Wednesday, November 7, 2007

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." -Jesus Christ

"Bring on the fire, bring on the cross, bring on the hordes of wild animals! Let them wrench my bones out of socket and mangle my limbs and grind up my whole body! Bring on all the hideous tortures from the Devil! Just let me get to Jesus Christ. Nothing on this wide earth matters to me anymore. The kingdoms of this world are entirely meaningless. I am at the point where I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule over the whole earth. He alone is the one I seek--the one who died for us! It is Jesus that I long for--the one who for our sake rose again from the dead!"
-Ignatius of Antioch, in about 115 AD on his way to be killed for the sake of Christ's name
(Qtd. in "Getting to Know the Church Fathers," by Bryan M. Litfin, page 51)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marvel at Christ's Power and Glory

"I have looked upon you...beholding your power and glory" (Psalm 63:2)

I'm not much of a baseball fan. But I'm beginning to understand why it's so appealing. I was sitting on my futon a couple days ago watching a little of the Sox, or maybe it was the Cubs, I don't remember which (I could get in trouble for saying that). And I was remarking to Sara about the futility of our culture throwing millions of dollars at this meaningless sport. These guys are paid so decadently just to be really good at hitting and catching a ball and scoring points.

But then it occurred to me that a big reason for their bloated salaries is that millions of people pay to see them play. Why? Power and glory. It's really awesome to behold these feats of athleticism: The power of a pitcher hurling a ball with tremendous control, speed, and accuracy; The glory of a batter's hand-eye coordination working with his well-developed muscles so that his bat connects with the ball, sending it soaring like a comet over the field to be either plucked from the air with one hand by a well-trained outfielder or welcomed by happy fans. The more I watch sports now, the more I see the reason millions of people are okay with these athletes being paid millions of dollars. They love to see strength and beauty, power and glory.

This is the common thread woven through the fabric of humanity, we love to see and marvel at power and glory. Whether it's athleticism, movies, good books, good music, good food, history, going for walks or hikes, scuba-diving, astronomy, philosophy, theology... people have an innate longing for greatness, for action, adventure, beauty, harmony, strength, splendor, power and glory. Why? This common craving is due to the Creator we all have in common.

Since we know that there is power and glory to be beheld in the creation, then how much more is there to see in our Creator? For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:20) This common yearning in our hearts for strength and beauty has been sown into our fabric by an all-powerful, infinitely glorious tailor, Almighty God. Ultimately, we all want to see greatness because we were made to see it in God.

Where's the best place to look for greatness, to find your hunger for God's power and glory satisfied? God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect, eternal self-expression of God, the Word of God. The Bible says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14) That's why the story of Christ's life and death and resurrection is called "good news," or "the gospel," - in it we see the power and glory of God.

If you trust Christ to be your own Lord and Savior and Treasure it's because he has opened your eyes to see his glory in the gospel. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) If you don't yet trust in Christ, or aren't sure about all this, I plead with you to just ask God to show you his power and glory in Christ, and then look for it in the Bible. The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is more powerful and beautiful than anything in this world. You haven't seen beauty until you've seen God's steadfast love for sinners demonstrated on Christ's cross. You really haven't lived until you've admired Christ coming to life again victorious over death. That's why the Apostle Paul says this is of utmost importance. He says:

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.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

We all want to see greatness. We were made for it. But we can't even live to see it until we see the power and glory of Christ in the gospel. Look to Christ today, friend. Turn from your sins and believe this marvelously good news.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. (Psalm 63:2)

David found life-giving pleasure in looking upon God, and we can do the same by looking at Christ. But where can I find Christ? We can find Christ where David found God, in the sanctuary.

We can find Christ in the sanctuary. Where is that? Psalm 27:4 says the house of the LORD is where David wanted to always dwell. He wanted nothing more than to gaze upon the beauty of the his temple. But the tabernacle God had Moses build and the temple Solomon built and the one Herod built have been destroyed. Certainly, this doesn't mean we can't find a sanctuary to see God in, does it? Well, let's see what Jesus has to say about that.

He said to a Samaritan woman a couple thousand years ago, Believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. (John 4:21) The Samaritans had constructed a temple on Mount Gerizim and argued that theirs, not the Jews' temple was the true temple. But Jesus told this lady that this contraversy would be obsolete soon, because, he goes on to say, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. (John 4:23). So someone could rightly say now that our worship is not confined to a geographical location; we who trust in Christ can see God in a different kind of temple, in spirit and truth.

What does Jesus mean when he says true worshipers will worship the Father in...truth? I believe he unfolded the meaning of that in a previous statement to this Samaritan woman, You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. (John 4:22) Samaritans did not know what they worshiped, that is, they did not worship in truth. They rejected all of the Old Testament Scriptures except for the first five books. So their knowledge of God was sorely limited. Worshiping God in truth has to do with knowing God as he has fully revealed himself in all the Scriptures. And Jesus says that means knowing that salvation is from the Jews. The Savior of the world is the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. Only if you trust in Jesus can you be saved from your wrath-deserving sins to worhip the Father in truth. Jesus is our sanctuary, the truth in which we can look upon God.

Jesus says, God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. What does it mean to worship God in spirit? First God takes the Scriptures that he breathed out and shows Jesus to us in them (Jesus said ...the Scriptures...bear witness about me - John 5:39). And God then miraculously causes our spirit to live by his Spirit (It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life - John 6:63). Therefore we can commune with him, worshiping him spirit to Spirit. Then he makes our spirits live more and more vibrantly, joyously, abundantly through the truth of his word.

"The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the funace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longing, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives" (John Piper, "Desiring God" p. 77).

This "true vision of the greatness of God" is what David saw in the sanctuary. I've said that our worship is not now confined geographically, for we worship in spirit and truth. But does that mean that we can be individualistic worshipers who say that the invisible, universal church of the spirit is sufficient as our sanctuary? No. Although God's church is universal, it necessarily manifests itself in visible, local assemblies. Practically speaking, if you want to look upon God in the sanctuary, you need to gather with other believers who worship in spirit and truth. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together... (Hebrews 10:24-25). You need to gather with a church who worships God in Christ as he has revealed himself in the Bible. Then you will resonate with David's prayer, So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thirst for Jesus

What do you long for? Is there someone in your life who takes hold of your attention and affections so much that you desperately desire him or her? There should be. If there's anything or anyone you should rightly feel like you cannot live without, it's God. We must desire God like nothing else. If anybody or anything captivates your thoughts and captures your longings more than God, you are idolizing that person or thing. Repent from your idolatry, friend. Repentance is a gift, so ask God to give you the ability to turn your back on your idols and your face toward him. Desire God above all, friend. This passionate longing for God is a gift, so beseech God to stir up a genuine longing for him. All these good gifts flow from one Fountain. And I assure you, if you come to quench your thirst on the living waters of this Fountain, Jesus Christ, you will not be disappointed. Christ alone satisfies forever. Long for him. He says, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38)

Look to and long for Jesus, and you will find yourself resonating with the desire of David:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. (Psalm 63:1-2)

David knew he could not live another second without God, nor did he ever want to. David found life-giving satisfaction in pursuing God. He says to God in another Psalm, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11) Here, in the 63rd Psalm, we find how David found this satisfaction. He says to God, I have looked upon you.

David looked upon God and was satisfied. Oh, how beautiful and warm and lovely must God be to satisfy those who look upon him! David loved to take in this divine view of God so much that all he wanted to do was look upon him! In another Psalm he says, One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4) David was absolutely mesmerized by the the splendor of God, because when he looked upon him he was satisfied. So the question I hope you're asking is, How can I be so satisfied by looking upon God?

You and I can look upon God by looking at Jesus! Jesus is the Son of God! He says, If you knew me, you would know my Father also. (John 8:19) He also says, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9) Look to the crucified, risen-from-the-dead, reigning-over-all, Lord Jesus Christ, friend. Look to Jesus. Long for Jesus. He says, Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sovereign Over Our Hearts

Since God is sovereign, do we make real choices? How does his sovereignty relate to our responsibility in salvation? Look at 2 Chronicles 30:1-12 for an enlightening piece of this puzzle.

Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month— for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem— and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord.
(2 Chronicles 30:1-12, ESV)

There was a real condition: "if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him" (2 Chr. 30:9, ESV). On the surface it looks like if we do our part, God will do his (synergism). If you repent to God, God will show you his grace.

Verse ten shows that many would not fulfill this condition and thus find God's grace. "However," verse eleven continues, "some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem." Praise the Lord! Some men repented! They fulfilled the condition necessary to find God's grace and mercy.

Finally, verse twelve digs down and gets to the bottom of how these men responded differently to this call to repentance: "The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD." God's gracious hand ultimately caused those "men of Asher...Manasseh, and of Zebulun" and "also... Judah" to fulfill this real and necessary condition of repentence so that they could enjoy his gracious face (monergism).

God is sovereign over repentance. God ultimately controls the hearts of men. We do make real choices that God ordains. Aren't you glad that your life rests in the omnipotent hands of the merciful and gracious Lord Jesus Christ (and not in your own)?! He reigns supreme over whether or not we choose him. Therefore all the credit for man's salvation belongs to him. All glory and honor and praise be to our merciful and gracious and sovereign Lord forever and ever!

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36, ESV)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

God saves sinners.

Today I was introduced to a great article from J. I. Packer. If you're looking for some really good, biblical theology, click HERE ( ). Basically, it's all about the gospel. I hope you love it.

Tag, You're It

I was blogger-tagged by my friend, Ashley Nicole Wilcox a few weeks ago, and now I must slough off the "it" skin and pass "it" off to others.

Here are the rules, which I got from Ashley who got it from somebody named Greg:
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4. You may need to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged and to read your blog.

Here are my 8 facts:
  1. I think I have an extra muscle under my left eye-lid.
  2. I was stung by a swarm of bees in Honduras (making me jump now when things buzz around my head).
  3. I like to microwave my ice cream.
  4. I was once badly beaten for calling a kid a baby who didn't want to play tag anymore.
  5. Once my Blazer was commandeered by a bipolar life insurance salesman off his meds from Colorado posing as a secret service agent.
  6. Sara and I like to name our cars and plants (i.e., Zippy, Kit, Chrissy the Christmas Cactus, Allie the Aloe Vera).
  7. I can talk cat language.
  8. I don't believe in Santa.
I tag Stephen Willcox, President Bush, St. Augustine, Michael Easely, that kid who beat me up, John Piper, Martin Lloyd-Jones, and Charles Spurgeon


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sweet Sovereignty

One of my favorite things about God is that he's sovereign. He's in control - of everything - all the time! This is no oversimplification. To say that is not overly inclusive, for God says in Scripture that he "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11, ESV).

This truth keeps me fleeing to this sovereign God in times of trouble. It works to make me humble, thankful, peaceful, happy in Christ, and God-glorifying. It's really good news that God is in control. He reigns!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7, ESV)

What sublime news: God reigns! My eyes were filled with this beauty and my ears blessed with this melodious truth when God arranged yesterday and this morning to come together with one message: God reigns! Yesterday I was watching some videos of Mark Driscoll teaching through the book of Nehemiah. In them he referred to the church in the city as a "counter-cultural city within the city." What a great vision! That's what Jesus refers to when he says "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14, ESV).

Driscoll mentioned a guy who wrote along these lines a few hundred years after Jesus ascended to God the Father's right hand. St. Aurelius Augustin wrote a book entitled, "The City of God" that compares and contrasts God's city with the world's city. I thought to myself, "I really want to read that!" And I continued listening to his message.

Usually, in the morning, I read the Bible through a program on my computer that's filled with great electronic books. Lo and behold, this morning, I opened it up and "Book of the Day," which the program selects every morning, contained "The City of God" in it! I don't think I realized that I had that book! But my sovereign God did.

God orchestrated my hearing Driscoll's message. He ordained that he would mention "The City of God." He put the desire into my heart to read that book. By God's good pleasure, that very book popped up in front of my face this morning! And he opened my eyes to see that this was all from his sovereign grace! Yes! My God reigns!

Oh, may he open all of our eyes to see him at work in our lives today. Everything - EVERY THING - is ultimately ordained by God. Ask him to show you his sweet sovereignty in your world and his Word today, because it's true: He
"works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11, ESV).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Check out this blog

Ben Witherington has a very moving parable about the weight and joy of helping people see Jesus. Check it out!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My Testimony: True pleasure is only found in the sovereign, gracious Lord Jesus Christ

Have you ever experienced the power of God? Trust in Christ, turning from your sins, and you will! I've had the joy of experiencing the life-transforming power of God. The sovereign grace of God is no mere theory; it's reality. I know; I've savored the sweetness of his real power. Let me tell you about my experience.

By God’s sovereign grace, I realize now that pornographic images are poor, sick substitutes for the breath-taking beauty of God; premarital sex cannot replace an intimate relationship with the Lord; the high of drugs is a pitiful kick when compared to the inexpressible joy of peering into God’s incomparable Word to behold never-before-seen vistas in God and mysterious clouds shrouding the infinite heights of Almighty God; and the rush of being made much of is a delusion in the light of the glory of God alone consuming hearts and minds! Oh how good is the Lord who saves us from the weak, temporary, and destructive titillations of sin for the everlasting satisfaction at His right hand! Like John Newton, the author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” has said, I am a great sinner, but I’ve experienced the reality that Jesus is an infinitely great Savior.

I remember the morning. My mom, while she was doing laundry, found a note in my jeans’ pocket that incriminated me and my girlfriend. The note said, “Don’t worry. Your mom doesn’t know you’re stoned.” It was a note I had written to my girlfriend because, when I wrote it, she was on the phone with her mom. You see, when you’re stoned on marijuana, you get paranoid. So I wanted to soothe her paranoia with a note while she talked to her mom, for the last thing she wanted was her mom to find out what she had been doing.

But the note that I had intended to keeping my girlfriend’s mom in the dark with had an opposite effect; it shined the light of the sad truth of my life for my mom to see. So my mom and dad confronted me on that Saturday morning about my sinful lifestyle. I had tried to keep my parents well-deceived. But now they knew the truth. And I was so glad and so ashamed that they knew.

You know why I was ashamed. I had nowhere to hide. They could see me for who I really was. But I was also so glad! I was glad that I didn’t have to play this duplicitous charade anymore. It gets really tiresome being a hypocrite. Yet this relief was just the hem of the Lord’s robe.

At the heart of my joy was my knowledge that I rested on the chest of my sovereign Savior. I mean I experienced the reality that He is in control! For – get this – the very night before my mom and dad confronted me, the Lord had granted me repentance! I did not plan on being confronted about the sin I'd just turned from; but God did. My parents knew something had been wrong with me; they just couldn’t put their finger on it. So they’d been praying for me. And the Lord orchestrated a marvelous answer to their prayers by compelling me to repent the night before the morning they confronted me of my sin. It’s like the Lord was saying to me, “Yes! You’ve turned from your sins to Me! And now I’ll ordain that your parents hold you accountable. Now you have a merciful support team to help you come back to Me.”

When my parents confronted me, there was a part of me that feared condemnation. But I was won over by their God-wrought mercy! They were so tender with me. They, wonder of wonders, actually believed the truth that I really did repent the night before they confronted me.

It’s marvelous to look back and see how powerfully the Lord was working so early into my repentance. In conversation, that Saturday morning, with my parents, my mom asked me if I would try hard to walk the path of obedience. “I can’t” was my reply. I said, “I can’t. But God can.” And looking back to those words, several years back, I've found that to be the case, and more. I can't live right before God by my own determination. No one can. But God can and does and will empower you to live a righteous life if you trust in Christ!

Friend, you can't do it. But God can. You can't live a righteous life that pleases God so that he accepts you forever. But God can; and God did. God the Son, came in flesh as a man like any other man – just like you. But he was not like any other man. He never sinned. He always lived to please God and love mankind. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8, ESV)1 Even as his flesh was like your flesh, his death, where he suffered and died under the righteous indignation and fury and wrath of God, will be counted as your death if you trust him.

Jesus died for you. He died for sins. He did not die for any sins of his own – he never sinned – his death was the penalty for the sins of all sinners who would ever believe in him.

You have sinned. You have lied and coveted and been arrogant and lusted. And these are all sins against God! You have lied because you've not trusted the truth of God. You've coveted because you've not been content in God's provision. You've been arrogant because you've not looked up to the infinite grandeur of God. And you've lusted because you've “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man...” you've “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:23,25, ESV). And your sins deserve an eternal punishment since the God you've angered is eternal and holy.

So you have two options. Either continue in your sin and suffer an eternity of torment away from God's presence, or repent of your sins and begin trusting in Christ. If you trust in Christ, the eternal punishment that should fall on you for your sins will have already fallen on Christ! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV). So trust in Christ! When he suffered under God's wrath on the cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:47, ESV). Such pain-filled words will come overflowing from your agony in hell unless you repent. So please repent, for your own soul's everlasting salvation. Repent: Turn from your sins to Christ. Call on him and trust him to hear your call and save you, because “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:7, ESV).

And when you trust in Christ, you will be saved—saved not only from God's wrath, but for God's glory! Do you have any clue as to what that means? You will be saved to enjoy the most beautiful splendor ever, forever and ever, namely, Jesus Christ, who is God himself!

So trust in Christ who died and rose again and reigns on high and will soon return. The weak and puny, stale and temporary and deadly pleasures of sin as as nothing compared to the ever-increasing satisfaction that only God provides and magnifies himself with. With Christ alone “there is fullness of joy” and “at [his] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV). So, dear friend, turn from your sins to Christ. Trust in Christ to be your Master and Savior and Treasure and God forever.

1 All Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Teach us, dear Savior

"Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long." (Psalm 25:5, ESV) [1]

If God has given His only begotten Son to save us from our sins and his wrath for our joy and His glory, then surely He will guide us in His truth and teach us. As Charles Spurgeon says:

Reader, is he the God of your salvation? Do you find in the Father’s election, in the Son’s atonement, and in the Spirit’s quickening, all the grounds of your eternal hopes? If so, you may use this as an argument for obtaining further blessings; if the Lord has ordained to save you, surely he will not refuse to instruct you in his ways. [2]

Nevertheless, I must add, that this argument (that God will teach those he saves) does not exclude our taking the time to learn from him, because the psalmist finishes this verse, "for you I wait all the day long."

So we should take time to learn from our Savior because since he has saved us, surely he will teach us. And it should not be overlooked that this is all phrased in the form of a prayer. We should pray, knowing that God will answer our prayers to teach us since the ground of his instructing us is his saving us. And we should, therefore, wait for him to do so.

God will teach us, for he has chosen to save us. Therefore we should ask him to teach us about his mercy and love expressed in our salvation. David continues to pray:

"Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!" (Psalm 25:6-7, ESV)

God, please think about your mercy in saving me, not of my sins to condemn me!

"Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions"

Amen, Lord. Please forget the plethora of sins I've committed against you in my foolish rebellion. But how shall an omniscient God forget anything? For surely you know EVERYTHING! It must be that David was pleading with you to not remember his sins against him, that is, in judgment. For he appeals to "your steadfast love."

"according to your steadfast love remember me"

Yes, do the same for me, O, Lord, please! Don't hold my sins against me in judgment; but forgive me because of your "steadfast love." Don't think of me apart from "your steadfast love"! I never want to be separated from "your steadfast love"! And I praise you that nothing "in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39, ESV). I want to find my identity in, be all wrapped up in, immersed in, permeated with, enraptured by, captivated with, controlled by, and satisfied with "your steadfast love" forever and ever! Remember, Lord, the greatest expression of "your steadfast love" in your one and only Son's propitiatory death for my sake! For it is written, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, ESV). So while you look upon me with your holy gaze that penetrates to my deepest part and heart and thoughts and motivations, as you see with perfect clarity the horror of all of my sins, clearly also see that your ferocious wrath has already been perfectly unloaded on Christ for all my sin. Your judgment has fallen on Christ in perfect justice for the way this sinner has profaned your glory. So "remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me"

"for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!"

Yes, Lord, think of me in accord with your steadfast love, harmonizing with your covenant love "for the sake of your goodness." David goes down to the deepest foundation of his salvation in "your steadfast love" and goes up to the highest purpose of your redemption which is "the sake of your goodness," or as he says a few verses later: "For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great" (v. 11, ESV). Make your goodness known through redeeming me, Lord! Display your glory in forgiving sinners like me, God! Let your holy name be honored and marveled at because of "your steadfast love"!

[1] All Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.
[2] Spurgeon, C. H. (1995). Morning and evening : Daily readings (July 8 PM). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Romans 1:1 - A Transformed Life

Jesus Christ transforms lives. Do you know him?

He's been doing it from before he was born right up to this present day. He's been at work in my life transforming me. I was an atheist, but now I'm a firm believer in the God of the Bible. I've found that true pleasure is in the Son of God. (But, I'll mention a little more on my transformation at the end of this blog. If the Lord wills, I'll write an entirely new post that goes into further detail about how God rescued me from drug-addiction and immorality for his glory in Christ.) Jesus Christ has given new life to many people through the book of Romans. In fact, the author of Romans, Paul, is one of the most stunning examples of this life-transforming, life-from-death power of Jesus.

a servant of Christ Jesus,
called to be an apostle,
set apart for the gospel of God"
(Romans 1:1, ESV). [1]

The Epistle to the Romans has been used in an instrumental way during the nearly 2000 years of its existence. And my hope in God is that he would draw you to Jesus through this blog - that you, dear reader, would know and treasure and trust and obey and extol Jesus in a way that suits the glorious way he's revealed himself in this Word from God.

The custom, in Paul's day and culture, when writing a letter, was for the author to begin with an identification of himself. So, let's consider the identity of the author of Romans:

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God."

Paul was a servant of Jesus; but it was not always so. He used to hate everything that had to do with Jesus. He used to be a strict Pharisee - a man who thought he could earn favor from God by obeying the Law. When Jesus' followers started to announce that he had risen from the dead, Paul initially considered Jesus' followers to be a blasphemous sect fit to be silenced.

But Jesus really had come back to life. He showed himself to Paul. And consequently, Paul was transformed.

Luke records that Paul (whose name used to be Saul), "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way [which means: belonging to Jesus], men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' And he said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And he said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do'" (Acts 9:1-6, ESV). Paul also says that when Christ knocked him over with his splendor, he said to him, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles--to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me'" (Acts 26:15-18, ESV).

So here we see why Paul introduces himself as a servant in the beginning of Romans. Christ got a grip on him and transformed him from a violent persecutor of Christians into a zealous servant of Christ. Through Christ, God transforms sinners into servants.

Next, Paul relates that he served Jesus as a called apostle: "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle." What was Paul trying to communicate to his readers by mentioning this? Divine authority. The same authority of the Son of God that had mastered and transformed a persecutor of Christians into a servant of Christ - this same authority Christ imparted and entrusted to Paul, to be Christ's sent one, his delegate, his ambassador, his apostle.

Paul was no mumbling, bumbling fool writing to give vent to his own speculations. He was an apostle of Christ, invested with the very authority of God. Paul was writing to Roman Christians holy Scripture that was to be trusted and cherished and heartily obeyed. Romans is a book wherein we can know God because, coming from a called apostle, Romans is Scripture. Romans is the word of God.

Romans is full of good news! That's the most joyful way we recognize it as the word of God. Good news: That's what the word "gospel" means. Paul spends the rest of the sixteen chapters of Romans unfolding this gospel for which he was "set apart." So I would be remiss if I failed to publish the essential nature of this good news. Paul reveals in his first letter to the Corinthian church that the gospel is: "of first importance... that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me" (15:3-8, ESV).

Even as Paul was transformed by meeting Christ, we ourselves can meet this same risen Christ through the gospel and therefore be made new. Like Paul, I've experienced my own transformation. It started when I was about 10 years old. I wasn't convinced that God even existed until I saw proof of his existence in my dad's life. I've always had great respect for my dad. And when I saw that his life had great stability, I wanted to find out why. Through his ministry, I found out that the foundation of his life was the Bible. "Well, why should I trust the Bible?" I wondered. And through him I learned that there is no other book more trustworthy than the Bible. I learned through the things he'd watch and listen to on Christian radio and TV that the Bible was written by about 40 different authors from all walks of life (kings, scribes, prophets, shepherds, fishermen, apostles, etc.). And in addition to that it was written over about a 1,500 year span of time. And the amazing thing is that none of its 66 books contradict each other. Actually, there is amazing unity; they all speak as with one voice, with the very voice of God. And the entire Bible points to one person: Jesus, the Son of God.

I was awe-struck. I was convinced that this Bible truly was the word of God! So then, I was guided to the logical conclusion that since this truly was God's word, I should trust it, submit to its divine authority, and do what it says. It said that I was a sinner who deserved punishment, eternal punishment, God's wrath because I had offended the eternally righteous God. That was seriously bad news. But the seriously good news was that God mercifully sent Christ to willingly lay down his life under God's wrath for me.

Christ died for everyone who would ever trust in him. If you trust in Jesus, God will forgive you of all your sins and accept you as he does his own righteous Son forever. So I plead with you to trust in Christ!

Jesus came back to life, having defeated sin and death, and now reigns at the Father's right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus can do the same thing for you that he's been doing for thousands of years for people, like Paul and myself. He can give you new, everlasting, abundant life. That doesn't mean a life without suffering. (In fact, you may even suffer more as a follower of Christ.) New life with Christ means a life full of meaning and satisfaction, even in the midst of suffering, because it's a life full of God.

Jesus Christ transforms lives. Do you know him?

[1] All Scripture quotations are from: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.