Thursday, January 31, 2013

Making Sure Christ is the Object of Our Faith

Some folks tend to reduce the Christian faith to nothing more than a way of life. They contend it doesn't really matter what exactly you believe, so long as you live a Christian lifestyle. Still others seem to suggest that what you do doesn't really matter, it's just acknowledging the right set of facts (i.e., that Jesus died for my sins) that counts.

In response to both ends of this spectrum, Michael Horton posted a good article yesterday at The White Horse Inn's blog, Out of the Horse's Mouth. In it he makes the point,
According to Scripture, the object of our faith is neither our actions or our knowledge, but the person of Jesus Christ. Of course, trusting a person involves knowledge and assent, but we’re saved by Christ, not by doctrines. The purpose of the doctrine is to direct us to the right person and to keep us looking to him until that day when faith yields to sight.
 He continues:
Faith is not mere assent to truths, much less blind submission. It’s trust in Christ. To trust in someone, you have to know something about them and have some confidence that they can do what they promise. However, faith is not saving as a virtue in itself, but because it embraces Christ who is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. A weak faith clings to a strong Savior. 
 Click here to read the rest of the article.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Ryken on Prayer and God's Sovereignty

"Imagine for a moment that God is not sovereign in grace, but that salvation ultimately depends on the sinner's own choice. How then should we pray? Do we say, 'Dear Lord, I realize that there may not be much that you can do about this, but if there is, please help my friend somehow to become a Christian'? Of course, no one actually prays this way: the very idea is absurd. But what makes it so absurd is that, deep down, every Christian believes in the sovereignty of God's grace. When we pray for sinners to be converted, therefore, we ask God to do something for them that we know they are utterly incapable of doing for themselves. We ask God to invade their minds, change their hearts, and bend their wills so that they will come to him in faith and repentance. In short, in our intercession we depend on God to save them."

Philip Ryken

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Prayer for the Body

Almighty God,
who heaven and the highest heavens cannot contain,
whose greatness cannot be captured in mere words,
whose perfect holiness can hardly be comprehended...

On our own we come before you
as finite creatures,
whose own words consistently reveal an overvalued self-worth,
and the depths of whose sin we hardly can fathom.

But thankfully, we do not come before you on our own.
Rather we come before you in the name of our Lord,
washed clean of our sin by the blood of Christ Jesus,
robed in His righteousness alone.

So now, instead of enemies, rightfully the objects of your scorn and wrath,
            we come before you as beloved children,
            recipients of grace,
            joint heirs with Christ your Son.

As such may we conformed to His likeness:
May our minds dwell on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy;

May our feet be swift to walk in those good works which you have prepared for us.

May our mouths proclaim good news of happiness, and publish salvation; saying to the people of God: "Your God reigns."

May our hands be holy, as they are raised before you in prayer.

May our hearts be glad, and our whole being rejoice; for we dwell secure in your love.

And may it all be so, by your grace and for your glory,

For we ask it in the matchless name of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Word for Preachers...T.H.L. Parker on the Example of Calvin

"There is no threshing himself into a fever of impatience or frustration, no holier-than-thou rebuking of the people, no begging them in terms of hyperbole to give some physical sign that the message has been accepted. It is simply one man, conscious of his sins, aware how little progress he makes and how hard it is to be a doer of the Word, sympathetically passing on to his people (whom he knows to have the same sort of problems as himself) what God has said to them and to him."

T.H.L. Parker (regarding John Calvin)
Calvin's Preaching
as cited in The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fellowship in the Gospel

For those of you who (like me) are in eastern Michigan and love to fellowship with brothers in Christ as we bask in the glow of the Gospel, let me alert you to what is sure to be a great event May 3rd and 4th. Fellowship in the Gospel is a two day conference hosted by Berean Baptist Church in Livonia, Michigan, and it is dedicated to the idea that the Gospel is the key to preaching and teaching, the key to relationships, and the key to an ongoing life of transformation.

This year's keynote speaker will be Dr. Bryan Chapell of Covenant Theological Seminary. During my time at Covenant, Dr. Chapell did as much as anyone to increase my understanding of and appreciation for the grace of God and the good news of the Gospel.

The schedule includes three plenary messages from Dr. Chapell, as well as three elective sessions. For those interested, there is also a pre-conference workshop by Brian Vickers focusing on Abraham's Sanctification by Faith.

Click here for information regarding registration.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Quick Thought About Righteous Anger

In Luke 19:45-48, we read of what is probably the paradigmatic example of righteous anger: Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. In this passage, we often find for ourselves a pass to experience and express anger. After all, if Jesus did it, it can’t be wrong.

We ought to be very careful about such a line of thinking though. First of all, His anger was ignited not because He had been offended, but because His Father had. My otherwise righteous anger is far too often intertwined with my own self-interest. I am not just angry that a Holy God was sinned against; I am angry that I was sinned against. And even if I try my hardest, it is impossible for me to untangle these strands.

This leads me to a second point: There is indeed a lesson for us to be learned from this passage, where we read of the cleansing of the temple. I believe it is quite informative to consider verses 45-48 in light of verses 41-44. In those immediately preceding verses, we read the following:
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 
It seems that before Jesus was angry at sin, he was grieved by it. And the same should be true of us. Make no mistake, there is a place for righteous anger. But for every ounce of righteous anger we express, let us first experience 100 pounds of humble sorrow. And for every time our blood boils, let us be sure our tears have first fallen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Sean Lucas on our Blessings in Christ

"All the spiritual blessings we have come through and with Jesus. And yet, the greatest blessing that we receive through our union with Christ is not justification, not holiness, not glorification, not the spirit of adoption, not the spirit of prayer, not simply even the fact that God rejoices over us. Rather, the greatest blessing we receive is Jesus -- that we are united to him and enjoy communion with the living God in and through Him. He is our greatest blessing. He is our greatest delight."

Sean Lucas
What is Grace?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Selfless Love of a Brother

Perhaps it's because I I've been thinking a lot lately about how we are to relate to one another within the church, but when I watched this video, I couldn't help but think the following:

How beautiful would it be if I loved my brothers and sisters in Christ as selflessly as Conner loves his brother?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Yesterday's Sermon: Glorious Humility

Yesterday's sermon was from Philippians 2:1-11 and dealt with fact that pride is often a stumbling block to the unity which Christ expects from His Church. But if we are to call ourselves followers of Him who went to the cross, we have no other option than to humbly love one another.
It wasn’t just the painful, physical humiliation. It wasn’t just the degrading, emotional humiliation. It was the fact that Christ Jesus became a curse for us, taking upon himself the sins of the world. Paul says (quoting Deutoronomy 21:23), "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" (Galatians 3:13). On the cross, Jesus Christ not only bore the curse for us, he became a curse for us. And that’s what makes it all the more incredible that Paul can say, ”far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
He can boast in the cross, because at the cross, Christ didn’t just endure suffering, he didn’t just endure ignomy, he didn’t just endure the curse. Acts 20:28 tells us that at the cross he also purchased the church for his own possession with his own blood. So we have nothing to commend ourselves to God – we only have faith (as a gift from him) that Christ Jesus paid for our sins. So we trust in him.
And a second application is this: If Christ Jesus so loved the church so much that he not only took on human flesh, but he went to the cross for her -- if he loved the church that much -- then we must love the church as well.
Click here for audio of the sermon.

A Word for Preachers...Alexander on the Authority of Scripture

"(O)utside Holy Scripture, we have no authoritative Word from God. With the eroding of confidence in the authority of Scripture in our own generation, it is not at all surprising that there has been an evacuation of authority from the pulpit. The decline in preaching is almost inevitably a result of such an absence of conviction concerning the authority of Scripture. The history of the Christian church bears ample and sad testimony to this connection.

"The whole cast of a truly biblical ministry will be a concern that people should recognize our only interest is not in selling our own line, or persuading people of our own opinion, or seeking that they might adopt our own view on a particular issue, but in humbly, obediently, and openly seeking to deal with what Holy Scripture says, opening it up and making it plain. The task has never been more clearly illustrated than in the ministry of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 8 where the people are met together under the Word of God. The ministry which the Levites fulfilled was to 'read from the book of the the Law of God, making it clear and giving meaning so that the people could understand what was being read' (Neh. 8:8)."

Eric J. Alexander
What is Biblical Preaching?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Quick Thought...Sacrificing for His Children

The majority of the Book of Job deals with his (and others') reactions to the suffering which he faces. As a result, that tends to be what we focus on when we read Job. I noticed something else today though, something that comes before his suffering.

In the days before tragedy had befallen his family, Job would routinely hold feasts for his children. We are told in Job 1:5, "And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did continually."

Job's concern for the spiritual welfare of his children is certainly commendable. But ultimately I do not think we are meant to consider Job's loving sacrifices merely on their own terms. Rather, ought they not point us to another Father who, concerned for the spiritual well-being of his children, sacrificed for them at the greatest of cost to Himself?

Glory be to the God whose sacrificial love for His children knows no bounds!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Lewis on Pleasures

"Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility…But aren’t there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly there are. But in calling them 'bad pleasures' I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean 'pleasures snatched by unlawful acts.' It is the stealing of the bad apples that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory…I have tried since…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it.  One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims, very properly, 'How good of God to give me this.' Adoration says, 'What must be the quality of that Being whose far off and momentary coruscations are like this!' One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun…If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labor."

C.S. Lewis
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
(as quoted by John Piper in When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy)

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Quick Thought...Just and Justifier

I was reading through Romans 3:21-26 and was struck once again at the amazing fact that through the cross of Christ, God was able to be both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." God could have given me what the rules required. Or he could have bent the rules so that they did not apply. But he did neither, opting instead for the cross.

As a result, though I am unrighteous, I am counted as righteous. Though I could never atone for my sins, through Christ Jesus, my sins are atoned for. Though I deserve condemnation I know that I will never be condemned. And all this without God ever violating the perfect standard of justice. Words cannot express how humbled this ought to leave me. Glory be to God!

A Word for Preachers...Piper on Suffering and the Preacher

"There is one last connection between the preacher's suffering and the suffering of his people, namely, that his suffering will show him that the timing of teaching and touching is crucial. 'There is a time for everything...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;…a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak’ (Eccl. 3:1, 4-7, RSV). Preaching involves timing. Preach the whole truth about suffering and the sovereign goodness of God while it is day, and when the night comes and you stand beside the suicide victim’s pool of blood or the ice-cold, ivory body of a one-year-old boy, you won’t have to say anything. This will be a time for embracing. At this point the suffering saints will be glad that your suffering has taught you to preach the hard things and then, at the right time, to be silent."

John Piper
Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching

Friday, January 4, 2013

Don't Take Anything for Granted

Yesterday Kevin DeYoung had a great post entitled Things People Should Never Say They Never Heard at Your Church. In it he highlighted ten items that we often (wrongly) take for granted that people in the church know:

1. “Being a Christian is more than going to church and being a good person.”
2. “We must be born again.”
3. “We need to develop a personal relationship with Christ.”
4. “Mature Christians develop lifelong habits of Bible reading and prayer.”
5. “Christians suffer.”
6. “God can be pleased with me.”
7. “Beware of false teachers.”
8. “There is one God in three Persons.”
9. “There are many people in the world who don’t think Christianity is true and some of them are very nice and very smart.”
10. “There is a reason we worship the way we do.”
Click here and read the whole post. If you're a pastor, a church leader, a Sunday school teacher or a parent it will be well worth your time