A funny video on what the Trinity is and is not:
My passion to help people grasp the Gospel, dig deeper into its depth, and understand how it motivates us and applies to every area of life comes from the fact that I grew up without understanding these things. Even though I was a professing Christian, who grew up in a Christian home, and attended a Bible-believing church, I can honestly say that I knew almost nothing of the Gospel let alone how it applied to and impacted my daily life.
A vivid illustration of this comes from an encounter I had with an evangelist at the Mall of America when I was 14 years old. I was at the M.O.A. with a group of friends from school; we were wandering around checking out sights and stores while spending our parent’s money. During our time a lady stopped us and said, “Can I ask you boys a question?” We responded “Sure.” She then proceeded to ask, “If you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to ask you ‘why should I let you into my Heaven?’ what would you say?” I don't remember any of my friends’ answers, but my answer, sadly, went something like this: “Because I do what you tell me to and I go to church and try my best to read my Bible and treat people well.” Thankfully, the lady corrected me by reminding me of John 3:16 & 14:6, verses which still didn't quite click in my head.
As I reflect back on that encounter I am struck by how unbiblical my view of the Gospel was. I saw Christianity as a list of obligations that I needed to obey in order to earn a place in Heaven. I didn't see the Bible as God’s revelation of His glorious plan of redemption but as a book I had to read or else I would be on God’s naughty list. Yet I sat through countless Sunday School lessons, numerous Wednesday night talks, and a fair share of sermons. All the while, I hadn't grasped the most basic and essential truth of the whole Christian faith.
On an even sadder note, I have found too many people, young and old alike, whose experience has been similar to mine. People who have been a part of the church their whole life but came to a point of Gospel-renaissance, where they realized they had been missing the main point of the whole thing. Perhaps that has been your experience to some degree as well? Maybe you grew up or joined a church and thought Christianity was somewhat of an ethical system, where you spend life discovering things you ought not to do and ought to do. And as you discover these things God grades you based off your moral performance.
There was another major stage of growth I experienced while studying at college that has also contributed to my passion to help people grow in Gospel-centeredness. After I had become aware of what the Gospel truly was, what Christ had done to redeem me, I was ignited with a passion to follow Him with my whole life. Yet in my newfound passion I merely thought of the Gospel as the ABC’s of Christianity. The Gospel was merely the entrance of the Christian life and now I was to move onto the real meaty things like self-denial, and evangelism, and Bible study, and serving. You could say at this point that I thought Christianity went something like this: “Christ died for you so you better suck it up and live for Him.” I may have never formally verbalized this or written it in the margin of my Bible but it was how I lived.
As you can imagine, this fragmented view of the Gospel left me operating in a state of joyless duty and guilt-driven obedience. Most of my efforts to honor God were short lived, because my motivation was running on the fumes of duty. After I would commit a particular sin I would lock myself in the dungeon of guilt. Once I had spent a sufficient time wallowing over my failure, I would muster some strength and come out and try again. This cycle went on and on. I don’t remember when this cycle broke, although it still rears its ugly head occasionally, but I do remember what broke it. What broke it was an understanding that we, as Christians, are never to move on from the Gospel but only deeper into it. The Gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity it is the A-Z’s. The Gospel is meant to be the motivational fuel that propels and sustains our obedience. The Gospel is meant to be a dynamic force at work in our hearts empowering our pursuit of glorifying God. The Gospel is meant to act like a scalpel that does surgery on our hearts removing the sin that still resides. The Gospel is meant to be the measure by which we assess how we should give, love, serve, and relate.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching an overview sermon on Hebrews 11:1-40, title The Faith-Fueled Life. I say "overview sermon" because there was no way I could faithfully cover 40 in 40 minutes. You can look at the manuscript, download and listen to the audio, or watch it on youtube if you please.
This is the manuscript from a chapel message that I gave to the 6-12th graders at Liberty Classical Christian Academy:
When you dream about your future, what do you dream about? What are your goals for your future? When you grow up (and you will grow up one day, but don’t worry it’s not as bad as it looks) what do you want to be and do? Or as Disney would say, what is your happily ever after?
I actually just got back from visiting Disneyland with my wife. I went to Disney with high expectations of having a magical experience. They say that Disney is the place where dreams come true and lifetime memories are made. But I didn’t really find that to be the case because in my dreams, amusement parks are free and you don’t have to wait in line and Mickey Mouse is real. I think if Disney was forced to tell the truth, their advertising would sound something like this: “It costs $100 to get in, the lines are really long and the rides are really short, and Mickey Mouse isn’t real, he’s just an actor inside a very silly costume.”
This is what life is like sometimes in this world. Our culture feeds us with dreams and desires and Disney-like expectations for a happily ever after. This world’s media, movies, and music tell us that what we should really desire and dream for is to be cool or rich or successful. But is that what really makes life worth living? Is there nothing more to life than trying to be cool and have a lot of Facebook friends who like all your photos and statuses? Or trying to get a good education so you can get a good job that makes you good money so you can get a good house to fill it with a good family and then have a good time in retirement?
When I was sitting where you are today, this was what I wanted; this is what I thought would really make me happy. But I never stopped to ask the most important question that anyone could ever ask: “What does God think about all this?” “What does the One who made me and knit me together want for me?” Too often, even as Christians, we forget to ask the fundamental questions and instead we let everyone but God tell us what we ought to do and be and pursue. But God, who has more wisdom than all the wise men of this world combined and who loves us far beyond what we could ever imagine, clearly tells us in His Word what our lives should be all about.
Are you ready for the answer? Do you think you know what it is? God’s desire and design for us is that we would be glad in Him above everything, and that we would glorify Him in everything! (Repeat) There are really two statements in there, so let’s take them one at a time. First, God’s desire is that we would be glad in Him above everything. Now where am I getting this from? It sounds a little too happy and joyful. Let me read a bunch of passages from Scripture and see if you can pick up what I am getting at:
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Whom have I in Heaven but You and there is nothing on earth that I desire beside You, God. (Psalm 73:25)
Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
¹As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God. ²My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. (Psalm 27:4)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
I could go on and on with more verses, but the point is that God made us to be glad in Him. The problems that come in our lives are when we turn away from pursuing our gladness in God and pursue it in lesser things. For example, I used to love playing sports and video games. I actually loved it a little too much. I put all my time and money into those things. You could even say that I worshipped them. Sports and video games are fine to a degree but when we start to look to things like those for joy and happiness they fail us, because they were never designed for that. Only God, in all His bigness and beauty, can ever fill that longing we all have for joy. As one person has said, “Our hearts will always be restless until they rest in God.”
So we’re supposed to be glad in God, but how do we grow our gladness in God? Well, in one sense the answer is simple and you probably know it already. We grow in gladness by knowing God through His Word. As we come to God’s Word over and over again we are constantly placing our hearts before God and learning about His character, attributes, and the amazing grace He has given us through His Son Jesus. When we start to read things like, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “When we were dead in our sins God made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1,3) it causes our gladness in God to grow. It’s a lot like what happened to the Grinch’s heart in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” when he listened to the joyous singing of the Whos down in Whoville. As he heard their Christmas joy his heart grew three times its size and he too came to have a Christmas cheer. Likewise, when we read the Scriptures it sings of the sweetness of God to our hearts and causes our love for God to grow.
The first aspect of God’s design for us is that we would be glad in Him above everything, and we grow in our gladness by knowing the bigness and beauty of God through the Scriptures.
But remember there is a second aspect to God’s design for us: that we would glorify Him in everything. I am drawing this purpose for our existence from the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 where he says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God.” Really Paul, everything? Yes, everything we do should be done to the glory of God.
Again, we have to ask the question, what does that mean? How does that look? To answer that question let me use eating and drinking to illustrate what it means to glorify God. The way we can glorify God by eating and drinking is first to give thanks to Him for giving us the food to eat and the liquid to drink. God doesn’t owe us food and drink and so every time we get it, it is a gift from God who made it and who made it possible for us to partake of it.
Not only should we give thanks for the food to glorify God, but we should use food to praise God as a way to glorify God. For example, food and drink teach us to praise God as a provider because of what He has supplied us. Food and drink teach us to praise God as a creative artist for all the wonderfully unique things that He has made. God could have just created squash and water and stopped there. But He didn’t. He made thousands of delicious foods and tasty liquids all to show us how amazing He is.
Also, we glorify God with food and drink by gladly enjoying it. When God gives us a gift like food, He gives it to us so that we might grow in our gladness in Him. Why else did He give us taste buds?
Food not only nourishes our body but it tastes good, because God designed it that way. And when we eat or drink something delicious, we should say, with hearts full of gladness, “God, that was absolutely delightful.” And then we should rub our full bellies in an act of glorifying God.
You and I were not made to live for the silly and unsatisfying dreams of this Disneyland world that we live in. We were made for something, or rather “Someone,” who is so much greater. We were made for God. We were made to be glad in Him above everything because He is better than anything. And we were made to glorify Him in everything because He alone is worth all the thanks and praise and delight that we have to offer. It is only when we spend our lives pursuing that, that we will truly come to live happily ever after.
Here is a PDF of an article I wrote to help you practically become more Gospel-centered.
The article contains 10 practical things you can do to soak yourself in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is a flavor for what they are:
- Sing the Gospel
- Read the Gospels
- Study Romans & Ephesians
- Comb the Bible with a Christ-Centered Lens
- Seize Downtime to Soak Up Gospel-Centered Things
- Pray the Gospel
- Read About the Gospel
- Memorize the Gospel
- Review Your Testimony
- Get around Gospel-Centered People