Friday, October 29, 2010

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What does your Scale Consist of?


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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sin or Grace? (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Victory in Jesus

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow'r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and bro't
To me the victory.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there
The song of victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood. (Eugene Bartlett)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sin or Grace? (Part 1)

Are you more aware of sin or grace? This is a daily struggle in my own soul. The Holy Spirit is definitely doing a daily work in my heart and soul. Every day there is a greater desire in my soul and heart for holiness yet sin is still actively present in my life. The temptations and battles rage on throughout the day. Battles won, battles lost. This seems to be my daily life. But I've noticed throughout the weeks and months in my Christian life that the battles won seem to be more than the battles lost. When I was an unregenerate Pharisee I rarely saw a battle won and when I did it was just an external victory. But now I see victory over temptations that have not manifested themselves outwardly. This is a clear reminder that a battle is waging war within my soul. Satan wants control but God has given his Spirit and Word to fight this evil. As I have grown and Lord willing will continue to grow I want to see more grace in my life. I don't want to avoid sin but I do want to be more aware of God's grace provided in Christ at Calvary. C.J. Mahaney talks about Paul being our example:

"Paul never lost sight of Calvary. The man celebrated grace even more intensely than he grieved over sin. Even when writing to the Corinthian church—a church with more deficiencies than you will likely ever encounter in ministry—Paul reminded them that the grace of God was present and active among them as a result of the gospel. Paul wasn’t unaware of their sins. He was just more aware of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."

In Romans 5, Paul writes, "Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (20-21)

So should we sin so grace may abound? Check back in on Wednesday.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 22, 2010

Having the Eyes of your Heart Enlightened


“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18)

Chapter one of Ephesians is one of the most gospel saturated text’s ever written. This part of the letter is full of the gospel and God’s amazing grace for sinners. We see each member of the Trinity working in the gift of salvation for sinners like you and me. Paul then starts rejoicing in what he had been hearing about these saints and giving thanks to God for the work he was doing in the lives of these believers. What an example for us to follow as we rejoice in God’s work in the life of other believers “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” by the work of the Spirit.

Salvation is the gracious work of God in the life of hard-hearted sinners. This is the love of God. He had a plan before the foundation of the world to redeem a people for his own possession. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6). This is love like no other. Before “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” we see that God’s love for his people already was. I’m humbled typing that right now. God knew me, the sinner, and had planned to adopt me into his kingdom according to his will before time began. This is mind blowing stuff. He accomplished this work through Christ. “In [Christ]we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ” (Eph. 1:7-9). Do you see all the phrases that make it clear this is God’s work in the life of the sinner? God’s plan! God’s grace! He predestined! He lavished upon us! According to his will! According to his purpose! He set forth in Christ! The holy God of the universe did the work to redeem dirty sinners for eternal joy with him. How can we comprehend these realities?

Praise the Holy Spirit for his work in our lives. It is God the Father’s amazing grace that we have been elected. It is through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we have been forgiven and cleansed. But we must not forget the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to illumine our eyes to this truth. “In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit was left here on earth to be our helper and guide into the great glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No way can we comprehend it all. No way will we ever fully understand this truth. But we can know! It is not as if the gospel is not clear because the gospel is plenty clear but it is the depths of the gospel we will never fully reach. We clearly see that God sent his Son to take the place of sinners on the cross whereby sinners can place their trust in Christ receiving his perfect righteousness of Christ and in exchange our sins are place upon Christ. This is the gospel. But to have eyes to see this reality is nothing short of the miraculous work of the grace of God through the Holy Spirit.

The more I’ve shared the gospel with those who reject Christ the more I begin to understand the work of the Holy Spirit. Trusting in Christ crucified is revealed to sinners through the work of the Spirit in hearing the gospel. Our hope is in Christ! Rejoice in that hope knowing Paul is encouraging us as well to persevere in the truth “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” by the promised Holy Spirit.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where do you struggle practically with the Gospel?

This past weekend I was reading Matthew 6 when the Holy Spirit really opened my eyes to a way in which I was not currently living out the Gospel. Right beyond Jesus' example on how to pray are the words: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (6:14-15). In my heart was a harbor of bitterness over an instance that happened over 2 years ago that sadly was not even a sin issue. In my pride I just could not let it go. I'm not sure the struggle has completely ended but this passage was a huge help. I sat there a while really wondering why this one thing had such a grip on me. Ultimately my conclusion was my own arrogance.

As I finished looking at verses 14-15 and really examining my heart over this issue God revealed to me that I am not really good at forgiveness in general. I can back bite or gossip or silently let others sin issues puff up my own self-righteousness. But when it comes to being forgiven I know what I expect and often times, without maybe realizing it, know what I think I deserve. I thought about my heart and my sin for a while. I went back to Jesus' prayer because he talks about forgiveness in his prayer as well. "And forgive us our debts" easy enough. "As we also have forgiven our debtors." What? Any hope I still had just sank out the bottom of my soul. If I ask God to forgive me as I forgive others I am in a heap of trouble. But I found hope in the Gospel.

I stopped....I prayed....I asked the Lord to change my wicked, unforgiving, arrogant heart. I ask him to take away the bitterness that controlled me at times. I want to be able to say to the Lord, "Forgive me my debts as I have forgiven my debtors." I will never pray that perfectly while here on earth but the Lord knows my heart. He knows my desire is for that to be true. As the Gospel transforms my heart every day the fountain of forgiveness grows deeper and deeper in the heart. May we learn how much we have been forgiven so that in return we may forgive the greatest sins of others to us. May we see Jesus' great love for sinners like you and me and not even ponder forgiveness but forgive quickly and graciously. Maybe you're like me and just think you have been wronged when no sin has been committed but the bitterness rages on; ask God to take that bitterness and pride away.

The great part about seeing sin, as a believer, is knowing grace is greater than sin. May we all confess sin, repent and run back into the arms of our loving Father.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christ's Representatives

Last week Grace Gems sent out a piece of writing from Theodore Cuyler that was just scary convicting so I wanted to share it with you all:

"Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way." Titus 2:10

Christ enjoined upon every one of His disciples to study Him, to learn of Him, and to imitate His example. A true Christian is the representative of Christ in this world--the only embodiment of gospel teaching and influences, that is presented in human society. How vitally important is it, then, that those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians, should make our Christianity attractive! Multitudes of people know very little and think very little about the Lord Jesus; nearly all the ideas they get of His religion--is what they see in those who profess it!

An attractive Christian is the one who hits the most nearly that golden mean between love on the one hand--and firmness on the other hand. He is strict--but not censorious. He is sound--and yet sweet and mellow, as one who dwells much in the sunshine of Christ's countenance. He never incurs contempt by compromising with wrong--nor does he provoke others to dislike of him by doing right in a very harsh or hateful or bigoted fashion.

Our Master is our model. What marvelous example of gentleness, forbearance, and unselfish love adorned His life! What He was--we, in our imperfect measure, should pray and strive after. Study Jesus, brethren. Get your souls saturated with His spirit. His grace imparted to you and His example imitated--can turn your deformity into beauty, and adorn your lives with those things which are true and honest and lovely. We must make our daily religion more winsome!

"Leaving you an example--that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boasting

If this life has anything to gain at all
I count it lost if I can't hear you, feel you, 'cause I need you
Can't walk this earth alone
I recognize I am not my own, so before I fall
I need to hear you, feel you, as I live to make my boast in you alone

With every breath I take, with every heart beat,
Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street
Every glance, every dance, every note of a song
It's all a gift undeserved that I shouldn't have known
Every day that I lie, every moment I covet
I'm deserving to die, I'm just earning your judgment
I, without the cross there's only condemnation
If Jesus wasn't executed there's no celebration
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any times that I've had it all I will be glad
And I will boast in the cross, I boast in my pains
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in his reign
What's my life if it's not praising you
Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit, I do
That count my life as any value or precious at all
Let me finish my race, let me answer my call

Tomorrow's never promised, but it is we swear
Think we holding our own, just a fist full of air
God has never been obligated to give us life
If we fought for our rights, we be in hell tonight
Mere sinners own nothing but a fierce hand
We never loved him we pushed away his pierced hands
I rejected his love, grace, kindness, and mercy
Dying of thirst, yet, willing to die thirsty
Eternally worthy, how could I live for less?
Patiently you turn my heart away from selfishness
I volunteer for your sanctifying surgery
I know the spirits purging me of everything that's hurting me
Remove the veil from my darkened eyes
So now every morning I open Your Word and see the Son rise
I hope in nothin', boast in nothin', only in your sufferin'
I live to show your glory, dyin' to tell your story

Glory was solely meant for you
Doing what no one else could do
With all I have to give,
I'll use my life, I'll use my lips
I'll only glory in your Word
What gift to me I don't deserve
I'll live in such a way that it reflects to you, my Praise (Lecrae Moore)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 18, 2010

Doctrine Seperates the True and False

"If there is a religion in the world which exalts the office of teaching, it is safe to say that it is the religion of Jesus Christ. It has been frequently remarked that in pagan religions the doctrinal element is at the minimum - the chief thing there is the performance of a ritual. But this is precisely where Christianity distinguishes itself form other religions - it does contain doctrine. It comes to men with definite, positive teaching; it claims to be the truth; it bases religion on knowledge, though a knowledge which is only attainable under moral conditions. I do not see how any one can deal fairly with the facts as they lie before us in the Gospels and Epistles, without coming to the conclusion that the New Testament is full of doctrine...A religion divorced from earnest and lofty thought has always, down the whole history of the Church, tended to become weak, jejune [dull], and unwholesome; while the intellect deprived of its rights within religion, has sought its satisfaction without, and developed into godless rationalism." (James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Dry up the Sea


“I dry up the sea” (Isaiah 50:2)

As Christians, are we really aware of the God who has saved us? Have we pondered and meditated who God is? Are we in awe of what he has done and what he continues to do this day? Who else can say, “I dry up the sea” and back it up by actually doing it? Simple: No one!

In Isaiah 50 we read of God challenging his people of their lack of hope in him. We see this theme all throughout the Old Testament, New Testament and right now in this day and age. Too often we think this lack of hope or depression just happened with Israelites rather than seeing this truth as a reflection of our own heart. We think too highly of ourselves rather than trusting in God alone. God challenges them with some thought provoking question: “Why, when I came, was there no man; why when I called, was there no one to answer? Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver” (Isaiah 50:2)? Basically he is asking them, “Have you completely forgotten who I am?” I am the Creator of the universe. I am the sovereign God over the entire universe. Why have you stopped trusting in me? Our prideful tendency is to think, “What a bunch of morons they were for not trusting God.” Well…we are those morons as well. God is speaking to you and me in this passage. This is why it is in his Word for us to see our normal pattern which is not trusting in God but rather trusting in ourselves. We all need a bigger picture of God which he has given to us in his Word. “Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst.” God is in control and he wants his children to trust in his sovereignty.

This is why we must get to know the God we love. We will never rightfully love him if we do not get to know who he is. He is worthy of our trust but does not mean he will instantly or ever reveal how he is working in our lives. Remember the scene at the crossing of the Red Sea? This is the moment the Lord is reminding the Israelites about when he says, “I dry up the sea.” The people began to accuse the Lord of leading them to their death when they were being sought after by the Egyptians. “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out to Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 15:12). Do you see your own heart in this complaint? How many times in your heart have you thought, “This isn’t right Lord, I should have done it my way.” But what looks like a dead end to death for his people becomes a moment when God displays his power over creation. The Lord is faithful but we sinfully do not want to trust him like he is worthy to be trusted.

Listen to him speak you his child: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Do you believe this promise? He does not promise us the how or the when or the why but he does promises “all things” to work together for good. The God who sent his Son to die as our substitute for our sins and to bear our wrath promises to work everything together for good. Since he crushed his Son for our sins and lavished his grace upon us to save us from the wrath to come shouldn’t we trust that he will keep his promise? We are talking about the Creator of all things including us. When he promises something may we faithful cling to his promise. He did promise to lead the people out of Egypt. Maybe it wasn’t the way he planned but nonetheless he did exactly what he promised. As he reminds them so he reminds us, “I dry up the sea.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mornings and Evenings by Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite authors to read. Although Spurgeon has been dead for many years his legacy continues in the church. His sermons and books have had an impact on many believers including myself. Spurgeon knows how to paint a picture with words and pen. Monergism.com is offering one of my favorite books from Spurgeon online for free. Mornings and Evenings is one of Spurgeon's most well known books. I would encourage each of you to download this PDF and read Spurgeon. These are brief but packed with much wisdom and Theology. Enjoy!

Also a great article about 2 of the Chilean miners coming to Christ while trapped underground.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Resting in God for Results

This past Sunday evening I had the opportunity to teach at the Juvenile Detention Center here in Little Rock. I was reminded once again of the power of the gospel but I was also reminded of the truth that it is God alone who transforms hearts. That truth is a comfort to my soul as the person given the opportunity to preach the gospel. I spoke from 1 Timothy 1 where Paul says, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." I love the simplicity of this phrase and the profoundness of this phrase. I asked these basic questions:

Who are sinners?
Who is Jesus Christ?
Why does it matter?
How did he save or reconcile?
Who are you trusting in?

When I was done our group had the opportunity to speak with the young adults who were there. There were no dramatic cries of repentance or a call for a show of hands for prayer but rather some who listened and wanted to talk. Others were content to just listen and not say a word about the gospel. Some of the young adults did want prayer and so we prayed. A small group cared nothing about what we had to say. But the summarizing good news about the night is the reminder of two words in Scripture: "But God." We have no idea what might come from our labor on Sunday night but I am confident that every soul in the room that night heard the good news of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. They heard that in the presence of holy God no one stands a chance because of sin. "But God" sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save sinners. I am confident that he will do the work in the hearts of those who heard the gospel.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

There is a Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains,
lose all their guilty stains;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
Wash all my sins away,
wash all my sins away;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power
till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more,
be saved, to sin no more;
till all the ransomed church of God
be saved, to sin no more.

E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream thy flowing wounds supply,
redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die,
and shall be till I die;
redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I'll sing thy power to save,
when this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave,
lies silent in the grave;
when this poor lisping, stammering tongue
lies silent in the grave. (William Cowper)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 11, 2010

Right Wisdom and Wrong Wisdom

C. J. Mahaney recently post on the Desiring God National Conference message by John Piper titled "The Life of the Mind and the Love of God." You can read the entire article here. One big thing that stuck out in my mind as I read the article:

"There is a right thinking about the cross. There is a true wisdom in the cross. Paul said, “Among the mature we do impart wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The difference between the wisdom that the cross destroys and the wisdom that the cross awakens is the difference between self-exalting wisdom and Christ-exalting wisdom. True wisdom sees the glory of God in the cross. False wisdom sees the cross as foolishness because it threatens our pride.

There is no other object of knowledge in the universe that exposes proud, man-exalting thinking like the cross does. Only humble, Christ-exalting thinking can survive in the presence of the cross. The effect of the cross on our thinking is not cut off thinking about God, but to confound boasting in the presence of God. The cross does not nullify thinking it purifies thinking."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 8, 2010

But by the Grace of God I am what I am


“But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

This should be the banner over every soul born into this world. The poor man and the rich man alike should say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” The sick man and the healthy man alike should say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” All humans are blessed by the grace of God.

Paul writes to the church of Corinth the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says the message of Christ death and resurrection is the message of first importance. Paul had a background of one who was a persecutor of the church. He was an avid opponent of those who were followers of Jesus Christ. He did not recognize the gift of God’s grace in his own life and he hated those who were saved by God’s grace. But Paul was met by the Creator of the universe on the road to Damascus. He was given eyes to see the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul went from being a persecutor of the church to the leading figure of the church. Paul could easily say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

What about us? Maybe this was just something Paul said but does not apply to each of us. As I mentioned above all of us should say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” There are those who acknowledge this reality and those who care nothing about God’s grace yet receive it still. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). All people are recipients of God’s grace. What separates the executive businessman from the homeless man? Grace. I know the arguments flood in about the businessman working hard to be a businessman and not a homeless man. Those arguments are correct but every step along the way is nothing but God’s grace. But even the homeless man has received more from God than he actually deserves therefore he receives grace as well. This is amazing! God gives grace to all of us therefore all of us ought to say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

Christian, do you understand how great of grace you have receive from God for saving your sinful soul? I wrote this post because I needed to be reminded of this truth as well. Not only have we received God’s common grace but we have been lavished with his saving grace as well. This grace is not received by all but only by those who repent of their sins and place their trust in Christ’s atoning work upon the cross. Remember Paul’s message of first importance? This is the message that saves sinners. Ponder this a moment. You were born but then God gracious preserved your life until that day when your eyes would be opened to the glorious gospel. God’s common grace preserved you until the day he saved you by his grace. What boasting does any Christian have but in the cross of Christ alone? If you are a Christian keep this in your mind, “I did nothing to earn God’s saving grace!” “By grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no man may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Grace is a gift of God not based on anything you have done to earn it. O the flag flying high above our heads should say nothing more than “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grace Through the Humble To the Humble

Here is a great little video of James MacDonald and C.J. Mahaney talking about the importance of humility. This is something I've always struggled with so I thought this would be helpful for me and also you all as we fight the battle against our greatest foe: pride.



Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Path to the Wicket-Gate

As I was reading Pilgrim's Progress again I was comforted by one of the opening scenes when Christian is talking with Worldly-Wiseman. Christian is telling Worldly-Wiseman about the path he is on because he was told by an honorable person, Evangelist, about the way to the wicket-gate.

"Worldly: I beshrew [Evangelist] for his counsel! There is not a more dangerous and trouble some way in the world than is that unto which he hath directed thee; and that thou shalt find, if thou wilt be ruled by his counsel. Thou hast met with something, as I perceive already; for I see the dirt of the Slough of Despond is upon thee; but that slough is the beginning of the sorrows that do attend those that go on in that way. Hear me, I am older than thou; thou art like to meet with, on the way which thou goest, wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and what not! These things are certainly true, having been confirmed by many testimonies. And why should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger?"

What a great reminder of the cost to follow after Christ! But why would any man or woman press on in the battle when careless living is offered in rejecting Christ? Why be weighed down by the fear of "wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and death"? That does not make sense unless -

"Christian: Why, Sir, this burden upon my back is more terrible to me than are all these things which you have mentioned; nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the way, if so be I can also meet with deliverance from my burden."

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ Jesus came to take that burden away. One day he is coming back for his children to take them to a place where there will be no burden (sin) whatsoever. This reality keeps every Christian on the path to the Celestrial City. What amazing grace from our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Knowing You

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn,
all surpassing gift of righteousness.

Oh, to know the pow'r of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness;
and I love You, Lord. (Graham Kendrick)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Grace of the Cross

O my Saviour,
I thank thee from the depths of my being
for thy wondrous grace and love
in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.
May thy cross be to me
as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,
as the rod that blossoms with life and beauty,
as the brazen serpent that calls forth the look of faith.
By thy cross crucify my every sin;
Use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;
Make it the ground of all my comfort,
the liveliness of all my duties,
the sum of all thy gospel promises,
the comfort of all my afflictions,
the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,
the very essence of my religion;
And by it give me that rest without rest,
the rest of ceaseless praise.

O my Lord and Saviour,
Thou has also appointed a cross for me to take up and carry,
a cross before thou givest me a crown.
Thou hast appointed it to be my portion,
but self-love hates it,
carnal reason is unreconciled to it;
without the grace of patience I cannot bear it,
walk with it, profit by it.
O blessed cross, what mercies dost thou bring with thee!
Thou art only esteemed hateful by my rebel will,
heavy because I shirk thy load.
Teach me, gracious Lord and Saviour,
that with my cross thou sendest promised grace
so that I may bear it patiently,
that my cross is thy yoke which is easy,
and thy burden which is light. (Valley of Vision)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Truth


“The truth” (John 14:6)

Can we know “the truth”? Or is it arrogant to claim to know “the truth”? In our pluralistic society, claiming to know “the truth” means you are a narrow-minded thinker. Recently I was told that I am so far into the box that I won’t even try to peak outside; which was followed by this, “Who are you to say that what you believe in is the ‘real’ deal?” Basically I was being asked how can you claim to know “the truth”?

We need to see who is saying they are “the truth.” If it was me claiming to be “the truth” than I would be a narrow-minded, arrogant fool but let me assure you I am not the one claiming to be “the truth.” In John 14:6 Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is throwing away the idea of pluralism when he puts the definite article “the” in front of his claims. Jesus is the eternal God who left the glories of heaven to take the form of humanity (Phil. 2:5-7). He left heaven to become lowly man. Jesus Christ came for a purpose. His purpose was to completely obey his Father’s will which included bearing his wrath for sinners on the cross (Phil. 2:8). But when Jesus claims to be God and the only way to the Father how can we know this is true? The empty tomb backs up his claims. Jesus proved his claims by dying and then resurrecting three days later defeating sin and death for good. All other claims in religion are just not true. Leaders have come and gone but Jesus Christ has always been and will always be because he is the eternal God. Believing Jesus or rejecting Jesus will affirm whether or not you know “the truth.”

I know this sounds like arrogance rather than love but maybe an illustration will help. My hope and prayer is to present this with great humility, knowing God’s grace alone in my own life is the only thing that has revealed this truth to me. Let’s look at a simple arithmetic equation: 2 + 2 = 4. We all know 4 is the only correct answer to this equation. There are not multiple answers but just one. Maybe you believe the answer is 6 but the truth still remains that the correct answer is 4. But let’s say a person truly did not know the answer to the equation, it would not be arrogant to correct them. Think about parents who are teaching their children these equations. When the child answers incorrectly it is not prideful to correct them but rather loving. The same is true about everything. A dog is a dog. A cat is a cat. Peanut butter is peanut butter. A house is a house. I hope you get the idea that we can know the truth about matters in life. Why would it change when it comes to religion? How can religion be the only exception? That doesn’t make sense. There has to be truth and Jesus Christ is “the truth.”

Christian, rest confidently in Jesus Christ. The argument the world has against the claim to know “the truth” is not with you but with the God-man Jesus Christ. He claimed to be “the truth” therefore those who are trusting in him for salvation can confidently speak that truth to others. He is the One who claimed that he came to die and live again. Mission accomplished! Jesus Christ backed up every single claim therefore we can rest in the promises in his Word. We can know “the truth.” This is not arrogance or narrow-mindedness but rather truth. Truth is truth. Speak it to others with grace and love knowing it was God’s grace that awakened your dead heart. The truth won’t produce arrogance but ought to cultivate humility. Speak “the truth” often, speak it boldly, speak it clearly and trust God to do the work that only he can do in the lives of those he came to save.

Grace upon grace,
JRL