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Posts Tagged ‘desiring god’

This week: more grace than sin, dealing with mistreatment, the true testing ground for a wife, and glorifying God at work.

Jesus: More Full of Grace Than I of Sin (by Justin Taylor)

O Jesus, full of truth and grace

More full of grace than I of sin
Yet once again I seek Thy face:
Open Thine arms and take me in
And freely my backslidings heal
And love the faithless sinner still.

– Charles Wesley

When Others Mistreat You (by Nathan Busenitz, the Cripplegate)

For the truth is, if you are wronged by other men, you have the better of it, for it is better to bear wrong than to do wrong a great deal. If they wrong you, you are in a better condition than they, because it is better to bear, than to do wrong.

A Wife’s Testing Ground (by Jen Smidt, The Resurgence)

If our value is tied to his purity, we will be devastated. If our security is grounded in his job title, we will be shaken. If our faith rides the coattails of his, we will find ourselves drowning in unbelief.

If our husband is our rock, we may be crushed by him.

How to Glorify God at Work (by John Piper, Desiring God)

Go to work utterly dependent on God (Proverbs 3:5-6; John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help.

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Jon Bloom is the President of Desiring God Ministries (only recently stepping out of the Executive Director position) and frequently writes for their blog. I was moved today and a bit redirected in my thoughts about Good Friday from his post, “Could My Tears Forever Flow?” 

One astonishing thing about the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus is that they include almost no detail. They all simply say some form of “they crucified him.”

I’ve thought about this before especially with respect to Jesus’ flogging and the heavy focus on what happened around him, especially given how much text we are given on Jesus’ final sequence. When they flog Jesus, it’s barely given a sentence. The only place where the Bible describes his appearance at this moment is the prophecy text from Isaiah 53. Mr. Bloom asks why we don’t have more detail on his physical suffering, on the shear brutality of the crucifixion, on how it was one of the worst ways to die ever devised. The first reason Mr. Bloom offers is this: because it was simply too hard to describe, too unbelievable that He would suffer like physically as well as spiritually and mentally taking on the sin of the world. But Mr. Bloom’s second reason almost completed redirected me:

But another reason is that it is not the Son’s suffering that Father wants us primarily to see. He wants us primarily to see what the Son’s suffering accomplishes: “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

For this reason God is not impressed if we are deeply moved over Jesus’ torment. Unbelievers are moved to tears watching The Passion of the Christ. “Could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone.” He is impressed with whether or not we believe in the gospel Jesus preached.

It is true that God the Son suffered more than we’ll ever know. And it is right to pray for softer hearts and a more profound grasp of what Jesus endured to save us. But as we survey the wondrous cross today, remember that in our worship God will not be looking for tears, he will be looking for trust.

In all my thoughts about the Cross today, have I looked at what He accomplished? Surely, God desires for us to understand the extent that He went to redeem and adopt us but Good Friday does not need to be a day of forced tears and meditation on Jesus’ pain. I remember Good Friday as a kid growing up in a more traditional church. My mom would have us take an hour of silence and quiet during the middle of the day. I respected this time immensely but you know what? I thought about what Jesus did but I had no clue what He actually accomplished. I was moved and saddened and I may have even had an idea of my sin. But I had no idea what His words meant: “It is finished!” Don’t get me wrong, I still think back to that tradition of silence around noon every Good Friday, but now it’s hard for me to be saddened for too long because that is not where Jesus calls us to dwell! Don’t miss what Jesus accomplished! Don’t miss what is finished:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  
(Hebrews 10:11-14 ESV)

Once for all time! It is finished! Our sin is paid for! No more trying to fake our own goodness, hoping we’ve done just enough, wallowing in failure, or giving ourselves over to our desires because we think it’s too late anyway. No more of that. Just trust Him today. I don’t think that God is looking for an emotional display today on Good Friday but your love and trust as one of his sons and daughters. Rest in confidence today. Rest in full assurance that Jesus paid it all.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23 ESV)

Read the entire article from Mr. Bloom here: “Could My Tears Forever Flow?”

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I saw this post from Justin Taylor today and just had to draw more attention to Bob Kauflin’s story of his battle with darkness and depression. I remember being at this conference and hearing what Kauflin shared live, being in tears afterwards. It was definitely something that stuck with me and I have recounted it on more than one occasion to others. The thought that “you don’t feel hopeless enough” is such a powerful and profound application of the gospel and has given me pause many times to ask myself: “Am I hoping in myself here or in my Savior?”

The story was published in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God (pp. 149-151) but you can actually watch or listen to the full Q&A at Desiring God. Please read Bob’s story below or listen to it and let yourself be encouraged that though our sin is terrible, Jesus’ love goes deeper for us than we can imagine. The darkness will not last forever.

I helped plant a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1991. I began to feel increasing anxiety at different times when we first planted the church. Then in January of 1994 my wife and I were at a couple’s house for dinner, and I cracked. My life fell apart. Mentally I had no connection with what I was doing, no connection with the past, no connection with the future. I didn’t know why I existed. These were the thoughts that went through my brain. That began a period of maybe three years where I battled constant hopelessness. I would wake up each morning with this thought: “Your life is completely hopeless,” and then I would go from there. It was a struggle just to make it through to each step of the day. The way I made it through was just to think, What am I going to do next? What will I do? I can make it to there.

It was characterized by panic attacks. For the first six months I battled thoughts of death. I’d think about an event that was three months away: Why am I thinking about that? I’m going to be dead by then. I had feelings of tightness in my chest, buzzing and itching on my arms, buzzing on my face. It was a horrible time. And in the midst of that I cried out to God, and I certainly talked to the pastor that I served with and other pastors that I knew—good friends—trying to figure out what in the world was going on with my life.

Five or six children at that time, a fruitful life, a fruitful ministry. And this is what I discovered: although I’d been a Christian for twenty-two years (since 1972) I was driven by a desire to be praised by men. And I wasn’t succeeding. When you plant a church, you find out that there are a lot of people who don’t agree with you. People who came to plant the church left. All of that assaulted my craving to be admired and praised and loved and worshiped and adored and applauded. God, I believe, just took his hand from me and said, “Okay, you handle this your way.” I knew the gospel, but what I didn’t know was how great a sinner I was. I thought the gospel I needed was for pretty good people, and that wasn’t sufficient to spare me from the utter hopelessness I felt during that time.

I would read Scripture. It didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t affect me. I remember lying at bed at times just reciting the Lord’s Prayer to myself over and over and over, hoping that would help. I couldn’t sleep; then at times all I wanted to do was sleep. I remember saying this early on: “God, if you keep me like this for the rest of my life but it means that I will know you better, then keep me like this.” That was the hardest prayer I’ve ever prayed.

During that time I read an abridged version of John Owen’s Sin and Temptation and Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace.

About a year into the process I talked to a good friend, Gary Ricucci, whom I am now in a small group with at Covenant Life Church. I said, “Gary, I feel hopeless all the time.”

He said, “You know, Bob? I think your problem is that you don’t feel hopeless enough.”

I don’t know what I looked like on the outside, but on the inside I was saying, “You are crazy. You are crazy. I feel hopeless.”

He said, “No, if you were hopeless, you would stop trusting in yourself and rely completely on what Jesus Christ accomplished for you.”

That was the beginning of the way out. And I remember saying to myself literally hundreds of times—every time these feelings of hopelessness and panic and a desire to ball up in a fetal position would come on me—“I feel completely hopeless because I am hopeless, but Jesus Christ died for hopeless people, and I’m one of them.”

Over time I began to believe that. And today when I tell people that Jesus is a great Savior, I believe it, because I know that he saved me. That’s where my joy comes from. My joy comes from knowing that at the very bottom, at the very pit of who I am, it is blackness and sin, but the love and grace of Jesus goes deeper.

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If you have been following this blog for very long, you have likely figured at least one thing: I gravitate towards the Old Testament. From Jacob to Ahab to Job, I consistently get more encouragement from my time in the OT. I see real life there. I see the gospel and the foreshadowing of Jesus everywhere. I identify with sinners like Judah. I see hope for God to use me in the life of a man like Jonah. I grieve and learn with Job in his suffering and loss and wrestling with who this God really is. So when I saw this post from Tyler Kenney at Desiring God, I just had to highlight it and draw attention to it. Tyler’s thoughts:

It has been my experience, in talking with fellow evangelicals, that many of us are quick to equate the Old Testament to mean little more than what the Pharisees thought it meant in Jesus’ day. It is a book of Jewish religion, and if there is any Christian doctrine in its pages, it is veiled to the reader who hasn’t first become acquainted with the New Testament.

We tend the view the OT as outdated and not useful anymore. It’s too confusing; I don’t have to obey any of Leviticus anymore anyway, right? What relevance would 1st and 2nd Kings be to me? We’re not a nation anymore and besides, I would never do what those kings did and let all that happen. Ezekiel? Way too hard to understand.

So why not skip the OT altogether and just stick with the New?

That would make sense if mere doctrinal information is all we are after. If all we want from our Bibles is to learn Christian dogma in its most developed form, reading the NT alone would probably be sufficient. It practically teaches every doctrine covered by the OT, and then of course it adds some crucial material of its own.

But we want more from Scripture than just a systematic theology, don’t we? There’s a reason we don’t settle for catechisms and dissertations in our devotional lives. We want faith and hope and encouragement and love, not merely a catalogue of things we ought to believe. And how do we get those things?

How often is the Old Testament preached on in our churches? (The last 2 months, actually, in my church!) Most folks I know have not even read the entire OT and tend to avoid it. There’s definitely something to be said for understanding the New Testament and the gospel. But isn’t sin still sin? We tend to say that the God of the OT is different and harsher and more condemning? Really? Who talked more about hell and eternal punishment and gnashing of teeth? That’s right, Jesus, in the New Testament! The OT is full of seemingly harsh physical punishments and consequences but the NT highlights the even scarier doctrine of hell.

But there’s no grace in the Old Testament! Really? There’s no grace in how God blesses and pursues men like Jacob and Ahab? Take a closer look at Ahab’s life, a man proclaimed the most evil king ever. Take a look at Job’s life even and recognize how in the OT, God is still the same God who wants relationship with us, wants us to be satisfied in Him, and will eventually crush all sin by taking the punishment and guilt on Himself. Maybe His glorious grace is not completely or fully revealed there in the Old Testament, but it’s there. Look for it. The people of the OT were real. Those things actually happened. Read it that way.

The more I read the OT, the more I see how indispensable it is for fostering the encouragement and faith I need to thrive in my walk with God. And my challenge to you in writing this post is that you would approach the OT as a complete, competent, and relevant work for you in its own right.

The OT is not a deflated sail that needs NT air to get moving. Sure, there is more revelation beyond Malachi, and yes, we shouldn’t try to just forget the NT when reading the prophets. But let’s not use what we know from the apostles to reinterpret or silence what the prophets themselves have to say to us. They were writing for us in the first place, you know (1 Peter 1:12).

Don’t fear the Old Testament. Read it. Process it. See His steadfast love there. See people not that different from you and me there. Most of all see His glorious grace there.

Read Tyler Kenney’s full post here: “Thoughts on Evangelical Neglect of the Old Testament”

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I saw this posted today on the Desiring God blog and was so encouraged by what Paul Tripp had to say, I felt I needed to call special attention to it.

If you’re confused about what God’s agenda is in your life, or if it doesn’t always seem like his promises are being fulfilled, then this strange little prayer from Psalm 51 is helpful and clarifying. In his psalm of repentance after his sin against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah, David writes this provocative little prayer, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” What in the world is he talking about and how in the world can it give perspective and hope to you and me?

Let me begin to answer with a personal confession. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I have a low tolerance for difficulty. I confess that I am a project-oriented person. I tend to have a specific agenda for each day. I awake knowing exactly what I want to accomplish and what a successful day will look like. I don’t want to have to deal with interruptions or obstacles. I want the people, circumstances and locations to willingly submit to my sovereignty and participate in my plan. All of this means that it’s counterintuitive for me to view difficulty as something beneficial. I have little time or tolerance for “broken bones.”

But I have a problem. My Redeemer is the redeemer of broken bones. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Paul, what in the world are you talking about?” Well, here it is. “Broken bones” is a physical word picture for the pain of redemption.

I don’t like being uncomfortable and I certainly don’t view difficulty as a fantastic thing most of the time, seeing it as a benefit!

We very rapidly forget or ignore the powerfully addicting dangers of sin and think we can step over God’s boundaries without personal and moral cost. We think we are stronger than we really are and wiser than we actually prove to be. We assess that we have character, discipline and strength that we don’t really have. So God, in the beauty of his redeeming love, will “break our bones.” He will bring us through difficulty, suffering, want, sadness, loss and grief in order to ensure that we are living in pursuit of the one thing that each of us desperately needs—him.

God will not let us be satisfied with anything else but Him and because He is our loving, perfect, caring Father, He will shepherd us towards the right satisfaction, that is, in Him.

God hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t turned his back on you. He isn’t punishing you in anger. He surely isn’t withholding the grace that he has promised from you. No, you’re receiving grace, but it’s grace that is willing to break bones in order to capture and transform your heart. This grace is unrelenting. This grace has no intention of giving up. This grace will not be satisfied with the status quo. This grace does not get discouraged. It will never compromise. It will never become bitter or cynical. This is loving, patient, perseverant, powerful grace.

God does not forget us. He does not fall asleep and just let our lives turn to wreckage. He is always at work. He is always after your heart. His grace does not give up! Read the rest here.


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This past weekend I was privileged to attend the Desiring God National Conference for the 3rd consecutive year. It’s become a bit of a tradition for myself and a few close brothers from our church and this year we were able to bring our wives! The title for this year’s conference was “Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.” It was another great conference and a humbling, stirring experience of preaching and fellowship. I’m not going to talk about the every message here but only the ones that genuinely pierced my heart. This is not to say that the others were not worth listening to!

The Friday Seminars

On Friday, I was able to make it to Matt Perman’s seminar on productivity and the Gospel as well as Nate Wilson’s seminar about story and the Cross. Matt shared some helpful thoughts about the nature of “good works” and what we’re really after when we talk about productivity. I could tell he had more to say but didn’t have enough time but it simply makes me more pumped for him to finish and release his book!

Nate Wilson gave one of my favorite and most personally impacting talks of the conference. He talked about story and fantasy, how we’re just nuts to look at this world and think we don’t live in a crazy fantasy world. This was a very engaging message. He hammered on how we need to understand the wonder of this world and how we are all involved in the story created and narrated by our Heavenly Father. The main point was that God created everything “ex nihilo,” meaning “from nothing” and that He continues to hold up the world by his own word. We can choose to respond to situations by trusting that our Father is in control or we can choose to be like Job’s wife and curse God and die. He then tied the theme of fantasy and story to Jesus coming as a man to be like us to die and rescue us. I won’t soon forgot Nate’s thoughts.

Unfortunately, these talks were not able to be recorded! However, 3 of the other seminars (recorded in the main auditorium), given by Tulian Tchividjian, Kevin DeYoung, and Randy Alcorn, should be available soon. There was also a Q&A with all of the seminar speakers to close the afternoon that ended up being more of a discussion about writing. It was very encouraging for me to hear these men talk about why they write and how they worked at writing and how reading plays into being a good writer. This Q&A session should also be available soon.

UPDATE: The seminar sessions given by Alcorn, Tchividjian, and DeYoung are now up at Desiring God. Sadly, no sign of the Friday Q&A (see below) yet.

Friday Q&A with DeYoung, Parsons, Tchividjian, and Piper

In this panel, the speakers/guests discussed their initial reactions to Rick Warren’s address and then began to dig into something that, for us, became an underlying theme of the conference. The theme is this: We can only be ourselves. Yes, we need to fight sin and seek to be growing in Christ-likeness but John Piper cannot be Rick Warren and Kevin DeYoung cannot be John Piper. We cannot be someone else nor should we be. The Gospel should free us to love Jesus and serve others as He made us to be. I cannot be someone else and can only emulate them so far. I can imitate their faith but I should not seek to emulate their exact strengths and habits even. I need to walk with Jesus, mortify sin, and then let Jesus free me to be myself and use my desires and my gifts, each given by the Holy Spirit, to glorify Him and bless others. Right now, I am reading about Hudson Taylor and reading books by Doug Wilson and Michael Emlet. I cannot be those men though I thoroughly respect their lives and what God is doing and has done through them. But I get discouraged thinking about how I can emulate Hudson Taylor or trying to think and communicate the way Wilson does. Nor does Jesus want me to be them. Jesus made me as I am and I need to be more and more yielded to the Holy Spirit to be exactly who I am so I can be the tool He made me to be. This is incredibly freeing!

Al Mohler: The Way the World Thinks

I have been reading Mohler’s blog for close to two years now and I was looking forward to hearing his thoughts on this topic in person. It was a very helpful message! The night before, a few of us were discussing the limits of the unregenerate/unsaved mind and the first half of the message was about exactly that. The fallen mind is not lacking knowledge but lacking the will. The real knowledge crisis is not about what we do not know but about what we WILL not know. Our intellect is not neutral but bent. Mohler’s demonstrated this by walking us through Romans 1. Our will does not allow our conscience to do what it was intended to do! We willfully suppress the truth.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21 ESV)

Apart from the saving work of the Holy Spirit, we are rationally given over to sin. We cannot reason our way to the Cross but it is foolishness to us apart from His regenerating work in us. The reality is that this still taints us even as those follow Christ. Mohler talks about some of the remaing effects of this on our minds: ignorance, distractedness, forgetfulness, miscommunication, intellectual apathy, and more. To close the message, he talked about some specifics of how our culture thinks and then mentioned how teens in our own churches are showing themselves to moralistic therapeutic deists in their worldview! We need to pursue the Word of God, pursue life in the local church, and rely constantly on the Holy Spirit to conform our lives to Scripture. This was a great sermon, not to be passively listened to as it was intellectually challenging enough hearing it live.

Saturday Q&A with Anyabwile, Chan, Mohler, and Piper

The panel discussed the Gospel, learning from secular thought, how to handle being honored, and moving from anti-intellectualism to more of a balance. Again, though, the underlying theme, especially in how Chan interacted with the rest of the panel, was how we need to be ourselves in Christ. Francis Chan cannot be John Piper or Al Mohler or preach as deeply as Thabiti can. Francis Chan can be Francis Chan and Jesus can use Him as He is, through the Gospel, in the Spirit, plenty.

Francis Chan: Think Hard, Stay Humble

How should I describe this message? Love others? I cannot begin to do this message justice. Just watch it and be changed. I have not heard too many messages more gripping and stirring or more genuinely powerful than Chan’s message on Saturday night. He was humble and God blessed it and I was wrecked.

If you watch one message from this conference, you have to watch the one given by Francis Chan. As one brother stated after this conference, we’ll still be processing these messages and themes throughout the rest of this year. I look forward to rewatching each of these messages and trusting God to grow and change for His glory, to love Him more, and to love others much more deeply and consistently.

To watch or download all of the plenary sessions, click here.

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