never made any sense to him until he first realized himself a sinner, in bondage to sin, & in desperate need of redemption.

The word of the cross doesn’t belong to the perishing but to those "who are being saved." God has built His kingdom in such a way that the Saved are entrusted with the word of the cross. Plain & simple! The word of the cross stands alone! It alone will cut to the heart of all self centeredness. It alone is central to salvation.

It belongs to the saved but it stands alone! We need not "decorate" the cross with any earthly wisdom or technique so as to make it more acceptable to the perishing. The power of the cross rests in the Word! There’s nothing we can do to make the Gospel more palatable to a hard heart. Only if the Spirit of God goes forth first & makes dead people alive will the word of the cross be effectual. Therefore, we rely on God's good purposes in regeneration, not our oratory skill or technological prowess or worldly wisdom.

Enjoy, Ron