Yearly Archives: 2009
2010 might be your year of release. It might be mine. One year from today, we might be with the Lord. Better by far.
How to get ready and stay ready?
One, let’s die fully reconciled. Are we clear with every brother? “Strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14).
Two, let’s die fully consecrated. Are we set apart to God? “Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Three, let’s die fully forgiven. Are we enjoying the grace of God? “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).
Four, let’s die in sweetness. Is any resentment spoiling our hearts? “See to it that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Five, let’s die in purity. Is the blessing of God more savory to us than the pleasures of the body? “See to it that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:16).
The battle rages. Let’s be ready to die at any time. Our moment will come.
No fraudulent performance. No immature self-focus. Nothing but gospel truth sincerely cherished, gospel truth intensely felt, gospel truth pouring out of her through consecrated talent. This is holy. Makes me want to stand up and shout.
Francis Schaeffer taught me this phrase: “the Lordship of Christ over the whole of life.” I love it.
I also love to hunt. But maybe the word also shouldn’t be there. So I’ll just say, I love the Lordship of Christ over the whole of life, I love to hunt. The former wraps around the latter. Really, there is no also anywhere in a Christian’s life. The Lordship of Christ is an all-encompassing, all-sanctifying whole.
Some of my friends object to hunting. Christ is the Lord of their conscience, he is the Lord of my conscience, so we disagree charitably and give each other space.
As the 2009 deer season winds down, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Hunting is so opposite to everything else I do — tramping through the woods in camo with my 30-06, being quiet in a deer stand for hours on end while reading, praying, worshiping, planning, sermonizing, snoozing, with the occasional moment of off-the-charts excitement when a buck like this one shows up, and so forth — for me, it’s rejuvenating.
I receive it, with all else, from the hand of my Friend, Jesus Christ the Lord of all, and I give my heart to him eagerly and sincerely.
“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” Matthew 9:13
The deepest heart of God, his desire, his delight, is mercy and not sacrifice, not judgment, not the “pound of flesh.”
Mercy and sacrifice can be related in three ways. One, mercy-not-sacrifice. Two, mercy-and-sacrifice. Three, sacrifice-not-mercy. We tend to think of God in that second category, so we never quite know what to expect of him. And the mercy-and-sacrifice outlook can slip too easily into sacrifice-not-mercy. But the gospel takes us all the way into mercy-not-sacrifice, mercy that is pure, unmixed, predictable. It is so counterintuitive, we have to go and learn what it means, how it works, what it looks like, how it changes us.
May God give us more and more churches with a message of mercy-not-sacrifice from the preacher and a culture of mercy-not-sacrifice among the people. It is the deepest heart of God. It is what everyone needs.
The Acts 29 conference, Honesty: Death to Performance, is coming to Nashville on February 10th. You can register here now.
“Real importance is one thing, apparent importance another. The events which move the world are not always those which men think most noteworthy. The men who most deeply influence their fellows are not those of whom everybody is talking. The currents of thought and feeling which will shape the future are not those which are welcomed by the organs and interpreters of current opinion. When Christ appeared, the palace of the Caesar seemed to be more likely to govern the destinies of mankind than the manger of Bethlehem. No, brethren, depend on it, the apparent is not always, or even generally, the real.”
H. P. Liddon, Christmastide at St. Paul’s (London, 1889), pages 101-102.
“If there is any encouragement in Christ . . .” Philippians 2:1
Tomorrow many of us will be preaching. What is our goal? Not bashing people over the head with the law. That may make us feel better about ourselves, as if our opinions were needed, but it is not the ministry of Christ. What do we find in him? Encouragement. It’s so obvious to Paul, it’s the first thing he mentions when he inventories our wealth in Christ here in Philippians 2.
Do we find encouragement in one another? Sometimes. But that supply is limited. We come together at church not to amass the encouragement we bring in but to receive the encouragement he is pouring out. If we come to church only to draw strength from one another, that’s all we’ll get. And we will end up empty and angry at one another. Putting community first destroys community. Our encouragement is in Christ, and he is inexhaustible.
Those of us who are preachers — tomorrow, through the gospel, let’s lavish on our fellow-sinners the endless encouragement that is right now exploding out of the glorious risen Christ. If attendance at your church is down because people are out of town for Christmas travels, that doesn’t diminish your ministry at all. The Lord Jesus Christ is rich with encouragement, he is a big spender, and he is the measure of your ministry.
“The cross of Christ crucifies the world to a believer, as it shows him how little he deserves at the hand of God. Believers in the cross of Christ see him standing in their place and bearing the wrath of an offended God, which was their due. When this is not only professed with the mouth but received into the heart, it gives a deep conviction of the evil of sin and lays the sinner prostrate in humility and self-abasement.”
John Witherspoon, Practical Discourses on the Leading Truths of the Gospel (Edinburgh, 1768), pages 228-229.
Preaching on Isaiah 7:14, C. H. Spurgeon closed with this flourish:
“God with us.” It is hell’s terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it; the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it. Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, “God with us,” back he falls, confounded and confused. “God with us” is the laborer’s strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor, if that one word were taken away? “God with us” is the sufferer’s comfort, the balm of his woe, the alleviation of his misery, the sleep which God gives to his beloved, their rest after exertion and toil. “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.