Palm Sunday’s Choice (Updated)

h19 18559141 Palm Sundays Choice (Updated)

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

Luke 19:38

On Sunday of Holy Week, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophetic word (Zech. 9:9-12). This unique day will be called Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar and is often referred by commentators as Jesus’ triumphal entry (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-1; Luke 19:29-40). Archbishop Craig Bates of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.) wrote, “The triumph however is not because the crowds declared Him King but because He was to take upon Himself the sin and suffering of the people and win the victory when God raised Him from the dead.” Jesus’ entry was a triumph not because all of Jerusalem turned out for the parade giving him the red carpet treatment, but because his death, burial, and resurrection in Jerusalem would defeat our greatest foes: the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

On that fateful day, and during the coming week, the inhabitants of Jerusalem would face a choice: demand that Jesus be Israel’s earthly king elevating the country to renewed worldly glory, or repent recognizing that their real problem was a heart problem. Israel’s real need was not deliverance from the Roman oppression, but a deliverance from themselves. Their selfishness, sin, and pride was bringing about the destruction of Israel’s life in God, not the hated Romans. The resurrection of Israel’s glory under King David and Solomon would not bring salvation, only the work of the Holy Spirit could restore Israel’s hope in God (Ezek. 36:26-27).

Holy Week reminds us once again that our problem is not others’ sin, weaknesses, and frailties. Our biggest problem is us and only by turning to Jesus can our lives be transformed.

We must recognize that our essential problem is not our parents, our economic background, our upbringing, our circumstances, or our bosses, etc. No, our greatest problem is us that great trinity of me, myself and I. Our selfishness, our self-absorption, our self-concern, and our self-conceit reap utter destruction. Sin is selfishness evidenced through our willful thoughts, words, or actions involving a choice in which we consider ourselves as more important than God or anyone else. The foundation of sin is our selfishness.

Jesus rode that colt over the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem for the purpose of dying on the Cross. He died that we might be freed from ourselves (2 Cor. 5:14-15; Phil. 2:5-11). He came to conquer out deepest need: selfish, greedy and prideful hearts. Jesus’ death on the cross transforms our lives: he bears our sin, shame, and guilt away.

The Palm Sunday choice:

1. Do we want a Jesus who comes to fix our problems or do we want a Saviour to change our hearts? “Hosanna, save us” (v. 10). What we need most is not a deliverance from our circumstances (i.e., enemies, problems, relationships, etc.), but a salvation from ourselves (i.e., our selfishness, pride, demands, etc.) We tend to play the victim when what we need is repentance and a change of heart.

2. Do we worship Jesus even when the crowd does not understand? We live in a secular culture that is becoming increasing hostile to the Gospel, our culture wants to make Jesus into a postmodern, super-tolerant, pluralistic image of themselves. What happens when Jesus demands to be Lord, when he declared himself to be the exclusive savior of the world, what happens when he bids us to come and die to ourselves and follow him?

3. Do we or will we only follow Jesus when life is going well? Where will we be on Good Friday when it seems that all that Jesus has taught and said is evaporating before our eyes? Will we trust him even when our world is crashing down around us. Will we trust his words and promises that death will not hold him down.

4. Do we understand that only political fights will not resolve out greatest needs? Our culture needs changed hearts in order to value marriage, sexual morality, and religious freedom.

Conclusion: Will we accept the challenge? Allow Jesus to be Lord of our lives or go the way of the offended, angry world. The same world of expectation, resentment and fear that placed Jesus on the Cross.

Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the Good News to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say yes or no. That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: He had to wait upon how people were going to respond.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, “A Spirituality of Waiting,” The Weavings Reader

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What Is Revival Hunger?

sunrise matobo zimbabwewebsite What Is Revival Hunger?

O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

Hab. 3:2 KJV

Revival hunger is wanting God’s presence more than sleep, desiring God’s face more than food, hungering for God’s holiness more than our comfort, and pursuing God’s glory more than our predictable daily routine. Revival hunger yearns for God above all others, removes idols of the heart, glorifies God in public worship, mortifies sins of the flesh (i.e., sin nature), renews commitment to God’s covenant promise, and more importantly, humbles oneself under God’s mighty hand (2 Chron. 7:14). Revival hunger yearns for God more than self-exaltation, self-concern, and self-fulfillment.

The inevitable and constant preliminary to revival has always been a thirst for God, a thirst, a living thirst, for a knowledge of the living God, and a longing and a burning desire to see him acting, manifesting himself and his power, rising, and scattering his enemies.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones quoted in A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir, eds., Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 15.

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What is Revival?

Moses Shown The Promised Land 1801 Two What is Revival?

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Isa. 57:15 KJV

Spirit-empowered renewal is the manifested presence of the kingdom of God in and among his people actively bringing the lost to salvation and the lukewarm to renewed passionate devotion to Christ. Revival is personal heart change: confession, repentance, joy, Spirit-baptism, and gospel-driven evangelism. Revival begins with individuals freshly consecrating their lives to Christ: their renewed passion leads to a corporate restoration of the local church. In short, revival is the restoration of God’s glory to his church.

Revival is about Jesus receiving the glory that he deserves for his sacrifice and rising again. As the old Moravian slogan declares, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering.” Renewal is the Spirit moving among all peoples: healing, restoring, and delivering. Revival is both a God working sovereignly and the church praying passionately for a fresh wind of the Spirit.

Revival is the sovereign work of God to awaken his people with fresh intensity to the truth and glory of God, the ugliness of sin, the horror of hell, the preciousness of Christ’s atoning work, the wonder of salvation by grace through faith, the urgency of holiness and witness, and the sweetness of worship with God’s people.

John Piper, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1997), 111.

Revival, above everything else, is a glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the restoration of him to the center of the life of the Church. You find this warm devotion, personal devotion, to him.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival(Crossway Books, 1987), 47.

Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one’s will to God in deep humility.

Charles G. Finney

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What is God’s Purpose in Election?

landscapes What is Gods Purpose in Election?

Election is for the Salvation of the World

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

2 Tim. 2:10-11

The doctrine of election is controversial, misunderstood and strangely comforting. The doctrine of election teaches that before you were ever born, going back in time before the creation of the world, you were chosen in God’s heart to be saved from the sin that binds you (Eph. 1:4-5). The why (divine fiat or foreknowledge), when (before or after the Fall) and how (God’s sovereign choice or our cooperating free will) of election is debated by Wesleyan, Calvinist, and Roman Catholic theologians.

Several things we do know: God chose us, we did not choose him (John 15:16). He chose out of grace not based on any accomplishments of our own (2 Thes. 2:13) . God’s choosing means that we are loved and that he will not give up on us (John 6:37). In turn, our election means that we have a divine call to spread the good news that Christ has died and risen again for us (James 1:18).

And while the ultimate mystery of election remains, one can see that the principle of election is the only principle congruous with the nature of God’s redemptive purpose. And we can also see that wherever the missionary character of the doctrine of election is forgotten; wherever it is forgotten that we are chosen in order to be sent; wherever the minds of believers are concerned more to probe backwards from their election into the reasons for it in the secret counsel of God than to press forwards from their election to the purpose of it, which is that they should be Christ’s ambassadors and witnesses to the ends of the earth; wherever men think that the purpose of election is their own salvation rather than the salvation of the world: then God’s people have betrayed their trust.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Household Of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church (London: SCM Press, 1953), 55.

They [i.e., Christians] are chosen not for themselves, not to be the exclusive beneficiaries of God’s saving work, but to be bearers of the secret of his saving work for the sake of all. They are chosen to go and bear fruit.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 86.

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Advent Waiting: Watching for the Bridegroom

Latomou+icon+of+Christ Advent Waiting: Watching for the Bridegroom

So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.

Matt. 24: 42 NLT

Watchfulness is a passionate desire for the presence of the bridegroom which awakens within us a spiritual sensitivity to the signs of his soon arrival. This spiritual sensitivity is a heart connection with the Holy Spirit who graces the believer with insights and discernment concerning the times and seasons immediately preceding Christ’s parousia. A watchful attitude is characterized by being spiritually alert, holy and ready for Christ’s return, as opposed to spiritual dullness typified by worldly attitudes and sinful passions. (HT: Mike Bickle)

We must not only have faith in [Christ], but must wait on Him; not only must hope, but must watch for Him; not only love Him, but must long for Him; not only obey Him, but must look out, look up earnestly for our reward, which is Himself. We must not only make Him the Object of our faith, hope, and charity, but we must make it our duty not to believe the world, not to hope in the world, not to love the world. We must resolve not to hang on the world’s opinion, or study its wishes. It is our mere wisdom to be thus detached from all things below. . . .

They, then, watch and wait for their Lord, who are tender and sensitive in their devotion towards Him; who feed on the thought of Him, hang on His words; live in His smile, and thrive and grow under His hand. They are eager for His approval, quick in catching His meaning, jealous of His honour. They see Him in all things, expect Him in all events, and amid all the cares, the interests, and the pursuits of this life, still would feel an awful joy, not a disappointment, did they hear that He was on the point of coming.

John Henry Newman,   “Waiting for Christ”

 

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Advent’s Meaning: The Three Comings

advent wreath alt xmas eve 10 Advents Meaning: The Three Comings

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The season of Advent celebrates three comings of Christ: one future, one past, and one present. Advent waiting is thankfulness for Christ’s first coming while eagerly expecting Christ’s second coming in glorious majesty. This present thankfulness, this present waiting; God uses to enter our lives afresh in power and purity (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

Advent prepares our hearts for the second coming of Christ as we express gratitude to Christ for his first coming. Our hearts and lives must must be prepared and ready for his return. Advent is a season of repentance for we know that Christ comes again in holiness, power, and judgment. Advent is a season of joy for we will encounter Christ in newness of life. Advent is a season of personal renewal as we focus anew on “keeping our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2).

The season of Advent should lead us into deep repentance: Christ comes now into our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit as we spiritually prepare for his return. Advent is a season of deep delight for we are grateful for Christ’s coming in the manger: the incarnation made the way for our salvation. Advent is season of brokenness: our repentance builds within us an eager expectation for the coming of Christ. Advent is a season of revival: we surrender our wills afresh to God for the coming year.

In preparation for the coming church year, we yearn for the personal  transformation. Advent waiting is the prayerful longing to see Jesus face-to-face and experience the Holy Spirit deeply and personally.  Advent waiting cleanses, converts, and renews our hearts as we await Christ’s physical appearance in the skies (1 John 3:2-3).

In this present world, we endure while calmly trusting the Holy Spirit to be Christ in us in the midst of a fallen and decadent world. In hope, we look forward to seeing our blessed Savior face-to-face. In faith, we trust his promises standing on his Word. In love, we reach out to others that they too might know the Christ who comes.

A summary of Robert Webber’s thoughts on Advent from his book, Ancient-Future Time:

Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

The Messiah’s coming is understood in three different senses: (1) His coming to earth in Bethlehem, (3) His second-coming at the consummation of God’s purposes and (3) His coming in the present moment into my life.

The coming of Messiah to me in this moment is predicated on repentance.

Repentance is not something we can take, but it must be granted us by God.

Isaiah is the prophet of Advent because in his life and prophetic word, he represented the hope of Advent.

John the Baptist and Mary, Jesus mother, reveal Advent spirituality: the former by his single-minded mission and self-giving love, the latter by her willingness to yield her life to God’s will.

Robert Webber, Ancient Future Faith: Forming Spirituality Through the Church Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).

HT: Joel Willitts

 

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What Is True Faith?

christ pantocrator What Is True Faith?

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Heb 11:1 NLT

Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing Christ’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith is the firm, solid confidence that God will be steadfast to his promises and true to his Word. Faith holds God’s Word as an absolute conviction in our hearts even though we cannot physically see God or his promises.  Faith is not blind nor is it a leap into the dark nor a wish upon a star. Faith is believing what God has said and basing your entire life upon it.

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive our sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on our lives, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over us.

True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

The Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 21

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What Is the Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount?

jesus teaching with child on lap What Is the Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:3 ESV

What is the Sermon the Mount really about? Is the Sermon a new set of commandments for Christians? Or just a re-interpretation of the Ten Commandments? Or as some say, a Divine directive for U. S. government policy? Or, nice teaching from the Great Teacher?

In reality, the Sermon on the Mount is about the interior life of the Christian. The Sermon on the Mount is what our lives will look like when the Holy Spirit is having his way in us.

Beware of placing our Lord as Teacher first instead of Saviour. That tendency is prevalent to-day, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know Him first as Saviour before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. Fancy coming to men and women with defective lives and defiled hearts and wrong mainsprings, and telling them to be pure in heart! What is the use of giving us an ideal we cannot possibly attain? We are happier without it.

If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalise us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being “born again from above” we know Him first as Saviour, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us (emphasis mine).

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1960).

Listen to Him; learn of Him; be like Him; receive Him into thine heart; let Him be revealed within thee, so shalt thou also be conformed to these qualities, and participate in this bliss.

F. B. Meyer, Blessed Are Ye: Talks on the Beatitudes

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Discipleship Means Christ

discipleship Discipleship Means Christ

It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

Rev. 14:4

Discipleship means to walk with Jesus where he walks, go with him wherever he goes, study the words that he says, obey the instructions he gives, imitating his life as he lived it–even if it means certain death. Discipleship requires that Jesus be given primary allegiance: full and wholehearted devotion with special focus on obedience to his commands and purposes (Matt. 16:24-26). Discipleship is a result and consequence of a genuine and living faith in Jesus’ sinless life, his shed blood, and glorious resurrection.

Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship.

An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical to the whole conception of following Christ.

With an abstract idea it is possible to enter into a relation of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even to put it into practice; but it can never be followed in personal obedience.

Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 59 [paragraphing added].

HT: Desiring God

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The Voice of the Lord

hv The Voice of the Lord

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.

1 Sam. 3:10 NLT

Principles of receiving God’s guidance in our lives:

First, God’s voice often sounds, whether spoken outwardly to the physical ear or inwardly to the human soul, like a human voice.

Second, God’s voice is hindered by unrepentant sin, unsurrendered goals, and self-centered ambitions.

Third, God’s voice can be corrective, or even a word of rebuke, but it will be seasoned with encouragement that is full of enabling grace.

Fourth, God’s voice speaks in silence and repose. Spend little or no time in God’s presence and you will not receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, God’s voice is precious to those whose hearts burn for more of Christ. They maintain yielded and surrendered hearts opening their lives to more and more of God’s presence.

Sixth, God’s voice is gracious, he will speak to us over and over again until we understand his direction.

Seventh, God’s voice is more concerned with developing our character than getting us to the next place in life.

Last, God’s voice always leads to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus and never contradicts Holy Scripture.

The servant’s open ear is a reason for the Lord’s open lips.

Alexander MacLaren

I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to GOD, which I may call an actual presence of GOD; or, to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with GOD, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others.

Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

 

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