Thursday, August 14, 2014
There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God. The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Holy God, I have dedicated my life to You, yet grieve that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience; so much attached to pleasures, no negligent of things spiritual; so ready to gratify my desires, so slow to nourish my soul; so greedy for present delights, so indifferent to lasting blessedness; so find of idleness, so wary of labor; so eager for recreation, so slack at prayer; so lofty in my profession, so low in my practice; so severe with my neighbors, so indulgent with myself; so eager to find fault, so resentful of criticism; so weak in adversity, so self-satisfied in prosperity; so helpless apart from You, yet so willing to be committed to You. Help me to be more conformed to Your holiness, that I may truly grow in my faith, for Your glory, Amen.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Who is Jesus? Our Savior; He is not our Judge. Why did He come here? Not to condemn, but to bear our condemnation. The reason Jesus didn’t come to judge is simple: we stand already judged…due to our sinful nature, we are broken people in need of forgiveness. We are born in sin. Adam’s sin is passed on to all his descendents. But pardon is readily available; all we need do is look to Jesus and receive it. Pardon is a gift that is often refused. Some choose to remain in darkness. They either deny sin, deny their sinful condition, or claim they only want their “just deserts.” Not me--I know what I deserve, and I want mercy! It is frightening to think that people will turn their back on salvation. People judge themselves. C.S. Lewis said that Hell has a door locked on the inside.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Master Musician, we come to sing Your praises and to reflect Your creativity. Some say You sung creation into existence; You have certainly given us a song. Music is as much a part of battle as armor and armaments. Trumpets, fifes, drums, and bagpipes have rallied troops on the battlefield; and in spiritual warfare we express our faith in song to do battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We sing resurrection melodies in triumph over sin and death, singing the triumphs of Your grace. Renew in us O Lord a melody in our hearts to overcome the trials we face, and to triumph in spite of all that is around us. This we pray, in Your thrice-holy Name, Amen.
Friday, April 18, 2014
We’re in the Upper Room, hearing that Jesus plans to give His life for us. And we think that we have just entered an age of grace, which did not previously exist, which was alien to Old Testament times, which was not realized till Jesus. Yet in a sense, people in BC and AD both found salvation the same way--by grace. Jesus was the reality to which the sacrificial system had pointed. The OT gives us the foundation; the NT the fulfillment. How did the sons of Abraham obtain salvation? How were they pardoned? By living a holy life? Not possible. Israel clung to two things: One, that they were children of the Covenant, God’s chosen people; …and second, a system of atonement established by God--the Temple sacrifices for sin. Israel did not believe they could ever be “good enough.” But with a ritual in place, their sins were covered. What mattered then was how to live as God’s people. Why were Temple sacrifices necessary? Because sin cannot be overlooked. It must be punished. That was long ago. We may ask, “So what? What’s does that mean to us?” We live, not under God’s displeasure, but His acceptance, in spite of our many imperfections. This changes everything. It gives us hope. All because of grace. And what is grace? It is love that pays a price. Here’s how it worked… In the OT lambs were offered upon the altar. In the NT the Lamb of God offered Himself, upon the cross. That which normally was obtained by the Temple is now obtained through Jesus, the New Temple. He did for Israel what Israel could not do for itself. He was all that the Temple stood for and more. God promised in the OT to “tabernacle” with His people; literally to “dwell” with them. That was ultimately fulfilled, not with a building, but through Jesus. He is the place where Heaven and Earth join together. By claiming He was the Temple, Jesus meant that He was the means by which God was present with Israel. When the reality appeared, the Temple was needed no more…and thus in 70 AD it was destroyed. In Jesus the glory of the Lord has been revealed, and that glory has a human face. N.T. Wright points out, “Jesus is not only the Temple in person, but the one in whom everything that would normally happen in the Temple is fulfilled, completed, accomplished…All the functions of the Temple--festival, presence, priesthood, and sacrifice--have passed to Jesus.” Grace existed in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; grace came to completion in Christ, and grace will be with us all our days. Grace matters. We’re not alone and on our own; it all doesn’t depend on us. We live by the grace Jesus supplies. What a relief! How sweet the sound!
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Golf teaches people many wonderful life lessons. Among them are these: patience, humility, gracious winning (rare), graceful losing, and “the mulligan”. For those not familiar with the golfing term "mulligan" don’t look it up in the official rules of golf. You won’t find it. A mulligan is a golfing term for a "do-over." You make a bad shot, and sometimes your partner will give you a chance to make amends. Someone wrote a book recently about Presidents and golf. JFK was nearly a professional golfer, but didn’t want people to know it. LBJ used the game of golf to practice politics. And Bill Clinton perfected the mulligan--he would challenge the limits of his fellow players’ patience and good favor by asking for dozens of mulligans in a round of golf. In the Bible, we have a spiritual mulligan. We call it grace. I John 1:9 reminds us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." A spiritual mulligan is there for the taking. We mistakenly think we have to be good enough to make it to Heaven, to deserve God’s favor. Let’s say that it takes 100 points to get to Heaven. How many points would you give Mother Teresa? Maybe 85. Saddam Hussein? 5 at best. How many would you give yourself? Jesus makes up the difference. A man got to the Pearly Gates and was told of this “system”, that he’d need 100 points to make it in. He said that he’d been faithful to his wife of over 50 years of marriage, and St Peter said, “That’s 3 points.” He said he’d been active in his church and was a deacon. Peter said, “Very good, 2 points.” The man was getting nervous. He said, “I worked as a volunteer at a food pantry.” Peter smiled. “Another 2 points.” The man groaned. At this rate the only way I’m going to make it is by the grace of God.” Peter said, “You just got 100 points! Welcome in!” British author CS Lewis was attending a conference on world religions. A question came up about what made Christianity unique, different from other faiths. He answered, “That’s easy; it’s grace.” No other religion has grace—God giving us what we don’t deserve--Heaven, and not giving us what we do deserve—that “other place”. We can be grateful that God loves us in spite of our faults. He can do so because Jesus took our punishment. Our sins must be paid for—and they were—on the cross.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
We judge others by their actions; we judge ourselves by our intentions. We need to give others the benefit of the doubt. It’s easy to assume we know why people do what they do. We may be very wrong in our assessment; we don’t know their motives and we’re prone to misinterpret what we’ve heard (or think we've heard). Until we check things out, it might be best for us to say nothing, to reserve our judgment. A lot of times our problem is communication, which is going beyond what is said to what is meant. By not listening carefully, we may come to wrong conclusions over what people say and do. Thankfully, God forgives us because Jesus took the punishment we deserve. When we stand before the Almighty Judge we shouldn't want our “just deserts”; we should want mercy!