Sibbe’s third and final point in these sermons is that Christ’s ministry in his people is progressive, but will be victorious and end in glory.  Sibbes explains, “The constant progress of Christ’s gracious power, until he hath set up such an absolute government in us, which shall prevail over all our corruptions.”[1]  In other words, the good work which Jesus has begun in us he will complete (Phil 1:6).  In addition, Sibbes elaborates on this idea, “The meaning then is, that the gracious frame of holiness set up in our hearts by the Spirit of Christ, shall go forward until all contrary power be brought under.”[2]  Christ by the Spirit will destroy the works of the flesh in us, so that ultimately “he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27).” 

From this third main point, Sibbes lays out several conclusions for the comfort of his people.  The first is “Christ is upon those terms mild, so that he will set up his government in those whom he is so gentle and tender over.”[3]  The same people that Jesus does minister to in such a comforting and gracious way, he will also bring their sanctification to completion.  The same Christ that has died for us must be the good shepherd king of our hearts.  Sibbes further clarifies,

“the first and chief ground of our comfort is, that Christ as a priest offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father for us.  The guilty soul flieth first to Christ crucified, made a curse for us.  Thence it is that Christ hath right to govern us, thence it is that he giveth us his Spirit as our guide to lead us home.”[4]     

So, Sibbes shows that first the sinner must come to Christ for mercy to be forgiven, but this is only the beginning.  Conversion is not an end, but a genesis where Christ begins to reign in our hearts by the Spirit. 

The second conclusion is “that Christ’s government in his church and in his children is a wise and well-ordered government.”[5]  The ministry of Christ is comparable to the creation, when it was chaotic and disorderly, but the Spirit came and God spoke and told things where to go and what to do.  The result was a well ordered universe and a place of rest.  Sin has so shattered all that, but Christ comes to reverse the curse of sin and to make all things new.  Sibbes says, “Where Christ by his Spirit as a prophet teaches, he likewise as a king by his Spirit subdueth the heart to obedience of what is taught.”[6]  The work that Jesus begins and then continues in the heart of a sinner will produce an ordered life. 

Sibbes’ third conclusion is “that this government is victorious.”[7]  Jesus has conquered all his enemies in his life, death, resurrection and ascension.  However, the work that he has completed in himself, he also will do in those who trust in him.  He saves them from sin, death, hell, and Satan.  Regarding this idea, Sibbes observes about the conscience, “If it subject itself by grace to Christ’s truth, then it boldly overlooks death, hell, judgment, and all spiritual enemies, because then Christ sets up his kingdom in the conscience, and makes it a kind of paradise.”[8]  So, Christ’s victorious work is also applied to life of the believer (Rom 6). 

 The fourth conclusion is, “judgment shall be victorious, but that Christ will bring it openly forth to victory.”[9]  Christ’s victory over the spiritual forces of darkness in this present world often times goes unnoticed; only seen by those who have eyes to see.  His kingdom and work take place in and through the church which is not of this world.  However, when “Christ who is your life appears (Col 3:4),” Sibbes says, “grace shall be glory and run into the eyes of all.”[10]  What the church has known by faith shall become sight and what the world has regarded as nonsense shall become their greatest fear.  Jesus’ victory in the end will be evident. 

The fifth conclusion is “that this government is advanced and set up by Christ alone; he bringeth it to victory.”  Such a colossal work can only be accomplished by Jesus.  There is none who can bring themselves to glory with the help of Christ.  When we have escaped such enticing sins and evaded so many suffering to whom do we owe it?  Sibbes answerers,

“To make so little grace so victorious over so great a mass of corruption, this requireth a spirit more than human; this is as to preserve fire in the sea, and a part of heaven even as it were in hell.  Here we know where to have this power, and to whom to return the praise of it.  And it is our happiness, that it is so freely hid in Christ for us, in one so near unto God and us.”[11]   

Indeed, this work that Jesus brings to pass in the life of a believer is truly a work of no ordinary human, but of one that should cause us to stand back and ask “Who then is this (Mark 4:41)?”

The sixth conclusion is “that this prevailing government should not be without fighting…There can be no victory where there is no combat.”[12]  Yes, Christ alone will bring this good work to completion, but he has prescribed the manner for doing so.  His prescription involves that Christians take up arms and join him in fighting against their enemies.  He will not allow us to sit back passively and somehow magically fight all our battles.  He will be victorious in us, but only as we take up the full armor of the Lord.  Sibbes concludes, “We have more for us than against us.  What coward would not fight when he is sure of victory?”[13] 

 


[1] Ibid., 77, 78.  

[2] Ibid., 78.   

[3] Ibid., 79.   

[4] Ibid., 79.   

[5] Ibid., 80.  

[6] Ibid., 82.   

[7] Ibid., 84.   

[8] Ibid., 84.  

[9] Ibid., 91.   

[10] Ibid., 91.   

[11] Ibid., 95.   

[12]Ibid., 95, 96.  

[13]Ibid., 98.

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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.”

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What do you think Satan, all his demons, and hell itself think about your church?

This Lord’s Day Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of The Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached an excellent message at my church from the book of Acts, looking at the early church.

He began by asking the question, “What kind of church threatens hell?” Lawless’s four points from the book of Acts were:

A Church That Threatens Hell…

1) Is Supernaturally United

2) Focuses More on Others Than on Themselves

3) Believes That Holiness Matters

4) Prays Together   

Check the message out!

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.

international-church-planting-1Why should your church be involved in church planting and especially internationally?

The Resurgence says:

Planting Churches Fulfills the Great Commission

In Acts, God’s means of changing the world is through the planting of churches. It is no coincidence that right after God gave his apostles the Great Commission in Acts 1:8, the first thing he did was to plant a church (Acts 2:42-47). The church was to be the operational means of fulfilling the Great Commission.

When a local church was placed in a community, the gospel would be preached from house to house and in the streets, and the generosity, joy, and worship of a local body of believers caused “great fear and awe” to be on everyone, favor to be had with the community, and God to “add to the number daily those that were being saved.” Thus, everywhere the apostles went, they planted churches. They didn’t simply do preaching, miracle crusades, or community ministry. They planted churches that would do preaching, perform miracles, and serve the community. As Tim Keller said, the apostles’ strategy was very simple: go to the most strategic cities in the world and plant churches. The church is the one institution of the New Testament.

To the Ends of the Earth

What we sometimes overlook is that the scope of God’s commission, from the beginning, was to “the ends of the earth.” When God sent the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, the apostles spoke in tongues of every language, a clear sign that the gospel should go to every people of every nation on earth. This gospel was not to be centralized in one city or one culture. God would be glorified by his gospel taking root in every culture.

However in Acts 2-7, despite God’s clear command and signs to go to all the nations, the apostles do not budge from Jerusalem. So in Acts 8:1, God sent persecution on the church, and believers scattered throughout the region. The parallel language of Acts 1:8 and 8:1 is not coincidental. If the apostles weren’t going to obey God’s commission to go to the world, God would make them. In a truly bizarre move, God even beams one of the apostles, Star Trek style, into a place where he can engage a foreigner with the gospel.

On one hand it is refreshing to me that the apostles were not too dissimilar to us, preferring to stay in their own city and culture, and to build a megachurch there. On the other hand, it is a little alarming that God is so determined for his people to plant churches internationally that he will bust them up if he has to and beam a few of them overseas if they won’t obey. While the beaming sounds kind of cool, the busting up does not. So we have decided, from the beginning, to plant churches internationally.

(HT: TR)

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