Heath Lambert – It has never, ever, in the history of the universe been more convenient to destroy your soul, to ruin your family , and to bring reproach on Jesus Christ and His church

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Heath Lambert – The Power of Purity

Romans 6:1-14

Dr. Heath Lambert, author of “Finally Free” at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

There’s all kinds of difficulties with sexual immorality in the church. Pornography is just one. But, I am convinced that it is the most significant in the church. And the reason I think that is because in the old days, if you wanted to commit adultery, you had to do it with someone who could tell on you. Pornography solves that problem. It makes it possible for you to commit adultery with a woman whose lips are as silent as the grave. With the onslaught of internet pornography, it’s possible for anybody that wants to, to run around with hundreds and thousands of women. “And nobody has to know” is the lie.

In the past, being vigilant to be pure, meant being vigilant against a physical woman. Today, the people in our churches have to be vigilant against a phantom. Al Cooper, a sociologist, he was commenting in the late 90′s about the problem of pornography, and he said, “The problem with internet pornography in particular is 3 things: (1) Affordability (2) Accesability (3) Anonimity

You can get it cheap and nobody has to know.” For someone who is trying to get away with sexual immorality, it’s a deadly combination. For somebody who likes drinking that kind of poison, the internet is so handy, it’s so tidy. And so deadly. It has never, ever, in the history of the universe been more convenient to destroy your soul, to ruin your family , and to bring reproach on Jesus Christ and His church. This is not an abstract problem. It’s not a problem with the people out there. This is your problem. (READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW THE VIDEO)

The Power of Purity – Romans 6:1-14 from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

I speak to you today with a great deal of urgency and I am aware that I speak to you today in a time of crisis. These are dangerous days in our culture, these are dangerous days in our church. The specific thing I want to talk about with regard to that danger today, right now is the danger that the church faces with the epidemic problem of pornography. Pornography is not the only problem that the church faces, it’s not even the only problem with sexual immorality that the church faces. There’s all kinds of difficulties with sexual immorality in the church. Pornography is just one. But, I am convinced that it is the most significant in the church. And the reason I think that is because in the old days, if you wanted to commit adultery, you had to do it with someone who could tell on you. Pornography solves that problem. It makes it possible for you to commit adultery with a woman whose lips are as silent as the grave. With the onslaught of internet pornography, it’s possible for anybody that wants to, to run around with hundreds and thousands of women. “And nobody has to know” is the lie.

In the past, being vigilant to be pure, meant being vigilant against a physical woman. Today, the people in our churches have to be vigilant against a phantom. Al Cooper, a sociologist, he was commenting in the late 90′s about the problem of pornography, and he said, “The problem with internet pornography in particular is 3 things:

  1. Affordability
  2. Accesability
  3. Anonimity

You can get it cheap and nobody has to know.” For someone who is trying to get away with sexual immorality, it’s a deadly combination. For somebody who likes drinking that kind of poison, the internet is so handy, it’s so tidy. And so deadly. It has never, ever, in the history of the universe been more convenient to destroy your soul, to ruin your family , and to bring reproach on Jesus Christ and His church. This is not an abstract problem. It’s not a problem with the people out there. This is your problem.

At the risk of making this a little too uncomfortable, I know that there are people in this room who are struggling with pornography. It is absolutely impossible that this room is clear of people who don’t have an issue here. I don’t know who, I don’t want to make you suspicious, and I don’t want you creeped out looking at the person next to you. The goal is not suspicion, but, the goal is vigilance. And if we’re going to have to be vigilant, we’re gonna have to face facts. So, I want to speak, not about porn in general, not about culture in general. I want to speak to YOU. If you’re here, I take it that God wants you to be here and this is something God would have you hear. And so, I want to speak specifically to men. It’s not because there aren’t women in the room. It’s not that women do not struggle with porn, because they most certainly do. But, I want to speak to the men in the room who struggle with pornography, because God has raised you up to be leaders in your home. God has raised you up to be leaders in your church. And here’s the hard and fast reality.

If our homes and our churches are to be pure, then they’re going to be led by men who are pure. And if they are not, then they won’t be. And I’m so concerned when I pray for you. And I pray for you all the time. I don’t even know most of you, but when I pray for you, as I do all of the time, I am praying that you will stop doing what you are doing, if you’re in here and you’ve got a problem with porn. And here’s what you’re doing: Every time you do it, you sip, sip, sip on poison and you are storing consequences. Maybe nobody knows right now. But they will. It is the nature of sin to ooze out of the boundaries that we create for it. My concern for you is: You’re here because you wanna be a Godly man. You wanna be a Godly husband, you wanna be a Godly father, you wanna be a Godly minister of Jesus in the church. And what you’re doing is destroying all of it. And you don’t even see it yet.

Now, if you’re here, I take it you know it. I don’t need to persuade you that this is wrong. You know it’s wrong. You know you’re living a lie. You know you need to quit. But you just don’t know how. And what you need is not a lecture about how it’s wrong, but you need somebody to give you some resources to be different. And this is what it’s about. This is me, talking to you, trying to give you some resources, because if we tell you, if anybody says, “Be pure. It’s a pornographic culture and you need to get pure!” Good luck with that. The reality is that being pure requires power. You have to have resources and energy if you are to be vigilant against the pornographic onslaught in which we are living. And, Romans 6 is about that power. And this is what the apostle Paul says (8:00):

Romans 6:1-14

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of uswho have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We wereburied therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, butpresent yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Here’s what Romans 6 is about. When you read commentators and you listen to preachers talk about Romans 5 and Romans 6, they regularly highlight the flow that exists between those 2 chapters. Though, pay attention, especially to Romans 5:20-21 - Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And what commentators regularly do, rightly, is they show how the connection between Romans 5 and Romans 6 does not lead to a lawless Gospel.

The hypothetical argument that the apostle Paul responds to is, “Ok, if I want grace, if I need grace, I can’t outsin my need for it. Grace always superabounds above my sins. So, whenever I sin, I get more grace. And so, hey, if I wanna experience God’s grace, I’ve got it. I’ll just keep sinning. And then, I’ll get more grace. So the ticket to more grace is more sin.” And the apostle Paul says, “No. Grace does not lead to more sin.” The argument is that grace ought to lead to obedience. That’s the argument of Romans 5-6. But, here’s what I’m eager for you to see this afternoon. I am eager for you to see that this is not just about rhetoric. I’m eager for you to see that what Paul is doing is more than building a strong argument. He’s doing more than unfolding logical progression.

In Romans 6, the apostle Paul is communicating power, for you to overcome, by the grace of Jesus, the sin that is in your life. And today, I specifically wanna apply it to the power that you have from Jesus to live a pure life, in the midst of porn everywhere. So, 3 things about Romans 6 that communicate power for purity:

1. The facts of Romans 6

I want you to see the power for purity in the facts of Romans 6. This passage communicates powerful information for you. Paul wants to provide facts that will fuel your vigilance to be pure. And he gives 2 facts for us to consider in the first 10 verses of Romans 6.

  1. First fact: You are dead. The whole point of the first 10 verses is that you’re dead to sin and you cannot live in it anymore. And your baptism is your signification of your reality. He says, “How can we, who died to sin, still live in it? Do you not know that all of uswho have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We wereburied therefore with him by baptism into death, Baptism is the point of reference because Paul doesn’t know any unbaptized believers. And so, he used the baptism as the point of reference to talk about our conversion. And he says, “If you’ve been baptized, you’re a Christian, and you’re dead. The death that you’ve died, what is that? Seems like I’m alive. Seems like my heart is beating. What is the death that I’ve died? Well, verse 6 says the death is the death of the old self being crucified.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. The death that we died in Christ is the death of our old self. Romans 5 sets up 2 heads for the human race. There is Adam, as a head. And, there is Christ as a head. And all of humanity is under one of those 2 heads. For believers, Adam signifies the old self, who they were before they came to know Christ. And, Jesus signifies the new self, stands for the new person, who they have become in Christ. The old self is who we were in Adam, so old person is a redemptive historical category, it’s a redemptive historical designation and it refers to the fact that our representative head used to be Adam. And he’s no longer our head. Jesus Christ is our head. Our old self was crucified to make something happen, in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing (verse 6).(16:56) Notes from the first half hour.

The Privilege of Persecution: Preparing the Body of Christ for Persecution by Edgar Reich

Edgar Reich held senior management positions at a Fortune 500 Company inCanada, Germany and Switzerland. He has led a $400 Million Company in Germany and was jointly responsible for a $900 Million European Company. Rev. Edgar Reich has been called by God and his Church to preach in Revival.

Rev. Edgar Reich is a Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior in April 2004. You can read more about his ministry here- http://www.revivalusacanada.org

Photo credit www.raymondibrahim.com by Raymond Ibrahim

A young woman was washing her clothes in a North Korea river. As she gathered her clothes, a little book fell from her clothes. It fell to the ground, and another person saw it, looked at the book and reported her. It was either a christian book, or it was a Bible. After being reported to the authorities, she was incarcerated. She was investigated, and her 60 year old father was also arrested. Several months later, and we believe there was also torture involved, there was a public show trial and 7 police officers were assembled with guns. The surrounding people were invited to come and see what would happen. Near by there were a public school and a high school. The children from those schools were asked to come and watch. And, as this young woman and her father stood before them, they were accused of the capital offense of treason. And the 7 police officers raised their rifles and shot both of them 3 times. Blood and brain matter scattered all over. (Photo credit m.facebook.com)

Please turn with me to the text for “Preparing Ourselves for Persecution”: Matthew 24:9-13

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Beloved, will your love grow cold when there’s opposition? Will your love grow cold when not everyone agrees with you? Will your love grow cold for the Lord when someone hurts you? Will your love grow cold, and will you then disbelieve the promises of God? God forbid!!! The disciples had asked the Lord Jesus Christ, in this passage, “What will be the sign of Your coming?” Such signs included persecution and the great tribulation. There are over 60 countries now, today, where the cross of Jesus Christ is no longer welcome. The United States of America is in the process of joining such countries.

I would like to cover 7 points about persecution.

  1. Persecution is certain
  2. The purposes of persecution. Why does God allow it?
  3. The privilege of persecution
  4. The promises of God during persecution
  5. The presence of Christ during persecution. Praise God you’re not alone. You’re never alone!
  6. Perseverance of the saints to the end, with patience, forgiveness, and love.
  7. Preparation for persecution

Photo credit www.routleylaw.com by Vanessa Routley

1. Persecution is certain, also in America and Canada

The message we read in Matthew foretells of a world wide persecution, where true christians are persecuted, perhaps tortured, and killed. And hated for the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus did not tell the disciples, His followers, in this passage: You will be exempted from such persecution. He does not even say you will be raptured so that you don’t have to face this, in this passage. He said, “You will even face the abomination of desolation, in Matthew 24:15. It refers to a coming world leader, it refers to antichrist. In America, we have these feelings that this can never happen here. “What are you talking about? God is love.” Of course God is love. He is such a loving God, and we will find out why it is even love to be persecuted.

In 2 Timothy 3:12 it says Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. You might say, “Well, I have not been persecuted yet. Praise God”. May I ask you, “May I ask you: Why not? Are you, perhaps, not living the Godly life that Scripture is speaking about?” After I got saved, I put my Bible on the side of my desk and the vice chairman walked in and said, “What is this? Are you out of your mind? You believe this kind of….” and I won’t tell you all of the words that were spoken. And the Holy Spirit said, “Be quiet. Say nothing”. And he went into a tirade against God, and the word of God, and myself. But, you know, the wonderful thing is that later on, when we asked to have a Bible study inside that corporation, he was the man that would approve or disapprove of us having christian fellowship inside that company. Do you know, the wonderful thing that happened is that God moved his heart, and we were able to have that fellowship.

I got a call from a friend that said, “Come and street preach with us in New York”. I said I would pray about it. I am called for revival, I don’t really think I’m into street ministry. And as I prayed, the Holy Spirit said, “Yes, go”. I prayed a second time, “Lord, I heard You wrong. What am I supposed to do?” “Go!” For serious decisions I always pray 3 times, “What am I supposed to do Lord?” “Go!” I went with some brothers. They had fasted for 40 days. I had fasted 1 day. We went out onto the streets of New York. We went to Ground Zero. I was standing there and passing out tracts. You know, the New Yorkers are pretty hard, and as people were walking by me, they were cussing at me, quietly. And, for the rest of the day, there were many who cursed. I asked my fellow Christians, they said no, it didn’t happen to them. Satan knew there was pride in me. At the end of the day I said, “God, they don’t want you and they don’t want me. They think I-m out of my mind. They think I’m a terrorist. I’m moved around, I’m shouted at. The police moved me around. Lord, Lord, they don’t want me.” And then, on the weekend, the Holy Spirit convicted me and the Holy Spirit came and asked me, “Do you really love people?” And I said, “Well, yes of course, God, I love people”. “Well, what about the people that oppose you a little?” And so, God convicted me mightily on that weekend. And so, I prayed, and I said, “Now, Lord, break my heart, show me your love for people, that I might know, I might understand. And, on Tuesday of the following week, I was standing at Ground Zero at 4:30, with 20,000 people rushing towards me, and all of a sudden, the sound disappeared. I couldn’t hear the people. I couldn’t hear the noise from Ground Zero, and the people were starting to walk towards me in slow motion. I was looking, and I didn’t understand. And then, I saw on their faces, I saw their need for money. I saw their need for pleasure, I saw their need to get home. I saw them wanting to be in their pools, wanting to have their drinks. I saw them wanting to have their cars, their family, their friends. But, there was no need for God in their faces. Yet, God says, “I love them”.  And, as I looked at them, I realized, I was looking at the walking dead, beloved. And my heart started to break and to weep. And then, all sound came back. The people were walking normally. And God, the Holy Spirit said in my heart, ” Their blood will I require from your hand. I love them. Why don’t you love them? You call yourself a christian?”.  Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and raise holy hands, but, why don’t you do as I say?”

Another time, I went out to the Staten Island Ferry, and the night before, I had a dream that I would be stabbed by a muslim, and I would be thrown over. I said, Lord, if the dream is from you, it’s alright. I’m gonna go. I’m gonna share the Good News on the Staten Island ferry.” Nothing happened that day. Satan tried to prevent me from going. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but, it’s all right.

Photo credit & for more sermons click www.sermonindex.net

The Number 1 cause of persecution is witnessing with your mouth.

You say, “Well, I live my life.” Good. That’s great. That’s wonderful. Live it good. In John 17, Jesus prayed for them to be one, as He and the Father are one, and for those to be one, that will hear through their words. So, you’ve got to add some words, beloved. Let them know the truth. In one of the worst Iranian prisons, a leader of a Christian group was told, “If you stop witnessing, we will let you all go”. The Christian thought about it and answered, “How can we deny such great, great, great salvation? Did you know your salvation is great and incredible? We live in a country where salvation means virtually nothing. We push it aside. We don’t want to save people on the streets. Even we, as Christians, have been affected by humanism and secularism. We do not understand the greatness of God and what He has done. That divinity came to rescue humanity.

Beloved, a great, incredible God, the Son of God gave His life so that we might live. What a wonderful, wonderful truth that is. And so, much has gone wrong in our respective countries, in North America because we do not witness. Persecution has now started in the United States and Canada. Certain parts of the Bible are considered flammable. Laws have been changed to permit gross sin. Please listen to this: Committed Christians are now classified with terrorists in the United States of America. The official policy of Homeland Security and the FBI is that committed Christians are classified as a danger to this country. You are classified with terrorists in the United States. Now, we must pray for our leadership. But, I also must tell you president Obama appears to admit that he is a muslim. But, God has placed this man in charge of this country. So you pray for him. You don’t oppose him. You pray for him, that God might intercede. For in all of the prayers in the Book of Acts, in the Gospels, in the letter, all of the New Testament, there is not a single prayer against their leadership. So, as Christians, we will love unconditionally. We will do what the government says we must do. But, we will not do it if it’s against God’s word (the Bible). (18:50)

2. The purposes of persecution. Why does God allow it?

Beloved, God loves mankind so very, very much. And, guess whom He has left as witnesses. Are you a witness? You’re supposed to be. Now, if God wants to convict those that do not yet believe, even persecutors, even those that are against Christians, whom might He use as a witness? Us. You and me. It is a testimony of our faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ. The purpose of it is new growth of others receiving salvation. Here is another story from North Korea:

A soldier was watching as a construction crew, also composed of soldiers, they demolished a building and they found a Bible in it. With the Bible, there  was also a list of 25 names. As they followed up with this list of 25 names, they rounded up a pastor, 2 assistant pastors, 2 elders,  and 20 Christians. They assembled them at the construction site, they brought in steam rollers. They told the leaders, “If you do not worship Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, you will die.  And beloved, that is also a picture of the antichrist in the future. That is what he will say, “If you don’t worship me, you will die”. But beloved, this “you will die”, is only in a temporal sense. It’s not for eternity. We do not put our faith in our circumstances. But, we put our faith in a loving, incredible God. And so, God permitted, as a testimony that some of these Christians should be killed. And 5 of them , the leaders, had to lie on the pavement, and then the steamrollers came and rolled over them. As their heads popped, and made a popping sound, many of the Christians fainted and fell to the ground. But, you know, there was new growth. There was new growth, because that soldier who watched, he became a Christian. The blood of the martyrs drenched the ground, but there was new growth. (SEE the actual NEWS ARTICLE on this story below the video)

Christian Bishop Polycarp (lived 69 – 155 A.D.), was a second century Christian of Smyrna. If you remember, Christ had talked to the church of Smyrna and had told them, “Do not fear any of those things that you are about to suffer”. This is Christ, speaking through the apostle John. ANd He’s saying, “Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested. And you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Life, forevermore, and a great reward. It is not the temporal, but the eternal. It is not the ‘now’, but, the ‘forever’. And so, we need not worry because Christ is with us, Christ is for us, Christ is in us. He says, “I’ll never leave you, or forsake you, whatever you have to go through. And so, this Christian bishop, Polycarp, he died as a martyr. He was bound and burned at the stake, but the fire would not touch him, the fire wouldn’t burn him. So, finally, the went over and they stabbed him to death. In Smyrna, the execution of Christians became so great, that hundreds of them are martyred at the same time. Yet, when the people saw the martyrdom of the Christians, and how they behaved in their faith, others became saved. Praise God! And those who had not believed (and were saved) outnumbered those that were being martyred. You give your life, for someone else to have life. You can start that now. You can put the old flesh to death.

The second reason God allows persecution: It refines us and tests us. You see, when we are in prison, we no longer have time to sin. And, when you’re all alone, you look to ‘from where cometh my help’. My help comes from the world. And, you have time alone with Him, with nobody to disturb you. It also tests your faith: Are you true in the faith? When you ask yourself, “Am I true in the faith?” Two Russian soldiers came to a little church in the middle of winter in Russia. And inside the church were about 12 people worshipping God. The door burst open and they saw 2 soldiers standing there with submachine guns. They walked in and said, “Now you Christians, we’re going to kill you if you don’t leave.” They stood in the middle with their submachine guns. Slowly, 6 people got up and walked out of the church. One of the soldiers went and closed the door behind them. He returned into the auditorium and both soldiers lay down their weapons. They said to the remaining 6, “Beloved brothers and sisters, we both are Christians too. We wanted to worship with true Christians”. Are you a true Christian? Would you give your life for someone else, that he might live?

Thirdly, persecution helps us to witness. Acts 8:1-4, in verse 1 ‘they were all scattered’, In verse 4 it says, “Those who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the word.A very surprising outcome. They were scattered. Do you know what scattered means? You lose all of your stuff. You lose all of your possessions, your job, your familyall of your surrounding friends. You can no longer stay there. You must leave. Be gone. You don’t know what you’re gonna eat the next day. And here they start to witness about the greatness of God. Does God have to scatter us first, before we share the truth of this great salvation? Perhaps, because we’re so stubborn, and we’re so selfish. And we say, “Why should I do what others don’t do?” There is only 1% that have read the Bible, and there is 1% only who witness faithfully and regularly. Perhaps it’s more here, but I believe a large majority of you are not witnessing regularly. (29:50)

3. The privilege of persecution

It is a cause of rejoicing when we are persecutedGod gives us eternal blessings. He gives us great rewards in heaven. He gives us a crown for eternity and He makes us shine like the stars forever. The Christians in North Korea pray, “Our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor. We want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus’ name. We want to wipe others’ tears away and comfort the suffering. We want to be ready to risk our lives because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians. We want to live our lives according to the standards set in God’s Word”.

4. The promises of God during persecution

  1. Matthew 5:10-12  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  2. Revelation 2:10  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful,even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
  3. Daniel 12:3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
  4. Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for theLord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  5. Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
  6. Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
  7. Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. I love you so much that I even count the hairs on your head. But, I also love the unbelieving and I might ask you to give your life, that others might live. (34:00)

5. The presence of Christ during persecution. 

Pastor Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison, and had 18 pieces of flesh cut out of him. He relates that during torture he forgot all. He could not remember Scripture, he could not remember sermons, he couldn’t remember anything. But, he said what he remembered was the presence of the indwelling Christ who comforted him. He said. “It was Christ, the Son of God, who got me through this time. He sustained me. He helped me through.” And in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Matthew 28:20 “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And, nothing can separate you from His love, even if you’re experiencing great, great persecution.

6. Perseverance of the saints to the end

1 Peter 4:12-13 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” It is not the temporal, it is the eternal. It is not the ‘now’, it is your future, beloved Christians. The glory of the future cannot be compared with what we might have to go through now.

7. Preparation for persecution

  • (a) We must repent of all sin and fear. Some of you here are still afraid. And the reason you’re afraid is because you believe Satan, not God. He puts this fear into you. It is not God, and so, you must repent. You must cry out to God and say to Him, Lord, Lord, this fear is overcoming me, I reject it in Christ’s name. I will believe you, that you will sustain me in my hour of need. I believe that you will not tempt me beyond that which I’m able to bear. Praise God.
  • (b) We must examine ourselves and see that we are in the faith. Beloved, if you’re not in the faith, you’re not able to withstand what is coming. So, if you are a nominal Christian, you should give your life to Christ. Repent of those ways, and do what the word of God says. So, examine yourself.
  • (c) There should be evidenced a personal relationship with Jesus. Do you walk with Him, do you talk with Him? Does He tell you you’re His own? There ought to be a personal relationship between you and your Savior.
  • (d) Practice forgiveness for those that hurt you. And you know there’s more hurt coming in the future, forgive everyone who has hurt you now. Forgive those in church that you cannot stand- someone who has a funny laugh, people in your family that get on your nerves, people at your job, at your office, at your school, at your university. Before you can love them, you need to forgive them.
  • (e) Practice love through the Holy Spirit. Apply Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Love them after forgiving them. Bless them. Do good for them. You know what the evidence is, when you have forgiven? When you do something good for them, the person that hurt you. That’s the evidence.
  • (f) Practice joy and humbleness. I wanna send all Christians to smile school. You’re so miserable. you’re so judgmental. You’re so sour. Why would I want to be a Christian like you? I don’t wanna be like you. But, give me a heavenly smile. Go to smile school with God. Ask for gladness, ask for joy to come back into your heart because you lost it. You see, when you fill up your life with the joys of this world,- football games, TV, internet, people out there, Broadway shows-. I know, when I fill up with the joys of this world, there’s no space left for the joys of the Lord. So talk in psalms and hymns. Fill up with the word of God.
  • (g) Practice witnessing. You need the Holy Spirit, you need love from the Holy Spirit. Be ready. Write a short testimony, with a verse, a Scripture in it, because, even if your testimony fails, the verse built into your testimony can never fail. Praise God because the Word of God shall not return void.
  • (h) Practice denying the flesh. Get along with less. Can you eat less? Can you get along without TV, without the internet? Can you do with less possessions? Would you lay down your life?
  • (i) Practice living the cross. The top of the cross is prayer. The bottom of the cross is the Bible. One arm is for witnessing, the other arm is for fellowship. And to learn to love your fellow Christian in church, love people at the office, at school. If you don’t love them, if you judge them even before you love them, they will never listen to you. So, use that part of the cross to have fellowship. And then, in the center of it is my relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And, it is also my place of sacrifice and surrender, where I lay down before God. The flesh profits nothing, the Spirit is life. So, let God the Holy Spirit work through you and things will change.

VIDEO by sermonindex

This was published in the New York Sun Newspaper in 2005

Korean Reds Targeting Christians

WASHINGTON – A woman in her 20s executed by a firing squad after being caught with a Bible. Five Christian church leaders punished by being run over by a steamroller before a crowd of spectators who “cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed.”

These and other “horrifying” violations of human rights and religious freedom in North Korea are reported in a new study by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, titled “‘Thank You, Father Kim Il Sung’: Eyewitness Accounts of Severe Violations of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in North Korea.”

The report, released yesterday, comes as President Bush is touring Asia, calling for increased political freedom. In remarks prepared for delivery early this morning in Japan, the president called on Red China to extend more freedom to its population of 1.3 billion. In an advance text of the speech, President Bush also extolled Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, as “a free and democratic Chinese society.” And the president noted North Korean human rights abuses while reassuring the Hermit Kingdom’s people.

“Satellite maps of North Korea show prison camps the size of whole cities,” Mr. Bush said. “We will not forget the people of North Korea.”

Yesterday on Capitol Hill the chairman of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Michael Cromartie, and two members of Congress who helped establish the commission, Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Chris Smith of New Jersey, called on Mr. Bush to include the specific findings of the North Korean report in his diplomatic discussions with Chinese and South Korean officials this week, and to urge leaders of both Asian nations to take a firmer stand against their communist neighbor.

Mr. Cromartie told The New York Sun after the event that senior administration officials at the National Security Council had been provided with an advance copy of the report so that Mr. Bush could raise particular human rights abuses with his Chinese and South Korean interlocutors.

Mr. Cromartie said yesterday during the study’s unveiling on Capitol Hill that the report was unique in its depth and breadth, and in the quantity of first-hand accounts, since it is notoriously difficult to obtain reliable information from inside North Korea, owing to the country’s complete isolation under the Kim dictatorship.

Among the first-hand reports are eyewitness accounts of Christians’ being executed for the underground practice of their faith.

Photo credit creative.sulekha.com

The study recounts, for example, how in November 1996 in North Korea’s South Pyongan province, a unit of the North Korean army was tasked with widening a highway connecting Pyongyang to a nearby port city. While demolishing a vacant house, soldiers found in the basement, hidden between two bricks, a Bible and a list of 25 names. Among the list were individuals identified as a Christian pastor, two assistant pastors, two elders, and 20 parishioners who were identified by their occupations.

Hunted down at their workplaces by military police, the 25 Christians were rounded up and detained without any formal judicial procedure. Later that month, the parishioners and their clergy were brought to the road construction site, where spectators had been arranged in neat rows to observe the public execution of the pastor, assistant pastors, and elders. According to a report based on an eyewitness account, the five church leaders “were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller,” accused of subversion and of being Kiddokyo, or Protestant Christian, spies.

The 20 parishioners were detained near their clergy, and watched, along with the assembled audience, as the five Christian leaders were told they could escape death if they denied their faith and pledged to serve only Kim Jong Il and his father, the first dictator of communist Korea, Kim Il Sung. According to the eyewitness, the clergy remained silent.

For their steadfast belief, the Christians were executed. According to the report, “Some of the fellow parishioners assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.”

Another account contained in the report says that on a summer day in North Korea in 1997, a young woman was washing clothes in a tributary of the Tumen River when she dropped a small Bible she had hidden amid the laundry. Spotted by a fellow washerwoman, the girl was reported to North Korean authorities on the suspicion that she was engaging in an exercise of thought or religion condemned by the state. The girl, believed to be in her 20s, and her father, estimated to be around 60, were arrested by local national security police and imprisoned for three months.

One morning, they were taken to a public market area, where, after a brief show trial, the father and daughter were condemned as traitors to the North Korean nation and its communist dictator, Kim Jong Il. The father and daughter were then tied to stakes a few meters from where they had been “tried,” and, before an assembly of schoolchildren, were riddled with bullets by seven policemen who fired three shots each into the pair. According to a report drawn from eyewitness accounts, “The force of the rifle shots, fired from fifteen meters away, caused blood and brain matter to be blown out of their heads.”

The study was compiled by the author of “Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps,” David Hawk, who was assisted by two South Korean researchers, Jae Chunwon and Philo Kim. Together they interviewed 40 re cent North Korean defectors to gain insight into the religious lives of average North Koreans.

From the interviews, according to Mr. Cromartie, the Commission had obtained a “horrifying picture” of the abuses suffered by Christians and other believers in North Korea.

All of the interviewees had fled to South Korea through China, which has become something of a “safety valve” for North Koreans fleeing religious persecution, Mr. Smith told the Sun yesterday. According to the study, China has received a flood of refugees fleeing the Kim dictatorship, and between 50,000 and 100,000 North Korean exiles remain in China, the commission reported.

China, however, considers dissident North Koreans “economic migrants” subject to repatriation, and the study presents a dismal account of those forced to return to North Korea. According to one defector who was grilled by North Korean border guards, the Kim regime fears that “Juche will be toppled by Christianity,” referring to the state ideology, and exercises brutal control over North Koreans who have been exposed to Chinese or South Korean Christian churches.

According to the study, in order to preserve the complete control Kim Jong Il exercises over his subjects’ minds, repatriated North Koreans are harshly interrogated to determine whether they will infect their countrymen with ideas and information obtained abroad, and Christian believers are often slapped with long prison sentences and hard labor, punishments sometimes passed on to their families and descendants.

The documented fear of Christianity is accompanied by an extensive account of the pervasiveness of the Kims’ cult of personality, and the title of the study, “Thank you, Father Kim Il-Sung,” refers to the phrase North Korean parents are required to first teach their children.

SOURCE – The New York Sun

If Christ was fully God lived on this earth in human nature, what was the role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s earthly life? What could the Spirit of God contribute to the deity of Christ?

Alemayehu Mekonnen, Ph.D, Associate professor of missions at Denver Seminary, 2013 reviews Dr. Ware, A. Bruce, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflection on the Humanity of Christ. Crossway, Wheaton, IL; 2013. Paperback $13.50. ISBN 13-978-1-4335-1305-3 (Photo credit http://www.amazon.com)

One would ask, if Christ was fully God lived on this earth in human nature, what was the role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s earthly life? What could the Spirit of God contribute to the deity of Christ? Bruce said; “The answer we must give is: Nothing! As God he possesses every quality infinitely, and nothing can be added to him. So then we ask instead this question: what could the Spirit of God contribute to the humanity of Christ? The answer is everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his human nature, would lack. The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment an day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish” Pg. 30. To illustrate this point biblically, Bruce exegetes (Isa. 11:1-3) effectively.

The Man Jesus Christ sets an example of dependence on heavenly father and obedience to Him in the context of suffering. “This incarnate obedience, we might call it, was rendered often within the context of opposition and affliction, with the result often, that his obedience was the cause of much further suffering. In other words, he knew that he obeyed the Father, he was inviting only greater opposition and was putting himself in a place of increased suffering. Obedience per se was not new; rather, this kind of obedience was indeed new” Pg. 60. At a time a when “wealth and health” gospel is preached, and suffering is considered as negative in spiritual maturity or labeled with lack of faith. The obedience of Jesus Christ in the context of suffering refreshes authentic Christian and biblical outlook. “Oddly, some Christians seem instinctively to want to push away suffering. They think it best to keep suffering at arm’s length. But not only is this a mistake biblically and theologically; it is a huge mistake spiritually and practically” pg. 70.

Read the article in its entirety here- http://www.denverseminary.edu/

Australian preacher Josh Williamson arrested for preaching on the streets of Perth, in Scotland (VIDEO)

Josh Williamson Photo credit https://gallery.mailchimp.com

Josh Williamson, a street preacher goes to Scotland to preach.  At about the 6-7th minute he is confronted by cops and eventually arrested for ‘breach of peace’.

Here’s are some additional details, according to the UK website http://inquiringminds.cc -

This is now the third arrest of a Christian street preacher since July. Tony Miano was arrested in London in July and Robbie Hughes was arrested in Basildon earlier this month. Photo credit www.tmsporting.com

Rev Josh Williamson, the pastor of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, regularly takes to the streets to hand out leaflets, talk to passers-by and do open-air preaching.

But yesterday a police officer told him to stop preaching because he was breaking the law.

The officer insisted that he was not allowed to preach and told Josh that he would be arrested if he continued. When Josh said that he would not comply because he was not breaking the law, the officer placed him under arrest for breach of the peace.

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15) VIDEO by Josh Williamson

Here are some accounts of the arrest from main stream media:

I wish I could be like him / As vrea sa fiu ca el

thank-you-lord

Be careful what you wish for

1 Thessalonians 5
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ai grija ce-ti doresti

1 Tesaloniceni 5
16 Bucuraţi-vă întotdeauna.17 Rugaţi-vă neîncetat.
18 Mulţămiţi lui Dumnezeu pentru toate lucrurile; căci aceasta este voia lui Dumnezeu, în Hristos Isus, cu privire la voi.
VIDEO by BestFunVideos1

David Wilkerson – The coming of Jesus (the message that is seldom heard in churches anymore)

jesus coming again gold

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:22

Believers Who Have Died

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Day of the Lord

Jesus Coming King5 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awakeand sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Final Instructions

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak,be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all;hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. NEW VIDEO uploaded by sermonindex

Matt Chandler – Advance ’13 Conference Message – How Both Faithful & Effective Churches Assume the Gospel

Chandler Advance '13

Matt Chandler speaks to Pastors and leaders at the Advance 13 Conference. Here’s a paragraph from his message:

You see how it fits together, as he (Paul) begins to rebuke them for their immaturity, and how they’re viewing personalities and what he’s trying to teach them here is: There’s a way to build on the foundation that was laid, and the way to build on that is with complete doctrine, with an understanding of who God is, that transforms the life and makes us more and more, and more like Christ. So, here you can have possibly faithful and possibly fruitful … but, I don’t think you can have unfaithful, but fruitful. Where it’s unfaithful, it’s not fruitful. It’s apples stapled to a tree.

……

So much where I landed theologically, that right now I believe is right and good before the Lord, and before God, I believe I could give a resounding defense biblically for almost everywhere I land in regards to doctrine  and what I believe about soteriology and ecclesiology, and all the ‘ologies’. In the end, they were all processes, which means I didn’t get there overnight. Over a period of time, as people lovingly just kind of handed me a book, or opened up the word of God for me, or sent me home to look at a passage, allowed me to wrestle- it was all a process and praise God that He did not put in my life or protected me from so many that I see today: the demand that others join them today, what took them years to arrive upon. We are not to be men and women who are unnecessarily harsh.

from Advance 13 Conference - http://www.advance13.com/
SEE NOTES from ENTIRE MESSAGE below the VIDEO.

How Both Faithful & Effective Churches Assume the Gospel

Notes from message (headings added by me to facilitate easier reading)

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? Forwhen one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

  1. All ministers, regardless of gifting or placement and assignment are first and foremost servants of God- Paul and Apollos were each given a place by God, and what we can infer from the text, you’ve got men who are given different abilities, asked to do different things by God. So, here’s what I have in common with any heralder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re placed in different locations, I’ve been placed in Dallas, Texas by God, for the glory of God, and you’re from all over and you’ve been placed where you’ve been placed, and you’ve probably got different giftings of where we excel and where we don’t, and what I know about all of us is what we all have in common is this: We are all servants of the most high God! And that we are to regard ourselves as such… I look for a brother who knows he’s the servant, not the master. I get nervous when a guy operates in such a way that he puts out the vibe that God should be grateful that God grabbed him. There’s something about guys who lie low and exult Christ. I try desperately to be one of those men. We are all but servants. There aren’t positional servants in the kingdom. We are all with the gifts He has given us, with the assignments He has given us, faithfully serving God (from C.S. Lewis).
  2. All ministers are tools in the hands of God. What I know about preaching and teaching is that I can study and prep, and  wordsmith and worry, and stand up and proclaim and ultimately I can motivate, but only God can transform. I learned early on that I can say, “We need to do this guys. Here’s what the word says, let’s go.” And people would go out into the foyer and they’d sign up , and then 8 weeks later there would be like 10% of the people still left, involved.  I can motivate, but I cannot transform hearts. Only God can transform hearts. We are all but tools in the hands of God. Here’s why that’s important. You and I, brothers and sister, we are simply tools in the Father’s hands, we’re instruments in His hands. So, in the same way that a saw cannot receive the glory for the way the carpenter used it, so the minister does not deserve the credit for how God ultimately used him. I marvel at how God uses men and of how God uses any of us. I mean, that we would be conduits through which the power of God moves, that should blow your mind. Marvel at God’s use of a man and the God in him. We’re all but tools in God’s hands. 
  3. All ministers are fellow workers with one another, given assignments by God that are distinct, for the purposes of God. We all serve the same purpose. He calls us fellow workersWe’ve got a hard time with that in modern day evangelicalism, a lot of us. That we are fellow workers with one another, all working towards the same goal, all moving in the same direction. I wanna constantly lay before the Village Church (Matt’s church), and I wanna lay it before you: When it’s all said and done there’s one name that’s gonna be praised. Just one. I don’t get my day in glory, my reward is to be in the presence of my King with my crowns cast down, only looking up when he allows me. (22:00)

What is that purpose?

Ephesians 4:11-12 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, theevangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ Now we’re turning our attention away from the man and we’re turning it towards the church. In this next section of Scripture we’re going to talk about faithfulness vs. fruitfulness.

(A) Laying a foundation - Look at 1 Corinthians 3 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid afoundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

Where does ministry begin? It is laid on the foundation of Christ Jesus. So, all ministry that is faithful and eventually will be fruitful finds its roots in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And where there is ministry built on something other than that, you’re not dealing with Christian ministry. So, any conversation about fruitfulness is null and void because masses of people coming together to do good, under the banner of “church”, that have not been built on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not fruitful ministry at all, because it fails to be ministry at all. The only foundation that can be laid is the foundation of Jesus Christ, based on the life, death, and resurrection or you cease to be a Christian ministry and you become the rotary club.

I also love church planting, I give it a ton of my energy and time it. There’s something about robust, biblically saturated, Gospel passionate, Jesus centered churches, that the idea of those planting up and springing up in any place really stirs my affections for Jesus Christ. It churns in me a kind of excitement for the Lord’s ability to , and here’s what I know about most church plants: They’re small. But the laying of foundations is fruitful. So, if we follow the apostle Paul’s ministry and we watch him kind of establish these kind of bulkheads of Christian testimony throughout the ancient world, outside of Ephesus and maybe one other, you’re not talking about the megas. You’re just talking about a group of men and women, faithfully loving the Lord, faithfully living out the Gospel and this laying of the foundation is fruitful ministry.

B. Building upon the foundation - But, it doesn’t just stop there. At this point, if you’re laying a foundation on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are actively involved in fruitful ministry. You can throw out all the top 100 growing list, you can throw out all that nonsense and you can just rest in the Bible’s weight, that says, “You’re being faithful.” You’re being faithful, regardless of numerics. This is faithful work. But, the laying of the foundation doesn’t just stop there, so let’s look at what’s next in verse 12: Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—Now, he just threw out a lot of ingredients. Now, he’s got the foundation laid- Church is planted on the foundation of the Gospel, Christ was preached. Christ’s life, His imputed righteousness. His death, His atoning death, His wrath absorbing death on the cross, and His resurrection- price paid in full. It’s preached- people respond. You’ve got now your foundation, now you’re off and running. That was all faithful and fruitful ministry. Now we’re building upon that foundation, and you’ve got several different materials listed here: gold, silver, and precious stones, and then you have your wood, hay, and straw.

I think the best way to understand gold, silver and precious stones is to understand the wood, hay, and straw. These words seem to imply erroneous or imperfect doctrines that won’t stand the test of time, and which tend to lead to evil practices. I am basing that out of Galatians 4:9, where it says, But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians is one of those churches where a foundation was laid and they began to drift here into erroneous and imperfect doctrine, into a bit of foolishness. In fact, he repeatedly calls them that- who has bewitched you, fooled you- are you so foolish as to….? And he’s saying they went back to an imperfect doctrine, an incomplete doctrine that actually began to lead them into sinfulness and licentiousness, if not legalism altogether.

And again, in Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Again, you’ve got empty philosophy and vain deceit. So, you can build on the foundation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.You can build with imperfect doctrines which lead people into licentiousness or legalism. Or you can build with what we see above in the gold, silver, and precious stones, you can preach the full counsel of God, where you’re reliant upon the holy spirit of God, and the word of God to transform and mold the hearts of our people towards holiness and towards Christlikeness. And so, here, you have in this second section, you now have the ability to be either possibly fruitful building upon that foundation, or possibly unfruitful, building upon that foundation. And yet, in the end, numerics don’t tell the story. Rather, maturity does.

You see how it fits together, as he begins to rebuke them for their immaturity, and how they’re viewing personalities and what he’s trying to teach them here is: There’s a way to build on the foundation that was laid, and the way to build on that is with complete doctrine, with an understanding of who God is, that transforms the life and makes us more and more, and more like Christ. So, here you can have possibly faithful and possibly fruitful … but, I don’t think you can have unfaithful, but fruitful. Where it’s unfaithful, it’s not fruitful. It’s apples stapled to a tree.

C. The day of the Lord is coming when what has been built will be revealed - Now look at verse 13. As a pastor, as a man of God, this has me throw myself on the grace of God and on His word, and allows me, if I’m gonna look foolish for planting my feet on the word of God, let me look foolish because of what this next verse says. 1 Corinthians 13:13 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. What this means is I am currently laboring at the Village Church. That is where God has planted me, that is where God has put me. So, I am building on a foundation that I did not lay, I did not plant that church, I was not the one who established it, Christ was clearly preached there early on, I got to come in and build upon that foundation. And I am trying, with all the grace of God to build with gold, silver and precious stones, and the day of the Lord is coming when what has been built will be revealed. Was it built by me, for me, about me? Or did I build with what is true, right, and good?

And since this day is coming, I tend to be able to once again, since I know I have co-laborers out there that I’m gonna disagree with philosophically, and at some level theologically, and I have this promise coming- that I’m gonna rest and just let the Lord judge my brothers, I do not feel the need to police evangelicalism. Now, do I feel a desperate need to protect the men and women that God has given me, to care over as an under-shepherd of Christ? Absolutely. But, am I out sniping evangelicalism? No. I have no need to. God will judge, God will burn it up. We’ll find out. He’s not like, “What am I gonna do about this guy? Will you start a blog for me? Hey, will you harass him via twitter? Take that you heretic.” You cannot believe that that’s what’s playing out in the heavenlies. That day will determine… In Dallas, we have several churches with which I would have strong differences with, in regards to theology, philosophy, and practice. All of them. I would just go crazy. Now, can I tell you what blows my mind? Three of the guys on my staff, I have already prepped my assistant for the emails that are coming. Three of my favorite guys on staff came to know Christ at that church. As a guy who wants to be extremely precise doctrinally that jacks with my head. I don’t like it. Now, how evil does that make me? I mean, doesn’t that make me the older brother in Luke 15?  It does not make me pure before the… “What, you saved this guy there? No sir!” Does that make me counseling God almighty? I’m gonna let God reveal, I’m gonna let God do His work. The day is coming, I just need to keep my hand to the plow and be faithful to my king. The day is coming… the day is coming.

Now, when it comes to this idea of faithful vs. fruitful, here’s what’s really being asked. More so than ever before, everything’s in front of us. So from twitter to the amount of conferences, really, at any given time, anywhere in the world you can go to a conference on anything you want. It doesn’t even matter how niche you wanna be in theology and practice, you can find a conference there. And what we parade out in front of you more often than not is not a guy that pastors a church of 120, and say, “Look, this is what church looks like.” No, here’s what I’ve spoken at other large conferences, “Let me tell you why I’m here because we went from 160 to 10,000.” I’m not here because I was faithful, because if I would have done the same things and shrank us from 160 to 20, no one would tell me, “Hey Chandler, come teach us how to do that. Come teach us how to be faithful and kill a church.”

Don’t put numeric growth above robust truth 

So what we’re talking about here is numerics. And I think, unfortunately, it’s a caricaturization of two ends of a spectrum that’s unfair to both. And so, let me address the caricature like this: If we’re talking about fruitfulness being sheerly numerics, I cannot biblically define it like that. But, that’s the caricature. So, if we’re talking of simply churches that are based on numerics- let’s call that the fruitful stream- how do they assume the Gospel? I think they assume the Gospel in 2 ways: They put numeric growth above robust truth, in order to see converts. And so, they’re not gonna touch things that are divisive, they’re gonna leave big chunks of Scriptures alone, because those Scriptures will offend people. And so, it’s the belief that you can make Christ cool enough for everyone. And that ain’t happening. You cannot give Jesus such a makeover that everyone goes, “Love that dude.” It’s not ever going to… in fact, the more you try to do that, the more the authority, power, and work of Jesus Christ wanes and you see nothing but shriveled up former life. Jesus doesn’t need a makeover, He needs to be boldly proclaimed. And, you assume the Gospel when you think you have to give the Gospel help.

I also think that another place where this kind of fruitful stream assumes the Gospel is (when) they a lack a plan and process for discipleship. See, they answer the fundamental question wrong: What is the purpose of the church? The purpose of the church is converts. No! The purpose of the church is to make disciples, who have been taught to observe all that He commanded. We already read it. Why did He give teachers, why did He give prophets, and evangelists? Why were these things given in Ephesians 4? For the building up of the body into the fulness of Christ, for the works of the kingdom. That’s what we’re to be about- making disciples. And you assume the Gospel when all the Gospel is is a means of conversion and not a means of sanctification and maturity into the fulness of Christ. You load heavy burdens on people when the Gospel is what saves them, but it relies solely on them to sanctify themselves. Now, the Gospel saves and the Gospel sanctifies. And again, this is a characterization, but, way too many of the fruitful stream lacks any process for the evangelism, or shepherding, or care for its members, partners, whatever word we want to use there, in order to grow them into maturity. I had a friend of mine who went to such a church, and they had no pastoral care. They didn’t do funerals, they didn’t do weddings, there was no hospital visits. It was the weekend. This is no real processes for care, no real processes for discipleship and that’s one of the ways.

I’ll save most of my energy for the way the faithful stream assumes the Gospel. The truth is there isn’t a guy in ministry who doesn’t think he is faithful. It’s not like the fruitful guys are saying, “We’re gonna be unfaithful, to see our place grow.” I just don’t really believe that, there’s not a guy in ministry who doesn’t believe he is faithful. Now, in that faithful stream, which I would define as the caricature that all we’re interested in is doctrine and truth. We don’t really care about people, just give me my 5 points and get out of my face. And, if you don’t believe in definitive atonement, you’re probably not a believer. That’s the caricaturization. It’s only doctrine, that’s all it is. There’s no real love for people, it’s just cold, systematic, intellectual assent. That’s one caricaturization.

Lacking  Gospel ambition 

Now, here’s how I believe the faithful stream assumes the Gospel. Here’s something that bothers me. I’m just gonna be straight with you. I find that in many robust theological churches, that there seems to be a lack of Gospel ambition and that there’s a belief that their smallness somehow validates their faithfulness. “You know how faithful I am? We’re running at 80 (people). We were up to 90 and I’m not having it. So, I did 2 years on Leviticus and shrank us back down.” Now you can giggle, but that kind of trash happens all the time. It’s like being small is a trophy. This assumes the Gospel because it lacks the belief  in the Gospel’s ability to penetrate and draw among the masses faithful, obedient converts unto Christ, who grow and are discipled. It lacks even a belief for that. It doesn’t have a market for it. And I can tell you, as a guy whose church grew, had no intention of it growing, I wanted it to grow, had a desire for it to grow. Just unashamedly, I wanted God to save people. I wanted Him to rescue and I wanted Him to do it like I saw Him do it in Ephesus, where it so shook and rearranged the socio economic climate that people rioted. I want that, I still want it for Dallas. When I drive by our Walnut Hill campus and see all those strip clubs, I wonder, what would it be like for the Gospel to fall in such a way that they couldn’t make money anymore? What would it be like for the Gospel to fall in such a way that there weren’t money to be made in the adult bookstores? What would it be like? That’s what happened in Ephesus. I want that! And for guys who lack that Gospel ambition, there are a lot of us who are so theologically precise that can’t dream like that. Well, you know Matt, narrow is the path. Small is the gate. Well, oh yeah, absolutely. But, you can get in a very long single file, you all. And so, I think, brothers in the faithful tribe have a tendency to lack Gospel ambition.

Being unnecessarily harsh 

I think another one in the faithful tribe have a tendency (again this is all caricature) to be unnecessarily harsh. I don’t know where it came from, I tried to track it down, please hear me: There is a wrong way  to be right! There’s a way to be right and doctrinally accurate, that instead of drawing into the beauty of the truth we find in the Scripture, instead, is unnecessarily offensive. Now, the Bible, parts of the Bible, parts of God’s plan for human flourishing is going to offend secular sensibilities. That’s not what I’m talking about. We should never shy away form that type of offense. But, the kind of brazen- offend to offend sakeThat’s just immature, that’s just spiritual immaturity.  It’s not helpful, it’s not helpful in any way, and if you land in the reformed camp, how that can create such brazen violence and arrogance just blows my mind. If there ever should be a doctrine that lays us low is the doctrine that God saved us by His grace alone, through faith alone. If there ever would be one that would have us dealing gently with people, would it not be that when you see brothers, sisters, doctrine and the truth of Scriptures should always be handled with a scalpel and never like a club? Always like a scalpel and never like a club. So much where I landed theologically, that right now I believe is right and good before the Lord, and before God, I believe I could give a resounding defense biblically for almost everywhere I land in regards to doctrine  and what I believe about soteriology and ecclesiology, and all the ‘ologies’. In the end, they were all processes, which means I didn’t get there overnight. Over a period of time, as people lovingly just kind of handed me a book, or opened up the word of God for me, or sent me home to look at a passage, allowed me to wrestle- it was all a process and praise God that He did not put in my life or protected me from so many that I see today: the demand that others join them today, what took them years to arrive upon. We are not to be men and women who are unnecessarily harsh. May we be people of truth. Amen! May we be people of truth. But, there’s a way to do that that’s right, good, loving and compassionate, and there’s a way to do that that shows that you quite don’t understand the Gospel.

Evangelistic laziness

Another way I find the faithful ones assuming the Gospel is there seems to be evangelistic laziness. It’s almost like a functional determinism. That kind of caricature- Well, if God’s gonna save, God’s gonna save. Whatever. Again, it goes back to: Do you really believe that we can be as broken  and as goofy as we are, conduits through which the Holy Spirit of God works, to draw, rescue and save? See, the faithful crowd, I found, so often wants to argue about little niche corners of theology, that they’ve forgotten about the heralding of the Good News to those around them. See, more than I want to be about converting a guy to a particular doctrine that I believe, I want to see a guy come to know and love the Jesus that I so desperately know and love, and then let’s get to work. But, seriously, how many people that would be categorized in this faithful (group) are far more concerned about converting someone to a specific doctrinal persuasion, rather than they are  seeing people come to know and love Jesus Christ in any type of real way.

So whether it’s faithful or fruitful, our tendency is to assume the Gospel, that’s why Paul perpetually preaches the Gospel to people who already know the Gospel. That’s why almost all of Paul’s letters sans 2 Corinthians are going to address the Gospel, teach the Gospel once again to people who already know the Gospel. Have you ever marveled at the fact he is writing a letter to the churches at Ephesus and the first two chapters are nothing but the Gospel? And Romans is nothing but the Gospel. I mean, just writing the Gospel, the Gospel… Before we talk about marriage, before we talk about children, before we talk about church life let’s talk about what Christ has done for you. Because we all have a tendency to drift, we all have a tendency to assume instead of explicitly  make known the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s my appeal. I don’t know how many days you have, I don’t know how many days I have. I’ve pastored long enough to know some of us won’t be here next year. And so, my appeal brothers and sisters is with the days we have left, with the breath we have left, may we proclaim Him and be faithful. And with angst, and with gut wrenching prayer, and belief in the power of the Gospel, we expect and long to see fruit. Fruit in the depth of maturity and fruit in the salvation of those in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our states, and to the ends of the earth. Be faithful, and pray to the God of heaven for more fruit than you can get your mind around. And let’s labor, and scratch, and work, and plead, and beg, and be bothered by it when we don’t see it.

The Makings of a Christian Marriage

A Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh excerpted from bible.org. Click here to read the entire article. Although somewhat lengthy, it is worth the time to read these Godly principles and apply them to our marriage. May God strengthen your marriage as you read and trust in Him! One thing that stands out to me in this study is the following phrase:

We should not assume God is more glorified by a “successful” and “happy” marriage than by one fraught with difficulties. As Paul points out in Ephesians 5, a marriage in which the husband and wife play out their respective roles obediently portrays the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

That is a very comforting and uplifting thought! It is a truth worth holding on to when our marriages are on trial.

Introduction

Our culture shapes our thinking and conduct regarding marriage to an incredible degree…

Culture does play a very significant role in our attitudes and actions regarding marriage. The Christian must not be shaped by his culture, but by the cross of Christ, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God:

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11; see also Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24).

When the Christian comes to marriage then, we dare not allow the world (our culture) to shape our thinking, our attitudes, or our actions. The purpose of this message is to consider Christian marriage primarily in light of the teaching of Peter in his first epistle.

A Definition of a Christian Marriage

A Christian marriage is one in which at least one partner is a believer in Christ, who embraces the attitudes and actions prescribed by the Scriptures in their relationship with their mate.

We generally think of a Christian marriage114 as one in which both the husband and the wife115 are believers in Christ. While this is certainly the ideal, it is not always so.116 A Christian marriage is one in which Christ is manifested through the marriage relationship by at least one of the partners. Peter’s words to wives in 3:1-6 implies that a believing wife may manifest Christ while married to an unbeliever. Who would dare call this marriage something less than “Christian?”

It is not enough for one who is married to be a Christian. He or she must also think and act in a Christian manner. The Christian’s attitudes and actions must flow from the Scriptures. A Christian marriage is not governed by the same principles which guide and govern a secular marriage. The Christian life, including the relationship of marriage, is a supernatural life. A Christian marriage does not just happen naturally; it happens unnaturally, supernaturally, as we obey the Scriptures and individually depend upon the grace of God. Christian marriage is based upon a God-given faith, hope, and love, which only the true believer possesses.

I have often heard Christians say the principles for successful relationships apply as much to unbelievers as they do to believers. If one believes this, then it matters not whether the one who goes to a “Christian counselor” is a Christian or not; they simply need to be given the right principles. The Scriptures simply do not bear this out. Rather, the Scriptures inform us that when one comes to Christ, he or she becomes a “new creation,” old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Peter also speaks of a radical change which takes place when one comes from darkness to light:

13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit,] fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay [upon earth]; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, [the blood] of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, [that is,] through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:13-23; see also 4:1-6).

Only a believer can live the way Peter instructs us to live. We can now be holy as God is holy because we are in Christ. We can fix our hope on the glory to be revealed at the return of our Lord because we have trusted in Him for salvation. We can love one another fervently because our souls have been purified in obedience to the truth.

Paul agrees, making it clear that it is impossible for an unbeliever to do those things which the Christian is commanded to do:

5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so]; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:5-15).

The unbeliever sets his mind on the things of the flesh, not the things of the Spirit. As an unbeliever, he is hostile toward God and will not subject himself to God. An unbeliever cannot please God because they are only in the flesh. The Christian, however, has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. The One who raised the dead body of the Lord Jesus to life is the One who can also make us alive to do what God requires.

In theory it is true—if he or she could and would follow biblical principles, the unbeliever would reap the benefits of doing so. The problem is that the unbeliever hates God, hates His commandments and instructions, and because he is ensnared by Satan and his own flesh, he cannot do what is pleasing to God. The biblical principles and commands we are about to enumerate are those which only a Christian can apply, in the power of God, to the glory of God, and to his or her own eternal benefit.

Having set down this preliminary definition of a Christian marriage, we will seek to articulate the values, goals, expectations, priorities and principles which are distinctly Christian.

Biblical Expectations for Marriage

 There is no such thing as “heaven on earth.” Heaven, as it were, will come down to the earth at the return of our Lord (see Revelation 21-22). But the New Testament writers give us no indication that the believer can and will experience heaven on earth. In short, Christ and the apostles speak of suffering now and glory later (Mark 10:29-30; Luke 9:21-26; 24:26; John 15:18-20; 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Corinthians 4 and 5; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-16; 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:12; 3:12; 4:1-8; James 5:8-11). Peter constantly emphasizes our present suffering and our future hope of glory (1 Peter 1:6-7, 13; 4:12-19; 5:4, 10). Peter’s words to citizens (2:13-17), to servants (2:18-25), to wives and husbands (3:1-7) indicate that no matter what our station in life, we will not experience the bliss of heaven until we pass from this life into the glory of Christ’s kingdom.

Godliness does not insure marital bliss. Most conservative, evangelical Christians recognize the error of what has been called the “health and wealth gospel,” “name it and claim it Christianity,” or the “prosperity gospel.” We would be especially critical of the “prosperity gospel” which promises people that God wants them to be rich and all they have to do is to follow a few rules. As this works itself out through the prosperity televangelists, viewers are urged to send in their donations, assured of receiving God’s manifold financial blessings in return. We rightly recognize this not only as untrue, but “hucksterism” at its worst.

We are inconsistent, however. Many who reject one form of the prosperity gospel believe it in another form. For example, how many parents believe that if they raise up their children in accordance with biblically prescribed principles they may be assured of having godly children in the end? How many Christians believe the “key to marital happiness” is simply to follow the manual? I am afraid we sincerely, but wrongly, assume that following divine principles assures us of experiencing marital bliss. This is simply neither biblical nor true.

For several reasons, we dare not presume that God is obligated to “bless” our marriage with happiness if we but “follow the rules.”

First, these presumptions are contrary to the principle of grace. It is a mechanical and legalistic viewpoint which believes that every good we do receives a good in return in this life. The Pharisees held this view and thus believed a person’s spirituality was measured by his earthly prosperity and ease. If one were poor, he must be a sinner. If one were sick, he must have done something wrong (see John 9:1-2). Spirituality could be measured by outward evidences of prosperity (see Luke 16:15). If we really believe this, we do not believe in grace. The grace by which we are saved and sanctified, the grace by which we live, does not work this way. Grace is the principle whereby God pours out blessings on men who do not deserve them. We would not want God’s blessings to come to us any other way. Marital bliss is not guaranteed, and most certainly not on the basis of our faithfully following a system of rules or principles.

Second, these presumptions ignore the fact that we live in a fallen world. Marriage existed before sin came upon the human race. It was Satan who attacked mankind through marriage. When God declared the consequences of sin, He did so in terms of marriage (see Genesis 3). We should not expect our marriage to somehow be exempt from the consequences of the fall of man. We should expect sin to adversely affect marriage as it does everything else (see Romans 8:18-25).

Peter therefore assumes that even when a Christian wife lives with an unbelieving husband, there will be suffering (1 Peter 3:1-6). More than this, Peter assumes that when a Christian husband and wife are living together, there will still be sin and suffering (1 Peter 3:7).

Third, living godly may produce an adverse reaction from others rather than a favorable response(see 1 Peter 2:7-12; 4:1-6).

Fourth, suffering is a part of the process by which God proves and purifies our faith, for our good and His glory (1 Peter 1:6-9; 2:18-25; see also Job, Psalm 73; Romans 5:1-11; James 1:2-4).

Our expectations of marriage must not be based on the attitudes and actions God requires of our mate. It is true that the husband should “live with his wife according to knowledge, granting her honor as the weaker vessel and as a co-heir of the grace of life” (3:7). But it is wrong for the wife to expect or even demand that her husband live this way. She should certainly hope and pray that he will. The requirements God makes of one mate are not found on the check-list of the other. The wife should strive, by God’s grace, to fulfill that which God requires of her, just as the husband should endeavor, by God’s grace, to be the kind of husband God requires of him. Neither the wife nor the husband should dare make their obedience to God’s instructions conditional on their mate fulfilling his or her biblical obligations. Peter’s instructions to married couples assume they will not.

A Biblical Goal for Marriage

Our expectations are closely linked with our goals. We set goals for those things we desire, which we believe are attainable. The Christian’s ultimate goal should not be to have a “good” marriage, but to be godly in his or her marriage. A godly marriage is one in which at least one partner exhibits Christ in the marriage, to the glory of God. The Lord Jesus came as the Suffering Servant and thus became the model for both wives and husbands (as for every other saint). By human standards, our Lord’s ministry was not successful. But by divine standards, His sacrifice was not only for the glory of God but for the good of all those who would call upon Him for salvation. A godly marriage displays the excellencies of God to a lost world (1 Peter 2:9), resulting in glory and praise to Him (2:11). It also provides an opportunity for a living witness to the grace and glory of God and the possibility of salvation for those who are lost (3:1). Our goal for marriage should not be the fulfilling of our sensual appetites, but obedience and victory over lust. Our goal should not be happiness, but holiness:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Biblical Assumptions and Marriage

We should not assume God is more glorified by a “successful” and “happy” marriage than by one fraught with difficulties. As Paul points out in Ephesians 5, a marriage in which the husband and wife play out their respective roles obediently portrays the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

Peter’s emphasis, however, is somewhat different. Peter’s first epistle dealt with the problem of suffering. He taught that when we suffer unjustly and righteously as a citizen, as a slave, or as a husband or wife, we imitate Christ, the Suffering Servant. Christ submitted to earthly authorities at His expense and for our salvation (2:21-25).

It is Satan who believes that men only worship and serve God when they are the recipients of His blessings. He was convinced that when suffering came into their lives, they would deny God (see Job 1:9-11). Peter came to understand that suffering purifies our faith and results in praise and glory and honor to God as well as divine blessing for us (see 1 Peter 1:6-7). Steadfast faith in the midst of suffering glorifies God in a way which is not possible in the midst of prosperity. Job learned this lesson long ago, and Peter later embraced it as well.

We should not assume we are more spiritually blessed by a happy and trouble-free marriage than by one characterized by trials and tribulation. Our ultimate good in this life is not our happiness, but our holiness (1:15). Suffering often contributes more to our holiness than our “happiness” does (see 1 Peter 1:6-9; also Romans 5:1-11; 8:1ff.; see also Job and Psalm 73).

The world believes happiness is the good we should pursue, and that suffering is the evil we should seek to avoid. The Christian believes godliness is the good we should pursue, and that earthly suffering is the price we should willingly pay for godliness and future glory.

Biblical Priorities and Marriage

Peter learned from our Lord that marriage is a temporary and temporal relationship, not an eternal union (Matthew 22:30). He also learned that marriage, family, and earthly relationships should be subordinate to our relationship to God (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 14:25-35). Many in Christian circles teach that while our devotion to Christ may come before our love for family, our family has priority over our ministry. It is indeed difficult to divide between our relationship with God and our service for Him.

The place of our family in our priorities is difficult because of errors at both extremes. Some seem to inundate themselves in ministry to avoid their family responsibilities. These people are really sluggards, not saints.117 Conversely, some use their family as a pretext for avoiding their spiritual obligations (see Luke 9:57-62). The subtle sin here is that in ostensibly making sacrifices to serve our family we are actually serving ourselves, for our life is tied up with our family. It is not surprising that in those texts in which Jesus called for His disciples to forsake (literally “hate”) their family as their first priority, He spoke of them “giving up their life” as well (see Matthew 10:39; Luke 14:26). Our commitment to Christ must come before all other commitments lest our devotion to Him be diminished (see 1 Corinthians 7:25-35).

Peter makes it clear that the eternal and precious takes precedence over the merely temporal (1 Peter 1:7, 13, 18-21, 23-25; 3:7) and that what brings glory to God takes precedence over what seems good to men (see 1:6-7; 2:12; 4:11-16; 5:1,4,10). Happiness is to be subordinate to holiness, and fleshly pleasures are to be subordinate to eternal blessings (1:1:13-16).

Paul speaks to the Corinthians about their preoccupation with fulfilling their personal physical appetites rather than obedience to God. In so doing, he points to the failure of the ancient Israelites (1 Corinthians 9-10). Jesus indicated to Satan that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by obedience to the Word of God (Matthew 4:4). Peter exhorts us to do likewise:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Later, in his second epistle, Peter will warn his readers about those false teachers who will seek to entice them by appealing to their fleshly desires (2 Peter 2:1-22).

Biblical Principles and Marriage

Contrary to many “marriage manuals” and seminars on marriage, the key to a biblical marriage is not the execution of specialized techniques applicable to marriage alone. Rather, the key to a biblical marriage is the possession of biblical attitudes and actions which apply to all relationships. Immediately after addressing Christian wives (3:1-6) and husbands (3:7), Peter sums us his teaching on submission with these general principles applicable to every human relationship, including marriage:

8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).

Often Christians are told how they can spice up their marriages by employing techniques devised by man. Women are taught to be as seductive as Jezebel, with the assurance that keeping her husband satisfied at home will prevent worry about outside competition for her husband’s affection. Far too often, this is at best an element of truth and a massive dose of worldly advice. The advice may be partially sanctified by calling it “Christian,” but most often it is secular and fleshly at its core. The Christian is not to live in accordance with the wisdom of this world but according to knowledge, the knowledge of God found in His Word.

In Peter’s epistle (2:21-25), as in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (5:21-33), Christ is the model for marriage. Have you ever stopped to think that in the Bible there is no model marriage, no model family? It seems Paul was not married and may never have been married (1 Corinthians 7:8; 9:5-6). We do not even know Peter’s wife’s name or how many children they had, if any. No marriage in the Bible could be considered a model marriage for us to strive to imitate. Only Christ serves as the model for marriage, and He was never married. Nevertheless, Christ manifested by His life and sacrificial death the mindset and ministry husbands and wives should have toward each other. He sets the standard, which is perfect obedience to God. He is the example of selfless love and sacrifice for the benefit of His bride, the church. He is the One who is the standard for both the wife (“in the same way,” 1 Peter 3:1) and the husband (“likewise,” 3:7). As husbands and wives dwell together, each should live as Christ, surrendering self-interest while seeking the best interest of the other. To follow the example of Christ means we are willing to endure the pain and the penalty which results from the sins of others, with the goal of their salvation. Submission is not just seeking the best interest of another; it is seeking their best interest at our expense.

We make the most of our marriage by not making too much of it. Some people do not take marriage seriously enough; others make too much of it. They mistakenly see it as the solution to all of their problems. Peter does not speak of marriage as the key to earthly happiness. For Peter, marriage is an institution where sin will bring about suffering. But the difficulties marriage introduces into our lives are also the occasion for us to evidence Christ-like attitudes and actions. We, like Christ, can demonstrate submission and steadfast faith in the context of innocent suffering. And in so doing, God may not only use our witness to His glory and to our good, but He may also employ our suffering to bring about the salvation of one who is lost (see 1 Peter 2:24-25; 3:1, 15).

Marriage witnesses to both those on earth (2:9-12) and the angelic observers. When Paul speaks of the conduct of women in the church, he indicates that obedience to his instructions will be observed by the angels (1 Corinthians 11:10). Elsewhere, Paul speaks of the celestial beings learning from what is taking place in the church (Ephesians 3:10). Peter emphasizes the interest with which angelic beings observe the things related to salvation in the church:

10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that [would come] to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Marriage is an eternal investment—the more you put into it, the more you get out of it from the Lord at His return. Marriage is not about equality, regardless of popular cultural ideas and values on the subject. Marriage is about ministry. Marriage is about submission and servanthood. All too often one partner carefully “meters out” or measures the things he or she contributes to the other partner, and then very carefully measures what is given back in return. The hope is that what we get back will at least equal or even better, exceed perhaps, what we have put into it.

This principle appears to be wise and proper in monetary investments. But in marriage, it is entirely opposite of the biblical standard. We are to give, and give, and give, with no expectation of receiving from our mate in return. We are to look to God for blessings and rewards, and we are not to expect or demand them in this life. Jesus made it clear that giving with the expectation of returns is neither gracious nor godly:

12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. 13 But when you give a reception, invite [the] poor, [the] crippled, [the] lame, [the] blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have [the means] to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

The principle our Lord lays down applies to marriage and to every other relationship. We give, not in order to get, but in order to manifest grace. And when we look for rewards, we know they also are a matter of grace and not of works.

Conclusion

I can scarcely communicate how important this message on marriage is to me. It is important because our marriages communicate a message, a message about the Lord Jesus Christ and about His relationship with His church. Marriage is a manifestation of the gospel, lived out day by day by the husband and the wife. When we mess up in our marriages, we mess up the gospel message that others see in our marriage relationship.

Sad though it is to say, many marriages are in serious trouble, and they don’t even seem to know it. Christian marriages are dissolving at nearly the same rate as the world in which we live. It is as though the gospel, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God have little power or impact on our marriages. I believe it is because we are seeking to live according to the standard the world has set and the goals it seeks to attain. We are living by the same power the unbeliever draws upon. To have a Christian marriage is to strive for the goals and standards the Bible sets, by the power which God alone provides. It is to cease striving for our own happiness and to endeavor, by His grace, to manifest godliness in our marriages, even when they fall far short of God’s ideal, and even when they bring suffering, sadness, and heartache to our lives.

Christian marriage is important because this relationship is indicative of all our relationships. The same principles which guide and govern our marriages guide and govern all our relationships. If we cannot live together with the one we have purposed to love until death parts us, how can we live in peace and harmony with our fellow-believers, or with our neighbors, or our enemies?

Our marriages are but a rehearsal for the great marriage yet to come, our union with the Lord Jesus Christ, enjoying His presence forever:

6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright [and] clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God” (Revelation 19:6-9).

At His return, our marriage with Christ will be consummated. But for now we maintain a relationship with Him through His Word and through His Spirit. Our communion is through Bible study, worship, and prayer, which makes these essential to our lives. Our earthly marriages are a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Our expectations of God and our expectations of marriage overlap. When we expect nothing but ease, comfort, and pleasure from marriage, that is most likely what we expect from God in this life. When we are angry, frustrated, and out of submission to our mate, our relationship with God is probably similar. When we worship God and come away wondering what benefit we got from it, we probably have the same attitude toward our marriage.

Submission is an attitude which relates not only to people but to circumstances. When adverse circumstances come our way, this is often the time we strike out against others, our mate, and even God. Biblical submission accepts our circumstances as having come, first and foremost, from the hand of a sovereign and loving God, who causes “all things to work together for [our] good and His glory” (Romans 8:28). Submission then seeks to serve, in spite of these difficulties, to the glory of God and the good of others, at the cost of personal sacrifice. We sacrifice our pleasure, our happiness, our interests, looking to God alone to give us what we need even though it may not be what we want.

May God grant to each of us the willingness to be the kind of husband or wife that He wants us to be, to His glory, to the benefit and blessing of our mate and others, and to the salvation of lost sinners.


114 I am not sure the term “Christian marriage” is altogether appropriate. When the word “Christian” is used as an adjective (e.g. “Christian business”), it can be problematic.

115 Unfortunately, in light of our culture it is necessary to stipulate one final qualification: the two partners in marriage may not be of the same sex. Who would have thought, 25 years ago, one would need to specify that in a Christian marriage the partners must be male and female? There is no such thing as a Christian homosexual marriage.

116 The Scriptures are clear in teaching that a Christian should marry only another Christian (see 1 Corinthians 7:39; also 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It is possible, however, that one has become a believer after being married. In such mixed marriages, Scripture is clear that those unions should be preserved if possible (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-16).

117 As I understand the sluggard in Proverbs, he is not a person who does nothing at all, but one who works very hard to avoid doing what he dislikes. The workaholic is, in this light, a sluggard, who works hard at one thing while avoiding another. And all the while many Christians will praise him for so doing.

All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God, Continue in It

John Piper Sermon from Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14–17 on August 11, 2012. Click here for transcript, or to watch it or listen to the mp3 on the DesiringGod.org website.

2 Timothy 3:14–17

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The God-breathed Bible aims to make us godly. To make us doers of good in this world. Don’t miss that. The doctrines of the Bible are designed to produce deeds. Good deeds. And they do it by teaching, verse 16, and that teaching has three sequential effects: Reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

When we are rightly taught by the Scripture are first reproved, that is, our errors are pointed out and we are stopped in our tracks. Then we are corrected, that is, we are turned around from the harmful way we were going, and pointed in the right way. And third, we are trained in righteousness, that is, the Bible enables us to be trained, to grow, in righteousness. And as the teaching does these three things (reproof, correction, training) the Scripture equips us for every good deed.

So, Timothy, don’t forsake your mother’s teaching. Continue in it. Stay in it. Remain in it.

  1. Because of the character of the people who taught you the truth.
  2. Because of the marks of divine holiness in the Scriptures.
  3. Because of the power of Scripture to make you wise unto salvation.
  4. Because the Scripture brought you to Christ.
  5. Because all Scripture is God-breathed.
  6. And because the Scripture is profitable—inestimably profitable

David Platt – Don’t waste your life!

Pastor David Platt preaching on Paul’s reevaluation in Philippians 3

  •  If we want our lives to count we must treasure Christ above everything else this world has to offer.

The many treasures of a wasted life (these are all good things, but, these good things were the ones keeping Paul from Jesus. Paul said it is possible to be and do all these things and yet come to the end of your life and to be written above it “wasted”)

  1. Family heritage
  2. Social status
  3. Biblical knowledge
  4. Religious activity (zeal)
  5. A moral lifestyle

but there is one thing i life that counts and that is the surpassing  greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. The only treasure of the life that counts is Christ.

sermon starts at the 6:00 minute.

You have one life and you have one shot to make your life count for His glory on the landscape of human history.

  • We trust in Christ to provide everything we need

What do we gain by gaining Christ?

  1. His righteousness covers our sin
  2. His power guarantees our resurrection
  3. His satisfaction transcends our suffering
  4. God delights in showing His greatness through those who radically trust in Him

The Life that Counts:

  1. They treasure Christ
  2. They trust Christ
  3. They pursue Christ with obsessive passion

The question we ask, “Is why follow hard after Christ?”

A holy dissatisfaction with comfortable christianity which is dangerous. Paul, the planter of most of the New Testament churches states that he has so much more to do in pursuit of God and that is where our own christianity should stand today.

We need a fresh understanding of the degree to which Christ has followed hard after us.

Tim Keller at Oxford (5) The First Christian Encounters Jesus

Keller: What we’re doing every night this week is we’re looking at questions that every person has to have a set of working answers for in order to live: Who are we, as human beings? What’s wrong with us, with the world? What, if anything can improve or put us right. So each night we’re looking in the New Testament Gospel of John, and there we’re looking at a series of encounters that Jesus Christ had with individuals.

I have an 18 month old granddaughter and right now she can perceive a lot more than she can express right now, and it’s a grief to her. And, all Christians feel that way. If you can see or feel something of absolute beauty and then you come down off the mountaintop or come away from the sea or wherever you were and you try to convey it verbally to somebody else, it’s very very frustrating. All Christians feel like that. I’m no different. So, in a way, in trying to convey what christianity’s answers to questions has been something of a grief to me. So, let’s conclude this way: You can’t look at christianity’s answers to the big questions unless you deal with the issue of faith. And we all know, that the answers that christianity gives about Christ and about the cross and about everything else are only operable in your life if you have faith. But, what in the world is that? There’s a lot of confusion- what does christian faith mean? Let’s take a look at the last of the encounters of Jesus Christ with individuals, that we’ve been looking at all week in the Gospel of John. I am going to read this encounter with Mary Magdalene.

In this night we’re going to take a look at this question: What is faith?

John 20 – 1-10 (Part 1) 11-18 (Part 2) The first part tells us that christian faith is impossible and rational (verses 1-10). The second part tells us that christian faith is graceful, existential and individual. I think this will be the most practical of all the talks.

Christian faith is impossible

Part 1 – Now, when I say faith is impossible, it’s a bit of an overstatement. I am not saying it’s impossible to have christian faith. What I am saying is that it’s impossible for you or me to produce it without outside intervention and help. Mary goes to the tomb, sees the stone rolled away, runs back to Peter and John and says, “They’ve taken the body”. Now, Jesus Christ has been saying to his disciples over and over again, “I’m gonna die and rise again on the third day.” He has said it so often (throughout the Gospels), that the enemies of christianity had put a guard to the tomb (Matthew).  So, why in the world, when Mary actually saw the stone rolled away why didn’t she just actually say, “Could it be? Maybe?” She didn’t even think about it. It didn’t even occur to her. She runs back, “They stole it (the body)”.

For a minute I’m going to put aside why first century Jews would have been that absolutely convinced that at the resurrection of Jesus He could not rise from the dead.

Nobody – NATURALLY- can believe… there is an allergy to belief in God or an inability in us. Some of you know there’s different theological traditions  inside christianity that has somewhat different views on to what degree we have an ability to respond to God. But, all of them agree that we just can’t produce faith without help from outside.

Do you really think you’re objective in looking at a book like the Bible, or looking at a message like the Gospel? Because if it’s true, you would lose control of how you would live your life. When people say, “I’m completely objective, I’m looking at the evidence and I just don’t see the evidence”, surely you know that you have a deep layer of prejudice and if you’re not going to acknowledge it, you’re never going to get close to objectivity, never.

When you come to christianity to say, “Is it right or wrong?”, you have a vested interest in it being “wrong”. But, you can’t recuse yourself (as a judge would when ruling on a case) so here’s what I suggest- three things. Mary only believes because of help form the outside. John and Peter only believe because they have help form the outside. They do not have the ability to believe. So here’s what I would suggest:

  1. First of all, please doubt your doubts. Please look at your doubt and realize that you do have a sort of emotional, psychological force underneath them. You’re afraid of it being true. You’ll never be fair minded  if yo don’t see that.
  2. Some of you may be overconfident that you are objective and somehow the evidence just isn’t enough for you.  Why don’t you consider praying? Why don’t you consider praying, “Lord God, I don’t know if you’re there, but, if you are please help me think this through”. Break the ice. If you’re not willing to do that, you’re not willing to see your prejudice.
  3. But, a lot of you are actually too anxious. The Bible says that you can’t believe without help from the outside. Without God helping you, without Jesus coming to yo hand saying to you, like He speaks to Mary. In all her consternation- she’s running around and she doesn’t see Jesus. Just please keep this in mind: If you want to believe, if you find yourself desiring to believe, if you find yourself very interested in christianity but you’re afraid somehow that you’re not gonna be able to come into faith. About 5 of you came to me this week and said you were interested but you weren’t sure you would get it right or that your motives were right in pursuing chrsitianity. A sense of Christ’s absence may be a sign of His presence. Because I don’t think you’re capable of wanting to believe without Him giving you some help. So if you wanna believe, instead of being afraid that He’s not around, look at that as maybe a sign that He might be right there at your elbow, just like with Mary. Mary’s in tears, she doesn’t even realize that He’s talking to her. You might be in that situation. You might feel like everything’s falling apart and you kind of want something, but I don’t know, He may already be working in your life. So faith by yourself is impossible. But, obviously not impossible to have, just to produce on your own.

Christian faith is rational

What I mean by rational: There’s evidence. Let’s take a look at why Mary and John and Peter aren’t there. If you don’t know anything about first century culture, first century history, it doesn’t make much sense that Jesus said, “I’m gonna rise the third day”. And when you get to the third day, the disciples are not there waiting to see. And, even when Mary Magdalene sees, she runs away assured that there’s been no resurrection.

The reason… it’s kind of incredible to us when you read it not knowing anything about the text. But, when you read a book, like I did by N T Wright giving the exhaustive account of the historic evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Keller says it’s the best book on the resurrection written in the last 100 years). In it he shows that Jews and Greeks and Romans would never believe that an individual could be resurrected from the dead. Greeks believed the body was bad. So the idea of the resurrection of the body, who wants that? The whole idea of salvation is liberation from the body.

Some of the Jews, like the SAdducees didn’t believe in any resurrection and Pharisees believed in a general resurrection at the end of time. Nobody believed that he could rise from the dead here. And certainly the Jews were the last people who could believe that a human being could be the Son of God. They’ve been taught their whole lives that God cannot be human. They have this transcendent view of God. You put all that together, you’ll see why first century Jews were every bit as closed to the idea of resurrection of Jesus Christ, for a different reason.

The average person, here at Oxford, thinks the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is crazy. Why? Because your post enlightenment naturalism. The idea that there aren’t any such things as miracles. That everything has a scientific explanation, so on. So we’re closed to it. But, they were closed to it. Everybody’s closed to it for different reasons. If that’s true, imagine what evidence you would have to get if you were to absolutely believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What kind of evidence would you have to have to break through your absolute ironclad doubts? You have this world view that insists it couldn’t have happened. WHat kind of evidence would have to happen to you so it would have to shatter and you would believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and was resurrected from the dead?  Whatever that evidence is that you are imagining right now, they must have had something like it. You see? They must have gotten the same kind of evidence. Because they were as closed to it as you were. And, if that’s the case, that evidence might be enough to you.

What’s the evidence? One piece is right here. WHo is this eyewitness? The Gospel writer tells us that an eyewitness to the resurrection was Mary Magdalene, a woman. And, what all historians will tell you is this- In those patriarchal times, women were not trusted, and therefore, women could not give testimony, either in Jewish or Roman courts. Therefore, if you were making up an account of the resurrection, you would never in a million years make a woman the first witness. And actually, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first witnesses of the resurrection are all women. And, the only historically plausible answer to why women are in the account, the only reason why men who wrote the accounts would put women in is because it must have happened. She must have been there. She must have claimed to see Jesus Christ. So, there’s a lot of action for the resurrection. Actually you can even see it with Peter as he is looking in the tomb and wondering if the grave clothes were still there, then…

Faith is not only rational. You NEVER GET ALL THE WAY INTO FAITH THROUGH REASON. Faith is an act of a whole person and you’ve got to have a convinced mind. You obviously cannot get all the way to faith because reason is not the same as faith. Obviously, faith goes beyond reason, but it’s not quite the same as reason.

We live in a time when people say over and over again, “There’s really no objective truth. If you wanna believe in christianity, if you wanna believe in whatever faith you want… if it’s relevant for you, if it’s satisfying to you, don’t worry about whether or not it happened. If it’s relevant for you , you can believe it”. Hitler believed something that was relevant for him. And we all think he was wrong. Why? Because we all do know down deep that there is such a thing as truth and there is such a thing as a standard. Christianity will never say: Believe me only because it’s relevant. Christianity basically says: Don’t believe christianity because it’s exciting, practical and relevant; believe it because it’s true. Because if it’s not true it won’t be practical at all then.  You’re never gonna be able to face the suffering that’s ahead of you, o young people, if you don’t in the end believe Christianity’s relevant and exciting (which it is), BT IT’S TRUE.

Christian faith is ‘gracefull’

Part 2- John 20:11-18 Christian faith is gracefull with 2 l’s. Here’s a point that is all through the New Testament, but we’re seeing it in narrative form here. Before I show it to you in narrative form let me tell you what the point is. At the very essence of what it means to not just have faith in general, but life transforming, Jesus encountering saving faith in particular is when you learn the difference between salvation by grace through Jesus Christ is done, rather than by salvation and working very, very hard, and all your moral efforts to earn your place with God.  Those are 2 absolutely different paradigms. They’re actually two different faiths.

To put it like this. Traditional religion says: I obey God, therefore I get accepted and saved and blessed. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ says: I’m accepted by God by what Jesus Christ has done on the cross for me, therefore I obey. If I’m obeying, hoping somehow God will bless me and answer my prayers and take me to heaven, if I’m obeying only to be accepted, I’m always afraid, insecure and operating out of fear. And, of course if I am doing it, I’m living like I should, your identity rests not in God, it rests in yourself, in your own ability. If you get your identity out of being a hard working person, you will have to look down your nose on people. If you get your identity out of being a good, moral person who obeys the moral law, you will have to look down on people who you think are immoral.

But, if you obey because you’re already accepted, you’re doing all the things you’re doing out of joy and gratitude and you’re humbled because you now… even though God loves you freely, it’s nothing you earn. So, you look at people who are not living like they should and you cannot feel superior to them. So, you have 2 people. One trusting in their moral efforts. One trusting in Jesus. And even though on the surface they may look like they’re living the same kind of life, in the end, it produces 2 completely different sets of character. You will have self righteousness and bigotry vs. humility and graciousness. It will affect people around you in such different ways. And the essence of becoming a christian is to transfer the trust you have in your own ability, in your own efforts, onto what Jesus Christ has done.

How does this get across in this narrative? Mary goes to the tomb, she looks around, she finally sees Jesus. She says: Teacher!”Mary”, He says. At that moment, especially when He tells her to go tell the world what’s happening, in some sense, she’s the first christian. Do you know why she’s the first christian? What’s a christian? A christian is someone that knows Jesus is risen from the dead, has had an encounter with the risen Christ. For one moment, in a sense, she’s the first christian who is going to the world to tell them, “Do you know what He’s done?”

Who’s Mary Magdalene? We don’t know much about her, we do know she’s been a demon possessed person and demons were cast out of her. Jesus Christ chose a woman, not a man. He chose a reformed mental patient, not a pillar of the community. He chose a layperson, not one of the apostles. What’s He doing? How much clearer can He be to say, “My salvation is not based on breeding, on pedigree. I’m not really your teacher, I’m your Savior. I’ve come not to call the strong but those who are weak. I’m here to save you, not by your work, but by my work. The minute you understand that, the penny drops and the change happens.

The First Christian Encounters Jesus

Uploaded by  on Feb 13, 2012

Tim Keller speaks on the Saturday evening of “This is Jesus”, OICCU’s 2012 main event.

Tim Keller at Oxford (3) Two grieving sisters encounter Jesus

Keller: What we’re doing every night this week is we’re looking at questions that every person has to have a set of working answers for in order to live: Who are we, as human beings? What’s wrong with us, with the world? What, if anything can improve or put us right. So each night we’re looking in the New Testament Gospel of John, and there we’re looking at a series of encounters that Jesus Christ had with individuals.

In this night we’re going to take a look at this question: What can put us right? What, if anything can improve our condition? And, if you’re gonna go to christianity to find out what the christian answer to that major philosophic question is, you have to change the question a little bit. The question is: Who can put us right? So tonight we are gonna start looking and we’ll do it some more tomorrow night, at who is Jesus Christ? Who is this center of christianity that’s supposed to be the person who does everything right. To do that, we’re gonna look at John, chapter 11. I’m gonna read you two sections (in two stages) from a long chapter, to tell the story of Jesus and His relationship with 3 people, 2 sisters and a brother Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Jesus had a particularly close relationship to them. Earlier in chapter 11, Lazarus is described as someone that Jesus loved. ‘Love’ is a word that was only used in Jesus intimate relationship with His disciples. Lazarus gets sick, very sick. Mary and Martha send for Him. And then, He starts to come, but, Lazarus dies before He arrives.

Who Jesus is

John 11:17-36 Did you notice something? Martha comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died”. Later, Mary comes out and says exactly the same words. And yet, Jesus’s response to Martha and to Mary are absolutely different. Same statement, same condition, two sisters with a brother whom they love. With Martha, He almost argues with her. You could see Him standing straight and lifting up His voice. The flow of her heart is going down. She’s in despair, sadness and sorrow and He’s pushing against that flow. He says, “Don’t say that, I am the resurrection and the life; I’m here. Things are gonna change. Lift up your heart”.

He goes to see Mary, Mary comes out, says exactly the same thing and His response is completely different. He’s essentially speechless. And, instead of pushing against the flow of her heart, He enters it; He’s sort of sucked into it. He feels her sorrow and he’s just swept up into it and He bursts into tears. All He can say is, “Where is he?” One commentator on the Bible that I know has said, “This has got to be an eyewitness account. No fiction writer would have ever made anything up like this”. Because, if you’re making this up, it makes sense then, that maybe Jesus Christ (who claims to be God- we’re gonna get to that in a minute), walks in and says, “I’m the resurrection and the life, everybody watch what I’m  gonna do”. But, then when He gets to Mary, why does He act that way, why is He pulled down? Why does He seem to be so vulnerable? If you are making this story up, you could either make Jesus playful, and then Jesus would say to Mary, “Ha,ha,ha,ha wait til you see what I am about to do”. Or you can just make Him high and elevated and you have Him say to her, “I am the resurrection and the life”. But, as that person said, “If you were a fiction writer, you would have never made up what happened”.

He speaks to Mary in a completely different way that He speaks to Martha. Why this difference?

  1. Because it HAPPENED. That’s the only good reason for being there
  2. Secondly, because in terms of narrative, He is teaching us that Jesus Christ is both God and human. He is teaching us in narrative form what the New Testament says elsewhere propositionally: That He is God and man. Not just God. Not just man. God man.

Let me show a little bit more about that. First of all, here we see Him actually claiming to be God. When He says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” let’s put this in context. Jesus is constantly making claims like this that are astonishing. It’s even more than saying, “I’m God”. You know, a lot of people talk and say, “I’m God”, and they mean different things by ‘god’ and in some way you can say, “I believe there’s a god in everybody”. But, when Jesus says these names, we see the magnitude of them.

So, for example, one of the things Jesus does constantly, you read it in the New testament, is He is always forgiving people for their sins. Does that surprise you? It should. You can only forgive someone if they have sinned against you, and if Jesus Christ goes around and forgives people left and right, what is He saying? You know what He is saying, “I am the creator and proprietor of the human race and all sins are against Me. All violations, all wrongs are against Me”. You can go to chapter 14 where Jesus doesn’t just say – I tell the ruth or I bring the truth, or I point to the truth. He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the truth? We saw last night that He’s the source of eternal life. That only God can give life and take it away.

Here, He’s not just saying, “I can resurrect Lazarus”. He’s not saying, “I’ve got the power to revive this person”. He’s going way beyond that. He says, “I have the power to destroy death. I am the resurrection and the life”. At the end of the book of John, Jesus appears to Thomas, shows him his nail prints and His scars, Thomas falls down and he says, “My Lord, and my God”. He worships, and Jesus just sits there.

Now, everywhere in the Bible, if an angel appears and you fall down in the BIble and you try to worship the angel, the angels say, “Get up.” Why? “I am a fellow creature, I have been created by God, so, if I have been created by God, don’t worship me”. And when people fall down before God, before Jesus and say, “My Lord, my God”, and worships Him, and Jesus takes it, what is He saying about Himself? It’s everywhere in the New Testament, even off the cuff. In Luke Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning”, and then He goes on to something else and the other disciples must have been sitting there thinking, “What, who do you think you are?” And that’s the point. Everybody knew who He was claiming to be. There’s a place in John 5 where He says, “I’m the Son of God”, and they try to stone Him. Why? Because in that culture, if you’re the only son, the only child, you inherit everything from your father, which means that you’re equal with your father and they tried to kill Him because they knew that every time He called Himself the Son of God, He was calling Himself equal with God.

Jesus’s constant claims, that either directly or with just slight direction say, “I am the creator of the universe. I am the transcendent one. I am the one who is infinitely exalted above heaven and earth. All things belong to Me”. It’s astounding. And it creates a problem, not only to the people around Him who are with Him at the time, but, for everybody in this room. There was a Scottish presbyterian rabbi who said, “Because of Jesus’s claims, He’s different than the other founders of all the other great religions. Because of His claims, “Christ either deceived humankind by a conscious fraud, or was Himself deluded, or He was divine”. There is no getting out of this trilemma. He was either a fraud and was lying, or he was deranged or He was God. But, don’t say He’s just another founder of another religion, that He’s another great man, another great teacher and that we can learn a little bit from him, and from another

Jesus doesn’t give you that option. You can’t put Jesus on a shelf with all the other great sages. He won’t let you, because of the claims. You see, He says, “Take seriously my claims. If I am wrong, I am inferior to all those other founders If I am wrong, I am not like those other founders who had the wisdom to not claim to be God. But, if I’m right, I am superior, I have to be for you to find out who God is and what ultimate reality is. But, I’m not an equal.

Somebody years ago, after reading the Gospels and looking at His life put it like this, and by the way we don’t know who wrote this. It was quoted in a book and the source was not named:

The accounts of Him in the New testament speak for themselves. He combines qualities that no one has ever seen. Despite His incredible claims, we never see Him pompous or offended, or leaning on His own dignity. Despite being absolutely approachable to the weakest and most broken people, He is completely fearless before the proud and the corrupt. It’s like being profoundly human and becoming weary and lonely, and moved to joy, and love, and anger. Yet, we never see Him moody. We never see Him inconsistent. We never see Him being strong where He should be tender or tender where He should be strong. Most interesting of all, in His accounts in dealing with people He is continually surprising us, shocking us, yet never disappointing us. It is difficult to imagine the word Jesus ought to have said or the deed He ought to have done. Nothing He does falls short. In fact He is always surprising and taking your breath away, because he is incomparably better than you could imagine yourself. Why? These are the surprises of perfection. He is tenderness without weakness, strength without harshness, humility without the slightest lack of confidence, unhesitating authority with a complete lack of self absorption. Holiness and unbending conviction, without the slightest lack of approachability, power without insensitivity, passion without prejudice. There’s never a false step, there’s never a dry note, this is life at the highest.

His claims- INCREDIBLE!

His life- ASTONISHING

Conclusion- He’s God. But, He’s not just God. He doesn’t just show Martha “I’m the resurrection and the life”. When He gets to Mary He weeps. Here you have deity, with human vulnerability. His love for these people, for this family, brings Him down into weeping. What you have in Jesus Christ is something that is pretty hard to believe, He’s not 50 % human. He’s not 20% God. He’s not a human being with sort of a high God consciousness. He is deity, but He is absolutely and totally human. Now, no other religion agrees with this. Nobody else believes that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh. Lots of people will grant that He was a guru, a sage, but no one else will grant that HE was God come in the flesh. But, here’s my argument to you: Look at they way in which He actually responds to the 2 women and you will see that when you can get your mind around the idea of a God-man or not, it’s what you need. Why? With Martha, He gives her the ministry of truth. She needs the truth, because she’s Martha. He says, “Listen, stop don’t despair. I’m here, the resurrection and life”. Because of His highness, because of His cosmic identity He’s able to point to the stars. ANd then, when He gets to Mary, He doesn’t give her the ministry of truth, He gives her the ministry of tears. He doesn’t say anything. He just gets into her sorrow with her. Complete sincerity, complete integrity and just weeps with her, because of His lowness. Now, technically, everyone needs a ministry of truth and a ministry of tears. Sometimes you need more of the truth. Sometimes you need to be punched out by a loving friend who says, “Wake up, stop it”. Other times you just need somebody to just weep with you. Sometimes, to lay truth on people when they’re grieved is absolutely wrong. But, other times, just to weep with them and not tell them the truth is wrong too. A lot of us tend to be with people and just weep and never tell the truth and a lot of us tend to be abrasive people who love to tell the truth, but we’re really not sympathetic. But Jesus Christ isn’y just a wonderful counselorHe is the truth come in tears. He is deity incarnate.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity! He is God become a human being and He’s become a human being because He loves us. Behold how He loves us.

Two Grieving Sisters Encounter Jesus

Uploaded by  on Feb 10, 2012

Tim Keller speaks on the Thursday evening of “This is Jesus”, OICCU’s 2012 main event.

The Search for Joy and the Supremacy of God in the Gospel

Watch the first John Piper message – In the throne Room given at the Gospel Coalition for Women 2012 Conference here:

The Search for Joy and the Supremacy of God in the Gospel

photo from http://christianpost.com

The Gospel is the great work of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, by which He removes every obstacle to your everlasting, all satisfying  joy in His glory and in which He displays most beautifully that glory, for your enjoyment. He removes and destroys everything that makes your happiness fail and He displays everything that makes your happiness full. So, I plead with you: Give your self to this. Make this your life long quest.

The Search for Joy and the Supremacy of God in the Gospel from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

  1. The ‘by which’ He removes every obstacle to your everlasting and all satisfying joy in His glory.
  2. And the second one will be: And, ‘in which’ He becomes the display and the object of that very glory and your joy in Him.

So, the Gospel is the work of God by which through Jesus Christ He removes every single obstacle to your everlasting and all satisfying pleasure. I’ve written down 7 of those obstacles so that you get a feel for how magnificent this removal is, and I hope as I walk through these, you will find your self leaping inside. That you are no longer locked up to joylessness because of these 7 things. They are obliterated by the blood of Jesus:

  1. The wrath of God- is the greatest obstacle to your joy in the universe, and it has been removed in the blood of Jesus. Romans 5:9: ‘Since we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.’ Galatians 3:13: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.’ That’s God’s curse; the law doesn’t do anything. It’s just there doing what God appoints for it to do and it curses us, and it curses us because nobody has fulfilled it. And so, Jesus steps in between, at God’s appointment and He absorbs the entire curse that God has put on us because of the law and His wrath is over. We call that propitiation. Romans 3:25: ‘God put Christ forward (God did this, don’t ever think of Jesus and God at odds here) as a propitiation by His blood.’ That means He propitiated His wrath. He satisfied His justice. So, once the greatest obstacle in our lives, namely, “we can’t be happy in God’s glory- He’s angry at us” is over. And all the omnipotence that once flowed into the punishment that we deserved, now flows only, only in mercy towards His children in Jesus Christ. That obstacle is over because of the Gospel.
  2. We were alienated and far away from Him. Ephesians 2:13: ‘In Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ Romans 5:10: ‘(We call this reconciliation) While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.’ So, not only is wrath removed, our distance, way, way, far away in our alienation, He’s brought us near. Wrath removed – distance overcome.
  3. In the Gospel He removes the obstacle of real guilt, real sin in our lives. Ephesians 1:7: ‘In Him we have redemption, through His blood the forgiveness of our sins. 1 Peter 2:24: ‘Christ bore our sins in His body.’ Isaiah 53:6: ‘God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ The guilt and the burden of sin cannot be an obstacle to our joy. It’s on Jesus. If we let it become an obstacle we dishonor the blood, we say it’s inadequate. It’s not inadequate, it is totally adequate and the sin is not a problem anymore, for our everlasting joy in Him. That obstacle has been removed.
  4. The absence of righteousness in my life. Not only do I have real guilt apart from Jesus and real sin, I don’t have any righteousness to commend me to a holy God. None is righteous, no not one. Romans 3:10. And so, what did God do?  2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake, God made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.’ In Him, you are righteous, perfect. Romans 5:19: ‘As by one man’s disobedience (that’s Adam) the many were made sinners.’ We were counted as sinners because we were in Adam. ‘So, by one man’s obedience, the many will be constituted righteous.’ As we were counted sinners in Adam, we are counted righteous in Christ. This is called justification. ‘Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God’. The obstacle of the absence of righteousness, the absence of inadequacy, the absence of perfection in my life is not an obstacle to my everlasting pleasures at His right hand forevermore.
  5. I am going to die and so are you. Hebrews 9:27: ‘It is appointed to man once to die and after that judgment.’ So, it’s gonna be over. Will it be over? It won’t be over! Not for those who are in Christ. My joy – so small, in the beginning stages now, won’t be over. What does the Gospel do to that? Romans 8:11: ‘If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through the spirit that dwells in you.’ You will not die. ‘I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live and he who lives and believes in me will never die.’ Your joy in Jesus, small as it is now never stops.
  6. Spiritual deadness in my soul is no longer an obstacle to my everlasting, all satisfying happiness in Jesus. My spiritual deadness, your spiritual deadness, deadness to glory, deadness to beauty, deadness to Christ, deadness to everything holy and good and right and satisfying from heaven began a long time before we died. We were born dead. So, how can a lifeless, dead, insensitive, hard heart that only loves what kills, have everlasting joy. Because Christ died in order for this to happen. Ephesians 2:4: ‘God, being rich in mercy, out of the great love (oh, I love that phrase, it is the only place it occurs in the Bible) with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive, in Christ Jesus.’ ‘By grace you have been saved’, which links it with the Gospel. You’re not dead anymore, which means you have tastebuds on your soul’s tongue and  they were made to lick the lollipop of the Gospel. (laughter  as John Piper says: A lousy illustration, just came to my mind just then. Stay to your manuscript) You get the idea. Before they were dead and you licked sin and it was so good. Right? You licked sin and it totally had your tongue. And then, something happened called ‘the new birth’, new creation and the taste buds changed. They came alive to glory. And so, your deadness is not an obstacle anymore.
  7. Satan hates your joy. The great accuser, what happened at the Gospel to Satan? What happened at the cross to Satan? Two passages- Colossians 2:15: ‘Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame triumphing over them in Him.’ Or in it, the cross- two possible translations. When Christ died, he stripped Satan of his armor., meaning- the only lethal weapon Satan has in his hand against you is the weapon of the accusation of unforgiven sin. If he can get you there, you’re damned. If Satan can go before the bar of God and say, “Her sins aren’t forgiven, she’s mine”, you ARE his. But, if at the cross, every sin was covered, his mouth is shut. He has no weapon anymore. Oh he can…, I like to say to the kids in our church, “He can gum you, but his fangs are gone!”. And they remember that. And the other text is Hebrews 2:14: ‘Through death He destroyed him who has the power of death, that is the devil.

There are no obstacles anymore that can stop your everlasting joy in Jesus. Now here’s the question: If you have experienced

  • propitiation- wrath gone.
  • Reconciliation- you’re near.
  • Redemption- sin’s forgiven.
  • Justification- a righteousness in Christ, that’s His, counted for you.
  • Promise of resurrection after death.
  • New birth so that your taste buds are alive.
  • The defeat of Satan.

If you have experienced that, have you experienced the Gospel? Have you experienced the greatest good, that makes the Gospel good and makes all of those things good, which they are not in themselves. And the answer is- yes, you have, if you realize none of those things, those 7 triumphs over the obstacles to your joy, none of those 7 is good news, except as removing obstacles to something else.

  • Removing God’s wrath is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.
  • Drawing near to God is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.
  • The forgiveness of your sins is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.
  • Being counted righteous in Christ is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.
  • Rising from the dead is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.
  • Having new spiritual tastebuds is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.
  • The defeat of Satan is not the goal of the Gospel, it’s a means.

TO WHAT???

What makes the Gospel the Gospel? What makes the good news, ultimately, finally, supremely, all satisfyingly good? We haven’t even got there yet. We haven’t said it. If I have offended Noelle, my wife, and I need forgiveness, and I ask for it, why should I want it? Forgiveness is one of those 7 means by which the Lord overcomes the obstacles to our joy. So, this is one illustration, you could do it with all 7. So, here now we have a human paradigm or parable of that. So, I’ve offended her. I’ve said something ugly. I need forgiveness. Why? Why should I want it? Why should you want to be forgiven by God. The answer to that question makes all the difference in the world whether you are believing the Gospel. The answer is not: I don’t want to have a guilty conscience when I go to church. It’s embarrassing. It’s inconsistent. It’s contradictory. I don’t want to have a guilty conscience at work, it makes me uncomfortable. Bad answer.

Or, “Maybe if we get this thing cleared up, there’ll be a dinner when I get back”. Bad answer. That’s why a lot of people want the forgiveness of God. Hell is hot, heaven’s cool, that’s better. Better dinner. I’ll use any butler that can get me there. “I need to be a good example for the church, to be a good husband, telling the story how I confessed and got it right.” “Woo, pastor’s a good husband”. Wrong answer. There’s only one right answer, “I want my wife back! I want her back! There’s stuff in the way, I want her.” That’s the reason I want forgiveness. And, if I want it for any other reason, she is dishonored and so is God.

This is why it is so crucial to realize that after all those 7 removal of obstacles, realize we haven’t said the ultimate goal of the Gospel yet, which is- to enjoy  Him, savor Him, prize Him, be satisfied in Him, embrace Him, walk with Him. It’s about Him and all that He is for us in here (points to heart).

Back to the definition. Maybe the definition will start making more sense now. Here’s my definition of the Gospel: The Gospel is the work of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which He removes every obstacle between me and my, you and your – everlasting, all satisfying pleasure in the glory of God, in Jesus. And, I said, in which in that very removal, He displays the glory that gives us the greatest happiness. What makes the Gospel “the Gospel’ is not ultimately the removal  of obstacles, but rather, the joy that we have in Jesus in the beautiful display of His glory in the removal of the obstacles.

Christ did not just make our joy possible, by the Gospel. He became the supreme object of our joy, in the Gospel. Let me say that again: Christ, in dying for us, did not simply make our joy possible; He died to become the supreme object of our joy in the Gospel and here is my key text: 2 Corinthians 4:4-6: ‘in whose (the case of the unbelievers) case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “ Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’  Satan doesn’t want you to see, with the eyes of your heart, the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. I cannot, I don’t think, exaggerate the impact of that little phrase on my thinking about God, the Gospel, life, marriage, church, everything. The Gospel  of the glory of Christ- which I take it means: In His death and resurrection, He has secured my everlasting enjoyment of His glory and He has displayed in His most beautiful form His glory. It’s called the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. (Read verse 6) The Gospel is designed to be the point at which the eyes of our heart see the glory of Christ and not just see it. The devil sees it, but he doesn’t really see what it is. He doesn’t see how beautiful and attractive  and all satisfying it happens to be when you got tastebuds by new birth. You see it and you savor it, meaning embrace it, love it, delight in it, be satisfied by it, to the end that the world might be shown. See, savor, show. That’s our little trilogy at Bethlehem. It’s about seeing Him, savoring Him, and showing the world that He is supremely valuable, which means it’s probably gonna make you do some wild and crazy wonderful things which the world will be puzzled about.

A key text on that last point about savoring and showing- Ephesians 1:5-6: ‘God predestined us in love for adoption through Jesus Christ, (there’s the Gospel) according to the purpose of His will, unto the praise of the glory of His grace.’ The praise of the glory of His praise. He died for you so you’d praise His grace. Died so you’d praise. So He reveals it, He removes every obstacle to it and now, your life long vision is: I will pursue that praising. And, nobody praises what he doesn’t enjoy. That’s called hypocrisy. And therefore, the goal is that you be satisfied in Him. So the design of the Gospel, it’s ultimate goal is that we see and savor the glory of Christ in the Gospel, that we show His worth by how much we treasure Him, that we display His beauty by how much we delight in it and that the preciousness of our Savior be shown by how much He satisfies our soul- which leads to this practical, life altering conclusion.

The life that drinks deeply at the well of the Gospel; the life that drinks most deeply at the well of the Gospel  and the life that displays the worth of Christ most clearly, and the life that glorifies the work of God’s grace most fully is a life of unremitting pursuit of happiness in Jesus and not in the world. If that’s true, the christian life becomes a life long quest to make Jesus the lifeblood of all your pleasure. Don’t have any pleasures outside of Jesus. If there’ a good thing in marriage. If there’s a good thing in children, if there’s a good thing in a sunset, if there’s a good thing in art or music, I will enjoy it because of Jesus. It will be for Him, it will be from Him, it will be through Him and it will not compete with Him. Not on my life it won’t. I will cut off my hand, lest anything compete with my affections as an idol with Jesus.

I’d like to stress this- the pursuit of your joy is commanded by the Bible. “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice”. The nature of faith beckons you to pursue your joy. Jesus said in John 6:35: ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger. Whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’ So, believing is a coming to Jesus for the thirsting satisfaction, the hungering satisfaction of your soul. That’s what faith is. Faith is the embracing of Jesus, as the bread satisfies your soul, the water that satisfies the thirst that is coming us again and again. No more quest, He’s the one.

The nature of evil pushes you to this quest. “My people committed 2 evils (Jeremiah 2) They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and have hewn out (dug out) for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. What’s that? That’s insane. And the whole world is doing it. Don’t join them! Don’t forsake the fountain of living water, you glorify the water by getting down on your face and drinking to your heart’s contentment, lifting up your face saying, “Ahh,” that’s worship . Saying it’s a nice fountain while drinking from the river of the valley is not worship. So, evil is defined in the Bible as the forsaking of your joy in God and, trying to find it anywhere else. That’s a wonderful definition of evil.

The nature of conversion pushes you in this direction. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who found a treasure hidden in a field and in his joy he covered over and went and sold everything he had and bought that field. That’s the shortest parable in Jesus’ teaching. What’s the point? When the King arrives, He’s the treasure. And if you see, suddenly, “I could have this! I could have Him!” And I’ve got all this clamoring, clawing joys in my life that are trying to drag me away in another direction, I will sell them all and the world will think I am crazy. They might even call it “you’re hating”. You’re not. Conversion is – finding Jesus so valuable, you would have Him at the cost of  anything.

Two more comments: ‘You can’t love each other and your husbands and your children and your friends and your enemies, unless you are finding your joy in Jesus. Listen to this word to the Corinthians about the Macedonians: We want you to know about the  grace of God that’s been poured out on the churches of Macedonia, for, in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflow with a flow of liberality on their part.’ So, where did their love come from? It didn’t come from the removal of affliction, that’s intense. It didn’t come from the removal of poverty, that’s extreme. Where did it come from? The grace of God came down and their abundance of joy in affliction and in poverty overflowed. Do you want to be an overflowing person? Biblically, there’s only one way to overflow with Christ exalting love for others: Be filled with happiness in Jesus. Happiness that may cost you your life or meaning you stay in a marriage, or raise a disabled child, or go to the hardest place on the planet to serve others. The pathway of Christ is not an easy path. It’s just a happy one.

Lastly, I have a ‘rose’ story. Does it really glorify God to pursue your joy? I’d stake my life on that, it’s almost done and that’s what I’ve said for almost 40 years. So, it’s our anniversary. December 21st it will be 44 years. I ring the doorbell after work, which I never do, of course and she comes to the door and is surprised that I rang the doorbell, looks at me kind of funny and I pull the flowers and I say, “Happy anniversary Noelle”. “They’re beautiful”, she says, “Why did you?” And I say, “It’s my duty”. What’s wrong with that answer? Duty is a good thing. Ask a soldier, ask a marine.

It’s the wrong answer. Why is it the wrong answer? “I did my duty. I read the book, I know how you’re supposed to be. I know how you do marriage”. The right answer: Ring the doorbell, she comes to the door, looks funny, “Happy anniversary Noelle”, “Aww… they’re beautiful Johnny, why did you?” “It makes me happy. There’s nothing I’d rather do than spend this evening with you so I’ve made arrangements for Talitha to be where she needs to be and we’re going out. That’s the right answer. And, not in a thousand years would she ever say, “Nothing makes you happier, all you ever think about is you, you, you.” Now, why would she never say that? Because she knows that when I’m satisfied in her, she’s glorified. She knows that, she feels that. And so does God. The ultimate reason for why you pursue your everlasting, all satisfying joy in Jesus is because it makes much of Him, like nothing else.

So, I close with my definition again: The Gospel is the great work of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, by which He removes every obstacle to your everlasting, all satisfying  joy in His glory and in which He displays most beautifully that glory, for your enjoyment. He removes and destroys everything that makes your happiness fail and He displays everything that makes your happiness full. So, I plead with you: Give your self to this. Make this your life long quest. Cut off your hand if you have to. Do not rest until you find yourself sweetly, deeply resting in the all satisfying grace and glory of our Lord Jesus.

from John Piper at http://www.desiringGod.org

Celebrate International Children’s Day with Inspirational Bible Verses For Children

via www.kidstalkaboutgod.org On this same website, more resources:

You can’t be with your kids 24/7. God can. Help them memorize inspirational Bible verses for children, and they will carry God’s Word wherever they go.

We all want our children to form good habits, such as brushing their teeth, being polite, and doing their homework. But memorizing inspirational Bible verses should become a good habit, too. Teaching your kids this discipline is one of the greatest gifts you could give them.

Habits are powerful. The earlier you establish them, the better they’ll stick. For example, your mom probably taught you to brush your teeth when you were a young child. Once you’re an adult, how often do you forget to brush your teeth? It’s just part of your routine, isn’t it?

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6; NKJV).

Scriptures for Children: Easy-To-Read Version, for NKJV click here

“My son, listen to your father when he corrects you. And don’t ignore what your mother teaches you.” Proverbs 1:8
“A foolish person refuses to listen to his father’s advice. But a wise person listens closely when people try to teach him.” Proverbs 15:5
“A wise son brings happiness to his father. But a foolish person brings shame to his mother.” Proverbs 15:20
“Children, obey your parents in all things. This pleases the Lord.” Colossians 3:20
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people that are like these children.’” Matthew 19:14
“Jesus said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people that are like these little children.’” Mark 10:14b
“You are young, but don’t let any person treat you like you are not important. Be an example to show the believers how they should live. Show them with the things you say, with the way you live, with your love, with your faith, and with your pure life.” 1 Timothy 4:12
“Be careful. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage and be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
“If you believe, you will get anything you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22
“My brothers and sisters, you will have many kinds of troubles. But when these things happen, you should be very happy. Why? Because you know that these things are testing your faith. And this will give you patience.” James 1:2-3
“In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work like you are working for the Lord, not for people.” Colossians 3:23
“Your heart will be where your treasure is.” Luke 12:34
“We must not become tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest {of eternal life} at the right time. We must not give up!” Galatians 6:9
“Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other the same as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32
“But the Spirit gives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that can say these things are wrong.” Galatians 5:22-23
“But Christ died for us while we were still sinners. In that way God showed us that he loves us very much.” Romans 5:8
“I mean that you are saved by grace. And you got that grace by believing. You did not save yourselves. It was a gift from God. No! You are not saved by the things you have done. So no person can boast {that he saved himself}.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“But the Lord is faithful. He will give you strength and protect you from the Evil One (the devil).” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
“I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
“My God is very rich with the glory of Christ Jesus. God will use his riches in Christ Jesus to give you everything you need.” Philippians 4:19
“Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. God gave his Son so that every person that believes in him would not be lost, but have life forever.” John 3:16
“Jesus answered him, ‘It is written {in the Scriptures}, “It is not just bread that keeps people alive. People’s lives depend on what God says.”’” Matthew 4:4
“You have never asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive. And you will be truly happy.” John 16:24
“Don’t worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. And God’s peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That peace which God gives is so great that we cannot understand it.” Philippians 4:6-7
“But the Holy Spirit will come to you. Then you will receive power. You will be my witnesses–{you will tell people about me}. First, you will tell people in Jerusalem. Then you will tell people in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.” Acts 1:8
“All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory.” Romans 3:23
“When people sin, they earn what sin pays–death. But God gives his people a free gift–life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“Every person must die once. After a person dies, he is judged.” Hebrews 9:27
“I tell you the truth. If a person hears what I say and believes in the One (God) who sent me, that person has life forever. That person will not be judged guilty. He has already left death and has entered into life.” John 5:24
“Some people did accept him. They believed in him. He gave something to those people who believed. He gave them the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
“I write this letter to you people who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.” 1 John 5:13
“But if any of you needs wisdom, then you should ask God for it. God is generous. He enjoys giving to all people. So God will give you wisdom.” James 1:5
“Trust the Lord completely! Don’t depend on your own knowledge. Think about God in all that you do. Then he will help you.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“The only temptations that you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
“He must become more and more important. And I must become less important.” John 3:30
“Christ died for all people so that the people who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that those people would live for him.” 2 Corinthians 5:15
“You should know that your body is a temple (house) for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. You don’t own yourselves.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“But the Helper will teach you everything. The Helper will cause you to remember all the things I told you. This Helper is the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name.” John 14:26
“The time is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. That time is now here. And those are the kind of people the Father wants to be his worshipers.” John 4:23
“The Lord is as kind to his followers as a father is to his children. God knows all about us. God knows we are made from dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
“Keep your lives free from the love of money. And be satisfied with the things you have. God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never run away from you.’” Hebrews 13:5
“Lord, you give true peace to people who depend on you, to people who trust you.” Isaiah 26:3
“There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back. Then I will take you with me, so that you can be where I am.” John 14:2-3
“He even let his own Son suffer for us. God gave his Son for us all. So with Jesus now, God will surely give us all things.” Romans 8:32
“Give to other people, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands–more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap. The way you give to other people is the way God will give to you.” Luke 6:38
“God heals their broken hearts and bandages their wounds. God counts the stars and knows the name of each and every one. Our Master is very great. He is very powerful. There is no limit to the things he knows.” Psalm 147:3-5
“Come to me all you people that are tired and have heavy burdens. I will give you rest. Accept my work and learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will find rest for your souls. Yes, the work that I ask you to accept is easy. The burden I give you to carry is not heavy.” Matthew 11:28-30
“But the Lord said to me, ‘My grace (kindness) is enough for you. When you are weak, then my power is made perfect in you.’ So I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“People who think they are better than other people only cause trouble. But people who listen to the things other people tell them are wise.” Proverbs 13:10
“When you do things, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble and give more honor to other people than to yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of other people, too.” Philippians 2:3-4
“But people that trust the Lord become strong again like eagles that grow new feathers. These people run without becoming weak. These people walk without becoming tired.” Isaiah 40:31
“When you talk, don’t say any bad things. But say things that people need–things that will help other people become stronger. Then the things you say will help the people who listen to you.” Ephesians 4:29
“My dear brothers and sisters, always be more willing to listen than to speak. Don’t become angry easily. A person’s anger does not help him live right like God wants.” James 1:19-20
“Without faith, a person cannot please God. Any person who comes to God must believe that God is real. And any person who comes to God must believe that God rewards those people who truly want to find him.” Hebrews 11:6
“Jesus continued to say to all of them, ‘If any person wants to follow me, he must say “No” to the things he wants. That person must accept the cross (suffering) that is given to him every day, and he must follow me.’” Luke 9:23
“That goodness will bring peace and safety forever.” Isaiah 32:17
“God satisfies the thirsty soul. God fills the hungry soul with good things.” Psalm 107:9
“Always remember these commands that I give you today. Be sure to teach them to your children. Talk about these commands when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road. Talk about them when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
“Don’t be fooled: You cannot cheat God. A person harvests only the things he plants.” Galatians 6:7
“I say this because I know the plans that I have for you.” This message is from the Lord. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Children, obey your parents the way the Lord wants. That is the right thing to do. The command says, ‘You must honor (respect) your father and mother.’ That is the first command that has a promise with it. That promise is: ‘Then everything will be fine with you. And you will have a long life on the earth.’” Ephesians 6:1-3
“Children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from a mother’s body.” Psalm 127:3
“I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God like a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” Mark 10:15
“If a person accepts children like these in my name, then that person is also accepting me. And if a person accepts me, then that person is also accepting the One (God) that sent me.” Mark 9:37

What does it mean to “pray in Jesus’ name”?

via The Christian Post website

Russell Moore explains the phrase in an answer to a chaplain who asks:

Dear Dr. Moore,

I’m a committed evangelical Christian, and also a chaplain with responsibility for people from all sorts of religious backgrounds. I am called on to pray at many functions, with mixed audiences. Some over me are pressuring me not to end my prayers “in Jesus’ name” but to instead pray more inclusively to God, generally. I can pray “in Your name” and that seems to solve the problem. I mean Jesus, of course, but it wouldn’t be as patently offensive and it would enable me to minister here longer and more effectively. Is that ethical?

A Confused Chaplain

Dr. Moore explains what praying in Jesus’ name is:

  • “This is not a quandary about language” and that “Praying in Jesus’ name isn’t simply a cultural addendum at the end of a request”. We pray in Jesus’ name because Jesus commanded us to do so (Jn. 14:13). We pray in Jesus’ name because we believe that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, we have no access to God apart from our being hidden in Christ.

…and what it is not:

  • When you pray publicly, you are not there to proselytize or to do apologetic battle against other religions. But that’s not what praying in Jesus’ name is. If you are asked to pray, you can only pray as a Christian. In so doing, you are actually, ironically enough, protecting the rights of other religions and their chaplains.

and he points out:

  • Christian chaplains have been ordained by their churches, and offered to the military, to be Christian chaplains. For them to pray as a civil-religion cleric is for them to enlist their services in another faith. You wear the Cross, and must speak it and not put it under the bushel of a more inclusive language of civil faith.

lastly, he conlcudes his argument with Matt. 10:32-33:

  •  behind all those rationalizations hung a warning: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven”

You can sad the entire article here at http://www.christianpost.com/

Jesus on Prayer (National Day of Prayer – May 3, 2012)

For more Prayer Resources, including 3 free online books on how to pray for your 1)wife  2)child  or  3)husband click here.

from bible.org by Bob Deffinbaugh

Introduction

Matthew 5 – 7 contains the well-known Sermon on the Mount. The sermon is about righteousness that comes from the heart. Religion tends to be about external forms and obedience to rules, but here Jesus challenges us to evaluate ourselves by an inner standard. This contrasts with the prevailing wisdom of the time. The “teachers of the law” strove to fence the Law by a stringent oral law. Thus a “Sabbath day’s journey” encoded how far one could travel and not break the command to not labor on the Sabbath. It might well be that one could journey more without breaking the commandment, but if you kept the oral standard, you were so far from breaking the Law that you were “safe.” So the Law was fenced by obedience to an even stricter standard.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount also fenced the Law, but did so by looking at the heart. For example, He says,

“You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Murder is an external sin. It is obvious and visible. It is easy to condemn the murderer. But Jesus tells us to take care less we even have a seething anger against another. Our anger can be visible or invisible. It matters not; we have the seeds of murder in our heart, and we had best uproot them by the Father’s grace. And so Jesus teaches about a life lived and judged by attitudes in the heart. There is nothing here by which we can judge others. We can only take His words, and by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, judge our own lives and move to change.

So Jesus’ instruction on prayer is in the broad context of a sermon about the heart as the real source of good and evil in us. It also has a more immediate context expressed in the opening lines of Matthew 6:

Be careful about not living righteously merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1).

With these words, Jesus speaks of outward versus inward religious practices. Giving, prayer, and fasting are most often associated with religion and, in the following section of the sermon, Jesus speaks again of the inner heart versus outward forms. In Matthew 6:2-4, He speaks of giving. In Matthew 6:5-15, He speaks of prayer, and in 6:16-18, He speaks of fasting. His treatment of all three topics is the same: if you have the outward form only or if the outward form focuses attention on you, the public acclaim that you receive—real or imagined—is all the benefit you will derive.

Of course, a visible spiritual life is not of itself bad. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said:

I am not writing these things to shame you, but to correct you as my dear children. For though you may have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, because I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I encourage you, then, be imitators of me (1 Corinthians 4:14-16).

Paul said, “Be imitators of me. What you see me do, do yourselves.” Godly men and women are often the first models of godly living that a new believer has. I certainly benefited, over 30 years ago now, from men decades old in their faith. Now I hope to be the same to those younger than me. The difference for Paul to the Corinthians is that he did not derive his self-image from the attention. He was a bondservant of Jesus Christ and spent himself for the church and her people. Men and women like that are worth emulating.

But it is different for those who give to be recognized for their giving, or who entertain with great prayers or fast in agony for the admiration of others. They have erected outward forms only. They have confused the approval of others with approval of the Father.

In this lesson, we will look into what Jesus said about prayer as He discusses its outward forms and instructs concerning the inner reality.

Putting Prayer in Its Place

Jesus’ instruction on prayer in Matthew begins this way:

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

Jesus develops two basic kinds of prayer. The first is “showcase prayer” by which the person praying actually draws attention to himself. He wants to be known as spiritual and holy. His religion gives him status, and by public prayer, he maintains and feeds it. The second kind of prayer is “relational prayer.” This is prayer that seeks time with the Father. Jesus, for teaching purposes, draws a distinct line between the two, but we must acknowledge that most people will fall somewhere between the two extremes. It is also important to understand that no one can read the mind and intentions of another heart. What might seem to be the height of arrogance may only reflect upbringing. Or gentle, quiet prayers may come from one who has no private prayer life at all. Jesus’ instructions are for us to know and personally apply His words and to let the Holy Spirit guide and train our hearts in these matters.

There are, however, some warning signs to which we might want to pay attention.

  • Do I have an “I am speaking to God” voice? This may be a matter of upbringing. Nevertheless, none is needed, and such a change in voice can draw attention to the one praying—unless one is in an environment that expects it, in which case not changing the voice can draw attention.
  • Elegant words and lots of them. This may be a matter of gifting and natural oratory, but again none are needed.
  • Personal agenda. It’s hard to excuse this one. You pray according to what you want done and what others need to do to help it along.
  • Gossip. “Please God. Help Jane resist the temptation to keep seeing that guy.” Such public prayers are only fruitful if Jane is there and has asked for intercession on that subject.
  • Public prayer of any kind without a private prayer life. It is a given that if you are not speaking to the Father when you are alone, there is no good speaking to Him publicly.

So Jesus advises us to go into our rooms and shut the door. This is the “normal” opposite of standing on a street corner. If He had used a phrase like “pray in private” or “pray alone,” all kinds of extreme ideas may have developed. How private do you need to be? Must we become hermits or monks to have a prayer life? Jesus simply meant that there are places and ways to pray that are between the Father and us. By entering such places, we demonstrate that we “believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). In such a place:

  • We can have an “I am speaking to God” voice if that helps us connect with Him and give Him honor.
  • We can use elegant words as a way of offering Him our best.
  • We can have a personal agenda, because it is now between the Father and us, and He can open and close doors as He sees fit.
  • We can pray for Jane. Since it is just between the Father and us, we are more likely to be showing genuine concern for her welfare.
  • And, of course, we now have a basis for praying in public.

We can be in our own rooms or in public and still pray privately. As Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

The private life is one measure of who we are. Too many times I have seen good public families suddenly come apart from within. It became apparent that the life behind the closed doors of the home was far different from the public family persona. If we believe that God exists and rewards those who seek Him, it will affect our most private of lives, because we will know that He is there. We then know that there is, in fact, no private life. Lest this cause you great fear, guilt, and concern, remember that Jesus says that, “… your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” Showcase prayer has the single reward of public acclaim. The rewards of relational prayer is that it can:

  • Direct the heart
  • Receive answers and close or open doors
  • Strengthen the character and spirit
  • Increase faith and spiritual gifting
  • Bring a deeper sense of the Father’s presence and care

These are good things and worth having

Putting Prayer in Perspective

Jesus’ instruction on prayer in Matthew continued with this admonition:

“When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).

Jesus contrasts prayer to the Father with the prayers of the Gentiles. He describes Gentile prayer as the repetitious babbling of many words. What might this mean, and how do we relate this to our prayers?

  • Like the Gentiles”. The Gentiles did not worship the true God.
  • “Repetitious babble” connotes a lack of real content.
  • “Many words to be heard” suggests rituals, incantations, and technique.

Gentile prayer is about the manipulation of spiritual forces and entities that do not generally care about you as an individual.

We can, of course, now give Jesus’ words a Christian spin:

  • Like the Gentiles”—Praying to God in Name, but not in knowledge. This is similar to what Paul wrote to the Romans about the Jews who did not accept Jesus as their Messiah, “For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth” (Romans 10:2).
  • Repetitious babbling—Praying without real content. Perhaps this would be like reciting liturgical prayers without connecting to their content.
  • Many words to be heard—Praying with an attitude that God is not listening and must be manipulated to answer.

In answer to this, Jesus says that our Father knows what we need even before we ask. We are praying to our Father, which means that we are in a family relationship. We are part of His life, and He anticipates what we need. We can, therefore, come to Him as transparent people. We can come before Him glad, sad, or mad, and He will be there in full understanding. Manipulation is not required.

If our Father knows what we need before we ask, why should we pray? There are two reasons. The first is because of the rewards of prayer that go beyond just meeting our needs. The second is that there are many other things for which to pray such as the needs of others and the advancement of the Father’s Kingdom. We do not need such things, but they should have a place in our prayers.

So Jesus has given instructions about the place and manner of our prayers. We are to have a private life of prayer, and we are to pray to a real Person. This Person is interested in our needs and in us and does not need to be manipulated.

Directing the Heart

So what makes for a good prayer? How are we to pray?

During His sermon, Jesus began a model prayer for us with these words:

“So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).

Jesus tells us to pray to “Our Father in heaven.” This should set our mental attitude as we come to a time of prayer. From the Old Testament and much of the New, we understand that we are praying to God, and that He is our Lord and King. We owe Him our lives and our service. But Jesus tells us that we can come to Him and call Him, “Father.” This connotes a more significant relationship than we would imagine. But Jesus is very serious about just this aspect. The entire sermon has many references to God as our Father. This relationship is our primary motivation for the lives that we should live.

God as Father is a two-way relationship. As Father, He loves us, and we honor Him. He protects, and we abide. He provides, and we give thanks. He instructs, and we emulate. He disciplines, and we mature. He touches, and we respond. He commands, and we obey. So much of the time we focus on command/obedience, and we forget all the other wonderful aspects of our walk with our Father. When we approach Him in prayer, He is all these things for us, and we need to be all these things to Him.

Jesus tells us to pray in first person plural, “Our Father … .” Prayer, even in private, is to have a community focus. We can pray for our own needs, of course, but it must not stop there. We are to be intercessors. We pray “Give us … ,” and we are asking for the Father’s provision for family, friend, and foe. We pray “Forgive us … , ” and we seek reconciliation with the Father and among ourselves. We pray “Lead us …” and “Deliver us ” because we all need proper guidance and protection.

We are to pray that the Father’s name “be honored.” This is both a request and an attitude. As a request, we are asking for the knowledge of the Father to fill the earth and for the earth to respond in honor. It is our chance to grieve over those things, in our lives and the lives of others, that bring dishonor to the name: hypocrisy, judgment that triumphs over mercy, mercy that triumphs over instruction and discipleship, those who hate God, etc. It is a time to recognize and put away our hypocrisy. As an attitude, we can begin our prayers with worship, praise, and thanksgiving. We worship who He is. We praise Him for His works, and we thank Him for His care and provision.

We ask for the Father’s kingdom to come. Along these lines, we pray for the spread of the gospel and the establishment of the rule and reign of the Father in the hearts of men and women. We pray for the welfare of the distressed and oppressed. We pray for physical healing, deliverance, change of hearts, broken relationships, and such things as would change with an acceptance of the Father and His ways. We also look forward to Jesus’ return to live and rule among us.

So we begin our prayers by focusing on the One to whom we pray. He is Father and King. Turning our hearts to Him helps us to become like Him.

Sustaining the Heart

What we need as people occupies the next section of Jesus’ model prayer:

Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:11-12).

The most literal understanding of “daily bread” is a loaf of bread in my hands to last me for the day. Some might say that is all that He means for us to ask for. I believe it is better to expand daily bread to include all that others and we need. I would, in fact, extend it beyond the material and into prayers for the needs of our bodies and our hearts:

  • Food and Shelter—“But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that. Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:8-9).
  • Righteousness—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • The Father’s presence—“Whom do I have in heaven but you? I desire no one but you on earth … . But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter, as I declare all the things you have done” (Psalm 73:25, 28).

Even though there is nothing in Jesus’ prayer for asking about anything but basic needs, there are two reasons to imagine that requests can go beyond this. The first is that Paul tells us to pray for everything. “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6). The second is the example of the wedding in Cana, where Jesus, in answer to His mother’s request, turned water into wine in a way that exceeded the needs of the party. We have a generous God. When Jesus boils prayer down to “daily bread,” He is encouraging thanksgiving. Ask for anything, expect the basics, and give thanks for everything.

The welfare of our souls and bodies also depends on two-way forgiveness. Guilt and bitterness eat away at us. Both are associated with personality troubles and physical ailments. We can make both a matter of prayer. “Forgive us our debts” takes care of our true moral guilt for the things that we do wrong. And because we have forgiveness, we can take honest assessments of ourselves, which hastens our sanctification. However, because bitterness is as bad or worse that unresolved guilt, Jesus tells us to link the two. “Father, forgive us to the same degree that we forgive others.” Jesus has more to say on this, and I will defer more comments until that time as well. Suffice it to say that it is unbalanced to ask to have our guilt removed so that we can stand comfortably in the Father’s presence, when there are people that we exclude from our lives because they wronged us. If it is good for us to receive forgiveness, it is even better that we give it. Plus, if we have a heart that carries no grudges, then we have confidence at this point in our prayer that we have received the Father’s forgiveness. That is an excellent thing.

If the Father answers what we have prayed so far, we would have healthy bodies and souls fit for service in the Kingdom of God.

Keeping the Heart

Jesus concludes His model prayer with these words: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).

What does Jesus mean by our asking, “… do not lead us into temptation … ?” Is it that we need to fear that the Father will lead us into temptation unless we pray? Will He set us up to see if we will fall? The letter of James tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires” (James 1:13-14). I think most would agree that we must understand Jesus’ words in light of our own propensity to sin.

The Father does not directly tempt us to evil, but He does bring us to moments of testing. And with testing, comes the temptation to quit and not press on. The famous example of Peter’s denial illustrates such a failure. The night before, Peter had confidently asserted that he would stick by Jesus no matter what. Only a few hours later, Peter denied in strong language that he even knew Jesus. When we pray to not be led into temptation, we are asking the Father’s help in avoiding such situations. We ask for doors to be closed that have difficult situations on the other side. We ask for our hearts to be strengthened and focused on good things. We ask for wisdom to recognize and avoid troubling circumstances.

Although we are morally culpable for our actions, it can also be said that even the first sin in our race was not committed in a vacuum. The serpent in Eden, later identified as Satan or the devil, tempted Eve and prevailed. The Lord had commanded that the man and woman not eat from a single tree in the center of Eden. Satan attacked at that point and helped bring forth the sin. And so we need to ask for protection from his schemes.

Satan seeks our failure and prays for it. In Job, we have the record of such a prayer:

Then Satan answered the Lord, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? Have you not made a hedge around him and his house and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his cattle have increased in the land. But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will indeed curse you to your face!” (Job 1:9-11).

It is interesting that before this, we have a record of Job making offerings on behalf of his children – just in case they sinned. We are not told that Job ever made an offering for himself. Like Peter, he was self-assured. Like Peter, Satan asked to sift Job like wheat. It is just such situations that we pray against in our prayers. We acknowledge our weakness and ask for strengthening. We ask to receive our lessons according to the way of wisdom and instruction.

There are other sources of temptation that we must guard against. The world values make constant appeal. Our inner natures are weak and would like to go along. Through prayer, we can become a different kind of person.

Ultimately, it gets down to character that flows from within. “When is a thief not a thief?” When I ask this question, I usually hear, “When he is not stealing.” That is not correct. A thief who is not stealing is a thief who is out of work. A thief is not a thief when he labors with his own hands in order to have something to give to someone in need (Ephesians 4:28). Such is the goal of this prayer. To change us from thieves to givers, from adulterers to loving husbands and wives, from proud to humble, from hating to loving, from bitter to forgiving, and so on. For each negative, we need to find and nurture its opposite. Prayer can help us do that.

This ends Jesus’ prayer model according to the most reliable manuscripts. Some manuscripts tack on something like, “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.” I have chosen to go with the more attested reading. In the first place, we can give honor to the Father at the beginning of the prayer. In the second place, if Jesus did not include the ending, there is questionable value in using it. It is a grand ending, but Jesus ended His model with a reminder of our humility. The prayer moves from the greatness and glory of God to our total dependence on Him. I think it is better left that way.

An Important Condition

Anyone following Jesus’ instruction on prayer closely would have noticed that we are to prayerfully link our receiving forgiveness from the Father to our forgiving others. It is not a command from the Father to us. It is rather to be a request from us to the Father. This is, indeed, a strange thing and one that would prompt the question, “Did you really mean that my forgiveness is based on the degree to which I forgive?” Jesus answers this anticipated question this way:

For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

Jesus states in very direct terms that what we are to pray is the way things are. There is actually incredibly good news here. There is no one who has done as much damage to me as I have done to the kingdom of God—or would do if given enough time for my self-centered attitudes and actions to propagate. So if I come before the Father bearing no grudges for anything done to me, then I can ask Him to bear no grudge against me. Jesus’ prayer assumes that I have forgiven others before coming before the Father.

There are two important parables that back up this reality. This first even raises the ante by saying that we must forgive from the heart:

“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. As he began settling his accounts, a man who owed ten thousand talents was brought to him. Because he was not able to repay, the lord ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made. Then the slave threw himself to the ground before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’ The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt.

“After he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred silver coins; then he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’ Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt.

“When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had happened. Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me! Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’ And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed.

“So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:23-35).

The second is a story that includes a parable and shows that the degree to which we love the Lord can depend on the degree to which we have been forgiven.

Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.

Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

The issue of forgiving others comes down to two things. The first is gratitude. We have been forgiven an enormous debt. Even the smallest and most petty of our self-centered mischief does real damage to the kingdom of heaven. We need only to look at the fallout from Adam and Eve’s simple disobedience to know that the debt that we owe is our lives. Our forgiveness cost the Father the life of His Son in exchange. Our forgiving others is simple gratitude. How dare we not! The second is that by forgiving, we emulate the character of the Father. By this, we honor His name. Our Father is known for His mercy and forgiveness. When we show mercy and forgiveness, we strive to be like Him. In this way, we give honor to His name.

Someone might now be asking, “Am I saved if I do not forgive others?” Since this prayer model seems to be a daily prayer by inclusion of a request for daily bread, then this would seem to be a daily request for forgiveness of what we have done wrong that day. It is operational forgiveness. It is what Jesus meant when He told Peter, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet” (John 13:10). But even placing this aside, salvation does not depend on us. Paul in Ephesians writes:

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not of works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Saved by grace that comes by faith that is the gift of God. We can contribute nothing to our salvation, which is all the more reason to gratefully forgive those who have wronged us—whether they seek that forgiveness or not.

Besides, we do not want to live unforgiving lives. It is like drinking poison and saying to our offender, “There! Take that!”

Along these lines, I recommend that you read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In that book, you will find the depths to which we as Christians are able to forgive.

The Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes

You can take each line in the model prayer and find at least two of the beatitudes that reinforce it. When you are done, all the beatitudes are mentioned at least once.

“Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Matthew 5:3).

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Matthew 5:10).

“Give us today our daily bread.”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

“And forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Matthew 5:10).

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way” (Matthew 5:11-12).

I am not inclined to add anything else. I find the pairings interesting and instructive. I hope you do as well.

Some Final Thoughts

Let’s look at the entire text again:

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So pray this way:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins” (Matthew 6:5-15).

Jesus’ commentary about prayer is more than twice as long as His model prayer. The prayer, itself, is a marvel of simplicity and wisdom. It tells us to whom we are praying and for what we should pray. I believe that it also ranks what we pray about in priority order. This is significant, because we can focus on our Father and His kingdom and ask for daily provision before asking forgiveness! In this way, Jesus communicates the Father’s abundant mercy and grace. As Jesus has already said in this same sermon,

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

The application of this text, as with many others, must be personal and by the direction of the Holy Spirit. Typically we have no insight into the hearts and motivations of others. Suppose you come across someone loudly praying on a street corner. Do Jesus’ words above apply? You cannot tell. Jesus, for example, prayed in public (John 11:41, 42). Daniel was in a situation where it would have been wrong to pray in secret (Daniel 6:10). The one who retires into a secret place each day to pray may still have a hypocritical heart—he prays in secret and somehow lets everyone know he prays in secret.

So you need to read this passage concept by concept and bring your heart next to it.

  • Are your prayers mostly about you and your circumstances? Consider interceding for others.
  • How in tune are you to what the Father might be doing around you and the part you might play? Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing. Prayer and connection with the Father is the key to our doing the same.
  • Does “forgive … as we have forgiven” give you dread, or is it full of promise because your heart bears ill will to none? If you are not comfortable, do the hard work of letting go of your anger.
  • Do you plead for your family, church, community, country, and enemies? Remember that the model prayer is in first person plural.
  • Some people have memorized this prayer, and they use it as a guide in their private prayers. That is a good thing and a practice that I would recommend.

It is the nature of Jesus’ teaching that the bar He raises is higher than our grasp. But in the reaching, we reach higher all the time.

May the Father bless you and visit you in your times of prayer.

Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit. The Chapel believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Community Bible Chapel.

Dr. D.A. Carson – Biblical Studies Symposium at Liberty University – One Focus of the Gospel: John 3

The Biblical Studies Symposium hosted Dr. D.A. Carson on February 20th, 2012. Dr. D.A. Carson addressed students and faculty in the Towns Alumni Lecture Hall at 7:30pm with “One Focus of the Gospel: John 3.

Notes from the Symposium:

What is the Gospel?

First and foremost it is news. It’s good news. The question is: What is it news about? Because it’s news, you have to remember that the first thing you do with news is you announce it. “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words,” as if you are announcing the Gospel by living a certain way.  That’s like telling a newscaster on the 11 o clock news tonight, “Tonight, deliver the news. If necessary, use words. That’s ridiculous. What you do with news is announce it. That is why there is such a huge emphasis in the New Testament on announcing it, on preaching and declaring, on explaining. That’s what you do with news.

But what is it news about?

It is first and foremost news about our God, our Maker and Judge has done supremely in Christ Jesus and especially in Christ’s cross and resurrection, to reconcile rebels to Himself. Now you can fill that our and say, “What has He done at the cross and resurrection and what does it mean to be reconciled back to God?

  • When you start asking: What is the shade of this “bringing rebels back to God”, then you start bringing out different dimensions. For example there is what might be called a “legal dimension“- How can guilty people be declared just before this God who is perfectly holy? That brings you into some fundamental issues of what the problem is. The problem is sin. You can’t get agreement on what the good news is unless you have the bad news.
  • You don’t know what the good news is supposed to fix until you know what the bad news is in the first place. So that means you’ve got to figure out what the bad news is from Holy Scripture to see what the good news is. The Gospel is the good news by which God reconciles sinners to Himself. Now you’re into substitution. Christ dies for the ungodly. The justice of Christ becomes ours. Our sin becomes His. He expiates our sin. He propitiates God. He cancels our sin, He turns God’s wrath away by absorbing our guilt in His place. All that has to do with my standing before God.
  • But supposing salvation was just bound up with standing before God. How would that transform me? Then you realize that salvation, the good news that brings about salvation is not just about how people become just before God; it’s also how they get transformed. And now you are in new birth language. Power of the Spirit. It’s not just that God declares us just on the basis of what Christ has done; He transforms us so that we have the power of God to give differently.
  • And thus, the notion of a powerless Gospel is in the Bible incoherent. Paul says that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, unto wholeness. But, it’s not an isolated thing. The Gospel so transforms us that men and women are brought together. There is a relational component to what the Gospel does. Not the Gospel itself. The Gospel IS what God DOES.  What God does supremely in Christ Jesus to reconcile guilty sinners back to Himself but part of what He does out of this Gospel, through this Gospel, is to reconcile people to each other as well as to Himself. So there is a relational component to all of this, as well.
  • There is also an eschatological component to it. It is not only what He does for us now, but ultimately the restoration of rebels to Himself is so complete that we will have resurrection bodies in a new heaven and a new earth on the last day, all achieved on one little hill, outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Gospel of God centers on Christ. It’s the good news about Christ Jesus, about what Christ has done in Christ Jesus to reconcile sinners to HImself. And everything that flows out of this, in terms of the way we act, our concern for justice, our hopes for the future, resurrection existence, personal relationships and above all that, we ourselves have been reconciled to this God- all, all was achieved through what God did on the cross and in Jesus’ resurrection and all that flows from those great events.

There would be a lot of ways to get to biblical passages to show you the sweep of this Gospel. One way, for example is to study 1 Corinthians 15, where most of these components are built in. If you are interested in a sermon just on that passage to try to explain it, you can find it on the Gospel Coalition website. This evening I want to direct your attention on John 3 and talk about one component of this Gospel, however it is tied to a lot of other components. John 3:1-21  will talk about this new birth component.

As far as we know, this is the first time in history when the expression born again was used. I have not found it in any earlier source, greco roman, nor jewish. I think Jesus coined it. What did He mean?

Dr. Carson continues to outline what Jesus meant by born again…..(66 minutes)

Uploaded by  on Mar 8, 2012

R C Sproul – The Doctrine of Justification (Sola fide)

Image of "Dawn: Luther at Erfurt" wh...

Paul discovering Justification by Faith-Image via Wikipedia

The Importance of Justification Sola fide (by faith alone) is important not merely because the church stands or falls on it. It is important because on it we stand or fall. The place where and the time when we will either stand or fall is at the judgment seat of God.

The doctrine of justification has to do with our status before the just judgment of God. That every person will ultimately be called into account before God is central to the teaching of Jesus. He warns that the secret things of our lives will be made manifest before the Father and that every idle word we have spoken will be brought into judgment. The whole world — every man, woman, and child — will come before the final divine tribunal. We will all come to that place, at that time, as either unjustified or justified sinners. Paul at Mars Hill warned: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men every where to repent, `because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.’” (Acts 17:30-31 NKJV)

This judgment will be a righteous judgment by a righteous God. Those who will be judged are unrighteous people. The universality of sin is clearly affirmed by Paul:

“For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all (italics mine) under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one….” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:9-10, 19-20 NKJV)

Herein is our dilemma. There will be a judgment. It will be a righteous judgment. As fallen, we are not righteous.

The ominous warning of the apostle is that “no flesh will be justified in His sight.” Fortunately this is not the whole sentence. It is not an absolute denial of justification. If there will be no justification in his sight, then all disputes about the way of justification would be vain disputes, much ado about nothing. If there is no justification, then there is no gospel — no good news, only bad news.

But this is not the entire statement. Paul does not say there will be no justification. What he does say is that no flesh will be justified in God’s sight by the deeds of the law.

Paul does not exclude justification altogether. He does exclude it by virtue of our doing deeds of the law. Justification on the ground of our works is eliminated as an option. Christians were once debtors who could not pay their debts to God. The law of God requires perfection. It is a requirement sinners do not and cannot meet. Because of the universal reality of sin, Paul comes to his “therefore.” Our sin leads to the necessary inference contained in the conclusion that by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight.

The verdict of the law on sinners was known in the Old Testament. Psalm 130 asks a question that is clearly rhetorical: “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (130:3 NKJV)

The answer to the psalmist’s question is abundantly clear Who could stand? No one. Certainly not I. Certainly not you. If we are judged by the law in terms of our own righteousness, we will not stand; we are certainly fallen. If Luther rested on his own righteousness before the diet of heaven, he would have to declare: “Here I fall! I can do no other, God help me.”

Not only would Luther fall. The whole church — nay, the whole world — would fall.

Paul does not leave us falling without hope before the righteous law of God. He continues his teaching of the doctrine of justification with a single word that screams relief to guilty sinners: “But…” There is, to our everlasting benefit, a “however” to his declaration. This little however introduces a high and mighty exception to the dreadful conclusion that by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight. Though justification is categorically denied by one means, it is now categorically affirmed by another means. That no flesh will be justified is not the final word. There is another word, which is the gospel itself:

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26 NKJV)

Here Paul declares a way of justification different from justification by deeds of the law. It is not a novelty, proclaimed for the first time in the New Testament. This way of justification is witnessed to by the Prophets and by the law itself. It is justification through faith in Jesus Christ. This justification is not given to everyone. It is provided to all and on all, who believe. It is based on the righteousness of God that is provided to and on the believer. It is given both freely and graciously by God through the redeeming work of Christ. This manner of justification demonstrates God himself to be both just and the justifier.

Again,the dilemma faced by the sinner summoned to the judgment seat of God is this: The sinner must appear before a divine Judge who is perfectly just. Yet the sinner is unjust. How can he possibly be unjust and justified? The answer to this question touches the eye of the Reformation tornado. For God to justify the impious (iustificatio impii) and himself remain just in the process, the sinner must somehow become actually just by a righteousness supplied him by another.

R.C. Sproul is now the distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Knox Theological Seminary. R.C. Sproul is also chairman of the board at Ligonier Ministries.

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