Friday, October 31, 2014

Broken Heroes: What Can We Learn from the Life of Athanasius?

Athanasius (ca. 295-373) was a fourth century pastor, theologian, and leader who loved God with all of his heart and stood strong against the onslaught of Arian heresy, even when no one else would stand with him. Over the last two weeks we have considered aspects of his life that were commendable, and some that were unfortunate. We have seen that Athanasius was a broken hero, so now the question is, what can we learn from his life?

First, Athanasius sincerely loved the Word of God and the God of the Word. As his good friend Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “From meditating on every book of the Old and New Testaments, with a depth such as none else has applied even to one of them, he grew rich in contemplation, rich in splendor of life” (Oration 21.6). This long meditative journey shaped his soul and prepared his mind for the battles that lie ahead, and formed in him a confident and accurate conviction about what the Bible does and does not say. Were it not for this fundamental passion, he could not have stood for truth and Arianism may well have taken permanent hold of the church. Like Athanasius, our love for God and his Word may well bear unexpected fruit, so let us follow his example and gladly cling to the gracious words of our Creator.

Second, beyond mere Bible reading and personal meditation, Athanasius did the painstaking work of thinking about the overarching themes of the Bible, that is, he engaged in theological reflection. The simple lesson I take from this is that theology matters. Ideas about God, right or wrong, have consequences, and we must seek to understand, uphold, and defend what is biblically right no matter what the cost or consequence. Theological reflection can lead to idle speculation, but when it is founded upon a genuine passion for God and his Word, it leads to God-honoring stability for the church. Theology matters, and like Athanasius, we should give ourselves to thinking about the overarching themes of the Bible.

Third, Athanasius provides us with a stunning example of what it means to persevere in Christ. He endured much suffering for the sake of truth, and he did so by fixing his eyes on Christ, taking up his cross, and following the Lord to the day of his death. He feared God more than people, and he leaned hard upon the presence and promises of God, and therefore he was able to press on. His life is clearly displays the truth that perseverance is a fruit of faith, so may we too look to Christ and persevere unto death.

Finally, Athanasius teaches us that God uses broken people. His flaws were real, and the hurt he caused was serious, but God’s grace overcame these things, and therefore we should not be ashamed to count him a hero. And we should be encouraged that God can use each of us as well—warts, wounds, and all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Feasting Pastors are Feeding Pastors

The grace of God is truly amazing. After enduring the rebellion of his chosen people, Israel, for several centuries—yes, several centuries—the mercy of God finally gave way to wrath and he gave them into the hands of the Babylonians who carried them away into captivity. While there, God in his mercy testified of the day when he would make a new covenant with them, and bless them beyond their wildest imagination. This promise would be amazing enough if his people were faithful to him and zealous to walk in his ways, but it’s all the more amazing because he made it when they were not.

Among the many details of his promise to his people, is this awe-inspiring line. “I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:14). Notice several things. First, God himself will feed those who are called to feed his people, and mainly, he will feed them with his presence and his Word.

Second, God will feed them abundantly and not just adequately. He will cause them to be full to the point of overflow, and they will then minister from overflow.

Third, the benefits of this feasting will not only be enjoyed by his priests (or pastors, as he later calls them), but also by all of his people. God will glut his chosen servants with his glory that they might feed others with his goodness. Indeed, feasting pastors will be feeding pastors, and the name of God will be exalted by all.

I suppose that a lot more could be said, but the bottom line for me is this—I’m stunned by the grace of God. Again, he spoke this promise as he was pouring wrath out upon his people. He disciplines us for our good, and he makes good promises to us in the midst of his discipline. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Resting in Christ

Recently my friend, Matt Ward, wrote the following post on Facebook. I asked his permission to re-post it here and on our church's website, Thankfully, he said "yes"! Hope this blesses you as it did me.

Resting in Christ.

In the first 2 verses in John 12 we see something seemingly small, but really it epitomizes the heart of the Christians relationship with their Lord and savior Jesus The Christ.

Lazarus had been raised from the dead, he was in a stinky, dark cave (symbolizing sin and death) and Jesus demanded the stone be rolled away, and Commanded that life enter Lazarus and the he, "come out!" What then do you suppose you might find Lazarus doing after this? We see the answer in John 12:1-2. While Martha is serving, Lazarus is resting at the feet of Christ!

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with Martha serving so long as it’s a serving that comes from a changed heart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is something wrong with Martha serving if she thinks it will win her favor with Jesus rather than simply believing in Him. But that's another lesson.

I recommend we look at Lazarus' response to being born from the dead, to see a perfect picture of the most important thing a follower of Jesus Christ can do. What is it?

Simply this: resting in Christ!

Resting in the fact that only faith in Christ can save, deliver, and transform a person.

Resting in the fact that it is possible to do too much, to be too busy, to actually miss out in all the treasures that The Lord has for us if we would only ask, sit and wait and rest in Christ.

Lazarus knew the secret. He knew who Jesus was, he knew what Jesus could do, and therefore he knew the best place he could be was reclining at Jesus' side.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table” (John 12:1-2).

Have you discovered this secret? Have you realized the greatest thing that you can do is to rest in Jesus Christ? Do you commune with the Father through Him, do you soak in His Word, do you choose, perhaps when all the world and your schedule seems to be pulling on you, to unplug and spend time with Jesus Christ?

Or are you trying to work your way to heaven? Are you trying to impress God with how religious you are and how many good things you do. To do so, is the greatest insult to a loving God who killed his son for your sins.

Yes, when you are born again there will be fruit (good works). But fruit comes FROM salvation and never LEADS TO salvation.

As my pastor Charlie Handren once said: Herein lies the key to life, cease to strive and rest in Christ.

Lazarus knew this, may we know it too!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Broken Heroes: Brokenness and Grace in the Life of Athanasius

Athanasius (ca. 295-373) was a fourth century pastor, theologian, and leader who loved God with all of his heart and stood strong against the onslaught of Arian heresy, even when no one else would stand with him. As I mentioned last week, if Athanasius did not stand, the church could well have fallen, and therefore we ought to give thanks to God for him and consider him a hero.

However, I suspect that if we were to meet Athanasius, many of us would not like him. He was rough around the edges, to say the least. Christopher Hall calls him a “theological cage fighter” who was simultaneously “courageous, cagy, and cunning” (Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, 57). Robert Payne concurs, adding that he was implacable, intense, and derisive of his enemies. “There was something in him of the temper of the modern dogmatic revolutionary: nothing stopped him. The Emperor Julian called him, ‘hardly a man, only a little manikin’” (quoted in Hall, 57).

Indeed, even his good friend Gregory said that he was simultaneously “a pillar of the church” and one who possessed “all the attributes of the heathen” (Hall, 57). Please take a moment to let this sink in. Athanasius was a hero of the church, to be sure, but he was a broken hero. In his zeal for truth, he hurt many people and fell short of accurately displaying the heart of Christ, who is the truth.

And yet, despite his serious, and sometimes inexcusable brokenness, the grace of God poured over and through the life of this man. On the one hand, the love of God in Christ has covered a multitude of his sins. The debt for his sinful thoughts, harsh words, and hurtful actions was paid in full on the cross, and thus Athanasius will enjoy unhindered fellowship with our God and Savior forever. God allowed him to live with this thorn in his flesh, but God did not permit the thorn to ultimately destroy him.

On the other hand, the very qualities that hurt so many people also allowed Athanasius to stand against exceedingly strong forces. It is impossible to describe in so short a space how much power was arrayed against this man, but in his grace, God used Athanasius’ stubbornness to protect and prosper biblical truth. Because of this very quality, the Arian heresy is considered heresy instead of orthodoxy, and thus Athanasius presents us with a stark, and perhaps stunning, example of God’s grace working through weakness.

It would be a mistake to minimize or overlook the hurt Athanasius caused in his lifetime. But it would be an even greater mistake to minimize or overlook the grace of God that worked through his weakness. Athanasius was a broken hero, a vessel of grace, for whom we should give thanks and praise to God.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hope and the Infinite Greatness of God

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) “was a Russian writer of novels, short stories and essays. Dostoevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual context of 19th-century Russian society. A Slavophile, nationalist and monarchist, he criticized the bourgeois, pre-materialist West and nihilism in many of his works” (Christian Ethereal Classics Library).

Dostoevsky was a devout Christian who struggled with some aspects of his faith, and who struggled at times to practice what he preached. And yet, despite his shortcomings, he was an unusually insightful man whose faith in Christ was repeatedly tested in the crucible of suffering. Consider, for example, the following quote from his classic novel, The Possessed:

“The one essential condition of human existence is that man should always be able to bow down before something infinitely great. If men are deprived of the infinitely great, they will not go on living and will die of despair. The Infinite and the Eternal are as essential for man as the little planet on which he dwells.”

Wow. This quote would move me even if it was written by one who had never suffered, but given the extent of suffering in Dostoevsky’s life, it moves me all the more. He came to this point of view, because he literally faced death and came to see that the fundamental element of true life is one’s relationship to God. Without God, there is no life, no purpose, no morality, no anything. We may suppress and deny this truth, but every human heart knows it to be true.

God is, and we desperately need him. Without the infinitely great we have no hope, for life itself implodes and disappears like a vapor. But with the infinitely great comes infinite hope, for life is the relational knowledge of God. As Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

I pray that we will reflect today on the utter necessity of God in our lives, and I pray that by his grace in Christ Jesus we would step toward him rather than away from him. May he fill our hearts to the brim with love and knowledge of him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review - "God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History"

Recently, my good friend Asa Veek reviewed Brian Crosby's, God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History. It's a helpful review so I thought I'd post it here. 

Of the books I've reviewed over the past few months, this was one of the most fun to read.  While written specifically for 14 - to 17-year olds, I learned much through God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History.

Brian Crosby's book is a brief walk (maybe a jog) through church history. He highlights various important people - some good, some not so good - throughout the history of the church.  He highlights these people as examples, some as examples to emulate, some as examples to help avoid the mistakes of the past. 

One aspect to the book that I really appreciated was the way Crosby highlighted the sovereignty of God throughout.  He makes it abundantly apparent that God is absolutely in control.  Even when it appears He isn't present, God is orchestrating events.

A couple of cautions.  First, this is written for middle teens, aimed at 14- to 17-year olds. It would be a great discussion book for an 8th/9th grade small group.  For the more intellectually-inclined, you will find it slow, but you're not the target audience.

Second, keeping the audience in mind, the biographies are brief. I believe Crosby fairly handles the synapsis of each person's life, but, a discriminating eye may be led to critique the missing nuances in the biographies. Again, I'd remind the person of the target audience and the purpose of the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I am recommending it to our pastor who oversees our church's teens group.  For the audience, the book is great.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Broken Heroes: The Life and Ministry of Athanasius

Athanasius was born in the late third century A.D. (ca. 295). Little is known about his family or educational background, except that he was trained for the ministry at the historic center in Alexandria, Egypt. He had a great passion for God and his Word, which inspired his friend Gregory of Nazianzus to write, “From meditating on every book of the Old and New Testaments, with a depth such as none else has applied even to one of them, he grew rich in contemplation, rich in splendor of life” (Oration 21.6).

It is not surprising, then, to hear that Athanasius wrote two significant works before he was twenty years old, after which he was ordained as a Deacon in 319, played a significant role in the Council of Nicaea in 325, and was ordained Bishop of Alexandria in 328. As Bishop, he received immediate and sustained opposition from the Arians and others who sympathized with them. Since he was short and dark-skinned, his opponents mockingly referred to him as “the black dwarf,” and succeeded in sending him into exile no less than five times. But by the grace of God, he regained his Bishopric for the last time in 366 and served in that role until his death in May of 373.

Athanasius’ primary achievement was that he almost single-handedly defended the doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation against Arius and his followers. Arius argued on philosophical grounds that God cannot be divided, and that therefore Christ was created by God the Father at some point in time. Athanasius countered this false doctrine on biblical grounds by demonstrating that only God can save, and that therefore Christ must be God. His arguments were multifaceted and complex, but for our purposes the most important thing to understand is that, unlike Arius, Athanasius was committed to upholding biblical truth over philosophical respectability.

As Christopher A. Hall notes, “Whereas Arius began with certain philosophical presuppositions concerning God’s indivisibility, Athanasius started his exploration of the Son by studying Scripture’s answer to the question, ‘What must God do if humanity is to be saved from sin?’” (Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, 59-60). Indeed, Arius began with philosophy and sought to mold biblical texts to his preconceived notions. Athanasius began with biblical texts and sought to mold the church’s teachings to them without regard for the approval of the philosophical community.

It is hard to describe in so short a space how serious this controversy was, but suffice it to say that if Athanasius had not stood, the church could well have fallen. Next week we’ll consider the themes of brokenness and grace in Athanasius’ life, but for now let’s give thanks to God for “the black dwarf” who loved the Lord our God with all of his heart and soul and mind and strength, and who stood firm until the day of his death.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Overcoming the World by Faith in Christ

Learning to live by faith in Christ is our one and only work in life. 

Do you think this statement is true? I think it is. Do you think this statement is too simplistic? At first blush, I did, but on further thought I don’t, and here’s why.

In John 6:29 Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent,” that is, that you believe in Jesus. There is, of course, much we can and must do in this life, but it is all designed to flow from faith in Christ. Believing in Jesus, clinging to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, really is the core of life. I know no greater source than Jesus himself.

Now, the way we came to Christ is the way we ought to live in Christ. We came to him by grace through faith, and we live in him by grace through faith. As the Apostle John later wrote, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).

So faith is what overcomes the world in salvation and in sanctification, in coming to Christ and in growing in Christ. When we look to Christ and believe, we overcome the world because we reject the world’s greatest lie, namely, that Jesus is not the way, the truth, and the life. And when we continually look to Christ and believe, we progressively overcome the world.

Do you need to conquer some sin in your life, like idolatry, pride, greed, anger, or lust? I know this sounds simplistic, but the way to do overcome is to look to Christ, believe in him, cling to him, seek him, and obey him by the power of his Spirit. Pursue Jesus with as much passion as you would pursue a treasure and you’ll gain power to overcome the false pleasures of this life. We often fail to overcome because we fail to seek Jesus with fervor and consistency. But the Lord, in his great grace and patience, would teach us a simple way of life—believe in him, seek him, and overcome the world.

After walking with Christ, and struggling with sin, for twenty-eight years, I’m not so na├»ve as to think that there are no further actions we must take beyond these. But those “further actions” are only discerned in the presence of Jesus as his will is revealed by his Spirit. Live by faith in Christ, and you’ll gain wisdom for the day. Look away from Christ, and you’ll live a foolish life.

Learning to live by faith in Christ is our one and only work in life.

This way of life is simple but it’s not simplistic. It is childlike but it’s not childish. It is basic but it’s not banal. So please join me in meditating on John 6:29 and 1 John 5:4-5 and learning to live by faith in Christ.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: "Is God Anti-Gay?"

Recently my good friend, Asa Veek, wrote the following review of Sam Allberry’s, Is God Anti-Gay? It’s my privilege to re-post his review here on my blog. Enjoy

Many books deal with important topics.  Some books are timely.  But it’s not often that I read a book I feel is of utmost, timely importance. Sam Allberry's Is God Anti-Gay? is one of these rare works.

Initially I was intrigued by the title and description of the book.  When I saw a comment written by Dr.  Russel Moore, I was more interested.  It turned out this was a book that helped me process, as a Christian, a difficult topic, leading me to repentance, and helping me better process how to interact with those who claim homosexuality.

Before I get into the depth of my review, I would like to thank Pastor Sam for his work.  That this is a deeply personal topic for him must have made writing this very challenging.  I appreciate his honesty and candor, and I am impressed with this book. 

Allberry does several things - some of which may have been unintentional - and they help frame his argument.  First, he explains the biblical purpose for marriage.  Second, he demonstrates that homosexuality is a sin, a grave sin, and one that is among other grave sins.  Third, and probably the most convicting for me (and, hopefully, from believers in my thread of the church), he affirms godly singleness as the gift that it is.

As a heterosexual Christian in a committed marriage, I learned more about the meaning of marriage reading this book.  The deep insights Allberry demonstrates early was very illuminating, and I found myself in worship for the picture and parallel that marriage demonstrates.  This alone was worth the read.

Second, Allberry writes from a very personal struggle, and it's in that context that he demonstrates, from Scripture, the sin that homosexuality is.  Four things become very clear: homosexuality is a sin, it is one of a multitude of sins (and one among many abominations), we all struggle with sin, and we all need a Savior.  He is honest in his struggle, and he is honest in his need for a Savior. One particularly profound quote was how he describes his struggle,

But describing myself like this [as struggling with same-sex attractedness] is a way for me to recognize the kind of sexual attractions I experience are not fundamental to my identity.  They are part of what I feel but they are not who I am in a fundamental sense.  I am far more than my sexuality.

Allberry is not excusing or denying the sin; he's identifying it so he can deal with it.  He also shows how this sin is grave, but it's grave along with many other sins that take away our attention from Christ.  For that, he reminded me personally that we all struggle with sinful tendencies.

Third, and maybe somewhat unintentionally, Allberry affirms singleness.  Singleness is praised and highlighted throughout the New Testament, but, in many veins of the church, singles are relegated to second-class citizens.  This is a serious injustice we pay to those in our churches who are single, for whatever reason.  Allberry reminds us to affirm, care for, and utilize the singles among us.

He closes the book with some very practical ways to love those we may encounter who struggle with homosexuality.  I highly recommend these two chapters...but only after reading the rest of the book.

I cannot commend this book strong enough.  Please, please read this one.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Broken Heroes: Human Frailty and the Glory of Christ

Aside from Jesus Christ himself, the Apostle Paul is undoubtedly the most prominent person in Christian history. Through his missionary activities, his letters to the churches, and his influence on other New Testament authors like Luke and Peter, Paul’s impact on the church, and indeed the world, are hard to conceive much less articulate. He is, in the best sense of the word, a hero to all who call Jesus their Savior, Lord, and King.

Given Paul’s extraordinary stature, evident even in his lifetime, what do you suppose was his self-perception? Although several texts address this question well, 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 takes us near to Paul’s heart. He wrote, “7 But we have this treasure [the gospel of the glory of Christ] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

Paul is indeed a Christian hero, but he is a broken hero. He is a flawed man who was transformed by the grace of Christ, and used by the power of Christ to spread the gospel throughout the earth. Paul’s astounding influence is not attributable to his charisma or intelligence or strategies, but to his Savior, Lord, and King. Indeed, Jesus repeatedly led him to the brink of death so that his resurrection life would be displayed through the obvious weaknesses of a man.

Like Paul, every hero in Christian history is a broken hero. From Ignatius to Hudson Taylor, from Mary the mother of Jesus to Amy Carmichael, every notable, Christian person held the gospel of the glory of Christ in the clay jar of their life. Many popular biographies rightfully exalt the commendable traits and accomplishments of such people, but they sadly mask or underplay their weaknesses and failures. It is important that we see both sides of our heroes lest we make too much of them and too little of Jesus, idols of them and thereby demote Jesus.

This devotional is the first in a series that I am calling, Broken Heroes: Human Frailty and the Glory of Christ. In this series I will highlight key historical figures and draw our attention to their accomplishments, as well as their unique brokenness. My twin aims are to demonstrate (1) that Jesus is the only true hero of the church, and (2) that God uses broken people just like us to exalt his great name in the earth. I will begin with Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea, and John Chrysostom. If you have the time, interest, and resources, I encourage you to read about these people in the coming weeks. May the Lord bless us as we look to him in our broken heroes.

Tasting the Glory of Christ in the Preaching of the Word

Last year I came across a quote from Augustine (A.D. 354-430) who, as you may know, is one of the most important figures in Christian history. He was a scholar, a pastor, a bishop, a missionary, and one who suffered greatly for the sake of Christ. After he had preached the Word of God for many years, he wrote these wise and penetrating words:

“My preaching almost always displeases me. For I am eager after something better, of which I often have an inward enjoyment before I set about expressing my thoughts in audible words. Then, when I have failed to utter my meaning as clearly as I conceived it, I am disappointed that my tongue is incapable of doing justice to that which is in my heart. What I myself understand I wish my hearers to understand as fully; and I feel I am not so speaking as to effect this. The chief reason is that the conception lights up the mind in a kind of rapid flash; whereas the utterance is slow, lagging and far unlike what it would convey” (Augustine, Catechizing the Uninstructed, chapter 2, ca. A.D. 403).

I feel what Augustine felt almost every Sunday. At times this feeling is mild and at times it is nearly paralyzing, but it is almost always there. Augustine was a wise and seasoned preacher when he wrote this, and I accept his explanation as to why there is such a gulf between the experience of truth in the soul of the preacher and the power of truth expressed through the mouth of the preacher. But it seems to me that the wisdom of God is at work here in another way that has to do with you, that is, those who mainly hear sermons rather than preach them.

I think God has designed preaching to expose the truth that is inherent in the Word of God and to lay out the path by which the listeners may taste the glory of that truth. But in order to taste the glory, they must trod the path themselves. Hopefully, they will see true passion in the preacher and be moved by what they see, but at the end of the day that experience is but an invitation from the Lord that says, “Come near to me, my child, and let me show you marvelous things in my Word. Seek me for yourself and I will allow you to taste the glory you have glimpsed.”

God uses sermons to instruct and inspire, but more importantly he uses them to invite his children to seek him with all their hearts. So listen well to the Word of God that will be preached to you today, but then draw near to your Father and let him feed you with the glory that fed this preacher all week long.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Growing in Christ through Luke

Two Sundays ago I began a twelve-week series in the Gospel of Luke at Glory of Christ Fellowship. In that message, I mentioned seven themes in Luke that make his Gospel noteworthy and unique. The themes are as follows:

1. Luke’s Gospel is the most comprehensive. It begins with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist and it ends with the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. Furthermore, almost half of the material in Luke is not found in the other three gospels. So Luke is a detailed man who wants to tell the story of Jesus in as much fullness as he can.

2. Luke’s Gospel deals with Gentiles and puts them in a good light more than any other Gospel which is not surprising since he himself was a Gentile and a companion of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

3. Luke’s Gospel is more concerned with those who had relatively little power in his society, specifically, women, children, and social outcasts. For example, whereas Matthew says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Luke simply says, “Blessed are the poor.” And if you’ll pay attention, from the very outset Luke seeks to draw our attention to the fact that God is drawn to the least of these.

4. Luke’s Gospel emphasizes prayer more than any other Gospel, and particularly the prayer life of Jesus. This is a theme he carries through the book of Acts and so for the coming year I hope that we’ll learn much about the place of prayer in the life of those who love and follow Jesus.

5. Luke’s Gospel mentions angels and demons more than any other Gospel, another theme which is continued into the book of Acts and that has caused some to think he had a hand in the writing of Hebrews. I doubt that, but I understand the point.

6. Luke’s Gospel mentions the Holy Spirit more than any other Gospel, in fact, he mentions the Holy Spirit more than all of the other three Gospels combined. Luke is very interested in drawing our attention to the work of the Spirit in the life of Jesus, of individual Christians, and of the church.  

7. Finally, Luke’s Gospel emphasizes preaching the “good news” more than the other Gospels, and again this makes sense in light of the fact that he also wrote Acts and was concerned about the spread of the message of Jesus and not just the life and times of Jesus.

It is important to note that in emphasizing these seven things, Luke is trying to help us build a way of life in Christ. For example, he emphasizes the poor because he wants us to be like Jesus and love the poor. He doesn’t see them as a subject to be considered, but a group of people to be humanized, pursued, and loved.  

So, one way to benefit from the Gospel of Luke, and my sermon series, is to answer three questions week by week, section by section--but fair warning, it will take a lot of work! If you're up for the challenge, here are the three questions: 

1. Where do you see the seven themes of Luke in this section of his Gospel (comprehensiveness, focus on the Gentiles, the poor, prayer, angels and demons, the Holy Spirit, and the proclamation of the Gospel)?

2. How does this help you understand the purposes of the Gospel of Luke?

3. How does this help you shape a way of life in Christ? 

If you're up for this challenge, I would suggest that you create a document. Number each of the themes and then list the ways you see them highlighted in each week's section. After that, take some time to answer questions 2 and 3, and pray that God will grant you the grace to apply what he has taught you.  

This week's section is Luke 3:1-4:13, the ministry of John the Baptist, the Genealogy of Jesus, and the temptation of Jesus. You can see all of the sections of this series on our Luke Series page which you can access here. 

I pray that some of you will take the challenge and grow greatly in Christ. If you do, please let me know how the Lord uses this in your life and what insights you gain into Luke.