9.30.2010

Will you be a Christian tomorrow?

Ask yourself the question, “why should you wake up believing in the morning?” Most of you right now believe. If someone forced you to choose you would say, “Christ is my Lord, my Savior. I trust him. I stake my life on him.” Why should it be that way tomorrow morning? Why shouldn’t you get up tomorrow morning and realize, “I don’t believe anymore at all. I don’t want to yield to him as Lord, I don’t want to commit to him, I don’t want to embrace him as my savior.” Why? If you say that the ultimate answer to that question is your sovereign free will, you’re standing on very shaky ground. The ultimate answer to that question is: God is faithful. "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6) God is faithful. This is the only hope that tomorrow morning that I will be a believer like I was this morning.
 - John Piper, quoted from TULIP: The Pursuit of God’s Glory in Salvation DVD

9.29.2010

Jacob's prayer


[9] And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ [10] I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. [11] Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. [12] But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
(Genesis 32:9-12 ESV)
I find it compelling how clearly Jacob prays in a unique order. Have a look:
  1. He addresses God directly and proclaiming who God is and then recounts God’s personal call and promise (v.9).
  2. He expresses his unworthiness and gratitude towards God’s loving-kindness (v.10).
    • He notes how incredible his blessing is.
  3. He presents his request to God (v.11).
    • He asks for deliverance from his brother, who is presumably coming to attack him.
    • His request is based in fear. In one way, this displays Jacob’s failure to trust God for protection. Nevertheless, he asks God for help.
  4. He recounts God’s amazing promise of blessing (v.12).
Jacob's LORD
Jacob prays to God as the god of his grandfather and father. He is speaking to God and recognizing that God is immutable; unchanging throughout the generations of men. God was real in the lives of Jacob’s direct descendants. He is now seeing who the LORD really is; the personal, guiding, loving, gracious, powerful God who has directed and worked in the lives of Jacob’s family. Jacob is now beginning to understand who God really is and is beginning to embrace God, though Jacob himself is weak. Jacob acknowledges God as Yahweh (LORD) for the first time.

Jacob is correct in confessing his unworthiness to receive God’s blessing and yet God has given him great wealth in “deeds of steadfast love and all faithfulness” (v.10).

Promised blessings
We are not worthy of the only Son of God offering himself as a substitute in our place. The only worth we have is that we are worthy of eternal damnation and wrath. Yet, God lavishes his grace upon us. Jesus becomes the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God has worked an even greater deed for us than he has for Jacob. He has given the forgiveness of sins and the deposited Holy Spirit. (We are also likely richer than Jacob was in an absolute manner; we enjoy all the benefits of a technologically advanced age.)

God always does the good he promises. He acts out his goodness in steadfast love and dependable faithfulness. God never fails to do well, ever. God honored the prayer of Jacob for deliverance though it expressed a lack of trust in God’s care.

Bookend promises
The prayer of Jacob is wrapped up in the promises of God; so should our prayers be. God has promised our “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23) and has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Furthermore, God is “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Let our prayers be so.

9.28.2010

Not a good or bad frame

'But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever (Heb. 13.8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.'
 - passage from John Bunyan, Pilgrims Progress

Do you live in misery or happiness* based on your frame of heart for any given day? Any given week? Any time of married life? Any time of material abundance? Any given "Christian life"?

I have a dare which I issue (you can call it a triple-dog dare if you wish): "dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name." Lean on his name, which may I remind you, never changes, never has, and never will. Jesus' righteousness for you does not change. You do. You change every moment. Speaking for myself, I can hardly keep a train of thought in the station of my mind for more than a few moments. So trust in Jesus.

I dare you.

*happiness does not equal joy

9.27.2010

The gospel isn't

The focus of the gospel is not on the inadequacy of mankind (including the transformation), but rather on the glory of God. I am transformed when I live in line with the gospel (Gal. 2:14)—avoiding both legalism and licentiousness—and pursuing the joy found in complete and utter surrender of my unrighteous life in exchange for his righteous life expressed graciously through every aspect of my Christian walk (Gal. 2:20).
I often make the gospel about our wretchedness above the mercy and kindness of God. This is dumb. It's also something I'm fighting through (and against) at the moment.

Let's not make the gospel about us. It's all about Jesus.

(HT on the above quote: The Resurgence)

9.22.2010

Real life conversation quote

The most important thing for me to do is be close with God personally and to walk in integrity before God.
 - A friend

9.19.2010

Update to my readers

Greetings everyone. If you've been wondering why there haven't been many posts it is because classes started for my MBA a few weeks ago and I am getting hammered with work. I will do my best to post when I can.
If anyone wants to see anything specific (more quotes, longer topical posts, etc.) let me know.

9.10.2010

Joy in the sovereign hand

Let us settle it in our minds that, whether we like it or not, the sovereignty of God is a doctrine clearly revealed in the Bible, and a fact clearly to be seen in the world. Upon no other principle can we ever explain why some members of a family are converted, and others live and die in sin--why some quarters of the earth are enlightened by Christianity, and others remain buried in heathenism. One account only can be given of all this. All is ordered by the sovereign hand of God. Let us pray for humility in respect of this deep teaching. Let us remember that our life is but a vapor, and that our best knowledge compared to that of God is unmixed folly. Let us be thankful for such light as we enjoy ourselves, and use it diligently while we have it.
 - J.C. Ryle (HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes)
I think Ryle's statement regarding how we confront the sovereignty of God is complemented well by the below quote on how we are to be affected by the sovereignty of God
From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But never could give an account, how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God's Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God's strewing mercy to whom he will shew mercy, and hardening whom he will. God's absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes; at least it is so at times. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God's sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.
 - Jonathan Edwards (HT: Grace Online Library)
(Emphasis added.)

9.07.2010

The resting place of truth

"It is not he that receives the most truth unto his head, but he that receives most of the truth affectionately into his heart, that shall enjoy the happiness of having his judgment sound and clear, when others shall be deluded and deceived by them, who make it their business to infect the judgments and to undo the souls of men."

- Thomas Brooks, "Precious remedies against Satan's devices", pp. 93-94

9.03.2010

But God...

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us..."
 - Ephesians 2:4
Paul speaks of God "being rich in mercy" as an essential descriptor and characteristic of God himself; indeed, it is.

There is a turning point here. God is the actor, the unexpected visitor, the deus ex machina who changes the scene. The scene is of a world filled with spiritual corpses, following the devil who works in them in disobedience to God. God enters the scene to change these zombified children of wrath into alive, Christ-united people.

God's mercy is rich. It is like a heavy, sweet, thick dessert cake; it is like a mountain full of gold.

God's great love is the cause of our new life in Christ. This divine love is unreasonable to the mind of man, for we are not lovely. To love something is to testify to its loveliness. This love, however, is unconditional, unprecedented, and unique. It is a love that is set upon the unlovely. It overflows from an infinite God whose love reserves are great and beyond our comprehension. God focuses this radical love on us. He loves his people, the Church.

Remind yourself that God loves you.

Meditate on this love, seen in the cross of the Lord Jesus.

9.01.2010

Low living

DEVICE 8 [of Satan] By representing to the soul the outward mercies that vain men enjoy, and the outward miseries that they are freed from, whilst they have walked in the ways of sin...

The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider the end and design of God in heaping up mercy upon the heads of the wicked, and in giving them a 'quietus est,' rest and quiet from those sorrows and sufferings that others sigh under...

Canst thou think seriously of this, O soul, and not say, O Lord, I humbly crave that thou wilt let me be little in this world, that I may be great in another world; and low here, that I may be high for ever hereafter. Let me be low, and feed low, and live low, so I may live with thee for ever; let me now be clothed with rags, so thou wilt clothe me at last with thy robes; let me now be set upon a dunghill, so I may at last be advanced to sit with thee upon thy throne. Lord, make me rather gracious than great, inwardly holy than outwardly happy, and rather turn me into my first nothing, yea, make me worse than nothing, rather than set me up for a time, that thou mayest bring me low forever.
In this "chapter" by Thomas Brooks in his work "Precious remedies against Satan's devices," Brooks contrasts how the wicked often receive many temporal, worldly blessings such as riches, wealth, power, physical beauty, etc. With this wider context in mind, I feel it important to note that I strongly disbelieve that Brooks would argue that in and of themselves living a life of poverty and living low by the world's standards will bring eternal, heavenly crowns and blessings. "Mansions of glory and endless delight" are not ours forevermore by our own virtue, for we are evil; they are presented and prepared by Christ and his righteous worth. (And that's not even mentioning that Jesus himself will be our greatest pleasure in eternity future, not heaven and its many blessings as chief treasure.)

Brooks is arguing that Satan presents this lie to Christians (and I will modernize the English):
"...if you would ever be freed from the dark night of adversity, and enjoy the sunshine of prosperity, you must walk in [sinners'] ways."
Clearly, the truth is quite opposite this lie of Satan. See Psalm 1:1 below:
Blessed is the man
   who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
   nor sits in the seat of scoffers...
For the Christian, they must not embark on life's journey seeking to imitate the way of the wicked who enjoy earthly prosperity. (Insert rant on prosperity heresy preachers here.) The disciple of Christ must be of the mindset that seeks a low position in their life presently rather than a life devoid of adversity, pain, trial, and suffering; for this is one device against Satan's lie. The wicked who enjoy great wealth in this world will be penniless for all eternity when their mortal bodies die. Brooks notes, and this is a most somber topic,
"God's setting them up, is but in order to his casting them down; his raising them high, is but in order to bringing them low."