Get your new year started with right thinking about the Gospel and about Scripture--the second and third of Bob Lepine’s Gospel Resolutions.
Get your new year started with right thinking about the Gospel and about Scripture--the second and third of Bob Lepine’s Gospel Resolutions.
Bob: As you think about making resolutions for the New Year, do you ever think about the gospel? Is there any relationship between the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the resolutions you make for the year ahead?
This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk about the connection between the gospel and your New Year’s resolutions on today’s program.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I’m just sitting here trying to figure out whether this is the end of a decade or the first year of the new decade that is just ending, but I guess it doesn’t really matter for what we’re going to talk about today.
Dennis: It doesn’t. It’s about to be January 1, 2011 and –
Bob: We know that much.
Dennis: We do, and you’re going to hear the conclusion to a great message that Bob Lepine gave a little less than a year ago back in early January of 2010 about some resolutions – a different approach to resolutions.
But before we do that, we just want to step in and remind you that this is the last day, and these are the last hours that we have to take full advantage of more than $3 million that’s been set aside to be a matching gift to match dollar for dollar every dollar you give as a listening audience.
Bob: Yes, the matching gift fund that actually began with a little more than $2 million back at the beginning of December grew during the month. We had some additional families come along and add additional funds to that matching gift amount, so here we are on the last day of the year and we’re still a ways away from the now more than $3 million total.
Dennis: We knew it was going to stretch us, Bob.
Bob: We knew it was, and we’re just asking folks, if you’ve made a year-end donation and you can make another one, that would be great. If you haven’t made one and you can make one, that would be wonderful. If you just can’t do anything to help us out, pray for us. We’d love to be able to take full advantage of the matching gift.
Honestly, in past years we’ve seen a lot of donations made on the last day of the year, people either calling 1-800-FLTODAY or going online at FamilyLifeToday.com. In the last hours of the year we’ve had a lot of phone calls or a lot of online giving that’s helped push us forward, so we’re hoping that will happen today.
Dennis: We are. We knew that it was going to stretch our faith, because we’ve really never seen this amount of money put up as a matching challenge in the past, but we also knew that it was going to stretch you as a listener to really prayerfully think about what your part in helping keep FamilyLife Today on this station.
You need to know in the past couple of years we’ve had to cancel some stations because listeners have not stepped up to be able to give sufficient funds to keep us on a station. So, I’d just come to you right now and would ask you, “Would you give as generously as you can to help us take full advantage of more than $3 million in matching funds?”
Bob: And again you can do that by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, and we’ve got folks taking calls all day long, or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Of course the website is up all day as well. By the way, you can check on the web next week. By the end of next week we should have a total, should be able to update folks on how we did in being able to take advantage of these matching gift funds.
So pray for us. If you’re able to give, please make a donation. And let me say thanks in advance for whatever you’re able to do. We appreciate your support, and we’re glad to have you listening to FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: And there’s no better topic here on the last day of the year to really help you turn the calendar toward a new year, than talking about resolutions.
Bob: Yeah, but talking about them a little differently than – because I’ve made those kind of “I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to quit doing this, I’m going to start doing that” stuff, and it’s not worked out well for me.
Dennis: And that’s really where this message came from —
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: That you gave, right?
Bob: Put together some resolutions I knew I could keep, and I shared this message back in early January a year ago with the other couples who speak at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways. I talked about gospel resolutions. I talked about every day submitting yourself again to the lordship of Christ, and then, as we’ll hear at the beginning of today’s program, a second resolution that is, every day repenting. Again, coming back around and turning away from sin.
Dennis: You don’t have to give the message now, Bob. You’re about to give it. Let’s listen to our co-host of FamilyLife Today, Bob Lepine.
Bob: I want to make sure you understand the difference between confession and repentance. Both are called for in Scripture, aren’t they? We’re called to confess and we’re called to repent. Confession is this: It is agreeing with God that what he says is true is true. That’s why when we talk about confessions of faith, the Westminster Confession of Faith, what you’re confessing is you’re saying, “God, I agree that what you said is true is true.” That’s a confession of faith. The Apostles’ Creed is a confession of faith.
When we confess our sins, what we’re doing is we’re agreeing with God that what he has said about our sin is true. We’re agreeing that it’s a transgression, that it’s an offense against him. When David confesses his sin in Psalm 51, “Lord, against you and you only have I sinned,” it is an acknowledgement that our behavior is sinful and that we’ve sinned against him.
I was in an Anglican church for the first time, and you know, there’s this prayer of confession that struck me, that it was different than my own confession of sin. Here’s what it said: It said, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone.”
I’d just stop you right there. When I confess, I typically stop and think, “What bad things did I do?” That’s about as deep as I go. This confession is, “What bad things did I do, what bad things did I think, what bad things did I say, and what didn’t I do that I should have done that was also a transgression?” It takes me a little deeper into the issue of confession than I normally go.
It says, “We’ve not loved you with our whole heart. We’ve not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” I read that and I go, “Well, who does that, right? I mean, nobody . . .” But that’s what God has called us to, that’s what he’s created us for.
“We’re truly sorry. We humbly repent. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us that we might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.” That’s a better confession than the one I normally make.
But there’s a difference between confessing and repenting. The illustration I use when I’m describing this to my kids, I say, “Let’s say Mom and I were going to get in the car and go to the grocery store, and halfway to the grocery store I said to Mom, ‘I’ve decided that we’re not going to go to the grocery store anymore,’ and she says, ‘Oh, okay,’ but I keep driving toward the grocery store.
In fact, I pull into the parking lot at the grocery store, and she says, ‘Didn’t you say we’re not going to the grocery store?’ I say, ‘Yeah, that’s what I said.’ ‘But we’re here.’ See I can confess all I want that we’re not going to the grocery store, but repenting means turning the car around and going a different direction. It means a change in behavior that is consistent with what you’re saying.“
It’s one thing to confess; it’s another thing to turn the car around and head in a different direction. So what we have to do every day as one of our gospel resolutions, one of our new life resolutions, is to look carefully at our lives where it’s out of calibration, and then not just say, “Well, I’m going to try to do better,” but to take steps in the right direction, to turn.
This second resolution commits to turning away from these forces that will daily buffet you. Every day there are three forces that are trying to persuade you not to repent. The first is the culture we live in. The culture we live in is not pointing you in a God ward direction. The second force is the enemy of your soul who wants to derail you spiritually. And the third force is your own craving of your own flesh.
It’s simple: the world, the flesh and the devil are trying to push you away from the purposes of God for your life. Repenting means every day you say, “I’m not listening to the culture, I’m not listening to the enemy, and I’m not listening to my own flesh. I’m dead to those things. I’m listening to the voice of God, I’m turning from sin, and I’m turning to Christ as Lord.”
Which brings us to the third resolution. The third resolution is to re-believe the gospel every day. To re-believe the gospel every day. The gospel is not just a propositional set of facts and truth. The gospel according to the Word of God is the power of God. You get that? What happened at the cross is the power of God for salvation. Now salvation is not just your justification, being made right before God. It is your sanctification and your glorification.
The power of God to save you, to sanctify you and to glorify you is the gospel, according to the Scriptures. A life that is focused on Jesus and the gospel as the main thing is a life that will grow in godliness. Listen to what Paul tells Titus in chapter two: “The grace of God has appeared.” Now let me ask you, where did the grace of God appear? At the cross.
“The grace of God has appeared at the cross bringing salvation for all ethnos, for all people of all nations, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
I’m going to challenge you: That’s Titus 2:11-15. Read that slowly sometime today and just meditate on the power of the grace of God to be transformational in a person’s life. Meditating on God’s love and grace demonstrated at the cross motivates us to be zealous for good works.
If you join me in this resolution to believe the gospel, to re-believe it every day, here’s what you’re resolving to do. The first thing you’re resolving to do is to believe again what seems almost unbelievable: that Jesus came back from the dead. Now we’ve said that for years and years, but here’s what I’m suggesting. In real time and real space a real person, a real man, came back from death by his own power, and demonstrated in that act that he was God come to earth.
Now that declaration of what we believe, according to the Bible, that is “foolishness to the Gentiles,” and the Gentiles are happy to demonstrate for us how foolish they think it is for us to believe it. It is foolishness for them, and it is a stumbling block for the Jews, but for those who believe, it is the power of God.
This one action separates Christianity from every other world religion. In fact, you understand that every other world religion is a religion of self-improvement and self-determination. Do these things; on your own you will pacify the wrath of God.
Christianity says, “You can’t do that. It’s been done for you and it’s demonstrated through the power of the cross.” The resurrection of the Christ is the heart of the gospel, and it seems basic to us to say that we want to re-believe that it’s true that Jesus rose from the dead.
But you understand that there are major New York Times bestsellers that are suggesting otherwise. Here’s what Richard Dawkins says about the cross:
“Presumably what happened to Jesus was what happens to all of us when we die. We decompose. Accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are about as well-documented as Jack in the Beanstalk.”
That’s what Richard Dawkins believes about the resurrection, okay? But it’s not just Richard Dawkins. We could travel around St. Pete and into Tampa this morning and go to churches where the pastor doesn’t believe in the resurrection.
The idea that Jesus came back from the dead has been spiritualized in a lot of churches and a lot of pastor’s minds to: “The resurrection is really that the spirit of Jesus lives with us all today and his resurrection is alive in you whenever you act like Jesus.” We may believe that, but we believe more than that.
We believe that a man died and by his own power emptied the tomb. That’s the gospel. So believing the gospel begins with re-believing that Jesus actually rose from the dead and he’s alive again today. But if you believe that, you need to reconsider. There were cosmic consequences to that action. This is what you’re re-believing every day: you are believing that on the cross amends for your rebellion, past, present, and future have been made. You are believing every day that all is forgiven. That is atonement. That’s what you’re believing.
Now let me ask you: when Satan tempts you to despair and tells you of the guilt within, what do you do with that? Do you believe the gospel, that all is forgiven, or do you sink under the weight of that condemnation, that accusing voice? Re-believing the gospel every day is saying, “I’m forgiven.” That does not lead me to license; that leads me to praise and obedience.
To believe the gospel every day means that you believe that on the cross the power of sin and the power of Satan over your life has been defeated. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are now free to be who you were created to be.
And believing the gospel every day means that you believe that because of the cross you have a hope, a hope and a future. This life is not all there is. Rick Warren says, “This is dress rehearsal for the main performance.”
So let me just recap. When you believe the gospel every day, you are believing God is not angry with you anymore. All is forgiven, you don’t owe him anything for your sin debt, you are his friend, his child, you are an heir of his blessing, you are free from the power of sin, and you have hope beyond the grave. If that doesn’t change your life, making a resolution to live a better life tomorrow isn’t going to do it. Why is all of this true? It’s all true because of what was accomplished at the cross.
Finally, when you keep your resolution to believe the gospel every day, you’ll be reconsidering what 2 Peter 1 calls “the precious and very great promises that are ours in Christ.” It’s not just that Jesus died, and it’s not just that there were cosmic consequences, but there is blessing in our lives that comes from the cross.
So “There is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 He has promised that he will never leave you or forsake you. You are accepted in the beloved. I love that phrase. Ephesians 1:6 You are accepted in the beloved.
You are complete in him, thanks to the cross. You have been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. God is for you because of the work of Christ on the cross. He cares for you. He is working all things for your good, and nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
How does meditating on the cross of Christ every day and the resurrection help to defeat sin in our lives? Why is it a more effective plan than some self-help, self-determination plan? It’s because of the power of the gospel, the resurrection power. It realigns your lives. You can make a list of New Year’s Resolutions for moral improvement, but the most important resolution you can make is a resolution to every day reaffirm the lordship of Christ, every day repent, and every day re-believe the gospel.
There’s an illustration I’ll close with here that actually Keith Johnson, who is on staff with Campus Crusade, shared. I thought this was very helpful. He said, “Imagine you live in a large house in which there are two groups of people. There are those who are deaf and those who are hearing, and they all live together.” He says, “In one of the rooms you see a guy sitting in a chair listening to music on his iPod. He’s one of the hearing people. Rhythmically, he’s tapping his foot, he’s drumming his thighs, he’s jutting his chin out as he listens. It’s obvious that he’s enjoying himself, having a good time.
One of the deaf people walks into the room, sees the guy listening to the music, impersonating Mick Jagger and he thinks, ‘That looks like fun. Looks like he’s having a good time. I’m going to sit down and try and do that.’
So he sits right next to him, looks at what he’s doing, and he starts doing the same thing, just following along. But he’s not hearing any music. He’s just kind of trying to imitate what he sees, and with a little practice he begins to catch on. By watching and trying he begins to mirror this guy’s activity pretty closely. But over time, he may get better at doing this, but he pretty quickly realizes this is not as fun as it looked. This is just work.
After a while,” Keith says, “a third person enters the room and he watches the scene. What does he see? He sees apparently the same thing happening in both people. But there’s a difference, right?
The first guy hears the music and his actions are a natural response to the music’s rhythm and melody. The second guy is just imitating the outward actions. He’s not listening to anything.”
He says, “There’s an important spiritual parallel.” You see it don’t you? The question is not, “Are we doing all the imitating stuff we’re supposed to be doing?” The question is, “Are you listening to the music?”
Are you listening to the music and if you do, if you every day reaffirm the lordship of Christ, repent of your sin and re-believe the gospel, your chin will start to jut out, you’ll start tapping, because that’s the music that changes your life.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the just is satisfied,
To look on him who pardoned me.
Dennis: You know, we’ve been listening to a message given by Bob Lepine a little less than a year ago to those who speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Bob, you did a great job of challenging us to really think about the essence of what Christ came to do. He came to not only seek and to save the lost but to be our master every day and then keep calling us back to repent and turning away from sin, because it does get us from time to time. That’s really the challenge for any person who is moving into this New Year.
Bob: I think this idea that was new to me when somebody first shared it with me, but this idea of re-believing the gospel – you know, we think of the gospel as something you say, “Well, I believe that.” But to re-believe it every day is to live it out, it’s to say, “Okay, I know I messed up. But I’m going to re-believe that I’m forgiven.
I know that I’ve got patterns, but I’m going to re-believe that God is transforming me, that he who began a good work will be faithful to complete it. So it’s really grabbing on to the truth of Scripture again every day, and then living as if it’s true, and that changes everything.
Dennis: It really does. In fact I’ll share something my pastor said earlier in the month of December. He said, “Our lives are to echo the gospel.”
Dennis: They are to echo the gospel. If you want to know how you can apply what Bob just shared, then what I’d encourage you to do is make a list of three to five, maybe, maybe even ten people that you would like to share Christ with in the coming year, because one of the ways I think we can express our re-belief in the gospel is by sharing it with other people—
Dennis: --and reaching out to them and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, of what he’s done for you and what he offers to your friend or to your family member.
Bob: Yes. And I would encourage a listener: If you’ve not read C.J. Mahaney’s little book, The Cross Centered Life, I think it will help you understand the gospel, maybe in a fresh new way, because I think there are a lot of folks today who think that the gospel is simply an evangelistic message. We need to understand that it’s more than that and it has a lot to say to our lives every day. C.J.’s book, The Cross Centered Life is the book that I’d recommend. You make a new year’s resolution to read that, and you can order it from us if you’d like.
Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, and the book is available online. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of the book.
And then, please don’t forget that today’s the last day that you can make a year-end donation to help support FamilyLife Today, and to help us take full advantage of the now more than $3 million matching gift fund that has been set aside for us. We still have a ways to go today, and we’re hoping to hear from a lot of our listeners here in the final hours of 2010.
So if God has used FamilyLife Today in your life this year, can we ask you to go online atFamilyLifeToday.com and make a year-end donation, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. We do appreciate your financial support. You can check back with us next week and we’ll update you on how we did toward taking advantage of this matching gift opportunity.
We hope you have a great new year. Hope you and your family are able to spend time together this weekend and to worship together this weekend. We want to invite you to be with us on Monday. Shaunti Feldhahn is going to be here. We’re going to talk about an exciting new project that we’ve been working on together with Shaunti that’s designed for women, women’s groups. It’s a video series that we’ll tell you all about on Monday. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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