Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Battle Against Sin and the Grace of God

"Hereby the Lord Jesus Christ is more endeared to the soul; all boasting is effectually excluded, and the glory of a full and free salvation is ascribed to him alone. If a mariner is surprised by a storm, and after one night spent in jeopardy is presently brought safe into port; though he may rejoice in his deliverance, it will not affect him so sensibly, as if, after being tempest-tossed for a long season, and experiencing a great number and variety of hair-breadth escapes, he at last gains the desired haven…. [In the same way] when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, wilfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they [i.e. believers] find that none of these things can separate them from the love of God in Christ, Jesus becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them…. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the mortifying proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him, if they had not known so much of themselves.

Farther, a spirit of humiliation [i.e. humility]…is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us… But that we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only told it…. but experience is the Lord's school, and they who are taught by him usually learn, that they have no wisdom, by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength, by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves; they feel the truth of our Lord's words, ‘Without me ye can do nothing;’ and the necessity of crying with David, ‘O lead me and guide me for they Name's sake.’"

…Whoever is truly humbled will not be easily angry, will not be positive and rash, [but] will be compassionate and tender to the infirmities of his fellow-sinners, knowing, that, if there be a difference, it is grace that has made it, and that he has the seeds of every evil in his own heart; and, under all trials and afflictions, he will look to the hand of the Lord, and lay his mouth in the dust, acknowledging that he suffers much less than his iniquities have deserved. These are some of the advantages and good fruits which the Lord enables us to obtain from that bitter root, indwelling sin." (John Newton quoted by Todd Murray in Beyond Amazing Grace)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Toying with Sin?

"Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer
than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay."

This is a great reminder of the danger of toying with sin. We can never truly toy with sin because it is actually toying with us. Remember the words in Provers 6, "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned" (27)? The urgency for all Christians is to make war against sin. "So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:12-13). Don't toy around with sin, kill it!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Glorious Day (Living He Loved Us)

One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He
Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealedLiving, He loved me

Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine (J. Wilbur Chapman, Mark Hall, Michael Bleecker)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 27, 2010

Christ Crucified

"Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified – the old story of His blood, righteousness, and substitution – is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We need nothing new – nothing more broad and kind – nothing more intellectual – nothing more effectual. We need nothing but the true bread of life, distributed faithfully among starving souls. Let men sneer or ridicule as they will. Nothing else can do good in this sinful world. No other teaching can fill hungry consciences, and give them peace. We are all in a wilderness. We must feed on Christ crucified, and the atonement made by His death, or we shall die in our sins." (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 24, 2010

The World is Passing Away


“The world is passing away” (1 John 2:17)

God’s Word is so good at giving us a right perspective about this life here on earth. While we are given the gift of life and are given many blessings we do not deserve, the Scriptures help us remember that this life is temporary. We are all familiar with the saying, “There are no U-hauls behind a hearse.” The point: You cannot take anything from this world with into eternity. Jesus says it another way, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul” (Matt. 16:26)? Souls are eternal but the gaining of possessions in this world is of no value for the next. John reminds us, “The world is passing away.”

Please do not hear me saying this world has no significance at all. This world has significance because God created it. Too often though we think this life is the end all. We cannot get beyond this world. Sadly it gets worse because we tend to think we are the end all of this world. I know pridefully I’ve thought, “What will the world be like without me.” What a joke! People die and the world moves on. Trends come and go and the world moves on. All of this is a foreshadowing of the truth that “the world is passing away.”

But in the midst of all these temporary realities one thing from this world will last forever which is the souls of mankind. Humans are created beings with souls lasting forever. Even after this world is gone the souls of mankind will live on. The problem is many humans reject this reality. They feel as if this world is all we have to look forward too so they go ahead and live it up. I know this is true because I too lived this way before the God’s grace showed me the truth. If this broken, sinful world is all we have to look forward too that is a depressing reality because “the world is passing away.” But we know this is not it. We know there has to be something more because our whole being longs for something more. We were created to worship and serve the Creator of the universe. Our eternal souls were meant to be satisfied by the One who is eternal, Jesus Christ. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). We were created to be satisfied in God yet in rebellion against God we prefer the temporary, fleeting pleasures of this world which are passing away.

Are you satisfied? I don’t know how else to ask the question. Are you satisfied? You may be saying, “Of course I’m satisfied I’ve have everything I need and want.” Life is probably good right now. If you live in America be grateful for the many blessings we have in our freedom. But here is reality: Suffering is going to come. D.A. Carson says, “”The truth of the matter is that all we have to do is live long enough and we will suffer.” It’s true and when suffering comes what will you be clinging on to as your hope? It seems when things are going well we can forget God but when suffering comes our way we want him to do something about it.

So I ask again: Are you satisfied? Do you know the hope of Jesus Christ? He is the One in whom eternal life is found. He is the One in whom complete satisfaction is found. For those who place their faith is Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation eternal satisfaction will be yours. I wish I could explain this truth but it is solely a work of grace by the Holy Spirit given to those who trust in Jesus Christ. Christians stand on solid ground. Fanny Crosby wrote about the reality that though "the world is passing away" all we need is one thing: “Take the world, but give me Jesus, all its joys are but a name; but his love abideth ever, through eternal years the same.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Good Ole Courtesy Wave

I got to learn another lesson of grace on Monday as I was driving home from work. Normally traffic on the way from work can get a little congested to say the least. I had pulled into a long turn lane line moving slowly as the lights went from red to green to yellow and back to red. As I was nearing the place where I knew I would make the next light a car next to me pulled up and put their turn signal on to get in the turn lane. No problem. I stopped far enough back and went ahead and waved for them to pull on over in front of me. Then it happened…no courtesy wave. No acknowledgement or thank you for my kindness. My heart began to tell me, “You deserve a courtesy wave or something for being so nice.” Ever have that happen before?

As I sat there behind this car my mind raced to all sorts of ridiculous yet sinful thoughts about what had just taken place. I really thought I deserved something for my goodness. As the light turned green and I took my left hand turn behind this ungracious person the Holy Spirit began to work. All of sudden I was reminded of what I deserve. God reminded me of what I deserve for acting sinfully against him as I was at that moment. Reality set in at that moment when God humbly reminded me that the only thing I deserve is hell. That’s it. I cannot put it simpler or plainer than this. I deserve hell. This person in front of me had not done anything sinful. They did not do anything to bring about my sin. They were innocent in the sense of my reaction. The sin was my wicked heart demanding something I thought I deserved. What arrogance!! What selfishness!!

God graciously humbled me as I drove behind this car for awhile. My mind and heart were suddenly awakened to the reality of God’s grace in my life. Think about this: How many good gifts and blessings has God graciously given to you in which you were not thankful? Each breath of air should cause us to humbly thank our Creator for his good gift of life. The fact that I was on a road, in a car, alive with eyes to see and accident free for my drive home from work should have been enough to say thank you; yet I was not satisfied. I thought I deserved more. There was no thanks to God but rather a robbing of his glory and praise to fulfill my prideful desires. But as I continued down the road I soon remembered God’s grace in sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to die as my substitute. The very sin I was committing in my heart and the wrath I deserved for that sin was poured out on Christ in his death. What I wanted was a courtesy wave but instead I received more grace from the Creator of the universe. What a great God who loves such a wicked sinner. "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Praying for Lecrae

With the highly anticipated fourth studio album from Lecrae coming out next Tuesday I wanted to write a post to encourage us to pray for Lecrae. I believe Rehab will top the Hip-Hop charts on iTunes which will only bring about a frenzy for Lecrae, his family and also Reach Records. I’m encouraged by the fact that an album so gospel-centered is going to potentially top the charts but I’m also concerned because I’ve seen fame damage so many people. This is why I’m encouraging each of us to pray.

1. Pray for Lecrae to keep his feet firmly planted on his foundation, Jesus Christ.
2. Pray for him as the temptation arise for some sort of fame that he would remember he is nothing more than a servant of his Savior.
3. Pray for him to keep his family the number one horizontal relationship.
4. Pray for him to continue to stay connected to his local fellowship for accountability.
5. Pray for Reach Records to keep on keeping on with the message of the Christ and him crucified.
6. Pray for the gospel to penetrate hearts of those who buy and listen to the record.

Lecrae,
We love you bro. I hope this record sells millions of copies because I know people will hear the gospel and probably many who have never heard it before. I’m grateful for your talents God has blessed you with and I pray you continue to use it for his glory alone. May you remember you are nothing more than a servant of Jesus Christ. May you remember the great price that was paid at Calvary for your sin. I encourage you with these truths so that as you ponder them you will remain humble and grateful for Christ. Thank you for serving us with your talents and not boasting in yourself but in the only message of hope. I’m sure you have these verses memorized but just a reminder from Proverbs 16: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (18).

Rehab will be released on September 28.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great is Thy Faithfulness

"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

"Great is Thy faithfulness!"
"Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
"Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! (Thomas Obediah Chisholm)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 20, 2010

Peter's Sermon at Pentecost

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servant sin those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:14-41)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Word of the Cross is Folly


“The word of the cross is folly” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

In our society it seems like the cross is just a normal idea. Crosses are around people’s necks, hanging on walls in houses, tattooed on bodies and even displayed for all to see on interstates. For the most part crosses are fine decorative pieces, but all of that changes once someone start to speak about the cross. This is why Paul says, “The word of the cross is folly.”

As Christians we must speak about the cross. When Paul speaks about the cross he is speaking about all that sums up the cross. Christ coming, living a perfect life, dying on the cross for sin, resurrecting three days later showing his power over death and now being seated at the right hand of the Father. The cross is the summary of all those truths. Trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation is clinging to all of these truths. Christ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled himself by coming to take on the form of humanity (Phil. 2:5-7). Christ perfectly obeyed the Father therefore he was able to be the mediator between us and God (Rom. 8:3-4; 1 Tim. 2:5). Christ obeyed perfectly even to the point of death upon the cross as our substitute (Phil. 2:8; 2 Cor. 5:21). Christ then resurrected three days later just as he said demonstrating his power over sin and death (John 10:17; 1 Cor. 15:56-57). Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father as the name above all names and the only name by which humans can be saved (Phil. 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). True Christians affirm each of these truths and they shape the way we live while here are earth. Sadly to the majority of the world “the word of the cross is folly.”

What can we do as Christians to make this message more appealing to our society who reject the message of the cross? Should we change the parts people find offensive? Tempting. No one enjoys being rejected. Rejection normally produces future fear. But we must trust God’s unfailing Word. When you are tempted to change the message of the gospel open God’s Word and find comfort in truth. When we change the message of the gospel we do the most unloving thing a person could do, we lose the message of hope. God’s Word tells us to not be ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). The Scriptures tells us to speak the truth of the gospel in love (Eph. 4:15). When we proclaim the truth boldly in love, God does his saving work in the lives of others. But we must be prepared for rejection. We should be grieved when the gospel is rejected. We must be faithful to pray for those to whom “the word of the cross is folly.”

Christian, are you faithfully and lovingly proclaiming the word of the cross? We are all familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 because it is read at the majority of weddings. This chapter is known as “The love chapter” in Scripture. I think we casually read over it many time not really pondering what is being said by the apostle Paul. Tucked away in the middle of the chapter are these words: “[Love] does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (6). Love rejoices in the truth and God’s Word is truth which means God’s gospel is truth. May we love others through the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we rejoice in the message of Christ crucified knowing it is the power of God unto salvation.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sin or Death?

Yesterday Todd Murray posted an article titled Satan's Mirror which had many quotations from John Newton. I would encourage each of you to go read the entire article here. Below is a snippet from Todd's post:

"Sin is the burden under which he [i.e. a believer] groans; and he would account nothing short of a deliverance from it worthy of the name of salvation. A principal part of his evidence that he is a believer, arises from that abhorrence of sin which he habitually feels. It is true, sin still dwelleth in him; but he loathes and resists it: upon this account he is in a state of continual warfare; if he was not so, he could not have the witness in himself, that he is born of God. We may be afraid of the consequences of sin from other considerations: but it is only by looking to him who was pierced for our transgressions, that we can learn to hate it.”(John Newton from Forty-One Letters on Religious Subjects: Letter)

Later he quotes one of Newton's hymns (Sin's Deceit) with this verse:

"When the gospel trumpet sounds,
When I think how grace abounds,
When I feel sweet peace within,
Then I'd rather die than sin."

I think it is a good measure to see whether you truly love Christ or not by asking yourself, "Would I rather die or sin?" The answer takes much self examination of your heart. May we be faithful to Christ rather than sin.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Only the Work of the Holy Spirit

"Nothing, nothing, nothing will ever convince man of sin but the power of the Holy Ghost. Show him hell, and he will not flee from it; show him heaven, and he will not seek it; silence him with warnings, and yet he will not stir; prick his conscience, and yet he will remain hard. Power from on high must come down and do the work. To show a man what he really is, needs the Holy Spirit of God.

Reader, if you have any feeling of your own sinfulness, you ought to thank God for it. That very sense of weakness, wickedness, and corruption, which perhaps makes you uncomfortable, is in reality a token for good, and a cause for praise. The first step towards being really good, is to feel bad. That first preparation for heaven, is to know that we deserve nothing but hell. Before we can be counted righteous we must know ourselves to be miserable sinners. Before we can have inward happiness and peace with God, we must learn to be ashamed and confounded because of our manifold transgressions. Before we can rejoice in a well-grounded hope, we must be taught to say, 'Unclean! unclean! God, be merciful to me a sinner!'" (J. C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Only Jesus

Father of grace, You’ve sacrificed
Your only Son for us, the crucified Jesus
Enlarge our hearts to love Your Son
O grant to us the grace to walk with Him always
To make Him our great delight
Bringing worship with our lives

Only Jesus! Only Jesus! Give us Jesus, we cry
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!The Pearl of greatest price

Spirit of grace, You’ve shed Your light
Upon our darkened eyes, unveiling Jesus Christ
Come change our hearts, conform our ways
To honor Jesus’ Name, His glory our refrain
Let His love compel our own
As we worship at His throne

Jesus, our great Savior,
Lord of heaven, Son of God (Doug Plank)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 13, 2010

Too much Cross talk?

Sovereign Grace Ministries recently did a series on their blog about The Cross and the Resurrection. Jeff Purswell answered five questions during the series that I believe are very significant questions:

1. Will focusing on the cross lead us to neglect the resurrection?
2. Why focus on a crucified Savior when we serve a living Christ?
3. Will a cross-focus lead us to be more aware of our sin than of our new life in Christ?
4. Doesn't the book of Acts stress the resurrection more than the cross?
5. Will paying so much attention to the atonement lead us to make too much of the cross?

Purswell makes a great point in part 1 of the series: "I suppose one could deal with “the cross” in such a way as to neglect the resurrection, but I suspect that in doing so one would be preaching a different kind of cross—for the cross and the resurrection are inextricable. The absence of one either drains or distorts the meaning of the other. In our circles, I think the use of this phrase is simply an attempt to keep the gospel central in our thinking and preaching, and hopefully our living as well."

To read the entire series on pdf click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 10, 2010

Today you will be with me in Paradise


“Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)

We should all be familiar with these words from Jesus’ mouth uttered to one of the thieves next to him on the cross. To dwell upon the scene and read these words Jesus spoke ought to blow our minds when we see God’s love for his people. We should instantly be reminded of grace. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ at some point in your life you had the words, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”, spoken to you.

The thief: Here was a man who had spent the majority of his life terrorizing people. Violent, unkind, unloving, and hard-hearted and now he was paying his earthly punishment by execution on a cross. This type of execution was saved for those who were the most violent of criminals. Now his time had come. He was placed upon a cross probably resisting every step of the way trying to avoid his just punishment; but nonetheless his time had come. The last few hours of his life were going to be spent suspended on a cross to die slow and painfully.

We get a glimpse into his wicked heart when he is hoisted up before the public with another criminal and next to him, Jesus. Most of the time the public was present to say whatever they wanted to these dying criminals but this day the focus of everyone was on Jesus. As the public taunted and reviled Jesus the criminals next to him joined the party. Matthew tells us, “And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way” (27:44) and Mark says, “Those who were crucified with him also reviled him” (12:32). It is amazing to read about these men who were being punished for crimes they had actually committed were reviling Jesus who was innocent. But somewhere in the hours of death one criminal’s heart is changed.

Luke tells us, “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us’” (23:39)! Matthew and Mark tells us both criminals are reviling Jesus but now in Luke we read of only one criminal railing at Christ. What happened to the other criminal? “But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong’” (23:40-41). What? Just hours or minutes ago this man is cursing and reviling Jesus but now he is rebuking the other criminal, confessing that they are being executed justly. Then he proceeds to confess with is mouth Jesus “has done nothing wrong.”

All his life has been spent violently terrorizing others along with his first moments of execution but now we see a change of heart. We see this man compassionately rebuking his friend and humbly confessing the innocence of Jesus. Surely this is not real. Could Jesus possibly show this man compassion? “And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’” (23:42). Remarkable, now this man is confessing Jesus as a king humbly asking Jesus to remember him when he goes into his kingdom.

We know that Christ’s kingdom is a perfect place where sin will be no more and the saints will dwell forever worshipping Jesus upon his throne. This is no place for a criminal, right? Sinners like this cannot possibly dwell in God’s kingdom, right? Jesus lovingly answers, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” That's not fair! I’ve thought it and you’ve thought it. How could this man be reconciled to God when he never did anything moral or upright his entire life? The answer is simple: Grace. This criminal got exactly what he did not deserve. If you are a Christian than you too have received God’s grace which is not fair at all. You do not deserve it and you certainly have never done anything to earn it because it is a gift from God. We are all criminals in our heart but God has lavished his grace upon some not because we deserved it but because of his love and for his great glory. The cross triumphs over sin. Forgiveness for the worst of sinners is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. Christian, be reminded of grace when you hear the words, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Are you grateful for your Pastor?

We should all appreciate those men who faithfully teach us the Word of God. We should all be thankful for our own pastors at our local body's that feed us on a regular basis. Pastoring is no easy task if they are faithful pastors to the Word of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive so pastors who faithfully preach the Bible will be met with resistance. We ought to be grateful for these men as they challenge us to also be faithful to the gospel no matter the cost. J.C. Ryle speaks right of preachers when he says:

"The work of the preacher resembles that of the sower. Like the sower, the preacher must sow good seed, if he wants to see fruit. He must sow the pure word of God, and not the traditions of the church, or the doctrines of men. Without this, his labor will be in vain. He may go to and fro, and seem to say much, and to work much in his weekly round of ministerial duty. But there will be no harvest of souls for heaven, no living results, and no conversions."

As we see these truths in our pastors so should they be a part of our own lives as Christians. May we be faithful to sow the seed of Scripture in the lives of others. May we be faithful to labor for the kingdom of Christ and not our own selfish gain. May we long to see souls rescued from eternal destruction by the grace of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Let us be challenged by our pastors but also strive along with them with the message of hope in Christ crucified.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Worship with your Body

Desiring God recently post an article from Jonathan Edward on Bodily Worship. I found the article to be very insightful so I hope this is helpful for you all as well.

101. BODILY WORSHIP.

"I don't suppose that any understanding men, of whatsoever sect or opinion, will say that God is really pleased with bodily worship as such, that is, that merely such and such gestures and motions of body are what delights him as a part of virtue; but only as they are helps to the exercise of real virtue and the worship of the mind. Now there is an indissoluble, unavoidable association, in the minds of the most rational and spiritual, between things spiritual and things bodily. Thus when we are joyful and express our joy, 'tis natural to do it with a lively voice; and when we express sorrow, to do it with what we call a mournful voice. This is natural to us, and the association becomes much stronger by use in other matters.

Therefore if, when we come to praise God or confess our sins, we resolved not in any measure to alter our manner of expression for sorrow or joy, we must restrain that which is strongly associated with the joy and sorrow; and thereby shall unavoidably, in some measure, forever restrain the spiritual affections themselves, till we quite dissolve the association: which cannot be, in the most rational, while in the body. So we are necessitated to join some gestures to some habitudes of mind in common affairs, as uncovering the head, and some other gestures besides fitting with reverence. Thereby there grows a strong association, so that if one be restrained the other will unavoidably be restrained too. So that some bodily worship is necessary to give liberty to our own devotion; yea though in secret, so more when with others. For we having associated the idea of reverence and other habitudes of mind to such and such gestures of body, it would restrain our notion or apprehension of another's reverence, etc., if we should see those gestures which we have associated to contrary dispositions; so that our own devotion would not be so much assisted by theirs but restrained, and the communion in the duty in some measure destroyed, and so the end of social devotion. 'Tis necessary that there should be something bodily and visible in the worship of a congregation; otherwise, there can be no communion at all.

I acknowledge, that the more rational a person, the less doth his disposition of mind depend on anything in his body; and that if he practises gestures of body in worship, where there is no necessary and unavoidable association, it tends to make him, or to keep him less rational and spiritual. But yet there are some associations of this nature that [are] equally unavoidable, and coeval with the association of soul and body. So many as are thus necessary, we are allowed in gospel worship, and more [than that] are contrary to its nature; for the gospel supposes the church to be no longer an infant, but as come to the stature of a man. Wherefore the weak and beggarly elements are rejected, and the childish bodily ceremonies cashiered, as being fit only for children, and unworthy of those who are come to riper years; and the worship that is now required of [us] is only that which is manly, rational and spiritual."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Prodigal

You held out Your arms, I walked away
Insolent, I spurned Your face
Squandering the gifts You gave to me
Holding close forbidden things
Destitute, a rebel still, a fool in all my pride
The world I once enjoyed is death to me
No joy, no hope, no life

Where now are the friends that I had bought
Gone with every penny lost
What hope could there be for such as I
Sold out to a world of lies
Oh, to see Your face again, it seems so distant now
Could it be that You would take me back
A servant in Your house

You held out Your arms, I see them still
You never left, You never will
Running to embrace me, now I know
Your cords of love will always hold
Mercy’s robe, a ring of grace
Such favor undeserved
You sing over me and celebrate
The rebel now Your child (Meghan Baird and Ryan Baird)

To see a really nice animation done to this song just click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 3, 2010

He is Faithful and Just to Forgive us our Sins


“He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9)

May the good news ring in our ears as we hear the truth that God forgives sins. Not only that the Bible says he forgives our sins. God’s forgiveness is personal to every person who will repent of their sins and trust in Christ for salvation. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”

Christians will be people who see sin, repent of sin and have their sins forgiven because God’s Word teaches this truth. We can bank in God’s promise that he will forgive our sins. Two reasons are placed before forgiveness that involves God’s perfect character: He is faithful and He is just. This verse starts with, “If we confess our sins” which sounds like there is a condition placed before God responds; but true confession of sins can only occur when God has already awakened a dead heart to see sin. Repentance is part of God’s grace to his children. This shows God’s faithfulness to redeem a person and continue to mold and shape that person more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. A person who has been made alive in Christ will be a person of confession and repentance because of God’s faithfulness to his promises in Scripture. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2: “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful.” Why? “For he cannot deny himself” (11-13). God cannot go against his perfect character. Which begs the question: How can a perfect God be just in forgiving sins?

The Bible clearly teaches God is holy and just (Isaiah 5:16) yet teaches that he forgives sin. How can this be? Holy God is unable to look upon sin therefore he is unable to look upon sinners. This would make it impossible for every human being to find favor with God. As sinners we all deserve hell. Justice demands eternal separation from holy God yet the text says, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” It seems that if sinners can be forgiven and brought into the presence of God for all eternity that God would have to be unjust in order for that to occur. Most people would be okay with God being unjust as long as they were able to escape the torments of hell but this logic is seriously flawed because if God were unjust then he would cease to be God. God is not unjust but merciful in sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for sin. This is what makes the gospel good news.

Jesus Christ came to live the life we could not live. He came to die the death that we deserve. He resurrected from the dead on his own power defeating sin and death. By his grace we can be forgiven of our sins. Paul sums this up beautifully in Romans 3: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (23-26). God is just and the justifier because he sent his Son to die in the place of his redeemed.

Isn’t God amazing? “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” May we as Christians see this great love the Father has for us. May stop to ponder the greatness of the gospel where mercy and justice kissed one another at the cross. If your heart is still hardened to the gospel may you be broken by this great reality that Jesus Christ came as a substitute for your sins so that they might be forgiven. Be warned if you reject this message God is faithful and just and he will reject you on the great Day of Judgment. Confess and repent and turn to Christ as your only hope for forgiveness.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"A Riot of Good Works"

This past Sunday at church I heard our music pastor, Todd Murray, say a couple to times the phrase "A riot of good works." I love the picture that paints in my mind. People going crazy and so excited about doing good deeds. People having a relentless passion to do good works. The passage that instantaneously came to my mind was in Paul's letter to Titus:

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:11-14)

The context of Todd's words always came after speaking of the gospel. Many people love to do "good" works in communities all over the world but according to Scripture only those purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ are able to truly do good works. Why? Only those who are children of God can do good deeds for the glory of our great Savior, Jesus Christ. There are people who do good things but in their hearts they want the praise and glory. Pridefully they rob God of what he rightfully deserves. This does not mean disciples of Jesus Christ always do good deeds because sinfully we can still want the glory and praise ourselves. But, by God's grace, believers in Jesus Christ have the ability to do good deeds and do them for the sake of God's glory. These are truly good deeds.

Christian, are you zealous for good works? God has redeemed you for his own glory and one way this occurs is through our joyful service to others for the sake of the gospel. The point is not for people to think you are a good person but rather that Christ is a great Savior. "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). Be sure you are just the instrument God is using to display his great glory and not the one stealing what rightfully belongs to our great God. For the sake of the gospel may we be a people doing "a riot of good works."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unsearchable Riches of Christ

"The unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8)

Spurgeon commenting on this portion of Scripture says, "You may look, and study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Saviour than you think him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you to sin, more able to forgive than you to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus. When you put the crown on his head, you will only crown him with silver when he deserves gold. My Master has riches of happiness to bestow upon you now."

Grace upon grace,
JRL