Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Life of Holiness

"The life of holiness is the life of faith in which the believer, with a deepening knowledge of his own sin and helplessness apart from Christ, increasingly casts himself upon The Lord, and seeks the power of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil."

Edmond Clowney, The Church, pg. 89.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Encountering Jesus: The Only Authority Over Evil

Here is a post from the ministry I work with, Rebirth: East St. Louis. This is a recap of the latest Bible study we had this past Wednesday night. Mark 1:21-28 is an amazing passage with much to teach us. 

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered into the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the religious teachers. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an evil spirit. And he cried out, ‘What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be Silent, and come out of him!’ And the evil spirit, convulsing him and screaming, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with real authority! He commands even the evil spirits and they obey him.’ And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.”
Mark 1:21-28
One of my favorite things about teaching Bible studies with our guys is the opportunity to be personally amazed by the passage of Scripture we are going through. This week, we continued ourEncounters with Jesus: How God Changes Everything series by going through Mark 1: 21-28. Even now, as I reflect on this passage, I am amazed at the Bible’s inexhaustible nature. There is so much great stuff jam packed into these 8 short verses. When considering the length of the entire Bible, Mark 1: 21-28 can seem quite miniscule. Yet, this passage tells us so much about who Jesus was, what He came to do, and how encountering Jesus is the only hope for the world.
After going through the story, I asked our guys, “why were the people so astonished and amazed at Jesus’ teaching and actions?” One of our students hit the nail on the head, “Because they had never seen anything like that before.” And that is exactly right. This story is much more than a vivid look at spiritual warfare or a story that proves that demons exist. Much more than that, this passage tells us that Jesus is the eternal, long awaited solution to the evil that exists in the world.
This scene would have astonished people not because they hadn’t seen or experienced evil face to face. No, that is something we all see and experience every single day. Jesus’ actions were astonishing because He is the only one in the history of mankind that had exercised such authority and power over evil.
Further, this authority over evil is something we all inherently long for. We all desire a day when we don’t have to live in fear of disease and death. We all long for the day when we don’t have to fear abuse and pain. When I asked our students about the evils they see and experience everyday, they had no problem identifying some. They are surrounded by death and poverty. And just like the rest of the world, they desire a day when evil no longer has the final say. Together, we long for someone or something to save the day.
In Mark 1:21-28, the people who were watching Jesus would have had the same hope and desire. They were astonished at Jesus because they had never seen someone who could actually fulfill that hope. Since evil entered the world, humans have tried again and again to find a solution. Whether it be trusting in political powers to bring peace, or a personal zeal to overcome evil, all man made attempts to defeat evil have come up short. Jesus is the only solution to our problem of evil and sin. He is the only authority over evil. Whether it was 2000 years ago in Capernaum, or present day East St. Louis, Jesus invites us to trust in him as the Holy One of God who has defeated all the powers of evil.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To Fear Man is to Forget God

Another golden quote from John Bunyan:

"If this God be our God; or if our God be such a God...we should never be afraid of anything we shall meet with, or that shall assault us in this world. The great God, the former of all things, taketh part with them that fear him, and that engage themselves to walk in his ways of love and respect, they unto him; so that such may say boldly, 'The Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man can do to me (Hebrews 13:6). To fear man is to forget God."

John Bunyan, All Loves Excelling (1998), pg. 39. 

Reading this excerpt, the question that come to my mind is: Who (or what) do you fear? You see, the resulting action of fear is concession. If you are afraid or fear the power of something or someone, you will concede to their demands. If you fear something, you will necessarily bend your knee to that something. In other words, you  obey what you fear.

When Bunyan talks about fearing man, or being afraid of something, I don't think he is so much referring to walking home in a dark alley and being fearful a man may jump out and mug you. No, he is talking about a much deeper issue. The deeper issue is, what does your soul fear? What does your soul concede to? What do you bend your knee and give your life to? What or who do you obey? 


What Bunyan describes in this passage is the basic decision each human has in this life. The decision is what will you primarily obey? Will your primary obedience be to man or things of this world? Or, on the contrary, will your primary obedience be to God and His Kingdom? As Bunyan states, to fear man is to forget God. To ultimately fear what man can do is to forget that God is the one who is ultimately powerful. The establishments of man are but specs of dust compared to the eternal Creator. All things on heaven and earth are held together by God's hand. Their is not one molecule in the entire cosmos that is known and upheld by our Creator. God is the one who gives life and takes it away. Not man. 


When we stop the fathom the eternal power, sovereignty, and majesty of God, it makes perfect sense to live a life that is dependent and obedient to him. Why would we fear man or circumstances on this earth when the all powerful Creator of the universe offers us Himself?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Consider the Works of Our God

This is another excerpt from John Bunyan's 'All Loves Excelling'. Here, Bunyan is writing on Ephesians 3:17-19 and encouraging us to think the degree to which God has loved us.

"This calls therefore upon Christians, wisely to consider the doings of their God. How many opposite breadths, and lengths, and depths, and heights did Israel meet with in their journey from Egypt to Canaan, and all to convince them of their own weakness, and also of the power of their God. And they that did wisely consider of his doings there, did reap the advantage thereof. Come, behold the works of the Lord towards me, may every Christian say:

He hath set a Savior against sin; a heaven against a hell; light against darkness; good against evil; and the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the grace that is in himself, for my good, against all the power, and strength, and force, and subtlety, of every enemy."

John Bunyan, All Loves Excelling (1998), pg. 25.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our Greatest Hope

Last post I shared a excerpt from John Bunyan's All Loves Excelling in which he expounded on God's infinite greatness in all of his attributes, especially that of His love. He is a breadth beyond all breadth, a length beyond all lengths, a depth beyond all depths, and a height beyond all heights. Here, Bunyan offers an application to believers.

"And I will say, there is nothing more helpful, succoring, or comfortable to a Christian while in a state of trial and temptation, than to know that there is a breadth to answer a breadth, a length to answer a length, a depth to answer a depth, and a height to answer a height"

In other words, we all face trials and temptations in this life. We all experience fear, doubt, confusion, insecurity, injustice, feelings of ineptitude, etc....Frankly, the struggles and brokenness we face in this world are overwhelming. In light of these overwhelming struggles, it is terribly exhausting and eventually ineffective to combat these struggles by relying on the breadth, length, depth and height of our own strength and power. We forget that we are finite beings who are not only limited in our abilities, but who are also prone to dig ourselves into a deeper hole.

That is why in the midst of such struggle, temptation, injustice, and fear, we need a love that is infinite. We need a strength that is stronger than ours. We need a hope that is deeper and more beautiful than self-centered hope. This is the hope that Bunyan talks about. For the Christian, our hope and comfort is in God. Regardless of how deep your pain is, God's love is deeper still. No matter how broad your affliction be, God's comfort has more breadth. Your struggle may be long, but Christ's love is infinitely longer.

God is our Rock and a Refuge for us. The love and comfort God offers to us in Christ is infinitely better than any other comfort we could look to. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

He is Beyond All Measure

"that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 
may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge"
Ephesians 3: 17b-19a


One of my favorite things about Ally and my's honeymoon was that for the first time in several months, I was able to read for the sheer purpose of enjoyment. It was greatly tremendously refreshing to be able to read and not have it be for the purpose of school or work. One of the books I was able to read during our week long was John Bunyan's 'All Loves Excelling'. In it, Bunyan spends all 120 pages expounding on the above verse from Ephesians 3. His purpose in writing is to encourage believers with the simply unfathomable and infinitely wonderful love that Christ has for his people. Speaking of Ephesians 3:17-19, Bunyan writes this in the opening pages:

"They are here to be taken...to suggest unto us the unsearchable and infinite greatness of God; who is a breadth beyond all breadths; a length beyond all lengths; a depth beyond all depths; and a height beyond all heights, and that in all his attributes: He is an eternal being, an everlasting being, and in that respect he is beyond all measures, whether they be of breadth, or length, or depth, or height. In all his attributes he is beyond all measure: whether you measure by words, by thoughts, or by the most enlarged and exquisite apprehension; His greatness is unsearchable; His judgments are unsearchable (Job 5:9). He is infinite in wisdom. 'O! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of our God! (Romans 11:33). 'If I speak of strength, behold, He is stronger' (Job 9:19). Yes, 'the thunder of his power, who can understand?' (Job 26:14) 'There is none holy as the Lord.' (1 Samuel 2:2), 'and his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, upon those that fear him.' (Psalm 103:17) 

The greatness of God, of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that, if rightly considered, will support the spirits of those of his people that are frighted by their adversaries. For here is a greatness against a greatness. Pharaoh was great, God was greater, more great in power, more great in wisdom, more great in every way for the help of his people. These words therefore, take in. The great God who in his immensity and infinite greatness is beyond all things."

John Bunyan, All Loves Excelling (1998), pg. 4-5. 

The main encouragements I gather from this passage are this:
  1. God is infinitely great. In all his attributes, he is beyond measure. 
  2. This infinitely great God who is beyond all measure, acts FOR his people. Meaning, if we have been reconciled to God, this infinite greatness is now on our behalf. No matter the adversary or circumstance we face, God is greater. What we have in God, is better and greater than anything the world can throw at us or offer us.  
If the infinitely great God of the universe has drawn close to me and now calls me his son, why would I trust in the strength of anything else. Why would I trust in my own strength when the strength of God is infinitely stronger? Why would I try to find my comfort in my bank account when I know the comfort God offers is infinitely better? Why would I look to find joy in professional success when I know the joy God gives is beyond all other joys? I am challenged by this passage to remember the infinite greatness of God, and how I must apply this everyday. This is the 'daily bread' that I truly need.