Archives For Mike Riccardi

Last week, we considered Paul’s command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We saw how an implication of that command is that our fight for holiness is to be fueled by Gospel grace. But how does the Gospel directly shape and direct your pursuit of holiness? How do we practically bring the Gospel to bear on the various facets of our lives, so that we might conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel?

Gospel Driven

Today, I want to try to answer those questions by considering 12 different biblical virtues, and showing how the Gospel draws a straight line to each of them.

 

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“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
– Philippians 1:27 –

Phil 1;27This little phrase is the very heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul’s preeminent concern in his letter to the church of Philippi is that they would bring the practice of their lives into conformity with the position they enjoy as sharers in the Gospel of Christ. In reflecting on this command, two implications become immediately apparent.

Sanctification is the Necessary Fruit of Justification

The first implication of this text is that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification. The one who has been justified by grace through faith in Christ alone—the one who has been declared righteous in his position before God—will grow and progress with respect to practical righteousness in his life.

This is the consistent testimony of the New Testament, and especially throughout Paul’s letters.

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Gospel TractsOne of my ministry responsibilities at my church is to oversee all of the church’s local outreach ministries. At our church, that includes preaching the Gospel at local jails, drug/alcohol rehab centers, and on skid row; it includes systematically visiting our neighbors and following up with those willing to talk more about the Gospel, doing street evangelism at a local metro station; it even includes hosting volleyball and basketball games in our church’s gymnasium, and preaching the Gospel to those who come to play.

As the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries, I’m often asked what tracts and other resources we use in our evangelism efforts. Tracts can be a very helpful way of getting the Gospel message into the hands of someone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to have a conversation at the moment. They can also be a helpful follow-up to a good conversation—reinforcing the main themes of the Gospel long after you’ve both moved on to the next part of your day.

The following list is a selection of some of the tracts, Bibles, New Testaments, and other books that we use at Grace Church and make available to our church family.

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Heb 1;3The Old Testament had much to say about the presence of God. Throughout the history of Israel, God’s presence was mediated through fire (Exod 3:6; Deut 5:4), through blazing light (Exod 33:18–23), through visions (Ezek 1:28) and angels (Jdg 6:21–22; cf. 13:21–22), through the temple worship (Pss 27:4; 63:1–2), and even through God’s own Word (1 Sam 3:21). But with the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant era, the glory of God’s presence is now uniquely and supremely manifested “in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This makes sense, of course, because Christ is the perfect “image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).

This is precisely the testimony of the opening verses of the Book of Hebrews. Though God had revealed Himself by speaking to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days He has spoken finally and decisively in His Son (Heb 1:1). Christ is therefore the radiance of the Father’s glory (1:3)—the manifestation of the very presence of God, the “effulgence of the divine glory,” as one commentator colorfully puts it.

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JusticeLast Friday, I posted some selections of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” since last Tuesday was the 273rd anniversary of the greatest sermon preached on American soil. If you haven’t read that post, I would invite you to read America’s greatest sermon for America’s greatest need.

However, because I was on vacation last week, away from a computer, I wasn’t able to participate in the very disappointing comment thread that followed that post. The discussion was immediately derailed by objections to the doctrine of hell as the eternal conscious torment of the wicked who die outside of Christ. So because I wasn’t able to respond then, and because the objections presented are very common from our increasingly-secular, anti-biblical, and Christianity-intolerant culture (and so are objections you will need to respond to as you engage your “world” with the Gospel), I wanted to respond to those objections today.

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While the United States celebrated her 238th birthday last Friday, many Americans are unaware of another significant anniversary taking place this week. On July 8, 1741, America heard what is often hailed as the greatest sermon preached on her soil from a man who is often hailed as the greatest theologian and thinker to minister on her soil.

In the years 1733 through 1737, Jonathan Edwards continued to preach in the  Northampton pulpit that was now his own, having been bequeathed to him by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. During these years God had blessed Edwards’ preaching and ministry with revival in New England and beyond. Many were converted and others edified in their faith. Biographer George Marsden quips, “By March and April of 1735, the spiritual rains had turned the stream [of conversions] into a flood.”[1] Edwards himself describes the revival’s effect on his congregation:

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The Lord is NearOver the last two weeks, we’ve been considering Paul’s command to “let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5). We considered five characteristics of that gentleness, and then took some time to consider the scope of that command, noting that we are not only to be gentle with fellow Christians, but also with those who are enemies of the Gospel.

And we ended last time asking how could possibly do that? let our gentle and forbearing spirit be evident to all people—even those that would take advantage of us?

And we can be so thankful that Paul seems to never lay upon the shoulders of the people of God a divine imperative without also laying under our feet a divine indicative upon which we can stand. In Philippians 4:4 he didn’t merely command us to “Rejoice always,” but to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The Lord Himself is to be the source, sphere, object, and ground of our rejoicing. Well here also in verse 5, he doesn’t merely command us, “Let your gentle spirit be made known to all men,” but also adds, “the Lord is near.”

So, how is it that we can patiently endure the ill-treatment of a hostile and perverse generation, and consistently repay evil with good? How can we subject ourselves to the attacks of the enemies of Christ and His Gospel without becoming defensive and asserting our rights? Paul says, “The Lord is near.”  This is the ground of our gentleness.

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Gentleness (Phil 4;5)Last week, we considered Paul’s command for God’s people to be characterized by a gentle, forbearing, gracious spirit. There were five key features of that Gospel-shaped gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ. And I focused the application of those features almost exclusively on how gentleness is to manifest itself in the life of the church. And that’s vitally important.

But Paul casts a wider scope than the family of God concerning on this command. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentle spiritbe known to all men.” And so this reasonable flexibility, this temperate gentleness, this patient forbearance, this willing surrender of our own rights, and this happy contentment is to be made manifest not only to your family; not only to a certain group of Christian friends who are very easy for you to get along with; not even only to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But your gentle spirit is to be made evident and manifest to all people. And if that’s the case, that means we are to manifest this gentleness in all the spheres of our life before unbelievers. Let’s consider a few of those.

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Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
– Philippians 4:5 –

Gentleness (Phil 4;5)This passage of Scripture comes in a list of brief commands that Paul means to demonstrate as the means of remaining spiritually steadfast (cf. Phil 4:1). That list is usually read through very quickly, and this command to be gentle often doesn’t enjoy the extended meditation that it deserves.

But the word is packed with meaning, so much so that the translators have always had a hard time translating the Greek word, epieikes. The verse at the top is the New American Standard Update. The older NAS has, “Let your forbearance,” or “your forbearing spirit be made known to all men.” The ESV says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” The HCSB has, “Let your graciousness be known to everyone.”

The commentators don’t help either, as their lists are even longer: gentleness, graciousness, forbearance, patience, sweet reasonableness, mildness, leniency, yieldedness, kindness, charitableness, considerateness, magnanimity, bigheartedness, generosity. In some measure, all of these concepts are at play in this one word. I thought it would be beneficial to select a number of them and amplify them a bit, so that we can gain a firm grasp on the nature of this duty to which we are called, but which is often easy to overlook. So here are five characteristics of the gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ.

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And [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

- Luke 18:9–14 -

Pharisee and Publican

What intrigues me about the Pharisee in this passage is that he thanked God for his moral uprightness and religious devotion. He is not claiming, perhaps like the rich, young ruler did, that he had kept God’s law and thus is deserving of eternal life. He doesn’t believe that he’s earned his salvation by works of righteousness achieved apart from divine grace. No, he goes to thank God for the grace and charity that God had worked in him, by which he has become acceptable to God. He believes that he is justified by his faith in God as well as the good works which proceed from the divinely-imparted righteousness inherent within him. And he does not go to his house justified.

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