November 2011

Monthly Archive

The Christ of Advent

Posted by on 26 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Advent, Early Church Father

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 Thes. 4:16 ESV

The season of Advent celebrates three comings of Christ: one future, one past, and one present. The Christ of the first coming came in obscurity offering salvation. The Christ of the second coming will come in power and great glory judging the world. Christ comes now through the indwelling Holy Spirit calling us to intimacy and holiness with him. Three comings, one Christ, one life change, one heart, yours.

The first coming of Christ the Lord, God’s Son and our God, was in obscurity. The second will be in sight of the whole world. When he came in obscurity no one recognized him but his own servants. When he comes openly he will be known by both the good and the bad. When he came in obscurity, it was to be judged.

When he comes openly it will be to judge. He was silent at his trial, as the prophet foretold . . . . Silent when accused, he will not be silent as judge. Even now he does not keep silent, if there is anyone to listen. But it says he will not keep silent then, because his voice will be acknowledged even by those who despise it.

St. Augustine, Sermon 18.1-2.

Cindy Crosby and Thomas C. Oden, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: Lectionary Cycle B: A Year of Daily Readings [Kindle Edition] (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011).

Are You a Servant of Mammon?

Posted by on 22 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: George MacDonald, Money

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matt. 6:24 KJV

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matt. 6:24 NLT

The word, “mammon,” is an Aramaic word transliterated into the Greek and brought directly into the English by the King James Version translators. Modern translations prefer the word, “money.” However, money does not convey all that Jesus meant: possessions, worldly influence, materialism, absorption with wealth, etc. One does not have to be rich to be consumed with mammon: all of us in the Western world have been touch by its values at one time or another. You can be rich or poor and still be obsessed with making one more dollar and looking to that dollar to bring you joy and happiness.

Jesus speaks of two masters: God or mammon. Their loyalty is absolute: one cannot selfishly be committed to the values of this world while loving God and serving others. A choice must be made: our lives can only maintain allegiance to one or the other. How do we know if money and its values consumes our hearts and lives? George MacDonald gives us an answer.

When a man talks of the joys of making money, or boasts of number one, meaning himself, then he is a servant of mammon. If when you make a bargain, you think only of yourself and your own gain, you are a servant of mammon. . . . If your hope of well-being in times to come rests upon your houses or lands or business or savings, and not upon the living God, whether you are friendly and kind or a churl whom no one loves, you are equally a server of mammon.

If the loss of your goods would take from you the joy of your life, then you serve mammon. If with your words you confess that God is the only good, and yet you live as if he had sent you into the world to make yourself rich before you die; if it will add a pang to the pains of your death to think that you have to leave your fair house, your trees, your horses, your shop, your books all behind you, then you are a server of mammon and far truer to your real master than he will prove to you.

George MacDonald, “Jesus the Servant,” Discovering the Character of God, ed., Michael Phillips (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1989), 128.

Trembling at God’s Word

Posted by on 20 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Humility, Puritans

For call those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Isaiah 66:2 KJV

God is “looking,” he looking for a particular man or woman: one through whom he can speak, move, and bless. That person is a “humble” person, a person who knows that they cannot live life without Jesus. At its most basic, humility is seeing yourself as God sees you: dark yet lovely (Song of Songs 1:5), weak yet strong (2 Cor. 12:9), and poor yet spiritually rich (2 Cor. 5:21).

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself. Humility is not denigrating yourself by making yourself out to be less than the total person that God has gifted and called you to be as his servant.

Having a, “contrite spirit,” is similar to maintaining an attitude of humility: a contrite spirit is a heart that is broken, needy, and yearning for help. It’s having a sense of sin: the emotional damage caused by sin, the selfishness that wounds others, and the helplessness that paralyzes. Contriteness is an awareness that our sin has hurt God and others, but it also acknowledges that God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness is greater than our failure.

Last, “trembling” at God’s Word is an attitude of submission, openness, and obedience to God’s spoken and written word.

In all, a believer that God uses is humble, contrite of heart, and submitted to God’s Word: the same character qualities that Jesus describes as  “poor in spirit” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3). The “poor in spirit” acknowledges their complete and utter bankruptcy before God. Its admitting that we are spiritually, emotionally, and physically afflicted; completely unable to save ourselves.

In conclusion, the Lord is not looking for the adequate, successful, and influential: he seeks and supports those who know their need of him.

[God] has a heaven and earth of his own making, and a temple of man’s making; but he overlooks them all, that he may look with favour to him that is poor in spirit, humble and serious, self-abasing and self-denying, whose heart is truly contrite for sin, penitent for it, and in pain to get it pardoned, and who trembles at God’s word, not as Felix did, with a transient qualm that was over when the sermon was done, but with an habitual awe of God’s majesty and purity and an habitual dread of his justice and wrath. Such a heart is a living temple for God; he dwells there, and it is the place of his rest; it is like heaven and earth, his throne and his footstool.

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Isa. 66:1–4.

A Thankful Heart

Posted by on 18 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Francis Frangipane, Thanksgiving

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph. 5:20

What is a thankful heart? A thankful heart trusts God’s goodness irrespective of whether he or she understands their unexplained difficulties, chronic trials, or persistent obstacles. A thankful heart knows that the Cross has conquered this fallen world and that our troubles are small compared to Christ’s great suffering on Calvary’s tree. Thankfulness says, “yes” to God’s grace knowing that whether good or bad, God can use our circumstances for his glory and our growth.

We have received too much from God to allow ourselves opportunities for unbelief. We have received too many gifts and privileges to allow a grumbling, murmuring heart to disqualify us of our destiny. In contrast, the thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggles as refining tools, and sinners as saints in progress.

Francis Frangipane

 

Christ Saves His People

Posted by on 17 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Charles Spurgeon, Sanctification

Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.

2 Tim. 2:19

Holiness of life is not an option for the believer. Belief in Christ means a changed heart that leads to a changed life. Christ must be Lord, sin must be rejected, and holiness desired and pursued. We may stumble and fall on occasion, but our heart’s desire is Christlikeness. Christ saves his people, he completely transforms us at the foot of the Cross.

Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, your heart is unchanged; you are an unsaved person. If the Savior has not sanctified you, renewed you, given you a hatred of sin and a love of holiness, the grace which does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit.

Christ saves His people, not in their sins but from them. Without holiness “no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19). If not saved from sin, how can we hope to be counted among His people? Lord, save me even now from all evil, and enable me to honor my Savior.

Charles H. Spurgeon, Daily Help  [electronic ed.] (Escondito, CA: Ephesians Four Group), July 5.

If You Love Jesus, You Will Love His Church

Posted by on 15 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Church, Timothy George

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Cor. 12:27

Biblically, the Church is the people of God, the body of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, and the household of God. If is true that, “the church is the fulfillment of the purpose for which God created the world” [Fisher Humphreys, Thinking about God: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 210.] That purpose is to have a people who are God’s own possession, a people who love and adore him. “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10 RSV).

In addition, the Church is the body of Christ, Origen stated, “The Church is Christ manifest in the flesh, as Jesus of Nazareth was God manifest in the flesh.”  Paul affirms this truth, “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it” (1 Cor. 12:20 NLT).

Third, the Church is to be Christ on the earth and reflect the character of its redeemer, then the Holy Spirit must be present to make these truths actual. Theologian Thomas Oden proclaimed, “The fundamental requisite of the church is the presence of Christ.” Thus, it is necessary, that the Holy Spirit be resident not only in individual believers, but also with the assembly of God. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16 NIV).

Last, the Church is the household of God, an ongoing institution, which is called to guard the deposit of faith. Missionary Bishop, Lesslie Newbigin affirmed that the Bible regards the Church as a living vibrant fellowship made real in a visible community existing throughout history. “If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15 RSV).

Therefore, the Church is God’s own possession, the life of Christ on earth, animated by the Spirit and a visible on-going community of believers. The Church is God’s creation, led by the Lord Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. To love Jesus is to love what he loves and what he loves is his Church.

The Church is the vineyard of the Lord, his heritage, his temple and his bride; even more she is his body, for which he has shed his precious blood and outside which there is no salvation. If one is not concerned for the church then martyrdom has no crown, charity is no longer a good work, and religious knowledge brings no wisdom. The person who does not love the Church does not love Jesus Christ.

Johannes Oecolampadius cited in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011), 41.

Her Abysmal Loneliness

Posted by on 14 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Helmut Thielicke

She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Mark 5:27-29

Loneliness is a dull, depressing feeling. We may feel a strong sense of emptiness, solitude, and isolation. The woman with a hemorrhage was an exceeding lonely lady. Her condition lasted twelve years, twelve years of uncleanness, twelve years of isolation, twelve years of being ostracized, and twelve years of despair. She turned to Jesus, he took her uncleanness, and gave her life. “And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease'” (Mark 5:34 ESV).

A moment ago, I spoke of the time-bound idea that a woman with a flow of blood was considered unclean and that she was therefore shunned. Even the slightest contact would transfer this uncleanness to objects and other people. To that extent she was the bearer of a contagion and people had to be on their guard against her. Therein lay her abysmal loneliness–a loneliness which categories are scarcely adequate to measure.

Only when we are clear about that will will we be able to grasp the frightful and dismay-producing truth that she must confess: By her touch she made Jesus of Nazareth unclean; she had infected him. More than that, from her magic-oriented point of view, it appeared that when the miracle occurred she was suddenly freed from the burden of her uncleanness but that burden was transferred to him. He had been taken it over from her.

Helmut Thielicke, How to Believe Again (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970), 61.

What Does the N.T. Mean by “Flesh”?

Posted by on 09 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Jerry Bridges, Sin

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Rom. 8:7-8

Recently, my wife talked with a young man who claimed to free from all sin. Obviously, this young man failed to read the Letter of First John, “”If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Also, he does not read the Apostle Paul correctly: Paul declares in both Romans and Galatians that our flesh is still with us until the resurrection from the dead.

Our fleshly, sinful nature takes our basic needs and turns them into obsessions (Rom. 8:1-8). Our flesh, that is our fallenness, yearns to govern us and divert us from intimacy with God. Our flesh cries out for attention and desires to rule us and others.

Our sinful nature is an idolatrous over-desire that arises from deep within our being: a heart that is afraid of disappointment, doubts that God will be faithful, worries about unmet needs, and angered over frustrated goals. The flesh takes elementary human desires and turns them into addictions, cravings, and fixations.

Discipline is not the favorite word of our flesh (Prov. 23:12). Discipline says to the flesh, “No more control.” Discipline looks to the Holy Spirit to work in us what Christ did for us on the Cross. The Holy Spirit imparts sanctifying grace to enable us to say, “no,” to worldly passions and unrighteous desires (Titus 2:11-14).

Freedom from our sin nature is the reward of disciplined trust in the Holy Spirit. We depend on his grace to enable us to make godly choices and there we find release from the flesh’s bondage. The Holy Spirit empowers us to overcome the flesh’s grip: he puts to death its passions and desires (Gal. 5:16-21).

Our flesh is always searching out opportunities to gratify itself according to the particular sinful desires each of us has.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by-Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 273.

 

Theological Liberalism

Posted by on 07 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: H. Richard Niebuhr, The Cross

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4 ESV

Theological Liberalism attempts to reconcile Christianity with the values of the modern world: cultural positivism, human goodness, and individual autonomy. Liberalism tends to emphasize personal ethics over theological certainty, individual experience over Scriptural authority, and temporal values over eternal absolutes. H. Richard Niebuhr (September 3, 1894 – July 5, 1962) described theological liberalism as . . .

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a world without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.

H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (Wesleyan, 1988).

How to Destroy a Church

Posted by on 05 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Church, D. A. Carson


I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

1 Corinthians 1:10

The historic church is the people of God who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, justified by faith in him, and are equipped by the Holy Spirit to do the words and works of Christ and it is a visible community made known by the bishops in apostolic order who by the grace of God minister the sacraments of Christ to the people of God.

The problem is that frequently, we do not act like God’s own blood-bought people. We allow hurt feelings, personal agendas, misunderstandings, false expectations, etc., to deter us from our unity found in Christ. We forget that we are all sinners redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb and that none of us are better than any one of us.

The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it-admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul.

Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God.

Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism-all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), 83-84.

HT: Justin Taylor

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