Friday, July 29, 2011

I am the Way



“I am the Way” (John 14:6)

Have you wondered the thought process behind “All religions lead to the same place”? I understand that sounds all peachy keen to the human ears but is it possible? Could it be that all spiritual roads lead to the same exact place? Jesus tells us something different from his very own lips in John 14 when he says, “I am the way.”

Jesus’ claim of being “the way” should stop us in our tracts. This claim alone should cause us to ask, “How can all religions claim to lead us to the same place yet Jesus claims to be the way?” Christianity is a religion that is all about following Jesus Christ. In John 14, Jesus is making a definitive claim. He is not claiming to be “a way” but rather “the way” which means there is only one path. There is no other way apart from Jesus. But we need to ask “the way” to what or who? Jesus follows up at the end of verse 6 by stating: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is why Christianity is hated in our pluralistic society. Jesus makes definite claims and so Christians must do the same. We cannot be loving people if we tell a dying world that all roads lead to the same God or to the same heaven because the Bible does not give us that option. Either we must tell the world the truth about Christ or we reject him.

In our modern day allegiance to tolerance we have confused truth and tolerance. Tolerance is “A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, etc., differ from one’s own” (Dictionary.com). Hear me say there is no issue with tolerance but when it comes to the truth this is where people are offended. I’ll be the first to admit many Christians, including myself, have not always had a right attitude towards others opinions about religion. This is a sin to be confessed and repented of by all believers. I think Christians are thrown under the bus of showing a “lack of tolerance” because of their claims of knowing the truth. Christians should be tolerant remembering that tolerance is having a right attitude toward those who differ from us. Understanding God’s grace will help us be tolerant because we will understand why people reject the truth. When we recall our own testimony we quickly remember God’s work in saving us through the hearing of the gospel. We must be faithful to speak the truth so souls will turn away from sin through the working of the Holy Spirit. But the key is we must speak the truth. Christians should not be giving their opinion about God but rather speaking his truth to others because his Word alone “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts of intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We are told to “preach the Word in season and out of season” which is not just a command to preachers but to Christians. We must be ready to tell people the truth of Scripture.

Imagine with me for a moment being tolerant to a person who whole heartedly believes 2 +2 = 6. It doesn’t make sense to be tolerant with something that is a matter of fact. The truth is 2+2 = 4. Every person would quickly and graciously try to tell this person they are incorrect. The reason Christians can be so confident to speak the truth is because we know the truth. It is not intolerant to speak the truth to people. If you are a Christian then speak up! You have the truth. You know the way. This is the beauty of having our God-given spiritual eyes. God graciously reveals to us the truth. He has shown us that only through his Son, Jesus Christ, is the way to him. No other path will do. If all paths lead to the same place then Jesus is a liar but the Bible is clear that God cannot lie therefore it would be impossible for Jesus to lie. Listen to him: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Since Jesus spoke it we should do the same.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

I realize I posted a Text Treasure on I am the Way previously with many of the same truths above but I wanted to expand some on the issue of tolerance and truth. For the old post on I am the Way click here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bring Everything to Christ

Another wonderful Grace Gem to share from James Smith:

One great part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart is to . . .
empty us,
strip us of self,
lead us to feel our own weakness, and
bring us as poor sinners to look to Jesus alone, as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
And just in proportion as we feel our need of Christ, and realize our absolute nothingness without Christ--shall we prize Him, enjoy Him, and exercise dependence upon Him.

O how little do many of us know our need of Christ, and therefore it is that we . . .
make so little use of Christ,
receive so little from Christ,
and do so little for Christ!

We come to Him at first--as poor, lost, helpless sinners--that we may be saved by His merit and mercy. And as believers, we must continually come to Him . . .
with all our burdens--that He may bear them;
with all our cares--that He may manage them;
with all our sorrows--that He may sanctify them;
with all our foes--that He may conquer them;
with all our sins--that He may cleanse them; and
with all our needs--that He may supply them.

All that we need is in Christ--and it is in Christ, for us. Our sense of our need of Christ, if it is deep and increasing--will lead us to daily come to Christ for all our supplies.

Our deep necessity fits us for Christ--and His infinite fullness fits Him for us!

Our trials, troubles, temptations, disappointments, and vexations are to teach us our need of Christ; and drive us continually to Him.

There is often much prayer--and yet little communion with Christ. We should realize that He is giving us His whole attention. He expects us to tell Him . . .
all that troubles us,
all that grieves us,
all that pleases us,
all that we need,
and all that we desire.
We should keep back nothing from Him--but speak to Him freely on every subject, and every circumstance. He is always with us, listening to us, and sympathetically entering into all our concerns!

We must be intimate with Christ.
We must walk with Him.
We must carry everything to Him.
We must seek all we need from Him.
We must be constantly . . .
going to Christ,
conversing with Christ,
and obtaining from Christ--
if we would receive the consoling influences of His love! (James Smith,
Abide in Me)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When Trials Come

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in it’s shadow I shall run
Till You completes the work begun
Till You completes the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I’ll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old (Keith & Kristyn Getty)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, July 25, 2011

SCATTER Report

Last week I had the privilege to serve as a leader on a mission trip right here in Little Rock, Arkansas. I know that sounds strange because I live in Little Rock but this was a specific week set aside for our church to head out all day for the sake of the gospel. It was a blast! The church bonded and work as one as we scattered out in the city proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified. The week consisted of backyard Bible clubs in the morning, the Arkansas Dream Center in the afternoon and the North Little Rock Boys & Girls Club in the evening. We also had host homes provided by those in the church where we rested at night and our church care groups provided dinner every evening as we gathered to talk about the day. It was a glorious week.

Much of my time was spent over in North Little Rock where I was able to build relationships with the teens in the teen center. We played basketball, ping pong, wiffleball and kickball. We also ran a basketball camp at the Boys & Girls Club from 4 - 6 everyday. Coach Austin from Little Rock Christian Academy came out to teach skills and drills with the men. It was a joy getting to know these young men and watching them grow in their basketball skills but our main purpose was to get them the gospel. Everyday we would break for a time of teaching. On Friday I had the privilege to teach to the whole group. We walked through 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. It was a joy to talk to them about the message "of first importance" which is that "Christ died for our sins...that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day." I loved talking about Christ's substitutionary work for our sins and his great glory.

Please be in prayer that the gospel would capture the hearts of all these young men and women we were able to share the gospel with this past week. It was an honor to be used to spread the gospel but we know God is the one who changes hearts. May he alone receive the glory.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 15, 2011

Am I Trying to Please Man?


“Am I trying to please man?” (Galatians 1:10)

Christian, this is a question we should ask often: “Am I trying to please man?” Are you still seeking the approval of what others think about you? When it comes to compromising the gospel seeking man’s approval is a dangerous place to be. We should strive for hearts that seek to please God rather than man.

The churches of Galatia had the one true gospel, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, yet when false teachers came into their midst they began to question the gospel. Judiazers had come in to teach them that salvation in Christ alone was not sufficient but that circumcision was also required. This brought in a works based righteousness which had nothing to do with the God’s grace which Paul had preached to them. A works based salvation brings in an emphasis on the work man has to do in order to earn favor with God. This is common today. We tend to think that our times in the Word, prayer, Bible studies, church, baptism and so the list could go on, bring us into a right relationship with God. We think our status is greater because of the things we do rather than what Christ has done. This is foolishness.

Paul asks the question, “Am I trying to please man?” because he is preaching the true gospel of Christ which crushes the pride of man. The gospel says that man has no ability in himself to come to Christ. The gospel says that man is totally depraved. The gospel says that man has nothing to offer to God besides his sin. The gospel says that God, in his love, sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to come and die in our place. There was no other option. Christ had to come and he had to die in our place. He was the only one who could be our substitute. He obeyed his Father perfectly so he could be the unblemished lamb to die an atoning death on the cross. On the cross he bore our wrath and took upon himself our sins. Then three days later he resurrected from the dead proving that he is God. He conquered sin and death for good in order to save sinners. Adding anything to Christ’s work is rejecting that his death and resurrection was sufficient to justify sinners. This is the gospel Paul preached and it is not a gospel that seeks the approval of man.

Following his questions about seeking the approval of man Paul says, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (11-12). Salvation is the work of God alone. Keeping this truth in mind will alter how we live and who we life for. Why would we seek the approval of man when the God of the universe crushed his Son in order to bring us true, everlasting life? Sadly the fact that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, do seek the approval of man reveals the depths of our depravity but also shows us the great love of the Father to send his Son to reconcile us to himself.

Whose approval are you seeking? Do you care more about what others think about you or what God thinks about you? We can always hide who we are in order to please other men but we can never hide who we are to God. He knows our motives, thoughts, attitudes and actions. He is our Creator. He does not need our approval but we do need his. His approval is based on the work Christ accomplished. It is amazing how God’s grace works. To him be the glory.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Next week I will be out with a team from our church on a mission's trip so I will not be blogging. Please be praying for our team as we have the honor to go out and proclaim the gospel to our city.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Approaching the Throne of Grace

"We have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The gospel makes it possible for sinners like you and me to approach the throne of grace confidently because our great High Priest Jesus Christ has given us access. This should produce a great joy inside of us as we see the glorious price paid in order to speak to the God who created everything. As the youth have been preparing for the two missions trips coming up our youth pastor, George Lawson, has been reminding us constantly: "Prayer is not a waste of time." So true. We have a great honor to talk to the God of the universe yet we so often do not. May we remind ourselves of the gospel daily so we can remember the great price paid in order for sinners to approach the throne of grace.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SCATTER





"Now those who were scatted went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:4)

"For our sake, he made him who knew no sin to be sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corthinians 5:21)

Any and everyone is invited to come and get equipped. We would love to have you.

For more info visit here.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Best is Yet to Come

The night before the day breaks
The labor pain that brings in the new born
The storm before the calm comes
The war before peace come marching in

The slave who longs for freedom
The fall before the rise to victory
The bud before the blossom
The cross before the tomb was found empty
Life is filled with trouble
But God will make sure that we overcome
And Life is just a vapor
But God has said the best is yet to come

The Best, The best is yet to come
When the glory of the Son
Shines on the redeemed around His throne
The Best, The best is yet to come
When all is said and done
and joy eternal fills His daughters and sons (The Joy Eternal)



Exclusive video of The Joy Eternal's new EP release! from Andrew Laparra on Vimeo.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, July 11, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 8, 2011

He who did not Spare His own Son



“He who did not spare his own Son” (Romans 8:32)

Have you doubted the love of God? Have you been listening to yourself and your feelings rather than speaking truth into your soul? The tendency for so many Christians is to fall into the trap of doubting the love of God for his children. But when we peruse the Scriptures we see the love of God for sinners like you and me displayed in the truth that he did not even spare his own Son for his children.

Romans 8 is a great chapter of Scripture. I would argue it is the greatest section in all of Scripture. J.I. Packer says Romans 8 takes the Christian from “No condemnation to no separation.” If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ you can be assured the Father loves you. You can be sure his love will not bring condemnation nor will anything be able to separate you from his love. We do still live in a fallen world in which we are still in our fallen nature. Satan will accuse us. Our flesh will tempt us. Sadly we will buy into Satan’s accusation and let them paralyze us. We start believing that God could not continue to love us as sinners. Then in turn we start to find our satisfaction in the things of this world. Our flesh tempts us to love less valuable objects rather than the object of supreme joy, Jesus Christ. We begin to buy into our feelings rather than standing on the truth.

When we begin to slide down the slippery slope of our feelings we dishonor God. As his children we can be assured that he loves us but when feelings of doubt take over we tend to make our feelings our authority. Our authority can be nothing more than the truth of Scripture. In Scripture we clearly see of God’s love for his children. The great Puritan, John Owen, once wrote, "The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you." In order to avoid laying sorrow and a burden on the Father we should often go to Romans 8 and be reminded of God’s love for us. We need to remember that there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1). We have been given the Spirit so that we may no longer pay to flesh (8:12). We have been adopted as sons and daughters (8:15). We need to remember the Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are his children (8:16). Not only are we his children but we have been made heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (8:17). The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes on our behalf (8:26-27). We know that he works all things together for our good (8:28). Then Paul asks: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Satan, the world and even our own flesh cannot be against us. God is for us and the proof is in the fact that he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (8:32).

Do you doubt the love of God? If your faith is in Jesus Christ alone every single promise in Romans 8 is directed to you. If you are pridefully hanging your head low because you wonder how God could love you than your view of the gospel is distorted right now. Repent! Turn away from your arrogance and run back into the arms of our loving God and Father. Christian, stop doubting his love. Look to Calvary. See with clear vision that his love is even greater than you ever imagined it to be. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” and he laid his life down to make his enemies his sons and daughters. Doubting his love still? Doubt no more. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Drink Long and Deep from the Fountainhead

"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." (Colossians 2:18-19)

The answer to legalism is the continual realization of the grace of Christ. The answer to mysticism is an understanding of how profoundly we are related to Christ. The answer to asceticism is the reckoning that we have died, been buried and are resurrected with Christ. The answer is where it all began: at the foot of the cross. There is a tendency to move away from where we had our beginning: the cross. All of our theology, all of our preaching, all of our singing hymns together, the disciplines of life experienced in family and relationships are meant to keep us right at the foot of the cross - simply drinking long and deep from the Fountainhead, Jesus Christ. (R. Kent Hughes)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize

Are you future focused? I've recently been looking over Hebrews 12:1-2 to remind myself to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. The writer of Hebrews starts chapter 12 with the word: "Therefore." This is a linking word that takes us back to what the author was previously talking about before the "Therefore." The previous chapter is the "Hall of Faith" chapter in the Bible. We read of the faith of the great saints of old. It really is a great and encouraging chapter but as I looked back over I realized they were all future focused. They were fixing their eyes on the "hope of and assurance of things not seen." They all had great faith because their eyes were fixed on the great God of the universe.

Listen to the great promises of Hebrews 11:
1. Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (6).
2. [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations who architect and builder is God (10).
3. They were longing for a better country, a heavenly one for God has prepared a city for them (16).
4. [Moses] was looking ahead to the reward (26)
5. They might rise again to a better life (35)
6. Of whom the world was not worthy (38)

The "cloud of witnesses" talked about at the beginning of chapter 12 is going back to the saints who have passed on before us. We can be encouraged and strengthen that they made it to the end. These were commended for their faith. Their faith was strengthened through keeping their eyes on the prize which is eternity with God.

May we take the time to read the stories of these heroes of the faith. May we be encouraged and strengthened by their faith. Most importantly may we fix our eyes of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one who joyfully went to the cross, despising the shame, so that we might spend eternity with him by grace alone through faith alone. Where are your eyes fixed? Keep them future focused.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Know Whom I have Believed

I know not why God's wondrous grace
to me he hath made known,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
redeemed me for his own.

But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart,
nor how believing in his word
wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
convincing us of sin,
revealing Jesus through the word,
creating faith in him.

I know not when my Lord may come,
at night or noonday fair,
nor if I walk the vale with him,
or meet him in the air. (Daniel Whittle)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, July 1, 2011

I am not Ashamed of the Gospel



“I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16)

The gospel starts with an understanding of who God is. God is our Creator and therefore he is our Owner. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Whether a person acknowledges this truth or not does not determine whether it is true or not because it is truth. God created man therefore he is every person’s Creator. God has dominion over us. We are accountable to him. But there is a problem and that problem is with us. Instead of obeying God we decided we wanted to be on his throne rather than let him rule and reign as the Sovereign Ruler. The result: Separation from our Creator.

Because of our rebellion against our Creator there is a separation that has occurred between God and man. We no longer love God but rather we have turned our backs on him in hatred (Rom. 1:30). In the garden we see Adam and Eve rebellion against God and eating from the one tree they were commanded not to eat from. Because of Adam’s sin we have all been cursed. We are all born sinners. As the saying goes: “We are not sinners because we sin but rather we sin because we are sinners.” This is the natural condition of every human being. But the problem of sin has a solution.

Paul says to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This is good news. Better yet: GOOD NEWS!!! But the Good News is so good because the bad news is so bad. We have sinned against the infinitely holy and righteous God of the universe. His perfect righteousness demands a punishment for sin. At this point the only righteous thing God can do is send every sinner to hell, including myself. That is a tough pill to swallow but it is the truth. But God in his grace and mercy and love sent a substitute in his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Chris is the God-man who left the glories of heaven to humbly come and live the life we could not live (Phil. 2). In every thought, motive, intention, attitude and action he perfectly obeyed the Father therefore he is the only human who could die in our place (1 Tim. 2:5). Then the sinless Son of God willing walk the hill of Golgotha in order to lay down his life for sinners like you and me. After three days he proved he was God by rising from the dead. His resurrection is the assurance that he has conquered both sin and death for the believer. Now he is seated at the right hand of his Father as the name above all names and the only name under heaven by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12).

So what is your response? If you are Christian I pray your response is joyful humility. As you ponder once again the glorious truth that Jesus died in your place may joy be welling up inside of your soul. May you be reminded that your sins, all of them, have been wiped away because of your trust in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. This is Good News. Can you say with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”?

If you have not repented of your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ I would remind you that the gospel is a command to be obeyed. But just like all the other commands in Scripture it is a command of God’s love. His commands are not burdensome but rather they show us as his creatures the way life was intended to be for us. He came to give us life and life abundantly. The gospel is the greatest love story in all of history yet it is a command. God is so amazing to send us the only hope in which sinners can be saved. Will you repent and trust in him?

Grace upon grace,
JRL