Posts Tagged With: grace

The Praise of His Glorious Grace

At our Sunday night Connect Group, one participant asked about grace.  I’m thankful she wished to have that glorious term clarified.  She mentioned that the time she usually hears about grace is when it came to something like being graceful in one’s movements.

Spurgeon in his work, All of Grace, pens two beautiful paragraphs on the nature of grace, springboarding from Romans 4:5: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness:”  Hear Pastor Spurgeon:

He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifieth the ungodly. ” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.

When a counsellor comes into court, if he is an honest man, he desires to plead the case of an innocent person and justify him before the court from the things which are falsely laid to his charge. It should be the lawyer’s object to justify the innocent person, and he should not attempt to screen the guilty party. It lies not in man’s right nor in man’s power truly to justify the guilty. This is a miracle reserved for the Lord alone. God, the infinitely just Sovereign, knows that there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not, and therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifieth the ungodly.

(Charles H. Spurgeon, All of Grace, the beginning of Chapter 3.)

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When Grace Takes a Holiday: Four Ways to Handle Disappointment in Others

One of the most liberating things I’ve ever heard as a leader and as a follower of Christ is this:  you cannot please everyone.

Along with this, one of the most painful things I’ve realized it this:  you cannot please everyone.

None of us get it right all the time.  None of us.  Not you.  Not I.  None of my friends have.  None of my staff at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church have.  None of my church members have either.

(I’ll give you time to let that soak in before you press on.)

Times will arise when you will be disappointed in others because, in turn, they will not please you.  We all have a filter through which we look at our lives and look at others.  If others do not match up to that standard, you will have a time of disappointment.

It is at this exact moment you have a choice to make.  Will grace make its home in your heart…

… or will it take a holiday?

When someone disappoints you, and lets you down, it can go from sadness, to hurt, to anger or even betrayal.  Some zing past those mileposts faster than others, but others make take their time, allow it to sink in, and the journey still continues.

If you are on this journey, take the Gospel Off Ramp.  What do I mean?  Before you hit those mileposts, apply the gospel of what Christ has accomplished (read Romans 8:31-39).  His love, applied through His atoning work on the cross, has forgiven us of our sins and cleansed us.  The Gospel Off-Ramp means that we refuse by His Spirit to allow that sin and sadness and hurt to dig in.  But how?

In Colossians 4:5-6, the apostle Paul gives some wise counsel:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

So from this verse, here are five ways to make sure grace does not take a holiday in how you deal with others.

1.  Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8).

Are you disappointed in others frequently?  Ask God for wisdom to see if the issue is with others, or ultimately with you?  He has promised to give the believer the necessary wisdom to move forward.  You see, when it comes to how God deals with His people, grace never takes a holiday.  Grace is not merely for salvation, but His graciousness moves in us.  (You may say, “Yes, Paul says this is how we should be toward outsiders.”  True, but he brings that out because it’s easier to be gracious to fellow believers that you love.  If you’re having trouble being gracious to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?  Ask God for a double portion of wisdom–now!)

2.  Make the best use of your time.

Should someone have disappointed you, how are you using your time?  Are you letting it fester, or are you keeping short accounts (Matthew 5:21-26)?  Or will you take time to pray for perspective?  If it’s legitimate, will you take time to speak with others about the issue at hand.

3.  Should you speak to others about your issue, throw some salt on your speech.  

Calvin helps clarify what this means:  “Profane men have their seasonings of discourse, but he does not speak of them; nay more, as witticisms are insinuating, and for the most part procure favor, he indirectly prohibits believers from the practice and familiar use of them. For he reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify. The term grace is employed in the same sense, so as to be opposed to talkativeness, taunts, and all sorts of trifles which are either injurious or vain.”  In others words, the sarcasm and biting humor should not be used as the culture does.

On the other side of that coin, we should also realize that, among our brothers and sisters in Christ, should others use those devices clearly because they love us, we should have graciousness to respond accordingly.  When my dad is walking with my mom at church, some of their friends will ask her, “What’s that thing following you around?”  On the surface, is it nice?  Not particularly.  But my parents know that these are their friends and that’s how they express their friendship–to joke about something that is clearly absurd.  Take all these into consideration!  Throw some salt on that speech.

4.  Maybe you need to give others a break–maybe.

Yes, people will disappoint you.  Yet, you at some point will disappoint them.  None of us are immune.  But just as God’s grace never takes a holiday in our justification, it never takes a holiday in our sanctification.  Maybe we just need to give each other a break!  Maybe we just need to talk!  Maybe we need to evaluate our standards to see if they lack grace but are all justice and judgment.  If you’re all justice and judgment, may heaven help you in dealing with other mortals.  But if we have been apprehended by grace, we just need to cut others some slack and pick our battles.  If this is the case, refer to #s 1-3.

Has grace taken a holiday in your life and relationships?

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Why Rob Bell Did the Church No Favors

This past month, a pastor of a large Grand Rapids church, Rob Bell, wrote a book that’s causing a significant firestorm in the Christian community. The title of it is Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (published by HarperOne). Bell contends that what many orthodox evangelical church teach about heaven and hell isn’t right. Kevin DeYoung, another pastor from Michigan, puts Bell’s book in this light:

Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.

In an interview with NBC’s Martin Bashir, Bell admits that he grew up in a rigid evangelical Christian home that he felt constricted him in his walk with God. As a pastor, he saw how devastated people became over this doctrine, which seemed to them to run counter to what they understood God to be—a God of love.

Bashir asked him a great question: “So are you saying that the choices and decisions we make in this life have no bearing on the next?” (You can go here to watch Bell’s reaction—but he gives an answer that is not an answer.) A secular journalist understood the nature of Bell’s contention that there is no hell.

Why do we need this doctrine?

First, the Bible teaches the reality of hell. Jesus tells the wicked to “depart from me, you wicked ones, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Jesus preached on hell more than heaven—but this is a reality in every portion of Scripture, and plays a huge part in Revelation when judgment occurs on all the enemies of God. If hell is simply about this life, then where was Jesus sending them upon their death and judgment?

Second, without the reality of hell, the cross and empty tomb were unnecessary. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul showed that the cross and resurrection took away the sting of sin and death and defeated them (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). If there is no ‘hell’ and everyone will be saved eventually, the cross was a waste of time. “The wages of sin is death”—meaning, eternal separation in hell (Romans 6:23). No eternal separation, no need to pay for the sin that separates.

Thirdly, do we really want an unjust God? God is holy (1 Peter 1:17) and will not allow sin into His heaven, and died to keep sin from His people (1 Peter 2:9-10). A God that gives commands, but does not enforce or discipline is the most unloving of all in the universe (see Hebrews 12:5-11). We expect our police force to enforce the law and punish those who commit crimes, but we expect God to pass it over? Romans 2:4-5 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Lastly, we deserve hell but by God’s grace heaven was opened through Christ. R.C. Sproul once said, “A man-centered gospel says, ‘How can a loving God send someone to hell?’ while a God-centered gospel says, ‘How can a holy God send someone to heaven?’” Do we expect God to operate on our terms, or us to operate on His? The cross shows the reality of sin, death, and hell through the death of Christ. But thanks be to Him—if we surrender to Christ and His work on the cross, death and hell have already been paid for by Him.

Resurrection Sunday is April 24th. We are not entitled to anything regarding God—it’s all of grace! Meditate on 1 Corinthians 15 and all the resurrection accounts in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Ponder all that He has accomplished for you by taking all that punishment that belonged to you. No, Rob Bell does the Christian church no favors with his book. Let us pray that the damage done to his followers is minimal and that we continue to trumpet the truth of the true gospel of Jesus Christ,

(Written to my congregation at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky for the April 2011 church newsletter.)

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The Suicidal Tendencies of a Prophet

As I’ve been preaching here in Destin at our EKU Spring Break Retreat, I have been greatly encouraged by those college students who have approached me, thanking me for showing them this insightful and jarring prophet. 

The week has centered around the theme, “Are You Reluctant or Ready?”  Jonah personified reluctance.  He was unwilling to meet the task that God had for him.  He showed that he was a prophet, and knew from experience that when God gave him a word, it would come to pass (2 Kings 14:23-27).  But when he was called to preach outside of his land and outside of his people a message of mercy to his enemies, Jonah sought to escape.

I appreciate my wife so much, because she saw something in this book that, to be honest, I never really landed on.  Notice how many times Jonah either explicitly or implicitly refers to his own demise.

He felt asleep in the hull of the boat—and during a “mighty tempest on the sea” (Jonah 1:4-6). 

Why did Jonah fall asleep?  He could have just tried to escape the issue of God’s call to a hated people.  He could have been worn out due to his sinfulness (Psalm 32). 

Yet, Jonah may well have been at peace with his disobedience—so much at peace, that he had succumbed to the notion of dying as an escape from God’s call.

Jonah was awaked by the mariner, God allowed the lots to be cast Jonah’s way (Jonah 1:7), and he confessed to them that he was a Hebrew who, as he already told them earlier, was running from the Lord (Jonah 1:10). 

He suggested they throw him overboard (Jonah 1:11-16).

Jonah suggested that the storm would stop if they just threw him overboard.  Whether he knew that or not remains to be seem (I believe he did).  Here again, Jonah is not concerned primarily with the lives of the mariners on-board, he will go to whatever lengths necessary to escape this call that God has on his life.  With land being hundreds of miles away, Jonah knew that he had no hope of surviving out in the Mediterranean.

… or so he thought.  God rescued Jonah for Himself—and from Jonah himself.  And in the great fish, Jonah gains some significant perspective—at least on the surface.

Jonah asks God to kill him because of God’s graciousness and mercy (Jonah 4:1-4).

Jonah knew that God was a God of His Word—He would follow through.  And because of God’s faithfulness to His Word, Jonah resented the notion that the Ninevites should ever have an opportunity to repent.  And his worst fears manifested themselves—they did repent, from the king to everyone else.  “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  Since Jonah couldn’t kill himself, and since the mariners couldn’t kill him, he went to the author of all life – and death!  It would be better to die than to see God’s grace among an enemy.

Jonah asks God to kill him because of his lack of comfort (Jonah 4:5-11).

Jonah sat in judgment east of the city of Nineveh, hoping God would change His mind and torch the city.  He even built him a hut to keep the scorching sun and wind away from him.  God took care of reluctant, disobedient Jonah by providing a castor oil plant to give more shade.  And Jonah was “exceedingly glad” (which beat his being “exceedingly angry” toward God for His graciousness). 

God appointed a worm to wither out the plant, and a scorching east wind that nearly gave Jonah heat stroke. 

Again, Jonah said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”  Nothing was going Jonah’s way.  He pitied the plant that gave him comfort more so than the people to whom God extended His compassion. 

Here’s how the book ends:

9But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die." 10And the LORD said, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"

When our comfort doesn’t exist, when our compassion dries up, when God’s call takes us to places we do not go, we may struggle and say, “Lord, my life is not worth living.”  While that may not be a suicidal tendency, it is spiritual suicide. 

Read Ephesians 4:32—and let me know of ways that God has gone a different direction than you like, how you reacted, and what steps you think you need to take to get back on track with His will.

Take your time—I’ll still be here.

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