Friday, June 10, 2016

The Power of Patience



James 5:7-12                 June 5, 2016              Link for audio/video/manuscript

As fallen created beings who live in a fallen world, waiting is our collective common experience. The power of patience available to us in times of pain, struggle and conflict is the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven, and who will someday return to this world take those who possess a living faith in him to their eternal home with him in the glory of heaven. Like the farmer, we are to patiently plow, plant and water as we wait for the fruit of God’s spiritual harvest. Like the prophets we are to patiently endure opposition when we share and live out the Word of God. Like Job we are to patiently allow God to do His deeper work within us for His greater purpose in times of suffering. May we each as individuals, and all of us together, come to know the power of the patience of God-given restraint in the midst of all of our struggles, knowing that Jesus is with us and he will return!

My Sin, Not in Part, But the Whole - Caleb Brasher

“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought.”
This is a strange phrase. Has it ever caught your attention before? In the third stanza of “It is Well,” the hymnist leads with this curious arrangement of words. It always struck me as odd. How can I consider my sin blissful?
Eventually, I learned to look at things in their proper context. I had never connected those lines with the lines that followed: “My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
We find this bliss by doing two things: by being honest with ourselves and seeing the depth of our depravity in our sin, and by looking to the cross and seeing the depth of God’s mercy in Christ.
Seeing Our Sin Clearly
As long as we aren’t that bad of sinners, we won’t need that big of a Savior. As Christians, it’s important that we realize that our problem is worse than we thought. Sin has permeated the depths of who we are. We aren’t as bad as we could be, but every faculty we have has been kissed by this sickness called sin. And when compared to the perfect standard of Christ, we have fallen far short.
Since we know our own thoughts and motives, we can say honestly with Paul, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).
If we want to savor the sweetness of the gospel, we have to be honest with the horror of our sin. Don’t look at part of your sin or confess half-truths; come to the cross with all of your sin in its entirety.
Seeing Our Savior Clearly
Then we will turn to Jesus. He doesn’t come to save us when we have our lives together. Jesus comes and exposes our brokenness. When we are covered in muck and mire, Christ reaches down, picks us up, and calls us his own.
It is here that we recognize our whole sin and that sin is then nailed to the cross. Paul uses this same language in his letter to the church in Colossae,
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14)
Christ didn’t come to just forgive our “more respectable” sins. He didn’t absorb the wrath of God on behalf of our “smaller” sins. Instead, he came and has forgiven all of our sins. This is how we are able to be honest with the depth of our sinfulness, because we trust that God will cover us with the depths of his mercy.
In this moment we experience the bliss of sin. The depravity of our sin leads us to our need for a Savior, and the cross shows us our Savior and leads us to worship.
Present Tense Sin
So where is your sin? If you are in Christ, then your entire record of debt has been canceled.
This leads us to a final observation about this classic hymn. The most powerful word in this stanza may be the word “is.” When I sing the song, my natural inclination is to sing it this way: “My sin, not in part but the whole,was nailed to the cross…”
But the hymnist doesn’t say that. Instead he chooses the present tense. This is both purposeful and powerful. By choosing the present tense of the verb, he is drawing out the truth that, while our sin was in fact atoned for in a temporal sense almost 2,000 years ago, in a spiritual sense, the cross is saving us each and every day.
So in a real way, our sin not only was nailed to the cross; our sin is nailed to the cross. This is the confidence we can have no matter what we may have done. For the Christian, our sin has nowhere else to go. It has reached its final destination on the cross.
And this realization leads us to only one conclusion: “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Humility Is Not Always Nice - Jon Bloom

Humble people aren’t always what we think they ought to be. They aren’t always modest, they aren’t always agreeable and submissive, and they aren’t always nice — at least in the ways we proud people think those qualities are supposed to look in humble people.

We do tend to find true humility attractive when we recognize it, but we don’t always recognize it. Sometimes we mistake humility for pride and pride for humility. And truth be told, we don’t always like to be around humble people.

Humble People Don’t Think Much of Themselves

Most of us would agree that humble people don’t think much of themselves. But often what we have in mind is self-deprecation; humble people think of themselves as lowly. And this is true. In view of God’s holiness and their sinfulness, they don’t think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3). Their healthy, proportionate view of their own depravity causes them to consider others more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3).

But self-deprecation isn’t the primary trait of humility. The primary trait of humble people is that they just don’t think much of themselves — meaning they are not self-preoccupied. They have better, higher, more glorious things to be occupied with.

We can find this trait refreshing because humble people, seeing all things in relation to God, look for and enjoy God’s glory in all that he has made (Romans 1:20). This allows them to most fully enjoy what God has made — including us. When we’re with them they often help us do the same thing. And few things are as wonderfully refreshing as forgetting ourselves for a while because we’re absorbed in something more glorious.

But we can also find this trait convicting because it exposes our self-obsession. We are so used to people (especially ourselves) being self-conscious and self-centered that when we’re with people who aren’t, our own pride stands in stark contrast.

Humble People Prefer Windows to Mirrors

Not thinking much of themselves (in both senses) means that humble people prefer windows to mirrors. Desiring to see the glory of God in everything frees them from needing to see how everything else reflects on them.

Humble people view other people as God’s marvelous image-bearers, windows to God’s glory, not as mirrors that enhance or diminish their own self-image. But this also means they aren’t absorbed by how others view them. So they aren’t worried about reading the “right” books, seeing the “right” movies, listening to the “right” music, living in the “right” home, having the “right” job, being seen with the “right” people, etc. That’s a mirror mindset. They view these things as windows to see and savor God’s glory.

Humble People Are Authentically Counter-Cultural

This makes humble people authentically counter-cultural. A culture comprised of pride-infected people produces a lot of pressure for people to conform to cultural expectations. Even much that poses as non-conformity is really just subcultural conformity — an attempt to fit into some subgroup.

Humble people are unusually unaffected by this pressure to conform. They can be hard to categorize because they often don’t fit neatly into any cultural mold. They tend to eschew using trendy fashions or interests or social media as means of personal branding. They have preferences about those things, but they hold those preferences as ways of enjoying God’s manifold goodness rather than image-enhancers.

And it’s this lack of self-preoccupation that really runs counter to the cultures or subcultures that humble people live in. This deficit of self-importance usually isn’t considered cool by cultural cool-definers. It makes humble people odd.

Humble People Are Offensive

One of the things that can surprise us about truly humble people, which can sometimes be mistaken for pride, is that they can be quite offensive. Humble people, being without guile, say it like it is. And saying it like it is can sting, and even sound condemning.

Jesus could fling some zingers. He called religious leaders a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34) and sons of the devil (John 8:44), and he called the crowd and even his own disciples a “faithless and twisted generation” (Matthew 17:17). Humble Paul publicly rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) and told the Galatians they were “foolish” (Galatians 3:1). These weren’t “nice” things to say. Humble people don’t always say nice things. They say honest things that can have sharp edges and wound. Because of this they can be accused of pride.

But there is a qualitative difference between the offensiveness of the proud and the offensiveness of the humble. The proud offend to exalt or defend themselves and control or manipulate others. The humble offend in order to advance the truth for the glory of God and ultimate good of others. Humble offensiveness may not be popular, but it’s always loving.

King David knew this, which is why he wrote, “Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head” (Psalm 141:5). His son Solomon also knew this and wrote, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). Humility can wound and pride can kiss. Kisses may feel better than wounds — at first. But later, the wounds foster health and the kisses corruption.

Walk Humbly

That’s why humble people aren’t always what we think they ought to be. They are disagreeable when truth must be valued over relational harmony. They are un-submissive when conformity mars God’s glory. And their company can be unpleasant, even undesired, when their wounding words are kinder than selfish flattery or silence.

And this is the kind of people God is calling us to be, people who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8). He wants us to be absorbed in things more glorious than ourselves (Philippians 4:8), to prefer windows to mirrors (Philippians 2:3), to live counter to every culture we live in (Hebrews 11:13), and, when love requires it and it would give grace to those who hear, to be humbly offensive (Ephesians 4:29).

To be humble people requires much grace. But the good news is that God is able to make this grace abound to us (2 Corinthians 9:8), and he offers it to us if we will receive it (James 4:6).

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/humility-is-not-always-nice @ 2016 Desiring God