Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Think of Yourself Less – Jason Meyer

Fighting Pride’s Preoccupation with Me
I am very qualified to speak on pride because I am so proud. I hate my pride, but what I take even more seriously is how God hates it so much more.
Pride is our greatest enemy because it makes God our enemy — an almighty opponent. “God opposes the proud” (James 4:61 Peter 5:5). Why? What makes pride so singularly repulsive to God is the way that pride contends for supremacy with God himself. Pride is not one sin among many, but a sin in a class by itself. Other sins lead the sinner further from God, but pride is particularly heinous in that it attempts to elevate the sinner above God.
Pride is not just a sin, but a sinful mother — a sinful orientation that gives birth to more sins. For example, pride can lead to lying. You tell a lie because you are too proud to admit you were wrong or you did something wrong. But the problem is so much bigger. Pride doesn’t just tell lies; it is a lie.
Why? Pride is self-obsession; pride is preoccupation with ourselves. Therefore, it is a lie about reality. It says I am worth thinking about all the time. It is an orientation that wrongly assumes that everything revolves around us.
A Shape-Shifting Sin
Pride deserves to die, but it is hard to spot and even harder to kill. Pride is a slippery sin because it is a shape-shifter. Jonathan Edwards said pride is “the most hidden, secret, and deceitful of all sins.” Let me give you an example. Here is a conversation that I might have with myself after a meeting at church:
“That meeting went really well. I think the turning point might have been when I asked that question which no one had thought to ask before. Wait a minute! That was such a prideful thought. It sounds like I am taking credit for the meeting going well. I am such a prideful person. I hate my pride.”
“Humility is fundamentally a form of self-forgetfulness as opposed to pride’s self-fixation.”Tweet
Meanwhile three seconds later, “I fight pride pretty hard. I’m glad that I caught that initial prideful thought. I wonder if other people are as aware of their pride and fight it as hard as I do. Wait a minute! It just happened again. I am taking pride in my awareness of pride. O, deliver me from this body of death, Lord Jesus! Thank you God that you give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Several Shapes of Pride
If pride is preoccupation with ourselves, then we cannot defeat pride by becoming preoccupied with how we are doing against pride. When we do, we play right into the hands of pride because we take a page out of pride’s playbook. Think about yourself more. Obsess more. Become preoccupied with how you are doing — how the fight is going.
You can fall into self-exaltation (takes credit for success) and self-promotion (put those successes in other peoples faces so they will give us credit for them). But pride can shift into the shape of self-degradation and self-demotion when we beat ourselves up for our failures. We are still obsessed with ourselves. In the first form, we are obsessed with our successes; in the second, we are obsessed with our failures.
Think of Yourself Less
Maybe some of this will make more sense if we talk about what real humility is. As C.S. Lewis said, true humility is “not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” We can spend a lot of time thinking less of ourselves but we only end up thinking a lot about ourselves. The problem of pride does not boil down to whether we think high thoughts or low thoughts about ourselves but that we think lots of thoughts about ourselves.
Humility is fundamentally a form of self-forgetfulness as opposed to pride’s self-fixation. Humility can set you free because when you think about yourself less you are free to think about Christ more. Humility puts us on the path of grace; pride puts us on the path of opposition. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:61 Peter 5:5).
Two Crash Sites
The collision between the glory of God and the pride of man has two possible crash sites: hell or the cross. In other words, either we will pay for our sins in hell or Christ will pay for our sins on the cross. Hell is like an eternal crash site and crime scene. It is a horror movie in which there are no closing credits because it never ends.
God opposes pride actively and hates it passionately, which means that pride is spiritual suicide. The reason is simple. Pride is on a collision course with God himself and the date is set. “For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up — and it shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:12). All must be torn down so that one thing alone may be left standing. “The Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:11). The Bible calls it the day of the Lord.
But God in his mercy made another way. The Son of God emptied himself by taking on humanity and humbled himself by obeying to the point of death — even the death of the cross. God sends his Son to vindicate the worth of his great name, which sinners have defamed. The sacrifice of Christ fully absorbs and satisfies the wrath of God. This glorious aspect of the atonement is called “propitiation” (Romans 3:24–25).
The Solution to Our Self-Obsession
Seeing the cross rightly crushes our pride decisively. Why? Seeing the cross rightly means that we see ourselves rightly. We see him on the cross and conclude that we are actually seeing our sin on the cross. The cross reveals what we deserve from God. We cannot receive the grace of Christ apart from seeing and embracing the undeserved dis-grace of Christ.
We see the cross rightly through the miracle of conversion. We were blind to the glory of Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 4:3–4), but God’s grace is stronger. When Christ is proclaimed, God overcomes our spiritual blindness by flooding our hearts with light. The eyes of the heart are opened to see and savor the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The Spirit acts like a floodlight to illuminate the work of Christ on the cross.
The Bible’s answer to our fallen self-obsession is a great work of grace in the gospel that creates a worshipful obsession with God. Pride is defeated decisively at conversion, progressively in sanctification, and totally at glorification — where we experience ever-increasing, everlasting, white-hot worship of God. The day is coming when God alone will be exalted. It will be the worst day for unbelievers and the happiest day for all Christians.
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/think-of-yourself-less © 2015 Desiring God 

The Law of Death and the Life of Grace

Romans 5:12-21                    March 29, 2015             Link for audio/video/manuscript

We all desperately need faith in Jesus and the righteousness of God and justification through Christ and reconciliation with God - because there is a flaw within the character of our souls that we all share with one another that has been with us from the beginning of creation. Jesus Christ came to the earth to offer men a cure for the curse which Adam’s sin brought upon all mankind. The gospel confronts us with a choice as to whether we will live out our faith in Jesus Christ by the law of death or by a life of grace. The difference between the two is revealed in how we view and act towards God and each another. We are all related to one another; we are all infected with the same flaw of sin. But while Adam does lead us to death, Jesus frees us and gives us life!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Live Homeless, Homesick, and Free – Jon Bloom

There is a homelessness that is distinctly Christian. Because a Christian is no longer of this world, even though he or she remains in the world (John 17:14–15).
Most of us understand this abstractly. We know that Jesus chose us out of this world (John 15:19) and that Hebrews calls us to live as “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
But the concrete experience of never quite fitting is hard to get used to. No matter where we are, no matter what we do, we’re always foreigners and feel somewhat out of place.
Until we really come to grips with this reality, we will repeatedly feel disoriented and disappointed. This results in plenty of “grumbling and disputing” (Philippians 2:14) until we are willing to embrace that
  • Our fallen, failing bodies are not our home. Someday they will be resurrected in perfection (1 Corinthians 15:42–44), and we’ll be at home in them. But right now they betray us by sin dwelling in our members (Romans 7:23) and being subject to all manner of the futility of aging, disease, and disability (Romans 8:20).
  • Our home is not our home. No idyllic location or home improvement project will ever make our homes the heaven we seek.
  • Our marriages are not our home. Marriage is a momentary parable of the permanence of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). But the best earthly marriages are defective parables and most marriages are not the best. And all these earthly parables end in “till death do we part.”
  • Our children are not our home. Parents quickly discover childrearing to be the most difficult job in the world, all aimed at one thing: preparing our children to leave home.
  • Our friendships are not our home. The best friendships go through difficult, strained seasons and most friendships only last for brief seasons, and many end painfully.
  • Our local churches are not our home. It is true that Christians are “no longer strangers and aliens, but . . . fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). However, the New Testament Gospels and Epistles make it clear that disunity in local churches is a frequent problem (1 Corinthians 1:10). Like our individual bodies, the Church will one day be a perfect, glorified Body of Christ (Romans 12:5Ephesians 5:27). But right now sin, brokenness, failures, weaknesses, partisanship, doctrinal drift, sharp disagreements (Acts 15:39), and lukewarmness toward Christ all remind us that our local church is not yet our home.
  • Our denominations are not our home. Very few find their family of churches a perfect fit for them. There always seems to be some doctrinal, polity, leadership, strategic, or organizational issue(s) that we find aggravating.
  • Our coalitions and movements are not our home. When the Holy Spirit moves in fresh ways in the church, new coalitions and movements form to advance a Spirit-initiated mission. But it doesn’t take long before the fissures of leadership frustrations, misunderstandings, selfish ambition, doctrinal differences, strategic disagreements, and criticisms remind us that we aren’t home.
  • Our vocations are not our home. We often spend the first half of our lives preparing for our life’s work, and then spend the second half of our lives trying to figure out why our life’s work is not working out the way we hoped, or why it went so wrong, or why we weren’t more effective, or why it was so hard.
  • Our ministries are not our home. Jesus appoints us for seasons of our lives to certain responsibilities (John 3:27), and when he determines that those seasons are over he dis-appoints us. If we were too at home in those appointments, we’re left disappointed.
You Desire a Better Country
The reality we must embrace is that, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are living in a land of promise as in a foreign land (Hebrews 11:112 Peter 3:13). And like those patriarchs, but in a new-covenant sense, most of us — probably all of us — will die in faith, not having received the things promised (Hebrews 11:13). And we will have no regrets because what we are really looking for is not really here.
We are “seeking a homeland”; we desire “a better country” (Hebrews 11:14–16). We are strangers and exiles on earth; “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). C.S. Lewis put it beautifully:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 10, “Hope”)
The reason “home” always eludes you now is that you were made for another world. No worldly experience can satisfy your inconsolable longing. No relationship, no successful achievement, no possession, no amount of public approval will ever satisfy you here. The best these can do is give you a brief copy and shadowy glimpse of your true homeland. The best they can do is make you homesick for the better country where you belong, yet have never seen.
Live Free
As a Christian, your sense of homelessness and homesickness is normal. If you’ve been fighting it, stop!
Embracing your homelessness as a disciple is to embrace freedom. If you don’t burden your worldly experiences with the expectations of making them your home, their disappointments won’t be so heavy, and you’ll be able to lay aside the weight of cynicism.
The really good news is that you are a stranger and exile. The more you realize this, the more it allows you to travel light. It’s the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that weigh you down and choke your faith (Matthew 13:22). But remembering that you don’t have to make your home here will lighten your load and open your spiritual airways.
Don’t worry; home is up ahead. Jesus has gone ahead of you to prepare a home for you (John 14:2). And he’s made this amazing and freeing promise to you if you’re willing to live “homeless”:
Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
Don’t waste precious time and resources trying to make earth your home. Instead, travel as light in your expectations and your possessions (material or emotional) as possible. And seek to take as many people as you can with you to your true homeland.
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/live-homeless-homesick-and-free © 2015 Desiring God 

Joy in the Hope of the Glory of God

Romans 5:1-11                   March 22, 2015                Link for audio/video/manuscript

We are blessed in being justified through Jesus Christ with joy of having peace with God. All the conflict of the soul between us and God is ended and we are at peace with Him. Christ’s death on the cross gives us access to God’s grace. In him we have the confident assurance of a hope for a glorious future with God forever. He blesses us with suffering and trials and struggle and pain and the pressures of life that are for us in that they shape us ever more into the image of our Lord Jesus. God pours His love into our hearts as we imperfectly seek to love Him and live for Him. The cross of Christ saves us from sin and reconciles us back to God. The Word of God reveals to us the blessings we have been given by being justified through Jesus Christ that should cause us with one heart and voice to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Whatever It Takes - Jonathan Parnell

We need clarity on the meaning of life.
I mean clarity not in terms of getting our theology in order, or knowing what to say if our pastor asked, but clarity in terms of the questions we should stop and routinely ask ourselves: “Why am I doing this? What is the goal? Where is this going?”
There is a straightforward answer to these questions, but let’s lay out the criteria before we get there.
Criteria for Clarity
First, the clarity must answer the meaning of life truly. Clarity of any kind will do us little good if it doesn’t faithfully resolve our question. We don’t just need to know what to do, but how what we do fits in with the ultimate purpose behind all things. We need to know how the truest truth of all makes the difference.
Second, the clarity must be actual clarity. The truest of clarity will do us little good if it doesn’t actually help us connect the dots. When we ask the questions of “Why? What? and Where?” we will become increasingly discontent with hazy answers. We need to know what life is all about, not theoretically but earnestly.My life, your life — what are these lives about?
The more we press in here and put our answers to work, the more we will feel the inadequacy of our Christian clich├ęs. We need an answer that works. We need an answer vivid enough to compel our hearts to say: “I want that, whatever it takes.”
The “whatever it takes” qualifier is important. If we can’t say that, it means there must be a greater meaning to which our answer serves. Unless our answer holds up under “whatever it takes,” it will only be an appendage to our lives, not an all-consuming vision.
Building the Vision
Putting this criteria together, then, we need an answer to the meaning of life that lines up with the most important, all-encompassing truth there is and that is concrete enough to be a sincere rallying point for how we live.
In other words, how does the greatest truth in the universe effect a lasting vision for life that includes the ups and downs of real-life circumstances and is even achieved through them?
I think it goes like this:
The meaning of life is to experience and show Jesus as the supreme satisfaction of our souls.
Seriously. I think that is it. That is the meaning of life. And now, referring back to the criteria, let me show you why.
The Big Purpose
The most important, all-encompassing truth of the universe is that everything exists for the glory of God. That is the resounding theme of the Bible.
That’s why God makes a people for himself: “. . . the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
That’s why he forgives them: “For my name’s sake I defer my anger . . . . For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it. . . . My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:911).
That’s why he makes them righteous: “Your people shall all be righteous . . . the work of my hands, that I might be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21).
That’s why he leads them: “you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:14).
That’s why he spreads their witness: “they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:19).
New Testament scholar Greg Beale says that God’s glory is the grand end-time goal of the entire biblical storyline. He writes that the “goal of God in everything is to glorify himself and enjoy that glory forever” (NTBT, 961).
The Face of Glory
Therefore, of course, clarity on the meaning of life must come from this. That is the first piece of the criteria. But how does it fit with the second piece? How is atrue answer actual clarity?
It starts with understanding that the glory of God has a face.
This is when we must translate the glory of God from an abstract idea to a concrete reality. This is when we stop imagining God’s glory as just bright, blinding light filling the sky, and instead, let him draw the picture for us. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Paul says that Jesus is the one in whom the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). The apostle John writes that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14).
Jesus is the most vivid display of who God is, as he himself has said: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
And this means, in a deeply personal way for us humans, that the most important, all-encompassing truth of the universe is Jesus, the divine-human. Nothing gets bigger than the fact that Jesus is real and what he stands for.
What We Say
To live for the glory of God is to witness to the glory of Jesus. There is no way that we can glorify God by getting around Jesus. It doesn’t happen. We live for God’s glory by saying something about his Son. So then, what do we say?
We say, in word and deed, that Jesus is the supreme satisfaction of our souls.
That, like nothing else, exalts Jesus as the unique, glorious Savior that he is. The gnawing hunger of the human heart, the deepest part of us, indulges its feastonly in his beauty. The insatiable search for where we belong finds its home only in his love. The tireless toil to earn God’s favor reaches its rest only in his grace.
This is the meaning of life: to live each day to experience and show Jesus as the supreme satisfaction of our souls. Now, does this work?
Putting It to Work
We must press in here. Is this answer something we can rally around? Does it hold steady even through the roller coaster of real-life circumstances?
It emphatically does, and does so not despite diverse circumstances, but throughthem.
In fact, it is the various situations of our lives that invite us to witness to theabundance of Jesus’s glory. It is through the gains and losses, triumphs andsetbacks, that Jesus shows himself enough for us. Suffering isn’t a footnote to the true meaning of our lives, but the path for actually realizing the true meaning. When we suffer, it’s because God has brought us there to show that Jesus is of surpassing worth, that his hope is beyond all comparison, that his nearness is enough (Philippians 3:82 Corinthians 4:172 Timothy 4:17–18).
The meaning of life is to experience and show Jesus as the satisfaction of our souls — and feeling that, showing that, saying that, living that, is the one thing we can rally around at all costs. This is the one thing that we can say, faithfully: “I want that, whatever it takes.”
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 1:213:8)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pursuing the Mission of God

Matthew 28:16-20              March 1, 2015                 Link for audio/video/manuscript

Jesus came and sacrificed his life for the mission of God. He died on a cross for that cause. He rose from the dead with all authority and promised to be with us to the end of the age for that cause. He did so to re-create a people whose sins are forgiven, who seek a restoration of the glory they were created for, whose hearts are passionate with God’s love, who are so filled with the joy and victory of Jesus Christ that they are compelled to spend the rest of their lives at risk and in sacrifice in order to help others know and enjoy the glorious love of God we can know through Jesus Christ forever and ever.