Past and Future Motives for Ministry

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-15, Paul gives two motives for why he seeks to persuade men of the truth about Jesus.

First, “We know what it is to fear the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11), which is a reference to the future judgment of Christ that he previously discussed (2 Cor 5:10).  Every believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ for evaluation.

Second, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all” (2 Cor 5:14).  Paul is thinking here of the cross, on which Christ died for sinners as a substitutionary sacrifice.

Paul demonstrates great zeal in his ministry, and he mentions two motives (though perhaps there are more) that drive him: he will face the future judgment of Christ for evaluation, and he knows that Jesus died for sinners.

It would be good if Paul’s motivations were our motivations as well.  So does the past death of Christ for sinners and the future evaluation of all believers motivate you?

Crazy Love, by Francis Chan

Francis Chan is becoming one of my favorite preachers/writers very quickly.  His book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God strikes at the core of the reader in ways few books do.  Chan challenges us with a “relentless” biblical persistence to abandon lukewarmness and follow Jesus with intensity and passion.

The book is peppered with helpful anecdotes from Chan’s life, as well as others’ experiences, that make his come alive.  This book is a must-read, because–if your eyes are opened to the truth of Jesus–you will love him more after reading these ten chapters.

Chan’s words aim sharp arrows at our Western churches.  We are filthy rich people, and we whine about how broke we are and how much money we wish we made.  Well, Chan points out, Jesus said it would be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And while we might think Jesus is talking about billionaires, Chan warns that Americans need to wake up and realize Jesus’ words apply to us–we are the rich people in the world, and our “stuff” has captivated us more than Jesus.  God forgive us, and may he be patient with us while there is time to repent.

Chan’s book isn’t long, the chapters aren’t long, the price isn’t much, and the title is short–but the message is simply enormous.

If you’re a youth minister, your youth need this book.  Get copies of it for your youth leaders, start a small-group study on its contents–do something to get this book in the hands of young people.  Let them see a vision for what life can be like when lived for the glory of God instead of the American Dream.

Buy Crazy Love right now, and be set ablaze.  The world needs to watch you burn for Jesus.

Gospel-Powered Parenting, by William P. Farley

The subtitle of the book intrigued me even more than the title itself: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting.

I can’t say enough how much I loved this book.  It’s 220 pages of gospel-saturated parenting wisdom.  If you were to squeeze this book, it would drip the cross and the Bible.

Farley’s concern is that Christian parents see the gospel’s impact on how they raise their children.  What an obvious but too-often-neglected concept!

The chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1: Intellectual Submarines
Chapter 2: Gospel-Powered Parenting
Chapter 3: Gospel Fear
Chapter 4: A Holy Father
Chapter 5: A Gracious Father
Chapter 6: The First Principle of Parenting
Chapter 7: Gospel Fathers
Chapter 8: Foundations of Discipline
Chapter 9: Discipline That Preaches
Chapter 10: Food for the Hungry
Chapter 11: Gospel Love
Chapter 12: Amazing Grace

I devoured Gospel-Powered Parenting.  Chapters 8 and 9 on the topic of “discipline” are alone worth the price you will pay to purchase this book.  Farley really focuses on the role of fathers in the family, and his words are incredibly challenging for every man.

Fathers, get this book.  New parents, get this book.  Seasoned parents, buy this book.  Frustrated and angry parents, get this book.  Parents who think they’re doing everything just right, get this book.

And may the Lord use the gospel to transform households into Christ-centered and God-honoring ones.

You will be a different parent after reading Gospel-Powered Parenting.

A One-Verse Summary of the Farewell Discourse

In John 13–16, Jesus speaks on a variety of topics to his disciples.  He talks about humility, servanthood, a coming betrayal, the commandment of love, going to the Father, revealing the Father, the promise of answered prayer, sending the Holy Spirit for indwelling, peace, abiding in the vine, loving one another, persecution from the world, the role of the Holy Spirit in the world and in disciples, the sorrow at the crucifixion, the joy at the resurrection, and praying in Jesus’ name.

More topics can probably be added to that list.  But, for all the subjects Jesus teaches on, he summarizes the core message of the Farewell Discourse in John 16:28, one of the last few verses of John 13–16:

“I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

The verse can be arranged this way to portray its artistry:

A        I came from the Father
B              and entered the world;
B’             now I am leaving the world
A’       and going back to the Father

In John 16:28, Jesus explicitly says what he has been teaching the disciples.  It is a teaching that captures the truth of both his origin and destination.

This verse also shows that understanding why Jesus came into the world must incorporate an understanding of the Father’s role.

Of all the correct statements that can be said about Jesus, John 16:28 is surely one of the most fundamental.  If John 16:28 is denied, Jesus is denied.

God’s Indwelling Presence, by James Hamilton

I happily recommend this thorough and immensely beneficial OT/NT study of the Holy Spirit.  If you’ve ever asked, “Were OT believers regenerated by the Spirit?”  Or, “Were OT believers indwelt by the Spirit?”  Or, “What does the baptism of the Spirit mean?”  Or, “In what manner was the Spirit with believers in OT times?”  Those questions, and many more, are answered.

Dr Hamilton provides a scholarly treatment of questions that faithful Bible readers should ask and consider.

This book was very helpful as I preached through the Farewell Discourse in John’s Gospel on Sunday mornings at FBC Santo.  Hamilton clearly argues and defends his conclusions about the Holy Spirit in the OT and NT.  I profited greatly from this book in terms of feeding my soul and in terms of providing understanding of certain verses during sermons to the congregation.

I had the privilege of being a student under Dr Hamilton’s professorship when he taught at the Houston campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (he has since transferred to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY).

The Lord has given Dr Hamilton the heart and mind of a pastor-scholar, and I’m deeply thankful for his investment in the lives of students such as myself.

Take time to frequent his blog at

Also, visit the website of the church he pastors and listen to his sermons on the Book of Revelation:

Solving the Riddle of John 16:16

After Jesus said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16), the disciples were confused (16:17-18).  The significance of “a little while” was not clear in their minds.  What did such a phrase refer to?

Considering that Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John 13–16) and High Priestly Prayer (John 17) occur right before his arrest (John 18) and death (John 19), the first “little while” probably refers to the time leading up to his death when they will “see me no more.”

Then, according to John 20:14–21:25, the disciples encountered Jesus again after his resurrection.  So the second “little while” probably refers to the time between the cross and the resurrection when they would “see me” again.

Some scholars have unnecessarily read John 16:16 from the viewpoint of the Gospel of John’s 21st century readers.  Some of them say that “in a little while you will see me no more” refers to Jesus’ ascension, and “then after a little while you will see me” refers to seeing Jesus at his second coming.

But there is one huge problem with saying that 16:16 refers to Jesus’ ascension and second coming.  Jesus told his eleven disciples the night before he was crucified that “after a little while you will see me.”  So the “seeing” Jesus in 16:16 must have been fulfilled in the experience of the disciples, and therefore 16:16 is an already-past-event.

The question is, then, how would the disciples have experienced the fulfillment of 16:16?  While the disciples could not immediately discern the meaning of Jesus’ twofold use of “a little while” in John 16:16, the post-resurrection readers of John’s Gospel have the best vantage point to understand what Jesus meant by breaking the riddle into four parts:

(1) “In a little while”=The time between speaking those words and Jesus’ death

(2) “You will see me no more”=Jesus’ death

(3) “Then after a little while”=The time between Jesus’ death and resurrection

(4) “You will see me”=Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection


The Christ-Exalting Work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was not sent to bring glory to himself.  Jesus said to eleven of his disciples, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:14).

One of the roles of the Holy Spirit, then, is to draw attention to, and illuminate the teachings of, Jesus.  When Jesus spoke those words to his disciples, he had taught them many things (“what is mine”) that they did not understand.   After Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit would take those teachings of Jesus and then convey them (“making it known”) to the disciples.

It would be good for us to pray often that the Holy Spirit would open our mind and eyes to know and see more and more of the truth of Jesus in the Scriptures.   Such knowing and seeing brings “glory” to Jesus–and isn’t that what we want to happen anyway?

Christ Was Made Sin…For Us

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…”  Let’s leave off the rest of the verse for now.

This verse speaks about both Jesus’ life and death.

“Him who had no sin”=Jesus’ life.   “To be sin for us”=Jesus’ death.

Here, Paul first explicitly affirms the sinlessness of Jesus.  Since sin is the necessary fruit of our sinful natures, I think it is right to say that Jesus did not have a sinful nature.  He was human like us (Rom 8:3), but without any inward or outward sin.

His sinless life was crucial for the death he would die.  Because he had no sin of his own to die for, he could fully and perfectly bear the sins of the world upon him.

When we read that “God made him” to be sin for us, we shouldn’t imagine Jesus unwillingly going to the cross (as if the Father at some point had to say, “I’m going to make you hang there on that tree and die for them!”).

In fact, Jesus himself states the opposite in John 10:18a: “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  It was the Father’s plan to send the Son (John 3:16), and the Son went, becoming obedient even to death on a cross (Phil 2:8).

So the sinless Jesus was made “sin.”  This is a crucial acknowledgment for Christians to make, for we hold precious the idea that Jesus bore the penalty for our every iniquity.  God treated Jesus as sin, pouring his wrath on his Son for our salvation.  Jesus did not pay for our sins in part but in full.

“For us” is key in 2 Cor 5:21.  Jesus’ death was substitutionary.  The sinless Son died for us–the sinless for the sinful.

Let’s ask the who, what, when, where, and why questions.

Who?  Jesus

What?  Became sin for us.

When?  2,000 years ago.

Where?  On the cross.

Why?  So that “in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21b).

The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller

I don’t normally blog about a book while only halfway through reading it, but I’m making an exception here.  Go and buy The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.  While you’re doing that, buy everything that Keller has written (his previous book The Prodigal God is simply incredible).

The subtitle of the book is Belief in an Age of Skepticism.  Keller divides the 250 pages into two main sections: the first half deals with the seven most common objections to Christianity, and then the second half makes a case for the Christian faith.

It’s does not seem often that a New York Times bestseller also has great theological content, but The Reason for God is just that kind of jewel.  This book is good for skeptics and for believers, for different reasons of course.

Ours in an age of skepticism indeed.  I’m thankful for writers like Keller who take the questions head-on and who provide cogent, biblical answers.  The answers may not always be easy, but Keller is presenting the truth–and isn’t that what should matter most?

Possible Christmas Texts for Preaching

If you are preaching Christmas messages next month, consider opting for a different passage than the traditional Matt 1-2 and Luke 1-2.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with those passages, but congregations may benefit from thinking about the coming of Christ from passages not normally associated with Christmas.  More passages tell of Jesus’ coming than just the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.

At FBC Santo, my Christmas messages have looked like this

  • In 2006, John 1:14
  • In 2007, Luke 1:26-38
  • In 2008, John 7:40-52
  • In 2009, John 3:16-21

Lord-willing, in the coming years I will preach the coming of Christ from texts like (in no particular order) Genesis 3:15, 2 Samuel 7:12, Isaiah 9, Micah 5:2, John 6:33, John 8:12, John 17:18, John 18:37, Romans 1:3-4, Romans 8:3-4, Romans 16:25-27, Galatians 4:4-5, Philippians 2:6-8, Colossians 1:19-20, Colossians 2:9-10, Hebrews 1:1-3, Hebrews 2:9, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 1:1-4, and Revelation 12.

There are so many more to choose from, especially from the Old Testament.  Perhaps the Lord will lead your Christmas preaching to an unexpected text in order to proclaim our expected Messiah.