The King Eternal Goes Before Us

Most evangelical churches these days preach feel-good messages, assuring us that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. If they mention sin at all, they depict it as a series of psychological problems that require extensive counseling. Usually this counseling leads us to blame others for our sin.

The Bible, in contrast, insists that we manufacture sin without any outside assistance. Thankfully, when the Lord Jesus Christ saves us, His Spirit empowers us to put our sin to death. Invariably, our sin nature fights back, determined to maintain its tyrannical control. This battle lasts throughout our earthly lives.

Praise God that He leads us to victory over our sin as we obey Him by following His commands. Those commands don’t always alleviate sinful urges, but they enable us to conquer each  urge for His glory.

The hymn I feature this week looks to the Lord to lead us in the battle against sin, celebrating His might as the means of overcoming. As you listen to these glorious lyrics, join me in rejoicing that the Eternal King goes ahead of us to secure the victory.

 

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Enough Evidence For Faith

Clouds and light

Occasionally — usually in the wee small hours of the night — the thought comes to me that I’m believing a gigantic fairy tale. Perhaps God really is just a myth, and nothing exists beyond the grave.

When such thoughts come, I immediately remind myself of the overwhelming evidence of Christ’s resurrection. For instance, His tomb had been sealed so securely that the women who came to anoint His body wondered who would roll away the stone?  Didn’t they realize those burly Roman soldiers guarding the tomb would be the only people with the authority to do so? Or is it possible that the stone was even too heavy for them?

And those soldiers definitely wouldn’t have permitted anyone (least of all the disciples) to steal the body. Pilate appointed them to guard the tomb for precisely that reason! Sure, they probably thought it was a ridiculous assignment, but they also knew that any dereliction of duty would cost them their lives. In fact, the Pharisees had to offer them protection in exchange for letting them spread the story that the disciples took the body.

Speaking of Christ’s disciples, why would such a cowardly collection of men risk their lives to perpetrate a story that they knew to be a fraud? Ten died horrendous deaths as martyrs, and John suffered as an exile in a prison camp on Patmos. All any of them had to do would have been to say they made the resurrection up. Seems to me that, given their abandonment of Jesus at His arrest, they simply lacked the fortitude to then allow a falsehood to dominate their lives and  send ten of them to death.

Finally, Paul made this claim:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (ESV)

Did you catch verse 6? Most of those 500 men who saw the risen Lord were still alive when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians. That means, dear sisters, that the Corinthians could have interviewed enough of them to legally establish the truth or falsity of Paul’s claim. No court of law, in any judicial system, could reject the testimony of almost 500 eyewitnesses!

Since Christ’s resurrection is therefore an established fact, I believe it follows that His claim to be both God and Man must also be true. Likewise, He must also have sent  the Holy Spirit to superintend the writing of Scripture. As I see it, the resurrection validates everything else about Christianity.

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Because 2018 Will Happen One Day At A Time

The Lord ministers to us faithfully, but He never hurries us through life. Our impatience, especially in trials, often wishes He would push the Fast Forward button, but clearly He has lessons to teach us along the way.

Today’s hymn seems appropriate as we approach a new collection of 365 days. Like every year, the one that stretches ahead of us promises great joys and difficult troubles. But, like He’s done in all past years, the Lord will go with us through each situation, leading us to see His sovereignty.

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Rejoicing Like The Prostitute

Forgiveness

Every time I read the first few verses of Psalm 32, I remember the joy I experienced as a new Christian.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ~~Psalm 32:1-5 (ESV)

The relief of the Lord’s forgiveness absolutely exhilerated me, flooding me with a desire to pour out my gratitude. I of course served the Lord imperfectly (to say the least), making myself more obnoxious than useful to the Kingdom, but my zeal came from sincere motives. Jesus had forgiven me, changing my eternal destiny from the torments of hell (which I deserve) to the joys of heaven. For that extreme mercy, I adored Him then and adore Him even more today.

God’s forgiveness isn’t something we should take lightly. The person who truly understands the enormity of his or her sin appreciates His forgiveness in ways that someone who doesn’t take sin seriously never will.

When we believe in our own supposed goodness, thinking that we somehow merit salvation, we end up robbing ourselves of tremendous joy. We expect God’s forgiveness, almost viewing it as an entitlement rather than a gift that calls us to love the Giver.

We most clearly see this principle demonstrated in Luke 7:36-48, which I beg you to read. Jesus, in this passage, was dining at the home of a Pharisee named Simon when a known prostitute entered the house. Coming up to Jesus, she began bathing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. This unwelcome interruption confirmed to Simon that Jesus couldn’t possibly be a prophet! Otherwise He would have realized what a contemptible creature was touching Him.

Look at the Lord’s response to Simon’s secret thoughts in telling, and then applying, this parable:

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 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. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” ~~Luke 7:41-48 (ESV)

Jesus knew exactly who touched Him! He knew the gravity of her sin, and her horrendous reputation. But He also knew her sorrow over her sin, and her faith that He would forgive her.

I identify with that woman. Knowing the vileness of my sin, and yet the wonder of His forgiveness, brings me immense joy and causes me to love Christ. From the backdrop of Luke 7:36-48, I can claim Psalm 32:1-5 as my testimony. I can experience the blessings of forgiveness because I know how desperately I needed forgiveness. And I know He has been gracious.

 

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Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 9

penguin-sampler

Let’s begin with Pastor Colin Smith’s encouraging post, Three Ways Your Faith is Tested When God Says “No” in Unlocking the Bible. Drawing from God’s refusal to allow David to build the Temple, Smith explains ways that personal disappointment can actually develop our maturity in Christ.

The Santa Claus dilemma always catches Christian parents this time of year. You young moms out there might appreciate reading The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus? by Michelle Lesley. I like her Biblical and practical approach, especially in preserving the fun of Christmas without lapsing into sin or doctrinal error.

Andrew Gutierrez, in an article aimed primarily at youth leaders in The Cripplegate, admonishes us Thou Shalt Not Create Little “Christian” Narcissists. I include it here because all of us struggle with narcissism, and consequently would benefit from applying the principles that Gutierrez sets forth.

In the present climate of accusations against public figures, even pastors are subject to scrutiny. As Tim Challies demonstrates in Do Not Admit a Charge Against an Elder, Except..., churches have guidelines for disciplining their leaders in the pages of Scripture. Don’t miss this balanced and Biblical treatment of a crucial matter in today’s church.

Once again, Erin Benziger nails it with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Pride in her Do Not Be Surprised blog. She has a gentle, but firm, caution for those of us in the Reformed camp that needs to be heeded.

In this season of giving, Lesley A. of Growing 4 Life encourages us to continue Serving All, All the Time. It’s refreshing to come across an essay elevating the practical application of God’s Word.

What Do We Really Know about the Three Wise Men? asks Mark Ward in his article for the Logos Software Blog. He uses this question from his own children to give us a practical lesson in separating fact from tradition as we interpret familiar Scriptures.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson directs our attention to A Christmas Song that Doesn’t Belong … But Does. He does more than simply informing us of some hymn writing trivia (although that’s quite fascinating in and of itself); he causes us to rejoice in all of Christ’s promises to bring salvation.

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It’s Just A Small Little Sin

Coffee Stained Wedding Gown

The Gospel teaches that men and women are sinners by nature and by choice, unable to stand in the presence of a holy God. But that same God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, came to earth and lived a sinless life before voluntarily suffering a painful crucifixion during which He accepted His Father’s wrath, thus atoning for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Three days later He rose from the dead, signifying that the Father accepted His sacrifice as well as assuring believers of eternal life in His presence.

The Holy Spirit regenerates Christians by enabling us to believe in Jesus Christ as the only Savior. This faith is immediately demonstrated by an attitude of repentance as an acknowledgment of Christ’s  authority over us.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.~~John 3:16-18 (ESV)

Believers know these things backwards and forwards…or at least they should. Sadly, most 21st Century evangelicals don’t readily articulate the Gospel when asked to do so. Even more tragic, many who claim to be Christians live as though Jesus exists to serve them when they ought to recognize themselves as His slaves.

As I see it, a major reason that evangelicals misunderstand and pervert the Gospel stems from difficulty accepting the fact that we actually need a Savior in the first place. Surely we aren’t that bad! And doesn’t  our good outweigh the mistakes we’ve made?

Think of it this way. It’s your wedding day, and you take your expensive white gown out of the closest. Laying it on your bed, you notice a few small spots. Coffee stains!  Your bridesmaids try to comfort you, pointing out that most of the  gown is still white. People probably won’t even notice those tiny brown stains,  they assure you with soothing voices.

But you know (and so do they) that the dress is ruined.

Even the smallest sin ruins us when we measure ourselves against God’s holy perfection. Everything else about us may be pristine, just like a wedding gown, but the yards of white linen and tulle can’t  atone for those tiny coffee spots.  And all our self-perceived goodness can’t make us acceptable to God.

That’s why Christ’s death on the cross is such good news. He paid the penalty for our sins, clothing is in His righteousness. He presents us to the Father in His purity, as though we’d never soiled ourselves.

If you haven’t yet placed your faith in Him,  I beg you to stop trusting the notion that your so-called good outweighs your sin. The stain may appear small to you, but it leaves you with damage that only Jesus can repair. Once you recognize your desperate need for the salvation that only He can accomplish, the rest of the Gospel falls easily into place.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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