Friday, October 28, 2011

The God of Forgiveness

This is a repost.

One of the things I have noticed over the last few years is the spiritual insecurity of so many Christians. One of the ways this insecurity is manifested is in the area of forgiveness. This seems to be an area of faith where many people are struggling and where a great deal of insecurity resides. Again, in a time when the thrust of most preaching and church life is "all about you" and how God loves you and accepts you for who you are, you would think that people would not be wrestling with this. But when the teaching, preaching, and small group discussion fails to address the basic foundations of our faith because they don't think doctrine is relevant to the lives of the people, how would the people, the flock, have any basis from which to understand forgiveness, much less be able to know they are forgiven? When I was teaching in Dallas in the mid eighties the Minister of Education told me that I was teaching too much doctrine and that I needed to have more application lessons. My response to him was, "Bill, they can not apply what they do not know." This attitude that the ME had has only become more prevalent over the last 20 years. In addition to this, if you teach or preach on forgiveness you must deal with the sin that needs to be forgiven and many churches won't do that because it might make the people feel bad about themselves or offend them.

To get a handle on forgiveness you first must understand the nature and character of God and then understand what He has done so that we can be forgiven. So the rest of this post will be about the nature and character of God as it relates to forgiveness.

The best place to start is with Exodus 33:17-34:7. This section of Scripture relates the story of Moses asking God to show me your glory. I find God's response to this prayer/request intriguing as He tells Moses I will make all my goodness pass before you and proclaim My name, the name of the Lord before you. So we see that God's glory is inextricably linked with His goodness and His name. His goodness is His glory and His name is representative of His glory. So God reveals that He is good and in the revelation of His goodness His glory shines forth and is displayed. As God passes by Moses and reveals Himself and His goodness listen to what He says, "The Lord, The Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished..." So we see here that forgiveness comes forth from the goodness of God, and is as much a part of His goodness as His compassion, His grace, His longsuffering, His lovingkindness, and His truth. God forgives because God is good, and His forgiveness of our sins is an extension of His goodness to us. Since His glory is displayed through His goodness, He is glorified in the forgiving of our sins. This alone is reason enough to fall on our knees as grateful beneficiaries of His goodness, which He has chosen not to withhold from us. Being forgiven is the result of the Lord lavishly bestowing His goodness upon us.

Psalm 130:4 states, "But there is forgiveness with You, that you may be feared." Here we see that His forgiveness is one of the pillars for our holy awe and reverence for the Lord. Understanding His forgiveness, experiencing His forgiveness, reveling in the fact that we are forgiven and that God has not dealt with us according to our sins, but according to His goodness and compassion as He is ever mindful that we are but dust, should bring forth in us an unmatched reverence and a heart that bows low in worship. God magnanimously bestows forgiveness upon His people and in the magnitude of His forgiveness He is glorified and exalted; and we see His worthiness of our reverence and stand in awe of His goodness because deep in our soul we know the depth of our own sin and see that for which we have been forgiven, that which no one knows but us and God.

In Nehemiah 9:17 we see that He is a God of forgiveness and in Psalm 86:5 we see that He is good, ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness for all who call upon Him. What does this mean for us? We can see that since He is a God of forgiveness that forgiveness flows from Him to us. He does not have to be coerced into forgiving us, and it is not something that He must struggle to do or something that He begrudgingly doles out like a scrooge at Christmas. In fact, it is just the opposite as we see that He is ready to forgive, He is poised to forgive, He longs to forgive so that we can be brought into right relationship with Him, and thereby enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with Him. These verses, along with I John 1:9, show us that we do not have to go to great lengths, do great penance, or go through great machinations to be forgiven, but we simply call upon Him and confess to Him our sin and it is forgiven; and we are made clean before Him, not just for that sin, but from all our unrighteousness. This, my friends, is goodness, great goodness, goodness worthy of abundant praise and worship out of a heart that has experienced gladness, true gladness, through forgiveness and cleansing.

Yes, forgiveness is ours because it flows from God to us and He is ready and waiting to forgive, not because of us, but because of His goodness. He forgives us on the basis of who He is and what He has done so that we can be forgiven. Have you asked for the forgiveness of God....so that you can come to Him and be saved, so that you can fellowship with Him, so that you can be cleansed and find rest and comfort for your soul? If not, ask Him today, confess to Him today, and in His goodness He will not refuse.

O Lord, how truly good You are, good beyond the scope of our ability to comprehend and good beyond our ability to measure. May praise and honor be heaped upon You and Your name be exalted this day because of Your goodness and forgiveness. Thank you for Your forgiveness, its availability, and its abundance. You are good and You do good. Great is the Lord and blessed be Your name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Being Boudreau

This is a repost.

As you can tell, Boudreau is a Cajun name. Boudreau lived in southern Louisiana, close to the coast, near New Orleans. When hurricane Katrina was approaching, being a good Christian, Boudreau started praying to the Lord and asking for protection and deliverance from the storm. In his spirit Boudreau sensed the comfort and confirmation that the Lord had heard His prayers and he would be delivered from the storm. As the storm grew closer, the tide began to rise, the rain was falling hard, and the area near his home started to flood. At that time the county sheriff came by in his Jeep and told Boudreau to get in and he would take him to a higher area, safe from the storm. Boudreau told the sheriff no thanks, for the Lord would deliver him safely from the storm. Several hours later the storm was stronger and not only was the area near Boudreau's home flooded, but the waters had entered his house, causing Boudreau to climb up on his roof. At this time the sheriff came by in a boat, and asked Boudreau to get in, but Boudreau refused, telling the sheriff that the Lord would indeed deliver him from the storm. The storm became so severe and the water so high and powerful, that Boudreau was swept off of his roof and was being taken by the waters down toward the bayou when he was able to grab hold of the top of a tree. Once again, the sheriff came by, this time in a helicopter, and yelling over the storm, told Boudreau to seize the rope he had thrown down to him. Boudreau again declined, telling the sheriff the Lord would indeed deliver him. A few minutes later, when the sheriff could no longer stay over him and had left, Boudreau was swept off of the tree by the raging waters and went under.

Suddenly, Boudreau was absent from his body and present with the Lord. He gazed at the Lord in astonishment, and said to Him, "Lord, you promised to deliver me from the storm, what happened?" To which the Lord responded, "Boudreau, I sent you a Jeep, a boat, and a helicopter. All you had to do was get in."

Many times, probably too many times, Christians are like Boudreau. We have prayed for guidance, for deliverance, for wisdom, and God's answer to that prayer is right in front of us; but we are waiting for that dramatic deliverance, the hand writing on the wall, or the skies to part and the Lord's voice to sound, instead of looking at what he has given us through ordinary means to answer our prayer.

Are you being Boudreau, having prayed to the Lord, but ignoring the facts right in front of your face because they are not how you expect or want the Lord to answer your prayer? Are you afraid to step out in faith on the obvious? Are you holding on to something you should not be holding on to, waiting for the Lord to pick you up and put you where you should be? Are you letting the things of your flesh stand in your way hoping the Lord will "miraculously" give you what you prayed for? Are you afraid of the difficulty, the rejection, the pain or discomfort you might suffer and, as such, are waiting for the Lord just to make it happen so that you will not have to pay the price of obedience? Is it going to take some spiritual gumption on your part, and you are not willing to step up to the plate? Are you more afraid of man than you are of God?

My friends, look at the obvious, look at the facts, look at your situation, consider the actions and attitudes of others. God may have already answered your prayer, and be waiting for you to follow Him.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making the Main Thing the Main Thing

Biblical preaching must always occupy the leading place of influence in the life of any church.  At the core of any healthy congregation is a vibrant exposition of God's Word.  Unfortunately, though, many pastors are turning away from the central role of expository preaching and doctrinal teaching.  But in so doing, they fail to realize that new converts, first and foremost, need to be taught God's truth.  As a result, many other things are competing with--and even replacing--the primary role of biblical preaching in the church.  Christian concerts, drama, pageants, festivals, musicals, talk shows, and religious movies are establishing a greater foothold in the life of the contemporary church.  Some of these activities may have a place in the church, but they must never compete with nor overshadow the Spirit-energized proclamation of God's Word within a church. 

In diagnosing the ills of emphasis on these auxiliary methods, Martyn Lloyd-Jones lamented, "All this at best is secondary, very often, not even secondary, often not worthy of a place at all...The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God."  He echoed the words of the chief pastoral voice of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, who declared, "The primary importance of the pastor is to be an expository preacher." 

Evangelical churches desperately need to retrun to the primacy of the apostles' teaching.  Preaching is the foremost responsibility of the preacher and the church.

Steve Lawson
Famine in the Land
Pages 33-34

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Most Profound Change in the World

The most profound change in the world, is the change in a man or woman because they have been born again. 

They go from being dead to being made alive in Christ.

They go from being children of the devil to children of God.

They go from hating God to loving God.

They go from reveling in sin to hating sin.

They go from being held captive to being made free.

They go from dwelling in darkness to being light in the Lord.

They go from being of the world to being aliens in this world.

They go from being mastered by sin to overcoming sin.

They go from being enemies of God to being friends of God.

They go from practicing evil to practicing righteousness.

They go from desiring to please themselves to desiring to please God.

They go from having a hard heart to having a soft heart.

They go from following their own ways to following God's ways.

They experience of all this because of the rebirth of the soul, as a new man has been born within them and they can no longer remain the same. Yes, they may look the same, but they are different.  They are no longer the person they used to be as old things have passed away, and new things have come.

Have you experienced the new birth?  Have you had the life transforming rebirth of the soul?  Are you somehow different in your inner man?  If you claim to be a Christian, and yet have not been changed, then you have not truly been born again and are still lost in your sins, still under judgment, and still a child of wrath as the rest who do not know Him. 

Ask God today to save you, to have mercy upon you, to be compassionate to you, and turn from your ways and your sin, and turn to Him with all your heart.  Seek Him and He will let you find Him, and He will restore your soul and make you whole.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thought for the Day

We must practice truth,
not just speak about it.

Francis Schaeffer
The Great Evangelical Disaster
Page 81

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Holiness

Holiness, God and God alone possesses it.  God and God alone is holy.  Holiness is His most Divine attribute.  It is what sets God apart from all of His creation.  It is what makes Him distinctly God.  It is the power inherent in His presence.

It is safe to say holiness is God's most defining attribute.  It embodies all that He is and all that He does.  It is intricately woven into all His other attributes, and as such separates them from the carnal, the corrupt, and the mundane.  If we think of His attributes as a crown of jewels, holiness would be the most brilliant of all the jewels in the crown, and we would see it reflected in the lustre of all the others.  It is the outshining of holiness through each of the other jewels that provides the brilliance and purity of their color.

We cannot truly understand God apart from understanding His holiness.  The place to start in knowing God is His holiness.  Understanding His holiness is the springboard of the knowledge of God, it is the platform from which we must start.  It is the platform for our understanding of all His other attributes, His actions, His motives; and is the backdrop against which we should view them.

The holiness of God is the least known, least understood, least appreciated, and therefore the least valued of all His attributes; but, yet, it is His most important attribute. God always acts in accordance with His holiness; and how often is that overlooked or misunderstood.

The foundation of our reverence for God is our understanding of His holiness.  We revere (or fear) Him to the extent that we view Him as holy.  We only understand the sinfulness of our sin in light of our understanding of His holiness.  The issue of man's separation from God is due to the fact that He is holy and we are not, and it is God's requirement for man (Leviticus 11:44, I Peter 1:15-16, Psalm 5:4-7).

Oh, the abounding grace of God, that we would be made clean through the washing of water by the word, and clothed in the perfect righteousness of His Son.  Though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool...all through the blood of the Lamb.

Father, show us your holiness, so that we will treat You as holy.  Show us Your holiness so that we may properly revere You and Your name.  Give us understanding, O Lord, so that we may appropriately order our lives.  Teach us about Your holiness, O Lord, so that we may worship You as You and You alone deserve.  Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Church

The Church should not accommodate man,
it should, however, accommodate God.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Understanding the Gospel

For people to know when they hear another gospel they must first know and understand the true gospel.  For us as pastors, that means we need to be preaching the gospel well enough, often enough, and thoroughly enough so that our people will be grounded in the gospel.  As Hebrews 5:14 indicates, it is the knowledge and practice of the truth that gives discernment.

The gospel is the message of salvation, what God has done in the person of Christ to provide for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to men.  The gospel is not having our problems fixed, dealing successfully with stress, being a better _______, overcoming addictions, or overcoming our past; it has nothing to do with health or wealth, prosperity or poverty, unleashing the champion inside every person, thinking positive thoughts, or feeling better about ourselves; and it does not include anything that man can, must, or should do to add to what God has accomplished through Christ. 

Overcoming addictions does not save.  Being a better _________, does not save.  Feeling better about yourself does not save.  Making peace with your past does not save.  Only one thing saves, and that is placing the entirety of your trust on what God has already done in Christ as complete and sufficient for the salvation of your soul.  Anything less does not save, and anything more does not save. 

The Scriptures are saturated with the gospel.  Preach and teach through them, in context, and the gospel in all its richness and fullness will be presented; and your people will come to know, understand, and appreciate it.  People who know and understand the gospel are the ones most likely to share it, and they will be rooted and grounded in their own spiritual life. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Redeeming the Time

How then do we redeem time, and how are we redeemed from time?  On the one hand, we rdeem the time by living out our lives according to our gifts and callings, thus serving God's purposes in our generation.  Those who live out their lives in this way do justice to the best of their time; and they live before all time because they live before God.

On the other hand, we redeem time by trusting the end of our time to the Lord and redeemer of time.  Ultimately, we redeem the time and are redeemed from time only through the One who is the redeemer of everything--He who is, the God who is the Lord of time and history and yet is  "the same yesterday today, and forever."

In St Augustine's description, God relates to us in time in ways that are "once for all [semel], all at one [simul], and always [semper]."  He is before our time, outside our time, and at the end of our time.  We can therefore each pray Augustine's celebrated prayer, which applies to time as much as any part of life:  "You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You."

Thus until the day of our homecoming arrives, we continually trust that the Lord of time will redeem us at the end of time.  And in the meantime that is our lives, we live out our callings in the thick of things, and so set about redeeming time actively though imperfectly, as timely as untimely people can ever be.

Os Guiness
Prophetic Untimeliness
Pgs 118-119

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A Little Weekend Humor

This lady reminds me of my grandmother on my Mother's side.  Pulls no punches.  A little fuzzy, but worth the read.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Aim of Our Preaching

But the goal of our instruction is
love from a pure heart and a
good conscience and a sincere faith.
I Timothy 1:6

Is the goal of your preaching to give the shallow
feel-good that is fleeting at best; or is it to bring
the conviciton of sin, righteousness, and judgment,
that leads to the deeper feel-good which is permanent?

There is a preaching that promotes the feel-good of the flesh,
which is primarily emotional, and as such is a 'passing pleasure'. 
There is also a preaching that produces the feel-good of the spirit,
the peaceful fruit of righteousness, that comes about from being right
  with God, because the true issues of the soul have been dealt with.

Means of Sanctification

Sanctification, again, is a thing which depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means.  When I speak of 'means', I have in view Bible reading, private prayer, regular attendance in public worship, regular hearing of God's Word, and regular reception of the Lord's supper.  I lay it down as a simple matter of fact, that no one who careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress n sanctification.  I can find no record of any eminent saint who ever neglected them.  they are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul, and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man.  Let men call this legal doctrine if they please, but I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no "spiritual gains without pains'.  I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness, who was not diligent about his Bible reading, his prayers and the use of his Sundays.  Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.

J. C. Ryle
Holiness
page 20