Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Essence of all Delight


John Flavel:
Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is congregation or  meeting-place of all  waters in the world: so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet. . . .
His excellencies are pure and unmixed; he is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.
The Method of Grace, from Sermon XII.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Daily Wisdom

"Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal."

- Valley of Vision, Christlikeness

....

Mike, I throw this up here knowing I very often am consumed in my work, and the tasks of the day. More so, my self-centeredness distracts me from the TRUE END of these very tasks, which I pray to be Christ. Since daily tasks are inevitable and necessary, may we encourage one another to recall when we are amidst the daily grind, the person whom gives meaning to everything in our lives, the person of Christ.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted

A wonderful hymn named, "Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted" explaining what occurred at the Cross.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
'Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, 'tis He, 'tis He!
'Tis the long-expected prophet,
David's Son, yet David's Lord;
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro' fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
'tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ's the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.



Friday, April 22, 2011

God's Holiness

I know I am kind of on a youtube posting binge, but this video was brought to my attention last night by Ryan Hoyt. The video includes sermon clips from R.C. Sproul, C.J. Mahaney and John Piper.

The Cross

Good Friday & Easter

Garden of Gethsemane.

Ostracized.

Outcast.

Delivered to the cross.


Flogged.

Released prisoner (You and I).

It is Finished.

Died in our place.

Abandoned by the Father.

Yielded up His spirit.


Empty tomb.

Angels announce ‘He has risen’.

Scriptures fulfilled.

Third Day.

End of death's reign.

Raised with Christ!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dimly Lit Mirror

"And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience"  Romans 8:23-25

""For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Restoration is at the very heart of the Gospel. In creation, we see that humans are made in the image of God, as whole creatures. Sin dehumanizes and thwarts this wholeness. Our relationship to our creator is broken, and our relationships with each other are broken as a result. However, the Gospel restores. In these verses, we see that humans are made to be whole, and through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are offered glimpses of what this restoration means. When we are in Christ, the process of being renewed to be truly human begins. However, these verses also depict the future orientation of human life. Restoration or redemption from Sin and to God is part a present reality and part a future orientation. Our full renewal or restoration awaits its full discloser at the return of Christ (Sherlock). Our restoration to wholeness, our full redemption from Sin, our renewal to being truly human awaits our future resurrection. Along with Paul, I too eagerly await, and inwardly long for that glorious day, when everything that I am will be renewed in the image of God, and I can enjoy and worship God without the hindrance of sin. Then I will see God for who He really is, and I will see others and myself for who they are.

Wholeness in Christ

A few selections from Charles Sherlock's 'Doctrine of Humanity'

"Wholeness is an idea which has gained much attention in recent decades, particularly in the light of the split that many, especially men, experience in living. Anything which contributes to holistic living is valued highly today, while dualistic impulses are vigorously avoided. Christian faith points to Jesus Christ as THE example of a whole life lived in full integrity, 'without sin'. The distinctive feature of the work of Christ is that he freely gave up his life, so that his wholeness might be offered to all... Salvation in Christ brings healing from the consequences of sin, a healing whose fullness awaits our resurrection but is anticipated in the present through the work of the Spirit."

Garden

In light of good Friday, here is a song called 'Garden' by Needtobreathe

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gospel= Saved by Works?

To some degree, everyone on this earth tries to justify their existence by works. Everyone thinks they are saved, or are justified in their existence, or will go to heaven based on works. Most people trust in their own works or own goodness. At the end of the day, they believe they are good people, who have done enough 'works' to get in. Comparatively speaking, we all think we are better than most. As humans, we inherently trust in our own works to justify ourselves. 


The gospel is both similar and sharply contrasted to this. The gospel says the only way to be saved is by works.....but not your own. And here is the gospel, or good news. 


The Bible testifies against man, that in their own works, or own goodness, no one is righteousness, not one. In our own standing, we are completely and utterly hopeless. Before God, any attempt to stand on our own two feet, or any attempt to justify ourselves by thinking we really aren't that bad, or are better than our neighbor or the 'evil' people in the world, won't stand. But, God being rich in mercy and great in love, saw this problem of Sin. He sent His Son to live the perfect life, and die the death we deserve. Now, though we all are condemned based on our own lives, the good news is that we can be saved based on the works of another. The gospel is that we are saved by works....but not our own. The gospel is that Christ's work is fully sufficient to merit salvation. More so, this is a gift that is given freely by grace. It can't be earned. So why would we spend our lives striving so hard to try and earn God's favor? Why do we try to justify our existence with our own goodness? Jesus is better. Being a Christian is to forsake, or turn from your own work/goodness and to turn to Christ and His work. In the words of my favorite hymn, 'Rock of Ages'


"Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to your Cross I cling, 
Naked look to thee for dress
Helpless look to thee for grace."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Life of Jesus


"The life of Jesus is characterized by his delight in enabling the disabled, and in challenging the self-satisfied" 

From Charles Sherlock's, The Doctrine of Humanity

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Pervasiveness of Sin in All Culture

"In the midst of this issue we encounter the effects of sin on human cultures. No society, or aspect of any society, if free from the outworkings of human pride, self-centeredness and the desire to be in control: these are signs of the corruption of our God-given dominion. Customs such as human sacrifice, female circumcision, widow burning, foot binding, prostitution, slavery and torture are clearly opposed to God's will for human life. Others are less obviously wrong, but reinforce  sinful attitudes such as selfishness, greed or lust; television commercials provide plenty of evidence of the highly ambiguous culture of consumerism. Even in those aspects of culture which embody the highest ideals to which human beings aspire, or which celebrate the goodness of God that pervades everyday life, sin is present. Consider birth, retirement, setting up a new home, or beginning a meal: a child can be seen only as evidence of a parent's achievement, whether in fertility or child rearing; retirement as boasting or escaping to laziness; a new home can provide the chance for ostentatious display; and even grace at the table can be a means of controlling behavior. Indeed, the worst idols are precisely the best things set in the place of God, and it is their God-given goodness which makes them attractive."

From Charles Sherlock's, The Doctrine of Humanity

Where Are the Young Men Like Paul

In the last chapter of his life, the Apostle Paul, constrained by the Spirit, decided to return to Jerusalem in order to preach the gospel. He did this knowing that this choice would certainly result in death. Why would he do something so radical? Speaking to the elders at Ephesus, Paul wrote,

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again."  Acts 20:24-25

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Humility of Christ

What other motivation do we need? Look at what the Savior has done.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Revival in Little Rock, AR

Revival: "God's quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives." J.I. Packer

An encouraging report of revival in Little Rock, AR. 

The Song of a Christian

"Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, 
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgements against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil"
Zephaniah 3:14-15


Is this your song? Is this your life? The question that the Bible beckons every man and woman, is, 'Have you experienced this forgiveness and restoration? Where your life was once ruled by sin, you were once separated from God and you rightly deserved His judgment, but now, through Christ you have been forgiven. Your life is now defined by knowing, worshipping and glorifying God. Your life is defined by God's presence. 

If your life isn't defined by the kind of praise Zephaniah describes in verse 14, (Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with ALL your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!) it is because you haven't experienced the truth of verse 15. We all deserve God's judgement. On an individual level we are guilty. On a corporate level we are guilty. In this passage, the prophet Zephaniah is  fortelling of a time when Israel will be restored. Though they deserve God's wrath, God has a plan to redeem sinners. 

The judgement we deserve is God's wrath. We deserve death. Here is the good news. Throughout the history of man, God had been pleading with man to turn back to him. Yet, in our stubbornness and wickedness, we always went our own way. Our efforts were never enough to make things right. And we continued in our way. But God wasn't done with us. He promised that He himself would make a way for us to know Him, and enjoy Him, and be redeemed from sin once and for all. The promise was fulfilled in His Son Jesus. The Father sent the Son to take upon himself the judgement we deserve. We all alike, are by nature sinful, judgement deserving creatures. Yet, God is so loving and gracious, He left His throne in heaven, and took the punishment upon himself that we rightly deserved. This was out of sheer grace. God can take away the judgement reserved for us, because Jesus, at the cross, absorbed the judgement. 

Now, to those who believe in Jesus, there is no more condemnation. This is reason to praise. This is reason to 'rejoice and exult with all your heart'. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Promises Of God Are Our Foundation

"Our relationship with God should not be defined by our feelings about ourselves at any one moment, but by the eternal promises of God that we know throughout every moment."

-Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

….

I often fall into a deceiving and foundationless mindset when I awake in the morning. I am burdened by the "daily doing" that lies ahead of me. My attitude and mood can be entirely dependent on my moral successes and failures of the previous day. I can be filled with so much unrest. I lose sight of where I truly stand with God, and seem to forget the joy of my salvation in the gospel.

But, I am brought back to peace when the scripture is spoken to me. God's word empowers me to believe in someone outside of myself, Christ Jesus. When you look at the person of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, you begin to see He is the only answer to yourself. His life is the only explicable and powerful being that can deal with me. May we stay reminded that the Bible's truths are personal. They are corporate. They are defining. They are applicable. They are unchanging, and they are transcendent through all of time. If we embrace each and every moment in light of the truth of the Bible, I believe we will see more and more how they prove to be true!

Redemption in Disgrace

"At the cross, Jesus took everything that was ugly and broken about each of us, and covered us in His love. My healing started when I finally saw the extent of Jesus' grace for me. Jesus poured out His forgiveness for my sin"

What a beautiful Gospel!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Truly Human

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" Genesis 1:27

God is the creator of all life. All of creation is a masterpiece made by God. As Genesis reads, everything that God had made was 'very good'. But of all creation, Man was the only thing that God made in his image. We were created with God's stamp imprinted on our soul. We are made to know God in a unique way. We were formed with the intent of being infinitely intimate with Him.  Being made in God's image, we were created to reflect His glory in all of creation. We were called to be image bearers. This is what it is to be truly human.

Yet, even though God is the glorious maker and giver of life. Though He graciously entered into relationship with His creation, Man went his own way. We rebelled. We failed to be His image bearers. We chose the path of autonomy and rebellion over intimacy with our Creator. What was the result of this? The intimacy was lost. The purpose for which we were created was thwarted. Instead of experiencing the perfect delight of knowing and cherishing our Creator, as we were created for, our hearts are restless, insecure. We feel shame (Genesis 3: 8-12). Because we are separated from God, because we don't properly live as His image bearers, our relationships are broken. Because we were created with God's image stamped in our souls, our lives are broken unless that image is restored, unless God is at the absolute center. What's the solution?


"He is the image of the invisible God" Colossians 1:15

In Genesis, God identifies this problem as sin. Sin is what thwarts our image bearing. Sin dehumanizes. To be human is to know and enjoy God as we, as humans, were created to. But Sin is a cancer that derails the true essence of our humanity. So what's the solution? How is our relationship restored? How is our image bearing renewed?

One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is Genesis 3:15. Right after Adam and Eve fall, condemning themselves, along with all their descendants (us), God makes a marvelous promise. Even though they have turned their backs on Him, God so loved us that He promised that one day He would make things right again. He promises that He will crush Sin. Even more amazing is the way in which God does this. God sends the True Image Bearer. God sent His Son Jesus, not as someone made 'in the image' of God, but as 'THE image of God'. The Son himself was God, but became man, living in human flesh. His mission was to defeat Sin, thus redeeming Man from its curse, and restoring them to that which they were created for, knowing and enjoying God. Jesus defeated Sin by absorbing the full weight of its curse, death and shame on the cross, and then resurrecting, thus displaying His victory over the power of Sin.

The Bible says that those who truly believe in Jesus have been 'born again' or 'given new life'. That's because we are given life in 'THE image bearer'. Before we were under Adam, who failed to be an image bearer, who was under sin. Now we are under Christ, who redeems from Sin, in order to restore us to a relationship with God. Through our union with Christ, we are being conformed to His image. We are being restored. Where Adam failed, and Sin crept in, Christ's victory and grace abounded. The only way to be truly human is to be given new life through faith in Christ. And as Jesus said, He came to give abundant life.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Of No Value

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-"Do no handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"(referring to things that all perish as they are used)-according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" Colossians 2: 20-23

Paul writes to the Colossians asking why they are still falling under the 'elemental' spirits of the world. The phrase 'elemental spirits' comes from a word meaning 'order', specifically, 'alphabetical order'. So in other words, Paul is asking why the Colossian Christians are following the ABC's of the world, as if the orders or regulations of the world can give life. What are the ABC's of the world? What is the world 'order'? Given the following verses, I think Paul is referring to the worlds system of religion. Religion is obeying God in order that He will accept you. Religion is trying to climb a ladder to heaven. Religion is finding comfort in your goodness. Religion is sin management. It's like putting a band aid on a gaping open wound. Religion is lifeless.

In verse 23, Paul states that the ABC's of the world, mans system of being right with God indeed has the appearance of wisdom. It looks good. They have the appearance of piety. Yet, as Paul goes on in chapter 3, true life comes from our union with Christ, wherein we are given a new self. Because the Colossians are united to Christ, just as he has been raised, they too are raised to newness of life. Because Christ died to sin, so they too are dead to sin. Their lives are hidden with Christ. (ch. 3). Why then would they spend their time following the ABC's of the world, trying to get to God by religion? It is of value. They must look to their union with Christ. They must look at the work of another. Everything in the Christian life flows from this.

This makes me ask myself, in what ways am I looking to self-made religion in order to move closer to God. Am I depending on the ABC's of the world for my justification, sanctification, redemption and wisdom? In what ways am I using religion as a cover up, to give the appearance of asceticism? In what ways do I try to look good so people and God will approve of me? This is of no value. This is lifeless. What is of value is Christ. He is the only one who can give life to a dead corpse. True life is found in Him only. And, we aren't to just look to Christ for our 1 time conversion event, where we are given new life. We are to look for Him for life everyday. Our present union with Christ is the grounds for everything in this Christian life. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Propaganda and the Gospel

Here's the gospel in five minutes from a guy named Propaganda. This is awesome!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Fulfilled in Jesus

 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, 


   “when I will make a new covenant  with the people of Israel 
   and with the people of Judah. 
It will not be like the covenant  I made with their ancestors 
when I took them by the hand  to lead them out of Egypt, 
because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them declares the LORD. 
 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel 
   after that time,” declares the LORD. 
I will put my law in their minds  and write it on their hearts
I will be their God,  and they will be my people. 
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ 
because they will all know me
   from the least of them to the greatest,” 
            declares the LORD. 
For I will forgive their wickedness 
   and will remember their sins no more.

God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah of a New Covenant that He would make with His people. It would be a new and better covenant. Whereas with the Old Covenant, God gave His people the law. Yet, they were never able to obey. They're hearts were sinful. They needed a heart transplant. With the Old Covenant, sin caused a separation of intimacy between God and His people. Though God was their husband, though He brought them out of Egypt, and gave them a King (David), and the prophets, Israel repeatedly turned from knowing God in an intimate way, as we were all created to know him. With the Old Covenant, God's people had to constantly atone for their sins through repeated sacrifices. They needed animal sacrifices and the work of the high priests for forgiveness.

However, the in the New Covenant, God fulfilled these things in Jesus. Through the New Covenant, we have a new experience of obedience, a new experience of intimacy with God, and a new experience of forgiveness. The Son came from heaven to earth, taking on human flesh, died on the cross, and resurrected in order to give us this new experience; in order that He would be our God, and we would be His people. 

In the New Covenant, we are united to Christ, and are therefore indwelled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us a new heart and new life. In our old life, we loved sin. We lived according to the flesh, according to the world. Our taste buds were for sin. Our delight was in sin. Yet, through Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us. The Spirit gives us new hearts; hearts that desire and long to obey God. The Spirit gives us new taste buds. Whereas in the past, sin tasted so good to our souls, it now is disgusting. Our taste buds long to feast on the things of God. We live according to the Spirit. God's law is no longer a burden, but it is a delight. It has been written on our hearts. (Romans 8)

In the New Covenant, we are united to Christ and therefore have an deep intimacy with God. Whereas before, sin and death inhibited us from having fellowship with God. Now, Jesus is our covenant representative. We have access to God through Christ. We were once enemies, but have been made friends. We were once fatherless, but are now called Sons/Daughters! The natural intimacy that Adam and Eve had with God before they rebelled can now be experienced. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me" (John 10:14), and "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:7)

Lastly, in the New Covenant, we have a new experience of forgiveness. This forgiveness is different from the Old Covenant in that it is COMPLETE. It is complete in that this sacrifice was once for all. It was for ALL the sins of His people. No longer would God's people have to look to repeated sacrifices of atonement for forgiveness. Rather, with the New Covenant, they would look to their New Covenant representative for forgiveness. The Son came to earth, and died as the all time sacrifice for sins. Our sin greatly angers God. Our sin deserves wrath. It deserves punishment. That is why in the Old Testament, people had to constantly atone for their sins. Something had to pay the price. God is just. Sin can't go unnoticed. But the gospel tells us that God has made a new Covenant, where He would do the most radical thing. His Son would come to earth, and take the once for all punishment for our sins. Even though we have been unfaithful from the beginning. God so loved the world that He (the Son) sacrificed himself on the Cross for His people's sins, once and for all. Let's look at a few verses from Hebrews and Romans...

"he (Jesus) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats or calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption."  Hebrews 9:12

"But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Hebrews 9:27

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" Romans 3:23-25

"having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:13-14



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Scripture is Christ-Centered

"The bodily resurrection of Christ not only signifies God's victory over sin and death but also declares the nature of that victory. It is total, comprehensive; so comprehensive that it claims that history is moving towards nothing less than a fully restored and glorified universe. Those who are in Christ, along with the entirety of creation, will receive his resurrection life upon his appearing.

This means that Christ is the center of the biblical story. Through out its length, Scripture has a Christ-centered thrust: he will come! The Bible tells the redemptive story of the promised Messiah who came to redeem. That thrust must define our understanding of the nature of Scripture and the way we read it. As we look back to the earlier chapters in the story, we must see that the coming of the covenant promise to Adam that God will crush the power of the evil one (Genesis 3:15). The coming of the Messiah forms the foundation for God's covenant promise with Noah that creation will be sustained for all time (Genesis 8:22). The coming of the energizes God's covenant promise to Abraham that he and his posterity will be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3). And the coming of the Messiah burns in the covenant promise to the prophets that God will write his law on the hearts of his people and will give them the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34). In the resurrection of Christ, God has begun to make good on his promise....Because God's plan of salvation is fulfilled in Christ, Jesus is the leading player, the protagonist of the biblical drama of redemption."

From Mike William's Far as the Curse is Found

Earthshaking Earnestness

From Richard Baxter's poem, Love Breathing Thanks and Praise,

"I preach as never sure to preach again, 
And as a dying man to dying men!"

When considering the radical claims of the Gospel, when facing the realities of death and eternity, when there are people sitting in the congregation who are dead in their sins, how can I preach about trivialities? The puritan Richard Baxter had a profound sense of urgency in his preaching because he understood the weight of the matter. This gave him a deep sincerity and earnestness in his preaching. No matter the cost, he preached as a dying man, to dying men. Check out this quote from his book, The Reformed Pastor,

"I marvel how I can preach slightly and coldly, 
how I can let men alone in their sins, and that I do not go to
them and beseech them for the Lord's sake to repent,
however they take it, and whatever pains or troubles it should cost me. 
Shouldn't thou weep over such a people, 
and should not thy tears interrupt thy words?
Shouldn't not thou cry aloud and show them their transgressions, 
and entreat and beseech them to life?"