Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

Quick Quote: Look, Love, Lean

“The gospel message…first calls on us all to be realistic in facing and admitting our sinfulness, our weaknesses, our actual transgressions, and our consequent guilt before God; and then it addresses us, in God’s name, substantially as follows:

Look to Christ your loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord. Embrace him as your Savior and Master. And then in his presence resolve to leave behind the old life of conscious self-service, marred as it was by bitterness, self-pity, envy of others, and feelings of failure, in order that you may become his faithful – that is, faith-full – disciple, living henceforth, by his rules under your care.

Love Christ, in unending gratitude for his unending love to you. Labor to please him in everything you do. Let his love constrain, compel, command, comfort, and control you constantly, and, like Paul, stop regarding human approval as in any way important to you…

Lean on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength you need for his service, no matter how weak unhappy circumstances and unfriendly people may be making you feel at present…lean on Christ, the lover of your soul…”

~ J.I. Packer, Weakness is the Way

Quick Post: Scripture based Prayers

“They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in…The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.” Genesis 7:15-16, 18

Heavenly Father, Thank you for rescue from the flood of judgment against my sin and guilt through the Ark of your Son. Keep me in the safekeeping of that ship; shut me in that I might be kept by you, for you. And bring me safely to the new earth in due time.


“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Heavenly Father, thank you for being well pleased with Your Son and His Work, so that you are well pleased with me. May I rest today in Your pleasure.

A Subtle Heresy

Question:  does God want you to be healthy, wealthy, and wise?  Many Christians would say that yes, this is God’s desire for our lives.

Better Question:  does God want to conform us into the image of His Son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ?  Yes, yes, and yes again.

This means that the Lord will go to great lengths to accomplish this in your life.  Including bringing suffering into your life.  Not a once of us would ask to go through the school of suffering.   But, I can attest, great growth in faith and the Gospel comes through our suffering well in Christ.  A friend of mine called it a subtle heresy that most Christians believe, when we that God wants to make us happy and comfortable.  Actually he wrecks our comfort, especially our comfort with our sin.  When we quit fighting for our sanctification.  God wrecks our apathy.  My friend and his wife had great plans for their son, until they realized that he was autistic.  All of a sudden they were on a different journey.  I think he would agree that is both a wonderful and terrifying journey.  This makes us depend all the more on God.  This dependence is the real goal of the Christian life.  I can assure you that in some way at some time, God will disrupt your will, your thinking, and your life.  And He will do so for your good.  I guarantee it, though you may not see it at the time.  It is the lie of the Prosperity Gospel (that God wants you to have your best life now) that we so desperately want to believe.  It is easier to believe that, but it is not in the Bible (read 1 Peter or Acts 7).  God has so much better for us.  Live in that truth and look to our God to do wonderful and terrifying things in our lives.  For His glory and the furtherance of the Gospel in our lives.

Fighting for the Truth

LiesSpiritual life is a fight for truth.  For a greater reality.  Why must we fight for truth?

Because we have an adversary who has been lying since the beginning.  Satan started his attack on truth in the Garden (Genesis 3) and it has been one of his choice weapons since then.  He is called the father of lies in Scripture (John 8:44).  On the other hand, it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18).  But we are so perceptible to the subtle mistruths and misdirections.  Have you ever heard these whispers in you ear?

  • How could God love you?
  • God won’t forgive you again.
  • Did God really say that?
  • God won’t keep his promises
  • How can you trust God?
  • Jesus was just a good teacher.
  • Jesus didn’t really rise from the grave
  • You are unloveable
  • You will never amount to anything
  • You are to far past redemption
  • Trust yourself – it’s the best way
  • You can not depend upon God to see you through this trial
  • God is punishing you

And the lies go on and on.  Sometimes they are close to the truth.  Sometimes they appeal to our sinful flesh.  Our pride.  Our wounds.  Sometimes we believe the lie, because the truth of God’s grace seems to good to be real.  Or just for other folks, but not for me.   

Brothers and Sisters, do not believe these lies.  See them for what they are.  Shine the Light of God’s Word upon them and reveal the mistruths.  Pray for the Spirit to help you discern between truth and error.  Fight for the truth of God’s Word.  There is life and freedom in God’s Word.  Help one another in this battle.   One of the best things you can do for a brother or sister in Christ is to pray for them and to share Scripture with them.  May we be a church that does that for one another.  

John 8:32-38 (ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

The Gospel Well

I, along with others, was asked this question by a good friend teaching a seminar at General Assembly this year:

What characteristics (in anyway you want to explain them) would you list that describe a man being animated and enjoying the Gospel in contrast to a man who is living out of a religiously-moralistic understanding of Christianity?”

I share this with you because I talked yesterday in the sermon about the need to regularly focus on the Gospel – the good news of our salvation.  A great treasure we have in jars of clay.

Here was my answer, which applies to men and women equally:

            I got this as I was going into or just starting chemotherapy.  So, take that into account, but here is the mental image that came to mind.  And I don’t exactly claim originality, but other than Scripture, I don’t have a source for this imagination of mine.   Here goes:
           Imagine, if you will, a well in the center of an area, surrounded by a hundred other wells.  That center well is the Gospel Well and it is fed by “living waters” that Christ provide.  That means, when we dip and drink from the Gospel Well we find life.  We also find that the water is always fresh to our need and there is never a moment when we dip into that well and find it empty.  Never is there a gate-keeper saying that we have had too much or that the Owner of the well has given enough, but no more.  Always, and each day, we have a need to run to that well.  We find life, animation, hope, mercy, redemption, forgiveness, love, and on and on.  There we have a precious foretaste of the full satisfaction that we find in Christ.  As Peter said,  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:68-69).   And so we must turn to Christ and come to know again Who He is.  Isn’t this what the Woman at the Well learned? (John 4)  She’d been drinking from the wrong wells.  
            But what of those other wells?  You and I know them too well, unfortunately.  They are the well of performance, the well of pleasure, the well of reputation, the well of self-righteousness, the well of judgment of others, the well of despair, the well of guilt, the well of addiction, the well of lies, the well of greed…and a hundred others by similar names.  This is our problem:  we run to those wells days after day, looking for what only the Gospel well can provide us.  And yet, we continue to dip our buckets into these wells looking for life. What do we find?  Stagnant pools that don’t bring us life, but instead lead us away from Christ.  They effectively empty.  And we pay the price – emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally, physically – for such empty drink.  We drink and still parched.  We drink and are still empty inside.  And why do we do this?  Because we continue to drink from the Well of Lies – crafted by the father of Lies himself.  We’ve drunk too deeply of the kook-aid and been pointed from one well to another.  
            But the Gospel Well is rich and free – all the time, anytime.  There is no lie or false advertising in the Gospel, only our ever growing realization of what we need to drink.  And drink deeply.  
Isaiah 55 (all of it, because there is no good place to stop!)
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
 
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
 
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
 
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Notes from the Sermon…(9/27)

Text: Colossians 2:16-23

Theme: The Gospel free us, but man-centered religion enslaves us.

Quotations:

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.” Tim Keller (not sure of the source, might be The Prodigal God)

The idea that spirituality can be quantified provides an unfortunate basis for pride and judgmentalism.  The flesh finds doing truly spiritual things difficult, as ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41).  But the flesh has no trouble with religious rules and regulations.  There is an authentic lure to legalism.” R. Kent Hughes in Colossians and Philemon (Preaching the Word Series)

“God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.” – Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 19

Bad theology leads to bad practice” Peter O’Brien, Colossians-Philemon (WBC)

I also used the following Scriptures at the end of each main point:  Romans 8:1-4 , Colossians 1:12-13, Romans 6:6-8

July Books

With getting more situated and settled at our new home and the rest, I have been able to return a bit to my reading.  I am thankful for that.  Here are my brief thoughts (not necessarily a full-blown review) on the books that I completed reading during the month of July.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  Much like Hosseini’s previous book The Kite Runner, this book takes place in Afghanistan.  This alone is a great reason to read these books, as they can give more understanding into the land in which so many of our soldiers continue to fight against the Taliban and radical Muslims.  Of course, these books would not be as popular or worth the reading if the literary elements were not up to par.  In that regard, I very much enjoyed the story and the author’s construction of the plot, characters, and timing.  There were several times I was absolutely captured by one of his descriptions of an event or feeling, most often when he employed the use of metaphor.  The final reason I found this book worthwhile reading stems from my reflection on the religion of Islam, particularly in comparison with Christianity.    I do not know the author’s intent in this regard, though the book seemed to draw a large distinction between radical Islam (especially as practiced by the Taliban) and Islam in general.  Whether there is an apologetic in play or not, I still walked away from the book thankful that the Lord (Yahweh) is merciful and His mercy is displayed through the life & death of Jesus Christ.  This is in stark contrast to Allah who is said to be merciful, but there is no guarantee of that mercy – even if you are faithful in practicing the five pillars of Islam.  In this regard, the radical and the moderate muslim are in the same boat – without assurance of mercy or pardon.  Again, this was more my reflection, rather than something overtly present the book.  For the two previous reason, I would recommend the book, though it takes place in the real fallen world and some elements of plot and character reflect that.

Cult of the AmateurHow blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values by Andrew Keen:  I picked this book up while browsing at the library and decided early on that I would either not actually read it or liked it.  Well, I did read it and liked it to a degree.  The great majority of the book is dedicated to illustrationg how the Web 2.0 is changing our culture and our institutions (e.g. newspapers, reliable news outlets, the arts) and not for the better.  What surprised me was how strongly Keen advocated for values that have seemingly been chucked out the window in our so-called “post-Christian” culture.  Keen spoke of the devaluing of truth and basic morality (such as the idea that stealing is wrong, still) and showed how those values have been disregarded or ignored in our brave new world.  Keen is convincing to a degree, though he never provides a convincing apologetic for how things were in the past or for thsoe values that have been lost.  My major disappointment with the book was with the pittance of recommendations on alternatives or ways to use what we have and improve upon it.  Keen spends a woefully small and last chapter on this topic.  In that way, the book felt like one big complaint with exhibits A-Z.  That said, it was interesting and possibly a cautionary work.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan:  I listened to the audiobook version of this book (compliments of christianaudio.com) during my commute (all of ten minutes or so) and found much worth thinking upon and much that challenged and/or encouraged.  I appreciated that the audiobook was read by the author – there are any number of audiobooks that I have not listened too because I did not like the voice of the reader.  That was not the case here and it made me confident that the reader’s inflection fit with the author’s intentions – since they are the same.  I think the strength of this book is in the first three chapters where Chan describes who God is and how we tend to relate to Him in the wrong ways or on the wrong plane.  What was lacking for me (a result of listening rather than reading?) was a clear outline or structure to the whole book.  Of course, that may very well be intentional, as the book felt a little like stream of consciousness.  Could also be the result of listening in chunks.  After the first three chapters, Chan spends most of the rest of the book challenging luke-warm Christianity.  Hopefully, Chan was not just preaching to the choir, but reaching some of the scores of cultural Christians that fill our churches.  That is not to say that I wasn’t challenged or that true believers wouldn’t be, but I would hope that the message of the luke warm would reach the luke warm.  I think it should also be noted that Chan was not legalistic, rather presented the love and  grace of God in the Gospel.  Overall, a very good book and my issues may be more related to the context of my reading/listening, rather than the book itself.

The Narrows by Michael Connelly:  It had been a while since I had read a Bosch detective book by Connelly.  As usual, I found this book to be engaging and entertaining.  At the same time, it didn’t really cause me to reflect upon anything more deeply either (Connelly’s books have in the past).  That said, I did enjoy this one just on the basis of it being a good detective story.