Thursday, December 31, 2009

Losing Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yielding to God his place

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Longing for Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 28, 2009

Give or Receive?

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 25, 2009

For unto you is born this day


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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What is Christmas All About?

Enjoy this video about Christmas:


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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Born Tonight

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

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

Born Tonight

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Are we there yet?

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 21, 2009

Speak of Christ

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 18, 2009

Of Whom I am Chief


“Of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15)

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Be like Dew

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The American Time-Waster

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 14, 2009

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bread eaten in secret is pleasant


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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Reason for the Hope that is in you

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are you tired of hearing the gospel?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are you a forgiving person?

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 7, 2009

No other name but Christ

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



Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 4, 2009

He who Confesses and Forsakes them will Obtain Mercy


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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Even Complaining?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boasting in the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Forsaken

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL