Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm Not Good...Really!

With Easter upon us my thoughts have turned to the crucifixion and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. My finite mind still finds it hard to grasp the truth of this amazing good news, that Jesus gave His life for mine, that He credits His righteousness to my spiritually bankrupt account and provides right standing before God the Father!
A.W. Pink's comments on the death of Christ are fitting;

"The supernatural phenomena that attended Christ's death clearly distinguish it from all other deaths. The darkening of the sun at midday without any natural cause, the earthquake that clove asunder the rocks and laid open the graves, and the rending of the veil of the temple from top to bottom proclaimed that He who was hanging on the cross was no ordinary sufferer."

The very Son of God, hanging between Heaven and Earth. Paying a debt that you and I could never have paid, no matter how long we were given to do so. James A. Haidane says:

"The atonement made by the Son of God is the beginning of the ransomed sinners hope and will be the theme of his exultation, when he shall cast his crown before the throne, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb." 

The death and resurrection of Jesus should be our persistent cry and proclamation. Especially in the time that we live in (I even feel old in saying that!) where the proclamation of the gospel seems to be drowned out by a thousand other voices. I personally need to preach the gospel to myself everyday, from the time my eyes open in the morning, until they close in sleep at night. I always come back to the wise words of Jerry Bridges here;

"To preach the gospel to yourself, then means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God's holy wrath is no longer directed toward you. To preach the gospel to yourself means that you take at face value the precious words of Romans 4:7-8 "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

It also means that we truly believe as Romans 8:1 states so clear, there is now no condemnation for those who are 'in Christ Jesus' that is the key, we are all so far from good, in fact the Bible says that before Christ, we were enemies of God, we were God haters. Even our attempts at good works are tainted through and through with sinful ideas and motives, if you don't think so just ask yourself what you're hoping to gain out of doing something good. Not that we abstain from doing good works as an outflow of what the gospel and God's very Spirit are working out inside of us. My point here is, God is by no means impressed with our attempts at being 'good' He knows us better than anyone. God is riveted by His Son's righteousness and holiness, and that's why our gaze must be solely on Jesus and not on our performance.
This Easter season, splurge a little and get some great books that focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are a couple of recommendations to get you started.

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges; Chapter 3 in particular
The Cross by D. Martin Lloyd Jones
What is The Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
Salvation by Crucifixion by Phillip Graham Ryken ( which I talked about yesterday)

These can all be found online at the usual places or check out www.wtsbooks.com

Monday, March 24, 2014

Salvation Comes Through the Cross

There is definitely no shortage of books this Easter season to help us focus on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. From Thabiti Anyabwile's; "Captivated" to the Work by Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger, "The Final Days of Jesus", which focuses on Passion Week and offers a more devotional and reflective tone.
I recently received a copy of Salvation by Crucifixion by Phillip Graham Ryken. It's a very small book but it is as Mark Dever states on the back cover "loaded'. It's short length makes it an ideal book to read and re-read, not just for the Easter season but throughout the year. It is an excellent way to remind ourselves of the work and love of Christ, to remind ourselves of the glorious gospel.

There are many gems in Salvation by Crucifixion, like this one;

"Human beings do not approach God on an even footing. We come to Him having already accumulated an enormous debt, the debt we owe to God because of our sin. All the lies we have told, all the curses we have uttered, all the wounds we have inflicted, and all the worship we have withheld amount to an enormous debt of sin. How could a vast debt ever be settled?"

What a statement! The last half of that sentence is what struck me, "all the worship we have withheld." How many times do we focus on only the sins of commission that we are guilty of? We rarely if ever think about the worship that we deflect or ascribe to other gods. But whether it be our sins of commission or omission, we have a tremendous hope in the wisdom and the grace of the cross of Jesus Christ;

"This is where God's wisdom comes in. God did not set up an elaborate payment plan that would take an eternity for sinners to pay off. Rather, the entire debt was settled on the cross. God accepted the sacrificial death of His Son as the full payment for sin. Jesus paid for each and every last sin when He was crucified. He died on the cross so that God could forgive all the sins of all His people all at once."

I couldn't help but think of 2 Corinthians 5:21 when I read that. What a tremendous assurance we have as believers in Jesus! He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God! All of our filthiness for His holiness, all of our sinfulness for all of His righteousness!
The world around us would look at this good news and say, what foolishness, there is no way that it's that easy, and then there are others who trust a god who allows them to live as they please and still lets them come into his presence, with no righteousness whatsoever to cover themselves from the true and pure holiness of the One true God. To the foolishness that the world would state concerning the cross, Ryken states it simply;

"Sadly, some people do not understand the cross, and some of them never will. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ will remain foolish to them until the day of judgement. This is because the cross only makes sense to those who are saved by it. (1 Corinthians 1:18) To put this another way, the cross only makes sense to those who trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation. For them, the cross is the proof of God's love and the miracle of God's forgiveness. It is neither weak nor foolish, but strong and wise."

Great stuff from Phillip Graham Ryken. With the plentiful selection of books on the cross this year, pick up a copy of this tiny power house of a book, you won't be disappointed.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Jesus, He is a Real Rescuer

"I am told that, years ago, above the falls of Niagra, a boat was upset, and two men were being carried down by the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both. One of them held fast to it, and was safely drawn to the bank but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go of the rope, and clung to the great piece of timber, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to. Alas! the timber, with the man on it, went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the wood and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety. So when a man trusts to his works, or to his prayers, or almsgivings, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and God through Jesus Christ; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hand of the great God on the shore side; infinite power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. Oh the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God by the Saviour, whom He has appointed, even Jesus Christ!"- Charles Spurgeon from Around The Wicket Gate (Help for those who only know about Jesus Christ)

Friday, February 28, 2014

This is Love

"Love is doing whatever you need to do, even to the point of dying on the cross, to help people see and savor the glory of God forever and ever. Love keeps God central, because the soul was made for God." 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Don't Be Anxious...There's Hope

The issue of trials and anxiousness seems to be a popular topic in conversations that I have had lately. Everyone seems to have or is going through something. Here are a few verses of Scripture that have been of immense help in my time of need.

"fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."- Isaiah 41:10

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this (Paul's thorn in the flesh), that it should leave me. But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

"You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance."- Psalm 32:7

"You have kept count of my tossing's; put my tears in your bottle, are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know that God is for me. In The Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid, What can man do to me?" - Psalm 56:8-11

The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers has also been a tremendous help in the tumultuous times in my life...Bob Kaufflin penned a great song that was inspired by this great work. Here are the lyrics;

 Based on The Valley of Vision prayer "The Valley of Vision"

Words and Music by Bob Kauflin

Verse 1
When You lead me to the valley of vision
I can see You in the heights
And though my humbling wouldn't be my decision
It's here Your glory shines so bright
So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown
To be low is to be high
That the valley's where You make me more like Christ

Let me find Your grace in the valley
Let me find Your life in my death
Let me find Your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You're near with every breath
In the valley

Verse 2
In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley's where Your power is revealed

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Gospel's Power and Message

I've been reading Paul Washer's book "The Gospel's Power & Message. Washer who is usually known for his intense style of preaching, impassioned would probably be a better way to describe it. In this work, he comes across as a shepherd, with concern and urgency in his voice.
Inside of these 274 pages, lie a treasure trove of gospel gems. I would even go as far to say that this work will be one that speaks to the church years from now, much like the classic works of Spurgeon and Edwards and Whitefield. It may not be found in the bestseller racks at your local Christian bookstore, but neither will you find much from the other men of God that I mentioned earlier. 
There isn't a lot of feel good messages found in Washer's book, but what you will find is something much more valuable and that is an undiluted and unapologetic gospel message. One that as Washer puts so pointedly; "Christ died not only because of our sin but also because of God's character- He is just and cannot justify or pardon the wicked without first satisfying the demands of His justice against them. (Proverbs 17:15 Exodus 34:6-7 Romans 3:23-26) Christ not only died, but He stood in the place of His people, bore their guilt, suffered God's wrath and shed His blood. Through His suffering, divine justice was satisfied and the wrath of God was appeased, that God might now be both just and the justifier of those who place their faith in Him." 
So much gospel truth in those few sentences, much more than you would find in many of today's "popular" works. Again, Washer isn't trying to win an audience to a popular message, but is urgently trying to clear up so much of the spiritual fog that exists within evangelicalism today. "In the opinion of many, the promise of salvation is no longer a strong enough motivation to move the sinner to repentance or the saint to true devotion, so we must add many other promises to make the gospel call appealing. Health and wealth, purpose and power, and getting the most out of this present life are the real drawing cards of contemporary Christianity." To which I would totally agree with. So much of the message we hear in most churches today is, "here is something for you" when it was never meant to be about us, but about the gospel. It is truly the only thing that is needed. We constantly think that we must go beyond the simplicity of the gospel, Mr. Washer gives a great picture of this by actually using the account of David and Goliath properly! "The church needs men who will stand before the opposing masses with nothing to help them except the gospel and the God who has promised to work through it. How cumbersome was Saul's armor to David, and how ridiculous did David appear when he wore it? The sheer weight of it sapped his agility and strength. Yet  he made the crucial decision to put it off and face the giant with nothing more than the name of The Lord. Likewise, we must refuse Saul's armor and weaponry and go to battle with nothing more than the smooth stones of the gospel." He then goes on to state "The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Men will be converted if it is preached!" 
The book is broken up into three different parts, An Apostolic Introduction, The Power of God for Salvation, and The Acropolis of The Christian Faith. You probably won't agree with everything that Paul  Washer writes in this book, but all great works have things within them that may not be agreeable to you. However the overarching message of The Gospel's Power & Message is one that we as Christians cannot afford to miss or overlook, and Washer is a very ample shepherd to oversee that work.
You can pick up a copy here;


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Just Look

Look to Christ. What does it mean to look at Him? What does it mean to look at anything or anyone?
When we look at something we hold it up, we examine it, we check to see the reliability of it. Is it well made? will it hold together in rough weather and so on.
Can we trust that something or someone to deliver what it/they promise? Jesus said that He came to give life, not just in the here and now, but for all eternity and in abundance. (John 10:10)
So we can say that Jesus indeed passes the test of durability and reliability. More than that He's God, so every minute detail of our lives are under His sovereign care. Even our pain and our difficulties and trials.
In Numbers 21:6-9 we see a vivid description of what it means to look upon something- the Israelites found themselves much like we do, sinning against God. They were speaking against not only God but against His servant Moses. (Sound familiar anyone?) But even in the midst of their sin and failure, God shows His mercy! God provides a way of life. (Num. 21:8-9) and all they had to do was to look at the bronze serpent that the Lord instructed Moses to construct.
Again, not much involved with a look but oh, what a result! Life!- life from death, reversal of the curse of death, a reversal of the results of sin. They like us receive mercy in place of wrath, grace in place of our insufficient work. In this we see a foreshadowing of the gospel and Jesus would mention this again in John's gospel (John 3:14) confirming that this indeed was a foretelling of the way of salvation that He would provide by being lifted up for us to look to Him for life and salvation.
May we look upon Jesus, our savior and procurer of our eternal existence, and our very standing before a holy God.
Let us look to Him, examine His claims, hold up His precious promises to the light of His Word and trust the One who was bitten by death's sting for us, but overcame the grave to provide us with His righteousness and true and fulfilling life!