Monthly Archives: April 2010

No Greater Love

There is no greater picture of love than this…

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  Titus 3:4-7

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:1-10

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:10-11

Oh how desperately we need a daily reminder of His unending love for us… He is so immeasurably faithful even when we are ridiculously faithless!!  Oh, to know such a radical love as this…

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False Faith vs. Saving Faith

Decisions or Disciples: So often when we share the gospel, we’re more concerned about decisions than disciples.  Obviously, we’re motivated by compassion for the lost, but we can easily rush the process of conviction and do more harm than good.  The Holy Spirit must convict a person about sin and then implant a love for Christ in order for that person to actually repent and believe.

When we rush people toward decisions and artificial prayers, we do them an eternal disservice.  A wise minister has suggested, “We lose thousands of people who are going to die and go to hell, thinking they are saved.  And they’ve never been saved.” This is a very sobering thought, indeed.

Tom Ascol:

“The Bible recognizes the reality of false faith.  Demons have faith (James 2:19).  Simon Magus had faith (Acts 8:13, 21-23).  Many Jews who were impressed with Jesus’ miraculous power put their faith in him (John 2:23-25).  But the Bible teaches that none of these were truly converted.  They did not possess saving–that is, life-changing–faith in Christ.”

A life of true, saving faith is evidenced by genuine repentance and is followed by progressive growth in godliness.  Let us, therefore, examine our souls to see if we possess the marks of grace that are consistent with saving faith.  If we are unsure, then we ought to humbly ask God to save and sanctify us so that we may be transformed into His likeness and restored to His favor.

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Plans and Priorities

Our plans and priorities ought to be written in pencil and bathed in prayer…

“A man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

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An Undivided Heart

We have but one life to live, and but one heart from which to give… May they both be undivided in their faithful devotion to God…

Psalm 86:11-12 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.   I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”

Charles Spurgeon comments on these verses: “Our minds are apt to be divided [among] a variety of objects, like trickling streamlets which waste their force in a hundred runnels; our greatest desire should be to have all our life-floods poured into one channel and to have that channel directed toward the Lord alone.”

Source

We are naturally disposed toward having divided, distracted, ever-wandering hearts.  We gravitate toward those things that seem to satisfy our momentary longings, and yet realize that even those objects of affection are fleeting at best.  As believers, we are called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  It’s pretty much the greatest commandment, according to Jesus (Matt. 22:34-40; Cf. Deut. 6:5).  However, anyone who is the least bit self-aware will realize the profound difficulty of such a charge.

To love God with an undivided heart, a satisfied soul, an undistracted mind, and every ounce of one’s strength is entirely impossible.  Yet, King David serves as our example in asking God to give him an undivided heart that he might “fear” His name.  David was seeking something that could not be accomplished apart from the gracious provision of God.  He was seeking to be awestruck by the person of God, to be amazed by the majesty of His power, and to be intoxicated by the beauty of His glory.  In essence, David wanted to be so captivated by God’s love that he could not help expressing unending love and undivided devotion back to Him.  Such praise–such obedience–would simply be the overflow of a grateful heart to the God who had been immeasurably gracious to it. David wanted to worship God with every part of his being.  He wanted to offer his entire person, his whole heart to fearing the Lord and obeying His word. David was a man of intense passion and yet, without the help of God, those passions would always be divided among lesser things.

Without the grace of God, one cannot have an undivided heart, a single-minded focus, a satisfied soul, or the necessary strength to stand-fast in the face of hardship.  It’s simply impossible.  However, with God all things are possible as we embrace Jesus Christ and yield to the power of His Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we must ask the God, the Giver of all good things (Matt 7), to give us an undivided heart so that we may fear His name. Only in fearing God will we be able to humbly and obediently walk in His ways (Ecclesiastes 13:12).  The gospel that saves sinners like us, is the same gospel that God uses to change us.  He does this so that we may come to love Him with an undivided love…

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The Footsteps of A Fool…

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” [1]

Some decisions change our lives forever.  Some decisions will cost of us everything in order to gain just one thing.  The world calls us fools, but the Father calls us faithful.  Loving God requires radical faith–one willing to give up much-desired temporal comforts in order to gain costly, eternal rewards.  It is a constant “death to self” that is usually painful. However, we survive by fixing our hope on the glory that is to come rather than in the painful price that is paid… the paradox is nothing short of a divine conspiracy rooted in God’s grace and love toward us.  He is so good and ready to give everything to those who are willing to lose all for His sake… Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added to you.


The Call of Elisha:

In the 19th chapter of 1 Kings, we are introduced to a man named Elisha. At first acquaintance, Elisha is in his field plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Only the most wealthy of farmers would have had so many oxen at their disposal.  As Elijah, the great prophet of God, passed by the young farmer, he anointed him as a prophet of God.  God had told Elijah (19:16) to transfer his power to this young prophet-in-the-making and he does so by casting his cloak upon him.

Elisha’s response is so fascinating.  He runs after Elijah, and Elijah tells him to go back home.  Elisha responds by returning back home so that he can burn the plowing equipment and sacrifice the oxen.  There was no turning back, and his radical behavior signifies a clear distinction between his former life and this new one. He’s been called as a prophet of God, and he burns every bridge necessary so that he’s not tempted to go back.  In fact, there are numerous times when Elijah–seemingly testing the young prophet’s resolve or trying to spare him the lonely life of a prophet–tells him to go away.  Elisha is persistent in his refusal to depart from his divine calling, because he counted the cost before he ever took the first step.  As a result, God used Elisha as a powerful instrument to proclaim His glory and deliver His grace…

It’s interesting that Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  Serving the King requires a single-minded pursuit. It casts off anything that hinders, retaining only that which aids in that one solitary, glorious mission.  It will be lonely, it will be difficult, but it is the only way to relentlessly pursue the calling of God upon the life of His servant. I wonder what sorts of plowing equipment we need to burn and which oxen we need to sacrifice in order to follow the calling that God has placed upon our lives–are we willing to give it up in order to pursue the selfless demands of the kingdom?

Calling the Disciples:

While walking by the sea of Galilee (Matt. 4:18-22), Jesus sees two brothers–Peter and Andrew–who are fishing.  He calls out to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.  And shortly thereafter, Jesus came upon two other brothers–James and John–who were also fishing with their father.  He called them as well, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.  There is no following the will of God half-heartedly…

This story, like that of Elisha, amazes me.  These men were so ready to leave everything they knew and had invested their lives into in order to follow Jesus.  The moment that He called them to something greater–serving Him–they dropped it all to follow hard after His footsteps.  Ridiculous.  We can hardly fathom it at first reading.  Yet, as we reflect on what is taking place, we begin to realize that responding to the call of  Christ requires a radical departure with our former way of life.  It’s a decision that is all-encompassing.  There’s no turning back and all temptations to do so must be left behind.  Not only is this true of a Christ follower, but it is even more important of one who is called to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.  A man of God is not only known by what he pursues, but by those things he’s willing to give up in order to maintain that pursuit.  He will give up lesser things to gain greater things, the things of this world to gain the things of the next, that which hinders to gain that which helps.

Therefore let us take up our crosses daily and follow Christ. For whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24). We must fix our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith as we cast aside the sin that so easily entangles (Heb. 12:1-3). We must pursue Christ with a relentless, single-minded passion that requires a radical willingness to give up good things in order to pursue greater things.

Such a willingness does not come naturally, and so we must ask the Spirit of God to strengthen us so that we will set our gaze upon the only One who is worthy of our passionate pursuit–in both the joy and the pain.  I am helplessly unable to do this on my own… but God is faithful to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible.  He will neither share His glory with another nor compete for the affection of His children.  If He has to repeatedly crush the idols of their hearts and pry their affection loose from created things, then He will do so in order that they might love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  This is a most brutal love, and yet it the only way for God to remain faithful to His people.  It is His mercy that He implants and sustains our undivided love for Him…  May God do this among us, for we cannot do it on our own.

[1] Jim Elliot, Journals. This can be found in the October 28, 1949 entry on page 174 (Chapter 4) of the 1978 hardback edition of the Journal and on page 108 (Chapter 11) of the 1958 hardback edition of Shadow of the Almighty.  Philip Henry (1631-1696), father of well known preacher and Bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714), was credited with a very similar saying: “He is no fool who parts with what he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with what he cannot lose.”

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(Un)Answered Prayers

A lesson in the glory of “(un)answered” prayers…

Luke 22:42-44: “And Jesus withdrew from [the disciples] about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying,’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

The Point: God’s glory is often clearest in (un)answered prayers

Jesus prayed a prayer that seemed to go unanswered. The Cup did not pass from Him.  And yet, through that Cup, God secured the greatest act of redemption that the world has ever seen and it was all dependent upon this painful, solitary prayer.  That prayer demonstrated Jesus’ willingness to endure the wrath of God that would come upon Him at the Cross… Without that willing, trusting heart (as displayed in His selfless prayer) mankind would have eternally perished without ever having any hope of redemption.

The Father’s only Son willingly gave up His life to save a multitude of selfish, undeserving rebels. Jesus so deeply agonized over His coming death (and the separation from His Father that it would require) that His sweat was like stinging drops of blood.  Can you imagine a greater display of love and humility? Despite His righteous fear of His Father’s wrath, He selflessly consented to His own desecration and death in order to become the curse for us.  He was pierced for OUR transgressions… every single sinful thought and deed was nailed to His account so that He would endure the full extent of the damnation that we deserved.  And every ounce of His righteousness was credited to us

Jesus’ unwavering faith in the Father is completely astounding–He asked not for His will, but that of His Father.  That should leave us breathless that He would exchange His own account for ours.  Amazingly, the Father actually answered Jesus’ prayer by punishing the Righteous and pardoning many of the unrighteous.  The truth is, the Father always intended for Jesus to bear the burden that we could never carry.   Another glorious reality is that God always answers our prayers, too.  He does so, because He is gracious beyond all that we could ask or imagine.  Sometimes we feel like our prayers go unanswered, but God always answers our petitions according to the beauty of His glorious plan.

The attitude of Jesus’ heart is instructive for us.  His example reveals that we should pray with a similar exercise of faith and humility that culminates in seeking not our will, but the Father’s.  We will give God most glory when we submit to His counsel and resign our hearts to gratefully embrace that which His infinite wisdom deems best. And, like Jesus, we will see the great and (im)possible things that God will accomplish through our humble obedience in the midst of (un)answered prayers.  If the Savior of our undeserving souls could entrust Himself to the Father, then so can we… the gospel demands it.

Prayerfully Acknowledge His Promise of Glory: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

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