Second Corinthians 5:21 has long been a favorite verse of mine: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This passage became more and more beloved to me the longer I studied and meditated on it. I will never get over this and I pray that you won’t either. Christ actually took our sin (if you are saved, if you are in Christ) and gave us His righteousness! My favorite point right now from this sermon is “The Sinner’s Standing.” The fact that God actually sees me before Him clothed in the righteousness of Christ is unbelievable and one of many reasons that He is worthy of all of our worship, praise, and to live our lives for Him. One of the main reasons that Christ died on the cross was “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Sermon Preached July 1, 2012 candidating at Immanuel Bible Church in Bellingham, WA for Pastor of Family Ministries.
My name is Tim Counts and I am husband to Melanie, father to Tobias, Grace, and Ezra, and the Pastor at Northshire Baptist Church in Manchester Center, Vermont. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Baptist Convention of New England. The name of this blog is “He Must Become Greater” which is from John 3:30, “He [Christ] must become greater, I must become less.” My goal is to glorify God as much as possible in life by making much of Christ. I hope that God will be more glorified by the sermons, devotional thoughts, and pastoral thoughts on this blog. Thanks for stopping by!
I served as a pastor in Washington state and New Mexico before coming to Northshire Baptist in Vermont. I am thankful for my time at The Master’s Seminary, where I received my M.Div. I am passionate about preaching God’s Word expositorily, verse by verse, because I know that the Holy Spirit uses the inspired Word of God to bring salvation and growth in Christ-likeness. I love to see the power of the gospel at work as people come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord, and also as believers grow in their understanding of how the gospel affects their daily lives. My greatest goal in life is to enjoy God’s grace and extend His glory by exalting Jesus Christ.
Almost 3 years ago I was forced to think about sickness in a much deeper way than I ever had before. As a 30 year old I began to suffer from a condition rare for men my age that first sent me to the emergency room, gave me pain every day for well over a year, other medical issues & infections, forced me to purchase expensive medication to experience some relief, and that although not life threatening, could be something I will have to deal with the rest of my life. God was gracious to me. I found a cheap herb that takes away 90% of the symptoms for now. I realize that some reading this may be walking through deep, dark valleys of sickness, some life threatening. I don’t share this to compare, but rather thinking of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” May the Lord Himself encourage and comfort you. I found great comfort from God meditating on the twin truths that He is sovereign and good. If you are not passing through sickness now, remember that until Heaven our bodies are in a sin cursed world and you must be ready.
J.C. Ryle wrote a booklet entitled “Sickness” that I would encourage you to read for its’ helpfulness. There are 3 special duties associated with sickness that he writes about:
1) One supreme duty which the prevalence of sickness places on us is that of living always prepared to meet God. Sickness is a reminder of death. Death is the door through which we must all pass to judgement. Judgement is the time when we must at last see God face to face. Surely the first lesson which the inhabitant of a sick and dying world should learn, should be to prepare to meet their God.
2) Another supreme duty which the prevalence of sickness requires of us, is that of always being ready to bear it patiently. Sickness is no doubt a trying thing to flesh and blood. To feel our nerves unstrung, and our natural energy reduced, to be obliged to sit still and be cut off from all our usual activities, to see our plans broken off and our purposes disappointed, to endure long hours, and days, and nights of weariness and pain–all this is a severe strain on poor sinful human nature. What wonder if bad temper and impatience are brought out by disease! Surely in such a dying world as this we should study patience.
How shall we learn to bear sickness patiently, when sickness comes to our turn? We must lay up stores of grace in the time of health. We must seek for the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit over our unruly moods and attitudes. We must make a real business of our prayers, and regularly ask for strength to endure God’s will as well as to do it. Such strength is to be had for the asking: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14)
…Never do these graces [the fruit of the Spirit] shine so brightly as in the sick room. They enable many a sick person to preach a silent sermon, which those around him never forget…
3) One more supreme duty which sickness places on us, is that of always being ready to feel with and help your fellow men. Sickness is never very far from us…But wherever there is sickness, there is a call to duty. A little timely assistance in some cases, a kindly visit in others, a friendly enquiry, a mere expression of sympathy, may do a vast good…These things, I dare say, may appear to some people little and trifling. They would rather be doing something great, and grand, and striking, and heroic! But conscientious attention to these little acts of brotherly kindness is one of the clearest evidences of having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). They are acts in which our blessed Master himself was abundant. “He went about doing good” to the sick and sorrowful (Acts 10:38). They are acts to which he attaches great importance in the most solemn passage of Scripture, the description of the last judgement. He says there: “I was sick and you visited me” (Matt 25:36).
I could tell you about so many times that I have not been as patient as I should as a parent, or times that I have had to ask my son forgiveness for getting angry, but today I don’t think that would be very edifying for you. But I would like to tell you about a recent trip to the mechanic with my son that God turned into a Gospel moment. I hope that this may encourage you to pursue more of these types of opportunities with your children.
I almost didn’t bring my son with me to the mechanic this week because I had some studying to do, but I realized that he needed to get out of the apartment and that it would be good to have some time together, so I brought him along. We had a great time. He got to watch a few kids’ shows while we were waiting, I got a little studying done, we bought a bag of chips from the man that pushes the little cart down the street, and we talked about the area as we walked around a bit.
After spending 3 1/2 hours together, we were sitting outside on a bench waiting for the car to pull out of the shop when for some reason he asked me to tell him the story “about your fish that you used to carry around in a bottle.” So I told him the story of my pet goldfish that I brought back from Israel again, but I was sure to make it dramatic since we had time. At the end of the story Tobias asked, “And then he died?” I told him that the goldfish did die about a year after he came with me on the airplane from Israel. I explained to him that goldfish don’t live as long as cats, knowing that he was thinking of our pet cat that recently passed away. “I guess everything dies,” Tobias concluded.
For the next three minutes, my four and a half year old listened intently as I explained to him as simply as I could that although everything dies, Jesus died so that everything can be made new. And that we can live after we die–live eternally. He even listened closely as I explained briefly about sin, repentance and asking Christ to save us. I would have missed that Gospel moment if I had not brought Tobias with me to the mechanic. Although he does listen and probably catches more than we think when we are purposefully teaching him about the Bible, his ears were especially open that day because it was something that he was thinking and asking about as we went through our day together. The Bible and the Gospel were connecting with his life.
I am thankful that the Lord gave me that Gospel moment with Tobias that day. As parents we need to be actively looking for those opportunities. Sometimes we teach and teach our kids and make sure they are in Sunday School, but we also need to be looking more for those teachable moments that God naturally gives us which is when we often get a “window into their soul.” Another way of saying this is shepherding their hearts, all day. This is what God commanded the Israelite parents in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, a principle that is just as much of a command for us with our children today: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Moms, be encouraged because statistically speaking you probably get more of these everyday Gospel opportunities. Look for them, and use them to teach your kids about God and the Gospel. Dads, are you spending enough time with your kids so that you have these opportunities? Take advantage of every one of them, even if it is because you took your child to the mechanic.
“Is marriage really hard?” the young man asked me with big eyes when he found out I had been married for over 8 years. He was engaged and had friends telling him to not get married because it was too hard. This has played out not once but 3 times, and not in a pastor’s office but at my register in the cell phone store I work at. The fact that a man would ask a stranger selling him a phone about marriage shows me how much some men want to make marriage work even though the culture tells them it won’t.
As a Christian, God has laid out clear principles in His Word that He expects you to live out in your own marriage. It’s not just a matter of making your marriage work or making it better, but also a matter of obedience. Of course, when you follow God’s commands, then you invite God’s blessing on your marriage as well. These are all areas that I have had to change and grow a lot in over the last several years in particular. I always see a new way to apply these principles in my marriage now every time that I consider them. Just like you, I have further to go and I am excited for what God has for my marriage as I continue to love, lead, and learn my wife more like Christ loves the church. There are other biblical roles of a husband such as provider (1 Tim. 5:8) and protector, but for now this should be enough to evaluate in your own life and marriage.
1) Lover (Eph. 5:25-33). As a husband, you are called to love your wife in a deeper and more unconditional way than you ever thought possible…as Christ loves the church. This is a life-long pursuit of pursuing the Lord and your wife as you learn to live out the Gospel in your marriage. What are some of the ways that Christ loves the church?
- He loves her unconditionally.
- He died for her…there is nothing that God can call you to do for your wife that is too much!
- He forgives her sin.
- He covers her sin (He doesn’t hold a grudge).
- He’s her advocate.
- He protects her.
- He provides for her needs.
- He knows her needs, her strengths, her weaknesses, and He acts on her behalf.
- He sanctifies her.
- He has time for her.
- He understands her–He was incarnational (even as God He experienced what man experiences daily, and now He can sympathize with our weaknesses).
2) Leader (Eph. 5:22-23). Have you ever ridden a tandem bike? You both pedal but only one can direct the bike by using the handle bars. You are both putting out energy and working together, but one has to take the responsibility for choosing the path that the bike will head down. If you are a husband, God has put you at the handle bars: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…” (Eph. 5:22a). Have you ever thought of what it would be like to be under your leadership within your marriage relationship? As husbands, we will answer to God for how we have led our wives.
3) Learner (1 Peter 3:7). One of the exciting aspects of marriage is learning our wives for the rest of our lives. In fact, God says that if you don’t live with her in an understanding way and show her honor, then your prayers will be hindered. Marriage is dynamic. You are both constantly changing. Ask God to help you understand how to serve your wife today. What would bring her joy (even something as simple as doing the dishes because she is especially tired tonight)? What is a special way you can encourage her in her walk with the Lord? God says that she is a “weaker vessel,” but as husbands we often treat our wives as Tupperware rather than as a rare vase that is worth millions.
Remember, you can live out these things as a husband, which brings God glory, is best for your wife, and is best for you (Eph. 5:28-31). But you must be saved and walking with the Lord to be able to do this, by the power of the Holy Spirit changing you (Eph. 5:18).
Oh, in case you’re wondering, I did give an answer to the question, “Is marriage really hard?” I told them with a huge smile, “It is, but it is more than worth it.” Praise God that He has not left us wondering what our job as a husband is. He has given us both the commands and the resources to be able to love, lead, and learn our wives with joy.
I have been thinking recently about Youth and Family Ministry, and I am thankful for what Austin Duncan has written regarding Youth Ministry in Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully. As I read these paragraphs below I wanted to shout, “Amen!” Two things (not exhaustive, but certainly primary) that teenagers need from a Youth Ministry are:
1) The Scripture to be taught at a level they will understand. This includes a great emphasis on the Gospel. What more important message could we possibly offer them for their lives now as well as for the rest of their lives? Nothing.
2) To be a part of the church as a whole. This includes involvement with their parents and the rest of the church. There is no switch that can be flipped when they leave the Youth Ministry that will make them *now* productive members of the church. They should be part of the church body now.
Thank you Austin for explaining this so clearly and passionately:
“The Scriptures themselves are the most important tool for the youth pastor. There is no other way for a person to come to Christ except through the preaching of the gospel, and there is no place where the gospel is presented more clearly than in the Scriptures. When a youth ministry is built on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, the students learn how to live and what to believe. As a God-ordained side effect, students also learn how to study and interpret the Bible for themselves as they watch Scripture rightly divided and properly explained … Teenagers in the youth group need this message [the Gospel]. They do not need cultural relevancy, and they certainly do not need a youth leader who really “gets them.” They need a minister who will explain to them that they will not get to heaven on the coattails of their parents’ Christianity, that God hates sin, and that the most important issue in the universe is not if they are going to make the soccer team, but if they are reconciled to God. Have they turned from sin to the Savior? Have they embraced, in faith, God’s perfect sacrifice of His dear Son? Is Christ’s life theirs?
…It should not be possible for students to faithfully participate in a youth ministry but not participate in the church. … The youth must be involved with adults in serving missionaries, participating in neighborhood outreach, and visiting the elderly. Above all, they should be a part of the corporate body of the church in worship, fellowship, and service. One of the reasons that young people withdraw from the church is because they grow out of what it has to offer them. Eventually, they will tire of games and skits, and look for something more profound. A key to student ministry–for a lasting student ministry–is to get young people involved in the church because they are in love with the gospel. Then, if they leave the church, they abandon an integral part of their lives. Church no longer is a place that serves them, but a place where they belong.
Isolating our teenagers from the rest of the body of the church is bad for everyone involved. Just as the foot cannot say to the hand that it is not part of the body, so the youth cannot say that he or she is not part of the body of believers (1 Cor. 12:15). Serving the church is how Christians are called to use their God-given gifts, as this is where believers live out the New Testament command to love one another. Teenagers must be taught to have affection for the church, to care for its needs, and to devote themselves to its health and growth.”
From Chapter 15, “The Youth Pastor as Evangelist: The Church’s Most Fruitful Evangelism,” in Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully, ed. John MacArthur (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 213-215.
The question always comes up when advocating an eternal perspective in Youth Ministry, “Can you still have fun while doing this?” Of course! As I know Austin himself lives out (I have known Austin for 9 years), this is all done with grace–and fun. But although we laugh a lot with teenagers and may do many fun activities with them, we need to have enough vision and love to give them what they need: God’s Word and the Gospel, and to help them be a part of the church, the body of Christ.