Category Archives: Uncategorized

A FOUNTAIN FOR THE FAITHFUL

aa


With you is the fountain of life. (Psalm 36:9)


It is true that when Jesus saves us individually, He saves us to community. The Bible knows nothing of the solitary saint. When we are raised from death to life, we are placed within the body of Christ. As part of His body, we are to remain in contact with all the other parts of His body as we come together in our corporate worship, fellowship, service, and times of study. We are fed and nurtured in our faith when we are connected with the people of God.

But we have all experienced times when it seemed as though we were walking through a barren wilderness, even though we are surrounded by the people of God. Why? Perhaps we had neglected the Fountain Himself.

Speaking from both personal and pastoral experience, I can testify to this truth. It’s easy for me to get so focused on ministry that I neglect my time alone with the Master. To be sure, I am drinking from the wells of the great cloud of witnesses (other Christians), but that is a poor substitute for the Fount of Every Blessing (Jesus Christ). The family of faith will strengthen and support us as we walk with Christ through the details of life, but, make no mistake, only the Fountain will sustain us every step of the way.

It is in that Fountain of Life that we were first given new life. Like Lazarus, who was four days in the grave, we must be called forth from the tomb of spiritual death by the Fountain of Life to receive the new life that we now have in Christ. Once we have come forth from the tomb, our life experience is much like Peter’s. We declare to our Prince that we will never fall away . . . yet we all too often do, and with very little effort. What then? Like Peter, who denied the Lord three times on the night He was betrayed, we will be renewed and refreshed when we flee to the Fountain of life. And we must not simply sip from the wellspring of life, but submerge ourselves in it!

Do you thirst today? Do you feel like you’re running on empty? For some, that emptiness is simply because they have separated themselves from the people of God. If that is you, return at once to your family of faith. However, if you are plugged into the people of God and still find it hard to light up, return at once to your Fount of every blessing. The thirst you are experiencing is just a prelude to being filled to overflowing, for your Lord has promised, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

a


Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard about you, that you can interpret dreams.” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “It is not within my power, but God will speak concerning the welfare of Pharaoh.” (Genesis 41:15-16 NET)


The story of Joseph is one of the most remarkable in all of Scripture. He was hated by his brothers, who coolly ate their meal while debating whether or not to kill him and finally decided to sell Joseph for the price of a slave. After serving Potiphar faithfully and well, Joseph was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison. Joseph languished in prison for two additional years after speaking prophetic words of comfort and restoration to Pharoah’s cupbearer, only to have the cupbearer forget his promise to plead Joseph’s case to Pharaoh. And yet after everything that had happened to him, Joseph’s first thought when he stood before Pharaoh was to give glory to God.

The parallels between the life of Joseph and the life of Christ are numerous and unmistakable. Like Joseph, Jesus was hated by His Jewish brethren, who constantly looked for opportunities to falsely accuse of Him of blasphemy and heresy. Ultimately Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot for the going price of a slave. Witnesses who could not even get their stories to agree brought false testimony against Him. After three years of ministry to the people of Israel, teaching the Word of God and healing them of every type of disease, the “thank you” He received was the harsh cries of a frenzied mob screaming, “Crucify!” And yet when the high priest demanded of Jesus to “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus gave glory to His Father in heaven:

Yes, it is as you say . . . But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:63-64)

And at the very end, as Jesus hung on that cruel cross, He again gave glory to God, saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Both Joseph and Jesus experienced betrayal, hardship, and pain, and yet the glory of God was at the front of their minds and on the tip of their tongues. How is it with you and me? Do we keep the glory of God front-of-mind also, even when everything seems to be going against us?

That is what we are called to do.  We are to declare His praises no matter what may lie before us, as 1 Peter 2:9 instructs us:

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God raised us from death to life. He has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. We should declare His praises at every opportunity!

This attitude of irrepressible joy is wonderfully captured by the words of the hymn, “To God Be the Glory.”

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the earth hear His voice!

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the people rejoice!

O come to the Father thro’ Jesus the Son,

And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.

Fanny Crosby, who wrote that marvelous anthem of praise, lost her sight when she was six weeks old. Yet she penned more than 8,000 Gospel hymns, including the incomparable “Blessed Assurance.” One day a well-meaning but shortsighted visitor told Ms. Crosby that it seemed odd that, although God had blessed her with such extraordinary talent, He had not seen fit to restore her sight. Fanny Crosby promptly replied that if she could have asked the Creator God one favor at birth, she would have asked to be born blind, because, she explained, “When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight shall be that of my Savior.”

God has called us out of darkness and brought us into His glorious light. May our words and our countenance reflect His glorious, life-giving light to everyone we meet.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE TRUTH TEMPTED JUST LIKE US

Jesús-in-the-desert


Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)


When was the last time the truth of today’s verse seized you? Perhaps if you commit it to memory, it will do just that the next time you are tempted. To know that our Lord Jesus was tempted in every way and yet did not yield should provide great encouragement to us.

Every sin we are tempted to engage in also sought to tempt Jesus. We must never dissociate our Lord from the difficulties of daily living. Yes, He was fully God, but when Jesus took on flesh, He took on our personhood, and He willingly went through everything we will go through . . . yet He never once gave the devil a foothold.

Whatever battle the devil has waged against you this day, fear not! Jesus went toe-to-toe with the serpent and conquered every one of his temptations, and He left a blood-stained cross behind as a testimonial to this truth. The atoning sacrifice that was made for all God’s people had to be perfect . . . spotless . . . without blemish, and the Resurrection is proof positive that this was the case. Truth was tempted, just like we are . . . but He never gave in to it!

It’s important to remember that Jesus did not live His life on this earth in His power as the second person of the Trinity. No, He laid that power down and lived in the power of the third person, the Holy Spirit. And Christian, that very same power is available to you and me this day, moment by moment.

Think about it this way: if Jesus had conquered the devil’s temptations in His own power, how much encouragement that would bring to us? Wouldn’t we expect Jesus, the Son of God, to defeat the devil? But when we realize that Jesus lived His life in the power of the Holy Spirit, we should find tremendous encouragement and hope . . . and a model for living our own lives.

We are all tempted, but being tempted is not a sin. Today’s verse tells us that Jesus did not sin, yet He was tempted in every way, just as we are. It is sin, however, when we yield to temptation. So regardless of where this message finds you today, remember that when the devil comes knocking, you do not have to answer the door! You have the same power in you to say “Away from me, Satan!” that Jesus had. Resist the devil, in the power of the Spirit of God, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

One last thing to consider: you can look upon whatever is tempting you as an exhortation to run to Jesus, who understands exactly what you are going through. To be sure, when we say NO to the devil and YES to Christ, temptation is a sanctifying wind that blows us into the arms of our Lord. May that truth set all of us free!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

WHAT IS TOTAL DEPRAVITY?

total-depravity


[T]he intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Genesis 8:21 ESV)


Cross Community Church is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America and, as such, the doctrine we teach is thoroughly and consistently Reformed. One of the fundamental doctrines of Reformed theology that creates some confusion for those who are unfamiliar with it is the doctrine of Total Depravity, which concerns mankind’s guilty inability to stand before God and claim any sort of inherent righteousness.

The bulk of the confusion about this teaching centers on its name: Total Depravity. “Wait a minute!” both Christians and unbelievers will protest. “Are you saying that someone who doesn’t know Christ as their Savior is totally depraved? That’s not possible! Why, my Aunt Sally isn’t a Christian, but she’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet! She volunteers at the homeless shelter and raises money for orphans! Are you trying to tell me that Aunt Sally is depraved?!”

No, I’m not saying that Aunt Sally is wholly and utterly vile. But I am saying that she was born with a sin nature—just like you, me, and every other human being, for “there is no one who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). Total depravity does not mean that men and women are completely given over to sin; we are not as bad as we could be. Even history’s most terrible mass murderers—men like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung—were not as evil as they could have been. They might have killed tens of millions more, but they were restrained by God’s common grace.

Total depravity does not mean that we are totally evil, but rather that the totality of our being has been infected by sin. Our every thought, word, and deed is corrupted by sin, just as a glass of drinking water is entirely tainted when one drop of strychnine is added to it. Every man, woman, and child is born infected with the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden. And so, in the sight of God, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

There have been many men and women who never set foot in a church building, yet did all manner of good things. They’ve built hospitals and orphanages and libraries and sent ships filled with food overseas to help disaster victims. They are, in the eyes of the watching world, “good people” . . . but apart from Jesus Christ, they are just as lost as Judas Iscariot. Their righteous acts are no more than “filthy rags” in the sight of a perfectly holy God.

Author Edwin Palmer offered a fine distinction between what the world considers “good” and what is actually good in the sight of God. Palmer explained –

The Heidelberg Catechism gives a clear definition of good. In answer to the question: “But what are good works?” the Catechism answers: “Only those which are done from true faith, according to the law of God and to his glory” (Question and Answer 91).

I have no doubt that Aunt Sally is a truly nice person; but I also know that, apart from Christ, her works fall miserably short of this definition of good. This is why Psalm 14:3 asserts that —

There is no one who does good, not even one.

The doctrine of total depravity is one of the great dividing lines between the unbelieving world and the Christian. The unbelieving world believes that all people are fundamentally good, only flawed because of their environments. The Bible, on the other hand, tells us bluntly that “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

When I talk about man’s sin from the pulpit, I’ll often remind the congregation that no one has ever had to teach children to sin; they come from the womb crying fiercely, “Mine!” David understood that we are born stained by Adam’s sin, and he reiterated that truth in Psalm 51:5, saying, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

That sin represents a death sentence. The book of Romans warns that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and that “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Total depravity means that, apart from Christ, you under a sentence of death—a dreadful death that continues for all eternity. That is the bad news that confronts us all.

But let me close with this great and glorious good news: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Those who place their trust in Jesus Christ will experience an eternity in which there will be no sorrow, no sickness, no suffering . . . and no sin. If you have never trusted in Him, I implore you to come to Him today! Only His atoning death will bridge the gap between you and God that is created by your total depravity.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“I HAVE SET MY BOW IN THE CLOUD”

bow


God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud . . . (Genesis 9:12-13 ESV)


Even those who have never opened a Bible have heard of “Noah’s Flood,” the great flood described in Genesis 7 that covered the entire earth and destroyed all creatures that drew breath except for Noah, his family, and the birds and animals that God had directed Noah to take into the ark. Noah and his family were in the ark for just over a year before they reemerged into a world that had essentially been wiped clean and remade because of God’s displeasure with mankind’s inexhaustible appetite for sin.

To underscore this idea of new beginnings, the Sovereign Lord gave Noah a command that was virtually identical to the one He had given to Adam and Eve: “Multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it” (Genesis 8:17). Noah responded in gratitude and worship to the God who had preserved him throughout the flood, and he built an altar and made a burnt offering to the Lord. It was at this point that God outlined His covenant with Noah and all living things, which is partly described in today’s verse, in which God uses the rainbow (or “bow,” as rendered in several respected translations of the Old Testament) as a visible reminder of God’s promise to never again send a flood to destroy everything that lives.

My professor of Old Testament Theology at Knox Seminary, Dr. Warren Gage, pointed out that God’s bow, the sign of the covenant, is pointed toward heaven, suggesting that the arrow of God’s wrath would be fired at God—not man—if there is a violation of the covenant.

This is illustrated again in Genesis 15, where God instructed Abraham to arrange sacrificial animals in pieces divided in half. God then manifested Himself to Abraham in the form of a smoking firepot that passed between the pieces. To pass between the cut pieces of sacrificial animals was common in biblical times; the parties to a covenant would do so as a visual representation of swearing, “May it be done so to me”—in other words, May I be destroyed—“if I break the terms of this covenant.” But in this remarkable ceremony, only the Lord passed between the pieces; only God swore that He would be destroyed if the covenant were to fail.

The Scriptures record the dreary history of man’s failed promises to obey God and serve Him only. Even righteous Noah, whom God chose out of all men who lived on earth to preserve throughout the flood, drank himself senseless in front of his sons, incurring the scorn of his son Ham. Abraham twice ignored God’s promise of protection and passed his wife Sarah off as his sister, apparently believing that his lies provided better protection than God could. Moses, who had taken possession of the Law of God, inscribed by the finger of God on tablets of stone, became so puffed up with pride and anger that He was not allowed to see the Promised Land. David, another direct recipient of God’s covenant promises (2 Samuel 7:8-17), committed adultery and then ordered the murder of the woman’s husband.

And then there’s you and me . . . how many times have we failed God? How many times have we ignored His promises? How many times have we directly disobeyed the commands of Scripture, believing that we had a better plan than God? Are our actions a pleasing aroma to the Lord? Can we possibly declare ourselves to be righteous before a perfectly righteous and holy God?

When we realize how wretched we are because of our sin—when we cry out with Paul, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:24)—it is then we can recall God’s promise: “I have set my bow in the cloud.” There is nothing you and I can do to atone for our sin . . . so God did it for us. We deserve to be utterly and eternally destroyed, but instead the arrow of God’s righteous wrath against our sins was fired at His only beloved Son, just as surely as the Roman spear pierced His side, and the punishment for our sin was freely and fully paid for by Jesus Christ.

Christian, when you see the rainbow in the sky, do not think only of the promise made to Noah, as glorious as that is; think of the promise that God made to you: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE BELIEVER’S BOSS

Boss


Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men . . . (Ephesians 6:7)


There are many different callings for the people of God, but we have only one Boss . . . His name is Jesus Christ. Regardless of where you work and serve and regardless of who signs your paycheck, ultimately the One you work for is Jesus.

When you think about this truth for a moment, you realize that, at this level of living for the Lord, your work becomes a witness. Whatever those in authority ask of you on the job should be viewed as coming from our Lord Himself—as long as the request does not violate the revealed truth of sacred Scripture.

This understanding should transform how we view our work and how we perform it. It means there is no such thing as menial labor, because your labor is performed for the glory of God. Not only that, but it also means that your work has eternal value, because it is being done for the glory of the Eternal One.

Now, you may be thinking, “Pastor, you don’t know the job I currently have or the boss I have to put up with!” That’s true, I don’t. But God certainly does know, and He has not only called you to your current position, but He has given you everything you need to work in excellence.

Let’s look at a little more of Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians:

. . . [B]ecause you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does . . . (Ephesians 6:8)

Wow! If we work wholeheartedly in serving the Lord, regardless of how pleasant or difficult the situation, we can expect the Lord’s reward! Now, let me quickly add that we do not obligate God to bless us by serving Him; but God, in His great grace, has determined to pour out His blessings upon those who work and live in the light of eternity. And that means that there is nothing you are currently doing on your job that is being done in vain. Your boss may not acknowledge you. Your boss may not even know your name. But your real Boss knows you and loves you and delights in blessing you!

In light of these truths, do you see the importance of whatever job you currently hold? It may not be important in the eyes of man, but it is important in the eyes of God. And if it is important to God, it truly doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. God has promised to reward you—not so much for your fruitfulness, but rather for your faithfulness.

Press on, Christian knowing that your real Boss is cheering you on.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

GOD’S LOVE: PAST EVENT . . . PRESENT EXPERIENCE

Love Stories


God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)


Take a moment to read through today’s text, a passage that is beloved and repeated by Christians the world over. Did you ever notice that the word demonstrates is in the present tense, but died is in the past tense? Do you understand why the Spirit of God arranged it so? It is because God expresses His love for us in both a past event and a present experience.

Now, if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith . . . your wood is wet!

It’s easy to understand that the “past event” I’m referring to is our Lord Jesus dying on a cruel cross to pay the penalty for our sins once and for all. When He cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” our atonement was accomplished and our sin debt paid in full. In taking our sin upon Himself, God the Son fully satisfied God the Father’s righteous wrath and His perfect justice. There is no greater demonstration of God’s love for His children—a love that has existed for all eternity—than the love that was poured out on the Hill Golgotha.

So why did the Spirit of God inspire Paul to write the word “demonstrates” in the present tense if Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection took place in the past? The reason is that the past event of Christ dying for our sins has present, ongoing implications for you and me.

It has been rightly observed, “Once saved, always saved.” God’s love was not only demonstrated 2,000 years ago; we experience the love of God in Christ Jesus daily, even moment by moment. And the fact of the matter is that God knew that would not be an easy thing to do! Jesus promised that we would have trouble in this world, because the world is broken and so is every person in it. If you read today’s verse in a fuller context, you’ll see why Paul wanted us to understand God’s love as both a past event and a present experience.

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

The Spirit of God wanted to make it clear to us that, no matter what we are experiencing in this life, we are also experiencing God’s love. I am convinced that we would not be able to hold onto any hope at all if we did not understand the present reality of God’s love.

Have you ever gone through circumstances that made you think that God does not love you—perhaps that He is actively working against you? Christian, that is exactly what Satan wants you to think! And so our loving Lord has given us a written reminder that, no matter what circumstances we are facing, regardless of the storm winds that may be howling around us, we are loved by God. We were loved before the creation of the world, we are loved today, and there is nothing—no power in heaven or on earth—that will ever separate us from that love.

May that truth set all of us free!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized