Archive for the ‘Daily Christian Living’ Category
Having not written in a while, I just wanted to post a quick update. The devil has been beating me up pretty good for many months. I have been struggling in many areas of my life. That said, I still love the Lord Jesus. His grace toward me is amazing. I know that I am saved by God’s grace and not by my works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). I know that my salvation is based on the work of the Lord Jesus and not my works (Romans 4:5). I know that I have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) and He is my peace (Ephesians 2:14).
I ask for prayer. I ask for forgiveness from anyone I have hurt. I do long to please the Lord despite seeing my faults on a daily basis. Each day I pray Martin Luther’s daily prayer: “Lord help me to not sin this day” and then I pray with Luther during the evening when I go to bed, “Lord forgive me of my sins this day.” I am thankful that God does forgive me of my sins (1 John 1:9). I long for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) despite seeing my sins in the light of the gospel. Thank God for the good news of His grace.
So I am okay. I find each new day the truths of God’s grace and His mercy while finding my sins in the light of the perfection of the Lord Jesus.
I have pre-ordered my copy of the ESV Thompson Chain Reference Bible from CBD. I am excited about this Bible. The Thompson Chain Reference Bible has been a favorite of mine for many years. I currently own two NIV copies, an NASB, and a KJV. I have longed for the Thompson Chain Reference Bible to come out in the ESV but always feared they would not but thank God they have and it comes out September 19, 2016 according to CBD.
You can see the page here but no information has been given yet on the CBD site. I will publish a review of the Bible when I receive mine.
Glory to the King!
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
– 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NASB)
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). But what is the gospel? I have attended many churches over the years but few ever spent much time actually breaking down what the gospel is or is not. Some say they preach the gospel each and every week but all they mean by this is that they offer “the sinner’s prayer” for salvation at the end of their sermons. Few really grasp the gospel.
Asking people what is the gospel is also difficult. People just don’t know. Depending on their church, they might define the gospel as Jesus dying for our sins, good works for people, or a host of other statements. The gospel, biblically defined, is often not taught in many churches.
Over the past few years we have seen an influx of “gospel centered” ministries. We now view everything as “a gospel issue.” Whether it be work, sex, marriage, sports, entertainment, etc. everything is now said to be a “gospel issue.” We have groups such as “The Gospel Coalition” or “Together For The Gospel” but is the gospel the main focus? Are we really together for the gospel? How many people even grasp what the gospel is?
In 1 Corinthians 15 we have Paul the Apostle defining the gospel. He states in verse 1 that he wants to remind the Corinthians of the gospel which he preached to them and which they received. He states in verse 2 that this gospel is what saved them. In verse 3 Paul states that this gospel is of first importance meaning that this message takes preeminence above everything else that could be taught. This gospel came not from men but from God (Galatians 1:11-12).
What then is the essence of the gospel? Paul tells us in verses 3-5:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Notice Paul’s movements here. First, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. This is important. Paul is not moving beyond what has been written beforehand in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophesied that Christ would die. Jesus Himself taught His disciples from the Old Testament about Himself after His resurrection (Luke 24:44-48). The Apostles were eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and they took not just His resurrection but the Old Testament texts and began to preach the gospel. The Book of Acts records the Apostles preaching of the work of the Lord Jesus and it is clear that they took the Master’s teaching from the Old Testament and taught about Him to the lost.
All of this, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is based on the Old Testament. The foundation for solid gospel preaching is not rooted in experience but in the Scriptures. This was the apostolic authority and is ours as well (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Peter the Apostle states we have a more sure word (2 Peter 1:16-21) because of the Scriptures.
So our preaching should be based on the apostolic authority of the Bible. The gospel flows from Scripture and is focused on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel focuses on the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was buried and He was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).
Sadly this gospel is often lacking in many churches. I download a local seeker sensitive church to hear what they are preaching these days. Each week my iPhone downloads their Sunday service. What do I get to hear? The gospel? Sadly no. I hear positive twists on texts and I hear a lot of talk about how God wants to bless us, use us, and work through us to touch our neighbors but I don’t hear the gospel. Sometimes sin is mentioned or repentance but little is said about the gospel. Sometimes the “sinner’s prayer” is offered and I assume they think that is the gospel but I don’t hear anything of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
We must see how the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and all through the Bible impacts our lives. I could write for days on this one issue but on a surface level, the gospel daily reveals to me that it was my sins that Christ died for. This is clear in verse 3. My sins. I see my sins all the time. My sins scream at me like demons hiding in the shadows. My sins torment me in my dreams. My sins are easy to find and easy to see. But the gospel shouts to me that Christ died for my sins (Galatians 1:4). My sins are not erased by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). My sins are not washed away by penance. My sins are not taken away by my own self-reformation. My sins are only washed away through the blood of Jesus that He shed on the cross for my salvation (Matthew 26:28; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:24-25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:4; 1 John 1:7). The death of Jesus on the cross speaks to my sins and while my sins condemn me, the Lord Jesus saves me not because of what I have done but because of His grace alone (Titus 3:5-7).
The gospel is not just Jesus’ death for my sins. Without the resurrection, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). Paul wrote in Romans 4:24-25:
24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
Without the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there is no forgiveness of our sins. That Christ died would prove nothing. If Jesus is not raised from the dead then He died just like we will die. But the Bible says that Jesus is risen from the dead. A cursory reading of the Book of Acts shows not just the fact that Jesus died on the cross but that He was raised from the dead. All four Gospels record the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is the main focus of the Christian message: Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
How does this impact me? Why is this part of the gospel? Well again if Jesus is not risen, we are still dead in our sins. But if Jesus is alive (and He is!) then we can be saved through faith in Him just as He said (John 5:24-25). The focal point of John 20:31 is true: Jesus is worthy of worship and praise as the One who shed His blood for our salvation and was raised for our justification. Because of Christ, my sins are forgiven and I have peace with God through Him (Romans 5:1). I have One who sits at God’s mighty right hand for my salvation (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is now my faithful high priest who prays for me before the Father as my intercessor, my advocate (Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 2:1-2). 1 Timothy 2:5 states that Jesus is our mediator before our holy God.
This is the gospel. The gospel is not self-reformation. The gospel is not about trying harder. The gospel is about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus all according to the Scriptures. Jesus is the One who was prophesied about in Isaiah 53:
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
I know several brothers in the Lord who have sweet spirits. They are delightful to be around. They glow with love for others, are full of joy, and pour blessings onto others. I want that.
My own temperament is typically laid back, discerning (though I fear sometimes I am just plain critical), and often opinionated especially about theology. I am not argumentative contrary to what you might read. I don’t enjoy fighting. I would rather just talk. When I feel threatened, my face gets red (cursedness of being a white man). My boys have watched me debating someone and they always say that I look mad, that my face is red like fire.
I want a sweet spirit. I’m not sure how to cultivate that. I have prayed about this before. I want to be loving and kind.
When I was in full-time pastoral ministry, I was more or less a jerk. I admit that now. In those days I thought I was just being “biblical” and standing my ground for the truth. It was others who rejected God’s truth but not me! I heard a brother say once that it is better to be righteous than to be right. I wish I would have lived those words. I would use the pulpit to beat others up (not by name but by my teaching). I was right. Everyone else was wrong. I was not loving and kind. I was mean. No wonder I was “let go” from my position.
Having been out of “ministry” for over 10 years now, I see my errors. I am not writing this for sympathy or to beat myself up. I am done doing that. I am writing to confess before the Lord my desire to be like Him. Yes at times the Lord can be angry but His anger is not based on sin or pride. The Lord’s anger is a pure hatred of sin.
This leads me to the gospel. I look back at my past 20+ years of being a Christian and I see all the sins I have committed, all the times I have failed the Lord. I see how I failed him while I was serving in full-time pastoral ministry. Yet I am so grateful that He never gave up on me. The Lord Jesus could have cast me aside (as I would have long ago) but He has not. Jesus has been faithful to me. He has provided for me and for my family. Most of all, the Lord Jesus has been my Savior through all this. The Lord knows how many times I have prayed Psalm 51:1-2 or 1 John 1:9? The Lord knows how many times I have failed Him yet He has never failed me (2 Timothy 2:13).
The gospel teaches me that yes I am a sinner. No doubts there (Romans 3:10-18). Yet in Christ Jesus I am saved and forgiven and declared righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-27). My salvation is not me saving myself from myself but God saving me from Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). The gospel teaches me that my temperament can be transformed but only by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In my flesh, I cannot please God (Romans 8:8). No matter how much I try, I will never be perfect, will never do enough to please God (Isaiah 64:6). The gospel teaches me that Jesus alone is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) and He alone is my mediator before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25). I am not lost today only because of the grace of God given freely to me in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 6:23).
I am so thankful for these small reminders of the faithfulness of God. I am far from perfect. Very, very far! But I trust in the perfect Savior who can save me perfectly (Philippians 1:6).
Thank you Lord Jesus for Your salvation and Your forgiveness! Where would I be without You?
I am nearing 42 years old. My hair is turning gray. I feel older. I am getting to that point in life where you start to ponder your past as well as your future. Thankfully, I know that Christ has saved me (despite my ups and downs over the years) and while I am very far from perfect, I do long to be like Christ. There is a hunger for sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3) that I pray for (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). I am thankful for the grace of God that brings salvation (Titus 2:11-12) and the grace of God that sustains me (Philippians 1:6). Without the Lord Jesus, I would not be saved (Romans 8:38-39; Jude 24-25).
What would I say to my younger self if I could write to me back then? I could write a book on this. Five points is not enough but for the sake of brevity, I will only do five.
First, I would say get closer to God for He alone is the only one who will satisfy. In my twenties, before marriage, I thought that a woman would satisfy me. She did not. I have had to learn the hard way that only God can fully satisfy the human heart. No wonder the Lord rebukes those who trust in flesh and make flesh their strength (Jeremiah 17:5). I use to quote that verse back when I was 18 years old and broke up with my first Christian girlfriend. How I wish that verse would have sunk deep into my soul. No person can satisfy like the Lord God. No one.
Secondly, you will change your theology along the way and that is okay. When I was a young man, I thought I had theology figured out. I would preach sermons and be so “right” about issues whether it be theology or life. I remember doing counseling (if you can call it that) in which I would just quote the Bible the entire time and not show any emotions or reactions. I would tell people to just read their Bible and do it! That was my advice. I was so legalistic toward others but not toward myself. I hated their sins but not nearly as much as I should have been hating my own (Romans 7:18). I also was uncharitable toward those whom I disagreed. How I wish I could go back and take back my theology debates with brothers and sisters. I wish I could have been filled with love and not with pride. I wish I could have been loving and kind instead of mean and bitter.
Thirdly, always remember that it is Jesus who keeps us and not we ourselves. As a young man, I would have given an “amen” to this but the reality for me was that I didn’t think God loved me unless I did all that He wanted me to do which was: pray, read my Bible, give 10% of my gross, support missions, do evangelism, worship, go to church, read Christian books, listen only to Christian music, avoid worldliness in every shape or fashion, avoid all sin, daily repent, etc. My entire Christian life was full of doing but inside I didn’t really believe God loved me. In fact, for many years I thought God hated me or at least He was disappointed in me. I would quote Romans 8:1 but it wasn’t in my heart. I would quote 1 John 4:19 but I didn’t really believe God loved me despite what I knew about the cross. I thought I had to prove my love for God but my actions (James 2:14-26) and thus I was caught in a “give and take” relationship in which God gave me His Son for my sins (John 3:16) but I had to give my all to Him (which mainly meant keeping the rules) to remain saved. When I would fall into sin (and I did many, many times), I would run to God and confess my sins (1 John 1:9) but I would hold to a sort of Catholic view of penance where I had to pray more, read my Bible more, share my faith more, go to church more to prove that I truly was sorry for what I had done. When I would fall again, I would do it all over again. I wish I could go back and just say, “Stop. Believe that you are loved by Christ and secure in Him. Make Him your delight and not your works.” I have learned much from Arminius here about the assurance of my salvation: that my salvation is based on the work of Jesus Christ and not my works (Philippians 3:3-11 and yes read it!)
Fourthly, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Proverbs 17:28 should drive you, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 13:3 says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
If I could go back right here and tell my younger self to avoid using that tongue, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. How many have I hurt along the way? How many would I go back and try to say the kind thing, the right thing, the loving thing? When I was in my twenties, I remember taking my old faithful NIV and writing down countless references to the tongue from Proverbs. I posted them on a sticky note that I kept for many years. Why didn’t I abide by them? The preachers I hurt. The Christians I hurt. You’ll be a better man if you’ll just shut up.
Lastly, Christians will hurt you. A lot. I know you and I know you’ll want to preach on holiness, on how the church should be unified and all. But I promise you, Christians will hurt you and let you down a lot. Preachers will fail. Your own friends that you now have will turn away from Christ. A few will come back but only nominally. Every church you will attend will have people in it that will hurt you. The only one who will not hurt you will be the Lord Jesus. That is the good news. Just as I said back at the first point, God alone will remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). I’ve been an imperfect Christian now for over 20 years and I have had many, many Christians hurt me and I’ve hurt them (see the point above) but the Lord Jesus has remained the same (Hebrews 13:8). Don’t place your faith in others. They will fail you. Your wife will fail you (yes you do get married). You will fail your wife. You will be a let down to your friends, family, and your own children. But that is why you must point them to Christ. He is our only hope. He alone is the only one who is faithful and true.
But in the end, you will not listen to me. You’ll learn this the hard way you old stubborn mule.
Your Friend Till You Die,
PS – No the South Carolina Gamecocks will not win the national championship in football but they do in baseball (twice back to back) and the Dodgers will spend billions of dollars but do nothing with it. Oh and in 2004, place a large bet on the Red Sox to win it all! You’ll see why.