Category Archives: God’s Love

The Culture Is Hostile — Who Cares?

The Lord is my Refuge

We live in a time when it doesn’t take much effort to see the proliferation of wickedness. Until recently, Christians in America and Western Europe have enjoyed nearly universal acceptance, causing us to feel great dismay that our culture now increasingly rejects Biblical standards of morality.

Indeed, Western culture does exhibit growing hostility toward Christianity. And those of us who grew up in a time when society encouraged at least a nominal expression of Christian values find that hostility somewhat shocking.  As a result, we vacillate between the two extremes of wanting to “take back America and for Christ” and whimpering in despair. While neither extreme befits a true believer, the second one demonstrates an inability to trust the Lord.

The opening verses of Psalm 11 vividly illustrates how our fear of prevailing evil can cause us to forget God’s  protection of us. Look at these verses with me:

 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
    they have fitted their arrow to the string
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord‘s throne is in heaven;
    his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. ~~Psalm 11:1-5 (ESV)

In this passage, David refutes alarmists who suggest that the forces of evil could potentially overpower God’s people. He reasons that the Lord, Who is his refuge, may well test our faith with adversity, but that ultimately He will triumph.

Notice that David doesn’t mention any power that believers supposedly have to overcome the wicked. Rather, he directs our attention to the Lord, Who reigns in heaven. Too often, in considering the apparent success of secular humanism, we tend to believe that the battle depends on our effort (particularly in terms of gaining political power), but David reminds us that God is on  His throne. Instead of trusting ourselves and then wailing helplessly over our impotence, we must find encouragement in His sovereignty.

 

 

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Perspectives In Titus: Remember How Ugly We Used To Be?

Titus 3 3

Last Monday, dear sisters in Christ, we concluded our Bible Study with the apostle Paul’s exhortation to show perfect courtesy to everyone. Today we’ll talk about the primary motivation for treating people with such courtesy. But before we get into our discussion of Titus 3:3, we should read it in it’s immediate context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:1-7 (ESV)

To refresh your memory, Paul’s letter to Titus has the purpose of instructing Titus on ordering the churches in Crete. Chapter 3 continues the apostle’s specific directions to this young pastor.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul wanted the Cretan Christians to submit to civic authorities and to treat all people with respect. As we approach verse 3, we learn why the Lord calls us to this attitude. Essentially, each of us used to  be as wretched as the non-Christians God commands us to respect.

Remembering who we were and how we behaved prior to receiving God’s grace helps us approach non-Christians with the attitudes Paul prescribes in verses 1 and 2. This list speaks in generalities, of course, but it sums up a lifestyle apart from the Lord. Certainly, the Christians in First Century Crete had been this vile, reflecting the debauchery of that culture.

Paul begins by assuring them that their debauchery was in their past, and he will explain why it’s in their past in verses 4-6. Yet as Christians recall their lives before Christ, we constantly need the comfort of knowing that Jesus has cleansed us (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Colossians 2:13-15 as examples).

In describing our pre-conversion condition, Paul first of all says we were foolish. Matthew Henry defines this foolishness as “without true spiritual understanding and knowledge, ignorant of heavenly things.” Psalm 14:1 tells us, that a fool says in his (or her) heart “There is no God.” Foolishness lives without regard to the Lord’s authority.

Disobedience naturally follows foolishness. As Barnes points out, rebellion against authority is natural. Anyone who has been around small children has seen how readily they disobey. Adam Clarke indicates that the Greek word means “unpersuaded, unbelieving, obstinate, and disobedient.”

In addition to our past foolishness and disobedience, we were led astray by both our inherent inclination towards sin and by false teaching. As we’ve seen throughout this study of Titus, the Cretans definitely allowed their lusts to deceive them, and the Judaizers were deceived by their false gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:4 plainly states the Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, thus keeping them in deception

Deception, in turn, makes unbelievers slaves to their passions and pleasures. And weren’t we all there? John Gill describes non-Christians (and therefore us before conversion) as “servants of sin, vassals and slaves to their own corruptions.”

Finally, says Paul, we lived in malice and envy, causing others to hate us and us to hate them. Vincent’s Word Study Commentary quotes Calvin’s definition of malice as ” viciousness of mind opposed to humanity and fairness.” Unbelievers can’t love each other with the love that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes; even their supposed love for each other is selfish compared to godly love.

Come to think of it, might we not say that godly love on our part compels us to remember that we used to be just like the non-Christians God calls us to respect?  And doesn’t remembering who we once were (and indeed, who we still would be without the grace of Jesus Christ) give us greater compassion for those who don’t know Him?

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A Reason To Sing Of My Redeemer

Why do so many hymns center on the cross? If the Lord has allowed you to understand the horrifying depths of your sin, and then allowed you to experience the exhilarating relief of His grace, you know that we can sing about nothing more wonderful! Today’s hymn underscores the joy of singing about our Redeemer.

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Saturday Sampler: September 3 — September 9

Heart Sampler 01Let’s start out with a difficult, but incredibly basic, challenge: loving our enemies. In these days of robust polemics and doctrinal minutiae, we easily ignore Christ’s teaching on this matter. Thankfully The Cripplegate features Clint Archer’s bracing post, A higher standard of loving, to pull us back to the fundamentals of Christian behavior.

Also on The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us Three Reasons to be Unashamed of the Gospel as he reflects on the bravery of Martin Luther and other 16th Century Reformers. History, and especially church history, has tremendous application to our lives today!

Glenn Chatfield, in The Watchman’s Bagpipes, shares some helpful information on The Importance of Genesis Chapters 1 through 11. You might be surprised by how frequently the New Testament mentions incidents that occur in these chapters.

I love seeing ways that Biblical counseling gets to the heart of a matter and then applies Scriptural principles to set a person free. Lara d’Entremont demonstrates how the Bible addresses perfectionist tendencies in Hope for Perfectionist in Progressive Sanctification. Lara’s blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, contains many such essays. What a Christ-centered alternative to psychological counseling!

Lara’s essay inspired Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth to write The Unexpected Gift of Perfectionism. She lists several Scriptures to help us climb out of this particular sin.

Continuing her new series on Do Not Be Surprised, Erin Benziger writes Unshakeable Joy in Times of Trial in order to direct us to the sovereignty of God. Admittedly, I still struggle to rejoice in hardship or persecution. You most likely do as well. But that’s precisely why we need to read Erin’s article.

If you’re like me (and I suspect you are), you probably wonder what Scripture means when it tells us wives to respect our husbands. Answering from a male perspective, Tim Challies fills Let the Wife See She Respects Her Husband with practical tips on how to obey the Lord in marriage. What a valuable article for us to read! Please don’t ignore this one.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day evaluates Self-Care and the Christian by holding the idea of making time for oneself instead of serving others against the teachings of God’s Word. In this age of promoting self-love, Jennifer’s call to obey the Lord is badly needed.

Sadly, the obvious about gender and sexuality is no longer regarded as obvious. Even by professing Christians. Michelle Lesley responds to this moral disintegration in her blog post, Basic Training: Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Other Sexual Immorality. Before you think she’s pointing fingers sanctimoniously, you might want to read her entire article. All of us have committed some form of sexual sin, and all of us can experience the Lord’s forgiveness.

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Because Sometimes We Forget

Isn’t it comforting to realize that the Lord controls all of life, not only for His ultimate glory but to demonstrate His love for those who trust Him? Sadly, we all have times of forgetting His sovereignty and/or distrusting His willingness to care for us. For that reason, today’s hymn offers a beautiful reminder that He will always provide for us.

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Why Do I Prefer To Call Myself A Worm?

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with the gentleman who sometimes plays the piano at church. We had sung only traditional hymns that morning (we normally sing a mixture of hymns and contemporary praise songs), and I wanted to express my absolute delight at the experience.

The conversation meandered to the subject of updated hymns. There are one or two I like, but their lyrics haven’t been altered. I don’t really object to an updated tune. The pianist and I agreed, however, that some of the adapted lyrics that have cropped up over the past five or ten years tend to water down a hymn’s doctrinal content.

He  gave the example of substituting the phrase, “for sinners such as I,” in place of the original “for such a worm as I.” As he saw it, the image of a worm more strongly communicates who we are in comparison to the holy and righteousness Lord. It emphasizes the astonishing grace Jesus showered on undeserving sinners through His crucifixion.

I agreed with him! The lyric reveals His extravagant kindness by pointing to our total depravity. Praise God, YouTube still has a rendition of the hymn with the original phrase intact.

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Where Do We Find Assurance Of Salvation?

Broken Heart CrossIf you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced serious doubts about your salvation. Such doubts generally arise in response to falling back into familiar patterns of sin. As you see yourself committing the same ugly sin, even decades after your conversion, you have to ask yourself whether or not you were ever  really saved in the first place.

In one respect, you and I definitely should ask ourselves this question when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. I know: I’ve done it.

Seeker-sensitive churches compound the problem by producing false converts who embrace an idealized concept of Jesus without submitting to the true Christ’s authority. These false converts see no need to repent and have no concern for personal holiness.

So yes, sometimes our sin should cause us to wonder if the Lord has truly done a work of regeneration in us. If we live without regard to His holy standards, some honest self-examination is most likely necessary.

But others of us, despite genuinely loving the Lord and wanting to obey Him, manage to get sucked back into sin on occasion. From our perspective, it seems like a habitual pattern because we repeat the same old sins time after time. We grieve every time we do it, fully aware that we’ve dishonored Him. Even if nobody else ever finds out what we’ve done, we know that we’ve violated His commands.

Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-21, we hate our sin. We yearn to please the Lord, knowing that our sin put Him on the cross. How can we be so ungrateful? Why did we act like children of the devil, dragging our glorious Lord through the mud while we selfishly gratified our flesh?

As we fixate on the horrors of our sin, we accept Satan’s accusations that we’re nothing more than hypocrites. Because those accusations carry an element of truth, we believe his lie that we never really had salvation. We despair.

Sisters, we forget that assurance of salvation can never come from us. Paul wrote Romans 7 precisely to demonstrate that we don’t have any righteousness in and of ourselves. Looking at ourselves can never give us assurance!

Ah, but look at Paul’s  concluding paragraph in Romans 7:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-24 (ESV)

Paul doesn’t deny his wretched condition, but he ultimately clings to Jesus Christ as his deliverer. He remembers that Christ paid for all his sin (every ounce of it) by shedding His blood on the cross. Of course, Paul’s not excusing sin or implying that God’s grace gives Christians permission to indulge in sin. Rather, he’s encouraging us to rest in what the Lord has done for us.

Sin should trouble a Christian’s conscience. We should live lives of repentance, earnestly desiring to reflect our Heavenly Father’s holiness as we declare the Gospel to a dying world. But, when our sin breaks our hearts, let’s shift our gaze to Jesus, finding assurance in Him.

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