Category Archives: God’s Love

Flashback Friday: The Offensive Side Of Love

Originally posted July 31,2015

Love and truthNo sane person takes pleasure in offending others. And no sane person relishes the backlash from people they offend. We want to keep all our relationships amicable, and Scripture enjoins us to do just that whenever we possibly can (Romans 12:18). People, quite reasonably, expect Christians to behave lovingly, displaying gentleness and humility…and they readily point out our hypocrisy when we fail to do so.

To our shame, sometimes their accusations are valid. Sometimes our sinful, obnoxious behavior reflects anything but the fruit of the Spirit, exposing our stubborn determination to revert to our carnal natures (Galatians 5:19-23). In Romans 2:17-24, as a matter of fact, the apostle Paul says point-blank that non-Christians use our hypocrisy as a justification for slandering God’s character. So we absolutely need to behave in ways that demonstrate the Lord’s love.

His love, however, doesn’t always fall in line with the world’s concept of love. In 21st Century America, “love” requires an uncritical endorsement of any lifestyle (except one that favors Christian morality, of course). In particular, “love” rejects Christian ideas concerning sexual conduct, demanding that society approves of any consensual relationship. The post-modern person shakes a fist at anyone who dares to suggest that God intended sex to be enjoyed only within the context of marriage between one man and one woman.

21st Century “love” also insists on subjective worldviews rather than believing in objective and absolute truth. The idea that Jesus is the only way to heaven has no place in post-modern thought. Indeed, all talk of sin, judgment and the wrath of God contradicts the contemporary concept of a “loving” God.

Contrast the world’s definition of “love” with the Bible’s best known description:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

At first glance, this passage seems innocuous enough, but then verse 6 messes it all up by introducing the unwelcome ideas of morality and truth. Both these ideas imply standards that determine morality and truth. And that implication, because it draws on the rest of Scripture to establish and explain these standards, shows a side of love that offends 21st Century understanding.

Christians want, more than anything else, to display all aspects of our wonderful Lord to a world that desperately needs His love. But part of displaying His love requires us to also uphold aspects of truth that the world (including people who falsely profess to be Christians) find offensive. We don’t enjoy offending people, and we hopefully take care not to offend by being hypocritical sinners. Yet love commands that we compassionately tell God’s truth, even when it it hurts.

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The Tenderness Of Our Shepherd

Who doesn’t love the tenderness of Psalm 23, in which King David pictures the Lord as his Shepherd? Having himself been a shepherd before Samuel anointed him King of Israel, David well understood how thoroughly a shepherd needed to care for his sheep. This understanding gave him beautiful insight into God’s love for His sheep.

Even in our largely metropolitan culture, something about the imagery of Psalm 23 resonates with us. David’s words evoke a sense of intimacy with the Shepherd that sets a believer’s heart at rest while it fills an unbeliever’s heart with yearning. Jesus guards us from our stubborn wandering, leads us to peaceful places, corrects our errors, nourishes us and promises us eternity with Him. How could we fail to see His love? Psalm 23 assures us of His intimate care.

Following the progression of thought in this beloved psalm, today’s hymn elaborates on the various ways our Lord expresses His love and care for us. Please enjoy this gentle hymn as you reflect on how your Shepherd lovingly attends to you.

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Why Christians Sing About The Cross So Often

Once I read a complaint that Christians sing about the cross too often. What an odd complaint! True Christians understand that Christ’s work on the cross was absolutely pivotal to our salvation.

We sing about the cross because we know how our sins used to dominate our lives, locking us into rebellion agency the holy God Who created us. Those sins kept us hostile to Him, setting us on a path that could only lead to an eternity in hell. No amount of contrition, confession or repentance could atone for our sins. Even or apparent good works were tainted by our sin nature.

We sing about the cross because Jesus, in His mercy, took our vile sins upon Himself, accepting the full force of His Father’s righteous wrath. We deserved that wrath, but our innocent Lord, after living a righteous life, willingly took the punishment on our behalf. He loves us that much!

We sing about the cross because, in taking our sins upon Himself, Jesus assigned His righteousness to us. Consequently, the Father will declare us righteous just as He declared Jesus guilty. We fear no condemnation, but instead eagerly look forward to an eternity in heaven with Jesus, where we’ll forever praise Him as we sing about the cross.

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Not One Tiny Bit Of Credit

Ephesians 2 8&9Christians, even genuinely born-again Christians who love God’s Word and have a commitment to discernment, often struggle with the teaching that God takes complete responsibility for their salvation. We desperately want to believe we’ve played even a teeny tiny microscopic part in receiving His grace. In fact, a major reason people despise Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) stems from an unwillingness to relinquish the idea of human participation in salvation.

Believe it or not, I understand that objection. Until very recently, I told my testimony in a way that afforded me the dignity of having “accepted” Jesus. Sure, I conceded, He did all the heavy lifting, but I believed I made the final decision to become a Christian.

As a result of my years of embracing the doctrine of free will, I can’t dismiss Arminians as false converts. None of us should. Unless taken to the extreme of Pelagianism, we should give the benefit of the doubt to brothers and sisters in Christ who have been taught that they chose the Lord. After all, none of us has absolutely perfect theology. While right doctrine is essential, all of us are growing towards it a step at a time.

Having voiced my understanding of those who believe in free will, let me now challenge their belief that God won’t save anyone against their will. I have to question the presupposition that anyone, prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, would even desire the God of the Bible. Someone might desire a god who conforms to their notion of spirituality, but Scripture clearly states that no one (apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit) has the slightest interest in the true God.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)

Notice verse 11, ladies. Despite popular rhetoric about so-called seekers, Paul asserts that no one seeks for God. Free will seeks for a spirituality that feeds the ego, always ending in making us feel good about ourselves, but it cannot choose the Lord Who rightly deserves all the glory. We can’t choose the God Who demands our repentance because we don’t really want to live without our pet sins.

In fact, our natural inclination toward sin deadened us to the Lord, rendering us incapable of voluntarily seeking Him. We needed the Holy Spirit to fill us with life, thereby giving us the faith to receive His grace.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

I wish time permitted me to quote all the Scripture passages that God used to convince me that I played no part in coming to Christ. The realization of my utter dependence on His grace humbles me. I liked believing that I could take some credit for choosing to follow Him. But the more I read His Word, the more I understand that He saved me by His grace. He alone deserves the praise.

 

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Is Your Soul Hidden?

In trials, we don’t always sense God’s protection. Feelings  of vulnerability overwhelm us until He seems distant and deliberately uncaring. I know. Far too often, I’ve endured difficult circumstances that made me wonder if I really mattered to Him.

Of course, He always brought me through those trials, abundantly proving both his faithfulness and how deeply He loves me. And of course I felt ashamed and embarrassed for doubting Him. I saw, in the hindsight that is so clear, how wonderfully the Lord protected me from turning away from Him in bitterness and anger.

Indeed, Jesus is a wonderful Savior, hiding the souls of His beloved to preserve us until He brings us Home. Today’s hymn challenges me to look, not at my trials, but to Him, trusting that He’ll cover me with His hand.

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Saturday Sampler: May 20 — May 26

Boston July 26 2010 005

Custom Tower & Old State House

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of Bishop Curry’s sermon? Garrett Kell, in All Things for Good, asks a more accurate question with What Would Jesus Say About Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon? I heartily agree.

Unbelievers sure love discounting the veracity of the Bible, don’t they? SlimJim, who blogs at The Domain for Truth, writes Bible Contradiction? Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders? He has a running series responding to alleged contradictions in Scripture; this is the first installment I’ve read, and it’s an excellent example of why context matters.

The apostle Paul, says Jordan Standridge, was Obsessed with the Gospel. His piece, appearing in The Cripplegate, draws from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to challenge us in our response to persecution.

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Swan Boat at Boston’s Public Garden

The sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical  Beginnings takes on the popular false teaching associated with John 10:10 in her essay, Twisted Tuesday — The Abundant Life. I appreciate her encouragement to study God’s Word carefully and with discernment.

How could the doctrine of total depravity possibly encourage Christians?  In his post for Parking Space 23, Zach Putthoff answers that question. You might find yourself rejoicing as you read Total Depravity & the Christian Life.

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Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

I never expected to read The Master’s Seminary Blog, but The Wretched Art of Loveless Discernment by Reagan Rose caught my eye. His points convict me to continue discernment blogging, but to make sure I do so from right motives and with a godly attitude. Anyone interested in discernment ministry needs to take this article to heart.

Like Michelle Lesley, I belong to a church within the Southern Baptist Convention. And like her  church, the church I belong to has strong leanings toward Reformed Theology, for which I praise God! Yet, as I read about the denomination as a whole, I must agree with her that It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right.

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Massachusetts State House

Praise the Lord that Phil Johnson has revived Pyromaniacs, one of the blogs God used to bring me to Reformed Theology a decade ago. His post, The Root of the Matter, identifies the serious problems creeping into Reformed circles lately. Again, praise the Lord for Johnson’s faithfulness to stand against worldly compromise for the sake of the Gospel.

Photos of downtown Boston sites taken by John Kespert

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Saturday Sampler: May 6 — May 12

Flower Sampler

Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women responds Biblically to the latest Beth Moore stunt in her piece, The Mailbag: What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”? This thoughtful analysis covers a wide range of Moore’s remarks while pleading with Moore (and her followers) to repent.

The woman who writes at Biblical Beginnings examines a popular false teaching in Twisted Tuesday — First Born by showing us how context interprets a phrase in God’s Word. What a wonderful demonstration of correct Bible Study methods producing good discernment!

Doug Wilson of Blog & Mablog expresses his Gratitude & Update to those who prayed about his cancer surgery.

The Ligonier blog features Sinclair Ferguson’s wonderful ruminations on The Gracious Work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process. I particularly love the way he connects the Holy Spirit with the Word of God.

Cale Fauver’s article, Christian, Don’t Follow Your Heart, appears in For The Church to address a very common problem in society at large and among evangelicals in particular. Of course, evangelicals should know better. Pastor Fauver’s reminder cannot be repeated too often!

My regular readers know how adamantly I advocate for reading the Bible in context. So they’ll understand why I appreciate Alan Shlemon of Stand To Reason for writing Double the Trouble if You Ignore the Context.

Why would Leslie A of Growing 4 Life open a blog post talking about how mice infiltrate houses? Read The Smallest Crack for her accurate and convicting spiritual application.

Inspired (in a strange way) by the frustration that many women feel in response to Proverbs 31, Steven Ingino of The Cripplegate offers perspective and encouragement with Studying Proverbs 31…the right way. Ladies, although our husbands will benefit from reading this piece, enjoy the refreshing words for yourselves.

How can a blog post about hell end on a positive note? Allen Nelson IV, blogging for Things Above Us, answers that question with The Overwhelming, Never-ending, Reckoning Wrath of God. The post, as an extra bonus, gives us a couple verses to use in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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