Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Man In a Hole

This new video was posted by Tangle.com and I think this is a pretty good depiction of salvation. No matter how hard we try, there is no way we can get ourselves out of sin and death. Only the power and strength of Christ can secure salvation for us. Praise God for doing what only He can do!

Monday, August 3, 2009

What do you treasure?

What do you treasure? Or it could be asked in this way: what do you take joy or pleasure in? We all have things we treasure or take pleasure in. This question about what we treasure is a very important question, because it tells a lot about our relationship with Christ. Jesus tells us, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). So, what do you treasure?

Let me ask another question: Would you want to go to heaven if God were not there? Are you looking forward to spending eternity with God or are you just looking forward to His gifts? We are not saved just to escape hell and to enter heaven. Heaven would not be special if God were not there. So, God did not save us just to bring us out of punishment. He also did not save us just so He could bless us with gifts in and of themselves. God saved us so we could love God with our whole hearts. "Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:37)

Before He saves us, we are unable to love God. Sin is anything that denies God the love and honor and glory that He deserves. But we have to understand that we are more than just people who sin. We are sinful. "None is righteous, no not one!" (Romans 3:10). This means that we are not just people who occasionally stop loving God. We are people who cannot glorify and love God. We are sinners and before Christ changes our hearts, nothing we do brings glory to God and therefore everything we do is sin. We do not just occasionally sin, we always sin before we come to Christ. And unless we truly love Christ, we will not turn to Him. "Whoever believes in the Son of God is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:18-20). You see, everyone who loves the darkness does not come to the light. So someone can say they believe in Jesus, but unless they truly love Him and treasure Him, they have never truly received Him. Only those who treasure Him above all other things can say they have truly received Him.

Now, of course there are those who love the gifts that He gives, but not truly love Him. This is not salvation, because they can say they believe in Him, but not truly love God for who He is. This is the problem for the prosperity gospel. It preaches that if you come to Christ then He will give you all the desires of your heart. Some may say, well that's what Scripture teaches isn't it? "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). So if you turn to God, He'll give you the desires of your heart, right? Yes and no. Look at it closer. Who does it say that will receive the desires of their hearts? Those who delight themselves in the Lord. If their delight is in the Lord, then their desire is for God. And if their desire is for God, then it is God that they will receive. So it does not teach that God is a means to personal wealth and prosperity in the sense that the world defines it. It teaches that the one who delights in and desires God (or treasures God above all things) will receive what they treasure, namely God Himself. And those who truly do desire Him will be completely satisfied in Him.

This doesn't mean that God does not choose to bless some people with material wealth. But what this means is that those who delight in God will not treasure the gifts God gives them in and of themselves. They will be happy and thankful for what God gives them, but they will see those gifts as something in which they can use to continue to glorify God in their lives. The gifts are tools given by God for them to continue to show the world that God is infinitely more valuable than everything else they have. The true gift they have is God Himself, and if they were to lose all, they can still say they are rich because they have God.

Listen to what Peter and Paul have to say about this view of God being the ultimate gift that we can receive:

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God..." (1 Peter 3:18)
"For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father." (Ephesians 2:18)
"More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:11)

You see in each of these that the goal of salvation is not forgiveness or heaven or receiving good things in life. The goal is to be reconciled to God and to enjoy being in His presence. The gift of salvation is God Himself.

That is why Jesus has saved us and that is the desire for all those who truly believe. So, let me ask one more time: what do you treasure above all things? This will tell you whether you have truly received the grace of God that leads to salvation. God has saved us so we can treasure Him above all things, and in so doing we can once again glorify God. And this was the purpose for which God created us, so we can take pleasure in glorifying Him.

Some of you might ask yourself then: what can I do to be saved so I can love God with all my heart?

"Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19)
"Believe in the name of the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)

Repent from the lifestyle that has refused to glorify God. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. You can pray a prayer something like this:
"Lord Jesus, I know that I have not loved you. I have sought my own desires and pleasures and have rejected you. I am a sinner who has turned away from you. Please forgive me of my sin. I believe that you are the Son of God who died upon the cross to pay the price for my sins. I ask you to give me heart that loves you and desires you above all other things. Help me to love You the way You deserve. Thank You for loving me and forgiving me. Amen."

If you truly desire for Christ to forgive you and to change your life, then you will be saved. That is a promise from God!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Missionary Kid's Blog

I was checking my email this morning and found out I had my first ever comment on the blog site. I know there are people who read the posts here on the blog, but I have never had someone comment on one of the blog posts. Well, this morning, I had my first one. And it was on the post "Helping Kids to Love Missions." The comment came from a missionary kid. He has started his own blog, "Justin's Journal," with the hopes of inspiring others as he shares what life is like as a missionary kid. I hope you will take the time to check out this blog and learn a little bit about what life is like on the mission field from someone who is actually living on it.

The blog can be found at http://missionaryboy.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Greatness to Mediocrity

Greatness is a hard quality to measure, especially if you desire to measure it by God's standard, because we are so quick to measure according to our standards. Size of the church, the number of people, the type of ministries available are all ways in which we try to measure church health and growth. And the outward signs are not always the most accurate. In fact, rarely are they ever indicative of church health. However, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, has attempted to find a way to measure church health according to God's standard as accurately as possible. He admits it is not infallible, but he believes it is fairly accurate. Sadly, according to the measurements they can go by, it appears that there are churches that have gone from being great to being mediocre or worse. Churches that once were beacons of obedience to the Great Commission have now lost the flame that pushed them forward. This is a question for all of us to ask of ourselves and our own churches. Are we growing the way God wants us to be growing? Are we about the business to which God has commanded us? If not, is there a way back? Of course there is. Thom Rainer gives this encouragement towards the end of his post. I encourage everyone to check out his blog post because we all need to consider whether we are about the business God has called us to.

Read the full article here.

A Marine's Viewpoint on the Christian Life

This past week, our pastor has been on vacation. Therefore, one of our members filled in for him for the mid-week Bible study last night. He served as a Marine. The devotion he gave last night was a wonderful exposition of the Bible from a Marine's point-of-view.

He has the entire manuscript included on his blog, "The Colonel's Corner." I encourage you to check it out. I pray God challenges you through it like He challenged me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Gospel Defined by John Calvin

Justin Taylor on Between Two Worlds reprints Calvin's preface to Pierre Robert Oliv├ętan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534). It is a wonderful description and definition of what the gospel really is. I've reprinted it below for you to read.

Without the gospel
everything is useless and vain;
without the gospel
we are not Christians;
without the gospel
all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.
But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made
children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom
the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.
It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was
sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;
he was
made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;
he died for our life; so that by him
fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.
In short,
mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.
For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.

And we are
comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.
This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Relying on the Gift of the Spirit's Power

In the book, The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper, he discusses how he seeks to rely completely on the Spirit's power during the preaching event. Now, I know most people who will read this are not preachers, so naturally, you are thinking, "how does this apply to me?" I believe that the insight Piper gives in this section can apply to whatever God calls you to do, whether it be teaching Sunday School, at home Bible study, or even witnessing to a lost person. Anytime you seek to share with someone else the truth of God's Word, this information is important because you must learn to rely on the gift of the Spirit's power.

To help him rely on the Spirit's power, he uses an acronym, APTAT:

First is to Admit that you can do nothing apart from Christ, just as John 15:5 teaches, "apart from me you can do nothing." This step helps to humble us to the point to where we must rely on God.

Second is to Pray for help. Knowing that we cannot do anything on our own, we seek God's power in the words that we speak to others. It is God's power alone that can raise the dead and give sight to the blind. Likewise, it is only God's power that can take His Word and open the hearts of those who hear it.

Third is to Trust in a specific promise of God. Take a Scripture in which God has promised His power and help and bank on that specific promise as you seek to share the Word God has put on your heart.

Fourth is to Act in that confidence. Knowing that God has and is enabling you to speak His Word, we must carry through in obedience knowing that He will be faithful.

Finally is to Thank God for His help and presence in the work He has called us. When we get done and look back, we know that our effort is feeble and unworthy, but it is powerful because of what God is doing through it. Thank Him for His Spirit and His promise.

This is a great acronym for all Christians as they follow Christ in obedience to Go into all the world making disciples!