Monthly Archives: February 2010

Great Receivers Pray

The Need to Pray

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue-a real and intimate conversation-between the Abba Father of Jesus and us, his beloved children. Since prayer is a conversation between us and God, we can expect to be heard by the Holy Spirit and to be spoken to by God. Our conversation with God involves sharing, asking questions, clarifying, and responding. Prayer opens our hearts to God’s presence, our ears to his direction, our minds to his will, and our spirit to his great love. Prayer makes us great receivers of God’s most gracious grace.

Prayer is standing before God transparent and open in a real on-going conversation. In that conversation, we share our hopes, fears, needs, and desires knowing that our Abba Father who cares for us will respond. He will hear our cry and answer: he will move on our behalf and provide what is best for us.

Many believers complain that they do not feel God’s anointing, they do not hear God speak, and they do not sense his direction, yet they spend little, if any, time in personal prayer. The lack of prayer weakens our faith, exposes our souls to Satan, and hinders our resolve to fight the enemy in spiritual warfare. Over time, our relationship with the Lord becomes weakened with little, if anything, to offer others in ministry.

The sweetest experiences of God’s saints are when they are alone with him. Without seeking God often, the vitality of the soul is lost. We may as well expect a crop and harvest without sowing, as living grace without seeking of God. God is first cast out of the closet, and then out of the family, and within a little while, out of the congregation. Omit secret prayer, and some great sin will follow. A man who is often with God, does not dare to offend him so freely as others do. Religion, as it were, dies by degrees.

Whatever else is forgotten, God must not be forgotten. Make God a good allowance. Make a prudent choice yourselves, and consecrate such a part of time as will suit with your occasions, your course of life, and according to your abilities and opportunities.

Thomas Manton, Works, i:13-20 cited in Voices from the Past:Puritan Devotional Readings, ed., Richard Rushing (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009), 2.

Great Receivers Get Pruned

It’s Good to be at the End of Your Rope

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Matt. 5:3 (The Message)

God is sovereign. No sincere Christian debates that significant biblical truth (Dan. 7:14). However, it is difficult for us to believe that God is actively working through people and circumstances to deal with our selfishness and pride. Day-by-day, moment-by-moment, our Heavenly Father is cutting away those aspects of our lives which are inconsistent with Christlike character.

The Lord wants us to be great receivers. Therefore, he cuts away our self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, and self-absorption. He wants us to give up our striving and struggling. He wants you and I to give up and depend on the Holy Spirit.

The pruning work of our heavenly vinedresser is not an instantaneous process, but a gradual on-going work of God (John 15:2). Patience is required. Patience is an enabling of the Spirit to take trouble from life and wait till God, the heavenly vinedresser, works his perfect pruning process in our lives (Gal. 5:22). We are able to wait for we know that our Lord loves us and is working Christlikeness into our lives. We rejoice for Christlikeness is our heart’s desire (Rom. 8:18).

We can be patient in our circumstances because we know that God is up to something good in our delays, detours, and unexpected disappointments.

[God’s] grace purposes to expose and free you from your bondage to you. His grace is meant to bring you to the end of yourself so that you willing finally begin to place your identity, your meaning and purpose, and your inner sense of well-being in him.

So he places you in a comprehensive relationship with another flawed person, and he places that relationship right in the middle of a very broken world. To add to this, he designs circumstances for you that you would have never designed for yourself. All this is meant to bring you to the end of yourself, because that is where true righteousness begins.

He wants you to give up. He wants you to abandon your dream. He wants you to face the futility of trying to manipulate the other person into your service. He knows there is no life to be found in these things.

Paul Tripp, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, p. 51-52.

Receiving Christ in Temptation

First Sunday of Lent Year C

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Heb. 4:15

Great Receivers: Without hesitation, reservation, equivocation, or qualification, great receivers open their hearts to God’s grace in season or out. They look to God during good times or bad. In the midst of spiritual highs or emotional lows with hearts wide open, great receivers look to Christ to be their deliverance. They keep their eyes on Jesus, enjoy his moment-by-moment presence, and draw strength from his grace. Great receivers recognize that they cannot be victorious over temptation without trusting Christ for help in their time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Illustration: “Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time. “Son,” ordered a father, “Don’t swim in that canal.”

“OK, Dad,” he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening.

“Where have you been?” demanded the father.

“Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy. “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” asked the father.

“Yes, Sir,” answered the boy.

“Why did you?” he asked.

“Well, Dad,” he explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.”

“Why did you take your bathing suit with you?” he questioned.

“So I’d be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted,” he replied.

Charles Swindoll, One Step Forward, p. 85.

My sermon notes for “Great Receivers Stare Down Temptation” (Matt. 4:1-11) are available as a Google document.

Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life

Ash Wednesday Sermon

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Cor 7:10-11

Definition: Repentance is simple, but not easy: repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in our behavior.

Conclusion: Even when we fail, God keeps his face turned toward us. We are still his child, but our behavior he cannot honor. Therefore when we sin, the Lord withdraws his presence from us (not our salvation). Repentance allows us to enter back into his presence and enjoy all the blessings of New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34).

Repentance is a lifestyle not a one-act play. Repentance is a life-long interaction with the Holy Spirit: convicting, forgiving, releasing, restoring, and renewing. We are joyful because Christ forgives freely, Christ’s righteousness applies always, and Christ’s presence is available constantly. We are therefore free from self-consciousness, sin-consciousness, Satan-consciousness, and performance consciousness. We are free to enjoy Jesus.

My sermon outline and notes for “Repentance: The Joy-Filled Life” are available in their entirely as a Google document.

Great Receivers Stare Down Temptation

God Will Provide a Way of Escape

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Cor. 10:13

Temptation is an allurement or enticement to sin (1 Tim. 6:9). Temptation is a drawing and wooing from Satan to follow the ways of the world and give-in to the cravings of our flesh. Being tempted is not sin itself, but capitulating to the desires of the flesh is sin (Rom. 8:5). The flesh, or sinful nature, takes our basic needs and turns them into obsessions. Our flesh (i.e., fallenness) yearns to the govern us and divert us from intimacy with God. Our flesh cries out for attention and desires to rule our lives. Our sinful nature is an “idolatrous over-desire” that arises from our being: a heart that is afraid of disappointment, fears that God will be unfaithful, worries about unmet needs, yearns for control, etc. Giving into the demands of the flesh is strictly forbidden by God’s law (Rom. 8:5-8).

Temptation did not spoil Christ’s sinlessness (Heb. 4:15). Christ’s temptations were completely like the temptations that are common to us all (Heb. 2:17). Because of sanctifying grace, succumbing to temptation is avoidable. Great receivers know that they cannot overcome temptation in their own strength. They look to Christ with hands wide open for “grace and help in their time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16). The triumph of Christ over the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil (Matt. 12:28-29 ; Col. 1:13 ) means that a way of escape is always available for those who look to Christ in faith. However, when we allow temptation to overcome us, forgiveness is available through Jesus Christ, our Lord (Heb. 2:18 ; 4:14-16 ; 1 John 2:1).

As we approach then, dearly-beloved, the beginning of Lent, which is a time for the more careful serving of the Lord, because we are, as it were, entering on a kind of contest in good works, let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But “stronger is He that is in us than He that is against us,” and through Him are we powerful in whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid.

For He conquered the adversary, as ye have heard, by quotations from the law, not by actual strength, that by this very thing He might do greater honour to man, and inflict a greater punishment on the adversary by conquering the enemy of the human race not now as God but as Man. He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 39,3.

HT: Enlarging the Heart

A Prayer on My 52nd Birthday

Christ Be My All

O’ Lord your love is found in the birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of your Son. Your victory is my victory. Therefore, I renounce Satan and all his wiles and temptations. I pray for personal, experiential knowledge of you as my love, my companion, and my friend. Your holiness compared to my sinfulness is great, yet your grace is greater. Transform me into the likeness of your Son. Your love for me is unceasing, may my love for you be as relentless and continuous. On Golgotha, you demonstrated your love for me: you bore the judgment for all my sin and shame. May my every second of living, every thought in my brain, and every beat of my heart be dedicated to loving you. I reject the world’s values and false promises. Please Lord, walk by my side, speak to my heart, that my life might be a reflection of the righteous beauty of your Son; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Christ is All

O Lover to the uttermost,

May I read the meltings of Thy heart to me

in the manger of Thy birth,

in the garden of Thy agony,

in the cross of Thy suffering,

in the tomb of Thy resurrection,

in the heaven of Thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,

tread down his temptations,

resist his schemings,

renounce the world,

am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to Thee,

as spiritual bridegroom,

as Jehovah’s fellow,

as sinners’ friend.

I think of Thy glory and my vileness,

Thy majesty and my meanness,

Thy beauty and my deformity,

Thy purity and my filth,

Thy righteouness and my iniquity.

Thou has loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,

may I love Thee as I am loved;

Thou hast given Thyself for me,

may I give myself to Thee.

Thou hast died for me,

may I live to Thee

in every moment of time,

in every movement of my mind,

in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,

but walk by Thy side,

listen to Thy voice,

be clothed with Thy grace,

and adorned with Thy righteousness.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 18.

The Heart of a Great Receiver

The Father is Waiting to Find Our Hearts Open

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Isa. 26:3 (KJV)

God has called us to be great receivers. Christ’s work on the Cross has brought about our acceptance before God. Therefore, all the promises of God are “yes” and “amen” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). We can without hesitation or equivocation receive God’s grace to meet any need, to quell any fear, and to help in the midst of any temptation (Heb. 4:15-16). We do not need to whine to prove our humility, to cajole to demonstrate our conviction, or to perform perfectly to prove our sincerity in order to receive God’s grace. With hearts wide open, we cry out to God and our God who is grace and love pours forth his blessing and goodness (2 Peter 1:3-4).

When you find that weariness depresses or amusement distracts you, you will calmly turn with an untroubled spirit to your Heavenly Father, who is always holding out His arms to you. You will look to Him for gladness and refreshment when depressed, for moderation and recollection when in good spirits, and you will find that He will never leave you to want.

A trustful glance, a silent movement of the heart towards Him will renew your strength; and though you may often feel as if your soul were downcast and numb, whatever God calls you to do, He will give you power and courage to perform. Our Heavenly Father, so far from ever overlooking us, is only waiting to find our hearts open, to pour into them the torrents of His grace.

François Fenelon cited in Joy and Strength for the Pilgrim’s Day, ed., Mary Wilder Tileston (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1901), 21.

Great Receivers (No, Not NFL Wide Receivers)

Grace Gives, Faith Receives

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

Psalm 81:10

It is hard to receive isn’t it? Someone gives you a surprise gift at Christmas, you did not think to purchase them a present. The moment is awkward. You have to receive with nothing to give. Our tit-for-tat obligatory works mindset does not want to receive unless we can give something back. We hesitate, we obfuscate, and we apologize. We do everything we can not to receive that gift.

We treat God that way, too. He gives us the grace of his Son’s life and death and we attempt to pay him back by performing better. We just can’t receive all that God has done for us. We must do something in return to prove to God that we are worthy of his love. We reject grace because it just can’t be that simple. We think we must do something in return, but that is not the way grace works. “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:5-6).

As Anglican pastor, John Stott, has noted, “Grace is God’s free and unmerited favour, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.” Grace is taking in all of what Christ has done for us in his life and death and simply saying back to the Lord, “Thank you.” We receive by grace all the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

God has called us to be great receivers. When have a need, ask of God, and we will receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Heb. 4:14-16). In times of temptation, in times of despair, in times of confusion–look to God, ask, and you will receive.

Someone has said that great saints are great receivers; men and women who take their holiness by faith, and who go on taking it by faith . . . . In others words, if you are impatient, you have his patience; if you are impure, you have his purity; if you are bitter in spirit, you have His grace; if you are critical in spirit, you have His love; if you are worldly in spirit, you have His glory.

The opposite to everything that I am by nature, is in Christ; and He by His Spirit is in me: therefore in every moment of satanic temptation I may look up to Him and say, “Lord, in this situation I claim Thy grace, Thy patience, Thy purity, Thy love, Thy holiness.’

Alan Redpath, “Fourfold Challenge to Holiness,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 349.

The Quasi Christ

“They Will Flatter Him, But Never Obey Him.”

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Rom. 10:9

As few years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting the esteemed theologian, James I. Packer. At the time, the Lordship Salvation controversy was brewing. The debate centered on whether an individual needed to believe in Jesus as both Lord and Christ in order to be saved. Some teachers said, “Savior only” and while others believed Christ’s Lordship was essential to his saving work. I asked Dr. Packer his opinion. I will never forget his response, “You cannot have half of Jesus to have Jesus is to have all of him.” Dr. Packer was referring to the words of Peter, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). You cannot have half of Jesus, he must be Lord and Savior. In other words, Jesus cannot be considered a person’s Savior, bringer of salvation, without simultaneously being Lord of that person’s life. When we believe Jesus as Savior and Lord, he is no quasi-Christ.

Salvation comes not by “accepting the finished work” or “deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do.

But something less is among us, nevertheless, and we do well to identify it so that we may repudiate it. That something is a poetic fiction, a product of the romantic imagination and maudlin religious fancy. It is a Jesus, gentle, dreamy, shy, sweet and feminine, almost effeminate, and marvelously adaptable to whatever society He may find Himself in. He is cooed over by women disappointed in love, patronized by pro tem celebrities and recommended by psychiatrists as a model of a well-integrated personality. He is used as a means to almost any carnal end, but he is never acknowledged as Lord. These quasi Christians follow a quasi Christ. They want his help but not his interference. They will flatter him but never obey him.

A. W. Tozer, The Warfare of the Spirit (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 173.

HT: A.W. Tozer Daily Devotional

Purgatory No More

The Cross Cleanses Our Past, Present, and Future Sin

The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

1 Jn 1:7 (NLT)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Jn 5:24 (NASB)

The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory teaches that guilt remains for sin committed in this life. Something must be done for believers to rid them of sin’s stain before they enter in God’s perfected glory. A purging, cleansing fire is provided in purgatory to rid sinners of that impurity. These “punishments” are temporary and fulfill the needed payment for unrepentant sin. After an undesignated time in purgatory, the believer is released and allowed to enter heaven’s eternal bliss.

The Reformers of the church decried this doctrine as adding to Christ’s finished work on the Cross. Christ’s work on Calvary dealt with the guilt of all our past, present, and future sin (1 John 1:7). The doctrine of justification states that we are accepted by God through faith because of Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:21-26). Nothing more needs to be done for our forgiveness, Christ paid the price for all, repeat all, our sin. We cannot do anything that can adequately pay for our sins, even endure a fiery purging. However, the sinless Christ who died in our place bore our punishment and suffered our just judgement, he paid it all by his perfect life and death (Heb. 10:19-22).

I agree with the Reformers: the doctrine of purgatory diminishes the Cross. The doctrine of purgatory displays an incomplete understanding of the Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

The only purgatory wherein we must trust to be saved is the death and blood of Christ, which if we apprehend with a true and steadfast faith, it purges and cleanses us from all our sins, even as well as if He were now hanging upon the Cross.

Bishop John Jewel, “Homily Concerning Prayer,” quoted in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 64.

I do believe and confess that Christ’s condemnation is my absolution, that his crucifying is my deliverance, his descending into hell is my ascending into heaven, his death is my life, his blood is my cleansing and purging, by whom only I am washed, purified and cleansed from all my sins, so that I neither receive nor believe any other purgatory, either in this world or in the other, whereby I am purged, but only the blood of Jesus Christ, by which all are purged and made clean forever.

Bishop John Hooper, quoted in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 65.

HT: Ray Ortlund