Friday, December 24, 2010

You May Know that you have Eternal Life


“You may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13)

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? This is the most important question every single human being needs to address. This is not a question to throw into the back of your mind but it must be answered. You may ask, “Why?” The answer is simple yet profound: Your eternal destiny is at stake. The book of 1 John is an evaluation test of genuine salvation. John wrote this book so that “you may know that you have eternal life.”

John gives us many characteristics to evaluate our hearts so that we may have confidence as we wait for the return of Christ. He first speaks about the fellowship that believers have with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. This fellowship is enough, more than enough, to complete our joy (1 John 1:3-4). This is an amazing truth considering who we are as sinners. God did not send his Son for those who believe they are without sin. There were many in John’s day and in ours as well that claimed to be good people therefore they had no need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This is the pride of man that Christ came to die for on the cross. Those who will not confess and repent of their sin have no covering for sin therefore they have no fellowship with God and walk in the darkness. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

A key element to understand in the book of 1 John is not that believers are perfect people but the practice of their lives is walking in righteousness empowered by the Holy Spirit. John talks plenty about the pattern of righteousness compared to a pattern of sin. If he was teaching that Christians were instantly made perfect he would have no need to talk about Christ being our advocate. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Our former love for the world is being transformed into a love for Christ. Our desires change through the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We no longer are enslaved to the darkness because the light has shown upon us. We can now be obedient to the will of God because he has made us his children. John does not sugar coat it when he says, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” This sounds impossible and with man’s strength it is but this is the very reason God sent his Son: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:7-9). If you are a Christian this ought to blow your mind. By God’s grace he has given us the power, in Christ, to submit to his will rather than our own. How are you doing in this area? Do you see the power of Christ working in you? What grace!!

There is so much in this little book. I would encourage each of you to pick up God’s Word and read 1 John. As you read it ask yourself if this represent your life or not. If you read it, as I have in the past, thinking this is impossible than you have your trust in the wrong place. This book is a great test to see whether you are a Christian or not. For those who are may all doubt cease as you read John’s words: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” What confidence we can have in our loving Father who sacrificed his Son in order that we may be called his children for all eternity.
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Longer Poor, Captive, Blind and Oppressed

I read Luke 4 recently and marveled at the scene of Jesus reading Scripture in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The text says that the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. Jesus unrolls the scroll and finds this part of the text in Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

When I read these words from Isaiah 61, I'm instantly drawn to the purpose of Christ's coming. But when I read this in Luke 4, I was struck by the fact that Christ was present and reading the very words written about him years prior to his coming. I am grateful for the Gospel as I see words that described me as: Poor, captive, blind and oppressed. Before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the "good news" the diagnoses of my spiritual condition was exactly how the prophet described it. I would have reacted as those people did in the synagogue that day when they lead him out to a cliff to throw him down. They wanted him dead because he exposed the truth about their souls.

By God's grace the good new has penetrated my soul. I am no longer spiritually poor but abundantly rich in Christ. I am no longer captive to sin but free in Christ. I am no longer spiritually blind because God has graciously revealed himself to me through Christ. I am no longer oppressed but justified in Christ. This is amazing news. The good news is the purpose of Christ's coming.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hark, how all the Welkin Rings

Hark, how all the welkin rings, "Glory to the King of kings;
peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies;
universal nature say, "Christ the Lord is born today!"

Christ, by highest Heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord:
late in time behold him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
pleased as man with men to appear, Jesus, our Emmanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace, Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die;
born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come, fix in us thy humble home;
rise, the woman's conquering Seed, bruise in us the serpent's head.
Now display thy saving power, ruined nature now restore;
now in mystic union join thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the life, the inner man:
O, to all thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart. (Charles Wesley)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gift of Gifts

With this being the week of Christmas I want to direct our attention to the reason for Christmas which is the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Today is a prayer from The Valley of Vision titled The Gift of Gifts:

O Source or all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity, and uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my redeemer's face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It is more Blessed to Give than to Receive


“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)

I am sure you can imagine where this is heading since it is the time of the year where we consider others and show them our love through the act of giving. Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. I must confess that every time it rolls around I remind myself of this reality but I so often let my selfishness get in the way of my love for others. I think this is why I need to be reminded that Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Paul, in Acts 20, is speaking to the Ephesian Elders about his ministry as an example to them as Christians. One of the themes in his address to the Elders is about having a right attitude toward material goods. He says that a proper attitude will come from an understanding of salvation. We know Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Salvation is the ultimate gift therefore Christ’s coming is the greatest gift for sinners like you and me. Paul says, “Now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The gift of Christ and his atoning sacrifice is revealed in God’s Word. We read about the gift of salvation through God’s grace in his Word to us. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Acts 6:23). Our gifts that we give to others should be a reminder back to THE gift: Salvation through Christ.

We should also desire to give sacrificially. We see an example of this in 2 Corinthians 8 where the churches of Macedonia gave generously in their “extreme poverty.” The text goes on to say they gave beyond their means for the sake of helping out their fellow saints. This is why I think the idea of Christmas is a year round event for Christians. This reality of “It is more blessed to give than to receive” should go year round for believers. This may be tough to do but I think it will only be tough because God will be chiseling away our selfishness. Sacrificially giving is not easy but imagine the dependence and trust these churches of Macedonia had by giving in the manner they gave. Why would they give out of their extreme poverty? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). They gave because they knew the Gospel. They had confidence in the promises of God. They knew that if Christ would leave the glories of heaven to come and die for their sins that they could trust him with everything including their money. Their trust in their Savior allowed them to say with Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

As Christians we have everything we already need in Christ. Every gift under the tree should remind us our great salvation. We did not earn or deserve the gift of God’s grace yet he lavishes it upon us. All our wants and desires should stem from the Gospel. May we be people who give sacrificially but not without joy. Christ came for the purpose of dying to himself in order to obey his Father’s will but in knowing his purpose he went joyfully to the cross. We have much to learn from our Savior. May we live out the Gospel in this practical manner: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comfort Ye

Comfort ye heavy laden,
The Son of God has come
His kingdom shines with lavish mercy,
For those who’s hearts are drawn

Those who dwell in darkness,
See the of Christ invades the night
Shining from His cross of anguish,
His death brings many life

In Christ we know hope for the hurting
In Christ we know love for the lost
In Christ we know no other one can save

Comfort ye weary Christian,
For just as Christ was raised
He will soon return to gather those,
Who follow Him by faith

Immanuel, God with us
Son of God, Hallelujah (Daniel Renstrom)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bow the Knee and Confess Jesus as Lord

"And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him." (Mark 15:16-20)

As I was reading this account of the trial of Christ in Mark 15, I stopped to think about the scene when these soldiers mock Christ. Here we see them, in what seems to be great control over the Lord Jesus Christ. We know because of Scripture that all events went according to God's perfect plan but at this time the soldiers think they have Jesus under their full control. These soldiers were ruthless as they put him in a purple cloak and force a crown of thorns upon his head. They mock him, strike him in the head and spit on him; but then the text says, "Kneeling down in homage to him." Obviously this was a mockery of Christ's claim to be the "King of the Jews." What crossed my mind when reading the text this time is the reality of these men will face at the Day of Judgment.

We read nothing of their repentance of sin. We read nothing of their grief over mocking and crucifying the Savior, Jesus Christ. But on the Day of Judgment I cannot imagine the horror that awaits them as they will see Christ high and exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father ready to judge. The Bible is clear that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 14:11). At the Judgment these men will bow before the one mocked. They will stand once again before Jesus Christ. This time they will bow the knee and they will confess Jesus as Lord because undoubtedly they will see the truth at this point.

The truth is Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one that every knee will bow before and every tongue will confess him as Lord. The question is this: Will you confess him as Lord now and submit to his kingship or will you be like these soldiers and reject Christ as the King of kings until the Day of Judgment? There is no greater joy than laying down your life to live under the headship of Jesus Christ. His love is like no other. Christ left the glories of heaven in order to be the substitute for those who would repent and place their trust in his atoning sacrifice. I'm pleading with you: Don't delay. Bow the knee and confess Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Words will not Pass Away


“My words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31)

There is no escaping the reality of Christ’s return. Jesus promised that one day he would return to take his elect home to be with him for all eternity. Jesus is teaching in Mark 13 about his return. He is speaking about the warning signs of the end of the age. But even in the end of the age he gives us the assurance: “My words will not pass away.”

We cannot fully grasp the scene of what will take place at the return of Christ. We know from this passage that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:24-27). I read this as a literal account of these events in cosmos taking place. This is a hard event to grasp in my finite mind but there are few things that are not cloudy to me at all. First, Christ is coming back. As I said early, there is not escaping this truth. Second, there will be a dividing between those who are Christ’s and those who have rejected him. Third, God’s words will not pass away.

First, it is clear from verse 26 that God’s Word says, “They will see the Son of Man coming.” There will be no doubt in this moment. All will see the promised return of Christ fulfilled. This will be the same Jesus who humbly came as a babe born in Bethlehem now coming with “great power and glory.”

Second, this moment will be the joy of God’s people as they see with their eyes the promise fulfilled but it will also be the great dread of those who continually rejected the King of kings. The elect will be gathered by the angels and brought into eternal bliss while those who placed their faith solely in themselves will be cast into eternal torment.

Third, God’s words will not pass away. God’s words are eternal. This is why Scriptures ought to be the Christians most valuable possession on earth. This is true for the single fact that it reveals to us who God is and what his will is for our lives. These are words of eternal life. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Reader, are you ready for this day? "Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows...Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come" (Mark 13:32-33). Which side of the dividing line are you on? Do you love Christ or do you reject Christ? If you reject Christ may I plead with you to confess your sin and repent of your sin and put your trust in his atoning work upon the cross. Lastly, are you clinging to the words that will never pass away? We have a precious gift in Christ and he promises: "My words will not pass away." May we desire to know his words more and more.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saving and Sustaining Grace

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:1-12)

I thought about this story recently, not just this story but as I've been reading the gospels I've noticed in many cases Jesus forgiving sins and also healing physical illness. I wanted to just focus in on a couple of things mentioned in this account in Mark 2. Jesus says two crucial things to the paralytic that I believe he says to each one of his children:

1. Your sins are forgiven
2. Rise, pick up your bed, and go home

I think these two statements from Jesus really reflect the life of a believer. When Jesus says "Your sins are forgiven" we should instantly be reminded of our justification. This is where God declares righteous through the death of Jesus Christ. At this moment we are in right standing before God because of the blood of his Son. "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).

The second statement ought to remind us of our sanctification. The picture is easier to see in justification because the paralytic was unable to physically rise and walk apart from Christ's physical healing of the man just like we are unable to spiritually rise and walk apart from God's intervening. But sanctification is the process that begins in the believers life at justification. Both are done in the power and strength that God supplies in a life. He does not only justify us but he most certainly also sanctifies us as well. He does not leave us to fight this battle against the forces of darkness alone. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling but this comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus tells the paralytic to "Rise, pick up your bed, and go home" we should instantly be reminded that Christ is working that same power within us as walk in this world. We want to be lights for his glory. Can you imagine if Jesus had said, "Rise, take up your bed, and go home" and he just laid there and never got up? NO!! I can't imagine it because when the Savior has forgiven us of our sins the only response to forgiveness is to go and show the world the change in our lives. I'm not saying this story is some allegory of our Christian faith but once again it is a reminder of God's grace through an actual historic event.

Look at his testimony: "And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We never saw anything like this!'" He did not waste any time but rather rose immediately and went on his way before all the people. He was not trying to bring attention to himself or puff up his own ego. How could he do such a thing when all the people knew he could do nothing in and of himself and he knew that reality as well. The only response to a change like this is amazement and glory to God. The man who was completely healed, physically and spiritually, did nothing more than obey the command of his Savior with great joy. This is the testimony of each believer: Your sins are forgiven, rise and go.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guard your Heart

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." (Proverbs 4:23-27)

I like to read this passage often before I head into work. I love the wisdom imparted spoken of in this passage of Scripture. The passage starts at the central place of human beings which is the heart. Everything about us and in us flows from the heart. This is why it is called "the spring of life." Crooked speech, devious talk, gazing eyes and walking toward evil all come from a heart that is not watchful. Rather than guarding the heart Lady Folly freely walks the path of destruction. Wisdom keeps the heart with vigilance putting away these destructive patterns of sin. God's Word is so good to show us how to live a gospel-centered life. We know from Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked so we must guard and keep watch over our hearts. This is accomplished through godly wisdom which comes from fearing the Lord. May we ask him for his grace to live a gospel-centered life.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Born in Bethlehem

Baby Jesus, born in a stable, humble Savior’s birth.
You left your throne in Heaven above, to live here on the Earth.
Baby Jesus, lying in a manger, crying for the world.
The Angels told the Shepherds of the Good News for us all.

Halleluiah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.

Come now Sinners and you Saints, all peasants and all Kings.
And bow before the Earth’s Redeemer, let all voices sing.

Halleluiah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.

Baby Jesus, do you know you’ll die for all our sins?
Don’t be afraid, for in 3 days, you will rise again. Cause you will rise again.

Halleluiah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem. (Third Day)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sins Trampled and Thrown

Yesterday I received this Grace Gem in my e-mail. I love this passage and I love the way John MacDuff sums it up:

"You will trample our sins under Your feet--and throw them into the depths of the ocean!" (Micah 7:19)

The picture here is of an ocean--not near the shore--but far beyond sight of land, in the midst of a wide wilderness of waters--the illimitable horizon stretching on every side; and when the sounding line is let down--it cannot fathom the depth, or reach the bottom!

There, in the solitudes of that voiceless ocean--a plunge is heard! The surface is ruffled only for a moment; then the waves resume their usual calmness. The load, whatever it is--is never more seen. It is buried somewhere in these dark caverns! No spirit of the deep can ever come up from the silent caves to tell its story! Ships cross and recross where it fell--but no distinguishing marker is left on the unstable highway, to mark the spot. The sea can be tempted by no bribe, to give up the secret of its keeping--all trace is lost from sight and memory forever!

That is a picture of what God does for all His redeemed people!

"You will trample our sins under Your feet--and throw them into the depths of the ocean!"


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, December 3, 2010

Husbands, Love your Wives


"Husbands, Love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25)

Lately I’ve been reviewing a couple of texts in Scripture that teach what it means to love and specifically love my wife. First Corinthians 13 is generally known as the love chapter. This chapter lets us see what it means to love another person. By no means is this an easy, cheap love that people fall in and out of constantly but a love built on the love of Christ. The second text I’ve been reading is Ephesians 5, specifically the part for husbands. The type of love spoken of by the apostle Paul and ultimately from God is impossible with man’s own power and strength. Husbands should daily be begging God for his mercy and grace as they lead their wives.

We hear in our day that it is old fashion for a woman to submit under the leadership of her husband. This concept seems totally foreign to most of us. It is said that this is demeaning to wives because we are equals so submission is not necessary. I admit that the idea of submission has been perverted in many households. Marriage was meant to reflect the Gospel but this has been distorted into selfish gain. This is sinful and harmful. But as I read through the roles of the husband I thought to myself, “This is no easy task.” This is not to minimize the role of the wife but it is to say the responsibility of a husband should bring a joyful submission by the wife. I think submission has become so wrong and distorted because of the lack of godly husbands who are pursuing the Biblical mandate. Getting married is easy but marriage is tough. God intended it to be an ever growing, loving and graceful process. I knew this stuff when I got married but sadly I did not really care. As I’ve grown in my love for Christ and his cross my desire to have a Christ-centered marriage has grown. This is strictly the work of God’s grace.

What is the role of the husband?

“Husbands, love your wives” seems easy enough but maybe stopping here to look at 1 Corinthians 13 may be helpful: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endure all things. Love never ends” (4-8). Paul proceeds into an ever tougher realm of love: “Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). This is where a deep understanding of the Gospel helps us see how tough of a task the husband has in his role. We are commanded to love our wives the way Christ has shown his love for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). As husbands we can go ahead and insert “wife” rather than friends in the case of our marriage. This is the kind of leadership we are to display. This is the love we are commanded to show our wives. But the command is obeyed with great joy because we understand Calvary. Remember what it says about Christ in Hebrews 12: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” This is the attitude husbands should have as they die to self in order to love their wives.

The purpose in having a marriage that reflects the Gospel is so God may be magnified. Failure will be a part of the growing process but we press on in the grace of God. We confess, repent and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us and we move forward in grace. In light of the Gospel we have this promise in the end: “Having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” In Christ this is how his Church is presented before the Father. The Spirit is conforming us daily more and more into the image of Christ. Our marriage is one aspect of our sanctification. Two sinners joined together to reflect the love Christ has for his Church. May we listen to God speak: “Husbands, love your wives.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Let Your Light Shine in the World

I have had the joy of working at the same place for the last 13 years of my life. I love my job and I love the fact that they allow me to keep working there. I understand this is completely by the grace of God. My job is in a secular work environment which means the people I work with may or may not be followers of Jesus Christ (I guess that could be true in all lines of work). I have seen the great tension of speaking the Gospel to people I work with but also letting my life reflect the life of Christ. I haven't been a Christian my entire 13 years at the bank but since becoming a Christian I know that not everything (not even close) has reflected that of the one I follow. There have been many instances of confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness. This is never easy but it is joyfully necessary.

There have been many times when my sins committed have been struggles within my own heart. I have wrestled through many of these struggles with God asking him for grace and mercy in my life as I pursue godliness. I want to not only claim the name Christian but I want to actually be one. But there have also been moments when sin manifests itself into action at work. I have been a complainer, angry, self-righteous, harsh, envious and so on. Sometimes people want to see Christians stumble and fall so they can feel better about themselves. Others want to comfort you by saying, "I know that's not who you are." That is a great comfort but sadly that is who I really am apart from the grace of God.

We live in a day where Christianity becomes a comparsion of people rather than the holy standard of Christ. In moments of sin I can tend to do this myself. It is a sad and pathetic way to have standard. When the bar is set only as high as a fellow sinner we really have a flexible bar. Therefore we won't see the need to confess, repent and seek forgiveness because we will reject that we have wronged someone. Rather, Christians ought to have the holiness of Christ as our aim. He is our standard. We ought to be people who seek forgiveness because of how much we have been forgiven. This takes a lot of humility but as Spurgeon said, "Pride cannot live beneath the cross."

This is the place every Christian ought to desire to live. We won't be perfect until the day we are brought home to glory but our aim ought to be holiness because we desire to be like Christ. Peter writes, "He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15). This isn't an option but rather a command for the Christian to be holy in all conduct. We ought to walk in holiness. I confess this is no easy task but "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Every Christian ought to rest in this promise while we fight in this battle against Satan and our flesh.


Christian, are you pursuing holiness? When you have wrong someone do you justify your actions or repent? Are you humbly living beneath the cross? Are you confident that Christ will complete the work he has started? If this makes no sense to you all let me ask you this: Are you sure you are a Christian? Have you put your trust in Christ and his atoning work on the cross?

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Counting the Cost

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

"It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten. To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to church, is cheap and easy work. But to hear Christ’s voice, and follow Christ, and believe in Christ, and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins, and our self-righteousness, and our ease, and our worldliness. All- all must be given up. We must fight an enemy who comes against us with twenty thousand followers. We must build a tower in troubled times. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us thoroughly understand this. He bids us 'count the cost.'” (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Great God

Eternal God, unchanging
Mysterious and unknown
Your boundless love unfailing
In grace and mercy shown
Bright seraphim in ceaseless flight
Around your glorious throne
Their voices raised both day and night
In praise to you alone

Lord, we are weak and frail,
Helpless in the storm
Surround us with your angels
Hold us in your arms
Our cold and ruthless enemy
His pleasure is our harm
Rise up, oh Lord, and he will flee
Before our Sovereign God

Let every creature in the sea
And every flying bird
Let all the mountains, all the fields
And valleys of the earth
Let all the moons and all the stars
Throughout the universe
Sing praises to the Living God
Who rules them by His word

Hallelujah!
Glory be to our great God
Hallelujah!
Glory be to our great God! (Fernando Ortega)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 29, 2010

Savior and Lord

I recently started reading Thomas Watson's book The Godly Man's Picture which I would recommend to any person interest in growing in godliness. Watson speaks of a knowledge of God which transforms the true son or daugther of God into a man or woman who strives in life to be like Christ. He does much comparing and contrasting between the true godly man and a hypocrite. He speaks of an applied knowledge to the soul. He asks the question: "But how shall I know that I am making a right application of Christ? A hypocrite may think he applies when he does not."

The answer Watson gives is challenging to the soul:

"He who rightly applies Christ puts these two together, Jesus and Lord. 'Christ Jesus my Lord' (Phil. 3:8). Many take Christ as Jesus - to save them; but refuse him as Lord - to rule them. Do you join 'Prince and Savior' (Acts 5:31)? Would you as well be ruled by Christ's laws as saved by his blood? Christ is 'a priest upon his throne' (Zech. 6:13). He will never be a priest to intercede - unless your heart is the throne where he sways his scepter. A true applying of Christ is when we so take him as a husband, that we give up ourselves to him as Lord."

Jesus is the one who came to bring about salvation to those who would repent and believe in his work on the cross but this comes with a price. The price is coming broken and humbly under the submission to Christ's rule and authority in your life. Those who are bought with the precious blood of Christ will have the desire given to them by the Spirit to follow after the will of God. They will have new desires for submitting to the God's Word. We cannot have Jesus as Savior if we reject him as Lord of our life.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 25, 2010

With Authority and Power


“With authority and power” (Luke 4:36)

Reading the gospels is a really amazing experience. I am going through Mark and Luke currently seeing how these two gospels are different, in the fact that the writers, Mark and Luke, are two different men with different professions and how that plays out in their writing style. I have also seen how stories tie into to one another in separate gospel accounts. Many great things have taken place but one thing I have noticed is the fact that the demons have constantly known who Jesus is. They know he comes “with authority and power.”

“In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God’.” (Luke 4:33-34)

This is an amazing encounter. Keep in mind this is taking place in the synagogue. This is not some possessed man out in the street. Jesus is teaching at this time when the demons, speaking through the man, start asking Jesus questions. The demons know who he is. They understand he is the Holy One of God who is able to destroy them. The demons know Jesus is God.

One startling contradiction to the demons belief is the belief of the scribes when they say Jesus performs his miracles by the power of “Beelzebul.” They say he casts out demons by the “prince of demons.” The demons recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God yet the scribes, who were religious teachers, saw him as a man possessed by Satan. The scribes saw him as nothing more than a man yet the demons knew he was God “with authority and power.”

The natural question at this point is: Do you see yourself more like a scribe or a demon? I definitely do not think we should ask that question. What we need to ask is do we have more than just a knowledge of who Christ is? Or are you currently in a state of rebellion against him? Having just knowledge makes no better than the demons and rejecting Jesus as the Christ makes you nothing more than a God rejecting religious person. These are both the wrong places to be. But the Good News is Christ. The Good News is that the One who performed these miracles we read in the Scriptures is still miraculously giving life to dead souls by his grace.

Jesus speaks to the demons saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” As the man was relieved of his demon possession so he does the same for sinners who humbly come in repentance and ask for his saving grace. The Father takes us out of the dominion of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of light (Col. 1:12-14). We are not longer under the possession of the prince of darkness but we are made sons and daughters of our heavenly Father through his Son’s atoning blood. The Holy Spirit is the saving agent who illumines our hearts and minds to the Gospel. “With authority and power” he breaks the chains of sin and replaces deadness with eternal life.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for those who come and read this blog or receive it by email. You all are a joy to serve. I'm most thankful that there is something in this world worth talking about which is the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. A song I have been singing often this week is the song Jesus, Thank You:

"Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, Thank You
The Father's wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, Thank You
Once your enemy, now seated at your table
Jesus, Thank You"

So grateful for God's grace for me who was once a rebel and has now been made a son.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cleansing the Sinner

I was reading in Mark 1 on Monday morning and was struck by the last section in the chapter where Jesus cleanses the leper. This happens many times in the gospels where Jesus heals a person and tells them to say nothing to anyone about what took place. In Mark 1 we read:

"And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, 'If you will, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.'" (40-44)

Jesus heals this man of a skin decease that basically leads people to the grave. With leprosy there was not much hope for life and lepers were declared unclean. Lepers were outcasts. The life they had left on this earth was spent in isolation and rejection until they died. This was a horrific decease. Yet Jesus heals the man and then warns him not to say a word.

"But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news" (45)

Of course he did. He had been healed. He was told to go show the priests so they could declare him clean and he could be welcomed back to society. Life was granted to him again. The leper could not keep quiet about his cleansing from Jesus. As I read I saw something sad in my own life and in what I see in a lot of Christianity. This leper was cleansed of his leprosy. He was commanded not to speak yet he spoke the news to everyone. Christians, on the other hand, are commanded to proclaim the Gospel to all. We are commanded to make disciples yet we keep our mouths shut so often. This is grieving but it's not even the saddest part of it all. We have greater news to proclaim than this man. This man had been cleansed of a decease but we have the forgiveness of sins to proclaim. We have the message "of first importance" to tell the world, yet so often our mouths are shut.

Christian, may we be people who speak the Good News of Christ crucified to a dying world. He has taken spiritually dead people and made them alive in Christ. Why are we not the people going out and speaking freely about this great message of hope and salvation? May we be like the cleansed leper and "spread the news", the Good News.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Salvation's Song

Loved before the dawn of time,
Chosen by my Maker,
Hidden in my Saviour:
I am His and He is mine,
Cherished for eternity.

When I'm stained with guilt and sin,
He is there to lift me,
Heal me and forgive me;
Gives me strength to stand again,
Stronger than I was before.

All the chains of Satan's curse
Lifted through His offering,
Satisfied through suffering;
All the blessings He deserves
Poured on my unworthy soul.

Stars will fade and mountains fall;
Christ will shine forever,
Love's unfading splendour.
Earth and heaven will bow in awe,
Joining in salvation's song.

So with every breath that I am given
I will sing salvation's song;
And I'll join the chorus of creation
Giving praise to Christ alone.

Singing glory, honour, wisdom, power
To the Lamb upon the throne.
Hallelujah, I will lift Him high. (Stuart Townend)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Means of Grace

Last week at church I was talking with the Junior boys in our youth group about a way Christians tend to diminish the cross of Jesus Christ. We had just been taught on Colossians 1:14 which says, "In whom [referring to Christ] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." The theme for the evening was redemption also known as being unshackled. Three questions were asked:

1. What were we unshackled from?
2. What were we unshackled by?
3. What were we unshackled for?

In small group we had a great discussion. They guys were talking about how sin is still active in their lives. They were discussing the struggle with the flesh that still exists in the life of the believer. As they were talking I noticed a trend that was a part of my life for so long. The focus on sin exceeded the focus of grace. I know I've talked about this before on the blog but I thought this would be a good reminder.

Many times we strictly want to focus on everything we see wrong with our lives. We should daily confess and repent of sin in our lives. We should be thankful for the Spirit's work in our lives who opens our eyes to see how terrible sin is. But the danger is only seeing sin. I believe this diminishes the cross. The cross does bring about forgiveness of sins but through our new life in Christ we are no longer slaves to sin but rather slaves to Christ. We are now new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) therefore we do not have to give in to the temptation of sin. I simply asked my guys to tell me some means of grace they had seen throughout the day. Then I asked, "Who here gave in to every temptation that came their way today?" No hands. No words. Silence. They got the point. It hit me as well. We have much to be thankful for.

Forgiveness of sin is a reason to rejoice and give thanks to our great Savior, Jesus Christ. But I think we tend to overlook many other graces throughout the day. The fact that we resist temptation and do battle against those urges from the flesh is a great reason to give thanks to the Spirit's working in our life. That is a reason to rejoice and give thanks to Jesus Christ who bought us with the price of his blood at Calvary. Praise God for his glorious grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 19, 2010

They were Unaware


“They were unaware” (Matthew 24:39)

In Matthew we find Jesus speaking about the end of the age. He is speaking about the return of the Son of Man in which no one knows the time besides the Father. The warning is clear that we are all to be ready for the day when he does return. Jesus uses the story of Noah as an illustration. As the warning was in Noah’s day so it is the same now. They knew of the coming flood yet when it arrived they Bible says, “They were unaware.”

We know from the account of the flood in Genesis that “they” refers to everyone besides Noah and his family. “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh…make yourself an ark of gopher wood” (Gen. 6:11-14). Noah obeyed God’s command to build the ark. Jesus here is warning the people not to be like those in the time of Noah. Noah and his family had time to warn the people of the coming destruction. They were faithful to God so by faith they built the ark all the while letting others know of the coming judgment by flood.

We can clearly see Noah’s faithfulness to God. Like Noah we have the Word of God to guide us in our lives. God spoke audibly to Noah but he speaks to us as well through his written Word. He has given us his Word as a guide for our lives. The Word of God is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). As Christians we ought to find it our great joy to read God’s Word in order to know what he wants for us in this life and how to be best prepared for our eternity with him. Noah listened to God but not only listened to him, he also obeyed. While the world around us is doing things according to their own knowledge and wisdom we are called to walk according to the wisdom of God. Nothing much has changed since the time of Noah in this matter. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark.” The time had come and all of humanity besides Noah and his family were faithfully following their own desires rather than listening to God. They were not prepared for the coming flood.

A great flood, as in the days of Noah, is not going to come our way but this is an illustration of the Day of Judgment. It is promised that Christ is coming back. For the Christian this should bring great joy and urgency to our lives. The joy comes from knowing our King is coming back to take us with him to his kingdom for all eternity. The urgency comes in knowing there are those, as in the days of Noah, who are going on with normal life with no acknowledgement of Christ’s return. “And they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.” This is a grievous way to find out about the truth of Christ’s return. As the flood came so will the coming of Christ. The flood cannot compare to the reality of an eternity spent in punishment and torment separated from God. The hope comes in the Gospel where Christ came to die at Calvary for the sins of those who would repent and trust in him. As Noah was rescued in the ark so those who trust in Christ are rescued from the coming wrath. About the others is says, “They were unaware” so I’m pleading that you would be prepared and repent, trusting in Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Proclaiming and Passion

C.J. Mahaney posted a wonderful blog Tuesday titled Preserving A Passion for the Gospel. Please take the time to go read the article in its entirety. Here is a snippet from a quotation from the article in which C.J. is quoting Don Carson:

"If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow."

May we not only proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ but also live with a passion in all we do for the Gospel. May the Gospel affect every aspect of our lives.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hope or Hope?

Last Friday morning as I was getting ready for work I began pondering why it is that Christians can rejoice even in the midst of trials. I must admit, as a follower of Jesus Christ, this still amazes me but also reminds me of how great the God of the universe is. I know the reason for Christians great comfort in trials is the fact that God is sovereign and he does all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when we are not able to see everything going on we know we can trust God's character. I think these truths tie into the single word: hope. Christ is our hope. Let me see if I can explain what I mean by Christ is our hope.

In Scripture we read that salvation is a gift from God's grace accepted on the basis of faith. Faith is defined as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Assurance and hope are rarely lumped together to make a promise. Assurance is a "promise or pledge; guaranty; surety" (Dictionary.com) and hope is "the feeling that what is wanted can be had" (Dictionary.com). One is objective while the other is subjective. Hope is the more prominent word used in our day and age. We tend to "hope" this or that may happen. Once we hope we wait to see if what we hope for will take place. But this kind of hope leaves no room for assurance.

The over-arching word, faith, seems so common today but most people have nothing to place their faith in rather they just have faith. Faith is basically the same word as hope these days. We now have the wrong definition of the word faith which is more of a feeling rather than a guarantee. But for Christians we have a guaranteed hope because of the object of our faith. Our faith is anchored in Christ.

"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 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 6:17-20).

This is the only guaranteed hope there is in all the world. The hope of Jesus Christ as our great high priest. He is the unchangeable God who cannot lie therefore we can trust in his promises. His hope is a guaranteed hope so stop clinging to a false sense of security and find your refuge in Jesus Christ the one who paid the price for your sins upon the cross in his great love.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Glory of the Cross

What wisdom once devised the plan
Where all our sin and pride
Was placed upon the perfect Lamb
Who suffered, bled, and died?
The wisdom of a Sovereign God
Whose greatness will be shown
When those who crucified Your Son
Rejoice around Your throne

And, oh, the glory of the cross
That You would send Your Son for us
I gladly count my life as loss
That I might come to know
The glory of, the glory of the cross

What righteousness was there revealed
That sets the guilty free
That justifies ungodly men
And calls the filthy clean?
A righteousness that proved to all
Your justice has been met
And holy wrath is satisfied
Through one atoning death

What mercy now has been proclaimed
For those who would believe
A love incomprehensible
Our minds could not conceive?
A mercy that forgives my sin
Then makes me like Your Son
And now I’m loved forevermore
Because of what You’ve done (Bob Kauflin)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Great Truth of Justification

My pastor Lance Quinn posted on the BCLR Blog an article title The Truth about Purgatory. In the post he quoted a section about purgatory from The Council of Trent which states:

If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened [to him]: let him be anathema.

I was struck by the statement in many ways but what stuck out the most was the final phrase: "Let him be anathema." Paul used this same phrase in the book of Galatians but what Paul said in front of this statement was different than the Council of Trent. Sadly, The Council of Trent, does hold to the Gospel Paul spoke of in the Scriptures. Anathema means damned therefore if Scripture says one thing and The Council of Trent another then we have a contradiction in damning souls for eternity. We must not say they are both correct for this is an impossibility. So...what is the issue at hand?

Justification

There is no question that justification is the issue on the line. The Council of Trent, which is a doctrinal statement for the Catholic church, teaches clearly that souls are not declared completely right in the sight of holy God. Yes, justification is present in this statement but it is in contradiction to the Bible's teaching of justification. This statement speaks of not being fully justified. We are justified but...fill in the blank of living a good life or adding our own "good works" to the equation. In Galatians it was the act of circumcision the false teachers were adding to the doctrine of justification. Paul says, "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness (or justification) were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose" (Galatians 2:21). Also in Romans Paul says:

"[Righteousness] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raise for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 4:24 - 5:2).

Justification is God declaring us right in his sight. This is only possible through the imputed righteousness of Christ. If Christ's righteousness is not ascribed to us we are not in a right standing with the Father. Imputed righteousness does not come through anything we do to earn a right standing with God. We must admit that our own righteous deeds are filthy garments (Is. 64:6) when compared to the holiness of our Creator and Judge. Therefore we are in desperate need of a mediator and that mediator is the God-man Jesus Christ. He is the one who paid the price for sins and was raised for our justification. Those who put their trust in him are justified because of what he did rather than what we could ever accomplish. The work is finished at the cross.

So I want to proclaim boldly and contradictory to the Council of Trent that all guilt is remitted and the debt of eternal punishment is taken away because of the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. For I know the God of the Bible cannot lie therefore I stand upon his promises in order that I might gain Christ and his righteousness rather than my own damning righteous deeds.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Give His Life as a Ransom for Many


“To give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

I read Matthew 20 yesterday morning and was struck again by God’s grace. The chapter starts with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard where we see the landowner’s generosity to each worker. Then Jesus predicts his death and resurrection for the third time in the book of Matthew. Then the section that closes with the words: “To give his life as a ransom for many.”

The section contains the story of James, John and their mother asking if James and John can have the seats to the right and the left of Jesus in the kingdom of heaven. This means they wanted to put in a place of honor. James and John were cousins to Jesus so maybe they thought being in the family would help them obtain this place. This request was made in front of the other ten disciples who immediately were not happy with James and John. But Jesus quickly turns their attention to the purpose of discipleship: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:26-27). Jesus clearly wants the disciples to realize the purpose of following Christ is to serve others for the glory of God. As followers of Christ we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. I know my own heart and I often want to be served rather than to serve others. Or I will complain about being worn out or tired or just plain lazy to avoid serving my neighbor. This is not representative of the Gospel.

We know this is not the example Jesus showed us with his life and death. He goes on to speak words that blow my mind every time I read them: “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). The Creator of the universe takes on humanity so that he may come and serve sinners. If you are not aware of this truth let me clarify it for you; Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God who deserves to be served yet he did not come for that purpose but rather came to serve. The greatest display of this service came when Jesus humbly and obediently walked the hill Calvary to lay his life down for his enemies. He died “to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Ransom in that time period would have brought to mind the price paid for the release of a slave. The reality of this truth for us is that Christ died to pay the price to free us from our slavery to sin. As natural men and women we are enslaved to our father the Devil. We love the darkness and our slavery to sin so much that we hate the light. But Jesus is the light of the world and “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). The light of the world, Jesus, came to shine in our dark hearts and release us from our bondage to sin through the cross.

One other point for the Christian I must touch on is the word substitution. I love to talk about substitution because not only did Christ pay the price for sin, but he also took our place. We were not just freed from sin but someone had to bear our sins. Sin has to be punished and Jesus is the one who took the punishment we deserved. The text says, “To give his life as a ransom for many.” The word “for” indicates “taking the place of” many. He took my place. If you have put your trust in the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross then you too can say, “He took my place.” What a glorious reality to ponder: The God-man Jesus Christ took the place of sinners upon the cross.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who do you relate with?

Have you ever had a discussion about the event of the crucifixion and then been asked, "Who do you most relate with during the time of the event?" This is a great question for all of us to ponder. My answer normally is the crowd yelling, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" but I've been thinking about this in more detail as of late.

In the crowd I would have been yelling for Jesus to be crucified. If I had been Governor I would have sentence him to be crucified. If I had been a religious leader I no doubt would have been conspiring to kill him. If I had been a Roman soldier I would have flogged him, hit him and nailed him joyfully on the cross. As a criminal being executed next to him I would have reviled him. In any and all cases as a sinner I would have mocked him joyfully while cheering on his execution.

But as one of his chosen children I now relate to two specific people we see in Scripture at the scene of the crucifixion: The centurion and the penitent thief. In Mark 15 we read about the death of Jesus when he breathed his last breath. The text says, "And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'" (39). This is amazing. This centurion who had witnessed the crucifixion and many other crucifixions undoubtedly, sees the difference in Jesus. But this heart change comes from the work of the Spirit in his life to confess that Jesus, dying upon the cross, is indeed the Son of God. What a confession of faith.

Also the penitent thief or as J.C. Ryle put it, "Christ's Greatest Trophy." It is easy for all of us, as sinners, to see ourselves as the criminals being crucified next to Jesus. No doubt our hearts are the same as these men. We hated Christ! These men clearly hated Christ because as they are being executed justly for murderous deeds they mock and revile him. "And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way" (Matthew 27:44). But as Christians we ought to find great joy in the story of the repentant thief. Only Christians can relate to this man. Almost to the point of his very last breath we see him mocking the King of kings. Death is inevitably upon this man. But then...

"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don’t you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.' (Luke 23:39-43)"

This is truly amazing. This is the work of grace in the life of a sinner. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you also can relate to this criminal. Yes we would have been the crowd, the soldiers, the religious leaders, Pilate and the unrepentant criminal but because of the grace found in the cross we can relate to the centurion and the penitent thief who both confessed Jesus as the Christ. Praise God for his glorious grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do Your Prayers have an Expiration Date?

I asked my friend, George Lawson, to write a special guest post based off a message he preached from Colossians 1:9-14 on prayer. Here is what he wrote:

"A biblical study of prayer is an excruciating exercise. Recently the Youth of BCLR have been considering Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers (Col. 1:9-14), and while it has been a joyfully rich and rewarding study, it has also been a painfully difficult and sorrowful one. Because if we are brutally honest with ourselves…

1) We don’t pray and
2) When we do pray, we don’t pray biblically.

In contrast to our infrequency, Paul’s prayers were constant. And in contrast to our earthbound wish lists the fresh breezes of eternity blew through Paul’s prayers.

His prayers did not have an “expiration date” on them. They were not “best if used by a certain date” but prayers that were fit for eternity. I am in no way advocating that all things great and small should not be brought to the Lord. “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). But doesn’t it say something about us if we are consumed by the immediate?

When our present temporary comforts and desires fill our prayers, we are not praying as the apostle models for us. When was the last time you were burdened to be:
- Fruitful in every good work
- Increasing in the knowledge of God
- Strengthened with all might for steadfastness and patience
- Joyously Thankful for the Father qualifying you, delivering you, and transferring you to the Kingdom of His beloved Son?

Chances are these lofty requests don’t make it to the prayer list for yourself, or for others.
D.A. Carson, in his helpful book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, says this…

“To restrict ourselves for a moment to the petitions in the prayers of Paul, we must ask ourselves how far the petitions we commonly present to God are in line with what Paul prays for. Suppose, for example, that 80 to 90 percent of our petitions ask God for good health, recovery from illness, safety on the road, a good job, success in exams, the emotional needs of our children, success in or mortgage application, and much more of the same. How much of Paul’s praying revolves around equivalent items? If the center of our praying is far removed from the center of Paul’s praying, then even our very praying may serve as a wretched testimony to the remarkable success of the processes of paganization in our life and thought” (pp. 96-97).

Are your prayers marked with an expiration date? Will they soon spoil if not consumed immediately? Let me encourage you to align your prayers with eternity. A thousand years from now your health and wealth and success won’t matter. What will matter is the fruit you bore for God, the knowledge you gained of God, the character that was strengthened by God, and the joyous thanksgiving you offered to God. One day this present life will be swallowed up by eternity and so will our prayers, if they have an expiration date.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor George

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

O Sacred King

O Sacred King, O Holy King
How can I honour You rightly,
Honour that's fit for Your name?

O Sacred friend, O Holy friend
I don't take what You give lightly
Friendship instead of disgrace.

For it's the mystery of the universe
You're the God of holiness,
Yet You welcome souls like me
And with the blessing of Your Father's heart
You disciple the ones You love
There's kindness in Your majesty

Jesus those who recognise Your power
Know just how wonderful You are
That You draw near (Matt Redman)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 8, 2010

Speaking and Doing

There is a notion out there that people want to keep quiet about what they believe about religion; but this is impossible because what they believe affects everything they do. Belief affects all of life. Actions speak what a person believes. Christianity should have no part in this concept of keeping quiet about our faith. This should be true in our speech and deeds.

First a Christian cannot keep quiet about the Gospel. Keeping quiet about the truth is impossible. The regenerated heart must speak of the excellencies of Christ and him crucified. Better news than a cure for cancer is the news that Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners. Why would we keep quiet about this message? This is why I believe it is impossible to be a Christian and yet silent about the truth. Jesus even commands us to go out and make disciples. Disciples can only be made through the spreading of the Gospel. We must speak the truth. We will speak the truth because our hearts are overflowing with joy.

Second a Christian cannot help but do good deeds. We will never do this perfectly or speak the Gospel always but our aim is to do good deeds so that our Father in heaven may receive the glory. We want to pursue all manner of godliness. We want to be men and women who love our neighbor as we love ourselves because we love our great God. If our good deeds are done in a manner to puff up our own ego we are no longer doing good deeds because we are robbing God of his glory. This makes us like the Pharisees who were rebuke by Christ for this very purpose (Matthew 23:5). Christians will not desire to steal the glory from their Father who is in heaven and when they do, they grieve, confess, repent and receive forgiveness through the cross of Christ.

Christian, are you speaking the truth to others about Christ? Yes, we are commanded to proclaim the Gospel but we should also joyfully speak the truth about Christ because apart from Christ we have no hope. With that reality in mind our lives should be an overflow from our new hearts in Christ. We have much to speak about and much to live for so may we be faithful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 5, 2010

Think with Sober Judgment


“Think with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3)

I love the picture Paul paints in our minds when he writes the words, “Think with sober judgment.” Sober has the idea of showing self-control or rationality. In this case Paul is challenging Christians to “think with sober judgment” when establishing a right view of yourself stemming from a high view of God. He is ultimately speaking of humility in the life of the Christian. I know this is something I need a heavy dose of in my own thinking and judgment.

Paul has spent the first eleven chapters of Romans speaking of God’s great mercy and grace to sinners like you and me. He has established the reality that we are utterly unable to save ourselves but he, through Christ, justifies us by his grace making us sons and daughters of his kingdom. This is amazing! Paul starts chapter twelve saying, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers.” He is appealing to those who have been saved by grace based on God’s work laid out in the first eleven chapters. “By the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). In response to God’s great mercy we joyfully present ourselves as an offering to God as an act of worship to him. We are then instructed not to conform to this world, but be transformed by renewing our minds, discerning God’s will so we may know what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). As Christians we are called to be transformed, in our minds, by God’s will through his Word so that we may be a discerning people in this wicked world. Satan is crafty and smarter than anyone of us but he is not stronger or smarter than God. Therefore we are called to renew are minds so that we may “think with sober judgment.”

Satan gets a grip on our lives when we begin to think we are great. When pride creeps in our lives Satan uses that to tear us down. We are all familiar with the Proverb: “Pride goes before destruction” (16:18). To destroy us is the aim of Satan. We must have a right view of ourselves and know the will of God in order to fight against the wiles of the Devil. Paul says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3). As I said earlier I enjoy the picture because we can easily see what Paul is saying. Sadly, we have all either seen a drunken person or seen in the news the story of someone being hit by a drunk driver. This is the image. Those who are rejecting God in their pride are those who think they are going about life the right way but in the end it leads to destruction. They are like the drunken man thinking everything is okay when their judgment is completely impaired. This is a dangerous state of mind. But for those who are followers of Jesus Christ and have God’s grace filling them, they are presenting their bodies as a sacrifice to God, discerning the will of God and should have a humble perspective about themselves which produces sober judgment. The sober man is able to control himself and be rational when making decisions but this is all of grace.

Christian, do have a high view of yourself? Are you more concerned about your wants and needs than presenting yourself before God as a sacrifice of worship unto him? Are you growing in the knowledge of God so that you may know his will for your life? Do you “think with sober judgment”? May we all examine our hearts and lives to see whether this work is taking place in us this very day. By God’s grace and mercy we can trust him to faithfully fulfill his promises to us.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Blood of Christ

On Tuesday evening I had the privilege to go vote for our state elections. The place where my wife and I vote is at a church. As I walked in and stood in line waiting to sign in and receive my ballot I couldn't help but notice the pictures on the wall of this room. I could see some speakers, cables, amps and candles with a projector and screen as well. My assumption of the room is that some sort of service takes place there. Also to the left and right of the screen on the wall there were paintings. I could not help but stare at the two paintings to the left of the screen. One painting was of Jesus' face with a crown of thorns pressed against his head with blood running down from the crown to his face. The other was a person with hands raised at the foot of the cross with the cross having blood marks where the nails would have pierced Christ. Graphic, graphic stuff. The thought than occurred to me: "I understand completely but thousands of people have come to this place today to vote and may think this is gross or wonder why the celebration over a bloody sacrifice?."

The truth about the physical act of the cross is gross and very bloody but Crucifixions were a common form of execution for criminals back then. Why do we, as Christians, celebrate this one apart from the rest? Ultimately the question becomes who is Jesus?

The Bible is crystal clear that Jesus Christ is the God-man. "He is the image of the invisible God...in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:15-19). Fully divine and truly human. He is the one who "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" (Phil. 2:6-7). This is a 100% human and 100% God so please do not have in your mind the idea of a 50/50 split. This is essential because of God's holiness and our sinful, ongoing rebellion against this holy God. We need a mediator and Jesus Christ is that mediator. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).

Why the bloody death?

Knowing God's holiness and our sinfulness will help us see the point of Christ and him crucified. I've often talked on this blog about the interesting reality that a cross has become a symbol of beauty in our culture. We see the cross around necks in gold and silver, on rings, pictures, paintings and so on and so forth but I think we miss the right truth about the cross. One thing I liked about the painting at this church was the fact that blood was on the cross. What we see now in houses and on people is this beautifully cleaned up idea of the cross. The cross was brutal and bloody! But the Good News is in the blood. The blood should not gross us out but should remind us of the price paid for sins. Our hope is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. "[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:12-14).

This is the joy of the cross. Sinners are declared right before holy God because Jesus Christ bore the wrath and punish for sin that we rightfully deserve and in exchange we are clothed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ as our substitute in which we are now heirs of the kingdom of God. This is amazing stuff! This is amazing grace! This is why we sing songs with words about the blood with great joy:

"There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins,
where sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains."

"Your blood has washed away my sins, Jesus, thank you"

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What is a Good Tree?

I read Matthew 12 just a few days ago but it was not until after I read it and a couple days passed that one section really stuck out. This chapter involves an ongoing rebuke of the Pharisees. We should all be familiar with the Pharisees but just in case you are not let me remind you that these were the religious teachers of the day. These were the men who did everything by the law externally. As a matter of fact Jesus uses them as an example of righteousness when he says, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (5:20). The Pharisees seemed to have it all together...on the outside. But here in Matthew 12 during Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees he says these interesting words:

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33).

No big deal, right? This is a pretty common passage and one we are most aware of. Good tree equals good fruit as opposed to the bad tree equaling bad fruit. This all makes sense until we consider once again that Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, who on the outside had the looks of some really good fruit. But Jesus clears up any misinterpretations: "How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." This is the sad state of most religious people: They love all their righteous deeds but hate Jesus. They trust in their own merits for salvation rather than trusting in Christ. Sadly, I see this sin in my own life at times but this is the very thing I and every follower of Christ must fight against. We must not be obedient to God's standard to puff up our own pride but rather joyfully submit to God's authority while trusting completely in the finished work of Christ.

May we be men and woman who strive to honor God in our hearts so that our lives would be a reflection of a regenerate heart. May we not be like those people who honor God with their lips while their hearts are far away from him. May we have our roots grounded in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ as we grow to bear good fruit for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jesus Saves

Hear the heart of Heaven beating, Jesus saves Jesus saves
and the hush of mercy breathing Jesus saves Jesus saves
Hear the Host of angels sing glory to the new born King
and the sounding joy repeating, Jesus saves

See the humblest hearts adore him, Jesus saves Jesus saves
and the wisest bow before him, Jesus saves Jesus saves
See the sky alive with praise, melting darkness in its blaze
There is light forevermore in Jesus saves

He will live, our sorrow sharing, Jesus saves Jesus saves
He will die our burdens bearing, Jesus saves Jesus saves
It is done will shout the cross, Christ has paid redemption's cost
While the empty tomb's declaring, Jesus saves

Freedom's calling, chains are falling, hope is dawning bright and true
Day is breaking, night is quaking, God is making all things new
Freedom's calling, chains are falling, hope is dawning bright and true
Day is breaking, night is quaking, God is making all things new

Oh to grace how great a debtor, Jesus saves Jesus saves
Are the saints who shout together, Jesus saves Jesus saves
Rising up so vast and strong, lifting up salvation's song
The redeemed will sing forever, Jesus saves (Travis Cottrell)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Much of the Gospel Would You Purchase?

“I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much—just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races—especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel please.” (D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers, an exposition of Philippians)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 29, 2010

You Will be Hated by All for my Name's Sake


“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22)

The other day I was reading Matthew 10 in my normal reading schedule. I know I’ve read this passage many times in my life but something really stuck with me the other day as I read the words of Jesus to his disciples. As a matter of fact I had to go back over the text to see if I was reading things correctly. Jesus tells his disciples, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”

If you are not familiar with the text this is where Jesus calls his twelve disciples together to instruct them of the mission ahead. Jesus has called out these specific men to be his disciples and follow him no matter the cost. Their callings are pretty amazing. These men were working normal jobs like you and I when Jesus comes by and says “Follow me.” Then we see these men completely drop everything at that moment to follow Jesus. As they go about following Jesus, being taught and seeing miracles, they had to be excited and humbled that this man would want them to follow him and learn from him. We too, as Christians, ought to be humbled and excited about God’s calling of us. But I think so many just want the fire insurance without walking through the furnace.

Jesus is clear about the cost of following him. Remember he said to deny self, pick up our cross and follow him. This doesn’t give us the idea of a picture perfect path of green pastures and beautiful flowers. But we can understand, from the Scriptures, that Christ is calling us to lose our lives here so that we may gain eternal life with him. We are losing for the sake of gaining. We know this is true because we know Christ’s death and resurrection where he defeated sin and death for good. Now go back to Matthew 10 and put yourself in the shoes of the disciples. Jesus hasn’t died or resurrected at this point yet Jesus has called these men to drop everything and follow him. Now he clearly commands them to go proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). And what is the reward? Persecution.

Jesus goes on to tell them, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:16-18). Alright guys it is time to go proclaim the kingdom of God but let me tell you what is going to happen: dragging and flogging. Also, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” How could this be? Why would they stick around for the punishment? Faith. We can clearly see these men had a divine perspective. They were already looking for the eternal reward without knowing how it would come about. They trusted in Christ. Christ was their master. This is why Jesus encourages them with his words that follow: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt. 10:24-25).

Christian, how much have you been maligned for the sake of your master? By God’s grace we may never experience being dragged across the ground to be flogged. We may never even experience someone hating us over the message of Christ crucified. But we have to examine our hearts to see if that is because we have been blessed to be protected by God’s grace or because we haven’t said a word about Christ to a dying world. Sadly too often for me it is the latter part of that statement.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What does your Scale Consist of?


Are your good deeds outweighing your bad deeds? So often this is the idea people have on how they will inherit the kingdom of God. We all have this tendency to think we must please God in order to hear him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." If we can imagine a balance or scale in our heads, we can see what we think are our "good deeds" piled up one side. The pile looks really good to our eyes. We reflect on it and are so proud of those moments when we helped the old lady across the street, gave to a charity, went to church regularly, added a Bible study, gave our tithes and offerings to the Lord, provided for our family and so on and so forth. This is one impressive pile of...

In order to finish that sentence I want us to beware of two perspectives: Our own and God's. Keep in mind the reason for the "good deeds" for the majority of the world is so we can bypass hell in order to live eternally with God or whatever your idea of heaven may be. When we view the scale through our own eyes we would finish the sentence by saying, "This is one impressive pile of good stuff that God will be pleased with." But when we read the sentence through the lens of Scripture we see God telling us, "That is one impressive pile of 'filthy rags' or trash." In Isaiah 64:6 we read, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." When we read God's Word we get a clear picture of our "good deeds." We see that our "good deeds" have not brought down the scale one millimeter to balance out the opposite side which has God's perfect and righteous character on it. Our pile has no shot. Ever.

May I encourage you with hope? "For our sake, he made him who knew no sin to be sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). I love this passage because it clearly speaks of Christ being our substitute. All of our filthy rags or polluted garments were place upon Christ as the sin bearer for those who would repent and trust in his work. But that is not it because in return we are given the perfect righteousness of Christ. Christ became sin for us and we were imputed with Christ's perfect righteousness, in God's eyes.

I must confess that as a follower of Christ I too struggle with trusting all the time in Christ's finished work. I want to add my own righteousness at times. Ultimately I am spitting in the face of Christ's work thinking my own righteousness is better than his. What foolishness! I'm grateful for the Spirit's work to convict me of sin and bring me to repentance.

For someone who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, let me give you the hope of Christ and him crucified. The Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). This is the Good News of the Gospel. Stop trying to earn salvation through your good works. Confess that you are in rebellion against your Creator, repent of your sins and place your trust in Christ. Remember, outside of Christ, every polluted rag you throw on the scale to earn your salvation does nothing more than bring eternal damnation. Christ is your only hope!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sin or Grace? (Part 2)

We left Monday with Romans 5:20-21 in mind: "Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

In your own personal life I wanted you to ask yourself if you were more aware of grace than sin. Then I quoted Paul in Romans 5 and asked if we are to sin so that grace may abound. Paul knew this was in the mind of the people of his time so he goes on to write: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no mean!" Why Paul? It seems logical that we would keep sinning so grace may abound. That way is logical to a fool. If grace is abounding over sin shouldn't those who have put their trust in Christ be grieving over sin and running away from it? When the greatest treasure and eternal pleasure has been revealed to the sinner than the sinner runs from the fleeting pleasures to seek after the treasure more and more. It is foolish to want to continue in sin. "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Paul knew the logic was flawed and sinful.

In your own life are desiring to sin and trusting that grace will just abound? The true follower of Christ will sin but with great grief. The grief will be godly grief and will produce a broken and repentant heart that will turn its gaze to Calvary and what Christ accomplished on the cross. Grace will abound! The cross will triumph!

For the Christian grace ought to always be viewed through the lens of Calvary. The more we see Christ and him crucified the more we will run away from sin. When we do sin, grief will follow. Maybe some guilt. But we must not stay in that place for Christ has stood in that place for us. He is the one who bore our griefs and was crushed for our iniquities (Is. 53). When we focus too much on sin the cross is diminished. We must faithfully examine our hearts, repent of sin and then rejoice in the grace of our great Savior. May grace overpower sin in your soul.

Grace upon grace,
JRL