Monday, February 28, 2011

The Gospel-Play that is Marriage

My friend Stephen Bean recently wrote an article on the importance of marriage reminding us that the Gospel is at stake:

"What is the most neglected form of worship? What is the most effective form of evangelism? In what part of your life is Christ most on display? The answer to all of these questions is: your marriage. We live in an age where public ministry is king, but if you’re married the most effective, long lasting, and important form of public ministry you have is your private ministry to your wife.

An acquaintance of mine was on a spiritual high. He loved evangelism, and wanted to use as much time doing it as possible. Of course, this became to the neglect of doing devotions with his family. The justification: “the Bible teaches us to evangelize, that’s what I feel called to do and I need time to do it.” His sin wasn’t a sin of bad motive; it was a sin of neglect. He didn’t realize that in neglecting his family he was damaging the most beautiful demonstration of the gospel he had.

1 Peter 3:15 is one of the most oft-quoted texts when it comes to evangelism: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” There is no doubt that this text challenges us to be in the world ready to engage the lost with the gospel. It also challenges our intellect; we must be ready to give answers to all sorts of questions. However, most importantly, it challenges the heart. We must “honor Christ as holy,” this implies that people will see the fruit of our love and admiration for Christ and ask about the hope that is within us. So now we ask, “what must I be doing that will show the world that I am honoring Christ in this way?”

If we look up just a couple of paragraphs in 1 Peter 3 we find some help in verse 7, “…husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Peter emphasizes that your prayer life could be hindered by failing to show honor to your wife. This seems strange to us if we don’t have a full, biblical understanding of what it means to be a husband. Paul’s explanation in Ephesians 5:25-27:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, 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.”

Paul goes on to explain that the meaning and purpose of marriage from its very inception has been to reflect Christ’s love for the church. That’s the gospel! So if you are married you have one of two roles in the gospel-play that is marriage; you are either Christ or the church. Husbands, if you are to demonstrate the gospel to the lost world that is around you it starts at home where you play out exactly how holy you believe Christ to be. Christ does not neglect his church for anything, why would you teach the world that he does by neglecting your wife?

The good news is that as bad a job as you and I may do in reflecting Christ to our wives and to this culture, outside of the “gospel-play” we are the church. In other words, just as we are called to display how Christ sanctifies the church, we are also called to be sanctified by Christ. This means that today is a new day; we can begin seeking to be the husbands we are called to be, and that will also make us the evangelists we are called to be."

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 25, 2011

He Raises the Poor from the Dust


“He raises the poor from the dust” (Psalm 113:7)

I recently had the privilege to sit under a teacher who taught Psalm 113. Many things are clear in this passage and other parts give us beautiful imagery of God’s great mercy and grace for sinners. It never gets old to hear the truth of the Gospel. I’m always refreshed anew when I hear of the great God of the universe coming down to rescue sinners. The Psalmist paints a beautiful picture of justification when he writes, “He raises the poor from the dust.”

Earlier in the Psalm we read, “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens” (4)! Obviously God is a big God who really has no need for us. He is exalted and worthy to be praised. We are commanded to “Praise the name of the LORD” (1)! But the problem is the idea that God is so far away and so big that we cannot know or understand him at all. His perfection and holiness is beyond our grasping. Even the Psalmist acknowledges: “Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high” (5). The answer: NOBODY!! Nobody is like the God of the universe. I believe songwriter Trip Lee said it well when he wrote: “Who is like him? Nobody!” Maybe the conclusions of not seeking after a God we cannot know or understand make sense. Maybe he is too big for us to grasp. Or maybe we could read the rest of the Psalm which says, “He raises the poor from the dust.”

This is not referring to those who are monetarily poor but, even worse, those who are spiritually poor. This puts you and me in the poor category. All of us are poor because all of us are spiritually dead. Dead people are not rich, they are dead. But wonder of wonders the God who created all things “looks far down on the heavens and the earth” (6). How far down? Does he care about us? Yes. “For God so loved the world that he sent his Son” (John 3:16). “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinner” (1 Timothy 1:15). The plan of salvation is so beautiful when we see the whole scope of God’s love. Christ descended into the world so the Father could raise poor sinners from the dust and “lift the needy from the ash heap” (7). This is gracious enough but he doesn’t stop there. He raises us for the purpose of being his children who are heirs of his kingdom. We go from the ash heap to the throne of grace because of Christ. This is the amazing work of God in the life of sinners.

If you are under the impression that you are not spiritually poor or needy I pray the Holy Spirit would open your eyes to see your grave condition. This is a matter of most importance because God has to punish sin. The punishment for sin is eternal separation from him. But that punishment was paid for at the cross. Jesus came to bear our sins at Calvary. He defeated sin and death by his conquering resurrection. God promises that those who come to him with a broken heart he will not cast away. Listen to his promise and repent because “he raises the poor from the dust” and he is the only one who can deliver you from the “ash heap.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is the Gospel?

Simple enough, right? I'd like to think so but I'm afraid there are many people out there that have no idea what the Gospel is. Sadly I have talked with many "Christians" who have no idea what the Gospel is either. Nothing really excites me more than talking about the Gospel or hearing the Gospel or reading the Gospel. I hope I never become to familiar with the Gospel where it does not have an affect on me anymore. I hope I never become tired of hearing the Good News.

That being said I wanted to ask you all the simple question: What is the Gospel?


I would love the input in either the comments section or by email. Next week I will post the answer of the question as well.


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Who Could Stand?

"If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psalm 130:3)

R.C. Sproul recently wrote on this verse and his insights are excellent as he reminds us the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

"The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.

The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”

Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test — no fear — He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV)

In our day we have witnessed the eclipse of the Gospel. That dark shadow that obscures the light of the Gospel is not limited to Rome or liberal Protestantism; it looms heavily within the Evangelical community. The very phrase “preaching the Gospel” has come to describe every form of preaching but the preaching of the Gospel. The “New” Gospel is one that worries not about sin. It feels no great need for justification. It readily dismisses the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as an essential need for salvation. We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?"

He goes on to say later:

"Good is a relative term. It is defined against some standard. If we establish what that standard is, we can congratulate ourselves and take comfort in our attainment of it. But if God establishes the standard, and His standard includes outward behavior (that our actions conform perfectly to His law) and internal motivation (that all our acts proceed from a heart that loves Him perfectly), then we quickly see that our pretended “goodness” is no goodness at all. We then understand what Augustine was getting at when he said that man’s best works are nothing more than “splendid vices.”

So what? The equation is simple. If God requires perfect righteousness and perfect holiness to survive His perfect judgment, then we are left with a serious problem. Either we rest our hope in our own righteousness, which is altogether inadequate, or we flee to another’s righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own inherently. The only place such perfect righteousness can be found is in Christ — that is the good news of the Gospel. Subtract this element of alien righteousness that God “counts” or “imputes” for us, and we have no biblical Gospel at all. Without imputation, the Gospel becomes “another gospel,” and such a “gospel” brings nothing but the anathema of God.

With the righteousness of Christ promised to us by faith, we have the hope of our salvation. We become numbered among those blessed to whom the Lord does not impute sin (Rom. 4:8)."

To read the entire article click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 18, 2011

For the Joy set before Him Endured the Cross


“For the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2)

Immanuel Kant once said: "An action is moral...only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material nor spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action." What the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus going to the cross with joy totally contradicts Kant’s statement. What Jesus did in displaying his great love for sinners he did with joy.

If a benefit destroys the moral value of an action than it must be true that what Jesus did upon the cross was not loving. The Bible is clear that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him. There was joy in the heart of Jesus through the anguish of the cross he bore for sinners. To say this joy destroys the love Jesus displayed at Calvary totally contradicts God’s Word. Jesus’ death upon the cross was not only a display of love; it is the greatest act of love in all of history. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) but Jesus laid down his life for his enemies, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This is amazing love!

I believe Kant is correct to say “A benefit destroys the moral value of an action” only if the individual is the highest valued object. For Jesus the joy was in the fact that his act upon the cross would bring glory to his Father in heaven. Similarly, Jesus tells his followers to let their light shine before others so they may see your good works and bring glory to God (Matt. 5:16). As Christians, we are satisfied in honoring God by our good works because we know it brings him glory. As Piper says it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” We worship the God of the universe who tells us, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). If we are delighting in the LORD than the desires of our heart will natural come from joyfully submitting to his will for our lives because he is our joy. The desire of our hearts is God himself. The benefit of delighting in the LORD does not diminish the good works we are called to do. God created us, in Christ Jesus, to be his workers for good deeds (Eph. 2:10). In Titus we read that we are a people of his own possession “who are zealous to do good works” (2:14). We are zealous because of the work God has done in our lives and our whole aim is to bring him glory.

Please do not sell yourself short of the truth by buying into the philosophy of Kant. Rather look to what God has to say in his Word. See the example of Jesus who “for the joy set before him endured the cross.” May we joyful submit to the will our great God so that our lives may bring him glory. If there is only self-glory in your good works than Kant is right. But as Christians our satisfaction comes from bringing glory to our Father in heaven and that is biblical. That does not destroy the good work but is the work of grace in the life of a sinner. This honors God.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why is Complaining so Bad?

Philippians 2 is probably one of most well known texts in all of Scripture when it comes to the humility of Christ. We see a clear walk through of Christ's humility in leaving the glories of heaven to take the form of humanity for the sake of saving sinners through his death on a cross. He is now clearly living and seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ is the perfect picture of humility but better yet he is the living God reigning on his throne. Paul then talks about working out our salvation with fear and tembling all the while knowing it is God who is at work in our lives both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Then Paul writes, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God, without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life" (Phil. 2:14-16).

At first glance we might assume Paul is telling Christians that we are to "do all things without grumbling or disputing" but that cannot be right. Right? The New King James says, "All things without complaining or disputing." No complaining? As I have reflected on my attitude throughout many days I have noticed an attitude of complaining. Maybe it is not visible to others at all times but in my heart there is grumbling taking place. Paul says this ought not to be in the life of a believer. Why? So we may be testimonies to a "crooked and twisted generation." Our purpose for being so radically different is we may be lights in the world. The world sadly thinks nothing about complaining or questioning but God has called us to a totally different standard. He has called us to holiness. We are to be set apart from the world in our actions and attitudes.

The good news about this radical calling is he does not leave us to ourselves. We are given the power to not be mastered by sin. This is God's power working in our lives. If you struggle with complaining or disputing confess that sin to God and turn away from it. Ask him for the grace and the power to change. Do not just shrug it off as no big deal. Sin against a holy God is always a big deal! What seems like a little, inconsequential complaint is a defiant yell at God that he is not good and is plan is not perfect. This is when we ought to remember the price paid for sin at Calvary. The Lord is gracious to forgive and merciful to those who come broken asking for his grace to change.


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Power of the Gospel

Yesterday on The Gospel Coalition blog Jared Compton posted Why the Gospel is Good News for Believers...Now. I found this post really helpful as a reminder that the power of the gospel continues to penetrate the hearts of believers to mold them more into the image of Christ. Jared says:

"If you think the Christian experience is supposed to be characterized by constant discouragement and infrequent victory over sin, your gospel is too small. It’s got a giant hole in it. Right in the middle. It’s a gospel that probably talks a long time about getting into heaven and out of hell or about something you share—or should share—with unbelievers. So, when someone comes along talking about being gospel-centered, you think they’ve got eternity or outreach on their minds, certainly not discipleship. If asked, you’d say the gospel is good news now for believers because of what it did for you back then (justification) and what it will do for you in the future, when you die or Jesus returns (glorification). You wouldn’t have much—anything—to say about sanctification. Again, I’d want to say, you’ve missed something absolutely central to the gospel—something profoundly hopeful. You’ve missed why the gospel is good news for you today, not simply yesterday or tomorrow."

To see the rest of the post click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Day

The greatest day in history, Death is beaten
You have rescued me
Sing it out Jesus is alive
The empty cross, The empty grave
Life eternal You have won the day
Shout it out Jesus is alive
He's alive

Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I'll never be the same
Forever I am changed

When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours Jesus You are mine
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive
He's alive

Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious name (Tim Hughes)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 11, 2011

Grace, Mercy and Peace from God


“Grace, mercy and peace from God” (1 Timothy 1:2)

Can you imagine receiving a letter with this greeting? I think because we read it often from the apostle Paul the magnitude of what he is saying slips our minds. We kind of glance over it like it is no big deal. Reminds me of the song Amazing Grace which is sung so often that singing it becomes common rather than a reminder of God’s amazing grace. But we should not glance over these words: “Grace, mercy and peace from God.”

Grace is simply unmerited favor. If you want a more theologically rich definition of grace then I could say something like…unmerited favor. Those two words carry so much weight. Grace is getting what we do not deserve and it is only by grace that sinners are saved. Please just read and be reminded of grace: “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not by work so that no man may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). “For all have sinned and fall sort of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:23-25). “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). “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). Then one of my favorites: “And from his [Christ’s] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. What every human being does deserve is God’s holy justice. We have all sinned against our Creator therefore we all deserve hell. But “Great is your mercy, O LORD” (Ps. 119:156). This is good news. God says, “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). If you will cry out, “Lord have mercy” he promises to have mercy. He is a God of mercy. “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps. 145:8). Acknowledge to him that you are a sinner deserving of hell and plead for his mercy and grace. If you will repent of your sins he will show mercy. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trepasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5). As his children his mercy continues through every aspect of our lives. He tells us to conidently draw near to his “throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This is only possible through our great High Priest Jesus Christ who alone gives us access to the Father. We deserve hell yet through Christ we receive access to the throne of grace. Grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy.

Peace is inner contentment. Only by God’s grace and mercy can we have peace with God. Our souls are not content until they find rest in God alone. “May the LORD bless his people with peace” (Ps. 29:11)! What a great promise. One of my favorites in found in the book of Romans when Paul writes, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

Paul’s word are not to be thrown to the side but are there to remind us of God’s grace, mercy and peace provided in his Son, Jesus Christ. May we be comforted by these words. May we rejoice in what these words mean for eternal state. If you are not trusting in Christ then these words may have no significant meaning at all to you. I would encourage you to pick up a Bible and read about the great God of grace, mercy and peace. Do not delay another day to know this great God. If you are trusting in Christ for salvation be refreshed by Paul’s words: “Grace, mercy and peace from God.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Should Christians read their Bible's on a Consistent Basis?

Let me say at the forefront that in no way does reading the Bible justify a person before God. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. My question is for those who claim the name of Christ yet never have a desire to read his Word. I have been pondering the question: Should Christians read their Bible's on a consistent basis?

First we must understand what the Bible is all about. The Bible is God's story of redemption through his Son, Jesus Christ, for the sake of his glory alone. Through the Scriptures we can know the will of God. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and 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 3:16-17). These are things we need on a consistent basis: teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness so we may be equipped daily. We also need to be in the Word so we can be reminded that these transformations take place because of the glorious gospel. We are saved by God's grace through the hearing of the gospel and we are sustained by God's grace through the hearing of the gospel. The only way to go deeper into the glories of the gospel is through reading God's Word.

Two examples from Scripture of men who loved the Word of God because they loved and wanted to know God: David and Paul. If you want to see David's love for God's truth just go read Psalm 119. This is a beautiful Psalm where David just continually speaks of his delight in God's law. "I will praise you with an upright heart,when I learn your righteous rules" (7). "With my whole heart I seek you;let me not wander from your commandments" (10)! "I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word" (15-16). "My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times" (20). "My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word" (25)! This is how David talks for 176 verses. God gracious saved his soul and now David finds in delight in knowing God.

We see Paul's love for God throughout his life once God saved him on the road to Damascus. Paul taught stronger than anyone that a person is justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Near the end of his life he wrote his spiritual son Timothy to give him instructions about the structure of the church. At the end of his last letter (2 Timothy) Paul tells Timothy to do his best to come and see him. Paul was in prison waiting for his execution and wanted to see Timothy for a last time. He requested a few things for Timothy to bring him but he told Timothy ,"Above all the Parchments" (2 Timothy 4:16). Paul wanted to read God's Word. He wanted to know more about the God he was about to see face to face. It was also as if he could not live without them.

Sadly many of us, who claim to be Christians, can live without the Book. Our delight is not in knowing God. We have Bibles upon our shelves that have never been open or have not been opened for a long time. We care nothing about the Bible unless we want to win a debate or answer a question correctly at church. The desire is just not there. If this is you I've got good news: The Gospel.

If you have lost your desire to know God through the reading of his Word, repent. Confess your lack of love for your great Savior and he promises to forgive you and restore you. If you have never had the desire to know God then I have good news for you as well. The Bible is clear that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Through faith in Jesus you can have fellowship with the God of the universe. This is an amazing promise!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

God's Holiness

"Until we have seen ourselves as God see us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers of faithfulness in our politicians or complete honesty in our merchants or full trustworthiness in our friends. That we may continue to exist we make such laws as are necessary to protect us from our fellow men and let it go at that.

Neither the writer nor the reader of these words is qualified to appreciate the holiness of God. Quite literally a new channel must be cut through the desert of our minds to allow the sweet waters of truth that will heal our great sickness to flow in. We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then reaising that concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire his wisdom, but his holiness he cannot even imagine." (A.W. Tozer)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Take the World, but Give me Jesus

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching o’er me,
I can sing though billows roll.

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Let me view His constant smile;
Then throughout my pilgrim journey
Light will cheer me all the while.

Take the world, but give me Jesus;
In His cross my trust shall be,
Till, with clearer, brighter vision,
Face to face my Lord I see.

Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above! (Fanny Crosby)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beware of Pride

C.J. Mahaney recently posted an article title When Humility is Pride which was helpful as he told the story of Rev. Joshua Symonds and his struggle with the atoning work of Christ for sinners. Praise God for a friend like John Newton who challenged Symonds in this area of his life. Newton told Symonds:

"You say, you find it hard to believe it compatible with the divine purity to embrace or employ such a monster as yourself. You express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer; which is certainly wrong."

As we see our condition as sinners in light of God's holiness we can tend to feel self-pity but this is a dangerous place to sit. C.J. Mahaney gives us a great reminder of the power of Christ in his comforting words:

"We find no eternal hope within ourselves. Revisiting personal depravity is not the solution. Revisiting past periods of spiritual strength is not the solution. Prolonged introspection is not the solution. The solution is to look outside of ourselves, and to gaze again and again at the all-sufficient Savior who welcomes sinners, forgives sinners, and saves sinners to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

In other words, Christ is powerful to save, he is faithful to save, and he is willing to save even the most 'monstrous' of sinners."

To read the entire article click here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, February 4, 2011

I am the Life


“I am the Life” (John 14:6)

A couple of weeks ago I posted on Jesus’ statement: “I am the way.” Today I want to focus on his claim: “I am the life.” We must remember these claims are definitive claims. Jesus is not leaving the door open to another way of true life. Placing your trust in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, is the only true life that exists.

I think most people would argue that life is life. Emotions and circumstances in life go like a roller coaster at an amusement park. Yes that is true but that only focuses on this life. We know from the Scriptures that this life is but a vapor. As a matter of fact we know from experience that every life is short. In the grand design of our Creator we have souls that are eternal. When we place 100 years on the back drop of eternity our view of 100 years shrivels. But even in our short time here on earth we can know true life. This is the life found in Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (10). While the roller coaster of emotions and circumstances rolls over one hill and on to the next Jesus gives us constant, internal joy. This does not mean life will not be tough or that we won’t grieve but as Christians we are given a perspective unlike any other perspective offered. God graciously gives us an eternal perspective. Our ultimate focus is on Christ.

This abundant life is not a life of promised health and wealth but it is a life of power and peace. As Christ is in us we are being changed more and more into his image and character. Before conversion most of us tried to maintain some sort of standard of living. We want to be known as “good people” or “moral people.” The reality is we are all naturally sinners. Even the “good” we think we are achieving is for self-glory. But once Christ makes us alive in him we are given the power of his Spirit to live a life for the glory of God. We are not made perfect but our pursuit in life and our desires have been changed from seeking self-glory to bringing God the glory. The God who raised himself from the dead makes our dead hearts alive! The life is found in Jesus Christ: “I am the life.”

The peace we are given at conversion is peace with God. Romans 5:1 clearly says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The wall of hostility between holy God and sinners like you and me is brought down because of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross. The faith we are given as a gift brings peace. But this very peace also guards us from a lack of joy in this life. Paul, writing from prison, encourages the church at Philippi to be content in God no matter our circumstances: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” How can a man write these works while chained in prison? “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.” Because of Christ we have a personal relationship with the God of the universe and he desires to hear from our thankful hearts. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:4-7). Now it all makes sense. Paul had peace through Christ. This is true life. This is the peace that surpasses everything that makes sense to our finite mind because it is peace from our eternal God.

Do you have true and abundant life in Christ? Do you have peace? Are you content? We must examine ourselves to see if we are trusting in Christ. When we are clinging to Christ as our hope and salvation the roller coaster may fall of the tracks yet he graciously gives us the peace that surpasses all understanding because we are confident in our hope who never changes. May we trust the words of our risen Savior: “I am the life.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, February 3, 2011

God knows your Heart

Yesterday I was reading in Luke 16 when Jesus says these words to the Pharisees: "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God know your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (15).

"People who seek to appear righteous before others typically are not righteous before God, for God knows your hearts. What is exalted among men includes any kind of human achievement not done for the glory of God" (ESV Study Bible)

Sadly I find myself too much like the Pharisees. My intentions and motives come from wanting to please people rather than pleasing God. God, in his great grace, has been working on me in this area so it is by his providence that I read these words yesterday. They stung and were a great encouragement to my soul. The great encouragement comes from knowing the gospel. God sent his Son in order to bear the punishment for my people pleasing. I deserve eternal punishment for this sin yet he lavishes me with grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Loving our Enemies

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."

This is part of the radical living Jesus has for us as his disciples. This is not Jesus telling us to be doormats where people can walk all over us. We are not to ignore the complete wisdom of Scripture. But Jesus is teaching us here that vengeance is not ours. We are not to retaliate against those who persecute us. Vengeance belongs to the Lord alone. Jesus goes on to talk about the love we are to display to those who persecute us:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:38-47)

This sort of living is a supernatural work of God in the life of a sinner. All praise to God alone.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Children of God

Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

We are the saints
We are the children
We've been redeemed
We've been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God (Third Day)

Grace upon grace,
JRL