Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Future


Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 3:13-14 ESV

The future is that which will be; that which will exist at any time after the present moment; the next second is future as opposed to what has happened and is happening. For the believer, the future is not to be feared, but placed into the hands of an all-knowing, all-sovereign God.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34 ESV). The Christian places his or her confidence about the future in a God who is all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful. Believers are assured, not anxious about the future: the Cross has taken care of our past, present, and future sin.

Precisely this the curiosity of the believer: it means forging ahead and not looking back. If the believer is not afraid of the mystery of the future, it is not for any heroic reason, for he knows who ordains the future and who yet does not allow the future to become our undoing. The believer knows who sets the goals and guarantees them. In this knowledge the restlessness of all our thoughts and quests abate.

Helmut Thielicke, Notes From a Wayfarer: The Autobiography of Helmut Thielicke, trans., David R. Law (New York, Paragon House, 1995), 418.

Astonished Gratitude

Thankfulness that Flows From the Heart

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Col. 3:17

Christian gratitude begins at the Cross. We were  God’s enemies, we despised his call on our lives and his claim on our hearts. The Holy Spirit reached out to us: he convicted, he wooed, he drew, he convinced us of the Father’s love for us. We melted under his influence recognizing that there was nothing in us that deserved saving.

By God’s grace, we saw Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross as our just punishment for ignoring, violating, and despising God’s commands. We were astonished by Christ’s sacrifice: gratitude overwhelmed us as we saw God’s grace acting to deliver us from our self-imposed darkness. In turn, we met the resurrected Christ, he not only forgave us, but renewed, restored, and healed us. Astonished gratitude was our only response then and continues our heart’s cry now.

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.

N.T. Wright

HT: N. T. Wright Quotes

Donkey Ears

Addicted to Praise

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.

Prov. 16:18

In 1998, John Piper visited Beeson Divinity School for a three day lecture series on preaching. During one of the sermons, he admitted that he was addicted to praise. The type of praise Piper was describing are the compliments and attention one receives after preaching a good, or maybe great, sermon.

Piper told the story of recently speaking at Wheaton College, his alma mater, and no one, absolutely no one, came up to him afterwards and thanked him for his message. Piper said that he walked around campus for some time talking to himself wondering what went wrong and asking himself why he had to have constant affirmation to feel good about his ministry.

Piper’s admission is a powerful one, all preachers struggle with desiring the encouragement of others. Yet, we know that the gospel word we share may very well bother, offend, and convict the very people we look to for praise.

The temptation lurks that when we receive the admiration and praise for which we long, we think we have arrived, and therefore accomplished great things for God. Martin Luther calls this kind of pride: donkey ears. Why? Donkey ears dominate the animal’s appearance just like a preacher’s pride in their own accomplishments.

If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears.

Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, see! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 34:287-288, cited in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2011), 164.

HT: Between Two Worlds 

Not Designed to Destroy Our Faith

Trials and Tribulations

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer.

Rev. 2:9-10

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 lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

The Bible teaches that is not God’s will that people sin. However, when people sin against us, their actions become God’s will for us. Because of the Cross of Christ, we can trust that God has something bigger and better planned through our being ill-treated, misunderstood, hurt, and disappointed.

The Lord is working his purposes in and through our circumstances: the molding of our character, the testing of our faith, and the ministry of Christ’s life. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17 NLT).

Suffering isn’t designed by God to destroy our faith but to intensify it. That will never happen, however, if we fail to look beyond the pain to the purpose of our loving heavenly Father. His design is to knock out from underneath us every false prop so that we might rely wholly on him. His aim is to create in us such desperation that we have nowhere else to look but to his promises and abiding presence.

Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3 (Crossway, 2008).

Study Jesus

Know Jesus, Know the Father 

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

John 14:8-9 ESV

Reading D. A. Carson’s The God Who Is There, an excellent overview of the major themes of the Bible. Good quotes abound in the book, I read this section on Thursday. The quote strikes you with its simplicity and directness.

Do you want to know what God looks like? Look at Jesus. ‘No one has ever seen God,’ and God in all of His transcendent splendor we still cannot see until the last day. But the Word became flesh; God became a human being with the name of Jesus; and we can see Him.

That is why Jesus later says to one of His own disciples, ‘Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9).

Do you want to know what the character of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the holiness of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the wrath of God is like? Study Jesus.

Do you want to know what the forgiveness of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the glory of God is like? Study Jesus all the way to that wretched cross. Study Jesus.

D.A. Carson, The God Who is There (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 116.

HT: Tolle Lege

The Point of the Resurrection


The Resurrection of the Dead

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thess. 4:16 ESV

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 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 point of the resurrection . . . is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. . . What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it . . . What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it . . . ). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York, HarperOne, 2008).

Get Still to Wait on God

Hearing God Through His Word

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Psalm 119:50 ESV

As believers, we enjoy the God’s personal presence through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can and should experience an on-going conversational relationship with God: speaking to God and being spoken to by his Spirit. The normal Christian life is God speaking, directing, and guiding us by his love and care. In turn, we can respond in delight by honoring his leadership through obedience to his will. This process of being led, guided, and directed 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 spirits.

It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts.

I think for the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend. Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and All.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thrist for the Divine (Harrisburg, Penn.: Christian Publications, 1982), 76.

The Simple Gospel


Preach Christ 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . . .

1 Cor. 15:3-4

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. The gospel is the proclamation that our sins are forgiven and we are under condemnation no more. 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.

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.

The world needs to be told of its Saviour, and of the way to reach him. Justification by faith should be far more than it is the daily testimony of Protestant pulpits; and if with this master-truth there should be more generally associated the other great doctrines of grace, the better for our church and our age. . .

We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel. Man’s fall, his need of a new birth, forgiveness through an atonement, and salvation as the result of faith, these are our battle-axe and weapons of war.

We have enough to do to learn and teach these great truths, and accursed be that learning which shall divert us from our mission, or that wilful ignorance which shall cripple us in its pursuit.

Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 1875-94 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 87-88, paragraphing mine.

HT: Desiring God

If We Seek . . .

If We Seek , We Will Find Christ 

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [i.e., Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

Scripture reveals that our whole salvation and all its benefits are obtained in Christ. If we seek victory over sin: freedom from fleshly oppression is found in Christ. If we seek to fill our empty longing: fullness of life is found in Christ. If we seek love, a love that is enduring, gracious, and abiding: a true lasting love is found in Christ. If we seek healing in the midst of the fallout of the Fall: Christ is our balm of Gilead, the true healer of our souls. Christ is our all in all for what we seek.

If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him.’ If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.

If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other.

John Calvin, Preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

HT: Between Two Worlds Blog

The Disease of Individualism


All Members of Christ’s Body 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV

Individualism in the Christian life is a destructive force. Individualism says that I can live the Christian life without the joy of fellowship, without accountability, encouragement, guidance, and the sacraments. An individualistic mindset avoids authority, responsibility, and community. It says that I can live the Christian life without you, the body of Christ. I don’t want to be challenged. I don’t want my blind spots exposed. I don’t want to minister to needy people and serve others. I want to do my own thing  just me, my Bible, and God.

Individualism says that I am not answerable, responsible, or obligated to anyone including friends, family, and church leaders. It is a form of self-deception, masking itself as a “leading from God,” but portraying an attitude of rebellion toward God and his delegated authorities.

Individualism fails to understand that the day we were baptized, we were ushered into the Body of Christ and placed in covenant relationship with other believers (1 Cor. 12: 12-14). Individualism refuses to acknowledge the biblical truth that we cannot grow in our relationship with Jesus without the help and assistance of other believers (Eph. 4:11-13).

The Christian life is a “new community: a new family, a new pattern of human togetherness which results from the unity of the Lord’s people in the Lord, henceforth to function under the one Father as a family and a fellowship.

J. I. Packer, “The Gospel and the Lord’s Supper,” in Serving the People of God: Collected Shorter Writings of J.I. Packer, 4 vols.  (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1998), 2:44

By becoming a Christian, I belong to God and I belong to my brothers and sisters. It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a local church. My being in Christ means being in Christ with those others who are in Christ. This is my identity. This is our identity. . . . If the church is the body of Christ, then we should not live as disembodied Christians.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (Wheaton, Ill, Crossway Books, 2008), 41.