Bought by the Blood

August 19, 2010

Pursuing Greatness

Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who knew no sin to become sin so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.” If you’ve been around awhile, you’ve heard me say this, Luther calls it the great exchange. All of our sin, idolatry, narcissism, pride, jealousy, envy, me-ism, all of it, which is sin, goes to Jesus, and he dies paying the penalty for our sin. And he gives us, in addition, reckons to us, imputes to us his righteousness.

This means that you and I now possess, through faith if we are the children of God, the righteousness of Jesus, the perfect, sinless, obedient, selfless, worshipful, imaging life of Jesus. It’s reckoned, credited to our account. So now we want to pursue greatness, not for an identity, but from our identity in Christ. We want to pursue greatness, not for our righteousness, but from the righteousness that is given us by Jesus. Not for our glory, but from the glory of God. Not for God’s approval, from God’s approval in Christ. Not for the love of God, but from the love of God.

Greatness is pursued by the children of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells them in newness of life, greatness of life, rich or poor, living or dying, healthy or sick, succeeding or failing to the glory of God and the good of others by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is our joy, which is our joy. – Mark Driscoll

via Mars Hill Church | Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the Man Who Is God | Redeeming Greatness.

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December 24, 2009

God and Sinners Reconciled

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? Mark 8:35-37

In the beginning was God. He created all things and through Him all things were created.  He was eternally and infinitely blessed with there being nothing that could ever add to His happiness (John 1).  Despite all of this, God made Himself nothing and gave His all to save the souls of man.  He came down from His throne in Heaven and forfeited His perfect communion with the Father as well as all the attributes of the Godhead to rescue sinners.  By taking on flesh He was able to die our death and give up His righteousness so that our penalty could be His and we can have an inheritance greater than the whole world (2 Corinthians 5).

Although He was God, He took on the form of a helpless baby. His was a lowly status so that He could serve all mankind, to return to us the soul’s that we lost at the fall when sin and death took Adam’s helpless race into bondage.  Jesus embodied humility and this is evident by His life of obedience and submission to His Father’s will (Philippians 2).  He counted the cost and bore the scorn and shame of the cross to save sinners.  The Son of God gave up His life on the tree so that we could have it to the full.

Therefore how should we live?  The Christmas story calls us to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5). Our lives should be joyous ones because we have been given good news of great joy (Luke 2:10).  Every step we should take should be one of liberation because one who was fully God and fully man has broken the head of satan who enslaved us to unrighteousness and sin (Genesis 3).  Jesus lost His life so that we can gain ours, therefore we need to find our life in Him and be a people defined by His redeeming work.  Our greatest profit is the reward of being reconciled to God.   Christ was born in a manger on Christmas day, died on the cross in our place, raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so that we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

December 14, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity – hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory – because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross.  It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard or will hear.

We talk glibly of the “Christmas Spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis.  But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning.  It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas.  And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians – I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians – go through this world in the Spirit of the priest and Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and a perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side.  That is not the Christmas spirit.  Nor is it the spirit of those Christians – alas, they are many – whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob.  For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow  humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others – not just their own friends – in whatever way there seems need.

-J.I. Packer

November 22, 2009

Compelled by love

The ground of all our comfort and holiness, and perseverance in both, is laid in the shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts; it is this which constrains us, 2 Cor. 5:14.  Thus we are drawn and held by the bonds of love.  Sense of God’s love to us will make us not ashamed, either of our hope in him or our sufferings for him.

– Matthew Henry on Romans 5:5

November 9, 2009

My Grace is sufficient for you

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

“God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children.  He never allows satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good.  God  never wastes pain.  He always causes it to work together for ultimate good, the good of conforming us more the the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29)…In this passage, God equates  His grace with His power as specifically displayed in our weakness.  This power infusing our weakness is a  concrete expression of His grace: His power comes to our aid through the ministry of His Spirit in our lives.  This is the mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit on our human spirit through which He strengthens us and enables us to meet in a Godly fashion whatever circumstances we encounter.
Notice I said that the Holy Spirit strengthens us and enables us to meet in a godly fashing whatever circumstances cross our paths.  God’s grace is not given to make us feel better, but to glorify Him.  Modern society’s subtle, underlying agenda is good feelings.  We want the pain to go aways.  We want to feel  better in difficult situations, but God wants us to glorify Him in those circumstances.  Good feelings may come, or they may not, but that is not the issue.  The issue is whether or not we honor God by the way we respond to our circumstances.  God’s grace – that is the enabling power of the Holy Spirit – is given to help us respond in such a way…
John Blanchard said, ‘So he [God]supplies perfectly measured grace to meet the needs of the godly.  For daily needs there is daily grace; for sudden needs, sudden grace; for overwhelming need, overwhelming grace.  God’s grace is given wonderfully, but not wastefully; freely but not foolishly; bountfiully but not blindly.” Jerry Bridges.

August 11, 2009

A Missional Life

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:2-3

In these two verses we see a progression happening with God’s actions with the Psalmist.  God provides peace and rest for our weary souls by making us lie down in green pastures.  In the trials and circumstances of life He renews our eternal perspective by leading us besides still waters.  When we are under attack by satan and our flesh He restores us.  We are able to walk in righteousness because of His Holy Spirit working in us.  This is all possible because of the cross where Jesus died for our sins.  He does this to make His name great and to bring glory to Himself because of He is rightly deserving of all glory, honor and praise.

If we are truly God’s sheep, we will not make assumptions about our status in the flock (Philippians 2:12).  Instead, we will be diligent to make sure that we are counted among the sheep and not the goats.  This means making the choice of seeking God instead of the things of this world (Philippians 3:7-9).  When we make our time with God a priority we come to the green pastures and still waters that our souls were meant for.  Nothing can restore and make us whole like communing with God (Psalm 63:1-3).

Spending time with God will transform our lives and make us delight in the paths of righteousness.  Choosing righteousness is not supposed to be something we do begrudgingly, but only comes by God’s grace working through us as we exercise the spiritual disciplines.   By delighting in righteousness we become missionaries and ambassadors for God.  A life led in the path of righteousness is a life with a missional attitude that seeks to display the character of Christ to all (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Our salvation isn’t primarily for us, it benefits us directly, but it is for the purpose of benefiting others so that they may know the God who has saved us and so that we can be a blessing to them (Genesis 12:3).  That is why the sheep are called to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and visit the lonely; by doing these things God’s name is made much of us and the Gospel is made real to an unbelieving world (Matthew 25:31-40).

August 10, 2009

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want

The Lord is my shepherd;I shall not want- Psalm 23:1

As I proclaim with David that the LORD is my Shepherd, I am also proclaiming that I am a sheep.  To be called a sheep is not a compliment, but instead is humbling and self abasing, all sheep cry out with the John Baptist that I must become less and he must become greater (John 3:30.  This is because I am nothing and He is my everything.  I am making a statement about my weakness and need for a protector.  I am telling of my foolishness and that on my own I am prone to wander and easily get lost.  As a sheep, I am looking to my shepherd to be the one who provides for me, protects me and directs me.

In Christ, we have the Good Shepherd, the one who gladly protects and leads us back home to the Father.  He has laid down His life for you and I, taking our sin and curse, so that we may live through Him and have His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Through His atoning death for us, we have died to this world and our flesh so that we may live to God and have the hope of life forever in Heaven (Romans 6).  He has intimate knowledge of His sheep and will not leave one behind, but has died so that we may have no fear of death.  The Son is in perfect relationship with the Father and because we are in union with the Son and call Him our shepherd, the Father sees nothing hindering our relationship with Him, so that we can be adopted sons and daughters (John 10:14-15).

If we are adopted children of God, that then begs the question of how should we live?  We are to live as sojourners, we are to be people not of this world since we are just passing through (Hebrews 11:8-10).  There should be nothing in this world that captures our wants and desires because our greatest want is more of God.  If our hope is above then there is nothing in this life that can fulfill and satisfy us.  Any wants I have, I lay before the cross knowing that if it is of God then He will provide it for me (Hebrews 11:26).  It is not an issue of not wanting, but conforming my wants to God’s wants for me because I know if my desires are aligned with His then He will gladly give them to me (Psalm 34:4).

July 1, 2009

Waiting, Hoping and Watching

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. – Psalm 130:5-6

Here in this passage we see the psalmist assuming three postures; waiting, hoping and watching.  The psalmist waits on God, knowing that God is faithful and true to His Word.  The psalmist can wait on God because He knows that God will not let Him down.  If God will be our salvation and lifts us out from the depths, then He will do all else that we need.  Just like a child can wait for their parents knowing that they will pick them up after school, we can wait on God knowing that He hasn’t left us to ourselves and our own ability.  The moment His love and mercy ends is when we should stop waiting on Him, but we rest on the promise that His love never ceases and His mercy has no end.  His goodness is as deep as the oceans so that we could never touch the depths of it, therefore we can seek out His goodness knowing that we will never exhaust it (Lamentations 3:22,25-26).

It is impossible to wait on God without hoping in Him.  Spurgeon says about this posture that the source, strength and sweetness of our waiting is found by hoping in God.  When we become acquainted with the love of God, then he becomes our portion and nothing becomes more satisfying than knowing Him and His glory (Romans 5:5).  If fulfillment in our lives come from God, then hoping in God takes on a whole new meaning (Lamentations 3:24).  When our circumstances make us downcast, we can hope in God knowing that although circumstances change, He is always the same (Psalm 42:5).  Hope does not disappoint, therefore we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4)”.

Primarily, we do not watch for outward circumstances to change, instead we watch for God reveal more of Himself through our circumstances.  We seek to have eyes of faith to be aware of God moving and working in our lives to conform us to Christ image (2 Corinthians 5:7). We are diligent in watching God act.  The watchmen stay up all night to guard against intruders.  So too, we stay awake to guard against unbelief and lies that can be dangerous for the soul.  The watchmen stays awake when it is dark so they are not surprised by a sneak attack.  We also prepare our souls with the Gospel so that satan, our flesh and this world cannot distract us from God’s call and purpose.  The only thing more watchful than the watchmen waiting for morning is the Christian that standing fast until Christ return.

May 26, 2009

His Coming Kingdom

This is the first of three poems based on the Sermon on The Mount.  I feel like the Sermon on the Mount is best summed up by 2 Corinthians 5:7 where it talks about how we walk by faith and not by sight.  In the Sermon on the Mount we are called to not look at outward appearances, but to look at the heart.  The primary objective of the Sermon on the Mount is to drive our eyes away from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Heaven.   We are shown how sinful we are and how much we need a Savior.  The rewards of this world pale in comparison to the Kingdom of Heaven and that is what this poem is about.

This life is passing away.
Nothing in it is certain.
All that it offers is temporal
But a higher prize awaits.

Jesus died to redeem a people,
Purchased by His blood to be holy,
Set apart to glorify Him
And love for His coming kingdom.

Therefore forsake all this world offer
Set your heart and passion on Heaven
Where Christ, your treasure awaits,
He is worth and His excellence is eternal.

March 18, 2009

Three components of mission and the Christian Life

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled  in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. – Colossians 1:21-23

There are three components to faith that Paul states is essential if we are in Christ.  I was struck by this as I meditated on the above verses this morning.  Paul states what I was and what God has done for me.  After that is a litmus test for what it means to have assurance.  I want to be ready for Christ return and not to take the gospel lightly.  That means that I am called to be stable and steadfast with hope in the gospel.  Those phrases seemed kind of nebulous, so I’ve tried my best to break it down.

Stable

A stable faith is one that is without doubting.  It is firm amidst trials and uncertainties.  A stable faith has a singular focus on the truth of God’s character and does not get distracted or enticed by false doctrines and pleas to the flesh.  If my faith is stable then my life will reflect this by not being hypocritical, but by walking in wisdom and earnestly seeking God, so that I may walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel.  An unstable faith does not walk in a straight path, but wobbles like a drunkard with no clear vision and prone to fall.  I need a stable faith to go through the narrow gate, by having my faith be stable I am able to make through it the hard patches and find life and the benefits of the cross.  One of the components of a stable faith is drawing me outside of myself and seeing the needs of others.  I will see them as being like I was before I received Christ, how I was on sinking sand and my world could crumble at any moment.  When I have eyes of compassion like Jesus I will see that there is a world of hurt that is yearning for a shepherd.  As I grow in my faith I see a harvest and desire to labor for the Gospel.  I want those that are perishing to know the stability that I have in uncertain times.  I do not doubt that what I have is what the world is yearning for and to truly love my neighbor is to tell them about the redemption that is offered at the cross.

James 1:5-8 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 9:36-38 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Steadfast

God’s ultimate purpose is to make me like Jesus.  As I read Luke nine I am amazed at Jesus’ steadfastness to go to Jerusalem where he will bear the cross and die for the sins of many.  I need that same steadfastness in carrying my cross and daily dying to self.  I should rejoice in suffering as that allows me to an opportunity to know Christ more fully and shine the gospel to a world that is in the dark.  I need to embrace trials and circumstances that test my faith as that will make me steadfast with the final result of conforming to Christ who is perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  To be steadfast is to be immovable, my calling is to take Christ to the lost, in this I must be steadfast, knowing that my labor is not in vain.  In my mission I need to rooted and anchored, knowing that I empowered to do it by the Holy Spirit.  I am not to view anything as a higher priority for this is the mission of Christ and I am to be steadfast in carrying the forth the work that He has started and has promised to complete.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Colossians 1:24-27 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Not Shifting from the hope of the Gospel
Consider the Christian life being a manual car with three gears.  Those three gears are works based legalism, hedonistic license and hope in the Gospel.  We have no need to shift gears, but we are called to have our hope firmly in the Gospel and to live our life in that direction.  I do not go out and share the gospel with everyone I met and hand out tracts religiously as if my salvation depended on that.  My hope for salvation is not based on how many people I share the gospel with or how many people come to faith because of me.  Also, I do not take the attitude that someone else will proclaim the Gospel and sit back and do nothing.  It is my honor and joy to have the privilege to proclaim the King of Kings and what He has done for me by bringing me into relationship with Him.  This is not a task I view begrudgingly, but it is a task I don’t deserve and am amazed that I am honored to have such a high calling.  I do not take part in the great commission because I am saved.  I can’t help but to take part in Christ mission because of the hope I have in the gospel and my desire to see others have that same hope.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 10:15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Lord, make me sobered by the reality of what will happen to those who don’t know you and increase my faith to tell them of Christ atoning sacrifice.  Give me faith to go out and proclaim your gospel and confidence in your Spirit to soften the heart of the unregenerate.  Make me steadfast in the mission you’ve called me to.  I cannot do this on my own and need your help.  Let my hope in the Gospel be my motivation for sharing Christ love.  I want His grace sacrifice for me motivate me to tell others of His good news.

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