Reformed/Charismatic/Missional Conference - Session 1 - Jeff Vanderstelt

Friday, March 04, 2011

Session 1
What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Jeff Vanderstelt


About the Speaker: Jeff is a Church Planter who leads Soma Communities, a body of church planting churches in the South Puget Sound. He also serves as Vice President (West) of Acts 29 as well as the Church Planters Advisory Council for the Conservative Baptist NW Association. Jeff spends most of his time equipping church planters and church leaders in gospel-centered leadership and missionally focused methodology. He has been planting churches for seven years. Prior to that he was a youth pastor in four different churches over the span of 14 years, the most recent being Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, IL. Jeff has been married for 18 years to Jayne and together they love and shepherd three beautiful children in the gospel and mission of Jesus Christ.

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Romans 1:16-17 - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith" (ESV).

Are your people gospel-fluent? Does it live and breathe in everything they do? Do they hear the gospel and translate it into behavior that is in keeping with the gospel? One who is fluent in a foreign language dreams in that language. One who is fluent in the gospel sets their hearts and minds on the things above so that they set their hearts and minds on things above and think Jesus. They have an entirely different way of seeing things and doing things. And conversely when they hear something that is not gospel, they are alerted to it and avoid it. This is largely the task of leadership as the apostle Paul presented it in various parts of his teaching.

If you were to summarize the people of God it is found in the last phrase of Romans 1:17: they "live by faith." That faith is in the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to those who believe. That's the whole point Paul spends the rest of Romans unpacking. The gospel is all about God's saving work all the time. Believers live in that truth. They live by that truth. They have been saved FROM something, INTO something, and FOR something. That's God's rescue plan. In the grammar of this text there are three tenses here that require attention.

1. Past Tense: God HAS saved us from the penalty of sin FOR the purpose of being HIs beloved children.

In Romans 1:18 and following the righteousness of God is said to have been already revealed from heaven against those who swap the glory of God for their own. This is sin its most basic form. Consequently this inherently makes people "children of wrath," according to Ephesians 2. This wrath is a necessary component of the gospel because God's holiness and glory have been offended and affronted. Sin is treason and it must be punished as such. The punishment is God's wrath. Jesus suffered and absorbed and satisfied that wrath on the cross so that we might be loved and accepted as dearly loved children, and no longer children of wrath anymore.

According to 2 Corinthians 5 Jesus became sin FOR us so that we might become the righteousness of God. When God looks at us it is as though He is looking at His Son, Jesus. That's the good news. So the question is begged, "Do we believe this?" How do we know that we believe it? How do we know our people believe it?

2. Present Tense: God IS saving us from the penalty of sin FOR the purpose of being His beloved children.

Primarily, we/they no longer live in shame. We/they are no longer motivated by guilt. We don't serve God out of guilt of what will happen to us if we don't do something. Rather, we serve God motivated by the love He has put within us for Him and His purposes. We love because He has first loved us. If He hasn't first loved us, then we won't love Him...or His purposes. This love is the foundation for grace which is THE greatest motivator. We choose not to sin NOT because we will be ashamed of it when found out. Rather, we choose not to sin BECAUSE we simply love God!

Shame-motivated Christianity results in nothing more than self-worship, because we live by beating ourselves up for our sin. Grace-motivated Christianity results in Jesus-worship, because we live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). It is living by faith in what Jesus has already done about my sin. It is living by faith in a mindset that is absorbed entirely with the love of God in Christ for us.

Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:1 and following that the gospel is the thing "in which we stand." It holds us firm. And in that place it continues to demonstrate its power to save...continually. This power is granted by virtue of the resurrection. The power demonstrated there was the most miraculous power ever demonstrated by God. THAT power is the power that saves...the power that gives the theology of the cross its authentic meaning.

In Romans 8 Paul also teaches that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead also gives life to our mortal bodies. The power of the gospel rooted in the resurrection is the power that continues to save me and enable me to overcome by day...continually...all the time. This happens by the presence of the Holy Spirit within. He was installed there by God Himself inside of us. And He works in us the very same power He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.

In John 20:21 the presence of the Spirit is inseparable from the purpose of the mission. This Spirit-power in the gospel is absolutely necessary for the mission Jesus has called us to. This brings our minds back to Luke 3 and 4 where Jesus begins His ministry with the power of the Spirit.

Luke 3:21-22 - "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Luke 4:18 - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor" (ESV).

Jesus was filled with the Spirit. He needed this filling for His ministry. He needed it to experience victory over temptation. He needed it to preach the good news to the poor. He was raised by the Spirit from the dead. Then He gave that same Spirit to us for the mission. That same Spirit does for us what He did for Jesus: filling us, empowering us for ministry, enabling us to conquer sin, empowering us to preach the good news, equipping us to raise up and send out more Spirit-filled people to repeat the same thing over and over again.

This theology is necessary to dispel the common myth that once we are saved by the Spirit it is up to us to carry on in the Christian life all by ourselves. Paul asks in Galatians 3, "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (ESV). Salvation is accomplished by GOD...not by me. If the salvation for me that happened in the past was accomplished by God, then the salvation for me that happens each and every day is also accomplished in the very same way. NOTHING CHANGES! It's the same salvation and the same power of God...from start to finish.

The identity of a Christian is inseparably linked to this doctrine. Philippians 2:12-13 teaches us two truths. On the one hand we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. On the other hand, we work hard knowing that God Himself is actually within us working to influence our motivation and our wills to do what is pleasing to Him. He does this by the Holy Spirit. This is how the Holy Spirit continues to demonstrate His present-tense salvation in our lives. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to anyone who believes. Believing that GOD is the One who changes...not the golden key to this whole deal.

3. Future Tense: God WILL save us from the penalty and presence of sin for the purpose of living in His presence eternally.

God will finish what He has started in us. The past-tense work of salvation accomplished by His power is a work that continues in the present...and therefore will and MUST be fulfilled and finished in the end. This promise is given to us in 1 Peter 1:3-5

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, toan inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Nothing is going to stop this promise from being fulfilled. We will suffer through this life with the guarantee of the hope that is laid before us in heaven. Nothing can stand in the way of this hope: no suffering, no sin, no demon, no nothing. Right now our perception of this is so dim. But when we see Him, it will be more awesome than we could ever absolute awe of Him. And it will take eternity to fully comprehend how glorious He really is.

This future hope of what we have motivates us to mission...not to self-security and comfort. The hope of what we have becomes our mission, our life-calling. It enables us to endure whatever life throws at us with a joy and hope that attracts others to come along with us. Does this future hope drive you into a passive apathy and comfort? Or does it capture your heart so that you feel so captured by His love, that you would want everyone to taste heaven now in the way we live?

I am not ashamed of this gospel. It is the power of God to save.

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