Friday, April 26, 2013

"The cross is folly" (1 Corinthians 1:18)

What makes the cross so foolish?  The word Paul is using in this passage has to deal with the cross being a foolish thing.  But why?  We know all of humanity was created in the image of God from the book of Genesis.  That truth alone links all of us being created equal.  But many of us neglect the reality that we are all linked by another event: the fall.  All of us are born sinners (Romans 5:12-21).  We are born with a broken relationship with our Creator.  God never intended it to be this way yet in his kindness he had a plan before he created anything or anyone (Ephesians 1).  What sort of plan?  According to our sinful nature it is a foolish plan.  But once revealed through the illumining eyes of the Spirit this plan makes total sense.

God's plan to rescue sinners involved the coming from heaven in order to die.  That's right.  God left the glories of heaven to die on a wooden cross.  He came to die the death of a criminal.  The most heinous sort of death a human could ever experience was the death the perfect Son of God came to take.  But he did not endure death with no purpose.  Christ came as a man in order to live the life we could not live.  He came humbly and meek, perfectly obeying his Father all way to the hill at Calvary.  In love he laid on the cross while the spikes were driven through his hands and feet.  He did not revile those who reviled him yet silently took the mocking.  He was lifted up outside the city, naked and ridiculed.  The innocent Lamb was slaughtered for the sake of his people.  His death was the death I deserve and his life was life I could never live.  Yet Jesus came because of my sin.  He came to rescue me the sinner.  "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).

This is not news to take lightly.  It demands a response.  Two responses are possible; the first is a repenting of sin because you see the love of Jesus while being his enemy and the other is mocking the cross and its foolishness. Heed the words of Scripture: "The word of the cross is folly" but only "to those who are perishing."  Jesus is the Judge who will one day hold each one of us accountable for our sins.  They will either be paid for through eternal torment or through the death of Christ on the cross.

What makes the cross so foolish?  The cross puts every man and woman on a level playing field.  No earthly merit can earn you favor with God and no crime can keep you from him.  At the cross we see both ways of thinking will produce repentance.  But the foolishness of the cross becomes so glorious once our eyes are opened to the reality that forgiven sinners in Christ are no longer perishing but are now adopted sons and daughters to the God who created us.  The foolishness of the cross makes total sense because no man can receive the glory in it.  God alone deserves the glory.  He plan is folly to those who are perishing but for those who are being saved it is the power of God.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Idols Live in the Heart

I was reading the wise words of Mr. William Wilberforce last night so I thought I would post some of his words:

All who have read the Scriptures must confess that idolatry is the crime against which God's highest resentment is expressed, and his severest punishment denounced.  But let us not deceive ourselves.  It is not in bowing the knee to idols that idolatry consists, so much as in the internal homage of the heart; as in feeling towards them, any of that supreme love, or reverence, or gratitude, which God reserves to himself as his own exclusive prorogative.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 3, 2012

God Will Sort Things Out in the End

Have you ever read an article and been amazed at the boldness of some people to speak powerful words?  Many times I come across articles that make my jaw hit the floor because people are bold enough to speak.  I'm not saying it is always good things they have to say but they say them none the less.  Recently I read an article titled Brad Pitt on Same-Sex Marriage: 'Let Your God Sort It Out.'  Lets just say the title alone grabbed my attention. 

Brad Pitt is very much a proponent for same-sex marriage.  On the issue he recently said, "Equality, absolutely, that's what defines us.  It's what makes us great."  I'm assuming the "us" refers to America and not Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  The opposite of Pitt's argument is the reality that those who are opposed to same-sex marriage are not about equality.  This puts those, like myself, in a crux.

I say it puts myself in a crux because I must either conform to "equality" or what God says in his Word.  I know the scale is close to balancing between "equality" and God so this decision must be though through carefully (That's called sarcasm).  But I am also not sure Mr. Pitt has a definition for equality.  Sounds good in the same-sex argument because "we" has already redefined the definition of marriage so "we" can also change the definition of equality.  I'm afraid Mr. Pitt only wants equality up to a certain point.  That point is marriage.  He is all about same-sex marriage and changing the law, yes, the law, in order to have "equal rights." 

Interestingly enough in the same article Mr. Pitt also talks about the issue of "federal drug restrictions."  He says, "We should be responsible for our own choices in talking about the drug laws...the drug war is an ultimate failure and that the billions and billions of dollars that we've committed to it, there's got to be a better way."  Bingo.  Pitt is correct in saying we've got to do better on the drug war.  But does anyone else see a problem with Pitt's statement?  "Equality, absolutely, that's what defines us."  Really?  What about the drug lords?  No equality for them?  Is that because Mr. Pitt is against the drugs?  "Equality....no so much."  I'm not sure Mr. Pitt has thought all these issues through completely.  I hope he will consider them and figure out if he is for "equality" or not. 

But "equality" wasn't even the biggest issue in the article.  The statement that made my jaw drop was Pitt saying, "If [same-sex marriage] doesn't sit well with your religion, let your God sort it out in the end, but that's us. We're equal."  Speechless but not thoughtless, so here are some thoughts. 

1. God is sovereign and as followers of Christ we can rest secure in his sovereignty. 
"Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness" (Isaiah 40:21-23).

2. Equality for everybody in a sin cursed world isn't possible not matter how hard people try.  Our equality comes from being made in the image of God.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).

3. God will sort it out in the end.
"And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book...Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Revelation 22:7, 12-13).

4. The gospel of Christ gives us peace with God and one another.
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). 

This article didn't shock me but reminded me that I should be bold to proclaim the message of Christ and him crucified.  We are ambassadors for Christ and he uses sinners like you and I to spread the gospel message so others can be reconciled to God.  May people hear our words and God use them to save sinners.  God will sort things out in the end but until then may we beg people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).  May God's Word define us as his followers.  He is our authority not the ideas of man.  Man's ways are flawed but God's way is perfect.  We can stand on his truth.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I'm Thankful For

Today I thought it would be good to think upon things I am thankful for in my life:

1. The reality that God has rescued from his wrath and my sin through the blood of Christ and his Word which reveals this truth.

2. A wife that fears the Lord and loves the Lord.

3. Two beautiful little girls.

4. My parents and in-laws.

5. My sister and brother-in-law and sister-in-laws and their husbands.

6. The Bible Church of Little Rock

7. Men who disciple me and encourage me.

8. The youth kids I have the honor of serving.

9. My job.

This list could continue down for pages upon pages so I'll stop here. What are some things you are grateful for in your life? I hope you praise the Lord for every single one of his blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why It All Began...

Recently I had the privilege of studying the beginning of Acts chapter two and seeing the start of the church on the day of Pentecost.  So many things were packed into those first four verses of the chapter that I spent my entire time teaching on them.  Let's face it that day with those 120 gathered in the upper room was a miracle.  This was the event when God's promise of the Holy Spirit coming in full power was seen and felt.  Jesus made it crystal clear in John 16 that it was too the advantage of his followers that he go back to the Father so they could receive the Holy Spirit.  Does this mean the Spirit was not working prior to this moment in Acts 2?  No.  We can clearly the see the Spirit working right at the beginning of Scripture in Genesis 1:2, "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."  But at Pentecost we see the Spirit coming in full power upon his people.

These 120 had just seen the resurrected Christ ascend into heaven 10 days prior to this event in the upper room.  Not only had Christ promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples in John 14 and 16 but at his ascension he spoke to all 120 saying, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).  In those 10 days I wonder if they sat there starting to wonder what that promise would like to them or even wondering if they had missed it somehow.  They were to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth yet they were gathered picking a replacement for Judas. Then suddenly a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the entire house were they were sitting (2:2).  This word for wind in Hebrew is the same word for breathe or Spirit.  The comparison of wind and breathing is one we are familiar.  Wind and breathing are very similar besides the fact wind can last longer and be stronger.  But we can also understand why the Spirit would be translated with the same word as well.  Think back to John 3 when Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about being born again.  Jesus and Nicodemus go back and forth for a time but than Jesus says, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (8).  Jesus compares the work of the Spirit with that of the wind.

At Pentecost we know where this mighty rushing wind came from because the text tells us it came from heaven.  Whether this was an actual mighty rushing wind or Luke is giving us the best description of what took place I am not for sure.  The important part is seeing God's faithfulness to keep his promises to his people.  He had promised to not leave his people but to send his Spirit to them.  He had promised this would be to their advantage and as you read and understand the history of the church it is clear that Jesus was not blowing smoke.  Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about and as his followers we need to be grateful for this day when his Spirit came upon the church in full power.  Because of his promises and the fulfillment of this promise all who are in Christ are his bride.  His bride is the church which is an unstoppable reality because the head of the church is the infinite God who sustains all things. 

As God breathed physical life into man which he formed from the dust of the ground back in Genesis 2 so he breathed spiritual life into his church this day at Pentecost.  This is the work of God in the life of his bride.  What's so great is that he has chosen to use sinners like us as his means of grace in the lives of those who do not know Christ.  We, as his church, get to be heralds of the gospel so others can be adopted into his family.  If your local expression of the church exists to promote itself then you have the wrong idea of church.  The local expression of the church exists to promote Jesus Christ and proclaim his message so people will be added to the church universal.  In Acts 2 we see the beginning of this reality at Pentecost.

Grace upon grace,
JRL