The Miracle of Conversion

The salvation of any individual is a MIRACLE of God’s grace!  We marvel at the countless miracles Jesus did during his earthly ministry, and rightly so!  But the wonder of all those miracles pales in comparison to the supernatural work of God giving new life in Christ to one who is spiritually dead in sin.

This is the miracle that the Apostle Paul experienced when he was converted to Christ, as recorded in Acts 9:1-31 (see also Acts 22 & 26).  The Spirit of God, through Luke’s narrative in Acts, holds Paul’s miraculous, unlikely conversion before us that we might behold the greatness of Christ’s saving love, power, and authority.

Beloved, the Apostle Paul never got over the wonder and amazement of Christ’s mercy in his life.  He testifies of this in many places throughout his letters, one notable place being 1 Tim. 1:12-17.  Notice especially what he says in verse 16:

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Beloved, the Lord wants us to be convinced that if he could save someone like the Apostle Paul, then he could save anyone – including you, me, and the person you think is simply beyond His reach.  What great hope we have in Christ’s saving power, and what great motivation we have to faithfully proclaim the Gospel to those who are yet in their sins!  No wonder Paul could say:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  (Rom. 1:16)


Because He lives and is returning,

To Advance the Gospel

What do you think about the circumstances of your life?  What do you think about the reason for the circumstances of your life?  Why does God have you in these specific circumstances?

The Apostle Paul sets a powerful, Christ-exalting example in answer to these questions when he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel…” (Phil. 1:12).  Paul understood his circumstances singularly in terms of the work God was doing through him to advance the Gospel.  Thus even though he was in prison as he wrote to the Philippians, he found great joy in Christ, and great confidence that God was working through his difficult circumstances to advance the Gospel.

We find this exact same mindset in the early church when, as intense persecution was pushing believers out of Jerusalem, “…those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”  (Acts 8:4)  God in His sovereign wisdom was scattering His people, like a farmer scatters seed, so the Gospel would be planted in areas beyond Jerusalem.

Beloved,  if you belong to God through faith in Christ, He has sovereignly put you in your specific circumstances so the Gospel would advance in you, and through you!  What great hope, meaning, and perspective this should give our lives.  What great privileges and responsibilities we have been given!  Whether you are single, married, with children, without children, at work, at home, at school, at wherever; whether in ease or in pain – God has scattered you to be a sower of the Gospel with the people you have contact with.  And He wills for you to trust Him and depend on His help through prayer, that you might bear much fruit for His glory (see John 15:1-8).  May the Lord strengthen all of us for faithfulness in this calling!

Because He lives, and is returning,

Spiritual Bankruptcy and Rich Hope

It was a joy to have Pastor Martin Manten, and his family, with us this past Lord’s Day.  Martin is the Director of the European Bible Training Center (EBTC) in Zurich, and he’s also planting a church there.


Martin’s sermon from Mt. 5:1-4 on “The Foundation of Happiness” was personally convicting and refreshing.  I was particularly helped by the reminder that acknowledging my spiritual bankruptcy before God and genuinely mourning over my sin is the pathway to knowing the true joy of His mercy, cleansing, and grace.  On a daily basis, every believer should be sobered by, and deeply rejoice in, the truth that God’s grace shines the brightest when we see the darkness of our sin against the backdrop of His holiness.  What powerful, blessed, life-giving HOPE we’ve been called to, through all that God has given us in Jesus Christ!


If these truths resonate with you (and I hope they do!), you may likewise be encouraged by this song:  To the Cross I Cling.  (The song is based on a prayer entitled The Broken Heart, from the book The Valley of Vision.)  The rich and beautiful truth that “All things in me call for my rejection; all things in You plead my acceptance” captures the heart of the song…and the heart of the Gospel!


Beloved, do you acknowledge your spiritual bankruptcy before God, mourn over your sin, and taste by faith the rich sweetness of His abundant grace in Jesus Christ?  May God help us to live more fully in this sober joy, and proclaim more passionately the hope of the Gospel to those who are yet in their sins.


Because He lives, and is returning,

Death is Gain

Death is never a welcome guest.  The death of a loved one is always jarring, overwhelming, and cause of the most unspeakable grief.  And death which results from the rage-filled, cold-blooded hatred of a mob is incomprehensible beyond description.  Amazingly, as described in Acts 7:54-60 , this is the very kind of death God ordained for Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to experience.


But for all the horrific brutality that attended Stephen’s death, the truly shocking thing is how content, and peaceful Stephen was as he took his final breaths on earth.  What accounts for such a calm, beautiful countenance during such a sudden, monstrous death?  One, and only one, explanation:  the blazing, eternal glory of the Triune God.  We’re told how Stephen saw this heavenly glory, beyond the faces of his frenzied murderers:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  (Acts 7:55, ESV)


In his death, Stephen was more alive than ever, seeing and fully tasting what could only be longed for by faith up to that point:  the incomparable, all-satisfying glory of the Triune God.


Because the Apostle Paul, then an unbeliever named Saul, was present and approving of Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1-3), no doubt the memory of what he witnessed that day never left him.  Perhaps this contributed to Paul’s absolute confidence that, “…to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.  (Phil. 1:21)  Oh what a glorious truth for believers:  death is gain!!!


Beloved, do you believe this?  By faith, are you so consumed with joy, delight, and hope in the glory of God in Jesus Christ that you can’t wait to see and taste that glory in heaven forever?  Can you gratefully enjoy the earthly blessings He gives (1 Tim. 4:4-5; 6:17), but with a deep conviction that the sum of all created things doesn’t even compare to the joy of being in His presence?  Can you gladly “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also”, courageously living for, and preaching Jesus Christ?  God will enable us to live, and die, in this way – as we trust and submit to Him.


Because Christ lives, and is returning,

Body Life

Our physical bodies are amazing!  The complexity, and intricacy of God’s marvelous design is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  What diversity of parts: hands, feet, eyes, ears, muscles, brain, nervous system, etc.  Yet in all this rich diversity, what great unity in all these parts working together for the proper life and functioning of the body.  How overwhelming is the wonder of God’s sovereign design!

And how significant that God should use our physical bodies to illustrate the diversity and unity that believers share in the church…the body of Christ!  Rom. 12:1-8, 1 Cor. 12:1-31, and Eph. 4:1-16 are key passages that speak to this.  Every believer is a uniquely fashioned part of the body of Christ.  And each is to minister according to how we’ve been gifted by God – for the good of the whole body, and for the spread of the gospel.

This past Lord’s Day, we saw from Acts 6:1-7 how the early church grew in their understanding of the diverse gifting and calling of believers.  They likewise grew in understanding how the whole body is to work together in harmonious cooperation for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel; the proclamation of God’s word.

Beloved, how thankful we should be to see this type of “body life” occurring and increasing among us at RCG.  And how humble, prayerful, and devoted we should be in continuing to do our part, ministering to each other in the love and truth of Jesus (see Eph. 4:11-16).  What a great privilege and responsibility God has given us in walking together with Him in this local church.

Because He lives, and is returning,