RSS

Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

What Will Make Us Strong?

In EVERY SINGLE LETTER that the Apostle Paul writes, he always begins by wishing grace upon his readers. The way he says it is sometimes different, but he always says something along the lines of “Grace to you…”

This is not a throwaway line.

This is not akin to saying, “How are you?” to the friend you meet downtown. In other words, it is not just the way Paul said hello to folks. Paul started his letters with grace because grace is what the Christian life is all about. Grace is what the Christian life centers around. This is an extremely important thing to understand. Paul began his letters with grace, because the Christian life begins and ends with grace.

And then we read this glorious verse at the start of the second chapter of 2 Timothy:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 Timothy 2:1 (ESV)

We tend to think that other things bring strength, other things like the pointing finger of the law, or resolutions to do better, or commitments to avoid this and follow through on that.

Not so.

What leads me to walk in holiness and obedience is almost strange, but it is nevertheless powerful and true: the grace and mercy of God. You would think that offering grace would make me feel that I could do whatever I wanted, but to the man or woman who understands the grace of God demonstrated at the cross of Calvary, there is no greater motivation for righteousness.

Because of what Jesus has done, God now loves me like He loves His own Son, and that love will never go away. And when I understand that, I become so filled with love for Him, that I am moved and motivated to serve Him with all my strength for the rest of my days.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 (ESV)

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

-Julia H. Johnston

There is no reading for Labor Day. So, for Tuesday, September 8th: 2 Timothy 3

 
3 Comments

Posted by on September 4, 2015 in Grace

 

Tags: , , , ,

Ashley Madison and the Secrets of Your Soul

AshleyAshleyMadison.com is in the news. If you hadn’t heard, it’s the go-to website for married folks interested in a “discreet encounter”. The tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair,” and in the fine print, it says, “Ashley Madison is the most recognized and reputable married dating company.” (By the way, you’re supposed to laugh out loud at the irony of a “reputable married dating company.”)  But alas, AshleyMadison was hacked, and if a user’s cheating heart wasn’t clever enough to put in a non-traceable email address (you know, one without a name in it), their “secret” life was exposed. Sadly, suicides and divorces are happening all around.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks insightfully about secrets and human nature in his sermon, “Facing Reality,” based on Jeremiah 17:9…

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (ESV)

Lloyd-Jones writes…

“There are certain things of which we never speak to anyone except ourselves. Has this final and ultimate loneliness of your own nature and personality ever struck you? We are born into families and communities and yet how markedly individual we all are. We have secrets that our parents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and children will never know and never discover. When someone tells you that he or she has told you all his or her secrets you can always be sure that that is never the case. However frank and open a person may be there is always something which is held back and reserved.

“…All the time that we continue being satisfied with the thought that these secret actions, thoughts and ideas of ours are unknown to anyone but ourselves, we forget the presence and the existence of God.…We can hoodwink and fool the whole world, can appear as one thing before it and be in reality something else, but how vain and foolish it is to do so. What is the point and object of doing that when all the time God knows the full facts about us?

“…Is it surprising that the prophet should have prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved”? He had suddenly realized what a fraud his life was and how unsatisfactory it was, and prayed to be released from it once and for all. No longer content with fooling and satisfying others, this man faced himself and God. He looked at himself in the mirror and was horrified. There was nothing solid in his life, nothing lasting, nothing on which he could depend.

“…Oh, that we also might see ourselves as this man saw himself. Oh, that we might see the madness of thinking that we are clever and smart when we are not found out. Oh that we might see the deception and trickery that is within our own souls, and above all, see that our case is so desperate, our plight so terrible that there is no human agency which can save us and rid us of our baser nature. For it is only those people who have realized all that who utter this prayer and who, having prayed it, are healed and saved to all eternity through and by the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Apostle Paul’s AshleyMadison-type life

The Apostle Paul would have agreed. He looked inside…and he saw the AshleyMadison-type sewage. No, not sexual immorality, I suppose, just murder and that sort of thing. Anyway, he called himself the foremost sinner, or as the King James puts it, the “chief.” But praise God, Paul said more than that…

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. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 (ESV)

Maybe you’ve never been to AshleyMadison.com, or then again, maybe you have; either way, today you might be thinking that your secrets are worse than everyone else’s. If so…think again. Paul the blasphemer and Christian killer said his secrets and openly evil deeds were on record as the worst. And yet when he repented and placed his faith in Christ, he was gloriously saved as an example for the rest of us with sludge in our souls.

For tomorrow, Thursday, August 27th, 1 Timothy 2

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Would you want to live the Christian life if there was no resurrection?

John Piper quotes a story about a monk who was asked a form of the question, “Would you want to live the Christian life even if it weren’t true, that is, if there were no resurrection?”

What would you say? Of course, the truth is that there are benefits to living a Christ centered life. You can avoid a lot of pain, some STDs to be sure. But still, really?

So that said, here is how the monk answered…

“Holiness, silence, and sacrifice are beautiful in themselves even without promise of reward. I still would have used my life well.”

Whatever you say, sir, but you’re living in a different world than me, and for that matter, a different world than the Apostle Paul. We happen to know how Paul would have answered that question…

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19 (ESV)

Of course! Who in their right mind would choose this life if there were no resurrection? Not Paul! After all, look at his life – because of Christ, his existence had been incredibly, stupendously hard…

…far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

What an incredible life, and what a painful one as well! So here’s the truth: if you are living as God would have it, you will have pain and suffering, hopefully not to the extent of Paul, but certainly to one extent or another, and more and more as our world rejects Biblical living and the Christians who espouse it. But it goes beyond sexuality. You see, even if you are not confronting people in their sin (which, of course, brings pain) Paul said we are still the smell of death to those who are perishing.  And you know what people do with bad smells. Moreover, God often asks his children to do difficult things…for Him.

You see, the Christian life was never designed to make us comfortable, and we do well to remember this. For, as the author John White said once so memorably in his book, The Cost of Commitment…”For Christ did not call you to suburbia and a mortgage, but to a gibbet (a cross) and a crown of glory.”

 

For Thursday, June 11th: 2 Corinthians 12

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

The Old Testament Show

truman_show_ver1_xlg[1]Do you remember The Truman Show, a 1998 movie starring Jim Carrey? It was the story of Truman Burbank (Carrey), a reality T.V. star who lives his life in quiet suburbia…not knowing he is a reality T.V. star.

Truman’s entire life is filmed before thousands of hidden cameras and daily broadcast all over the world, and yet, he doesn’t suspect anything until around age 30. It’s around this time that, among other anomalies, a theatrical light falls out of the morning sky, and he begins to wonder about his wife’s constant product placement in her conversations with him.

Truman’s life serves a purpose larger than himself, in this case an entertaining study for those billions who watch him on television everyday; and I bring up this fascinating movie because of what Paul writes regarding the people of the Old Testament. In the 10th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle says:

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.   1 Corinthians 10:11 (ESV)

The chapter is basically about the pain that idolatry brings, and Paul is anxious for the church at Corinth to learn the difficult lessons that the Israelites learned, and to learn them vicariously, that is, without actually having to experience them.

There are a couple of things that we should take away from this verse:

First, these things we read about in the Old Testament actually happened. At least that is what Paul believes, and Jesus, of course, spoke with a similar certainty about stories involving Jonah and Adam and Abraham. These were real people and the stories we read about them actually happened as recorded. This is a simple but important lesson we must always keep in mind: the Bible is true.

Second, we can learn from the lives of these people we read about…and we should learn from them. Paul said what happened to them happened as an example and for our instruction. That’s really amazing. But what is the main thing we learn? Well, Paul makes it clear – we learn about Christ. From the Gospel Transformation Study Bible:

“Throughout the text, Paul interprets the Old Testament in a way that is centered on Christ. Christ is the “Rock” that accompanied and sustained Israel in her wilderness wanderings (vv. 1–4, 9). Christ’s “table” (representing his death) fulfills the purpose of Israel’s “altar” (representing the sacrifice of animals; vv. 16–21). And Christ, “into” whom believers are baptized (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), is the leader of a new exodus, a greater deliverance than the exodus led by Moses (1 Cor. 10:1–2). Thus the Old Testament provides Christians not only instructive examples (vv. 6, 11) but also rich reminders that God’s Son has always been, and will always be, the only means by which sinners have access to God’s saving mercies.

 Amen. So…get the popcorn, open up Genesis, and bring on the show. I, for one, have a lot to learn.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19th: 1 Corinthians 11

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

If God is Your Hobby, He is Not Your God

Have you ever met a man who says he believes in God, and yet views Him as a relatively insignificant part of life?  The world is full of such men (and women). He may go to church every so often, he may or may not read the Bible, he usually tries to do good.  He may give a little money here or there.  But God or at least the idea of God does not interrupt his world.  God is small, and the man himself is big, or his family is big, or his friends, or his appearance or his career or his money. God does not enter his thoughts very often, and God certainly doesn’t have a significant impact on the way the man lives his life.

The man may even view His Creator as a bit of a hobby, somewhat like working out or collecting stamps or keeping baseball statistics. But of course, if he had to give up the hobby, well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Whenever you meet such a person, you can be assured of one thing: there is a significant chance he is not a Christian, and if in fact he is a Christian, he has definitely not been fully impacted by the gospel.

You see, when we come to the end of the first 11 chapters of Romans, we also come to the end of the most comprehensive description of the gospel in all the Bible. Not surprisingly, therefore, at the end of Romans chapter 11, we encounter a majestic view of God that is the only rational perspective of a man or woman who has been impacted by the gospel. This kind of person can no longer view God as a side note to life.  God is not his hobby, not compartmentalized as a take-it-or-leave-it part of life.

No, no. When someone truly comes to know God and what He has done for them, not to mention the immense wisdom and love with which He has done it, that same person begins to view God as absolutely all-encompassing. Engrossing, beautiful, powerful…wonderful. And He says something like this…

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:34-36 (ESV)

Aside from all the other wonderful things that the gospel does for us, it also gives us new lenses with which we see God.  The Apostle Paul could only see Him one way – as absolutely glorious.  FOR FROM HIM AND THROUGH HIM AND TO HIM ARE ALL THINGS.  In Paul’s eyes, God was simply EVERYTHING.

This is the power of the Gospel of God.

On Monday, April 6th: Romans 12   

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Why It Is So Important to Know the Love of God

Imagine that someone you love deeply is involved in an automobile accident. For ease of illustration, imagine that you’re a parent and the person injured is your only son.  After the accident, for the longest time, he is in a coma and the doctors are not sure that he is going to make it.  You are naturally by his bedside every day.

Then one day, joy of joys, his eyes flutter open, and he says he is thirsty.  You are overjoyed!  You’re hugging him and crying over him. It’s the best day of your life.  Then the best day of your life becomes one of the worst, when he utters those three words: “Who are you?”

That’s right – your beloved son has amnesia and can’t remember who you are.  Now, as I understand it, unlike the movies, most cases of amnesia are temporary, and that is the case with this as well, but when he does begin to recognize you as his mother or father, he still has a hard time believing that you love him.  In other words, he remembers and believes that he is your son…but does not believe that you love him.

What is it that you try to do?  Faced with the prospect of your child not understanding your deep love for him, you immediately start to demonstrate your love with gifts and acts of kindness. Faced with the thought that your child might not know your love, you simply try to tell him in as many different ways as you can of your love.

Now convincing your child of your love is natural – good parents do it all the time whether their child has amnesia or not.  But think with me for a moment and let me ask: why are you so hyped to tell your son that you love him?  Why are you so energized about this thing?

Well, for one, you do love him and you want him to have the wonderful assurance of parental love.  You want him to experience your love.  That’s a natural part of being a parent.

But there is another reason that you are anxious for him to know your love.  The truth is that as you visit him day after day in the hospital, he’s just not the boy you’ve always known.  In other words, your son is acting polite toward you, because, after all, you’ve taught him to be polite…but something is missing.  There is a distance there.  And you realize intuitively that the connection that you have had with your child through the years is actually formed on the basis of love.  Get this: you have a sense, rightly I might add, that if he does not know your love, you will never have the relationship that you have had in the past and that you long to have again.

Let me put this in a slightly different way:  you have a sense that if he does not know your love, he will never ever be able to love you in return.  Sound familiar? John put it this way: We love because He first loved us 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

And now we are beginning to understand – there is a reason that our Heavenly Father puts it as supreme importance that we know His love. There is a reason that Paul prays for the Ephesians that they might know the height and width and length and depth of Christ’s love, the love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18, 19).

And finally, there is a reason that He gives us His Holy Spirit Who witnesses to our spirits that we are the children of God, and thus…deeply loved:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:15-16 (ESV)

 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1: Romans 9 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

There is no Distinction

I knew a young man in my college days who was convinced that the way of salvation was not open to Him. He had sinned in some apparently major way (or perhaps only in his mind) – the truth is it really doesn’t matter – I don’t think he actually told me.  Either way, he was despondent and utterly convinced that somehow, he was a special case and that the way of salvation was not open to him.

Everyone else, maybe.  Just not him.

And into this despondent thought we read Romans 3:21 – 23…

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ESV)

There is no distinction.  Here is Paul saying that the gift of righteousness is open to everyone WHO BELIEVES without distinction. Some of us will be slightly more wicked than others.  But all of us will be ungodly (Romans 4:5). And yet, the righteousness of God is available to all through faith in Jesus.

Here is a verse to hold on to if you are tempted to think that you are one of those who has gone a bridge too far.  That’s impossible. In God’s eyes, we are all tainted with sin.  In God’s eyes we all stand in need of His Son.

In God’s eyes…there is no distinction.

 

For tomorrow, March 25th: Romans 4

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: