Friday, February 27, 2009

"Good deeds" (part 2)

In part 1 of "Good deeds" I mentioned giving to a good cause or a charity for the wrong reason. Many use those "good deeds" as their salvation but I want to focus now on the call to Christians for good deeds.

In his sermon title Engaging in Good Deeds, Phil Newton says from Titus 3:12-15:

"This (good deeds) is not a natural trait in all men! Paul called for the church to 'learn to engage in good deeds.' The word focuses not on learning by instruction, in this case, but learning by experience...We are managers of what He (Christ) has entrusted to us and we must use those resources in doing 'good deeds' that support gospel ministry. That is a work of grace! To neglect doing so, Paul said, would be 'unfruitful' or a waste of what God has given us. Are you learning to engage in good deeds without which you will be unfruitful as a Christian?"

I did not want you to get the impression good deeds were unimportant rather to understand apart from the work of Christ "good deeds" are selfish and prideful.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
-Augustus Toplady

I hope these words encourage or convict you. I will be adding a part 2 to yesterday's post on "good deeds" tomorrow. This song I hope serves as a shift to the point of the gospel, Christ. Check back tomorrow for part 2.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Good deeds" (part 1)

John Piper says, "Acts done without any trust in God's grace or any love for His glory are not a delight to God" (The Pleasures of God). This is what seperates "good deeds" or "charity" for Christians and those who give no regard for Christ. "Good deeds" are done by plenty of people for many good causes but the ultimate result for eternity for those acts is damnation. Good deeds are meant to glorify Him who showers down good gifts from above acknowledging Him as the Giver.

Too many times "good deeds" are done to glorify self. I am glad money is given to certain charities or a good cause but it saddens me when people get the impression they have climbed a rung on the ladder of good works to reach heaven. There is no ladder! This is what the majority of our moralistic society thinks to be Christianity when in fact it is a spit in the face of the one true God.

When we (Christians) give, let us give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Let us give with hearts full of God's great goodness. May we reflect Christ and His compassion to those in need. May we give so those who see our good works may give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Wrath of God

"If we would know God, it is vital that we face the truth concerning His wrath, however unfashionable it may be, and however strong our initial prejudices against it. Otherwise we shall not understand the gospel of salvation from wrath, nor the propitiatory achievement of the cross, nor the wonder of the redeeming love of God. Nor shall we understand the hand of God in history and God's present dealings with our own people; nor shall we be able to make head or tail of the book of Revelation; nor will our evangelism have the urgency enjoined by Jude - 'save some, by snatching them out of the fire' (Jude 23). Neither our knowledge of God nor our service to him will be in accord with His Word." (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 156)

"The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character on which we need to meditate frequently. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God's detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for sin. But the more we study and ponder God's abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realise its heinousness. Second, to beget a true fear in our souls for God. 'Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire' (Heb. 12:28,29). We cannot serve Him 'acceptably' unless there is due 'reverence' for His awful Majesty and 'godly fear' of His righteous anger, and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that 'our God is a consuming fire.' Third, to draw out our soul in fervent praise [to Jesus Christ] for having delivered us from 'the wrath to come' (1 Thess. 1:10). Our readiness or our reluctancy to meditate upon the wrath of God becomes a sure test of how our hearts really stand affected towards Him." (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, 77)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, February 23, 2009

Would you love being a doorkeeper?

This world has plenty to offer but nothing to fulfill our deepest wants. We have and we want more. We have in abundance and we still want more. This is the pattern of the world. Living to gain it all but forfeiting our souls. Our deepest desires come from our soul and our souls were meant to glorify our Creator. Too many times we as Christians dig deep into the world to only be reminded of joys that are fleeting. C.S. Lewis says we are "like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased" (Weight of Glory). I wonder many times why we as Christians go back to making mud pies when we have seen the holiday at the sea.

So I will ask, would you love being a doorkeeper? Are you ready to go home? Yesterday at church Lance preached in 1 John 3:1-3 and we were quickly reminded of the joy of being a child of God. Then seeing later in the text that one day we will be made like Him. So here and now as Christians we should rejoice that God the Father calls us His children through the work of Christ revealing the truth by His Spirit. But we also long for the day to like Him. We not only have the honor to worship at His feet, which would be greater than I can imagine now, but He actually tells us we will be made like Him. Go read 1 John 3:1-3 and praise God for that truth. But here is what I mean about being a doorkeeper. When we think of the reality of heaven we should be reminded of Psalm 84, "For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (10).

Can you cry out with the psalmist and honestly say you would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than dwell on this earth? Do you love the world too much? Christian rejoice that you are child of the Father. Rejoice that one day you will be made like Him. But while pondering those thoughts ask yourself this simple question: Would I rather be a doorkeeper in His house than dwell in this world right now?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 20, 2009

A satisfied heart kills the power of sin

"If the heart is satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus, the power of sin to lure us away from the wisdom of Christ is broken."
-John Piper

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Humility by Holiness

"Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness."
-C.J. Mahaney

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6:1-7

Isaiah was humbled by God's holiness. Lets not minimize who God is and bring Him down to our level but lets exalt Him and magnify Him where He belong.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Welcome to the Battle

C.J. Mahaney says, "Through the cross we overcome not only the guilt of sin, but the power of sin as well. Because of the cross we can successfully battle and overcome sinful patterns and practices" (The Coss-Centered Life). This is such a beautiful part of the gospel. Not only does the cross remove our guilt of sin but give us the power to fight the battle against Satan and the flesh.

Paul says it this way in Romans, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness" (6:13). "So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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" (8:12-13).

Finally in Ephesians, "Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication" (6:14-18).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Have you been Crucified?

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose."
Galatians 2:20-21

Can you examine your life and say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ?" I wonder if we even understand the seriousness of the statement. Being crucified with Christ means dying to your old sinful ways and being raised to newness of life with Christ. When you die to self you find humility. Once you find humility you find true life. True life begins when you live this life on earth "by faith in the Son of God." He gave Himself for you and now he calls you to die to yourself and live joyfully under His rule.

Do not try to obtain eternal life through your own righteousness because you cannot do it. Your own morality will enslave you more to sin. If you rely on your own merit you are telling Christ He died for no purpose. Christ died that you may be crucified with Him and live eternally in His presence. He gave Himself for you to trust His promises in Scripture. Have you been crucified with Him?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, February 16, 2009

Are we Pharisees too often?

"One of the Pharisees asked him [Jesus] to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.' And Jesus answering said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' And he answered, 'Say it, Teacher.'
'A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?' Simon answered, 'The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.' And he said to him, 'You have judged rightly.' Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.' And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this, who even forgives sins?' And he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"
Luke 7:36-50

Imagine having Jesus over to your house for dinner. Here is the Messiah, King of king, coming to your house to eat. How would you treat Him? It is easy to suspect how you might act after reading the story but I fear we treat Jesus now like this Pharisee does. We don't care about Jesus as we ought. We treat Him as just another dinner guest and not the King. We come to Him carelessly in prayer and meditation on His Word. We love to throw His name out to sound religious but give no regard to His teachings. We are the Pharisee way too often.

I hope as you read this you are reminded of how much you have been forgiven. The Pharisee thought all was well because Jesus had come to His house but the sinful woman left the dinner a child of Christ and not the Pharisee. The Pharisee was left in His religious state but the sinful woman left redeemed. Can you imagine hearing "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." How would you not leave the house leaping for joy over your sins being removed?

Don't love religion, love Jesus. Saying you love Jesus is not loving Jesus rather trusting in His Word and believing He is the Savior of your soul is loving Him. And we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). When He has changed your heart of stone to a heart of flesh you will serve Him as the sinful woman did.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 13, 2009

Every part of me Lord?

What is a Christian? A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ, believing His teachings, empowered by His Spirit, called by the Father. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer, in the gospel of Luke, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replies, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He answered "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus tells the lawyer he has answered correctly "do this, and you will live."

This is directly the news we need to hear. God has called us to love Himself (heart, soul, strength, mind) and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the Christians life summed up in two commands. I fear I am too many times like the lawyer (who was a Pharisee) when given these commands. Look at his response to Jesus: "But he (the lawyer), desiring to justify himself." The lawyer only wanted to test Jesus but did not have the conviction of sin in his life. Too many times I fear I want Jesus on my own terms. Then when I read Jesus teachings I try to justify myself instead of humble myself.

If this is you don't fret. Realize the conviction of sin is the work of the Spirit and repent. Humbly ask God how to love Him will all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Ask Him how to show mercy to your neighbor. I love the story that follows about the good Samaritan. The Samaritan saw a man who had been beaten by robbers, passed over by a priest and a Levite and left for dead on the road. The Samaritan felt compassion and took care of this man meeting every need possible out of love. Jesus then asks the lawyer "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Do you know? How is it so obvious when we read it but so hard to do? Even the unbelieving Pharisee knew the right answer but was still lost. I hope we don't get confused with knowing the right thing to do and doing the right thing. God calls us to be obedient to His Word. Perfect? No, but a striving after God's own heart. God is ultimately passionate about His own glory so we should be as well. God's grace will humbly teach you how to love Him with every fiber of your being and then loving your neighbor as yourself will naturally follow. James says, "You do not have, because you do not ask." Ask God for His grace.

(Passage from Luke chapter 10)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Precious Blood

Before the cross I kneel and see the measure of my sin
How You became a curse for me, though You were innocent
The magnitude of Your great love was shown in full degree
When righteous blood, the crimson spillRained down from Calvary

Oh, the precious blood that flowed from Mercy’s side
Washed away my sin when Christ my Savior died
Oh, the precious blood of Christ the crucified
It speaks for me before Your throne
Where I stand justified

And who am I that I should know this treasure of such worth
My Savior’s pure atoning blood, shed for the wrath I’d earned
For sin has stained my every deed,My every word and thought
What wondrous love that makes me oneYour priceless blood has bought

A crown of thorns, pierced hands and feet
A body bruised, and Mercy’s plea
A crown of thorns, pierced hands and feet
A body bruised, and Mercy’s plea
-Peter Gagnon for Sovereign Grace Music (Valley of Vision)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

God's Word is Truth

Do you know the truth? Christians have been given the anointing by the Spirit to see the truth in Scripture. The question is to the Christian: Do you love God's truth revealed in His Word?

J.I. Packer says, "Christians know that in addition to the word of God spoken directly to them in Scripture, God's word has also gone forth to create, and control, and order things around them; but since the Scriptures tell them that all things work together for their good, the thought of God's ordering their circumstances brings them only joy" (Knowing God).

What a promise God has made to make all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). It is possible because God is sovereign. Christian, praise God for the days with no trials but praise Him still in the days of trial because God is at work and His perfect plan promises good.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lust can never be quenched

"Lust is always an unholy desire for the forbidden. But though lust longs for an object of a person, ultimately this object is not its prize; its goal is the very act of desiring. The result is that lust can never be quenched. As soon as the object of lust is attained, lust wants something more."
Josh Harris (Not Even a Hint)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, February 9, 2009

Have you tried to Control God?

"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment."
Isaiah 64:6a

"To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness - the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord: We must admit that we've put our ultimate hope and trust in things other than God, and that in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord - lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness - that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed."
-Tim Keller (The Prodigal God)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 6, 2009

Father

"Did you ever consider the depth of love that was in the heart of Jehovah, when God the Father equipped His Son for the great enterprise of mercy?

If not, make this your day's meditation. The Father sent Him! Contemplate that subject. Think about how Jesus works what the Father wills. In the wounds of the dying Savior, see the love of the great I AM. Let every thought of Jesus also be connected with the Eternal, ever blessed God, for 'it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief' (Isaiah 53:10)."
C. H. Spurgeon (Mornings and Evenings)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Acceptable" Sins

Do you see your sin? Do you have sins that you have made "acceptable" in your own eyes? Sadly we have not come to see just how sinful we are if we accept any sin in our own lives. This does not mean we will be perfect but God does call us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). The standard is high because God is holy.

Jerry Bridges writes, "The acceptable sins are subtle in the sense that they deceive us into thinking they are not so bad, or not thinking of them as sins, or even worse, not even thinking about them at all! Yes, some of our refined sins are so subtle that we commit them without even thinking about them, either at the time or afterward. We often live in unconscious denial of our 'acceptable' sins" (Respectable Sins).

We try to weed through the sins that seem critical but according to God they are all SIN!! Paul teaches us in Scripture how to fight against such subtly: "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify it's desires" (Romans 13:14).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Call to Discernment

Today is the last chapter for our look at Tim Challies book The Discipline of Spiritual Disernment. If you have not read this book I would highly recommend it.

Chapter 10 - The Practice of Discernment

"Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

"We test doctrine by prayer, instinct, conscience, Scripture, and the consensus of the church. We hold up a teaching to the light of God's Word and allow him to speak to us through the Bible, revealing what is true and false. We look for points of agreement and points of departure between the teaching we are testing and the truth of the Bible. When a doctrine is false, we flee from it and substitute instead what is good. When a doctrine is true and pure, we cling to it and rejoice in it."
-Tim Challies

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Start your day the right way

Some great tips from C.J. Mahaney in his book Humility.

As the day begins:

Reflect on the wonder of the cross.

Fill you affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin.
-John Owen

How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?
-Carl Henry

Acknowledge your dependence upon God and your need for God.

Begin the day by expressing gratefulness to God.

Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.
-Michael Ramsey

Let each of us recognize every day that whatever grace we receive from God is so much more than we’re worthy of, and indescribably better than the hell we all deserve.

Practice the spiritual disciplines – prayer, study of God’s word, worship.

Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture.

Cast your cares upon Him.

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Monday, February 2, 2009

"If you profess to deal with the righteous Lord on law terms, everlasting wrath threatens you, for that is what you deserve. Blessed be His name, He has not dealt with us according to our sins. But now he deals with us in terms of free grace and infinite compassion, and He says, 'I will receive you graciously…and love you freely' (Hosea 14:2,4)."
-C.H. Spurgeon (All of Grace)

Praise God for His continued grace in the life of His children. Sin should be hated by all Christians but we need to confess our sins and repent then trust God's promise of forgiveness based on Christ's sacrifice.

Grace upon grace,
JRL