YOUR MIGHT? OR YOUR MIGHTY ONE?

blog11A big part of a pastor’s job involves sitting at a table, coaching and counseling others. I am continually confronted by situations where it becomes painfully clear that the root cause of a person’s distress is what he or she is trusting in—and I’ve found that far too many people are trusting in their own personal might. The result is less than what we’d hoped for at best . . . and a train wreck at worst.

You see, we always have two choices in life: we can trust in our own might . . . or we can trust in the Mighty One!

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. (Psalm 50:1-6)

After reading a passage like that, it seems kind of silly to trust in our own might, doesn’t it? The psalmist began his exaltation with three splendid divine names: Mighty One, God, and Lord. How mighty is this Mighty One? First, we see that from east to west, God rules over the whole earth. Next we see that our Mighty One has fire at His disposal, a fire of righteous judgment that devours before Him, while a tempest rages around Him.

We know from the Book of Psalms that none of these things are random or beyond God’s sovereign hand; lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds, all these do his bidding (Psalm 148:8). He makes flames of fire His servants and rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:3-4). He, and He alone, can command the lightning bolt precisely where it should strike (Job 36:32). Indeed, He is a Mighty One!

God is in control of all things, and uses all things for His glory and to accomplish His purposes. But there is more! We see that this Mighty One has made a covenant with His people. A covenant is a solemn agreement between persons; when one of those persons is the Mighty One, you can take that agreement to the bank. And so we should never trust in our own might but always trust in our Mighty One!

  • In your weakness He is your strength.
  • In your brokenness He is your healing.
  • In your restlessness He is your peace.
  • In your pain He is your comfort.
  • In your doubt He is your truth.
  • In your fear He is your faith.
  • In your darkness He is your light.
  • And in your death He is your life.

Your Mighty One is your everything; He is the answer to every question . . . the solution to every problem. As a father of four children, I can tell you that there is nothing that blesses me more than when they come to me for advice, help, or simply just to talk. It blesses me, and I hope I am able to provide a blessing for them. But how much MORE is our mighty, heavenly Father able to bless us when we come to Him! And yet . . . all too often we trust in our own might and neglect coming to our Mighty One. Or we think of coming to Him as the last resort, when all else has failed, rather than coming to Him right at the outset and then waiting confidently for His promised deliverance.

I pray that today’s message will remind you—and me!—to reach out to the only true Source of might: our Mighty One. Because God is a covenant-keeping God, you can trust in every promise He has made, including the one to never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Now, that is a “might” worth trusting in!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THIS MAN!

images

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)

Who is “this Man” who welcomes sinners and eats with them? He is, of course, none other than God incarnate, fully divine and fully man—the Word who was with God and who was God and who became flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is Jesus, who left the throne room of heaven, took on the flesh of man in the form of a servant, and willingly went to a rough wooden cross to pay the penalty of sin. This Man is Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who suffered the tortures of the damned so that you and I might know the eternal bliss of angels.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “It needs an angel’s tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love.” Yet this “stoop of love” was done for people like you and me, sinners who are desperately in need of a Savior. How tragic that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law grumbled about this ineffable stoop of love, which they themselves needed so badly! But, blinded by their own self-righteousness, they could not see themselves as they truly were: sinners, separated from God—“dead men walking,” if you will—in need of This Man, the heaven-sent Savior.

Even the very best of men are only men at best, but not this Man. This Man is a man like no other. This Man is the supreme man, the God-man, before whom one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord of all. This Man is the greatest man in every way, and He is the supreme revelation of God.

This Man is greater than the first man. Adam was promised life if he obeyed . . . but disobeyed. This Man was promised death if He obeyed . . . and He obeyed completely and died on a cross for those He welcomed and ate with—sinners like you and me!

This Man is greater than the man Moses. Moses delivered the people of God out of bondage and into their earthly and temporal Promised Land. But this Man delivers the people of God out of bondage into their heavenly and eternal Promised Land. To be sure, all of the Old Testament prophets were great men, but this Man was greater in rank, power, and authority. The prophets were used by God to speak the Word of God; this Man was, is, and forever shall be the very Word of God who has always existed.

This Man is greater than even the high priest of Israel, who offered sacrifices for the sins of God’s people. These sacrifices were mere shadows of the Substance that was to come. And in the fullness of time, this Man came and offered Himself and as the supreme sacrifice, offered once for all, for the sins of God’s people.

As incredible as this all is, there is even more. When this Man welcomes sinners, He welcomes them with a promise that one day they will be sinners no more. Reader, if you have trusted in His atoning work on your behalf, that promise includes you!

That’s right; this Man, who began a good and perfect work in you, will one day complete what He has started. This Man, who has brought you out of the grave, will one day soon bring you into glory. This Man loved you just as you were—a vile, depraved, corrupted sinner, an enemy of God. But Jesus Christ loved you so much that He would not leave you in that condition. When you breathe your last and are received into glory, you will be the exact image and likeness of This Man.

So . . . have you received this Man as your Savior and Lord? If not, He is still welcoming sinners today. Make these glorious promises yours this day!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

GROW IN GRACE . . . NOT “GRACE GROWS”

download (5)I trust today’s message will prove to be a word of great encouragement to you, regardless of where this finds you.

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

Often the best way to figure out what Scripture is saying is to clearly identify what it is NOT saying. In this verse it is not saying that “grace grows.” Peter is telling us to grow in grace, but in no way is he suggesting that God’s grace grows in the life of the believer. Many have led the unsuspecting believer astray into this wicked error, teaching that the more we do for God, the more favor, mercy, and love we will receive. In other words, our good works cause God’s grace to grow in our lives.

Understand that grace is the free, unmerited, favor, mercy, and love of God in Christ toward His people, bestowed on them since before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4-6). Christian believer, you have been given all His grace from everlasting to everlasting! We cannot be more justified. We cannot be more adopted. We cannot be more pardoned. We cannot be more forgiven. We cannot be more saved. We cannot be more loved! We have been made perfect in the Christ Jesus, and it is impossible to rise above perfection.

To be sure, we will grow up into that grace as we grow up into Christ, but we have had—and will forever have—the full measure of God’s grace and affection poured out into our lives. I’d like you to pause for a moment and reflect on both sides of this cosmic coin. God’s grace does not grow in the life of the believer, because it is perfect and infinite and cannot be added to. Therefore, it is just as true that God’s grace does not diminish in the life of the believer. There is nothing you can do—nothing—that will cause God to love you any more or any less than He has loved you from before the beginning of time! Let that truth set you free to live the life God is calling you to live, and live in the joy of the Lord, which is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

With that as a settled truth in the heart of the believer, growing in grace becomes the well-worn path the believer walks in progressive sanctification. The Bible constantly reminds and encourages the believer to grow . . . to work out . . . to strive for . . . and at least eight times in the New Testament we are told to make every effort!

Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you . . . (Philippians 2:12-13)

This passage provides the key that unlocks the door leading to a lifetime of growing in God’s grace. We are to work out—not work for—our salvation. Why? Because it is God who works in us! Wow! We work out because God works in us. What a powerful truth to encourage and inspire us to live for the One who lived, died, and rose again . . . for us!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Almighty Accountability – Part III

imagesToday is our third and final installment in our weeklong look at almighty accountability, which is taken from a sermon I preached about a month ago at Cross Community Church. You’ll recall that the message is rooted in Romans 14:12 —

Each of us will give an account of himself to God.

You can listen to this sermon—and all of the Bible teaching done at The Cross—by visiting our website at www.thecrosscc.org and clicking on the “Media” tab.

I’ve explained in the previous articles that Christian believers who have placed their trust in Christ’s atoning work on their behalf will not be required to give an account for their sins; Jesus paid that account in full at Calvary. But we Christians will give an account for the life we have lived as His people. Paul explained to the Christians at Corinth that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

I believe there are three primary areas for which we will be held accountable by the Almighty: our use of time, the talents He has given us, and the treasure he has bestowed on us to steward on His behalf. The previous articles unpacked time and talents; today we’ll look at treasure.

Treasure

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

Have you ever thought about the primary use of our money? I know we all have bills to pay and we need money to pay them. But have you ever thought about the absolute, primary use of our money? It is, like every other aspect of our lives, intended for glorifying God. And the principal way we glorify God with our money is when we give of it sacrificially to build His kingdom. Sadly, only 5% of professing Christians in the United States give God the minimum requirement, a tithe, which is 10% of their total income.

This shameful statistic means that most professing Christians are serving the wrong master. One of the most remarkable ways God proves His presence in His people is by the way they give of their treasure. Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus truly cares about our giving . . . and takes note of it?

Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:1-4)

This wonderful account indicates just how much Jesus cares about our giving. He comments on the widow’s mite and how she gave out of her lack, while the others gave out of their abundance. To put it plainly, it’s a matter of the heart. Where our heart is we will find our treasure. This poor widow treasured the Kingdom of God; the others treasured their own kingdom.

I’d like to ask you an uncomfortable question: What does your use of your money say about what you treasure most? The great Puritan preacher John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress, once wrote, “A man there was, and they called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had!” It’s a funny thing about God: you simply cannot outgive Him! The more we give back to God, the more we seem to have in more ways than we can count. In the final book of the Old Testament, the Lord of hosts gives us this incredible promise:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10-11)

Jesus confirmed this promise during His time on earth, saying, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). I have experienced this truth in my own life, and I have heard it joyfully proclaimed in the testimony of dozens of Christian believers.

So . . . as we close out this series on almighty accountability, how are you doing in your stewardship of the three T’s—time, talent, and treasure? What kind of account would you give to the Almighty today if you were to stand before Him? How would you answer the following question: What do you have that you have not been given? The answer, of course, is nothing. Everything we have—including our time, talent, and treasure—is a gift from God, and our gift back to God is to put all we have and all we have become into the joyful service of expanding His Kingdom in this world.

May that be the confession of our lives.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Almighty Accountability – Part II

download (4)Today is the second installment in our week long study on the subject of almighty accountability, as expressed in Romans 14:12 —

Each of us will give an account of himself to God.

The blog’s three-part message this week is taken from a sermon I preached just over a month ago at Cross Community Church. If you’d like to listen to this or another message preached at The Cross, simply go to www.thecross.org and click on the “Media” tab.

In the previous blog, I explained that those who have placed their trust in Christ’s atoning work on their behalf will not be required to give an account for their sins; Jesus paid that account in full on the Cross. But we Christians will account for the life we have lived as His people. I believe there are three primary areas for which we will be held accountable by the Almighty: our use of time, the talents He has given us, and the treasure he has bestowed on us to steward on His behalf. I discussed time in the previous article; today we’ll look at talent.

Talent

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you . . .  (2 Timothy 1:6)

What do you think of when I use the phrase “robbing God”? I believe that many hands immediately clutch a wallet or purse a little tighter, thinking that I am speaking about giving money. Well, that’s not today’s message; that will come in Part Three! Today I write about an even greater theft: that is, when we rob God of our talent by refusing to put that talent to use in faithful and fruitful service of God.

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that every believer has been given at least one spiritual gift (see, for example, Romans 12:6-8). In addition, everyone has been endowed by God with natural talents and abilities. So every Christian possesses gifts, talents, and abilities, bestowed on us by God to be used in the expansion of His kingdom in this world. There is a Danish Proverb that says:

What you are is God’s gift to you;

What you do with yourself is your gift to God.

Helen Keller was once asked, “Is there anything worse than being blind?” She promptly replied, “Yes! To have sight without vision!” Scripture warns us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). God has equipped every believer with the equipment necessary to do what He is calling them to do, and He has laid out His vision for our lives in His holy Word. We need only respond by faith, forsaking our pursuit of things smaller than Jesus, and engage our gifts, talents, and abilities in the pursuit of God’s kingdom. The key to doing this, of course, lies in establishing priorities. Jesus instructed us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33); everything else will follow.

So . . . what have you been doing lately with the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given to you? Have you been seeking His kingdom first . . . or your own?

Let these words encourage you as we close today: God did not make any “extra” Christians. You are needed; you are valuable; you have a role to play. When you don’t put in what God has equipped you to put in, we are all diminished. We all need all of us to build His church! What we must remember is that we build in His strength, not our own. He has given us everything we need to do the work he has given us; all we need to do show up and do it!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Almighty Accountability – Part I

images (2)This week I would like to share some themes from a sermon I preached last month at Cross Community Church. (Just as a reminder, you can listen to these sermons simply by visiting http://www.thecrosscc.org/ and clicking on the “Media” tab at the top of the web page.) Based on the feedback I’ve received from our congregation, that message provided a spark of encouragement and inspiration for a great many in our congregation. I’d like to share some of the important points with you. The message is rooted in Romans 14:12 —

Each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Let me start by making it clear what kind of accountability we have before our God. If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the Cross, you will NOT account for your sins. Jesus has already paid that account in full on the cross. But we Christians will account for the life we have lived as His people. At the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, rewards will be given for the lives we lived by grace through faith; this is where we will bow and lay our crowns at the feet of the Lamb who alone is worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.

Keeping that truth firmly in mind, let’s take a brief look today at the first of three primary areas (Time, Talent, and Treasure) for which we will be held accountable by the Almighty.

Time

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I often tell our congregation that we are all dying at the rate of 60 minutes an hour; when you spend an hour, you have one less hour to spend . . . so spend it wisely! We have been given this gift of time to live and to serve by “the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways” (Daniel 5:23 NKJV). And so we are all debtors to the one who gives us “life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25); the wise stewardship of our time is a debt all men must pay. Eventually we will breathe our last . . . and then we will give an account for how we spent that time.

So . . . what are you doing with this gift called time? Remember, if you have money and lose it you can always get more money. But what you lose in time you can never get back.

The psalmist writes, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:4-5). We must remember that, in the end, our lives will not be measured by their duration but rather by their donation.

So let me ask you a second question: what have you been donating your life to lately? Have you been working to expand your kingdom or God’s kingdom? The choice is always yours!

Here is a question that seemed to resonate with everyone in our congregation, and it comes right out of my own personal life experience:

Question: What is the greatest time waster in the world?

Answer: Doing something God does not want you to do and then having to clean up the mess after!

Can you relate to that? I know I’m not the only who can! The key to maximizing the fleeting span of time God has given to us is remembering to keep the main thing the main thing. The years have taught me that the secret to saying NO to some things is to have a bigger YES to pursue. And that bigger YES is the Lord Jesus Christ and the expansion of His kingdom.

In the next article, we’ll take a look at our use of our talents.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

HOPE IN HOPELESSNESS

images (1)With a myriad of bad news all around us—from the threat of terrorist attacks to the persecuted church; from an economy that has yet to fully recover to rumors of a ghastly epidemic which has reached our shores—it is easy to feel a sense of despair. Yet the believer is still to have hope, even in the face of hopelessness. Why? Because we hope our hope is not in One who rose from depression, disease, disadvantage, or even despair; rather, our hope is in the One who rose from the dead.

Is there anything more hopeless than death? I can’t think of anything more devastating than . . .

  • The death of our comfort
  • The death of our desires
  • The death of our plans
  • The death of our promises
  • The death of our career
  • The death of our dreams

Yet even when we seem to be facing the death of the life we hoped to be living, we can still have a joyful, expectant hope, because the One we hope in rose from the dead! And just as Jesus rose from the dead and lives forevermore, all those who have placed their trust in His atoning work on their behalf shall rise from all the death they have experienced in their lives. Our comfort shall rise from the dead. Our desires shall rise from the dead. Our plans shall rise from the dead. Our promises shall rise from the dead. Our career shall rise from the dead. Our dreams shall rise from the dead. And as good as all that is, there is something even better: we shall rise bodily from the dead on that great day when Jesus returns to finish what He started.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Is there any area in your life where you find some kind of “death” knocking at your door? Remember, Jesus is bigger than any problem you are currently facing and He has a Word that will guide you through every storm. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. He and He alone takes what is dead and brings to it life. And that includes every set of circumstances that may seem utterly hopeless to you. In Him you always have hope!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized