Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Necessity to Cover

"There are things that it is our duty to cover in silence. We are told nowadays that everything ought to be expressed if we are truly 'honest' and 'open.'

Proverbs 11:13 says, 'He who goes abroad as a tale-bearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing hidden.'

Jesus sometimes refused to reveal the truth about Himself, even when it would have seemed to us 'an opportunity to witness.' He did not always answer questions. He did not always say who He was. He told some of those He healed to tell no one about it.

For every activity under heaven its time...a time for silence and a time for speech (Eccles. 3:1-7).

A man of understanding remain silent (Prov. 11:12).

Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it. Give me the wisdom to keep silent where silence is wise. Remind me that not everything needs to be said, and that there are very few things that need to be said by me." (Elisabeth Elliot)

I had these words by Elisabeth Elliot read to me last night and God knew exactly what I needed to hear. Too often I not only have the urge to open my mouth but speak words that are not for edification (Eph. 4:29). I am so glad for the Spirit conviction of this reality.

Help me Lord to be "slow to speak."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Wonder of the Cross

O precious sight, my Savior stands,
Dying for me with outstretched hands.
O precious sight, I love to gaze,
Remembering salvation’s day,
Remembering salvation’s day.

Though my eyes linger on this scene,
May passing time and years not steal
The power with which it impacts me,
The freshness of its mystery,
The freshness of its mystery.

May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time
Standing as a sinner lost,
Undone by mercy and left speechless,
Watching wide eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.

Behold the God-man crucified,
The perfect sinless sacrifice.
As blood ran down those nails and wood,
History was split in two, yes,
History was split in two.

Behold the empty wooden tree,
His body gone, alive and free.
We sing with everlasting joy,
For sin and death have been destroyed, yes,
Sin and death have been destroyed.

May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time
Standing as a sinner lost,
Undone by mercy and left speechless,
Watching wide eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross. (Vicky Beeching)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, March 27, 2009

Loving the Brethern

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.” Romans 14:13-15

Too often we use our freedoms [liberties] in Christ in a sinful manner instead of an opportunity to love our brothers. Paul tells us to “not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” In our liberties we can still sin by passing judgment on a brother or placing a stumbling block in the way of a brother. Paul takes it a step further saying, “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat (watch, listen to, wear, say, etc.), you are no longer walking in love.” Liberty issues can easily become sin issues when we act selfishly and not in a manner of love. If a brother struggles with an area of your life do not just shrug it off and tell them to suck it up but according to Paul Christians are to abstain in love.

The world says “Just do what you want and don’t worry what others say or think.” Paul writes about the unbelievers mindset saying, “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21). The Bible commands us to love by putting our liberties aside for the cause of Christ. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Are you letting your liberties get in the way of loving a brother? Are you walking in righteousness, striving for peace and having abundant joy in loving your neighbor?

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Retributive Justice

"The gospel tells us that our Creator has become our Redeemer. It announces that the Son of God has become man 'for us men and for our salvation' and has died on the cross to save us from eternal judgment. The basic description of the saving death of Christ in the Bible is as a propitiation, that is, as that which quenched God's wrath against us by obliterating our sins from His sight. God's wrath is His righteousness reacting against unrighteousness; it shows itself in retributive justice. But Jesus Christ has shielded us from the nightmare prospect of retributive justice by becoming our representative substitute, in obedience to His Father's will, and receiving the wages of our sin in our place.

By this means justice has been done, for the sins of all that will ever be pardoned were judged and punished in the person of God the Son, and it is on this basis that pardon is now offered to us offenders. Redeeming love and retributive justice joined hands, so to speak, at Calvary, for there God showed himself to be 'just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus'" (J.I. Packer, Knowing God).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

O Silly Hearts

"What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have-that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God-why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

"Christian! By nature-you are no better than others! What would you be-without the continual influence of the Spirit? O believer, whatever you are-you have nothing to make you proud. The more you have-the more you are in debt to God-and should you be proud of that which renders you a debtor?

Oh! strange infatuation, that you-who have borrowed everything, should think of exalting yourself! How foolish-that you-a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of your Savior-are yet proud! Shame on you-O silly heart!" (Charles Spurgeon)

As I read this yesterday, courtesy of Grace Gems, my thoughts lingered to who we are as sinners. But as God's children we should know the truth. The truth that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above (James 1:17). He gives us everything. He provides in every situation exactly what we need. How can we boast in ourselves? When we have all we need we neglect Him yet when we want from our own selfish desires He seems to be a complaint or two away. Rarely do I find myself waking up and praising God for rest, a bed, a roof over my head, protection and so on.

We are so often blinded by our selfish wants that we miss the gifts continually being poured down from our Father up above. Shame on us and our silly hearts.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

True Security

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

Here is the promise of assurance penned by Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in his letter written to the church at Rome. In the beginning of Romans 8 we see "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (1). J.I. Packer says this of Romans 8, "Paul now picks up again the theme of Christian assurance and develops it as forcibly as he can, from 'no condemnation' at the start to 'no separation' at the close" (Knowing God).

The King of kings and Lord of lords has declared no condemnation to sinners who repent of sins and place their trust in Christ. Once the Holy Spirit begins the work He has started He will complete it. This is why Paul is so confident to write there is no separation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God we can have assurance in Christ Jesus!

The word which His goodness began
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet;
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below nor above
Can make Him His purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace;
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven! (Augustus Toplady, "Full Assurance")

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, March 23, 2009

Knowing and Knowing

Have your affections changed from a love of the world to a love for Christ and His commands? This is the key difference between knowing God and knowing God. You may be asking "What are you talking about?" Let me explain.

Knowing can mean having a knowledge of an idea. This is common in most people when it comes to God. Most people know the idea of believing in God, trusting in God, repenting of sins, Christ dying on the cross, Christ rising on the third day and even the Trinity. They acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God bringing them a sense of morality. But we see lives that are not changed by these truths. They have all this knowledge but know nothing of being a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The flip side is those who know God. Knowing the same truths from Scripture but having a heart that is broken because of the Spirit's work in their life. Bearing fruit is a main topic when Christ tells us to examine our lives to see whether we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He does not just say know about me but rather know me. Knowing God produces a changed life. There is no way to say we love Him and then live for ourselves. Christ requires us to pick up our cross and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23).

"What does this mean? Well, the only persons in the ancient world who carried a cross were condemned criminals going out to execution; each, like our Lord himself, was made to carry the cross on which he was to be crucified. So, what Christ means is that you must accept for yourself the position of such a person, in the sense that you renounce all future expectations from society and learn to take it as a matter of course if the people around you give you the cold shoulder and view you with contempt and disgust, as an alien sort of being. You may often find yourself treated in this fashion if you are loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ" (J.I. Packer, Knowing God).

Do you see the difference?

Knowing God will not just give you knowledge that puffs up pride but rather a life that is crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:23). The temporary anguish on this earth will pale in comparison to eternity with our Savior Christ. So take a look at your life and see whether you just have an understanding of God or if God, by his Spirit, has changed your life to reflect the image of Christ.
Arthur Pink says it this way, "Wherever Christ's redemption is truly received by faith-it kindles in the heart, an intense hatred of sin, and the deepest love and gratitude unto God."

"No slave can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Luke 16:13).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing"

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

My friend Stephen Bean wrote a great article speaking about this verse on Wednesday title "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." Please go read it and watch the video that goes along with the article. Very great stuff from Cindy Winters speaking of her husband death a couple of weeks ago.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, March 19, 2009

All things for good including cancer

How do Christians respond when asked to pray for loved ones who have cancer?

While I have not had a family member battle cancer I have had close friends who have. I know this is a tough stage in life when a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. The only comfort is asking people to pray. But what do we pray as Christians? We must pray that the Father's will be done. We can pray for healing, relief of pain and comfort for the family but we must pray for God the Father to do His sovereign work, which He will.

Back in 2006 John Piper went through is own battle with cancer. I believe his article Don't Waste your Cancer is one of the most insightful articles for those with cancer and those with friends or family members with cancer. Here are his 10 points from the article but if you have time I would encourage you to read the short article all the way through.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that "beating" cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

May we as Christians faithfully pray for those who are sick and griefing. May we also rest in the reality that God is the sustainer of life and knows the days of man. For His children, who have cancer, may we reassure them with Romans 8:28, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose." But for those who do not love Christ may you see God's kindness in sparing your life for the time so you can see Him as the greatest treasure and repent of your sins.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do you have a good opinion of yourself?

"The unregenerate do not want to know the truth about themselves--no, they wish to be flattered and encouraged to entertain a good opinion of themselves. Hence, the Lord Jesus declared 'Because I tell you the Truth--you do not believe' (John 8:45). Had He told them pleasant lies--they would have welcomed Him.

Since the whole world lies in the wicked one, and he is the arch-liar, we should not be surprised at the world being so full of pretense and deceit--and that the Truth of God is so bitterly hated. The fact is, that 'Truth has fallen in the street!' (Isaiah 59:14) and is now being ruthlessly trampled on, on every side." (Arthur Pink, The Word of Truth)

Praise God for shining light into the darkness and changing the hearts of His choosen. "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another aspect of the Cross

So what is our part in the cross? I would elaborate on this topic but I would like to share what Arthur Pink wrote in "Beholding the Crucified Christ":

"They kept shouting--Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Luke 23:21

The Word of Truth declares that "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). Men do not believe it--in fact most of them pretend the very opposite. Nevertheless, at Calvary--they gave proof of their hatred of God.

Not only was Christ unwelcome here--but men hated Him--and that "without a cause" (John 15:25). He gave them every reason to admire and adore Him--but they had an inveterate detestation of Him!

Multitudes go through the form of paying homage to God--but it is a "god" of their own imagination. They hate the true and living God, and were it possible--they would rid the universe of His existence! This is clear from their treatment of Christ, for He was none other than "God manifest in flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16). They hated and hounded Him to death--and nothing short of His cruel death by crucifixion would appease them!

Here at Calvary the real character of man was revealed, and the desperate wickedness of his heart was laid bare. There it was shown, that man was capable of the blackest of all crimes!

As evil as man had shown himself all through his history--the coming of Immanuel to this earth brought sin to such a head--that all that which had gone before, was relatively but a trifling thing--when compared with the monstrous wickedness which was done against Love incarnate! In the treatment which the Son of God received at the hands of men--we see sin in its true colors, stripped of a disguise, exposed in its hideous reality; revealed in its true nature as contempt of God, and rebellion against Him. Here at Calvary we behold the climax of sin--and the fearful and horrible lengths to which sin is capable of going! That sin which germinated in Eden--culminated in the crucifixion! Here at Calvary, we see sin at it's apex--Deicide--in the slaying of the Lord of Glory!

"They kept shouting--Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Luke 23:21
(Arthur Pink)

Here is where we must see ourselves. It was me yelling "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" in the crowd. I hated the Son of God and wanted Him dead! I was yelling for the very act that saved me. I wanted the Son of God dead but He wanted to die to glorify His Father and set me free from the very sin I was committing. I love Him because He first loved me by dying on the cross. I was "capable of the blackest of all crimes." I confess I was there when they crucified my Lord. I yelled "Crucify Him!" Now that very death has rescued me from death. Jesus Christ has set me free from the bondage of sin because He took my sin on the cross.

"Thank you O my Father for giving us your Son." (Keith Green)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Creator of Life

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1).

If you have ever been to a birthing class or experienced a child being born I would have to say this verse makes more sense then ever. On Saturday, my wife and I, had the privilege from 9-5 to sit in a birthing class learning all sorts of important information. Now if I can be honest for a moment, hospitals and I have never got along. I was doing well most of the morning learning plenty about the inside of a body during pregnancy. Then it was time for the DVD. Yeah that is right the DVD where they go through the parts of the body again but then proceed with real life action in the hospital. Now I also have this sin issue called pride and being one of the males in the class I understood closing my eyes was not very manly. So I quickly learned this trick where my head is facing the screen but my eyes are looking to the floor. It was really brilliant. My focus shifted long enough to not catch much of the hospital.

About 30 minutes later the DVD was over but then it was time for a tour of the actual delivery area of the hospital. From what I understood the major "gross" part for me was over. YES!!! I made it without having my eyes roll into the back of my head being passed out on the table. But once we got into one of the delivery rooms our instructor started talking about everything that would take place in this room. I felt the temperature rising to about 150 degrees and I suddenly had a weak stomach with my knees not wanting to settle. I kept trying to focus on other things but not for too long because I truly wanted to learn. It just seemed the more I focused on the instructor the sooner it was before I was on the bed recovering from passing out. Then I had no other choice but to quickly get over to the couch my wife was sitting on and sit on the arm of the couch and relax. I was hoping it would then be over quickly. About 15 more minutes and we were off to lunch. I made it. But what's the point?

Here is what I loved about the class. How can someone look at everything involved with a woman's body for a child to grow, stay alive inside the stomach, grow a placenta for the baby to live and then be born into this world and not believe in a Creator? There is no possible way something that miraculous could ever happen by chance. It is impossible. To think all nine women in that room on Saturday had a life growing inside of them because of the Creator makes me want to worship our all-powerful Creator. Who knows how many women are pregnant right now in the world but I know the God of this universe is sustaining each one of them. "For you [God] formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13).

May we all respond like David does in verse 14, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." God you create life, preserve life and take life away because you are the sovereign Creator of this miracle. Seeing what I saw Saturday was tough from my weak stomach's standpoint but beautiful because God is worthy of worship and praise as the Creator of life. Only the fool would say in his heart "There is no God."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, March 13, 2009

Adoption

"Adoption is an act of God whereby He makes us members of His family" (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines).

I find it interesting when I hear people in the church not want to talk about doctrine but rather some vague idea of God. When I see the word adoption it makes me wonder why people do not like doctrine. Have you seen what adoption is? Think about adoption in term of humanity. People love to see children being adopted and brought into good family homes. Here is the idea: a child is brought from a bad circumstance into the favor of a loving family. Do you see this? Now let's read about the doctrine of adoption:

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of fellowship. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:14-17).

How do we not want to look at doctrine? Sons of God, the spirit of fellowship [with God], children of God, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Wow! Wicked, depraved sinners can be sons of God and heirs with Christ. This is so beautiful. J.I. Packers says it this way:

"Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship - He establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater" (Knowing God)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Accountability

On Monday, March 9, Tim Challies wrote a very insightful post on Christians and Accountability. If you have not read it I would encourage you to read. If you have read it I would encourage you to read it again. Accountability is a huge aspect of the Christian's walk that I think many Christian's are not involved in. We need to have accountability with those who know Christ and love us. Thanks to Tim for his excellent writing about this issue.

Christians and Accountability

"Today I want to say a word about Christians and accountability groups or accountability partnerships. I am not sure if Christians have always spoken as much of accountability as we do today or if this has been a happy result of organizations such as Promise Keepers. I guess I have not been an adult Christian long enough to know.

I am convinced there is great benefit in Christians pursuing accountability relationships, at least in some situations. It is valuable, I believe, for Christians to meet on a regular basis to confess sin, to speak of God’s grace, to share triumphs, to ask tough questions and to pray for one another. I meet every week among a group of leaders from my church and just about every week somebody asks one of these questions: “Is there anything you really do not want to talk about?” or “Is there something you should tell us that you’re hoping nobody will ask?” These are good questions, leading questions, that cause us to probe our hearts a little bit to see if there is something we ought to confess. As leaders and potential leaders in the church, we desire transparency; we believe the Bible demands it.

As much as there has been great personal benefit in these times of accountability and in living with the specter of accountability, I’ve seen as well that there is one drawback; not surprisingly, it is a drawback related to my own sin. A little while ago I was reading a book review by Erik Raymond and thought he brought this out so succinctly. “Accountability is often quite helpful,” he said. “However, many times folks end up fearing their ‘accountability partner’ while remaining numbly void of a healthy fear of God. This does not kill the root of sin, but unwittingly increases a fear of man (idolatry).”

I know that this has been something I’ve been prone to. Because of my accountability relationships I find myself putting sin to death, or at least refusing to give in to sin and temptation of various kinds. But often, when I look to my heart, I see that my motive is hardly pure. I am motivated by not wanting to have to admit or confess such sin to another person. Every week, before we meet, we fill out a sheet that asks a variety of questions: have I been faithful to pray for the men and women of the church this week? Have any of my financial dealings failed to be filled with integrity? Have I given sufficient time to my family? Have I fallen into any kind of sexual sin? Did I take a day off this week? Though this is a helpful way of examining my week, looking back to see evidence of sin in my life and evidence of God’s grace, I know that my heart is often motivated more by a desire not to confess sin to other men than it is to honor God. In other words, I am often motivated more by fear of man than I am by a fear of God.

I’ve (quite literally) laid awake some nights, wondering what is going on in my heart that I’d be more concerned about what my friends and pastors think of me than I am by a desire to obey God. If I want to be very pragmatic, I can rejoice that at least I am not sinning; without accountability I might be more likely to give in to temptation. After all, if that were the case, only God might ever know. If no one was going to ask me whether I’ve been faithful to pray for the people of the church, I would be more likely not to pray. But I pray, at least in part because I know that I will have to answer the question, “Did you pray for the men and women of the church this week?”. But then I wonder, what kind of prayers am I offering if they are motivated by fear of man instead of obedience to God? Does God even want to hear such prayers? What if they are 50% obedience, 50% fear of man? Or 80% obedience and 20% fear or man?

I think Erik nails it when he says accountability may give opportunity not to kill the root of sin, but to actually increase a fear of man. This is not the fault of accountability, I’m sure, but of the individual’s sinful heart. It’s my fault, not accountability’s. There is some kind of idol in my life that values the acceptance of man or a desire to perform well in the eyes of man more than it desires to be obedient to God for the sake of God. At least, that’s the only explanation I can offer." (Tim Challies)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Father's love

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him" (1 John 3:1).

"If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all." (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Does God need our service?

Have you ever served with the wrong motives? Sometimes I can get this idea God needs me to serve Him. Or the idea that service is a way to pay God back. But it is important to know what the Scriptures say about this issue. I think Acts 17:24-25 really helps put things in perspective, "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."

God is insulted when we serve with a motive that makes Him needy. God is not in need of anything we can do as service. We certainly cannot pay Him back for what He has done for us. Service is meant for our pleasure not as payback. Piper calls this trap "The Debtor's Ethic":

"It's going to be legalistic and devastating. And it's going to dishonor God, because it says, 'OK, God made a deposit in my life of some good and some kindness. Now, as I face the future and ponder what my motivation is for pleasing God or for doing good things that he commands, I must now do something good for him because of what he has done for me in the past.'

It's that structure of thought that I think is so dishonoring to God, because when I turn to do something good for God, when I turn to take another step in the path of obedience, I need to not say, 'God helped me in the past; now I must do something for him in the future.' Rather, I need to say, 'God helped me in the past, and now I need his help for the very next moment of my life.'" (John Piper, Is gratitude a bad motivation for obeying God)

God does not need our service nor can we repay Him for what He has done but He wants our obedience to His Word through faith and to rely on His grace throughout obedience. Remember our purpose is to bring God glory not payback. We should cry out with the Psalmist when he asked "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?" His response was not to pay God back rather, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord" (Psalm 116:12-13).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, March 9, 2009

Propitiation

Do you ever skip over the big words in the bible? We hear often about keeping it simple so those who are less mature in the faith can easily understand. But if we hold out a lot of the beauty of the gospel how will we ever grow in our understanding of the gospel? How will we understand the depths of the price paid on the cross? We need to move out of the swallow end of our understanding of God into the deep end.

We have all heard Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Here is a vital aspect of the gospel. A Savior is no good unless we understand we need to be saved from something. Falling short of God's glory means we are undeserving of eternity with Christ. We do not deserve God's favor rather we deserve separation. But one beautiful aspect of the gospel (an essential aspect) comes in the next couple of verses, "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" (24-25a).

Propitiation is one of those words we love to read over and not really understand. It is essential to understand a word like propitiation so we can have a deeper understanding of the gospel. Propitiation is "a sacrifice that bears God's wrath to the end and in so doing changes God's wrath toward us into favor...God had not simply forgiven sin and forgotten about the punishment in generations past. He had forgiven sins and stored up His righteous anger against those sins. But at the cross the fury of all that stored-up wrath against sin was unleashed against God's own Son" (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines).

Do you see deeper the beauty of salvation and the great need to evangelize? When we sell the gospel short we end up with a Jesus who loves and forgives but no one knows from what. What is the point of that Jesus? But when we understand the wrath to come, the realization of hell for those who don't repent we begin to understand the seriousness of falling short of God's glory. We begin to understand what we have been forgiven from. This should spring us into action to be men and women who reflect Christ in our words and actions. God's righteous anger against sin has been poured on His Son so His children never have to bear it.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, March 6, 2009

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

One major point I missed in yesterday's post was Jesus words on the cross that remind us of eternal torment. Jesus said seven important sayings on the cross. All of them with great significance.

1. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
3. Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27).
4. I thirst (John 19:28).
5. It is finished (John 19:30).
6. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).


The one missing from the list is the one we want to focus on so we can have a greater understanding of the price Jesus paid for the redeemed and the misery unrepentant hearts are going to experience forever.


7. Eli Eli lama sabachthani? ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"), Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34

At this moment on the cross Jesus was abandoned from the Father. This is the moment we can best use to describe what hell will be like for those who are perishing. Totally forsaken from God. Cynics respond with, "I don't need God, I'm fine on my own." No! You are lifeless and dead on your own. Your whole life depends on God's kindness to spare your life now on this earth. "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance" (Romans 2:4)?

But for those who are repenters this moment on the cross ought to humble us. Hearing the words "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" should sprout a heart of praise. This was the moment God's wrath for a sinner like me was being poured out on His only Son. This was the moment Jesus took every sin away from the redeemed. This the moment where the price was paid for the regenerate. This moment spared us from eternal darkness to everlasting light.

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:6)!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Viewing hell from the cross

Have you ever pondered the consequences of rejecting Christ as Savior and Lord? I often wonder if our images of Satan with two little horns and pitchfork has minimized our view of eternal torment. Our focus has shifted to fire and Satan rather than eternal separation from God. I believe we have made a mockery of eternal misery.

J.I. Packer talks about this in his book Knowing God, "We cannot, of course, form any adequate notion of hell, any more than we can of heaven, and no doubt it is good for us that this is so; but perhaps the clearest notion we can form is that derived from contemplating the cross."

Have you pondered the cross when thinking of hell? We hear of love, sacrifice, forgiveness and eternal life as a result of the cross but not many times do we show others the reality of hell from the cross.

Packer goes on, "On the cross, God judged our sins in the person of His Son, and Jesus endured the retributive comeback of our wrongdoing. Look at the cross, therefore, and you see what form God's judicial reaction to human sin will finally take. What form is that? In a word, withdrawal and deprivation of good. On the cross Jesus lost all the good that He had before: all sense of His Father's presence and love, all sense of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, all enjoyment of God and of created things, all ease and solace of friendship, were taken from His, and in their place was nothing but loneliness, pain, a killing sense of human malice and callousness, and a horror of great spiritual darkness."

I think we need to change our focus from a little red man with baby horns to the reality that hell is separation from everything good. Eternal torment is separation from the Creator, God the Father. The Bible says it this way, "But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born" (Mark 14:21).

I hope it is clear what is ahead if you reject God but for those who trust in Christ's work on the cross I hope you are able to sing:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
(Philip Bliss)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Atonement

"The atonement is the work Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation

Was there any other way for God to save human beings than by sending His Son to die in our place?

Before answering this question, it is important to realize that it was not necessary for God to save any people at all. When we appreciate that 'God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment' (2 Peter 2:4), then we realize that God also could have chosen with perfect justice to have left us in our sins awaiting judgment. He could have chosen to save no one, just as He did with the sinful angels. So in this sense the atonement was not absolutely necessary.

But once God, in His love, decided to save some human beings, then several passages in Scripture indicate that there was no other way for God to do this than through the death of His Son. Therefore, the atonement was not absolutely necessary, but, as a 'consequence' of God's decision to save some human beings, the atonement was absolutely necessary." (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is that a yellow scooter?

Men have you ever been intimidated to meet your girlfriend's father?

I would say the same applies with me but I think I spent more time with him before Heather and I could begin to date. Here was a guy who wanted to have lunch and talk about his daughter and I before we started dating. He was very active to pursue lunch as often as possible to find out the status of our relationship as it continued to grow. He wanted to have lunch to talk about purity in our relationship. I'll never forget the lunch when I wanted to ask him if I could marry his daughter and sheet of paper he pulled out with what seemed to be 1,000 questions. I'm not sure if he could see the sweat or not but I'm sure he knew I was nervous.

The greatest part about it, he did it because he cared. He cared not only for his daughter. He cared not only for me. Most importantly he cared because he wanted to see godliness in our relationship. What he may not know is how much it taught me. Heather and I now have a little baby girl joining our family in under 3 months. Before I know it some guy will be interested in her. The lessons taught to me by my father-in-law were priceless. He is my living guide on how to handle the dating situation with my daughter. I wonder if we had more men like him, who cared about godly character so much, how different our world would look.

Thanks Mike for the example. Thanks for your stress on the importance of godly character. Thanks for your guidelines that were not man made but Scripture saturated. Thanks for being someone to trust for counsel. Thanks for caring so much about purity. Last, thanks for giving me your blessing to marry your daughter.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, March 2, 2009

Be strong in the Lord

“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10)

This whole phrase is crucial to place together. We cannot just say, “Finally, be strong” because that would imply a reliance on our own strength. Tim Senn says, “Man cannot overcome evil in the world in his own strength because he is not simply dealing with himself! He is dealing with a superior force – a supernatural force of evil.” Our strength is weak therefore we must fight this fight with sin in the strength of the Lord. Martyn Lloyd Jones says, “In other words, the real, the ultimate issue is not so much my fight with the devil, as God’s fight with the devil.” God cannot lose! We will struggle and sin but in the end God cannot fall to Satan.

Sam Storms asks: How might we obtain this ‘strength’?

*through prayer
*by fasting
*by making certain that biblical truth is forever flowing in our spiritual veins
*through fellowship and encouragement of other Christians
*through praise and worship
*by partaking of the Lord’s Supper
*through the anointing and filling of the Holy Spirit
*by adorning ourselves with the armor of God

Grace upon grace,
JRL