Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Don't be a Glory Robber

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" -Colossian 3:17

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" -1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul is trying to tell us something about life.  No matter what is going on in your life.  No matter the circumstances.  No matter the events.  No matter the time.  Whatever it is or what we do, it ought to all be done in the name of Jesus Christ and for his glory.  God's people desire to represent Christ by ascribing to him the glory.  We are no longer our own but we realize we have been bought with a price, a great price.  We belong to him.  Our allegiance is to him.  Everything we do should be done for his name sake.

In Colossians 3:17, Paul says, "In the name of the Lord Jesus."  "Lord" is "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; he is the master."  Jesus alone has the title Lord.  Remember, "for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorties - all things were created through him and for him" (Col. 1:16).  "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever" (Rom. 11:36).  We belong to him because he created us.  Yet we turned in rebellion against him.  We wanted to have preeminence because in our own idea of wisdom we thought we were a better God.  We are glory robbers.  Glory robbing is a serious sin.  We want or desire people to worship us.  We desire Facebook likes, retweets, followers, friends, comments because we want glory.  Until we can see our sin on this level, the level that understands stealing glory from God is deeply sinful, we will never fully understand God's reconciling grace.  We may tend to be decent people in the eyes of others but oh to see our own hearts!  We want the glory!  We want the praise!  We want to be worshipped!  But we are told that in whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we are to do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to give him glory!  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Admonishing One Another

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" -Colossians 3:16

Admonishing is to warn or exhort another.  The people who love you the most will not only teach you the truth but, when needed, will admonish you with the truth as well.  Those who love you the most will also take the time to learn how to admonish a brother or sister in Christ.  Those doing the admonishing need grace as well as those being admonished.  Admonishing is not something most of us like to do or have done to us.  Have you ever been admonished?  It hurts.  But a friend will be willing to admonish you in hopes that you will respond in repentance so that furth damages from sin will not occur.  This is a reason why we need to be a part of a local church that holds up the word of God.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thoughts from Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is probably the most well known Psalm.  Since the Psalms are, for the most part, songs then Psalm 23 would be number one on the charts.  Most people even those who have not read the Bible are familiar with Psalm 23.  It is a beautiful Psalm of comfort which depicts God as a loving shepherd to his sheep and a gracious host to his guests.  I would just like to briefly share some of my thoughts on verse 1-3.  

1. The Good Shepherd (1)

Notice David says "The LORD is my shepherd."  The first question to ask: Is the LORD your shepherd?  The rest of the depends on the answer to this question.  If the LORD is not your shepherd then these truths that follow do not apply to you.  These are for the sheep.  Unlike David we can fast forward to the time of Jesus.  We get the full story and know what Jesus says in John 10.  The Good Shepherd is none other than the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, in John 10, says, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (11).  In order to be one of the LORD's sheep you must enter the fold through his terms.  Prior to his proclamation of being the Good Shepherd Jesus declared, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture" (9).  These are the same words Jesus would speak again in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me."  Jesus is the Good Shepherd because he laid down his life for sheep who were being lead astray.  We were wondering in the wilderness while Jesus was on a sheep rescuing mission.  In him we "shall not want."  This is better translated "shall not lack."  The reason we shall not lack is because the shepherd will provide for all our needs.  

2. The Gracious Shepherd (2-3b

We have already seen that the shepherd provides to the point that we lacking nothing.  David is going to continue to show us the graciousness of our good shepherd.  Notice how the next four phrases in Psalm 23 have a pattern of the shepherd doing something on our behalf.  

  A. He makes me lie down in green pastures (2a)
This speaks of the peace brought to us by our shepherd.  Sheep did not rest much because of the anxiety of attack.  But with the shepherd in their presence the sheep are able to lie down in green pastures.  Green pastures also remind us that the lot on which the shepherd gives to his sheep is beautiful and well taken care of.  Remember what Jesus said in John 10:9, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved (safe) and will go in and out and find pasture."  By the Good Shepherd's grace we find peace and pleasant pasture.  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).
 
  B. He leads me beside still waters (2b)
Steve Lawson says, "This refers to waters that have been stilled, further expanding this peaceful scene.  Weary and worn sheep need a long, refreshing drink from the rapid streams.  But being instinctively afraid of running water, the shepherd must pick up a few large stones and dam up a place, causing the rushing stream to slow its current and create quiet waters.  Then the flock may drink with no fear.  God gives true, abiding peace to believers who abide in him and drink of his grace."  This reminds me of the peace Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7, "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

  C. He restores my soul (3a)
When our soul is beaten by the cares of this world or we have failed to trust our Good Shepherd we read that the Good Shepherd comes and restores our soul.  Psalm 19:7 lets us know how the Shepherd restores our soul.  It isn't some magic wand waiving while calling out bippity boppity boo.  That does sound exciting but not real.  God tells us, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7).  The way the soul is restored is through the hearing of God's word.  God has given us his Word for the purpose of knowing him.  Knowing him deeply brings restoration to our soul.  

  D. He leads me in paths of righteousness (3b)
Ultimately the path to perfect righteousness is through a relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  "For our sake, God the Father made God the Son, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in Christ Jesus we might become the rightesouness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).  Perfect righteousness is a gift of God's grace through imputation.  But those who have been called by God as his chosen people are called to a life of holiness.  God is not only the One who graciously justifies us but he is the One who also leads us in the path of righteousness.  He gives a new heart that seeks to honor and glorify him with our lives.  His grace saves and sustains his sheep.  

3. The Glorious Shepherd (3c)

Why does God act so graciously to his people?  His grace stems from his love for his own name.  God delights in God therefore he is good to us.  Notice in Psalm 23, David writes at the end of verse 3 that he does all these good things for us "for His name sake."  We tend to think God does everything for us because ultimately he loves us.  God does love his sheep but he loves his own glory most.  We should be grateful that this is true of God.  Why?  If God did not delight in himself above everything or everyone else than God would cease to be God.  Whatever or whoever God glorified in more than himself would be God.  In order to be the good and gracious shepherd of his sheep he must be the supreme and glorious God who delights in himself. 

"Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD" (Ps. 25:7)!

"For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great" (Ps. 25:11). 

"Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake" (Ps. 79:8-9)!

His glory equals our good.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL










Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Cure is Christ

I have been privileged for years now to have an open door to preach the gospel at a local juvenile detention center.  Many times I have equated the good news of the gospel of Christ to a cancer patient who has learned their cancer is all gone.  The only reason this is good news is because of the bad news in which a person has discovered they have cancer.  Cancer is the bad news but the good news is being cleared of the cancer.  This is like the good news of the gospel which is only good news if we know the bad news about our sinful condition.  While using this illustration I must admit I have never interacted with someone on a regular basis who has cancer.  Recently that has become a reality in my life.  As I have interacted with this person I have seen how the comparisons to the gospel have become clearer.  

The bad news is bad news.  Cancer is real.  Cancer is deadly.  Sin is real and sin is deadly.  The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).  We cannot deny these realities.  We tend to have a mindset that ignorance is bliss.  That is not the case when life and death are on the line.  Before a person is diagnosed with cancer life is normal.  Go to work, spend time with family, enjoy the weekend and so on.  Life is good.  But when the doctor calls and the diagnosis is not something we can place a band-aid over but rather a reality that something tragic now involves you, life changes.  What seems to be normal changes.  The bad news leaves us searching for a glimmer of good news.  Good news is the remedy or the cure to the bad news.

As time goes on and doctors appointments have occurred, I have been able to interact with this person who is trying to learn about this bad news.  Stay strong seems to be the best encouragement given out but staying strong doesn't change the reality.  What is needed is a remedy.  A cure.  A cure is what ultimately brings good news that overpowers the bad news.  The person who understands the bad news is always looking for a bit of good news.  Our sin condition is bad news.  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).  "Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12).  This sin disease is not just for certain people.  This disease has effected all of humanity.  This is bad news for the entire human race.  Sin is a rebellion against God.  As our Creator, he has told us how to live and what will be best for us.  Sinfully we have determined that God does not ultimately know what is best.  We have turned away from his gracious commands in order to run down our sinfully desired path.  The Bible describes us as sheep that have gone astray (1 Peter 2:25).  This is a painful truth about humanity.  It is bad news.

But unlike cancer a remedy is offered for the sin curse upon all humanity.  Cancer is potentially never gone.  You may be cleared of cancer but there is the potential of its return.  The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that our sins can be removed forever.  Christ is the cure.  He is the remedy.  The Bible says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).  How far is the east is from the west?  Infinite.  He removes our sins infinitely.  How are they gone?  They are gone because they have been placed on Christ when he was crucified in the place of sinners.  This is why Paul writes to the Corinthians, "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1-2).  Why Paul?  Lofty speech and wisdom without Christ crucified leaves people dead in their sins.  We, like Paul, need to make sure we proclaim the remedy.  

The remedy of the glorious Christ is offered to all who will repent of their sin and place their trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.  "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Rom. 10:9-10).  This remedy comes at the cost of the Son of God dying undeservedly in our place.  This remedy is offered as a gift to all.  This gift is given to all who will repent and believe.  This gift is the cure all humanity needs.  It is more then a glimmer of hope offered to death ridden people.  It is the only hope of life offered to death ridden people.  My prayer is that you will see your sinful condition and place your trust in the all glorious Savior.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Protection and Freedom in our Refuge

Did you know the word refuge is mentioned forty-five times in the book of Psalms?  "Perserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge" (16:1).  "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge" (18:2).  "The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed" (28:8).  "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him" (34:8)!  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (46:1).  "For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy" (61:3).  "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man" (118:8).  "Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!  I have fled to you for refuge" (143:9).  These are just a few of the passages that speak of God as being a refuge for those who trust in him.  

What makes the fact that God is our refuge such a big deal?

Many times when we think of a refuge we think of being protected.  This is true.  Thinking back to the time of Joshua, God had appointed cities of refuge for "the manslayer who had struck any person without intent or unknowingly" (Joshua 20:3a).  The person who struck and killed another man without intent or even knowing he had done such a thing was able to flee to these cities of refuge for protection.  "They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood" (Josh. 20:3b).  The person was not allowed to enter a city of refuge before going on trial before the elders of the city.  Once the elders determined that the man had not purposefully committed the crime he would be allowed access to the city for protection.  The manslayer was to stay in the city of refuge "until he had stood before the congregation for judgment or until the death of him who is high priest at the time" (Josh. 20:6).  These cities of refuge were a place of protection and safety.  No person could enter the city to avenge the blood of the loved one who had been killed.  

No doubt this the picture of God as being a refuge is an accurate description of God's protection over his people.  But I think that only halfway captures the picture of a refuge.  Not only was a person protected in a city of refuge but they were also free.  Outside the city of refuge a manslayer was always living with the reality that the avenger of blood (family member) could avenge his blood.  He would never be truly free outside the city of refuge.  While inside the city he did not have to look over his shoulder or stay awake in the night wondering if the avenger of blood would attack.  He was free inside the city of refuge.  

Our God is a God in whom we can take refuge.  Salvation is the truth of trusting or being hidden in Christ.  We trust that his death and resurrection is how the Father's wrath is removed and our sin is forgiven.  We believe we are covered in his perfect righteousness.  In Christ we are both protected from the sting of death and free from sin's domion.  "Kiss the Son, lest he be angrey, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. 'Blessed are all who take refuge in him'" (Ps. 2:12).

Grace upon grace,
JRL