The Justice That Focuses On God’s Glory

glory-cloudMy time in God’s Word yesterday fascinated me, particularly in light of the Social Justice Movement that evangelicals have adopted from secular progressives. Let me show you the passage I read and follow it with a couple thoughts for you to ponder.

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” ~~Revelation 19:1-3 (ESV)

In the previous chapter, the apostle John had just described really gruesome judgments that God executed on those who rejected Him. To our 21st Century minds, these judgments seem more like an occasion for mourning than for praising God, and yet the text unmistakably says that the multitude John saw glorified Him precisely because of His judgments.

Notice, first of all, that the attention is completely on the Lord. I can’t help seeing a vivid contrast between this heavenly celebration of God’s justice and the man-centered understanding of justice we see in the Social Justice Movement. God’s justice reflects His glory, causing His people to praise and worship Him.

Continue reading

Shaking Off Those Guilty Fears

Guilt is a wonderful thing!

You read that correctly. God created us with the ability to feel guilt so that we would know the discomfort of violating His perfect standards. He then uses that guilt to show us how desperately we need a Savior.

Even  after we become Christians, we often feel guilt when we sin. Again, these feelings can lead us to confession and repentance, thus restoring our fellowship with the Father. So in that sense, we can also praise Him for the capacity to feel guilty. Yes, dear sisters in Christ, guilt can be a wonderful thing!

But guilt can also be a dastardly thing. It can blind us to God’s grace, convincing us that we’ve abused His mercy once too often. It turns our focus away from the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, pulling us back to the same old lie that our salvation ultimately depends on us.

It’s reassuring,therefore, to look back to Jesus, remembering that His blood completely atoned for our sins if we are believers. We can shake off guilty fears that try to condemn us. Hallelujah!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Flashback Friday: Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

I originally published this article on May 19, 2017.

 

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Should We Compile Lists Of Questions To Ask The Lord In Heaven?

QuestionsBack in high school, college and the early years of adulthood, my friends and I used to speculate on various theological questions. When we failed to locate satisfactory answers in the Bible, we’d advise each other to add the questions to our list of things to ask Jesus when we get to heaven. Do young Christians still talk about such lists?

Lately, I’ve been remembering those remarks about having lists of questions for the Lord, and I’ve felt kind of squeamish about the concept. Perhaps reading Job a few weeks ago triggered my reactions, since God basically reprimanded Job for daring to demand explanations from Him. I think, in part, that my current distaste for entering heaven with a list of things to ask Him comes from my fear that He would administer the same rebuke to me that He administered to Job.

That’s a healthy fear. As I age, I increasingly realize the value of maintaining a fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

What gives any of us the right to question our Creator? Do we really fancy that we can hold Him accountable to us? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see the humility in requiring God to explain any of His decisions to us. He’s not an adolescent schoolboy who took the car keys and violated curfew. In heaven, He will interrogate us, not visa versa.

Fearing God, then, should be reason enough to shred our silly lists. But I can think of an even more compelling argument against the notion of expecting answers from Him.

When we see Jesus in heaven, will our questions really matter anymore? Or will His splendor overwhelm us so completely that our questions will totally vanish from our minds?  As I read the Bible’s descriptions of the Lord Jesus Christ, I grow more and more aware that His magnificence will dispel our earthly concerns.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-19 (ESV)

We forget, in our preoccupation with this life, how majestic and preeminent Christ the Lord actually is! We forget that all  creation revolves entirely around Him, and therefore that our questions take a back seat to our worship and adoration of Him.

Maybe our questions seem important now. Maybe the trials loom so large that we want to understand why He allows us to suffer. Or maybe His creation bewilders us, and we simply want to know why He made things as He did. The possible questions are almost limitless from a human perspective.

But I encourage you, dear sisters, to forget your lists of questions in favor of worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about His glory, and His worthiness to receive our praise. Anticipate an eternity of adoring Him for Who He is and delighting to see all creation worship Him fully. Looking at it that way,  will our questions really matter? I don’t think mine will.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sometimes It Causes Me To Tremble

Intricate Boarder 01YouTube has almost everything! Including R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God series, which John and I have been watching all weekend.

The Lord’s timing in getting me interested in watching this series couldn’t be more fascinating. Throughout 2017, I’ve opened my private prayer time by worshiping God for His holiness and recalling the opening scene in Isaiah 6.

 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” ~~Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)

Perhaps that’s a familiar passage to you. I hope so in the sense that I hope you read your Bible regularly and thoroughly. But I hope it’s not so familiar to you that you gloss over it without trembling at the description of God’s powerful, almost dreadful, holiness.

And yes, I realize I blogged about holiness less than two weeks ago, quoting this same passage. In that article I focused on how casual we are toward God in contrast to Isaiah and the apostle John. Although they trembled and fainted when they encountered God’s holiness, we consider Jesus our buddy who will overlook our sin and give us whatever we ask.

Today I want to briefly remark that truly coming into contact with the holiness of God confronts us with our sinfulness. When we recognize His absolute purity and see His separation from even the slightest degree of corruption, we can’t help but also see our wretchedness in comparison. Isaiah certainly saw the contrast, and immediately wailed over his unclean condition.

The Lord cleansed Isaiah by applying a burning coal to his lips. While we shouldn’t interpret Isaiah’s experience as allegorical to our own, may I suggest that cleansing us from our sin also requires pain. In our case, it’s often the pain of separating from sinful habits, relationships or situations that corrupt our souls.

Encountering God’s holiness demands that we repent of our unholiness. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit Himself empowers this repentance as we walk in obedience to Him. Our flesh won’t like this obedience any more than Isaiah liked the searing coal on his sensitive lips, but the joy of having the Lord make us holy is well worth it.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A Dalliance With Hypocrisy

Bible Shadow

What a wonderful feeling to wake up having my blog post completely mapped out, including cross-references! Such a thing rarely happens, so I tingled most of the morning with anticipation.

The idea came to me after I went to bed last night. In bed, I can’t hold either a physical Bible or my computer, but that didn’t bother me. I knew the passage I’d use. I’d look it up after my devotional reading in the morning, and then I’d write a fantastic post that would surely impress my readers.

Successfully avoiding the temptation to replace my regular reading with blog research, I deliberately slowed my pace to make certain that I properly understood the passage in my devotional reading. I took careful notes, making sure I read each verse in context. At last I finished. Confidently, I located the passage for my blog post and began reading.

Oh no! In my prideful little mind, I had merged two distinct instances from Jesus’ life. The entire premise of the post I’d planned had no historical basis. For a naughty moment, I tried to figure out ways to make my narrative work, only to realize that doing so required mishandling the very Word of God.

What a vile thought! How could I consider such a thing?

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit convicted me right away, making it abundantly clear that the blockbuster post I’d concocted in bed last night couldn’t be written. At least not with any sense of integrity. Obviously, any attempt to write such a flagrant misrepresentation of Scripture (besides being absolutely ridiculous) would be the height of hypocrisy.

Actually, the temptation happened much more quickly than this account indicates. I’ve only realized the seriousness of it by typing it all out. I don’t believe I really would have attempted to mangle God’s Word that badly.

So I didn’t know what to write today. I considered not writing at all, or reblogging something from my archives. I decided that humbling myself and confessing my dalliance with hypocrisy might help you appreciate the importance of handling Scripture respectfully. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Paul’s instruction to Timothy also applies to lowly bloggers.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ~~1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

God’s Word must never be manipulated to suit our convenience. Scripture is nothing less than the very Word of God, and therefore deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. Perhaps the Lord used my self-serving moment of folly to remind me to handle His Word reverently and with the awareness of what a valuable treasure it is.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: The Liberating Grace And Its Obligation To Serve

Titus 2 v 14

Ladies, God got me really excited as I prepared today’s Bible study on Titus that I want to dive right in! So let’s look at our passage and then enjoy working through verse 14.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Last Monday, after we talked about Christ’s appearing, we noticed Paul’s boldness in proclaiming His deity. Now we circle back to the theme of God’s grace. Specifically, Paul’s words to Titus reveal God’s grace as a means to accomplish His purpose in establishing the churches in Crete, as well as the Church as a whole.

Verse 14 continues a complex sentence that begins in verse 11, and centers on the purpose and result of God’s grace. It immediately follows the assertion that Christ is indeed God with a further assertion that our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself. At the risk of distracting you from the primary point of this passage, I want to say a bit about the idea that our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave Himself.

In John 10:18, Jesus explicitly declared that He would lay down His life of His own accord. Neither the Sanhedrin nor the Romans ultimately caused His crucifixion. Even God the Father didn’t force Him to the cross. True, His human nature asked for another way (Mark 14:35-36), yet He went voluntarily, focusing on the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Furthermore, He gave Himself on our behalf. As Jamieson, Fausset and Brown put it, redemption means to deliver from bondage by paying the price of blood. He took pity on our enslavement to sin, and bought us back by shedding His precious blood. See 1 Peter 1:18-19 for an appreciation of the value God places on Christ’s blood. Acts 20:28 teaches that He bought us as a church, not merely as individuals, although we must keep in mind that individuals make up the church. In relation to the verse before us, the emphasis is on the precious blood that Christ shed as a payment for His church.

Jesus redeemed us from lawlessness itself, rather than merely the penalty of sin. As verse 12 has already said, God’s grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions — redemption gives us the ability to say “NO!” to our sin nature. Barnes emphasizes that the Lord’s principle objective in redeeming us is our purity (or holiness), citing Hebrews 9:14 as a cross-reference.

He also redeemed us to make us a people belonging to Him. This point reminds us that redemption signifies His ownership of us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Although we most definitely benefit from our liberation from our own sin natures, that wonderful liberation obligates us to serve Him in gratitude for His mercy.

Paul once again emphasizes a distinction between Christians and the world, especially because of the well-known lawlessness of Cretans. But Christians in all places and eras must separate from the corrupt cultures that surround us. Therefore, He had to purify us, since no sin can exist in His presence.

The Lord also redeemed us to be zealous to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 echoes this thought by stating that we are created, at regeneration, to walk in good works that God has already prepared for us. Please notice that redemption gives us the zeal; the good works don’t cause us to be redeemed. God’s grace so fills us with gratitude that we no longer want to engage in the lawless behaviors that characterized the Cretans (and indeed characterize our postmodern culture). Instead, grace gives us the zealous eagerness to please Christ.

Titus 2:11-14 depicts God’s grace as a conduit for honoring Him, as we’ve seen over the past  few weeks. I pray that each of us might apply His grace when temptation calls us to indulge our selfish desires. How wonderful of the Lord to give us this liberating grace that frees us to serve Him!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin