What Mary Knew

What Mary Knew

What I Learned Last Sunday

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”” – Luke 1:38

Mary did you know? Most Christians are familiar with Mark Lowry’s 1984 lyrics that probe questions to the mother of Christ as to what she was aware of as she held her child for the first time in that little town of Bethlehem.

Let’s reflect in wonder following 2020’s first Sunday of Advent. Here are seven truths that Mary was told and believed before the Christ was born.

1. Mary was highly favored by God (Luke 1:28)

Visited by the angel Gabriel, Mary is greeted with words that any human should leap for joy at the hearing. “Me? Frail me? Sinful me? Undeserving me?” However, if honest with ourselves, any of our joy could never be founded in our feelings of personal adequacy. Honest people would be troubled like Mary at those words (Luke 1:29). Who could ever respond with boldness, “Why yes, of course I am favored by God! Thank you for reminding me how worthy I am.” True joy at this statement is from the understanding of our unworthiness coupled with God’s extraordinary kindness.

2. The Lord was with Mary (Luke 1:28)

If you are favored by God, He is with you. What greater favor could Mary receive than to have God on her side? Whatever God says after this is favor of Mary will be accomplished by Him being with her. Mary is not intrinsically worthy. God has favored her and is with her.

3. Mary will bear a great Son. (Luke 1:32)

To be told initially by divine foretelling that her son would be great is the tip of the iceberg of wonder in store for Mary. How is greatness defined? What scale should be used to measure the greatness of Mary’s Son? Let’s take a look.

4. Mary’s Son will be Son of the Most High, not of a human father. (1:32, 35)

What make’s Mary’s Son great? He is Son of the of the Most High (in v. 35 “Son of God”) which refers to the Old Testament prophecy connecting the coming Messiah (the “Anointed” mentioned in Psalm 2:2) as the Son of God (Psalm 2:7).

However, Mary’s Son is incapable of having a human father (she is a virgin), and if her Son has a human father, how can He also be God’s Son? Gabriel openly reveals that the father of Mary’s Son will be divine from the work of the Holy Spirit. God will defy natural with the supernatural to conceive in Mary His only begotten Son.

5. Mary’s Son will rule as a king (Luke 1:32)

What make’s Mary’s Son great? He will be a king like his family predecessor, David.

6. Mary’s Son will reign eternally (Luke 1:33)

Greatness beyond measure is in this Son, for he will reign forever as was promised to David and his offspring (2 Samuel 7:13).

7. Mary’s Son will be holy—the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

Holy is not a throw-away word. Mary’s Son will be holy. Though we sometimes may struggle with the definition of that word, Gabriel is not ambiguous when he refers to Jesus as holy. Jesus is the set apart Son of God. How much more holy can one be? God is holy. God’s Son is holy.

Yes, Mary may not have known that her Son would one day walk on water, but God revealed to her from the start that He was working in her (despite of her human frailties) to bring about the greatest wonder and moment in the history of creationthe birth of His great, kingly, eternal, holy Son. And yes, Mary heard and believed.

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38

“God, I am yours to live in obedience to you. Let your faithful word be done.”

Three Reasons for Thankfulness

Three Reasons for Thankfulness

What I Learned Last Sunday

“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” – 1 Corinthians 16:24

Last Sunday our church closed out three years of studying the book of 1 Corinthians. What a challenging journey for us to see Paul address the many issues and questions the Corinthian Church had. In the spirit of this day of Thanksgiving, I have three things that I am thankful for from the passage (1 Corinthians 16:19-24) of Pastor Mike’s last sermon.

1. Thankful for Paul’s greeting of love to a sinful people.

I am thankful that the Apostle Paul ended his letter, though full of many stern charges and strong words against Corinth, with verse 24,

“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” -1 Corinthians 16:24

Through all of the mess going on in Corinth, Paul refuses to end his writing with bitterness, shallowness, or personal discouragement. He ends with hope-filling Christian love.

Paul, could have ended saying one of several things that would have dishonored Christ and elevated himself, but he let Christ shine in his final words.

For example, Paul could have held out his love as a condition saying, “I will send you my love once you start acting in a loving way!” Or, in referring back to 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Paul could have ended with a parting shot that sought to elevate himself above other church leaders. “My love be with all of you who like me more than Apollos and Cephas.”
Though those responses would have certainly made a point, Paul would have never been able to identify his love as the kind that is, “…in Christ Jesus.”
Only a life shaped by Christ will seek true love that his genuine and lays aside the desire for personal gain.
I am thankful for the hope of Paul’s response and his example of Christian love that laid aside his sinful desires and centered his desires on Christ.

2. Thankful for biblical warnings.

It may seem strange to be thankful for words like, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” – 1 Corinthians 16:22
However, I think we should be thankful for biblical warnings. These warnings are humiliating. The boldest Christian grows weak kneed and trembles at the thought of living a lie and life that is devoid of love for Christ.

Yet, I will give thanks, for if there is any boldness in the Christian life, it is not in ourselves, our piety, our prayer life, our generosity, our emotional state, or our power to will ourselves to love Christ. I would rather be a humiliated saint than a bold Hell-bound Christless sinner. Therefore, I will thank God for warnings which remind me that my only hope is on my knees at the foot of the cross. Thank you Jesus, thank you!

3. Thankful that Our Lord is Coming.

Finally, I am thankful that our Lord is coming as Paul cries out in his final words. I do not know where you readers are in this life. I fear some of you look to Jesus’ return with hesitation thinking, “But I have so much to do in this life still.” Others are full of the pains and trials of life pleading for Jesus to return.
To the first, I would warn you to see Jesus’ return for what it truly is. Every wrong made right at the return of the King. Sin and sinful opposition will be crushed—true and final social justice. The greatest joy and desire of every Christian fulfilled. Your current tiny joys that now fill you with hope but ebb and flow depending on sinful nature will explode when longing is turned to reality. Death to the “already but not yet” struggles in your life. No more, “Why do I do the things that I hate to do?”

To the last, I encourage you to carry on in hope. No pain you endure in this life will hold a candle to the joy of Jesus’ return. Our Lord is coming! He will make all wrongs, right. This is the greatest hope for the saint.

Is he your Lord? Is he your King?

As we close, meditate on these final lines of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. Christ’s return is more desirable than my goods and kindred. To be with Christ is eternal unlike this frail body I currently have. Christ’s return is imminent founded on promises that are unwavering. In Christ, I am already a part of a Kingdom that I am looking to be finally realized in Christ the King’s return.

“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (last four lines)
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.

Our Lord, come!

God-Focused Fervor in Prayer

God-Focused Fervor in Prayer

What I Learned Last Sunday

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Luke 11:9

Burt Newman shared last Sunday the meaning behind Jesus’ words from Luke 11:1-13 regarding proper ways to pray. Contrary to a view of prayer that is spineless and shallow, Jesus teaches consistent, God-focused, fervor in our prayer. 

Prayer ought to be persistent and expectant like a neighbor refusing to cease knocking on his friends door until he is let in. Praying is like a daughter desperately reaching for her daddy to scoop her up and carry her around the house. 

However, there is a question to ponder from Jesus’ words. Is Jesus more concerned about our method rather than the content of our prayer? As long as I pray with persistence, can I ask for anything my heart desires? 

1. The method of persistent prayer reveals what we put our confidence in.

The continual action of boldly coming before God with our every need, reveals a heart that believes God is worth hoping in. Asking and seeking God in our prayer defines the order in which we live. God is the great provider and Lord. We are the needy creation reaching out for aid. The repetition of our coming to God with our needs reveals genuineness. Through many trials of life, the dependent Christ follower still asks, seeks, and knocks. Therefore, I think that Jesus knows the method of our prayer (persistent and continual crying out) reveals the attitude of our hearts toward God. Do I really need this God in my life?

Question: Does my prayer life reveal that I am confident in God to hear and answer my prayers?

2. Persistent prayer will change the content of our prayer (what we ask for) as God reveals our greatest needs.

Though one may see this as a means to abuse God’s kindness to get things they want in prayer, Jesus reveals that the good things God will provide in our asking are truly good because they are tied to our greatest needs. 

In other words, God has good things for us at the ready. These good things may not be what we expect, but they are absolutely good and needed for our lives. God gives good gifts. Persistent prayer (which will only occur in the life of a Saint who is confident in God) will mature us to pray for the things that God sees as good and needed for us rather than selfish wants and desires. If God is really God, then I am a fool to not desire what He desires for my life. Shortsighted as we are, we often struggle to know what our needs are and mix them up with desires of our heart. By God’s grace, an attitude of persistent prayer will align our hearts with God’s to shape our desires, leading us to what we ought to properly pray for.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

We do not have to look far to see what our greatest needs are. Jesus openly reveals that it is the Spirit who is ready to be given by God to those who ask (Luke 11:13). What need is greater than for the Holy Spirit to work in us?

Prayer

Lord, help us to pray persistently with sincerity and surrender to You. Asking! Seeking! Knocking! For, our persistence is dependence leading to Christian maturity.

The Gospel Applied

The Gospel Applied

What I Learned Last Sunday

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Pastor Mike shared last Sunday five of Paul’s final charges to the Corinthians, a letter which provides us practical applications of the gospel for Christians.

  1. Be watchful for things that will draw you away from Christ.
  2. Stand fast in the faith.
  3. Act maturely in our lives.
  4. Be strong in the Lord.
  5. Let everything we do be done in love.

These are weighty and appropriate charges for the Christian seeking to practically apply the gospel to one’s life. Pastor Mike shared that our previous study of Romans explained what the gospel is while 1 Corinthians applies the gospel to every area of life (church order, sex, handling disputes, marriage, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, interactions with non-Christians, etc.).

Question: Can the true gospel stay as simply a state of mental understanding, never being practiced in our lives (homes, work, politics, etc.)? Paul would say emphatically, “No!” For Paul that would be a contradiction, since in his life, he sought to, “know nothing [among the Corinthians] except Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

What could this mean for my life now?

  • When an election does not go the way I thought it should for the benefit of my country, I fight the desire to fall into despair, for Christ is king over everything.
  • When I am accused of wrong doing, I submit myself before God in humility and ask to expose any wrong in me rather than defiantly seeking self-defense or revenge against those accusatory words.
  • When I go to work, Christ and him crucified affects the way I work, how I handle my failures in my work, and who I seek praise from in my work (Christ’s praise and not that of my boss).
  • When cancer riddles my body, and the temptation to, “curse God and die” (Job 2:9) arises, I fight to hope like those living Christian heroes who say, “To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bibie is offensive assumes if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you.” -Timothy Keller (Dr. Keller is saying this of the in defense of his God who is allowing pancreatic cancer into his body. The God who is allowing this pain is big enough to trust through the cancer.)

The gospel and subsequent living in the gospel are not mutually exclusive. Living the Gospel practically is truly living out the gospel.

Live, John, Live
“Live for Christ, John, Live!”
Paul, through the Spirit, commands,
Watchful, steadfast, mature, strong,
All done with hearts of love,
Live not on a foundation built by your two hands,
Live out the gospel in all your life, full of faith,
This is the only option,
Founded on the gospel and the fruit it brings,
Know nothing but Christ in all your life,
For that Good News is a Christian’s wings.

View the original (and much better) poem attributed to John Bunyan here (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/run-john-run/).

Following Christ in the Work of the Lord

Following Christ in the Work of the Lord

What I Learned Last Sunday

“When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.”- 1 Corinthians 16:10

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike shared seven points about the Lord’s work from 1 Corinthians 16:5-11. What connection do these points have to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Points #1 & #4 The work of the Lord sometimes requires going, and sometimes it requires staying.

Jesus, who did not take His equality with God to use to His own advantage (see Phil 2:1-11) went. Whether going or staying, obedience is fundamental to doing the work of the Lord.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God [SENT] forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” –Galatians 4:4-5

“For the Son of Man [CAME] to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

Point #2 & #3 The work of the Lord requires supporting churches and hospitable Christians.

Christians do very poorly if they do not first think of Christ before they enter into the act of giving. At the headwaters preceding your giving stands Christ who gave all for you!

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” –2 Corinthians 8:9

“For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Point #5 God is sovereign over the His work.

Christ provides for us a concrete example of submission to the power and control of God in His life. For the Christian, understanding God is sovereign ought to lead to greater submission to the one who holds all things.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 6:38

“And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”” – Mark 14:36

Point #6 God often opens wide doors to His work

Ushered in by John the Baptist, the greatest prophet who ever lived (Luke 7:28), Jesus stepped into His earthly ministry making bold proclamations of God’s perfect timing—a truly perfect door for ministry.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:15

Point #7 The work of the Lord has many adversaries.

“And Jesus entered the world, to a welcoming throng who responded in repentance and belief. This is to fulfill the prophets who said, “Some in that day will call it the most peaceful transition of power ever.”

Such heresies will never be found in Scripture! Mark’s gospel records not one but TWO demonic encounters of opposition in the first breaths of Christ’s appearing (Mark 1:12-13, 23-24)! How naive are we to think that the Christian life is a joyride on the lazy river.

“[Christ] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” – John 1:11

“[Jesus said] And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” – John 12:32-33

Conclusion

May we be more like Christ as we seek to do His work!

Christian Giving

Christian Giving

What I Learned Last Sunday

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” – 2 Corinthians 8:7

I pray these words in conjunction with last Sunday’s sermon (Please listen!) will help Christians seek to excel in this God-honoring act. I encourage you to re-read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, and 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 as you read this.

Practical and Theological Principles of Giving

  • Giving is an act of grace that should not be coerced by men.

If giving ought to be grace filled and free (2 Cor 8:7),

May I give unpressured, uncoerced and heart full of glee (2 Cor 9:5).

Implication: There is a way that I can give that can deprive myself and others of seeing Christ’s grace flowing out of me.

  • Giving expresses my love for God and should reflect the income God has given me.

If the way I give expresses how I genuinely love God and others (2 Cor 8:8),

May loving, giving grow as God makes me prosper (1 Cor 16:2).

Implication: The specific amount I give is not the indicator of my love for God and others.

  • Christ gave His very life for sinners, so we should give if we have Christ.

If Christ the King became poor, taking on flesh, dying FOR ME not based on my status, wealth, or worthiness (2 Cor 8:9), 

May I, whether rich or poor, give universally with eyes set on Christ’s kindness (1 Cor 16:2).

Implication: Giving is not a specific gift that only certain people should partake in. Believing that giving is selective, deprives potential givers from extending grace and love to others and worship to God.

  • Giving can lead others to praise God, so I should plan to do it.

If my giving leads others to God, full of thanksgiving and praise (2 Cor 9:11-13),

May I never rob God of glory nor others of godly praise but rather give in regularity and plan God’s glory in hearts to raise (1 Cor 16:2).

Implication: If my giving is an attempt to point others to my greatness, I am robbing God of glory and leading others astray.

 

Reflect, Pray, Confess, Act

Holy Father, let these questions probe my heart to excel in giving for your glory! Amen.

Question: When I give, is Christ’s sacrifice for me at the forefront of my mind and heart? How does thinking of Christ transform how I give?

Question: How do the opinions of man affect my giving? Do I give only when pressured to do so? Do I give, so that others will notice and think highly of me (Read Luke 18:9-14)? 

Question: Does my family, my home, my heart view and express giving like a monthly electric bill or as an expression of worship and thankfulness (2 Cor 9:7)?

Question: In my heart, do I believe my possessions are my own self-earned property, or do I believe that everything I am and have is God’s property?

Sin’s Opposition to God’s Superiority

Sin’s Opposition to God’s Superiority

What I Learned Last Sunday

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive… that God may be all in all” – 1 Corinthians 15:22, 28c

Last Sunday the focus in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 helped reveal the true meaning to life. Why am I here? Where are we going? How should I live? Paul ties the answers to those questions intimately to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, in His resurrection has made a way for all in Christ to live! More than that, Christ is putting all things under his feet showing the universe that God is number 1.

The reality of the resurrection cannot be fully understood without the truth of sin and our nature “in Adam”. 1 Corinthians 15 attributes death to sin and as a great foe of humanity and consequence of not living under the reality of God’s authority in the universe. It is not often that we view sin in such a deadly and damaging way.

How do I view my sin? Is it seen as simply a personal issue connected to my self-improvement? I would challenge the reader to see sin not as something simply keeping you from your “best life now” but as a nature full of attitudes and actions that directly contradict the reality for which the universe was created.

Sin leads to all death

“As in Adam all die…”

The cost of your sin is death (Romans 6:23). Death is not a state of non-existence but an eternal reality away from God’s presence (1Thessalonians 1:8-9). Combining these two truths (sin leading to death which is separation from God’s presence) we see that sin is terrible and terrifying. You feel the weight of sin right now. Of course there are glimmers of God’s common grace for you. You feel the warm hopefulness of a sunrise. The kindness of a neighbor encourages you. Or, the laws of God’s established governments (see Romans 13) keep disorder in check. However, the weight of sin is revealed from God’s Word. The cost of your sin is death, and your sin is found in merely looking at that man or woman with lust, in the simple desiring of your neighbors new boat and being unthankful for what you have, or in valuing yourself above others. Yes, even your “harmless” self-preservation is a sign that inside of you is the very thing that will remove everything good God has provided for your life forever! No sunrise, no God, no kindness, no mercy, or love forever.

Sin is that for which Christ died for you

“…so also in Christ shall all be made alive”

If that is true about your sin, then how much more crucial and pivotal is the truth that Christ has died to pay for sin. Is Christ merely one who provided moral teachings for the betterment of society? No! Christ died for sin and sinners like you. The life we live in Adam, leading to our death, is transformed in Christ. We shall be made alive, saved from the consequence of our sin.
The view in 1 Corinthians 15:24 is not of Christ the moral teacher but Christ the conqueror who through His death has brought sinners over to His side and is putting any non-God under His feet. If you are in Christ, you are no longer in fear of being conquered and condemned by God, for you have already willingly surrendered yourself to the king of all creation.

Sin is in opposition to your seeing God as all in all

Finally, Christ’s death and resurrection is revealing to the universe that God is over all things. What a marvelous and terrifying reality!

It is marvelous because Christ’s death and resurrection mean so much more than a “get out of hell free card”, and Christ’s life is not merely an example for you to be a moral person. Christ has opened a way by which we can see the ultimate meaning to life—God’s glory and superiority over all things.

Why is this terrifying? Think about sin. Sin is not simply small character flaws that you hope to change. Sin is that opposition to the God of the universe. Sin is anything that takes glory from God by attributing glory to another. Therefore, if you are not in Christ (willingly surrendered to God through Jesus) you are currently that opposition Christ will crush under His feet to show the universe that God is number 1. Without Christ, you are that “power” against God, that “enemy” of Christ as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:24-23. You are not on God’s side now, but one day will see in terror that God is over all including your life.

What now?
Why am I here?
Answer: You are here to see God’s superiority over all things and to live willingly under Him.

Where are we going?
Answer: Christ’s death for sin is leading to a final revelation of God’s superiority over all things.

How should I live?
Answer: If Christ has died for the thing in my life that is in opposition to God (my sin), then I am called to live in service to that God because of what Christ has done.

Surrender to Christ!

Death is Not Ultimate

Death is Not Ultimate

What I Learned Last Sunday

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” – 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

How does one functionally deny the resurrection of Jesus? As Pastor Mike shared last Sunday in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, it is done as we, “Make this life ultimate and the after life an afterthought.”

Making This Life Ultimate.

Imagine with me for a moment. 

Say you are a young person with a clean bill of health. You view Life as one of infinite potential. Perhaps you are starting into a college career. Maybe you are ending your college career and looking forward to that new job opportunity. Or, perhaps you are recently married and everything seems to be moving in the right direction. 

All your present circumstances, your health, your success, and your comforts, are lining up perfectly. Life is good. Of course, you have had ups and downs through the years, but the downs never last long. In the back of your mind there are the beliefs, “I still have a lot of time.” and, “I have control of my future.” 

Then COVID. 

Then your job market dried up. 

Then civil unrest over accusations of injustice. 

Then your parents start speaking of the potential end of America as we know it on November 3rd. 

Then you lose a friend in the prime of their life. 

Many of these troubles, you avoid or rationalize. “I’m a healthy person and won’t get that sick.” “It’s just an election, and I will be fine.” “Things will get back to normal soon.” “It happened to them, but it won’t happen to me.” 

Then you see a headline in the news like, “If You’ve Just Had Covid, Exercise Might Not Be Good for You.” You read of potential cardiovascular problems that could arise if you contract the disease. Regardless of the truth of those claims, the thought is planted and doubts arise. If not COVID, it could be any thought or fear that questions your health, comfort, and freedom.

Anxiety starts to creep in. The comfort of youth and freedom are challenged. 

“What if COVID steals my health?” 

“What if things don’t get better in my country but worse?” 

“What if I die?”

But in Fact Christ has been Raised

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” – 1 Corinthians 15:20a

Fear, anxiety, and worry about the “what ifs” of life are obliterated in the truth of the resurrection. As shared on Sunday, Christ’s resurrection establishes four truths for the Christian:

  1. When we speak the gospel, we celebrate our present hope in Christ. Christ has brought us from death to life.
  1. Death is not ultimate (Not fearful). Death is the doorway to a realized inheritance of eternity with God.
  1. We are no longer in our sins. The fear of condemnation is gone. Christ has defeated the penalty of sin (death) in His resurrection.
  1. We are not to be pitied. Because death is not the end but the beginning of great joy for a Christian, there can be no pity for our death.

If anxiety is your response to the troubles of life, let the truth of Christ’s resurrection build hope in your heart!

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Last three lines

“Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.”

Standing in the Gospel

Standing in the Gospel

What I Learned Last Sunday

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

On Sunday Pastor Mike shared from 1 Corinthians 15 the three-fold work of the gospel in a Christian. First, Paul reminds us of the work of God in us to save us in the past (whether five minutes ago or 50 years ago). Second, and vital, is that we do not merely look back to that moment of God’s work, but we stand now in the gospel, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1. Mike said, “One massive evidence of your conversion is that today your hope for life and everything is Jesus.” And, “We will never be defeated so long as we stand in the gospel.” Finally, the gospel has future hope in that we are “being saved” as Paul says. God saved us in a moment in time (five minutes ago or 50 years ago), God is saving us (presently), and God will save us.

Question: What does it look like to stand in the gospel and look confidently to God for hope? Should a Christian life be filled with doubt, anxiety, and fear? What response should the past, present, and future understanding of Paul’s gospel awaken in a Christian?

Martin Luther’s Anfechtungen

In his biographical work* on the great reformer, Martin Luther, Eric Metaxas noted a time between July-September in 1527 when Luther was plagued with physical illness but an even more spiritual crisis or tribulation which he referred to as “anfechtungen”. 

During one of these physical and spiritual crises, Luther believed he was about to die and responded accordingly:

He prayed out loud the Lord’s Prayer and then two penitential Psalms. He was not only physically ill but also clearly tormented in his spirit feeling guilty of past sins and generally unworthy…He asked everyone around him to pray for him, quite sure he was now dying. He lamented not having been counted worthy to shed his blood for the sake of the gospel as others had done. Luther was inconsolable, slipping away.

Luther later described this suffering more vividly to his close friend, Philipp Melanchthon, in a letter.

For more than a whole week I have been tossed to and fro in death and in hell, so that I am still drained from all strength in my body and am trembling in all my limbs.

I have lost Christ completely and have been shaken by the floods and storms of despair and blasphemy. However, as moved by the prayers of the saints, God has begun to have mercy on me and to snatch my soul from deepest hell.

Should we stand in the gospel like Luther in his hour of anfechtungen?

In Luther’s hour of anfechtungen, his focus was more on his insufficiency before God (which is true), but he did not move from his insufficiency to the overwhelming sufficiency of Christ!

A Christian’s present stand in the gospel takes into account two massive truths which John Newton articulated as:

  1. I am a great sinner (insufficient and damned before God).
  2. Christ is a great Savior (totally sufficient taking on my sin before God).

Question: What does it look like to stand in the gospel and look confidently to God for hope? 

Answer: Standing in the gospel involves a clear conviction of Newton’s two statements. “Yes, I am unworthy.” AND, “Yes, Christ alone makes me worthy.”

Question: Should a Christian life be filled with doubt, anxiety, and fear? 

Answer: See below

Question: What response should the past, present, and future understanding of Paul’s gospel awaken in a Christian?

Answer: For a moment of Martin Luther’s life, he suffered a lapse into doubt and unbelief that he was still in Christ. The idea of standing before God knowing he was a sinner brought immense dread to the point of believing, “I have lost Christ completely…”

Praise God, our hope in the gospel is not in any way dependent on our goodness but on God’s mercy.

“[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” – Titus 3:5

Praise God that he brought Martin Luther from the pit of anfechtungen, reminding him of his hope in Christ.

Stand in the gospel today. Stand in the truth that you are not worthy and only worthy in Christ. 

Christ is a great Savior!

*”Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World”, by Eric Metaxas (Viking, 2017)

Learning from Job and his God

Learning from Job and his God

What I Learned Last Sunday

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” – James 5:11

Last week we finished a summer-long study through Job. As we close this chapter, meditate on the applications Pastor Mike called us to. I encourage you to return to the messages on our site any time to reflect on suffering and the working of God through all things.

Seven Examples of Job’s Patience

1. Job worshiped God in his suffering.

Death. Loss. Suffering. Worship.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:20-21

2. Job suffered in his health, but defended God before his wife.

God allows Satan to strike Job’s health on top of all the pain and loss. 

“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”- Job 2:9-10

3. Job lamented instead of grumbled

Biblical lament acknowledges the suffering, cries to God for relief, and fights any bitterness that would accuse God of wrong. As Pastor Mike said Sunday, “Lament is turning to God in all of your pain and hurt.”

“I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.” – Job 3:26

[Job speaking of God] “Though he slay me, I will hope in him;” – Job 13:15

4. Job spoke well of God.

A reflection of Job’s perseverance was his unwillingness to reject God despite the suffering.

[Following the first round of Job’s suffering] “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” – Job 1:22

“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” – Job 42:7

5. Job knew he had a Redeemer who would advocate for him.

Rather than looking inward to himself, Job knew his only hope was in a redeemer to step in on his behalf. Job found no hope in himself. 

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”- Job 19:25

6. When Job saw God, he confessed his ignorance.

Rather than defiance, Job confessed his ignorance upon hearing the word of God.

“‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” – Job 42:3

7. Job repented of his wrong thinking and words.

Job turns to God from sin for hope. 

[Job’s response upon seeing the greatness of God] “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42:6

Seven Examples of God’s Mercy and Compassion

1. God was kind and blessed Job.

God extended many undeserved blessings to Job. The only thing God owes us is to be God along with all that entails.

“…The Lord gave…” – Job 1:22b

2. God spared Job’s life.

God spared Job’s life and that is mercy and compassion.

“And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”- Job 2:6

3. God was compassionate by revealing Himself to Job.

Job saw more of God in his suffering than he had before, and that is great news for us to hope for in our moment of suffering. “God will you show yourself to me in this trial?”

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;”- Job 42:5

4. God accepted Job’s repentance.

The implication of the passage following Job 42:6 is that God accepted Job’s repentance. God considers Job worthy to be the intermediary between his friends. Do not take this lightly, when the sovereign King of all creation stoops down to extend forgiveness to a sinful man.

5. God provided a way for Job’s three friends to be justified.

God did not deal with the three friends according to their folly. 

“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.” – Job 42:7-9

6. God restored Job’s fortunes.

God gave. God took. God gave again. God often gives what we do not deserve. What grace, mercy and compassion!

“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. ”- Job 42:10

7. God took.

If God’s taking is leading you to a clearer vision of God, then it is God’s grace!

In Suffering

If in this suffering you will be,

More real and true and clearly seen,

Though pain will beg me cry, “Take this cup!”

In mercy use this trial and fill me up

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