Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On Mine Arm Shall They Trust

HT Dan Orr:

The following comes from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning (per Aug. 31st):

“On mine arm shall they trust.” – Isaiah 49:5
In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God, and God alone! There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless, that he has nowhere else to turn, he flies into his Father’s arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles, so pressing and so peculiar that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time. Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! Now that thou hast only thy God to trust to, see that thou puttest thy full confidence in Him. Dishonor not thy Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; But be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that thy God is worth ten thousand worlds to thee. Show rich men how rich thou art in thy poverty when the Lord God is thy helper. Show the strong man how strong thou art in thy weakness and when underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord thy God shall certainly, as surely as he built the heavens and the earth, glorify Himself in thy weakness, and magnify His might in the midst of thy distress. The grandeur of the arch of heaven would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the carnal eye. May the Holy Spirit give you rest in Jesus this day.


Thanks D.O. Needed these words today.

He Will Deliver Us

"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessings granted us through the prayers of many."

2 Corinthians 1: 8-11

He delivered us...
He will deliver us...
He will deliver us again...

This is the ultimate assurance and hope of a Christian. God has delivered in the past, he is delivering us now, and he will surely deliver us again. That's my only hope. Thanks be to God!

A Psalm of Confidence

"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. 
Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.....
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress."
Psalm 46: 1-3,7

What are your troubles today? What is it that bears down on your soul, threatening to crush you? Where are you weak? Come what may, this psalm tells us that God's people dwell secure. Our hope is not in our own ability to lift our own burdens, or that in our own strength we can withstand the devastating blows of this life. In times of trouble, we are not strong enough.

But, God tells his people that He himself is there strength. He is an unshakable, impenetrable refuge. With the Lord as our refuge, the troubles of this life are as raindrops falling onto a concrete shelter. We dwell in the only shelter that is able to protect us from the storm. More so, our God is a very present help. Our hope doesn't rest in a distant, theoretical God. Our hope is in the God who is there and who is not silent. His strength becomes our strength. He actively protects His people. The thoughts of his children are many. 

Martin Luther said of this psalm,

"We sing this psalm to the praise of God because God is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends His church and His Word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Importance of Tradition

"Tradition is the greatest expression of democracy." --G.K. Chesterton

One of the reasons why tradition is so important is because it opens the doors to opinions and thoughts that are from a different context than our own. It gives a voice to people from other time periods that may not have the same biases as us. In terms of theology, it helps us see the whole. When we are zeroed in, and only understand theology in our own context or setting, our understanding is very limited. However, when we open up our understanding of God to those who are of different current contexts than our own, and also those from different time periods, we are enriched.

This quote reminds me that I have much to learn from both those who have gone before me, as well as those who are living today who  come from completely different contexts and backgrounds than I do. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

As a Deer Pants For Flowing Streams

"As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the the living God."

Psalm 42:1-2

What is your souls foremost desire? What is it that you seek above all? What is your principle necessity for life? 

With these words from the psalmists, we see that the Living God is both his chief desire and enjoyment, and also his primary necessity in order to go on in life. The psalmist did not desire respect, nor power, nor worldly comfort. His only comfort comes from communion with His God. And we see that communion with His God is his foremost enjoyment, and foremost necessity. 

Yesterday was a blistering day in St. Louis. The high temperature got up to 100 degrees. You can imagine how hot it feels during football practice @ 3:00, on the field turf, with absolutely no cover from the sun. During the course of a 2.5 hour practice, the players are obviously going to build up quite a thirst. You should see the scene when a water break is called. Pure relief. To someone who is thirsty, there is no greater luxury that cold water. To a parched man, there is nothing sweeter than tasting the refreshing waters upon his tongue. He desires that water above all else. He will seek that water.

Furthermore, as Charles Spurgeon says about this verse, "He (the psalmist) viewed it (water) not merely as the sweetest of all luxuries but as an absolute necessity, like water to a stag." We all need water to live. The psalmist pants after God because it is a necessity in order for him to live. A day without God and he is destitute, gasping for life, lost. With God, his heart is content, his life is full, his soul satisfied. In the absence of God, life is not true life.

 God is not a genie in a bottle where we come to him every once in a while when we have pressing supplications. God is the principle necessity of day to day life. Our life desire should be to be in communion with Him. Without communion with God, this entire life is worthless. The whole point of creation, both God creating us, and God creating the world, is for us to be in communion with Him, not as a mystical guy in the sky, but as the Living God. Our very life should be found in him. We need God as a deer needs water to survive. Likewise, we should desire and pant after him as such. 

Have we experienced this kind of feeling? Does your soul pant for God, as a deer pants after water? Is communion with God your foremost enjoyment, and also you primary necessity to live? It's easy to become distracted in this world, putting God on the back burners. But, these verses remind us that God is the sweetest of all enjoyments. He is better than the enjoyments of the world. He gives true life. Further, God is what our hearts need. Without him, we are walking dead men. 

Lastly, the good news is that God has sent a Savior, Jesus, in order that our thirsts may be quenched. God sent Jesus, who referred to himself as the Bread of Life, and as the water that will quench our thirsts. This water is free and for all. Jesus invites all who are thirsty, to come and taste, to come and be restored to life. He came to sinners, in order to give them the sweetest enjoyment, and the principle necessity. Why wait?

For myself, I pray that God gives me this thirst, that I would desire communion with Him above all else, and that God would become increasingly sweet to me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

God All-Sufficient

O Lord of Grace...

Accept His worthiness for my unworthiness,
his sinlessness for my transgressions,
his purity for my uncleanliness,
his sincerity for my guile,
his truth for my deceits,
his meekness for my pride,
his constancy for my backslidings,
his love for my enmity,
his fullness for my emptiness,
his faithfulness for my treachery,
his obedience for my lawlessness,
his glory for my shame,
his devotedness for my waywardness,
his holy life for my unchaste ways,
his righteousness for my dead works,
his death for my life.

-Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


An amazing scene from Les Miserables which displays the type of grace God shows his children.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Fish Out Of Water

"When a fish leaves the water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead."--Tim Keller

As humans, we all seek freedom. We seek true life. The Bible's is God's Word to us, that this inner longing we have for true life and true freedom exists because we were created by God, to know God. True life and true freedom are only found when we are found in him. It is what we are made for. That is why the idols of this world, (power, success, respect, fame, wealth, security, comfort, love), never REALLY satisfy. We seek them, in hopes of gaining freedom and life, yet they always disappoint. All those things point us to the only thing which can truly satisfy our hearts. Just as Keller says, when we seek freedom in these other things, we think they will give us just that, freedom, but rather, they lead to death. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Busyness and Prayer

"Tomorrow I plan to work, work from early until late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer."

-Martin Luther


"Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time."

-Charles H. Spurgeon

Patience and Steadfastness in Suffering

"As an example of suffering and patience, brothers,
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. 
You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, 
and have seen the purpose of the Lord,
how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.....
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray."
James 3: 10-13

The idea of patience and steadfastness in God's compassion and mercy amidst suffering is truly a foreign idea in our western culture today. In fact, most people spend their lives, striving everyday towards the goal of comfort and security. Suffering is something to be avoided at all costs. Amidst suffering, people may exhibit patience and steadfastness, but it is the hope that if they keep holding on, eventually the suffering will be gone, and they will return to their 'good life'. However, we see in these verses from James that our patience and steadfastness in suffering should be in God's glory. We should be patient and steadfast in suffering, not because we are consumed with ourselves, in the hope of a cushy life again, but because we are consumed with our God, and know that through our suffering, his purposes are being revealed, and his mercy and compassion are being displayed to us. The glory of our Creator is primary. This is the difference between worldly patience in suffering and Christian suffering. Suffering is not to be sought, yet it is to be expected, and embraced when encountered. James gives us every reason to embrace suffering with a steadfast hope in God. In verse 13, he exhorts his readers to look to the example of the prophets which came before. 

Throughout the Scriptures, most of the major players in the Bible story encounter some form of suffering. Why does this happen? Isn't suffering just a punishment for our mistakes? In Tullian Tchividjian's 'Surprised By Grace', the author dissects the story of the prophet Jonah, certainly someone from whom we could learn a thing or two about suffering. One thing that is clear from reading the book of Jonah, along with Tullian's book, is that God is sovereign over our situations, especially our sufferings. But this begs the question, why? Why does God allow suffering? Further, the even tells Christians that they in fact will suffer, not might suffer. 

Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and spent three days in the whales belly. What was it like in there? Well, I've  never been inside a fish, so I can't say for sure, but I imagine it was terrifying. Surrounded by darkness, and filled with uncertainty, Jonah indeed was suffering. But this brings us back to the question of 'why?'. 

Taking heed from James, as we look back at the prophets, it is clear that suffering has a purpose. Suffering brings us to a posture of desperation. Desperation leads us to turn our eyes to God. Desperation shatters all of our false hopes. When we are stripped of everything, we are left only to cling to God. Through our suffering, we are able to taste God's compassion and mercy in a fresh new way. We are able to know God's grace, and to trust in his purposes in ways in which we would not have otherwise. Suffering leads to desperation, and desperation leads to us crying out to God. Take a look at these examples. (these are taken from Tchividjian's 'Surprised By Grace')

In desperation, Jonah prayed. "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me" (Jonah 2:1)

In desperation, David prayed. "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:6)

In desperation, Hannah prayed. "She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly" (1 Samuel 1:10)

In desperation, Jeremiah prayed. "Water closed over my head; I said, 'I am lost.' I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, 'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!'" (Lamentations 3: 54-56)

And with Job. "My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me. The guests of my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger; I have become a foreigner in their eyes....My breath is strange to my wife and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me......For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God." Job 19: 14-25

And lastly, with Jesus, who like Jonah, faced three days and nights in the darkest of places. "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22: 44). 

In sum, in our times of suffering and affliction, we are to be patient and steadfast. We are to trust God. We can trust God because we have seen throughout history his faithfulness to his children. He may bring times of suffering, but it is not the end of the story. Our present suffering and afflictions reveal God's glory. In our desperation, we are able to see God's goodness, and plentiful redemption that is in Christ. 
Like James says, those who are steadfast and patient in their sufferings are blessed. They are blessed because through their situations, they come out knowing God's grace in a radical new way. Through our sufferings we are made more acutely aware of our sonship

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Spirit of the Mind

"and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 
and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God
in true righteousness and holiness"
Ephesians 4:23-24

A few observations about these two verses....

1: Our mind has a Spirit
  • As humans, we are quite unique in our thought life. We are not merely robots, acting off of chemical reactions, but we are created after the likeness of God, made with a mind that is able to think, know, feel, and love. This verse refers to this as the spirit of the mind. 
  • The spirit of our minds is deceitful. Something I notice about myself, is that I can sit down for hours and watch my favorite sports team. I can memorize every fact about the Chicago Bulls, or have the Bears 53 man roster memorized. I can tell you the Florida Gator's football recruiting stats for the last 5 years. But the second I sit down and try to focus on the Bible, it's like my mind is at war with me. I instantly start thinking of other things I need to do. When I try to meditate on Christ, my mind instantly wants to be elsewhere. I imagine I'm not the only one like this. This is because our mind by nature is depraved. We crave to put ourselves as primary, and God as secondary. It has been this way since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. And because of this.....
2: Our mind needs to be renewed
  • As stated earlier, we are made unique in regards to our thought life. We have an amazing ability to think, feel, know, love, and be loved. Further, our minds were ultimately created to know Christ, to love him, to be loved by him, to feel him. Given the depravity of our minds, where we constantly want to do things our way, rather than God's way, our minds need to be renewed. We need to be renewed to what they were created for. We were created to know and enjoy God. This is what is best for us. This is for our flourishing, for our good. It is for our joy. 
  • Renewal is not a matter of information. The right information is everywhere. You can find it on the internet in a second. It is not a matter of merely knowing gospel facts, or knowing the information that God is the creator, and his Son Jesus is savior. There are countless millions in the world today who are informative Christians (which are no Christians at all). Being a Christian is transformative. Our minds must be transformed by the gospel. The Spirit of our mind must be renewed. And we are transformed not by mere information, but through the power of the gospel. 
3. Renewed in Christ:
  • These verses tell us to be 'renewed in our minds, putting on the new self'. This new self is referring to our new life. The only way to have new life is through Christ. Being renewed in the spirit of the mind is not a matter of effort, it is a matter of surrender. We can only be renewed, we can only put on the new self, when we've surrendered the old self to Christ.
  • Being renewed in Christ doesn't come when we try really really really hard to start thinking the right things, and being extra moral, or extra environmental, or extra nice. No. It comes when we realize that our minds are depraved, and that they never could renew themselves, no matter how hard we try, and that they are constantly putting our way as primary and God as secondary. And renewal comes when we realize this, and surrender our minds to Jesus, who was the only One who had a perfect mind. Jesus was everything we were supposed to be. Where we blew it, Jesus overcame. His mind was perfectly righteous and holy. Ours are not. 
  • Let us look to the Jesus, who had the perfect mind in the likeness of God, that our minds may be renewed in Him. 


Thursday, August 18, 2011

At Every Point, In Every Way

From Tullian Tchividjian's 'Surprised By Grace',

"Do you know what would  happen if every human being concluded that God's way was the right way and God's call the right call? Every human problem would come to an end. The root of every human problem is our desire to be our own god and to carry out justice in the way we ourselves are sure is best.

In all human history, there has only been One who concluded, at every point, and in every way, that God's way is always best and God's call is always right. Because of him, every human problem will someday come to an end. In the meantime, we'll never see the end of our own misery if we do not recognize Jesus, this one who so perfectly submitted to God's way and God's call."

Who is This Mediator?

From the Heidelberg Catechism:

15. Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

      A. One who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.

16. Q. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

      A. God's justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must for its sin; but a sinner could never pay for others.

17. Q. Why must he also be true God?

      A. So that, but the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God's anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

18. Q. And who is this mediator, true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

      A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God.

"For there is one God, and there is one  mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all." 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Amen for that!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lending Generously

"I have been young, and now am old, 
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing."
Psalm 37:25-26

Do I view God as a stingy task-master, who at my mistakes will withhold himself from me? Or, do I rightly view him as a loving Father, who is ever generous, and who delights to lavish his gifts upon his children out of sheer grace and benevolence? This is something that I daily struggle to understand. I tend to view God as an exacting judge, who views me based on my performance. When I'm doing well spiritually, he is happy. But when I am not doing well, he is disgusted. 

But the good news of Jesus Christ, is that Jesus lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died, so that if we trust in him, and are in him, God is well pleased with us. Period. If you are indeed, God now views you with the same satisfaction as he does his own Son, Jesus. God delights in you because of what Jesus did on your behalf. 

I pray God continues to give his children a deeper awareness that He is ever generous, and that he does not leave his children begging for bread, but that He graciously lavishes Himself upon his children. He loves them, not because of their performance, but because of the performance of His Son, Jesus, in whom His children are united to. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Luke 18:9-14


This passage gets me every time. I am so similar to the Pharisee Jesus describes. I often find myself too concerned with the spiritual resume I'm building in my heart. If I only really grasped my appropriate position before my Almighty and Holy Lord, like the tax collector. He had nothing of his own to claim. He knew he was scum. He was ashamed to enter fully into the temple, as he stood far off, and he knew he was far from worthy to even raise his eyes to heaven. His only words in prayer were a simple plea, claiming God's mercy! The text is clear. Jesus welcomes this plea. In fact, that is exactly what He desires for us. Period.

My prayer for renewal in this comes from an excerpt from Whiter than Snow by Paul Tripp:

"So I am hoping for wise eyes that are able to see through the cloud of self-righteousness and see myself as I actually am. I am praying for wise ears that are able to hear through the background noise of well-used platitudes and hear myself with clarity. And I am longing for a humble spirit that is willing to accept and confess what you reveal as You break through my defenses and show me to me. I am hoping for a broken heart."

Psalm 51:17 "A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Praise the Lord for His love for prodigal love for sinners!

The Finished Work of Christ: Past, Present and Future

This past week, I've been extremely blessed and encouraged through Francis Schaeffer's book, 'True Spirituality'. Throughout the book, Schaeffer expounds on the spiritual realities of a Christian. Mainly, Schaeffer points out that true spirituality is living in a conscious reality of the finished work of Christ. For many Christians, this may be a foreign concept; the finished work of Christ. However, this very concept should be the center of the Christian life, past, present and future.

By the finished work of Christ, I am referring to the completed substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, in which he bore the sins of His people by absorbing God's just wrath that was rightly reserved for sinners, thus redeeming His people from sin and restoring them unto himself, adopting us as children of God.

Most Christians are able to rightly apply this concept to their past and future. However, as Schaeffer points out, most of us fail to live by the finished work of Christ moment by moment. Think about it. Most Christians know that because of Christ's death, their past sins are forgiven. They are justified. Likewise, they know that Christ's finished work secures their eternal future with Christ. Yet, what does the finished work of Christ mean for me in my day to day life? Schaeffer spends a great deal talking about how our moment by moment reality must be based on Christ's finished work. In other words, we know our justification is based on Christ's finished work, yet we fail to see how the finished work of Christ applies to our sanctification, or our Christian life.

Schaeffer writes:

"Now just as in the conscious area of sanctification as a whole, so here in restoration everything rests upon the reality of the fact that the blood of Christ has meaning in our present life, and restoration takes place as we, in faith, act upon the face that in specific cases of sin.....It is learning the reality of the meaning of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, in our present life, and consciously beginning to act upon it"


"the blood of Christ has meaning for me in my present life when I have fallen and my peace is gone. Restoration must be first upon understanding of what Christ has done for us in this area, and then beginning to practice this moment by moment."

In our day to day struggle, living the Christian life is living in light of Christ's finished work. It is living in the reality of what Christ has already accomplished. It is living with a deep awareness that Christ's finished work is the only thing sufficient for our forgiveness. It is living with a deep awareness that because of what Christ did, we are fully adopted as children of God. It is drawing upon the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, because of what Christ has done. All of this is based on the finished work of Christ on the cross. We must see Christ's finished work as not only the grounds for our justification (past life), but also our sanctification (present life). 

Jesus: The Full Manifestation of Psalm 36

"Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
you faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; 
in your light do we see light."
Psalm 36: 5-9

Time and time again I am amazed at the continuity of the Bible. In these verses from Psalm 36, David is exclaiming the marvelous characteristics of his God. God's love, his righteousness, judgment, how he quenches thirst, his light, etc... We see David using metaphors in order to paint a picture of the just how deep and infinite God's perfections are. In a sense, in this life we will never fully understand just how deep God's love is, or how perfect his faithfulness is. Yet, God has revealed this things to his people in history. Specifically, Jesus Christ, who is the full embodiment of God in human flesh, fully displayed these characteristics. In Jesus, we see God's true and perfect love. In Jesus, we see God's faithfulness on display. We see the fulfillment of the promise of salvation. By Jesus, will people be judged, whether they rejected the Son of God, or whether they have repented of themselves, and turned to believe in the gospel. Jesus provides the true Lord's Supper, a feast for God's people, by providing himself as the lamb of God. Jesus provides the rivers of living water, so that those who are spiritual thirsty may come to him and drink, and be satisfied. Jesus is the light of the world, so that in him, we may no loner walk in darkness. 

Jesus is the embodiment, fulfillment, and manifestation of God's steadfast love, his faithfulness, his judgement, his abundant provisions, and satisfying presence. 

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant." Hebrews 9:15

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith" Romans 1:16-17

"the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." Romans 3:22

"The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.....whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life." John 5:22-24

"....whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14

" I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

Monday, August 15, 2011

Glimpses of Grace: Identity, Idolatry, and the Gospel (part 2)

A great write up on idolatry by my good friend Erik Most. I highly recommend following his blog at: Glimpses of Grace

So put bluntly, in modern terms, Herod was a tool. Cocky. He thought he was the man, and wanted everyone to know it. He was that guy in the clubs with the popped collar, stunner shades on, hair gelled stiff, using money like napkins. Think Jersey Shore.

As Jeremiah and I considered this individual, we asked ourselves an important question. What about the human heart leads to action such as this? Herod’s behavior certainly isn’t anachronistic. We’ve seen power trips like this all throughout history, and we still see them today. Trump. Where’s the commonality? That common denominator is idolatry. The sin of idolatry subtly ravages the human heart. Idolatry can be defined as looking to other things to provide the comfort, satisfaction, joy, peace, security, and rest that only God can provide. Ask yourself the question, “If only I had _______, then I would be OK.” Or, “As long as _________ continues to happen, then I’m OK.” Fill in the blank. For Herod it was power. It was control. As long as he was in control, and could CLEARLY demonstrate it, he was ok. Herod was defined by lavishness and opulence. It could be different for you. Financial security? Family? Job? Marriage? Social status? Car? House? Education? Sex? Influence? What is the one thing in your life that if you lost it, you would be utterly devastated? An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.

Now keep in mind Jeremiah’s last sentence. “We met Jesus.” We’re going there. I want to be clear on why we are going there before we do.

Jeremiah and I looked at Herod’s idolatrous situation, and ultimately ours, in terms of a two-fold identity. After a particular lecture in Caesarea, Jeremiah came up to me and applied these concepts of passive identity and active identity. Passive identity includes the factors you are defined by that are outside of your control. For example, your parents. Your neighborhood. Basically, the culture you were born into. This is very formative, and provides foundational nourishment through adolescence. Yet there comes a point where the individual delves deeper into personal autonomy.

We’ll call this active identity. From Jeremiah’s and my experience, we’ve seen this happen somewhere in the teens. At this point, the individual has had sufficient experience in the world, and starts making moves. Affections are stirred in particular directions, toward different things. Individuals start deciding who they want to be. What they want to be known for. This life long process of active identity and personal autonomy is an idolatrous incubator. You, me, and Herod place our identity and affections in these things that allure our hearts so effectively.

So what does Jesus have to do with this? In accordance with our trip, I want to demonstrate the character of God and idolatry through the Old Testament. This will help us make sense of Jesus. We are led to 1 Kings 18, where Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. This was a site we were blessed to visit a few weeks back.

The purpose for Elijah’s contest was to directly confront the idol of the Israelites. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were promoting a pluralistic society in Israel. They saw no problem with worshipping Baal one day, and the Lord on the Sabbath. The case is no different in our present day. We live in a society that is absolutely deistically pluralistic. In the text, Baal was not a concrete god as we see with other ancient gods like Zeus. Baal was understood in more of a generic sense. There was a Baal for everything, such as water, food, and land. In our culture, these Baals still exist. Everything can be a Baal, and everything has been a Baal. How many times in our culture do we see success on TV, and think, “if only I had that, I would be ok?” When we see perfect women on billboards and think “if only I looked like that” or “if only I could date a girl that looked like her.” The possibilities are endless. There are Baals all around us. We undoubtedly live in Elijah’s pluralistic society.

With idols all around us, it is imperative to identify these idols. In the text we see the NIV translation say “they danced around the altar they had made…so they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.” In their calling to Baal, we see the prophets do three things. They danced, they shouted louder, and finally they slashed themselves until their blood flowed. These are perfect characteristics and demonstrations of how we act with our Baals. Our Baals need appeasement. They are demanding. They require performance. We dance for them. When something has captured our hearts so intently that we will do anything to acquire them, we have been enticed by a Baal.

In recent years Madonna has expressed that the only reason she keeps going, the only reason she keeps writing new songs is because she can only stay on the top of the charts for so long. She needs the feeling of that number one spot. It’s the same with athletes who cannot bring themselves to retire despite an age that screams laz-e-boy (Jordan with the Wizards?). After the economic crisis hit in 2008, a string of suicides followed among the formerly wealthy. These included David Kellerman, the chief financial officer of Freddie Mac. Another suicide following the crisis was Cristen Schnor, a Danish banker who hanged himself in a London hotel. Their Baals were their identity. Their Baals demanded performance. When we do not appease our idols, or get what we want from them, we shout louder. We try harder. When our idols ultimately leave us empty, when we call out and get no response, our worlds crumble. Our idols demand our blood, and it gushes out in pursuit of them.

In the midst of our despair, we have a more beautiful remedy than we could ever imagine, and it lies within the place in which the fire came down. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” The fire did not fall on the Israelites watching, or further off into the mountains, but the fire fell on the sacrifice. The sacrifice on the mount defeated the idol, and was the means by which people believed.” The character of God as seen through the Old Testament is to save idolatrous sinners by means of sacrifice. Familiar, huh? Enter Jesus.

In the same way, Jesus sacrificed Himself on Mount Calvary to eliminate our idols. He took the fire of God’s judgment on our behalf, so that we may experience the fire of God’s love. Contrary to our false gods who say “slash yourself for me,” Jesus, out of adoration, slashed Himself for us. His blood flowed in our place. Not due to our performance, not because we deserve it, but because He already loved us-because of His pure, satisfactory delight in us as we are now. The remedy from our idols, the cure for our Baals, is not an increase in performance or effort, but instead resting in Christ’s finished work on the cross. “For He was pierced for our transgression, He was crushed for our iniquity. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

Facing the Cross

"I am to face the cross of Christ in every part of life and with my whole man. The cross of Christ is to be a reality to me not only once for all at my conversion, but all through my life as a Christian."

A timely reminder from our friend Francis Schaeffer as we begin this day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Francis Schaeffer on the Heart of Rebellion

From Francis Schaeffer's, 'True Spirituality',

"The beginning of men's rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart. They did not have proper, thankful hearts-seeing themselves as creatures before the Creator and being bowed not only on their knees but in their stubborn hearts. The rebellion is a deliberate refusal to be the creature before the Creator, to the extent of being thankful."

More so, as God's creatures, we have every reason to bow down before Him and give Him thanks. Our Creator is not a cruel taskmaster to whom it would be a dreadful duty to give thanks. No. Rather, He is a compassionate, gracious and loving Father. He is almighty, yet He humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, so that we may know and serve him joyfully. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son. This is the Creator I want to bow before and give thanks to. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tim Keller at Columbia University

Here's a 15 min video clip from Tim Keller at an open forum interview at Columbia University. I've never seen anyone who is able to answer hard philosophical/theological secular questions with such grace, truth and intellect. In particular, I think Keller does an outstanding job at addressing the homosexual question (2:30-8:00) by taking it back to the Gospel. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ephesians 1: 5-6

"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."

Ephesians 1:6

A great word from Pastor John Piper with some great animation.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Observation # 10: Justification is Distinct From Sanctification, Yet it Must Never Be Seperated

To start, we must see that justification and sanctification are linked, are not to be severed from each other. The Bible is clear that those whom God justifies, he also sanctifies ( 1 Corinthians 1:30). Both justification and sanctification are fruits of our union with Christ. Because we are ‘in Him’, we are justified. On the flip side, because we are ‘in him’, we are also being sanctified.

Yet, justification and sanctification are also distinct. Here are three ways in which justification and sanctification are distinct from each other. These are taken directly from Anthony Hoekema's 'Saved By Grace'.

a)     Justification removes the guilt of sin, whereas sanctification removes the pollution of sin and enables the believer to grow in his or her likeness to Christ.
b)    Justification takes place outside the believer and is a declaration made by God the Father about ones legal status. Sanctification, however, takes place within the believer and progressively renews his or her nature.
      c)  Justification takes place once for all and is neither a process nor a repeated event. Sanctification,         however, as it is usually understood, is a process which continues throughout life and is not completed until after this life is over.

Observation # 9: Justification has Eschatological Implications

Because we are justified by Christ’s finished work, we no longer have to fear our future verdict. Our future is decided. On the final day of judgment, we are justified. Obviously, justification has present implications, but it is important to realize the future, or eschatological implications justification has. Because we are presently justified by Christ once and for all, we can be confident on the last day that we will also be justified. Here are the lyrics to an excellent song, 'Before the Throne', which describes our standing before the throne of God. 

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great high Priest who’s name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hand
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
When satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within
upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because a sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of Glory and of grace
One in Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God

Friday, August 5, 2011

You're Free to Stay Put

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

"Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist. A monk, perhaps.

Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”

“I’m a shoe maker.”

Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”

In becoming a Christian, we don’t need to retreat from the vocational calling we already have—nor do we need to justify that calling, whatever it is, in terms of its “spiritual” value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards—and with a renewed commitment to performing our calling with greater excellence and higher objectives.

One way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents and gifts he has given us. As Paul says, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20,24). As we do this, we fulfill our God-given mandate to reform, to beautify, our various “stations” for God’s glory–giving this world an imperfect preview of the beautification that will be a perfect, universal actuality when Jesus returns to finish what he started.

For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person’s “call” in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is much bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.

I once heard Os Guinness address a question about why the church in the late 20th century was not having a larger impact in our world when there were more people going to church than ever before. He said the main reason was not that Christians weren’t where they should be. There are plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.

“Calling”, he said, “is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction.”

So, you’re free to stay put, right where you are."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Observation #8: Justification Has Both a Negative and a Positive Side

From Anthony Hoekem's 'Saved By Grace'.

"On the negative side, it means the forgiveness of our sins. On the positive side, it includes our adoption as children of God and our reception of the right to eternal life. "

In other words, justification includes both the cleansing of our sin, and the full rights of adoption. As we've discussed previously, the full rights of adoption as sons of God includes the imputation of Christ's righteousness. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Observation #7: In Justification God's Mercy and Justice Come Together

Thus far, we have touched on each of these elements. In the first observation, we talked about how justification presupposes God's wrath. This has to do with God's justice. Because God is just, sin cannot go unnoticed. Sin demands a judgment from a holy God. The judgement is death. In fact, in the book of proverbs it is stated, "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD" (Proverbs 17:15). If the Bible testifies that we are wicked, how is it that God justifies us. This goes against His justice.

However, this is where the second element comes in. While we deserve God's wrath because we have sinned, God is infinitely gracious in showing us mercy. His mercy is shown in providing us a way out. The single greatest act of grace is seen at the cross, where God's justice and mercy meet. Jesus absorbed the wrath that we deserve.

The Bible teaches that God can only justify us because his justice is satisfied. Jesus satisfied God's justice in his substitutionary death on our behalf. Therefore, if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). The penalty is paid. Justice is served. We are justified if our trust is in Jesus' acts on our behalf. 

As the famous hymn 'Let us Love and Sing and Wonder' puts it, 

Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more. 

A Prayer for Gospel Snobs and Scribes, Like Me

HT: Scotty Smith

A Prayer for Gospel Snobs and Scribes, Like Me

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:5-8
Dear Jesus, we tremble at the thought of you speaking these words to us. What could be more sobering and painful than to hear you say, “You talk about me a lot—using multiple Scriptures and well crafted theological language. You’re quick to recognize and correct false teaching, and you’re quite zealous to apply what you know to others. But your heart is far from me.”
It would be one thing to garner such a rebuke for mimicking the worse Pharisees and the Galatian Judaizers (Gal. 2:11-21)—putting people under the yoke of performance-based spirituality, and failing to acknowledge your work as the sole and sufficient basis for our salvation. But it would be an altogether different thing to be chided for being a gospel snob and scribe. Have mercy on us, Jesus, have mercy on me.
Forgive us when our love for the truth of the gospel and the doctrines of grace is more obvious than our love for you… as impossible as that may seem.
Forgive us when we enjoy exposing legalistic, pragmatic and moralistic teaching more than we crave spending time with you in fellowship and prayer.
Forgive us when we invest great energy in defending the imputation of your righteousness but have very little concern for the impartation of your transforming life.
Forgive us when we are quick to tell people what obedience is not, but fail to demonstrate what the obedience of faith actually is.
Forgive us when we call ourselves “recovering Pharisees” or “recovering legalists,” but in reality, we’re not really recovering from anything.
Forgive us when talk more about “getting the gospel” than we’re actually “gotten” by the gospel.
Forgive us for being just as arrogant about grace theology as we were obnoxious about legalistic theology.
Forgive us when our multiplied uses of the word “gospel” in our conversations does not translated into multiplied evidences of the power of the gospel in our lives.
Forgive us when we don’t use our gospel freedom to serve one another in love, but rather use it to put our consciences to sleep.
Forgive us for creating gospel-fraternities and gospel-posses which taste to outsiders like ingrown tribes or “clubish” elitism.
Forgive us for having a PhD in the indicatives yet only a kindergarten certificate in the imperatives of the gospel.
Forgive us when our passion for the gospel does not translate into a passion for holiness and world evangelism, and caring for widows and orphans.
Lord Jesus, with convicted and humbled hearts, we ask you to change us, by your grace and for your glory. So very Amen, we pray, in your magnificent and merciful name.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Observation #6: Justification Involves the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness to Us

This idea of imputation is indeed critical to understanding the biblical doctrine of justification. The word imputation in itself is a legal term. It means to reckon to the account of another. The previous observation dealt with Christ's substitutionary work on our behalf. Imputation is the outworking of this substitutionary work. 

In regards to justification, imputation works in two ways. We talked earlier about Christ dying in substitution of our place. This is one of the ways in which imputation is present in the Gospel. Our sins are imputed upon Christ. In other words, even though Jesus was perfect, He became a curse for us (Galatians 3:15) and our iniquity was laid upon Him (Isaiah 53).  This is the negative aspect of imputation. Christ has taken upon our sins. Our sins deserved God's wrath, but the wrath that we deserve was reckoned to Jesus on the cross. That is why Jesus had to suffer the way he did, because our sins were imputed to Him.

The positive aspect of imputation is the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believers. By the righteousness of Christ, I am referring to the merit that Christ possesses based upon His perfect life of obedience and His divine sonship. 

Martin Luther called this concept the 'great exchange'. Christ took upon himself our sins and unrighteousness,  and in exchange we receive Christ's perfect righteousness. Both of these are imputed. 
This idea of righteousness being  'imputed' or 'reckoned' to us is seen all over Scripture. For example,

With Abraham: "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" Genesis 15:6
With David: " Blessed is the  man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity" Psalm 32:1-2 (RSV, quoted in Romans 4:8)
With Isaiah: "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." Isaiah 53:11
With Paul: "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" Romans 4: 4-5

The reason that righteousness must be imputed or reckoned to us, is because it is an 'alien righteousness'. In other words, it is a righteousness that we haven't earned. This is so because in our own power and will, we could never live a perfect life of righteousness that merits a right standing with God. Therefore, it must be a righteousness apart from us, that is freely bestowed upon us. The righteousness is the righteousness possessed by Christ. Chris lived the perfect life that we should have lived. Christ is the perfect son that Adam was supposed to be. God the Father says of Jesus, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). When we come to faith in Jesus, we receive this merit. God now sees us and treats us as beloved sons. This is not accomplished by works. It is a gift that is imputed to us out of God's benevolent grace. Though we are broken, sinners, God graciously bestows upon us, or imputes to us, a righteousness and a position of sonship that we could have never earned. This is good news. I end with a verse I know I've posted a few times already, but it is a verse that so clearly lays out justification. 

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

Monday, August 1, 2011

Observation # 5: Justification is Based on the Substitutionary Work of Christ For Us

At the heart of justification is the substitutionary work of Christ. This involves Christ's exchanging places with us. Given that our sin demands God's just wrath, Christ substitutionary work on our behalf involves Christ standing in our place and bearing the wrath that we rightfully deserve. 

This is taught even in the Old Testament, as the prophet Isaiah foretold of the coming Messiah, 

"But he was wounded for our transgressions;
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
 All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:5-6

This passage is clear that the Savior would take upon himself the iniquity of His people. This is exactly what Jesus did at the Cross. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Galatians, 

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." 
Galatians 3:13

Because we have failed to follow God's law, we deserve the curse of not following it. What makes the Gospel good news is that Christ has bore the weight of sin that we deserve. He suffered the debt we owed. The just for the unjust, once and for all. We are able to be justified because Jesus substituted himself in our place. 

We will see in the next observation that justification involves not only the substitutionary work of Christ in terms of him taking our sins, but it also involves the positive aspect of Christ imputing to His children His perfect righteousness.