Friday, October 30, 2009

I will be with you


“I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5)

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our Perfect High Priest (Part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise God for his great kindness!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Perfect High Priest (Part 3)

In part 1 we spoke of the significance of Christ's life for our salvation. In part 2 we saw that we have a great High Priest who has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Today I want to go back looking at why our righteous deeds are as "filthy rags" apart from Christ and see the significance of Christ as our High Priest making his righteousness our own.

In Isaiah 64:6 we read that apart from Christ our righteous deeds are as "filthy rags." Why? Because of the fall in Genesis 3 all of humanity is under the curse of the law. The law is not the law of the land but rather God's perfect, holy law given in Scripture. All people are born under this law. The problem is we are unable to perfectly obey the law because we are born into sin (Ps. 51:5). We are natural born sinners through Adam. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Here lies the greatest problem with our best deeds apart from Christ: they are for the glorification of self not God. This pride lies at the root of all sin. We want the glory for everything we do. Sure it can be easy to say we are sinners when we have been caught telling a lie or cheating in some way but we can miss the fact that giving to charity can be for the wrong reasons. Sin is more than visual action; it is an issue of the heart. We can look selfless giving to charity but in our hearts we are patting ourselves on the back saying, "Look at me, I've done a good thing." We sin by robbing God of his glory. Our righteous deeds cannot bring glory to God apart from Christ. This is why we need a great High Priest.

Jesus, as the great High Priest, not only removes our "filthy rags" but gives us his perfect robe of righteousness. In Christ we are able to do good deeds for the glory of God. This is the point of our good works so others may see them and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). We will not do this perfectly in this life but because of Christ the Father looks down and sees the perfect life of Christ not our sinful souls. This is the very reason Paul says, "Let the one who boasts, boasts in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31).

We have no reason to boast but in the life and death of Jesus Christ. He took the form of humanity becoming our perfect High Priest. We now can have fellowship with the Father through the mediator Jesus Christ. It ought to humble us daily to know that our best is filthy to a holy God. But God graciously sent Jesus to rescue us by covering our sins with his blood. Jesus came and lived the life we could not live therefore we who trust in him are given his perfect righteousness. We could never attain this on our own.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our Perfect High Priest (Part 2)

Yesterday we saw the significance of Christ's perfect obedience to the Father throughout his entire life. Through faith in Christ we are counted as perfectly righteous before the Father. In the book of Hebrews we read plenty of references of Jesus as our great High Priest. This is comforting because unlike the Old Testament high priests Jesus was perfect and made a sacrifice once for the forgiveness of sins. But not only was Jesus able to make one sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, he was also able to cover sinful humans with his perfect righteousness. This was impossible for the high priests of the Old Testament.

Many have argued that Jesus had it easy to be obedient because he did not live in a time like ours that was full of sin. First, sin is not a new thing. Since the fall (Gen. 3) the hearts of men have always been prone to sin and sin often. Maybe we see sin more visually in our technological age because it is all over TV, computers, magazines and so on but that does not negate the fact that sin has always been prevalent in the hearts of humanity.

Second, the bible says Jesus was tempted in every respect as we are. Let me repeat: Jesus was tempted in every respect as we are. The bible is clear that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9) so therefore sin was as dominant back then as it is today and Jesus was tempted by it all. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus endured temptation to the greatest degree possible. When we are tempted to sin we normally cave within minutes. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit are we able to withstand temptation to the greatest degree. But Jesus resisted sin perfectly. He never caved once to the fleeting pleasures of sin. Praise God! Jesus is able to sympathize with us in our weakness and through faith in Christ his perfection is counted to us so that we may be presented holy and blameless before the Father (Col. 1:22).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Perfect High Priest (Part 1)

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

Wayne Grudem defines the atonement as "the work Christ did in his life and death to earn salvation." Jesus life was significant to his death. Too often we focus on the cross forgetting that without Christ's perfect obedience to the Father we do not have a righteousness but our own. The bible clearly addresses our righteous deeds apart from Christ calling them "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Our best deeds are disgusting in the eyes of a holy God. This is why we must not skip over the life of Jesus and go straight to his death.

In the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) we see the life of Jesus and that his purpose in coming to earth was to obey the Father's will. As our example, we want to look at his life so we can, by the Holy Spirit, learn how to live like Christ. But the most significant aspect is seeing Christ's perfect obedience through his life. Grudem says, "Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us."

This is the exciting news: Not only are our sins taken away through his death but because of his perfect obedience in his life, his perfect righteousness is counted to sinners who repent and trust in Jesus. His perfect righteousness is counted to us as our own because we inherit the life of Christ when we put our faith in Christ. To deny the perfect righteousness of Christ is to live in the filthy righteousness of self.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trapped in their Pride



“Trapped in their pride” (Psalm 59:12)

Pride is the greatest enemy of the Christian but the natural man loves his pride above all else. The natural man seeks to make himself happy through any means necessary. His pride drives him to do whatever he wants to do. The wicked are blinded by their own deceitfulness because they are “trapped in their pride.”

The Christian desires to kill all pride in his life. They pray that God may empty them of self, filling them more and more with the mind of Christ. They seek the humility of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are commanded in God’s word to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Through the power of the Holy Spirit the Christian has the ability to fight against his pride. C.S. Lewis noted this fight against pride is where “Christian morals” differ for all other morals. In his book Mere Christianity he says:

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”

Lewis is saying worldly men are “trapped in their pride.” Sadly they do not see pride in their own lives but hate when they see it in others. They love their state so much they do not know of a better replacement. Looking back on my own life I see how much I loved myself and how much I hated others for loving themselves. But God graciously peeled back the scales from my eyes revealing the dark rooted pride in my heart. He showed me the glory and beauty of humbly submitting to the authority of Christ and his word. His Spirit is daily convicting me of the remaining pride in my life. God word says, “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18) but God humbled me before the ultimate destruction took place.

Heed the truth of God’s word knowing that pride does go before destruction but God’s patience of giving you each new day is his kindness that is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4). Life will end when God says it’s over. Don’t delay another day without trusting in the work of Christ on the cross. Wicked men boast in their own wisdom and remain “trapped in their pride.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christian Ethics

Pastor Lance Quinn wrote a great blog post at Shepherd's Fellowship entitled The True Basis for Christian Ethics. Here is what he wrote:

"Any attempt at defining or even understanding the basis for Christian ethics will by necessity be rooted and grounded in the Word of God, as contained in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.

Far too often, those who purport to engage in Christian ethics, do so without a clear and proper understanding of the exegesis of the biblical languages themselves, a sturdy grasp of the Bible’s own history and timeline, and a keen observation of the various cultural motifs as shown in the Bible itself. It then becomes impossible to see how all of these crucially important tasks should apply to today’s ethical challenges.

Since these present day challenges are legion, it is incumbent upon everyone who claims to be about the business of doing Christian ethics that they should seriously and diligently understand how Christian ethics must be properly constructed and then applied. Christian ethics then, by the very term must derive its unique and ultimate authority from the only truth-source available to the Christian—Holy Scripture.

Christian ethical ideas, decisions, norms, and mores therefore simply cannot be validly understood or practiced without being constructed from the Word of the living God. Thus, Christian ethics itself must always and forever be informed, defined, understood, and practiced only by a correct knowledge and use of God’s Word. There simply is no true 'Christian ethic' without the Christian’s own reliance upon the truths contained in the Sacred Writings which stretch from Genesis to Revelation."

How do we get 'Christian ethic' without the word of God? We simply cannot do it.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pick up your Sword and Fight!

In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on our armor in the battle against sin. This isn't a put on and take off armor but rather once we are adopted into God's family we are to be prepared for the war against sin. There is a battle raging behind the scenes "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (12). We need to be ready at all times. The armor comes with shoes, belt, breastplate, helmet, shield and a sword.

The only offensive weapon mentioned in the armor is the sword. Paul tells us this is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (17). God has given us his word so we might do battle against anything that is not pleasing in his sight. The Scriptures are sufficient for fighting sin. Josh Harris says, "Scripture cuts through the confusion and hazy half-truths that our sin generates. It reveals our wrong desires. It rebukes our apathy. It corrects our selfish human thinking. It unmasks the deception of sin. It points us to God's goodness and faithfulness when we're tempted to forget. It trains us in righteousness. It counters the false promises of lust with God's true promises."

Get in the word so you can do battle against sin and have life abundantly in Jesus Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Accountable to One

In his book Not Even a Hint, Josh Harris gives us some great pointers on how to help each other out, as brothers and sisters, in the fight against sin. Josh Harris quotes Alan Medinger:

"An accountability relationship is one in which a Christian gives permission to another believer to look into his life for purposes of questioning, challenging, admonishing, advising, encouraging and otherwise providing input in ways that will help the individual live according to the Christian principles that they both hold."

James writes, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another" (5:16). The fight against sin is no easy task. God has graciously given his Spirit to those he came to save. He has given us the unity of the body for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel to the world this includes each other. We never want to be so arrogant to think we have moved beyond the gospel. The gospel is central to all thing pertaining to life. Accountability is no different. Seeing the gospel brings about confession and repentance.

Later in the chapter "Lone Rangers are Dead Rangers", Josh says, "Confession can be a helpful part of repentance, but it can't take its place. It's possible to feel bad about something and even tell someone else but not genuinely turn from our sin." Here is the danger: We may confess our sin but never repent. Accountability can only go so far between to people but we are all held accountable before the One who sees and knows all things. You cannot run and hide. Repent of your sin and trust that Jesus death is sufficient to cover your sin. "It's only when we remember that God has forgiven our sin because of Jesus Christ that we can find the resolve to keep battling sin."

My encouragement would be to find another believer to hold you accountable. Find someone who loves you enough to speak Scripture to correct, encourage and admonish you. "We don't need to be consoled or comforted for our sin; we need to kill it!" Find someone to help you kill your sin.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pressing on Toward the Goal

Yesterday's Grace Gem from J.R. Miller was really insightful so I thought I'd share:

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

"That Christian life which costs nothing-is worth nothing. There must be self-restraint, discipline, severe schooling. There must be struggle, and the agonizing effort. If you are to reach the goal and win the prize-you must put every energy of your life into the race. There must be a sacrifice of indolence and self-will and personal ease. Too much pampering, spoils many a promising Christian.

Every noble and godly life, is a struggle from beginning to end. Only those who toil and fight and overcome-are successful in life. This is true in every sphere--in business, in academics, and in spiritual life. Are we resisting sin, overcoming temptation, living victoriously in trial? If not--we are not living worthily." (J.R. Miller)

"To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:29)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 16, 2009

Waterless springs


“Waterless springs” (2 Peter 2:17)

In 2 Peter 2 we read the description of those who claim the name Christian but teach the ways of the world. These are men teaching a gospel contrary to Christ’s perfect life, his death and his resurrection. False teachers try to persuade the church to believe their own ideas not based on the word of God. God, in his inspired word, calls these men “waterless springs.”

The term “waterless springs” sounds like a poetic description but God intended this term to accurately describe the cunning deception of false teachers. The ESV study bible describes “waterless springs” as "they promise refreshment and bring none." Peter wants to warn believers to beware of their craftiness and the seriousness of their sin. How do I know it’s serious? In the very same verse Peter says, “For them [False teachers] the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.” This is serious! Peter references darkness earlier in chapter 2 saying, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (4). Peter also says the Lord knows how “to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (9). The day is coming when these “waterless springs” will give an account before God.

Christians, we must know God’s word and hold our doctrine closely. We miss the warning that false teachers promise freedom while they themselves are slaves to corruption (19). We have been disappointed by so many teachers in the spotlight falling into great sin or teaching doctrines contrary to Scripture that we think it’s normal. We don’t search out to find churches and shepherds who live what they teach. We have settled for empty, post-modern gibberish with no theological backbone. Remember Paul’s warning to Timothy, “Preach the word.” Why? For selfish gain? For a bigger platform? For a bigger audience? To be on the cover of Time magazine? NO! Paul says to “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 Tim. 4:2-4). False teachers don’t want to preach the word because they fear man more then they fear God. Paul was pleading with Timothy not to become like these “waterless springs.”

I’ll close with Jude’s warning about false teachers. He uses similar language as Peter saying, “They feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (12-13). For the false teacher life is all about self. They tickle the ears of people to gain applause and praise for themselves. They care nothing about Christ. The only way we can discern between teachers who love Christ and those who don’t is to know Christ. We must know his will and commandments for our lives in order to know the truth. Knowing the truth will help us discern error. Meditate on the words of Christ so when the “waterless springs” arise we may see and flee to refuge in the truth.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cross-Centered Ministry

Here is a small portion of an article by Jay Wegter of Frontline Ministries titled A Cross-Centered Ministry for Christ-Centered Living:

"The cross brings the sinner low; it dashes to the ground all human strategies for managing depravity. The man brought low abandons all false refuges and hiding places from judgment; he comes clean and owns his guilt. He judges himself worthy of divine judgment. Only then (through this Spirit enabled conviction and repentance) does the “altar” of the cross become the sinner’s treasured everlasting meeting place with God (Heb 13:10ff.).

The Christian comes back to meet God there over and over again. By fresh acts of faith in the message of the cross, we are renewed and we are motivated to maintain our relationship with the Lord. The outcome of maintaining our relationship with the Lord is practical progress in sanctification (Rom 6:22-23).

The “grace” part of sin and grace tells us that the cross-centered life demands our full attention. It refuses to be peripheral; it cannot be compartmentalized nor formalized. Life as a living sacrifice calls for universal obedience – every area of life is to be characterized by ongoing conformity to God’s Word.

Cross-centered living calls for courage; a daring to draw near again and again in order to have the light of Christ and His work shine upon our affections, our identity, our behavior, and our relationships – there is a constant renewal of our determination to take refuge in Christ the covenant and hiding place.

The cross-centered life calls me to a path of radical identification with Christ in which the Word of God dominates exceptionally in every area of my life. The cross is inseparable from self-denial -- there are 10,000 places where God’s will cuts across my will. Those who take up the cross understand this intimately – they “feel” the ruggedness of the cross upon their flesh. What they would prefer to pamper and excuse, the cross condemns and slays...

The Church has many who walk at a determined distance from the cross. They walk so as to give the cross a wide berth. Those who do not take up the cross fail to cooperate with the purposes of God’s heart (Rom 8:28-29). As a consequence they do not have as their life goal to be presented complete in Christ (Col 1:28)...

We must learn to display Christ not only in His sinless life of infinite virtue made manifest, but we must also learn to display the perfections of His Saviorhood – a Saviorhood perfectly suited to the sinner’s every need (Heb 7:26-28); a Saviorhood that is co-extensive with the sinner’s ruin."
To read the whole article, which I highly recommend, click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Man Walking in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel

“Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.” (3 John 12)

I would like to speak of a man I would say is a Demetrius to me. Tim Senn is a man of God’s word who is “above reproach…sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). Tim is a man with a testimony of God’s grace in his conversion and also his sanctification. Tim has been a faithful youth pastor for over a decade. Tim firmly holds to the true gospel that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. He believes the bible is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). All the times I have been with him, whether at youth group, care group, counseling, bible study or staying at his house because my car was in a snowy ditch, he lives out the message he proclaims. He is not a “Say one thing and do another thing” type of guy. The gospel has truly transformed his life. Tim is a man with a three-fold testimony (Lance’s term from Sunday that was so helpful):

1. He has received a good testimony from everyone (12a)

Tim is a man with a Christ-centered reputation. If you were to poll the people who know Tim they would not just say he is a good man but rather he is a man who loves Christ. (I would encourage anyone who has been impacted by Tim to encourage him with a thank you.)

2. He has received a good testimony from the gospel itself (12b)

This one is strictly a heart issue but by Scripture we have some ways to measure out the reality that Tim has been changed by the gospel and lives it out. Jesus in Matthew 7 says, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit” (17-18). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Based on Scripture I would have to say Tim is a man after God’s own heart. I see Tim bearing the good fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The great part about Tim is he wants everyone to see his good deeds so they might bring glory to his Father in heaven.

3. Finally I’d like to add my own testimony (12c)

I know it is not much but Tim you have meant more to me then you could possibly know. Guys are typically not good at expressing the way they feel about somebody but you have to know I cannot think of many other people I would run to for guidance on life. I know for a fact you will give me biblical counsel. Maybe not always what I want to hear but what I need to hear. I love you as friend, mentor, counselor, pastor and brother in Christ. I’m not sure the last one would apply if it was not for your influence. Thanks for living the life you teach. You truly are a man walking in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sever the Root of Sin

"A man may beat down the bitter fruit from an evil tree until he is weary; while the root abides in strength and vigor, the beating down of the present fruit will not hinder it from bringing forth more. This is the folly of some men; they set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust, but, leaving the principle and root untouched, perhaps unsearched out, they make but little or no progress in this work of mortification." (John Owen)

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. (Romans 8:12-13)
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't Waste Your Life

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

"Every person's life will end with a flat line. The beats of your heart are precious and few...and every one of them is a blood-bought gift of God. Don't waste them on petty pursuits and fleeting pleasures, where moth and rust destroy. Take part in the greatest cause in the world and the grandest story that will ever be: the exaltation of Christ in all things for the joy of all peoples.

God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion." (John Piper)

Enjoy a video today from Lecrae titled Don't Waste your Life:

Click the link to read John Piper's book Don't Waste your Life or for other resources visit www.dontwasteyourlife.com.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Marks of Jesus


“The marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17)

The cross is central to all of Paul’s writings in Scripture. The cross is central to all of Scripture. Paul makes it clear that those who preach Christ crucified will bear “the marks of Jesus.” Persecution is not some sadistic way of living but rather a beautiful way of dying.

I can see the confusion now: “Why is he telling us that persecution is not a sadistic way of living but a beautiful way of dying? What does that mean?” I’m glad you asked. This life is not where the Christian finds his ultimate satisfaction. There is sorrow, pain, sin and so much more making us long for an eternity with Christ. In the book of Philippians Paul speaking about life on earth says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (3:7-8). Paul basically says any status he had gained in this life was of no value compared to knowing Christ. He counted all as loss to gain Christ. He suffered the loss of everything and counted all this world had to offer as junk to bear “the marks of Jesus.”

It seems as if Paul had hatred against the world, which he did to some degree, but this is not completely the case because Paul knew the true purpose of this world. We are here to magnify our great Savior Jesus Christ and share the gospel of Christ with others. Paul had the proper perspective for this world. He understood that each breath was a gift from the One he was created to worship. The cross made fellowship possible between sinners and God. Paul knew the significance of the cross and the reality of everlasting life with his Savior which is why he suffered so much persecution for the sake of the gospel. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul put his faith in God’s promises which is why he bore “the marks of Jesus.”

Christian, do you look upon this world as if it is the only life to live? Are you convinced of the lie that this is your best life now? If this is true you are missing out on the gospel. We are strangers on a pilgrimage to the eternal city! C.S. Lewis sums it up, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Are you focused on an eternity of everlasting joy and pleasure with Christ? Stop trying to satisfy your soul with the comforts of this world. Your car will perish. Your house will perish. Your talents will perish. Your body will perish. Your soul will live forever. That begs the question: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? This is the question we must all answer. The answer will determine whether you bear the marks of self or “the marks of Jesus.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Accusing or Excusing?

Conscience is “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action” (Dictionary.com). The conscience is where we examine ourselves to find a heart devoted to Christ or devoted to this world. A conscience devoted to Christ in all areas of life is a conscience given by Christ.

Romans 2:15 says, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” Our conscience bears witness to that which God has written on our hearts. Whether we know Christ or not we can discern between right and wrong because in God’s common grace he has made the truth a part of us. Paul says, “Their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” Have you ever tried to justify something you knew was wrong? What sin in your life are you excusing when your conscience is accusing you of wrong?

Many times we try to justify our actions through the life of another person. We tend to find the people we see as worse than us and think we are okay because we look morally better. The conscience brutally dismantles this form of logic. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” This passage has nothing to do with others but rather speaks to you and me directly. Do you praise God for revealing sin through your conscience so that you may repent and live life abundantly?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Do not "limp" between two different opinions

"How long will you go limping between two different opinions?" (1 Kings 18:21)

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), also speaks on this issue of having two masters. Jesus is clear that this task is impossible. “No one can serve two masters.” Why is it impossible to serve two masters? Jesus goes on: “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). In our minds we can be “limping” between God and the world but Jesus speaks truth when he says “This is impossible.” We may feel safe coming to church, reading our Bibles, praying or going to Bible study but those things can be done in vain. Jesus wants your heart. All of it! He wants prayer that is trusting in him. He wants Bible reading that is trusting in him. He wants everything to be done for his glory alone. We must ask ourselves, “Does Jesus have my heart?”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"How to keep a Clear Conscience"

Here are the notes from teh final session on Sunday morning from Adam Tyson. Adam gave us 8 ways to keep a clear conscience. Here they are:

1. Do not underestimate the seriousness of your sin. (Psalm 51)
2. Purpose in your heart not to sin. (Prov. 4:23)
Before sin becomes an action it has been a thought. Sin starts within the heart.
3. Be suspicious of your own spirituality.
We need to make sure we are comparing ourselves to the highest standared, Jesus Christ.
4. Resist the first hint of evil desire. (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:1-3)
"Sin is like the grave that is never satisfied." (John Owen)
5. Meditate on God's Word. (Psalm 37; Psalm 119:9-11)
6. Be instantly repentent over your lapses. (1 John 1:9)
7. Continually watch and pray. (Matt. 26:41)
8. Be accountable to other believers who will help you.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 5, 2009

Legalism vs Libertinism

These notes are from Saturday evening from our youth retreat last weekend. On Saturday evening Adam Tyson spoke from 1 Corinthians 8:1-13: A Lesson on Living & Learning.

Adam gave 3 reasons why libertines thought it was okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols:

1. We know we have all knowledge. (v. 1-3)
Knowledge makes us arrogant and puffs us up.
Does knowledge puff you up or draw you to love?

2. We know that an idol is nothing. (v. 4-6)
Other Passages: Isaiah 42:8; Acts 17:24-25; Psalm 115:4-8

3. We know that food is not an issue with God. (v. 8-13)

We need to be sure we use our liberties for love's sake and not for selfish gain. For more on Christian liberties check out this previous post.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 2, 2009

Will be able to separate us


“Will be able to separate us” (Romans 8:39)

Last week we looked at Romans 8:1 which speaks of the fact that in Christ there is no condemnation. This week I want to look at the end of chapter 8 to see how no condemnation means there is no separation from Christ. Through the work of Christ nothing “will be able to separate us” from God’s love.

Paul, in Romans 8, talks about the work of Christ freeing us from the law. The law shows us our sin but cannot save us from our sin. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (8:3). The only possible way to be righteous was through the righteousness of another. The Father sent his Son to pay this price for sinners like you and me. Jesus humbled himself by becoming man and dying in our place. By grace the Holy Spirit awakens us to this reality then we submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul talks about two options, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (8:5). Where is your mind set? This is a crucial question because Paul goes on: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (8:6). The mind set on the flesh is condemned but for the mind set on the Spirit there is no condemnation and nothing “will be able to separate us” for God.

Paul moves on to speak about our adoption into God’s family. We are promised no condemnation, a mind set on the Spirit and now the God of the universe tells us we are his sons and daughters. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (8:15). What a promise! It doesn’t stop there he goes on to say, “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (8:17a). Because of Christ we are heirs of the Kingdom of God. We deserve nothing but hell for offending the holy God of the universe yet these are his words to us who trust in his Son for our salvation: No condemnation, a new mind given by the Spirit, adoption as children and heirs of the Kingdom.

Paul goes on to speak about the unbreakable chain of God’s work in salvation. Verse 30 is the greatest comfort in the bible: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” God predestined us, called us, justified us and glorified us. The comfort is not in our feelings about salvation but resting in the promises of God, the author and finisher of salvation. Paul isn’t talking about “Let go and let God” but rather trusting in Christ’s work on the cross by grace through faith.

Paul finishes by asking, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (8:35)? The answer is clear: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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” (8:37-39). From no condemnation to no separation is the promise for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Is your conscience a good or bad conscience?"

Here are some notes from the Saturday morning session of the youth retreat:

"Is your conscience a good or bad conscience?"

A Bad Conscience
1. A Sleepy Conscience (Rom. 11:8)
2. A Seared Conscience (1 Tim. 4:1-2; Rom. 1:18-32)
3. An Erring Conscience
A. Excuses a person when they are guilty.
B. Approve of behavior which should be condemned.
C. A false sense of security.
4. A Doubting Conscience (Rom. 14:23)
5. An Overly Scrupulous Conscience (1 Cor. 8:8)
6. A Trembling Conscience - Continually condemned, never trust God's forgiveness.

"Never act unless you know what you are about to do is not sin." (Jay Adams)

A Good Conscience (The Saved Conscience)
1. An Informed Conscience (Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:14-15; John 14:6)
2. Appropriately Sensitive Conscience
3. Purposely Introspective
4. Purposefully Obedient (Hebrews 13:8)
5. A Peaceful Conscience (Rom. 5:1)

I will post Saturday evening and Sunday morning next week.

Grace upon grace,
JRL