Book Plunge: The Gospel Precisely

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Renew? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Matthew Bates for his friendship as I was one of the people he contacted in order to promote his new book. It’s an honor to be in that circle. I find Matthew Bates to be a highly informed scholar, but I am super thankful that he is not just staying in an ivory tower, but is taking advanced New Testament studies and breaking them down for the layman to understand the gospel in a whole new way.

Too often, our idea of the gospel is way too shortsighted, which is a tragedy because what we have is really good already and yet we miss that there’s so much more. We are more content with making mudpies when a day at the beach awaits us. We are pleased with what we understand of the gospel, and we should be, but we miss that there is a lot more.

So let’s start with what is the gospel. Most of the time, we make the gospel about ourselves. This is what God is doing to forgive us. With that, we are ultimately the subjects of the gospel. It is about us. The gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are the ones that are being used for the glory of God. God is not to be used for the glory of us.

One aspect that we miss is the gospel is Jesus becoming king. I remember hearing once that John Dominic Crossan said about Mark 1:1 that talked about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s a short little verse, but Crossan said it could be translated as “In your face, Caesar.”

If he said that, he’s not wrong.

Jesus is coming and declaring Himself to be the king who will rule on God’s behalf. This is part of the gospel. This is one of the reasons He was crucified. You don’t get crucified for just teaching good ethics and sharing parables. Jesus was a majorly political figure as well as a religious one.

Why does this matter? Because we were created to be the rulers of this world on God’s behalf. Unfortunately with sin, we all failed at that one. Jesus was meant to be fully human and fully God so that He could rule and reflect God perfectly but also be a man ruling like God intended. Part of the good news is also that not only are we forgiven, but we are to be rulers of the new creation with Jesus Christ. God saves us so we can serve.

This is however also good for non-Christians for the time being. The world is meant to be a better place with the coming of Christianity and where Christians aren’t being what they were supposed to be. Most people, Christians or not, do support the life and ethics of Jesus. I still remember a non-Christian friend saying on my Facebook wall that life would be a lot better if we all tried to live like Christ.

Oh. Let me explain something with that. When we speak of Christ, we shouldn’t treat Christ as just a name. Some people actually think that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I wish I was joking. I can still remember years ago someone asking “Why would a Jewish guy have a Greek last name?”

The closest idea we have to Messiah is King. In our country, that’s something that seems foreign to us, but we might not be too far from us. A friend of mine thinks we might naturally move as a society towards monarchy. Every four years, we are having “The most important election of our lifetime” which should show that we place way too much emphasis on the president, no matter who he is.

Of course, if we’re servants of God, we need to know who this God is. The Trinity is not just an add-on. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, the Gospel is completely changed. Christians need to learn how to understand to some extent the Trinity and how to defend it.

I’m only giving snapshots here because honestly, i want you to read the book yourself. Some of you might be concerned with reading a whole book on this. Good news. The book is only about 100 pages. You could easily read it in a day or two, and it would be a day or two well-spent.

Finally, how do we share the gospel? This is where it might get difficult as Bates lists ten items that he thinks we need to remember and share. Those complaining about this might want to think about what they have memorized about sports teams, TV shows, music, or video games.

So final opinion? Get this book. It’s a great one to understand the gospel and will show you how much you are missing. It has five chapters and while I said you could read it in a day, if you wanted to read one chapter a day, you could do so easily and read it in a week and you would be blessed for doing so.

Matthew Bates is a gift to the church that keeps on giving and thanks to him for his work and being considered part of his team to help share his material. It’s material worth sharing and it’s an honor to be a part of it. And oh yes, there is one part where he does show that he does believe Jesus was born of a virgin so he does affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, the obvious important sign of anyone wanting to share the gospel.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

What about oaths?

Should we take oaths? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue looking at the Kingdom of King Jesus, we get to a lesson on oaths.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Now this is not saying no oaths absolutely. This is talking about flippant oaths. Think about how many times you have made a deal with God as an example. Does it really help out? Also, how many times do you keep your oath?

Everyone in the ancient world took oaths seriously. If you broke an oath, it was inviting judgment from the deity on you. Flippant oath taking is not taking the deity seriously enough.

What Jesus is really saying is to be a person of your word. Make it your goal to have it be that if you say yes or no to something, you are so trustworthy that that’s all people need to hear. You don’t need to do something big and drastic. You can just state what your intention is and what your desire is and people will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

This is one reason also I am very hesitant with making promises. Promises are made today often to be broken. If you promise something, you had better be serious about it.

If your word isn’t reliable, people have no reason to trust you. For evangelism, they definitely have no reason to trust you about Jesus. This is similar to what I have said about sharing things like conspiracy theories. You hurt your witness tremendously. Break your word consistently enough and people have no reason to trust you.

Sometimes, you will have to take an oath such as in court and making a marriage vow and it has to be serious. If you think an oath is necessary, treat it seriously. This is about your reputation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Salt and Light

What does it mean to be salt and light? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As we continue looking at the sermon, we come to the account of salt and light. Both of these are things that stand out and enhance something. I still remember as a kid going to McDonald’s and getting the fries and going crazy with salt on them. It’s still a great treat to have. As for light, in our age we have more access to light in a way. After all, how many of us when we’re walking through our homes at night or outside at night pull out our phones and turn on the flashlight feature?

If a ship is out at sea and the crew is wondering where to go at night, a lighthouse can be seen from 20 miles away if its light is on. That can give great hope to those out at sea. Just a sliver of light can make a difference. Light is a way of representing hope.

And Jesus tells us we’re to be like salt and light.

Unless you have some dietary restriction, most of us like some salt on certain foods of ours. If I fix fillets at night, I put salt and pepper on them. Fix a pizza? Not at all. French fries without salt though seems unthinkable.

Light is specifically meant to be seen. That’s why we’re compared to a city on a hill. Many of us think that we should hide our good deeds. Now, we certainly shouldn’t do something to be seen, but that doesn’t mean we hide away and avoid doing good deeds. We need to do them and then in line with a proper interpretation of 1 Peter 3:15, explain that we do good deeds because of the example of Jesus.

Notably, Jesus says to do these things so people will praise your Father in Heaven. Those who do this are children of God. They are part of the Kingdom. They have not earned it. They have instead demonstrated where their loyalty lies.

Jesus’s call for citizens of the Kingdom is to go out and do something. Be an enhancement in society, as salt is on food. Be a beacon of hope, as light is in the world. Make the world a better place by your devotion to Christ. With all that is going on now, and as I type this there are riots going on over George Floyd, we need that indeed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Faith Like Paul

What does it take to live like the apostle Paul? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I heard somewhere someone saying about how great it would be to live like Paul. Paul certainly had a great faith and it really transformed his life. He wrote about joy from a prison cell and he dealt with persecution all his life, until in the end he was beheaded for his faith in Christ.

Now I do want to say that when I speak about faith like Paul, I mean faith in what I take to be the biblical sense. Faith is one of the most misused words today. I have written about a true understanding of faith here. Faith biblically is trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. It does not mean belief in the absence of evidence. It’s quite the opposite in fact. It requires evidence.

It’s important to realize Paul is not traveling around the Roman Empire based on what he thinks is a subjective experience or a hope he wants to see fulfilled alone (Though he has had an experience and he does have hope for the future because of Christ), but it is rather because he is because he has seen something in the world outside of his mind that he thinks changes everything about reality.

Years ago, there was a cartoon I watched and one clip advertising said something like “I watched the TV shows. I used to play the card game. Then I found out, this is real.” Imagine what it would mean if the plot of a favorite cartoon of yours was real. How would it change your life? Imagine if you found out that just one fairy tale or Disney movie was a real historical event. What would it change for you? Would you ever see the world the same way again?

Now for Paul, Paul has been a good Jew all his life and has grown up hearing about the hope of Israel, the Messiah, and as a good Pharisee, he has also believed in the resurrection. He has been holding to the Torah all his life. The Law of God is sacred writ for him. He treasures it. He reads it daresay I far more than we’ve ever read our NT. We would not be surprised if we heard Paul had the whole of it memorized.

What happened?

Paul’s claim is that He saw the risen Christ.

So what did that mean for Paul? “Yay! My sins are forgiven!” No. Paul thought he had a system of forgiveness already that worked quite well. He saw himself as blameless before the law. If you preached Jesus to him because he needed forgiveness, Paul would say “No I don’t! I am a faithful observer of Torah! That reveals that I am justified in the eyes of God!”

Of course, Paul did come to realize and teach that forgiveness is found only in Christ, but that is not why he came to Christ and while that is something that he was teaching an unbelieving world, that was not the main change.

What was it? I’d like for you to think about a work like Craig Keener’s book “Miracles.” Now if you’re the atheist reading this, just take a thought experiment with me. Suppose you undeniably witnessed someone praying in the name of Jesus for someone and then saw right before your eyes that they were instantaneously healed. Let’s suppose it was a condition like blindness or paralysis in fact.

Does your worldview change any at that point?

Now you might not come straight across to Christianity at that point (though I would have no complaints if you did), but I would hope at least you would if you were a committed atheist start thinking “Could I be wrong about something? What would it mean if God has broken in?”

In fact, for those of us who are Christians, we might need to start thinking like atheists more. We need to realize that this is something incredible really. God has broken into our world. There is someone out there in the world and He has spoken. There is more to this universe than meets the eye.

The problem is that we’ve grown up with Christianity so much that its become familiar to us. We know the stories so well that we’ve never found them to be incredible. It can sadly seem natural to us that God took on flesh and that Jesus rose from the dead.

They weren’t natural at all to a first century Jew.

For Paul, to see that Jesus is raised expresses so much that I seriously doubt that I can get it all. It is extremely difficult to begin to think like a 1st century Jew, but to understand Jesus as his contemporaries saw him, we must do this.

For Paul, I can wager some guesses.

First, he sees in Jesus that the promises of God are all yes and amen. God has spoken in Jesus which means that the time of renewal is at hand. The Kingdom of God has begun and it has begun with the reign of King Jesus.

Second, since the kingdom of God has begun its reign, then that means that the eschatological hopes of Israel are being fulfilled. God’s glory is being made known throughout the world. The Kingdoms of this world are to eventually bow the knee to the Kingdom of Christ.

Third, moral renewal will begin. The Law will be written on our hearts and we will follow the moral dictates. Paul is not an antinomian. He holds that there is still a law, but the righteous demands are being made known through the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, salvation has changed entirely. No more does it rely on following the sacrificial system, but it relies on trust in the Messiah of Jesus who occupies the throne of Israel. The Davidic and Abrahamic covenantes both find their fulfillment in Christ.

Fifth, God is in the act of making all things new. This includes even the dietary laws and the sacred days of Israel. Creation is being reborn. The curse is being lifted. Paul would have very well understood the claim of Revelation “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Sixth, in the resurrection of Jesus, we find the death of death itself. Death was the stranger that came into the world and ruined humanity. It has had a hold on most everyone save Enoch and Elijah. As long as death reigns, we have no certainty that justice will be done on this Earth. Since Christ has been raised and is the firstfruits of the resurrection, we have certainty.

Seventh, this means that judgment is coming. God has acted which means he’s not kidding around any more. The time of patience is over. It is now time to repent and get right with God. This motivates Paul even more to preach the gospel.

These are just seven I can think of. I do not doubt for a moment that there are many more, but if these facts haven’t fully gripped you, and to confess they haven’t fully gripped me either, then we will not have the faith of Paul that we so want to have.

Today, I urge you to look at your Christianity differently. Only when you see it as changing the world, can you see it as changing your world.

In Christ,
Nick Peters