Many of you know that I was present at the T4G conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Those who know me well are aware that I am not the world’s biggest conference fan but, thanks to the generosity of people at 9Marks, I went along. Over the next week or so I want to do a small series of posts on the various messages I heard and how I think they apply to my context here in Niddrie. I hope people find them beneficial.
PART I: Thabiti Anyabwile
TITLE: Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?
TEXT: 1 Timothy 1:12-17
So, I have never had the privilege of hearing this brother preach before. I have read his book on, “What is a Healthy Church Member” (and, indeed, we have studied it as a congregation). His message had three parts (why wouldn’t it?):
- The Great Change in 1 Life
- The Great Cause of That Change
- The Great Celebration of That Change
The Great Change in 1 Life
Thabiti reminded us that Paul was an anti-Christian and an anti-church terrorist (Acts 7:54ff, Acts 8:1ff). He indiscriminately persecuted men, women and children (Acts 9:1-2). Paul wanted the job of chief persecutor and he always took the initiative when it came to hinting down and persecuting followers of the way. The Apostle recalls this in Acts 22:3ff and in Acts 26:9ff he tells of how far he went to wipe out Christians. Why does Paul recall these events so vividly? Because sin had left a crimson stain.
Application for us – We need to have confidence in the gospel to change anybody. This is a timely reminder to those of us who work in schemes with some of the most depraved and difficult people. They seem so hostile to us, the message and our whole way of life. Yet, we must not lose hope in the power of the gospel to transform. Paul was a nightmare because he was lost. That is why people behave as they do. They, too, are just as lost and they need repentance above anything else in their lives.
The Great Cause of That Change
- The gospel supplied his need by giving him mercy (v13). Grace was poured out upon him (v14). All of this “given in Christ”.
- The gospel is trustworthy and rest in the fact that it can bear the full weight of our confidence. Trust it.
- The gospel reaches the worst of sinners and makes them trophies of his grace (v16). This is an examples so that others may believe. Our testimonies are important as long as they glorify Christ.
Application for us – Need I say it? It is the gospel which truly transforms and any deviation from it will provide false converts. In areas which can get caught up in dire social needs, we must put the gospel front and centre in all that we do. We must encourage one another to share our stories because they have the ability to impact many lives around us.
The Great Celebration of That Change
So, what does all this look like?
- We should be around the worst of sinners and constantly seek opportunities to share it.
- We should share the gospel slowly and clearly. Unchain it.
- We should redirect our fear from man to God. we should seek to be faithful more than fruitfulness (especially true for those of us who work in “slow burn” areas like this).
- We should preach the gospel in every sermon. Remember God has only 1 message – Jesus Christ!
- Be careful with evangelism and new converts. Not all conversions are the same and so we shouldn’t push for universality in how God calls and saves people.
- Study the gospel in deep and various ways. It can never be exhausted!
- Preach to open eyes (Acts 26:18). In other words, seek to draw people to the light.
- Where is our confidence? is it in our study, our prep, our prayers, our intelligence and our strategies? Or is it in the gospel?
- Rely on God’s power (1 Cor. 2:5). Ask the spirit to help us and to give us unction and the words so that people would turn to Christ.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
This should be both our opening and closing prayer as we work in this hard field. May God help us to renew and rediscover our glorious hope found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.