Monday, October 31, 2011

Bloodline of the Cross

The closing quote from John Piper's most recent book, 'Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian,'

"What I've tried to do with this book is show that the gospel of Jesus Christ, the death and the resurrection of the Son of God for sinners, is the only sufficient power for this effort, and the only power that in the end will bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross. It is the only power to bring about Christ-exalting harmony, which, in the end, is the only kind that matters, because all things were made through him and for him. To his grace, and his name, and his Father, be glory forever. Amen."

Piper's book has been a tremendous blessing to me. In particular, it has helped me to see how the pursuit of racial/ethnic harmony and reconciliation is so very close, and goes hand in hand with the Gospel of God's grace. It has opened my eyes to the implications that the gospel has on  this pursuit, as well as my own sins of partiality and indifference to injustice. Lastly, I am thankful for Piper's book as it was a needed reminder of the breadth and scope of the Gospel. God's plan from the beginning was to bless the nations through his Son Jesus. God is in the business of restoring that which is lost. He is redeeming for himself a single people united by the blood of His Son; and this united group of people will include people from every tribe and every nation. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Abortion?

A great article written by Tullian Tchividjian. I needed this.

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

What Abortion?

Back in June I preached a series of six sermons entitled Pictures of Grace. Of all the sermons series’ I’ve preached, I probably enjoyed this one the most. I took our church through the Gospels and looked at various events in the life and ministry of Jesus where the shocking, counter-intuitive nature of amazing grace is on display. Each week we looked intently at how Jesus wrecked people afresh with his grace, turning everything that makes sense in our conditional world upside-down and setting sinners free.
Well, I went back to the first of those six sermons yesterday as I was doing some research and was struck again at how crazy God’s grace really is.
I began that series by by preaching from Luke 7:36-50. This is the famous account of the sinful woman (most likely a prostitute) barging into a party of religious leaders and washing the feet of Jesus with her tears of repentance. I pointed out that two rescues are happening in this passage: the obvious rescue of the immoral person but also the rescue of the moral person.
Normally when we think of people in need of God’s rescuing grace, we think of the unrighteous and the immoral. But what’s fascinating to me is that throughout the Bible, it’s the immoral person that gets the Gospel before the moral person; it’s the prostitute who gets grace; it’s the Pharisee who doesn’t. What we see in this story is that God’s grace wrecks and then rescues, not only the promiscuous but the pious. The Pharisee in this story can’t understand what Jesus is doing by allowing this woman to touch him because he assumes that God is for the clean and competent. But Jesus here shows him that God is for the unclean and incompetent and that when measured against God’s perfect holiness we’re all unclean and incompetent. Jesus shows him that the gospel isn’t for winners, but losers: it’s for the weak and messed up person, not the strong and mighty person. It’s not for the well-behaved, but the dead.
I was reminded once again that Jesus came not to effect a moral reformation but a mortal resurrection (moral reformations can, and have, taken place throughout history without Jesus. But only Jesus can raise the dead, over and over and over again). As Gerhard Forde put it, “Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace.”
Wrecking every religious category he had, Jesus tells the Pharisee that he has a lot to learn from the prostitute, not the other way around.
The prostitute on the other hand walks into a party of religious people and falls at the feet of Jesus without any care as to what others are thinking and saying. She’s at the end of herself. More than wanting to avoid an uncomfortable situation, she wanted to be clean-she needed to be forgiven. She was acutely aware of her guilt and shame. She knew she needed help. She understood at a profound level that God’s grace doesn’t demand that you get clean before you come to Jesus. Rather, our only hope for getting clean is to come to Jesus. Only in the Gospel does love precede loveliness. Everywhere else loveliness precedes love.
I closed the sermon by recalling a story that Rod Rosenbladt told me when we were together at the Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago. It’s a story about a middle-aged woman who needed help from her pastor.
She went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, you know that I had an abortion a number of years ago?”  “Yes,” the Pastor replied.  “Well, I need to talk to you about the man I’ve since met.”  “Alright,” replied the Pastor.
“Well, we met a while back, and started dating and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then things got more serious between us and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. A while later we got engaged and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then we got married and I thought, I really need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. So I needed to talk to someone, Pastor, and you’re it.”
The Pastor replied, “You know, we have a service for this. Let’s go through that together.” So they did – a service of confession and absolution.
When they were finished, she said to him, “Now I think I have the courage to tell my new husband about my abortion.  Thanks, Pastor.”
And the Pastor replied to her, “What abortion?”
What the Pharisee, the prostitute, and everyone in between, need to remember every day is that Christ offers forgiveness full and free from both our self-righteous goodness and our unrighteous badness. This is the hardest thing for us to believe as Christians. We think it’s a mark of spiritual maturity to hang onto our guilt and shame. We’ve sickly concluded that the worse we feel, the better we actually are. The declaration of Psalm 103:12 is the most difficult for us to grasp and embrace: “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” To be convinced in our hearts, said Martin Luther, “that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” Or, as Corrie ten Boom once said, “God takes our sins—the past, present, and future—and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says ‘No Fishing allowed.’” This seems too good to be true…it can’t be that simple, that easy, that real!
It is true! No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you are a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished.
What abortion?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Christ: The Remedy to Partiality

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith
in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory."

Commenting on this verse, John Piper writes, 

"But James's point is this: if you know Christ as the Lord of glory-if you trust him as the one who is gloriously gracious and gloriously merciful and gloriously forgiving and gloriously strong and gloriously wise and gloriously loving-then you won't be controlled by this craving for human glory or by this fear that uses partiality to be safe. Christ will be your glory-all the glory you need. And Christ will be your security-all the security you need."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The New Testament's Multi-Dimensional Fulfillment of the Old

This was too good not to re-post

HT: Dane Ortlund

Seems to me that while it need not be the main point of every NT book, nevertheless every NT book in some way fulfills the hope of the OT, though each from its own perspective. One former prof of mine used to say that the NT is a 27-volume commentary on the OT. Truth to that.
Matthew fulfills the OT’s hope for a Messiah, a Christ, an anointed son of David who would save God’s people (1:21).

Mark fulfills the OT’s hope for a coming Son of God who would inaugurate God’s kingdom (1:1, 14–15).

Luke fulfills the OT’s longing for God to come and set right the world’s injustices—reversing rich and poor, oppressors and oppressed, satisfied and hungry, outsider and insider (19:10).

John fulfills the OT’s longing for the tabernacle/temple to do decisively what it was always meant to do—unite God and man in restored fellowship (1:14; 2:21; 14:6).

Acts fulfills the OT by bringing God’s mercy to the nations (1:8; 9:15).

Romans fulfills the OT by showing the supreme manifestation of the righteousness of God, in Jesus, bringing resolution to the constant OT tension between God’s justice and his mercy (1:17; 3:21–26).

1 Corinthians fulfills the OT by showing, in Christ, the climactic way in which God destroys the wisdom of the wise (1:19).

2 Corinthians fulfills the OT’s repeated pattern of strength through weakness (12:9–10), supremely in Christ (13:4), in whom all the promises of God are clinched (1:20).

Galatians fulfills the OT by showing that Jesus’ atoning work (3:13) at just the right time (4:4–5) is the reason that the real children of Abraham are those who are of faith (3:7–9).

Ephesians fulfills the OT by revealing the “mystery” long hidden—that Christ, by virtue of his death and resurrection, unites Jews and Gentiles in one renewed people of God (3:5–6).

Philippians fulfills the OT by showing that the church is the real circumcision (3:2–3).

Colossians fulfills the OT by showing that another Adam, likewise the image of God (1:15), has fulfilled the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 to bear fruit and increase, so that we who are united to this second Adam can now do what the first Adam failed to do—bearing fruit and multiplying (1:10).

1 and 2 Thessalonians fulfill the OT’s hope of judgment on God’s enemies by showing that Jesus received this judgment, so that God’s punitive judgment, which is surely coming, now will fall only on those who reject Jesus (1 Thess 5:1–102 Thess 1:5–12).

1 and 2 Timothy fulfill the OT by showing that the true warfare of God’s people is not against the Amalekites and Amorites and others but against sin and Satan (1 Tim 1:186:122 Tim 2:3–4), a war that cannot be lost because of the Savior anticipated in the OT (2 Tim 3:15).

Titus fulfills the OT’s underachieved efforts to redeem a people for God who are his own possession, zealous for good works (2:11–14).

Philemon fulfills the OT’s insistence that love be from the heart (v. 14).

Hebrews fulfills the OT’s longing for a perfect priest and final sacrifice to usher in the new covenant (8:1–13).

James fulfills the OT’s call for obedience to the law by showing that such obedience is fulfilled in one thing—active love (1:12; 2:8–26).

1 and 2 Peter fulfill the OT’s calling to Israel to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet 1:4–12)—a corporate fulfillment that happens only because of another fulfillment that is not only corporate but also individual, this time of Isaiah 52–53 (1 Pet 2:22–25).

1, 2, and 3 John fulfill the OT by showing that through Christ we are once more, like Adam, sons of God, and now able to fulfill the OT law through love (1 John 3:1 and passim).

Jude fulfills the exodus in the OT by showing that ultimately is was Jesus who provided this rescue (Jude 5; cf. 1 Cor 10:4).

Revelation fulfills the OT by showing that Jesus has conquered our great enemy, death, which was introduced in Eden (Rev 1:1821:4).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Gospel is Not Right Wing or Left Wing

Currently, John Piper's new book 'Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian', is blowing me away. In it, Piper deals with the issue of racism and how the Gospel transforms racial relations and restores ethnic harmony. There is a lot more to be said there, but nonetheless, this book has opened my eyes to just how big and glorious the Gospel is, and just how negligent I can be regarding how the Gospel impacts my relationships with people and the pursuit of justice.

One section in particular that I found interesting was on the Gospel and politics. It the tendency of many Christians to pursue equality, justice or racial reconciliation through the ideology of a certain political party. Right wing or left politics aren't the answer to social justice. The Gospel is. I think many Christians make a huge error of trying to associate their political party with Christianity, as if one is more aligned with the Christian message. Piper writes,

"Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an ideology or a philosophy or a methodology or a therapy but a supernatural in-breaking of God into our lives, I am concerned at how many Christians do not bring it to bear personally, critically, and explosively on the political right and left. It seems to me that too many Christians gravitate to right-wing or left-wing politics because they see some parallel between a political plank and a part of the gospel. It's like saying that the party that uses candles must be the true one because they're shaped like sticks of gospel dynamite. The gospel was meant to explode with saving power in the lives of politicians and social activists, not help them decorate their social agenda. 

Jesus did not come into the world to endorse anybody's platform. He doesn't fit in. He created the world. He holds it in being by his powerful word. He will return some day to judge the living and the dead. And he came the first time to die so that left-wing activists and right-wing talk-show hosts would be broken in pieces for their sin and put back together by the power of grace. He came so that from that day on Jesus himself would be the supreme treasure and authority of our lives. He came so that we would become radically devoted to the glory of God. He came so that the only kind of racial diversity and racial harmony we would pursue is Jesus-exalting, God-glorifying, and gospel formed."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gospel: The End of Arrogance

I've been looking forward to starting John Piper's new book, 'Bloodlines: Race, Cross, And The Christian'. Thus far, I've had the pleasure of diving into the forward by Tim Keller and Piper's preface. Here's a quote from the preface.

"God has spoken. And he has acted. He has entered our world in the person of his Son. His word, his action, and his incarnation are the end of ethnic arrogance for those who embrace him as the Treasure of their lives."

What a great reminder that the Gospel is the end of all pride, whether it be pride in social, academic, monetary, or ethnic status. At the cross, I see how truly sinful I am. I see that Mike Berttucci is so jacked up that this (a bloody crucifixion) was the necessary ramification for my sin. I'm so bad that Christ had to die for me. Yet, I am so loved by God that he was pleased rescue me. Jesus went to the cross for the joy set before him. From this perspective, it seems pretty silly to think that I am, in any way, better than another human. I am saved solely by the grace of God. Christ died for me when I was yet a sinner (Romans 8:5). This is the end of arrogance, whether it is ethnic arrogance, or simply arrogance in personal relationships. The Gospel ends arrogance. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Uncomfortable Grace

These words have spoken in a significant way to me over the past several weeks.

"So, if you are God's child, resist the temptation to doubt his goodness in the middle of your stress. It's time to stop thinking that our difficulty is a sign of his unfaithfulness and inattention. If you are God's child and you still recognize the battle of sin within, then those difficulties are sure signs of rescuing redemptive love. God isn't withholding his grace from you. No, you're experiencing uncomfortable grace, grace that's willing to break bones in order for your heart to be true. This grace is unwilling to give up. This grace will not turn its back. This grace will not accept the status quo. This grace will not compromise or grow cynical. God hasn't forgotten you. He loves you with real love, and he's giving you real grace. And he'll continue to do so until you're finally free of your propensity to wander away. Now that's real love."

-Paul Tripp, Whiter than Snow

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Are You A Smuggler?

HT: Itsabeautifulgospel

A great post from Dan Orr. Thanks Dan, I needed to hear this. 

Are you a smuggler?

Answer:  Yes, you are a smuggler.
Psalm 62:2 says, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;  I shall not be greatly shaken.”

He only…  
If you are anything like me, and you are (because you are human), you do not fully believe that He only is your rock and salvation.  We all smuggle something else into the equation.  For example, I may say that He only is my rock and salvation, but really it’s He + me being a good dad.  Or, it could be He + being able to pay my bills (+ knowing the future…  + having a husband/wife…  + having your dream job, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc).  We are master smugglers.  We smuggle in anything and everything into the He only equation, and thereby rob ourselves of experiencing the only great treasure – God Himself.  So, if you recognize you are a smuggler, pray like David did in Ps. 61:2, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  Repent of your additions and ask God to give you a heart that treasures Christ alone. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Love Is To Be Vulnerable

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

C.S. Lewis

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why Jesus Came

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, 
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor"
Luke 4:18-19

"I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God..."
Luke 4:43

"I have not come to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance"
Luke 5:32

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Are You So Foolish?

"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit,
are you now being perfected by the flesh?"
Galatians 3:3

A great, simple reminder this morning that both our justification and sanctification (growing in holiness) are by grace, not law. For many, our attitude is that God saves us (grace), but then it is up to us to try really really hard to grow. We tend to think growing in holiness depends on our human efforts and religious duties. Nope! Paul calls this foolish, to think that once you are saved, you then continue by works of the law. Are we living by the Spirit? Are we growing in God's grace, realizing our own weakness/inadequacy to change in our own strength, thus causing us to further cast ourselves upon the Spirit of God? The Christian life starts with the power of God, and the Christian life continues with the power of God. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If Only I Had _____

Here is an overview from the Bible study last week with Rebirth East St. Louis. 

Christ was Forsaken For Our Acceptance

"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land
until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour
Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 
'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 
'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'
Matthew 27:45-46

At the cross, for the first (and only) time in eternity, the Son experienced abandonment. Jesus called out to his Father, but got no answer. Jesus looked to his Father, but only saw his turned back. Jesus cried out to him, but received no comfort. Only absolute abandonment. The Son was forsaken. 

This is the grave, yet beautiful truth of Christ's substitution. Jesus experienced the pain of having the Father turn his back on him, so that we wouldn't have to.  Because Jesus turned to God and only saw the back of the Father, when we turn to the Father, all we experience is open arms. Whereas Jesus reached for the comfort of His father but received none, when we reach for the Father, we receive comfort. Though we were the ones who deserve absolute abandonment, Jesus' love is so great that he came to earth to experience the forsakenness we deserve, so that we would be united to Him. The Father turned his head away from Jesus so that he would never have to turn his head away from us. Jesus saw the Father's back; closed off and forsaken. We see the Father's face; open, and ready to embrace sinners who  turn to Him. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shadow of the Cross

I'm just bingeing on Lecrae.

From Shadow of the Cross
"Without the cross there's only condemnation,
If Jesus wasn't executed there's no celebration,
So in times that are good, in times that are bad,
For any time I've had at all I will be glad,
And I will boast in the cross, I will boast in His name
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in His reign (rain),
What's my life if it's not praising You,
Another dollar in my bank account of my vain pursuit
That I may count my life as any value or precious at all
Let me finish my race, let me answer Your call."

The Greatest News In One Sentence

From JT's blog,

“That the greatest good (God) offers the greatest action (love) to the greatest need (wrath-owed sinners) by sending the greatest treasure (Jesus) in the greatest invitation (to everyone) into the greatest life (everlasting).”

Jared Wilson

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Faithfulness of Christ

Listen to the song here.

Lord, is there any more mercy left
For this stubborn stiff-neck sinner who flirts with death
Any more goodness for me to smell and taste
Or have I dried up all the wells of grace
Could your fountain of love be empty
Jesus, is there any more of your blood to cleanse me
As soon as I thought I got this sin beat
I'm knocked from my feet and dropping in deep
Cause I played the whore and despised your glory
Even though you've only shown kindness towards me
I belittled your worth and spurned your Bible
Plus I turned aside to worthless idols
But in the mountains of your riches
There is abundant grace and storehouses of forgiveness
So I'm no longer doubting calamity
I thank you that I'm not kicked out of your family
I'm that snotty nose kid who trips-my knees are cut
But you never leave me down you lift and clean me up
So I'm running back to the cross
Where you suffered wrath for my sin I can't fathom the cost
So when the enemy's condemning me cause I offended Thee
I remember that my penalty was paid
So the Judge ain't mad
Cause He took His anger out on You like You were His punching bag.

I thank you Father that Your spirit convicts us
To return back to You where you hear us and fix us
Your compassion is deep after I weep
You're faithful to put me back on my feet
But this song is dedicated to all my fellow brothers and sisters who are devastated from fallen
Be thankful Jesus is so gracious
He's faithful even when we're faithless
We're not saved in accordance to our performance
Otherwise no one would have assurance
We're saved through faith in Christ's finished work
Which is His perfect life and sacrifice to forgive our dirt
So please be relieved
God sees you in Christ with the righteousness that He achieved
So if you fall repent He'll re-heal again
Then get back on your feet and keep killing sin
Don't stay down-look to the cross and the gospel
Get up renewed but be cautious and watchful
And truly die to your pride
Ask the Lord to create a clean heart and new desires inside
And recall how sin's deceit is so grievous
Now strive and press on to know Jesus
Giving praise to the King who is risen
Saying blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Relax, Eat, Drink and Be Merry

"The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do,
for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns 
and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; 
relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul 
is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'
So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God."
Luke 12:16-21

What do you say to your own soul? Are you primarily looking to store up treasures for yourself? Do you find yourself living for your own personal comfort? Do you live to 'relax, eat, drink, and be merry'. This is the wasted life, and this is the sad reality of most people in the world (especially in America). 

Everything given to us in the life is given from God, and it is given for the purpose of glorifying His name. If we are given talents, they are to be used to make His name look great. If we have money, it is meant to be handled in a way that makes God look like the ultimate treasure. This passage reminds me of the last verse of a song by Lecrae, 'Don't Waste Your Life'. 

If you're trying to figure out what to do with ya life,
If you make a lot of money hope your doin' it right,
Because the money is God’s, you better steward it right, 
You stay focused, you ain't got no ride,
Your life ain't wrapped up in what you drive,
The clothes you wear, the job you work,
The color your skin, nah you're Christian first,
People get it living for a job,
Make a little money start living for a car,
Get em a wife, a house, kids and a dog,
Then they retire, they living high on the hog,
But guess what? They didn’t ever really live at all,
To live is Christ, and that’s Paul I recall,
To die is gain and for Christ we give it all,
He's the treasure you’ll never find in a mall,
See your money, your singleness, marriage, talents, your time,
They were loaned you to show the world that Christ is divine,
That’s why its Christ in my rhymes,
That’s why its Christ all the time,
See my whole world is built around Him,
He’s the life in my lines,
I refuse to waste my life,
He’s too true to chase that ice,
Here’s my gift and time,
'cause I'm constantly tryna ta be used to praise the Christ,
If He’s truly raised to life, 
Then this news should change your life ,
And by His grace you can put your faith in the place that rules your days and nights,

In the end, God is too worthy, beautiful and glorious for us to waste our lives on ourselves. The joy, comfort and peace from knowing the Living God are infinitely more valuable than the joy, comfort and peace from a large bank account, or from safe retirement, or to live our lives to 'relax, eat, drink and be merry.' This is an attitude in my own life that I must fight for everyday. I need to remind myself of how marvelous the Gospel of God's grace is. I need to taste God's goodness. In these moments of gospel sanity, the lure of living to 'relax, eat, drink and be merry' fades away' and a passion to live for the Living God arises.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

How Do You Understand Salvation?

Is God ultimately a passive bookkeeper who, after shaping the world lets it alone, concerned only to tally the relative merits of his creatures? Is this how you understand salvation? Is salvation something that you deserve based on your own work?

D.A. Carson and Doug Moo answer this question in their chapter on Galatians from their book, An Introduction to the New Testament.

"There is always a tendency for people to think that their salvation is something that is to be brought about by their own achievement. How they understand salvation may vary, and the kind of achievement they see as necessary may correspondingly vary. But that their eternal destiny rests in their own hands seems a truism so obvious that is scarcely needs stating. Christianity has often been understood as nothing more than a system of morality, as the careful observance of a sacramental system, as conformity to standards, as a linking up with others in the church and so on. There is always a need for Paul's forthright setting out of truth that justification comes only through faith in Christ. this must be said over against those who stress the importance of works done in accordance with the Torah or of any other achievements.

The Christian way stresses what God has done in Christ rather than what sinners do. There can be no improvement on the divine action by any human achievement, either by way of ritual observance or moral improvement. The cross is the one way of salvation, and no part of Scripture makes this clearer than does Galatians."

Carson, D.A., Moo, Douglas. An Introduction to the New Testament. pg. 473-474.