Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Great God

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 29, 2010

Savior and Lord

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

The answer Watson gives is challenging to the soul:

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 25, 2010

With Authority and Power


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cleansing the Sinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Salvation's Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Means of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 19, 2010

They were Unaware


“They were unaware” (Matthew 24:39)

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Proclaiming and Passion

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hope or Hope?

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

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

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

"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:17-20).

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Glory of the Cross

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Great Truth of Justification

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

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

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

Justification

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Give His Life as a Ransom for Many


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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who do you relate with?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do Your Prayers have an Expiration Date?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ Alone,
Pastor George

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

O Sacred King

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 8, 2010

Speaking and Doing

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, November 5, 2010

Think with Sober Judgment


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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Blood of Christ

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

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

The Bible is crystal clear that Jesus Christ is the God-man. "He is the image of the invisible God...in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:15-19). Fully divine and truly human. He is the one who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6-7). This is a 100% human and 100% God so please do not have in your mind the idea of a 50/50 split. This is essential because of God's holiness and our sinful, ongoing rebellion against this holy God. We need a mediator and Jesus Christ is that mediator. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).

Why the bloody death?

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What is a Good Tree?

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jesus Saves

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

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

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

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

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Much of the Gospel Would You Purchase?

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

Grace upon grace,
JRL