Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Love and the Christian

We are going through a series from 1 Corinthians 13. It is striking to hear Paul's loving rebuke of the Corinthians for their lack of love. They are indeed believers but seemed to have totally missed the command of John 13:34-15. I've been considering how we resemble them in falsely measuring our Christian maturity by many things but our love. May God radically change me (and us) to measure our success by grace empowered love - the one thing that does last! It is the difference between ultimate emptiness and the fullness of God (see 1 Cor. 13:2b and Eph. 3:19).

Check out these helpful resources:

Charity and Its Fruits
Jonathan Edwards

Love One Another for Love Is of God
John Piper

Love Thy Neighbour
CH Spurgeon

Gospel Charity
John Owen

The Church:
The Dearest Place on Earth

C.J. Mahaney et al

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church
Mark Dever
The Giver & The Gifts
CJ Mahaney, Dave Harvey & Jeff Purswell
The Non-Spectacular Gifts: Unimpressive or Unappreciated?
Jeff Purswell

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

True Spirituality.

The other week we focused on 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 where Paul begins his discourse on spiritual gifts and spirituality with the following:

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 (ESV)
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

There is a very important lesson in this text for all Christians: There is no higher spiritual experience or state than that of being one who, by the power of the Holy Spirit alone, proclaims, affirms and delights from the heart in the absolute, fully divine, all wise, all-glorious, all-sufficient, saving, Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Simply put:

True Spirituality is a pure gift from the Holy Spirit, it is to confess Jesus is Lord.

Check out what our friend Gordon Fee says about this passage:

The ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself.

Gordon Fee

How does this truth change what you think about spirituality? Do you measure spirituality by other things, like whether you speak in tongues or not, whether you understand and agree with reformed theology or not, whether you know church history well, even whether you lead a Christlike life or struggle? True spirituality is to confess Jesus is Lord from the heart. There is no greater spiritual miracle than to do so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Christian Leisure

“Human life is incomplete if it does not follow the lead of God in balancing work with leisure." - Leland Ryken

Are you convinced? What does God's word teach? Check out these verses:

Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Psalm 127:1-2 (ESV)
1 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. 2 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.

Mark 6:31 (ESV)
31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

How are you practicing Godward leisure?

Check out these resources:

Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy
John Piper

Sanctifying the Ordinary: A Biblical Understanding of Leisure
Jeff Purswell

Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure
Leland Ryken

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life
J.I. Packer

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Knowing and Being.

So often we struggle with the relationship of knowing and being. Sadly, these two qualities are seen as enemies rather than the closest friends. I understand why, I think. Just look around - so much of our experience seems to point this way. We see that some of the most apparently Christ-like, loving people have a simple and very basic faith while some of the most knowledgeable people are too often arrogant and love-less. But experience does not determine truth, it only tests it. I would submit that the deepest lovers are the deepest knowers and the deepest knowers are the deepest lovers.

Check out Paul's approach in Philippians:

Philippians 3:10 "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

Notice that Paul wants to know Him and become like Him. These two must go together. How do we become like Him? - by knowing Him. How do we know Him? - by understanding the word of God's teaching on who He is and what He has done. What is the objective? Christlikeness, not mere knowledge. But in order to get to Christlikeness there must be knowledge. You can not be without knowing. That is just as dangerous as thinking that academically knowing is enough. The measure of the knowing is in the being! The path to the being is in the knowing.

Check out Philippians 1:9-11
" And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so by pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

And finally, James:

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. "
James 3:13 (ESV)

So the word would teach us that knowledge and Christlikeness go hand in hand. I would submit the pre-eminent quality of Christlikeness is love. So put another way, love and knowledge go hand in hand, you can't have one without the other.

Check out this link courtesy of Love and Knowledge: Living in Balance By Patrick Ramsey

Do You Know the Game Plan?

Thoughts from the WordWe have spent the past four Sundays springing from 1 Corinthians 10 and probing the topics of idolatry, our struggle with sin and Christ-centered holiness. So many times we can find ourselves on the playing field of Christianity and not really having any clue what we are supposed to do. The result often is that the opposing team runs roughshod over us (picture a gruesome threesome of the fallen world, the devil and our own sinful nature– the chief player and enemy coming straight at us). It is so important for us to grasp what the scripture teaches us about our life in Christ. This past series has been an attempt to give us “the game plan”. It can be summed up as follows:




Consider the following passage (one among many like it.)

2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter calls his readers to progressive holiness in this passage. But note something very critical here. Verse 9 says that if someone is not walking in holiness the problem is they have forgotten they have been cleansed from their sins. They have forgotten the gospel. Additionally, it is the promise of the gospel, received, that gives us all the power we need for life and godliness – verse 1-4. Because of the sure promise in the gospel that we are already cleansed and already new creations in Christ we are totally free from the penalty and power of sin. And, because of the sure promise of the gospel we can effectively battle the presence of sin that dwells within (until we see Him face to face). Because God has already decisively and irrevocably acted for us in Christ (before we had any say!) we can now walk out the realities of our salvation in Him. Listen to how John Piper sums this truth up as taught in Romans 6-8.

What we have learned from Romans 6 and 7 is that when we trusted in Christ as our Savior and Lord (as our Treasure!), we were united to Christ (Romans 6:5; 7:4). In this union with Christ we died (Romans 6:8; Colossians 2:20; 3:3) and rose again (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; Ephesians 2:6). Therefore a decisive and irrevocable new creation came into being (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a decisive and irrevocable liberation happened (Romans 6:14, 18). We passed from death to (eternal!) life. Our decisive judgment is behind us - at Golgotha (John 5:24). We have moved from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of God's Son (Colossians 1:13).

But we also learned that our liberation from sin is not yet final and perfect. Decisive and irrevocable, Yes! But final and perfect, No! Sin still dwells within us (Romans 7:17, 20). Evil is present in us (Romans 7:21). The "flesh" is a daily troubler of our souls (Romans 7:25). We are not yet perfect nor have we already obtained our crown and prize (Philippians 3:12). We are liars if we say we have no sin (1 John 1:8, 10).

How then does the apostle Paul teach us to live? Will he say: "You are decisively and irrevocably new, so you can coast through life with no fight to become new"? Or will he say: "You are not decisively and irrevocably new and must fight to get to that place in Christ"? No, neither of these. He will say: "By faith, embrace all that God is for your good in Christ and all you are for his glory in Christ. Believe that. And now, with that confidence, fight to take possession of the territory that Christ has conquered for you. Fight to become in practice what you are in Christ."

John Piper, Already: Decisively and Irrevocably Free, Not Yet: Finally and Perfectly Free, August 28, 2001

Because we have a Savior and Lord who has won us a decisive and irrevocable victory let us fight with great joy and faith to gain the territory that is rightly his. Let us believe and apply the gospel! Let us use all the means He gives us (faith, the word, prayer, church and trials) to walk in His glorious ways, becoming more and more like our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ – until we see Him face to face and receive our reward.

Got a clearer idea of what it is all about and what you are called to do? Ready to resist the opposing team and experience victory? I hope so. May the Lord bless you as you grapple with these life-transforming truths!

Check out these links:
Gospel-Driven Sanctification
Jerry Bridges

Already: Decisively and Irrevocably Free, Not Yet: Finally and Perfectly Free
John Piper

Christ and Him Crucified