Archives For Mike Riccardi

Dealing with SinA couple of years ago, our church had the privilege of hosting a number of law enforcement officers from our community for morning services. More than 100 police officers who patrol the city of Los Angeles responded to John MacArthur’s invitation to join us for a Sunday morning that, in part, honored their commitment to protecting our society and gave them the opportunity to hear what the Word of God has to say about them: the civil authorities. Pastor John preached on the various institutions that God has raised up for the sake of restraining evil and maintaining order in a society: the conscience, the family, the government, and the church. Each of these God-ordained institutions, he explained, serves to restrain evil and maintain order in a society.

As would be expected, Pastor John focused on the institution of government that morning. But there’s reason to focus on the fourth of those institutions as well. Just as there is a great need for law and order to keep the peace in a civil society, so also is there a need for such law and order in the church. A civil society that has no laws, or that has no system of order to enforce those laws—no system to punish and rehabilitate offenders—is doomed to chaos. So severe is the nature of human depravity that a society of depraved human beings unrestrained by law and order is just unthinkable.

And the same is true of the church. Now, it’s true that our depravity has been overcome by the work of Christ on the cross. It’s true that we who are believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of us, directing our desires and causing us to strive against the flesh, and leading us to walk in righteousness. But those realities are not true for all who enter through the doors of the church on Sunday. Even within the visible church, there are those who believe that they’re saved, but who have not yet turned from their sins and put their trust in Christ alone for their righteousness. And for those who have been born again—even though we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin through the Gospel—we have not yet been set free from the presence of sin in our flesh. Galatians 5:17 reminds us: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Paul says elsewhere, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:21–23).

And so even though we who belong to Christ have been declared righteous in God’s sight on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, we nevertheless strive against the presence of remaining sin in our flesh. It is unhappy but all too familiar reality: Christians sin. And that means that the church needs to know how to deal with sin in its midst. There needs to be law and order in the church—a process for identifying, disciplining, and rehabilitating sinners.

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I recently had the privilege of sitting down with David Wheaton on The Christian Worldview radio program to talk about my book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. It was a pleasure to be David’s guest and to meditate again on the Bible’s foundational truths concerning the believer’s pursuit of sanctification. I hope our conversation will be edifying to you as well.

 

1:44 – Tell us about your background, how you became a follower of Christ, and what you do now.

4:51 – Can you give us a definition of sanctification?

5:55 – Sanctification is often thought of as follows: “I’m sanctified if I’m doing good things, and not doing sinful things.” Is that accurate?

8:35 – Explain the two pitfalls of Quietism and moralism in the pursuit of sanctification.

15:40 – Why is sanctification so little preached and discussed in the evangelical church? Or is it?

17:57 – What’s the relationship between sanctification and participation in secular culture?

20:33 – Talk briefly about how sanctification is both internal and external.

24:15 – What is the Holy Spirit’s role in sanctification?

25:35-26:40, 30:28-30:47 – How is this command to fix our eyes on Christ the key to pursuing sanctification?

34:19 – One often hears about a “Gospel-centered” approach to sanctification. What does that mean? Is that the same as fixing your eyes on Jesus?

38:08-39:32, 42:29 – Talk about the idea of overcoming sin and temptation by turning our affections toward loving what God loves.

new-year-2017As we enter the beginning of the New Year, many people are reflecting on the previous year and how they’ve lived their lives, and are making resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year, whatever that may mean. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than the previous one.

As we anticipate the challenges and opportunities of 2017, I want to repost an open letter that focuses on the most important realities in the world. And the addressee of my open letter is you. No matter who you are—whether young in the faith, a seasoned saint, or not a believer in Jesus at all; whether we’re good friends, have only spoken a few times, or if I don’t know you from Adam—I can think of nothing more profitable that I’d like to say directly to you. And perhaps the most interesting distinctive about this open letter for 2017 is that it’s nothing new. It’s the same old message for a brand new year, because it’s the only message that is sufficient to transcend all times and cultures. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll read carefully.

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Glory of the IncarnationIt’s a joy to reserve this part of the year to remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. This, of course, is what Christmas is about in the truest sense. Amid all the tinsel, the gingerbread cookies, and the trees and stockings and gift shopping, true Christians pause to reorient our thoughts and our affections to what Christmas is really about: the incarnation of the Son of God.

And that kind of theological shorthand has become so familiar to us that we cease to be amazed at the truth we speak of when we speak of the incarnation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

God. Becoming man. The infinite, eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient, almighty God, without shedding His divine nature, taking upon Himself—in addition to His divine nature—a human nature—truly becoming one of us. In the incarnation of the Son of God, it can properly be said that the immutable, unchangeable God became what He wasn’t, while never ceasing to be what He was.

The incomprehensibility of that thought alone is sufficient to bow our hearts and intellects before divine wisdom in worship. This kind of mind-bending wisdom is so lofty—so far beyond our natural understanding—that we wouldn’t believe it if Scripture didn’t teach it so plainly. We already referenced John 1: The Word was God, and the Word became flesh. We also see it in Philippians 2:6–7, where Paul tells us that while Christ was existing in His very nature as God nevertheless assumed to Himself the very nature of a servant, and was born as a man.

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amillenialism-and-the-age-to-come

Today I want to make our readers aware of a new book that is sure to serve the church well. It’s written by our friend, Dr. Matt Waymeyer, who serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Immanuel Bible Church and the faculty of The Expositors Seminary in Jupiter, Florida, and who has made excellent contributions to The Cripplegate over the years. His book is called Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model (Kress Biblical Resources, 2016). (Available from Amazon and Kress.) If you’re interested in eschatology or studies of the Kingdom of God, you’ll benefit greatly from Matt’s work. He’s given me permission to reproduce the preface of the book, and I hope it entices you to read the whole thing.

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One of the most encouraging developments in evangelicalism over the past several decades has been the remarkable resurgence of reformed theology. This rediscovery of the doctrines of grace has not only captured the Bible’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation but also strengthened the unity of the church around the centrality of the gospel.

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November 18, 2016

The Sinner’s Prayer?

by Mike Riccardi

One of the privileges I have in my ministry is to regularly teach on the theology and practice of evangelism at The Master’s Seminary. Recently, the guys at TMS asked for my thoughts on whether we should use a “sinner’s prayer” when speaking to someone about the Gospel. They captured part of my response in the below video. I hope it serves you as you think through how to helpfully and faithfully “land the plane” in evangelistic conversations.

Ask a Prof: The Sinner’s Prayer? (Season 1 Episode 4) from The Master’s Seminary on Vimeo.

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:16–17 –

2-cor-517Paul speaks about regeneration in this passage. If anyone is in Christ—if anyone has become united to Jesus Christ by saving faith in the Gospel, if anyone has died to sin and self in union with the One who died to sin once for all—he is a new creation. Working backwards, from cause to effect, the second half of verse 16 notes that the very first result of regeneration is a new view of Christ. As unbelievers, we all once regarded Christ from a fleshly point of view, according to worldly standards, paying special attention to the way things looked outwardly and externally rather than internally and spiritually. But the regenerate regard Him in this way no longer. When Almighty God issues His sovereign decree for light to shine forth in the heart that is dead in sin, when the eyes are opened and the ears unstopped, when the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, the first thing that changes is the sinner’s view of Christ. We see Him for who He is, in all His beauty, glory, and suitableness to our need.

Working backwards even further to the first half of verse 16, Paul speaks of a second result of regeneration. Not only does the regenerate sinner have a new view of Christ, but he also has a new view of everyone else. When we’re transformed from the inside out in regeneration, and our assessment of Jesus changes, so does our assessment of everyone else in the world.

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Reformation Day - NerdsSo, I know I’ve posted this (and even re-posted this) before, but when Reformation Day comes around, these truths are what my heart and mind settle upon as I thank the Lord for what He accomplished through the Reformation.

499 years ago this upcoming Monday, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation. Nearly 500 years later, God’s people reserve this day to celebrate the rescue of His Word from the shackles of Roman Catholic tyranny, corruption, and heresy. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the sufficient Scriptures had been recovered, and it’s been doing its saving work ever since.

Romans 1:16–17 stands at the heart of the Reformation, especially because of how central it was in Luther’s conversion. Luther speaks of how he had hated the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” because he understood it to be speaking only of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners. But eventually, he says, “I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

Today, as we reflect upon and remember the grace of God that fell upon the world in the Protestant Reformation, I want to reflect upon the Gospel that made it happen—and particularly the concept of righteousness which was so central to the regeneration of the great reformer. And to do that I want to focus on another text that Paul penned, which gives us wonderful insight into the saving righteousness of God. In Philippians 3:9, Paul explains what it means to be found in Christ—namely, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (NKJV).

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October 21, 2016

That’s the Gospel

by Mike Riccardi

Recently I had the privilege of presiding over my first “installation service” for a friend of mine, Alan, who served alongside me at Grace Church while he was in seminary. An installation service is basically where a new pastor is ceremoniously installed as the pastor of the church he’s been called to. It usually involves a personal and passionate call to the task of the ministry by another pastor whom the new pastor considers a mentor and/or friend. I was humbled and privileged to do that for the first time for a dear brother of mine. It was a wonderful time to be with him and his new church family, and I’m encouraged what the Lord is doing and will do through Bethany Community Fellowship in Sylvania, Ohio.

While I was there, Alan also asked me to do a series of seminars on evangelism as a weekend conference ahead of the installation service. I was delighted to do oblige, as it was a treat for me to discuss the motivation, message, and method of evangelism with the saints at Bethany. Toward the end the seminar in which I was teaching through the various points to cover in a Gospel presentation, I tried to encapsulate all I had said in the previous hour in a three-and-a-half minute summary, while also modeling for them what it looks like to succinctly proclaim the Gospel to someone. It turns out that the gang at Bethany turned it into a short video, which I share with you all today. My hope is that it serves as an example of how we can evangelize both with brevity and accuracy, and as an encouragement for you to speak the Gospel to those to whom the Lord brings you in your daily lives. Transcript below.

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Life and DeathThose of you who read the Cripplegate week to week know that over the past few Fridays we’ve been taking a look at 2 Corinthians 4. Three weeks ago, we discovered that the orienting principle for Christian ministry is that there is a fundamental contrast between the glory of the New Covenant ministry and the weakness and shame of the New Covenant minister. We have the treasure of the Gospel in earthen vessels.

After stating that orienting principle for ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul turns to illustrate that principle by means of two paradoxes. The first is that the Christian ministry is marked by power in the midst of weakness (2 Cor 4:8–9). We see the second paradox In verses 10 and 11. True, faithful Christian ministry is also characterized by life in the midst of death. Paul says, we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

These two sentences are parallel to one another; verse 11 simply restates verse 10 in a slightly different way. And together they form a theological interpretation and summary of the four contrasts in verses 8 and 9. Paul summarizes being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down and calls them “the dying of Jesus” and “being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” And he summarizes not being crushed, in despair, forsaken, and destroyed as “the life of Jesus.”

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