Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who Likes Running?

Okay this post is not about running but about a particular morning that I was listening to a sermon by John Piper while out on a run.  This sermon was an overview of Romans 1-7, during a season where he was preaching through the book.  The entire sermon was well over 200 sermons.

During the sermon I was impacted by what I believe to be a great definition for what sin is.  Sin certainly encompasses more than this but I do not think that it is less.  I hope that you are blessed and that this little blurb causes you to pursue holiness.

"The glory of God is not honored.
The holiness of God is not reverenced.
The greatness of God is not admired.
The power of God is not praised.
The truth of God is not sought.
The wisdom of God is not esteemed.
The beauty of God is not treasured.
The goodness of God is not savored.
The faithfulness of God is not trusted.
The promises of God are not relied upon.
The commandments of God are not obeyed.
The justice of God is not respected.
The wrath of God is not feared.
The grace of God is not cherished.
The presence of God is not prized.
The person of God is not loved."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One and Done

How come it seems that we are simply wired to constantly justify ourselves?  Just the other day my wife was pointing out a response that I had to my daughter, and I instantly began to justify myself.  If we do not vocally express our justification we certainly play it out in our minds.  Unfortunately, I think the latter is what we are most guilty of.  
We may have come to a point in life that it is easy to spot how we vocally respond to others and we work on controlling our tongues.  One cannot help but see this called wisdom throughout the book of Proverbs or in James; however, I don't think that we can stop there.  It is important to work on the outward manifestations but that is the easy work.  The tough work is to get right at the root that is lodged in our hearts.  Our only hope for inward change is in the Gospel.

Hebrews 9:24-26 reads, "For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself,, no to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."

This is the greatest news in the world.  One that can bring hope and piece to the lives of sinners because of what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf.  

If one were to understand this passage one would have knowledge that when God made His covenant to Israel he gave Moses instructions for proper worship.  Included with this was the design for the tabernacle which as stated is a copy of the heavenly reality.  

Each year the high priest would go into the holy of holies, the place of God's dwelling, and make a sacrifice for all the people.  This was not something done lightly.  In fact the high priest was required to make a sacrifice for himself first before entering into God's presence.  On top of this a rope would be tied around him, with a bell, in case he did not approach God correctly.  If done incorrectly, he would be struck dead and the bell would ring and the people would know to drag his body out.

This was the yearly sacrifice on behalf of all the people.  Going alongside these yearly sacrifices were the daily required sacrifices and a host of other daily sacrifices.  All this done to justify the sinner.

The Good News of Christianity is that by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross accomplished for us what we could never accomplish ourselves.  Before a holy and perfectly just God we could never justify ourselves.  On the cross Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  When we put our trust in Jesus (his life, death, and resurrection) then our sins our washed away and our debt has been paid.  Even more, Jesus continues to serve as our high priest.

Hebrews 7:25 says, "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."

Jesus constantly intercedes for us.  In the divine courtroom he is there!  

Because he constantly intercedes for me and we know that one day He will judge with perfect justice, I do not need to justify myself.  I can listen to others criticism and listen for the truth that they can contain.  Yes, sometimes criticism is hurtful but often this hurtful criticism does contain elements of truth that we need to hear.  If we jump to our own defence we will suffer the loss of peace that can be ours, we may hurt those we love, and we may lose an opportunity for growth in our own lives.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In Light of the Blessing

This morning I had the opportunity to worship with God's people at Christ's Covenant Church in Winona Lake, Indiana. The pastor was sharing from God's Word found in the third chapter of 1 Peter.

There is much to commend from the sermon but I just want to share one facet that I have found of great value. Below is the text.

1 Peter 3:13-17;
"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to share. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil."

Looking at the opening verse we can see what seems on the surface to be a simple straight forward, if not silly, question. Why would anyone cause harm to a person who does what is good? We all like people who do good things. When people give you a gift, it is a nice gesture, and we consider the act of giving the gift to be a good act. Going and cleaning up the gulf or not littering are all "good."

Our idea of good can also easily encompass the idea of benefit. In the sermon this morning, this is where I thought Pastor Larry did a great job. Sometimes benefit comes through a deceitful act. The example made this morning was an employee being pressured to fudge on tax reporting in order for his employer to avoid entering into a new tax bracket, potentially costing a loss of large profits. In the light of business larger amounts of profit is a good thing.

However, as Christians our definition of good comes from a much higher standard. In the preceding verses Peter writes, "For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good let him seek peace and pursue it." I think we could easily assume that one who keeps themselves from speaking deceit will surely pursue integrity in all its forms.

I believe that it is crystal clear, that on this side of Jesus' second coming, Christians will cost a perceived good by doing and pursuing what is right in the eyes of God. This can make us extremely unpopular. We may be shunned for our faith, lose a promotion, left off a guest list, or scrutinized for any form of dishonesty.

Going back to our verse. "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? The answer; ultimately, nobody. The verses go on saying in verse 14-15, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy."

This is great. Compare what Peter says here with what is written in Isaiah 8:13. "But the Lord of host, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." Peter has taken what was written about God in the Old Testament and applied it to Jesus. He is in control. Like Stephen in the book of Acts, as he was being stoned saw our risen Lord standing, we need to train ourselves to look beyond our circumstances, or our persecutors, and look to our glorious Lord.

Lastly, Pastor Larry said something beautifully hard. He said that this passage should cause us to cry out for those who persecute us because if they do not repent and turn to Jesus they will face an eternity of hell.

As we rejoice in knowing that our lives are in the hands of a loving Savior let us pray that God will shine the light of the gospel through our words and lives that the world and those that hate us may know the hope that we profess.

If you want to check out the rest of the sermon, I would encourage you to do so. It was a good one. Here is the link:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Really Want a Hamburger..., or Do I?

I live in the suburbs of a major U.S. city. One of the joys of living where I live is the plethora of choice. Choice of what? Well...just of about anything. I recall days of driving along Roosevelt Rd and seeing the Burger King sign and thinking I would really love to have some of that. Then I remember that Taco Bell is just down the road a mile, I think that I desire that instead. Suddenly the thought of scrumptious little golden fried nuggets of chicken come dancing along into my mind. Who would not love to have a 9 piece Chicken McNugget from McDonalds?

What I am really trying to say? What is the big deal that we have so many choices? Before I go any further let me say that I believe the ability to have choice is a wonderful blessing. However the blessing can often cause confusion to what we truly desire. At the core we all desire what is good and truly satisfying. This is a gift of God for our enjoyment and for His glory. The question is what "things" do we desire for and what do we delight in.

Psalm 37:4 is a favorite of mine. It reads: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Unfortunately I have heard this verse used in misguided ways. This verse does not say that if I desire to have $1 million that God will grant it if I desire Him. On the surface level that would be great. God would be like our magic genie that gives us what our selfish hearts want.

We know that things don't work that way. In life if we truly delight in something we will shape our lives around it. We will focus on it. Our values will change in such a way that we are put in position to get the maximum joy that is available for us. The Bible is full of language expressing that God is a treasure to be sought, or a jewel to be searched for. A relationship with God, made possible by the blood of Jesus on the cross, is our greatest good. It is the greatest thing that we can pursue.

When we pursue God like this it will shape our desires. We will no longer settle for what is cheap and leaves us feeling empty and unsatisfied. Our longing for God will increase and we will increasingly desire the things that are truly good and satisfying!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Carnal Christian?

First disappointing chapter of the Indwelling Life of Christ. Major Thomas is trying to get us to think about what kind of Christian we want to be. This is a good thing to think about but the way he argues for a carnal Christian is weak.
First, we must ask if there are truly any Carnal Christians or do we just have carnal/fleshly moments. This would take us back another step. This would be to think about what it means to be born again. Truly many people claim to be born again believers but their lives reflect nothing of the Savior who demands allegience and died for them.
John Piper wrote an excellent book on what happens when one is born again and the results of that new birth. I think a very short synopsis would be to say that to be born again is to have God himself give us a new heart, give life to a lifeless spirit, enabling us to see and value Christ as our highest treasure and greatest good. I do not believe that the concept of a Carnal Christian can fit inside of being born again.
Second, I think that his use of 1 Corinthians 3:15 is completely out of place. This reference should not be used to argue for the existence of carnal christians. The context that this verse is found in is a passage about church division, not about carnal lives. Can they be related, yes, but not directly in this verse. What we must realize with this verse is that as Paul goes on in the letter we see pretty clearly that not all those in the church were genuine believers.
I agree with the author that we need to think about how we are living out our Christian life. However, I do not think that we can choose what kind of Christian we want to be. There is only one kind of Christian. That Christian is born again and at the root of their being, because of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, they desire to live lives surrendered to the Lordship of Christ even if they still struggle with the flesh. If we allow people to believe that there is a choice then we are doing great damage to the church and are not being faithful stewards of God's Word, which calls people to repentance.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rest in His Righteous Ways

When Doing Right is Wrong
The underlining question in today's reading was why do so many people/ministers experience burnout? This has been seen to be in issue in the church, at least, within the past 100 years. Major Thomas argues that we fail to enter Christ's rest, that can be experienced now, when we strive towards what we think to be right.
"So long as Christians are busy doing for God what is best in their own eyes, they will never enter into His rest and the true inheritance that is theirs to enjoy now. The will only be sweating it out, and end up weary, discouraged, depressed. The will likely become deeply cynical."
Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matth. 11:28-30
Come "learn from me." This is the offer of our loving Lord and Savior. I know that far to often I get an idea or a felt conviction but do not take it to the Lord. I do not look to learn from Him. Just because I think that an idea or conviction is good in my eyes does not mean that it is right. It could very well be wrong and can lead to burnout and frustration.
So how do we keep from doing this? First, we need a deeply rooted conviction that God is sovereign over all His creation, including His mission in the world. Even with our greatest effort we cannot change a sinners heart or give life where there is no life. This is the work of God. We need to be intentional with our efforts but we need to prayerfully seek what is from God and what is not. Second, we need to consult God's Word. Is there a part of our plans/schemes that would conflict with a direct command of God causing a compromise in obedience to His declared truth. Third, we should seek wisdom from others. Maybe they see something that we do not and can help us from running into dead ends. Fourth, we need to commit all our plans to God. In doing this we allow him to close doors and say "no."
Sometimes this "no" can be very difficult but we need to believe that we have a good benevolent God who wants the best for His people. It is His desire that we find rest in His righteous ways.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reasonable Demands...unsettling thought

Two days in a row....woohoo! I am continuing with my thoughts on "The Indwelling Life of Christ. The chapter for today was "God's Reasonable Demands.
In Matthew 5:48 we are told to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Every time I read this verse I gulp. I may not realize the depths of my depravity but I am keenly aware of my battle with sin.
Yet, Jesus calls us to be perfect. Truly we are saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross so it is completely unmeritorious that I can claim to have any favor before my heavenly Father. It is clear in the Scriptures that this is to lead to my sanctification. The goal of this is complete perfection.
Jesus was and is the image of the invisible God and Christ is to be formed in me. Gulp...the Bible makes it clear that we are to be light where this is darkness. We are to bring the light of Christ, which now is being formed in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, into the dark places. These may include our homes, neighborhoods, work places, schools, community centers, workout facilities, churches (yes these too), and the world beyond.
Because we are this image bearers, God's Demands are completely reasonable. It is reasonable because He created us, and He did so in His image.
It should not surprise us that His laws lived out through us are meant to shine forth what He is like. Though shall not murder. God is the creator of life, loves people, and prizes them. Because He loves people we should love people and live in such a way that shows that value.
I know that I am not there. As Paul writes in Philippians 3, may I "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Heavenly Father, may I humbly press on toward the prize that awaits. I know that in my flesh that there is nothing good within me. Thank you that in Christ, I am a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come. Help me to die to my flesh every day that I may live a life that is being molded into a life that is being made new.