Monday, June 30, 2008

Do You Think You Can Think Too Highly Of God?

I am being greatly edified as I read through the autobiography of the man who is known as the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon. This is a man worthy of imitating. Reflecting on his childhood years and what it means to approach God like a child, Spurgeon pens the following words worth meditation:
"If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith. He will never allow you to think better of Him than He is; He will come up to the mark of your thoughts, and according to your faith so shall it be done unto you (Volume 1, p.25)."
Because God is greater than I could ever imagine, I cannot shake the implications of this statement: He will never allow you to think better of Him than He is.

My problem is and ever will be that I don't think highly enough of God.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Which Eyes Do You Use More?

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17 (emphasis added)
A couple of months ago I wrote a post called Learning That Seeing Is Not Believing. I don't think that is exactly the way I should have put it. There is more that I should have said there that I didn't say because I think that in these verses the apostle John implies that he believes that seeing is a sense.

In describing that which is of the world, John speaks of the desires of the eyes as one of the things that is set against that which is of the Father. In other words, John is saying that the desires of the eyes will cause us to love the world. Why? Because the things that the world sets before our earthly eyes will lead us to believe that the world is more lovely than the Father and all that He is for us in Jesus. Seeing is believing. Therefore, we should not feed the desires of our eyes because doing this long enough will lead us to believe that those things are what will make us happiest. John believes this. And so do all the advertising agencies who spend billions of dollars producing commercials on television that prove (in merely one way) this biblical principle year in and year out.

So what is the antidote? If seeing is believing, then how do we go about living our lives in such a way that we will believe what we should believe and NOT something else? This was the question that I posed to the high school men at our weekly youth group last night. I think the answer is that though by nature we are inclined to use our earthly eyes to navigate through life and analyze the world we live in, when we are born again in Christ we are then to begin to instead use the eyes of our hearts to navigate through life and analyze the world that we live in. We must train ourselves to, from the moment we wake up each day, view everything and everyone we encounter through the eyes of our hearts rather than our earthly eyes. I say train because even after being born again, we are still inclined to see everything, life events and circumstances and all, with our earthly eyes rather than the eyes of our hearts. To use the eyes of our hearts is hard. Is this not why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16 that from now on (after conversion), we regard no one "according to the flesh" or, the RSV translation, "from a human point of view"? Is this not why he prays for the Ephesians that they will have "the eyes of their hearts enlightened" (Ephesians 1:18)?

If we walk through life using mainly our earthly eyes, we are bound to live like the rest of the world and make shipwreck of our faith sooner than we think. Only when we use the eyes of our hearts can we know the hope to which we have been called and the greatness of God's glorious inheritance and his immeasurable power toward us who believe on Christ (Ephesians 1:18,19). Why? Because, when we do this, we are looking at things that the rest of the world cannot see! Why would we ever want to look at the things that they have no choice but to look at?

As I was trying to explain this to the young men, it didn't occur to me until later that night once I got home that an illustration of this principle was happening at the very moment I was speaking of it. As I led our small group group discussion for the first time last night, it seemed like I was met with an unstirred silence, question after question. I would just look at each of the guys. And I could feel myself thinking, "There is absolutely nothing going on inside of their hearts and minds. This is not effective." And of course, this made me feel as though I had messed up and done something wrong because obviously if I had done things differently, asked more thought-provoking questions, then they all would have been sharing vulnerably with deep conviction.

As I was talking to my roommate later that night about how we need to use the eyes of our hearts more than our earthly eyes, it struck me then that as I spoke to the high school men about learning to use the eyes of their hearts more than their earthly eyes, I was in that moment using my earthly eyes rather than the eyes of my heart. What a hypocrite! My earthly eyes led me to believe because of their seeming unresponsiveness that the night was an unfruitful one while using the eyes of my heart would have led me to believe that as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall God's words be that go forth from His mouth. They shall not return to Him empty but shall accomplish all that He purposes and succeed in the things for which He sent them (Isaiah 55:10, 11). This is the difference between using our earthly eyes and using the eyes of our hearts, which in is essence means to live wholly on the promises of God that all find their Yes in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20) in God's timing. And the result is worlds apart. In fact, it is eternal destinations apart.

And the desires of the eyes doesn't only have to do with things we might naturally associate with the world, like money and sex. It also has to do with things we might naturally call spiritual, like ministry. Could this be what is beneath a by-any-means-necessary pursuit of numerical growth?

So, which eyes do you use more? Your earthly eyes or the eyes of your heart? What do you believe more? Feelings for the present or promises for the future? I know what the answer is for me. And I have much, much training to do.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Resolved 2008: Session #12

John Piper
Romans 8:18-25

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created man and woman. And it was all very good. When Adam and Eve sinned, the entire created order was subjected to futility…in hope.

All the chaos of the created order that we witness had one sin as its source.

Why did God subject the created order to such futility when nature did nothing wrong? When it was human souls that did something wrong?

God put the natural world under a curse so that physical horrors would become vivid pictures of the horror of moral evil. Physical suffering happens so that we would get an image of the outrage of the moral evil in our hearts.

How intentionally outraged are we by our belittling of God compared to when we experience suffering in our lives? Almost never.

Therefore, God displays the horror of our sin in a way that we can feel.

That’s why when the tower fell on 18 at Siloam (Luke 13), Jesus said that unless we likewise repent we will likewise perish.

All physical evil exists to show us what sin is like because we couldn’t otherwise see or feel it. Oh that we would feel the evil of preferring anything to God. We do it everyday. And all the physical evil in the universe is not as bad as preferring anything to God.

Four observations about this text:

1) God promises that there will be liberation of this creation from its futility and its bondage to corruption (v.21)

This is the promise that there will be a new heavens and a new earth. The same earth is renewed. This is not a completely new earth.

2) The liberation of the created order from the bondage of corruption will be a participation in the freedom of the glory of the children of God (v.21)

The created order is redeemed because the children of God have been redeemed and not vice-versa.

3) The arrival of the new liberated creation is compared to a birth so that there is not only continuity with this world but also discontinuity (v.22)

The whole creation (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, cancers) are all global pains to bring forth the new planet. One implication is that there is continuity and discontinuity. What a mom gives birth to is human (continuity) but it isn’t her (discontinuity).

No more night, no more sun, no moon, no sea, no marriage, spiritual bodies, a world wrought through fire and yet real continuity in the new earth. A different kind of sun, a different kind of body, a different kind of marriage. God didn’t create the universe to throw it away. He created the universe and ordained the fall and redemption and the scream of the damned and hell in order to magnify the worth of His Son’s sacrifice.

4) The hope of having redeemed bodies in the new creation is secured by the scream of the damned, the saving work of Christ on the cross (v.23,24).

The ultimate reason that there is a new heaven and earth is NOT that there might be new bodies for saints. That’s only one of the reasons. The reason there is a new heaven and earth is so that we would forever sing of the Lamb that was slain.

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #11

Session #11: C.J. Mahaney – The Cry From the Cross

Mark 15:1-39

As soon as C.J. began to read the text for his sermon, I knew that for the sake of my soul I needed to close my laptop and behold the wondrous cross. Therefore, I have no recap for this session. For the sake of your soul, I highly recommend you download the audio here and behold the wondrous cross as you listen to the scream of the damned from the Savior for sinners of every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Resolved 2008: Session #10

John MacArthur

Luke 16:19-31

The Pharisees are the audience that drew Jesus’ attention in telling this story (v.14). The Pharisees and all who followed them were in grave danger of being thrown into hell.

This is another warning passage to those who were part of the false religion of apostate Judaism. Hell is for religious people. Most people in the world are religious. Therefore, hell is mostly populated by religious people.

The Pharisees were religious and they believed in hell yet they didn’t think they were in danger of being sent there. They keep asking Jesus for signs while they reject the truth that He reveals.

This is a story of contrasts and reversals with many nuances. The poor man becomes rich and the rich man becomes horribly poor. There is a poor man on the outside and a rich man on the inside. There is a poor man who is hungry and a rich man who is well fed.

Lazarus never speaks in this story. It is not a story about heaven. Lazarus is only in this story for contrast. This is a story about hell.

There is no occasion in Scripture in which someone goes to hell and comes back. This seems to be a parable.

Jesus gives the poor man the name Lazarus, meaning “the one God helps,” which is clearly illustrated in the story.

The rich man lived life in a lavish way in which every day was a party. Whatever the man wanted each day, he had the resources to make sure that each day he got it. The Pharisees would have heard of this rich man and considered him to be blessed by God. They were the inventors of the prosperity gospel. They were lovers of money (v.14).

The poor man was covered with sores. The text indicates that the man had a crippling disease because it speaks of him being passively laid at the rich man’s gate (v.20).

The rich man is like the Pharisees, serving money rather than serving God. He gives the poor man no help even though he is almost certainly aware of his great need. He probably did not offer help because he figured that this was God’s curse against this man for some sin he committed.

And then an event happens to both of them that changes everything: death. The Pharisees would have been shocked to hear that the poor man went to heaven because they were expecting this man who was “obviously” cursed by God due to the circumstances of his life to be sent to hell. And they would have expected the rich man to go to heaven. But the opposite of what they expect occurs. The great reversal now occurs.

This upsets the simplistic (prosperity gospel) theology of the Pharisees that if you suffer in life you are cursed by God and if you prosper in life you are blessed by God. They knew that Abraham was not in hell, since this was their father and the friend of God. The point Jesus is making is that the poor man went to be in the same place that Abraham is. This would have blasted the sensibility and theology of the Pharisees. The poor man becomes the guest of honor at the table of Abraham.

The rich man, in Hades (hell), is fully conscious of where he is and what he’s experiencing. He is immediately transported there just as the poor man is immediately transported to Abraham’s bosom (heaven).

The merciless one now pleads for mercy. He now requests for himself what he was unwilling to give to the poor man who requested it from him. And even now he still thinks that Lazarus is his servant. He requests mercy to be shown to him by the very one whom he refused to show mercy to. Hell doesn’t change us in any way. It only punishes us.

The fact that the rich man asks for only a drip of water (and not a bucket or a hose) is an indicator that the soles of the damned suffer so profoundly that one tiny drop of relief would mean everything to them but it never comes. He is in agony. And no physical water will help him because this is spiritual thirst and suffering.

The good things that the rich man received in life, instead of using them to help others, used them on himself. The poor man, having received bad things in life, is now comforted. And there is a chasm that is set such that there conditions from this point forward are forever fixed.

The rich man at this point has compassion on his family. If the rich man had any redeeming value, this was it. He cared about his brothers. And he knew that, just like him, his brothers were on their way to hell. He is basically saying that if he knew before death what he now knows then he would have done anything to prevent being sent to hell. So he wants his brothers to have this opportunity to change. But their problem wasn’t that they didn’t have enough knowledge. Their problem was that they didn’t listen to the Scriptures. Salvation comes only through hearing the Word.

The rich man’s request for someone to rise from the dead to warn his brothers parallels the Pharisees’ demand for a sign instead of listening to the Scriptures that they had.

Christ rose from the dead and yet many still did not believe.

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #9

Rick Holland – Two Resolutions for a Life that Counts

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Philippians 1:18-24

Paul, in this passage, is having an interesting self-debate, whether to live or die. He is struggling between wanting to go to heaven to be with Christ and remaining on earth to continue to minister to the Philippians.

This passage contains Paul’s manifesto, his declared summation of principles by which he lived by: To live is Christ and to die is gain.

We have all heard this verse and probably memorized it so three is nothing new here for us. But we need to look at it in order to dissolve the false dreams and treasures that do not exist and better behold the only true Treasure in the entire universe.

Two resolutions:

1) Resolved, to live life to treasure Christ.

v.21: To live is Christ. Paul’s view of his life was like a solar system that had Christ as his center, around which all things revolved.

What does it mean to treasure Christ?

This verse in the Greek or in the English makes no sense. Look at the verse. We would expect Paul to say that to live is loving Christ or worshiping Christ. But he merely says that to live is Christ. Christ is the essence of all things.

Christ isn’t to have first place above all things. He is to have first place in all things. He is to be #1 and #2 and #3 and #67 and so on. We dare not separate Jesus from any part of our lives.

It’s so easy for us to think of Christianity as behavior modification instead of a relationship as it really should be. Behavior modification is to be the fruit of the relationship.

To live is Christ can be seen in the way that Moses relates to God in Exodus 33. Moses prays in Exodus 33:19 that he would be able to know God because he knows that the experience of God that he had daily in the tent where he met with God wouldn’t last. He wanted to know God through and through, not just in the tent but also outside the tent.

How do I live Christ? How do I know Christ? It’s about sustained, building, present-tense awareness of who He is and what He’s done. Present-tense awareness of past-tense realities about who Christ is. To live is Christ means to consider everything as it is in relation to Him. We consider everything as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing (present-tense) Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

We have not understood the fullness of John 3:16. This verse speaks of us having eternal life. But what is eternal life? Jesus defines it at John 17:3 as knowing the true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent. Eternal life isn’t about the future. It is about the present. It’s not about a quantity of life. It’s about a quality of life.

To live is Christ means that every possibly thought that we could have ought to be in relationship to Jesus Christ, who He is, what He’s done, and that He’s here. He’s amazing. Are we amazed? He’s awesome. Are we in awe?

2) Resolved, to anticipate death to treasure Christ better.

v.21: To die is gain. Paul is speaking so as to say that to die is like hitting the lottery. This word gain is the strongest word in the Greek language that he could have used to express what people want most. He’s saying that to die is richness and wealth, indescribable and unimaginable.

Paul speaks of having a lust for going to heaven. That’s the strength of his desire. He wants to be with Jesus and the way to get there is to die.

How is dying gain?

John 14:2,3 – Jesus goes to prepare a place for us so that He will receive us to Himself.

2 Corinthians 5:4 – We groan for that day when we will be with Christ.

2 Timothy 1:10 – Light and immortality are manifested through the gospel of Christ.

The only person who will be able to say that to die is gain is the person who is able to say that to live is Christ.

Most of us have it backwards, thinking to live is gain and to die is Christ. We are wrong. When a man and woman get engaged, they aren’t to be focused on the engagement but rather on the marriage. This entire life is an engagement period that will end in the marriage of being with Christ in heaven.

When Jesus prays in John 17:24 that we will be with Him to see the glory that the Father has given Him, He is praying for our death because that glory is most fully seen when we are with Him in heaven.

Heaven is precious because our Lord Jesus is there. We long not for a place but for the place where our Savior sits and bids us come to be with Him.

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #8

John Piper - The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell

Echo (5 characteristics of hell):

Revelation 14:9-11

1) It is eternal

2) It involves suffering

3) Those who experience it are conscious

4) It is God-inflicted

5) It is just. There is no one who will be in hell who does not deserve to be in hell.

Hell is an echo of the worth of God in that it displays the seriousness of offending a being of infinite dignity. The seriousness of a punishment isn’t derived from the number of offenses committed but rather it is derived from the dignity of the one offended. God is a being of infinite dignity. Therefore, the smallest offense towards a being of infinite dignity requires an infinite punishment.

Hell is an echo of the sufferings of Jesus because they display the sufficiency of His sacrifice to rescue sinners from hell.

The Insufficiency of Hell

Hell is insufficient to save anyone. Everyone wants to escape from hell. You don’t need to be saved to want to escape hell. Hell doesn’t lead people to repentance. People are led to repentance by being awakened to the beauty of God and then becoming broken by the fact that they haven’t treasured the infinitely beautiful God. People are led to repentance by beholding the holiness of God and then mourning the fact that they aren’t holy. True repentance only comes through pleasure in God. True pleasure in God only comes through the pain of not having enjoyed God.

Download the audio here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Resolved 2008: Session #7

Steve Lawson - The Great White Throne Judgment
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15

Jonathan Edwards endeavored to know the glory and the happiness as much as he possibly could. In the same way, he gave himself to knowing the horrific realities of hell as much as he possibly could. Both of these aspects of eternity shaped his view of his daily life.

This text describes the final judgment that will occur at the end of history in which lost sinners will stand before God and be forever cast into eternal condemnation. There will be no appeals. There will be no second trials. There will be no paroles.

Four truths from this passage:

1) The setting described (v.11)

This scene begins in a stark, sobering, straightforward manner as John describes what he sees. Great speaks of its power. White speaks of its purity. Throne speaks of its power. These three words—Great White Throne—describe this setting. It represents universal jurisdiction over the entire created order. It is the greatest courtroom in the history of the world. There is no injustice or partiality at this throne.

Every wrong will be presented here and judged. Every injustice will be made known and brought into account. The entire Bible points forward to this scene.

Psalm 9:7,8

Psalm 7:11

Psalm 11:6

The One who sits on this throne is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is active as He sits on this throne reigning and ready to render judgment (Acts 17:31). In this day the Lamb will become a Lion. Once a lion catches his prey, he captures and crushes his prey.

Unbelievers will try to flee from the presence of the Judge on the throne but there will be no place for them to go.

2) The summons issued (v.12,13)

This summons is unavoidable. These are all the unsaved dead since the beginning of time summoned to appear from the courtroom before the Judge. Every great leader throughout the history of the world will stand before Christ to receive judgment. Every unknown person throughout the history of the world will stand before Christ to receive judgment.

Five groups of people will be summoned to appear before the Great White Throne:

· The out and out sinner – those who have outrightly rejected Christ

· The self-righteous – those who prided themselves in being so good and so moral (the one who thinks the gospel is for the thief and prostitute only)

· The religious cult members – those who have followed after other religious leaders

· The procrastinator – those who know that they are sinners, intending to be saved one day, but keep putting it off

· Lost church members – they have their name on a church roll but their names have never been written in the Lamb’s book of life. They are attached to a church but have never become attached to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The power of the summons is one that calls the dead from the sea.

3) The sins disclosed (v.12, 13, 15)

Exhibit A: The books are opened (v.12a, c)

Exhibit B: The book of life opened (v.12b, 15)

4) The sentence delivered (v.14)

How should we respond?

1) Humility that God has saved us from this judgment

2) Increased urgency in evangelism to rescue others from this judgment

3) Those who don’t believe must trust Christ to escape this judgment

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #6

Randy Alcorn
Revelation 21, 22 (from Genesis 1, 2)

When we die, it is not the end of a relationship. It is merely the interruption of a relationship and a grand reunion awaits us in the presence of God. Death transports us into the presence of God.

We will be transformed and unable to sin any longer as we stand in the presence of God. We will instead worship and glorify Him forever.

Heaven is not a place of ignorance. Rather it is a place of perspective, of understanding the purposes of God and the greater plan of God.

Satan, however, deceives us about heaven and what it will be like just like he deceives us about everything else in our lives. It is for this reason that so many of us have a view of heaven that is unattractive due to a faulty understanding of heaven.

Heaven will be a redeemed earth much like the earth that we now enjoy without all the sin and corruption we now experience. And we will then be able to see the face of God (Revelation 21:4) which we cannot now do.

In heaven we will receive the ultimate gift of Christ as our portion along with all things together with Him. Christ will be our primary joy, the source of all. And everything else will be a secondary joy, derived from Christ Himself.

Things are beautiful because God is beautiful. Things are powerful because God is powerful. Things are interesting because God is interesting.

We are to be looking forward to heaven because we are looking forward to being with God. We are going to love heaven precisely because we love the Creator, the Inhabitant of heaven.

God created the world to be majestic and glorious filled with worshipers of Him. But sin entered the world and corrupted all things. But God, in heaven, will recreate the world he originally meant for us to live in with new bodies that are free from sin as they were meant to be.

We will sit at table and eat and drink and laugh and play with saints from all generations.

God made us as human beings that would be composed of body and spirit that weren’t made to be separated (Genesis 2:7). That is why the resurrection is so significant.

There will be nations and kings in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:14). The heavenly city will be accessible to all as many go in and out. Culture will be redeemed from what happened to it after the fall. Just like God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden, He will in the new heaven and earth dwell with us.

We will see again and have access too the tree of life that Adam and Eve were cut off from when God banned them from the Garden of Eden.

We will worship God through serving Him and we will reign forever and ever.

God will redeem all of creation, we along with everything else that was subjected to futility (Romans 8:20).

…that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:7

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #5

Steve Lawson
Revelation 4:1-11

Jonathan Edwards knew that he must always keep one eye in heaven while he lived his life on earth. While he lived here, he wanted heaven and the joy of heaven in his soul long before he ever went there. He refused to be casual in his pursuit of heaven. And this pursuit electrified his soul. This is the reason God used him so mightily on this earth.

Heaven is the theater that puts God’s glory on display that we catch a glimpse of in these verses.

5 truths about God from these verses

1) The sovereignty of God (v.1,2)

Jesus tells John to come see what must take place. God has already scripted the future. All of human history is His story. Before the foundation of the world, God decreed all of history.

The first thing that captures John when he enters into heaven is not the architecture of the buildings, the tree of life, the river of life, the streets of gold, the gate, who was there and who wasn’t. But rather it was the throne of God. This throne represents the government of God, the absolute sovereignty of God over all of human history. This captures John and is great news for John in the midst of the chaos of the Roman empire in the first century.

Yet John recognizes that even in the darkest hours of human history, there is a throne in heaven where the absolutely sovereign One who is perfectly governing all the details of history. This throne is different from all other thrones in that it remains standing, towering over every earthly event and every human circumstance. There is One sitting on the throne. It is always occupied by the Almighty and He will never vacate this seat. Heaven is not governed by a democracy but by a theocracy. There are no checks and balances in God’s administration. There is only One who sits in absolute sovereignty. He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

The knowledge of God’s sovereignty brought Jonathan Edwards unspeakable joy and delight.

2) The splendor of God (v.3,4)

What John sees next is no inconsequential gain but one attended with regal majesty and royal splendor. John sees One on the throne like a jasper stone (like a diamond). John can’t even find words to describe what he sees. The glory of God shines so brightly that even the seraphim that fly in the presence of the throne must cover their eyes.

Heaven is like a lightshow that is emitting from the throne of God where God is like a diamond. Heaven is not a drab place that is muted and dull in tones. It is radiant, bright, and blazing.

We see other thrones around God’s throne representing authority that is delegated from God, authority that God stands in absolute authority over. These who are in the presence of God are clothed in white garments that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb in order that they may stand faultless and without blemish before the throne of God. They are wearing crowns but there is only one crown that stands above all and it is worn by the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

3) The severity of God (v.5)

There is a brewing storm in heaven. Around the throne of God it is darkening with flashing of lightning and peals of thunder. There is an angry thunderstorm that is brewing and brimming around the throne of God. This is the wrath of God against an unbelieving world as He beholds the happenings in the world of rebellion towards Him.

This wrath is beings stored up to be unleashed with no mercy one day upon all who will not believe. God is not indifferent to present rebellion.

There are seven lamps of fire that are the source of this storm. The seven spirits of God represent the fullness of the one Spirit of God. It is the righteous anger of the Holy Spirit of God that is shining forth and projected forth from the throne of God.

Let us not kid ourselves. God is a God of holiness and righteousness. Every sin in the history of the world will be personally and directly punished by God. Each sin is either pardoned in Christ through His punishment or punished in hell through ours.

The wrath of God should be a cause of immense joy for every believer. It should cause us to treasure our salvation. It should cause us great pleasure to know that God will vindicate His name. It should cause us to rejoice that God will have the final say.

4) The sinlessness of God (v.6-8)

God is absolutely holy. In heaven there is something like a sea of glass like crystal. Even in heaven there is that which separates God from everything else.

We will not be giving God high fives. We will be falling on our faces before Him. The living creatures are guardians of the glory of God. These creatures are supernatural. The creatures have six wings, reminding us of the seraphim in Isaiah 6 who fly in the presence of God. These creatures ceaselessly declare the holiness of God.

Holiness represents the sum of all that God is. It is that which separates Him from all else. Though we will be holy in the presence of God, our holiness will not be the same as God’s holiness.

5) The supremacy of God (v.9)

Every eye in heaven is fixed upon the One on the throne. Every knee is bowing before the One on the throne. Every tongue giving praise to the One who is on the throne. God on His throne is the focus of all activity in heaven.

Those who worship God around the throne are like the stimulus that activates and intensifies the worship of all others around them. Worship of God is like wildfire that spreads so that our worship of God makes others to worship God.

What we see in these verses is a triumphant procession that is magnified infinitely as all of the redeemed of the world march to the throne of God being led by Jesus Christ.

In heaven, there is no mistaken understanding about how great God is. As we catch a glimpse of heaven in these verses, may we experience the God-centered happiness of heaven now.

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #4

C.J. Mahaney – God as Father: Understanding the Doctrine of Adoption
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:1-7

According to J.I. Packer, the doctrine of adoption is the deepest answer to the question, “What is a Christian?”

Too many Christians are uncertain of God’s love for them. In light of their sin, they are suspicious of God and His love for them. They see God as one who merely tolerates them because He is frustrated with their sin.

This topic is intimately related to our glorious future in heaven. It is through the reality of adoption that our eternal home breaks into our existence on earth. In the truth of adoption, the future breaks into the present.

Because of the cross, we will one day behold the face of God. Through the gift of adoption, that relationship with God begins now. We taste of that fellowship with God and begin to enjoy that intimacy now.

1) The preparation for adoption (v.1-3)

The Galatian church was filled with Gentile Christians who were in the process of deserting the gospel due to false teachers who emphasized legalism. They were trying to their own works to what Christ had done in order to make themselves right with God. Paul, therefore, takes the time to explain the true purpose of the law. The law was given by God with the purpose of preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. The law was a guardian until Christ would come.

The pagan nations were not enslaved to Jewish law. The Jewish nation was not enslaved to pagan idolatry. But both were enslaved by sin. The Galatian Christians were returning to the slavery of legalism, as if they were serving their former false gods. The law is meant to prepare us for the gift of the Savior and the blessing of adoption.

2) The basis for adoption (v.4-5)

Verse 4 for reveals the plan and purpose of God determined from eternity past. God takes the initiative towards sinners, all of which we are. God sent forth His Son.

In order to be our Savior, Christ must be like us, born of woman. In order to be our Savior, Christ must be unlike us, perfectly keeping the law. He was truly God and fully man, the Mediator between God and men.

God sent forth His Son to redeem. Before God adopted us, we weren’t orphans. We were not orphans, those to be sympathized with. We were enemies of God: God-ignoring, God-defying, God-hating. There was nothing attractive in us to draw God toward us. We were slaves of sin, not orphans. We were justified objects of God’s wrath. A price had to be paid. And it was paid when Christ gave His life on the cross as a ransom to redeem us from our sin.

But redemption is not the end of the purpose. God sent forth His Son in order to redeem and adopt us. God sent forth His Son with both an atoning purpose and an adopting purpose. God makes slaves into sons through the death of His Son. And here we encounter the deepest insight into the greatness of God’s love.

God doesn’t just justify us, as great as that is and that being our deepest spiritual need, but God goes further. He makes us His children.

“To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”
J.I. Packer

Do the words closeness, affection, and generosity accurately describe our common experience with and perception of God?

If not, then perhaps we are more aware of our sin than the adoption of God into His family. Perhaps we are more aware of God as the justifying Judge than as the adopting Father. We must remedy this by devoting ourselves to relentless study of the doctrine of adoption.

When we don’t experience the closeness, affection, and generosity of God as our Father, this grieves His heart. The greatest sorrow we can lay on the Father is to not believe that He loves us. Why? Because He sent forth His Son and crushed Him in order to redeem us and adopt us as sons in demonstration of this love for us.

What more could God do to convince us of His love for us? Nothing.

3) The experience of adoption (v.6,7)

Again, we are drawn to the initiative of God in revealing the love of God. There is a new cry present in the heart of the genuine Christian: “Abba! Father!” This is the evidence that we have received adopting grace. This cry assures us of God’s love for us.

If we are sincerely singing to the Savior tonight, we can be sure that God loves us because God put it there. If he had not put it there due to His love for us, we couldn’t sing, let alone do it with joy. Therefore, we may conclude with certainty that God loves God if we love God. We can only love Him if He first loved us.

Many voices seek to turn us away from the cry of adopting grace. Are we aware of the cry “Abba! Father!” or has it been drowned out?

Paul transitions from plural in verse 6 to singular in verse 7 so that we as individuals might be aware of God’s personal love. The Christian is no longer a slave but a son. But it doesn’t end there because if he is a son then he is an heir. And this all happens through God, not through us. The verse ends fixing our attention on God, not on us.

God’s adoption of us as His children was unnecessary because He didn’t need a son. He already had one. He already had an Heir.

The adoption that we taste in this life is mere preparation for the moment when we will see His face and know the fullness of His closeness, affection, and generosity.

Download the audio here.

Resolved 2008: Session #3

John MacArthur

Luke 12:1-12

With thousands gathered to hear Jesus, so many that they were trampling each other, what He chose to speak about among all things He could have chosen was the subject of hell.

When Jesus tells these people to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, He is essentially saying “Beware of the religion you are a part of otherwise you will end up in hell.”

Many people are OK with a hell for the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, murderers, and such high profile crime committers, but the truth is that these people will only make up a small minority of heaven. The majority of hell will be religious people, people who follow a religion that cannot save.

The illusion is that we are good people who God would never send to hell and most certainly would send to heaven. That is what Jesus is getting at in this text. These were all Jews who believed in a Messiah, in heaven, in hell, and the laws of God. But most of them were all headed to hell and that’s why Jesus speaks as He does. Jesus constantly warned such people. He most constantly condemned the religious people to eternal damnation.

There are the religious people. And then there are the disciples, the genuine learners. Jesus is referring to these also. Jesus is offering both a warning them to avoid what the others were walking in. They needed to beware of the deadly pervasive influence of the Pharisees.

Jesus was full aware of sin. But He spoke so much more about false religion than He did of gross iniquities because false religion locks so many up in subtle deception.

How do we avoid false religion?

1) We need to be motivated strongly to abandon false religion

What will motivate us? The fact that there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be made known (v.2-3). We must escape false religion because God will uncover the truth. And if we are hypocrites, we know that we are hypocrites when we are honest with ourselves. We must flee this hypocrisy because we are in severe danger.

The heart of hypocrisy is the fear of man. Jesus tells us that to defeat this we must not fear men, but rather to fear the One who after He has killed us, has authority to cast us into hell—namely, God.

Why should we fear God? 3 reasons:

1) God will unmask all hypocrites

2) He will send them to hell

3) He knows everything

The fact that God knows everything is comforting news for the genuine believer. It is frightening news for the hypocrite and unbeliever. And God knows those who are his and those who are not.

2) We must make a true, open, public confession of Jesus Christ (v.8).

To not do so is hypocrisy if we think we are Christians. We will never be confessed by God as one of His own before the angels until we have acknowledged Jesus before others as the Lord.

Luke 13:1-9

Here in the same occasion as Luke 12 (v.1), a group of people look for a reason why some Galileans had been slaughtered and had their blood mixed with that of their sacrifices (v.1-5). Jesus responds in saying that what they experience is not because they are worse than any others. The point is that all people are sinners just like those victims and unless a person repents, he too will likewise perish. This is the gospel. The message is simple. All must repent or perish.

Then in the parable to follow (v.6-9), Jesus teaches that everyone is living on borrowed time. This is the gift of common grace. But unless we produce the fruit that God seeks, that time will be cut short.

We must examine ourselves, whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Hell is real. And we will go there if we don’t pass the test.

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Resolved 2008: Session #2

Randy Alcorn
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. Revelation 21:1-6

Some have us have come groaning and longing for the redemption that will come with the resurrection of the sons of God (Romans 8). That redemption doesn’t come in snatching our souls from this world. It comes in God bringing His very presence down to the new earth, setting up His throne, and dwelling with us forever.

This used to be the great encouragement to the people of God, the North Star by which Christians navigated their lives. But heaven has largely fallen off our radar screens in the day we live in today because we think we have the capacity to create our own heaven.

When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s ultimate answer to that is in the fulfillment of what is written in Revelation 21.

We were made for one person and one place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place. We will never be satisfied with anything less than Jesus or anything less than heaven.

In Colossians 3:1,2 that we are to set our hearts and our minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God and not on earthly things.

Jonathan Edwards’ resolution #22: Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world (heaven) with as I possibly can…

When we seek that happiness that we will have only in the presence of God when we dwell with Him, God gives us, as a byproduct, happiness in this life as we eagerly await the fulfillment of that certain time to come.

Jesus, born into the family of a carpenter, is the ultimate Carpenter. He created the world and He fixes the world go wrong. He will make us even better than Adam and Eve were before they sinned in the garden.

When many people think of heaven, they think merely of the place we go to be when we die. This is called the intermediate state. But this present heaven is not the same as the eternal heaven. Once the resurrection takes place, God will create a new heaven and earth that will be eternal.

It is this eternal heaven that is really the focus of Scripture and should be the focus of our Christian lives (2 Peter 3:13). The present heaven is like a layover on our way somewhere else. Even though we will be in the presence of Jesus, something even more wonderful awaits us after our resurrection. At that point we will receive resurrected bodies and be part of a resurrected world as we serve God and have dominion over the earth as God intended from the beginning. Satan didn’t defeat God’s plan when Adam and Eve sinned. God’s original plan in Genesis 1 and 2 is perfected in Revelation 22. God never gave up or lost His plan (Genesis 1:1, Revelation 21:1).

When Scripture speaks of a new earth, new is an adjective that modifies the noun earth. It speaks of an improvement of the same object, not of an entirely new object. This is also true of the new bodies that we will receive.

The essence of heaven, in Revelation 21, is the fact that God is with men (v.3). Even though God is omnipotent and is therefore everywhere and always with men, this speaks of His permanent dwelling place which is currently on the throne in heaven. Revelation 22 :1 speaks of this throne as being on the new earth.

This world is the closest the unbeliever will come to experiencing the reality of heaven. This world is the closest the believer will come to experiencing the reality of hell.

The intermediate state should not be devalued because Paul spoke of it as being far better than this life (Philippians 1:21, 23) and so did Jesus when he told the thief on the cross when he told him that on that very day he would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43).

Death is not a hole or a wall. It is a doorway into another world. Paul speaks of it as a departure (2 Timothy 4:6).

Jesus Christ experienced hell on the cross so that we would be able to spend eternity with Him after we die or when He comes.

We are all homesick for Eden because we are connected to Adam through our sin natures.

This present world is not our home. But this world, as it will be transformed by Jesus Christ, is our home, the home that we are to long for.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
Job 19:25-27
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Resolved 2008: Session #1

Rick Holland

And just as it is appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who ware eagerly waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:27-28

The resolutions of Jonathan Edwards were based primarily on death, dying, heaven, hell.

As 19 years olds (the age Edwards was when he wrote his resolutions), do we have commitments and convictions that we will not compromise no matter what we do?

Our theme is heaven and hell and it is impossible to talk about these realities without talking about death because death is the doorway to heaven and hell.

We must think about death as Edwards did because if we are ready to die, then we know how to live. But we, in the Western world, are very insulated from thinking of death. We are insulated from it when it comes to the food that we eat, our friends and family dying.

This wasn’t true for the people in the book of Hebrews. The readers of this book were Jewish Christians who were exposed to death constantly through the animal sacrifice system. Hebrews is a bloody book about sacrifices in which Jesus Christ is set forth as the ultimate sacrifice that is superior to all that came before Him.

The 3 most important facts of life

1) Death is unavoidable (v.27)

It has been appointed for us to die. Someone has arranged for us to die. We have all brought this appointment upon ourselves (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Death is the right and the righteous judgment of God on the sin of every man. Every man is born with a death sentence. We are dying from the moment we come into this world. We are dying right now and are closer to our death at this moment than this morning when we woke up. Are we, like Edwards, aware of this fact and living light in light of the reality that we will one day die?

There is a fundamental relationship between the life and death of every person and the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Why had death made death the sentence for our sin and not something lesser? This leads us to understand how serious sin is. It is so serious to God that He demands our death for it. Yet it is so serious God to resolve this problem that He killed His own Son to pay our death penalty.

2) Judgment is certain (v. 27)

Psalm 50:6, Ecclesiastes 3:17, 8:11-13, 12:14

Judgment is certain because God is the judge. Everyone has an appointment at the day of their death to meet with God. And at that judgment we will have to account for what we’ve done with the sacrifice of His Son.

God is so serious about sin that He would put us to death. But He is more serious than that in that this death is an eternal one in hell.

And apart from His Son, this hell is our eternal destination. Hell is right now filled with people who are suffering and who would love to plead with us this very moment to believe on Christ and receive the salvation that is in Him in order that we might be spared from what they are experiencing.

There are no second chances. It is appointed for a man to die once and then comes judgment.

3) Salvation is possible (v.28)

This is the gospel. Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. Jesus is the final, real, ultimate sacrifice. It’s not amazing that judge would judge us by death and hell. What’s remarkable is God would take that punishment and replace it with the righteousness of Christ because Christ himself received our punishment on the cross. Jesus was absolutely alienated so that we ourselves wouldn’t have to be alienated ourselves.

We were born with a stiff arm in God’s face clawing at His eyes that we might have our own way and yet He still makes salvation possible for us.

Jesus is coming again with a robe dipped in blood to make war on all except those who don’t believe, those who eagerly await Him. Why don’t we more eagerly await Him? Because we love this life too much.

Resolution #55: Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I shall wish to do if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and the torments of hell.

Matthew 13:44 – Is Christ so precious to us that we will give up all that we have in order to receive all that He is for us?

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Do You Preach To Yourself?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11
I know I need to do so more often.

Get the entire sermon here: Spiritual Depression in the Psalms