Saturday, November 8, 2014

The danger of being lulled to sleep by comfort

Many people have all been blessed with many material possessions in America and many have been blessed to be raised in a home where we are brought to church on Sunday mornings.  But this can be a detrament to our ugency to "go and make disciples" in the world.  If we understood the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man we would respond with the ugency Jesus speaks about in the gospels and we would sacrifice everything, including our pride, to make sure Christ is known.  When the value of knowing Christ surpasses the value of self then we will obey Christ and go make disciples.  

Paul is a great example of someone willing to surrender his live for the sake of the gospel.  His heart was fueled by the surpassing value of Christ.  In Philippians 3 he writes, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (3:8).  Maybe you argue, "But Paul did live in America with all it's comforts."  That's true.  If you are ever tempted to think that way let me show how deadly being an American can be.  We have much to be grateful for in America but it is a dangerous place for Christians called to die to self.

Paul in Acts 20 says, "And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisionment and afflictions await me.  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from The Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (22-24).  Paul went knowing "imprisionment and affliction" awaited him.  These were not ideas but realities.  Imprisionment and afflictions will await him.  I wonder if the comforts of America and the self-esteem message peached daily has sucked the self deniel message of Christ out of us?  Many times I've seen in my own life the unwillingness to surrender to Christ's commands wondering what others will think of me if I speak of him.  We have been allured away from the message of Christ by the love of ease and comfort.  Paul mind set was simple: "To live is Christ, to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21)

What we see many times in the life of the church is what Deitrich Bonhoeffer calls cheap grace.  Cheap grace is "grace without a price; grace without cost!"  It is intellectual assent of grace.  To have our sins justified while continuing to live the life of one not justified. Grace that forgives but doesn't change the sinner.  It is a "denial of the living Word of God."  Cheap grace has no joyful obedience to Christ.  
On the other side of the grace coin is costly grace.  Bonhoeffer says, "Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.  It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.  It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.  

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'You were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us...costly grace is the only pure grace, which really forgives sins and gives freedom to the sinner."

May we not be lured to sleep by our comforts and pursue cheap grace.  May we be followers of Christ who count the cost of living a life worthy of the gospel.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"If the World Hates you"

John 15:18-25 says:
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'

The world hated Jesus and still does hate Jesus.  They are okay with their idea of Jesus but not the Jesus who makes demands on their lives.  As soon as we speak about Jesus and his demands the world will hate us as well.  Why would we think otherwise?  We should not go out into the world to try and be hated.  Many Christians think jerk is a spiritual gift.  But the only way we can avoid the hatred of the world is if we avoid Jesus.  The world will hate us because we claim to have the truth.  They will hate us because we claim to have the only way to salvation.  The world will hate us because we claim to know the only way to eternal life.  But this is why we need to rest in the reality that "all authority has been given to Christ" because those are not our claims but rather the claims of Jesus himself.  Jesus said, "I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6).  The world hated when Jesus made those claims and they will hate us for telling them the words of Christ.  We live in a tolerant society that seems to tolerate everything except exclusive claims or better yet exclusive truth. But if we avoid the truth of Jesus then we truly are not one of his disciples.  

The world also hates the teaching of Jesus because it reveals their sinfulness.  I believe this is why kids who grow up in church hate Christianity more than those who don't grow up in church.  They have heard the teaching of Jesus but have continued to reject Christ.  The more of the Bible they hear the more aware they are of their guilt so they suppress the truth through hatred.  Jesus says, "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse."  The weight of sin either brings us to repentance or produces more hatred.  But as you can see we have a responsibility in this passage to speak the truth about sin.  We must tell people about their slavery to sin and the freedom they can find in Christ.  

John continues recording the words of Jesus in chapter 16:1-4:
"I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. The Work of the Holy Spirit "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

16:1-4 - Jesus tells these things to his disciples to warn them but also because he loves them and knows how they will be treated.  We see his love down in chapter 16:1 when he says, "I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away."  I love you and I want you to be aware of the cost of following me but it will be worth it.  Then just imagine sitting in the upper room with Jesus and hearing him say to you, "They will put you out of the synagogues.  Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God."  When?  What about if?  "When" indicates it is going to happen.  The disciples in the upper room that night knew what road they were to travel.  All but 3 (John, James the Less, Judas) of the disciples in the room that night were martyred.  

Are willing to die for Christ?  I imagine in the safety of a church building we would all answer yes.  But I would encourage you all to examine your heart and think about what Jesus is telling us in this passage.  Being his disciple will cost you your life maybe even your physical life.  I often wonder if  my convictions and love for Christ outweigh my love for this world.  It is a good question to ask.  Are you willing to die for Christ?  Jesus told the disciples these things so that when "their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you."  Does this reality scare you?  Does it make you question your love for Christ?  Does it make you anxious?  The good news is Christ will not abandon us.  He will not leave us on our own.  Christ says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Letts" it go

I recently read an article by Albert Mohler about Emily Letts.  You may be asking "Emily who?"  Don't worry you will soon here the name. Emily is a 25 year old lady who filmed her abortion and it has gone viral on YouTube.  She recently did an article in Cosmopolitan magazine to talk about her abortion.  Currently she works at a Women's Center as a counselor in New Jersey.  As I read the article my emotions were running all over the place.  I was angry, sad, confused and flat out stunned.  The first words I read from her mouth were, "I feel super good about my abortion." Super good about an abortion?  But the saddest part and most telling part come in her words at the end of the video:

"It is about a month and a half after the procedure.  I feel like I talk to women all the time and of course everyone feels bad about this; everyone's going to feel guilty.  It's given how people should feel about this, that what they're doing is wrong.  I don't feel like a bad person.  I don't feel sad.  I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby.  I can make a life.  I knew that what I was going to do was right, cause it was right for me and no one else.  I just want to share my story."

What do you say to that statement?  I think most would agree something doesn't sound right about her words.  But her statement summarizes our culture's thinking.  She knew it was right because it was right for her.  I was reminded of the line in a very popular song right now feeding into the minds of our children that says:

"No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I'm free"


I get it, this is Frozen we are talking about here.  I've marched around our living room singing this song with my two daughters multiple times.  But I hope we aren't carelessly listening to those words without thinking about what's behind them.  A worldview is being taught loud and clear.  The movies great and the song is very pretty and fun but Elsa's train of thought is not so far away from Letts.  One video portrays an animation of a confused princess while the other a woman proud of taking the life of a baby; but both are clear in saying I am free to do what I want if it is right for me.

The problem with this thinking is there is right and wrong.  We are not free to do whatever we want to do.  Maybe we can get away with sin in this world but all things will be made right and all will be held accountable.  Our accountability will be to the One who created us all.  The One who sets the standard for right and wrong.  He graciously gave us his law and our conscience to reveal are sinfulness and point us to Christ.  I believe this is why Letts says, "Everyone is going to feel guilty." The book of Romans says,

"For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on
their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even
excuse them" (2:14-15).

Rather then looking to Christ to find life we "suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18) and choose to became futile in our thinking (Rom. 1:21).  This led to forsaking the worship of our Creator to the worship of self.  We have become god.  "No right, no wrong, no rules for me...'cause it was right for me and no one else."  Remember this is how all us think or once thought.  Sin entered the world back in the garden (Genesis 3) which brought a sinful nature to the entire human race (Romans 5).  The only difference between this sort of thinking now and once thinking this way is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ dying as a substitute for sinners is the message our culture needs to hear.  They need to know there is someone who loves them more then they love themselves.  They need to know there is someone who created them to live for his glory so that they can find true satisfaction.  They need to know there is a right and wrong and the One who created them sets that standard for his glory and their greatest good.  They need to know their is someone who is actually worthy of worship and
praise.  They need to know Christ!

Grace upon grace,
JRL



Friday, April 26, 2013

The Cross is Folly

"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