Monthly Archives: March 2010

It Can Melt the Hardest Heart

The Cross Melts the Hardness of Our Hearts

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa. 53:5

Christianity is unique among the religions of the world: Christ demands a heart change. Before any religious observance is encouraged, any code of conduct required, or any expectations fulfilled; a supernatural heart change is needed. The essence of who we are needs transformation. Not just transformation, our hearts need to be made new. You see, our hearts are what make us sinners, selfish to the core. That selfishness needs not only forgiveness, but deliverance. Our hearts are hard and they need to be made new again.

The Cross of Christ is the solution. The Cross makes us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), the Cross melts our hearts (2 Cor. 5:15), the Cross gives us a new motivation (2 Cor. 5:9), and the Cross gives a new purpose (2 Cor. 5:14). Seeing Christ take our just judgment as punishment on that barren tree brings us to our knees and opens the door for the Holy Spirit’s life transforming work (Titus 3:5). By grace, the Blessed Trinity does the work of heart change (John 3:5-8).

There is a wonderful power in the Cross of Christ. It has power to wake the dullest conscience and melt the hardest heart, to cleanse the unclean, to reconcile him who is afar off and restore him to fellowship with God, to redeem the prisoner from his bondage and lift the pauper from the dunghill, to break down the barriers which divide [people] from one another, to transform our wayward characters into the image of Christ and finally make us fit to stand in white robes before the throne of God.

John Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988).

Without the Gospel . . .

Without the Gospel Everything is Useless and Vain

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1 Cor. 15:13-14

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered our greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance where upon we receive Christ’s righteousness and are granted right standing in the Father’s sight. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transform our entire beings making us new creations in Christ.

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

John Calvin, preface for Pierre Robert Olivétan’s 1534 French translation of the New Testament

HT: Tony Reinke

Whose Approval Do You Seek?

Approval of Men or the Blessing of God.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Gal. 1:10

In pastoral ministry, there are many and assorted temptations that bishops, presbyters, and deacons face. None is more enticing than wanting the approval of the people in your parish at the expense of obedience to the Lord’s direct commands.

Pastors are basically very insecure people. They lead a volunteer army. At any time a congregation can decide that they do not want to follow their pastor’s leadership. Every pastor knows this and must find his security and approval in Christ rather than in the praise and appreciation of his parishioners. If the pastor does not, he will find the up’s and down’s of pastoral ministry to be more than he can bear. The pastor will constantly be worrying about his performance and whether that performance has met the expectations of his congregation.

Spiritual maturity for a pastor means finding a place of Sabbath rest in Christ. This rest transcends the worries, cares, and anxieties of pastoral ministry giving a pastor a sense of security in Christ that human words cannot explain. He is able to experience Christ’s presence, hear God’s voice, and stand in God’s authority as he ministers in Christ’s stead.

Nothing is more easier, pleasanter and more likely to win people’s respect than the office of bishop or priest or deacon, if it is preformed negligently and with a view to securing their approval; but in God’s sight there is nothing more sorrowful, miserable and deserving of condemnation. Again, there is nothing in this present life, and especially now, more difficult, toilsome and perilous than these offices if they are carried out in the way our Lord commands; but, at the same time, nothing is more blessed in God’s sight.

St. Augustine of Hippo cited in Trials of Theology, eds., Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner (Christian Focus, 2010).

HT: The Gospel Coalition Blog

Are You a Mystic?

Mystics Hear God

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

John 10:4

A mystic is someone who has a deep internal hunger for the Lord Jesus Christ. A mystic’s life is ruled by seeking, loving, and worshiping Jesus Christ alone. He or she enjoys the peace that comes in resting in the arms of the Abba Father of Jesus. They are able to receive the mercy, forgiveness, grace and reconciliation granted them by the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Their hearts are surrendered to the Word made flesh and they will follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They accept the acceptance by which they have been accepted in Christ.

All mystics can hear God in real and personal way. According to John 10, all believers can hear God. Therefore, all believers who truly follow Christ are mystics. A Christian believer may not hear an audible voice, but they can and will sense an inner prompting of the Holy Spirit. All sincere believers are guided by the Spirit.

Do you hear God? Are you a mystic? Being a mystic is not bad, all true believers are mystics.

A mystic is one who . . .

1. Sees a real spiritual world beyond the world of sense.

2. Seeks to please God rather than the crowd.

3. Cultivates a close fellowship with God, sensing his presence everywhere.

4. Relates his or her experience to the practical things of life.

Warren Wiersbe, Listening to the Giants

Spiritual Authority

God’s Delegated Authority

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Heb. 13:17

Spiritual authority is a gift granted by God to whomever he chooses to shepherd, lead, and govern the people of God. This authority is delegated by God not based on any attainments or achievements of the individual: no merit, special talents, or personal gifts have earned the right to lead. The authority is not resident in the individual for the Lord can withdraw that responsibility at any time. A major test in our desire to walk in the continual presence of the Holy Spirit is trusting God with the flaws, foibles, and failures of our God-ordained authorities (Rom. 13:1-7, Num. 12, 1 Thes. 5:12-14, Heb. 13:17).

To rebel against God’s representative authority is to rebel against God.

Watchman Nee, Spiritual Authority (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1972), 20.

Imitation of Christ

Following the Example, Pattern, and Model of Christ

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Eph. 5:1-2

The imitation of Christ is modeling the life of Christ by maintaining his holy attitude and living his loving actions empowered by the Holy Spirit through faith in his indwelling presence. Jesus lives in the believer providing grace to the saint for making right choices in the midst of various and great temptations (1 Cor. 11:1-2; Eph. 5:1; 1 Thes. 1:6).

God can do a such work in us by His Spirit, that all that he commands us to do will come about naturally, and not because we feel we ought to do it. To make up your mind to praise God may be good, but it is very much better to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you cannot help praising! What God wants out of us He will put in. The secret of power for service is to go to Calvary and get rid of the obstacles to the outflow of the Spirit of God, and then ask God for the new life that will bring forth the new fruit.

Jessie Penn-Lewis cited in His Victorious Indwelling, ed., Nick Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 301.

Extravagant Love

Pouring Out on Jesus

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:39-42

Christian devotion is the spontaneous act of extravagant love which ignores all conventions and practical logic in order to pour out on Jesus all adoration, praise, and thanksgiving.

Love for the Lord is not an ethereal, intellectual, dream-like thing; it is the intensest, the most vital, the most passionate love of which the human heart is capable.

Oswald Chambers, Biblical Psychology: A Treasure Chest for Christian Counselors, 2nd ed. (London: Simpkin Marshall., 1996).

The Very Heart and Center

The Preaching of the Cross

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

My blog, “The Glorious Deeds of Christ” is dedicated to the magnificence of the Cross. The Cross of Christ is the great act of Jesus in dying for our sins, being buried in the tomb, rising from the dead, baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ascending to the Father.  All grace flows from the Cross as its source and all grace leads back to the Cross as its crown and triumph.

The Cross of Christ is our victory, our repentance, our hope, and our call. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. A number of metaphors are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross: victory over the oppression and enslavement of sin (1 Cor. 15:57), justification that satisfies the penalty of sin (Rom. 4:25), adoption which grants us the legal status of a son of God and an heir of the kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23), reconciliation which restores our broken relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:19), forgiveness of our offenses as a result of his pain and suffering on Calvary, redemption  and ransom paid to free us from the captivity of sin (1 Cor. 6:19), healing from brokenness created by our sin (Isa.53:5), representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6), and substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25).

In summary, Christ has died for us (substitution), thus we are controlled by Christ’s love for us and our love for Christ as a result our hearts is changed (transformation) and we can now live fully for the Christ who has died for us (surrender) [Gal. 6:14, Rom. 6:5-7, 1 Cor. 15:56-57, 1 John 3:8].

The preaching of the cross, the preaching of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on that cross, is the very heart and center of the Christian gospel and the Christian message. Put that in the center, place it in the front, proclaim it above everything else.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, quoted by Arturo G. Azurdia in Connected Christianity (Christian Focus: UK, 2009), 53.

HT: Of First Importance

Is the Woman Caught in Adultery Story True? (John 7:53-8:11)

Is the Story Scriptural or Not?

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

John 8:8 (NKJV)

This Sunday, the Gospel reading in the Roman Catholic Lectionary will be the famous story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” (John 8:1-11). Some scholars and a few pastors, both liberal and conservative, have questioned the veracity of this unique and beautiful story of God’s mercy and love. This blog post is my feeble attempt at defending the historical truthfulness and canonical faithfulness of this encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

You will notice in your modern translations that brackets have been placed around the text with some type of footnote. The note explains that early Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John do not contain this story and that this narrative when found is placed in different sections of the Gospel. The note seems to cast doubt on the reliability of “The Woman Caught in Adultery Story” causing many readers confusion.

To add to the confusion even some Bible-believing pastors have stopped preaching this famous story of testing, hypocrisy, and forgiveness. In another state, a pastor was teaching through the Gospel of John, as he worked through the text, the pastor came to the “Woman Caught in Adultery” story found in 7:53-8:11. He wrote in the church newsletter that this famous story was not reliable and should not be considered inspired of the Holy Spirit: “Why are we skipping over this passage? Simply put, because it is my suspicion, based on the evidence given by numerous textual scholars, that this story is not part of the inspired canon of Scripture.” Therefore, the pastor concluded that he would not be teaching this famous story. To say the least, the pastor’s decision caused no small stir within that congregation.

Below, I list several reasons for the continued inclusion of the “Woman Caught in Adultery” story (John 7:52-8:11) in the canon of Scripture. Consequently, the story should be understood as inspired by the Holy Spirit and worthy of being taught to the Christian faithful.

1. Church Tradition: The Church has accepted the woman caught in adultery story for two thousand years, why stop teaching the passages now? “Throughout the history of the church, it has been held that, whoever wrote it, this little story is authentic.” [Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Revised, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 779]. The story resonates with the spirit and attitude of the Ancient Church toward those who have fallen and need Christ’s mercy and grace.

2. Attestation: Contrary to this pastor’s newsletter article, writings during the Patristic period do refer to this story: Papias (Eusebius, HE 3.29.17), Apostolic Constitution (2.24), and Didymus the Blind. The woman caught in adultery story is not cited in the writings of the Greek fathers, but in the West, Ambrose (397), Ambrosiaster (350) and Augustine (430) refer to the pericope, or story-unit, in their sermons and commentaries. Jerome found the text in early Greek codices and thus translated the story into the Latin Vulgate (fourth century).

Also, during the fourth century, the woman caught in adultery story was accepted into the Sunday lectionary of the Greek East.

“It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”

[John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 284.]

3. Reliability: The text may not be the actual writing of the Apostle John, but the story does reflect the writing style of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Many scholars acknowledge that adultery story does not belong at the end of chapter seven, but the passages do reflect the concerns, attitude, and teaching of Jesus.

“On one hand it seems clear that the weight of evidence mitigates against the originality of the story. That is, this brief account is probably not original to the Fourth Gospel. On the other hand, the story has every suggestion of historical veracity, suggesting that it was indeed an event that occurred in the life of Jesus and was a story worthy of collection and recitation.”

[Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 238].

4. Complexity: “Although this narrative is included in the sequence of the outline, it can hardly have belonged to the original text of this Gospel. It is absent from most of the oldest copies of the Gospel that precede the sixth century and from the works of the earliest commentators. To say that it does not belong in the Gospel is not identical with rejecting it as unhistorical. Its coherence and spirit show that it was preserved from a very early time, and it accords well with the known character of Jesus. It may be accepted as historical truth; but based on the information we now have, it was probably not a part of the original text.”

[Merrill Tenney, John, Expositor’s Bible Commentary [CD-Rom] (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984).]

Even though a problem exists with the manuscript history of the story of the woman caught in adultery, that complex history is not enough to deny its truthfulness.

Conclusion: Regardless of whether the Apostle John wrote this story or an editor added it later, there is every reason to believe that the story was an actual event in the life of Jesus. No suspect doctrine is present in this text, and the story is certainly represents the manner in which Jesus dealt with Pharisees and sinners.

Great Receivers Do Ministry

Ministry is the Overflow of the Life of God in You

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

Col. 1:27 (NLT)

My sermon, “Great Receivers Do Ministry” is now available as a Google document. The sermon was delivered on March 7th at Lamb of God Church and March 11th at the Diocese of the Central Gulf States Lenten Clergy Retreat.

My conclusion:

Whether or not people respond to our ministries, we are still called to serve, to be inconvenienced, to be tired, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, to labor without compensation, to listen, and to exhort. We are not called to be adequate (i.e., have all the answers), but to be available to God’s great grace (i.e., vessels for the master’s use). Ultimately, the results of our ministry belong in the hands of God.

  • Ministry is the overflow of the Life of Christ living in us.
  • Ministry is not being adequate, but being available for Christ to work through us.
  • Ministry is being a great receiver of God’s great grace in Jesus Christ.