Today's Broadcast

Gospel in the Trenches

An interview with Douglas Lee

Military chaplains provide support for our armed forces at home and abroad. They are on the front lines both physically and spiritually. Today retired chaplain and Brigadier General Douglas Lee joins Ligonier Ministries president, Chris Larson and our host Lee Webb for an extended conversation about the vital role of military chaplains and how we can pray for them and support them.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Persevering in Gospel Hope

  2. devotional

    Gospel Readiness

  3. article

    The Gospel in a Hostile Culture

Persevering in Gospel Hope

Perseverance of the saints is the last of the “Five Points of Calvinism,” which were originally offered in response to five points from a group of seventeenth-century Arminians in Holland. Based on texts such as Romans 8:38–39, the biblical doctrine of perseverance tells us that everyone who is truly converted will remain a believer to the end and die in faith. Believers may backslide, but those whom the Holy Spirit has regenerated will come to their senses, returning in repentance to the Savior (Luke 15:11–32; 22:54–62; John 21:15–19). Though we ourselves may not see fallen brethren return to the faith, they will indeed come back to Christ if they have been converted.

Biblical perseverance is not the “once saved, always saved” teaching that puts hope for salvation in an initial decision to follow Christ (usually at the end of an aisle) apart from the fruit of conversion. Too many people today believe that they or their family and friends are saved because they went forward at an altar call even though no evidence of spiritual fruit has ever followed. It is impossible to be saved and never submit to Jesus as Lord. Biblical perseverance is a cooperative work between the believer and the Holy Spirit wherein the believer responds to the admonitions of God through His Word and lives a life of repentance, returning again and again to the gospel and its promises. Regeneration guarantees that the called will make this response, and this response of the called proves their regenerate state (James 2:14–26).

The doctrine of perseverance explains why Paul asserts in Colossians 1:21–22 that believers have been reconciled to God but then tells us in verse 23 that we are reconciled only if we continue in faith. It is the consistent, continual possession of faith that saves us, not its mere profession. And remaining in the possession of faith is accomplished as we heed the Spirit’s call to remain “stable and steadfast” in what we have been taught, not going after exotic promises of the “higher Christian life” that misguided people have spoken about throughout the history of the church. The terminology behind Paul’s exhortation to stay stable and steadfast in the hope of the gospel comes from a Greek term that refers to laying the foundation of a building. Just as architectural integrity is grounded in a solid foundation, salvation is established in holding fast by faith to Jesus as He is presented in the apostolic witness.

Gospel Readiness

If anything should stick with us after reading the Old Testament, it is the fact that our Creator is an exceedingly patient God. Israel rebelled time after time, and time after time our Lord forgave His people and stayed His wrath before it could wipe out the nation (Num. 21:4–9; 1 Kings 21:25–29). But God’s patience with Israel ended, and He finally sent the Israelites into exile on account of flagrant, unrepentant sin (2 Kings 17:7–23; 25:1–21).

We can hardly imagine the trauma of this event. Even the faithful remnant wondered whether the Lord’s plan to save the world through Abraham’s seed had gone off course. Since Israel had failed so miserably, how could peace between God and His children ever be restored (Lam. 5:21–22)? Was the Lord truly sovereign if godless, pagan nations freely raped and pillaged the Israelites (Hab. 1)?

Through Isaiah the prophet, the Lord answered these questions. He would intervene to cleanse the nation of its uncleanness. He would act to prove His eternal dominion, sending messengers to announce His reign over all (Isa. 52:1–7). Of course, this prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of the kingdom of God in the person and work of Christ, which is echoed, with Isaiah’s words, in today’s passage.

Most ancient warfare consisted of hand-to-hand combat between soldiers after long marches to the battlefield. Thus, Roman soldiers required footwear that could sustain their feet as they marched and give them solid footing in a fight. The halfboot called the caliga met these very needs. For spiritual warfare, the gospel of peace fulfills the same purposes for the soldier of Christ. The announcement that God reigns and has reconciled Himself in Jesus to believers sustains us in the long march of the Christian life. It allows us to keep going even when things are so bad that we doubt whether the Lord really is looking out for us.

This gospel also provides solid footing from which we can grapple with Satan. We easily get discouraged with our own spiritual growth, but the truth of what God has done in Christ readies us to repent when we fall and return to the battle with vigor. The gospel gives us, Matthew Henry comments, “a resolved frame of heart which will enable us to walk with a steady pace in the way of religion.”

The Gospel in a Hostile Culture

Dave Furman

"I intentionally don't preach difficult truths or repeat the hard things Jesus said." This is a despondent and prevalent attitude among preachers who minister to cultures that are openly hostile to the gospel. Such preaching is less than faithful to God's Word, corresponding in ministry results that tend to be indiscernibly Christian. The desire to not offend hearers in a hostile culture is misdirected toward God's inspired word and His glorious gospel.

As a pastor who ministers in a hostile culture, I am convinced that preaching must boldly proclaim the one-and-only gospel and theologically rich doctrine.

PREACH THE ONE-AND-ONLY GOSPEL

As His ambassadors, God forbid that we would presume authority to change His message. Ambassadors of Christ share the unadulterated gospel and take pains to accurately communicate the good news. We confidently preach "the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:2-4).

When ministering in a hostile context, it is tempting to hold back parts of God's gospel that we feel are difficult for people to believe. Perhaps in attempts to be sensitive to our hearers and their culture, we may distort or adjust the gospel and unwittingly deceive people. However, holding back truth or being vague regarding what God has made clear is not being sensitive—it is arrogant and unloving. Even under threat of suffering and death, we preach Christ crucified, for the Lamb of God is worthy to receive the reward of His suffering (Rev. 5:12). God has ordained the message that lost people need to hear, and people in a culture that is hostile to the gospel are no exception. The gospel is God's power for salvation (Rom. 1:16); we must preach this gospel in its entirety and with skillful clarity. Our confidence in preaching the gospel of God is God Himself.

We want people to hear the one-and- only gospel of God concerning His Son, resulting in repentance and faith. There is not a better gospel that we can preach. In a culture that is hostile to the gospel, why would we want to proclaim news that has no power unto salvation?

PREACH THEOLOGICALLY RICH DOCTRINE

There is a growing trend in world missions that says church planters must restrict their preaching to the "lowest common denominator" in theology. This idea stems from a desire to minimize division among the body of Christ, and to reduce the likelihood of preaching controversial doctrine. Such preachers and church planters avoid expositing passages that teach joysatisfying, worship-fueling truths like election, total depravity, substitutionary atonement, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and the confidence we have in Christ's bodily return to judge the living and the dead. In so doing, as a pastor resists feeding his flock with this rich doctrine, the gospel is assumed and ultimately lost.

We must preach theologically rich doctrine, allowing the meaning of the text to be the meaning of our sermons. The cultural context we minister in must not shape the doctrine we preach; rather, our doctrine must inform and shape the culture. Expositional preaching that makes the point of the passage the point of the sermon serves the church best. It lets the Bible, not the preacher, drive the agenda for the church. Even in the most hostile cultures, we want to be sure to preach through the different genres of Scripture, demonstrating that God's authority over their lives comes from God's Word, and not the teacher of God's Word. Expositional preaching allows people to hear the whole counsel of God, and it is an avenue for teaching them to study the Bible for themselves.

The morning I introduced a new sermon series on 1 Peter, I was approached by a group of newcomers who were ecstatic over the truths in 1 Peter 1:1–2. They told me, "We were jumping up and down in our seats, Pastor. That God would elect undeserving sinners for salvation in His Son—this is very good news!" These people experienced firsthand how theologically rich doctrine is food for their souls and fuel for worship.

Shaving off the edges of the brilliant diamonds of God's truths regarding Himself, His Son, and His plan to save hopelessly lost sinners does not make a more brilliant and beautiful jewel. The glorious summits of God's holiness are flattened into a wide plain of nebulous spiritual notions that are no longer recognizable as distinctly Christian truths, and they lack the power to rescue souls from hell. When we preach theologically rich doctrine in the power of the Holy Spirit, we guard the gospel and God receives all the glory for saving sinners.

CONCLUSION

Preachers who minister in a culture that is hostile to the gospel must take pains to proclaim the gospel of God concerning His Son as we teach the whole counsel of Scripture. We do so with boldness, clarity, and joy, for there is no other message that contains God's power unto salvation.

Since the beginning,

our aim has been to help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to share it, and how to live it…

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