The more that you know that you are stained to the bone with selfish impulses, the more that you see how you hold out against the will of the Lord, the more you go to Christ as a thirsty sinner who finds deeper cleansing, more life and greater joy through the Spirit."
Jesus' coming back from death is final proof that Christ's death accomplished our salvation. It brings an end to doubts and evasions and arguments. No one can argue with someone who came back from the dead. If Jesus is alive, he wins the argument.
A typical question regarding atonement is, why did Jesus have to die in order to save us? Why couldn't God simply forgive us? After all, doesn't God command us to forgive one another without demanding payment?
But think about a time you or someone you loved was seriously wronged. Were you or the person close to you able to just shrug off the offense or dismiss the wrong without suffering? Of course not! When truly offended, there are two choices. You can either exact revenge and make the one who has wronged you pay, or you can forgive him or her by absorbing the pain of the hurt yourself. On the one hand, you can cause pain to set yourself free; on the other, you can receive the pain of forgiveness and set the other free.
If you think forgiveness is not painful, you have never forgiven someone who hurt you deeply. Whether through revenge or forgiveness, someone always pays for injustice.
For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.
So the gospel is news about what God has done in history to save us, rather than advice about what we must do to reach God. The gospel is news that Jesus' life, death and resurrection in history have achieved our salvation. We do not achieve it, only accept it. Jesus does not just bring good news; he is the good news.
The gospel, then, is fundamentally an announcement: it is not just about who God is or what he might do, but about what God has done in history. The gospel is not good advice on how to reach up to God; rather, it is a declaration about what God has already done to reach down to us. It is good news about a historical event that changes everything!
The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it is true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort.
But with the knowledge that we will stand in judgment before God Almighty, we are wise to remember that a pastor must always be fearless before his critics and fearful before his God. Let us tremble at the thought of neglecting the sheep.
"Since Christ offered his infinitely valuable life for these sheep, it is a great sin against him when we watch over them with a lazy eye or fail to fight the ravenous wolves or neglect to seek out sheep that have wandered away! What Christ values, we must value."
For those considering a call to ministry:
"Ask yourself again and again whether you would preach for Christ if you were sure to lay down your life for so doing? If you fear the displeasure of a man for doing your duty now, assure yourselves you are not yet thus minded."
- George Whitefield
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
How do we live these out? That's a question with a whole bunch of answers, but the more I think about it, the more I think there is one profound way to live these commandments out at the same time:
How do we love our God? A right relationship between the creator and the creature is one of worship. To say it simply, God deserves to be worshipped and it's just right that we should give that worship.
How do we love our neighbors? We build them up and encourage them in that right relationship with God. To the Christian and non-Christian alike, we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and point them along the path of their salvation.
What accomplishes both these things? Church planting.
Church planting establishes the worship God commands and deserves. Church planting is the most effective and dynamic spread of the gospel, gathering Christians into our Lord's great commission and calling the non-Christian to the hope and glory of the gospel.
Want to love your God? Want to love your neighbor? Then let's go get some churches planted.