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Archive for the ‘The Bible’ Category

Finally getting around to April’s Tabletalk magazine, there was an article by John Piper which discussing anger and means to crushing it. I found it very convicting but helpful. I can struggle with letting the desire for ease, comfort, and respect lead to anger when my children are not making my life any easier or don’t seem to be tracking with my intent for them. I definitely have seen God’s work in this area of my life over the past 2-3 years but I still have a long way to go. Piper gives 9 things to ponder when struggling with anger:

First, ponder the rights of Christ to be angry, but then how He endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering (1 Peter 2:21).

Second, ponder how much you have been forgiven and how much mercy you have been shown. (Eph. 4:32)

Third, ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye:  (Matt. 7:3–5).

Fourth, think about how you do not want to give place to the Devil, because harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites him in:  (Eph. 4:26–27).

Fifth, ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, numerous detrimental effects of anger to the one who is angry — some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relational: (Prov. 3:7–8)

Sixth, confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend, as well as to the offender, if possible. (James 5:16).

Seventh, let your anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love: (1 Cor. 13:4–7).

Eighth, remember that God is going to work it all for your good as you trust in His future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love: (Rom. 8:28) (James 1:2–4).

Ninth, remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be double jeopardy or an offence to the cross: (Rom. 12:19) (1 Peter 2:23).

Read the entire article here. Also check out these worthwhile articles from April’s issue as well:

The Victory Parade We Don’t Deserve by R.C. Sproul Jr.

He explained to Joshua this most fundamental truth: “The question, Joshua, is not whether or not I am on your side or theirs. The question is whether or not you are on My side.”

Young Women, Idolatry & the Powerful Gospel by Elyse Fitzpatrick

The antidote to idolatrous worship isn’t found in rules prohibiting idolatry. Rules don’t dazzle and captivate. They can’t generate worship. They’re not powerful enough to transform.

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This past week I read 1 Corinthians over the course of about 3 days and God showed me one discussion I’d never seen there before: hard work versus grace. It was encouraging and helpful for me as I’ve been wrestling with my own personal habits and disciplines that I need to be renewed in and step up in. I found 5 lessons in how grace and hard work go together.

#1: Hard work is not a means of status or standing (Ch. 1-4, 12-14).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 ESV)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV)

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)

#2: We work hard but, by His grace, God gives the fruit (Ch. 3)

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 ESV)

#3: Hard work is not the primary source of fighting sin and resisting temptation, grace is (Ch. 10)

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:9-13 ESV)

#4: Love is what we should strive to work hardest at (Ch. 13)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

#5: We work hard in light of eternity (our future grace!) (Ch. 15)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
    “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”
    The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV)

#6: Christ’s work, not ours, is of first importance (Ch. 15)

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 15:3-4 ESV)

1 Corinthians is a very helpful book of the Bible that I think I’ve neglected in the past. The Corinthians were struggling with status symbols, striving for a standing with each other, worried about who was following who, boasting in themselves and their leaders, working hard at their reputation and establishing their own justification. Paul very gently reproves this heart and encourages them in striving to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. He never tells them to stop striving or to stop working – but to work hard in the right motivation (in light of His grace) and right direction (loving and building up others).

Personally, I need to step it up in certain disciplines (like exercise and prayer) not so I will look good and feel more justified but to know God better and increase in my capacity to love and bless others. I want to be freed from my own selfishness and I need to work hard. But God will bring the growth as I persevere and trust Him. He has good plans and it may be that I need to wrestle with my sin for awhile in order to draw closer to Him and grow in humility. What I fear is either justifying myself through discipline or not persevering. God in 1 Corinthians reveals the antidote to both: the grace of God.

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This is the gospel, from Mark Driscoll:

God

God exists. He is the triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is infinite and sovereign and has always been. He is the very definition of good. He is the Creator who made this world and us. He made us for relationship with Him, that we would revel in His grace by enjoying Him and the creation He put us in.

Man

Man chose to reject God and choose our own way. Each of us have turned our backs on the one true God and chosen sin, chosen to seek our joy in the creation and in what defames God’s name. So we are diseased by sin. We are dead in our sin. We are lost and away from God. We now hide from him. We have no taste for His goodness. Our trajectory is a place called hell – cut off, dark, alone, in painful fire, separated from Him just like we wanted. We have no hope in ourselves.

Jesus

Jesus, the Son, is sent to rescue us. He was not ashamed to call himself our brother. He willing came as a human, in flesh. He walked in our shoes not as a rich king but a poor carpenter, born in a stinky manger. He taught and showed us the very character of the Father in 3 key years among us. He ultimately demonstrated who God is by dying a gruesome and horrible death, being crucified on a cross, as a payment and atonement for all of our sin. He took our baggage and rejection of God on Himself. He took our deserving of hell on himself. He showed us God still wants us. He showed us that there is now a way back to God. He played the ultimate trump card that God truly loves us and wants to restore our joy in Him.

Response

So now the choice is before us. Jesus’s death on the cross calls us to a response. Will we reject His death on the cross for us? Or will we confess our desperate need for him, for his offered forgiveness and relinquish our fight to rule our own lives (to our own demise). Will we choose the life offered in Jesus, or the death offered by our own way, our own rule? Will we let him be Dad? There is no middle ground. Jesus’ call is not on our terms but his. The Father offers us everything through his Son: the family we were made for, forgiveness of every hideous act or thought we ever had, life, and an inheritance and heaven waiting for us, but, most of all, He offers us the best thing in the world, Himself. Our hunger, thirst, loneliness, our nostalgia & ache, and our desire for eternity all point to His offer. He alone can satisfy. So He calls us, holds our HIs hands to us, knocks on the door of our hearts, and whispers to us, ultimately through His Word, The Bible. But He is our King, Savior, and treasure, or He is not.

Have you heard his voice? Will you respond to Him? Will you live with Him and in Him instead of hiding and running to your own death and destruction? Will you take his hand? Will you accept Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin and call him your brother?

By God’s grace, I made this choice almost 16 years ago and haven’t looked back. He spoke to me and broke into my life. I felt his pursuit and couldn’t help but respond. It hasn’t been easy and there have been times of fog and darkness and being overwhelmed by my own sin and the evil within, but He is good and the best thing that ever happened to me. As much as I struggle as a parent with my own selfishness getting in the way, there is ultimately only one thing I want for them: to know and respond to Jesus’ offer and to walk in life enjoying Him. There is nothing else that matters apart from that. For all of us.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

Also check out What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

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I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It stirs my soul to look to eternal things. It is always a gut check to my love of the world and my appetite for the pleasures of the world. But is it a book of discouragement or of hope? Is it a book pushing for pure self-denial or for complete abandonment to the pursuit of pleasure? Take a look at portions of chapter 2 and chapter 9:

And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 ESV)

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
    Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
    Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 ESV)

Should we pursue pleasure in this world as believers in Christ? Or shall we count the world as complete worthlessness? Or is there another completely different option?

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)

Only the Believer in God Can Enjoy

God tells us to pursue neither complete asceticism nor hedonism in the things of the world.  What does he say? Enjoyment is in context. What context? First, that God is the giver, and second, God is above all. Still, what does that mean? What does that look like? Doug Wilson helps us out:

When men understand the futility of earthly existence, and they understand it in the way Solomon presents it to us, they are then equipped to enjoy their bread for perhaps the first time. They may consider the redness of the wine and laugh over it with a wise and contented joy. They may turn to love their wives, not because sexual love is forever, but rather because it is not. In the world of creatures, we may only enjoy what we do not worship.

But we cannot rejoice in our silly lives until we understand that it is our portion assigned to us by an infinite wisdom. We cannot really understand that it is our portion until we have faith in the God who apportions. – Joy at the End of the Tether, p93

God is the only one whom we can both worship and enjoy! Food can only be enjoyed when it is not worshipped, not used to fill the void, not the primary source of joy, not an addiction, nor idolized. This is both encouraging and extremely convicting to me because I can definitely place food and drink as a source of comfort above God. I can pin my satisfaction on the next good meal, that In-n-Out burger or Chipotle burrito. In my family, it’s always been “live to eat” and not hardly ever “eating to live.” It’s easy to overlook this. I’ve especially been quick to overlook the idol of food. Ecclesiastes is a dagger to our worldly idols.

Duty and Joylessness are not the Answer Either

The fact that food can become an idol doesn’t mean "eating to live” is better either. God’s gifts are not meant to simply be dutifully devoured but gratefully enjoyed as an actual gift should be. Do you give gifts to others so they can stoically say thank you? Do you give gifts so they can be buried for fear of too much enjoyment? No way. You give gifts so they can be enjoyed. The whole point of a gift is an impartment of joy! God did not give us taste or smell or any of our senses for nothing but that they would turn our hearts to him out of enjoyment of the gift.

This brings us to the crux of Ecclesiastes: Satisfaction cannot come from anything within our power but only by the gift of God. The fool cannot enjoy anything but only the wise man who acknowledges and has faith in the Giver.

The great Hebrew philosopher who wrote this book called Ecclesiastes calls us to joy, but to a joy which thinks, a joy which does not shrink back from the hard questions.

All things considered, the furious activity of this world is about as meaningful as the half-time frenzy at the Super Bowl. But a wise man can be there and enjoy himself. This is the gift of God. The wise will notice how this point is hammered home, throughout the book, again and again. Slowly it dawns on a man that this is really a book of profound… optimism. Joy at the End of the Tether, p9,13

Ecclesiastes is a Book of Hope

The book of Ecclesiastes should encourage us. The power to seek our own joy is not from within but it’s a gift from outside of ourselves. The good news is that the Giver is very eager to satisfy us, if we would just let Him, both now and later.

    Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
    and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
    Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
    Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1-2 ESV)

The even better news is that the gifts are just an pointer to the best gift, the true gift, the gift that is eternal and what we were made for: God Himself.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, Philippians 3:8-9 ESV)

Actually, I was wrong. We are indeed called to be hedonists, completely given over to the pursuit of pleasure… in God Himself. We won’t be disappointed.

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Most people in the pew are simply not acquainted with the doctrine of justification. Often, it is not a part of the diet of preaching and church life, much less a dominant theme in the Christian subculture. With either stern rigor or happy tips for better living, “fundamentalists” and “progressives” alike smother the gospel in moralism, through constant exhortations to personal transformation that keep the sheep looking to themselves rather than looking outside of themselves to Christ… – Michael Horton, “Does Justification Still Matter?”

“First Things First” by Tullian Tchividjian is an immensely helpful article when it comes to the significance of our understanding of our justification. The article springs out of a friendly discussion between Tchividjian and Kevin DeYoung about the importance of justification in relation to making an effort to grow in godliness. DeYoung argues that justification is critical but that we still need to “make every effort” and work hard to grow spiritually. Tchividjian agrees that hard work is necessary but argues that understanding our justification is a key “effort” that needs to happen if we want to grow:

What is indisputable is the fact that unbelief is the force that gives birth to all of our bad behavior and every moral failure. It is the root. “The sin underneath all sins”, said Martin Luther, “is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands.” Therefore, since justification is where the guillotine for unbelief and self-salvation is located–declaring that we are already righteous for Christ’s sake–we dare not assume it, brush over it, or move past it. It must never become the backdrop. It must remain front and center–getting the most attention.

Justification: We Don’t Get It

Justification is much too often assumed and not enjoyed. I’ve seen this in my own life. I think I have always understood my forgiveness (though certainly not the depth of it!) in Christ but justification not half as well. I think I really started thinking about it more after I sat through a message by Tim Keller 2 years ago. Most of the time I think we act like convicted felons recently released from prison. Our slate has been wiped clean but now we better find a job and make a new life. We may have been exonerated but there’s always that mark on us. We better earn our way from this point forward.

Justification: We’d Rather Earn It

We may never say that out loud but we live that way. Our flesh, especially in a “Meritocracy” like America, is prone to be works and guilt driven rather than walking in grace and in our justification. We have more control that way. It’s more focused on us. It’s less messy. It feels safer. I’d much rather say, “Look at all that I’m doing for God! I am a beast in the kingdom!” than, “I am nothing but for the grace of God and I have everything through that grace, completely undeserved.” We accepted the gospel and turned to Christ but now we want rules and simple obedience. However, it doesn’t work.

The greatest danger facing the church is not that we take the commands of God lightly. To be sure, that is a bonafide danger but it’s a surface danger. The deep, under the surface danger (which produces the surface danger) is that we take the announcement of God in the gospel too lightly. The only people who take the commands of God lightly are those who take the gospel lightly–who don’t revel in and rejoice over what J. Gresham Machen called the “triumphant indicative.” Beholding necessarily leads to becoming. Or to put it another way, this wonderful and neglected view of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone that I am championing does not deny the impulse toward holiness. Rather it produces it!

Justification: The Power to Rest is the Power to Grow

Later, Tchividjian goes on about the law versus the gospel…

The law now serves us by showing us how to love God and others and when we fail to keep it, the gospel brings comfort by reminding us that God’s infinite approval doesn’t depend on our keeping of the law but on Christ’s keeping of the law on our behalf. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less! As Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So again, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

Don’t read those thoughts lightly. Motivation by works and by rules is motivation by fear and guilt. As a parent, I think about the limits of that motivation. Fear and guilt only go so far and I’d rather not have it that way. I’m convicted by how much I default to threats and the use of discipline but I don’t want it that way. I want my kids to be motivated to obey my wife and I out of a trust and love for us (and for God), understanding how much we care for them. I want my kids to believe that we have good for them and will provide it at the best time possible.

Fear gets us only to do just enough not to face wrath. Love empowers us to creativity and the second mile. This is what God desires in us. If God desired us to be primarily stirred up by fear of his wrath, Jesus would not have come to us as a humble, poor carpenter who consistently called attention not to his miracles but to his coming death and ransom for sin. He certainly would not be the one who told us that he plans to show us the extent of his kindness towards us for all of eternity.

When we start establishing our own justification, instead of trusting in our already completed justification in Christ, we dissolve into fear and away from love and grace. We also make it about ourselves and not God. At that point, what exactly are we growing in and why? Is life about our own perfection or knowing Jesus?

It’s very important to remember that the focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. When the Christian faith becomes defined by who we are and what we do and not by who Christ is and what he did for us, we miss the gospel–and we, ironically, become more disobedient.

As Tim Keller has said, “The Bible is not fundamentally about us. It’s fundamentally about Jesus. The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to consistently and constantly show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome.”

Read the whole discussion:

Make Every Effort (by Kevin DeYoung)

Work Hard! But in Which Direction? (by Tullian Tchividjian)

Gospel-Driven Effort (by Kevin DeYoung)

First Things First (by Tullian Tchividjian)

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