Archive for category daily_thought

When we don’t get holiness right…

Last evening, I taught our church briefly on the ever important topic, the holiness of God. The result was typical; I was deeply convicted during my preparation time.

Good definitions of holiness:

  • Wayne Grudem describes holiness as God’s being “separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor.”
  • “The essence of our God’s holiness,” writes Bryan Chapell, “is that He is wholly other. He is separate from anything that could sully His glory or diminish His perfection. He is majestic, elevated, high and lifted up. He is not entangled by His creature’s failures. He is not tainted by earth’s stain. He is pure.”
  • R.C. Sproul maintains regarding holiness, “At times it points toward pure, at other times it points toward separate and at other times it points toward transcendent.”

I believe that there are some serious ramifications in our personal spiritual lives as well as in our corporate spiritual lives when we fail to get the holiness of God right.

  • If we don’t get the holiness of God right, we are committing idolatry. At a certain level, we have all committed idolatry. Each time we sin, we fail to think rightly about God and thus end up worshipping a creature of our own creation instead of the true God who created us. If we miss the fact that God is altogether separated from sin, we cannot possibly be worshippers of the true God at any level.
  • If we don’t get the holiness of God right, the amazement of His love, mercy, and grace will fade into regular, ordinary, common-place cliches that are stripped of their spiritual power. God’s love is amazing precisely because it is undeserved. His mercy captivates us because the judgment we deserve has been withheld. His grace overwhelms hearts because by it we are granted what is undeserved and could never be earned. When holiness is ignored, minimized, or even inaccurately conceived, then in our estimation love becomes deserved, mercy a misnomer, and grace expected.
  • If we don’t get the holiness of God right, we will never see the seriousness of sin nor will we be able to understand the target that we pursue, holiness as God is holy. Isaiah had to see the Lord in all his splendor, grandeur, glory, and holiness before he could respond, “Woe is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6). If we don’t grasp the holiness of God, then we will lose sight of what He expects of us (1 Peter 1:13-16). If we are not careful, instead of seeking to measure up to the holiness of God, we will content ourselves with measuring up to others in our Christian communities or perhaps even comparing ourselves with our unregenerate neighbors.
  • If we don’t get the holiness of God right, we will not be able to worship with the right heart attitude. We cannot possibly have the proper gratitude for our salvation, if we miss God’s holiness, and then we cannot possibly worship Him with a heart overwhelmed from that salvation and overwhelmed with the majesty of His person.

Hebrews 12:4 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

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Continue in Prayer in the New Year

As I’ve been preaching through John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit has been convicting my heart regarding this matter of prayer. I certainly want God to use me for the furtherance of the gospel, but I confess that my knees are not worn out yet. In this season of spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit graciously continues to expose my self-dependency, arrogance, and pride — for thinking that I can function without daily appropriating His power through prayer. And He’s been revealing the truth of Scripture to me, truths that are really all about Him, God-centered, if you will. Quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing about the power of prayer. We need, rather, to speak of the power of God, which can be appropriated by a believer through prayer.

In John 14, Jesus tells the disciples that they will do greater works than He has done. Pause and let that sink in for a moment. Greater works than Jesus? Certainly, in some sense Jesus masked His own majesty during His earthly ministry, but yet the works that He did do are astounding still (i.e. feeding the multitude, turning water into wine, raising Lazarus, etc.). Our greater works are greater only with respect to the worker. In other words, in His earthly ministry Jesus did less than He was actually able to do, while in our time to work for the Lord, through His divine enablement, we will do more than we should be able to do! Haddon Robinson illustrates this idea really well (not word for word),

Aboard a US submarine in enemy waters of the Pacific, a sailor was stricken with acute appendicitis. The nearest surgeon was 1,000’s of miles away. Pharmacist Mate, Wheller Lipes, watched the seaman’s temperature rise to 106 degrees. His only hope was an operation. Said Lipes, “I have watched doctors do it. I think I could. What do you say?” The sailor consented. In the wardroom, about the size of a drawing-room, the patient stretched out on a table beneath a floodlight. The mate and assisting officers, dressed in reversed pajama tops, masked their faces with gauze. The crew stood by the diving places to keep the ship steady; the cook boiled water for sterilizing. A tea strainer served as an antiseptic cone. A broken-handled scalpel was the operating instrument. Alcohol drained from the torpedoes was the antiseptic. Bent tablespoons served to keep the muscles open. After cutting through the layers of muscle, the mate took twenty minutes to find the appendix. Two and a half hours later, the last stitch was sewed, just as the last drop of ether gave out. 13 days later the patient was back at work. Admittedly, this was a much more magnificent feat than if it had been performed by trained surgeons in a fully equipped operating room of a modern hospital.

Thus, when God uses mere humans to preach the gospel of life to a dark world, dead in their sins, it is a greater work! One for which only He can receive the glory. And these greater works can only be accomplished in and through the Church as we continue in prayer, thus appropriating the power of God. Jesus said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I yam going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

In chapter 15, then, Jesus reminds the disciples of the importance of abiding in Him, saying, “Without me, you can do nothing” and “If you abide in Me and if my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it will be unto you.” The more we abide in Jesus and His word abides in us, the more our heart (still riddled with sinful desires) will be aligned to His will, the more we will pray according to His will (in His name) and then ultimately the more prayer we will see answered as Jesus brings forth spiritual fruit in our lives (Christian character, conduct, and converts) as He does greater works through us, His Church.

If God’s leading me to John 14-15 weren’t enough (and the fact that I know John 17 is coming!), I read this a couple days ago in Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (actually given to me for Christmas by a friend whom God saved through the ministry of our church, himself one of God’s “greater works”),

It is interesting to notice how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, ‘Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord’; and just as we are about to close the volume, the ‘Amen’ of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob — there a Daniel who prayed three times a day — and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elijah; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Do you not need anything? Then, I fear you do not know your poverty. Have no mercy to ask from God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show you your misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, and the honour of a Christian. If you are a child of God, you will seek your Father’s face, and live in your Father’s love. Pray that this year you may be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter more often into the banqueting house of his love. Pray that you may be an example and a blessing to others, and that you may live more for the glory of your Master. The motto for this year must be, ‘Continue in prayer.’

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Do I Obey Jesus Like I Obey My Football Team?

What would you think of a guy who says, “I am a really big Packers fan,” but doesn’t have a sweatshirt, has never been to Lambeau Field — not even for a free tour, has never worn styrofoam cheese on his head, cannot name even three present players, and hasn’t watched one of their games all season? You would say, “He’s no fan at all!”

I consider myself an excellent football fan. When my team says, “We have a game on Sunday night,” I’m there. Thursday night? I’m there. Name any time, and chances are, I’m there. And I’m not just there in presence. I’m all there. I’m usually wearing my team shirt and annoyingly spouting what I think is well-thought-out, in-depth, and incredibly accurate game analysis.

All across the country today we are obeying our football teams. They say, “But $125 tickets to our games,” and we do. “Pay $25 to park in our parking lots,” and we do. “Give us 3 and a half hours of your day,” and I will. “Purchase and wear our clothing,” and I will. “Visit websites throughout the week that provide you a taste of what will happen Sunday,” and I do on many occasions. Our football teams have basically asked us to orient our lives around them and we have.

The question hit me, though, this week: “Do I obey my Savior like I obey my football team?”

What would you think of a person who says, “I’m a serious Christian” but then only touches his Bible on the Sundays he attends church, rarely prays, knows only the five verses in the “Romans Road” by memory, and spends most of his free time watching programming on television that really doesn’t reflect anything that Jesus values?

Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Our love for Jesus should result in passionate obedience to Jesus. Sadly, though, we often obey our respective football teams more than we obey our Savior. Quite frankly, this reveals where our heart-affections are placed; it means that at times we probably love our football team more than we love our Savior.

What’s wrong with this picture? Everything. Your football team doesn’t love you. As much as you may have an infatuation with your team, the fact is that they fleece you for cash and time every year. But the Savior, on the other hand, bled and died, facing God’s wrath that we deserved so that we could be reconciled to God, enjoying His fellowship now and for all eternity.

If Jesus is the greatest love in our lives, we will read His Word more than the latest analysis on our team. We will orient our lives around the meetings of His people. We will spend our resources on the furtherance of His gospel. Our thoughts will consumed with Him. Our greatest passion will be loving Him and obey His every word.

Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

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Abundant Life

I am preaching the beginning of John 10 this week. In this portion of Scripture, Jesus claims to be the good Shepherd, over against thieves, robbers, and hirelings. At the end of vs. 10, Jesus says, I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. This quote from D.A. Carson’s commentary was especially thought-provoking in regard to the phrase above:

This is a proverbial way of insisting that there is only one means of receiving eternal life, only one source of knowledge of God, only one fount of spiritual nourishment, only one basis for spiritual security — Jesus alone. The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviors — its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots — and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ‘only…to kill’), and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only…to destroy’). Jesus is right. It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.

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Free in Christ

Here’s a section from this morning’s sermon on John 8: and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

Christ, having paid our penalty on the cross, has swung open the door of our prison cell, has loosed our chains, has released us from the power of sin, has freed us from the authority of the devil, and has lead us triumphantly out of the prison of sin and death into a new domain of freedom and righteousness in Christ. In light of this truth, why do we travel back up that familiar pathway, stained with the stench of our former sins, all the way back to the prison cell where we once wallowed in servitude without view of the light of Christ? Why do we swing the door back open and return once again to our former chains of bondage, preferring the shackles of sin and the brutal master that compels us to do that which destroys us, over the freedom that the Savior has purchased for us? We’ve been freed from the power of sin by the Son Himself; the rest of our Christian existence is learning to live as a freedman.

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“I Don’t Have Peace About It”

A friend and I were recently voicing our frustration with the pseudo-spiritual mysticism that masquerades as I just don’t have peace about it as it relates to our decision making as Christians. Just last week, I was given a copy of Biblical Manhood: Masculinity, Leadership, and Decision-Making by Stuart Scott. In a chapter on biblical decision making, he identifies “inner peace” as a means of subjectivity that should be avoided or handled with caution. He writes,

This is interpreting a sense of peace or an unrest in your soul as direction from God. This is also a feeling. We are commanded to be at peace with God (salvation). We are also commanded to be at peace in our mind (free from anxiety). We are even commanded to be at peace with one another (as much as depends on us). If we are truly not at peace, we are in sin. If someone is using the phrase ‘I don’t have peace about it’ to mean they have a gut feeling that they shouldn’t do something or to mean that God is letting them know that they shouldn’t do something — this is subjective and totally unreliable. If they mean, ‘I feel troubled about making that choice because I am thinking about certain things that concern me’ or ‘because I don’t have enough information to make a wise (or holy) decision,’ this is a matter of wisdom and discernment which involves factual data, God’s wisdom, and the thinking process — not just feelings.

It would be better to say, ‘I can’t be sure that this is a wise decision yet.’ This is exactly the case with Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:13. He had ‘no rest in his spirit’ because he did not think it was wise to go to Troas without Titus. Paul was not saying that his unrest was a message from God. Nine times out of ten a person is ‘not at peace’ about a decision because of something they are thinking and they mistakenly attribute their feelings to a mystical message from God. If their feeling is not from their thinking, it could be from any number of physical or personal reasons (desires). Whether or not a person has inner peace is never used for decision-making in the Bible…Brother, sometimes what you feel worst about is the most right thing to do.

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On Meaning and Application

I strongly believe that preaching should not stop at the level of what this text means, but that it must proceed to the realm of real-life application. However, there is a caution that must accompany this conviction. We must always communicate a clear “line of demarcation” between the meaning of a Biblical text and applications which flow from that same text. I think there’s some great reasons for this.*

  • Our applications may not accurately flow from the text; the Scriptures are inspired, not my applications of it. When my applications are communicated as being on the same level as meaning, and when those applications turn out to be wrong, then the authority of the Scriptures is unintentionally done damage in my local church. People can say “no,” “I’m not sure about that,” or “let me think about it” to my applications without necessarily saying “no” to God’s Word. I should not communicate otherwise.
  • If our people get the idea that a given application of the text is actually the meaning of the text, that portion of Scripture is potentially limited from saying all that it really says. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:19 (your body is the temple…) does not mean, “Do not do drugs.” That is an application. When the text is reduced to “Do not do drugs,” the actual meaning of the text is eclipsed by a seemingly solid application. Good intentions, bad result.
  • When personal application from a text becomes the meaning of that same text, soul liberty is potentially truncated. In other words, if “Abstain from all appearance of evil” now means “Do not go to the movie theater under any circumstances because someone may see you and think the worst..” we are not only guilty of bad exegesis, but we have also unintentionally armed people to do some real damage in our local church. Now, in light of what was wrongly communicated, those who go to the theater are not simply applying the Scriptures differently in their personal lives, they are actually disobeying the Scriptures themselves!
  • Confusing the text and the application potentially undermines the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination by placing the onus on the pastor to do the Spirit’s Job.
  • Confusing the text and the application provides a potential cop-out for our people. They may lose their own sense of responsibility for applying scripture by relying almost exclusively on the pastor or teacher to do so for them.

*Thanks to Jeremy Horneck for his collaboration on this list.

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