Monthly Archives: October 2009

The More Excellent Way

Many of us claim to understand love, but we so often fail to demonstrate it.  When things get difficult, we abandon “the more excellent way” in order to protect our own self-interests.  Instead of dying to ourselves for the sake of others, we preserve our own comfort and desires.  The following list is daunting and difficult.  Yet, those who are in Christ have been called to a higher standard… the more excellent way.  Might we prayerfully examine our hearts to see what ways we are most in need of God’s grace to reflect such divine love.  While we were yet sinners, God demonstrated his own love toward us so that we too might demonstrate His love towards others.   Some people are difficult to love.  While others are easy to love, we often take them for granted.  We must be intentional about cultivating a heart and lifestyle of love.  While love often produces affections for others, it does not require them as a prerequisite.  We are called to love others even when they don’t deserve it, as well as when we don’t feel like it.  Divine love was a deliberate, predetermined love  expressed through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It was not contingent upon our behavior or God’s emotion toward us.  Such determination ought to be characteristic of our love.  Let us choose the more excellent way as we consider how each description of love listed below is found in the person of Christ.

LOVE IS:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Not Envious
  • Not Boastful
  • Not Arrogant
  • Not Rude
  • Not Selfish
  • Not Easily Angered
  • Not Resentful
  • Not Joyful Over Doing Wrong
  • Rejoices With the Truth
  • Bears All Things
  • Believes All Things
  • Hopes All Things
  • Endures All Things

1 Corinthians 13: Christ-like Love

God’s love for us never fluctuates.  It is grounded in the Cross of Christ, and once given it is never withdrawn.  It seeks our best interest despite the paradox of its call for us to “die to self” and put our faith in the more excellent Way, Jesus Christ.  The death of Christ seemed like the greatest tragedy, and yet the Father intended it for the greatest good.   Our death to self and the cultivation of love will result in the glory and grace of God  overflowing from our hearts into the lives of others.  May we ask God to fortify within our hearts such a deliberate, selfless, relentless, and redeeming love.  The beauty of love is found in the loss of self… for that is where the depth of divine love was most clearly demonstrated.

Blessings in Christ, Gabriel

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Broken-Hearted and Crushed

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed spirit.”

The following is an excerpt from John Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 34:

“Jehovah is [near] to those who are broken of heart, he will save those who are bruised of spirit.  David here exemplifies and extends still more the preceding doctrine that God is the deliverer of His people, even when they are brought very low, and when they are as it were, half-dead.  It is a severe trial when the grace of God is delayed, and all experience of it so far withdrawn, as that our spirits begin to fail; nay more, to say that God is [near] to the faithful, even when their hearts faint and fail them, and they are ready to die, is altogether incredible to human sense and reason.

jesus-cross-407x1

“But by this means His power shines forth more clearly, when he raises us up again from the grave.  Moreover, it is [necessary] that the faithful should thus be utterly cast down and afflicted, that they may breathe again in God alone.  From this we learn also, that nothing is more opposed to true patience than the loftiness of heart of which the stoics boast; for we are not accounted truly humble until true affliction of heart has abased us before God, so that, having prostrated ourselves in the dust before him, he may raise us up.  It is a doctrine full of the sweetest consolation, that God departs not from us, even when we are overwhelmed by a succession of miseries, and, as it were, almost deprived of life.”

There are times when we feel like God has withdrawn His gracious hand from us.  And yet we know that God has promised to draw near to the broken-hearted and to save those whose spirits are crushed.  He shall heal our hearts from every affliction, and rescue our souls whenever we are falling apart.  Sin and sorrow have no power to defy the living God when He decides to deliver His children.  Our afflictions, no matter how large or small, serve the purpose of pointing us toward the Cross.  For it was there that our Savior bled and died for us.  It was there that He gave Himself so that we might know the Father’s love.  It was there that He was broken in order that we might experience forgiveness.  He was crushed for our iniquity so that we could find mercy and salvation.  Therefore, let us cling ever closer to the Cross as we remember the love and grace that God has promised us.  His Spirit will draw near to us, and He will deliver us from brokenness.

May we not miss the opportunity to know and love Christ more keenly as a result of the momentary afflictions we endure… for they are but a taste of the Savior’s suffering and a demonstration of the Father’s faithfulness to His promises!!

Blessings in Christ, Gabriel

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Loving Leadership

Paul had a deep love for those under his care, and he was an exceptional model of living out loving leadership.  He was never afraid to express the depth of his affections for his brothers and sisters in Christ, because he understood the necessity and power of words.  His love was passionate, selfless, and Christ-centered.   Those blessed by Paul never had to doubt whether or not Paul loved them, because he continually expressed his affections for them.  He wanted God to use it to help them to grow and be encouraged by it.   He knew how much they needed to know of his love and gratitude for them.  I wonder if we have a similar love for those whom the Lord has placed under our leadership and in our lives.  If so, I wonder how often they know that we love them.  It is essential that we take the time and energy to express it.  Love must express itself; it cannot remain silent or ever be assumed.[1]

Affections Of May Poster

“I rejoice over you” (Rom. 16:19)

“I hold you in my heart.” (Phil. 1:7)

“I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:8)

“My brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown.” (Phil. 4:1)

“Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”  (1 Thess. 2:8)

“My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, I wish I could be present with you now.” (Gal. 4:19-20)

“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 16:24)

“I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears… to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” (2 Cor. 2:4)

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.” (2 Cor. 6:11)

“You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.” (2 Cor. 7:3)

“Because I do not love you?  God knows I do!” (2 Cor. 11:11)

“I seek not what is yours but you.” (2 Cor. 12:14)

“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.  If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor. 12:15)

“And may the Lord make you increase… in love for one another… as we do for you.” (1 Thess. 3:12)

“I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.” (Philemon 12)

[1] Alexander Strauch has written an excellent book entitled Leading with Love that is worth checking out.  It’s an expanded exposition of the characteristics of divine love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13.

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Hits Like A Hurricane

Peter was one of a kind.  In fact, most people probably found him annoying.  He was often impulsive, naïve, and thoughtlessly quick to speak.  But Jesus deeply loved him in a way that was unlike most of his other disciples.  So, what made Peter different?

At the last supper, Jesus did the unthinkable.  He removed his outer cloak and then grabbed a towel and filled a basin full of water in order to wash his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-11).  And one-by-one Jesus began to scrub away the filth that had clung to them.  The sweat, dirt, and unbearable stench of this dishonorable body part made Jesus’ actions all the more repulsive to Peter.  It was bad enough that the slaves and servants would be asked to clean the master’s feet.  Yet, in this remarkable display of humility, Jesus, the Master, begins to wash his followers’ feet.  When he comes to Peter, the disciple says, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  And Jesus says to his beloved friend, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but afterward you will.”

With amazing force, Peter jerks away his feet and says, “You shall never wash my feet.”  He could never ask or allow his Master to wash such an unclean portion of his body.  Peter is humiliated at the thought of Jesus stooping to wash the filth from his feet.  With kindness, Jesus solemnly says, “If I do not wash you, then you have no share with me.”  Now Peter is shell-shocked.  He is completely stunned at the seriousness of Jesus’ words, and though he doesn’t fully understand he complies with the much-loved and trusted Master.  Peter says, “Lord, then don’t just wash my feet—wash all of me, my head and my hands, too!”

hurricane

Peter trusted Jesus and as a result was willing to follow whatever Jesus said, especially when Jesus spoke with seriousness.  Such eagerness is unmistakable in Peter’s life.  He was always a passionate man and never knew how to do anything half-hearted, if it was worth doing at all.  He was always quick to jump into whatever captured his heart, and while his discernment sometimes floundered, his heart was to be admired.  Very few like him were so ready to jump in with both feet ready to run.  Over time, Peter would learn to channel his passion into useful and prudent pursuits that would honor and glorify God.  And while his impulsion often got him into trouble, it also received the admiration of his Master.  You see, unlike many of the other disciples who decidedly loved Jesus, Peter’s love hit like a hurricane.  Wherever he went, it was hard, fast, and unrelenting.  He was a tremendous force and the expression of his love and loyalty were difficult for most to endure.  Once committed to serving his Master, Peter would never fully be moved from that pursuit.  Like any sinful human being, he had moments of failure, but he could never fully forsake the grace that was given to him.  He was called to follow Jesus and like everything that he had ever done, Peter would pour his whole heart into that single passion.

Even his most humbling moments of failure demonstrate that passion (Matt. 26:69-75).  When he realized the depth of his denial those three times, he wept bitterly over his sin.  His sorrow was experienced at the very core of his being, the depth of his heart.  He was sick over what he had done.  Only hours before, Jesus had lowered himself by washing Peter’s filthy feet.  And now, in the presence of others, Peter wasn’t even willing to admit that he knew Jesus.  When that reality hit Peter, his heart sank.  In that moment, the weight of the world felt as though it had descended upon his shoulders and his heart was crushed.  He had denied the Son of God, his Savior, in order to save his own skin.  How disappointing.

And yet Peter found mercy and grace in the arms of Jesus.  He found love in the Master’s heart.  He found hope and healing for one who was helpless on his own.  Jesus knew all along that Peter would deny him, and yet he still washed Peter’s feet and told that passionate disciple that he would one day be with his Master again.  That forever changed Peter’s life.  The power of the gospel transformed that rash and often ignorant man into a passionate follower whose love was deep and full of knowledge.  He eventually understood the depth of Jesus’ love and the extent to which the Master would go to demonstrate that love.  When divine love meets human weakness, human beings are never the same. The power of Christ is found where divine love has met our human weakness at the Cross.  God’s grace covers our sin and it gives us strength through transformation.  May we humbly submit our lives to Christ and allow the grace of God to hit us like a hurricane.  If we do, we will never be the same.  We will never again be content settling for less than running hard after the One who saved us.  Those who are deeply affected by Jesus will experience growing affections for Jesus. May that be true of us!!

Blessings in Christ,

Gabe

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The Death of Me

Death is painful.  It’s unnatural and excruciating to be separated from the ones that we love.  The loss of life sobers each one of us as we realize its physical finality.  We’re also brutally reminded of our own pending deaths.  One day the air that we mindlessly breathe will be found in short supply.  Yet we know that death brings with it a sense of freedom.  When we die, we will be physically free from the struggles and pain of this world depending on our readiness to enter the next.

Sarkofagus_Lux_Coffin

In Luke 9:23-27, Jesus says these famous words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of he holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

  • Jesus calls his followers to deny themselves and make a commitment that will result in death.  He’s clearly not messing around.  Anyone who desires to follow him must be selfless and willing to risk it all, a reckless abandonment for the very person they claim to love.  His love compels priority and perseverance.  There’s no half-hearted followers of Jesus.  They must be willing to lose their lives, their fortunes, their friendships, their families, their reputations, their comfort, their pride, their preferences, their dreams, their desires, their personal passions, their expectations, and the list goes on.  Only in laying it all on the line will His followers be able to serve Christ first and foremost.  While they may not actually lose all other things, it is important that their hearts are not tethered to anything but Christ.  Christ does not deny His people anything that is necessary for them to have, and often He even allows them to keep that which is considered only to be a good thing rather than treasured as an ultimate thing.  He requires their love and attention as a husband jealously deserves and desires the love and commitment of His wife.

The very state of our souls depends on what we’re seeking to save and what we’re willing to lose.  Those who live to save themselves and protect their pride, possessions, passions, and the myriad of things listed above will actually lose their greatest possession, their souls.  However, those who are willing to die to themselves and commit their hearts to Christ will save the very life of which they seek.  It is in losing that we win.  The paradox seems ridiculous, but we find the greatest example of this self-denial and undying commitment in the sacrifice of Christ for His Bride.

May we say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8)… For, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).”

Just as physical death brings physical freedom, so will spiritually dying to ourselves bring the spiritual freedom and eternal life that we long to have.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me…” (Jn. 14:6)  That which we seek cannot be found by living for ourselves and clinging tight to the lives that we live.  May we find the Way, the Truth, and the Life that we seek by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses.  As we die to self and put our trust in Jesus Christ, we find life in the very One who created us.  In what ways has God been calling you to die to yourself?
Blessings in Christ, Gabe

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The Culture of the Heart

A few years ago, I purchased an antiquated copy of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne.  M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister who died at the unripened age of 30.  In the assessment of his biographer, M’Cheyne was considered to have had an “indelible influence upon Scotland.”  His ministry was seen by many as a precursor to the great revivals that took Scotland by storm.  The profound impact of his ministry has been linked to the unusual degree of personal holiness that he possessed.  His deep conviction of sin and his growing dependence on the cross of Christ resulted in a lifestyle that was clearly set apart for the work of God.  He was perceived as pure and blameless before those who knew him best, and as a result they were deeply moved by his preaching of the gospel.

Memoir_and_Remains_of _Robert_Murry Mcheyne

One particular paragraph in the Memoirs stood out to me.  The following advice was written in a letter penned from M’Cheyne to a young friend training for overseas ministry.

“I know you will apply hard to German, but do not forget the culture of the inner man—I mean of the heart.  How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care.  Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument—I trust, a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success.  It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”

As I have undergone formal training for ministry, I have sought very hard to remember the cultivation of my heart.  It is so easy to get caught up in theological pursuits, language studies, and ministry experiences while neglecting the formation of my own heart.  The truth is, I can no more fashion my heart than I can make myself fly through the air.  But the Spirit of God can accomplish the work of giving me a Christ-like heart.  Without the Spirit of God softening my heart and working the grace of obedience into my life, there will be no Christ-likeness in me.  As I continue to put my faith in the work of Christ and daily repent of my sin, I am able to humbly rest in the arms of Jesus as the Spirit of God conforms me to His likeness.

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While the Spirit accomplishes the work of transforming our hearts, He does not do so apart from means.  His primary means of transformation is the word of God.  As we study and apply the truth of Scripture, we grow to know and reflect the image of Christ.  Through prayer, we humbly and confidently ask the Father to accomplish this work in our lives.  Through applying the gospel in our studies, relationships, careers, life experiences, and ministry opportunities we begin to cultivate the heart of Christ within ourselves.  We even find that God uses suffering to grow us in godliness.  He may use suffering to soften us and strengthen our affections as each painful  blow tenderizes our hearts toward Him.  Through suffering, He fashions within us a heart of humility and dependence, and despite the difficulty of our experience He fortifies our faith and love for Him.

When we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, we learn to depend on His grace to sustain and guide us.  We also learn to treasure Christ above all as the ultimate Object of our affection.  That can be a painful lesson to learn.  I have often had to ask the Lord to “break my heart a thousand times over if that’s what it takes to rid me of these idols and make it belong to Him.”  He continues to answer that prayer.  And while it hurts whenever He “breaks” me, He never fails to remake me.  His grace is sufficient and His love is ever faithful to those who put their trust in Christ.  May we never neglect the culture of our hearts as we seek to be made more and more into the image of Christ.  May we rely on the power of the Spirit and trust the promises of God as we seek to apply the realities of the gospel to our lives.  The gospel alone shall be our means of guarding and growing our hearts in grace.

Blessings in Christ, Gabriel

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A Review: Death by Love Part 6

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Review:

Chapter Eleven: Reconciliation

Kurt is a man lost to the world, delving into drugs and alcohol. Kurt as Driscoll notes does not understand how to reconcile with people but more importantly that Jesus Christ through the cross reconciled us to God.  This chapter I found to be the most personally written and least like a systematic theology of the doctrine at hand.  Driscoll compares the reconciliation needed between his brother and Kurt to Esau and Jacob being reconciled.[2] The cycle of bitterness as Driscoll describes is: “Bitterness, Wrath, Anger, Clamor, Slander, and Malice.”[3] In describing these, Driscoll has done the reader a service, showing how the barriers progress in the heart against reconciliation.  The words that Kurt needs to hear as we all do are, “You will see that not only does Jesus reconcile you to God in heaven, but he also takes away sin so that you can be reconciled to people on the earth.”[4] Reconciliation has two aspects to us as Driscoll notes the duality of the reconciliation through the cross.  Noticeably this chapter seems the most applicable for those that struggle with barriers between them and others.

Death by Love

Chapter Twelve: Revelation

Susan does not know what to think, or where to look for Jesus, for God.  She is searching for revelation when in fact Jesus is the revelation.  Driscoll makes a primary conclusion about Jesus Christ.  “Jesus is such an enormous figure in human history that he is the only person who appears in every major world religion.”[5] This is refreshing to see someone go out and say this, it has always been a mystery to me how Jesus is in every religion but is not exalted as being the son of God.  He is who he says he is.  Driscoll also gives eight truths learned through the cross and seven truths from the resurrection.[6] This chapter brings all the previous material together in defense of the cross and Christ being the revelation of God.  When reading this chapter the words of “In Christ Alone” come to mind.

“In Christ alone my hope is found…

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died

The wrath of God was satisfied

For every sin on Him was laid

Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ”

Jesus Christ alone can be: the victor, the redemption, the sacrifice, the righteousness, the justification, the propitiation, the expiation, the atonement, the ransom, the example, the reconciliation, and the revelation.  He is the ultimate champion of all time, reigning on high!  All glory goes to God!

This is the sixth and final post on this book.  Search Death by Love to see the other posts.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 224-225.

[3] Ibid. 223-224.

[4] Ibid. 229.

[5] Ibid. 238.

[6] This takes up a majority of the chapter and is a clear gospel presentation.

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