Out Of Darkness

“What does God say in the gospel? He announces the most staggering free gift of all time. He offers total rescue (that is, Salvation) from the rebellious nonconformity to himself which is the root of all our guilt, misery and frustration, and whose bible name is sin. He promises a new, endless life of pardon, peace, moral power, and joyful purpose to all who are humble enough not to try and earn it, but simply receive it.

How can God make this offer? Through Christ’s death as a sacrifice for sins. How do we receive this life? By renouncing rebellion, and embracing the risen savior as our Master; the life is found within that relationship. What happens then? Increasingly we prove the truth of Jesus’ words, “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). ”

Growing in Christ. Packer, J.I. 104.

 

 

 

Sifting the Sons of God

Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  

Now a few things to note. Jesus uses Peter’s pre-Christian name foreshadowing Peter’s fall back to old ways of thinking. He also says Simon twice which is a Jewish rhetorical device signifying emphasis and sorrow like when Jesus laments “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” in Matthew 23:37.

The circumstances of our life that result from sin and the necessity of its cure, grieves Jesus. He is not a doctor working on lab rats. He is a wholehearted and invested physician.

Also, the “you,” is plural. Satan desires to sift all the disciples, not just Peter.

Furthermore, Satan asks permission. Satan is God’s instrument. Satan only has the authority granted to Him by God. That should put our spiritual warfare against Satan into some much needed perspective. Dualism is a modern sin common in Modern Christianity. Satan is not God’s equal. Satan is God’s errand boy. Also, Jesus grants permission. Why would He do that? Why would a good God allow bad things to happen?

To sift wheat means to shake it violently, so that the chaff flows away on the wind and the wheat remains. Now, to be shaken violently does not feel good, but it does purify the wheat.

So here is the set up. Jesus tells Peter what is going to happen to Him and what the result will be. But does Peter take it to heart? Does it prevent Peter from going through it?

Satan asks to sift Jesus’ disciples and Jesus allows it because He wants us to be shaken, so that we will learn to cling to Him, the immovable rock, the solid cornerstone. That we might experience and know what we are incapable of and what He is capable of.

Cancer asks to sift us. Infertility asks to sift us. Doubt asks to sift us. The election asks to sift us. And God grants to them the opportunity to show us our weakness and show us His strength.

Most astoundingly, Jesus foretells Peter’s fall but also His return. Jesus knows that Peter will be sifted, will fall for a time but ultimately will prevail, he will “turn again” which means repent. Peter will be shaken to His very core but will stand strong.   Continue reading “Sifting the Sons of God”

Go and Walk on Water

Matthew 14:28-29 “And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”

Jesus doesn’t command Peter to walk on water. He commands Peter to “come.” To obey the command Peter must walk on water. But Peter doesn’t hesitate. Peter knows that Jesus provides the necessary ability to obey His commands no matter how impossible they seem.

All of God’s commands involve doing things that are impossible for us to do – in ourselves. What makes God’s commands look so easy sometimes are the circumstances. Tithing is easy when you have your budget under control. Loving your neighbor is easy when they are acting lovely. Respecting your husband is a cinch those few times he’s actually acting respectable.

But how hard is tithing when what’s going out is more than what’s coming in? How hard is respecting your husband when he won’t get off the couch? But often. We have the command from God, there He is. Right there, just a few yards off the port side and all we have to do is walk over to Him….right across the top of water. That’s all. Continue reading “Go and Walk on Water”

The Tomb Between Worlds

Psalm 126 “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Psalm 126 mentions the restoration of Israel’s fortunes, a return from captivity and victory after a long period of defeat. It’s not specific to a certain episode of restoration; it’s about the people of God and our common experience. No restoration though, was as remarkable and complete as the great Exodus in Christ.

As it says in Ephesians 4:8, Christ led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. All the things that hold us captive – the captain of our woe; Satan, his entire host, his minions of sin; his entire army of death – was led into captivity. God took away our captivity and our sin. But God takes away to replace. He empties, to fill. Jesus gave gifts to replace what He’s taken and those gifts are greater than what he’s taken away.

Compare death to life. The emptiness of fallen humanity to the fullness of the self-sustaining Triune God. Compare joy to sorrow, laughter to tears, song to silence, fear to courage, faith to despair. Compare the taste of cake to the taste of ashes. Christ has come and in His wake is a startling, overflowing grace that drowns our death and numbs our hearts and baffles our intellect.

We are like those who dream. Is it true? Is it real? Are we, you and I, the inheritors of the stars? Are we perfect before the Father? Was our God a suckling babe? Was the Eternal one born in a Roman province under Caesar Augustus, to a virgin maiden? We are like those who dream and we blink in the brightness of the light like those struggling to wake up.

God’s goodness is like a dream because His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our limits can’t bind Him. With God all things are possible. We hear and see with our flesh. God’s actions and promises are contrary to our own experiences. God’s actions are nearly incomprehensible because our minds our created and finite, full of the creation’s limitations. Our flesh aches, our strength fails, our imaginations have borders and boundaries.

For instance, how can we comprehend the idea of eternity, when we live in a word with beginnings and endings? Furthermore, God was a man with two natures, conceived by the Holy Spirit, laid in a manger, honored by angles and shepherds. Its sounds too good to be true. As fallen creatures we are too weak to believe such wondrous things. Continue reading “The Tomb Between Worlds”

The Christian Life

The Christian life is a life lived by the grace of God, under Christ’s law, in God’s world, in the presence of God himself. We love because God first loved us (1st John 4:19). The Triune God instigated a relationship with us. He created us, redeemed us, sustains us and gives us hope for a future life with him without sin, pain or death (Romans 8:30). This is the work of the Father, Son and Spirit who are a community of love creating a community of love, on earth, to share in their eternal glory.

This self-revealing, instigating love of God shapes our lives. It shapes ethics, behavior, schedules, faith, science, study, vocation, the arts; our very understanding of the world and our place in it.

Our first Trimester will be focus on this amazing reality. You Are God’s children (John 1:12-13) and heirs of the promises of God (Eph. 2:12) who are called to devote yourselves to the glory of God in all you do (Matthew 22:36-40).

The Westminster shorter Catechism begins with this question;

Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Living by the grace of God

Conversion (Titus 3:5)

Living under Christ’s law.

The Law of Christ (John 13:34) 

Repentance (Luke 13:3, 5:32)

Forgiveness (Luke 17:3, Col. 3:13)

The fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:25)

Living in God’s world.

Walking by the spirit (Gal 15:16-17)

Bible reading (1st Tim. 3:15, Rom. 15:4)

Living in the presence of God Himself.

Worship (Heb. 13:15)

Christian Fellowship (Rom. 12:5, Acts 2:42)

Prayer (Luke 11:1)

Jesus Doesn’t Meet Needs, He Exceeds Them

The woman taken in adultery
The woman taken in adultery

A Series on Love, Part 5

What overcomes you and prevents you from loving other people like you are supposed to? How could you be more like Jesus in expressing love? Consider John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Jesus overcame His enemies with Love. God so loved the world He gave and His giving overwhelmed the need of fallen man. It united all believers from every tribe into one Body. Our sin was not too much for Him. Jesus overcame evil with love. He cast out the darkness with His perfect light. This is our story. This is our hope. This is the reality in which we repent, marry, raise children, go to the bank, commune in worship, gather in each other’s homes and greet our neighbors over the fence. This is what we are to imitate. Jesus commands us to love like He has loved.

1st Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love overcomes. We are going to consider a few specific examples, over the next couple of posts, of Jesus’ love overcoming.

People brought Jesus their needs and Jesus responded by giving them what they needed and then some. Think of the paralytic who Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The guy just wanted to walk, but Jesus also forgave his sin. He gave the paralytic a better life and eternal life. More poignantly, Jesus saw people in need that hadn’t come to Him and He gave them what they needed and then some. Continue reading “Jesus Doesn’t Meet Needs, He Exceeds Them”