April 2012

Monthly Archive

A Life Shot Through with the Holy Spirit

Posted by on 25 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Holy Spirit, Oswald Chambers

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:4

The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life: fully God working in the world bestowing life, empowering for service, purifying hearts, providing God’s presence, and guiding God’s people. Personally, the Holy Spirit does in us what Christ did for us on the cross. The Spirit makes Christ known by allowing Christ’s life to flow in and through us. We no longer have to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” for all believers can know will of God by the personal presence, purity, and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has been given; Jesus has been glorified; the waiting depends upon our fitness, not upon God’s providence. The reception of the Holy Ghost depends entirely upon moral preparation. I must abide in the light which the Holy Ghost sheds and be obedient to the word of God; then when the power of God comes upon such obedience there will be the manifestation of a strong family likeness to Jesus.

It is easier to be swayed by emotions than to live a life shot through with the Holy Spirit, a life in which Jesus is glorified. The Holy Spirit is absolutely honest, He indicates the things that are right and the things that are wrong.

Oswald Chambers, The Love of God (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996) [paragraphing mine].

The Logos of God

Posted by on 23 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Incarnation, Tim Keller

In the beginning was the Word (Greek: logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:1-2

Incarnation means enfleshment: Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. The great act of God: the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took upon himself our human nature. Incarnation means that God is with us, near us, transforming us. The incarnation means that God cared and came among us to deliver us from ourselves. The Apostle John describes the Son of God as the Divine Logos who came among us, not just to show us how to live, but to be life itself (John 1:15).

To the Greeks the ‘logos’ was the purpose or meaning of existence. To the Jews the ‘logos’ was God’s Word — the truth or moral absolutes at the foundation of all reality. In the beginning of his gospel John addresses both world-views when he speaks of a divine ‘Word’ that was the source and foundation of all creation.

But then he says something that floods the banks and bursts the boundaries of all human categories. He tells Jews that the truth and self-expression of God has become human. He tells Greeks that the meaning of life and all existence has become human.

Therefore, only if you know this human being will you find what you hoped to find in philosophy or even in the God of the Bible. The difference [between any other great figure and Jesus] is the difference between an example of living and one who is the life itself.

Charles Williams, quoted by Timothy Keller in Gospel Christianity, Course 1 (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 49-50.

HT: Of First Importance

Christ in the Christian

Posted by on 19 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Abiding in Christ, Major Ian Thomas

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory

Col 1:27 NLT

Christ in the Christian is a faith-grounded, Spirit-empowered, Christ-dependent, heart-surrendered, fruit-bearing, trial-overcoming, daily-sustained life (Gal. 2:20). “Christ in You,” is another way of describing the life of abiding in Christ (Col. 1:27), or praying continually (1 Thes. 5:17), or enjoying the life of faith (Heb. 11:6).

Abiding in Christ is daily experiencing the presence of Christ and allowing him to live his life in and through us (1 John 4:9). Christ lives the Christian life in us because by our efforts alone, we cannot produce righteousness, bear fruit, or convince the lost (Gal. 5:22-25).

Abiding in Christ is holding steady in the presence of Christ trusting his promises by faith irrespective of the challenges, trials, and tribulations of our lives. Remaining in faith and looking to Christ to be our sufficiency in the midst of our inadequacy keeps us in his constant, conscious presence. Only by abiding can our ministry efforts have an outcome that will last for eternity (John 15:1-5).

Abiding in Christ is an on-going conversational relationship with Jesus Christ which is maintained through continual dependence on the Holy Spirit and a constant looking to God’s grace for power in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Qualities of abiding in Christ are gratitude in life disappointments, sweetness in God’s presence, and joy in the daily, mundane tasks of life.

To get light from an oil lamp, filling it first with oil is entirely reasonable. To get a car to provide you with transportation, filling the tank with gas is completely logical. In the same way, a divine logic affirms that obtaining righteousness from a man or woman happens only when that person is filled with God. Oil in the lamp, gas in the car . . . and Christ in the Christian. It takes God to be a man, and that is why it takes Christ to be a Christian, because Christ puts God back into man, the only way we can again become functional.

Major W. Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006), 21.

 

Heartbeat of a Godly Person

Posted by on 18 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Abiding in Christ, Jerry Bridges

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

The Christian life is a paradox. We know God, yet we yearn to experience more of his love, more of his mercy, and more of his holiness. We have experienced God, yet we hunger for deeper and deeper encounters with his Holy Spirit. We have tasted of the goodness of God, yet we desperately desire to penetrate deeper into Jesus, his tenderness, and compassion. This paradox is the heartbeat of a godly man or woman, our soul is satisfied in Christ, yet never complacent. The believer’s heart and spirit is pursuing, desiring and thirsting for more and more of Jesus. The godly man or woman never stops yearning, hungering, and seeking after God.

This is the heartbeat of the godly person. As he contemplates God in the awesomeness of His infinite majesty, power, and holiness, and then as he dwells upon the riches of His mercy and grace poured out at Calvary, his heart is captivated by this One who could love him so. He is satisfied with God alone, but he is never satisfied with his present experience of God. He always yearns for more.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by-Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 41.

Precious Christ in the Midst of Precious Trials

Posted by on 17 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Jesus Christ, Trials

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

1 Pet. 5:10

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin affects every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. As a result, disappointment, problems, and trouble are significant ingredients of our everyday existence. 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 as expected. Can we trust a precious Christ who disciplines us for our good or complain that life is not fair? It is important to recognize in our trials not whether we are suffering, but whether we know the Suffering Servant who has come into the world to meet us in our pain. Because of the Cross of Christ, we can trust that God has something bigger and better and more precious 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. Christ is precious for he makes every trial valuable by transforming for character and revealing himself in the midst of our suffering and trials.

Oh, let your heart and Christ’s heart be one heart! Receive as precious everything that flows from the government of Jesus. A precious Christ can give you nothing but what is precious. Welcome the rebuke—it may be humiliating; welcome the trial—it may be painful; welcome the lesson—it may be difficult; welcome the cup—it may be bitter; welcome everything that comes from Christ in your individual history. Everything is costly, salutary, and precious that Jesus sends.

Octavius Winslow, The Precious Things of God

Casper, the Friendly Ghost (A Prophetic Word)

Posted by on 14 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Francis Frangipane, Holy Spirit, My Sermons

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

Matt 10:38-39 NLT

Many believers have adopted an entitlement mentality: we wrongly think that God owes us something. We believe that God is obligated to give us a life free from disappointment, struggle, emotional hardship, and chronic physical pain. We will not admit it, but we feel that God ought to bless us with the good life, a life where all our middle-class dreams come true. Especially if we pray, tithe, and attend church regularly, God should make sure all our hopes and desires happen exactly as we have planned.

If our life plans and expectations don’t materialize according to our timetable, we feel that we have been wronged by God. We demand an explanation, and that explanation better come right now and be a good one. If an explanation does not arrive (and it never does), we grow angrier and angrier with God. We feel that we have been wronged, terribly wronged by God.

We see ourselves as victims of God’s unfaithfulness. We stagnate spiritually, we fail to trust his promises, we are easily swayed by the world. We stop growing spiritually and refuse to trust God with the simplest of matters. We wallow in our self-pity.

What is the answer? Repentance is the answer. The problem is not God, the problem is our selfish hearts. We expect God, others, and the church to cater to our every need. We expect an easy life instead of the disciple’s call to be a Jesus-follower through the pain and disappointments of life (Matt. 10:37-39). Christ bids us to “come and die” to ourselves, the world, and all our expectations (John 12:24). We must stop whining, complaining, and pitying ourselves (Phil. 2:14). We must take up Christ’s cross and follow him wherever he desires to lead (Rev. 14:4).

We should stop pretending that the Holy Spirit is Casper, the friendly ghost, who is here to meet all our needs, wants, and desires. We must fall on our knees and ask the Holy Spirit to overwhelm us by purging us with his purifying fire. We need the Holy Spirit to cleanse our hearts, check our motives, and mature us on the path of self-denial and suffering (Rom. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-13).

The church for too long has followed Casper, the friendly ghost, instead of seeking the fire of the Holy Ghost. We have turned limp at the thought of our own cross; we faint when we think of suffering, sacrifice or self-denial. Beloved, it is time to embrace the fire of God’s Presence. It is the fire that purifies our sacrifice.

Francis Frangipane, “Francis Frangipane Quotes” 

Why We Are Liturgical

Posted by on 12 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Liturgy

 

And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, athe Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Acts 13:2–3 NASB

Liturgy means, “the work of the people,” but that definition gives little insight into why we do liturgy and why it is important. Liturgy is an ordered service of worship that includes the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, and the experience of the Word (i.e., Holy Eucharist): these elements bring us, the people of God, into the presence of God. The liturgy ushers us into the presence of God, so that, we might encounter afresh the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are liturgical because it is ancient, holy, participatory, cross-centered, and God-centered. Liturgy develops a consistency in our worship, discipleship, and spiritual growth. Liturgy is is not an end in itself, but an ancient pattern of worship that magnifies Christ and his finished work on the cross.

At the church where I serve, we kneel to confess our sins.  We chant a Kyrie, the Sursum Corda, and many of the ancient canticles of the church (Te Deum,Gloria) as part of our musical ascent into God’s presence.  We use Collects, sing the Lord’s prayer each week, say or sing a creed.  The pastors who lead worship wear white robes and stoles whose colors change with the liturgical seasons.  We have seasonally-colored paraments on the pulpit and table.  We are coming to the end of a Lenten season, and we will be telling people over the next several weeks that we are still celebrating Easter, and then we will have an Ascension service.

We believe that all of these practices are biblically-based and edifying for the church.  We believe it is better for a liturgical minister to be marked with a white robe than for him to be dressed in a suit or a Genevan black gown, better to observe the church calendar than not.  These practices are not a matter of taste or merely for aesthetic appeal (though they have their aesthetic appeal), nor are they mere window-dressing.  Though we don’t think that white robes  or observing the church seasons or chanting are of the esse of the church, we believe that they promote the bene esse of the church.  We think these are means for deepening the worshiper’s and the church’s encounter with the Triune God.

Peter Leithart, “On Not Being Afraid of Becoming “Episcopalian”

Common Mistakes in Hearing God

Posted by on 10 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Hearing God, J. I. Packer

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Col. 3:15 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 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 rarely involves hearing an audible voice, the Holy Spirit mostly leads through a nudging, quiet, gnawing impression in our spirits. Often, the Holy Spirit uses “sanctified reasoning” and “the peace that passes all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7) to lead us. Not every word from the Lord need be dramatic or overtly supernatural.

We must be careful when we feel “leadings of the Spirit,” caution should be our watchword. Our moods can mislead, our emotions are fickle, and our impressions change with the weather. Our sense of guidance must be saturated with the Word, our direction needs to be affirmed by spiritual leadership, committed friends, and loving family members. Our prayer time needs to be focused, deliberate, and yielded. Laying our desires, wants, and ambitions at the foot of the cross will protect us self-deception.

In the late nineteenth century . . . it became common among evangelicals to expect something . . . startling . . . whenever far-reaching decisions had to be made, particularly with regard to career and marriage. People hoped and prayed for, and expected, some sort of supernatural indication from God as to what they should do, and in its absence they felt obliged to say, “Well, I haven’t received my guidance yet.” What kind of indication was being looked for?

At the very least, a powerful feeling of “rightness” in connection with one of the options, or possibilities, between which one was trying to decide. But was their expectation of guidance by distinctive feeling, or vision, or voice, in such cases really warranted? Moses, Paul, Gideon, and Amos were being directed to forms of service that they themselves never would have dreamed. Therefore, only through a conscious encounter could God communicate to them the task he had in store for them. Decisions about whether, or to whom, to commit oneself in marriage or whether to offer [oneself] for the pastorate, at home or abroad, hardly come in that category. Expecting special, supernatural direction for these and similar decisions was surely a mistake . . . .

Certainly, the fallout from the mistake, if mistake it was, has been decidedly unhappy: bewilderment, depression, guilt, inaction, desperate dependence on inner urges, random decisions at the end of the day—all because no supernatural indication of this kind of desire has been given. The root of the mistake, it appears, was twofold: (1) an underlying mistrust of Christian reasoning, as not in itself a sufficiently spiritual activity, and (2) an undue reliance on significant gusts of emotion, whether euphoric or gloomy, to show how one stood with God in relation to this or that particular problem. . . .

Yet the way to pray about these matters has not really changed. With regard to a career, the proper prayer is: “Give me clarity as to what line of work I can happily follow for life, should the form of employment with which I start last for life.” And with regard to marriage, the proper prayer is: “Give me clarity as to whom I can loyally and wholeheartedly love for life, assuming many years together before death brings a parting.” The answer to both prayers will be, precisely, the clarity that is asked for, and the sign of its attainment will be an inner peace that says in effect, “You need not churn over this matter in your mind any more; now you know, so you can proceed.”

J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012).

Adopted into God’s Family

Posted by on 07 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Adoption, Resurrection, Sinclair Ferguson

 


God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Eph. 1:5 NLT

In Roman law, the patriarch of the family (pater familias) who did not have an heir could engraft another male into his family line by adoption. The adopted son would have all the rights and privileges of a biological child. The family’s leadership, business, finances, reputation, etc., would all pass to this adult male son who had been given this new status as heir of the family.

In spiritual terms, adoption is the act whereby God makes his people his children, members of his family (Eph. 1:5). By spiritual adoption, believers are accepted in Christ and thereby receive all the riches of Christ’s work and glory. Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ by being born from above (John 1:12). Our adopted status means that in and through Christ, God loves us as he loves his one and only Son. The Lord chooses to bless us now with Christ’s spiritual riches and will share with us all the glory of Christ in heaven (Rom. 8:17, 38–39).

We are adopted into God’s family through the resurrection of Christ from the dead in which he paid all our obligations to sin, the law, and the devil, in whose family we once lived. Our old status lies in his tomb. A new status is ours through his resurrection.

Sinclair Ferguson, Children of the Living God (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 37.

HT: Of First Importance

It Should Have Happened to Me

Posted by on 06 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: Exchanged Life, Good Friday, The Cross

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a ulamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Isa. 53:7

A just judgment that is what we deserve: our selfishness, pride, and anger have pained God and hurt others. Without a reason why, we run roughshod over others needs, we ignore God’s commands, we indulge our passions, and demand our way no matter the cost. Even when others are hurting more, need compassion, and help, we want our way, or no way.

Punishment is what is required for our self-indulgent behavior, conceited attitude, and insensitive actions. Yet, Christ took our place, bore our judgment, and suffered our well-deserved punishment. Christ’s sufferings should have happened to us, but he paid the price for our selfishness and pride. The cross should have happened to us, but out of love, Christ bore our just judgment.

Every time a Jewish man watched the priest slaughter a sacrificial lamb for him and his family, he knew that an innocent, beautiful creature was taking their place–suffering the fate they should they should have suffered for their sins. There could be no escaping the awareness that the magnitude of their sin required such a death. Just before the sacrifice, the worshiper who presented who presented the lamb laid both of his hands on it. By his touch, he signified that he understood the exchange: What happened to the lamb should have happened to me. 

Jesus Christ is God’s Lamb for you and me. And as we come to the cross, let us come humbly, laying trembling hands upon the Lamb. He will hear us whisper through our tears: “What happened to you, Lord Jesus, should have happened to me.”

Let us remember, too, that one day–and for all eternity thereafter–this sinless, spotless Lamb who was slain will reign–receiving all praise, honor, glory, and power.

Michael Card, A Violent Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000), 129.

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