Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Significance of the Resurrection

With Easter coming soon I thought I would list some reasons why the resurrection is significant for the Christian faith.

1. It powerfully and uniquely marks Jesus as the Son of God.

Romans 1:4 who was declared (marked out…separated in a unique way so as to be noticed) the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a man.

2. It validates and proves every word that came out of His mouth.

His claim to be God, His claim to be from heaven, His claim to be able to forgive sins, His claim to be the only way to heaven, His claim to be the Light of the world, His claim of authority, His claim to be the source of eternal life, His claim to be the Lamb of God, His claim to be the subject of Moses' and the Prophets' writings, His claim to be the resurrection and the life, and His prophecy concerning His own death and resurrection were all proven by the resurrection. 

Josh McDowell has stated that in examining the words of Christ, He would be either Lord, a liar, or a lunatic.  The resurrection proved that He is neither a liar or a lunatic, but that He is Lord.

3. It validates and give substance to our faith.

I Corinthians 15:1 If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

I Corinthians 15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

If there is no resurrection there is no reason to believe, but because of the resurrection we know we have a faith that is real, because we have a Savior and His promises who are real.  The resurrection is the ultimate reason for us to believe, not just in Christ, but in all of the word of God.

4. It is what we witness to and what proves Christ is the Savior.

Muhammad, Buddha, Gandhi, Confucius, and  L. Ron Hubbard are all dead.  The central figure of every other religion has died and stayed in the grave.  Christ is the only central religious figure who claimed to be the Savior, and the only one who has come back from the dead.  This is the big separation from all other religions, and what we should always include in our witness.  This fact is the heart of the gospel.

Acts 2:22-24 Men of Israel, listen to these words:  Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again , putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 10:34-43....God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

Acts 17:16-31...Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man He as appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.

 5. It puts and end to the agony of death, the fear of death, and the hold of death.

Acts 2:24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power

Hebrews 2:14-15 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through the fear of death were subject to slavery all of their lives.

6. It gives us hope.

Elpis, the Greek word for hope, does not mean a strong or fervent wish as it does in the English; but means a sure and confident expectation of something yet future.  So, because of the resurrection we have a strong and confident expectation concerning our future, our eternity.

I Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Our hope is living because Jesus is living. When Christ rose from the dead our hope was born.

A living hope is an active hope, and a hope that is vital to our faith.  Interestingly enough, the word hope is not used in the gospels, but starts in Acts after the resurrection/ascension and then is used 54 times in 48 verses.  Without going through all the verses here is how it is portrayed in its role in our faith.

A motivating hope

A sure hope

A confident hope

A steadfast hope

An encouraging hope

An assuring hope

An abounding hope

An abiding hope

A grounded hope

A rejoicing hope

A righteous hope

A heavenly hope

A residing hope

A purifying hope

It is the hope of eternal life, it is the hope of glory, it is a hope that is laid up in heaven, and it is the anchor of the soul.  Without the resurrection we would be left without any hope.  Our faith would truly be in vain as this world would be all we could ever have, and death would be the ultimate victor.

7. It guarantees His return.

John 14:1-3 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.

8. It has put death in its place and guarantees the death of death.

I Corinthians 15:35-57...For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.  But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?"  The sting death is sin, and power of sin is the law;  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

Through our union with Christ we are united with Him in His resurrection, and His victory has become our victory.

9. It marks the path to God. as it is the sign that says this way to heaven.

There are many competing ideologies, philosophies, and voices, we live in a postmodern time when each man or woman is their own island of truth. It is a time when everyone's opinion is valid, which has led to the greatest pooling of spiritual ignorance in history.  This includes the New Atheism.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.

Proverbs 14:12, 16:25 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Even though the path is narrow and the gate is small, they are not unmarked.  They are marked by the resurrection.  The resurrection is the signpost that says, "This way to eternal life."

10. It is God’s ultimate declaration to all men of Himself, and His judgment of sin.

Acts 17:30-31 There having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof by raising  Him from the dead.

This is not a complete list by any means, but it is enough to reflect upon in the approaching Easter season, and reasons enough to give praise to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; who, as God, had authority to lay down His life, and authority to take it up again; and all of this for all who would turn from their sin and turn to Him as their Savior.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Waiting on God....J I Packer

"Wait on the Lord" is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting.  He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time.  When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God.

J I Packer
Knowing God
Page 238-239

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Simple Prayer for Salvation

Father, in the hearts and lives of those
for whom we are praying for salvation;
cause the gospel to take root, and to bear fruit.
Matthew 13:18-23; Colossians 1:5b-6

Thursday, February 16, 2012

True Repentance in the Life of a Believer in Psalm 119

I sought Your favor with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.
I considered my ways
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
I hastened and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
Psalm 119:58-60

These verses give us a wonderful picture of true repentance in the life of the believer.  Let's break down what we see in this picture.

1. The condition of our heart, vs 58
We see the that there is a heartfelt desire to be right with the Lord.  This is the ground of repentance, this is where true repentance must start, with a real desire to be right with God and to walk closely with Him.  It will manifest itself in a concern for one's fellowship with God.  A heart like this is fertile soil for repentance.  In Psalm 51: 17 and Isaiah 66:2 we see that this the kind of heart that curries favor with God.  Compare this to the unrepentant heart in Hosea 7:14a, and Jeremiah 8:6.

2. The consideration of our ways, vs 59
The word consider means to think on, or to examine so as to make a judgment.  In true repentance we will have looked at our ways (both as to how we live and what we think) so as to judge them.  We, like the Psalmist, will have judged how our ways line up with God's ways as His ways are the plumb line for determining if our ways match up; and it is His word that give us the knowledge and ability to do that.  This always involves an acknowledgment of where our ways (again, both living and thinking) do not line up with His.  This judging of our ways will lead to that moment when we cry out to God, "O, what have I done!"

3. The turning from our ways to His, vs 59
When we see where we are off, where our way of living and thinking have diverged from His, we will turn from our own path and turn to His.  His path is shown by His testimonies. This is truly turning from our transgressions and turning to His righteousness.  We see an example of this in Ezekiel 18:27-28.  True repentance always involves this turning from sin and turning to God (I Thessalonians 1:9-10).  See God's call to to the world for its repentance in Isaiah 45:22.

4. The hastening of our turning, vs 60
We see the sense of urgency as the Psalmist can't wait, won't delay to turn to God.  This shows the burden of the heart to be right with God, its importance to the heart of a true believer. True repentance will always include this sense of urgency to be back in God's favor.  True repentance will never be lacksadasical or luke warm regarding being right with God.  Repentance is serious stuff to a heart like this, because this is a heart that loves the Lord and craves that sweet intimate communion with Him, and does not want anything between him and his Lord.  When a heart is truly broken and contrite over its sin, it will always hasten and take the straightest path back to God as it wants to be healed from the wound of its sin.

5. The keeping of His commandments, vs 60
True repentance will always result in a renewed commitment to the word of God, and a renewed commitment of obedience to that word.  A heart that has turned from its sin, and been healed from its sin ,will be eager to follow the Lord's commands, and will take great joy in keeping those commandments.  This heart will take great delight in following after the Lord, and the Lord will take great delight in this heart (Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 37:4). 

A true believer will truly repent, and this pattern of repentance...contrition, consideration, turning, hastening, and keeping...will be true for their life.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Desensitized Christianity

We live in a time of desensitized Christianity. 
It has no discernment and no sensitivity to
the sin around it and the sin in its midst.
It is precisely because it has been desensitized,
that it has unwittingly brought the sin around
it into its midst. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012


This repost is a combination of three posts from June 2008.

We live in an irreverent society. In fact, it is in vogue to be irreverent, and in many cases the more irreverent, the better. What does it mean to be irreverent? Well, the dictionary defines the word irreverent as having or showing a lack of respect, and the thesaurus gives the word disrespectful as its synonym. We live in a time when it is hip, cool, and popular to be irreverent. However, if you examine irreverence closely, you will find at its heart is rebellion, and that is exactly what the heart of man is, rebellious. Unfortunately, like so many other things, this irreverence has made its way into the church bringing its rebellious heart along with it.

One of the culprits that has allowed this societal irreverence to make its way into the church has been the paradigm shift that has taken place over the last couple of decades in the place and purpose of the church. Where once the church was the place where believers gathered to corporately express their mutual praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, it has now become a place where unbelievers are enticed, entreated, and entertained. Where once the purpose of the church was to honor God, glorify God, and give witness to His majesty, its purpose now is to attract as many people as possible, by any means possible. Where once the focus was on God, His glory, and His holiness, the focus now is on the individual and his felt needs. In short, people no longer come to church for God, they come to church for themselves. The church has ceased to honor God and has chosen to honor man. It reminds me of Malachi 1:6  "A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  Then if I am a father, where is My honor?  And if I am a master, where is My respect? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name."

Think about it, be honest, and ask yourself these questions. Why do I go to church? For whom am I going to church? What is my motivation for going to church? Do I get disappointed if I don't get anything out of the music or the sermon? Am I focused on blessing God, being a blessing to others, or getting a blessing for myself? Am I disappointed if the music is not how I like it? Do I only like and appreciate the sermons if they make me feel better about myself or cover an area of self-improvement? Am I here to extol God, if not, then why am I here.? The church has become like Romans 1:21 where they know God, but do not honor Him as God.

Another area of irreverence in the church can be seen in the casual attitude and dress. You get the sense that people are telling God that He should, He must, and He will accept them as they are. Is this how you feel in your heart of hearts, that God should accept you like you are, without any concern of whether you are acceptable to God, whether your attitude is acceptable to God, whether your dress is acceptable to God, or whether your lifestyle is acceptable to God? Would you wear what you wear to church to a state dinner with the President? If not, why not? Would you tell the President he must accept you just like you are? So you hold the President in greater esteem than you do the God who gave His Son to secure your eternal salvation? What does this say about your attitude towards God? Listen to the words of God in Leviticus 10:3 after He slew Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, for approaching Him in a disrespectful way, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored." And what was Aaron's response to this as verse three ends? "And Aaron, therefore, kept silent."

When women wear tops to church that reveal their breasts or midriffs are they treating the Lord as holy? When they wear tops or pants that look like they are either sprayed on or shrink wrapped so that the whole contour of their front or backside is entirely visible leaving little to the imagination, are they doing so to honor the Lord, or to say, "Hey, look at me!" When husbands and fathers allow their wives and daughters to go to church dressed in such a manner are they honoring the Lord, or are they fearing their wives and daughters more than they fear the Lord? Isaiah 8:13 tells us, "It is the Lord of hosts whom you shall regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread." Men, what are you saying to the Lord when you come in to appear before Him dressed for the beach or the golf course? In the presence of the Lord is not a place to be "hot" or a place to chill out. By your demeanor, your attitude, or your dress are you regarding the Lord as holy? Are you showing Him the respect that is due Him, the Almighty God?

You might be thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, you are picking on the contemporary church crowd. What about the coat and tie traditional crowd?" Honestly, they can be just as guilty. Let's look at Isaiah 29:13 "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote."  Wearing your Sunday best, repeating the liturgy, praying out of a prayer book, and singing three hymns accompanied by an organ does not make you reverent. Much of the contemporary movement was a reaction to the lifeless, heartless, traditional service where the reverence was ritualized, not internalized. Reverence begins in the heart and its attitude towards God, and at the heart of true worship is reverence towards God. Part of why we are to gather together is to corporately revere God; and in that corporate reverence is a testimony to the greatness of this God who commands such honor and respect.

You may think that this was really an Old Testament issue, and the New Testament God of grace and love is not so harsh and demanding. Read I Corinthians 11:17-34 about the Corinthians attitude and handling of the Lord's supper. Check out verses 27-32, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world." What was God's discipline upon members of this church (which so resembles the American church of today)? Many were weak, many were sick, and a number (obviously more than one) slept (were dead). Go read Acts 5 about God's dealings with Ananias and Sapphira. Would God do this today? Well, you might be familiar with the Waco pastor who, was electrocuted in the baptistry in front of his congregation after leading them in a prayer saying, "Surprise me, Lord. "Let not many of you become teachers, for as such, you will incur a stricter judgement."

If you noticed in the section above where I quoted from I Corinthians, the Corinthians were so spiritually dull that Paul had to tell them that the reason some were sick, or weak, or dead was because of God's hand of discipline among them. They could not see it themselves. Take a step back and take a good look at your church. Could the same thing be happening there? Has it been happening and no one has been able to see it because of the spiritual shallowness of the congregation? Could this be going on in American churches and no one is noticing?

This irreverence in the American church is not just in the worship service, but pervades every area of Christian life. Recently my family and I were at Jason's Deli one evening when another family sat down next to us. One of the men was wearing a "religious" tee shirt, and thought, I'm quite sure, that he was providing a cool witness of his Christianity with its catchy wording, as if it is the catchy wording that provides the witness. I sat there with a mouth full of turkey croissant sandwich thinking, "This guy's not serious," and slowly shaking my head at the irreverence he was projecting, all the while he was probably thinking how cool his tee shirt is because of its hip phrasing that will witness to the unchurched, for why else would he wear it. The tee shirt said, "GETTING DOWN WITH THE MOST HIGH," and went on to quote Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." And of course it had all the fancy graphics most of these tee shirts have. Can anyone seriously think for one minute that they or anyone one else can "get down" with God, the Most High? This tee shirt pictures God as some home boy you can hang out with, dance with, crack jokes and cruise the hood with. The irony of this is that because God is the Almighty, the One and only God, the Creator of Sustainer of all that exists, the One who holds our life breath and our ways in His hand, the One to whom the angels constantly cry, 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' He is not going to be getting down with any time. This, to me was the same attitude that Nadab and Abihu had, and, as we have seen, God did not get down with them, but struck them down. Look at the reverence Jesus, His own Son and fully God as well, showed to Him during His life upon this earth. This tee shirt is indicative of the irreverent attitude towards God that if rife in the American church today. Where is the respect for God as God, and all that He is as God, in the church in our land today?

Another area in Christianity that smacks of irreverence is in the books and music. I am not going to get into all the issues with the music because that should be another post series, but just listen to the lyrics, compare them with the Scriptures, and see how much of what is passing off as worship and praise is veiled irreverence. The same can be said about books, and there are way too many to mention, but I will single out one because it is such a good example. It is John Eldredge's "Wild At Heart." It is one of the biggest pieces of heresy I have ever come across, and the heresy involves the very person of God and how He is presented in this book, and the presentation of God in this book is the height of irreverence as it portrays Him as just like sinful man.

Worship is not limited to our gathering on Sunday, but is to be lived out every day as we see in Romans 12:1 "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living an holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." So we see that our lives, therefore our lifestyle, should be one of worship. How does God say that we should worship Him? Psalm 2:11 "Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling." So our lifestyle, yes, our very life, should be one of reverence, filled with rejoicing and trembling. To revere is to honor, to show respect, to pay homage all because it is what is due. This is the kind of life we are to live before Him, Coram Deo, before His face. Our lifestyle should not spit in His face, ridicule Him, or present Him as less than He is or other than He is. In Romans Paul tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. Well, who is due more honor than our heavenly Father, our Great Redeemer, and our Friend. Read John 17 and see the honor, the respect, the homage the Son pays to the Father. Should we not do the same in every area of our life?

Judgement begins with the household of God. Let us examine ourselves and our own households for attitudes or displays of irreverence towards our God. Let us look at our own lifestyle, thoughts and attitudes. Let us come before our God with reverence and awe, and let all that we do reflect the high regard and esteem we hold for our wonderful Savior and our God.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

God's Gladness

Thus God saves, not only for His glory, but for His gladness.  This goes far to explain why it is that there is joy (God's own joy) in the presence of the angels when a sinner repents (Lk 15:10), and why there will be "exceeding joy" when God sets us faultless at the last day in His own holy presence (Jude 24 KJV).  The thought passes understanding and almost beggars belief, but there is no doubt that, according to Scripture, such is the love of God.

J I Packer
Knowing God
Page 125

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Insight into Affliction from Psalm 119

Affliction, anah in the Hebrew, is to find oneself in a stunted, lowly, humble position; and it is also the means by which God brings us to that position.  It is be brought low, to have hardships.  Afflictions are a tool in the hand of God, and are never without purpose.  The Psalmist in Psalm 119 understood this very well and shares this understanding, this spiritual insight with us, and this teaching is concentrated in verses 65-80.  Let's take a look.

This section in Psalm 119 starts out with a poignant declaration in verse 65, "You have dealt well (tob, a good thing, benefit, welfare) with Your servant according to Your word."  So he sets the stage right here by letting us know that when God deals with us, He deals with us in a good way, for our welfare and benefit.  How has God dealt with the Psalmist?  By bringing affliction upon him.  Look at verse 67, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word."  What had the Psalmist gone astray from?  The way of God, the path of life that the Lord would have Him take; and this path is taken by keeping the word of God.  It is no strange coincidence that Psalm 119:105 tells us, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  In other words, the word of God keeps Him on the right path, the path of God.

When we go astray from God's path, He is faithful, and good, and for our good and welfare will bring affliction to us so that we will return to His word, and walk according to His way; and returning to God's word and walking in His way is actually returning to God, Himself.  Let's look at a couple of examples from the OT.  First, look at Hosea 5:15 "I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me."  Next, look at II Chronicles 6:26 "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess your name, and turn from their sin when you afflict them."  In both instances God brought the affliction upon the people so that they would turn from their sin and turn to Him.  In other words, they would no longer be going astray in their sin, but would return to God and walk in His way, not their own.

Now, notice how verse 68 follows up the verse on affliction.  It states, "You are good and do good."  The Psalmist declares this after saying that he has been afflicted, and that affliction has God as its source.  He is acknowledging God's goodness in bringing affliction upon Him.  He understood it was for his good, and God was good in doing it.  Which leads us to verse 71, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes."  What a perspective!  What Godly insight!  Through affliction we return to His path and learn His word, and by His word we walk in the path of righteousness.  This path is the path that leads to joy, and it is the path of spiritual blessing. 

This perspective and insight lead the Psalmist to this declaration in 119:75 "I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me."  Wow, this man knows His God!  He knows that God's decisions regarding Him, God's dealings with Him, God's bringing affliction upon Him, are done in faithfulness...because God is faithful to him.  He understands affliction from God always has a purpose, and it is because of His faithfulness that He brings it about.

May we also have this perspective.  May we see God's faithfulness in our affliction.  May we, with the Psalmist say not only, "It is good for me to be afflicted," but Father, I know that in faithfulness You have afflicted me."  And may affliction accomplish its God intended purpose in our life.  Amen.

This I Know

The Lord has saved me,
this I know,
for His Spirit tells me so.

The Lord sanctifies me,
this I know,
for my life tells me so.

The Lord has changed me,
this I know,
my new heart tells me so.

The Lord is merciful,
this I know,
for His blood tells me so.

The Lord is faithful,
this I know,
His provision tells me so.

The Lord is coming,
to Him I'll go,
for His word tells me so.

So many times the best truths are the simplest ones.