Friday, December 24, 2010

Receiving the Gift

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

John 1:12

We celebrate Christmas by giving gifts in honor of the gift of His Son that the Lord gave to us.  But as with any giving, there must be receiving.  The gift must be taken; and in regards to the gift of Christ, He must be appropriated, taken into one's self and made a part of one's self.  For, after all, He is the gift of God. All of salvation is bound up in Christ. In Him are found salvation, justification, righteousness, sanctification, glorification, reconciliation, peace, hope, joy, security, spiritual life, and eternal life.

How do you know you have received the gift?

1. You cling to Him with a tenacity and a ferocity as you would cling for dear life to a rock, even when battered and bruised by the waves of the storm, but refusing to let go and be taken under. You know and understand He is your only hope.

2. Your trust is in Him and Him alone, and you refuse to trust in yourself, your ability to keep your own set of rules. You don’t trust in your self-made righteousness. You refuse to trust in a system, a decision, a prayer, an event, an action, but your only and total trust is in Him.

3.Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice.” So you know His voice and you listen for His voice above the cacophony of the competing voices of this world. It is  to His beat that you march, not the world’s or your own. It is His approval that you crave. It is His voice you long to hear, and it is His presence that is most dear.

4. He is your most precious treasure, the most precious gift you have ever been given. He is the pearl of great price by which all else pales in comparison. He is the One for whom you would forsake all others. He is most precious, most dear to you, more special than your family, your friends, than all comforts, than all your stuff. He is more precious and more dear then all the trinkets of this world; more precious, more dear than your pride, your reputation, yes, and even more precious than life itself.

Have you received Christ? Have you received the indescribable gift that God Himself has made available to all the world.  Receive Him today and take into yourself the full and true meaning of Christmas, and rejoice in the Christmas of God.

Friday, December 17, 2010

United with Christ

According to Paul in Ephesians 1 this is what we have in Christ:

1. Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
2. Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
3. Predestined for adoption as sons.
4. The free bestowal of His grace.
5. Redemption through His blood.
6. Forgiveness of our trespasses.
7. Knowledge of the mystery of His will.
8. An inheritance.
9. Sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise-the pledge of our inheritance.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

United with Christ

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized
into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism
into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through
the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His
death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that
our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no
longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. 
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we whall also
live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the
dead, is never to die again; death is no longer is master over Him. 
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all;
but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider
yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:3-11

Union with Christ its broader aspects it underlies every step of the application
of redemption.  Union with Christ is really the central truth of the
whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application,
but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished
work of Christ.

John Murray
Redemption Accomplished and Applied
Page 161

The Gospel

The Gospel changes your life because
the Gospel unites you to Jesus Christ.

Sinclair Ferguson
Basics Conference

Friday, December 10, 2010

Coming to Christ

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me,
and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
John 6:37

We come to Him because we have believed in Him, and upon Him we have cast all our hope for our eternal salvation.  We come to Him because we depend upon His finished work, His once for all sacrifice, His blood bought redemption, and nothing else.  We come to Him because He, and He alone, is the the way, the truth, and the life; and we know that there is no other way to enter heaven and stand before the throne of God except through Him.  We come to Him because He alone is the Holy One of God, and He alone has the words of eternal life.  We come to Him and Him alone.

Come to Jesus, come to Christ, come to your one and only Savior today.  Come to Him casting all that you are and all that you have upon all that He is and all that He has done.  Behold, He stands at the door of your heart and knocks!  Come to Him now, delay no longer.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ultimate Reason

For from Him and through Him
and to Him are all things. To Him
be the glory forever. Amen
Romans 11:36

"For life is about God."
Pastor Conrad Mbewe

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Being Southern Baptist

When I was growing up my immediate family was the so called black sheep of the clan, as we were Methodist while everyone else was Southern Baptist.  The reason for this was that my mother was Methodist and my dad was a non-believer.  So we went to the Methodist church.  In fact, we went nearly every time the door was opened.  But whenever we were visiting the rest of the family we always went to a Southern Baptist church.  Even though the gospel I heard in the Methodist church was the same gospel I heard in the Southern Baptist church, they just did church differently, and sometimes were just a little too stuffy for my taste.  So I grew up with a bit of prejudice towards Southern Baptists. 

Fast forward to college and I was an irregular church attender, but still, when I went to church, I went to the Methodist church; and made the audacious statement that there were two things I would never be...a Baptist and an insurance salesman.  In my thinking, at the time, they were both about the same.

Well, you guessed it, in the Lord's timing I became both a Baptist and an insurance salesman.  If anyone tells you the Lord does not have a sense of humor or enjoys irony, send them to me.  I did not become a Christian until after we had joined a Southern Baptist church.  The reason we joined a SB church was that we could not find a Methodist church that preached out of the Bible, and even though I was not yet a real Christian, I thought I was; and wanted to hear the Bible preached out of when I went to church.  So, for most of my Christian life I have been part of a Southern Baptist church.

Not being brought up Southern Baptist I have never had that inbred allegiance to the Southern Baptist Convention, like one would have for being a native Texan.  I had always considered myself first and foremost a conservative evangelical who happened to be Southern Baptist.  I did leave the SBC for almost three years and helped plant a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, but when the time to leave came I went back to the SBC.  

This brings us up to now.  When we started Grace Covenant Church in June 2007 I had no particular design for us to be Southern Baptist, or any other flavor for that matter, but I believed that at some point we would need to be affiliated with a group larger than us because I don't believe in Lone Ranger churches, and, honestly, most churches are not big enough to do all that they need or want to do for missions and evangelism.  Also, when we started we had two familes that were anti-SBC.  When we began, affiliation was not a major priority as our main concerns were to preach the word, establish the church, and get the church on firm footing. 

The two families that were anti-SBC have left, and after two years we believed the church was at a point that we needed to become affiliated.  So we set some criteria and they are as follows:

Doctrinal compatibility and stability.  Does the group as a whole have a high view of God and Scripture?
Ecclesiological compatibility.  Do we hold to a common view of the church, do we hold the same view on the ordinances?
Missions/Evangelism both here in the States and abroad, not neglecting one or the other.
Missions/Evangelism here in Texas.
Local church autonomy. 
Partnership attitude.
Seminary training by affiliated seminaries, who hold to the same doctrinal standards, to train the next generation of pastors. 
Resources that are available for the local church.
Gospel partnership opportunities.

Although there are many fine and godly groups and denominations to affiliate with, when we applied this set of criteria to the different groups and denominations it became obvious to us that all roads led to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The SBC certainly is not perfect, we don't expect them to be, but they do fit us the best, and we hope our partnership with them is mutually profitable for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reminded by God

He who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth,
The Lord is His name.
The Lord God of hosts,
The One who touches the land so that it melts,
And all those who dwell in it mourn,
And all of it rises up like the Nile
And subsides like the Nile of Egypt;
The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens
And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth,
He who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth,
The Lord is His name.

Amos 5:8, 9:6-7

Two times in the midst of His dirge against Israel, God stops and reminds the Israelites of who He is and His great power.  He not only does this in Amos, but this is a pattern throughout the Old Testament.  He starts this in Genesis 17:1 when He tells Abraham, "I am God Almighty, walk before Me and be blameless."  He does this in the last few chapters of Job as He confronts Job with His power and majesty and starts off by saying, "Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you and you instruct Me!"  There are myriads of other times  in the Old Testament where God has to remind those with whom He is dealing of exactly who He is.  

Sometimes today, with us, He has to remind us of who He is.  Sometimes it is to put us in our place as we have become a little too big for our spiritual britches, and we need to be brought back to reality.  Sometimes it is because we need to see that He is bigger than our situation, or the people we are facing.  Sometimes it is to remind us that He is more than capable of delivering what He has promised.  Sometimes it is to remind us that He is God and we are not, and that He alone is God.  Sometimes it is to remind us that we are not the captain of our ship or the master of our fate, but He is, and as such we are answerable to Him. Sometimes it is for comfort and sometimes for correction.  Sometimes it is to remind us that He is bigger than life and all that it holds.  All the time it is to give us the proper perspective on life, His perspective. 

We are forgetful by nature, and are often deceived by sin; and sometimes we have to be reminded of what we already know.  That is why daily devotionals or consistent bible study is so good for us.  Through His word He speaks to us to remind us of all that He is and all that He has done.  It is refreshing to be reminded.  It is soul stirring to be reminded.  It is necessary to be reminded.  It is good for us to be reminded.  Thanks be to God that He has not forgotten that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pastors and Theology

Theology has been defined as the science which studies God and all that relates to Him.  So, at a minimum, every pastor should be a theologian.  Our study should not be for the sermon, but for a deeper knowledge of God, how He has revealed Himself through the pages of Scripture and through His Son.  We then preach out of the overflow of the knowledge of the Holy One that we have gained through our study during the week.  When the dust settles, it should be the knowledge of God and its application that we are communicating to our people.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Trials and Afflictions

This is a letter I wrote recently to someone who is going through a time of trials and affliction.  I am posting it in the hope it will be helpful to you or someone you know.

The Lord alone knows what all He is using these series of trials to accomplish in your lives. However, I do know that so many times He is taking the knowledge we have about Him from our head into our heart, so that the knowledge ceases to be academic and becomes experiential; and, as such, becomes part of the fabric of our person, part of who we really are and how we really live. It is one thing to know about the fact that His grace is always sufficient, and then quite another to know the sufficiency of His grace because you have experienced it and lived it through a season of trial and affliction.

Being that we do have similar temperaments, I would offer this bit of insight into what you are going through, and I hinted at it a little yesterday over the phone. Both of us have a very strong strand of self-sufficiency, and are very good at taking care of things and getting things done for ourselves and by ourselves. For people like us, the Lord has to get us in a situation where we are past the point of being able to handle it by ourselves, where the situation is bigger than us and our own abilities, and keep us there for a while. He wants us to understand that He is bigger than we are, and that He is absolutely in control, not us. He wants us to become dependent on Him, and learn to stay dependent on Him. Again, it is one thing to know that, and another to experience it to the point where it affects a permanent change in us. Also, in James 4, He tells us that He is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The root of self-sufficiency is a very subtle form of pride, a pride that says I can do this, I can handle this; and in essence says, “I don’t need the Lord.” So the Lord shows us that we do indeed need Him. He shows us that we cannot handle it, successfully, completely, and consistently without depending on Him...casting ourselves completely upon Him.

So many times a trial we are experiencing is comprised of many trials, sort of trials within a trial, and they are all related. During this time they tend to hit us like waves from the ocean, so as soon as we get our head up from the prior wave a new wave engulfs us. I was thinking of this when you were telling me about your children getting sick and throwing up right in the middle of everything else.

My wife and I were talking a few days ago, and she told me of a quote she had come across that day. It is “Circumstances are the expression of God’s will.” God is sovereign over your circumstances…all of them. Psalm 103:19 tells us, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” He is ruling over what you are going through right now, and it did not come upon you without His will. A section in Psalm 119 gives us some insight into His purposes in times of affliction:

119:65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
According to Your word.
119:67-68 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
You are good and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
119:71-73 It is good for me that I was afflicted
That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
119:75-77 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,
According to Your word to Your servant.
May Your compassion come to me that I may live,
For your law is my delight.

The word affliction means to have hardships, to find oneself in a stunted, lowly, humble position; and it is also the means by which God brings us to that stunted position.

I am praying for you, not just for relief from your circumstances, but also for all that God has for you in and through this time of trial and affliction…for I know His grace is truly sufficient, and His mercies are new every morning.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Word from My Wife

My wife and I were talking the other day.  You know, the general type of conversation that you have with your wife, kind of an odds and ends conversation that covers the events of the day.  In this particular conversation she shared with me a quote she had come across that day.  It is, "Circumstances are the expression of God's will."  How simple, true, and to the point; and well worth meditating upon.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Desiring Heaven

All men want to go to heaven,
whatever their own version of it is.
They just want to choose their
own way, by their own means,
in accordance with their own desires.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Much has been said, as of late, regarding the subject of contextualization.  The problem with much of the discussion is that almost everyone has their version or defintion of what the term means.  David Sills, in his new book "Reaching and Teaching" has devoted an entire chapter to this topic; and, in my opinion, is the most balanced and fair treatment of the topic.  Although his book and his discussion are concerning foreign missions, much of it is transferable to church life here in the states.  The chapter entitled "Critical Contextualization" is relevant for any discussion on contextualization regardless of the culture. 

In this chapter, on page 199, he makes statement that not only sums up the entire chapter; but sums up what the entire discussion on contextualization should be centered upon.  It is this, "The goal of contexualization is to be culturally relevant and faithful to God's word."  He also gives many good examples of contextualiztion and shows how we all do it. 

A very good read, and I think that those interested in church planting should also read this book.  As I mentioned earlier, even though this book addresses foreign missions, much of what is said is transferable to church planting and evangelism here in the states.  I could not help but see the similarities, and there is much in this book that is both challenging and affirming.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Place of Our Hope

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints because of the hope
laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

In the final post in this series we will look at the place of our hope, or where or hope is placed.

First lets talk about what hope is. The Greek word for hope means something different from our English word. When we use the word hope we mean a strong desire or a fervent wish for something, and we are not sure if we will get what we want; maybe we will, maybe we won’t. However, the word, the concept of hope in the Greek, conveys something different from our view of hope. The word for hope in the Greek is elpis and it means a sure and confident expectation, a joyful knowing anticipation of something yet future.  A vividly beautiful picture, a marvelous picture of hope is painted for us in Psalm 130:5-6, "I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning." Here we see the watchman as he waits for the dawn with a confident knowing expectation that the dawn will come, no matter how dark or long the night. But, his hope in the Lord is greater and firmer than his knowledge that the dawn will come.  This is a firm ground of expectation. This is hope.

Now lets see why we have hope, this confident expectation, for there must be a reason for hope, there must be a basis for hope, there must be a ground for our hope to rest upon. For us as Christians that ground is Jesus Christ.  He is our firm ground of expectation. As the God-man He lived a sinless life in our stead. As the Psalmist says we are born in sin, and therefore we are incapable of not sinning, so Jesus lived a sinless life for us. He suffered a vicarious and substitutionary death on the cross by taking on the death that was rightfully ours, and it was at the cross that the great exchange took place. Paul explains this in II Corinthian 5:21 in that Christ became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He was then buried and descended into Hell and was there for three days until God raised Him up victorious over Satan and the grave with the keys of death and Hell in His hand. Then Christ ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession to God on our behalf. All of this has been done by Christ for us, and it is this, this finished and complete work of Christ that has made our salvation not just possible, but for those whom God has called and drawn to Himself, it has made salvation certain and heaven our eternal destination. This is why Peter could say in I Peter 1:4, that our inheritance reserved in heaven for us.  This is the ground of our hope and this present reality of our future place and position has as its unshakeable foundation that which Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf. This is why we sing “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Only in Christ is there a hope, a sure and confident expectation for the future and our future is eternity. Through Christ, God has given us a future to hope for, a future to desire, and a future to look forward to with joyful anticipation.

The words laid up in verse five are one word in the Greek and mean to be stored up, to await, to reserve. So we see that this hope is not for here and now, but for heaven. So we are to have a joyful knowing anticipation of heaven. This is what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 15:19 when he said “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Friends, we should be looking forward to heaven just as the watchman looks forward to the dawn. Heaven should be a present daily reality for us, just as the coming dawn was an anticipated reality for the watchman in Psalm 130.

Another reason for our hope is that this is the plan of God for us, and we know from Job 42:2 that no purpose of God can be thwarted. In thinking about our hope, our confidence in what God has done for us I am reminded of a couple of verses in the Old Testament. First, Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” and Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” All that Christ has done for us has been in the mind of God from eternity past. From all eternity this was His plan to do this for us in Christ, not because we deserved it or could somehow earn it, but because of His great love for us; and because of the abundance of His lovingkindness He has done this so that we could spend the rest of eternity as His people and He as our God. We know from Philippians 1:6 that what God has started in us He will complete. So we can rest assured that God will completely perform His purpose and fully carry out His plan. In Psalm 138:8 God tells us that He will accomplish what concerns us. What concerns us is our salvation and our redemption, not just of our soul, but of our entire person, both the inner and the outer man. Let’s look at I Thessalonians 5:23-24.  "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame a the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." This is what John was referring to in I John 3:2-3"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, that we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure." What makes this possible, rather, what makes this certain? It is the finished and complete work of Christ. This is our joy; this is our delight, to look forward with confidence to the completion of our salvation as we stand before the Lord holy, blameless, and complete in the completeness of Christ.

Finally, our hope is laid up for us in heaven because Jesus is there. Let’s look at John 14:1-6. Here we have one of the great promises in Scripture. Christ is preparing a place for us and where is this place? It is in heaven, in His Father’s house. Not only is He preparing a place for us, but He is promising to come again and take us to Himself so that we can be with Him in heaven. Next He says something heart catching.  He says that we know the way, the way to heaven, and that He is that way, the only way. Do you want to go to heaven? Well then, are you following Christ? He alone is the way; He alone is that narrow way with the narrow gate that leads to heaven. No other way will take you there. There are several verses in Hebrews that also speak to this. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Hebrew 6:19-20 tells us that this hope we have is an anchor of the soul, and it is sure and steadfast. What does an anchor do? It holds the ship and does not let it drift. It was used in times of a storm to keep the ship from being blown off course or to keep it from crashing on the rocks. That is the picture of what our hope, this sure and confident expectation, does for us in the times of storm in our life. It anchors us, keeps our life and faith from being blown off course. When our life is the darkest, when we have the times that we are tired and disgusted of dealing with the sin that so easily entangles us, we can joyfully and confidently anticipate our arrival in heaven, we can look forward to the freedom from the travails of this world and the struggles with our own flesh. We know that this is coming just as sure as the dawn.

We also see that our hope is one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us. What does this tell us? First that Jesus has passed through the heavens and behind the veil as our forerunner. A forerunner is one who goes before, to make the path, to blaze the trail so that others can follow. In the OT tabernacle the Holy of Holies, which was where the presence of God hovered over the mercyseat, was partitioned by a veil and only the High Priest could enter once a year on the day of atonement. When Christ was crucified the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom signifying that the way to the presence of God was now open, and here in Hebrews we see that it is Jesus, the God-man who has entered the true heavenly tabernacle before us, so that we might be able to come into heaven itself to be in the presence of God.

Hebrews 8:12 tells us that we have such a high priest who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. The fact that Jesus has taken His seat signifies that His work is completed, and the fact that He is seated at God’s right hand show us that His work has found favor with God and has pleased God. So we see that His work of accomplishing our salvation was finished, and the purpose and pleasure of God was completed when Christ passed through the heavens and went within the veil into the very presence of God Himself. There is nothing left for Jesus to do to ascertain our salvation.

Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. It is for us, those who believe in His name, that He has done all of this. Christ has not done this for those who spurn Him, for those who have Him in low regard, but He has done this for those of us who love Him and cherish Him, for those who are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Hebrews 12:22-23 tells us that we have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. Now we also see from this last verse that we are enrolled in heaven. This word enroll means to record, to register, as on a roll or census. So we see our name is registered as one who belongs in heaven, and no one whose name is not registered can enter into heaven. It is like going to an invitation only event and having your name checked at the door to see if it is on the guest register. Only those who have trusted Christ as the only way to heaven have their name on that roll.

Yes, our hope is in heaven because Jesus is there. Is this your hope my friends, is this your joyful anticipation that is as sure as the dawn coming. Are you looking forward with a confident expectation to being with Jesus? Do you have hope today of seeing Jesus face to face because you know your name is on heaven’s roll? You see heaven is ours, but it is not for those who have not trusted in Christ. For them this world is all that they have. That is why they are so attached to the things of this world, and that is why they act the way they do. This is the reason behind their greed, selfishness, jealousy, the storing up of treasures for themselves upon earth. This is why Christ tells us not to be like them, but to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. This is why we are not to set our mind on the things of earth, but on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. These are the ones who are separated from Christ, without God, who have no hope. Heaven is ours, it is where our hope is to be, and it is what God has given us through Christ. Oh friends, take your eyes off of the world and look to heaven, where Jesus awaits. Let the reality of heaven, the eternal blessing of being in the presence of God, be your joyful anticipation.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Direction of Our Love II

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of you faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope
laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

This is a continuation of the previous post.

Why is this love directed toward the saints?
Most of us who have been Christians for any length of time are familiar with the two greatest commandments in all of Scripture. The greatest is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and the second is like it, it is to love your neighbor as yourself. We all know that when Jesus came He fulfilled all of the law, so He fulfilled these two commandments. But what He also did was to raise the bar.  Look at John 13:34-35. Here Jesus gives a new command, and this command is to love (agapao) one another, which would be fellow believers (the saints), not as ourselves, but as He has loved us. This is what John is referring to in I John 4:7 when he says “Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God.” So we are to have the same love toward all the saints that Christ Jesus has for us. This is why Paul is commending the Colossian saints, for following the command of Christ to love one another as He has loved us. According to John 13:35 this love for all the saints will prove to all men that we are His disciples, His followers. If you think about what we have seen about agape, you can understand how this would be a witness to all men that we are His disciples, His followers, because only Christ or someone who has Christ living within can love like this.

We also see that this is a particular love.  It is Christ’s love, and His love for his own, His saints, being lived out through His saints for one another. This is a powerful witness to all men, both saved and unsaved, of the reality of the power and love of Christ. And when we follow His command to love one another we prove our love for Him as He said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” and we see the saints at Colossae doing just that. Isn’t it wonderful that the love of Christ has already been poured out within our hearts so that His command to love one another as He has loved us is not burdensome, but a joy. Christ Jesus wants us to love one another as He loved us. He wants us, His own, to continually share and experience His love for us with and through each other. Oh, what a glorious thing this ought to be in the church, to never be without the love of Christ. What a wonderful provision He has given us to never be without His love. This is the reason behind the gifts and the gifted given to the church in Ephesians chapter 4, to attain to the stature of the fullness of Christ, and in doing so the church will build itself up in love, agape, Christ’s love.

How is this love manifested?
When something is manifested it means that it is revealed. As believers we reveal the love of Christ in how we live it out, and from the context here in Colossians it is lived out in relation to other believers. Let’s look at some practical examples from the Scriptures.

We are to be angry and yet, not sin.
We are to let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouth, but only that which edifies.
We are to let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from us.
We are to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other.
We are to bear one another’s burdens.
We are to bear one another’s weaknesses.
We are to be on the alert and pray for one another with all prayer and petition.
We are not to be arrogant toward one another.
We are not to be partial.
We are to treat each other the way we would want to be treated.
We are to please others instead of ourselves.
We are to defer to others by considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We are to do no wrong to one another.
We are to accept one another.
We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
We are not to be provoked.
We are not to act unbecomingly toward one another.
We are to speak the truth to one another in love
We are to be patient with one another.
We are not to gossip about one another.
We are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
We are to provide for one another’s needs.
We are to reconcile with one another.
We are to gently restore those who sin.
We are to be subject to one another.
Our love is to cover a multitude of sins against us and still keep on loving.
No matter how much and how well we love we are to excel still more.

This is the essence of love, God’s own love, Christ’s own love, that has been given to us.  This is the love in which we are rooted and by which we are grounded.

You know, we hear so often today that we are to love ourselves or that we must learn to love ourselves. This is the mantra behind all the self-help books and seminars, many of the twelve step programs, and unfortunately is what is being taught in so many churches. This is the eternal lie. Self love is the polar opposite of agape.  Love of self is what Satan has always possessed.  It is what Satan was really telling Eve to do in the garden. It is what Satan was tempting Christ to do in the wilderness. Isn’t it interesting that there is no place in Scripture that says God loves Himself. What Scripture says is that God loves us, that God loves His Son, that God so loved us that He gave His Son, His only Son whom He loved, for us, that we might have eternal life with Him and enjoy His presence forever. In addition, we are not commanded in Scripture to love ourselves, but to love God, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to love one another as He has loved us. In fact, there is no place in the Scriptures where self love is commended.

In I Corinthians 13:5 it says that love does not seek its own.  In other words it is not self seeking, self focused.  The focus of our love is to be on God and therefore on His saints, our brother and sisters in Christ. My friends don’t fall prey to the siren song of self love, but follow the command of Christ, the example of Christ, to love one another as He has loved us. Greater love has no man than this than that He would lay down His life for His friends. My friends, my fellow saints, let us love like this today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Direction of Our Love I

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the
hope laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

As we saw in the previous post this section of Scripture talks about the object of the Colossians faith—Christ Jesus, the direction of their love—toward all the saints, and the place of their hope—which is in heaven.  We see the purpose for Paul writing this epistle in 4:12 and 2:1-3, and it is so that the Colossians would stand fully assured in their faith. When working with someone to build up their confidence, their assurance, you start with commending them on what they are already doing well or right. We see Paul doing just that in these verses as he commends the Colossians on the exercise of their faith, love, and hope. In the last post we looked at the object of their faith, Christ Jesus, so today I want to talk about the direction of their love, which is toward all the saints; and as it was for the church at Colossae, it should be for the church today.

So as we consider the direction of their love and therefore the direction of our love in the church today we want to look at 4 things:

1. What is this love they have?
2. Where does this love originate?
3. Why is this love directed towards the saints?
4. How is this love manifested?

What is this love they have?
Well, the Greek word for love used here is agape. It is one of the four words the Greeks used for love. These four words for love are storge, eros, phileo, and agape. Storge means natural affection, like you would have for a pet, or the natural affection a parent has for their child. It is not used in the NT, except twice in its negative sense in Romans 1:31 and II Timothy 3:3 to describe how far man falls without God. Eros, is a passionate, sensual, physical love. It is a love based on infatuation and sensual attraction. It is often used to describe romantic love. This is the kind of love we see portrayed in movies, television programs, romance novels, and sung about in our music. Interestingly, it is never used in the Scriptures. Then there is phileo, brotherly love. Phileo is a warm and tender affection. It can be deep and intense. It is used to describe the love for those near and dear to one’s heart. It is a love that cherishes. It is a love that is reciprocal in nature and a love that is shared. It is used throughout the NT. Finally, there is agape, the predominant word used for love in the NT. Agape is a love of the will and the mind. It is a love of choice and commitment. It is not devoid of emotion, but overrules and overrides emotion. It acts in spite of how one feels. It is a selfless love, an unselfish love, a sacrificial love. It is not motivated by the self, but by others. It loves even if the person who is the object of the love is undeserving, unworthy, and unloving in return. It puts what is best for the other person first and foremost. It is a love that compels one to action. In the NT it is used to describe the love of God, the love of Christ, and how we are to love. This type of love was thought unattainable by the Greeks and is only used in secular Greek writings two or three times. So what we see in the Scriptures in not “being in love” but the act of loving.

Where does this love originate?
As you can see the Greeks were right in thinking this type of love (agape) was unattainable, from a human perspective. The heights this love operates in are unassailable for us mere mortals. So where do we go to find this love, where are the headwaters of this love? Let's look at I John 4:7-8 and 16. As we see in these verses, God is love, and the word used for love here is agape. Note that it does not say that God has love, or that God is a loving being, but that God is love. By saying that God is love John is saying that love is intrinsic to who God is, it is part of His nature and is inseparable from who He is; and, therefore, inseparable from His actions. It is as much a part of Him as your eye color is of you. This love that is part and parcel of who God is, is agape. God is agape. This love of the will, of choice and commitment, this love that compels to action, this love that is selfless, unselfish, and sacrificial, this love that loves despite the unloveliness of the object loved, that loves despite its unworthiness, and that loves in spite of its hatefulness in return. This is a love that comes from a predetermined state of mind that exists because it is part of core of God's being, this is the love that God is. This is the love that is described in I Corinthians 13 as patient, kind, never jealous, never bragging, is never arrogant, never acts unbecomingly, is never self seeking, is not provoked, never takes into account a wrong suffered, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and it never fails.

This is the love that we are to direct toward all the saints, so how do we get this love? Let’s look again at
I John 4:7. We are to love (agape) one another, for love (agape) is from God and everyone who loves (agape) is born of God and knows God. So we see that agape is from God and only those that are born of God (born again) and know God have this kind of love. So this love, this agape, is not something that an unregenerate person, an unsaved person, or someone whom the Bible calls the natural man possesses. This love (agape) is unique to the believer. Now let’s look at Romans 5:5. Here we see that the love of God (not just any love, but God’s love, agape) has been poured out within our heart through His Holy Spirit who was given to us. Poured out is in the perfect tense here, which means that it is a completed event with continuing results or effects. So we see that God has given us His love, His agape, in our heart through His Holy Spirit who indwells us; and we received this love, all of this love, the minute the Holy Spirit came and took up residence in our heart, and this love never goes away. Now look at Ephesians 3:17. This verse tells us that we are rooted and grounded in this love, this agape. What a beautiful picture these words paint of our secure position in and reservoir of, the love, the agape of God. We are fixed into and draw from the infinite love (agape) of God. This is where this love we are to have for all the saints originates and how we have come to possess it.

Next post we will look at why this love is directed at the saints, and how it is manifested.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Colossians 1:3-5a The Object of Our Faith

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope
laid up for you in heaven...
Colossians 1:3-5a

Here we see both Paul and Timothy giving thanks for the Colossians in their prayers for them. Thanksgiving is an exercise that is motivated by joy, it is an expression of joy and here it is expressed to the source of the joy, who is God Himself. What do we see about the Colossians that would be the occasion of joy and its corresponding thanksgiving by Paul and Timothy? From the text we see it is their faith, love, and hope, and according to Paul in I Corinthians 13 faith, hope, and love are the three eternal Divine qualities, three Divine distinctives, and we see that these three are present and active in the life of the church at Colossae. It is interesting to note that there is only one other church in the NT that we see mentioned as manifesting all three of these divine qualities and that is the church at Thessalonica.

While both churches are commended for manifesting these qualities, how they manifest them is different. In Thessalonica they are manifested in the activity of faith, the unction of love, and the steady enduring of hope
(I Thessalonians 1:3). Here in Colossae they are revealed through the object of their faith, Jesus Christ; the direction of their love, toward all the saints; and the place of their hope, which is in heaven. So over the next few posts we will look at these three Divine distinctives as they are lived out in the church at Colossae.

So now let’s look at the object of our faith—Jesus Christ.

Well, what is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Martin Luther describes faith as a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

The Greek word for faith (pistis) means a firm persuasion, a strong conviction, a belief in the truth.  It is not the outcome of imagination, but based on fact.  It is a strong and welcome conviction that leaves no room for doubt. It is to be fully and completely persuaded beyond a shadow of any doubt. Out of this is conviction is born trust and the concept of trusting is implicit in the understanding of what it means to have faith. In fact, trust is the dynamic component of faith. Faith then must have a foundation to rest on, an object in which to place its trust. So for the Christian the object of our faith and the place of our trust is Jesus Christ.

Before we get to the object of our faith, Christ Jesus, it is interesting to note what Paul did not include as the object of our faith. It is not having faith in our denominational affiliation, our family heritage, our church membership as that is having faith in the agency of man. It is not faith in our faith, faith in a prayer we prayed or a decision that we made, because this would be having faith in ourselves. It is not faith in walking the aisle, faith in our baptism or our tithing, faith in the good things we do, or faith in our obedience as that would be having faith in our works, which, again, is no more than having faith in ourselves.

Here in Colossians Paul gives us only one object for our faith to rest upon, one place for our trust, and that is Christ Jesus. Now we need to understand there is a dual component to having faith in Christ. It is having faith in the person of Christ, which is represented by His name and having faith in the work of Christ, which is what He did to accomplish our salvation, and therefore trusting only in all that Christ is and all that He has done in securing your salvation. Without faith in both the person and work of Christ you do not have a complete faith and a faith that is not complete is not a faith that saves. Adding to or taking away from this is taking your trust off of Christ and is not saving faith.  All cults and heresies will attack either the person of Christ, or the completed work of Christ.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Prayer Traps

I posted this on the pastor's update on our church webpage, and thought it would be a good follow up the post on Rightly Approaching Prayer.

In considering prayer, I believe there are two traps that are easy for all of us to fall into. They are the guilt trap, and the task trap; and the two go hand in hand.

It is way too easy to make prayer a task, an item on our to do list, something to get done. And when it becomes something to get done, it becomes something to get marked off and get out of the way. When we make prayer a task, then it becomes something that we must do for God. When this is our motive for prayer, our prayers become rote, mechanical, and we are robbed of the joy and enjoyment of prayer. When prayer becomes a task to be accomplished it is one step away from becoming a form of legalism in our life.

When anything becomes a legalism in our life, we have then set ourselves up for guilt. And what happens when we feel guilty about something? Don’t we usually avoid being around the person towards whom we feel guilty? When we start feeling guilty about not praying, instead of motivating us to pray, it almost inevitably demotivates us as we start avoiding coming into the Lord’s presence. The more avoidance the more the guilt; and the more the guilt the more the avoidance. It becomes a self-defeating cycle.

How do we avoid these two traps? We avoid them by having a right understanding of prayer, and why we should pray. In no particular order here are a few reasons we should pray, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

1. It is one of the means God has ordained in the accomplishment of His will.
2. It is one of the ways we can participate in the accomplishment of His will.
3. It is one of the ways we draw near to Him.
4. It is one of the ways we fellowship with Him.
5. It is one of the ways we encourage and build others up.
6. It is one of our weapons in spiritual warfare.
7. It is one of the means to an abundant spiritual life.
8. It is the means through which we confess sin.
9. It is one of the means of building unity in the body.
10. It is how we talk to God.

Let’s avoid the task trap and the guilt trap, and simply look forward to being with the Lord in prayer, and remember He desires to be with us as well.

Rightly Approaching Prayer

Psalm 16:11b...In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand are pleasures forever.

In our thinking about and considering prayer,
it should not be a task to be accomplished,
something to get done and get out of the way;
but it should be a relationship to be enjoyed,
a communion to be anticipated, a joy and a delight
in drawing near to Him and coming before His throne.

For, after all, the chief end of man is to glorify God,
and to enjoy Him forever.  Our enjoying Him should
be part of our existence now, with the greater and fuller joy,
 the hope of the completeness of joy, a promise to be relished.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Forgiveness and Love

In Luke 7 (also in Matthew 26 and Mark 14) there is the story of the immoral woman who anointed Jesus with perfume, washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.  Now Jesus happend to be at the home of Simon the leper, who was also a Pharisee (key to understanding this story).  What was reported in Matthew and Mark's versions was the response of Jesus to those who were indignant about such expensive perfume being wasted on the feet of Jesus when the poor could have used the money.  In Luke, Jesus responds to the self-righteousness of Simon with the illustration of a parable.  Let's pick up the story in Luke 7:39-48:

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself,
"If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person
this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner,"
And Jesus answered him, "Simon I have something to say to you."
And he replied, "Say it teacher."
"A moneylender had two debtors; 
one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. 
So which of them will love him more?"
Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more."
And He said to himk " You have judged correctly."
Turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman?
I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has
wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in,
has not ceased to kiss My feet.  You did not anoint My head with oil,
but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason
I say to you her sins, which are many, have been forgiven,
for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Then He said to her, "You sins have been forgiven."

A interesting paradox, in that Simon, who was considered unclean because of his leprosy, was also self-righteous in his Phariseeism.  One who was considered unclean by society and was therefore an outcast,  did not consider himself morally unclean, a sinner in need of forgiveness and cleansing.  Thus his treatment of Jesus, the sin-forgiver, even though He had come into Simon's house in spite of his uncleanness. The immoral woman saw her sin and therefore her need for forgiveness, and notice her treament of the Savior.  Contrast the love they exhibited for Jesus, which was whole point of the parable Jesus gave here. 

Those who see their sin for what it is, those who understand the horribleness of their own moral filth and wickedness appreciate their salvation the most.  Those who don't see their sin for what it is tend to take salvation for granted...almost like it is owed to them, much like Simon.  The immoral woman understood the depth of her sin and understood the corresponding greatness of her salvation.  This was the basis of the depth of her love for her Savior, and why she was willing to humble herself and make a fool of herself in front of others in showing the depth of her love and gratitude.

It is the same for us.  When we understand our sin...our own sin...its despicableness, its stench, its foulness, its abomination to God; then we comprehend the greatness of His love for us in forgiving us and saving us, and our love for Him comes pouring out in return.  When we understand the depth of our sin, we understand the depth of His love and the magnitude of His forgiveness.  Thus the truth, he who has been forgiven much, loves much. 

Is your love for the Savior informed by the knowledge of your sin for which He died?  Do you see your sin for what it is before and just and holy God?  Or have you gotten comfortable with your sin, and therefore blind to it?

Pastors, do you preach about sin to your people?  Do you guide them to see the depth of their sin?  I know its not popular to preach about sin in this age when it is presumed the Church's job is to make people feel better about themselves.  But unless people see themselves as sinners they won't see themselves in need of a Savior.  And unless they see their sin for what it is, their love for the Savior will be cold and shallow.  So we need to preach on sin, not to beat people up, but so the sinner will see their need for salvation; and the saved will see the greatness of their salvation, and bring both to love the Savior all the more.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

O God, Our Help

Thank you, Lord, that you want us to be holy.  Thank You for being more desirous of our holiness than we are.  Thank You for imputing the righteousness of Your Son to us, and that we stand before You in His holiness.  You have desired truth in our innermost being and have put Your Holy Spirit within us, who is also the Spirit of truth. 

It is You that has done for us and to us what we were incapable of doing ourselves.  You made enemies Your friends.  You made haters of God, lovers of God.  You made the violent, peacful.  You have made the guilty, innocent.  You have made idolaters, true worshippers.  You made the selfish, givers.  You have made the arrogant, humble.  You have made the dead, alive.  You have given the hopeless, hope; and to the blind you have given sight.  You have set the captives free.  You have healed us from the pestilence of sin.  You have removed Your wrath from us.  To the mortal You will give immortality, and to the corruptible, incorruptibility.  You loved us when we were unlovable and despicable.  You made us sons of God when we were sons of hell.  All of this was done in and through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who else would do this, or could do this, O Lord, but You.  It is You that has made us, not we ourselves.  As we go forward help the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart to be acceptable in Your sight, for whom have we in heaven, but You; and there is no one else to please, no one else worthy of our pleasing, but You and You alone.  Amen

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Gospel, God's Power

Far too frequently the conception entertained of conversion
is so superficial and beggarly that it completely fails to take
account of the momentous change of which conversion is the fruit.
And the whole notion of what is involved in the application of redemption becomes
  so attenuated that is has little or no resemblanceto that which the gospel teaches. 
Regeneration is at the basis of all change in heart and life. 
It is a stupendous change because it is God's recreative act.
A cheap and tawdry evangelism has tended to rob the gospel
which it proclaims of that invincible power
which is the glory of the gospel of sovereign grace.
May the church come to think and live again in terms
of the gospel which is the power of God.

John Murray
Redemption Accomplished and Applied
Page 105

Much of what is being preached in the Church today
is no longer even Gospel Lite, but Gospel Drivel.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Repentance and Faith

Now after John had been taken into custody,
Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
and saying "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom
of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Mark 1:14-15

Saving faith is a repentant faith.
True repentance repents in faith.
Repentance has faith as its foundation.
Faith has repentance as its motivation.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Changed and Changing

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
II Corinthians 5:17

 By God's grace I am not the person I used to be.
By His grace I am not the person I am yet to be.

Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our innerman is being renewed day by day.
II Corinthians 4:16

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Beauty of Holiness

One thing I have asked from the Lord that I shall seek;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.
Psalm 27:4

What makes Christ so beautiful when His appearance was not such that we should be attracted to Him?  It is the beauty of His holiness, the perfections of His character.  It is His heavenly perfections on display as the glory of God is revealed through Him.  As we meditate on the person of Christ, we see more deeply and more clearly the beauty of His holiness and the sublimeness of His perfections.

Father, let us leave farther and farther behind the ugliness and reproaches of our sin as we are continually being transformed into His image, more and more.  May His beauty and His perfections become ours until the day when we shall be as He is.  Amen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Understanding, Appreciation, Joy, and Adoration

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6
Italics Mine

The more completely we understand our salvation, the deeper will be our appreciation; and the deeper our appreciation, the fuller our joy; and the fuller our joy, the greater our praise and adoration of our great God and Savior.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Christianity at its Best

"...Christianity has been at its best--
when the gospel of God's grace is held high."

David Calhoun
The Banner of Truth
Aug/Sep 2010
Page 33

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In the Church

Apart from such external things,
there is the daily pressure on me
of concern for all the churches.
Who is weak without my being weak?
Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
II Corinthians 11:28-29

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

For I long to see you so that I may impart
some spiritual gift to you, that you may be strengthened;
that is, that I may be encouraged together with you
while among you, each of us by the other's faith,
both yours and mine.
Romans 1:11-12

In the church we are all weakened by the weaknesses of others, and we are all strengthened by the strength of others.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Redundant Terminology

I don't know why many continue to try to find other ways to call themselves Chrisitians.  Maybe it is because they are afraid of offending the non-Christian, and need a softer term.  Maybe they think that the
non-Christian won't have his/her guard up in response to this new term and somehow the resistance to the gospel will be less.  Maybe they are trying to make themselve distinct from all those hypocrites who call themselves Christians, but don't act like one.  Maybe they are trying to make some distinction between themselves and the nominal or run of the mill Christian.  Or maybe they have heard others use the term and started using it because that is what everyone else is doing.

Among the monikers I have heard professing Chrisitans call themselves there are two that are absolutley redundant and make me think to myself, "Are you thinking through what this term means?"  The two are Born Again Christian, and Christ Follower

Although  the term Born Again Christian is not in vogue anymore, it still seems to crop up.  Think about it, can one be a Chrisitan without being born again?  No, never, no way-no how.  Jesus, Himself, was pretty adamant about this in the third chapter of John, and John in his first epistle uses the term born of God and children of God to describe those who exhibit the traits of true Christians and possess saving faith.  You must be born again (regenerated) according to Jesus in  John 3:3 & 7, made alive according to Paul in I Corinthians 15:22, Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13, and Peter even weighs in on it in I Peter 1:3 & 23.  So between Jesus, John, Peter, and Paul we have pretty conclusive testimony that one cannot be a Christian without being born again.  So the term Born Again Christian is really an absurd redundancy.

Now, let's take the term Christ Follower as is seems to be the dominant term du jour.  Can anyone be a Christian without following Christ?  Again, the answer is a resounding no!  What was the term Jesus used 21 times in the gospels in calling people to be His disciples?  You guessed it, it was, "Follow Me."  Lets look at some of contexts in which He used this term.

Matthew 8:22 "...Follow Me and allow the dead to bury their own dead."
Matthew 10:38 "...he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
Matthew 16:24 "...If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and he must take up his cross and follow Me."
Matthew 19:21"...If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me."
John 10:27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
John 12:26 "If anyone serves Me he must follow Me..."

So following Christ is only done by Christians, His sheep.  One simply will not follow Christ if he/she is not a Christian.  In fact, in John 6:66 we see that many withdrew and were not following Him anymore when He explained the covenant committment required to be His disciple/follower.  Also, since the term Christian means little Christ it would follow (no pun intended) that those who follow Him would be called Christians, or little Christs.  Don't Bhuddists follow Bhudda, and Muslims follow Mohammed?  Do they have to say, "I am a Bhudda follower." or "I am a Mohammed follower." for us to get the picture, or is it just enough for them to call themselves Bhuddists or Muslims?  Get the picture?  Why do Christians have to make themselves look so silly by being so redundant?  It almost conveys the idea that either we are not sure what being called Christian means, or that we are ashamed of the name Christian.

Have you been born again, made alive in the spirit, experienced the new birth?  If you have then you are a Christian, pure and simple.  Do you follow Christ, listen to and obey His word, try to live as He would live?  If so then you are a Christian, pure and simple.  Why call ourselves anything less, or obscure what we really are by being redundant?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Eternal Perspective

Do not let the temporal rob you of the eternal, either of eternal salvation or eternal rewards.  For the temporal always blinds us to the eternal as it tempts us to trade eternal blessings for passing pleasures.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

One Time for All Time

 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Every priest stands daily ministering and offering
time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;
but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time,
sat down at the right hand of God...
For by one offering He has perfected for all time
those who are sanctified.

Hebrews 10:10-12, 14
Italics mine

Once for all, one sacrifice for all time, and one offering for all time.  The power and the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.  The blood of innumerable bulls, goats, and lambs were not adequate for and were not effective in providing redemption. 

The offering of the body of Christ completely sanctifies all those whom have placed their faith in Him and His work of redemption.  His offering is that by which God sets us apart from sin and unto Himself.  The power of that offering is in the holiness of the one who was offered up.  He was the sinless Lamb of God, and in His sinlessness was the perfection and power of the offering.  This one offering, thereby, which God could accept on behalf of all those who, having no intrinsic merit, would accept this specific sacrifice as their own, and therefore be sanctified wholly and completely unto God; becoming His own possession through the redemption wrought in this sacrifice

His is a one time for all time sacrifice for sins, which permanently takes away the sin of all who place their faith in Him.  No sin is too strong to or too resilient to stand up to the power of His blood.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  In His blood was the power to cleanse the guilt of sin, and remove the guilt of sin from all who come to Him confessing their sin and need of His cleansing power; and in faith trusting in His sacrifice as the means of removal of the stain of sin upon them.

Not only has His sacrifice sanctified us and taken away the guilt of sins from us, but through that one offering we are made complete in Him for all time.  Nothing else is needed, nothing else can be added, and for all time we live in the sphere of the fullness and completeness of His sacrifice.  This is the Sabbath rest of God that we are to enter into.  Resting in what He has brought to completion on our behalf in the once for all offering of His Son.  We rest in the completeness, the effectiveness, the permanence of this one offering, by faith accepting this offering on our behalf.  It is the rest of faith, resting in and resting upon this glorious truth that God in Christ has most thoroughly and completely and effectively done every thing needed to accomplish His great salvation.  Which is why the author of Hebrews tells us up front to not neglect it.

Let us rejoice and celebrate this great salvation in our own hearts and souls, singing and making melody in our hearts to God.  And let's share this joy and melody with those with whom we gather each Lord's day.  Let our joy and thanksgiving be contagious.

Only You Father could do such a thing, could accomplish such a great salvation on behalf of those whom You have set Your great affection upon from before the foundation of the world.  Who are we Lord, to be showered and lavished with such a great love?  Who are we Lord?  Who are we?  But we are grateful, knowing our own unworthiness, but basking and glorying in what You have done on our behalf.  Praise You!  Glorify Your name!  May Your name be great in all the earth, may it be great in our heart, and great on our lips.  To You and You alone be glory, power, majesty, and dominion this day and forever!  Amen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lip-Syncing Your Faith

To the pure all things are pure;
but to those who are defiled and unbelieving,
nothing is pure, but both their mind 
 and their conscience are defiled.
They profess to know God,
but by their deeds they deny Him,
being detestable and disobedient 
and worthless for any good thing.
Titus 1:15-16

Behavior is of unsurpassed importance in the Christian way.
Don Carson
"A Model of Christian Maturity"
Page 149

Several years ago there was a pop group named Milli Vanilli and they were riding the crest of popularity until it was discovered that they were not the ones actually singing, but that they were lip-syncing their music.  They did not posses the talent they professed to have.  Great showmen, yes.  Looked the and hip, absolutely.  Said all the right things, of course.  But it was discovered they were not really what they professed to be. 

There is and always has been those who lip-sync their faith, who say the right things and look the part when they are in front of the Christian crowd, but are eventually given away by their behavior, by the actual things that they say, do, and participate in on a consistent basis.  You see, you really do live out what you believe.  In fact, it is impossible to do otherwise.  

Friday, July 09, 2010

Milestone III

Well, another year has passed, and we have finished our third year as a church.  We began on the third Sunday in June 2007 because of the the call of God, and have continued because of the grace of God.  We continue to be grateful that the Lord has called us and entrusted us with the gospel and His people. 

This has been the most eventful year so far, and, I believe, the most spiritually fruitful year.  We lost a couple of families that had been with us for while.  One, over the issue of male leadership (which we hold to), and the other, over a disagreement that I was never quite sure what it was.  Both families left peacefully. I did not like seeing them leave, and still have a great deal of affection for them.  But disagreements do come up, and sometimes they can be worked through and sometimes they can't; but to the credit of the families that left, they never tried to be disruptive or raise a stink because we disagreed.  It is going through times of disagreement that confirm what you really believe by testing your commitment to what you say you believe, and that is a good thing.

As I mentioned in another post, we baptized three young ladies at the end of last summer.  We will have another baptismal service later this summer or early fall.  Baptisms are great events as they are testimonies of the Lord's work in the lives of people.  The Lord has been working among us again over this last year and I am looking forward for all of us hearing testimony of His great grace.  I enjoy preaching the gospel more now than I ever have, and continue to be more in awe and more appreciative of its power unto salvation.

At the end of April we ordained an elder and a deacon.  It is gratifying to see God answer prayer and raise men up to take on the service/leadership roles in our church.  Both men separately went through a 13 week orientation before the ordination.  It gave us a time to get to know one another better and be prepared together for the work that each office requires.  The respect I had for these men grew during our time together, and I believe the Lord has strengthened our church through this process.

We held a church wide bible study on Tuesday nights during the spring.  We met at Baptist church on the north side of town, and they were gracious in turning their facility over to us to use however we needed.  We worked through a study entitled Fundamentals of the Faith.  It was good for us as a church to go through and do some foundational shoring on the basics of doctrine and practice.  It was well attended, and we will do another foundational study this fall on salvation, what it is and what God has accomplished for us through it.  It should help all of us appreciate our salvation so much more.

This spring we again went to the Shepherd's Conference.  Last year we took four men, but this year we took eight men, and hope to add to that next Spring.  The desire on the part of our men to grow spiritually, and make the sacrifice to go gives me great joy, and is evidence of the work the Lord is doing in them.

Our children are growing, as well.  My wife Angie has done a wonderful job in implanting Biblical truth into the hearts and minds of the children, and her goal is to give them the wisdom that leads to salvation.  She does have a gift in taking Biblical truth and explaining it in a way that makes it understandable and relevant to the children. One of our familes told me that their Bible discussion on Sunday evenings was usually over what was learned at the children's Sunday School.

We have continued to grow numerically, slowly and steadily.  While that is a good and desired thing, the best thing is to watch the growth in the people that the Lord is causing because of the preaching of His word.  Seeing prayers answered, not just mine, but the prayers of our people is a wondrous thing.  And having people come each Sunday expecting to hear from the Lord, and looking forward to what they will hear from the Lord lets you know that the Lord is at work in our midst.  The things that our people have shared with me about what God is doing in their life, and their appreciation and love for the expository preaching/teaching they are receiving are the Lord's ways of confirming what we are doing, and encouraging. 

Again, we enter another year not knowing what will take place, where the Lord will lead us, but knowing that we have a purpose and place in His eternal plan; and enter this next year even more committed to being a gospel centered church.  So we will continue this walk, this journey, mindful of all that He has done and all that He is doing, so that we will keep the faith and not grow weary in doing good.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Evening of Common Grace

Wednesday evening was one of those special, almost magical, evenings.  We live in the Northwest corner of Midland, Texas; and I was walking around our neighborhood right as the sun was setting and twilight began.  It was one of those great, late spring, West Texas evenings when the temperature was just right and the breeze was both caressing and refreshing.  I was walking with my earphones plugged into my Iphone, tuned into the Pandora internet radio application, playing some delightful, easy listening, jazz music.  

If you have never seen a West Texas sunset, have missed one of God's great beauties.  They are always beautiful, never the same, from magnificent and soul stirring to bucolic and flooding the senses with peace and tranquility.  Wednesday was no exception with colors from pink to green that melded into the azure blue of the twilight sky.

There were some ducks headed to a playa lake nearby and their silhouette against the twilight sky was like an Ansel Adams photograph.  There was the twilight chatter of the birds that I could hear over my headphones.  For the length of a yard a Robin ran along beside me as if keeping me company.  One of the Grey Foxes that inhabit the area trotted in front of me and then stopped and gave me a long look before he jauntily went on his way.

Really, quite a 45 minutes as I was drinking it all in and enjoying each and every drop, reveling in its pleasure.  I was also thinking on I Timothy 6:17 (God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy), and thanking Him for all I was enjoying: and  thinking on how God is good and does good, and that He withholds no good thing from His children.  I was enjoying not only His physical creation, but also the music created by the ones created in His image, and made available through the technology that has its ultimate creation in God.  For all things are from Him and through Him and to Him, and He is the giver of every good and perfect gift.

In thinking about all of this it occurred to me that some of the people whom I passed by on my walk were probably not Christians, not God's children; but that they were able to enjoy the same evening, the same atmosphere, the same breeze, the same scenery, and the same music as I was. They also benefit from the same technology and are able to enjoy the same sunsets because they live in West Texas.  Matthew 5:45 tells us, "He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous."  Luke 6:35 adds this, "For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." 

Yes, God is good and does good, but He does good to all and for all, and all of us, believer and unbeliever, are the beneficiaries of His immeasurable goodness.  This is common grace, unmerited favor, bestowed upon all those who have not merited, earned, or deserved it. Psalm 145:9 says, "The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works."  God's common grace flows out of and is an extension of His goodness.  Oh, that those who are not His, would see and rejoice, and come to faith.  Then their common grace would become special grace, saving grace, which is the ultimate expression of His goodness.

Thank you, O Lord, for all that you have given us, as man, to enjoy.  Bless Your name now and forever.