Saturday, August 15, 2015

God's Greatest Joy

One of my favorite parables is found in Luke 15:1-7, as I believe it shows the true heart of God.  In fact, this parable is located right before the parable of the prodigal son.  The parable of the prodigal son is meant to illustrate the great truth shown in verses 1-7.  Here are those verses in their entirety:

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming
near Him to listen to Him.  Both the Pharisees and the
scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives 
sinners and eats with them." So He told them this parable 
saying, "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep
and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine
in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until
he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, 
rejoicing. Ans when he comes home, he calls together his 
friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, 
for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you in the 
same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner 
who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who
need no repentance."

What these verses tell us is that God's greatest joy is when someone turns from their sin and turns to Him.  This great and wonderful truth is illustrated in the story of the prodigal son (vs 11-24) by the father who, from a distance, sees his lost son coming to him and runs to him in joy, embracing and kissing him, and holding a celebration for him.  

In a sense, this great joy of God should not surprise us, for because of His great love for us He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins.  However, so many of us labor under a couple of popular misconceptions of God that veil our eyes from this truth. 

Misconception #1.
God is a God of wrath, who is eager and waiting to punish you, strike you down, and send you to hell because of your sin. We always hear the line about not standing to close to someone in case God zaps them for doing something wrong. You see, even using that line, which almost all of us have used, shows that we do have a sense that punishment for wrongdoing is right, and must be carried out for there to be true justice.  Yes, if God is holy and righteous there must be and will be ultimate justice for any and all wrongdoing, but that doesn't mean that God just can't wait to get even or that He delights in some kind of barbaric punishment or that He chortles over the eternal damnation of anyone.

What the Bible tells us about God's heart and attitude toward men, all men, is just the opposite, not only do the parables mentioned above illustrate this truth, but here is what else the Bible (God speaking) reveals to us about it:

Ezekiel 18:23 "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord God, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live."
Ezekiel 18:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God. "Therefore, repent and live."
Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die?"
I Timothy 2:3b-4...God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
II Peter 3:9 The Lord is slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

So what we see here in these verses is that it gives God pleasure, it brings God joy when someone, anyone, turns from their sinful ways and comes to Him for forgiveness.  

Misconception #2.
God is a benign God who is somewhat detached from this world, but loves us as we are, let's us set our own moral code and use our own guidelines for entering heaven (whatever our version of that may happen to be).  This misconception totally misconstrues what the real love of God is.  Let's see what the Bible tells us about this:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Ephesians 2:1-8 And you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in  Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no man may boast.

The real love of God is the love that moved God to have mercy and compassion on us by providing the means of forgiveness of our sins (the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross), and salvation (our acceptance by faith and its corresponding trust in the work that God has done on our behalf through Jesus Christ). If God loves us like we are then there would have been no need to send Christ as the sacrifice for our sins. 

The common thread that binds both of these misconceptions together is a faulty view of sin, not just sin in general, but our own sin in particular.  Both views really downplay the heinous nature of all sin and how egregious is sin, all sin, any sin, to God.  We all know what sin is, and we all know that we have sinned.  However, have we grasped how serious even one sin is? Again, let's take a look at what the Bible says.

Leviticus 11:44 "For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because God is holy, any sin and all sin, is an affront to His holiness and is worthy of death.  Because He is just, no sin can be overlooked.  Because He is righteous all sin(s) will receive a just judgment, a right recompense, and a proper punishment.

Because of His great love He has placed the sins of those who will come to Him in faith upon Christ, and Christ has born the punishment for those sins in our stead.

So, at the cross we see both the justice of God and the love of God on full display.

Because of God's understanding of the justice that awaits all who sin, because of God's love providing a way for the payment of the penalty due for every sin, God therefore takes great pleasure and has unbounding joy in the salvation of those who turn to Him.

Have you heard His voice calling you to come home to Him?  Will you answer that call and turn to Him?  Will you forsake all else for His salvation?  Will you trust in what He has done to save you from the right and just consequences of a life that is lived apart from Him?  Will you call your sin as that which it is and call out to the Lord for His forgiveness?  For when you do there will be great joy in heaven among all its hosts for the salvation of your soul; and the Father Himself, the God and Creator of all that is, will run to meet you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Stop It, Enough Already, Man Up and Fess UP

I almost always keep quiet regarding Christian personalities and issues (unless it is false teaching), as it is too easy for it to turn into self-righteous character assassination or internet gossip.  However, I am out of patience with those who supported and promoted Mark Driscoll remaining silent, unrepentant, and unapologetic.

Too many pastors, young and older, were influenced by him.  Too many people were damaged and savaged by him.  The cause of Christ was wounded because of him, all while the warning signs were there and were not hidden; and those who supported him and promoted him have remained silent.

Unfortunately, we are now subjected to this puff piece interview of John Piper.  Yes, what John says in this interview is true, but it makes him look like the wise sage now that the carnage is over, while ignoring his association and promotion of Mark Driscoll.  This piece provides cover for him by letting him address, from a distance of time, what happened without calling him to take responsibility for his part in the victory against the church he says Satan has had in this situation.  It allows him to take the the "high, noble, and wise ground" as if he had nothing to do with it.  John Piper is one of the main reasons Mark Driscoll had a national following, and for John to continue avoiding the responsibility for his fomenting of Mark Driscoll's reputation is unconscionable.  For The Gospel Coalition to do the interview and air this piece is just as unconscionable.

John and The Gospel Coalition, for the sake of the church you say you love and its unity, come out boldly and admit your part in the Mark Driscoll debacle.  It would go a long way toward healing and the restoration of trust in your ministries and motives.

See the interview below by following the link below.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Truth and Right Thinking

For as he thinks within himself, so he is...
Proverbs 23:7

The Bible tells man what to think, how to think, and why to think.  It tells us of the benefits of right thinking and the consequences of wrong thinking.  It presents the foundation of right thinking, which is the knowledge of God Himself, and the corresponding knowledge of man himself.  

The Bible is the foundation for right thinking because it presents to us the truth about God, and the truth about God becomes the mirror and backdrop from which we learn the truth about man, which is the truth about ourselves.  We will never know the full truth about ourselves until we know the truth about God; and an important facet of knowing the truth about God is the belief and its consequential acceptance of what the Bible says about Him.  

Truth is reality, what is real, as compared to what is imagined, desired, or fantasized.  The Bible presents life and existence (now and eternally) as it really is, not as we want it to be.  The Bible presents God as He really is, not as we want Him to be or imagine Him to be.  The Bible presents man (all of us) as he really is, not as we want him to be or imagine ourselves to be.

For a man to be right before God and to right with God, he must first think rightly about God and rightly about himself.  Only the truth of God, found in the pages of the Bible can lead a man to the path and down the path to be right with God.  God has given us the Bible for just that purpose, as He wants us to be right with Him.

Do you want to be right with God?  Do you want to think rightly about God and about yourself? Then turn to the Bible, for it is there that you will find the foundation for right thinking, the truth.  

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A Powerful Truth

Those who are meek before God, 
Will have the strength to be 
Unyielding before men.
II Corinthians 12:10

Monday, June 29, 2015

When Preaching on Hell and the Wrath of God

When preaching on hell and the wrath of God,
which you must if you are going to preach a complete gospel,
you must bring your hearers close enough to hell to feel its heat,
 and keep them there long enough to make them sweat.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Be a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a Soldier of the Cross

Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb, and
shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies
on flow'ry beds of ease, while
others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes to for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace,
to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord;  I'll
bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported  by Thy Word.

Thy saints, in all this glorious war, 
shall conquer though they die;
they view the triumph from afar,
and seize it with their eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all Thine armies shine in robes
of vict'ry through the skies,
the glory shall be Thine.

Isaac Watts

This hymn was written circa 1721-24 while Watts was preaching on I Corinthians 16;13, and was appended to Watts sermons published during this period , "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." is the admonition in this verse.  In the time when the persecution of Christians is global and increasing, the timelessness of this hymn is a vital reminder to us all of the challenge and cost and glory of taking up our cross and fighting the good fight of faith.  

Since Genesis 3 those who follow the Lord have been embroiled in a long war against the truth, and this war is also against those who love the truth, speak the truth, and live the truth. So, in a very real sense all who name the name of Christ enter into the battle in some way.  May this hymn encourage and strengthen us all to be strong and be soldiers of the cross.