Friday, August 28, 2009

Gospel Motivation

From DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed:
...the secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.
Read that again. Slowly. Think about it. And never forget it.

That was the last sentence to a superb post I read today. I highly recommend reading the entire post, though it is on the longer side. The gospel is so counter-intuitive, so paradoxical.

I didn't plan this, but I wrote a post on Monday about ceasing from our work because we are to rest in Christ's finished work. And then on Tuesday I linked to a post about being ambitious for Christ. No, these two are not contradictory. The key is understanding gospel motivation.

When we dwell in the gospel continually--living the gospel-saturated life, sinking our roots ever deeper into God's mercies to us in Christ--we will rest in God and we will be ambitious for the very same time.

If one or the other is missing, perhaps the reason is that our roots aren't sinking deep enough into the gospel?

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Away With Clanging Cymbals Of Every Kind

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-4

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:35
Two centuries ago, Jonathan Edwards probed the question as to what makes the church like heaven. His answer: its love. The church's manifestation in time of the glories that are yet to come is not accomplished in the gift of tongues, nor even in prophecy, giving, teaching. It is accomplished in love. One day all the charismatics who know the Lord and all the noncharismatics who know the Lord will have nothing to fight over; for the so-called charismatic gifts will have forever passed [1 Corinthians 13:8]. At that point, both of these groups of believers will look back and thoughtfully contemplate the fact that what connects them with the world they have left behind is not the gift of tongues, nor animosity toward the gift of tongues, but the love they sometimes managed to display toward each other despite the gift of tongues. The greatest evidence that heaven has invaded our sphere, that the Spirit has been poured out upon us, that we are citizens of a kingdom not yet consummated, is Christian love.

--D.A. Carson, Showing The Spirit: A Theological Exposition Of 1 Corinthians 12-14, p. 75-76.
When I was like a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11
One day, we will have love that is fully grown and matured because we will have put behind us all of our childish arguing and bickering about who's right and who's wrong that we so struggle with today. Oh Lord, help us. For Jesus' sake, Amen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Holy Ambition: A Surprising Safeguard From Self-Sufficiency

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?...Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God...
2 Corinthians 2:15-16, 3:4-5
From PureChurch:
...the door of laziness opens just as easily [as pride] to the knock of self-sufficiency. This is the man with so little ambition that everything lies within his grasp. He doesn't attempt great things for God, so he has no reason to depend upon God. He doesn't conceive of a spiritual world with fruit in vineyards too plentiful for his tilling, so the easy and mundane become "enough" for him. His estimation of the task is too small. So, a lazy man finds in his own laziness a comfortable self-sufficiency. He's aiming to do nothing, so he needs nothing. The glory of God gets packed away in tidy phrases for a sedentary life: "don't take on too much;" "you're just one man;" "we can only do so much;" "I'll do it tomorrow."
Read the entire post here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The End of God's Work...And Ours

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Genesis 2:1-3 (emphasis added)
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished. God finished His work. And He rested. We should marvel when we look up to the sky and ponder the vastness of God’s creation and consider that God did it all in merely six days. That is glorious beyond description. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handwork (Psalm 19:1). They reveal His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature as the Designer and Molder of it all (Romans 1:20). The creation of the heavens and the earth was a glorious work. But God’s most glorious work was yet to come.

During His ministry, Jesus said the following when He was in Samaria:
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish [finish, complete] his work.
John 4:34
The word accomplish can also be rendered as complete or finish. Jesus says that He came to finish His Father’s work. But wait. I thought God finished His work back in Genesis chapter 2. Why, then, is He still working? The first two chapters of Genesis display God’s work in creation. And the four gospel accounts display God’s work in redemption. God finished His work in creation when he blessed it and made it holy, taking His rest from all that He had done on the previous six days (Genesis 2:3). And He finished His work in redemption when, from the cross, He himself said, “It is finished” and took His rest by bowing His head and giving up His spirit (John 19:30). I can’t help but wonder if one of the main reasons God inspired Moses to tell us that He finished His work in the Garden of Eden was to foreshadow the work that He would finish as He hung on the cross at Calvary. Even in Eden there are echoes of Calvary. Many of them. But it gets even better.

The relationship between God’s work in creation and God’s work in redemption is seen in that the Scriptures tell us of how He finished both (Genesis 2:3, John 19:30 respectively). But have you ever thought about how God finishing His work in each case relates to our work?

In creation, the completion of God’s work signifies the beginning of ours. God created the waters, the dry ground, the sun, the moon, the stars, the plants, the animals, and, last of all, humankind. When He created human beings, He was completing His work in creation. And it was at that time that He told the first human beings:
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
Genesis 1:28
This has been called the “dominion mandate.” In its essence, it is a call for Adam and Eve to work. They are to be overseers of all of God’s creation. Adam specifically is to till the ground. God did not intend for Adam and Eve to be passive in fulfilling the dominion mandate. Obedience to this mandate would require action. It would require work. And, therefore, the end of God’s work in creation signifies the beginning of man’s work in creation.

But the opposite is true in redemption. In redemption, the completion of God’s work signifies the end of ours.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Hebrews 4:9 (emphasis added)
In the book of Hebrews, the author speaks of the priests who stand daily at their service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins (Hebrews 10:11). What are the priests doing? They are, in a way, participating in the work of redemption. In the Old Testament, God had instituted the sacrificial system as a way to appease Him for a time so that He wouldn’t wipe the Israelites out for their sins. There were very detailed and complicated rules for how these sacrifices had to be carried out (don’t take my word for it but take a slow read through Leviticus) and doubtless much fear on behalf of these priests that they might do something wrong. I find that often in my heart I am slipping into what must have been the mindset of these priests: “I need to perform well. I need to be good enough. I can’t mess up. Otherwise God will not be pleased.”

But the whole message of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus’ finished work signifies the end of the priest’s work. The priests can bring their work in redemption—if we can even call it that—to an end precisely because Jesus has finished His. And the reason why this is such good news to me is because I find myself often falling into the mindset that I imagine those priests had. Of course I wouldn’t say that I’m trying to participate in my own redemption, but when I’m feeling down or disappointed I am tempted to think that perhaps there’s something wrong with my offering of faith. Am I studying the Word diligently enough? Am I spending enough time with the Lord in payer? Perhaps I need to do what I did yesterday?

But “It is finished” means exactly that. It is finished. God’s work in redemption is finished. And that means the end of the priest’s. And the end of mine. Jesus is a much better priest than Aaron, Melchizedek, or me. That’s why He’s called the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). But one of the woeful conditions of the human heart post-Fall is that, whether we realize it or not, there are ways that we are all constantly trying to be our own priests, many of them subtle. We try to make ourselves good enough. That’s why again and again Paul has to speak against works in his epistles (see Romans and Galatians). Ceasing our works is not as easy as we might think. And that’s why the author to the Hebrews says we must strive to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:11). We must fight to remain resting in the finished work of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It’s paradoxical. But it’s the daily reality in the life of the believer.

For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest…
Hebrews 4:2, 3 (emphasis added)
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Hebrews 4:9 (emphasis added)
God rested from His work in creation after six days. But it wasn’t until Jesus finished His work in redemption that we would truly be able to rest from ours. And though that original Sabbath ended 24 hours after it began each week, the Sabbath rest that we enter in Jesus begins the moment we put our faith in Him and never comes to an end in this life nor for all of eternity.
I glorified you on earth, having accomplished [finished, completed] the work that you gave me to do.
John 17:4
It is finished [accomplished, completed].
John 19:30
I believe, Father. Please help my daily unbelief. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thank You, Father, For 26

Twenty-Six Summers
by Vicky Beeching

I don't know what the future holds
Or what lies beyond my horizon
The years ahead are just out of sight
Well, I think sometimes that You hide them
So that I'll walk by faith not sight
So I'll take Your hand, holding tight

Through twenty-six summers
And twenty-six winters
I've laughed in the springtime
I've cried in the rain
Though I've questioned the meaning
Of some of life's seasons
It's true that they've left me holding on
Tighter to You

My one desire for the road ahead
Is that we would walk it together
Friend and King, You're my everything
May I stay by Your side forever
For when my heart's afraid, You're near
Whispering to my soul, 'don't fear'

And I will trust in You alone
For You're the hand leading me home
Leading me home.

I've spent twenty-six summers
And twenty-six winters with You
Through all of the seasons
And my search for reasons
You’ve carried me through
I will keep holding on to You

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Good Soldier

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Trials Are For Trials

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:2, 3 (emphasis added)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 (emphasis added)
How do we receive the crown of life? By remaining steadfast under trials (James 1:12).

Where does that steadfastness come from? The testing of our faith (James 1:3).

Where does the testing of our faith come from? The trials that we experience (James 1:2).

In other words, we need trials in order to be able to endure trials. Trials are for trials. Without them, we will inevitably be disqualified from receiving the crown of life.

Help us, Oh Lord, not to begrudge Your infinite wisdom but rather to humble ourselves under Your mighty right hand as we admire Your grace that is beyond our understanding when, out of Your great love for us, You bring trials into our lives in order to qualify us for the reward. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Greater Helps, Higher Advantages, Clearer Discoveries

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar...
Hebrews 11:13 (emphasis added)
We have more cause than the patriarchs, for we live nearer to the accomplishment of God's promises. Every age downward hath great advantages of believing. The first patriarchs were so far from the things typified that they had the types; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not enjoy Canaan, the type of heaven; nor did they see the temple, the type of Christ; nor the rites of the Levitical administration, which were the type of his sufferings; nor the numerous posterity, which was a type of the calling of the gentiles. The next age had more advantages; they had the types, but not the things typified; they were grown into a numerous multitude and a nation; they had the temple and legal administrations and sacrifices: but Christ was not come in the flesh; the calling of the gentiles was not brought about; they had not such discoveries of heaven, and of the glory God had prepared for them that love him; the entrance into the holy place was not yet set open; they were legalised, not evangelised. Afterward when Christ was come in the flesh, the first christians were not so near salvation; heaven was still at a distance; there was ... something that hindered the discovery of antichirst. They were to look for the taking away what letted, that antichirst might be discovered, vis., the Roman Empire, we for the consuming of antichrist by the Spirit of Christ's mouth, and the brightness of his coming. There is but a little time between us and the day of judgment, it is the last times we now live in. All thigns are clearer to us than to the patriarchs; that which was prophecy to them is history to us, and history is clearer than prophecy, because it is more sensible; our light is clearer, our means and helps are greater. What a shame is it that our faith should be so weak! that they should have eagle's eyes to see things at a distance, and we should be such owls and bats. We have the experience of all former ages, and we draw nearer and nearer still to our great hopes; surely then our condemnation will be greater if we should not believe and wait for the blessings promised with such patience and contentation as they did. It is said, Zech. 12.8, 'He that is feeble at that day shall be as the house of David.' God expects much from you, that you should be as Abraham and David, for you have greater helps, higher advantages, and clearer discoveries of the will of God.

--Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 14, p.309-310

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This Covenant Is Faultless!

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
Hebrews 8:7
The first (old) covenant:
Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do."...Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."
Exodus:24:3, 7-8 (emphasis added)
The new (second) covenant:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and [I will] write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."
Hebrews 8:8b-12 quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34 (emphasis added)
Do you see the difference? What was the problem with the first covenant? Where was the fault in it? Answer: The Israelites (Hebrews 8:8a)! It involved the vows of sinful man. There isn't one vow a sinful man can keep. That's why we need the gospel.

The reason that there will never be a third covenant isn't because we are any better than the Israelites. We're not. The reason that there will never be a third covenant is because the new covenant doesn't involve the vows we make. It doesn't involve the vows of sinful man. It only involves the vows of God. And there isn't one vow that the infinitely holy and righteous God won't keep. Therefore--unlike the first covenant--this covenant is faultless, there is no occasion to look for a third, and Paul can say without the least bit of presumption:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 (emphasis added)
Glorious indeed. And to which I say:


Monday, August 10, 2009

Astounding Love

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
Unfortunately...many have missed the meaning of this remarkable text altogether.

We are told often that God's love is great because it extends to each and every person who has ever lived. "Just think," so it is said, "of the multitudes of men and women who have swarmed across the face of the earth. Oh, how great the love of God must be to embrace within His arms this countless multitude of people."

But I'm not so sure. I'm not convinced that we learn much about God's love by counting heads. God's love is magnified not when we ask how many? but when we ask what kind? That is, the issue is not quantity but quality. The nature of the people God loves is crucial, not their number.

The highlight of John 3:16 is that God has loved the world. The contrast is moral, not mathematical. The difference between God and the world isn't that He is one and it is many. The point John makes is that He is holy and the world is sinful! That's what makes His love for the world so astounding.

God's love for the world is remarkable because the Lover is righteous and the beloved is not. He who dwells in unapproachable light has entered the domain of darkness. The just has died for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). In other words, we marvel at John 3:16 because it tells us that God has loved the moral antithesis of Himself.

When the apostle John uses the term "world," both here and throughout his writings, he portrays it as sinful, estranged, alienated from God, and subject to His curse. The world is detestable because it is the contradiction of all that is holy, good, righteous, and true. The world is that system of fallen humanity viewed not in terms of its size but as a satanically dominated rebellion at war with the kingdom of Christ.

The point, then, is not that the world is so big that it takes a whole lot of love to love it at all. The point is that the world is so bad that it takes an amazing love to love it at all.

--Sam Storms, The Singing God: Discover The Joy Of Being Enjoyed By God, p.36-37

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Prayer: Where Word And Deed Come Together

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:7-8
Pray between “the already” of the kingdom come in Christ and the “not yet” of the kingdom still to come in Christ. We have been waiting for the time when God comes to vindicate His people and do justice. That day has come. But the day of final, full justice still waits for the Lord to return. Until the job is finished by Almighty God, we pray. Until justice rolls down like water, until the earth is covered with the knowledge of God, we keep asking. Until every nation calls on the Lord, we keep knocking.

Bringing men and women to Christ in faith and gaining victory over unjust principalities and powers do not come simply, or even primarily, or even to start with, by swamping our senators with letters and petitions, looking for new bandwagons to jump on, holding one more successful church seminar, or joining marches to the Pentagon. Changes begin with petitionary prayer, the elect crying to God day and night about Ireland and massive military spending and Billy Graham Crusades in Minneapolis.

God puts our persistence to the test by not answering us immediately. It seems like such a long time. But He answers “quickly.” Quickly is not immediately. Ask any eight-year-old counting the days before the family trip to the zoo.

We will be tempted to give up on prayer. It takes so long, the world moves so slowly, justice seems so far away. “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Jesus is not offering us some eschatological pessimism here about the state of the Christian faith. He is calling us to faithfulness in unfailing prayer for the manifestation of righteousness. The temptation in petitionary prayer is always to submit, to acquiesce to what is, to come to terms with the unjust and unsaved world around us. We lose our anger at the wrongness of what is and lose with it our desire to persevere. We succumb to Doris Day theology: que sera, sera [whatever will be, will be], the situation is unchangeable, what is will always be. No, says God, do not faint. And what is the mark of that confidence that God does build His kingdom of grace and justice? Shamelessness in prayer to the Father.

--Harvie M. Conn, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace, p.87-88

Monday, August 03, 2009

An Uncommon Prayer

Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30: 8-9

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Are You Sick Of More You?

Because I'm sick of more me.
[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him...
Luke 19:1-4

See More Him
by Flame


I wanna see more of Him
Cause I'm sick of more of me
I'm a be like Zacchae
In that Sycamore tree
I wanna see more of Him
Cause I'm sick of more of me
Lord I promise (I promise) I promise



Prior to Jesus' life death and re-re-Resurrection
Having any affect on me left me in deception
Because the God of this world Satan blinded my mind
From seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of God
But then a miracle happened
We-we call it conversion
He opened the eyes of my blind heart and led me to worship
Gotta a peek at His beauty as He opened the crack
That captivated my nature and kept me coming back
He gave me taste buds to taste of freedom to love
And to delight in His loving kindness through Jesus' blood
And every since repentance I done been on this chase
To drink from this freedom fountain through His infinite grace
Namely seeking His face
Cause He removed the veil
Knocked me off my high horse and removed the scales
Now I've been exposed to His glorious light
That shines into the darkness in my heart and I'm like...



Though I'm a Christian my vision sometimes even get blurred
When I'm resisting His visits and not reading His Word
Desperate need to be purged
Easy to lose the wonder
Through these daily distractions banging louder than thunder
When I devalue my Savior and start treasuring trash
And longing for mud patches thinking it's greener grass
Exchanging eternal pleasures for the ones that's going to pass
Looking for 'em to satisfy but they lie never last
When captivated and activated by my deceitful lust
Is a lack of faith in my Father's grace and I need to place my trust
In everything that my Father is and everything that He supplied
Through the perfect life of His Son
Death and resurrection of Christ
And I know I got to trust Him
All this sin I got to trust Him
World that we in I got to trust Him
How I'm going to live if I just brush Him
Knowing that my heart is mad disgusting
Knowing that the Father had to crush
Yes just so we can be free
Please give me eyes to see



See I'm reminded in my mind in my brother Zacchaeus
Who took some desperate measures just so that He could see Jesus
As joy accompanied the faith that He felt in his soul
That made me question myself, how far am I willing to go?
What am I willing to get rid of so I can get close?
And closer and closer Lord, fill me with Your Holy Ghost
Pour out Your Spirit empower me in increasing measures
To see Your uniqueness instead of these fleet-fleeting pleasures
Give me greater capacities to suffer and to carry
This cross on my back as I walk to my personal Calvary
And climb on the cross oh Lord as I stretch out my arms
Quoting the Psalms as they banging them nails in my palms
Until I die cause I was crucified with my Savior
And resurrected now I can reflect it in my behavior
A new nature to taste and savor Jesus the Christ
Who brought me out of the darkness to His marvelous light

HT: Be Transformed