Monday, February 28, 2011

Philippians 3:12-16 (part 3)

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16OnlyI)" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">(I) let us hold true to what we have attained." Philippians 3:12-16

Paul seems to encapsulate verses 12-15 with a final exhortation in verse 16, 'Only let us hold true to what we have attained.' So, the Philippians were to press on by forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, and finally, by holding true to what they had already obtained. But what did the Philippians already possess? What did Paul possess? What do we possess that enables us to press on? Well, we know from the previous verses that Paul did not think he had attained perfection or the resurrection. And, we know Paul was not holding true to his performance or personal righteousness. But what is it that we are to hold true to?

What Paul possessed, what the Philippians possess, and what we possess is Christ himself. Through the Gospel, we are united to Christ. We are made His own. Because we have been made his own, we can press on. Paul makes this the center of his pressing on. It is the power, motivation and means by which he is able to press on. It is power, motivation and means by which he is able to forget the past and strain forward towards the prize.

As Sinclair Ferguson writes, "If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him at all points of his activity on our behalf." Therefore, we are united to Christ in his death, in his resurrection, and in his promised return. Our hope to press on and attain the prize lies in our present union with Christ. We have the full assurances of G0d's promises because we are IN Christ.

Moreover, how does this functionally apply to us? How does this actually work? Well, belonging to God, being in Christ, we are indwelled with His Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that applies the benefits of Christ's work to our lives. The Spirit empowers us to forget our past by applying the power of Christ's death defeating death to our hearts. Also, the Spirit is the means by which we strain forward. The Spirit gives us eyes to see Christ and hearts to treasure him. We are given strength in weakness to press on. The Spirit takes tired believers, gives them new hearts and sets them on fire for Jesus. So, what we have already attained in the Gospel is the motivation, means and power by which we progress in this Christian life.

Therefore, our pressing on is rooted not in our achievement, but in the achievement of Him to whom we belong. Christ defeated sin once and for all at the Cross. He was victorious. Being united to Him, this victory is imputed to us. Through Christ, our past sin is forgiven, so we are free from its burden. Through Christ, our shame is wiped away and we are made radiant, so we can now let go of our past shame. Through Christ, there is healing, so we can receive full restoration to our brokenness. Through Christ, we receive His perfect righteousness, so we no longer have to parade our own righteousness as a means of security. Through Christ, we have received adoption, so we can be sure that on this journey, our Father will never leave or forsake us. We press on by looking to what we have in Christ. We hold true to the Gospel in order to empower and transform us to press on. We strive by His grace. And even in our weakness, when we don't know what we ought to pray, because we are united to Christ, The Spirit intercedes for us. Only let us look to what Christ has accomplished as the source by which we press on. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It is about God's Glory

Moses’ Intercession (Exodus 33:12-23 ESV)

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

....

This passage rings of how God's glory defines his purposes. Something I am learning is that God is about one true end, His Glory. He created for his glory, He redeemed us for his glory. The best part about it, is that he designed us and all of our thirsts to be completely satisfied by His Glory. We were created and redeemed for that to be our true reality.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Concert Hall or Banquet Hall?

Sweet video about worship and community...

YHWH is incomparable

"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you,
majestic in holiness, awesome in glory,
working wonders?

Exodus 15:11

Through the exodus, Israel came to know that YHWH is incomparably greater than other gods. He is without equal. There is none like Him. This rhetoric also runs throughout the Old Testament. YHWH is without equal....

  • in keeping promises and fulfilling his word (2 Samuel 7:22)
  • in power and wisdom, as seen in creation (Jeremiah 10:6-7, 11-12)
  • in the heavenly assembly (Psalm 89: 6-8)
  • in ruling over the nations (Jeremiah 49:19)
  • in pardoning sin and forgiving transgression (Micah 7:18)
  • in saving power on behalf of his people (Isaiah 64:4)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Philippians 3:12-16 (part 2)

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained." Philippians 3:12-16

Besides forgetting what lies behind, the Apostle Paul also says he presses on by straining forward to what lies ahead.

What is it that lies ahead? The Apostle tells us in verse 14, writing, 'I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.' and also in verses 10 and 11, 'that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.....that I am attain the resurrection from the dead'. Paul's goal is to be in perfect fellowship with Jesus. He presses on to attain this resurrection, in which he will be perfect fellowship with His God. Now that Paul has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness, and is now a citizen of heaven (Colossians 1:13), he presses on towards the marvelous inheritance that awaits him.

Furthermore, why is Paul so willing to fervently strain forward to this. What is it about the end prize that motivates Paul to speak so strongly about it. In verse 8, Paul writes, 'Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.' (Phil. 3:8). I talked last post about how this is the reason why Paul was able to forget his past. Well, it is also the reason why he so passionately presses forward. Because knowing Jesus is infinitely more valuable to Paul than anything else in his past, present of future, he makes it his one desire. Paul can echo the words of King David in Psalm 63, "Your steadfast love is better than life" (Psalm 63:3). For Paul, being found in Christ is more precious that anything.

Think about it. We chase what is most precious to us. We will pursue what we ultimatley value. If it is money, we will work long and hard for it. If it is security, we will arrange our life to achieve it. If it is respect, we will demand it at all costs. For Paul, it was Jesus. That is why he counts everything as loss, forsaking his past, straining forward towards the prize, knowing nothing but Jesus. Do we value Jesus like Paul did? Do we treasure Christ above all else? Is he precious to us?

Jesus told a metaphor that illustrates what Paul is saying. In Matthew's account of the Gospel, Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matthew 13:44).

When we are captivated by the treasure that Christ is, our response will be nothing less than Paul's. We will strain forward to what lies ahead. When we catch a glimpse of even a fraction of how beautiful Christ is, we won't be able to take our eyes off of Him. They will be fixed on Him, as we press on.

It is also important to realize the reason why Paul was so captivated and gripped by Christ. It's not some intellectual conclusion Paul reached, or something he attained by His own strength. Rather, Paul writes, "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own" (Phil. 3:12). We are able to press on to Christ, because Jesus pressed on to make us His own. This is the Gospel; that God has relentlessly pursued rebels and made them His own. The whole Bible tells 1 big story of God pursuing sinners. From Adam, til now. Israel was called to be God's people, yet time and time again they turn their backs on God. Despite all the mighty works God did on their behalf, they went their own way. Yet, God remained faithful. In fact, He saw from the beginning that this would happen, and out of love, had a better plan. He sent Jesus. Jesus would be the fulfillment of everything Israel should have been. Jesus would come and reverse the effects of Adam's fall. Jesus would make a way for God's people to be brought back to Him, once and for all.

The reason Paul strains forward with such an intense focus, is because he knows what he was, and he knows what he is. He knows he is nothing but a poor, rebellious, hopeless, self-loving, God hating sinner by nature. He would have never sought God. Yet God, being rich in mercy, out of sheer grace, pursued Paul. This is love. Paul has tasted of this love. He has tasted the excellence of this grace. There is nothing better. There is no greater joy. When a sinner is called by God and made His own, there is no other response than to worshipfully follow him. Paul's been made God's own and he presses on in absolute delight. Everything else pales in comparison. How could he chase after anything else? If we've been made God's own, how can we chase anything else?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raw Power

"because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit..."
1 Thessalonians 1:5

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" Romans 1:16

Power: 'The ability to do something. The capacity to direct or influence.'

The gospel is power in its pure essence. The gospel doesn't come unnoticed or quietly. It doesn't compromise. Rather, it comes in power. It's impossible to come into any real contact or knowledge of the gospel and not be completely transformed. It is explosive. It takes everything. It completely consumes. If power is defined as the ability to do something, or the capacity to direct or influence, I offer that the gospel is power in its pure essence. Nothing transforms like the gospel. Religion can make a person behave a certain way for a while. Trying hard can cause someone to be pretty moral. But only the gospel takes people who are literally dead and makes them alive. Only the gospel can take a blind person and give them sight. Only the gospel can melt the heart of stone. Only the gospel , which is the power of God, can resurrect and give new life. That's why you can tell when someone is a Christian. They've been hit with the power of the gospel. I want this power more and more. The beautiful part is that IN CHRIST, we have full access.

I am thankful that God was graciously pleased to reveal this gospel to my blind eyes. God has taken this self-loving God hater, and given me new life. Through the gospel, my debt is removed, I'm forgiven, and I've been given a new heart. Through the power of the gospel, I can truly say, 'I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.' (Galatians 2:20)

This is power.

The Essential Secret

"In a world which seems either unwilling or unable to listen, how can we be persuaded to go on preaching, and learn to do so effectively? The essential secret is not in mastering certain techniques, but in being mastered be certain convictions"


John Stott in 'Between Two Worlds'

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Philippians 3:12-16 (part 1)

"12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained"


In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he encourages his readers to press on in this Christian life using himself as a personal example. This idea of progress or growth in the Christian life can seem a bit overbearing. For some, it brings conviction as to our lack of growth. We've been stuck in the same spot now for some time. For others, it may make us cringe at the idea of having to 'do' something. It may create a legalistic burden. Isn't salvation by grace alone? Either way, the Apostle exhorts us to press on in this Christian life in the same manner he has (vs. 15). But how has Paul pressed on? Specifically, Paul says he presses on by forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, and by holding true to what he has attained. But why does Paul press on? And, how are we to press on?

In verse 12, Paul spells out the two very connected reasons why he presses on. First, Paul knows he has not yet arrived. He has not obtained his inheritance. He is not perfect. Therefore, he must continue towards the end goal. Moreover, Paul's foundation for pressing on, for growing in this Christian life is the indicative truth that he has been made God's own. The only reason Paul is able to go forth, fervently pressing on, is because he has been gripped by God. He is in the hands of His redeemer. He can run the course because he has been set on the course by God himself.

Continuing, the first way the Apostle says that he presses on is by forgetting what lies behind. In verses 4-9, we see Paul give a testimonial account of what it means to forget what lies behind. In this account, Paul considers his past life of righteousness, cataloguing his past successes and obedience. He then compares this to the righteousness he's received from Christ himself. His conclusion.....
"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing
worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered
the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order
that I may gain Christ and be found in him" (vs. 8-9)

To forget what lies behind is to repent of all but Christ. It is to count ALL your past as loss compared to being found in Christ. It means forsaking both our past acts of righteousness and our sin stained past. Paul described himself as blameless according to the law. He followed all the rules. If we compared our lives compared to Paul's, they don't even come close. Our obedience is pathetic compared to his. Yet, he willingly forgets what lies behind. Our past obedience and personal righteousness does not serve us going forward. Our self-righteousness does not lead to knowing Christ. A runner who is constantly looking behind him to see how great he's doing is quickly passed up. When thinking of forgetting our past, our instinct is forget our past failures that weigh us down. This is true. But we also must realize that our past acts of righteousness can prevent us from pressing on from knowing Christ just as much. We must take Paul's example. In this Christian life, to press on, to grow, to know Christ, is to forsake our past righteousness and to cling to Christ, whose worth surpasses everything.

The more obvious application of forgetting what lies behind, is to forget our sin-stained past that weighs us down in this life. While Paul was mainly listing his past acts of righteousness in verses 4-9, he mentions that he was a persecutor of the church. Think about it. Here is Paul, a leader in the church. Wrote 13 letters in the New Testament. Planted churches throughout Asia and Europe. Yet, it wasn't too long ago that Paul murdered Christians for a living. People he know calls brothers and sisters, he once murdered their friends. He had an atrocious past. Imagine the shame of such crimes. Yet, Paul did not let this hinder him from the life God had called him to. He was resolved to forget his past righteousness, but also his past life of shame. I imagine it was hard for Paul to forget this shame. I imagine there were times where he thought that there was NO WAY he could be a minister of the Gospel to the gentiles after the horrible things he had done. But this is a prime example of how, if we are to press on, we must forget what lies in our past. This raises the question, how and why are we able to forget what lies in our past?

As Christians, we forget what lies behind because Jesus died for our past, both our past sin and past righteousness. Jesus lived the perfect life we should have lived. He was perfectly obedient. So we no longer have to hold on to our past obedience, as if it might earn us something. Rather, belonging to God, we possess his perfect righteousness. And, this perfect righteousness makes everything else look like rubbish. More so, Christ died for our sin stained past. Most of us, to some degree, live with the burden of past failures. In the deepest, darkest parts of our souls, we hold on the to shame. And this is the exact thing that weighs us down on this journey. This is what prevents us from pressing on. Past failures leave us paralyzed in fear, unable to get up and move. However, most of us go through our days with the appearance of progress. We put on a facade of 'doing well'. We wear a mask. But, we know the truth. We are sinking. We aren't pressing on. We are just getting by. We're dying inside. It could be the shame of failure in relationships. Failure in being a good husband, wife, son, daughter, friend. It could be the deep-seeded pain of addiction. Or the condemnation from sexual sin or sexual abuse, leaving us feeling perpetually dirty. Whatever it is, every person on this earth has a messy past and deep down is broken in sin....regardless of external appearance.

But, this is not living in light of the Gospel. This is failing to trust in what Jesus accomplished. The Gospel tells us that there is NO MORE SHAME. Christ has taken our guilt. He has taken our condemnation. He died for the secret, hidden shame that no one knows about. At the cross, Jesus carried our sin and shame. He took the curse upon himself so that our brokenness can be restored. This allows us to take off our masks, to shine radiantly as God's beloved children, forgetting our past failures and successes and to press on.

So, Paul's first lesson in pressing on is forgetting what lies behind. This means to repent of all but Christ. And, we are able to do this only because we belong to God. Because of what Jesus did, we can forget what lies behind.







Monday, February 21, 2011

Suffering

A few thoughts/notes on suffering...

1. God’s will be done, for His Glory

a. As King and Creator, His Will is as good as done and His purpose will not be compromised; don’t forget God’s purpose in creating the world was to bring Glory to His Name

b. For those in Christ, God will do all things for your good

2. Produce fruit in one’s life

a. Endurance, character, hope (Romans 5:3-4) (James 1:3)

b. Purpose of Sanctification – transformation into His likeness

3. Evangelism

a. Display the nature of Christ’s suffering

b. If Christ’s suffering was the ultimate manifestation of the Glory of God’s Grace, then displaying the nature of Christ’s suffering in our suffering will point unbelievers to the ultimate act of mercy and wrath, Christ’s saving death (gospel = where mercy meets wrath)

c. How will unbelievers truly know where our VALUE lies, if it appears it lies in our comfortable and prosperous lifestyles

1. We are called to be stripped of things, so we may display in our suffering, our true inheritance is in Christ, not things

I have never been through terrible physical suffering. I feel as if I don't know the slightest thing about experiencing suffering. However, I am learning from scripture it is the natural result of being a Christian in this world. And because I also believe nothing lies outside the will of God, I wonder "what is God's purpose for suffering in our lives?" I am still unclear in many ways, but I think it's important we think about it, in preparation for the suffering we should anticipate, for the glory of Christ.

Return to Your Rest

"Return, O my soul,
to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt
bountifully with you"

Psalm 116:7

Something I need to remind myself every morning. Physically, our bodies arise from rest in the morning. We awake from our sleep. Yet, with this comes the anxiety, stress and forgetfulness of the day. I am bombarded with to-do lists, the assignments keep coming, not to mention I have work later in the day. So with the morning comes the fear, insecurity and restlessness. When my feet hit the floor, the battle begins. I instantly begin eating the bread of anxious toil (psalm 27). My thoughts are on everything but Jesus.

This verse has been a tremendous encouragement and reminder, that while I am waking from my physical rest, I must return to my spiritual rest. I must remember who I am in Christ. I must remember that God, not sparing His own Son, will sufficiently provide all my needs, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, for this day. I must remember that God has dealt bountifully with me. I must return to this rest.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The New Age

"The Messiah came to usher in the new age. But the new age meant the death of the old age. He came to achieve the restoration of Israel. But that could only come about after the fires of judgement and purging. As Jesus looked at his own society, he saw it heading for that terrifying judgement. So much of his preaching has that urgent note of warning and impending disaster. Like John, he saw a 'wrath to come'; the wrath of Rome as well as the wrath of God. But the deeper awareness of his own messiahship lay in this, that he believed himself called to take Israel's judgement on himself at another level. For the Messiah was a representative figure. He was Israel. Their destiny was therefore his, and his theirs. Yes, at one level, national and political Israel was heading for destruction. But at another level, Israel, in the Messiah, would suffer judgement and then the restoration that God planned."


Christopher Wright in 'Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament'

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Main Characteristic of a Preacher

From George Herbert's 'The Country Parson, his Character and Rule of Holy Life"

"His main characteristic is not that he is witty, learned or eloquent, but holy, and so earnest is he in his desire to communicate, that he even interrupts his own sermon with many apostrophes to God as, 'Oh Lord, bless my people, and teach them this point.'"


So It Was Thought

"Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,"

Luke 3:23

Who was Jesus? The second chapter of Matthew's Gospel ends with Jesus growing up in Nazareth. Nazareth was known as a town from which nothing good could come. In fact, the word 'Nazarene' may actually have been a nickname or slang meaning for something that was insignificant.

So what does Luke 3:23 tell us about who Jesus was/is. The phrase 'so it was thought' reveals that to human eyes, Jesus was the son of an unimportant carpenter from insignificant Nazareth. His human resume was not one to boast in. Yet, in reality, Jesus was the beloved Son of God, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

"This is my Son, whom I love, the one in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him" Colossians 1:19

In God's sight, Jesus was the Beloved Son. This was His true identity. In the same way, our human resume is nothing to boast about. There is nothing great about us. Our identity in ourselves is rather insignificant in the big picture. Yet, when we are in Christ, the reality of our identity is radically different. In God's sight, we are beloved children with whom He is well pleased. This is our true identity.

Husbands: Headship Means Taking the Lead in Reconciliation

Some great thoughts from John Piper on the Husband being the initiator in reconciliation


"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ has loved the church and gave himself up for her"
Ephesians 5:25


In the Old Testament, God alludes to Israel as His wife. Here is just one example of God initiating reconciliation with His unfaithful people. In the same way, husbands, as leaders are called to love their wives. I pray God instills this kind of love in my heart.

"For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, ....for you have played the whore, forsaking your God. You have loved prostitutes wages on all threshing floors"
Hosea 8:14-9:1

"I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow"
Hosea 14: 4-5


Per Justin Taylor's blog on the Gospel Coalition:

John Piper:

Leadership means we must take the lead in reconciliation.

I don’t mean that wives should never say they are sorry.

But in the relation between Christ and his church, who took the initiative to make all things new?

Who left the comfort and security of his throne of justice to put mercy to work at Calvary?

Who came back to Peter first after three denials?

Who has returned to you again and again forgiving you and offering his fellowship afresh?

So husbands, your headship means: Go ahead. Take the lead. It does not matter if it is her fault. That didn’t stop Christ.

Who will break the icy silence first?

Who will choke out the words, “I’m sorry, I want it to be better”?

Or: “Can we talk? I’d like things to be better.”

She might beat you to it. That’s okay. But woe to you if you think that, since it’s her fault, she’s obliged to say the first reconciling word.

Headship is not easy. It is the hardest, most humbling work in the world.

Protect your family. Strive, as much as it lies within you, to make peace before the sun goes down.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alienated Enemies

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in yours minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation"
Colossians 1:19-22

These verses reveal such a great deal about the Biblical story as a whole.

First, in verse 19, we get a glimpse of the cosmic scope of redemption. God is reconciling ALL things to himself, whether things on earth or in heaven. If we recall, God is the creator of all. He is sovereign over all. All of creation displays His glory and His greatness. In the beginning, God created the earth, the heavens, day and night, the land and sea, plants and animals. They were all good. Lastly, He created man. Although God loves His creation, and His creation was 'good', man had a special place in God's heart. To reflect His very presence on His created earth, God made man in His own image. How amazing is that? We were created in His likeness. We were created with a special capacity, to know and be intimate with our creator. We were created with a special capacity to reflect His glory, to love and be loved. We walked with God in harmony. We were created to be the caretakers of His creation, to mediate His presence. It was very good.

Secondly, these verses present the magnitude of the fall. While God's creation was good, and He so freely and lovingly made man in His own image, and graciously walked with man in utter harmony, Man rebelled. Man turned. But, the fall of man didn't just effect one man (Adam), it effected the entire creation. The Woman (Eve) would experience pain in child bearing. The ground was cursed, and Adam's work would bring him pain and toil. Harmony was broken between Man and God, between Man and Woman (relationships), between Man and earth (nature). That is why 'ALL' things are to be reconciled. Not just individual souls. The Gospel is about God bringing about a complete restoration or reconciliation to 'ALL' things. God redeeming a people for himself is the center of this complete restoration.

It is important to notice the words Paul uses to describe our previous fallen state. He says that we were 'alienated' and 'enemies'. When Paul says 'enemies' he isn't merely stating a passive disruptance between us and God. It is not 'God hated you', where we have passively received this conflict. Rather, we are actively enemies. The fall shows our rebellion. It is us turning our backs on God, not God turning His back on us. We are actively hostile towards God. It has been that way from the beginning. The Bible tells one story, where time after time, this theme of restoration is found. I'll probably make another quick post in a few days trying to show how, from since creation, to the fall, God through various covenants has been bringing about the restoration, or re-creation of His original good creation.

Thirdly, this passage shows the magnificent means by which peace is reestablished. Given that we have openly rebelled against God, and whether we think so or not, have declared in our hearts our autonomous hostility towards God, it is amazing to think that God would even try to win us back. But that is why the Gospel is so amazing. We play the part of the undeserving. The Bible tells time and time again, of God begging His people to turn back to him, to believe unto Him, to follow his guidelines. Yet, just like in the garden, when God told Adam not to eat the fruit, we repeatedly choose to disobey, we repeatedly choose to rebel. This is open hostility.

But, along the way, God promises us something unbelievable. He says,

31 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

God promises to make a way to re establish peace. It will come through a new and better covenant. Whereas before, God's people, Israel, repeatedly broke the covenant, God says in the new covenant, He will put His law on our hearts, and that they will truly be His people again. He will forgive their iniquity and forget their sins. This is the Gospel. From the beginning, God had a marvelous plan to restore His people once and for all. Jesus was the answer. The Son came to earth, and lived the perfect life, and died the death in order to forgive our sins. He died the only death that could possible bring peace. More so, God gives His Spirit to His people, so that they are continually transformed. The law of God no longer condemns us, but is written on our hearts. This is reason to praise God. Though I was in constant rebellion, constant hatred towards God, though I never upheld my end of the bargain, though I was unfaithful to my call to bear God's image, Jesus died to reconcile me. I was at war with Him, yet He crossed enemy lines and took the sting of death, so that there would be peace. Praise be to God!



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Walking in a Manner Pleasing to Him

"so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." Colossians 1:10-12

What does it mean to walk in a worthy manner of the Lord, in a way that is pleasing to him?

According to God's Word, it means.....

1) Bearing good fruit
2) Increasing in our knowledge of Him
3) Being strengthened by His power
4) Giving Thanks

Moreover, Paul writes that it is God who qualifies us. We bear good fruit because God's seed has been planted in us, and we are new creations. We now live by the indwelling Spirit, who produces good fruit in us. We Increase in knowledge according to what He lovingly reveals to His children. We are strengthened by His power according to His glorious might. We give thanks because of what He is doing in and through us.

Yet, we are to walk this way. We are called to act. We are to press on to live a life pleasing to God. But we do this by looking to God himself, as the source and qualifier of our faith, who, by His grace, will enable us to bear good fruit, increase in knowledge, be strengthened and give thanks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Approach My Soul, Thy Mercy Seat

A hymn brought to my attention by Danny Hindman. These are some very powerful words written by John Newton.

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.

Thy promise is my only plea,
With this I venture nigh;
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.

Be Thou my Shield and hiding Place,
That, sheltered by Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died!

O wondrous love! to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead Thy gracious Name.

“Poor tempest-toss├Ęd soul, be still;
My promised grace receive”;
’Tis Jesus speaks—I must, I will,
I can, I do believe.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Under A New Domain

"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:12

Paul seems to make a pretty weighty statement here. Christians are not just brought from a state of darkness to a state of light. Rather, we have been delivered from a domain. Darkness is not just a state, it is a kingdom, it is a domain, it is a stronghold. When we are under the domain of darkness, we belong to this kingdom. Our citizenship belongs to darkness, to the Evil One and we are under his rule. Yet, God has delivered us. He has completely transferred us. Reality has completely changed. Our citizenship is no longer in the kingdom of darkness, but in the kingdom of Jesus. The new kingdom reverses the affect of darkness.

Whereas before, when I lived under the domain of the Evil One, under the kingdom of darkness, my life was defined by the one who ruled me. But now, having been delivered from the darkness, into the glorious kingdom of Christ, my life is defined by my New King. I am under His rule. My citizenship is in Heaven. I belong to Him. I am defined by what my New King has accomplished, which Paul states so plainly saying, 'in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.'

This verse encourages me to live under the reality of my new domain. I am no longer under the allegiance of sin because I have transferred kingdoms. My allegiance, my life, my everything is with Christ. What a glorious truth! I once was a slave, under the oppressive rule of darkness, but Jesus died to redeem me, to set me free from my bondage. Now I am free. And in my freedom, I gladly bow to my New King.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Give Me Jesus

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

....

What a wonderful, yet simple song. May this song be the melody of our hearts.

Union with Christ: A Crash Course

From Justin Taylor's blog: Union with Christ: A Crash Course

James S. Stewart wrote that “union with Christ, rather than justification or election or eschatology, or indeed any of the other great apostolic themes, is the real clue to an understanding of Paul’s thought and experience” (A Man in Christ [Harper & Bros., 1955], vii).

John Calvin said that union with Christ has “the highest degree of importance” if we are to understand justification correctly (Institutes 1:737).

John Murray wrote that “union with Christ is . . . the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. . . . It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption” (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied [Eerdmans, 1955], pp. 201, 205).

Lewis Smedes said that it was “at once the center and circumference of authentic human existence” (Union with Christ [Eerdmans, 1983], xii).

Anthony Hoekema wrote that “Once you have your eyes opened to this concept of union with Christ, you will find it almost everywhere in the New Testament” (Saved by Grace[Eerdmans, 1989], 64.

If you want an introduction to the doctrine of union with Christ, John Murray’s chapter inRedemption—Accomplished and Applied is helpeful, as is Anthony Hoekema’s chapter inSaved by Grace. Below are a few notes on the latter:

The New Testament uses two interchangeable expressions to describe union with Christ:

  1. We are in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; John 15:4, 5, 7; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 12:2; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:4, 2:10; Phil. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 John 4:13).
  2. Christ is in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:17).

Three passages (John 6:56; John 15:4; 1 John 4:13) explicitly combine both concepts.

Hoekema says that we should see union with Christ “extending all the way from eternity to eternity.” He outlines his material in this way:

  1. The roots of union with Christ are in divine election (Eph. 1:3-4).
  2. The basis of union with Christ is the redemptive work of Christ.
  3. The actual union with Christ is established with God’s people in time.

Under the third point, he shows eight ways that salvation, from beginning to end, is in Christ:

  1. We are initially united with Christ in regeneration (Eph. 2:4-5, 10)
  2. We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:16-17).
  3. We are justified in union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8-9).
  4. We are sanctified through union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; John 15:4-5; Eph. 4:16; 2 Cor. 5:17).
  5. We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ (John 10:27-28; Rom. 8:38-39).
  6. We are even said to die in Christ (Rom. 14:8; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 14:13).
  7. We shall be raised with Christ (Col. 3:1; 1 Cor. 15:22).
  8. We shall be eternally glorified with Christ (Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

And here’s a helpful quote from Sinclair Ferguson (in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification [IVP, 1989], 58), explaining in a nutshell why union with Christ is the foundation for sanctification:

If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him at all points of his activity on our behalf.

We share

  • in his death (we were baptized into his death),
  • in his resurrection (we are resurrected with Christ),
  • in his ascension (we have been raised with him),
  • in his heavenly session (we sit with him in heavenly places, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God), and we will share
  • in his promised return (when Christ, who is our life, appears, we also will appear with him in glory) (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:11-12; 3:1-3).

This, then, is the foundation of sanctification in Reformed theology.

It is rooted, not in humanity and their achievement of holiness or sanctification, but in what God has done in Christ, and for us in union with him. Rather than view Christians first and foremost in the microcosmic context of their own progress, the Reformed doctrine first of all sets them in the macrocosm of God’s activity in redemptive history. It is seeing oneself in this context that enables the individual Christian to grow in true holiness.