Tuesday, January 31, 2012

God's Lovingkindness in Psalm 119

Lovingkindness, hesed in the Hebrew, is one of my favorite words in the Scriptures.  It is part of the Lord's self-revelatory declaration in Exodus 34:6, where not only does the Lord declare that He possesses it, but that He abounds in it.  It is a vastly rich and nuanced word, and has a depth of meaning and a breadth of application as you can see through its use in the OT.  Read through its definition in the Word Study or Vines dictionaries and you will see what I mean. 

What makes it this way, though, is pretty simple when we boil it down to its essence.  Lovingkindness is God's love in action.  It is His love exhibited in and through His actions towards His own.  It is His strength, mercy, compassion, grace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, steadfastness, commitment, gentleness, benevolence, truthfulness, and favor towards His children, those with whom He is in covenant.  We see it expressed in the command in I John 3:18, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth."  God loves in deed and in truth...His love in action...and we are to love as He loves; in other words, we are to express His love through our actions.  We also see an example of this in Ephesians 2:4-5, "But God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ." His love for us moved Him to be merciful to us and make us alive in Christ, despite our sinfulness.  So we see His lovingkindness toward us in His saving us.  His love was put into action to bring about our salvation, and His love was expressed through His mercy toward us.

The Psalms, especially Psalm 136 are replete with the use of lovingkindness.  It is also used seven times in Psalm 119, and I want us to go through those and see how it relates to the Word of God.

Psalm 119:41...God's lovingkindnesses (notice the plural) come to us in salvation, and that salvation according to His Word.

Psalm 119:64...The earth is full, overflowing with the lovingkindness of God.  God has built His lovingkindness into the earth and all it contains, and all that is available to man in and through His creation.  The knowledge of the Word helps us understand and appreciate all He has provided for us in this world.  Reminds me of I Timothy 6:17...God supplies us with all things richly to enjoy, and He does this through His creation, and it is part of His lovingkindness towards us.

Psalm 119:76...The comfort that His Word brings to us, in any and all circumstances, is part of His lovingkindness to us.  God wants us to be comforted and has provided that through His Word of truth.

Psalm 119:88...God's lovingkindness renews, refreshes, and revitalizes us so that we will be strengthened to keep His word.

Psalm 119:124...Not only does God deal with us according to His Word (Psalm 119:65), but dealing with us according to His Word is also dealing with us according to His lovingkindness; and in His dealings with us, He teaches us His Word.  His teaching us His Word, the taking of the Word and making it part of the fabric of our life, is His love in action towards us.  Psalm 51:6 tells us that God desires truth in our innermost being and as part of His lovingkindness towards us He takes His truth and makes it a part of us.  Wow!  What a blessing!  What a God!

Psalm 119:149...His hearing our voice is due to His lovingkindness towards us.  In another Psalm it tells  us that He inclines His ear to hear our prayer.  God's response to our prayer is in accord with His lovingkindness, and in accordance with His Word through which we are refreshed, renewed, and revitalized.

Psalm 119:159...Here the Psalmist is saying, "Lord, in the exercise of Your love for me, take into account my love for Your Word, and deal with me accordingly."  What great faith and confidence the Psalmist has in the lovingkindness of God towards him.  This is a man who knows and trusts his God.  A great example for us.

In Psalm 34:8 we are exhorted to taste and see that the Lord is good.  In Psalm 119:68 we see that the Lord is good and does good.  His goodness is expressed toward us in His acts of lovingkindness, in other words, His lovingkindness is good, and He does not withhold it from us, but lavishes it upon us.  This begins with our salvation, and will be continued in the ages to come as He shows the surpassing (which means it is more than we can comprehend) riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). 

Father, help us to know and understand Your lovingkindnesses toward us.  Cause us to see them.  Help us to not take them for granted.  May we be grateful now and for all eternity for Your active love for us.

Monday, January 30, 2012

According to His Word...Psalm 119

Pslam 119 is a wonderfully rich Psalm, with its main theme being the Word of God.  Throughout this Psalm we are shown the benefits, the power, the richness, the faithfulness, the insight, the holiness, the value, and the significance of the Word of God in the life of the believer.  One of the key phrases in this Psalm is "according to Your Word" (or according to...one of the synonyms for the Word).  In this post we want to look at what we have "according to His Word."

119:9...His Word keeps our way pure.
Not only does it clean us when we believe (John 15:3, Ephesians 5:26) but it keeps our life pure when we obey it.

119:25...His word revives our soul.
When we are in dust spiritually, His Word renews, restores, and revitalizes our soul, and lifts us out of spiritual oppression and depression.

119:28...His word is a bulwark in times of grief.
His word is what gives strength to our soul in our times of spiritual grief, the spiritual grief that comes because of sin. (Please note that the issue in vs 25-32 is the consequence of sin; and the Word is the balm that not only heals and restores the Psalmist spiritually, but is also what puts him back on the right path.)

Psalm 119:41...His Word brings salvation.
God's lovingkindnesses are bound up in salvation, and His word is the means through which we receive the bountiful blessings of salvation. (Romans 10:17, II Timothy 3:15)

Psalm 119:58...His Word reveals His favor to us.
God is gracious to us according to His word, and we see and understand the favor He bestows upon us through that same Word.

Psalm 119:65...His Word gives us understanding of how He deals with us.
God dealings with us are always in accordance with His Word, and always for our good. (Micah 2:7)

Psalm119:76...His Word brings comfort to us.
True comfort of the soul can only come from the Word of God, and through His word we learn of His lovingkindnesses.

Psalm 119:89-91...Creations stands each day according to His command.
His Word is in command of all things, both seen and unseen. (Hebrews 1:3)

Psalm 119:107...His Word comes to our aid in time of affliction.
His Word keeps us alive, lifts us up, and strengthens us anew in times of great afflicition.

Psalm 119:116...His word sustains us.
We have hope in this life and for the life to come, because of His Word.

Psalm 119:149...God responds to our prayers according to His Word.
Spiritual renewal and rescue are granted in accordance with His word.

Psalm 119:156...His mercies are revealed through His Word.
He is the Father of mercy and God of all comfort (II Corinthians 1:3), and we learn of the greatness and innumerable number of His mercies through His Word.

Psalm 119:170...His Word is Word of deliverance.
God, who cannot lie, has given us the promise of deliverance from darkness, sink, and death; and we find this promise in His Word. (Psalm 121:7, I Peter 1:5, Matthew 10:28)

Lord, you have given us so much in Your Word, and You act in accordance with Your Word.  Help us, no, cause us, to believe it, to stand on it, to live it; and to those of us to whom You have given the charge to preach and teach Your word, may we do so with clarity, precision, and conviction.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness

I John 1:9 gives us a tremendous and really marvelous promise, and it is that when we confess our sins, our heavenly Father is willing and able to forgive our sins, and in that forgiveness comes a cleansing from all unrighteousness. 

However, the catch here is our confessing our sins.  For to be able to really and truly confess our sins, we must also be willing to repent of our sins.  True confession is always accompanied by appropriate repentance.  And for us to truly repent of our sins we must be willing and wanting to turn away from that sin, to forsake that sin, and to put ourselves as far away as possible from that sin. 

Confession without true repentance is merely saying to God, "Oops, I messed up, please clean up my mess while I go about making it again."  Confession without true repentance is wanting to have the consequences of our sin done away with, without wanting to do away with the sin itself. 

True confession is seeing your sin, thinking about your sin, and talking about your sin the same way God would.  It is having the mind of God concerning your sin, and saying the same thing about it that God would.  In fact, until we truly see our sin as God sees it, we will never have victory over it. 

The promise of forgiveness and cleansing in I John 1:9 is true, as is every promise of God.  Let us not make light of this promise, but let us come to our God in reverence, awe, and true repentance to receive the blessing of being clean before Him.  For in our salvation we have been made clean, all we must do now is wash what is dirty through repentance and confession.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Made Worthy

We have been made worthy of heaven;
not by anything we have done, but by
the accomplishments of Christ. 

When we are baptized into Christ, His
accomplishments become ours and
we are deemed worthy because
we are united with Him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cross, God's Righteousness in Salvation and Forgiveness

No explanation is adequate which does not see God as shown to be just or righteous, legally in the right, in the way in which He provides salvation for sinners....the way God saves sinful man accords with what is right.  God is just, not only in saving, but in the way He saves....The cross demonstrates the righteousness, the justice of God.  In the very act by which sin is put away decisively, the death of Christ on the cross, God is seen to be just.. It is not the fact that God forgives that shows Him to be righteous, but the fact that He forgives in a certain way, the way of the cross.  It is the cross that shows God to be righteous in the very act of forgiveness...

...God forgives in a way which accords with right.  God does not set aside the moral law when He forgives.  It can never be said that He forgives simply because He is too strong for the devil.  That would mean that in the end with God might is right.  The language of justification is a perpetual protest against any such view.  It provides an emphasis on the truth that our God is just, is righteous, that He has regard to moral considerations even when He saves people who do not deserve salvation.  God saves in a way which is not only powerful but which is right.

Leon Morris
The Atonement
Pages 194-195

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Accepted by God

We are accepted by God on the basis of Christ's merits,
not on the basis of our own; and by placing us into Christ,
God has guaranteed His acceptance of us.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Bible, Sex, and Pastoral Counseling

In regards to Mark Driscoll's latest book on sex, and Ed Young's sexploitation/exhibition, there has been much written by those more erudite and better communicators than me. This is not the first foray into the arena of sex for either of these two pastors; and I call them pastors, because that is the position they hold.  This is Mark's fourth book on sex, and Ed has preached a series on sex from a bed on his stage and issued a seven day sex challenge to those in his congregation, so they are not neophytes in this area.  But let's go a little deeper into the reasons they have openly stated are behind their books and sermons....their people are coming to them with questions concerning sex, what's taboo and what's not, how much is enough or too much, what does the bible say about these issues?  However, I do want to address the topic, and address it from a more foundational level than I have seen addressed, yet.

The heart of the matter is that many who profess to be Christians are too sex obsessed.  You see, the world, not just our culture, but the world is sex obsessed; and if you are paying any attention at all you can see it is not just an American cultural issue but a world wide issue.  I John 2:16 tells us that all temptation falls under the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  Sex has its roots deeply in all three of these categories, and as a result is one of the most appealing and controlling sins...maybe the most appealling and controlling.   

My point is this.  As pastors, instead of answering the questions above, instead of playing sex therapist, instead of giving in to the world's influence in this area, shouldn't we look to and bring to light the root of the issue?  Should we not first tell our people that sex is not the most important thing in the world, that maybe they need to take a step back and realize they are not to be preoccupied with it, it is not to dominate their thinking, and they should not be mastered by it. Shouldn't we have them take a good look at themselves and ask themselves if because of their background, television and movie choices, books and magazines they read, internet habits, music they listen to, emails they share or pass along, or conversations they participate in, that they might have a spiritual stronghold in this area.  And maybe perform this same spiritual check-up on ourselves, so that we can be sure our own attitude and thinking in regards to this area has not been colored by the world.

In dealing with this issue, many people want to quote I Corinthians 6:12...the part about all things are lawful for me...but leave out the part about I will not be mastered by anything.  The context of this verse is Paul dealing with the issue of food, and sex both outside the marriage and inside the marriage.  Paul also tells us in Romans 6:12-19 that we are slaves of what we obey...and ends this section talking about the weakness of our flesh. Christ gave the admonition to watch and pray that we would not enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So it is obvious that even for Christians we can have ongoing issues because of the filthiness and wickedness (James 1:21) that is inherent in our flesh.  Pastorally we need to realize that this pre-occupation with sex is a hold over from our life before Christ, or, in some instances, an indication that they have never truly received Christ; and we should not respond in a way that panders to their natural fleshly inclinations, but respond in a way that sheds light on the true spiritual issue that is at its root.

The church has been too quick to give in the mind-set of the world; and I think that it is most pronounced in the area of sex.  Pastors, we need to take a stand against the mind-set of the world and tell our people and counsel our people that they are not to be sex-obessed like the world which has no control over its lusts, and is, in fact, controlled by those same lusts and indulges in the desires on both the flesh and the mind; and tell our people that this sex-obsession is not from the Lord, but from the world.  For knowing the truth is the key for them to be set free from the sex-obession that controls the world.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Good Thing to Keep in Mind

As pastors, we cannot live the spiritual lives of our flock for them.
As parents, we cannot live the spiritual lives of our children for them.
But, however, we can model the spiritual life for them, so that
they can know what it is supposed to look like.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wisdom from John Newton

Newton regarded it as of first importance for ministers to understand that grace matures slowly.  Few lessons were repeated more often to fellow ministers than this one.  It comes up repeatedly:

"God works powerfully, but for the most part gently and gradually."

"He does not teach all at once, but by degree."

"A Christian is not of hasty growth, like a mushroom, but rather like the oak, the progress of which is hardly perceptible, but in time becomes a great deep-rooted tree."

....For Newton, God's great patience in His people's slow progress in grace and truth was a lesson that ministers must ever remember.  Preachers are to teach, but they do not control the pace at which grace develops in their hearers.  They cannot give the experience that prepares a Christian for fuller light.  He concluded that it is a dangerous thing to hurry young believers into an acceptance of teaching they are not ready to receive....If pastors do not observe this principle and lack wisdom and gentleness in presenting the truth, they ought not to be surprised at bringing trouble into their churches.

Heroes
Ian Murray
Pages 101-103

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Essentials of a Gospel Ministry

This is a repost from January 2008.

In Colossians 1:24 -2:5 Paul bares his heart with the Colossians concerning the ministry given to him by God. And in the middle of this section, in verses 1:28-29, he distills the gospel ministry down to its essential elements.

"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom , so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."

So in these two verses we see the five essential elements of a gospel ministry. They are passion, preaching, purpose, perspiration, and power. If you look at Acts and the other Pauline epistles you will see these elements in the life and ministry of Paul. Let us look a little closer at these essentials.

Passion

In these verses we see Paul's passion for the person of Christ and for the people of God. We see his passion for Christ in that it is Christ, and Christ alone, that he is proclaiming, and it is Christ likeness that is his goal for every Christian. We also see his passion for Christ in this section of Scripture dealing with his ministry as Christ is the mystery which he seeks to manifest in his fully carrying out the preaching of the Word; and that his desire is for all to have the full assurance that comes from the true knowledge of Christ, Himself. This certainly fits in with what we see in I Corinthians 2:1-2 where he speaks of proclaiming the testimony of God and that he was determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. We also see how this fits with his own personal spiritual goal as revealed in Philippians 3:7-12 as he counts all things to be loss, to be rubbish compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord; and he presses on to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, so that He may lay hold of that for which he was laid hold of by Christ.

Here we also see his passion for the people of God, individually, as he uses the phrase every man three times in verse 28. Paul's main concern was not for the church universal, the corporate body, but for the individuals that make up that corporate body. His passion was to present every man, not the church, but, every man, before God as complete (fully mature) in Christ. It is not the church as an institution that Paul cares about, but the church comprised of individual members. We also see this laid out more fully in I Corinthians chapter 12 as Paul talks about the corporate body being made up of the individual members, which he gives particular emphasis to in verses 14 and 27. There is an old adage among us as pastors that if we pay attention to the depth of our ministry that God will take care of the breadth of our ministry. I believe that you can apply that same principle here. If we will take care of the individuals in our own flocks, having a passion for presenting each and every person under our charge as spiritually mature before God, then God will work through them to take care of, shape, and build the church corporately. We see this principle presented more fully in Ephesians 4:11-16.

So we see that the pastor must have a personal passion for Christ, must seek to have Christ at the center of his preaching, and must have conformity to Christ as the goal of his preaching. His concern must be focused on the individuals of the church rather than the church corporately. And we see that Paul's spiritual goal was the same for those he was ministering to as his personal spiritual goal. Shouldn't it be the same for those of us who are pastoring today?

One of the things that has bothered me about the Church Growth movement has been the emphasis on the church as an institution. Church Growth conferences and seminars deal with the strategies, techniques, and methods to grow the church corporately, but that is never the emphasis given in the Scriptures. The emphasis in the Scriptures is always on the spiritual growth, the growth in salvation of the individual, his Christ likeness, his conformity to Christ, his growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his understanding of the will of God for his life. When the emphasis is put on the growth of the church rather than the growth of the individual, then the individual becomes a replaceable cog in the wheel, part of the means to the end, and his only value is related to his ability to help the church reach its goal; and when he is no longer deemed useful he is discarded and someone else is plugged in to take his place; and when this takes place spiritual growth grinds to a standstill.

Preaching

Everywhere that Paul went he followed much the same pattern in his preaching, which was proclaiming Christ, admonishing, and teaching. The word proclaim means to declare or to announce aloud, to make known publicly. Paul always publicly declared the truth, the facts about the person of Christ and the work of Christ in order to make Christ known. We see this in Acts 17 as Paul was in Thessalonica and was saying "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." Later in Acts 17 as he was preaching to the Athenians he spoke of Christ and His resurrection. In Acts 13 :14-41 Paul preached the story of Jesus and proclaimed forgiveness of sins in His name. In I Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul makes known the gospel which he preached to them and this gospel centers around the person of Christ. In the epistles Paul talks about our position in Christ, our identity in Christ, our conformity to Christ, our reconciliation in Christ, our inheritance with Christ, our walk in Christ, our baptism into Christ, our freedom in Christ, our salvation in Christ, our righteousness in Christ, our redemption in Christ, our justification in Christ, our peace in Christ, our sanctification in Christ, our obligation to Christ, our relationship to Christ, our strength in Christ, our growth in Christ, our marriage to Christ, our hope in Christ, our faith in Christ, the love of Christ, the work of Christ, the person of Christ, the power of Christ, Christ our wisdom, Christ the living Word, the glory of Christ, the beauty of Christ, the headship of Christ, God's purpose in Christ, and we could go on, but in all of this we see the power of God unto salvation, in all its fullness, in the preaching of Christ. Paul determined to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified, so that He alone would be the focus of our faith, not only for salvation, but for daily living as well.

Along with his proclaiming Christ Paul also admonished and taught. These two terms are really the two sides of the same coin. To admonish means to put into the head, to warn by instructing. It is to say don't do this because this is what will happen if you do. We see an example of this in I Corinthians 10:1-13 as Paul uses the example of God's dealing with the Israelites and the consequences of their sin as a warning to the Corinthians, and to us as well. In I Thessalonians 4:2-8 we see another admonishment, this concerning sexual immorality. In Paul's presentation of the gospel to the Athenians in Acts 17 he warns them of the day of judgement to come. In Ephesians 5:15-17 Paul admonishes the Ephesians by telling them to be careful about how they walk and to not be foolish, but to understand what the will of the Lord is. Admonishment puts sense into the head where it is needed.


The word for teaching means to instruct or to explain. It is telling someone what to do, how to do it, when to do it, why it should be done, and the basis or foundation for doing it. We see Paul instructing and explaining in the verses immediately following this section in Colossians where he bares his heart. We see his instruction in I Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. In Romans 12 he tells us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, giving our bodies as a living sacrifice so that we may prove what the will of God is; that which is good, acceptable, and perfect. The pattern in all of Paul's letters was to lay the doctrinal foundation first, then move to application, with both being instructional, which follows the pattern given in this section of Colossians....proclaiming Christ, admonishing, and teaching. Should we not follow the same pattern in our preaching as well?

Purpose

As I mentioned earlier Paul had the same spiritual goal for those he ministered to as he had for himself and this was his purpose, his chief aim, in his ministry, to present every man before God complete (fully mature) in Christ. Notice, it was not to build a big church, to have a certain number of baptisms, to get them plugged into the life of the church, or merely about getting them saved, but it was about them becoming complete (fully mature) in Christ, and for them to stand before God in that mature state. This was the chief aim of the greatest evangelist/missionary of the New Testament. This is the fullness of the making of a disciple.

Why is this important to Paul? Why is it the purpose in his ministry? Because this is God's plan and purpose for each and every person! We see this purpose in Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son. We have this promise in Philippians 1:6 ...that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. And we see a picture of its fulfillment 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, 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. Paul knew and understood the heart of God and the purpose of God for us as His children, and he did not waver and was not deterred from this purpose in his own ministry. Look at what he told the Galatians in 4:19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.

You see, when we are presented to God, and stand before God, how will God measure us, what will be the standard He will use? It will be Christ, the God-man, the perfect man, the man who fulfilled all righteous, the man who was absolute in His obedience, the One who was heard in the time of His tears because of His piety, the One who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. He is the One who is holy, undefiled, separated from sinners, exalted in the heavens, and is sitting at the right hand of the One before whom we must appear.

If this is God's purpose and, as such, Paul's purpose, should it not be our purpose as shepherds of God's flock and caretakers of His purchase? Are we given another purpose in Scripture? Is this not fulfilling His command to make disciples? Think about it! What could give more glory to God than for all of His children, all of us who have been purchased out of the slave market of sin, to be like Him? And the more we are like Him the more glory we bring Him. So, what is the focus of your ministry? What is the purpose in your preaching, in your vision-casting, in your day to day activities? Is this what drives you, and is it the spiritual completeness of your flock when they stand before God for which you are laboring and striving? Is it for you or for them that you labor and strive?

Perspiration

Speaking of laboring and striving, that is exactly what Paul was doing to accomplish the purpose of God. The word for labor is kopiao, which means to weary one's self with labor or toil. It pictures the bone deep fatigue that comes from relentless hard labor. The word for striving is agonizomai, which means to strain to the uttermost, and we see a picture of this in an athlete straining with every muscle to win a race. The word here is in the present tense, so we see that this working and striving is a continued state in which Paul lives. We see that the working toward presenting every man complete in Christ is an endeavor in which Paul is continually active and a goal for which he is relentless. Let's not kid ourselves, being involved in a gospel ministry is hard work, should be hard work, and we should not only expect to work hard, but endeavor to work hard. In
I Corinthians 15:10 Paul talks again about his own hard work. We see his expectation of this same hard work in others in I Thessalonians 5:12-13 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor (kopiao) among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. In his first letter to Timothy, in 4:10, he uses the words labor and strive to describe the effort they were to make in their ministry. This labor and striving was not confined to the physical demands and hours involved in the gospel ministry, but as we see in I Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard (kopiao) at preaching and teaching. It takes continuous labor and striving, it is hard work and agonizing, to preach the word in season and out.

Preaching and teaching is meant to be hard work, and coupled with the other demands and concerns that go along with a gospel ministry along with the demands of being a husband and father, and you can see how it can be wearisome and taxing. If a pastor is working to the point of weariness and fatigue then where does His strength to accomplish all of this come from? Which leads to the last, but most essential of the essentials of a gospel ministry.

Power

Paul does not continuously labor and strive in his own strength and ability. Because if he did he would have collapsed under the load and or would have been burned out (see II Corinthians 11:23-29). His own labor was in accordance with the power, the strength of God. The word for power is dunamis, which means mighty power, strength, or ability. It is the word from which we get our word dynamite. Paul's power was in accordance with God's power, and his ability was in accordance with God's ability, and this power or ability was working within Paul himself. It was Christ in Him, working in him and through him that gave Paul the power to do that which God had given him to do. Paul's obedience to the will of God lit the fuse that unleashed the power of God in his life and ministry. There is a distinct correlation between our obedience to His will, our effort to accomplish His will, and his empowering us to perform His will. Paul speaks to this in I Corinthians 15:10 By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

We see a parallel to this regarding our own sanctification in Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. As preachers and ministers of the gospel, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, God unleashes His power within us to accomplish His will through us as we work and strive to do our part in accomplishing His purpose of Christ likeness in those whom He has put under our care and our charge. When His purpose becomes our purpose then we are empowered by His power through His Holy Spirit who indwells us.

We are never spiritually self-sufficient. Christ tells us so in John 15 when He says apart from Me you can do nothing. We are told in Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Paul understood this and understood this well as he asks the question in II Corinthians 2:16 And who is adequate for these things? Then he goes on to answer his own question in 3:4-6 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. His power will empower us as we seek to perform His purpose in our ministry, which is the perfecting of the saints who will appear before Him.

Yes, these are the five essentials of a gospel ministry. We see them in the life and work of Paul, and because of them we see the spiritual effectiveness of his ministry not only then, but as it continues now through his letters. Let us who have been called into the gospel ministry, and have been made stewards of the grace of God, seek to have these essentials be such a part of us that they automatically flow out of our life and ministry; and may we, like Paul, be spiritually effective, eternally effective, in our gospel ministry.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Becoming Like Christ

In becoming mature or complete in Christ,
as we become conformed into His image,
what is true about Him becomes true about us.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What Our View of the Wrath of God Tells Us

Are we feeling like a multitude of people who have nothing but scorn for any ideas about hell and everlasting punishment?  Do we consider the wrath of God as a primitive or obscene concept?  Is the very notion of hell an insult to us?  If so, it is clear that the God we worship is not a holy God:  Indeed He is not God at all.  If we despise the justice of God, we are not Christians....If we hate the wrath of God, it is because we hate God Himself.  We may protest vehemently against these charges, but our vehemence only confirms our hostility toward God.  We may say emphatically, "No, it is not God I hate....God is altogether sweet to me.  My God is a God of love."  But a loving God who has no wrath is not God.  He is an idol of our own making as much as if we carved Him out of stone.

R. C. Sproul
The Holiness of God
Page 176

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Responsibility of the Pew

Nearly every Christian wants their church to be healthy. 
But few Christians have contemplated their part in
making their local church family spiritually strong and vibrant.
 ...overall there exists a desire for healthy churches
 but not enough thinking about the pews’ responsibility for it. 
Thabiti Anyabwile
2011

Monday, January 02, 2012

True Obedience

True obedience is an active submission to the
will of God, which is expressed in the
Word of God, which keeps you in the
way of God.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Key to Freedom

...just as truth is in Jesus.
Ephesians 4:21

Through the knowledge of the truth
we are set free and kept free.