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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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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Saturday Sampler: April 29 — May 5

IMG_1982In the bizarre atmosphere of 21st Century culture, commonsense essays can refresh the spirit.  Garbage In… Garbage Out by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God looks at a postmodern contradiction and its Biblical solution.

Offering encouragement though  How Do We Overcome the Fear of Evangelism in Unlocking the Bible, Denise (no surname given) directs our attention to Scriptural attitudes concerning witnessing. Her article challenges us, but it also reassures us of the Lord’s commitment to help us carry out the Great Commission.

An Unpleasant and Unpopular Truth appears in Leslie A’s blog, Growing 4 Life as a challenge to examine our lives. A mere profession of Christ, remember, doesn’t necessarily mean that genuine conversion has taken place.

IMG_2004As a lesson in discernment, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes a thought-provoking Book Review: America’s beloved novel, “Christy” to examine the theology inherent in the popular book. Kudos to Elizabeth for daring to review such a well-loved book with such candor and balance.

Clint Archer, in his contribution to The Cripplegate, reinforces what is Of First Importance: What will be on the test when we die? Those of you participating in my new Monday Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15 should especially appreciate this article.

As long as you’re reading The Cripplegate, check out What Pope Francis Should Have Said to Emanuele. I always enjoy Jordan Standridge’s writing; this piece may help you understand why I’m such a huge fan of his work.

IMG_1992As Christians, we must make careful distinctions in our language, and we must hold our critics to those distinctions. In Dear Media: Please Distinguish Conversion from Conversion Therapy, Denny Burk demonstrates the importance of defining terms by  citing the conversion of a gentleman who survived the terror attack on the Pulse nightclub.

Religious OCD or Scrupulosity by Fred DeRuvo at Study – Grow – Know juxtaposes the troubling methods of psychology against Biblical counseling.  Please, if you still can’t see the dangers of psychology, read Fred’s piece and seriously consider the points he raises.

Would I recommend a blog post simply because the illustration favors the Boston Red Sox? No. Peter Krol’s Context Matters: the Faith Hall of Fame in Knowable Word merits recognition for its skilled handling of Hebrews 11 in and of itself. But I admit that the homage to the Boston Red Sox doesn’t bother me a bit!

All photos taken May 2, 2018 at Boston Public Garden by John Kespert

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Saturday Sampler: April 22 — April 28

Spring Sampler

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood reports on the disturbing Assembly Bill certain to become California law. Colin Smothers’ article, Banning Christian Orthodoxy in California, serves as a sobering warning to those who stand for Biblical principles.

Even though Steven Lawson writes Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath? with his fellow pastors in mind, his article on the Ligonier blog also applies to us in our evangelism efforts. In this era of trying to make the Gospel palatable, we need this reminder to present truth in its entirety.

I always look forward to Mondays and Thursdays because I know Leslie A will be posting on Growing 4 Life. No disappointment this week! Please read How Do I Respond to My Enemies? as another example of her Biblical wisdom.

Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate takes the pope to task in Five Reasons Why Pope Francis’ Answer Was Demonic. Standridge doesn’t conceal his anger. And he shouldn’t! Assuring anyone that an atheist gained entrance to heaven will lead countess souls to hell, all for the sake of this man’s popularity. We should all be as outraged as Standridge!

Go over to excatholic4christ for Tom’s post, Roman Catholics and Astrology: “Am I a Taurus or an Aries?” To my dismay, I’ve also heard evangelicals talk about horoscopes as if they provide nothing more than harmless entertainment. Let me be clear: astrology is strictly pagan at best, and a possible gateway to demonic activity. Stay away from it!

Why Christian Blogs Aren’t What They Used To Be by Tim Challies examines the growing trend of vanishing Christian blogs. He offers a few intriguing suggestions to explain the movement away from blogging. But his closing paragraph, typed in italics, is worth the whole article for its encouragement to continue blogging.

In her own unique style (which I absolutely love), Michelle Lesley details Scriptural evidence that God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. Michelle addresses some extremely important problems in contemporary church life with this article. For that reason I strongly recommend you read it.

In his most recent blog post for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson begins his series on Reasons to Study the Book of  Revelation by introducing us to the value of eschatology. I love his perspective that the book of Revelation is essentially about Jesus Christ.

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The Back Story To Good Friday

At The CrossPeople naturally recoil at any mention of God’s wrath or His judgment. None of us particularly relishes the thought of His righteous anger, and we certainly balk at the suggestion that we personally deserve eternal punishment for our sins. I know I’d prefer to focus on His love.

But in order to really understand the wonder of God’s grace in Christ’s atoning death on the cross, we first must come to terms with the horrifying reality that, as sinners, we deserve eternal damnation. The apostle Paul, as a matter of fact, spent the first two-and-a-half chapters of Romans demonstrating the universal corruption of the human race. He makes it abundantly clear that not one of us can justify ourselves before God.

From there, however, Paul introduces the glorious good news that Christ Jesus took God’s wrath on Himself, actually bearing the punishment that rightfully belongs to you and me.

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. ~~Romans 3:9-26 (ESV)

Verse 25 states that God put His Son forward as a propitiation. Because we rarely use the word “propitiation” in our highly secularized culture, we miss the connection between God’s wrath and Christ’s work on the cross. So let’s define this almost forgotten word.

A propitiation is, simply put, an atoning sacrifice. It carries the connotation of appeasing an offended party. This sacrifice absorbs the punishment that otherwise would fall on the person who caused the offense. For example, the slaughtered animals used in Old Testament offerings propitiated for the sins of the Jews. These Old Testament sacrifices, we now understand, looked forward to the Lamb of God, Who would bear the wrath that actually belongs to us.

Today, Good Friday, we remember Jesus dying on the cross as our substitute. But do we fully understand that the Father’s wrath was poured out on Him at that moment? I believe that’s difficult for us to accept.

Aside from occasional moments of clarity when the horror of our sin absolutely won’t escape our notice, we really don’t see ourselves as deserving of God’s righteous indignation. Sure, we acknowledge that we’ve sinned, but we struggle to realize just how odious our sin is to a holy God. Our inability to comprehend the overwhelming enormity of our sinfulness makes it equally hard to comprehend the overwhelming enormity of God’s wrath toward our sin.

As a result, we can miss the profound beauty of Jesus’  death as our propitiation.

Thankfully, our dullness to the depth of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf in no way minimizes its effect. Praise God, He has taken the wrath that our sin incurred precisely so that no one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will ever have to experience the full impact of God’s wrath. How glorious that our loving Heavenly Father, desiring to shield us from His justified anger, mercifully provided His own propitiation! What a wonderful God we serve!

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Of First Importance, According To The Scriptures

He Is Risen IndeedDay after tomorrow begins Holy Week, when Christians throughout the world commemorate the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. These two events, of course, are the very heart of the Gospel, as the apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Corinthians.

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, ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)

Most of us have heard this basic Gospel message so often that we can recite it without much thought. And, I might add, many times without much feeling. We want to move past the fundamentals and explore all the resultant issues of Christianity. Readers of this blog, for example, show the most interest in articles naming evangelical celebrities than in ones about the Gospel.

Yet Paul, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, insisted that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection rank first in order of importance. We need to pay attention to his pronouncement.

In this blog, I cover a lot of topics that I consider highly important. Exposing false teachers, examining homosexuality, refuting Roman Catholicism and arguing against women usurping male leadership represent just a few subjects that stir my passion. And these issues most assuredly need a great deal of attention, particularly as evangelical churches continue sliding into worldly attitudes and behaviors.

But the best means of standing against these threats to Biblical Christianity lies in maintaining a solid connection with the Gospel. We need to constantly come back to the historical events of that Passover weekend, understanding that God used those powerful events to bring sinners like you and me to salvation.

For that reason, we mustn’t confine our consideration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection to Holy Week. The Bible says these events are of first importance!  As such, we must keep them in the forefront of our minds, remembering how desperately we needed the salvation that Christ accomplished for us on the cross.

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)

As you can see, we cannot regard Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection dispassionately, as if they had no real bearing on our lives. Apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, every single one of us would be eternally damned, dead to the things of God because of our own sin. Praise the Lord that He took our punishment, and rose again to give believers eternal life with Him!

Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection take first importance because our eternal life absolutely depends on what He did for us! Holy Week can be a wonderful starting place for appreciating His amazing grace in saving wretches like you and me, but this tremendous Gospel message must remain central to our thoughts long after we exit our churches on Resurrection Sunday.

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The Sin Of False Converts

Serious Little Boy01When I first understood that someone could be falsely converted, I began wondering about the validity of my own salvation. This anxiety increased as I came to Reformed Theology and realized that I had received several erroneous teachings during the first three decades of my Christian life.

In one respect, Scripture commands such introspection (2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Peter 1:10). Many who consider themselves to be Christians don’t exhibit the qualities of those who have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. We’ll elaborate on that point momentarily.

But that introspection should never make doctrinal perfection the measuring rod for judging salvation. Although I rejected the doctrine of election for quite some time, for example, I believed that Jesus died for my sin and therefore I owed Him my life. I trusted Him as my Savior. He had elected me whether I believed in election or not, as evidenced by the faith He gave me to trust in His work of atonement.

Yet I struggled greatly to believe that my repeated sins wouldn’t eventually cause the Lord to revoke His saving grace. His own words troubled me:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ~~Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Had all my supposed ministry for the Lord been meaningless because of my sins? In my case, no. As much as I allow myself to sin, the Holy Spirit faithfully convicts me until I repent.  I then cling to the cross, assured that Christ has given me His righteousness. My trust reverts to His work rather than my own.

False converts, on the other hand, point to their apparent good works in an effort to distract God from their sinful lifestyles.  Jesus rightly calls them workers of lawlessness, cutting through their self-righteousness to expose their lack of repentance and trust in Him alone.

Dear reader, if you attribute your salvation to anything you’ve done (even saying a prayer or walking down an aisle too respond to an altar call), please examine yourself today. Are you trusting Christ’s shed blood on the cross, or do you proudly point to something you’ve supposedly done to merit His favor. If you dare to base your salvation on anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ, prepare to hear Him declare that He never knew you.

 

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