Thursday, December 31, 2009

Losing Myself

To end the year I thought I would share how Andrew Murray closes his book on Humility:

"It is only in the possession of God that I lose myself. As it is in the height and breadth and glory of the sunshine that the littleness of the mote playing in its beams is seen, even so humility is the taking our place in God's presence to be nothing but a mote dwelling in the sunlight of his love.

How great is God! How small am I!
Lost, swallowed up in Love's immensity!
God only there, not I.

May God teach us to believe that to be humble, to be nothing in his presence, is the highest attainment, and the fullest blessing, of the Christian life. He speaks to us: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit' (Isaiah 57:15). Be this our portion!

Oh, to be emptier, lowlier,
Mean, unnoticed , and unknown,
And to God a vessel holier,
Filled with Christ, and Christ alone!"

May this be our prayer for the new year or better yet while God gives us breath here on earth.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yielding to God his place

"The call to humility has been too little regarded in the Church, because its true nature and importance has been too little apprehended. It is not a something which we bring to God, or he bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all. When the creature realizes that this is the true nobility, and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the form - the vessel - in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God his place." (Andrew Murray, Humility)

Over the year I have quoted Andrew Murray many times from his book Humility. With that being said to end the year I would like to do another give away. This time I will be giving away a copy of Andrew Murray's book Humility. To be placed in the drawing simply e-mail me at jrldailythoughts@yahoo.com and ask to be in the Humility drawing. You can enter the drawing until 2009 ends. On Friday I will announce the winner. Once again thanks to all who read this blog or receive the e-mails.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Longing for Holiness

In Jerry Bridges book The Pursuit of Holiness he asks the question: "Does our salvation in the final analysis depend to some degree on our attaining some level of personal holiness?" Bridges answers beautifully:

"First, the best Christians can never in themselves merit salvation through their personal holiness. Our righteous deeds are like filthy garments in the light of God holy law (Isaiah 64:6). Our best works are stained and polluted with imperfection and sin. As one of the saints of several centuries ago put it, 'Even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the lamb.'

Second, Scripture repeatedly refers to the obedience and righteousness of Christ on our behalf. 'For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous' (Romans 5:19). 'For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God' (1 Peter 3:18)."

Before your mind thinks, "If I'm forgiven by the blood and given Christ righteousness then who care how I act here on earth" Bridges reminds us from Scripture, "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life" (1 Thes. 4:7). Bridges goes on to say, "To continue to live in sin as a Christian is to go contrary to God's very purpose for our salvation...we may say that no one can trust in Jesus Christ for true salvation unless he trusts in Him for holiness. This does not mean the desire for holiness must be a conscious desire at the time a person comes to Christ, but rather it means that the Holy Spirit who creates within us saving faith also creates within us the desire for holiness. He simply does not create one without the other."

I hope you caught that beautiful truth that salvation is a gift from God and so is holiness. He will not give you one without giving you a desire for the other. This is a call for each of us to examine our lives to see whether we genuinely know Christ. What does your life look like? Do you love Christ? Do you love his word? Do you love the gospel? Do you love the pursuit of holiness?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 28, 2009

Give or Receive?

"Now dear Christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like him in giving...'though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor'...

Objection 1: 'My money is my own.'
Answer: Christ might have said, 'My blood is my own, my life is my own'...then where should we have been?

Objection 2: 'The poor are undeserving.'
Answer: Christ might have said, 'They are wicked rebels...shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.' But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving.

Objection 3: 'The poor may abuse it.'
Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood.

Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own words, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (B. B. Warfield quoted by John Piper, Don't Waste your Life, 165-166)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 25, 2009

For unto you is born this day


“For unto you is born this day” (Luke 2:11)

The birth of Jesus Christ is why we celebrate Christmas. The point is not Santa Claus, Frosty, Rudolph but rather a Savior who is Christ the Lord. The angel declared this as “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). The good news is Christ. “For unto you is born this day” the Savior Jesus Christ.

As the song says “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and so it is. Good news of great joy has been sent from the glories of heaven to ransom sinners. Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, has been given to us. Christ is the greatest gift. Why? Because he is the Savior who “will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Did you hear that good news? Jesus will save his people from their sins. The Father sent Jesus, as a gift, to claim his children. He promises them salvation through his Son. Jesus’ coming has everything to do with good news.

Many people want to say God the Father is cruel for sending his Son to die for sinners but they fail to see the truth that Christ willingly came as well. I must confess that I don’t fully grasp this reality but by faith I believe it is true because it is in God’s holy word. In Philippians 2 we read, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (5-8). Christ did not count his equality with God a thing to be grasped but willingly made himself nothing. He came down from the glories of heaven to take the form of lowly man. “For unto you is born this day” a humble yet mighty Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me. He didn’t have to come but he did come. The Father did not have to send him but he did send him. God knew the price that had to be paid for sin. Death awaited this little baby born in Bethlehem. The reason Christ had to die was so God might be just and the justifier of those who put their faith in Jesus. Without the birth there is no cross. Without the cross there is no forgiveness of sin. Without forgiveness of sin we all get what we deserve which is hell. But Jesus did come, he did die, he did rise on third day and now he is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on behalf of sinners. What marvelous grace we received the day Christ was born. Our response to this truth ought to be the same as the angel and the multitude of heavenly host at Christ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Remember the words, “For unto you is born this day” a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What is Christmas All About?

Enjoy this video about Christmas:


Merry Christmas Eve!!
Check back tomorrow for a special Christmas Day Text Treasure.

Congratulation to Jonathan Bean on winning the drawing for a free copy of A Gospel Primer.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Born Tonight

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He humbly left the glories of heaven to become a lowly servant and die. But from Mary and Joseph's perspective can you imagine? Born with no one around in a barn. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords born in a barn. Once he was born I am sure Mary and Joseph were excited more than anything else. I can remember being in the delivery room so excited to see Emma for the first time. Mary and Joseph had not only given birth to a child but the Messiah.

This year at our churches Christmas concert our worship pastor, Todd Murray, played a song he had written last year and one of the lines just hit me like a ton of brick. The song is called Born Tonight (I will post the lyrics in their entirety below) and here is the line that struck me: Speaking about Mary, "And touch those tiny hands that one day will be crucified." It's hard for me to think about holding Emma's little hands knowing the reality that one day they would be nailed to a cross for my sin but that is exactly what took place with Mary. The thought is mind-blowing.

Born Tonight

Mary, wonder that the angel called you favored one
And now every generation calls you blessed,
In a filthy stable give birth to God's only Son
For there was no place to lay your head to rest
And touch those tiny hands that one day will be crucified
For He was born to die to break sin's chains.
Hold within your trembling arms the world's eternal Light
For the Savior of the world is born tonight.

Joseph, do not fear to take young Mary as your wife
For the Lord conceived the Child she holds within.
And you shall name the baby Jesus when He's bro't to life
For He comes to save His people from their sin.
And you shall call His name Emmanuel, God here with us,
God's come to dwell with us in human form.
Kiss the holy face where God and man as one unite,
For the Savior of the world is born tonight.

Angels, bring your good news of great joy to all the earth
That a Savior who is Christ the Lord is born.
And declare the sign that points men to the holy birth
A child wrapped within a manger so forlorn.
Lift your praise to God, whose glory reaches highest heav'n,
For He is pleased with men to reconcile
As you fill the heavens let your wings and words take flight
For the Savior of the world is born tonight

And Shepherds, leave behind you all your flocks out in the field
Where the glory of the Lord is shining bright.
And go and see this wondrous thing the Lord Himself revealed
With a multitude of angels on this night.
And hurry, find your way to Mary, Joseph, and the Babe
Within a manger laid in Bethlehem.
Gaze in wonder at this glorious, unexpected sight
For the Savior of the world is born tonight.

Hurry, find your way to Mary, Joseph, and the Babe
Within a manger laid in Bethlehem.
Gaze in wonder at this glorious, unexpected sight
The Savior of the world is born tonight.
For the Savior of the world is born tonight.
Yes, the Savior of the world is born tonight. (Todd Murray)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Are we there yet?

As we look to Christmas day on Friday to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, lets remember that Christ came to bring life to the dead. What that means is Christ redeemed a people set apart to live eternally with him. He graciously forgives the repentant of their sins thus imputing his righteousness to them so they may be presented blameless before the Father. May we long for that day when we meet our Savior face to face. Noel Due got me really excited about this when he wrote:

"In this new creation, all of the impurities of false worship will be done away, and the whole of the heavens and the earth will be led in praise to God by the great King-Priest, Jesus Christ. With him will be a multitude beyond human reckoning, in whose lives and relationships the image of the Son will be fully seen. Conformed to his image, they will be true worshipers of God, from whose hearts all idolatry will have been cleansed, and in whose minds and wills they find only love, empowering them to fulfil all the commandments of God with a willing spirit and perfect obedience. The glories of this age to come, though not understood at all by the spirit of this age, are communicated to believers through the ministry of God's own Spirit, so that the people of God are filled with hope for the coming kingdom, and live by faith through the sufferings and trials of the current age in which the idols, and the demonic powers behind them, still make their impact." (Created for Worship, 237)

Paul says similarly, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). Suffering and trials in this life compared to an eternity of perfect worship, love and obedience to Christ is no comparison. Christ humbly came to die so sinners (me and you) could gain this eternal reward through faith in him.

With Christmas in mind I would like to give away a Christmas gift to a reader of this blog. Whether you read on the blog or via email you are welcome to enter. All you need to do to enter is email me at jrldailythoughts@yahoo.com. The deadline is Wednesday at noon. The winner will be announced on Thursday and will receive a copy of A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 21, 2009

Speak of Christ

If you enjoy reading great quotations please go subscribe to J.C. Ryle Quotes. J.C. Ryle gives great insight to many different topics found in Scripture. Here J.C. is encouraging believers to tell others about Christ:

“Do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying – tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love; tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings.

“Tell them what He has done for the chief of sinners; tell them what He is willing to do until the last day of time; tell it to them over and over again. Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ, as the penitent thief did; come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.’” (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 18, 2009

Of Whom I am Chief


“Of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15)

May I be so bold to say I believe this is the most essential verse in all of Scripture on the topic of evangelism. So many aspects are packed into this one little phrase that we could write many posts speaking of its significance but let me briefly tell you why I believe this verse is so essential to the spread of the gospel. The gospel is the work of God unto salvation for sinners “of whom I am chief.”

Not one person unless set apart by God’s grace would affirm this status. We love ourselves way too much to confess that we are the chief of sinners. In our hard hearted state we viewed life through me-centered lenses. As we would commit sinful acts we would justify them by defining ourselves as predominantly good people. The truth about humanity squashes this notion that we are ultimately good people. Because of Adam in Genesis 3 our status is guilty before God. We are born sinners. If you polled a group of people I believe most, if not all, would admit that they are not perfect but they would also say they are good people. Here is the danger: Good is not good enough nor will it ever be good enough. The world considers this a foolish notion because they can always find another person who acts worse than them. They see through shallow eyes that give no evaluation of the heart, mind and motives of people. An unbelieving soul would never claim the status of sinner “of whom I am chief.”

The gospel is also presented in this little phrase. Claiming to be the chief of sinners is not a self-esteem booster. A man sinfully could make this claim to invite self-pity from others but true humility would not be found in his life. A humble man truly affirms this claim without having to announce it in the streets. His life is a reflection of the reality. This phrase comes from Paul’s testimony about the transforming power of the gospel: “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:12-15). When I’ve read this text in the past I’ve often thought how horrific Paul’s life was before Christ but that is pride welling up inside of me. Reading this text ought to remind me of my own life before Christ. I too acted ignorantly in unbelief but praise God for his great grace that saved a wretch like me.

This is why I believe understanding my title as “The chief of sinners” is the greatest verse on evangelism. This title wipes away every judgemental thought and notion about others. Pridefully I see the lives of many people and think “There is no hope for them.” Sadly, my pride has a hold of me at that moment and the gospel is lost. My mind needs to be refreshed of my life before Christ (Ps. 51:3). My heart needs to be reminded of the gospel that saved me (1 Cor. 15:3-4). My eyes need to gaze upon my Savior’s bloody body that was crucified for my sins (2 Cor. 5:21). When my mind, heart and eyes are fixed upon these realities humility will produce itself in my life. Saying I’m “The chief of sinners” will mean nothing if I’m still cold-hearted toward a dying world. This reality is what will cause every Christian to go forth and make disciples in the name of Christ (Matt. 28:19). Then when we see Christ working in the lives of other sinners we can praise him as Paul did: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Be like Dew

"They will be like dew sent by the Lord." Micah 5:7

"Is there not in this simile, a suggestion as to the way we should seek to do good in this world? Should we not wish to have our influence felt-while no one thinks of us; rather than that we should be seen and heard and praised? Should we not be willing to lose ourselves in the service of self-forgetful love, as the dew loses itself in the bosom of the rose-caring only that other lives shall be sweeter, happier, and holier-and not that honor shall come to us? We are too anxious, some of us, that our names shall be written in large letters on the things we do, even on what we do for our Master; and are not willing to sink ourselves out of sight--and let Him alone have the praise.

Our Lord's teaching on the subject is very plain. He says: 'Be careful not to do your "acts of righteousness" before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.' That is, they have that which they seek-the applause of men.

Are we content to have our lives poured out like the dew-to bless the world and make it more fruitful-and yet remain hidden away ourselves? Is it enough for us to see the fruits of our toil and sacrifice-in others' spiritual growth, and deeper happiness; yet never hear our names spoken in praise or honor-perhaps even hearing others praised for things we have done?

If you go about doing good in simple ways, in gentle kindnesses, not thinking of reward, not dreaming of praise, not hoping for any return-you are enshrining your name where it will have immortal honor! Our lesson teaches us that this is the way we are to live-if we are followers of Christ!" (J.R. Miller, "The Beauty of Quietness" provide by Grace Gems)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Problems with people who don't believe in God"

On Monday I read an article on Foxnews.com titled Critics Say Atheist N.C. City Councilman Unworthy of Seat. The article talks about the North Carolina constitution's statement that officeholders are to be disqualified "who deny the being of Almighty God." Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell has been getting a lot of attention from the fellow congressmen in the state who do not want him in office. Why? Because he is an atheist. In the article one comment caught my eye over the others. H.K. Edgerton is a "foe" who is "threatening to file a lawsuit in state court against the city to challenge Bothwell's appointment." Mr. Edgerton says:

"My father was a Baptist minister. I'm a Christian man. I have problems with people who don't believe in God."

Edgerton makes the declaration that he is a "Christian man" yet has "problems with people who don't believe in God." I wonder if Mr. Edgerton has step foot outside his little bubble lately. I understand having a problem with breaking the constitution but against people who don't believe in God? Really? Didn't Jesus warn us saying, "“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). This was all of us before Christ's saving work in our lives. Mr. Edgerton would have admit he had problems with himself before Christ saved him. Once we realize God's grace in our own life our response ought to be love for those who hate Christ because Christ loved those who hated him. "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Christ's love is radical: "Love your enemies" (Matt. 5:44). Loving our friends is easy but loving those we have problems with is hard. Nonetheless Jesus commands us to do such.

I hope all of us can learn from this statement. We shouldn't have problems with people who don't believe in God rather we should show them the love of Christ and share the gospel with them. If you think they are beyond saving then you truly do not understand the power of the gospel. No one is out of reach from God's saving hand. We all need this reminder.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The American Time-Waster

On Friday night I was reading more of Don't Waste your Life by John Piper. Then on Saturday morning I opened up my Bible to Proverbs 12 to read through the chapter. Verse 11 of Proverbs 12 was a great tie into what Dr. Piper had written at the end of chapter 7 in Don't Waste your Life. Piper is encouraging Christian throughout the book not to waste their lives on the trivial pursuits of the American dream. Here is a look at Proverbs and Piper:

"He who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense." (Proverbs 12:11)

"Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age...The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, thought that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV dimishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels." (John Piper, Don't Waste your Life, 120)

Piper goes on to quote Neil Postman who makes this very interesting comment:

"As a result [of watching so much TV], America is the world's first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death."

I hated readed this section of Piper's book because I know there I times I watch excessive TV and I know Piper is right. TV is a "worthless pursuit." May we, as Christians, spend less time with the TV (internet, video games, etc.) so we can greater pursue knowing who God is and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Don't waste your life.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 14, 2009

Case of the Monday's? Think upon the gospel!

It's only appropriate to start the week with yet another reminder of the gospel's essential role in the life of believers. In an issue of Commit, Justin Buzzard asks D.A. Carson, "In a paragraph, what does it mean to be gospel-centered in one's Christian life?" Great question and D.A. gives a great response that ought to encourage us to mediatate on the gospel daily.

"Some think of the gospel as so slender it does nothing more than get us into the kingdom. After that the real work of transformation begins. But a biblically-faithful understanding of the gospel shows that gospel to be rich, powerful, the wisdom of God and the power of God, all we need in Christ. It is the gospel that saves us, transforms us, conforms us to Christ, prepares us for the new heaven and the new earth, establishes our relations with fellow-believers, teaches us how to work and serve so as to bring glory to God, calls forth and edifies the church, and so forth. This gospel saves — and 'salvation' means more than just 'getting in,' but transformed wholeness. It would be easy to write many pages on how a gospel-centered ness affects all of life, but one must begin with a full-orbed understanding of what the gospel is and does."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bread eaten in secret is pleasant


“Bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Proverbs 9:17)

Have you listened to woman Folly lately? Maybe you have been listening for a long time now. She is a dangerously crafty woman seeking someone to swallow up in her deceit. She promises one thing but actually her path leads to another. Woman Folly promises “bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
The line is dropped in the water and fish swim around it not knowing that when they take the bait they will be snatched out of the water for good. They have a home under the water but the bait looked too good to resist. Ever happen to you? As Christians we need to resist the bait thrown out by woman Folly. We also have a home prepared for us in heaven but many times we take the bait of the world. The Apostle John warns us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Why? “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” With a big flashing sign John is pleading: RESIST THE WORLD’S BAIT! He says about woman Folly: “The world is passing away along with its desires” (1 John 2:15-17). These are desires of the flesh that lure us into sin. As Christians we need to war against these desires and by the Holy Spirit kill them.

Another problem with woman Folly is her lie that the bread is eaten in secret. We tend to think we can do things or commit sin in secret where no one will see what is going on. We are deceived! God is omniscient. We will give an account to the great Judge in the end. “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). Woman Folly is selling a lie! Maybe “bread eaten in secret is pleasant” for the moment but we were not created to be satisfied moment by moment. We were created to be satisfied for eternity. An account will be given for the bread eaten in secret.

Fear the Lord for this is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). Those who hate knowledge do not choose to fear the Lord (Prov. 1:29). Lady Wisdom prolongs life (Prov. 10:27) but woman Folly leads to destruction. Woman Folly is loud and knows nothing (9:13). She sits down in the streets by the high places of the town and calls out to those who pass by (9:14). She calls out to the simple saying, “let him turn in here” (9:16)! She is heard by the ones who lack sense when she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (9:16-17). It all sounds good “but he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (9:18). Here is the reward for taking the bait: eternal destruction.

I’m pleading with you to beware of woman Folly. She lingers in the streets of this world with bait that sparkles beautifully before our fleshly eyes. We must cling to the cross approaching the throne of grace for strength and mercy to resist woman Folly. God has given us his Spirit to fight and kill sin (Rom. 8:12-13). Fight with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, where lady Wisdom is crying out, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life” (Prov. 14:27).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Reason for the Hope that is in you

On Monday night I was enjoying my Packers playing on Monday Night Football and winning 17-0 at the half. During halftime I picked up Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper (This is why Piper was quoted earlier in the week as well). In his chapter Living to Prove He is more Precious than Life, Piper asks: "When was the last time someone asked you about 'the reason for the hope that is in you?'"

I sat staring at the question wondering when the last time that occurred. Sadly I couldn't recall the last time that had taken place. I know I love Christ but does my life reflect that reality? I'm more prone to talk about the Packers or the news or work but where are my words and actions reflecting Christ? I sat humbled on the couch by my lack of love for Christ. Piper went on:

"That's what Peter said we should always be ready to give an answer for: 'Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you' (1 Peter 3:15).
Why don't people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do. Our lives don't look like they are on the Calvary road, stripped down for sacrificial love, serving others with the sweet assurance that we don't need to be rewarded in this life. Our reward is great in heaven (Matthew 5:12)! 'You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just' (Luke 14:14). If we believed this more deeply, others might see the worth of God and find in him their gladness." (John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life, 108-109)

May God be gracious to us to allow us to live a life reflecting him as our all-satisfying treasure.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are you tired of hearing the gospel?

I hope the answer to that question is a resounding NO!!

We ought to never tire of hearing the good news of Jesus Christ sent to save sinners. This good news should be preached to us daily. Whether through God's word, song, prayer, sermons or other resources we need to have the gospel feed to our hearts and minds constantly. The flesh is constantly wanting our attention and affections but the gospel is how we fight the battle against the flesh. Here is a resource to help all of us out:

"Reminding ourselves of the Gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish. If the Gospel is the more vital news in the world, and if salvation by grace is the defining truth of our existence, we should create ways to immerse ourselves in these truths every day. No days off allowed...Your audience is your own heart. And the message is simple: Christ died for your sins." (C.J. Mahaney, Living the Cross-Centered Life)

Resource provide by Cross Pointe Church.
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are you a forgiving person?

John Piper helps us see why Christians ought to be forgiving people. Forgiveness is not easy but it is glorifying to God and will bring us joy in God. Piper says,

"Our impulse for being forgiving people is the joy we have in a forgiving God. Not just in being forgiven, but in being given joy in God by being forgiven. If we do not see this and experience this, we will probably turn God-centered motives into a kind of benevolence that tries to do good for man without knowing what the greatest good really is - namely, all-satisfying pleasure in God. But if we experience forgiveness as the free and undeserved gift of joy in God, then we will be carried by this joy, with love, into a world of sin and suffering. Our aim there will be that others, through Jesus Christ, will find forgiveness and everlasting joy in God." (Don't Waste Your Life, 101)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 7, 2009

No other name but Christ

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'" (Acts 4:8-12)



Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 4, 2009

He who Confesses and Forsakes them will Obtain Mercy


“He who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13)

Do you want good news in a time when things seem to be going all wrong in this world? Here is the good news that never changes: “He who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” This is a clear promise from God’s word that those who confess and repent of sin will be shown mercy. Greater than earthly prosper is the reality that when we confess and forsake sin the God of the universe shows us mercy.

Transgressors ought to be put away from the One they transgress against. In this case the transgressions have been committed against a holy and just God. God would cease to be God if he were not just. Since God is eternal then the punishment for the crime committed is eternal. A just God has the right to punish the unjust eternally. God has every right, according to Scripture, to damn sinners to hell because of sin. Who has sinned? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) therefore all of us are unjust and deserve to be punished eternally.

The ESV uses the word “obtain” which means we “come into possession of” (Dictionary.com) mercy. Is it possible for sinners to possess mercy? We just saw sinners deserve to be punished for all eternity for offending a holy God but here we read if we confess and forsake sin we will obtain mercy. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Doesn’t this make God unjust? It would if sin had not been paid for. The price was the greatest price ever paid for a debt that could never be made up by sinners. God had to send his Son to die in our place. Through the death of Jesus sinners are justified and God is still just. The Father crushed his Son so we could be pardoned from our sin. This is God’s mercy to sinners. God is still just because Christ made propitiation by his blood so the Father “might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). This is amazing! “He who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” because of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross.

Possession of his mercy is given from God. We do not take it because in our sinful state we do not want it but God kindly bestows mercy to us as sinners. We deserve eternal punishment yet in love, mercy, grace the Father gives us eternal life with him. Mercy includes forgiveness of sins, imputed righteousness of Christ and eternity in heaven with God. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)! This is our only response when our eyes are open to the reality of our sin against God. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He loved us by nailing his Son to the cross so we could obtain mercy from the Father. With those new eyes we can humbly confess our sinful state and ask for God’s grace to help us forsake sin.

Christian, meditate upon these words. Let them sink in deep. If you have obtained this mercy praise God for this great gift. Your sin has been paid for at Calvary and now your righteousness is not your own but Christ’s. When we confess and repent of sin, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Father gazes down and delights to see his children covered in his Son’s perfect righteousness. If you are not a Christian the first half of this verse applies to you, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper.” Sure you may prosper now in the eyes of the world but your soul is eternal and you will give an account to your Creator on the day of judgment. Stop concealing your sin, humble yourself and listen to God’s promise: “He who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Even Complaining?

Do you struggle with complaining? Here is a sin that I overlook often. Sadly it has become one of those sins that I can throw into a lesser category or as Jerry Bridge's calls them "Respectable Sins" but when we are speaking about sin against a holy God we must not minimize any sin. Complaining is horrific to a perfect God. The Bible is clears that we are to "do everything without complaining" (Phil. 2:14). Everything in this text is not a typo. All things are to be done without complaining. Why? J.R. Miller helps us out:

"Does God really hear every discontented word which I ever speak?

Does He hear when I grumble about the weather . . .
about the hard winter,
about the late spring,
about the dry summer,
about the wet harvest?

Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about the frosts,
about the drought,
about the high winds,
about the storms?

Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about my circumstances,
about the hardness of my lot,
about my losses and disappointments?

If we could get into our heart, and keep there continually, the consciousness that God hears every word we speak--would we murmur and complain so much as we now do?

We are careful never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love. Are we as careful not to say anything that will grieve our heavenly Father?"
(Miller's Year Book from Grace Gems)

May we guard our hearts from the subtly of sin. If we are not constantly praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal sin in our lives we will overlook such sins. All sin grieves God so we must be vigilant in the fight.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boasting in the Cross

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the worlda' (Gal. 6:14).

Paul had plenty of reason to boast (Phil. 3:4-6) in the eyes of man, but he says here that his only boast is in the cross. The cross has transformed every aspect of his life. Once lost now found. Once blind but now seeing. Once hard-hearted but given a new heart of flesh. Once a slave to sin now a slave of righteousness. Once dead now alive. Once living for self glory now living for God’s glory. We have no reason to boast but in the cross.

On this text John Calvin writes, “Paul says that if all our glorifying is in Jesus Christ, knowing that by means of his cross he has committed us to God the Father, and has secured the kingdom of heaven for us, then it will be easy for us to withdraw from the world and cut ourselves off from it, as it were. Why? Whoever has been cut to the quick and overwhelmed with a sense of their own sin will surely seek the grace offered to him in Jesus Christ, and the world will be worth nothing to him.”

In song form it’s simple: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus and the things of this world will grow strangely dim.”

Calvin leaves us with this thought: “Now let us fall down before the majesty of our great God, acknowledging our sins, and praying that they would so grieve us that we would be made to tremble and seek his pardon. Then we will be transformed through true repentance and enabled to battle against all our vices and all the corruptions of our flesh, until he has freed us from them altogether; then he will clothe us in his righteousness.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Forsaken

"And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:33-34)

This is the moment the full cup of God’s wrath was poured out on his Son. This is the cup Jesus asked his Father to let pass if it was possible but the Father was silent. Jesus ultimately submitted to his Father’s will obeying to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:8) to bear our wrath. This cup was not his but ours. Beaten and bruised, mocked, spit upon, crucified and forsaken for me. This is the saving joy that brought us peace but the horror of our sin. James Montgomery Boice says, “The good news is that sin has been dealt with; that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, so that we might never have to suffer it; and that therefore all who believe in him can look forward to heaven.” At the cross sin is paid for, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and an eternity with Christ is our reward.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 30, 2009

Joyfully Horrific

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14).

The reality of the cross should be so joyfully horrific that our only response ought to be passionate praise and affections for Christ. Joyful in the sense Christ fulfilled his perfect obedience through death on a cross and horrific because it was our sin that put him on the cross. “In my place condemned he stood.” “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5). He was crushed so we might have peace. What kind of peace? “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Peace came at a serious price.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 27, 2009

Confess your Sins to One Another


"Confess your sins to one another" (James 5:16)

When I read this verse I often wonder why it is so difficult for me to confess my sins to others. The Bible is clear that confessing to one another, as believers, is for our good and benefit. James goes on to encourage us as believer to confess our sins to each other and pray for one another. Why? So we might be healed. Confession brings about healing in the body of Christ. The reason I am so resistant in confessing my sin to other believers is the pride that exist in my wicked heart. What can kill my pride? The gospel. Milton Vincent helps us in his chapter Exposed by the Cross, Part II from A Gospel Primer:

"The Cross also exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha's hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide.

Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about ongoing issues of sin in my life. (Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?) And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers. Experiencing richer levels of Christ's love in companionship with such saints, I give thanks for the gospel's role in forcing my hand toward self-disclosure and freedom that follows."

May we constantly crush the pride of thinking we are better then we actually are. The cross speaks volumes about our wicked hearts. While we ought to grieve our sin and be ashamed of our sin we can gaze upon the cross and not be surprised by our wickedness while rejoicing in the our forgiveness. Once we gaze upon the cross our pride will be turn to humility. Once we humbly acknowledge our sin may we heed the words of Scripture to "confess your sins to one another" so we may be healed.
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Heart is Filled

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With power upon my heart

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside
Who floods my weaknesses and strengths
And causes fear to fly
Whose every promise is enough
For every step I take
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who reigns above;
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace;
Whose every thought is love.
For every day I have on earth
Is given by the King.
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow Him. (Getty & Townend)

Happy Thanksgiving

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sin is Serious (Part 3)

On Monday we looked at Jesus speaking about how we ought to take sin seriously. He commands us to cut sin off no matter the cost. Then on Tuesday John Owen gave us 9 practical ways to put to death the deeds of the body (flesh) by the Spirit. Today I want to look at why sin keeps us from seeking Christ most abundantly.

Sadly there are times as Christians we pursue sin going against our God-given conscience and more importantly God's authoritative word. When this occurs our focus has shifted off of Christ to pursue our sinful desires. Our hearts have been deceived to "enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin" instead of trusting God's promise that in his presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). As Christians, God promises that "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

As Christians we must find our satisfaction in Christ and in Christ alone. It is true that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick" so we are unable to understand it (Jeremiah 17:9). We must never pridefully think our hearts have arrived at a place where sin no longer takes place. Can you imagine? This is why we long for the day when we pass from this place to eternal glory with our Savior. No more pain, sorrow, crying or sin when we get to Paradise. But while here on earth we must wage war against our sinful flesh that tries to steal our desires and affections. We can identify with the psalmist when he says, "My flesh and my heart may fail." Praise God he does not leave us there but goes on to say, "But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:26). God is the strength of our heart and he is our portion forever but when we do not confess our sin this truth is hindered. Suddenly we are not seeking Christ but trying to satisfy our flesh with objects that do not ultimately satisfy. J.C. Ryle says it this way:

"What is the reason that men are so half-hearted in seeking Christ? Why are they so soon deterred, and checked, and discouraged in drawing near to God? The answer is short and simple. They do not feel sufficiently their own sins. They are not thoroughly convinced of the plague of their own hearts, and the disease of their own souls. Once let a man see his own guilt, as it really is, and he will never rest till he has found pardon and peace in Christ"

May we pursue Christ with clean hands and a pure heart desiring nothing else on this earth beside him. How? Gaze upon the cross. Praise God for the sacrifice of his Son on your behalf. He paid the price for sin. Your sin. My sin. On Thanksgiving praise God for the blessings he has bestowed on you through the cross.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sin is Serious (Part 2)

John Owen gives us nine ways to mortify sin our lives by the Spirit. These are taken from his book Of The Mortification of Sin in Believers:


1. Consider whether the sin you are contending with has any dangerous symptoms attending it.
2. Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of that sin.
3. Load your conscience with the guilt of it.
4. Get a constant longing for deliverance from the power of it.
5. Consider whether the sin is rooted in your nature and exacerbated by your temperament.
6. Consider what occasions and advantages your sin has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.
7. Rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your sin.
8. Meditate in such a way that you are filled at all times with self-abasement and throughts of your own vileness.
9. Listen to what God says to your soul and do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks it, but hearken what he says to your soul.
(John Owen as quoted by Justin Taylor in Overcoming Sin & Temptation)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sin is Serious (Part 1)

How seriously should we take sin in our lives? Jesus is clear, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30). Jesus is clearly not speaking about the actual act of gouging an eye out or cutting an arm off but rather wants to give us a graphic picture of how we ought to deal with sin. Paul helps us in Romans 8 when he says, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (13).

Living according to the flesh (sinful nature) equals death but by the Spirit Christians are able to kill sin and live!! Tomorrow I will share nine practical ways from John Owen on how to mortify sin in your life.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Gift of God


“The gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

Today it is my honor to make my 400th post on this blog. I consider it a great honor to use the internet as a tool to spread the fame of Jesus Christ. I hope everyone has been encouraged, convicted and challenged by God’s word as I have. Today I wanted to speak about salvation which is “the gift of God.”

How does a person earn salvation?

This is the question I posed to each reader to which many of you responded with this verse out of Ephesians 2: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (8-9). What a great summary of Christ’s work in a life that bring about salvation. His grace. His faith. His gift. His work. We can only boast in the cross of Christ.

Here are some of things mentioned by you, the readers:

“I’ve been mulling your question around in my head for a few days now. My conclusion is that there is no way you can EARN salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8-9
In order to RECEIVE salvation you have to ACCEPT this gift, acknowledging that you are a sinner and that Jesus died to save you.”

“Salvation is a free gift given through faith in Christ. If it can be said that anyone has earned salvation it would be Christ. He lived a perfect life according to the law and was sacrificed in order to earn salvation for the world.”

“Earning isn't really an option for salvation. God wants us to work out our salvation, let our good works shine before men, be doers of the word, etc.; but these things are merely explaining the response that should be natural when we realize what has been done on our behalf.
The means God uses to impart the grace of salvation is faith in the work of Jesus Christ. I can't speak for all Christians but I know that I don't have in myself the kind of perfect faith that never doubts. I know that even the faith that I have is a gift from God.
So, earning-no. Falling down on your knees, coming to the end of yourself, and asking Christ to save you from your sin and grant you faith to believe- yes.”

“We are not worthy and it is only through God's grace and mercy that we are saved through Christ's death and resurrection. Titus 3:5-6 "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior." Christ paid the price - paid in full! To God be the Glory!”

“No one can earn salvation, Jesus earned it for us. We must accept the gift of salvation.”

“That's a trick question. No one earns salvation.”

I think most of you understand salvation is “the gift of God.” He justifies and regenerates us by his grace. God saves us (Titus 3:5) then by the work of the Holy Spirit our wants, desires, affections and whole life change from seeking to please self to bringing glory to our great Savior. Milton Vincent says, “God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness. The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day. We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do" (A Gospel Primer).

Christian, I hope you rehearse the gospel daily. I hope you write it down, read it, sing it and pray it so that it may impact all of your life. “The gift of God” truly is the gift the keeps on giving. If you haven’t received this gift of salvation ask God to give you the faith to receive the gift. Humbly confess that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior of those who repent and believe. “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” (Romans 10:9). God’s promise to those who repent and believe is “the gift of God.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Justification & Regeneration

To get us ready for tomorrow's Text Treasure on the "The gift of God" we will look at the words of J.C. Ryle on Conversion. Tomorrow will also be the day we look at some of the responses from you, the reader, on how we can earn salvation. Thanks to all who faithfully read this blog and responded to the question to help out with tomorrow's post.

"“It ought always to be remembered that there are two distinct things which the Lord Jesus Christ does for every sinner whom He undertakes to save. He washes him from his sins in His own blood, and gives him a free pardon: this his justification. He puts the Holy Spirit into his heart, and makes him an entirely new man: this is his regeneration.

The two things are both absolutely necessary to salvation. The change of heart is as necessary as the pardon; and the pardon is as necessary as the change. Without the pardon we have no right or title to heaven. Without the change we should not be ready to enjoy heaven, even if we got there.” (J.C. Ryle)

Come back tomorrow as we look at "The gift of God" from Ephesians 2:8.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Calvary's Anthem

Heavenly Father,
Thou hast led me singing to the cross
where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,
where my mountains of guilt are levelled to a plain,
where my sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist,
and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary
to destroy sins more than can be counted
even by one from the choir of heaven.
Thou hast given me a hill-side spring
that washes clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters,
bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.
At the cross there is free forgiveness for poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last for ever;
The blood of the Lamb is like a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness
as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, for ever will thy free forgiveness live
that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain
it is a subject for praise in every place
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven,
its love and virtue knowing no end.
I have a longing for the world above
where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love the dust of earth.
Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor,
I shall go on singing Calvary's anthem.
May I always know
that a clean heart full of goodness
is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary. (The Valley of Vision, Calvary's Anthem)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Go to the Ant

Lance Quinn gives great practical councel from the Proverbs on how to refrain from being a sluggard. Here is his article posted on Grace to You titled "Work Hard and Don't be Lazy":

Here are twenty practical principles from Proverbs to motivate you to work hard and avoid laziness. As you read through these principles, see if you can find the origin of each principle in the book of Proverbs. If you’re having trouble finding them, click here to read the article with the references listed.

1. Remember, working hard is first a mindset (and so is laziness).

2. Working hard and staying on task is a matter of self-control.

3. Get up early. Try to stand up right when the alarm clock goes off.

4. Do hard jobs first and easier jobs second; then you can have fun.

5. Love what you do as a vocation, regardless of what it is. Ask God to grant His blessing and favor in your work (cf. the account of Joseph in Genesis 39).

6. Don’t try to make money by deceit or fraud. If you do, God will punish you, sooner or later.

7. Be honest with your employer about how much you work. If you’re lazily collecting a paycheck, that’s stealing.

8. Don’t work so much, however, that you need to re-introduce yourself to your family. Strive for a healthy balance between your work and your family life.

9. If you travel too much (according to your wife’s/family’s honest, loving assessment), seek to curb your travel, if possible. Perhaps another position would provide greater harmony in your home.

10. If your wife is regularly wondering how the bills are going to be paid, and you’re not taking initiative to lead, confess your failure in leadership and take control of your family finances.

11. Treat your work (house cleaning, school work, or whatever it is) as though you will reap a harvest from your labors.

12. Don’t work only in order to receive. Rather, find satisfaction in simply doing good work for God and men.

13. Lazy people often assume that others owe them a handout (whether they’ve worked hard or not). Don’t fall into an entitlement mentality.

14. When you are asked to serve in some way, don’t attempt to take the path of least resistance (because of laziness).

15. Consider how much more would be accomplished for the kingdom of Christ if you worked as hard in ministry as you do for a paycheck.

16. Consider how your employer would evaluate you if his assessment were based on your work ethic in ministry. (Would you be fired?)

17. If you are a lazy person, or if you tend toward laziness in certain areas of your life, confess your sin to God. Whether at home, at work, or in ministry, admit to God that you haven’t been working as hard as you should (He knows already)HeH, and ask Him to cleanse you from sin.

18. Abandoning laziness and growing in diligence means you must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Here are some practical steps you can take:

a. Ask the Spirit to make you a hard worker for God.
b. Read, re-read, and even memorize the proverbs that pertain to both laziness and work.
c. Trust God to overcome any bad habits you’ve developed regarding work and diligence.
d. When you are tempted to be lazy, seek the Spirit’s help in prayer and remind yourself what the Word of God teaches.

19. Show how the Proverbs on diligence and laziness are important by reading them to your family and then applying the biblical principles. Discuss with your family how you can hold one another accountable to be diligent workers for God and men.

20. Ask God to give you opportunities to become a hard worker, and then look for Him to answer in every realm of your life (home, work, school, ministry, etc.).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 16, 2009

If we always remember Christ

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"Do this in remembrance of Me." 1 Corinthians 11:25

"The secret of all the noble heroisms of the Church, has been passionate love for Jesus!

The Lord's Supper was intended to keep Christ always vividly in remembrance. We are to think of Him, when we have the sacred memorials of His love in our hands, reminding us of what He did to redeem us. But we are to think of Him just as devoutly, when we are away from the sacred table--in the midst of worldly tasks and circumstances.

If we always remember Christ, it will keep us faithful in our loyalty--as true to Him out on the streets, and when we are tempted and tried--as when we are at His feet in prayer.

Remembering Christ, will transform us into His likeness. Our thoughts are the builders, which rear the temple of our character. If we think of unclean things-our lives will become unclean. If we think of earthly things-we will grow earthly. If we think of Christ, if thoughts of Him are in our mind and heart continually, we will be changed, moment by moment, into His beauty!

The highest attainment in Christian life-is to always remember Christ, never to forget Him, to keep His blessed face ever before us. Then we shall never lose His peace out of our hearts. Then we shall never fail Him in any duty or struggle. Then we shall never be lonely, for remembering Christ will keep us ever conscious of His gracious presence." (J.R. Miller, "The Life of Jesus")

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 13, 2009

Without the Shedding of Blood there is no Forgiveness of Sins


“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22)

The cross is at the center of human history. The cross was never intended to be a beautiful piece of jewelry or a common tattoo or a decoration in a house but rather a gruesome way to die. There is no other form of execution as gruesome as crucifixion. Sadly our culture has tamed down the death our Savior died in our place. The cross was horrific but Jesus willingly went in love knowing “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Have you pondered the cross? Have you pondered the blood that cleanses us from all unrighteousness? Have you considered the price that was paid for sin? Sin is serious. This isn’t some small problem we have but sin consumes us. We do not just sin but we are sinners. By nature we are inclined to sin. The significance of Jesus’ life and death ought to make us see our sinful souls that rebel against his holy law. There is only one solution to our problem: the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross is our hope to have access to Father. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). We do not have an issue with doing wrong every now and then but we are sinners and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Too many people are not hearing the gospel. They want to work to pay the wages of sin instead of submitting to Christ. They try to cover sin up by works instead of the trusting in the cleansing blood of Christ. It’s like a leaky faucet. At work we have a leaky faucet in our upstairs bathroom that continually drips. Now the solution is not to tie a paper towel around the spigot because the dripping will just continue. Rather the solution is to find the problem then fix the faucet to stop the dripping for good. Like all analogies this one is not perfect but the point is we cannot cover up our sin with external works of our own righteousness because sin is not removed for good. Only trusting in the finished work of Christ can remove sin for good. Christ is the permanent solution to sin. He is the only solution for our problem. Don’t try to cover the problem with filthy rags but trust in the blood that makes a heart as white as snow. Christ's blood was shed so we could be forgiven because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Before I end let me clarify a statement I made above speaking of sin being removed for good. Please do not hear me say we are perfect once we are redeemed. To some degree that is true but to the degree that we will never sin while here on earth it is not true. What I mean by sin being removed is once we are clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness then the Father looks down on us and does not see us but sees us covered in his perfect Son’s righteousness. We will still sin but the Father looks upon us as if he is seeing his Son, Jesus Christ. Praise God for the shedding of his blood that cleanses us from all sin and covers us in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
"Oh, precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus"

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All our heart, soul, mind and strength

Five friends of mine started a new blog called Grace and Peace. If you enjoy reading blogs with good material about Christ I would highly recommend you follow Grace and Peace. Yesterday was a post on loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Here are Jon Danforth's words:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
-Mark 12:30

So much could be said concerning this verse and others like it; but a simple question is this: do I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Is my desire that everything I do be done in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:12)? This ties in closely with 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.

As children of God, we are a people who have been redeemed. We are not our own, for we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our hearts are now God’s. Our souls now belong to the Lord. Our minds are now His possession. Our strength is now for His purposes. All of who we are is now to be used by our Maker for His glory.

We are to present all of our desires, affections, imagination, and might in love to the One who has loved us from eternity past. Our worship is to submit all of who we are to the service of the King to be used for His glory. This is only done through the power and love that He bestows upon us.

If only we could fully understand the beauty of this!
If only we could fully understand the joy and freedom of this!

Praise be to God that He offers forgiveness for when we foolishly lose sight of how worthy and wonderful He is. I am so quick to set my affections and my joy too heavily upon lesser things! I am so quick to lose focus on the highest of joys: our Savior! It is, sadly, too easy to let my mind wander into worthless pursuits. I am so quick to pour my strength and passion into that which is not of the Lord.

God has demonstrated a love beyond measure to us; how could we not strive to give Him all that we are? The Father sent his only Son to die and rise again so that we could be forgiven. How could we not willingly and freely give ourselves to Him in love?"

Amen!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Health & Wealth or the Gospel of Christ

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

Here is a beautiful passage speaking the truth of the gospel. I bring this passage up because one day I was listening to a preacher (someone asked me to listen to him) who used this verse to speak of health and wealth. He was saying that God doesn’t want us to be poor but rather to have plenty monetarily. Then to my horror he quoted 2 Corinthians 8:9 as his proof text. I was so appalled that this wonderful passage about the gospel was used so badly out of context.

A few verses earlier Paul writes, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (1). But then Paul writes, “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2). Paul makes it clear that the church of Macedonia gave out of their extreme poverty. This was not a church with great wealth but rather great generosity and joy. They gave out of what they needed rather than their abundance. “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (3).

I am by no means a bible scholar but this passage is clearly speaking here of the monetary poverty of the church. In verse eight Paul begins talking not about money but love: “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (8). The churches of Macedonia did not have an abundance of wealth but they had love and joy that came from knowing Christ. Love translated into monetary giving to the saints. Earlier in the text the churches of Macedonia are begging Paul to let them give more (4). How could that be if they were poor? They were trusting in the promises of God. They “gave themselves first to the Lord” (5). It wasn’t a matter of wealth but a matter of knowing the love of Christ in the gospel. The churches were just showing genuine love to others in the body of Christ.

As for verse nine it is clear Paul is not promoting monetary wealth for those who love Christ. This passage speaks of Christ (fully God) humbly leaving the glories of heaven to take the lowly form of a servant (fully man). He was rich but for our sake he became poor so we might become rich. Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Clearly this is where Jesus became poor. But then Paul writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). If we will humble ourselves, by God’s grace, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and repent of our sins trusting in his finished work on the cross then we gain the riches of Christ.

We can only gain those riches because Christ became poor. We are not promised riches with money but a treasure greater than money, Christ. Money will burn but Christ lives eternally. This is why Paul earlier in 2 Corinthians talks about Christians saying, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true, as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (6:8-10). We are making many rich because we proclaim the gospel of Christ and God gives people new hearts to worship and adore the name of Jesus. It’s not about money, it’s about Christ!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gospel is True

Last week John Piper posted on his blog 9 Ways to Know the Gospel of Christ is True. He made is points then backed them up with Scripture. I will give you the 9 Ways on this post and I would encourage you to click the link and read the supports.

9 Ways to Know the Gospel of Christ is True

1. Jesus Christ, as he is presented to us in the New Testament, and as he stands forth from all its writings, is too single and too great to have been invented so uniformly by all these writers.

2. Nobody has ever explained the empty tomb of Jesus in the hostile environment of Jerusalem where the enemies of Jesus would have given anything to produce the corpse, but could not.

3. Cynical opponents of Christianity abounded where claims were made that many eyewitnesses were available to consult concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

4. The early church was an indomitable force of faith and love and sacrifice on the basis of the reality of Jesus Christ.

5. The prophesies of the Old Testament find stunning fulfillment in the history of Jesus Christ.

6. The witnesses to Jesus Christ who wrote the New Testament gospels and letters are not gullible or deceitful or demented.

7. The worldview that emerges from the writings of the New Testament makes more sense out of more reality than any other worldview.

8. When one sees Christ as he is portrayed truly in the gospel, there shines forth a spiritual light that is a self-authenticating.

9. When we see and believe the glory of God in the gospel, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that the love of God might be "poured out in our hearts" (Romans 5:5).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 9, 2009

O Great God


Here are the words to a great song by Bob Kauflin from the Valley of Vision CD put out by Sovereign Grace Ministries:




O Great God

O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore

I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace

Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Radiance of the Glory of God


“The radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3)

The begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature. Jesus is the One through whom the world was created (3). He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is worthy of all our praise, honor and glory because he is “the radiance of the glory of God.”

The incarnate Son was given to us as a sacrifice to pay the debt we owed to God the Father for sinning against his perfect law. Jesus came humbly through the virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Spirit, to bring life to those who were dead in their sins. He graciously left us his Spirit so we may live in a manner that is worthy of our calling in Christ. Jesus sanctifies us in the truth of his word (John 17:17) through his blood he shed at Calvary (Hebrews 13:12). Jesus is the Christians everything. He is “the radiance of the glory of God.”

What does it mean that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God.” In today’s world, God is some vague idea of a “man upstairs” or “a cosmic genie who will grant wishes in a time of need.” But the bible is clear that no one knows the Father without knowing the Son (John 14:7). If you haven’t seen “the radiance of the glory of God” then you haven’t seen the one true living God. God is God or as he says, “I Am who I Am.” There is no other God besides Yahweh. Psalm 97 is clear: “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods” (7)! The psalmist is making it clear that all other self-proclaimed gods are to bow down and worship the true God.

“No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). Jesus is how we know the Father. Through Jesus we have access to the Father. We cannot know God without knowing Christ through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. When people say they are spiritual or love god but reject Christ then they do not love or know the One true God in heaven. The Scriptures are crystal on this truth. We must put our trust in the saving work of Christ in order to know the Father because Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God.”

Jesus: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). He is worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

“You are worthy of affection,
Your the radiance of all of his glory" (Shane Barnard)
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Transition Word Passage? Yes!

So I wasn't planning on doing another one but these passages with these transition words are so encouraging and gospel saturated that I just want to share another one. We can never tire of hearing the gospel and preaching it to ourselves every hour better yet every minute.

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Transition Word Text

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved a through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Praise God for this good news. He makes alive dead hearts. What grace!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Transition Words

Do you love transition words in the bible? Maybe to clear things up a bit I can remind us of a couple we read in Scripture: "But now" & "But God". When we read these two phrases (these are not the only two) we ought to rejoice in the good news ahead. We were this "but God" did this. What a joy to see transition words leading to the cross. Here is one from Romans 3:

"What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are m under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood,to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:9-26)

Another coming tomorrow.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 2, 2009

How Willingly Do People Go to Hell?

Here is a very interesting post from John Piper on C.S. Lewis take on hell:

"C.S. Lewis is one of the top 5 dead people who have shaped the way I see and respond to the world. But he is not a reliable guide on a number of important theological matters. Hell is one of them. His stress is relentlessly that people are not 'sent' to hell but become their own hell. His emphasis is that we should think of 'a bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is.' (For all the relevant quotes, see Martindale and Root, The Quotable Lewis, 288-295.)

This inclines him to say, 'All that are in hell choose it.' And this leads some who follow Lewis in this emphasis to say things like, “All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want.”

I come from the words of Jesus to this way of talking and find myself in a different world of discourse and sentiment. I think it is misleading to say that hell is giving people what they most want. I’m not saying you can’t find a meaning for that statement that’s true, perhaps in Romans 1:24-28. I’m saying that it’s not a meaning that most people would give to it in light of what hell really is. I’m saying that the way Lewis deals with hell and the way Jesus deals with it are very different. And we would do well to follow Jesus..."

To read the rest of the article click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 30, 2009

I will be with you


“I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5)

What greater comfort can come to a person than God almighty saying, “I will be with you?” The Creator who is omniscience, omnipresent and omnipotent comforts us with the words, “I will be with you.” As he was with Joshua so he is with all his children. The Father says to his children, “I will be with you.”

The Lord’s great servant Moses has died and now Joshua, who was Moses’ assistant, is being commissioned by God to lead the people of Israel into the land God has given them (1:2). Can you imagine? The leader of the people as just passed away and now God is calling you to fill the role. You are now responsible for the Israelites. As Moses’ assistant Joshua is the most prepared for this commission but through human eyes this is a huge task and responsibility. But we can see where Joshua finds great comfort. The Lord speaks to Joshua; “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses” (3). The Lord reminds Joshua of the promises he declared to Moses. Joshua must grab a hold of these promises by faith trusting the Lord for each step as he leads. The Lord then affirms Joshua saying, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (5).

The Lord was giving Joshua his blessing as he did Moses. At this point Joshua’s faith in the Lord had to be strong for the task at hand. These words ought to bring comfort to the souls of every believer as they did Joshua. As God’s children these are promises to us as well. Just as the Lord was with his children in the past so he is with his children in the present and his promises are the same for the future generations. The Lord declares, “I will be with you.” Find your comfort in the Rock of refuge, Jesus Christ. Stop searching for the comforts of this world that are like shifting sand. Start trusting in the promises of the Solid Rock.

The Lord says, “I will not leave you or forsake you” (5). Once the Father has adopted us as his children we can rest in the reality that he will not leave us. When it seems life is throwing at us the toughest of circumstances we have a God who sovereignly rules over all yet is always with us. He will not forsake you. Never! “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (9). Your circumstances cannot take you out of the sight of your heavenly Father. Joshua trusted in the promises of God and we must do the same. Cling to the words of your Father: “I will be with you.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our Perfect High Priest (Part 4)

We now come to the final posts of our series entitled Our Perfect High Priest. For parts 1, 2 and 3 just click on the numbers. For the final post I just want to encourage you to go read the book of Hebrews. This is the book where we find Jesus being spoken of as our perfect High Priest. Here are a few verses from Hebrews to wet your appetite:

"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17)

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:14-15)

"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 6:19-20)

"For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. " (Hebrews 7:26-28)

Noel Due says, "Because of who he [Jesus Christ] is, as Son of God and also one with his brothers, he is able to fully and completely fulfil the role of mediating high priest, representing God to the people, and the people to God."

Praise God for his great kindness!

Grace upon grace,
JRL