Friday, September 30, 2011

Forget not all His Benefits

“Forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2)
Have you considered the benefits that have been given to you by the hand of the LORD?  Have you really pondered all his goodness to you?  As Christians we can observe his goodness in so many ways in our life’s echoing with the David, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.”  
We have been blessed by the LORD.  His goodness is over all.  When we think that he gives us life and breath and the fact that he sustains each heartbeat every second of every day for our entire life.  Our hearts beat at his command.  When we consider food, shelter, clothes, showers, parents, toys, cars, jobs, money, safety and really every detail of life than our praise is lifted to the LORD for all his benefits.  When we place all these benefits in front of the backdrop of what we truly deserve for our sin than the magnitude of his goodness is increased.  Ponder for a moment that our sin deserves eternal separation from God.  We deserve nothing but his wrath for our sin yet receive life and breath.  Then upon life and breath he heaps on so many other blessings.  To think that I have a computer to type this on and the internet to post this on is simply amazing.  To understand that you have a computer, phone or tablet to read this on is simply amazing.  The unbeliever thinks he deserves these things because of something he has done.  But Christian, our response should be praise to the One who has blessed us with all his benefits.  To forget this truth is sin. 
Consider with me another way we sin against God for all his benefits to us.  Isn’t it true that when we receive all these benefits from the LORD we tend to sinfully turn those benefits from his hand into the idols of our heart?  Rather than bless and praise the Giver we turn to worship the gifts.  Our hearts instantaneously run to the temporal pleasure rather than the eternal Giver.  We see the idolatry of the heart.  It seems the more benefits he lavishes upon us the more we begin to think we deserve.  We feel as if we are entitled to the gift.  We forget the purpose of the gift is to glorify the Giver.  The Giver is worthy of the praise.  He most definitely has given us the gifts to enjoy but not to worship.  Forgetting to praise God for his benefits is a sin and making his benefits into objects of worship is also a sin.
The first thing David writes after “Forget not all his benefits” is “Who forgives all your iniquity.”  Ponder this for a moment:  God blesses us always with his benefits yet we forgot or turn those benefits into idols but he also forgives those very sins as well.  We receive the benefit of forgiveness when we mistreat his benefits?  This is similar to John 1, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (16).  David is saying we receive benefit upon benefit.  When we trample his grace, it is his grace that covers our trampling.  Think about Israel when all they had received was kindness from the LORD by taking them out of the land of Egypt yet they trampled his kindness underfoot.  They committed all sorts of evil yet the LORD loved them because they were his people.  They trampled grace yet his grace was sufficient to cover their sin. 
Christian, have you gazed upon Calvary lately?  Have you considered the weight of your sin?  If so than you are aware of the grace of God.  You are aware of his benefits to you.  We have all trampled on his grace yet he crushed his Son in order to graciously cover the trampling we have done.  What can we give in return for all his benefits?  “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (Ps. 116:13).  We cannot repay our debt but we can continue to trust in the all-sufficient work of Christ.  Lift up your cup and continue to call on his name.  “Forget not all his benefits.”
Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bless the LORD!

Recently I read through Psalm 103 because I could not get the song Bless the Lord, O my Soul out of my head. The song is taken directly from the first verse of Psalm 103. David starts and ends the psalm with praise and adoration for the LORD. He is encouraging each of us to bless the LORD as well and to consider his holiness: "Bless his holy name!" Sandwiched in between the expressions of praise are the reason to praise the LORD. Verse 2 tells us not to forget all the benefits from the LORD. If we were to truly examine our life span and recall all of God's benefits to us than we would truly die before we reach verse 3. Listen to the reasons to bless the LORD:

Who forgives iniquity (3)
Who heals all your diseases (3)
Who redeems your life from the pit (4)
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy (4)
Who satisfies you with good (5)
[He] works righteousness and justice for all who are opposed (6)
[He] is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (8)
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities (10)
Great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him (11)
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (12)
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him (13) The steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him (17)

WOW! Christian, you should be overwhelmed by the goodness of God. In the brevity of this life we, as sinners, receive great benefits from the LORD. These are eternal benefits from our God and Creator. He is a gracious God who is worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Bread of Life

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:22-59)


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Only Jesus

Father of grace, You’ve sacrificed
Your only Son for us, the crucified Jesus
Enlarge our hearts to love Your Son
O grant to us the grace to walk with Him always
To make Him our great delight
Bringing worship with our lives

Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
Give us Jesus, we cry
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
The Pearl of greatest price

Spirit of grace, You’ve shed Your light
Upon our darkened eyes, unveiling Jesus Christ
Come change our hearts, conform our ways
To honor Jesus’ Name, His glory our refrain
Let His love compel our own
As we worship at His throne

Jesus, our great Savior,
Lord of heaven, Son of God (Doug Plank)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 23, 2011

By a Single Offering He has Perfected for all Time


“By a single offering he has perfected for all time” (Hebrews 10:14)

Have you ever sat there stunned after reading some truth in the Scriptures that blows your mind? There are so many realities in the Bible that should cause us to meditate for days upon days, weeks upon weeks, months upon months…our entire life. We are talking about the words from our eternal Creator who reigns over all so the awe and wonder should never cease. We should continually be stunned by what he tells us in his Word.

The first stunning thing is he has revealed his Word to us through the work of the Holy Spirit illumining our hearts and minds to know our Creator. Once he has illumined our hearts and minds the truths that pour out from the pages of God’s Word should overwhelm us. We have been reconciled to God (Col. 1:21). We have been saved from eternal death (Romans 6:23). We have been given eternal life (John 17:3). We have had our sins cancelled (Col. 2:13-14). Sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14). We have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). We have become children of God and heirs of Christ (Romans 8:15-17). We no longer have any condemnation (Romans 8:1). These and so many more promises are in God’s Word. Sinners, like me and you, have these promises when we place our trust in Christ. This is simply amazing. These are truths that in turn produce a love for the Savior because nothing can compare to his love for us in the gospel. His promises are eternal realities that produce a greater love for him because we see more and more his love for us.

Just the other day I had some struggles and temptations that were beating me up while I was at work and that night I really felt defeated. The next morning I got up to read Romans 6 before I started my day of work. That day there was temptation but my mind was focused on Christ and by his grace I fought against those temptations. Victory. But as I sat at my desk near the end of the day I had to remind myself of some truth. I had to tell myself, “I am no more accepted before God today than I was yesterday.” Another truth from Scripture had been given to me that helped me kill any sort of legalism at the moment: I cannot improve on perfection. This was so freeing. In Christ, God the Father already sees us as he sees his Son. Perfect. How? “By a single offering he has perfected for all time.” Who? “Those who are being sanctified.” Christian, did you hear what he said? Because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross he has perfected us for all time. This truth humbles us because we have to acknowledge we have nothing to add to perfection. It also breaks the power of legalism when we realize we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. But this freedom should never be an excuse to sin. Sinning because you are forgiven is not a love for Christ. Being forgiven in Christ is the motivation and the power to pursue holiness. Being like Jesus is our aim. Yet we still live in this body of death. But the Father sees us even now clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

So I’ll ask again: Have you ever sat there stunned after reading some truth in the Scriptures that blows your mind? Perfection for sinners because of Christ! Let it sink in…mind blowing. This is a reality because of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. Theologians call this the “great exchange”: Christ takes upon himself the Father’s wrath for our sin and in turn we receive the perfect righteousness of Christ. I cannot comprehend it but I believe it’s true because God said it. “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” What a promise! What a Savior!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This is Exciting!

Recently I bought Matt Redman's album 10,000 Reasons (Which I would recommend) in which the last song on the album is titled Endless Hallelujah. The first time I heard this song it caught my attention because of the opening verse:

When I stand before Your throne
Dressed in glory not my own
What a joy I'll sing of on that day
No more tears or broken dreams

Forgotten is the minor key
Everything as it was meant to be

I knew from the start this was a song about heaven but I didn't realize what a beautiful and true picture he was going to paint with his words. Once it ended the first time I put my headphones on to listen more closely the second time through. Tears. I couldn't help but think that this day is coming. This is the time we as Christians long for. While we don't fully understand all of eternity and what it will be like to worship Christ forever with no more sin or sorrow, we still wait eagerly. We receive small glimpses of this time here on earth that make us long for eternity even more. But what we do know is simply amazing. We know that to make the way for eternal life, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place, taking our sin and shame and imputing to us his perfect righteousness. This is why Matt Redman starts a song about heaven the way he does: When I stand before Your throne dressed in glory not my own. Christ's righteousness is the only way to stand before the throne and be ushered into the presence of the King forever.

The song also got me thinking about other songs that speak of heaven so here are a few to throw fuel on the fire of our longing:

Jesus Paid it All
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete
"Jesus died my soul to save"
My lips shall still repeat (Elvina Hall)

The Solid Rock
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne (Edward Mote)

Waging War
That I might see this day
This waging war might go away
And be no more
That I might see His face
And hear Him say
"Son, welcome home the war is over" (Shane Barnard)

To close I will go back to Matt Redman's song:

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will sing
We will worship, worship You
And endless hallelujah to the King

Grace upon grace,
JRL


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are you in the Ark?

I had the privilege to study the story of Noah in Genesis to teach this past weekend and was reminded of the great truths in this story. I am familiar with the story but as I've been diving into the text there have been several things that have hit home to me. The biggest being these few thoughts:

1. Noah and I deserve the same judgment those men and women faced in the flood.
2. Noah and I both received grace from God therefore I would have been in the Ark.

Noah was no greater than the other men and women in the world. We tend to think Noah and his family were good people so the Lord saved them but that is not in the text. We think that about Noah because of verse 9 which states: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God." This is true about Noah because it in the Scriptures but we cannot skip over the previous verse: "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD." The only thing that separated Noah and his family from those who were to be destroyed was grace. Noah was not a righteous and blameless man apart from the grace of God. Noah's response to grace was he walked with God. God did rescue Noah and his family by telling Noah of the coming judgment. He commanded Noah to build an ark and gave him specific instruction on how to build it. Noah obeyed God. While being mocked and ridiculed by neighbors, Noah had faith in God. God promised life in the ark while the rest of the earth was to be destroyed.

What really hit home to me is the fact that another day of Judgment is coming when Christ returns to take his children home and pour his wrath out in judgment on his enemies. His judgment won't be with water but with fire, eternal fire. His children will be those who are hidden in Christ. Just as Noah was safe in the ark from God's judgment so we, as believers, will be safe in Christ. Knowing what I know from the whole of Scripture is why I can read this historical event and see that only by God's grace was Noah rescued and only by grace am I saved as well. His response of obedience to God came after God's grace had been lavished upon him. Noah wasn't more righteous than the rest of mankind, he was shown God's grace.

Christian, don't bank of your "righteous deeds" or "good works." Keep trusting in the sufficiency of Christ's life, death and resurrection. God has displayed his great love, grace and mercy in sending his Son to die in our place. We have found favor with the Lord. Yet we can tend to veer away from this central truth. May we keep the Gospel the main thing.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)

The sun comes up
Its a new day dawning
Its time to sing your song again
What ever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

You're rich in love and you're slow to anger
Your name is great and your heart is kind
For all your goodness i will keep on singing
10,000 reasons for my heart to find

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing your praise un-ending
10,000 years and there forever more

Bless the lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name (Matt Redman)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 19, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Entery by the Narrow Gate


“Enter by the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:14)

As a Christian, have you ever been called narrow-minded? No doubt if you have spoken of Jesus Christ being the only way to salvation you have been considered narrow-minded. There is a narrowness that goes beyond speaking of salvation in Jesus Christ which adds rules and regulations that are not biblical when it comes to salvation. Even in the context of lovingly speaking the truth of the gospel we are considered narrow-minded. But Jesus only gives us two options: The narrow gate and the wide gate.

I often wonder why people won’t say Jesus was narrow-minded but only those who speak the truth from his Word are narrow-minded. He says for us to “enter by the narrow gate” and then proceeds to tell us why we should. “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” Jesus is lovingly warning all to enter the narrow gate so they will not be destroyed. Sadly he also lets us know that many will walk on the wide path of destruction. But nonetheless Jesus is trying to tell everyone that there is only one way that leads to life. “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” This is not the normal path people walk because only few find it. Is Jesus being loving or narrow-minded?

Narrow-minded is “having a closed mind.” Having a narrow-mind consist of showing respect and being open to the opinions of people but has nothing to do with the truth. People won’t get upset with you when you tell them that four quarters equals a dollar. Why? Because it is true. But as soon as you tell them Jesus is the only way for salvation their faces turn red in hostility. Jesus is the only way to salvation as four quarters does equal a dollar. Both are truth. As a matter of a fact the reality those four quarters equal a dollar could change but Christ being the only way to the Father will never change. The truth about Jesus is absolutely, universally true forever. Jesus is the gate. The reason people will always call Christians narrow-minded, no matter how lovingly they communicate the truth, is because they want to reject Christ. But we must speak of Christ. No matter the response of the world we must give them the only hope. Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). “I am the way…No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Telling others about Jesus is how we love others.

The narrow gate is the only way to life. This is the road all of us want to be on but many don’t want to enter through the Gate. We desire the way to life while walking on the road to destruction yet when warned we reject the truth. This is sad. But this is also a reminder of grace. Only through God’s mercy is anyone walking on the narrow road. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit has anyone entered by the narrow gate. This is all of grace. May we not be concerned with the response from the world about the message of Christ and him crucified for sinners. This is the message that saved us so why would we not want to tell others. Right before Jesus talks about the two gates he says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Knowing what you know now about the holiness of God and his wrath to be poured out on sinners who do not repent and believe in Jesus Christ; why would you not do unto them what you would want them to do for you? We should be pleading with people to be reconciled to God: “Enter by the narrow gate.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Day to Long For

I recently watched a documentary on the events of 9/11 which is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the world. As I watched the documentary I was reminded of the horror of that day. I know most of us probably can flashback and remember where we were the moment we heard about the events or saw them on TV. But in the documentary I was reminded of our American idea of heaven. We can tend to put our own spin on what heaven will be like and who will be there. We decide we want to speak for God which is a great mistake considering he has already spoken to us in his Word.

One of the tragic events that transpired that day was the story of two flight attendants that flew United 93 every week together. These two had become the best of friends over time. In God's providence, one of the flight attendants was on flight 93 when it was hijacked while the other was off that day. United flight 93 crashed that morning in Pennsylvania. Everyone aboard was killed including this lady's best friend and fellow flight attendant. In the documentary she says:

"Sometimes you get into conversations with people that when you die, who are the first people you want to meet in heaven and most people will say, 'My father, my mother, whatever' and I say, 'I want to see [my best friend]'."

Two very sad problems with this response:
1. What most people say
2. What this lady said

Sadly this is the idea of most people who want heaven but have no relationship with the God of heaven. Their idea of heaven is nothing more than a glorified version of earth. What ends up happening is people think golf courses and basketball courts go from grass and asphalt to gold. They think they will go skiing and tubing on crystal seas. They are excited about reuniting with friends and family. The most important things in heaven are nothing more than the most important things on this earth. But this should not be true of those who know and love Christ. This is also not the picture we get from the Scriptures.

The focus in the Scriptures is not on the golden street, pearly gates or crystal sea; the focus is on the Lamb who was slain sitting on his throne. The golden street leads to the throne. The crystal sea flows from the throne. The point is the Lamb, Jesus Christ. We should long for heaven because we want to see Jesus Christ, first and foremost. I love my dad and mom. I love my wife. I love my daughter. I love my friends. But I want to see Jesus!! I want to worship Jesus without sin. I want to be in his presence forever in heaven worshipping Christ. "No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him" (Rev. 22:3). What a day to long for!

Sadly I believe this truth about heaven bores most people. They cannot comprehend worshipping God for eternity. When they hear the truth about heaven they are turned off because it is not what they imagine. But this makes sense. If there is no relationship with Christ on earth, heaven would truly be hell for the unbeliever. But for the believer who understands God's holiness and their sinfulness, they long to worship the Lamb who was slain in their place. Jesus Christ is the only One who makes eternal life with God possible. He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). He is the only mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the only One every Christian longs to see face to face. O what a glorious day that will be!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior! (Philip Bliss)

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unspeakable Pleasure

The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome
of all beings and in our worship of Him we should find
unspeakable pleasure. (A.W. Tozer)


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Shall Love your Neighbor as Yourself


“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)

Do you understand what makes this command so hard for us to obey? Jesus is trying to pluck out the pride in our own hearts. In big letters he is writing: You love yourself so so so much. That’s the point of this command. The challenge is twofold: Love your neighbor by dying to self.

This command is so tied to the first command of loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (22:37). Jesus is trying to rearrange our lives in order for us to find true satisfaction. He knows the wrong order of love causes hurt and disorder in life. We can see this truth when we sin. When we sin against another human we show our lack of love for God therefore we do not love our neighbor. This reveals how much we truly do love ourselves. Jesus knows who we love the most because he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He does not tell us to love our neighbor as we love our money, house, cars, sports and the list could go on. We can be blinded to this because we tend to think we are pretty good people because we have never really done anything “bad”. For the most part we consider ourselves good people who do good things. You know the “Helping the old lady across the street” type of people. But the reality is we think too highly of ourselves.

If you still don’t get it, maybe I could shed some light by telling you this: what Jesus is commanding is impossible. We cannot love our neighbor as we love ourselves because our love for self is too great. The only possible way to love our neighbor at all is by pursuing our love for the Lord. When our hearts’ and desires are fully fixed upon our Savior we begin to love the way he loves. We begin to forget about self and begin to see others interest as more important than our own. Is this not the example Jesus gave us? “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5). The gospel is the only transforming power to order your life properly. Seeing and understanding the love of Christ is our motivation to love him fully. When our eyes are fixed on him alone then we begin to love others because we understand our role as humble servants bringing glory to the King by loving our neighbor. Then and only then do we begin to experience the abundant life found in Christ. When our lives are in the proper order then God is glorified and we find joy.

Scripture is great because God tells us about himself in the pages. He makes sense of everything in life. In his common grace he gives each of us a glimpse of the joy in loving our neighbors. I’m sure we have all experienced helping someone in need and we find satisfaction in serving them. But the satisfaction only goes so far. Unless your motive in helping is to glorify God then all you’ve really done in the end is add to your “good deeds”. You don’t need to be convinced you’re a good person but you need to know all your righteousness is as filthy rags to the holy Creator. Christ did not die on the cross so we could do good things or become good people. Christ died on the cross because we are sinners. Apart from him we cannot love him fully or love our neighbor to extent Christ has in mind when he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Only be grace can this be accomplished.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ironies of the Cross

In Don Carson's book Scandalous he write about the the ironies we see in the scene of the crucifixion account from Matthew.

1. The man who is mocked as king - is king
2. The man who is utterly powerless - is powerful
3. The man who can't save himself - save others
4. The man who cries out in despair - trusts God

Then to summarize the all four ironies he puts them in poetry form:

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him,
Raucous laughter in a barracks room,
"Hail the king!" they sneered, while spitting on him,
Brutal beatings on this day of gloom.
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme"
Jesus reigning from a cursed cross.

Awful weakness mars the battered God-man,
Far too broken now to hoist the beam.
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in,
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree.
God's own temple's down! He has been destroyed!
Death's remains are laid in rock and sod.
But the temple rises in God's wise ploy:
Our great temple is the Son of God.

"Here's the One who says he cares for others,
One who says he came to save the lost.
How can we believe that he saves others
When he can't get off that bloody cross?
Let him save himself! Let him come down now!"
Savage jeering at the King's disgrace.
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the King of grace.

Draped in darkness, utterly rejected,
Crying, "Why have you forsaken me?"
Jesus bears God's wrath alone, dejected
Weeps the bitt'rest tears instead of me.
All the mockers cry, "He has lost his trust!
He's defeated by hypocrisy!"
But with faith's resolve, Jesus know he must
Do God's will and swallow death for me.


Grace upon grace,
JRL

Friday, September 2, 2011

For You are Not a God who Delights in Wickedness


“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness” (Psalm 5:4)

In our day and age we have made it a practice to shy away from some biblical terms. People find them hard to understand or they lack relevance or people just do not want to say them. The danger of doing such things is diluting the Scripture. Wicked is one of the words we have taken out of our vocabulary but it is a part of God’s vocabulary. He is not a God who delights in wickedness.

Many modern day “evangelicals” have turned away from using words like sin or wickedness so that they don’t offend people and draw them away from the church. They’re alright speaking about mistakes or habits but sin is to offensive. Calling someone a sinner is just downright mean. We can potentially lower or damage a person’s self-esteem if we call them sinners. But the very term self-esteem carries with it the reality that we are sinners. Our pride is so off the charts that we esteem ourselves as something worth lowering. We think too much about us. This is the problem. We shouldn’t be calling people sinners in hopes of lowering their self-esteem but rather in hopes that God would crush their self-esteem. God does not take delight in elevating one’s self as the ultimate treasure.

Why all the negativity?

The short answer: “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness.” God is holy and he hates wickedness. The text goes on to say, “Evil may not dwell with you.” The power of positive thinking is not going to change the unchangeable “I AM”, so why are we trying to sugar coat sin? Sin tastes sweet enough to sinners without adding extra sugar. Since God does not delight in sin or wickedness Christians should not either. Our message to a dying world should not be training them to delight in the very things God hates. That doesn’t make sense. Pride is at the top of the list of wickedness. Pride is promoting one’s self to the status of God. Pride is the very thing that leads a person to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). When we teach people to build their self-esteem we are basically holding them over the edge of a cliff by a fishing line. They are dangling over the pit of destruction. We need to be encouraging them and challenging them to kill their self-esteem and find their worth in the all-satisfying treasure of Jesus Christ. Our value is not in self but in Christ alone.

We have too often talked about sin or “mistakes” in the way of our actions. Murder, rape, incest, adultery, stealing and so on. These are the offensive sins. This is the sort of wickedness in which God takes no delight. If you’re thinking pride is not that big of a deal maybe you should dig into the heart of every single sin mentioned above. You would dig up the root of pride. Pride is at the core of every sin. I'm not trying to sound like the “angry prophet” but this is a serious issue. Why are we teaching our people to build up the very thing God hates? It’s dangerous and foolish and ultimately never satisfying. The problem with building our self-esteem is the building is blocking out the treasure. The more we build, the greater the wall blocks out Christ. We need the gospel to break through like a wrecking ball to tear down our pride.

Rather than taking words away from the Bible may we be faithful to proclaim them, knowing God will work his purposes for his glory and our good. May we not sugar coat the truth. May we talk about sin and the fact that we are all sinners in need of God's grace. He is holy. He hates sin. Apart from Christ sinners will be destroyed. This is a tough pill to swallow but it is the truth found in God’s Word.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Thursday, September 1, 2011

All Sin is Ultimately Against God

Reading through John MacArthur's commentary on Philemon has been such a sanctifying grace. Forgiveness is not one of my strong points at all. I struggle with truly forgiving people so when I decided to do a study through Philemon I guess I was not fully anticipating what all the Lord wanted to teach me. Last week I posted one of MacArthur's eight foundational elements of a biblical doctrine of forgiveness and I thought I would do another today.

"Whoever offends us gives greater offense to God. All sin is ultimately against God...Whatever his offense against men, he gave a greater offense to God. God has forgiven those who wrong us of the greater offense of sinning against him. Can we not forgive them of the lesser one of offending us? We are not more just, holy, or deserving than God, nor are we a higher court with a higher law. No one could ever offend us the way we have offended God. Yet he graciously, mercifully forgives us." (MacArthur, Colossians & Philemon, pp. 218-219)

How arrogant of us, as followers of Christ, to hold anothers sin against them when we have been forgiven everything in Christ. We need a heavy dose of the gospel. We need to beg God for his grace to forgive. May we not be like the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18 who had his debt forgiven by his master yet did not forgive his fellow slave of a lesser debt.

Grace upon grace,
JRL