April 2011

Monthly Archive

The Kingdom of God Is . . .

Posted by on 30 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: George Eldon Ladd, John Stott, Kingdom of God

 

The Now and Not Yet of the Kingdom

Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:31-32 ESV

The Kingdom of God is the presence of the future–a foretaste of heaven. It is a foretaste–an advance sample–of what life will be like when dwelling in God’s exquisite presence in heaven.  The kingdom is the inbreaking of heaven: the dynamic rule and reign of God has come and presently is touching the earth.  All that heaven will be–freedom from sickness, deliverance from oppression, joy in forgiveness, etc.–experienced now in Christ Jesus. The Kingdom has come in Christ and is advancing throughout the world; however, the Kingdom will not be completely established until the Second Coming of Christ.

Presently, the kingdom of God spiritually reigns in the hearts of those who have made Christ Lord of their lives and is manifested in and through them by the Holy Spirit’s presence, preaching of the Gospel, healing of the sick, and release from demonic bondage, etc. (Luke 4:16-20, 43). The Kingdom of God advances by conquering men and women’s hearts through the power of the Cross: the Holy Spirit changes us from self-centered slobs to Christ-centered servants (John 3:3, 2 Cor. 5:14-15). In the future, the Kingdom of God will be firmly established on earth upon the visible return of Christ.

We celebrate our feasts with joy, because we have a foretaste of a future world in which we may discard all that is temporal and earthly, and in which the Lord himself is everything.

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Jesus Is Victor, Keep Your Feasts with Joy (Breakfast with Blumhardt, Daily Email Devotion), May 3, 2005; available from http://www.blumhardts.com/.

When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God he was not referring to the general sovereignty of God over nature and history, but to that specific rule over his own people which he himself had inaugurated, and which begins in anybody’s life when he humbles himself, repents, believes, submits and is born again.  God’s kingdom is Jesus Christ ruling over his people in total blessing and total demand.

To ‘seek first’ this kingdom is to desire as of first importance the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ.  Such a desire will start with ourselves, until every single department of our life — home, marriage and family, personal morality, professional life and business ethics, bank balance, tax returns, lifestyle, citizenship — is joyfully and freely submissive to Christ.  It will continue in our immediate environment, with the acceptance of evangelistic responsibility towards our relatives, colleagues, neighbors and friends.  And it will also reach out in global concern for the missionary witness of the church.

John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Leicester and Downers Grove: IVP, 1978), 170.

Dealing with Despair

Posted by on 29 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Christian Missions, Discouragement

 

Debilitating Discouragement

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Gal. 6:9 NASB

Despair is an emotional state that convinces our hearts that our circumstances are bigger than God’s all-encompassing power. Despair is used by Satan to cause us to doubt God’s goodness, fear God’s sovereign plan, and reject God’s promises. Despair immobilizes our spirits making us feel drained over past events, pessimistic about future possibilities, and discouraged about our present conditions.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah experienced a similar despondency (1 Kings 19). Elijah fled to Mt. Horeb in fear because of Queen Jezebel’s threats. He sinks into despair over Israel’s apostasy. Israel did not respond to Elijah’s call to revival. Elijah is distraught over their inaction and spiritual declension. Elijah is baffled by Israel’s lack of repentance after God mighty displays of power on Mt. Carmel.

Elijah’s depression is so great that God must speak to him in a “still small voice” in order to awaken his inner man. The Lord commands Elijah to get back to work and do the things that prophets do. The Lord wants him to snap out out of his discouraged funk. Therefore, Elijah begins the raising up and appointing process for new leaders. These leaders will govern over Israel’s spiritual, national, and international obligations.

Like Elijah, the Lord will call on us to step out and over our despair. The Lord’s commands carry within them the grace to obey. He will strengthen us to overcome whether we are “feeling it” or not. Therefore, despair is defeated by making deliberate choices to live the everyday Christian life: obey biblical truth, do God’s revealed will, and trust God’s covenant promises.

Sometimes I feel  . . . that my cross is heavy beyond endurance . . . my heart seems worn out and bruised beyond repair, and in my deep loneliness I often wish to be gone, but God knows best, and I want to do every ounce of work He wants me to do.

C. T. Studd cited in World Shapers: A Treasury of Great Quotes from Great Missionaries, ed., Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddemann (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1991), 41.

For a long time I felt much depressed after preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to apparently insensible hearts; but now I like to dwell on the love of the great Mediator, for it always warms my own heart, and I know that the gospel is the power of God–the great means which He employs for the regeneration of our ruined world.

David Livingstone cited in World Shapers: A Treasury of Great Quotes from Great Missionaries, ed., Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddemann (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1991), 42.

What of Justification and Sanctification?

Posted by on 28 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: John Stott, Justification, Sanctification

Righteous Status and Growth in Holiness

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 4:24-25

Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.  Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself. When we trust Christ by faith, his work of forgiveness begins by releasing us from our debt, transforming our hearts, and freeing us to live for him.

When we look to Christ in faith and believe that his death was our death and that his punishment was our judgment, we receive by God’s grace his righteousness. This righteous declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we have been declared in right standing with God. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment.

Sanctifying grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Grace is the person, Jesus, living his life in and through us empowering us to live a righteous and holy life (2 Cor. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14). Sanctifying grace is Jesus living his life in us: this is the normal Christian life (1 Jn. 4:9).

Justification describes the position of acceptance with God which he gives us when we trust in Christ as our Saviour. It is a legal term, borrowed from the lawcourts, and its opposite is condemnation. To justify is to acquit, to declare an accused person to be just, not guilty. So the divine judge, because his Son has borne our condemnation, justifies us, pronouncing us righteous in his sight. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

Sanctification, on the other hand, describes the process by which justified Christians are changed into the likeness of Christ. When God justifies us, he *declares* us righteous through Christ’s death for us; when he sanctifies us, he *makes* us righteous through the power of his Holy Spirit within us.

Justification concerns our outward status of acceptance with God; sanctification concerns our inward growth in holiness of character. Further, whereas our justification is sudden and complete, so that we shall never be more justified than we were on the day of our conversion, our sanctification is gradual and incomplete. It takes a few moments only in court for a judge to pronounce his verdict and for the accused to be acquitted; it takes a lifetime even to approach Christlikeness. (paragraph editing mine)

John Stott, Your Confirmation, rev. edn. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991), 38.

HT: Langham Partnership

 

Idols of the Heart

Posted by on 27 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Tim Keller

Idols: Things That Capture Our Heart Other Than Christ

Though the nations around us follow their idols, we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever.

Micah 4:5 NLT

An idol is any person, place, or thing that has power and rule over us other than God and his love. What rules over us are the demands of people, tyranny of events, self-absorption and personal need. These distractions of the heart crowd out our knowledge of Christ’s loving acceptance found at the foot of the Cross.

Idolatry is looking to things, circumstances, and people to be our satisfaction instead of Christ. An idol cannot provide forgiveness, fulfillment, or freedom: they fail to bless by creating fleshly bondages, dependent relationships, and emotional problems. Money, sex, and power are the ultimate idols of our society—they promise happiness, love, and influence. However, idols make promises they cannot and will never keep. Idols by design cannot bring true fulfillment: only God’s blessing of intimacy in Christ can fill us with heart-satisfying joy.

The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

It [an idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.

Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?

Posted by on 24 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Easter, Resurrection

resurrection

Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?
The historical evidence contradicts this popular notion.

Anthony McRoy

Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe-namely, Easter-was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.

The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival.

Read the rest of the essay on the ChristianHistory.net blog.

What of Holy Saturday?

Posted by on 23 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Liturgy, Resurrection

The Defeating of Death

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Hebrews 2:14-15

Holy Saturday commemorates the day that our Lord Jesus Christ was in the tomb. Jesus in his life lived every aspect of our existence and now in his death; he indeed experiences the same separation of soul and body that we will experience upon our passing. Many theologians believe that on this day, Jesus enters into Hell and defeats the forces of darkness. He conquers its grip upon our lives.

Today is the time of waiting for the victory of God to be manifested to the world. Holy Saturday is to be celebrated in quiet and meditation.

The burial of our Lord was another part of his ignominy. Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere even to be buried. So Joseph of Arimathea provided a tomb fit for a king. While Jesus was entombed he was silent. Finished were the cries and taunts of the cross but it was not yet time for the triumphal declaration: “He is risen.”

Today is a day of silence, and yet the work of salvation, of deliverance from the curse and its effects, continues. We can see the work of salvation on the cross and we see it in the empty tomb, but neither of those means anything without the three days in the belly of the whale, in the womb of death, from which he must emerge.

Today, God is, as it were, silent but he is not asleep. The tomb is ugly, but it is also sanctus. Today is the in-between time. The first act is finished but the curtain, though torn, is not closed.

R. Scott Clark, The Heidelblog

He Gave It All Away

Posted by on 22 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Jesus Christ, Keswick Convention, The Cross

Jesus Gave Everything Away on the Cross

The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me.

Gal 2:20-21 ESV

The Keswick Movement has almost been forgotten. The annual conference began in the mid-19th century for the “promotion of scriptural holiness.” The Holy Spirit’s work in and through the Keswick Conference has changed lives for Christ for over well over a century and a half. Such notables as Andrew Murray, Amy Carmichael, Watchman Nee, Major Ian Thomas, and F. B. Meyer have all either taught at the yearly conference or were influenced by its teaching.

The sermons, devotionals, and books written Keswick authors and speakers have drawn me into the experience of Christ in a manner no other Christian literature can or does. In their instruction, I have found intimacy with Christ, experienced his constant, conscious presence, and discovered freedom from past pain and persistent sin.

The passage below is one of my favorite selections from a Keswick sermon. Charles Fox declares the greatness of the love of Christ: while suffering inextricable pain, Jesus is thinking about the needs of others. Jesus is carrying the sin of the world on his shoulders, yet he is giving away his inheritance for the benefit of others. Jesus was thinking of others’ needs when you and I would have been self-consumed by our suffering.

Just before He died, Jesus made an inventory of all He had, and then gave it all away. Hear Him: ‘My peace I give you'(John 14:27). ‘That my joy might remain in you (John 15:11).’ He gave His body-‘given for you’ (Luke 22:19). He gave His blood-‘shed for you’ (Luke 22:20). Then He gave what He thought a great deal of-His words. Twice He repeats this legacy, ‘I have given them the words which Thou gavest me’ (John 17:8). ‘I have given them Thy word’ (John 17:14). All He had He gave away. ‘The glory which Thou gavest me I have given them’ (John 17:22).

Then, when He was on the cross-for He was never so rich as when He was on the cross!-He gives away pardon. He gives home-‘Woman behold thy son!’ (John 19:26). He links two of His own together for ever. There are no such friendships as those which are made by the cross of Christ. Then, on the cross, He gives paradise away-paradise, never heard of between Genesis and Revelation, except only at the cross: ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). Yes, today-immediate transition when you take Christ.

His very clothing was given. ‘They cast lots for His vesture’ (Matt. 27:35). I wonder what that soldier thought as he put on that seamless vesture: a picture of us murderers clothed in the stainless robe of righteousness of Christ.

Then His very dead body was given away. Nobody cared for it, until one disciple came and begged it, and was allowed to have it for the asking (John 19:38).

Is He not rich, my Master? ‘My peace, my joy, my words, my glory!’ All given away! This is indeed the Master. Is He yours?

Charles A. Fox, “The Gifts of Jesus” in Daily Thoughts From Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 178.

Love Lustres at Calvary

Posted by on 21 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Exchanged Life, Puritans, The Cross

Love Shines in All Its Splendor at Calvary

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Cor. 5:21 ESV

As Good Friday approaches, we rejoice in the greatest event in the history of humankind. Here at Golgotha, God the Father, proved his love for us. Here, God the Son, took our place and received our just condemnation. Here, God the Holy Spirit, drew us to saving faith and deep repentance. Here, God’s grace is magnified as greater than our sin. Here, the mercy of God and the holiness of God met and kissed one another fulfilling the conditions of God’s justice and grace. Here at Calvary, the Holy Trinity’s love is displayed to the world.

The Puritan prayer, “Love Lustres at Calvary,” describes this great exchange: we receive Christ’s holiness and forgiveness while Christ takes upon himself our guilt and just judgment. As an act of love, God gladly made this unfair, one sided trade of our selfishness and pride for Christ’s righteousness and holiness. Therefore, we can live a life of intimacy with the Father because Christ has made all things right. This great exchange means that we can live on a daily basis an exchanged life of victory.

At Calvary, the greatest of all exchanges occurred. Jesus Christ, the one who is fully man and fully God, truly innocent and without sin, took upon himself all our selfishness, rebellion, and hate and substituted his righteousness, forgiveness, and love. Christ bore the just judgment of God for our miserable sins, guilt, and shame. Some theologians call this act, double imputation. I call it glory.

We can daily live the exchanged life because Christ by his gracious grace made the exchange of our sins for his righteousness on the Cross. The exchanged life is not a one-time act, but a lifestyle lived as we abide in Christ, trusting the Holy Spirit to live Christ’s life in and through us.

Love Lustres at Calvary

My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,

open my lips,

supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,

made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of thy justice smote the man,

thy fellow;

There thy infinite attributes were magnified,

and infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

and infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

cast off that I might be brought in,

trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,

surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,

stripped that I might be clothed,

wounded that I might be healed,

athirst that I might drink,

tormented that I might be comforted,

made a shame that I might inherit glory,

entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

groaned that I might have endless song,

endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

expired that I might for ever live.

O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,

All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore thee by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

Arthur Bennett, ed., Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers (Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 76.

 

Three Full Days and Nights?

Posted by on 18 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Easter, Resurrection

thomas-before-the-resurrected-christ

“Good Friday . . . or was it Wednesday or Thursday?”

Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Scripture clearly predicted in Matthew 12:40 “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (cf. Jonah 1:17). But if our Lord was crucified on “Good Friday,” that would not leave 72 hours (24 hrs. x 3 days and nights =72), but instead probably something more like 38 hours for our Lord to be in the tomb (Friday afternoon til midnight, 7-9 hours + Saturday 24 hrs. + four or five hours on Easter Sunday morning = 36-38 hours total. That certainly does not equal three full days and three full nights of 72 hours.

However, notice I inserted the words “full” in each case, which of course is the way a Westerner would take a statement like “three days and three nights,” but Scripture did not use this expression in the same way some of us might use it. However, what we miss is the fact that “three days and three nights” was a stereotypical phrase that allowed the full day and night to be counted when any part of that time was included.

For example, 1 Samuel 30:12 has the same formula of “three days and three nights” used by the Egyptian, whom David found as he was pursuring the Amalekites, who had captured and made off with all the women, children and elderly people David had left in his temporarily adopted home of Ziklag. The Egyptian turned out to be a slave to an Amalekite, who abandoned him when he became ill “three days ago” (1 Sam 30:13). The words translated by the NIV as “three days ago,” literally translated from the Hebrew read: “Today is the third [day]” (Hebrew: hayyom sheloshah). Thus, he too used the “three days and three nights” stereotype formula, but clearly he did not mean three full days and three full nights, for on that very day, it was only day three!

Therefore, in accordance with this example and several others in Scripture, a part of a day, night, or year could be counted as a full day or night or year. Likewise, Solomon’s navy was gone for three years (1 Kings 10:22), but it becomes clear that any part of a year counted as one year; thus his ships left about the fall of the year, were gone all the next year and returned in the third year about Passover time.

Therefore, it is not necessary to move the crucifixion back to “Good Wednesday” or “Good Thursday” in order to account for the 72 hours.

HT: Koinonia

Resurrection Victory

Posted by on 17 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Early Church Father, Easter, Resurrection

The Conquering of Our Greatest Fear: Death

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Heb. 2:14-15

The greatest fear all people fight is the fear of dying. In a society which marginalizes the ugly effects of death, we find it hard to believe that the fear of death is life’s greatest struggle. Most of us have never seen a decaying body or have rarely seen an individual move from this life into eternity. Most of our relatives have died alone in nursing homes or hospitals. Our funerals are quick and pristine. Our mourning is quiet and withdrawn. We use euphemisms like “passed away” or the “late” John Smith to avoid using the word, “death.” As a society, we attempt to ignore death, but death is our ever present reality.

In spite of the cover-up, death remains our greatest fear. The fear of death is the controlling factor behind most people’s decisions, choices, and actions (Heb. 2:14-15). The Bible says that we were not created to die. Our existence was meant to be eternal, part of being made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). We were designed to live forever. However, the Fall changed everything. Death entered this world through sin. Death is an aberration created by sin’s awful effect on creation (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, death is our greatest enemy. Death separates relationships. Death is deterioration and decay (not a pretty sight). Death causes hurt, pain, anguish, and grief. We were not wired for death.

However, Christ came to deliver us not only from the fear of death, but from the effects of death itself. The resurrection of Jesus was not simply a coming back from the dead, but a transformation in which Jesus’ material body was made perfect and complete: free from sickness, weakness, decay and aging. By coming back from the dead by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11), Jesus Christ shattered death’s grip and made the way for us to live in eternity with him (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

At the Second Coming of Christ, we too will be given glorified, physical bodies ready to live life in eternity in a “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). Spirits that are resident in heaven will be rejoined to their glorified bodies and we will live as we were born to live eternally. This new Jerusalem will be a place that is without death, weeping, sickness, and pain (Rev. 21:1-4). The resurrection of Christ not only overcomes our fear of death, but destroys the power of death by loosing Satan’s grip, thereby defeating our greatest foe (1 Cor. 15:26).

Christ came that he might slay sin, render death null and void, and give life to men. He was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring us to life, for we are tied and bound in sin.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (202 a.d.)

If we believe in Christ, let us have faith in His work and promises; and since we shall not die eternally, let us come with glad assurance to Christ, with Whom we are both to conquer and to reign forever.

St. Cyprian of Carthage (258 a.d.)

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