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“But God’s firm foundation stands . . .” 2 Timothy 2:19

The foundation upon which our faith rests is that “Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The great facts on which genuine faith relies is, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), that “for Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18), and that “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24).

In one word, the great pillar of the Christian’s hope is substitution. The vicarious sacrifice of Christ for the guilty, Christ being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, Christ offering up a true and proper expiatory and substitutionary sacrifice in the room, place, and stead of as many as the Father gave him, who are known to God by name, and are recognized in their own hearts by their trusting in Jesus—this is the cardinal fact of the gospel. If this foundation were removed, what could we do? But it stands firm as the throne of God.

We know it, we rest on it, we rejoice in it, and our delight is to hold it, to meditate upon it, and to proclaim it while we desire to be actuated and moved by gratitude for it in every part of our life and conversation.

In these days a direct attack is made upon the doctrine of the atonement. Men cannot bear substitution. They gnash their teeth at the thought of the Lamb of God bearing the sin of man.

But we, who know by experience the preciousness of this truth, will proclaim it in defiance of them confidently and unceasingly. We will neither dilute it nor change it, nor fritter it away in any shape or fashion. It shall still be Christ, a positive substitute, bearing human guilt and suffering in the stead of men. We cannot, dare not, give it up, for it is our life, and despite every controversy we feel that “God’s firm foundation stands.”

~ Charles Spurgeon

(HT: The Resurgence)

The following is the closing of Pastor Dan’s first sermon in his first preaching series at Five Points entitled, The Ten Words on Religious Affection. This sermon, The First Word on Religious Affection: No God But God, was preached on December 14, 1997. You can find the sermons here:

“The Christian, when he comes to die, even the bad [frowning providences in life] is good. Does that mean that when you go to the doctor and the biopsy comes back and it’s not a favorable thing that you go running around cheering, “Yay! Yay! I have cancer!”? No. When that biopsy doesn’t come back well and you’re laying in that hospital room, in the depths of it, what God do you believe in? This will be good in the end… What do we really believe? Where is our trust? Where do we run for our security, our help, our satisfaction, and our pleasure and our joy? Dan runs too often to the gods of this age and my guess is that you might not be a whole lot different than I am. No, we find our satisfaction and joy and pleasure in Christ and in Christ alone, the only True and Sovereign One… What God do we really believe in? We’re commanded to have no other god but God. So the questions stands: Where’s my trust and what do I believe? The gods of this age or the God of the ages?”

Joel Zumaya, a hard-throwing pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, fractured his elbow pitching on Monday night against the Minnesota Twins.  This article on the Detroit Free Press talks about his injury and his thoughts after learning that though it is a season-ending injury, he will be able to pitch again.  After reading the piece, I thought of three things I would say to Joel if I had the opportunity.

First, the article’s title is “Joel Zumaya hopes to return next spring”.  To that, I say, “Joel, hope in Christ alone.”  All things in this world fade away.  There will come a spring that you will not spend in Lakeland, Florida getting ready for a season of playing baseball.  A life worth living is a life lived to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, which is the ultimate purpose for the existence of everything. Living to that end will be the path of finding true joy, whether God allows you more seasons or not.

Second, if baseball is taken away from you, God means for it to be a way of pointing to the only thing that will truly satisfy your heart’s desires.  All the idols of this world are worthless and those who love them become like them… deaf, blind, empty and dead.  But sometimes we don’t know what we are idolizing and it takes God removing what we’ve put in His rightful place to realize how backwards we are living.  Suffering exists as a means of giving us more of God while weaning us off the idols of our hearts.  All we need in life is God.  We were made to see and enjoy and proclaim the glory of God.  Anything else we live for will always leave us empty.

Third, Joel said, “I felt like I had no one on my side.”  To that, I say, “When Jesus was taking the final steps of His path towards the cross, he was all alone.  The crowds were against him, the religious leaders were against him, his best friends had deserted him and one of them even denied knowing him.  In fact, even God The Father forsook His own Son at the cross.  Jesus knows what it is like to be utterly alone.”  1 Peter 3.18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”.  Through Christ’s suffering, God’s enemies were made His sons.  Christ’s suffering enabled us to regain fellowship with God.   So, Joel, whether you are experiencing the joy of playing baseball or the pain of having it taken away, anyone who believes in Christ alone and pursues their joy in God alone are rich beyond comprehension and have so much to live for.

So, Joel, believe that Jesus Christ, the Righteous Son of God, died for all our sins and conquered death by rising eternally triumphant over all his enemies and that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy in the fellowship with the One True God, both in this life and one to come.

“‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’  You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’  He does not want anything.  Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’  Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation.  ‘I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.

Will you come and have it?  It lies open before you.”

~ C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175.  Italics original

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

Bono, the frontman of U2, wrote an introduction to a book containing a selection of Psalms.  It isn’t extraordinarily eye-opening, nor extraordinarily helpful either.  However, there is one section that brought me to worship.  In speaking of a song U2 wrote called “40″, he says:

“Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time when… love will replace the very strict law of Moses (i.e. fulfill them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the Scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a great source of comfort.”

Now, this isn’t the time to begin debating whether Bono is saved or not.  Only God, and maybe Bono, know that.  We need to hear that last line.  We need to see what gets a person to that point.  From shock to awestruck wonder. From incredulity to joy.  From elder brother to the younger.  It comes from a true experience of grace.  You know how he can go from shock to comfort if you have come to taste and see God’s grace.  I don’t know about you, but I am praising God this morning for Jesus Christ.  He fulfilled so that huslters, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries just like me can be adopted as God’s children rather than bear just and holy wrath as His enemies.  I get forgiveness because Christ bore the penalty for my sin in his body.  He paid it all, once for all, and I get grace and mercy and love.  He is not known to me only as God, the Most High, He is also God, my Father, because of Jesus.  Easter 2010 has passed, but the joy and comfort that God has justified sinners in Christ alone, not based on anything they have done or ever will do, is simply amazing.  The fact that the Bible is full of filthy sinners is not a shock.  That God killed his only Son for their sin instead of them is.

Today is the one year anniversary of Pastor Dan Cummings’ death.  Death is a reality of life because of sin (Romans 6:23) and it is appointed for man to die once (Hebrews 9:27). But the good news of the gospel is that though sin entered the world and death through sin, there is an abundance of grace and a free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ.  It is through Jesus Christ’s perfect life and death on the cross that sinners find justification by His blood and reconciliation with God.  And it is this truth that leads Paul to say in Romans 5:21, “so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  For the person who puts their faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, death is not eternal.  As John Owen wrote, “the Father and his Son intended by the death of Christ to redeem, purge, sanctify, purify, deliver from death”… in Jesus, the death of death has come.  [The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Book II, Chapter III)]

This reminds me of a song from the album Come Weary Saints (which is on sale this month at Sovereign Grace).  The lyrics are below:

It Is Not Death To Die

Come Weary SaintsIt is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

I received an excellently produced invitation in the mail to attend a major church conference focused on the way churches minister to children, students and families, namely “reconnecting parents with kids”.  On the back of the flyer, one quote reads, “This is the central conversation in the church today.”

Wow!! That should make me want to attend this conference, except for the fact that it’s not the central conversation.  CJ Mahaney said, “The most important truth is the easiest to forget… the foundational reality that Jesus Christ died so that sinners would be reconciled to God and forgiven by God.”  The cross is the central conversation of the Church and, in our society, it is also the conversation that is constantly in danger of being put aside.  This conference has the means and an incredible opportunity to further the conversation of the cross, but it seems they have been distracted.  Jerry Bridges wrote, “The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history.  Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living it.”

Let’s hope the speakers, or “Champion Communicators”, who have accepted invitations to address the attendees center their messages around the cross and the gospel of grace.  Let’s also center our lives and ministries upon the most important truth… the gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.