Our Perplexing Trials

“These things (the Bible) are written for our learning, for the same wisdom that ordered the paths which God’s saints trod in Bible times orders the Christian’s life today.  We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now.  What do they mean?  Simply that God in His wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and He is dealing with us accordingly.

Perhaps He means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions.  Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us.  Perhaps He wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit.  Perhaps His purpose is simply to draw us closer to Himself in conscious communion with Him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest.”

– J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Faith that acts

Today I was watching First and Ten on ESPN and they had an interview with San Fransisco 49er’s running back Glen Coffee who, after just one year in the NFL, announced his retirement from the game.  The first impression I had was, “man this guy must really suck at football to quit after his first year!”, but I couldn’t be further from the truth!  Turns out Coffee was giving up football, all the fame, money, and personal benefits that come with it, to pursue the call of ministry that God had placed on his heart.  He did well in his interview to state why he was walking away from the game saying that he had felt God calling him to change directions since he had been in college.  Coffee left college early to enter the NFL draft and played as a backup RB for the 49er’s.  But his faith in God’s call on his life and his passion for ministry led him to make a very tough decision.  His boldness and the fact that he was not afraid of sharing his passion on national television.  I believe he glorified God through his interview and it was great to see a young man who could just as easily been seduced by the worldly snares of football, give it all up to serve his savior Jesus Christ!  I’m trying to find a video of the ESPN interview but no success yet.  If I find it I will definitely post it.  Grace and peace.

We will serve the LORD

Joshua 24:15, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation”, says Exodus 34:6 about the God whom Joshua declare his service of.    In Joshua 24:15, Joshua declares that he will serve the LORD over the gods of the people whom Israel just conquered.  What a mighty display of the LORD’s power and might that He would give His chosen people a land of their own won by force by a people as small as Israel!  The glory and power of the LORD was displayed throughout the land of Canaan in those days as nations were conquered and subjected to Israel.  But yet some of Israel did not choose to serve the LORD like Joshua did.  They were content to continue in rebellion and serve the gods of their neighbors, the heathen gods of the Amorites.

Every day we are faced with a choice of whom we are going to serve, whether it be false gods and sin, or the true living God of the universe.  We not only have the mighty works of the LORD to show us the truth but we have the cross to show us who is worthy of our servitude.  God is so deserving of our service and trust because He sent His own Son to the cross to atone for our sins.  Jesus paid for the sins of serving other gods before we repented and believed so God says, “Repent and believe”, and “love the LORD you God with your whole heart”.  God is justly deserving of our lives in service and trust because of what He’s done for us on the cross in redeeming us from lives of sin and rebellion and making us a part of His kingdom and granting us eternal life.  To Him be all the glory and honor and praise for the mighty work He has done in our lives!  May you choose today to serve the LORD your God and Savior over sin and false gods!  The grace of Jesus Christ be with you today and always!

He lived without sin

I spent some time on the internet yesterday watching parts of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and I had a very profound moment in my thoughts of Jesus and my sin.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus was fully God and fully man on earth and that He managed to live without sin in every aspect of His life.  I’ve always known that to be true but the full magnitude of that truth hit me while I was watching those clips.  In particular, the scene where Jesus is carrying His cross on the way to Golgatha. Our Lord has already been beaten severely and has had a crown of thorns pressed onto His head.  He is barely recognizable from the torture and is now forced to carry an immensely heavy piece of lumber for several hundred yards.  All the while angry mobs follow Him and shout profanities at Him and try to get their hands on Him to strike Him.  Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross several times and barely has the strength to get back on His feet.  Here is where my moment came:  so pervasive is the nature of sin and so desperately it tries to gain mastery over us that it penetrates every aspect of our lives.  Not just our actions and deeds, but our thought as well.  The success of the atonement depends on one crucial element: that Jesus be guilty of no sin Himself.

The concept of substitution is one man’s guilt-free life for another’s guilty life.  I’m sure Satan was trying desperately to gain control over Jesus’ mind during that long walk to Golgatha, because if he did the redemptive mission of Jesus’ life would amount to nothing.  All that needed to happen was for Jesus to think one unrighteous thought towards the angry mob or His torturers in malice, hatred, self-righteousness, or pride and the mission would have been a failure.  There would have been no atonement for sins, no resurrection, no forgiveness of sins, and mankind would be forever lost and without hope for all eternity.  Because if the Son of God had a single stain of sin on Him He would never be able to atone for anything and He Himself would be damned as well.  But this reminds me that the power of sin is great and terrible, but the power of God is far greater than sin and it overcomes sin and Satan.

My own sin is constantly waging war against me and fighting to gain mastery over my soul (while I was writing this I got angry at my web browser and WordPress because every time it tried to save this post my computer froze up) and it follows me around wherever I go.  But Jesus Christ conquered my sin on the cross because He lived with no sin.  He was silent before His accusers like a lamb is silent before its shearers.  2 Cor. 5:21 says,

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him

Let your soul rejoice today in the knowledge that Jesus overcame your curse because He Himself was cursed by God in order that you might go free and come to know your Savior!  His unfailing love for us sustained Him in His darkest moments before His death and now in light of all that His death has accomplished for us, let your most intimate love for Him carry you through your darkest moments and your happiest of days, through all your peaks and valleys!

Radical love

Jesus said in Luke 6:32, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.”  The difference between human love and divine love is so incredible that it’s hard for us to fathom how to love people divinely.  It is so contrary to our nature to love those who act wickedly towards us because our love has conditions attached to it.  In order for us to love someone we have to see them as worthy of our love.   This usually requires them to be nice, gracious, or merciful to us, or we might like their personality, ect…The point is, in order for us to love someone, they must act, think, or behave favorably toward us first.  We are so fickle about who we choose to love and not love that we forget Jesus’ words in this passage that we ought to love everyone, even those who don’t love us.  Forget the conditionals upon which we base our love, which by the way is here today and gone tomorrow, and start to love people the way God loves people.  If God based His love on similar conditions that require us to act or think affectionately towards Him God would love absolutely no one  on the planet.  That, however, is not the case because we have verses in the Bible that tell us things about God such as “God is love” (among other things).  The love that Jesus speaks about in Luke 6 is love for all men and women as fellow image-bearers of God and love that softens their hearts to show them the Gospel.  Regardless of how people treat us and say of us we are called to replicate God’s love to our fellow humans.  Every human who is lost is exactly where we were before God grabbed a hold of us and we need to help them see the light of the Gospel by showing them God’s love the same way we were shown God’s love and won over our hearts.  The love of God is radical in human terms and needs to be spread by His ambassadors on this planet.  Our lost brothers and sisters are in desperate need of experiencing God’s radical love to save their souls.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen you to be a herald of God’s love and the Gospel to the multitude of lost souls out there.  Preach the Word!

Hope for sinners

The connection between the sinner and the Savior is trust, not improvement of behavior. That comes later. It’s this order that gives hope. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The basis of this wild and wonderful hope (the ungodly justified) is “Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, literal translation). Through faith alone God counts the ungodly as righteous because of Christ. “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let all who are paralyzed by the weight of sin and the powerlessness to change turn in here.        – John Piper

It’s totally crazy how just by believing in and trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, all a man’s sins are nullified.  Not just nullified, but taken away to make room for righteousness.  It may not be physical righteousness that is apparently evident and manifested immediately, but righteousness in God’s eyes.  The fact that God looks past the sins of people and counts them as righteous is mind-blowing!  In His divine forbearance, God left the sins of people unpunished so that He would show His holiness, righteousness, and anger towards sin in one place, in a definitive way; the cross of Christ.  For those who trust in the great act of self-glorification and love by God, there is a promise that they are forgiven by God and will at the end of their life be saved from the wrath to come.  Bless the Lord for His holiness, righteousness, and love!

Oh sing to the LORD a new song!

For He has done marvelous things;

His right hand and His loly arm have gained Him the victory.

The LORD has made known His salvation…

…Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;

Break forth in song, rejoice before the LORD, the King.   – Psalm 98:1-2, 4