March 2011

Monthly Archive

What Does It Mean To Be, “In Christ”?

Posted by on 31 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Abiding in Christ, E. Stanley Jones, Evangelical

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Union With Christ

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

1 Cor. 1:30 NKJV

The phrase “in Christ” or its corresponding idea is used one hundred and seventy-two times in the New Testament with the Apostle Paul alone utilizing the phrase ninety-seven times in his letters. To be “in Christ” is to receive all the benefits of Christ’s saving work on the Cross, to walk in all the blessings of Christ’s life and resurrection and to enjoy all the favor of Christ’s inheritance from the Father’s favor. To be “in Christ” is to be located in the Divine Person—all that Christ’s has done, received, or achieved is ours to be enjoyed.

The phrase, “in Christ” is the ultimate phrase in the Christian faith, for it locates us in a Person-the Divine Person-and it locates us in Him here and now. It brings us to the ultimate relationship-“in.”

E. Stanley Jones, In Christ (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1980), 4.

Nothing is more striking than the breadth of application which this principle of union with Christ has in the gospel. Christianity obliterates no natural relationships, destroys no human obligations, makes void no moral or spiritual laws. But it lifts all these up into a new sphere, and puts upon them this seal and signature of the gospel, in Christ. So that while all things continue as they were from the beginning, all, by their readjustment to this divine character and person, become virtually new.

Life is still of God, but it has this new dependency” in Christ.” ” Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30). The obligation to labor remains unchanged, but a new motive and a new sanctity are given to it by its relation to Christ. “Forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). The marriage relation is stamped with this new signet, ” Only in the Lord.” Filial obedience is exalted into direct connection with the Son of God. “Children obey your parents in the Lord.” Daily life becomes “a good conversation in Christ.” Joy and sorrow, triumph and suffering, are all in Christ. Even truth, as though needing a fresh baptism, is viewed henceforth ” as it is in ‘Jesus.” Death remains, but it is robbed of its sting and crowned with a beatitude, because in Christ. ” Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”

A. J. Gordon, In Christ or The Believer’s Union with His Lord (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 12.

Our union in Christ is not just a theological theory, but a reality to be lived and enjoyed moment-by-moment. Christ lives in us by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. As Andrew Murray stated, “It is through the Holy Spirit that we have Christ in our hearts-a mighty force stirring, enlightening, and filling us.” [Daily in His Presence (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004), Feb. 6th.] Christ encourages us each day to trust him, to love him, and to live through him. As we trust him, all the benefits of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection can be experienced now in us. The Holy Spirit makes these truths known, reveals them to our hearts, and enables us to live them.

Christ’s own words to His disciples explain this best. Just as the Father lived and worked in Him, so Jesus lives and works in us. The Son expressed the Father. We are to express Christ. The Father worked in the Son, and the Son gave expression to that which the Father brought about in Him, Christ works in us and enables us to carry on His work. This is His gift to us.

Andrew Murray, Daily in His Presence, Feb. 5th.

Christ’s gift to us was himself–nothing more was, is, or will be needed for us to live the Christian life. Christ is our joy, blessing and victory.

Shrinking to Our True Size

Posted by on 30 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: John Stott, The Cross

At the Foot of the Cross

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross .

Gal. 3:1 NLT

Spent several hours yesterday studying and reflecting on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Love the Apostle Paul’s personal directness, powerful conviction, and moral clarity in proclaiming the gospel vis-a-vis the law, that is, performance orientation. The earliest heresy of the church was not Gnosticism, but moralism.

Moralism promises the approval of God and the receiving of God’s righteousness to sinners if we only behave and commit ourselves to moral improvement (i.e., doing better and trying harder). Moralism is not the gospel. We cannot fix, improve, or renovate ourselves. Only by Christ’s cross and the Spirit’s enablement can our hearts be changed and our sins forgiven, forgotten, and overcome. Only by trusting Christ’s finished work on the Cross can we be accepted by God.

I repeat, moralism is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, died for our sins and rose again. Christ was, is, and forever will be triumphant over all his and our enemies. Because of Christ’s work on the Cross, no condemnation exists for those who believe, but only everlasting joy now and forever. The Gospel shrinks us down to size, it declares to us that there is nothing in ourselves that can save ourselves.

This is the gospel Paul preached in the letter to the Galatians:

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is here, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.

John Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 179.

 

 

The Theologian of Glory

Posted by on 29 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Martin Luther, The Cross

The Heidelberg Disputation

[Jesus] gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Phil 2:7-8 NLT

The years of 1517 and 1519 are of the utmost importance in the life of Martin Luther. The latter date is the famous debate with Johannes Eck in Leipzig and the former date is the posting of the 95 Theses on indulgences in Wittenberg. The middle year is often thought of as the silent year, that of 1518. However, a significant event occurred in the history of theology of that year, it is called the Heidelberg Disputation. In April of that year, Johannes von Staupitz, the vicar-general of the Augustinian order of which Luther was a monk, invited him to discourse on his new ideas. Every year the Augustinian order would meet for a public disputation in Heidelberg. Staupitz instructed Luther not to discuss his more controversial views about the Pope and Church Authority, but to share his new understanding of the righteousness of God. This was Luther’s first great opportunity to share his insights, which he called the theology of the cross. Crux sola est nostra theologia is in opposition to what Luther called the theology of glory.

The “theologian of glory” calls the bad good and the good bad. The “theologian of the cross” says what a thing is. . . . Without a theology of the cross, man misuses the best things in the worst way.

Martin Luther, Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, ed. John Dillenburger (New York: Anchor Press, 1961), 503.

The theologian of glory prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and in general, good to evil. . . . God can only be found in suffering and the cross. . . . Therefore the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are dethroned and the old Adam, who is especially edified by works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his good works unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s.

Martin Luther cited in Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 81.

 

Why Were Ananias and Sapphira Judged?

Posted by on 28 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: A. W. Tozer, Apologetics, Ben Witherington, God's Wrath, John Stott

Judgment and Grace Simultaneously

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

Acts 5:9-11 (NIV)

Recently, I was asked an excellent question. In regard to Acts 5:1-11 and the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira: “Why did God judge Ananias and Sapphira so completely when the New Testament period is supposed to be an age of grace?” “Is not judgment an Old Testament characteristic of God?”

First, we need to avoid dividing the various and seemingly contradictorily attributes of God between the Old and New Testaments. The Marcion heresy of the early church taught that the Old Testament God was a god of judgment and wrath, but in the New Testament, Jesus is a god of grace and love. Today, we often fall into the same post-modern trap in our thinking. Some teachers contrast the mean and angry god of the Old Testament with Jesus meek and mild–the friend of all–in the New Testament. Anglican pastor, John Stott notes:

God is not at odds with himself, however much it may appear to us that he is. He is ‘the God of peace’, of inner tranquility not turmoil. True, we find it difficult to hold in our minds simultaneously the images of God as the Judge who must punish evil-doers and of the Lover who must find a way to forgive them. Yet he is both, and at the same time.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), 131.

The Holy Trinity is the same God in both testaments: a God of love, grace, mercy, judgment, and wrath. Read Jesus’ statements in Mark 13, Matt 23, and the Rev. 1. He is the God of justice, holiness, and righteousness in the New Testament as well as the Old. I am currently reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Tozer comments that God’s attributes are the same in both the Old and New Testaments.

We should banish from our minds forever the common but erroneous notion that justice and judgment characterize the God of Israel, while mercy and grace belong to the Lord of the Church. Actually there is in principle no difference between the Old Testament and the New.

In the New Testament Scriptures there is a fuller development of redemptive truth, but one God speaks in both dispensations, and what He speaks agrees with what He is. Wherever and whenever God appears to men, He acts like Himself. Whether in the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane, God is merciful as well as just. He has always dealt in mercy with mankind and will always deal in justice when His mercy is despised.

Thus He did in antediluvian times; thus when Christ walked among men; thus He is doing today and will continue always to do for no other reason than that He is God.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1961), 97.

New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles,  comments about Acts 5, “Luke’s [the author of Acts] view is that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures is the same God Jesus and the disciples served, and so one should expect continuity of character and action.”

Second, we often misinterpret John 1:17, “For the law was through Moses: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” We commonly think that the verse is pitting grace against law,” The Law is judgment and it was in the Old Testament, it was bad, and needs to be discarded, because in Jesus we now have grace.”

However, the Apostle John was not contrasting grace against law. John believes that the law is good: the Law (Torah) is the promises of God, and Jesus is the fulfillment of those promises. Grace and truth are covenant terms which designate God’s loyalty and faithfulness. John declares that in Jesus, the Lord is fulfilling his promises and covenant commitment found in the Law (Torah).

Third, Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was very grave. Giving was voluntary in the early Church. However, Ananias and Sapphira lied about giving all the proceeds for the sale of their property.They “kept back” (v.2) which in the Greek implies the utmost dishonesty and secrecy. Not only were they lying with conspiratorial intent, but that lying was Satanically inspired (v.3). Satan was using their flesh to corrupt and divide an early church which was just beginning its witness to the world. God’s judgment of their sin had be swift or the early church would lose its witness and unity.

Again, New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles, states, “In Luke’s view this couple is guilty of secrecy, collusion, and attempting to lie to the Holy Spirit. What is at stake here is the koinonia of the community which the Spirit indwelt. One act of secrecy and selfishness violates the character of openness and honesty which characterized the earliest community of Jesus’ followers.”

Lesson to today’s church: The God of the New Testament is still concerned about the holiness of his people.

Performance Orientation

Posted by on 26 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Jerry Bridges, Sanctification

Striving and Trying for God

Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.

Gal. 3:2 NLT

Performance orientation is attempting to earn God’s acceptance and love by our trying, striving, and laboring.

We suffer great exertion and struggle tremendously in our Christian walk. We long to live by the precepts of the Christian life. On a good day, our attitude and actions suggest some degree of Christian commitment. We think by our performance that God is obligated to bless us and reward us for walking according to his standards. We think of ourselves as “good little boys and girls” and that good things always happen to good people.  On our good days, we walk in self-righteous pride, and on our bad days, we plod along in discouragement and despair.

We have reverted back to living under the Law, we think we earn the blessing of the Holy Spirit by our performance. We think we deserve God’s rejection by our failures. We become frustrated with the Christian life, the up’s and down’s, the elation and the despair.

We have forgotten grace. We have forgotten that the Christian life is a person and that Jesus’ work on the Cross performed all we would ever need to be accepted by God. We have forgotten that Christ perfectly lived the law and died in our place that we might be accepted by God. We have forgotten that the Christian life is lived by faith trusting every day that Christ’s Cross has taken all our failed performances and nailed them to a tree.

We must remember that we are not accepted before God based on our performance, but we are accepted because of Christ’s beautiful performance on the Cross. We don’t perform the Christian life to be loved by God. We perform for God because know that we are loved and accepted in Christ.

We can begin each day with the deeply encouraging realization, I’m accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.”

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by-Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 6.

 

 

Holy, Holy, Holy

Posted by on 25 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: God's Holiness, Puritans

What Is God’s Holiness?

Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

Exodus 15:11

Holiness is God’s infinite glory manifested to the world through his sinlessness of character, purity of intention, and righteousness of person. God is right, acts right, and does right. God’s holiness opposes wrong and his love reaches out to the wrongdoer. God’s holiness opposes sin for sin turns the world upside down, inside out, and wrong side up. Sin brings destruction, pain, and suffering to all. It denigrates God’s majesty and exalts humankind’s pride and rebellion. God’s holiness stands against sin’s evil, and therefore, gives God glory. God is beautiful for he cares about rampant injustice, ugly selfishness, and our self-inflicted pain.

It is his glory and beauty. Holiness is the honour of the creature; sanctification and honour are linked together (1 Thess. iv. 4); much more is it the honour of God; it is the image of God in the creature (Epn. iv. 24). When we take the picture of a man, we draw the most beautiful part, the face, which is a member of the greatest excellency. When God would be drawn to the life, as much as can be, in the spirit of his creatures, he is drawn in this attribute, as being the most beautiful perfection of God, and most valuable with him. Power is his hand and arm; omniscience, his eye; mercy, his bowels; eternity, his duration; his holiness is his beauty (2 Chron. xx. 21);—’ should praise the beauty of holiness.’ In Ps. xxvii. 4, David desires ‘to behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his holy temple;’ that is, the holiness of God manifested in his hatred of sin in the daily sacrifices. Holiness was the beauty of the temple (Isa. xlvi. 11); holy and beautiful house are joined together; much more the beauty of God that dwelt in the sanctuary. This renders him lovely to all his innocent creatures, though formidable to the guilty ones. . . . And the angels’ song intimate it to be his glory (Isa. vi. 3); ‘The whole earth is full of thy glory;’ that is, of his holiness in his laws, and in his judgments against sin, that being the attribute applauded by them before.

Stephen Charnock, “The Atributes and Existence of God,” Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. One.

 

 

Baptism for the Dead

Posted by on 24 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Resurrection

Resurrection of the Dead and Baptism

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (emphasis mine)

1 Cor. 15:29 NIV

As a canon theologian and thirty years a pastor, I am periodically asked about Paul’s unusual one time reference to a baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29). Just this week a good friend asked me questions about this most cryptic of passages. Many explanations can be found in various commentaries and sermons, some helpful, some not.

Let’s look at the context for the passage first by examining the subject that Paul is addressing in chapter fifteen: the resurrection of the dead. When Christ returns, he will raise from the dead the bodies of all believers who have died in Christ since the beginning of time (1 Thes. 4:15-18).  Jesus will reunite these bodies with their souls (spirits) which have been residing in heaven (Phil. 1:21, Dan. 12:2-3). Also, he will change the bodies of all those believers who are alive, giving them glorified bodies. Therefore, all believers from all time will have perfect resurrection bodies just like their Savior. The resurrection of the dead is the final work of God in applying Christ’s work on the Cross to our lives and to creation (1 Cor. 15:50-57).

The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was difficult for first century Greek believers to grasp. Greek culture taught that the body (i.e, material) was bad and that only spiritual things were good. For the Greeks, one strived to leave this body and be immersed into the full experience of the spirit realm. Death meant release from this miserable existence (i.e., body). Yet, the Apostle Paul teaches a Hebraic Christian worldview: God created all things and that these things, though fallen, are good (Gen. 1:31). The body matters to God to such a degree that at the second coming our bodies will be renewed (i.e., glorified) and reunited with our spirits who have gone before. In other words, material matter matters to God.

The Corinthians could not grasp this truth and rejected the doctrine of the resurrection. In chapter fifteen, Paul argues that if the Corinthian church rejects this truth, then they are rejecting the essence of Christianity. “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

As a way of furthering his argument, Paul asks, “If no resurrection, then why are you baptizing for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29). Why bother with a sacrament that expresses in its fullest sense the resurrection, when you do not believe the truth of it.

This is our context, now let us look at the particulars. Questions abound about what Paul meant. Are the dead here physically dead? Are they believers or unsaved family and friends? Maybe they are not physically dead at all, but spiritually dead? (Eph. 2:1). Is Paul referring to the normal practice of Christian baptism? Or something else? Paul’s own writings can give us some insight into what he meant.

In Corinthians, dead is always refers to those who have physically died. In Paul, baptism is tied to resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5) and is the initiatory rite for becoming a member of the church. Baptism is always accompanied by faith in the writings of Paul. Paul would not have allowed a Mormon substitutionary baptism for dead relatives. No historical evidence exists that before Paul individuals were being baptized as a proxy for someone who had passed from this life.

Most Koine Greek scholars agree, “for,” in this context does not mean, “instead of,” but “concerning,” or “on the account of” (15:29). Wise Christians witnessed to the Corinthian church and they have died. They have died of old age, or sickness, or possibly, martyrdom. Now, these newborn Christians are getting baptized because of these saints’ wonderful testimony. Why would these young believers proceed with baptism, if they do not hold to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead? Why be baptized because of the witness of these great saints, if Christ’s resurrection never happened and our future resurrection is a pipe dream? Paul is saying to the church, “You know better, your instincts tell you, there is a resurrection and this initiatory rite of baptism needs to be practiced.”

15:29–34: Paul points out that the resurrection gives men compelling incentives for salvation (v. 19), for service (vv. 30–32), and for sanctification (vv. 33, 34).

15:29: This difficult verse has numerous possible interpretations. Other Scripture passages, however, clarify certain things which it does not mean. It does not teach, for example, that a dead person can be saved by another person’s being baptized on his behalf, because baptism never has a part in a person’s salvation (Eph. 2:8; cf.Rom. 3:28; 4:3; 6:3, 4). A reasonable view seems to be that “they . . . who are baptized” refers to living believers who give outward testimony to their faith in baptism by water because they were first drawn to Christ by the exemplary lives, faithful influence, and witness of believers who had subsequently died. Paul’s point is that if there is no resurrection and no life after death, then why are people coming to Christ to follow the hope of those who have died?

John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Word, 1997), 1 Cor. 15:29.

15:29: Biblical doctrine should not be built on any verse as difficult and obscure as this one. Since baptism does not save us, being baptized in the place of those who are already dead cannot be of benefit to anyone. The interpretation of this difficult verse yields to an understanding of the Greek preposition huper. Usually, the word means “over” or “instead of.” But there are times when the only interpretation possible is “concerning.” In John 1:30, John the Baptist says, “This is He of [huper,concerning] whom I said … ” The same applies here: the interpretation should be “concerning the dead.” The idea is that Christian baptism concerning death and the promise of resurrection is a meaningless ordinance unless the resurrection is a reality. This interpretation certainly fits well with the context.

W. A. Criswell, ed., Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1 Cor. 15:29 .

 

The World Upside Down

Posted by on 22 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: The Cross, Tim Keller

 

Christ Is All

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Col 1:19-20 NLT

Love the work of Timothy Keller: wonderful Cross-saturated sermons and insightful God-glorifying books. As a writer, Keller is a late bloomer with all but one of his books published later in his ministry (it gives me hope). The Reason for God is an apologetic (not an apology) for an orthodox Christian faith that is being attacked on every side by a skeptical press, the new atheists, post-modern doubt, and the stresses of modern life. Keller skillfully and adeptly answers objections concerning suffering, Hell, Bible trustworthiness, Christ exclusivity, and Christian ethics. Not only does Keller engage the critics, but also, he affirms, defends, and proclaims the life-affirming truths of the Christian faith: sin, the gospel, the cross and resurrection, and heart relationship. In many ways, Keller’s book is a 21st century simplified version of C. S. Lewis’s famous work, Mere Christianity. Pick-up a copy of The Reason for God, you will not regret it.

The cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 193.

The pattern of the Cross means that the world’s glorification of power, might, and status is exposed and defeated. On the Cross Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. Jesus Christ turns the values of the world upside down.

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 196.

PS: For members of Lamb of God Church, our Young Adult Home Group will be studying the companion DVD starting next week.

 

Niceness: Vice or Virtue?

Posted by on 19 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ethics, My Sermons

Niceness: Virtue or Vice?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Eph. 4:15 ESV

I recently read Banner of Truth’s review of Phillip Yancey’s book, *What’s So Amazing About Grace?* The author, Greg Gilbert,  is an associate of Mark Dever, a leading Reformed light in Baptist circles.

Gilbert picked up on a common theme in our secularist culture: pointing out sin makes a Christian ugly, intolerant, arrogant, and even hateful. A Christian who is loving and gracious is nice. Yes, nice. Niceness means being kind, supportive and never in the least way stating that someone or something might be wrong. “When you are told that because you say that certain behavior is wrong, you are not nice you are not displaying Christian love. If Christians are not nice, they are not really loving, and that means they are hypocrites” (D. A. Carson, Love in Hard Places, 12). On television and radio talk shows, the deepest, sharpest accusation a liberal thinks he or she can make against a conservative Christian is, “they are mean people.”

According to the post-modern culture, a Christian should encourage all sincere actions without calling into question their rightness or wrongness. In fact, there is no absolute standard, and to say there is an absolute standard is setting up yourself as the measure for all things. In their minds, self-measure is the worst sort of arrogance. To declare that a behavior or attitude is wrong is judgmental, prideful, and grossly unreasonable. They say, “Jesus would have never done such a thing.” Jesus was loving, uncritical, supportive and nurturing.

As a result, our culture throws together “God-words” like love, grace, and forgiveness, then shrinks their meaning down to “niceness.” Love is letting people be who they really are. Grace is overlooking any faults or failings on my part because I really did not mean it. Forgiveness is letting go of any judgmental thoughts you have toward me. It is wrong to condemn someone’s else’s behavior, let go of your condescending attitude. The postmodern agrees that God loves us unconditionally. Therefore, they say, “Spiritually, we can be who we are and stay where we are at –no need to change.”

However, God loves us too much to leave us as we are. Our behavior, attitudes, and actions bring destruction to ourselves and others. Our lives break the heart of God. God must oppose the destruction we are selfishly sowing. The nice thing for God to do is not to leave us there in our saddened and sickened condition. The nice thing to do is for the Holy Spirit to change us, transform us, and renew us. This heart-change work is painfully difficult and deeply unsettling. “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:24 ,The Message).

Its no wonder that young believers in the Lord get offended with God when he disciplines them. Young believers (not necessarily young in age) resent God allowing disturbances in their lives to expose the selfish attitudes in their hearts. The resentment becomes anger and a grumbling spirit often directed at the leadership of a church. Since God is invisible, I can’t blame him and be satisfied, so it must be the leadership’s fault. They misled me about this Christian thing. God loves me, therefore life should not be so difficult. My inconvenience must be someone’s else’s fault: those Christians they are just hypocrites.

The spirit of niceness is not so nice. It generates a passivity leads that leads to spiritual laziness. This spiritual laziness generates all kinds of anger and resentment. Unexpectedly and without warning, niceness has become a vice. A vice that destroys lives because it does not call sin, “sin.” A vice that ignores God’s holy standards and righteous judgments. A vice that avoids spiritual correction by God and others. After everything, this worldly vice is not so very nice.

The Amazing Generosity of God

Posted by on 18 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: God's Grace, Jerry Bridges, Sin

Restoring Not Repaying

I will restore to you the years that othe swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

Joel 2:25

When we sin, our actions hurt God and others. They create a ripple affect of pain and disappointment. Our families grow discouraged, our friends are disheartened, and the church is not blessed. Instead of being an example of faith and obedience, we give others an excuse not to obey God’s law and Christ’s commands. Our selfishness makes us central instead of Christ. We turn the world upside down.

When we repent, God not only forgives our sin; he heals our pain. God lifts us up from the miry clay and gives us a firm place to stand (Psalm 40: 1-3). God not only releases us from the debt we have created, but he heals the damage we have inflicted on ourselves and others. When we repent, he takes the mess we have made, and uses it for our good and his glory. It always better not to sin, but if we sin and repent, God will take our disaster and develop real maturity. God goes beyond just forgiving, he generously heals, restores, and renews.

Consider the amazing generosity of God. He did not limit His promise merely to restoring the land to its former productivity. He said He’ll repay them for the years the locusts have eaten, years they themselves forfeited to the judgment of God (Joel 2:25). God could well have said, “I’ll restore your land to its former productivity, but too bad about those years you lost! They are gone forever.  That’s the price you pay for your sin. He would have been generous just to have restored them – but He went beyond that. He would cause their harvests to be so abundant they would recoup the losses from the years of famine. He said He’ll repay them, though He obviously owed them nothing.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by-Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 67.

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