Friday, July 30, 2010

In Him we have Redemption


“In him we have redemption” (Ephesians 1:7)

Everyone loves a great story of redemption. Look at the movies Hollywood produces and books being written and the television shows out there and it’s not hard to see we all long for redemption. The world loves to hear of positive news stories of one person coming to another’s rescue. This is a natural part of who we are as humans. Here is good news for our souls: “In him we have redemption.”

Whether we want to acknowledge the truth or not, all of us need to be delivered. We love the redemption stories naturally because our souls naturally long to be delivered from our wicked state. The truth about God weighs inwardly in our souls so we cannot escape our sinfulness. Rather than admit our own sinfulness we would rather harden our hearts to love sin more and more. We love ourselves so much that though we know God we do “not honor him as God or give thanks to him” therefore darkening our foolish hearts (Romans 1:21). Instead of finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our perfect Creator we would rather exchange “the truth about God for a lie” and worship and serve created, temporal things rather than our Creator (Romans 1:25). Looking at the truth reminds me that we do not deserve to have any sort of redemption offered to us but God’s word tells us: “In him we have redemption.”

The perfect and holy Creator, who we have rebelled against from the beginning of our lives, loves us so much that he sent his Son to be our redemption. “In him” speaks of trusting in Christ for our only hope of redemption. Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden did not mess up God’s original plan. His plan was always to redeem a people for himself through the work of his Son, Jesus Christ. “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world…In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). These are mind blowing truths to which believers ought to be picking their jaws up off the floor being humbled that God had a plan and we were a part of it.

This truth also ought to spur us on to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ who has purchased for his own possession a people who are blood bought. “In him we have redemption” refers to every single soul that was purchased at Calvary. The text goes on to say, “Through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” This is why Paul repeats over and over for God’s people to proclaim Christ crucified. This message alone has power to transform lives because it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

God planned it this way so he would get all the glory alone in salvation. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). The boasting we are to do is in the cross of Christ. It is only in him where the deliverance of lost souls is found. We are saved by his grace through faith and “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). This message should stir the highest affections for our Savior which should produce lives and mouths that cannot but speak of the cross of Jesus Christ the One in whom redemption is found.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Living by Grace

"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt." (Matthew 18:23-10)

Is this how you extend grace to others as a Christian? This is why it essential for us to speak the truth of the gospel into our lives daily so we can recall the grace of God to us. Unless we understand our state before holy God and the great grace he has bestowed upon us in Christ then we will never display grace to others. I admit this is a struggle for me that has brought about much confession, repentance, forgiveness and begging for strength to be gracious to others as Christ has been gracious to me.

In his book Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges says this: "Having experienced God's grace, we are then called on to exten that grace to others. The evidence of whether we are living by his grace is to be found in the way we treat other people. If we see ouselves as sinners and totally unworthy in ourselves of God's compassion, patience, and forgiveness, then we will want to be gracious to others."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, and Ted Haggard?

Today we have a guest writer my friend Stephen Bean. Stephen sent me an article on Monday about Ted Haggard's return to the pulpit. Here is the link to the entire article and I would encourage each of you to read the article before reading Stephen's comments. I asked Stephen to write the post because he is studying to be a pastor Lord willing. I knew his response would come from a tender heart yet a heart wanting to warn Christians of this dangerous false gospel being taught by Mr. Haggard:

"It is difficult to put into words the emotions I felt as I read about Ted Haggard’s return to leadership in the local church. This article gives a summary of why Haggard was forced to leave his position as President of the National Society of Evangelical as well as pastor of his church. In this post Jason has asked me to respond to the sad picture painted in the article.

First of all let me say that reconciliation and restoration are both major themes in the Bible. D.A. Carson writes, “At the heart of salvation lies reconciliation to the God who made us and under whose just judgment we lie.” If we are to believe that the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is the central theme of the Bible, and that the gospel is where that glory is most vividly expressed, it isn’t hard to say that reconciliation is EVERYWHERE in the Bible.

Restoration, on the other hand, is one of many applications of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 Paul encourages the Corinthians to restore someone (presumably the sexually immoral person he told them to discipline in 1 Corinthians). We also have the example of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11, in which he affirms Mark as useful after previously having argued against him going with Paul and Barnabus on their second missionary journey because he deserted them on the first journey. This tells us that there isn’t a “one strike and you’re out” rule in ministry.

The fact is there are many variables when it comes to faithfully applying scripture to a situation. In this case I think it is wise to observe some of the facts found in the article and see if they line up with what we know from Scripture. I want to look at three things in particular: Haggard’s view on his own repentance, the circumstances of his return to ministry, and the vision for his future ministry.

When it comes to repentance often times actions speak louder than words. Repentance isn’t easy. In fact, I can’t see myself writing about Mr. Haggard if he were still outside the ministry dealing with these things even if he admitted it’s still a struggle. Instead we see Haggard returning to what he considers his calling after a short time away. The article paints a sort of then-and-now picture. After all of this happened Haggard is said to have taken responsibility and committed himself to what his church saw best for him. Now that he has returned to the pulpit (or stack of buckets) he says his past self “over repented…” This term alone should be enough to consider Haggard unfit for gospel ministry. To assume that over-repentance is possible is to say that our sin is less than infinite treason against a Holy God. To repent carries the idea of having a change of heart and mind causing you to turn from sin, there is no overdoing that. Of course, if Haggard is unwilling to recognize the weight of what he did four years ago that doesn’t make him four years removed from the problem, it puts him right where he was then, unfit for ministry.

As Haggard returns there are just as many new concerns as old ones. The first concern being, his old church didn’t ask him back and doesn’t want him back. Their words, “we cannot endorse his return to vocational ministry.” So we know it must not have been his former church that commissioned this new plant and there is no evidence that any other church is behind Haggard’s efforts. If this is the case Haggard is going outside of the biblical example for church planting. His reason? Not reaching a community that doesn’t have a healthy church but leading a church is what he wants to do. His explaination, "Tiger Woods needs to golf. Michael Vick needs to be playing football… Ted Haggard…needs to be leading a church." Mr. Haggard made an interesting choice of examples, but he misapplies the comparison. Tiger Woods and Michael Vick both did things that have very little to do with their profession. What Mr. Haggard has done is better compared to Pete Rose and Tim Donaghy, who disqualified themselves from what they “need to be doing.”

Unfortunately we don’t only see problems that got Haggard to this point, but it seems that he will be moving forward in the wrong direction. The article concludes by telling us how Haggard now has an Joe Anybody image with his congregation. He uses the word “hell” in a cooler way than most preachers and makes people feel comfortable talking about their sin. I’ll leave those individual issues for another day. The big problem is what’s missing, namely, a commitment to proclaiming the gospel. Not only is the gospel not there but it can’t be there. As long as Haggard ignores the gospel, goes rogue in his approach to church ministry, and considers sin to be no big deal, he won’t be able to have much to do with the gospel.

Please Lord save Ted Haggard and protect us from the same sad state that he is in."

Grace and Peace,
Stephen

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Glories of Calvary

Lord, You’re calling me to come
And behold the wondrous cross
To explore the depths of grace
That came to me at such a cost
Where Your boundless love
Conquered my boundless sin
And mercy’s arms were opened wide

My heart is filled with a thousand songs
Proclaiming the glories of Calvary
With every breath, Lord how I long
To sing of Jesus who died for me
Lord, take me deeper
Into the glories of Calvary

Sinners find eternal joy
In the triumph of Your wounds
By our Savior’s crimson flow
Holy wrath has been removed
And Your saints below
Join with your saints above
Rejoicing in the Risen Lamb (Steve & Vicki Cook)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our High Priest

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Do you as a believer struggle with approaching the throne of grace? I know in my own life prayer does not come easily. Over the years God has graciously worked with me in this area. But God reminded me of this passage again this week in reading Jerry Bridges book Transforming Grace. I admit that often times I do not see Jesus as one who is able to sympathize with my weaknesses. I have in my mind only his divinity but fail to realize he took the form of a human in order to be our sympathetic High Priest.

Another wrong view I often have is thinking Jesus was tempted exactly as we are as humans. Did Jesus ever lose a wife to death? Did he ever lose a child to cancer? Did he struggle with pornography? I'm sure the list could go on but the list in not the point. In our finite minds we only look at our own experiences and ask, "Does Jesus even understand what I'm going through?" Fair question.

Maybe Jesus never exactly went through the trials and temptations that we experience but he experienced temptations and trials that we will never have to experience. Christ came as a man knowing his purpose was to die. We are born and know we will die because we have earned death by our sin. Christ was without sin yet he lived to die. He lived the life we could not live by perfectly obeying his Father therefore being the only One who could make atonement for our sins. But this did not come without temptation and trial.

We know from Scripture Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness but the greatest agony and temptation came at the hour before his death. In the garden Jesus prayed three times, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." This is the cup Jesus came to drink yet he struggled because he knew the agony ahead. The cup he was going to drink was the cup of his Father's wrath for the sins of the world. He is the atoning High Priest. He can sympathize with our weaknesses because he was tried and tempted as we are yet without sin.

This temptation in the garden and the trial of the cross is something we, as believers, will never experience. Christ lived the life we could not live and he died our death that we deserve. He experienced separation from his Father on the cross so that we may never have to have that experience ourselves. May we rejoice that our sympathetic High Priest took our sins upon the cross and has imputed his perfect righteousness to us so that we may be presented blameless before the Father. May we remember that through Christ we have access to the throne of grace. We may come to the Father through Christ and plead for his grace. This reality ought to stir in our hearts praise and adoration for the work accomplished in Christ Jesus.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 23, 2010

Every Healthy Tree Bears Good Fruit


“Every healthy tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:17)

What does the Christian life look like in a person? How can we know for sure that we are Christians? Jesus gives us such clear teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that every Christian ought to read through Matthew 5-7 to be familiar with the Christian life. Ultimately salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The cross of Christ accomplished salvation for those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ as their substitute. The Bible also teaches that those who are true followers of Jesus Christ will be transformed. Jesus plainly says, “Every healthy tree bears good fruit.”

In this context Jesus is warning believers to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” He wants us to be on the alert for those who claim Christ but are false prophets. He goes on to say, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). Jesus is clear when he says false prophets will be spotted by their lack of fruit or the fact that they produce bad fruit. “The life of the prophet and the results of his influence on others are the fruits that will indicate whether or not his message is consistent with the kingdom life of righteousness” (ESV Study Bible). Now we could walk away thinking this is strictly for those who teach or are leaders in the church but Jesus is warning his disciples and we as his children are his disciples. No believer is exempt from this statement.

This warning was specifically given about the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the religious leaders at the time that lived very righteous lives outwardly but inside their hearts were wicked. The Pharisees had in mind that their own righteousness was good enough that they had no need for Christ. What looked to be like good fruit on the surface was bad fruit growing on the inside. False religion has the ability to fool other believers for a time but our sovereign Creator is never fooled because he knows the heart. I say false religion can only fool believers for a time because I believe all true Christians will reject false religion by God’s grace working through the Holy Spirit. Sin will be found out and the bad fruit will be exposed. This is why as Christians we need to be examining ourselves to see whether we are in the faith or not. If we are not trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross alone than we are the false prophets being warned. We must keep the image in mind that “every healthy tree bears good fruit.”

Christian, “every healthy tree bears good fruit” so ask yourself if you see good growth in your life for the things God desires. Remember “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Do not be fooled thinking life is all good inside when the outside is dirty but the flipside can also apply. The Pharisees were so concerned about the outward appearance but cared nothing about the heart. Heed the words of Paul and do examine yourself thoroughly under the authority of God’s Word. Matthew 5-7 is a great place to start. The book of 1 John is also a great place to see whether your life reflects that of the truth of Scripture. There is no need to fool yourself because the Judge knows. Later in the chapter Jesus talks about those who claimed to know him but they were never known by him. On the Day of Judgment Christ will say, “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” The workers of lawlessness are those who bore bad fruit or no fruit at all. May we be those who are prepared to meet Christ on the Day of Judgment confident that he who began the work will complete because of the promise of Calvary. May we keep in mind that “every healthy tree bears good fruit.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Finally 60


Today is my dad's 60th birthday so I just want to use today to thank the Lord for his sixty years. I know I have only been alive for half of those years but during those 31 years of my life I have noticed God's continued work of grace in my dad's life. I am grateful for my dad. I have posted before that I consider him one of my earthly heroes.

One of the things I love is my dad's love for people. He definitely has a care for others that shows in the way he is loyal to people and his love for counseling others. His job as a marriage conference planner is something he loves to do because he loves to interact with people. After the conferences he works he also takes the time to read the things people have written about the conference and is faithful to contact people with questions. I admit I would be timid to do such a thing with strangers but that does not hold him back because he loves to talk with people.

But it is not just that he talks with them but rather what he talks with them about. My dad loves to speak biblical truth about life. He loves to speak the gospel to others. It's not just his actions and love for others that matters but the fact that he speaks gospel truth to them. Marriage advice always goes back to Scripture which ultimately goes to the gospel. Marriage is the greatest human picture of Christ and his bride so my dad understands marriage as significant because it represents the gospel. This is why my dad loves what he does. I love that about him.

I love you,
Your son

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Be Warned

“I think that most Christians would be better pleased if the Lord did not inquire into their personal affairs too closely. They want Him to save them, keep them happy and take them to heaven at last, but not to be too inquisitive about their conduct or service. But He has searched us and known us; He knows our downsitting and our uprising and understands our thoughts afar off. There is no place to hide from those eyes that are as a flame of fire and there is no way to escape from the Judgment of those feet that are like fine brass. It is the part of wisdom to live with these things in mind.” (A.W. Tozer)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saved by Grace

I was helpless, I was broken
When, in mercy, love embraced.
I’ve been rescued and forgiven,
Saved by grace, saved by grace.

By the blessed blood of Jesus,
All iniquity erased.
Now He sees me pure and holy,
Saved by grace, saved by grace.

There’s a mansion in the heavens
Where I’ll see my Savior’s face,
And I’ll marvel at His goodness,
Saved by grace, saved by grace.

May I hold this love as treasure,
Knowing Jesus took my place.
I’ve been rescued and forgiven,
Saved by grace, saved by grace.

Through one perfect sacrifice
We can reach the throne of God.
Spotless Lamb who gave His life
For the sins of all. (Melodie Tunney)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, July 19, 2010

Exposed by the Cross

“The cross exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the cross and am seen by others under the light of that cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide.

Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about ongoing issues of sin in my life. (Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?) And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers. Experiencing richer levels of Christ’s love in companionship with such saints, I give thanks for the gospel’s role in forcing my hand toward self-disclose and the freedom that follow.” (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 16, 2010

Your Testimonies are my Delight

“Your testimonies are my delight” (Psalm 119:24)

Psalm 119 is a clear declaration that the Word of God and his will for us is a joy and delight to our souls. The unregenerate have no understanding in this manner. They see God’s commands as a prison holding them back from freedom. Sadly they have mistaken the truth for a lie which is exactly the plan of the evil one to hold them in bondage. For the regenerate let us praise the Lord saying, “Your testimonies are my delight.”

I confess that many times I read God’s word as just words on a page rather than life instruction for my soul. I come at times out of duty to read what God’s will is for my life. I still struggle with wanting to live for myself rather than submitting joyfully to his will. But this attitude reflects to me the truth of Scripture. It is amazing that my sinful nature is actually a proof to defend the Bible as the truth. When I read that my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, I can affirm this truth because I know my own heart. I am not offended by this truth but rather humbled as I read the gospel to see that God sent his Son to die in my place. My heart, though wicked, is overwhelmed by the truth. My reading which started as duty has transitioned to delight because of God’s grace. The truth overtakes my feelings. That is exactly what happens when we see the testimonies of God. We are captivated by the truth saying to God, “Your testimonies are my delight.”

Being a follower of Christ is not an easy task in a fallen world. Our battle against Satan and our flesh is not an easy battle or a battle that will end in this lifetime. Another reason we ought to delight in God’s commands is to fight against the fleeting pleasures of sin. David understood this truth when he said, “I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:10). Reading and knowing God’s Word is how we fight the battle against sin. The Word is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). The sword is our weapon of offense in the battle against sin. The point in the imagery of being prepared for battle is the urgency of our fight and danger of not being prepared to fight. The temptation to sin is coming. This is a guarantee but God graciously has provided the means to fight against those temptations with the truth of his Word and the work of his Spirit. Obedience will ultimately glorify our Maker and produces the greatest amount of joy in our soul. We will begin to say with David, “Your testimonies are my delight.”

Do you delight in God’s truth? Do you believe the truth that the Creator knows ultimately what will bring joy to those he has created? Maybe it won’t seem that way right away but as you walk in the obedience of his Word, by his power and grace, your joy in bringing God glory will become your eternal satisfaction. Glorifying God involves maximum amount of satisfaction. “[God] You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). The delighting comes from understanding God’s plan is perfect and our sinful way of life is not even close. This is so easy to type for everyone to read but the reality is this is a tough battle. Too often I want it my way instead of submitting to God’s perfect will. I am so grateful for grace and mercy. God, in his infinite wisdom, sent his Son to die in my place for my sins so that I may bring him glory in my pursuit of holiness. My heart is not always there but God I pray that I may say with David, “Your testimonies are my delight.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Many Times?

"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)

I am so grateful for this passage and the work of the Holy Spirit to bring it to my mind in a real life situation of my lack of forgiveness. I hope this story from my life will encourage you to hide God's word in your heart and delight in his law. This is a brief story of God's kindness to convict me of sin and my self-righteousness. Sunday mornings' are never the easiest time at the house because it is the only morning Heather, Emma and I all get up early to prepare for the day. Sunday is an early morning in which we are excited to go fellowship with our local body of believers at the Bible Church. Every Saturday evening as we put Emma to bed we pray for grace and kindness toward one another in the morning.

Why?

Well I'm not a fan of being late anywhere we go but I especially am not a fan of being late for church. I love being with other brothers and sisters in Christ and having that fellowship with them so I am eager to get to church. I don't think that is a bad thing until it comes above serving my family. I love Heather and Emma more than I love the people at church but sinfully I want to be to church on time. Heather also loves being at church but she also loves her sleep. Sleep is not a bad thing as my eagerness to be to church on time is not a bad thing until...let me illustrate.

About two weeks ago we had an instance when Heather slept through her alarm. Needless to say we were running a few minutes late that morning. Things were a tad rushed but we did make it out the door in pretty good timing. Running late has happened in the past with us so as we left I reminded myself of grace. My goal was not to play the silent game with Heather. When I'm upset, frustrated or angry I get quiet which is also a horrible trait on my part. As we drove to church Heather looked over at me asking, "Will you forgive me for making us late."

What to do?

Immediately I said she was forgiven but proceeded to make a comment about her sleeping in. That my friends is not forgiveness. That attitude and comment stemmed from a lack of forgiveness in the past. When this has occurred in the past my reaction has been less than graceful but I have told Heather she is forgiven but in my heart I was keeping a record of wrongs. Suddenly I had put limits on how many times I would forgive her. As we kept driving the Holy Spirit graciously reminded me of the text above. I was thinking in terms of number of times forgiven with my wife instead of being obedient to what Christ has commanded. His words are not for us to keep track of how many times we forgive but rather when asked for forgiveness we grant it. Remember we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. Forgiveness is about understanding the gospel not keeping records of right and wrong.

Needless to say I was convicted and asked for Heather's forgiveness for my sinfully selfish attitude, comment and heart. As I said I am so grateful for the work of the Spirit in my life. As a sinner forgiven by an infinitely holy and perfect God, through the finished work of his Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross; forgiveness should flow from this truth. May we, as Christian, be men and women who love to forgive with grateful hearts saturated in the truth of the gospel.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sufficient Grace

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Yesterday I woke up with my neck hurting and my head pounding. I ended up getting up and getting ready for work then eventually heading into the office. As the day went on I ended up feeling worse and eventually left the office to go home and rest. I bring that up because as I was trying to make my head feel better I did many things on my own power instead of asking for grace. Aspirin did not seem to work or caffeine or sugar or chocolate or eating in general but rather I continued to decline. Don't get me wrong I am so grateful for the things mentioned above but ultimately it is God who takes away the pain in his perfect timing. As I was driving home in the silence of my car this verse came to my mind. I was so glad the Holy Spirit brought to my mind this passage about God's grace being sufficient in my weakness.

I am so grateful for God's grace in allowing me to come home and get some rest. Eventually in the evening my headache did go away. My point in telling this story is to remind us as Christians that we should always be trusting in God's grace for our lives. He uses many things (rest, medicine, etc.) as means of grace for our healing but ultimate it is God who heals us. May we be faithful to come to him in times of sickness and praise him when healing takes place. In every circumstance may we remember his grace is sufficient in our weakness. "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10). May this be my boast in my great Savior, Jesus Christ, for his power and strength in my weakness.

Jerry Bridges helps sum this up: "God's grace is not given to make us feel better, but to glorify him. Modern society's subtle, underlying agenda is good feelings. We want the pain to go away. We want to feel better in difficult situations, but God wants us to glorify him in those circumstances. Good feelings may came, or they may not, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not we honor God by the way we respond to our circumstances."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alas, and did my Savior Bleed

Alas, and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for sins that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown
And love beyond degree

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut His glories in
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s sin

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt my eyes to tears

My God, why would You shed Your blood
So pure and undefiled
To make a sinful one like me
Your chosen, precious child? (Isaac Watts & Bob Kauflin)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, July 12, 2010

Your Father Sees

Last week Bob Kauflin posted an article titled "What We Do in Secret." I would recommend going to read the whole thing but below I will put the highlights:

"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mt. 6:4, 5, 18)

1. God thinks what I do when no one else is watching is pretty important.Time alone can seem so inconsequential. That’s why we can fill it so easily with seemingly harmless activities with Facebook, Twitter, video games, TV, movies, web surfing; or more overtly sinful activities like viewing pornography, nursing bitterness, or lusting after what we don’t have. But God sees it all. Our heavenly Father sees what we do in secret. Meditating on that consistently is bound to lead to the fear of the Lord.

2. The rewards of eternity are better than the rewards of this life.Countless millions spend their lives pursuing goals, possessions, and achievements that will vanish when they die. Jesus lets us in on a secret. The rewards to live for are the ones the Father will hand out on the last day. At that moment, the number of my blog readers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or fans will have zero effect on my status before God. So why are those things so important to me now?

3. Being rewarded by the Father is infinitely more important than being rewarded by people.There’s nothing inherently wrong with honoring others or being honored. In fact, God tells us to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). The problem comes when we live for and seek the praise of men rather than the praise of God (Jn. 5:41-44). When we act spiritually simply to impress others, we have all the reward we’ll ever get. When, by God’s grace in Christ, we hear “well done” on the last day, we’ll realize in a moment the only evaluation that mattered.

Bottom line: if I gauge my maturity only by what I do when others can see me, I may be terribly deceived about my true state before God."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our Sins


“Sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)

In one simple phrase we read the full depths of the gospel in Scripture. The bad news and the good news all rolled into one small, profound statement. The apostle John is writing about love, God’s love and our response to God’s love. He is trying to show us, as Christian, how we ought to walk in a manner of love for God and others. John gives us motivation: God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

John says, “In this is love.” The phrase that follows will be the ultimate consummation of love. God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is the love that motivates any one to love who is able to love. I say able because those who are not changed by the love of God through the work of the Holy Spirit cannot truly love the way God loves. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Love is a major topic in our society but most of the love spoken of is not a love compelled by the gospel. Love does exist but it is not the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. True love has to be viewed through the reality of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. “In this is love” that God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Does this mean Christians love perfectly? No!! If Christians loved perfectly we wouldn’t need to be reminded of the gospel every second of the day. This is the reason Christ was crucified because we have no idea how to love God and others. Christians are commanded to “love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.” This is the goal of the Christian life to love God with every part of our lives but we fail and fail miserably. This is why the gospel is good news. The word “sins” indicates a failure to love God whole heartedly. But God, by his amazing grace, shows his children their sin so that they may repent and run back into the arms of their loving Savior. The unbeliever might fail to love another human being and may even seek forgiveness saying they are sorry but they totally disregard that they have offended their Creator. The reason God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” is because there was no other way for sinner to be reconciled to God and others.

Our failure to love God stems from our sinful nature. God, being holy and perfect, is unable to sweep our sin under the rug of the universe. But in this is love that God “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God lovingly sent his perfect Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ to bear the wrath for our sins upon the cross. The word propitiation means “wrath bearer” and that is exactly who Jesus Christ is for those who repent and trust in him as Lord and Savior. As sinners we no longer have to live in fear of death because in God’s amazing love we are offered the free gift of eternal life in Christ. We can be fully forgiven of sin and clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness to have reconciliation with our Creator.

Amazing love! How can it be?
That Thou my God should die for me.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are you a Repenter?

"The nature of true repentance is clearly and unmistakably laid down in holy Scripture. It begins with knowledge of sin. It goes on to work sorrow for sin. It leads to confession of sin before God. It shows itself before man by a thorough breaking off from sin. It results in producing a habit of deep hatred for all sin. Above all, it is inseparably connected with lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance like this is the characteristic of all true Christians." (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Forgive as the Lord Forgave You

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:12-13)

I am quickly discovering how much I fail in this area of forgiveness. I have no excuse because the Bible does not leave forgiving others up for debate. The problem is the sin in my heart. I can easily hand out the words of forgiveness but my heart begrudgingly does not want to forgive. I have the kindness on the outside to forgive but inside my heart slander exist. This is why the apostle Paul instructed us to "clothe" ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." The command is for God's people to look like God's people and that happens when we follow the example of Christ. This is not natural.

What must me to do in order to fulfill this command?

We must rehearse the gospel. We must look to Christ as our example of forgiveness. Christ was perfectly compassionate, perfectly kind, perfectly humble, perfectly gentle and perfect patient. The display of these truths culminated at the cross where Christ laid down his life for those who hated him. Christ endured the pain and agony of separation from his Father so that sinners could be reconciled to God. The innocent Savior died in my place. My sins have been forgiven, in fact, God promises to cast my sins into the depths of the sea. Since the perfect and holy God of the universe sent his Son to bear my wrath and die my death for the forgiveness of my sins doesn't it make complete sense that I would want to forgive others? It does seem like that would be the case after everything that has taken place for my pardon. This is why the apostle Paul does not tell us to muster up our own strength and just forgive. He does not tell us to use our own willpower and just forgive. He knows those methods are of no value in truly forgiving another human. Rather he goes straight to the gospel when he writes: "Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

What simple words that should be our pray to live out by the power of the Holy Spirit who works within us. Easy to read but hard to do. May we strive to love the gospel so when we are sinned against we may not revile back but forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Part the Clouds

I like, like to be liked
And no one likes to hear the truth
And I've seen what the truth can do
So I tried, tried to downsize
The part of You that's hard to tell
But the layoff didn't go so well
Beat around the burning bush
Till that fire went away
God was once so palpable
Before the shades of gray

We might as well just fold our hands
If we can't call a spade a spade
Cuz we will miss the heart each time
If we won't ever shoot them straight
These pleasantries shading me and you too
Let's part the clouds
And show the world the Son

We think, think we are helping
By giving You a little flare
But it doesn't matter what You wear
Cuz runways aren't Your forte
You prefer the narrow road
Even though its not en vogue
The gospel looked so very cold
One night as I passed by
So I gave him my best sugar coat
And dressed it in a lie

We might as well just fold our hands
If we can't call a spade a spade
Cuz we will miss the heart each time
If we won't ever shoot them straight
These pleasantries shading me and you too
Let's part the clouds
And show the world the Son
Oh, Oh, Whoa

This living water will not quench us
If its watered down
Its not our place to hide again
This treasure that we've found (Jimmy Needham)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Love of Christ Controls Us


“The love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

We tend to think of the love of Christ when we are first transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Generally we think of God’s love strictly in that moment when salvation was revealed to us. True, the gospel is the greatest display of love ever, but the gospel is more than a onetime event. Paul knew this reality which is why, as a minister of the gospel; he made it clear that “the love of Christ controls us.”

The gospel is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a sinner. God calls us to be his children regenerating us by the work of his Spirit in our lives. The transformation that occurs in the life of a sinner to a saint is the work only God can do. We cannot be changed by the supernatural and then revert back to the natural. Salvation is not an “experience” of God’s grace and then once the experience is over we continue as we once were. NO! That is nothing more than an experience. The true experience of God’s grace is supernatural and continues to be supernatural throughout the rest of a lifetime. The transformed soul changed by God’s grace says, “I’m denying myself, taking up my cross and following Christ daily so that my reward in heaven might be great.” That is totally different from the natural. This is what it means to live a life in which “the love of Christ controls us.”

Saving grace continues to be saving grace until the day we are finally with the Lord for eternity. God’s love is displayed ultimately to his children by his saving grace through faith. That faith is imparted to us so that we may live lives in accordance with God’s word. Our whole worldview is changed through God’s salvation and continues to be changed throughout our lives as we pursue holiness through the Scriptures. The gospel continues to compel or control us all through our earthly life. This is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (5:14-15). We no longer live for self but for Christ who saved us by his death and raise us to newness of life through his resurrection. He is worthy of our praise, honor and glory. The love of Christ saves us and “the love of Christ controls us.”

In his book Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges, writes: “Our good works are not truly good unless they are motivated by a love for God and a desire to glorify Him.” This is impossible for the natural man. The natural man is controlled by Satan and sin. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7). Sin has complete dominion over him because only the gospel has the power over sin.

Christian, be grateful for what Christ has done on your behalf. He saved you through his atoning work on the cross and he raised you to newness of life through his resurrection. If your sanctification seems like a slow process know that God’s timing his perfect and his power is supernatural. Remind yourself of the power of the gospel often so that your confidence for growth will not rest in your own works but in Christ’s continued work in your life. The cross is the power of God to those who are “being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Justification and sanctification are both the power of God’s work in our lives. We respond in obedience because “the love of Christ controls us.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Greater Love

"Christ, who loved us!" Romans 8:37

"No condition can possibly be more dreary--than to feel that no one loves or cares for us! There is something peculiarly sweet and pleasant--in being the object of another's love. Even the love of a poor child is sweet. But to be loved by one who is most wealthy, most exalted in station, and most honorable in character--must be peculiarly delightful!

How, then, should we rejoice; how happy should we be--who are loved by the Lord Jesus! Especially when we consider: on the one hand: how despicable, how poor, how worthless, and how unlovely WE are! And, on the other hand: how glorious, how wealthy, how worthy, how lovely JESUS is! To be loved by Jesus--is to be preferred before the possession of a world!

Think of . . . the glory of His person, the vastness of His possessions, the number of His angelic attendants, the unlimited sovereignty which He exercises, and the excellent character He bears!Also bear in mind--that He knew what loving us would cost Him--how He would be treated by us and by others--for our sakes! Yet He fixed His love upon US! He loved US--just because He would! He passed by others more dignified in nature, more exalted in station--but He chose US!He did not, could not, NEED us--for He was infinitely happy and glorious without us! Yet He loved us! He still loves us!" (James Smith from Grace Gems)

What a love Jesus has for us!!

Grace upon grace,
JRL