Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Friendship of Jesus

The Best Friend of All

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Prov. 18:24 NLT

I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

John 15:15 NLT

A true friend is someone who knows everything about you, and yet, still loves you. Jesus knows our every thought, word, and deed; past, present, and future, yet still pours out his love. Not only does Jesus love us, but he extends his grace to free us from our self-afflicted failures. Jesus is a better friend.

A real friend loves you and reminds you that Jesus is worthy to be trusted in any and every circumstance of life. Jesus knows when we are failing, and woos our hearts by the Holy Spirit to trust him. Jesus is a greater friend for he warns before we selfishly hurt others.

A faithful friend desires the best displaying sympathy and empathy in the struggles of life. Jesus experienced all the temptations, struggles, and pain of this life, he knows best how to counsel us in our perplexity. He is a superior friend.

Honesty is always first and foremost in a relationship. Even when speaking the truth in love is difficult and painful, a true friend will lovingly confront. Jesus is our best friend for he will not never wimp out, but always corrects us when we need it. Freedom exists in our relationship with Jesus to be forthright, he will confront our faults as only a true friend can do. Jesus is an excellent friend.

A good friend understands and emotionally supports their companion even if their failures are the result of their own stupidity and stubbornness. True friends trust in one another implicitly even when circumstances would question that loyalty. Jesus made a covenant bond with us, he will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus is a truly reliable friend.

Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love. They are thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. They have an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over their interests. The world may despise them, but they have no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast them out, but Christ having once taken them up, will never let them go. They are the friend of Christ even after they are dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the greatest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 275.

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

The Great Mystery

The Mystery of the Cross

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

Matt. 27:45

The Bible explicates the Cross in terms of images. Images of salvation (not theories), are concrete pictures of the work of the Cross drawn from the everyday life of the first century. They are not usually abstract concepts, but cogent pictures of God’s redeeming love. These images are complementary to one another, each truth paints a piece in the mosaic of God’s saving grace.

As for the imagery, “propitiation,” describes a sacrificial offering that turns away the wrath of God against sin. “Redemption,” pictures a transaction in a market-place where we are bought back from slavery (to sin). “Justification,” pronounces our acquittal in the heavenly law court. “Reconciliation,” describes the end of hostilities in our relationship with God. “Adoption,” grants us the legal status of a son of God and an heir of the kingdom.

“Substitution,” grounds the rest of the images, for Christ took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame.  Jesus Christ must die in our place and suffer our just punishment; otherwise, propitiation, redemption, justification, reconciliation and adoption have no meaning. The Cross of Christ on one hand is inexplicable, therefore a deep and great mystery. On the other hand, scripture does give us images that we can grasp and hold dear knowing that our Savior has made the way for us to be right with God.

This darkness tells us all that the Passion is a great mystery into which we cannot pry. I try to explain it as substitution and I feel that where the language of Scripture is explicit, I may and must be explicit, too. But yet I feel that the idea of substitution does not cover the whole of the matter and that no human conception can completely grasp the whole of the dread mystery. It was worked in darkness because the full, far-reaching meaning and result cannot be beheld of finite mind.

Tell me the death of the Lord Jesus was a grand example of self-sacrifice—I can see that and much more. Tell me it was a wondrous obedience to the will of God—I can see that and much more. Tell me it was the bearing of what ought to have been borne by myriads of sinners of the human race, as the chastisement of their sin—I can see that and found my best hope upon it. But do not tell me that this is all that is in the Cross!

No, great as this would be, there is much more in our Redeemer’s death. . . . God veiled the Cross in darkness—and in darkness much of its deeper meaning lies—not because God would not reveal it, but because we have not capacity enough to discern it all!

Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Three Hours of Darkness,” No. 1896, A Sermon Delivered on Lord’s Day Morning, April 18, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.



Our Choice: Better or Bitter


Responding or Reacting

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Rom. 5:3-5

We live in the midst of the fallout of the Fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our Christian lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. The choice is ours: better or bitter.

Teach me. O God, to use all the circumstances of my life to-day that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin. Let me use disappointment as material for patience: Let me use success as material for thankfulness: Let me use suspense as material for perseverance: Let me use danger as material for courage: Let me use reproach as material for longsuffering: Let me use praise as material for humility: Let me use pleasures as material for temperance: Let me use pains as material for endurance.

John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1949), 101.

Tumult and Anguish

Fear and Apprehension

Do not be anxious about anything, sbut in everything by prayer and supplication twith thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Phil. 4:6 ESV

Anxiety is fear and apprehension resident in our hearts created by constant worry. A troubled, disturbing, uneasiness of mind characterizes our anxious feelings. Anxiety develops as we fear an impending event, anticipated trial, or unexpected disappointment.

Our anxiety is due to a lack of confidence in God’s promises and covenant faithfulness. This overwhelming apprehension is a symptom of our unwillingness to believe God with unanticipated, unpleasant events. We are delivered from our anxiety by laying our fears at the feet of Jesus through prayer and worship.

It is so easy, we think, to “rest in the Lord,” and to “wait patiently for Him,” until the nest is upset; until we live, as many are living to-day, in tumult and anguish—is it possible then? If this “Don’t” does not work then, it will not work at any time.

Resting in the Lord does not depend upon external circumstances, but on the relationship of the life of God in me to God Himself. Fussing generally ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry is an indication of how wise we really are; it may be an indication of how wicked we really are.

Oswald Chambers, God’s Workmanship (UK : Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1953).



Spiritually Blind, Deaf, Lame, Dumb, Dead

The Disability of Sin

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins . . . .

Eph. 2:1 (ESV)

Theologically, disagreement exists between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics over the nature our sin which was inherited from Adam. Roman Catholic teaching prefers the terms, “propensity to sin” and “inclination to evil” to describe our fallen state (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 405). Roman Catholic teaching wants to leave open the possibility that we can in own ability respond to God’s call to faith and repentance.

However, Evangelicals teach the concept of “pervasive sin” and “inherited guilt.” Every aspect of our being is affected by sin–our minds, emotions, desires, hearts, wills, and physical bodies. Evangelicals do not deny that fallen people can do good things, but in relationship to God, no spiritual good can be achieved toward a relationship with him (Rom. 7:18; Titus 1:15; Jer. 17:9; Eph. 4:18).Evangelicals recognize that only God by his grace can awaken us from our dead state and draw us into the life of Christ.

Theologically, God’s drawing is called prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts granting us the ability to receive or resist the gospel. Our sin enslaves us, God by his unmerited favor must go before providing us the ability to accept or reject his offer of salvation in Christ.

[Prevenient] grace  is working quietly at the point of our desiring, bringing us in time to despair over our own righteousness, challenging our perverse dispositions, so that our distorted wills cease gradually to resist the gifts of God (John 6:44).

Thomas Oden, John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 246.

Jesus himself illustrated human lostness by the language of physical disability. By ourselves we are blind to God’s truth and deaf to his voice. Lame, we cannot walk in his ways. Dumb, we can neither sing to him nor speak for him. We are even dead in our trespasses and sins.

Moreover, we are the dupes and slaves of demonic forces. Of course, if we think this exaggerated or ‘mythical’ or frankly false, then we shall see no need for supernatural power; we shall consider our own resources adequate. But if human beings are in reality spiritually and morally blind, deaf, dumb, lame and even dead, not to mention the prisoners of Satan, then it is ridiculous in the extreme to suppose that by ourselves and our merely human preaching we can reach or rescue people in such a plight . . . .

Only Jesus Christ by his Holy Spirit can open blind eyes and deaf ears, make the lame walk and the dumb speak, prick the conscience, enlighten the mind, fire the heart, move the will, give life to the dead and rescue slaves from Satanic bondage. And all this he can and does, as the preacher should know from his own experience.

John Stott, I Believe in Preaching (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982), 329.

What Motivates You?

Pleasing Him

So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.

2 Cor. 5:9

True motivation: our one desire is God, our one hunger is to love him, and our one reason for living is to please him.

We believers do need to be challenged to a life of committed discipleship, but that challenge needs to be based on the gospel, not on duty or guilt. Duty or guilt may motivate us for awhile, but only a sense of Christ’s love for us will motivate us for a lifetime.

Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994), 24-25.

HT: Of First Importance


When You Get One You Get Them All


Trinity Sunday Reflection

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.

1 John 5:20 NLT

The doctrine of the Trinity goes something like this: God is three persons, each person is fully God, and there is one God. Three distinct individuals/persons, each with all of the full attributes of the Godhead, yet one in essence/substance. Each person is equal in being, but the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father in role. The distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the manner in which they relate to each other and to the rest of creation. The doctrine of the Trinity lies in the divine self-disclosure in Jesus, who as the Son revealed the Father and poured out in the Holy Spirit.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 226.

Perichoresis is the theological concept that the Divine essence is shared by each of the three persons of the Trinity in a manner that does not deny their individual personhood. When the Father, or Son, or Holy Spirit act individually then that action is also the work of the other two persons. In other words, when you get one person of the Trinity, you get them all.

Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999), 26, 116.

Scripture [says] … “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” He will not therefore depart when the Father and the Son come, but will be in the same abode with them eternally; because neither will He come without them, nor they without Him. But in order to intimate the Trinity, some things are separately affirmed, the Persons being also each severally named; and yet are not to be understood as though the other Persons were excluded, on account of the unity of the same Trinity and the One substance and Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Augustine (354-430) On the Trinity, Chapter 9

The Trinity Wants You Free

All the Members of the Trinity Want You Holy

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Cor. 13:14

The Father is the Heavenly Vinedresser, the Son is the Vine, and the Holy Spirit is Life itself (John 15: 1-4, 7:37-38). The Father outwardly prunes, the Son indwells us, and the Holy Spirit works through us.  The Father sovereignly directs our circumstances, the Son’s work redeems the circumstance, and the Holy Spirit transforms us in the midst of our circumstances. In short, the Father directs, the Son performs, and the Holy Spirit applies. The Holy Spirit does in us what the Son did for us on the Cross by the will of the Father. All three persons, the Triune God of grace, wants you and me to be free. Free from sin. Free from guilt and shame. Free to enjoy the eternal, unconditional love of God.

The Father is intimately involved in our lives so that our circumstances train us in godliness. The Son has set us free from both the penalty and the power of sin so that we now live under the reign of grace. The Spirit gives us a new attitude toward sin and a new power to change.

The combined forces of the Trinity are at work in our lives to set us free and make us holy.

Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 53.

Jesus Christ cannot begin to do anything for a man until he knows his need; but immediately he is at his wits’ end through sin or limitation or agony and cannot go any further, Jesus Christ says to him, Blessed are you; if you ask God for the Holy Spirit, He will give Him to you. God does not give us the Holy Spirit until we come to the place of seeing that we cannot do without Him (Luke 11:13).

Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of an Agony [CD-Rom] (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1934).

HT: Of First Importance

God-Given Impressions

God’s Leading

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

2 Cor. 2: 14 NKJV

As believers, we enjoy the Blessed Trinity’s personal presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should experience an on-going conversation with God: speaking to God and being spoken to by his Spirit. The normal Christian life is God speaking, directing, and immersing us in his love. In turn, we can respond in delight by honoring his leadership through obedience to his will. This process of being directed, guided, and led by the Holy Spirit in the affairs of everyday life is called hearing God (John 10:25-30). God’s guidance does not usually involve an audible voice, but the Holy Spirit leading through a nudging, gnawing impression in our spirit.

Impressions need to be suspected before they are sanctioned and tested before they are trusted. Confidence that one’s impressions are God–given is no guarantee that this is really so, even when they persist and grow stronger through long seasons of prayer. Bible–based wisdom must judge them.

J. I. Packer, God’s Plan for You (Crossway, 2001), 105.

The Disciple Follows

The Call of Christ

Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:61-62 ESV

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

When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to the exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows: that is grace and commandment in one.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Touchstone, 1955), 59.