The Sweetness of Honey and the Kindness of God

Proverbs 22:13-14

13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.

God is good. Serving God is good. God is not only good, meaning that he is right and righteous, but God is good, meaning that he is kind and gracious. Serving God is not a life devoid of joys, pleasures, and little kindnesses. While eternity is our goal and eternity with the Lord our reward, God is good to us in the here and now in so very many ways.

In Proverbs 22:13-14, we find a classic Hebrew wisdom saying moving us from the lesser to the greater. ON the greater side, the point of the two-verse proverb, is that wisdom is a good thing, sweet to our souls, and we benefit when we find it. Of course, this fits the book of Proverbs, as we see that wisdom, beginning with the fear of the Lord, brings us good.

On the lesser side of the lesser-to-greater argument, the author draws a comparison to honey. Honey is sweet and good. So, if you find it, eat it. That is the principle to which the author will compare wisdom—wisdom is good; if you find it, get it.

Oddly, what got my attention in a read through this proverb is the lesser side of the argument. God allowed, in his word, an author to advise his people that honey is good and sweet and that they should enjoy it. This little piece tells us something about our God. The Lord is not interested in calling us to lives of such total self-denial that all pleasures are out-of-bounds. No. God actually wants us to enjoy good food, good drink, good friends, good music, good marriages, and so much more.

No, I have not just leapt off into the prosperity gospel. But neither am I about to press for some sort of old-school monasticism. Honey is sweet. It is fine to enjoy it. And, I would add, when you do so, enjoy it to the glory of God. Let its taste remind you of the sweet things of God. Let it point you toward the promises of God. Let it remind you of the provision of God. Let it simply remind you that God loves being kind to his children.

This is the sort of attitude that we should have in all pleasures that are within the bounds of the word of God. Eat with joy and glorify God. Do not be a glutton, but do receive God’s gifts with joy. Go outside and enjoy the beauty of nature to the glory of God. Do not become irresponsible and stop doing your day-to-day work, but slow down, see beauty, and let it point you to the Lord.

This world can be very hard to live in. Money is tight. Politics are ugly. Relationships can be difficult. But in the midst of all this, God has given us pleasures. He has given us food and drink and nature and family and friendships and music and sports and so very much more. When you find sweet things in these, enjoy them, in appropriate moderation, to the glory of the Almighty.

Of course, I would not be doing my job if I did not round this out with the truth that our greatest joy, our truest joy, is when we are involved in declaring and displaying the glory of the God who made us. God made us for this purpose. When we glory in the Lord and glorify the Lord, we do that for which we exist. Nothing else can satisfy the human soul. So, atop our list of pleasures and kindnesses from God we should find the joy of worshipping the Lord as he has allowed through song, communion, Scripture, sermon, and the sweet hours we spend with the saints.

Upholding the Universe

Hebrews 1:3 – He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Why are we here? Why is there something and not nothing? Why do atoms not fly apart or crash together? Why does the universe not explode in an unfathomable cataclysm? Jesus.

The Lord tells us, when describing Jesus in Hebrews 1, that “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus is God in flesh, God the Son, the one who made propitiation for our sins. And Jesus upholds the universe, moment by moment, by the word of his almighty power.

You may have a variety of reasons to worship Jesus. You may be grateful for salvation. You may be thankful for his sweet teaching and love. Add to that the fact that, were Jesus to withdraw the word of his power, the universe would cease to be. This is a power that is only god’s. It is attributed by the word of God to Jesus. Praise be to Jesus!

How Do We Know Who is Chosen?

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5a, 9 – 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction… 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Every once-in-a-while, I will find myself having a discussion with folks about the doctrine of election. Obviously, for many, this doctrine brings with it a great deal of baggage. But, for those who grasp it, there is wonderful hope. It is a good thing to know that God will save his elect without fail. It is wonderful to know that the salvation of the elect is not dependent on my skill, my cleverness, my goodness, my intellect, or anything else in me. And it is wonderful that, though the salvation of the elect is not dependent upon me, I have the joyful honor of being used by God as a tool in his hand to accomplish his sovereign will.

Sometimes when people ask about this doctrine, they will ask how we know who is elect. They assume that somehow those who believe what the Bible says about election are out there trying to identify the elect before ever engaging them with the gospel. But nothing can be further from the truth. A person who has a true grasp of election will boldly and honestly share the gospel with everyone we can. But how then do we know who is chosen by God?

Note what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in verses 4 and 5 above. He knew that they were chosen, because the gospel came to them, not only in word, but also in power, Spirit, and conviction. I fear that, when we read this, we assume charismatic miracles here. And perhaps that was the case in Paul’s ministry. But I think something simpler is at hand here. Paul brought the gospel in honest words to the people. That preached word was met with the power of God. That power of God changes lives. That power of God opens hearts. And people who believe are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God when they become new in Christ. There is conviction that comes with the gospel as sinners see their sin, feel the pain of their sin, sense the fear of the judgment of God, turn, cry out to Jesus, and are saved.

In verse 9, Paul continues to say that he knows the Thessalonians are among the elect because they responded to the preached word of god by turning from idols to serve the Lord. In a word, they repented. The people saw their sin, turned from their sin, turned to the Lord, and committed themselves to God’s service. Let me be clear that no person is saved who does not desire to serve the Lord. While salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, no salvation occurs without a change of heart that includes a letting go of sinful self-determination for humble submission to God. Lordship is included in faith that repents.

So, two quick questions. First, are you saved? You answer that question by looking at the verses above and asking if this is any part of your life. Have you heard the word of God calling you to Jesus? Have you been convicted of your sin? Have you believed? Have you turned from your sin and surrendered your life to follow the Lord? Do you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you? If not, I urge you to run to Jesus before it is too late.

The second question is where we began. How do we know who is chosen? The answer is this: Do they respond to the gospel with saving faith? You know who is chosen by sharing the gospel with them and seeing the Spirit of God move them to salvation. If they come to Christ, you know they are chosen. If they do not come to Christ, you know to keep sharing, because today might not be the day when God has planned to bring them to himself. If they do not come, you keep sharing as God opens the door for you to do so until either they come to faith or die without Christ. Your job is not to know who is elect. Your job is to share Jesus faithfully.

Where are the Shepherds?

Philippians 2:19-22 – 19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

The word for pastor in Greek is a word that means shepherd. It is not at all complicated or confusing. Pastors are supposed to care for the sheep. Sometimes that means a warning. Sometimes it means a comforting word. Sometimes it means driving off enemies with a stick. Pastors care for their sheep.

The reason that this is on my mind is that, as I read the above passage, I see the uniqueness of Timothy. Paul says that he has nobody like Timothy who will truly be concerned for the wellbeing of the sheep. Something about the way that Timothy does ministry stands out and makes him a powerfully useful tool in the ministry of Paul and in the church of God.

What makes me sad is that I wonder how many would say something similar. I’m not wondering if people would highlight a Timothy and say how helpful and loving he is. But I do wonder how many would look at a Timothy, a man who cares for others, and say that Timothy is unique. Do we truly not have men like Timothy who will be genuinely concerned for the good of others in their care?

I fear, as I watch many a person in the church, that there are too few, far too few, who genuinely seek the good of others. We have many who will fight to be right. We have many who will happily call out error. We have many who will seek to gain a bigger audience. We have many who will go to the mat for novel doctrines. But do we have many who will simply pour out their lives to care for and seek the good of the sheep?

May we never need to find Timothy unique. May the Lord bless our church with elders and laypersons who will have lives marked by the genuine care of others. May we see pastors who love to shepherd. May we know that warning and comfort, preaching and compassion, church discipline and restoration are all part of those who care for the flock of God, shepherding as overseers.

More than One Kind of Disobedience

Numbers 20: 7-12 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.
12 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

Psalm 106:32-33

32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

Psalm 106 walks us through a great deal of the history of Israel. The Psalmists wants to help the nation remember the faithfulness of God even in the face of the nation’s unfaithfulness. And here in verses 32-33, we see a brief summary of the failure of Moses at Meribah. The Psalm helps us to see where God says Moses messed up.

In Numbers, God said that Moses did not believe in him so as to uphold him as holy. We see lots of speculation as to why this is. Some people say that the issue is Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it as he was commanded. Some suggest that Moses appears to take credit for giving the water, and this is the problem. And, I would suggest that those are true issues.

But Psalm 106 helps us when it tells us that it is the bitterness of spirit and rashness of speech that dishonored the Lord. Moses got mad. Moses got bitter. And Moses let his bitterness lead him to speak in a way that dishonored the Lord. Moses stopped focusing on the power and glory of God. Moses used his mouth simply to tell off the people. And, yes, Moses spoke as if he was the one doing the work. Moses chose to do things his way instead of God’s way, because the people got under his skin.

This should remind us to watch our actions, our words, and our attitudes. In our fallen world, it is easy to let bitterness into your spirit. It is easy to get angry with the folly of the foolish. It is easy to just want to squash dumb dumbs with your words. And our culture has made this all socially acceptable. After all, how many YouTube videos are supposedly funny moments where somebody just goes off on somebody else? How many movie scenes show a person getting their comeuppance when the meek character finally snaps? How much Facebook or Twitter content includes people spewing out pent up frustrations? How often do you see someone acting like a buffoon in public if they feel insulted by anybody for any reason?

Honor God as holy. Trust God. From the account in Numbers, this has to mean that you do not take personal credit for the work of Almighty God. It also must mean that you obey the instructions of God in his word as he gives them. And, from Psalm 106, we learn that it also means to guard against bitterness and rashness of speech.

Where do you need to be careful? Are you growing bitter? Is your speech becoming more self-focused and harsh? Are you able to keep your discourse focused on the Lord and his word rather than stooping to the low-hanging fruit of sarcastic personal attacks?

Or, perhaps do you need to grow by being willing to follow the direction of God even when faced with a nasty, complaining crowd? Even in the face of mass foolishness, Moses was still required by God to obey the command of God, as God gave it, for God’s glory.

Justice or Abomination

Proverbs 17:15

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

A biblical view of justice involves a variety of things. Justice includes the proper application of the principles of God’s righteousness in the world. Justice involves proper punishment for wrongs done. Justice involves action taken to make whole or to repair things when a person is wronged.

Here in Proverbs 17:15, we are reading about aspects of justice perverted. And I would that these were merely Old Testament problems. But they are not. In point of fact, this proverb shows us problems that genuinely exist in our world today.

Many of the proverbs are written in a form of Hebrew poetry in which thoughts are set side-by-side. Sometimes a thought will repeat the same idea. Other times, a thought will teach us by putting two opposites near one another in a balanced contrast.

Feel the balance of the contrasting points of this proverb. We see two things that might seem opposite: justifying contrasted with condemning; wicked contrasted with righteous. But we see a connection, something that ties the two contrasts together. To justify the wicked and to condemn the righteous are both abominations in the sight of the Lord. God hates when both things happen.

What is this little word to the wise telling us? There is nothing good about ignoring when wickedness is done. A just judge must properly condemn the wicked actions of people. Just punishment, right retribution, must follow if the judge is to be pleasing to the Lord. No person should be acquitted of a crime simply because he is rich, or simply because he is poor. Right condemnation should fall on the one who does wickedness.

Similarly, to condemn the righteous is an equal abomination. There is no good, no justice, no righteousness in pronouncing a sentence of condemnation on someone who has not committed a crime. Regardless of whether the person is rich or poor, man or woman, weak or strong, we do not condemn a person rightly who is not guilty but righteous.

The point of the justice system for any people should be to do actual justice. That means that impartial judgment is rendered. Condemn the wicked, those actually guilty. Justify the righteous, refusing to punish people for crimes they did not commit. A society refusing to do justice in either direction is an abomination before the Lord.

Are there nuances that must apply in a discussion of justice? Of course. But, if we refuse to start with the principle laid out here in Proverbs, we cannot even begin to properly consider such nuances. For a society to function, we must begin with the belief that justice includes condemning the guilty and justifying the righteous. Belief systems that would punish people for crimes they did not commit is evil. A system that would look at a person proven guilty and choose to ignore that guilt is wrong. One might think that what I have just written is blatantly obvious, but, as our society continues to decline, the obvious needs to be clearly restated.

Mocking the Maker

Proverbs 17:5

Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

One of the greatest weaknesses in materialistic worldviews is the simple question of worth. Any worldview must be able to answer for a thinking person the question of what makes human life special. What is it that separates us from the beasts or from the chemicals bubbling in a beaker? Ultimately, when one denies that we are created by God, logically that one will eventually deny any true reason for our value.

Here in Proverbs, we read a warning against mocking the poor or delighting in calamities. In our social-justice seeking society, one would expect this little verse to be popular. But in it, we see something that those who embrace critical theory actually cannot embrace. What is it that makes mocking the poor an evil act? The answer is that to insult the poor mocks their maker.

The writer of this proverb draws for us a simple principle. We must not delight when people suffer. Nor can people insult the poor with impunity. The reason why is that the poor are people made in the image of God. Thus, to attack them is to attack the image of the King.

The word of God calls for justice for the poor, the oppressed, the victimized. But this is not based on a social binary of powerful versus powerless. Neither is it based on perceived discrepancies of rich versus poor, ethnicity versus ethnicity, male versus female, or any other social dividing line. The reason the Bible calls for justice for the poor, for right treatment of others and right application of the principles of God’s law, is that all human beings have equal worth as image-bearers. From the poor to the rich, from the old to the young to the infant in the womb, every human being has worth because of the Lord our Maker. And to treat people cruelly is to dishonor or even to attack the Lord whose image they bear.

Tone and Walking Worthy of the Calling

Ephesians 4:1-3 – 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So you’re a Christian. Lovely. What parts of your life look different? Does your speech change? Does your attitude change? Do only bigtime outer behaviors change?

After Paul has shared the gospel with clarity in his letter to the Ephesians, he turns to calling the church to live in a way that befits the gracious plan of God. The Lord wants his people to have lives that reflect the fact that we are saved, forgiven, followers of God. And that change will come in many areas.

In our present world, there are some interesting arguments happening regarding issues related to speech. Particularly, this argument happens around the word “tone.” there are a few groups who suggest that no Christian should be checked in his or her speech or writing based on tone. There are others who use tone as if this is the final trump card allowing them to demand that nobody ever say anything with which they disagree or which might hurt their feelings. Is one group right?

As the Lord through Paul calls us to walk worthy of the calling, I notice that he particularly is interested in our attitude. We are to walk with all humility, having a properly lowly view of ourselves and our own goodness. We are to walk with gentleness, meekness, with our strength kept under control. Just consider those two things in how you converse, especially on-line where conversation tends to lose civility. Is your speech humble? Would someone think that your view of yourself is in check? Is your attitude gentle as Jesus claimed to be gentle in heart toward us (Mat 11:28-30)? Understand, gentle does not mean that you refuse to use strength. Gentle simply means that you use strength under control. In speech, this would mean speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

Walking worthy of the calling includes patience, a willingness to suffer long for the sake of the glory of God and the good of others. It includes bearing with one another in love. These must include a patience with those with whom we disagree but who are in the family of God. Loving others must include true sacrifice for their good, including sometimes sacrificing our perceived right to get the last word for the sake of the life and good of another. The one who walks worthy of the calling is eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We are careful to make sure that believers understand that we are on the same team, in Christ, even when we may need to correct.

OK, so does that put me on the tone police or anti-tone side of on-line debates? Neither. In point of fact, I am on the walk worthy of the calling side. If your on-line conversation, or your personal conversation, fails to demonstrate humility, gentleness, and unity, your conversation has a problem. And, yes, your tone, your choice of words, your attitude, your illustration, your sarcasm all can communicate that you are not humble, not gentle, and not seeking unity in the faith or willing to bear with others through their weakness.

Ah, so have I just proved I’m actually a big tone monitor? No. Why? Because, if a person is in sin, teaching things that dishonor the Lord, they must be corrected. And it is likely that none of us, when corrected, will feel like the person who corrected us was ever gentle enough. Correction hurts. Reproof almost always brings emotional pain. And the more a fool I have made of myself as I try to double down on my particular behavior or my particular doctrine, the more I will be upset when somebody shows me that I need to change.

I would recommend, whether on-line or in person, you check your attitude and actions in a different way depending on whether you are the one rebuked or the one doing the rebuking. Are you introducing a polemic? Speak the truth. Be strong. Be clear. But, if that clarity is not gentle, strength under control, then you are not walking worthy of the calling. If your words are snarky, insulting, harsh, ugly, mean-spirited, you really cannot claim to be humble, to have unity in mind, or to simply be loving. Remember the call to restore wayward brothers gently (Gal. 6:1-2). You can be strong and meek at the same time. And, be honest enough with yourself and with the Lord to know where your weakness lies. Are you more apt to cower and not tell the truth out of the fear of man? Are you more apt to try to score points by being nasty and belittling? Battle against your own sin as you seek to speak the truth in love.

Be careful not to excuse bad behavior simply because you just know that you’re right. Be careful thinking that, since Jesus turned over temple tables, you are Christlike enough that you can come crashing into somebody else’s world with the same righteous indignation. Be careful thinking that the sarcastic words of Elijah to the prophets should mark your daily interactions with those who oppose your view. Yes, maybe there is a time when really hard speech needs to be used. But, if this is what people regularly accuse you of, perhaps there is more of the flesh and less walking worthy of the calling in your life than you think. Be bold enough to examine yourself and ask the Lord to show you if, just maybe, you are not the perfect prophet you have built yourself up to be in your own mind.

But, if you are more likely to ignore an argument because you dislike another’s tone, be careful. One of the words translated “repent:” in our Bibles’ is a word that means to feel differently, and it implies a godly sorrow. If you are wrong and you are reproved, it is very likely that you will emotionally not like it. If you are given to shutting down if your emotions are tweaked, fight against that. Read past the tone you do not like. Listen beyond your feels. Ask the Lord if there is any truth in the case another is making, even if you think the person making the case is being a stinker. Do not shut down a person’s solid, biblical argument just because you are offended by the person. Be determined to embrace the truth of God even if you do not think the person bringing that truth is acting godly.

Dear friends, may we walk worthy of our calling. That means that we walk in the word of God. And it means that we walk in humility, gentleness, love, and all the rest.

The Mistakes of Mrs. Job

Job 2:6, 9-10
6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

The account of Job and his suffering is something that is familiar to most believers. The Lord allowed Job to go through great suffering as a testament to the glory and faithfulness of the Lord. And this kind of experience is something we can sometimes struggle to understand, especially when we suffer in our land.

Two things get my attention as I look at what happened in Job 2. First, as people often point out, God is in control. When the devil challenged the Lord, God prescribed his boundaries. Satan had no ability to go one inch further than the Lord allowed. In verse 6, God said the devil was not allowed to take Job’s life.

In verses 9 and 10, we see the conversation between Job and his wife. Often when I have read it, I have thought of Mrs. Job as another form of persecution for the Old Testament saint. Today, however, I hear the words of Job’s wife as something pretty familiar. She faces hardship in the life of someone she loves, and she despairs. Mrs. Job loses her way, stops trusting God in her circumstances, and fails. And her failure is not something we only see in her.

Today, there are many in our world who would curse God for the hardships we face. Many would suggest that, if God does not manage the world in a way they understand and approve, they should be free to curse God and do things their own way. We see this in those who demand the right to sin in order to exact the justice they desire. We see this in those who say they will never follow God if he allows tragedies like natural disasters and school shootings. We see this in those who refuse to worship God in his commanded ways if his limitations do not allow for women in the pulpit or a redefinition of marriage.

In point of fact, Mrs. Job’s counsel to curse God and die is not foreign to us. Yes, it’s pitiful, but it is not strange. And her failure is born out of two problems in thought. First, Job’s wife has forgotten that this universe exists first and foremost for the glory of the Almighty. As she watches her husband suffer so greatly, as she faces the loss of so many and so much that was dear to her, she fails to set in her heart that God is the highest purpose and most valuable being there is.

Second, Job’s wife has taken her eyes off of eternity. She has forgotten that whatever we go through in the here and now is brief, infinitesimally brief, when compared to the forever that people will spend in the presence of the Lord. Yes, Job suffered. Yes, his wife suffered. But that suffering will only last a moment.

As we look at a world with terrible hardships all around us, may we not make the mistakes of Mrs. Job. May we remember that God is in control. May we remember that God’s glory is the highest good. And May we remember that we are not living in this broken life forever. There is an eternity ahead of us where we will glorify and be comforted by the God who made us if we find ourselves under his grace through Jesus. .

Does Your Gospel Sound Like This?

Luke 24:45-47 – 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

What is the gospel? How do we proclaim it? What is the Great Commission? How do we obey it?

Here at the end of Luke’s telling of the gospel, we see Jesus present the Lukan version of the Great Commission. It does not contain everything that we see in Matthew, but it still shows us something important.

Boiling this passage down, Jesus, in commissioning his disciples, tells them that they should understand his death and resurrection and they should proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That is all Luke was led by the Spirit of God to include in his expression of the Great Commission. And I think we should learn from it.

The first part is easy. We know that anybody who gets the gospel must grasp the death and resurrection of Jesus. After all, there is no gospel without the Son of God dying to pay the price for the sins of others. There is no gospel if Jesus stays in his grave. We must see that the price was fully paid and that all who are saved by Jesus will live with him eternally just as he lives after death in a glorious, resurrection body.

But how about that other part? When you think about the gospel, when you share it, would you describe your gospel presentation as the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? Is that the message of your church? Or have other things snuck in there?

What is present in this gospel? Those who repent are saved. What is repentance? To repent is to change how you think, how you feel, and what you do. To repent in a gospel context is to stop thinking you are OK on your own. It is to stop trusting in yourself and your own goodness. It is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and your only hope of salvation through is life, death, and resurrection. It is to genuinely sorrow over your sin and to understand that you have earned the judgment of God. It is to throw yourself on the mercy of Jesus, asking for salvation based solely on Jesus and his finished work. And it is a salvation that, once you receive it, leads to a new life of repentance where you continue to turn from sin and continue to trust in and obey the Lord.

What is not in this message? Look at the text. It’s not anything gimmicky. It’s not a sappy, emotion-only appeal. There is nothing here that should lead a church to try to bribe someone into the gospel with giveaways, false promises of prosperity, or capitulation to modern political whims. There is no message that says that you can have salvation while continuing to be and believe all that you were and thought before salvation. There is a demand for faith that will change your very life even as that demand tells you that you are saved by Jesus and not by your change.

I would never want us to proclaim a loveless message of a harsh Jesus. Nor would I suggest that there is not beauty in the promise of grace. But I do believe that many a church has mistaken the call to make disciples for a call to make converts by any means necessary. I believe that many seek to draw people to pray a prayer without actually calling them to repentance. I believe that many people are fooled into thinking they have checked the box to gain a free pass to heaven without ever being called to change a single thing about who they are. And that kind of presentation is not a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Is the message about God’s love? O yes! God is wonderfully, gloriously loving toward his people. All of us have sinned. All of us deserve judgment. God has provided one and only one way of salvation. None of us can work to earn it. The way of salvation is Jesus, his perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. The way of salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone, trusting Jesus alone. And God’s way of salvation can be summarized by this call, “Repent!” All who wish to be saved let go of everything to take hold of Jesus. All who wish to be saved stop thinking they can define morality in their own way, and they surrender to the lordship of Jesus. All who wish to be saved turn from sin to follow Jesus. All who wish to be saved trust only in Jesus. And when they are saved, all who are saved are saved, not by their actions, but by the person and the finished work of Jesus.