The Beauty of the Gospel – Matt McMichen

I am happy to post a guest blog from my friend Matt McMichen. Matt and I were talking over lunch one day and he used the phrase “the beauty of the gospel.” I asked Matt why he specifically used the word “beauty” to describe the gospel, and here’s what he said. Enjoy Matt’s heart for “the beauty of the gospel.” Matt attends our church and is an accountant in Austin. Here’s a great picture of Matt and his wife Paige.

McMichens

Christians use a myriad of words to describe the gospel, and considering the magnitude of the gospel this is no surprise. But if asked to sum up the gospel with one word, I wouldn’t hesitate in replying with … beautiful.

A popular cliché tells us that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” which suggests that beauty is a subjective, touchy-feely descriptor. What’s beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another person. While it’s true that beauty is subjective in some superficial instances, beauty cannot be subjective only.

A husband of 50 years sacrifices all to care for his wife who has Alzheimer’s and who doesn’t even recognize him anymore – that’s beautiful. A married couple who has attempted for years to conceive finally give birth to a healthy baby girl – that’s beautiful. These examples are living, real, and manifest, and they prove that beauty can be objective.

Still, you may find it strange to hear the gospel described as beautiful. How can a story with the gruesome and horrific details of the crucifixion, the hideous murder of the Son of God, be beautiful? And if one dare describe such an event as beautiful, surely it would only be a subjective opinion, right?

On the contrary, I believe the gospel is objectively beautiful. And to appreciate its beauty we must recognize that an infinitely wise God created the world in its entirety and then created us in His image. He alone is completely holy, completely pure, completely good, and completely righteous. He is the very definition and embodiment of goodness. And from His love for us, He chose to create humanity so that we would glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.

Since He is the One who shaped our being with His own hands and breathed the very life into our nostrils, He alone is our ultimate source of joy and goodness, and the only one worthy of our praise. As His image bearers, we exist to magnify and exalt His name – to accurately reflect His glory and goodness. This command from God, far from egotistical, is ultimately for our highest joy and goodwill, because no source outside of our creator-God can satisfy our souls. We were made to worship Him above everything. And when we do, we experience true satisfaction and fulfillment.

But you know the rest of the story. Instead of obeying Him, mankind rebelled and sought its own fame and pleasure outside of God’s bounds. Instead of portraying God’s image and reflecting His glory, we all turned aside and pursued our own power and renown. We traded God’s offer of everlasting joy for the perceived happiness we could find in ourselves. Therefore, we have brought rightful condemnation upon our own heads – an everlasting punishment for our rebellion.

But many object at this point and say, “If God is good and so full of love, He would never punish me eternally for my sin.” The unfortunate irony about such a statement is that it’s mostly true. God is full of love, and He is a good God – so good in fact that He must, without exception, punish sin.

To illustrate this, consider a horrendous crime committed against another human being. Use your imagination and think about a crime of the worst extreme, a crime for which the very thought makes your insides recoil and your blood boil. Now consider that the man was caught in the act with numerous eyewitnesses and sufficient evidence to prove his guilt in court. And, consider that this case was assigned to a judge recognized as the most righteous and just of all. I think I’m right in speaking for most everyone when I say we would expect the judge to find the man guilty and punish him for his crime. But, what if … what if instead of declaring him guilty, the judge declared him innocent and set him free? Would we not be outraged and declare the judge unjust and incompetent? Deep within, we know that justice demands payment for wrong.

In order to address the claim that God is too good and loving to punish sin, we must  see our rebellion for what it is. Our sin is a gross offense to God. It is the ultimate treason to our maker and King. This is not hyperbole. We don’t fully grasp the seriousness of our sin and its offense to God. He created us to mirror His image and reflect His glory. He created us to obey commands for our ultimate good and joy, but we ran in the opposite direction. Therefore, it’s no exaggeration to say we’ve committed a crime more gross and detestable than the guilty man’s crime you imagined earlier. And God, being the righteous, just Judge, demands payment for our sins. God would be unjust to require anything less than total payment for our wrongs, and if God is unjust then He is not only a bad judge, but He is not God.

What a desperate situation in which we find ourselves.

God’s justice demands payment for our sins, a payment we are incapable of making. We are therefore faced with the most terrible punishment imaginable, eternal separation from God Himself. It’s no secret we all live with an insatiable desire for something more. We are constantly longing for something that will truly satisfy our souls, and one day we will come before God and finally get it. We’ll finally see that our deepest craving has always been for God. He is the only one who could truly complete us. And yet, to finally come before our ultimate Joy and Satisfaction, only to be told, “I never knew you; depart from Me” – that would be the greatest tragedy of all. Eternal separation from God is the worst imaginable sentence, yet it’s the sentence we’re all under apart from Christ.

But, that’s where the beauty of the gospel begins.

God does not leave us under that hopeless sentence. The Bible tells us that God is both the just Judge and the Justifier. He is what the critics can’t seem to understand – both loving and just. And it’s not that He simply forgets about our sins. Payment is demanded. It’s that, for those that place their faith in Christ, the penalty is paid by Jesus Himself. God, in His infinite love, offered His own Son to be the sacrifice for our sins, to pay our penalty. On Jesus was laid all of our sins, and God poured out the wrath we deserved onto His Son, therefore satisfying His justice and offering us forgiveness at the same time.

That is the beauty of the gospel! Justice and love at the same time. Oh the richness and depth of His love and wisdom! And oh, the beauty!

The dictionary defines beauty as “possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, and think about.”

What could give more pleasure to hear and think about than this gospel? When we understand the length to which God pursued us, when we grasp the depth of His love, and when we see how desperate our situation really was and is apart from Christ, then we will see the true beauty of the gospel.

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25 Ways You Can and Must Stand Firm

1 Peter - Stand Firm - theme

It is undeniable that our culture has shifted, and more and more we are going to feel opposition to our faith. But . . . God is greater, the gospel is true, and victory is certain. Peter was convinced of that. “I have written to you briefly, encouraging and assuring you that this (gospel) is the true grace of God. So, stand firm in it!” (1 Peter 5:12).

I spent a lot of time last week thinking about what it means to stand firm, and what it really looks like. I want to share some of those thoughts with you. And, an exercise you might consider is praying through these 25 ways in which you can stand firm in your faith.

So, what does it mean to stand firm and what does it look like?

  1. stand firm, proud to say that you love Jesus, unashamed to be called a Christian, even if being a Christian is a negative stereotype in our culture
  2. stand firm even though you may be in the minority, even though you are outnumbered and feel intimidated
  3. stand firm when you are insulted or opposed, not shrinking back, not retreating into the shadows, but being a light and pointing people to Jesus
  4. stand firm, no matter what others say about you or what others do to you
  5. stand firm in your convictions, as Paul said to Timothy, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced”
  6. stand firm on Jesus Christ as the foundation and cornerstone of your life, as your Savior and Lord, and as the one who shapes your worldview, your beliefs, and your values
  7. stand firm, never wavering in your belief that the Bible is the very word of God; trusting it, submitting to it, and obeying it
  8. stand firm when you have doubts, going back to the roots of your faith and remembering the greatness and trustworthiness of God
  9. stand firm when you’re hurting, knowing that God cares about you, and leaning on the goodness and comfort of God
  10. stand firm in faith when you’re confused, trusting that God is in control, and that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him
  11. stand firm in your character, committed to integrity and holiness, being conformed to the image of Christ, and truly desiring to look like Jesus and live like Jesus
  12. stand firm, resisting temptation, saying no to anything that would disappoint God, and dreading the thought of dishonoring Him
  13. stand firm when you are alone, when no one else is looking
  14. stand firm, refusing to make an idol of anything in this world, nor finding your security in anything in this world
  15. stand firm by discerning the error in the prevailing secular opinion of our day, never drifting from the truth of God
  16. stand firm in who you are in Christ, as “chosen” by God, you His child and He your Father, experiencing a personal, intimate, day by day, moment by moment relationship with Him
  17. stand firm in His grace, never forgetting that He has forgiven you of everything you’ve ever done wrong, never forgetting that He did not treat you as you deserved, but instead was merciful and granted you grace
  18. stand firm at the foot of the cross, with humility remembering the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus, always grateful that He paid the penalty for your sin, that He died for you
  19. stand firm, convinced of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus, proving that He is the Son of God and proving that everything He ever said is true
  20. stand firm in obedience, doing all that God has commanded you to do as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ
  21. stand firm at school
  22. stand firm at work
  23. stand firm in your neighborhood
  24. stand firm in the certainly of your salvation, knowing that one day you will see Jesus face to face and spend eternity with Him in heaven, in a place He called Paradise
  25. stand firm with joy, yes life may be difficult, but live with joy because of the certainty of your ultimate victory in Christ

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Atheists Respond to Why I Believe

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about defending our faith and the need to know why we believe what we believe. The introduction to the message was a video of tough questions by Hemant Mehta, known as the “friendly atheist.” Well, Hemant posted my sermon video on his website and asked his audience to respond. Over 800 people watched the sermon and 70 posted their comments on the Friendly Atheist website. Here are some of the responses from atheists to my sermon, in which I explained why we believe Christianity is true.

  • “I watched for 37 minutes and couldn’t take it anymore. This guy just regurgitated the brainwashing sales pitch for God … I find it so entertaining to watch snake oil salesmen pitch an invisible product. It’s sad that so many fall for their BS.”
  • “Once again my allergy to BS overcame my ability to watch the whole thing.”
  • “There’s no point in listening to a word he says.”
  • “Well, that was a whole lotta nothing.”
  • “Christians are so deliberately ignorant.”
  • “Danger of overdose! Aspirin!”
  • “I watched a good bit of this, and would agree that the pastor has got an engaging schtick and appears to earnestly believe what he claims … But if Watson’s presentation is the best wisdom Christian thinking can produce, surely we’re not going to be arguing over this stuff much longer!”
  • “Dear preacher dude, you a liar con artist. I’m not going to watch anymore of the video of you BSing everyone because it’s too stupid. You’re an idiot thick-headed rich preacher dude with the vested interest in playing stupid.”

One friend reminded me that sometimes angry responses are result past hurt. Maybe he’s right. The church is not perfect, and no one in it. So, I can see how some people could be wounded from past circumstances and now so angry that they  totally reject God.

But one post surprised me. A regular reader of the Friendly Atheist, said, “Just something I’ve been pondering lately. Can you share your beliefs and explanations as to how by one lucky roll of the cosmic dice we as humans feel right and wrong? How do we have a written moral code that we all live by and agree on, for the most part? We all mostly agree that murder, affairs, and child abuse are wrong across all different belief systems? Why does seeing a baby dying of an irreversible health condition break our hearts? In fact, what is a ‘heart’ outside of the literal meaning? What is our conscience and where does it come from?” I was encouraged that one person started to wonder and question atheism’s inability to explain morality from an evolutionary perspective. So maybe there was one who was open to the Christian answer.

Here’s a link to the sermon from the Stand Firm series that got so much attention. http://vimeo.com/104738299

 

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Life @ Work

Here is a graphic summarizes the six ingredients to making work … work. It might be helpful to print this out and put somewhere you can see it throughout your workday.

Life@work handout 2013

Your work is a calling. And it honors God when you reflect His character in the way you do your job. And He wants you to enjoy your job and to have a passion about doing what you do best. And thank Him for your job, for giving you a way to provide for your family. And as you make money, remember the needy, and remember His Kingdom’s work as you invest in what will last for eternity. And certainly remember that your job is your mission field. You are not just a teacher or salesman or executive, you are a missionary.

Psalm 90 is a prayer written by Moses because he believed that work mattered to God. “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17, ESV). The word “establish” means stabilize, as in laying the foundation of a building. It also refers to sinking deep roots, to ensure fruitfulness. It means giving favor and making successful. So another version reads, “May the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” (Psalm 90:17, NLT).

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On Mission at Work

Work with a mission, realizing that your job is a platform from which you can point people to Jesus.

Life Apps - title - work

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16, NAS). I know the context is broader than working 9 to 5, but surely it includes working 9 to 5. Let the way you live, let the way you work, glorify God and point people to Jesus.

There should be a marriage of your career with the Great Commission. Your job is just as important as the missionary in Africa. All of us are called into full-time Christian ministry. Your job is your mission field. Your job description is that of a missionary. Your job is a platform from which you can point people to Jesus.

Three people in my informal survey talked about their desire to be a witness at work.

  • “I don’t want it to be just a job. I want it to be a mission field. So as I drive to work, I pray for my co-workers one at a time by name.”
  • “I know non-Christians are watching me every day at work, expecting me to prove that I’m a hypocrite.”
  • “I really believe my work is a ministry. I may be the only Jesus my co-workers ever see.”

Don’t forget the ultimate reason we are on this planet. We who have heard the good news are to declare the good news. Your job is your mission field. Your job description is that of a missionary. Your job is a platform from which you can point people to Jesus.

 

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