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Monday, April 29, 2019

Endgame, Excitement, and Enjoying God's Glory

Last week I saw a meme about Avengers: Endgame.  There are dozens of related memes floating around the web, but this one was presented as the rules for watching the movie with one particularly zealous fan:  

They take this thing seriously!  

Even apart from the humor of the post, Endgame is a big deal both financially and culturally. The recent rise of superhero movies is a geek fantasy come to life. More than that, the average moviegoer has been captivated by the consistent world-building and character growth which Marvel/Disney has accomplished across almost two dozen films. Based on opening weekend figures, Endgame is positioned to be a huge money-maker; possibly achieving numbers that make it the biggest box-office open of all time.  It's not hard to see why some fans would take it so seriously!  

But maybe superhero movies aren't your thing. Maybe it's March Madness or the World Series. Maybe it's the return of Hamilton or some other Broadway show to area. Most of us are fans of something and we can be over-the-top about it.

But is it possible that the attention we fans give to such an event betrays how underwhelmed we are by what matters most?  What matters for eternity?

When was the last time we treated a Sunday morning like we did the big game or long-anticipated movie?  Have we ever prepared for listening to the sermon with eager anticipation? Have we ever desired to soak up every word, looking for connections to the Bible and life like we look for clues for the next Marvel film?  Have we thought about the lyrics we're signing together as a congregation?  Have we let their meaning move from head to heart, so that we are worshiping, not just singing?  And what about God's people?  Do we come ready merely to shake hands and throw a few smiles? Or are we determined to actually get to know the people with which we will spend eternity?

Of course, we will all have our ups and downs, spiritually. Not every Sunday will feel like a monumental event. Some weeks we'll need the grace of God to even lift our eyes to the heavens.  But the question still remains: what gets us really excited?  Is it the things of God, or the things of this world?  One answer leads to a wasted life. The other leads to a life that ends with hearing, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

And if you aren't happy with your answer to that question, take heart--there's hope! Scripture is clear that God is a God of change. By his death and resurrection, Christ has secured for us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Through faith in him, we can be changed into people who long for God and are consumed with a passion for his glory.  We need only immerse ourselves in the things of God and stare again and again at his glory and we will changed: “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18).

Of course the clearest vision of God's glory is seen in Jesus (John 1:14, 16). This is why we look for him as we read throughout all Scripture (John 5:39). Focusing more time and attention on the things of God in an effort to see his glory may start as a duty. But, by God's grace, eventually it will become our delight!  Then, church, ministry, and living the Christian life will be far sweeter to our souls, while, in the words of Helen Lemmel, "the things of earth will grow strangely dim."

So, for this next few weeks, I'd encourage you to commit to praying something like this every morning: 
Father, turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Help me to set my mind on things that are above. Please show me your glory in your Son that I might be changed (Ps 119:37; Col 3:2; Exod 33:18; 2 Col 3:18).

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Recommended Film: American Gospel

I can't recommend this documentary enough.  American Gospel: Christ Alone is a call back to the biblical gospel, particularly in response to the false gospel of prosperity theology.  Even if you are not concerned about the prosperity gospel, you will be blessed by the testimony to the true gospel developed in this film.  My family streamed it at home and found it well worth the time.  It can be rented on various streaming services including Amazon Prime Video and Vudu.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Cross in the Psalms

“The Psalms do not merely speak of Christ; rather, in the Psalms Christ actually speaks.” —Craig Carter

I couldn’t agree more.  Peter taught in 1 Peter 1:10-12 that the Spirit of Christ worked in the OT authors to predict His sufferings and subsequent glories.  Therefore, it is right to hear the voice of Christ behind the voice of the writers of the Psalms.  As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let’s consider just a few Psalms in which we can hear the Savior on the cross.  I’ll not comment on these verses, but simply allow the Scriptures to speak.  I’m looking forward to worshiping with you on Sunday! 


For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet. (22:16)

They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. (22:18)

I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. (69:20-21)

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. (22:15)

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. (69:3-4)

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (22:6-8)

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (3:1-2)

For I hear the whispering of many-- terror on every side!-- as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. (31:13)

They open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast. (22:13-14)

My enemies say of me in malice, "When will he die, and his name perish?” (41:5)

All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, "A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies."  (41:7-8)

You have caused my companions to shun me. (88:8)

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (41:9)

You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness. (88:18)

Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. (31:11-12)

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing. (31:9-10) 

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!  You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. (69:18-20)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother's sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. (69:6-9)

For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (88:3-7)

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. (69:13-14)

O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. (88:14-17)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? (22:1)

This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. (69:31)

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. (31:5)


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Jesus Desires Our Fellowship

Why do some of us find it so difficult to engage in fellowship with the Lord? It’s possible that because we are acutely aware of our ongoing struggle with sin, we do not rightly conceive of His desire to enjoy fellowship with us. Some believers conceive of Jesus’ disposition toward the Church as something like that of the handsome jock taking his little sister’s ugly friend to the prom as a favor to her parents. He’s way out of her league and He knows it. He’s aloof at best, angry at worst. He’d rather be anywhere but next to her, yet duty calls. He’s burdened both by a humanitarian bent and the fact that He’s the only one who can manage the chore.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus genuinely desires fellowship with us. Consider all that He has done to bring it about. First, Jesus atoned for our sin at the steepest of costs. He condescended, becoming a man, embracing all the challenges and temptations associated with our humanity, so that He could fulfill the law of God on our behalf and take the penalty for our sin on the cross. For 33 years, He bore the full weight of temptation without giving in (Heb 2:18; 4:15). For six hours, He bore the omnipotent wrath of His own Father, eventually declaring our debt paid in full (John 19:30; cf Col 2:13-14). Being raised from the dead, He has now ascended to the Father where He ever lives to pray for us (Heb 7:25; Rom 8:34). Just as the blood of Abel called out for judgment, so the blood of Christ calls out for atonement unto reconciliation and fellowship (Heb 12:24). Has anyone ever paid more to gain and keep a bride?

Second, He powerfully called us to Himself. There was a horrible time when in our fallenness we could not see His desirability, when we loved only our darkness, burdened by sin, death, and hell (Eph 2:1-3, 4:18). Yet, Christ called to us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). He called us to intimacy through the preaching of the gospel (Rom 10:17). He left no possibility that we would not be His (John 6:37; 10:14-16, 26-30). He came and claimed us for His own, changing our hearts and bringing us to repentance and faith (Eze 36:26; Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 2:25). 

Third, He provided means of fellowship with Him. We’ve considered this before, but rather than focus on the simple reality of these means, consider the lengths to which Jesus has gone to give them to us. The Word of God is perhaps the most extravagant gesture of love imaginable…outside of the cross. It is the most intricately-woven, error-free tapestry ever created. It has been given to us for one reason: that we might know God in Christ. Likewise, prayer is a precious gift. It was highly costly. Jesus bought our access to the Father with His blood. We are able to speak to the Creator Almighty because Jesus bore His wrath for us. The third means—fellowship with the saints—is easily the most overlooked gift. In it, Jesus gives to the Church what is most precious to Him—the Church! It was the Spirit of Christ who inspired the words of Psalm 16:3: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all My delight.” The Church exists as the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus in our lives. We lack no good thing necessary to enjoy fellowship with Jesus. He has made sure of it.

Fourth, He assures us of our rightful place with Him. Some Evangelicals wrongly view the converted, justified, believing bride of Christ as a filthy, wretched whore. They think of themselves as the proverbial elephant in the throne room of God. There are multiple problems with this, the greatest of which is that it tends to take passages that speak of our former lostness and read them into our current state of justification. It is true that we were filthy, wretched whores (Num 15:38-39; Deut 31:16; Psalm 106:39; Jas 4:4; 1 Pet 4:3). Yet, because of the imputed righteousness of Christ, before God we are that way no more. According to 1 Corinthians 6, we were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, revilers, swindlers. That was our identity. But that past tense verb is precisely the point: “Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

If we truly grasped that, how could we stay seated and not shout, “Amen”? Yes, we still sin, but we are not what we were, and He does not see us the same way that He did. Romans teaches that we were enemies, but now we are children (Rom 5:10, 8:15). Ephesians reminds us that we were far off, but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:11-13). To be sure, we are not what we will be, but we are not what we were. Jesus assures us that we belong with Him.

Jesus is not like a bridegroom who has married down, who knows that He is way out of His bride’s league, and who therefore puts all responsibility on her to pursue Him, as if to say, “You’re so lucky to be with me. If you want to spend time with me, you know where I am.” We ought not conceive of the risen Christ as being able to take us or leave us. He is not indifferent toward us. Christ has paid an enormous price to fellowship with us and He desires it.  

Let’s consider all that Jesus has done to enjoy us.  We might more readily enjoy Him in the Word, prayer, and serving the body.