The gospel


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So, this is the gospel, but what does the gospel do?  Well, it changes everything. Colossians 1:6, “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  The first thing it does is create the church (Colossians 1:6).  Paul here describes the gospel as a plant, which when its seed is planted it bears fruit and grows.  Notice how he says it has been bearing fruit “since the day you heard it.”  This means that the gospel isn’t something that get’s you into the kingdom of God and then you forget about. Since the day the Colossians heard the gospel it had been bearing fruit.

The gospel should be applied to every area of our lives and the gospel should be the main point of every sermon that is preached, not just something tacked on to the end to get sinners saved. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”  Paul is talk to the church here as a whole, about the gospel being central.  Without it there is no church. 

Second, the gospel not only reconciles us to God, but to each other. Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  The gospel demands that the church be a forgving community of people, who don’t just do to others as they do to us.  We are to forgive. Are you forgiving each other? Or are there people who you just don’t really love and can’t really forgive.  We are to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven” us!

Third, the gospel is the foundation for marriage. Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”  Husbands how are you doing?  Are you loving your wives?  The gospel tells that Jesus sacrificed his life for his bride the church. The Spirit of God doesn’t give us an option here.  We are to love our wives or not be Christians. Will you love your wife?  Will you as a church make the gospel central to marriage?

Fourth, the gospel opens our eyes to a lost and hurting community and world. Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”  The gospel teaches us that Christ is the greatest missionary of all time, who left the comforts of heaven to indentify himself with the poor anf sinful of this world. How is the community you live in different, because of your church?

So, this gospel is about a moment in time, a man, but it is also about a messageColossians 1:28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  The gospel is about the proclamation of the most important message ever.  Paul said, “Him we proclaim.”  The Apostle, who saw the resurected Christ, said that his preaching and teaching were about proclaiming “Him,” that is the God-man, sin-forgiving, new-life-giving, world-changing, son of God and nothing else! 

This message is to be believed.  Paul in Colossians 1:5 described the gospel as “the word of truth.”  It should be trusted.  Jesus has been crucified for sins, resurected and is sitting at God’s right hand, waiting to return, and he commands all to believe in him.  This is not an option, but Christ demands all people everywhere to believe.  In John 14:1, Jesus said, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”  Jesus said in Mark 1:15 again, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Paul thanked God for the Colossians in Colossians 1:3 saying, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.”  You see, faith is essential to salvation.  If you want to be saved from your sin, you must throw all your trust on the only one who can save you, Jesus Christ.  You must believe the good news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurection. 

So, this gospel message should be belived.  However, belief is not the whole coin.  There is another side to conversion, which is repentance.  It means to turn away from something.  This message about Jesus should produce a real change in us, without which there is no salvation.  Again Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  I Thessalonians 1:9 provides a good description of repentance, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

The other day I was driving down our street and I noticed a car coming in the other direction.  Now, normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but you see our street is one way.  The guy was driving into oncoming traffic.  He was headed for danger.  He needed to repent. 

The gospel message shows us our sin and it shows us a God who is going to judge sin, it shows us there is a way to be forgiven and it calls us to repent to turn from sin and unbelief to Jesus to be forgiven. I have just laid before you the facts of the gospel, that God is your creator, that you have sinned against him, that you will be judged for this sin, but God sent his son at the right time to die on the cross, so that you might be forgiven, and that Jesus has defeated the curse of sin and resurrected from the grave.  Now, God calls on you to repent and turn from your sin and believe in this good news, so that your sin can be forgiven and you can be reconciled to God.  So will you?  Will you come to Jesus right now?  Will you turn from your sin?  God promises to forgive?  He promises to make peace between you and him.  You can put your trust in Jesus right now!

Not only is the gospel, the good news of God, about a moment in time, but it is about a man.  A God-man who came down to earth wrapped in flesh to save us rebels from the wrath of God.  This man is Jesus Christ!  Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God.”  Jesus came to earth to show us who were lost, blind, and spiritually dead what God was like. 

I work primarlilly with 6-12 year old kids and they have some really good questions about God.  A frequent one is “if God is real why can’t we see him.”  I tell them well, he visited us around 2,000 years ago and his name is Jesus.  People could see him, touch him, talk to him, listen to him, and eat with him.  He is still alive!  Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” 

Jesus is God-man.  He is fully God, but came to take on human flesh, so that he migt save us.  Colossians 1:19 says, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”  In Jesus Christ, all of who God is dwelt bodily.  He knows all things, see all things, creates all things, is able to forgive all things, is in everyplace, has existed before all things, and can do all things! Colossians 1:17, “in him all things hold together.”  Jesus is the one sustains the universe and keeps it from flying into choas.  He is the one who keeps you alive today giving “to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25).”  He is the Maker and Creator of all!  

Part of my job is distrubuting medications to the guys where I work and last week I went to give some guys their meds and one said, “How does it feel to be the kingpin of Brooklawn?” Then based on previous conversation with these guys, I said, “It’s better to know the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.”  The another kid said, “Why are you always talking about Jesus?”  So, I responded, “Because he is the most amazing person in the entire universe!” 

This Jesus, this God-man came to save sinners.  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst (I Timothy 1:15).” He came to deviver us from hell, sin, ourselves, and Satan.  He did this by his death on a wooden cross and his resurection from the dead.  You see, death was necessary for sin from the beginning, because God said if you chose to rebel, then you would surely die.  The word of God tells us that the wages of sin is death. All die and all will face judgment and hell apart from Jesus.  So, Jesus comes as the only one who is able to take our sin upon himself and die our death, so that we might not face the ultimate death, hell. 

Colossians 1:19, 20, “ For in him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  At the right time and on the right man, the God-man, Jesus Christ, God placed all of our sin on the cross and poured out all of his hatred for sin.  The God who hates evil in this moment, punished his son instead of us, so he might “reconcile” us to himself.  God did this so that in bruising and piercing his own son he would be, “making peace by the blood of his cross.”             

Colossians 2:13-15, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”  The Romans, when they would crucify a man, would drive nails through his hands and feet and nail a “record of debt,” above the criminal’s head, indicating why they were being punished.  The Spirit of God in this text tell us that we all have a record of debt we owe to God that we cannot pay.  This debt stands against us testifying to our breaking the laws of God and it will follow us to judgment, unless.

Jesus took this “record of debt” and nailed it to the cross.  He set it aside.  He cancelled it.  It’s gone.  To all who are in Christ there is no more guilt, no more shame, no more accusations that can damn us by Satan.  It’s been forgiven!  Jesus paid it all!  This is good news!  Jesus has died for my sins that I could not wash away, for my shame that plagaued me, for my burdern which was to heavy for me to carry and he nailed the whole load to the cross.  He cancelled all my debt and rose again, defeating death, hell, and the armies of Satan that stand against me.  God, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

In Colossians 1:5, Paul descirbes the “word of truth” as “the gospel,” which a young convert of his, Epaphras brought back to his hometown, Colossae. What is the gospel? Well, its doesn’t mean gospel music.  I don’t think black gospel or the Gaither band were around back then. “Gospel” means simply good news.  But what is the gospel?  What is the good news that this disciple of the Apostle Paul brought back to Colossae?   

The gospel is about a moment in time.  The gospel is about a moment in time without which time and life make no sense.  I remember before I was a Christian one night, hanging out with some friends and partying, and looking up at the sky filled with stars and saying, “There must be a reason for all of this.” 

The gospel is about a moment in time which takes us all the way back to the beginning of time, when God created all things out of nothing.  We can even see this in the book of Colossians.  Colossians 1:15, 16, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”  These two verses tell us about where we come from and about our purpose here on this earth.  These verses tell us that God created “all things” that includes you, through Jesus Christ.  And that you were created “for him,” that is you were created in God’s image to reflect the glory and goodness of God in the creation, you were created to be in a close relationship with God, you were created to know him, you were created to love him, and you were created to obey him. 

The word of truth tells us that God created the first humans for his glory.  And When he created them, Genesis tell us,  God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).”  There was no sin, no shame, pain, hurt, disease, war, rape, murder, jealousy, materialism, polution, earthquakes, tornadoes, or any such thing. 

A couple of weeks ago in Louisville, KY, we had some flash floods and there were cars floating and river was running though my street.  It was lovely.  One of my friends who I work with was walking out to his car to go to work with his little girl during this storm and she fell on her knees and shouted, “God deliver us from the devil!”  As cute and as funny as that is, there is some truth in it.  There is something gone wrong with this world and there’s something wrong with us.  Five minutes of the evening news will convince you of that. 

Genesis tells us it all went wrong, when the first humans decided not to listen to God, to be gods to themselves, and to rebel against God.  This is when Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Through the sin of the first humans, Adam and Eve, sin has spread to all who follow.  We are all sinners!  We are all rebels.  I am, you are, and so is everyone else.  What’s the problem with this world I am, we are. 

Colossians 1:21, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”  We all come into this world alienated from God; we are seperated from him, because of our sins.  Psalm 5:4, 5 says, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.  The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  Apart from Christ we are hostile to God and to the things of God.  We don’t like the idea of a God who created us and demands absolute authority over our lives.  We don’t want a God who hates “all evildoers.”  We would rather live independent of him and not be bothered by his holy demands.  The last phrase in Colossians 1:21 tells us why, “doing evil deeds.”  We’re hostile in our minds towards God, because we want to practice evil deeds and sin and be left alone. 

Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  The word of God tells us sin is shown in our lives by all these things, like sexual immorality, that is any type of sex outside of the marriage between one man and one woman, whether it be looking at someone of the oppisite sex and having sex with them in your mind, masturbation, pornography, premarital sex, beastiality, homosexuality or whatever.  Sin is revealed in us by coveting the things that others have, wanting what others have, and lusting over  the things of this world.  Paul calls all this stuff “idolatry.”  So, when we sin, we set our ownselves up as God and look to sex or money or family or husband or girlfriend or religion to satisfy our hearts rather than God.  We look to ourselves for provision rather than God.   

Colossians 3:8, 9, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another.”  God would also remind us that we show ourselves to be rebels by nature by our anger, slander, filthy mouths, and lying and many other ways.  And because of these offences before the Living God of the Universe Colossians 3:6, says, “account of these the wrath of God is coming.”  Because of sin, God’s anger is being kindled against it.  He will judge sin; he must judge sin.  He is a good God and a holy God.  He cannot let sin and rebellion that has been done primarily against him be left unpunished. 

But there is a gospel!  There is hope!  There is good news!  This gospel is about a moment in time.  The word of Christ describes it like this in Mark 1:15, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  When Jesus came into this world the time was ripe, God’s plan to rescue sinners was coming to pass and Jesus says, “the time is fulfilled.”  Paul describes this moment in time, in Galatians 4:4, by saying, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.”

CHRIST’S HEALING AND INFLAMING MINISTRY 

Now, Sibbes’ second point is “Christ will not ‘break the bruised reed,’” nor “quench the smoking flax, or wick, but will blow it up till it flameth.”[1]  To explain the nature of this ministry, Sibbes speaks of the names and offices of Christ.  These names point to the tenderness of his care.  He is a lamb and a hen.  Christ does deal with his people in a gentle and tender way like a hen over her young.  The offices of Christ point to the same.  At his baptism the Holy Spirit descended as a dove “to shew that he should be a dove-like, gentle Mediator.”[2]  As a prophet he spoke words of comfort and consolation, not negating his words of judgment.  Jesus is a great high priest who “never turned any back again that came to him…He came to die as a priest for his enemies.”[3]  Jesus is lastly the true King of Israel.  However, this king, “he is meek king…a king of poor and afflicted persons.”[4] 

Sibbes insightfully shows that these thoughts of Christ were meant to comfort Christians.  Jesus is far more gracious than we would allow him to be.  In one remarkable passage, Sibbes adds, “He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart; he died that he might heal our souls with the plaster of his blood, and that by death save us.”[5]  Jesus, being infinitely wise and a master at his trade, specializes in healing the broken hearted sinner.  He covers over their wounds and sins like a builder does a hole in a wall.  He does so “with the plaster of his blood.”

Understanding that Jesus is a gentle and gracious Savior, should cause us “‘to come boldly to the throne of grace…in all our grievances.’”[6]  Knowing the nature of Jesus’ ministry to his people aright should not drive us away, but should melt our hearts by his love to come boldly to the throne of grace.  Sibbes says, “Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him, that is not only our friend, but our brother and husband.”[7]  After some sin, Satan would depict Jesus to us in an angry way, but all along we should not fear to come to before his throne. 

Those who think themselves to be bruised in some way should remember that it is God’s usual way of workingto first bruise, then to heal.[8]  This truth should bring us comfort and stability in the midst of some trail or sin.  God will often time bring pain into our lives, so that afterward he might comfort us with his love (2 Cor 1:3-7). 

Rightly perceiving the ministry of Jesus should cause us to “See the contrary disposition of Christ, and Satan and his instruments.”[9]  That roaring lion, the devil, does usually attack us when we are at our weakest moment, but Christ is the exact opposite, he “as a mother tendereth most the most diseased and weakest child, so doth Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest.”[10]  Jesus’ bent is to mend and heal the most broken heart.  He cares for the worst of sinners and the smallest of children.  Satan is the converse; he attacks these with fierce anger. 

Christ’s service to his people is not only not to break the bruised reed, but not to quench the smoking flax.  Sibbes elaborates, “That in God’s children, especially in their first conversion, there is but little measure of grace, and that little mixed with corruption, which, as smoke, is offensive.”[11]  Sibbes’ aim here is help believers see the evidences of grace in their lives through the smoke screen of sin, so that they might have assurance and comfort in their salvation. Because there is this mixture within a believer, Sibbes says,

“the people of God have so different judgments of themselves, looking sometimes at the work of grace, sometimes at the remainder of corruption, and when they look upon that, then they think they have no grace; they love Christ in his ordinances and children, yet dare not challenge so near acquaintance as to be his.”[12]  

Sibbes explains that when a Christian begins to be very introspective about their sin, then they loose hope that there is any grace at all at work in their lives.  So, in doing this, they are scared to come to this meek Savior, Jesus Christ.  They picture him as a fierce judge.  They perceive him as an unbeliever should see him.  He instructs them not to ignore their sin, but to focus more upon the small workings of God’s grace to be comforted. 

In some instructions to pastors and civil leaders, Sibbes describes the church as a hospital saying, “The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other that we should all have ground of exercising mutually the spirit of wisdom and meekness.”[13]  What a comforting word this is; in the church all are sick to some degree.  No one is perfect or glorified.  Jesus being the great physician of souls welcomes the weakest and most diseased of people.  He turns none away that seek healing from him.  Also, by way of application the members of his church should also welcome in others who are sick to find the same remedy they have. 

Towards the end of this second main point, Sibbes lays out some specific instructions for downcast Christians.  The first is not to neglect the means of grace that God has prescribed in his word for our comfort.  Pertaining to this instruction, Sibbes adds, “to keep our hearts closer to God, seasoning them with heavy meditations in the morning, storing up good matter that our heart may be a good treasury, and begging of Christ his Holy Spirit to stop the cursed issue.”[14]  So, here Sibbes would encourage Christians to begin the day with heavy meditation upon the word of God.  This he calls “seasoning the heart.”  To awake to sweet thoughts of God by meditation upon his word is no better way to start the day, since we will enter into a world, which is backward from that word of Christ.  We need this encouragement from God everyday.  We need daily bread from his word to survive this spiritual wasteland. 

Sibbes would also encourage a weak Christian not to give up on duties that God has called us to.  Sin, Satan, and trails should not keep us from using our gifts within the body of Christ.  Therefore, Sibbes explains, “Some are loath to perform good duties, because they feel their hearts rebelling…Christ looketh more at the good in them that he meaneth to cherish, that the ill in them that he meaneth to abolish.[15]  It is the aim of Satan to destroy the work of Christ through the Christian.  So, if he can by guilt drive us away from ministry than he has succeeded, but if by the mercy of God we persevere, God will be glorified.  Additionally, Sibbes says, “That which is won as a spoil from our corruptions will have such a degree afterwards…Feeling and freeness is oft reserved until duty is discharged; reward followeth work.”[16]  Those who have tasted what Sibbes is describing know the truth of his words.  There is immense joy in doing that which God has created you to do, especially when we overcome our flesh, being obedient when the flesh would tempt us with guilt. 

Sibbes reserves the last few pages of this second point of emphasis for those who would reject such a merciful Savior.  Concerning this group, he warns, “Such must know that the Lamb can be angry, and they that will not come under his scepter of mercy, shall be crushed in pieces by his scepter of power.”[17]  Jesus came to seek and save, not to be served, but to serve, but those who reject his service and refuse to be washed, will be swept away under his fierce anger.  He came once to save, next he comes to destroy.  There is nothing to rouse his wrath more “than when kindness is churlishly refused.”[18]

 

 


 [1] Ibid., 45, 49.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid., 45.   

[4] Ibid., 45.  

[5] Ibid., 45. 

[6] Ibid., 46. 

[7] Ibid., 46. 

[8] Ibid., 46.   

[9] Ibid., 46.  

[10] Ibid., 46.   

[11] Ibid., 49.   

[12] Ibid., 50.   

[13] Ibid., 57.  

[14] Ibid., 64.  

 

[15] Ibid., 65.  

 

[16] Ibid., 67.   

[17]Ibid., 73.   

[18]Ibid., 73.

BRUISED REEDS AND SMOKING FLAXES

In “To The General Reader,” at the beginning of The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax, Sibbes begins to lay out his agenda for the following pages of his work.  His main concern is for those people “the chief ground of whose trouble was the want of considering the gracious nature and office of Christ.”[1]  The problem in his mind with many people is that they do not understand how gracious and merciful a Savior Jesus Christ really is.  Furthermore, he adds, “God hath laid up all grace and comfort in Christ for us, and planted a wonderful sweetness of pity and love in his heart towards us.”[2]  From the beginning of this work, Sibbes points his readers to the source of all true comfort, Jesus Christ.  Here is the place God has appointed for sinners to draw near and have their hearts strengthened with grace. 

Sibbes insightfully points out that it is Satan’s goal to skew one’s understanding of Christ.  He says of those so assaulted by the evil one, “These are abused by false presentations of Christ.”[3]  Satan’s aim is to present people with a Christ to whom they will not want to draw near, an angry-judging Christ, but Sibbes would remind them that Christ is gracious and humble. 

God also “setteth himself in the covenant of grace to triumph in Christ over the greatest enemies and evils we fear…that there are heights, and depths, and breaths of mercy in him above all the depths of our sin and misery.”[4]  Christ is not one to whom sinners cannot flee, but one who must triumph by the decree of his father in the covenant of grace.  He must not cast out those who come to him, but display mercy and raise them up on the last day.  There is no depth of sin that can keep us from him or drive his love away from us.  This is how Sibbes introduces his subject.

In the opening of The Bruised Reed, Sibbes divides the text (Matthew 11:20) into two parts: 1) the calling of Jesus and 2) the execution of his calling.  Sibbes says that Jesus came with a mission and he did everything by commission of the father.[5]  Regarding this calling Sibbes says,

“wherein we may see the sweet love of God to us, that counts the work of our salvation by Christ his greatest service; and that he will put his only beloved Son to that service.  He might well prefix Behold, to raise up our thoughts to the highest pitch of attention and admiration.  In the time of temptation, misgiving consciences look so much at the present trouble they are in, that they need be roused up to behold him in whom him in whom they find rest for their distressed souls.  In temptations it is safest to behold nothing, but Christ.”[6]        

Jesus has answered the call of his father to be a servant, to seek and save the lost.  He did so by becoming a sacrifice for sin on the cross.  This work was effectual in that it actually paid the price for the sin of those given to Christ by the Father.  Here Sibbes says we are to fix the eyes of our hearts.  It is to Christ we are to go in times of temptation to behold his love to us.  However, Sibbes’ main point in this collection of sermons is not to focus upon the calling of Christ in the covenant of grace, but rather the execution of this calling.  He comments about this execution saying, “And his coming was so modest, so it was mild, which is set down in these words: The bruised reed shall he not break.”[7]  Jesus coming and fulfillment of his father’s mission was not to rub shoulders with the elite, but to associate with the humble and poor in spirit.  From this division of Matthew 11:20, Sibbes makes three observations, which are three main points of his sermons.  They have already been listed in the introduction.[8]   

Now to begin analyzing the first of these three main points, which is “the condition of men whom he was to deal withal is, that they were bruised reeds.”[9]  Sibbes points out that God uses the illustration of bruised reeds and smoking wicks to describe the type of people Jesus works with.  Sometimes this bruising happens before conversion to humble the sinner’s heart and to bring them to Christ, but then often times afterwards as well to further point the Christian to the gospel that saved them.  In his own words, Sibbes clarifies, “for usually he empties such of themselves, and makes them nothing, before he will use them in any great service.”[10] 

Additionally, what is the purpose of this bruising for the converted?  Sibbes says that after conversion we are in need of bruising.  His reason for this is “(1) reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks; even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature…(2) that weaker Christians may not be to much discouraged when they see stronger shaken and bruised.”[11]  This is the first of the three focuses of Sibbes; that Christians would know how low and humble the ministry of Christ does reach. 

 


[1] Sibbes, “The Bruised Reed,” 38.   

[2] Ibid., 38.  

[3] Ibid., 38.  

[4] Ibid, 38.   

[5] Ibid., 42.   

[6] Ibid., 42.   

[7] Ibid., 43.   

[8] See p.7.   

[9] Sibbes, “The Bruised Reed,” 43.   

[10] Ibid., 43.   

[11] Ibid., 44.