Friday, December 24, 2010

You May Know that you have Eternal Life

“You may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13)

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? This is the most important question every single human being needs to address. This is not a question to throw into the back of your mind but it must be answered. You may ask, “Why?” The answer is simple yet profound: Your eternal destiny is at stake. The book of 1 John is an evaluation test of genuine salvation. John wrote this book so that “you may know that you have eternal life.”

John gives us many characteristics to evaluate our hearts so that we may have confidence as we wait for the return of Christ. He first speaks about the fellowship that believers have with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. This fellowship is enough, more than enough, to complete our joy (1 John 1:3-4). This is an amazing truth considering who we are as sinners. God did not send his Son for those who believe they are without sin. There were many in John’s day and in ours as well that claimed to be good people therefore they had no need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This is the pride of man that Christ came to die for on the cross. Those who will not confess and repent of their sin have no covering for sin therefore they have no fellowship with God and walk in the darkness. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

A key element to understand in the book of 1 John is not that believers are perfect people but the practice of their lives is walking in righteousness empowered by the Holy Spirit. John talks plenty about the pattern of righteousness compared to a pattern of sin. If he was teaching that Christians were instantly made perfect he would have no need to talk about Christ being our advocate. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Our former love for the world is being transformed into a love for Christ. Our desires change through the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We no longer are enslaved to the darkness because the light has shown upon us. We can now be obedient to the will of God because he has made us his children. John does not sugar coat it when he says, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” This sounds impossible and with man’s strength it is but this is the very reason God sent his Son: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:7-9). If you are a Christian this ought to blow your mind. By God’s grace he has given us the power, in Christ, to submit to his will rather than our own. How are you doing in this area? Do you see the power of Christ working in you? What grace!!

There is so much in this little book. I would encourage each of you to pick up God’s Word and read 1 John. As you read it ask yourself if this represent your life or not. If you read it, as I have in the past, thinking this is impossible than you have your trust in the wrong place. This book is a great test to see whether you are a Christian or not. For those who are may all doubt cease as you read John’s words: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” What confidence we can have in our loving Father who sacrificed his Son in order that we may be called his children for all eternity.
Grace upon grace,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Longer Poor, Captive, Blind and Oppressed

I read Luke 4 recently and marveled at the scene of Jesus reading Scripture in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The text says that the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. Jesus unrolls the scroll and finds this part of the text in Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

When I read these words from Isaiah 61, I'm instantly drawn to the purpose of Christ's coming. But when I read this in Luke 4, I was struck by the fact that Christ was present and reading the very words written about him years prior to his coming. I am grateful for the Gospel as I see words that described me as: Poor, captive, blind and oppressed. Before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the "good news" the diagnoses of my spiritual condition was exactly how the prophet described it. I would have reacted as those people did in the synagogue that day when they lead him out to a cliff to throw him down. They wanted him dead because he exposed the truth about their souls.

By God's grace the good new has penetrated my soul. I am no longer spiritually poor but abundantly rich in Christ. I am no longer captive to sin but free in Christ. I am no longer spiritually blind because God has graciously revealed himself to me through Christ. I am no longer oppressed but justified in Christ. This is amazing news. The good news is the purpose of Christ's coming.

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hark, how all the Welkin Rings

Hark, how all the welkin rings, "Glory to the King of kings;
peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies;
universal nature say, "Christ the Lord is born today!"

Christ, by highest Heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord:
late in time behold him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
pleased as man with men to appear, Jesus, our Emmanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace, Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die;
born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come, fix in us thy humble home;
rise, the woman's conquering Seed, bruise in us the serpent's head.
Now display thy saving power, ruined nature now restore;
now in mystic union join thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the life, the inner man:
O, to all thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart. (Charles Wesley)

Grace upon grace,

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gift of Gifts

With this being the week of Christmas I want to direct our attention to the reason for Christmas which is the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Today is a prayer from The Valley of Vision titled The Gift of Gifts:

O Source or all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity, and uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my redeemer's face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It is more Blessed to Give than to Receive

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)

I am sure you can imagine where this is heading since it is the time of the year where we consider others and show them our love through the act of giving. Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. I must confess that every time it rolls around I remind myself of this reality but I so often let my selfishness get in the way of my love for others. I think this is why I need to be reminded that Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Paul, in Acts 20, is speaking to the Ephesian Elders about his ministry as an example to them as Christians. One of the themes in his address to the Elders is about having a right attitude toward material goods. He says that a proper attitude will come from an understanding of salvation. We know Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Salvation is the ultimate gift therefore Christ’s coming is the greatest gift for sinners like you and me. Paul says, “Now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The gift of Christ and his atoning sacrifice is revealed in God’s Word. We read about the gift of salvation through God’s grace in his Word to us. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Acts 6:23). Our gifts that we give to others should be a reminder back to THE gift: Salvation through Christ.

We should also desire to give sacrificially. We see an example of this in 2 Corinthians 8 where the churches of Macedonia gave generously in their “extreme poverty.” The text goes on to say they gave beyond their means for the sake of helping out their fellow saints. This is why I think the idea of Christmas is a year round event for Christians. This reality of “It is more blessed to give than to receive” should go year round for believers. This may be tough to do but I think it will only be tough because God will be chiseling away our selfishness. Sacrificially giving is not easy but imagine the dependence and trust these churches of Macedonia had by giving in the manner they gave. Why would they give out of their extreme poverty? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). They gave because they knew the Gospel. They had confidence in the promises of God. They knew that if Christ would leave the glories of heaven to come and die for their sins that they could trust him with everything including their money. Their trust in their Savior allowed them to say with Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

As Christians we have everything we already need in Christ. Every gift under the tree should remind us our great salvation. We did not earn or deserve the gift of God’s grace yet he lavishes it upon us. All our wants and desires should stem from the Gospel. May we be people who give sacrificially but not without joy. Christ came for the purpose of dying to himself in order to obey his Father’s will but in knowing his purpose he went joyfully to the cross. We have much to learn from our Savior. May we live out the Gospel in this practical manner: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comfort Ye

Comfort ye heavy laden,
The Son of God has come
His kingdom shines with lavish mercy,
For those who’s hearts are drawn

Those who dwell in darkness,
See the of Christ invades the night
Shining from His cross of anguish,
His death brings many life

In Christ we know hope for the hurting
In Christ we know love for the lost
In Christ we know no other one can save

Comfort ye weary Christian,
For just as Christ was raised
He will soon return to gather those,
Who follow Him by faith

Immanuel, God with us
Son of God, Hallelujah (Daniel Renstrom)

Grace upon grace,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bow the Knee and Confess Jesus as Lord

"And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him." (Mark 15:16-20)

As I was reading this account of the trial of Christ in Mark 15, I stopped to think about the scene when these soldiers mock Christ. Here we see them, in what seems to be great control over the Lord Jesus Christ. We know because of Scripture that all events went according to God's perfect plan but at this time the soldiers think they have Jesus under their full control. These soldiers were ruthless as they put him in a purple cloak and force a crown of thorns upon his head. They mock him, strike him in the head and spit on him; but then the text says, "Kneeling down in homage to him." Obviously this was a mockery of Christ's claim to be the "King of the Jews." What crossed my mind when reading the text this time is the reality of these men will face at the Day of Judgment.

We read nothing of their repentance of sin. We read nothing of their grief over mocking and crucifying the Savior, Jesus Christ. But on the Day of Judgment I cannot imagine the horror that awaits them as they will see Christ high and exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father ready to judge. The Bible is clear that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 14:11). At the Judgment these men will bow before the one mocked. They will stand once again before Jesus Christ. This time they will bow the knee and they will confess Jesus as Lord because undoubtedly they will see the truth at this point.

The truth is Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one that every knee will bow before and every tongue will confess him as Lord. The question is this: Will you confess him as Lord now and submit to his kingship or will you be like these soldiers and reject Christ as the King of kings until the Day of Judgment? There is no greater joy than laying down your life to live under the headship of Jesus Christ. His love is like no other. Christ left the glories of heaven in order to be the substitute for those who would repent and place their trust in his atoning sacrifice. I'm pleading with you: Don't delay. Bow the knee and confess Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Grace upon grace,

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Words will not Pass Away

“My words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31)

There is no escaping the reality of Christ’s return. Jesus promised that one day he would return to take his elect home to be with him for all eternity. Jesus is teaching in Mark 13 about his return. He is speaking about the warning signs of the end of the age. But even in the end of the age he gives us the assurance: “My words will not pass away.”

We cannot fully grasp the scene of what will take place at the return of Christ. We know from this passage that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:24-27). I read this as a literal account of these events in cosmos taking place. This is a hard event to grasp in my finite mind but there are few things that are not cloudy to me at all. First, Christ is coming back. As I said early, there is not escaping this truth. Second, there will be a dividing between those who are Christ’s and those who have rejected him. Third, God’s words will not pass away.

First, it is clear from verse 26 that God’s Word says, “They will see the Son of Man coming.” There will be no doubt in this moment. All will see the promised return of Christ fulfilled. This will be the same Jesus who humbly came as a babe born in Bethlehem now coming with “great power and glory.”

Second, this moment will be the joy of God’s people as they see with their eyes the promise fulfilled but it will also be the great dread of those who continually rejected the King of kings. The elect will be gathered by the angels and brought into eternal bliss while those who placed their faith solely in themselves will be cast into eternal torment.

Third, God’s words will not pass away. God’s words are eternal. This is why Scriptures ought to be the Christians most valuable possession on earth. This is true for the single fact that it reveals to us who God is and what his will is for our lives. These are words of eternal life. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Reader, are you ready for this day? "Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows...Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come" (Mark 13:32-33). Which side of the dividing line are you on? Do you love Christ or do you reject Christ? If you reject Christ may I plead with you to confess your sin and repent of your sin and put your trust in his atoning work upon the cross. Lastly, are you clinging to the words that will never pass away? We have a precious gift in Christ and he promises: "My words will not pass away." May we desire to know his words more and more.

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saving and Sustaining Grace

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:1-12)

I thought about this story recently, not just this story but as I've been reading the gospels I've noticed in many cases Jesus forgiving sins and also healing physical illness. I wanted to just focus in on a couple of things mentioned in this account in Mark 2. Jesus says two crucial things to the paralytic that I believe he says to each one of his children:

1. Your sins are forgiven
2. Rise, pick up your bed, and go home

I think these two statements from Jesus really reflect the life of a believer. When Jesus says "Your sins are forgiven" we should instantly be reminded of our justification. This is where God declares righteous through the death of Jesus Christ. At this moment we are in right standing before God because of the blood of his Son. "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 5:1-2).

The second statement ought to remind us of our sanctification. The picture is easier to see in justification because the paralytic was unable to physically rise and walk apart from Christ's physical healing of the man just like we are unable to spiritually rise and walk apart from God's intervening. But sanctification is the process that begins in the believers life at justification. Both are done in the power and strength that God supplies in a life. He does not only justify us but he most certainly also sanctifies us as well. He does not leave us to fight this battle against the forces of darkness alone. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling but this comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus tells the paralytic to "Rise, pick up your bed, and go home" we should instantly be reminded that Christ is working that same power within us as walk in this world. We want to be lights for his glory. Can you imagine if Jesus had said, "Rise, take up your bed, and go home" and he just laid there and never got up? NO!! I can't imagine it because when the Savior has forgiven us of our sins the only response to forgiveness is to go and show the world the change in our lives. I'm not saying this story is some allegory of our Christian faith but once again it is a reminder of God's grace through an actual historic event.

Look at his testimony: "And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We never saw anything like this!'" He did not waste any time but rather rose immediately and went on his way before all the people. He was not trying to bring attention to himself or puff up his own ego. How could he do such a thing when all the people knew he could do nothing in and of himself and he knew that reality as well. The only response to a change like this is amazement and glory to God. The man who was completely healed, physically and spiritually, did nothing more than obey the command of his Savior with great joy. This is the testimony of each believer: Your sins are forgiven, rise and go.

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guard your Heart

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." (Proverbs 4:23-27)

I like to read this passage often before I head into work. I love the wisdom imparted spoken of in this passage of Scripture. The passage starts at the central place of human beings which is the heart. Everything about us and in us flows from the heart. This is why it is called "the spring of life." Crooked speech, devious talk, gazing eyes and walking toward evil all come from a heart that is not watchful. Rather than guarding the heart Lady Folly freely walks the path of destruction. Wisdom keeps the heart with vigilance putting away these destructive patterns of sin. God's Word is so good to show us how to live a gospel-centered life. We know from Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked so we must guard and keep watch over our hearts. This is accomplished through godly wisdom which comes from fearing the Lord. May we ask him for his grace to live a gospel-centered life.

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Born in Bethlehem

Baby Jesus, born in a stable, humble Savior’s birth.
You left your throne in Heaven above, to live here on the Earth.
Baby Jesus, lying in a manger, crying for the world.
The Angels told the Shepherds of the Good News for us all.

Halleluiah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.

Come now Sinners and you Saints, all peasants and all Kings.
And bow before the Earth’s Redeemer, let all voices sing.

Halleluiah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem.

Baby Jesus, do you know you’ll die for all our sins?
Don’t be afraid, for in 3 days, you will rise again. Cause you will rise again.

Halleluiah, the King is here, given for all men.
For today the Holy Son of God, is born in Bethlehem. (Third Day)

Grace upon grace,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sins Trampled and Thrown

Yesterday I received this Grace Gem in my e-mail. I love this passage and I love the way John MacDuff sums it up:

"You will trample our sins under Your feet--and throw them into the depths of the ocean!" (Micah 7:19)

The picture here is of an ocean--not near the shore--but far beyond sight of land, in the midst of a wide wilderness of waters--the illimitable horizon stretching on every side; and when the sounding line is let down--it cannot fathom the depth, or reach the bottom!

There, in the solitudes of that voiceless ocean--a plunge is heard! The surface is ruffled only for a moment; then the waves resume their usual calmness. The load, whatever it is--is never more seen. It is buried somewhere in these dark caverns! No spirit of the deep can ever come up from the silent caves to tell its story! Ships cross and recross where it fell--but no distinguishing marker is left on the unstable highway, to mark the spot. The sea can be tempted by no bribe, to give up the secret of its keeping--all trace is lost from sight and memory forever!

That is a picture of what God does for all His redeemed people!

"You will trample our sins under Your feet--and throw them into the depths of the ocean!"

Grace upon grace,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Husbands, Love your Wives

"Husbands, Love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25)

Lately I’ve been reviewing a couple of texts in Scripture that teach what it means to love and specifically love my wife. First Corinthians 13 is generally known as the love chapter. This chapter lets us see what it means to love another person. By no means is this an easy, cheap love that people fall in and out of constantly but a love built on the love of Christ. The second text I’ve been reading is Ephesians 5, specifically the part for husbands. The type of love spoken of by the apostle Paul and ultimately from God is impossible with man’s own power and strength. Husbands should daily be begging God for his mercy and grace as they lead their wives.

We hear in our day that it is old fashion for a woman to submit under the leadership of her husband. This concept seems totally foreign to most of us. It is said that this is demeaning to wives because we are equals so submission is not necessary. I admit that the idea of submission has been perverted in many households. Marriage was meant to reflect the Gospel but this has been distorted into selfish gain. This is sinful and harmful. But as I read through the roles of the husband I thought to myself, “This is no easy task.” This is not to minimize the role of the wife but it is to say the responsibility of a husband should bring a joyful submission by the wife. I think submission has become so wrong and distorted because of the lack of godly husbands who are pursuing the Biblical mandate. Getting married is easy but marriage is tough. God intended it to be an ever growing, loving and graceful process. I knew this stuff when I got married but sadly I did not really care. As I’ve grown in my love for Christ and his cross my desire to have a Christ-centered marriage has grown. This is strictly the work of God’s grace.

What is the role of the husband?

“Husbands, love your wives” seems easy enough but maybe stopping here to look at 1 Corinthians 13 may be helpful: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endure all things. Love never ends” (4-8). Paul proceeds into an ever tougher realm of love: “Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). This is where a deep understanding of the Gospel helps us see how tough of a task the husband has in his role. We are commanded to love our wives the way Christ has shown his love for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). As husbands we can go ahead and insert “wife” rather than friends in the case of our marriage. This is the kind of leadership we are to display. This is the love we are commanded to show our wives. But the command is obeyed with great joy because we understand Calvary. Remember what it says about Christ in Hebrews 12: “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” This is the attitude husbands should have as they die to self in order to love their wives.

The purpose in having a marriage that reflects the Gospel is so God may be magnified. Failure will be a part of the growing process but we press on in the grace of God. We confess, repent and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us and we move forward in grace. In light of the Gospel we have this promise in the end: “Having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” In Christ this is how his Church is presented before the Father. The Spirit is conforming us daily more and more into the image of Christ. Our marriage is one aspect of our sanctification. Two sinners joined together to reflect the love Christ has for his Church. May we listen to God speak: “Husbands, love your wives.”

Grace upon grace,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Let Your Light Shine in the World

I have had the joy of working at the same place for the last 13 years of my life. I love my job and I love the fact that they allow me to keep working there. I understand this is completely by the grace of God. My job is in a secular work environment which means the people I work with may or may not be followers of Jesus Christ (I guess that could be true in all lines of work). I have seen the great tension of speaking the Gospel to people I work with but also letting my life reflect the life of Christ. I haven't been a Christian my entire 13 years at the bank but since becoming a Christian I know that not everything (not even close) has reflected that of the one I follow. There have been many instances of confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness. This is never easy but it is joyfully necessary.

There have been many times when my sins committed have been struggles within my own heart. I have wrestled through many of these struggles with God asking him for grace and mercy in my life as I pursue godliness. I want to not only claim the name Christian but I want to actually be one. But there have also been moments when sin manifests itself into action at work. I have been a complainer, angry, self-righteous, harsh, envious and so on. Sometimes people want to see Christians stumble and fall so they can feel better about themselves. Others want to comfort you by saying, "I know that's not who you are." That is a great comfort but sadly that is who I really am apart from the grace of God.

We live in a day where Christianity becomes a comparsion of people rather than the holy standard of Christ. In moments of sin I can tend to do this myself. It is a sad and pathetic way to have standard. When the bar is set only as high as a fellow sinner we really have a flexible bar. Therefore we won't see the need to confess, repent and seek forgiveness because we will reject that we have wronged someone. Rather, Christians ought to have the holiness of Christ as our aim. He is our standard. We ought to be people who seek forgiveness because of how much we have been forgiven. This takes a lot of humility but as Spurgeon said, "Pride cannot live beneath the cross."

This is the place every Christian ought to desire to live. We won't be perfect until the day we are brought home to glory but our aim ought to be holiness because we desire to be like Christ. Peter writes, "He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15). This isn't an option but rather a command for the Christian to be holy in all conduct. We ought to walk in holiness. I confess this is no easy task but "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Every Christian ought to rest in this promise while we fight in this battle against Satan and our flesh.

Christian, are you pursuing holiness? When you have wrong someone do you justify your actions or repent? Are you humbly living beneath the cross? Are you confident that Christ will complete the work he has started? If this makes no sense to you all let me ask you this: Are you sure you are a Christian? Have you put your trust in Christ and his atoning work on the cross?

Grace upon grace,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Counting the Cost

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

"It costs something to be a true Christian. Let that never be forgotten. To be a mere nominal Christian, and go to church, is cheap and easy work. But to hear Christ’s voice, and follow Christ, and believe in Christ, and confess Christ, requires much self-denial. It will cost us our sins, and our self-righteousness, and our ease, and our worldliness. All- all must be given up. We must fight an enemy who comes against us with twenty thousand followers. We must build a tower in troubled times. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us thoroughly understand this. He bids us 'count the cost.'” (J.C. Ryle)

Grace upon grace,