Small Sin & Sin Fighting

Small Sin & Sin Fighting

What I Learned Last Sunday

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” – 1 John 3:4-10

Check out last week’s sermon here.

How small minded can we be about sin and sin fighting? Our view of sin is dreadfully too small, otherwise we would fight it as if Hell itself were at our heals. Meanwhile, serious sin fighting is negatively shrouded with words like “legalism” by those inside churches.

What is John’s response to these errors?

Whoever Practices Sin is of the Devil
With sin so small you will never see Jesus rightly. With sin so small you forget that, “…the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8). Sin is not small, for it was paid for at the cost of one death of the Son of God.

There is a well-known book that, though intent on helping us understand the grace of God in Christ, gets sin completely wrong as the authors imagine a light hearted conversation between Jesus and a sinner about that sinner’s sin.

“[Jesus] …directs my sight to that mound of filth [the sinner’s sin] now in front of us. After several moments , with a straight face [Jesus] says, “That is a lot of sin. A whole lot of sin. Don’t you ever sleep?” He starts laughing. I start laughing.”*

With respect to those authors, sin is never a laughing matter, for Jesus came to earth to destroy the works of the Devil at the cost of His life. Sin is not merely ‘faults’, ‘brokenness’, or something worth a joke and a laugh.

“Sin is cosmic treason.” -Pastor Mike

Take heed of John’s warning the next time you are tempted to make a mockery of God’s grace and His Son by indulging your sin. As Pastor Mike said, “Jesus legally killed your sin,” through perfect obedience to God’s standard of payment. “For the [cost] of [your] sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord [, because Jesus paid for your sin with His body].” (Romans 6:23 with added emphasis and commentary). To indulge in sin is to partake of that which Jesus came to destroy. To be in sin is to be of the Devil and his works. Jesus came to destroy and one day will finally destroy the works of the Devil. Be terrified if you are not in Christ at the foot of the cross.

Whoever Practices Righteousness is Righteous
Serious sin fighting falls prey to a misunderstanding of what legalism is.
True legalism would say, “I am made righteous when I practice righteousness.”
True Christianity says, “I practice righteousness because Jesus is righteous and has made me righteous.” True Christianity embodies a heart that is transformed in pursuit of One who has done a transforming work, defeat the works of sinful rebellion against God in those who trust in Christ. Following after Jesus with serious vigor to sin fight is not legalism, it’s Christian through and through.

Sin and Sin Fighting Seen Rightly
Misunderstood Christianity, which see its sin as small and sin fighting as legalistic, creates a false Jesus who said and did little more than the human focused mantra, “Be excellent to each other.”** True Christianity sees both sin’s cosmic rebellion, and the goodness and loving kindness of God in Christ. As Pastor Mike shared, “Jesus came to destroy your hate and my hate.” His work is truly transformational; He truly changes hearts and draws us in to Himself. See your sin for what it is, and run from the works of the Devil. See the righteous perfection of Christ, and run after Him because He is and has made you righteous if you are trusting in Jesus.

When the thought from Satan enters your mind that your sin is small and your warring against it is legalistic, fight that fire with sword of the Spirit.

“Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.” -1 John 3:9 CSB

*Quote taken from The Cure by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall.
Note, though this book has many great images in it that may help a young believer understand the grace of God, I believe it forgets the seriousness of sin. Sin in the book has more personal understanding of its effects on the sinner than a cosmic understanding of its rebellion against the nature and character of God.

**Thank you to the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for this quote.

Come and See What God has Done

Come and See What God has Done

What I Learned Last Sunday

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

Check out last week’s sermon here.

“Yes I’m saved, eternally secure, and adopted as God’s child, but…”

“…but I don’t think that I will ever be happy if I don’t find a spouse.”

“…but if I don’t make the right career choice, my life will be unfulfilled.”

“…but (insert any other genuine pain or struggle in life).”

Insert any discouraging statement after those words, and the point will be proven that, as Pastor Mike shared Sunday, time has a way of making us dull to the beautiful realities of the work of the Gospel. We are too easily bored!

Due to our natural state (Jesus called it, “the flesh” in Matthew 26:41 as did Paul in Romans 7:18) we tend to get so bored that we can talk about our relationship with the holy, holy, holy God as if it were a college degree we earned. Yes, at the time it meant a lot and involved a lot of my life, but now our conversion, and what happened in it, is as normal as a look at the diploma on the wall (or possibly in a dusty box in the basement as mine is).

Is it really true that we can get bored with God?

Give yourself an honest moment of self-reflection, and you will attribute any missteps into sin, failure to represent Christ, and that bored Sunday morning yawn to the ‘sin’ of boredom or familiarity.

Jesus affirms the truism of human nature that “familiarity breeds contempt,” with His words in Mark 6:4 after being rejected by His own people in Nazareth, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Jesus’ statement affirms that He believed the natural state of people was to mistrust those they were familiar with.

So too, in Jeremiah’s day, a sort of familiarity with the temple of God led God, through Jeremiah, to reprimand the people of Judah for their excess of worship and absence of love for God through their disregard for the oppressed.

“Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’” – Jeremiah 7:4

The people of Judah loved the things associated with God (the temple), but their familiarity with God did not lead to reverant fear and obedience. They forgot the heart behind the law to love God above all and their neighbor as they love themselves (Leviticus 19:18).

Yes, time, through our natural state of sin, has a way of making us dull to beautiful realities. We are too easily bored.

An Invitation To See Wonder 

John invites us again to see God’s love afresh, so that we would continue after Him purifying ourselves and hopefully looking to that day when we will be like him!

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us…” – 1 John 3:1

We fight boredom and familiarity by seeing and remembering the wonder of salvation. I invite you to see the same wonder through the hymns.

In Your New Birth…

Charles Wesley, in the classic hymn, And Can It Be prods our hearts to worship that dead hearts are transformed to life by the work of the Spirit. I pray these thoughts lifts your hearts beyond familiarity to wonder and worship! 

“And can it be that I should gain

An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?”

You do not know how it happened; it was not in your own power or intellect that changed you. One day, through the miraculous work of God by the Spirit (John 3:1-8), you saw Jesus and the work he accomplished as beautiful. You gained an interest in the Savior’s blood. He was no longer foolish to you; He became the joy of all your heart.

Died He for me, who caused His pain—

For me, who Him to death pursued?

You gained an interest in the Savior as you pondered the thought that the Jesus, whose hands and feet you pierced with the nails of sin and rebellion, was the same God-man who pursued you in love to point of death. 

Your heart cannot but scream…

“Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

In God’s adoption of you…

Of our adoption, Stuart Townsend, in the hymn, How Deep The Father’s Love helps us reflect more on the works of God in saving us to be His kids.

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

Are you feeling ‘wretch-like’ today, wondering whether or not God loves you? His Words says He gave His only Son for wretches like you.

“…God shows his love for us in that while we were still [wretches], Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8

 

“How great the pain of searing loss –

The Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

Bring many sons to glory.”

How wretched is your sin? Greater and more costly than you can truly ever know. How great is God’s love? Greater than your easily bored mind can even comprehend. But this, you know at the least, in the pain and suffering, the Savior felt on your behalf, God reached down His hand and says, “You are MY child!” The wounds that marred Jesus were the means God used to bring you in as his own.

“And because [the Son of God redeemed you,] you are sons, [and] God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “[Daddy!] Father!” – Galatians 4:6

God has done wonderful things, and our faith is founded in wonder. Wonder today! Ask God to help you see His love and kindness afresh!

On Miscarriage

On Miscarriage

Word in Season

Miscarriage. I could not dislike a word more. It speaks of the senselessness of death: something was carried and it was a mistake, and it was cast out for its mistakenness. There was a life, little fingers were formed and a heart was beating, and for no apparent reason, it is no more. 

My fourth pregnancy was a happy surprise for us. As we dreamed of holding her and recognizing our features in our child, we also longed to see God’s own image imprinted in her. But on the 13th week we were facing a new reality. Life was swallowed by death. Physical pain now accompanied the ache in our hearts and sorrowful questions: why Lord? How could this be?

The subsequent days were filled with the chaos of talking to family and caring for our toddlers, whose needs could not be pushed aside, grief or no grief. I was surprised by the different ways my husband and I mourned. He cried unashamedly. He wanted to sit in the dark and hold hands. 

I, on the other hand, would start cleaning the bathroom late at night, had several sewing projects going, and furiously moved furniture. I could not sit still in fear that tears would come and flood my whole life. 

But at some point, I started listening to my husband, whose worldview is steeped in the Gospel more deeply than mine. I realized that my fretful activity functionally showed that I was minimizing the heavy reality of this death. I was acting as if this death was just like a wrinkle in the carpet: we tripped and kept moving. 

I turned to the Lord then and this is what he taught me. 

I learned not to push against grief, but instead, accept it. 

Death is the awful curse for sin upon this world and has brought so much chaos with it. Ecclesiastes speaks of it: all our aspirations and toil end up being vapor because death hangs over us all like a heavy cloud. It catches us like birds into its nets and sucks the meaning out of everything that our hands touch (Ecclesiastes 2:17-22, 9:11,12). Yet we shrug our shoulders, numb the pain, speak flippantly about God having a plan, and push the tears down  – and with that we minimize the reality of death and God’s work to overcome it. 

But God calls us to live, walk, rejoice, weep in the light of his glorious Gospel. He calls us to name things as they are. He calls us to assess reality honestly, so that in the thorny paths of life this pain – acknowledged and accepted – could bring us closer to him. 

And God invites us to mourn before him. He inspired David to record his laments for us in psalms. These words that we are ashamed to say out loud are pleasing to him: “How long of Lord, Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). In these psalms we can pour out our pain, bewilderment, disappointment: there is something deeply wrong with this world. This should not be. How can it be that a life is swallowed by death? The silence around miscarriage only makes the void created by death palpable. My body knows, and my heart knows: there was a life, and it is no more. Death came and swallowed it and I feel the emptiness. 

I will lament before the Lord. He knows and hears and sees. 

I learned to mourn wisely. 

The feeling of emptiness lingered and made what seemed stable to be shaky and uncertain. Troubled, bewildering questions ran in circles. Grief often takes our thoughts in so many directions, not asking us permission on what to leave untouched. 

Grieving wisely means being patient with it all. It takes time to sort through the lies, face our fears, get used to the new reality. It means not boarding the train of emotions; but instead, waiting on the Lord to comfort me and strengthen me.     

I was learning to mourn as a child of God.

Grieving meant not only honest mourning, but also a deeper appreciation of things that are just as real as death. God conquered this enemy, and this victory will one day swallow death forever (1 Corinthians 15:54). The perishable will one day be clothed in the imperishable, and the mortal will put on immortality. There will be a day when we will see our baby clothed in glory that far surpasses the glory of angels and the glory of our best intentions (1 Corinthians 6:3;15:43,44). 

This resurrection has meaning not just for my future: it is also hope and power for my dark days now. As I was groping for something stable in the shaky places, his Spirit guided me into his truth that has not changed since the day there were two hearts inside my body. 

These are the truths that my feet found as a strong foundation:

  • Who is God?

He is the God who sees, the Shepherd who became a Lamb and passed through the valley of the shadow of death to defeat this enemy; whose resurrection means a living hope for now and for eternity (Psalm 23, Genesis 16:13, John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:3). He has not changed. I can trust him even if I do not understand why he let hope take root in our hearts and took it away with no apparent reason. I can trust him because his words tell me I can, no matter how strong my emotions rage. Together with Spurgeon, I will learn to say: “His sovereign will is the pillow on which I can rest my head amid suffering”. 

  • Who am I? 

A redeemed child of God, called into the fellowship of the Father and the Son (1 Corinthians 1:9). A sheep that was lost but now found, always seeing the rod and staff before her (Psalm 23). I am loved with the same love that the Father loves his own Son (John 17:24). 

In this grace, there is true power for my days. Life will flow on, and my pain will continue reminding me of how broken this world is. But gradually this pain will become clothed with a hope – a living, steadfast hope that is founded – not on what is seen and tangible, and thus, corruptible – but on his word, and on God himself (1 Peter 1:23-25, Hebrews 6:13). 

I learned to grieve in community

Many conversations after the miscarriage revealed that we were not alone. People gathered around us and shared their past experiences – their helpless feelings before the death of their children. My eyes started noticing a layer in the biblical narrative of a multitude of women who suffered a loss. In this community our hope took on flesh and became more real: our child is not dead, and death does not have the final say. 

We were very comforted by the prayers, food, and offers to watch our kids. The Lord taught us to be patient with the awkwardness of those who did not know what to say or offered simple, even if often untrue, platitudes. We accepted the grace offered to us and tried not to allow grief to isolate us: we saw the Lord himself stretching his arms out to us through his church. 

This creation, in which we are called to live and be transformed from glory to glory, is subjected to curse and futility (Romans 8:20) – and miscarriage is one of the terrible manifestations of that curse. Sorrows like this one will always be part of our life here, but we can be confident in this: the one who walked on this earth and who tasted the curse to the fullest, will finish what he started in us and this world (Philippians 1:6). His Spirit within me is truth and life, leading me into his glory so that one day I can say with all that is within me: “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (Revelation 16:7). 

Rest for the People of God, Part 3

Rest for the People of God, Part 3

Word in Season

This is part 3 of a series of posts on biblical rest. See part 1 here and part 2 here.

After two posts on sorting through how the Bible presents rest, we are ready to respond. Side note: Theology is important because you cannot rightly apply the Bible if you don’t know what it says. That is another blog post for another time. Back to application. The rest for our soul, our eternal redemption that is secure in the unchangeable hands of our Savior, must enter into our work and our rest. More specifically, Christ himself must enter our work and our rest.

Christ enters into our work. Christ has redeemed us and enters into our work, telling us that all of our labors can be used to bring him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). He brings purpose to our work because these are works he prepared for us to do, for him (Ephesians 2:10). Our work doesn’t provide our value, identity, or salvation. All of this is secure in Christ. We aren’t saved on our ability to climb the corporate ladder, maintain a certain GPA, our athletic prowess, homemaking abilities, or how great our kids turn out.  

Restlessness, anxiety, anger, needing to control outcomes, incessant busyness are indicators that we, instead of Christ, are at the center of our work. When we labor like this, we are saying that Christ’s work isn’t enough, there is more to do. We must cease from striving, cease from our works, sit at the foot of the cross, and rest with our eyes on Christ. We labor from a place of rest. One type of work brings slavery and the other brings freedom. 

Here are some helpful questions to ponder as we think about our labor:

  • Are my emotions controlled by how my “work” went that day? What is it I’m seeking for from my work that is controlling me and my emotions? Joy, pleasure, success, identity? 
  • Whose standard am I trying to achieve? My own, my peers, my children? Who do I need to accept me and tell me, “well done”?
  • What am I trying to accomplish and what happens to my world if I don’t accomplish it? Who’s performance matters?

Christ enters into our rest. The Lord knows we need rest. There was a practical point to the Sabbath as well. We aren’t God and we need rest. Christ enters into our rest just as he enters into our labor. We can rest for the glory of God. We don’t hide from him in our rest, we bring him into those times of rest. When we neglect to bring Christ into our times of rest, this is when we find ourselves not rested at all. It is funny how much work it is to rest well. Self-indulgent rest leaves us exhausted. 

What are some signs we aren’t resting well? 

  • Feeling guilty for resting or feeling like we need to sneak rest
  • When rest seems separate from your life as a Christian. We don’t think about Christ when we rest, it is an escape from Christ and his work. 
  • Feeling like you have to hide from God when you are resting
  • Rest that is primarily self-indulgent

Bringing Christ into our rest in the here and now is practice for the coming eternal rest where we will dwell with Christ forever. 

What small steps will you take this week to rest in Christ as you labor and as you rest? 

  • Ask. Ask God to show you where you are striving apart from him. Seeing where we aren’t trusting Christ is good and necessary. We can’t fight what we don’t see. 
  • Repent. Repentance helps us to rest. Turning from our sin to Christ in and of itself is restful. 
  • Trust. Trust that Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He forgives and provides the grace to help us grow in this area. Seeking refuge in the forgiveness, mercy, and grace from our gentle Savior is the foundation of all true rest. 
  • Act. Is there a small change that can help you rest better in Christ? I write this from a place of great neediness and desire to grow in this area. I’m slowly learning to bring Christ into my labor and times of physical rest in small, simple ways. 
    • Saturday mornings I try to sleep in. I now thank the Lord for the opportunity to sleep a little extra and it helps me not only enjoy that refreshment with Christ but also recognize that it is a gift from him. I am aware of my tendency to hide from Christ in my rest. 
    • I am learning to recognize signs of anxious toil in myself. Acknowledging before the Lord that this is placing trust in myself instead of Christ has been a huge step forward in freeing me to rest in Christ as I work. This freedom has even had a positive impact on my physical energy levels. 

I’m thankful we have a Savior who says his yoke is light. I’m thankful the cross penetrates into all areas of our lives. I’m thankful our salvation is complete in Jesus. Lord, help us rest. 

Note: These series of posts were greatly influenced by a podcast from CCEF on Rest. I encourage you to take a listen here: https://www.ccef.org/podcast/rest/

See part 1 here and part 2 here.

The Abiding, Sufficient, and True Anointing

The Abiding, Sufficient, and True Anointing

What I Learned Last Sunday

“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” – 1 John 2:26-27

Check out last week’s sermon here.

You can’t handle the truth!” 

Jack Nicholson’s famous line from A Few Good Men completely falls short of what our world is begging for today—the truth. You might rather say, “Who cares if I can’t handle the truth; I just want to know what is true!”

A 2016 Pew Research and Elon University study of media and technology experts found that respondents were nearly split down the middle (51% to 49%), completely divided in predicting whether or not the future would see an improvement in the spread of true information. Frank Kaufman, one of the more optimistic experts said, “The quality of news will improve, because things always improve.” 

Don’t tell that to my Facebook feed, Frank.

How do you remain in what is true amid the lies? As Pastor Mike shared Sunday, 1 John 2:18-27 was written so that you would avoid deceivers and remain steadfast in what is true.

“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.” – 1 John 2:26

Question: How do you avoid deceivers today?

Answer: You avoid deceivers when we rest in the anointing you have received. 

Question: What is this anointing?

Answer: The anointing is the work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of a sinner (Romans 8:19).

Pastor Mike shared that the anointing is better than today’s lies because:

1. The anointing abides (lives) in you.

Jesus said that His coming was what prophets longed to taste for ages (Matthew 13:17). The heart of stone would one day be turned to flesh by the Spirit’s work (Ezekiel 36:26). Jesus affirmed the Spirit’s coming work through His work (John 14:16-17). The Apostles attested to the result of Jesus’ work, the Spirit’s indwelling in believers (1 Corinthians 6:19).

2. The anointing is sufficient.

Jesus said he would offer rest to all those who come to Him (Matthew 11:28). One aspect of the rest found in Christ is the steady rock of assurance and unwavering hope that in Him there is no further improvement needed. He offers a peaceful rest, true assurance that he alone is the solution to your longing heart. Christians do not need to constantly progress into new, evolving truth. Jesus offers foundational 2,000 year old truth that we cling to, preserve, and learn. Do you want rest? Stay close to Jesus. You will not find anything more sufficient.

3. The anointing is true.

You may not believe that statement, but you cannot deny the claims that Jesus made. You must believe Him to be true, or reject Him.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” – John 14:6a

4. The anointing is proven.

No who gives their life to Jesus will ever find him empty. He will always be faithful to you. You will find him more desirable than anything this life can offer.

“You [God] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” – Psalm 4:7

“in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” – Philippians 1:23

Question: What happens to those who have been anointed?

Answer: They abide in Christ!

“Jesus made it clear, abiding in Him means you trust Him for everything. You trust Him for life. You trust Him for fruit bearing. You trust Him for help. You trust Jesus Christ alone.” -Pastor Mike

If you have the anointing that is proven, sufficient, true, and abiding in you, run to and live in Christ. 

The world is full of deceivers and alternative truths, and Jesus is calling to you, “Abide in me!” That is a truth you need every moment. Jesus will not fail you.

Rest for the People of God, Part 2

Rest for the People of God, Part 2

Word in Season

This is part 2 of a series of posts on biblical rest. See part 1 here and part 3 here.

Biblical rest is about finding refuge, satisfaction, and actively trusting in the finished work of God’s son, Jesus Christ. Putting our faith in his work on the cross as final for our salvation is where we find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29). Before we dive into application, I think it is helpful to look at the opposite of rest in the Bible. 

Rest and Restlessness: The opposite of rest in the Bible is restlessness. This means we can labor without resting and we can rest without resting. The key to biblical rest is not necessarily to stop laboring and physically rest. 

Psalm 127 is about three areas of human activity: The home, the city, and the family. What does the Psalmist point out about these places of labor? He reflects on the significance of our labor and God’s work. 

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep. – Psalm 127:1-2

It isn’t the work that is bad, it is the heart behind the work. There is a vanity to laboring in any of these areas of life when that labor comes with anxious toil or restlessness.  Why is it in vain? Because this is God’s work to complete. It is he who is taking the work and using it for his purposes. He is in charge. It is a gift from him to have a family, a home, and a safe city. We are not in control of the outcome and our anxious toil is a complete giveaway that we are resting on our works instead of in his. God is pushed out of the picture entirely. That is why the Psalmist stresses that we can lay down that restlessness labor and sleep as an act of faith. 

This striving on the basis of our own works is mentioned in Hebrews chapter 4. 

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:9-11

We strive, but we strive to enter the rest provided in Jesus Christ. We rest from our works, our striving, our insatiable need to prove or earn something. We are redirected to strive towards the rest found in Christ. We lay down our anxious toil, our restlessness, and surrender our work and our rest to our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

When the Israelites neglected to keep the Sabbath it was a sign of their declining spiritual state. When we find ourselves full of restless striving in the work God has given us to do or unable to physically rest, it too is a sign of spiritual self dependence and a lack of faith. Striving apart from Christ never brings rest. 

In the next post we will make our way towards application.

See part 1 here and part 3 here.

The Old News is Still the Good News

The Old News is Still the Good News

What I Learned Last Sunday

“They [those who deny Jesus] went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” – 1 John 2:19-21

Check out last week’s sermon here.

The idea of progress in many ways is deceiving. Solomon’s timeless statement, “...there is nothing new under the the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) rings true throughout history and very true today when thinking of “fresh” or progressive heresies.

New, Old Heresies
Heresy A: “I don’t buy the thought that God would send people to Hell for not believing in Jesus. God’s love wins in the end.”

That question is posed as if doctrines are pulled from thin air.

“Whoever believes in him 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.” – John 3:18

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” – Hebrews 9:27

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” – Romans 1:18

Heresy B: “I don’t buy that God really desired Jesus to be killed on the cross for my sins. God willingly putting His wrath on Jesus is abuse!”

Of course, when one anthropomorphizes the eternal God, he/she would come to conclusions like this.

“He [God] who did not spare his own Son but gave him up FOR US [sinners] all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32 (Emphasis Added)

In our enlightened age, we see so much good and potential in the world. Humanity simply needs to bond together in love to accomplish great things. The God who is wrathful against sin is for another age of darkness. We are of the enlightened.

Just a few years back (approximately 1,900 years or so), Marcion of Sinope was so offended by the thought of a wrathful God against His own Son, that he threw out the Old Testament and much of the New Testament creating a brand new, nicer God who is: “…incapable of anger, entirely apathetic, free from all affections.”*

Marcion could not live with a God of wrath, and thus the “modern 21st century” view found among many progessive Christians was born…before 144 A.D. Thank God, Marcion’s teachings were condemned as heretical, and the God we see in the whole Old and New Testament was preserved in all His wonder, mystery, and glory.

Old News Is Still The Good News

“Tell me the old, old story…
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save;” -Katherine Hankey

As Pastor Mike shared on Sunday, John in his letter was compelled to draw his “children” back to fundamental reminders about Christ. The fundamentals are learned and believed through the anointing, saving work of God in Christ (1 John 2:20).

Heresy C: “I don’t buy that there is only one way to God. Any good life and genuine religion is good enough.”

“No one who denies the Son has the Father.” – 1 John 2:23

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

We must cling to Christ, the real Christ as revealed in Scripture. Clinging to who Christ is will guard against error and is fundamental to being a Christian. Those who do not cling to Christ are, “…not of us.” (1 John 2:19). The old story of what Christ has done is where true Christianity lives. We must live there as well.

The Wrath-Love Gospel
I uphold the cross, its shame,
My sin was laid on Jesus’ back,
As the Father turned His,
Divine wrath poured on His Son;
I fall with tears, heart torn apart,
That God in kindness,
Planned salvation from the debt I owe;
I cheer the love, of Christ to save,
My life from death upon that tree;
I shout forever, “Christ is King!”
He rose victorious, my hope sealed;
I wait for Him, this final hour,
Divine Son returning,
He’ll make wrongs, right.

*Quote taken from “The Prophets, Volume II” by Abraham Heschel (p. 80)

A World-Lover’s Prayer

A World-Lover’s Prayer

What I Learned Last Sunday

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

Check out last week’s sermon here.

A World-Lover’s Prayer

Holy Father and God of All,

Adoration
It is only in your initiating love that I can enter your presence at this moment (1 John 4:19). Your only begotten, Divine Son gave His blood to ransom my life (Matthew 20:28). In His name I come in a mixture of boldness and humility (Hebrews 4:16). For, it is only in your presence where mercy and grace are extended to sinners, like me, sick with world-love.

Confession
And there, I have laid my condition on the table. I have read John’s words, “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 4:15). World-love? Yes, I fear that has crept inside my heart. Living for the temporary, I have embraced my world-love in the guise of words like “common sense” and “security.” I find my peace when funds are full, in food, in pleasure, in love from others. The problem revealed when a lack of those things, exposed my fear and dread. Worst of all, Father, your Word exposed my love for all the temporary things in life, viewing Your Son’s return with dread. I twist your Word with, “Come Lord! Come…but tomorrow please. I’m having too much fun here instead.” (Revelation 22:20).

Your Word, Your abiding Word has laid open and broken. For my world-loves are fleeting, vanishing in a breath. My world-love is building an empire that will be destroyed by moth and rust (Matthew 6:19-20). My world-love is at the heart loving the gift over the Giver. It usurps Your authority on my life, replacing all-satisfying You with my temporary reign (Romans 1:21). My world-love is damning. I feel Your Word now expose my hypocrisy. The love of the Father is not in the world-lover.

Supplication
Take now Your scalpel, God, and conduct surgery on my heart. Quick God, please, before I take your Word lightly or explain it away, making excuses for my world-love. Whatever the cost, cut my world-love out at the root. The world is passing away. I do not want these temporary loves to get in the way of You. Take your all-seeing vision, expose any wicked in me, and crush it (Psalm 139:24). Let my goods and kindred go if that’s what it takes. I will lose everything if it means that I know you (Philippians 3:8). And if your surgery requires these losses, don’t let me go weeping like that rich young ruler in love with my temporary possessions (Mark 10:17-27).

Don’t stop there, please God! Lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:24). Lead me back to the place where my hope is built. For, in His name I came to you, and only in His name I rest in you (Matthew 11:28-30). His blood has cleansed the foulest things. My wicked world-love He washes white as snow (Psalm 51:7).

Thanksgiving
And, Father, as I stand on your Sons righteousness, sin gone far as east from west, the moment when he claimed me as His own, I am so thankful. Thank you God. May I say this in every moment of my day in everything you give to me, good or hard, thank you! I step out today, your ambassador, proclaiming your goodness in every breath.

In Jesus’ name I pray and stand, Amen!

Rest for the People of God, Part 1

Rest for the People of God, Part 1

Word in Season

This is part 1 of a series of posts on biblical rest. See part 2 here and part 3 here.

Here is what I’ve been pondering lately: Rest. Not just any rest, biblical rest. The rest the Bible talks about and teaches.  A rest that any number of vacations won’t quench. A rest better than the best night of sleep you have ever had. A rest that can be enjoyed even during the hardest seasons of life. The rest that Jesus talks about giving. A rest that reaches all the way down to your soul (Matthew 11:29). A rest that permeates into every facet of your life. But before we get there, we need to go back to the beginning and see how rest develops in the Bible. We need the full picture because the Bible is one book, all about Jesus Christ, and all of it matters. 

God Rested (Genesis 1:31-2:3): Although the Lord doesn’t need to rest (Psalm 121:3-4), we see him resting on the seventh day of creation. What’s notable is the context around his resting: God rests after his “very good” work is completed. He rests in satisfaction at his completed work. God rested with satisfaction from the very good work he alone had finished. Remember this because it is important. 

God’s People Rest (Exodus 16:16-24): God redeems Israel (his people) from slavery and now he graciously gives them a day to rest. Will the people obey and trust God to make provision for them on this day of rest or will they trust in their own work and go out to gather food on the seventh day? This rest is a gift, however, in order to take this rest, they must trust in the work of God to provide for them. Eventually, God establishes the Sabbath rest as part of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:9-11) and anyone who fails to take the Sabbath rest will die (Exodus 35:1-3). 

Sabbath and Redemption (Deuteronomy 5:15): The death penalty if you don’t rest? I never understood why such a harsh penalty was necessary. Deuteronomy connects this rest to redemption which helps us understand how the LORD sees this rest. 

Moses says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). 

God saved you, therefore you rest in his work. This rest wasn’t a mindless pattern. The Sabbath has to do with freedom and redemption. It was a day for the Israelites to remember that God saved them in his great act of redemption. They were to rest with complete satisfaction in the redemptive work of God (Does this remind you of Genesis 2, it should!) A neglecting of this rest was rejecting the redemptive work of God. When you reject the redemptive work of God, there is death. Not keeping the Sabbath was a key indicator throughout the Old Testament in the declining spiritual state of the people (see Jeremiah 17:21-27 and Nehemiah 13:15-18). 

Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of Rest It is in Christ’s work on the cross where God’s people find their ultimate rest. Jesus invites people to come to him to find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). The Sabbath rest, where God’s people stopped to recognize and be satisfied in God’s work of redemption, was a shadow pointing to the work of Christ that offers redemption and thus true rest to all who believe (Colossians 2:15-16).

Jesus claims he is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). Not only is Jesus claiming he is God with this statement, but he is also stating that he is the one who the Sabbath was all about. Jesus is the substance of the Sabbath rest for the people of God. The Pharisees were trusting in their own works (ironically this doesn’t lead to rest, it leads to slavery) and lost the heart of the Sabbath which was to rest in the work of God. This Sabbath rest pointed forward to the salvation that is found only in Christ. There is no rest, no salvation apart from Christ. 

Biblical rest is about finding refuge, satisfaction, and actively trusting in the finished work of God’s son, Jesus Christ. When you reject this, there is death. 

Now What? If you are still reading, I’m glad for that. Theology is important because we can’t correctly apply God’s word unless we know what it says. However, I hope you are wondering what this all means for you now, today, in this moment. Run to Jesus as your Savior if you have not done that. Put your faith in his work on the cross as final for your salvation. If you have already done that and are wondering how this rest in Christ actually works itself out in our every day to day lives, stay tuned for the second part of this post where we will try to flesh that out.

See part 2 here and part 3 here.

Hope to Stand Upon

Hope to Stand Upon

What I Learned Last Sunday

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” – 1 John 2:12-14

Check out last week’s sermon here.

The warnings in the Word of God are not designed to destroy Christians under the crushing weight of doubt and unbelief. That sentence is only true because of the immeasurable work of Christ on the cross. Praise God! 

We can be assured of our unchanging standing before God, in Christ, because:

1. Our sins are forgiven.

Out of kindness, Christ has forgiven our sin debt through His blood (Ephesians 1:7). Thanks be to God we know the name of the one who has done the work on our behalf.

2. We know God.

What a thought to know be known by God. The good news of the gospel does not draw us inward to self-empowerment or praise. The gospel shifts our focus upward to God. Knowing God does not occur without first being known by God. Being known by God is foundational to salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). To love God is to be known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). 

3. We have overcome the evil one.

Through the abiding Word of God in Christians, the Devil is powerless to snatch away the word from us (Mark 4:14-15). Also, God’s Word in us provides true strength leading to victory over any daily temptations that he may attack us with.

All Saints, Stand!
Christians, young to old,
Make haste now to the cross of Christ,
Do not tarry,
For you were purchased at great price,
Let him your sin burdens carry.
For you know Him and He knows you,
In His strength you stand, none can sever,
The Devil, God’s abiding Word slew,
O Praise His name forever.