Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Pull up and examine your conscience"

This past weekend I had the honor to serve our youth from the Bible Church of Little Rock on their Fall Retreat. Adam Tyson was our guest speaker and here are some of the notes from session 1 on Friday evening:

"Pull up and examine your conscience"

Is your conscience captive to the Word of God or what you feel?

Our conscience is not the final authority.

Our conscience needs to be in sync with the Word of God. The conscience is only as good as that it is in sync with.

The chasetisement of the conscience is like a flash of hell.

3 Challenges of the Conscience
1. You must make sure your conscience is cleansed.
2. You must make sure your conscience maintains balance.
3. You must make sure your conscience stays pure.

Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

Adam summed this verse up by quoting his pastor Ken Ramey, "What you cover, God will uncover but what you uncover, God will cover." Time is not a healer of sin, Christ is.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Folly of the Cross

I had a post set for today but after reading the post by my friend Stephen Bean yesterday I wanted to share it with you all. Stephen wrote a post titled Wisdom, Folly, and Truth. I just want to share a small part of it with you but please click the link and go read the whole post.

"Unfortunately in our day we will do almost anything to convince the wise man of the truth of the gospel by using his own 'wisdom.' Some appeal to scientific evidence while others try philosophical arguments. Others just do whatever they can to get you in the doors of a church so they can show you how much better Jesus is for your emotional well-being. But verse 17 says 'Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.'

The power of the cross is its ability to save. If we try to take the form of a fellow truth-suppressor we will only convert them to a slightly different form of rebellion against God. We might have more theistic heathens but in the end there won’t be anymore knees bowing to Jesus (unless God is so kind as to convert them despite an unbiblical presentation of the gospel).

My encouragement to you is to remember as you do apologetics and try to reach out to people that you don’t try to do it in a cunning persuasive way. Show people you care about them, show them that the Bible answers the questions they have (even the deep ones), but in the end let them accept or reject the truth of the cross. It isn’t up to you to convert souls, it is up to you to speak the truth of the gospel. The rest is up to God."

To view the whole post click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 28, 2009

Are you Drinking from the River of God's Delights?

"Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep;man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light." (Psalm 36:5-9)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Condemnation


“No condemnation” (Romans 8:1)

Today we find ourselves at the pinnacle of God’s word. As Christians, when read Romans 8 we ought to be saying “Amen” through the whole chapter. Today I want to start at the beginning of the chapter and next week I would like to tackle the end of the chapter. I want us to see the great news that because of Jesus Christ there is “no condemnation.”

Earlier in Romans we read “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3:23). Then in chapter 5 we see Christ’s electing work of salvation “by faith” the Father gives us peace through Christ. We read that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6). Paul then writes, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). Because of Christ’s work on the cross sinners are reconciled through his blood by his grace. In chapter 7 we see Paul’s struggle against the flesh, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (7:22-23). Many argue that Paul is speaking of his life before Christ but to keep this short I’ll say I disagree because a person who does not know Christ does not have this war going on. Those who do not know Christ do not “delight in the law of God” nor do they care that sin dwells in them. Paul finishes speaking of the war between his flesh and obedience to Christ. Chapter 8 begins with Paul reminding himself that there is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sin, Satan and self will always tug at your heart to believe the lie that reconciliation is unattainable. They will speak lies that say Christ is not enough. They will tell you that your sin is too great to be forgiven. They will say you need to earn your way into God’s favor. But God’s grace is sufficient. For those who trust in Christ’s finished work we know sin, Satan and our flesh will be defeated in the end. Sin was removed and Satan defeated at Christ’s death and resurrection. We long for the day to see Christ face to face gazing upon his glory. Christian, rest in God’s promise that in the righteousness of Christ there is “no condemnation.”

“No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.” (Charles Wesley)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meditate upon Heaven

"Meditate on HEAVEN, which is most joyful.

'Then the King will say to those on His right-Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!' Matthew 25:34

'Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!' Matthew 25:21

Heaven is a place where all joy is enjoyed!
In Heaven, there will be:
mirth without sadness,
light without darkness,
sweetness without bitterness,
life without death,
rest without labor,
plenty without poverty!
Oh, what joy enters into the believer-when the believer enters into the joy of his Lord!

Who would not . . .work for glory with the greatest diligence, and wait for glory with the greatest patience?

Oh, what glories are there in glory!
Thrones of glory,
crowns of glory,
vessels of glory,
a weight of glory,
a kingdom of glory!

Here on earth-Christ puts His grace upon His spouse!
There in Heaven--He puts His glory upon His spouse!

In heaven the crown is made for them, and in Heaven the crown shall be worn by them! In this life believers have some good things--but the rest and best are reserved for the life to come!

Oh, sirs! meditate upon Heaven, for meditation on Heaven will make us heavenly!
Heaven is not only a possession promised by Christ--but a possession purchased by Christ!

When our contemplations and minds are in Heaven--then we enjoy Heaven upon earth! To be IN Christ is Heaven below; to be WITH Him is Heaven above! There cannot be a better thing for us, than for us to be with the best of beings! 'To me to live is Christ--and to die is gain!' Philippians 1:21

Let our condition now be ever so great-it is Hell without Christ!
Let our condition now be ever so bad--it is Heaven with Christ!

'I had rather be in Hell with Christ--than in Heaven without Him!' said Luther.

Hell itself would be Heaven-if Christ was in it!
Heaven would be Hell-if Christ was out of it!

That which makes Heaven so full of joy-is that it is above all fear!
That which makes Hell so full of horror-is that it is beyond all hope!

The vessels of grace-shall swim in the ocean of glory! We may talk of the greatness of our crowns-but we shall never know the weight of our crowns-until they are set on our heads! " (William Dyer)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Meditate upon Hell

"Heaven is a place where all is joyful; and Hell is a place where all is doleful.

In Heaven-there is nothing but happiness; but in Hell-there is nothing but heaviness!

'The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God.' Psalm 9:17
Mark, sirs-the wicked shall be turned into hell.

Oh, dreadful place-where the devil is the jailer!

Hell is the prison, damnation is the punishment, eternity is the duration, brimstone is the fire, and men and devils are the fuel!

To endure this will be intolerable; and to avoid it will be impossible!

This is the day of God's long-suffering; that will be the day of man's long-suffering! There they will suffer: pain without ease, torment without end, sorrow without support, and misery without mercy!

Sirs! Meditate upon Hell!

Oh, what hells are there in Hell! Hell is:
the loss of God,
the loss of Christ,
the loss of all good!

Endless, ceaseless, and remediless torments must be their eternal portion!

Oh, that you would often think of Hell!

Oh, sirs! let us go to Hell by contemplation,
that we may never go to Hell by condemnation!

Oh sirs! Meditate upon Hell!" (William Dyer)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Meditate upon Death

I would like to take today through Thursday to post some great words from William Dyer encouraging all to meditate upon Death, Hell and Heaven.

"Meditate upon DEATH, which is most certain.
'It is appointed unto men once to die.' Hebrews 9:27

Out of the dust was man formed;
into the dust shall man be turned.

To think of death--is a death to some men!

Oh, sirs! Meditate upon death.

Meditation on death--will put sin to death!

Death to the wicked--is the end of all comfort, and the beginning of all misery!
Death to the godly--is the outlet to sin and sorrow, and the inlet to peace and happiness!

The saints' enjoyment shall be incomparable,
when the sinners' torments shall be intolerable!

When a believer's soul goes out of his own bosom--it goes into Abraham's bosom!
When a saint dies--he leaves all his bad behind him, and carries his good with him!
When a sinner dies--he carries his bad with him, and leaves his good behind him!

The godly man goes from evil--to all good.
The wicked man goes from good--to all evil.

When a saint leaves the world--his soul returns to happiness and rest!
When a sinner leaves this world--his body goes to worms to be consumed, and his soul goes to flames to be tormented!

The saint goes to Abraham's bosom;
the sinner goes to Beelzebub's bosom!

The wheat goes to the barn; the chaff goes to the fire!
Oh, sirs! meditate upon death!"

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 21, 2009

Speaking truth produces praise

Psalm 63:1-8

David cries out to the Lord in Psalm 63, "O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you" (1). David longs for the Lord. As I studied this text I wondered why my soul doesn't long for God in this manner? We need to have a proper focus on the object of our worship. When my soul is not longing after God then my focus has shifted to another object of worship. I am an idolater in my heart.

David helps see how our focus stays on God, "So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary...I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night" (2,6). David tells us to stay focused through the teaching of and meditating on the Word of God. Then in turn we will behold God's "power and glory" (2). We see the character of God as we meditate upon that which he has revealed about himself. Take a look at Isaiah 6:1-8 and see how God displayed himself to Isaiah.

David then says, "Because your steadfast love is better than life" (3). Steve Lawson says, "This steadfast love by which God had committed himself to David was more valuable to him than life itself. He knew that God was not only with him but for him through thick and thin, in good times and bod times, both on and off the throne, in the royal court as well as in the rugged wilderness." Focusing in on God's character and attributes will cause our hearts to react with affections for the Savior.

David list a few of them here in this text:
My lips praise you (3)
I will bless you (4)
I will lift up my hands (4)
My soul will be satisfied (5)
My mouth wil praise you with joyful lips (5)
I will sing for joy (7)

In verse 8 we see David say to the Lord: "My soul clings to you." Why? David speaks more truth about God saying, "Your right hand upholds me." The Lord is upholding his children in every situtation of life. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. We may feel otherwise but our feelings do negate the truth of God's Word.

I would encourage you read Isaiah 6:1-8 and also Psalm 63 is a good read but also can be used for prayer. Stay in God's word to find out more about his character and attributes that cause praise in the heart of those he has redeemed.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 18, 2009

Slaves to Various Passions and Pleasures


“Slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3)

Paul, in his letter to Titus, is teaching Titus to be discerning between believers and false teachers. Paul is constantly teaching faith will produce godliness. In this section of Titus, Paul is telling Christians to remember who they were before Christ graciously saved their souls. In the list we read “slaves to various passions and pleasures.” This was applicable back then and still applicable today.

I would like to focus in on the word “various” here in this text. Various represent change. It represent going from one to another in this text. God, on the other hand, does not change. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Also in Hebrews we see, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8). The infinite God never changes but his finite creatures are ever changing. Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Crete about their life before Christ is clear, “Slaves to various passions and pleasures.”

Most will argue that “passions and pleasures” are the issue in this text not the word “various.” I agree “passions and pleasures” can be dangerous but the problem is chasing after the “various passions and pleasures” of this world not eternal pleasures. The Bible is clear on the distinction between the two. In the parable of the sower in Luke 8 Jesus talks about the seed that fell among the thorns saying, “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (14). Jesus is clear the pleasures of this life will kill a man’s soul. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? The answer is nothing. His profit in the end is hell. His entire life he moved from one passion and pleasure to another to fill the void in his eternal soul. At the end of his life his soul is still empty of true life. The unrepentant hearts of mankind forfeit their souls by being “slaves to various passions and pleasure.”

If I were end here this post now that would be horrible. I would have told you about our eternal souls never being able to be satisfied for all eternity which is bad news. But knowing the bad news makes the good news good. David in Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” God’s word plainly says that “passions and pleasures” are not the issue but rather where you are finding your “passions and pleasures.” This is why I love John Piper’s message of Christian Hedonism. Piper says, “The great hindrance to worship is not that we are pleasure-seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures.”

We must repent of our chasing after the fleeting pleasures of sin. We must, by God grace, be satisfied with the eternal pleasures Christ offers at his right hand. Until you put your trust in Christ you will remain “slaves to various passions and pleasures.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Speaking About What You Value

C.S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms says, "Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about."

I read this quotation for the first time a couple of nights ago and it struck me that this does represent my life but many times what I value is not Christ. The Psalmists speak of God's steadfast love, faithfulness, beauty, comfort; being a refuge, rock, fortress, Shepherd, Creator and so much more. Many times I don't say a word about Christ. Sure I speak of his grace and love to myself. I remind myself of what he accomplished on the cross. I tell myself of his gift of everlasting life because of his resurrection. But when it comes to speaking aloud to others about Christ I find myself silent too often. Lewis goes on:

"I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed."

Lord by your grace and strength alone will my love for you change to speakable joy in what you have done. Forgive me for being silent when I should have opened my mouth and for opening my mouth when I should be silent. Teach me more and more about your faithfulness so that in turn I may be faithful to speak of your faithfulness.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Learn Humility from Christ

"Learn from Me--for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29

"Learn humility--from Christ's humility.

For lack of humility--some angels became devils! Proud sinners are fit companions, for none but proud devils!

When men glory in their pride--God stains the pride of their glory! 'The Lord Almighty planned it--to stain the pride of all glory, and to humble all who are renowned on the earth.' Isaiah 23:9
The most lowly Christian--is the most lovely Christian!

A believer is like a vessel in the sea: the more it fills--the more it sinks!
None live so humble on earth--as those who live highest in heaven. See how one of the best of saints looks upon himself--as one of the least of saints, 'Unto me who am less than the least of all saints,' said the great Paul in Ephesians 3:8.

The most holy men--are always the most lowly men. Where humility is the corner-stone, there piety is the top-stone. The coat of humility--should always be worn on the back of Christianity." "Clothe yourselves with humility." 1 Peter 5:5 (William Dyer, Christ's Famous Titles)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 14, 2009

Humility like Jesus

On Friday evening my wife and I caught some of the Basketball Hall of Fame inductions. I was excited to see we had not missed Michael Jordan's induction. I thought it would be a really cool things to see the greatest basketball player take his place in the Hall of Fame. What I came to discover was the speech of a man with great arrogance. I was expecting a gracious list of thank you's to teammates, coaches, administration and fans but what I heard was nothing but me, me, me and me. While Michael mentioned some teammates and coaches in passing he quickly went on to talk about all the people that threw wood into the fire.

Once he finished I looked at my wife and said, "That was kind of sad." Jordan's life had been given over to the worship of basketball but the biggest problem was he knew he was god in this arena. From the world's perspective self-glorification is the norm but as a follower of Jesus Christ this is hideous. Sadly I can spot the arrogance and pride in the life of others but the more I thought about it the more I realized how much I miss this in my own life. I wonder when people speak with me or do any activity with me if they see me or if they see humility like Christ. I fear too many times I'm like Jordan and not Jesus. The very thing I loathed in Jordan is what I love in myself. I wouldn't say I love it but if my actions speak of pride then I must not have an issue with it like I ought.

Jesus on the other hand is all about humility: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:3-8)

Are you more about yourself than you are the interest of others? My challenge to myself and you would be to look to Jesus as our example. He empty himself by becoming man so that he might obey his Father's will and die on the cross for the sins of those he came to save.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 11, 2009

God Said


“God Said” (Genesis 1:3)

Imagine complete darkness then with just the words “Let there be light”, light is created. This is what occurs when God speaks. In six days he created all that we can see with our eyes and much more. He spoke the sun, moon and stars into existence. He spoke animals into existence. He spoke us into existence. “God said” is all that is needed for existence.

The same God who spoke all things into existence is not a distant God. He is author of salvation. He has the power to speak anything into creation. We should stand amazed when we see a beautiful sunrise. God is giving us a taste of his beauty. Through the sun we can also see a small glimpse of his glory and power. But the most amazing of God’s creations is when we see sinners changed through God speaking new life into them. Observing his power through creation is amazing but the reality of taking my dead heart and speaking life into it amazes me more. “God said” to my dead heart, “Let there be life” and so it happened.

How can we know this is true?

“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 Cor. 4:6). God is able to speak into dark hearts “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He reveals the reality of Christ to us. He allows us to see the price paid at Calvary for our sins. We see ourselves in light of his holiness and we must confess as Isaiah, “Woe is me.” We have dark hearts with no longing for God but God graciously speaks light into the darkness. “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” (Eph. 2:4-5). Dark and dead we were when “God said” arise in the light of my glory and grace for all eternity. The great God of creation is the same great God of our salvation.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Living and loving like Jesus Would Make this World Better

Have you meet someone who firmly believes, “If we all just lived and loved like Jesus this world would be a better place”? Then when you ask them if Jesus is God they respond, “No.” We need to beware of this type of thinking. These are false teachers claiming a good but denying the truth. Let me see if I can explain the logical rebuttal.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

The point of good deeds or good works is not to make ourselves feel better. Those who say this world would be a better place if we just lived and loved like Jesus miss one significant point: the glory of God. Jesus came to do the will of the Father bringing him the glory. If pride is our motivation to do good works then we are not living and loving like Jesus. The only possible way to live and love like Jesus is through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are transformed by his Spirit and we are renewed daily by his Spirit. Apart from this work of the Spirit living and loving like Jesus does not make sense. The point for our good deeds is the same point Jesus had: So others may see our good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I’m wrestling more over the blatant disregard of Jesus being God. Logically wouldn’t it be true if you believed living and loving like Jesus would make this world better, than would he not have to be the Creator? Wouldn’t the One who created us know what would make this place better? Better yet make this place the best? This world loves to embrace every philosophical argument which is why we have a new name for every generation. A new generation just means a new philosophical idea. Jesus, however, never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The things of this world are constantly changing and people are always searching to find answers about the truth. Jesus knows what we need because he never changes and his ways are always true and best.

Yes, if we would all live and love the way Jesus lived and loved this world would be a better place. The world would understand and know love to the fullest. But the reason this all makes sense is because Jesus is God. Jesus is the Creator of all things. He is the one who formed us from the dust and knows every part of us intimately. He is the only one who can transform us to live and love the way he did, better yet, still does. Unlike the philosophers of the world Jesus is not dead. He is alive and seated at the right hand of his Father. He has left us his Spirit to work in our lives and transform us more into his image. Those who trust in Christ understand this truth. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Trying to live and love like Jesus on your own strength will never work because your pride will keep you from being like Jesus. Humbly submitting your will to Jesus as Lord and Savior will be the beginning of living and loving like Jesus.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Preaching the Message of the World

C.S. Lewis makes a great insight on much of the preaching in the church:

"I believe that there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say 'Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.' The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world."

I think Mr. Lewis is correct in his observation on the teaching taking place in the church these days. Paul knew about this same occurrence. Paul charged Timothy to preach the word saying, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

Are you having your own appetite for the world quenched or are you fighting against a love for this world for the sake of Christ?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Faith

My God,
I bless thee that thou hast given me the eye of faith,
to see thee as Father,
to know thee as a covenant God,
to experience thy love planted in me;
For faith is the grace of union
by which I spell out my entitlement to thee:
Faith casts my anchor upwards where I trust in thee
and engage thee to be my Lord.
Be pleased to live and move within me,
breathing in my prayers,
inhabiting my praises,
speaking in my words,
moving in my actions,
living in my life,
causing me to grow in grace.
Thy bounteous goodness has helped me believe,
but my faith is weak and waving,
its light dim,
its steps tottering,
its increase slow,
its backslidings frequent;
It should scale the heavens but lies grovelling in the dust.
Lord, fan this divine spark into glowing flame.
When faith sleeps, my heart becomes an unclean thing,
the fount of every loathsome desire,
the cage of unclean lusts
all fluttering to escape,
the noxious tree of deadly fruit,
the open wayside of earthly tares.
Lord, awake faith to put forth its strength
until all heaven fills my soul
and all impurity is cast out. (Valley of Vision)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 7, 2009

Time of Earth

"God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends." (Jeremy Taylor)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Great High Priest


“A great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14)

What great comfort to know we have “a great high priest.” Jesus is the great high priest who made atonement for sin once and for all. Jesus is our mediator. He is the only One who could make final atonement for sin because Jesus is the God-man. He is fully human and fully divine therefore he is the only One who could make atonement between humanity and God. He is “a great high priest.”

Why the term high priest? “To the high priest alone it was permitted to enter the holy of holies, which he did only once a year, on the great Day of Atonement…Wearing his gorgeous priestly vestments, he entered the temple before all the people, and then, laying them aside and assuming only his linen garments in secret, he entered the holy of holies alone, and made expiation, sprinkling the blood of the sin offering on the mercy seat, and offering up incense. Then resuming his splendid robes, he reappeared before the people (Lev. 16). Thus the wearing of these robes came to be identified with the Day of Atonement” (Biblegateway.com). In the Old Testament this is how sin was covered. People would have to go see the high priest for him to make atonement for their sins. This was a foreshadowing of the One who would come as “a great high priest” to make atonement once and for all for sin.

Only the high priest was able to enter the holy of holies to make atonement for sin. The high priest played the most significant role for the people to be pardoned. Jesus on the other hand is God who came down from heaven to be crucified for the sins of his people. Jesus does not have to enter the holy of holies every year to pardon people but his death, burial, resurrection and accession into heaven accomplished that pardon for good. This is why Jesus cried ‘It is finished’ on the cross.

When the high priest entered the holy of holies he made expiation by sprinkling the blood on the sin offering on the mercy seat. This is significance in realizing this event as only a foreshadowing of Christ. Jesus went to the cross as the spotless Lamb of God making expiation for our sins by his own blood. But Jesus also did something more significant that the high priests in the Old Testament could not do: Christ made propitiation for us. Expiation is the great reality that sin have been forgiven. In the Old Testament expiation was made by the high priest sprinkling the blood of the offering on the mercy seat.

With Christ expiation was made by his own blood he shed at Calvary as our offering. Propitiation could not be made by the high priest. The high priests in could not remove the wrath of God. Jesus is the only One who could remove God’s righteous wrath from us. We “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” (Romans 3:24-25). Expiation and propitiation was made through Christ as “a great high priest.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cultivating Humility

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1)

One of my greatest struggles is confession of sins to others I have offended. Is this true of you as well? God knows all things and is present in all places therefore sin is not hidden from him. I have no problem understanding this about God. When I know of sin in my thought life or attitude, I confess my sin to God knowing Jesus death has covered all my sin. But when I sin against a person I find no problem in confessing that sin to God but I struggle with confessing my sin and seeking the forgiveness from the other party offended. Why? I can think of a list of reasons: Fear of man, self-righteousness and the fear of persecution. This list can be summed up as pride. I’m praying God would reveal more of my sinful heart breaking me of my pride that holds me back from seeking the forgiveness of others.

I sin, confess my sin and know because of God’s great love for me, through Christ, I am forgiven. Knowing this truth is a great joy but can also be used as an escape from truly living out the Scriptures. When another party has been offended we must seek their forgiveness as well. Many times I sense that if I seek the forgiveness of others they will not see me as the good person I want to be seen as. In the eyes of the world I have a reputation as “the Christian guy” to uphold. The problem is I’m not following God’s word when I don’t seek forgiveness. Maybe the world has Christianity mixed up because of people like me. I worry about them seeing me as a good person instead of a sinner saved by grace.

My view of God has also diminished as I’ve seen myself approach the throne of grace casually forgetting Jesus dide so I might approach this throne. In my mind I think I deserve forgiveness, like it’s owed to me, instead of praising God for his unmerited favor in my life. Many times I tremble at approaching others for forgiveness but have no problem approaching the Creator of the universe. Something seems out of whack with this logic. I’ve turned into a cold hearted Pharisee seeking the approval of man over the approval of God. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man” (Galatians 1:10)? These are crucial questions to ask.

How do we change?

Ultimately we must trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We must learn to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In order to do this we must hold to the teaching of God’s word. We cannot just say we love Jesus and not be obedient to him. John is pretty clear about this issue: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). This can sound like Christians ought to be perfect people but that is exactly the issue I am struggling with at this moment. We are not perfect people though the tendency is to show the world some form of fake perfection.

My prayer is you see the struggle in your Christian walk. This isn’t the easy road. Nothing sounds easy when Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.” My translation is die to yourself and surrender all to Christ. This will be the epic battle while in this world because of sin. I’ve shared some practical things in my own life that I struggle with but you would miss the point if you just focused in on my struggles. My encouragement to you is to examine your own life to see whether you are in the faith or not (2 Corinthians 13:5). The Holy Spirit is graciously working on me. By God’s grace I want to learn more about who he is from his word so I can continue to kill the sin in my own life. I’m not discouraged after writing these thoughts but I’m encouraged that God has pointed out sin in my life. This is proof of the Spirit’s work.

Praise God he has searched me and known me and loves me still!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Greatest Story Ever Told

Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren
Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing
The glory of the Triune God’s what I’m stressing
The origin of humankind was fine- blessings
Were plenteous- God is amazingly generous
Crazy benefits in a state of innocence
God told the man what he could taste was limited
Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis
He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell
The whole human race- he represented it
Fooled by the serpent, man through his work
Woman through birth- even the earth ruled by the curses
But instead of a wake immediately
God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake
Yo, wait what’s this? Whoa, a gracious gift!
In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness
This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss
And bliss- but first, many growing pains exist
Suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds
Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed
Indeed things got progressively worse
Every section of the earth's been affected by the curse
And though God’s judgments against sin were gory
Praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story

Next scene: man’s sin was extreme
God gets steamed, man gets creamed
The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water
Fire in the valley of slaughter- Sodom and Gomorrah
But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient
That from one man He created a whole nation
Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved
They cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save
He brought them out with signs and wonders- satisfied their hunger
Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder
Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government
Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant
Sin’s imputed- so for man to know he’s unrighteous
God instituted animal sacrifices
This was to show our constant need for atonement
And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it
And when His people disobeyed and went astray
He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way
But they would get foul with their idolatry- wet and wild
Prophecy- send them into exile
To take their punishment like a grown man
Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland
And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt
They awaited the arrival of Emmanuel

After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears
In Bethlehem the Messiah appears
God in the flesh- Second Person of the Trinity
At thirty begins His earthly ministry
Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts
And back to back miraculous acts
A stumbling block to the self righteous
But the humbled- His flock, said “There’s no one else like this”
He came from heaven to awake the numb
Demonstrated His power over nature, son
A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come
But the reason He came was to pay the sum
For the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness
Bless His magnificence- He’s perfect and innocent
Yet He was wrecked and His death- He predicted it
Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite
He said that He finished it- resurrected so the elect
would be the recipients of its benefits
Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate
His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes
Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence
for heaven's future residents who truly represent
Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director and
Star of a story that will never, ever end!

The greatest story ever told
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold
The greatest story ever told
Restoring all that the enemy stole
The greatest story ever told
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold
The greatest story ever told
It's the greatest... (Shai Linne)

To see Shai performing this song live at Worship God 09 click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"The Secret of Christian Contentment"

Pastor Tim Senn taught Sunday morning on "The Secret of Christian Contentment" from Philippians 4:10-14.

"I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

Here are some of the notes:

You cannot experience true contentment outside of Christ.

Three keys to learning how to be content:
1. Refuse to be controlled by circumstances. (vv 10-11)
As long as your chasing the ever changing for contentment you will never be content.

2. Respond in trust to God's providence. (v 12)
Every circumstance is in his hand, for his glory and our good.

3. Rely on the power of Christ for strength. (vv 13-14)

Grace upon grace,
JRL