Friday, April 30, 2010

Preach Christ Crucified

“Preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23)

As God has been patiently working on me and allowing me to proclaim the message of Christ crucified to others I’m slowly discovering how much of what I believe is not the majority. I guess I’ve been more like bubble boy than I thought. I’m slowly seeing just how crazy this simple message of Christ crucified really is to those whose eyes have not been opened to such beauty. But my prayer is that no matter the cost I would be faithful to this simple yet profound message to “preach Christ crucified.”

Why is this message so widely rejected? What great love God the Father has shown to send his only Son to die on our behalf. It is hard to think of such a love being rejected. We can view the world around us and see that sin is so prevalent. But part of this message of Christ crucified is having the humility to admit that we are sinners. We have this issue where we try to find people who are worse off than us so we can set them as the standard declaring ourselves to be fine with God because we are a “better person.” The problem with that sort of logic is this: Only one person in all of history would be damned to an eternity in hell and the Bible is clear that this is not the case. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matt. 7:13). If we use other people as the standard we have nothing but a cycle of people who are better than other people therefore only leaving the worst person in all of history to hell. But think upon this: How is your attitude? How are your thoughts? What is your motive behind what you do? Things can look good on the outside but the truth remains that your heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9). We are all sinners. This is what makes the message of Christ crucified so essential.

We obviously cannot hold up God’s perfect and holy standard. Sure we can find people we are better than visibly but unless we are the Judge of the universe it really doesn’t matter. The Judge is perfect and set apart so his standard will be what we are judged by. Are you willing to claim perfection? But this is where Christ crucified comes into the picture. Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven to take the form of humanity (Phil. 2). The God-man Jesus Christ willingly descended from heaven to become like one of us. Jesus came to live in this world of sin to be tempted and suffer like he calls us to do. Yet he was without sin. He perfectly obeyed his Father even to the point of his death. He lived the life you and I are unable to live. Jesus knew the reason he came was to bear the Father’s wrath and bring forgiveness of sins. He was willing to live the life we could not live and die the death that we deserve. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (John 15:13, Rom. 5:8). Jesus’ love is beyond the greatest love because he died for his enemies. He died so his enemies could be reconciled to himself. R.C. Sproul says, “The glory of the gospel, is this: The one from whom we need to be saved is the one who has saved us.”

This is love to the greatest degree yet many people love themselves supremely unable to humbly trust in Jesus. They cannot imagine or comprehend this love. Instead of embracing it they reject it. His love is so great it is despised by the world. But our task as Christians is to “preach Christ crucified.” This message alone is the power of God unto salvation so may we press on unashamed. May we praise God for sending Jesus. May we praise Jesus for living the life we could not live and dying in our place. May we praise him for his perfect robe of righteousness which we have been clothed in. May we be faithful to “preach Christ crucified” to the world.

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our Sovereign Creator

I read an article earlier this week titled Girl lucky to be alive after sting by deadly jellyfish. The amazing part of the article is this 10 year old girl survived a sting from the "world's most venomous creature, the deadly box jellyfish." The article says her survival may have "rewritten medical history." Here is a part of the article:

"Often deadly, the box jellyfish has long, trailing tentacles and is able to squeeze through even the smallest of nets as it is only the size of a fingernail.

The venom is so overpoweringly painful that victims often go in shock and drown or die of heart failure before reaching shore.

There is no effective antivenom for its sting, which attacks the heart, nervous system and skin, inducing shooting muscle pain, vomiting and a rapid rise in blood pressure.

Rachael was pulled from the Calliope River, near the town of Gladstone, by her 13-year-old brother with the jellyfish's tentacles wrapped around her legs.

Before passing out, she told him she could not see or breathe.

After the rescue, she spent six weeks recovering in hospital before returning home.

'I don't know of anybody in the entire literature where we've studied this where someone has had such an extensive sting that has survived,' said Professor Seymour, adding that scientists were keen to monitor her recovery.

'From our point of view it's really useful information that you very seldom, if ever, get your hands on.'"

As I read the article my first reaction was seeing the grace of God to spare this young ladies life. This is truly the work of the sovereign Creator who gives and takes away life. My second thought was God's kindness to spare the life of this young girl to help mankind advance scientifically. We've heard these new atheist for years talk about how no creditable intellect could possibly believe in God. But if you notice in the article science has no answer to why this young girls life was spared. According to Professor Seymour in the entire literature they have studied there was one case of survival with so much extensive damage. Science has no answer for her survival but a sovereign God does.

"And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'" (Job 1:21)

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Justification fights Legalism and Condemnation

The NEXT webzine April 2010 has put out an article by C.J. Mahaney titled Fighting Legalism and Condemnation with the Cross. I will post the aricle below but I recommend clicking the link above to check out other articles from the webzine. Contributors for April's webzine covering The Doctrine of Christ's Work Accomplished & Applied include R.C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, John Piper, J.I. Packer and Martin Luther. Mahaney's articles was taken from a book titled This Great Salvation which is free for download. Here is what Mahaney writes:

"The doctrine of justification needs to be constantly reinforced and reviewed, as Martin Luther was well aware. His typically blunt advice? “Beat it into their heads continually.” We need to be applying and appreciating the truth of justification in our lives on a daily basis. If we don’t, we will find ourselves susceptible to one of the Church’s most subtle and serious enemies: legalism.
Legalism involves seeking to earn God’s acceptance through our own obedience. We only have two options: either receive righteousness as a God-given gift or try to generate our own. Legalism is the attempt to be justified through some source other than Jesus Christ and his finished work.

To adhere to legalism is to believe that the Cross was either unnecessary or insufficient (Gal 2:21, 5:2). That is an accurate interpretation of your motive and actions, even if you still ascribe mentally to the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice. In our legitimate pursuit of obedience and maturity legalism slowly and subtly overtakes us, and we begin to substitute our works for his finished work. The result is either arrogance or condemnation. Instead of growing in grace we abandon grace. That was Paul’s assessment of the Galatian church when he wrote, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4).

If you’ve ever attempted to live this way you may have learned by now that legalism is as futile as it is frustrating. Every legalistic attempt at righteousness inevitably ends in failure. Over the years I’ve learned to recognize some unmistakable signs of the presence of legalism. Here are a few of them:

_You are more aware of your past sin than of the person and finished work of Christ.
_You live thinking, believing, and feeling that God is disappointed with you rather than delighting in you.
_You assume God’s acceptance depends on your obedience.
_You lack joy. (This is often the first indication of the presence of legalism. Condemnation is the result of pondering our deficiency; joy is the result of considering his sufficiency.)

Have you been ensnared by the subtle presence of legalism? If so, beware. It tends to spread rather than remain restricted (Gal 5:9). Legalism must be removed.

The only effective way to uproot legalism is with the doctrine of justification. If you’ve neglected or ignored this doctrine, then take whatever dramatic action is necessary to change. Set aside time each day to review, rehearse, and rejoice in this great, objective, positional truth. Restrict your spiritual diet to the study of justification until you are certain of God’s acceptance, secure in his love, and free from legalism and condemnation.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the single most decisive event in history. Accurately has Sinclair Ferguson stated the following:

The Cross is the heart of the gospel. It makes the gospel good news: Christ died for us. He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat. He has borne our sins. God has done something on the Cross we could never do for ourselves…The reason we lack assurance of his grace is because we fail to focus on that spot where he has revealed it.

Where will you focus your attention? Will it be on past sin, your present emotional state, or areas of character in which you still need to grow? Or will you focus on the finished work of Christ? Legalism need not motivate you. Condemnation need not torment you. God has justified you."

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Debtor to Mercy Alone

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

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

My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n. (Augustus Toplady)

Grace upon grace,

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Broken Spirit

"We ought always to feel as those who, having been justified through the goodness of God through Christ, are assure that God is reconciled to us if we will but cast ourselves on his mercy, and that he is willing to give us every blessing we can desire. But among these blessings, we ought to remember there are several which may seem likely at the time, at least at these in an increasing tenderness of conscience, an increasing sense of the guilt of sin and of our own sinfulness and weakness. This will, at first, increase our nomination and contrition, and make it rise at times even to self-abhorrence; but, blessed be God! There are are promises in abundance, and I am sure I say blessed be God for them, to those who are in this very state of mind: 'The Lord is night unto them that are of a broken heart, and will save such as are of a contrite spirit,' etc., etc.

Even David was instructed to say this in Psalm 34, but how much more confidently we may speak thus, when we consider the atoning blood of Christ. In this frame and spirit let us cast ourselves at the foot of the Cross, and assure ourselves of the mercy and loving kindness of him who has declared 'Them that come unto me I will in no wise cast out.' Who else are the poor in spirit, the lambs, whom Christ will carry in his bosom, but those who feel in this very way?" (William Wilberforce, 365 Days with Wilberforce)

Grace upon grace,

Friday, April 23, 2010

No one seeks for God

“No one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11)

In a day of a seeker sensitive church it seems Paul goes against this idea when he quotes David from back in the Psalms saying “No one seeks for God.” Through the first three chapters of Romans Paul is explaining our sinful condition before our holy God. Paul is actually stating that every human being suppresses the truth in unrighteousness therefore “no one seeks for God.”

Paul has shown us our sinful condition that has caused us to be at enmity with the God of the universe in Romans 1. He then moves on to show us the purpose of the law. The law was given so we could see how sinful we are. The purpose of the law was not so we could try to live perfectly obedient to it like many of the religious leaders of the day tried to do. Not one person could attain perfection through the law. God’s commands are perfect and holy as he is perfect and holy therefore it is humanly impossible to gain a right standing with God through obedience of the law. The Jews were also trying to obtain salvation through the circumcision of the flesh. They were teaching a salvation through traditions and works. No matter your idea of salvation there is only one true gospel.

The truth that no one is good or righteous (Rom. 1:10,12) is what ought to motivate us to preach the true gospel. My own idea of the gospel is not the power of God unto salvation. God’s gospel taught in his word is the gospel of power (Rom. 1:16). The church has messed up by trying to cater to those who are “seeking” when the Bible is clear that “no one seeks for God.” Why are we trying to be “seeker friendly” when there are no seekers? This is why I love the gospel so much.

As the church, let’s not try to feed the felt needs of the “seeker.” If we were faithful to feed people the gospel of Jesus Christ hearts would be abundantly full. If we focused our attention on the cross and the empty tomb we would see the power of God at work. When we try to serve up what we think people need we will only notice the power to motivate people until the fad dies out. The gospel is not a fad. The gospel transforms lives for an eternity. The gospel is about God who seeks out sinners whose hearts are dead and gives them life. The gospel is the means he uses to awaken the soul. Listen to the council of Paul and David, “No one seeks for God” and start preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ who came into the world to save sinners.

Christian, may I challenge you to feast on the gospel throughout the day. Sin is all around us and still shows itself in our wicked hearts. Satan lurks around like a lion seeking to devour us. Our flesh is constantly fighting for our attention to indulge in the ways of the world. We must arm ourselves with the gospel armor. May we be ready to defend ourselves with the shield of faith. May we have our sword ready to kill the temptations of sin when they arrive. We must remind ourselves of the gospel that only by God’s grace are we seeking after him.

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jesus Saves!

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout it brightly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! (Priscilla Owens)

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thanks C.J.

Today I want to thank a man who has shaped the way I do things and the way I think about life in general. I have never personally met C.J. Mahaney but he has influenced my life more than I could ever say thank you. The Lord has used C.J.'s passion for the gospel to shape the way I look at the cross. Dwelling upon his messages he has preached on both the cup and the cross have flooded my mind with great affections for what took place in the Savior's life. I have had the privilege to read The Cross-Centered Life, Christ our Mediator, Humility and Living the Cross-Centered Life on more than one occasion. I am tempted to say those books have shaped my life significantly more than any other books besides the Bible. But what I love most about C.J. is his genuine life that reflects what he preaches and writes.

I've watched C.J. preach on video and I've heard him on radio and from what I have heard and seen in his life is nothing but sheer humility which is only given by the grace of God. The testimonies I have read from his closest friends also affirm his life is genuine. C.J. loves the gospel and in loving the gospel he has learned humility from his Savior. Instead of thinking he has got to do something to make himself humble he instead goes to the gospel which brings about humility. Humility is not a strong point for me so to see C.J. love the gospel with his whole being reminds me that humility can only come from clinging to the cross of Christ. Humility comes from seeing the substitutionary work of Christ as sufficient and resting in his promise that sinners are saved by grace through faith. This is how humility is cultivated in a life and this is what C.J. has taught me more than any other human and for that I am grateful for this man.

Let me leave you with some practical ways on living The Cross-Centered Life. C.J. says, "A cross centered life is made up of cross centered days." Here are some good ways to have cross centered days:

1. Memorize the Gospel

Isaiah 53:3-6
Romans 3:23-26
Romans 5:6-11
Romans 8:32-39
I Corinthians 15:3-4
2 Corinthians 5:21
Galatians 2:21

2. Pray the Gospel
3. Sing the Gospel
4. Review how the Gospel has Changed you
5. Study the Gospel

Learn terms such as: atonement, substitution, propitiation, justification, redemption, reconciliation and salvation.

"Sometimes the most obvious truths are the ones we need to be reminded of the most." This is exactly the way God has used C.J. as his servant for so many years. For that C.J. I just want to say thanks!

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Great Price of Adoption

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

A big thing in our day is the statement: God is love. This is so true yet thrown out by people who are clueless to the depth of this great truth. God’s love is so great no pen could ever write the greatness of his love. To describe his love the Bible uses a term called adoption. Everyone loves an adoption story. Everyone loves to see a child brought into a new family and loved. This is a great picture of what Christ has done for us.

Normally in the case of an adoption a child is brought into a family to be nurtured and taken of. We love the redemption of a child who was abandoned or put into a foster home or maybe the parents have a drug problem or they just don’t want the child. These scenarios are true for most of the cases of children who have been adopted. Then at a great price a family comes in to rescue them and takes them into their own family. I’m sure most people get the impression that everything is perfect after that but the truth is adoption is not easy. The adopted child has to adjust to a new family. They need to adjust to the authority of parents and the rules of a new house. Maybe there are disabilities to overcome or language barriers that will take time. Maybe there are violent issues in the child who has never been loved before in a lifetime. Going from being reckless and abandoned to a house full of love doesn’t equal happily ever after right away. Work takes place on both sides of the relationship. Parents are working on grace and patience and the new child is working on obedience and being loved. Adoption comes with a great price.

Do you see the beautiful picture of the gospel painted in adoption?

Adoption starts with sin. Kids are not being adopted from good backgrounds but they are being taken out of a broken and messed up situation. An adoption story does not start with a happy beginning. Likewise the gospel starts with realizing we are sinners. We have broken the perfect law of God. We have rebelled against his perfect love. Sin is the start of the gospel. But like earthly adoption we have a heavenly Father who loves us so much he was willing to the pay the price to adopt us into his family. God the Father paid the price of his Son. Our broken and messed up background of sin had to be dealt with because God the Father is perfect therefore the price of adopting sinners was so great the only possible way to redeem us was through the sacrifice of his sinless Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the great price by bearing our sin on the cross. The Bible says as his children we were “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). This is amazing love!

Just like in adoption the parents have paid the price to bring a new child into their home so God the Father has paid the full price to bring us into his kingdom. This does not mean things are perfectly restored yet. Yes we are given the complete and perfect righteousness of Christ but while we are on earth we will wage war against sin and the devil. Life is not perfect yet but our hope rests in the day when Christ will return to take us home with him forever. Until then we are being made more and more into the image of Christ through the work of his Spirit which he has left us to empower us to fight the battle in this present world. What a gracious and loving Father. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Grace upon grace,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stand Amazed by His Grace

Grace Gems sent out an excerpt from Thomas Sherman's "Divine Breathings" which I thought I would share with you all today:

"O precious saint! Three questions call for your answer:
1. What were you?
2. What are you?
3. What shall you be?

1. What were you?
Dead in your transgressions and sins,
a rebel to your God,
a prodigal to your Father,
a slave to your lust,
the devil's captive,
on the highway to hell.

2. What are you?
Redeemed by Christ,
a royal child of God,
the spouse of Christ,
the temple of the Holy Spirit,
the heir of a priceless eternal inheritance!

3. What shall you be?
A glorious saint,
a companion of angels,
a triumphant victor,
a crowned king,
an attendant on the Lamb,
a participant in those soul-ravishing and ineffable excellencies that are in God! You shall behold the King of Glory face to face--and enjoy immediate communion with Jesus Christ! Nay more, you are made one with Him:
clothed with His excellencies,
enthroned with His glories,
crowned with His eternity,
and filled with His felicity!

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard, and
no mind has imagined . . .
what God has prepared for those who love Him!"
1 Corinthians 2:9

O stand amazed at His free grace--and render all the glory to God!"

Grace upon grace,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Follow me

“Follow me” (Mark 1:17)

Jesus spoke these words when he called his disciples. Jesus walked around and called certain men unto himself to follow him. There were no bells and whistles. There was no gift basket for joining the club. Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”

The command is no different today. Every disciple of Jesus Christ has been called to follow him. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matt. 16:24). Here Jesus is talking to his disciples while explaining what a disciple looks like. A disciple of Christ is someone who denies self to suffer for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ. This does not make sense unless we know who Christ is. We can only know Christ through the revelation of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Therefore when we see the command from Jesus to deny self and suffer for his name we ought to examine our lives to see whether this is true or not. We also ought to examine our motives behind our obedience. Maybe we fear hell or our parents or we want to be people pleasers. These are selfish motivations for obedience. Jesus wants us to deny self and follow him because as our Creator he knows what will bring us the greatest joy and pleasure, namely him!

Look at the response of these fishermen here in Mark 1. Jesus passes along the Sea of Galilee while these men are fishing and says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (17). Pause for a second and think about what is happening. These men were at work doing their job as fishermen. They were probably good at their trait and loved to do it. Their work brought in money for them to live life. Then Jesus passes by saying, “Follow me” with no promise of anything else besides, “I will make you become fishers of men.” I think my first question might have been, “Does fishing for men pay more than fishing for fish?” But look at the text, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him” (18). WOW! Immediately or with no hesitation they left everything behind to follow Jesus. This wasn’t a one time deal either because the Bible goes on to talk about Jesus calling the sons of Zebebee “who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat” (19-20). These men left not only their job but also their father. Jesus demands we give him everything. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you hear his voice saying “Follow me”? Or are the fleeting pleasures of this world so blindingly good that you do not want to forsake them? Pray that God would soften your heart. Beg for God to give you the humility to submit to his authority. He promises that the truth will set you free. The sacrifice here will be great but the reward of an eternity at the feet of the Lamb who was slain will be so much greater. God promises that in his presence is “fullness of joy” and at his “right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Nothing on this earth can eternally compare to this promise. Jesus graciously came to live the life we could not live, die in our place and was raised for our justification. The call from this gracious Savior is: “Follow me.” Do not harden your heart but repent and trust in Christ.

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Power of God's Word

I recently had a spiritual conversation with another person who asked this question: “What makes you an authority on God?” That is a legitimate question to ask someone when having a conversation about God. This person had one view while I had a different view of things so how does the matter get resolved and how do we know who is talking about the One true living God.

I am not an authority on God because he is the authority himself. God the Father has revealed himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, and also through the words of Holy Scripture. “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his [The Father’s] nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the exact imprint of God the Father. Colossians 1 says, “He is the image of the invisible God…For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:15, 19). Now some may argue that Jesus was nothing more than the Son of God so of course he is like his Father; but Jesus was more than just God’s Son he is God. Jesus says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:29-30). The Jews picked up on this right away because the text goes on to say, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him…’It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God’” (John 10:31, 33). This is amazing. Jesus made his claim that he and God the Father are one. Jesus is making the claim as the God-man. We know these truths from Holy Scripture.

In love, God tells us the Scriptures are his words. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It’s trustworthy because God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), has given us these words so we might know him. The reason I believe the Scriptures is because of God’s gracious gift of faith to see his word as truth. He promised to leave us his Spirit to reveal this truth. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my [Jesus] name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). The truth about God is known through his word and the power of his Spirit.

In the midst of my conversation with this other person I got this response while I was answering some questions: “You ask me questions, but when I ask you a question you digress. You let the Bible speak for you. Ever notice that?” I let the Bible speak because it’s God’s Word that has the power to change lives. Hebrews 4:12 helps answer that response, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” I respond with Scripture because God’s word is powerful and living and knows the soul of every human being, which is power I know nothing about.

Let’s go back to the claims of Jesus being God. Worshipping a god we make up is easy. We can pick and choose all the things we like about him (love, grace, mercy, compassion) and put them together and say, “Hey this is the god I want to worship.” But this is not the One true living God of the Bible. We cannot cut and paste the truth distorting it to fit what we want. Rather we must humbly submit to the whole truth. Jesus made claims that only a lunatic would make so it doesn’t make sense to reason him as just a good moral teacher. Jesus was either a lunatic or he was God. There is no middle ground. Either you reject Jesus being God or by faith (Heb. 11:1, 6) you accept that Jesus is God. The good news is not that Jesus made the claims but he backed them up.

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17). Here is the claim of Christ coming to lay down is life on a cross but also claiming to rise from the dead. Jesus lived a perfect life, he died a horrific death but then he conquered death by victoriously raising himself three days later. “Death is swallow up in victory…The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54, 56-57). His claims were not just claims but he is exactly who he is: God! I recently heard Josh Harris say, “A risen Jesus is not good news to people who want to be their own authority.” We cannot be our own authority because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]” (Matt. 28:18). The authority is not ours as the creation but God’s as our gracious Creator. It’s not common sense that those who are sinners rule and reign over a perfect and holy Creator. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The gospel is where all our hope comes from.

The amazing part of the gospel is the Creator came down from the glories of heaven to restore the creation who had rebelled against him. This is the greatest display of love possible. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The amazing part is God laid down his life for those who hated him. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). There is no such love to compare this too. The Triune God has worked in such a manner to redeem those who were his enemies. The Son came to restore broken people through his death (2 Cor. 5:21) bringing about repentance in the lives of those who believe in Christ for salvation. By the power of his resurrection we are raised to newness of life. We are made new creations in Christ, the living Savior. If Christ had just died then the truth would be that we worship a dead man. There is no power to change a heart in a dead person. But we serve the One who was raised from the dead and who “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him that name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Joy to the World

I have been pondering as of late why do we sing Joy to the World only at Christmas time? Isaac Watts originally wrote the hymn based on Psalm 98 then published it in collection titled The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship. "Watts wrote the words of 'Joy to the World' as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a Christmas son celebrating his first coming as a babe born in a stable" (Wikipedia). So may I first refresh you of these great words penned by Isaac Watts and then encourage you to sing this song more than just one time a year.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is the Gospel becoming trendy?

Last week Dane Ortlund posted on The Gospel Coalition Blog asking the question Too "Gospel-Centered"? Ortlund says, "In more recent days, though, some are raising the question of whether this is getting a bit out of hand, asking whether we can emphasize the gospel to the exclusion of other things, and, perhaps most of all, simply expressing a general cynicism about the current trendiness of being gospel-centered."

This is an issue we should address and seriously consider. I have always made it my goal to make this blog as gospel-centered as possible. I also made it the aim of my life to preach the gospel faithfully to myself daily or better yet hourly. My encouragement to others is the always the same. I love the gospel but many times it does not affect the way it should affect me. Sadly I am loving my sin at this point instead of loving the One who loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins. But I never want my motivation for proclaiming this message to others to become trendy. I never want to do it because it's the popular or cool thing to do. Although I firmly believe the gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). "Such a description [the power of God] indicates that the gospel is not only powerful, but that it is the ultimate entity in which God's power resides and does its greatest work" (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer, 14-15).

Trendy or not God will use his powerful message of hope to rescue those he came to save. This is why I love the gospel and believe it could never be talked about, written about, preached about, read about or sung about too often. This is the great reality that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, he defeated sin and death by rising on the third day and now he is seated at the right hand of his Father as the name above all other names. Through Christ those who are hostile against God are redeemed and brought to the place where they are made alive to see the glorious reality of God. This is amazing grace!

Ortlund's last response to his question is: "Before either dismissing it or absorbing it, let’s consider it, test it, and, if we find that in fact deeper awareness of sin and sin’s healing in Christ is indeed the place to start and end every day happily and humbly, pass it on."


Grace upon grace,

Monday, April 12, 2010

Preaching Christ Crucified

In Greg Gilbert's new book What is the Gospel? he writes one of the best sections I have ever read in a book. So I'd like to share with you and hopefully get you excited about sharing the true gospel of Christ crucified and also encourage you to go get this book. Here is an excerpt from the chapter Keeping the Cross at the Center:

"At the end of the day, I wonder if the impulse to shove the cross out of the center of the gospel comes from the bare fact that the world just doesn't like the cross. At best they think it is a ridiculous fairy tale, and at worst, a monstrous lie. Really, that shouldn't surprise us. Paul told us it would be the case. The message of the cross, he said, will be a stumbling block to some and foolishness to the rest!

Add to that the fact that we really want the world to be attracted to the gospel, and you create enormous pressure on Christians to find a way not to have to talk about 'bloody cross religion' quite so much. I mean, we want the world to accept the gospel, not laugh at it, right?

But really, we should just face it. The message of the cross is going to sound like nonsense to the people around us. It's going to make us Christians sound like fools, and it most certainly is going to undermine our attempts to 'relate' to non-Christians and prove to them that we're just as cool and harmless as the next guy. Christians can always get the world to think they are cool - right up to the moment they start talking about being saved by a crucified man. And that's where coolness evaporates, no matter how carefully you've cultivated it.

Even so, Scripture makes it clear that the cross must remain at the center of the gospel. We cannot move it to the side, and we cannot replace it with any other truth as the heart, center and fountainhead of the good news. To do so is to present the world with something that is not saving, and that is therefore not good news at all.

The Bible actually gives us very clear instruction on how we should respond to any pressure to let the cross drift out of the center of the gospel. We are to resist it. Look at what Paul said about this in 1 Corinthians. He knew the message of the cross sounded, at best, insane to those around him. He knew they would reject the gospel because of it, that it would be a stench in their nostrils. But even in the face of that sure rejection he said, 'We preach Christ crucified' (1 Cor. 1:23). In fact, he resolved to 'know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified' (1 Cor. 2:2). That's because, as he put it at the end of the book, the fact that 'Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures' was not just important, and not even just very important. It was of 'first importance' (1 Cor. 15:3).

And what if that brings on the ridicule of the world? What if people respond better to a gospel tilted toward the renewal of the world instead of toward the death of Christ in the place of sinners? What if people laugh at the gospel because it's about a man dying on a cross? So be it, Paul said. I'm preaching the cross. They may think it's ridiculous; they may think it's foolish. But I know 'the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom' (1 Cor. 1:25).

Paul made sure the cross was the central point of the gospel he preached, and we should do the same. If we let anything else become the center, we might as well be saying, 'Here, let me give you a hand jumping over that wall. Trust me. You'll be fine.'"

Grace upon grace,

Friday, April 9, 2010

Guard the Good Deposit

“Guard the good deposit” (2 Timothy 1:14)

Paul, in his last letter, pleads with his beloved child in the faith, Timothy, to “guard the good deposit.” Paul knows death will soon be upon him so he writes to Timothy to stand firm in the truth of the gospel. Paul has seen many who have strayed away from the truth and Paul’s concern is for Timothy to be on guard and protect himself from the attack of the evil one, Satan. Paul knows the power of Satan so he tells Timothy to put his hope and confidence in the truth of Jesus Christ.

Like Timothy all followers of Jesus Christ need to place their trust in Christ. The gospel is the truth about Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected. This is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Paul tells Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” Paul is pleading for Timothy not to desert the truth but rather stand firm even through suffering. Timothy will be able to face suffering only through the power which God supplies. We must pray and ask God for the strength to stand up against the wiles of the evil one so we may persevere in Christ’s power alone. Left to our own power we will be destroyed by the power of Satan. But Paul encourages Timothy by reminding him that the gospel is the power needed to sustain him through trials. Christ is the One “who saved us and called us to a holy calling.” Christ began the work in Timothy’s life, Paul’s life and if we are God’s child than our own lives, therefore he will be faithful to complete that work until Christ returns (Phil. 1:6). The gospel faithfully reminds us of this truth.

The question may arise: “Is Paul teaching that someone can lose their salvation so they must guard against the loss?” No! Paul is challenging Timothy to preach the gospel. He wants Timothy to remain faithful to God’s word. The concern that some have fallen away from the truth is just a reminder that these men were never saved to begin with. This is why Paul reminds Timothy that God is the One who has saved him. Paul goes on to refresh Timothy telling him salvation was not granted “because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (1:9). The true believer will rejoice in hearing such sweet words. God had a plan and part of the plan was to redeem a people for him and we ought to stand in awe that we would be chosen as one of his children. This is what should motivate us to preach the word and also to know God’s word so we may be faithful ourselves to “guard the good deposit.”

My hope is that all of us could say with Paul “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (1:11). Please do not put your confidence in yourself to “guard the good deposit” but rather trust in Christ knowing he is faithful to complete his work. Yes we have a responsibility to know God’s word but illumination will only come by the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells Timothy and us, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (1:13-14). The work will only be done by putting all your trust in Christ and by his Spirit he will strengthen and guide you as you walk in this life striving to “guard the good deposit.”

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

See the Empty Tomb and Believe?

While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. (Matthew 28:11-15)

Over the past two weeks I have either read or heard to account of Christ's death and resurrection several times. I cannot help but read of Christ’s death and soak of the sobering reality that it was my sins for which Christ die. I also cannot help but rejoice in his death because I know the rest of the story. I know that he just did not die but that three days later Christ rose from the grave defeating sin and death and backing the claim that he was the Messiah. I also rejoice in the grace of God that has revealed this truth to me through the work of his Spirit. But these past times I read or heard the account I saw this section in Matthew about the guards at the tomb. This past week I have been thinking about this very account where the guards try to cover up the truth. In this post I’d first like to address the unbeliever and second address those who follow Christ.

I have talked about this point before on this blog about how unbelievers make the claim that if they could have only seen this event then they would believe. My best answer to that statement is it probably is not true. The issue is the heart not the eyes. In this passage we see the guards who were sent to the tomb on the day of Preparation to secure the tomb. Matthew 27 says, “So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” (66). These men were ordered to make the tomb secure until the third day when Jesus said he would rise from the grave (Matt. 27:64). The religious leaders were concerned the disciples would come to steal the body away and tell people he had risen. The text says, “So they went.”

The guards go to the tomb Saturday and are planning to stick around until the third day which would be Sunday. “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week” we read about two ladies who have gone to see the tomb. When they arrived there is a great earthquake that rolls back the stone and an angel appears. Keep in mind the guards are still there because the text says, “And for fear of him [the angel] the guards trembled and became like dead men” (Matt. 28:4). The guards start playing possum when the angel appears with an earthquake. Can you imagine the scene? The angel delivers the good news that Jesus Christ has risen from the grave just like he said. Now the guards are not asleep or dead but rather playing dead which allows them to hear everything being said by the angel. Remember the duty of the guards was to protect and secure the tomb so that his disciples could not come to steal the body and say he has risen. But what the guards do see is an angel, an earthquake and the reality of the empty tomb.

Surely at this point in the story the only response of these guards could be a humble admission that Jesus Christ is exactly who he claims to be. They saw him crucified. They watched him die. They saw his body was laid in the tomb. Jesus was dead and these men had seen it all. Their eyes were upon every part of this story. And now the climax of it all, Jesus Christ has risen. They see clearly the empty tomb. If seeing is believing then these men ought to be the greatest ambassadors for Christ this world has ever known. But then we read the account: “Some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.” Now even the chief priest and religious leaders are made aware of the event through eyewitness testimony. They have heard the reports of the risen Savior. “And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave sufficient money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep’...So they took the money and did as they were directed.” How sad. The reality of the risen Savior is covered up by a lie.

Sure the idea of seeing is believing sounds good. Most people today want to see a miracle before they will believe in Christ. But here it is clear that even some who witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ with their own eyes still had hardened hearts. If you are someone who thinks they need to see a miracle before they believe you are sadly blinded by the god of this world, Satan. If you want to see a miracle take a breath and be amazed that the holy God of the universe has shown you his grace and mercy to you by allowing you another breath for repentance. He is so patient with all of us. What we deserve is an eternity of separation from him but instead he offered up his Son, Jesus Christ, so that we could have eternal fellowship with him. Miracles are taking place all the time but the miracle of Christ is the miracle of miracles. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the reality of the cross and the empty tomb.

Christian, what more can be said. His word makes it clear about his grace to us. Spiritually dead men are brought to life. Stony hearts are made hearts of flesh. Darkness is made light. Spiritually blind men have their eyes opened. None of us apart from the grace of the Father would be able to see this reality. He gave us faith to believe and trust in the finished work of his Son, Jesus Christ. May we live in the reality of his great love for us. Thank you for your imparted gift of the faith Lord Jesus. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen...And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1,6).

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our Mediator

"It avails nothing that a man is clever, learned, highly gifted, amiable, charitable, kind-hearted, and zealous about some sort of religion. All this will not save his soul if he does not draw near to God by Christ’s atonement, and make use of God’s own Son as his Mediator and Savior. God is so holy that all men are guilty and debtors in His sight. Sin is so sinful that no mortal man can make satisfaction for it. There must be a mediator, a ransom-payer, a redeemer, between ourselves and God, or else we can never be saved. There is only one door, one bridge, one ladder, between earth and heaven – the crucified Son of God." (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's your own personal Heaven?

I’ve noticed in our day and age a constant longing from people to create their own personal heaven that is designed by this world. We have everything this world has to offer to create our own personal happiness. People are creating their own individual paradise in order to make themselves happy. The problem is the way in which they gain happiness. See all of us were created with a longing for an eternal paradise (heaven) but sin has tainted this longing. Instead of worshipping the Creator we worship the creation. We tend to use sinful means in order to gain that temporary paradise.

“What causes quarrels and what cause fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:1-4)

All sin stems from idolatry. We want what we worship and most of us will do whatever it takes to get it. We worship the god of the opposite sex so we commit adultery or fornication to obtain that personal god. We worship what someone else has so we covet and lust. We worship a fancy car, a big house, a boat, a lake house and so on so we get in debt over our heads in order to worship those gods. Many times in order to gain what others have we steal to get it. What happens in all these circumstances is we sinfully gain our own temporary heaven while committing acts that damn us to hell. All the while we find out as time goes on that those things never completely satisfy us so we repeat the very same actions many times in this life never finding the joy we are seeking.

Is there a solution?

If there wasn’t a solution I would have never noticed the reality mentioned above in my own life. The solution is to recognize our longing for something greater than this world. This is instinctively in every single human being because God has created us with a longing for him. We were all created to be eternally satisfied. We were all created to crave eternal pleasures. Sin has tainted this craving to where we seek after the “various passions and pleasures” of the world instead of God’s eternal pleasures. But God graciously sent us his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from this curse of sin. He sent his Son so we could have our sins forgiven and his wrath taken away so that we might enjoy him forever. Forever? Yes, forever. The thought may cross your mind, “How is it possible to be satisfied forever?” I’ll let God answer that question: “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water [the world] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:13-14). The promise is given that drinking from the fountain of life, Jesus Christ, will produce a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The solution is humbly confessing that you are a sinner whose heart sinfully craves after the things of the world. I was once one who fought and quarreled to get what I thought was joyful pleasures but God opened my eyes to see those things were not ultimately satisfying. I kept craving for more. But in Christ I have found “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” While I am on this earth the world will continue to tug at me to come back to its temporary, fleeting pleasures but God has given me his Spirit to fight in this battle. We must walk equipped with the Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. We must keep our eyes upon Christ and his dwelling place in the New Jerusalem. We must keep our focus on the true heaven where Christ is ruling and reigning. We ought to crave to be with him in that place where there will be no more sin. As we keep our focus on our eternity with Christ we will soon realize our purpose in this world is to bring God the maximum amount of glory which will ultimately bring us to our greatest amount of joy.

Grace upon grace,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Were you there?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it makes me shout "Glory, Glory, Glory!"
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

Grace upon grace,

Friday, April 2, 2010

His Garments

“His garments” (Luke 23:34)

With today being Good Friday I wanted us to reflect on a small but significant part during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the innocent One, is being pierced for the sins of those he came to save. As he is hanging on the cross the Scriptures tell us that the soldiers who crucified him were gambling for “his garments.”

I think it’s fair to ask, “What is so significant about the soldiers gambling for his garments?” In Psalm 22 we read of an anguished individual lament of a man who has suffered much pain by the hands of wicked people. The innocent man is mocked by these wicked men but finds hope in the “vindication and joyful worship with the rest of God’s people” (ESV Study Bible). But this Psalm can also serve as a foreshadowing of Christ’s suffering on the cross. We read many of things that will take place when the innocent and perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, is crucified on the cross. One of the foreshadowing events is in Psalm 22:18, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” The innocent man in Psalm 22 has everything taken away from him, including his clothing, at the hands of wicked men. So Jesus Christ in his humanity has everything stripped away from him as well. The soldiers had taken everything including “his garments.”

While we see some great significance in the foreshadowing text of Psalm 22 I think we need to gaze upon the beautiful picture of what “his garments” means. Jesus was stripped of “his garments” not insignificantly but for the purpose that you and I could picturesquely see the reality that those garments are what we need to be covered in. Because Jesus was willing to be stripped of “his garments” we are now covered in them. We are clothed in his righteousness or dressed in his righteousness because he humbly submitted to his Father’s will and was stripped of “his garments.”

The prophet Isaiah gives us an image as well of the importance of Christ’s garments: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (61:10). The event in Luke’s gospel of the soldiers gambling over Christ’s garments is a historical event. When we see the significance of Christ’s garments and our need to be covered in them we find beauty in this passage we may have never known. Before our eyes are opened to the saving reality of the cross our whole life is spent trampling on God’s gracious garments of righteousness. We don’t want his garments because we are confident wearing our own garments. We find his to be of no use, much like the Roman soldiers did. But now that God has revealed the truth of the cross to us, we understand the significance of “his garments.” To be covered in Christ’s garment of righteousness is essential to approaching the Father in this life and also the life to come. We cannot approach his throne without being covered in Christ’s garments of righteousness.

“When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne” (Edward Mote)

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Crucifixion

"As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.'

Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, a wagging their heads and saying, 'You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.' So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 'He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way." (Matthew 27:32-44)

Grace upon grace,