Joy to the World – Pt. 4

jtw4If you’re familiar with the storyline of the Bible, one of the major themes that you may have noticed is mankind’s need for a righteous king who doesn’t die.  The book of Judges is where we start to see this need more clearly.  Israel had been given a covenant, but she continually broke God’s covenant and God judged her by allowing her to be oppressed by wicked rulers. Israel would cry out for deliverance from her oppressors and God would send a judge (savior) to deliver her.  However, soon after Israel’s deliverance, the judge died and Israel fell back into sin breaking God’s covenant because there was no king and the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6).

However, this pattern didn’t start in Judges, but in Genesis 3. The lie the serpent told Eve was that she would be like God – The Ultimate King, if she ate from the forbidden tree. Though mankind was created in God’s image to rule creation under God’s authority (Gen. 1:26-28), mankind’s problem is that we want to be a law unto ourselves. We want to be kings independent from the rule of God.  

The period after the judges didn’t prove to be much better for Israel. In their desire to be like the nations desiring a king, God told them that their desires would lead to bad leadership over them ( 1 Sam. 8).  God had already provided them stipulations for a king (Deut. 17:14-20), but Israel’s eyes were enamored by the rulership of the nations.  1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles details the wickedness and failures of Israel’s and Judah’s kings. Despite Israel’s rebellion and ours, God was gracious enough, for the glory of His name, to provide the king mankind needs. That king is Jesus (Ps. 2).

Unlike the wicked and unfaithful earthly kings, Jesus’ kingship over His people will be righteous and a blessing.  Verse 4 of this hymn describes the kingship of Jesus. It says –

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love

Characteristics of Christ’s Rule

This verse says Christ’s kingship will be characterized by truth, grace and love. The Apostle John said Jesus was full of grace and truth (Jhn 1:14) and he drew attention to Jesus’ teaching on love as a chief mark of being a disciple (Jhn 13:31-35; 1 Jhn 2:7-17, 3:11-18, 4:7-21).  But what gives credibility to Jesus’ teaching was His life.  He not only taught truth,  but He is the truth (Jhn 14:1-12) as the very word (logos) of God (John 1:1).  In these verses, John 14:1-12, Jesus was declaring himself to be the very essence of God and Paul makes this same point in Colossians 1:15-16 and in the Father is no darkness, but light (truth) (1 Jhn. 1:5).  Therefore, since the Father is the essence of truth and Jesus is the image of the Father, Jesus is the truth!

Concerning grace, Jesus coming in the flesh is an act of God’s grace to save sinners. Our salvation is all a work of God’s grace. In the new heavens and new earth, we will be reminded of the grace of God extended to us in Christ.  We will forever be reminded that Christ not only bore the wrath of God for our sins, but also that we were given the righteousness of Christ that we do not deserve.

Christ’s love is first rooted in His eternal nature as God. He cannot not love, for God is love.  Secondly, His kingship will be marked by love because of His love for the Father.  John said, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son….” (Jhn. 3:16). Christ submitted to the will of the Father because He loved the Father.  Christ taught that love is evidenced in obedience – “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (Jhn. 14:15). Since Christ kept the command of the Father, we can safely say He loved Him. Thirdly, His kingship will be marked by love because He loves His people.  During His earthly ministry, Jesus loved His disciples (Jhn. 13:1), He loved Martha, her sister and Lazarus (Jhn. 11:5), he loved the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:21) , and He loves all the saints (Rev. 1:5). The ultimate demonstration of His love is his laying down His life for His people (1 Jhn. 3:16).  Jesus is the embodiment of the steadfast love of the LORD for the saints and His love will never cool or grow dim, but will be a fulfillment of Psalm 23.

Extent of Christ’s Rule

Two words that describe the extent of Christ’s rule are world and nations.  Human history is riddled with poor examples of human rulers of nations , especially those who try to exert their rule over other nations. Under certain forms of government, people are oppressed and denied basic human rights. We’ve seen what has happened under leaders like Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Mao Tse-Tung, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, and Vladimir Lenin. And while other forms of government provide more freedom and flourishing, no human government is perfect that will enable the fullest human flourishing possible. Human history has recorded this. People have been oppressed. Wars have been fought. Lives have been lost.

Yet, repeatedly in Scripture, Christ is mentioned as one who will rule the world with the nations submitting to Him. By nations, the Scriptures mean people groups or ethnicities. When Christ comes back to consummate His kingdom, as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, those who have repented of their sins, regardless of ethnicity,  will be under the perfect rule of Jesus.  

Psalm 2:8 says –

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”  

John’s vision of Christ in Revelation says this in 5:9-10 –

9 Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

When Christ comes back, His rule will be global and full of righteousness.  Isaiah 9:6 gives us a very vivid picture of the kingship –

Of the increase of his government and of peace

   there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

   to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

   from this time forth and forevermore.

Why This Matters at Christmas

While this season is often celebrated with great affection and fervor, it is also a season of sadness for many.  For many, this season is a reminder of pain, unhappiness, and unmet desires. Many question the goodness of God or His existence because of their life experiences.  But there is hope! There is hope because Jesus Christ came in the flesh. It is a historical fact. It is a historical fact that He lived on the earth and grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. It is a fact that He gathered Apostles and taught them the gospel. It is a fact that He was crucified, buried and was raised on the third day. It is a fact that Christianity began to spread as the remaining disciples and one named Paul began missionary endeavors to proclaim the gospel of salvation and God’s kingdom, even to the point of death. The incarnation of Christ is about God reconciling man to Himself and establishing His kingdom headed by Jesus Christ where righteousness eternally dwells.  

This is the hope we have and why we ought to fervently sing this hymn during the Christmas season!

Merry Christmas!!

Bearing Burdens and Racial Reconciliation

racial-reconciliation-1920x1000In light of the tragedies surrounding Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on July 5 and July 6,  I was asked by my pastor to write an article to our congregation that we might take more steps in understanding the racial narrative and how White Christians can better display the gospel toward their African American brothers and sisters. Here is what I wrote.

________________________________________________________________

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:1, ESV)

By now we all have heard of the shootings by law enforcement that resulted in the deaths of two African American men, Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile of St. Paul, MN, on July 5 and July 6 respectively.  These two men are just a small, but no less significant, part of a larger narrative of systemic injustice against African-Americans.  As a multi-ethnic church with a considereable number of African-American members and visitors, we must understand the impact these types of tragedies have and know how to respond. Particularly to my white brothers and sisters, but certainly not limited to you, I offer a few suggestions on how to respond.

First, do not ignore the data confirming systemic injustice and do not minimize or ignore the very real pain and hurt of those who have been affected by these types of tragedies.  As gospel Christians, we should be compelled to weep with those who weep.

Second, if you desire to understand the racial narrative more clearly, how to interact with your African-American brothers and sisters from a gospel centered perspective and why we collectively suffer in the types of tragedies, talk to us and take advantage of many resources available. Here are a few resources. I pray they are helpful.

Audio/Video

Articles

Books

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” – 1 John 3:14 ESV

In Him,

David Robinson

 

*image courtesy of veritascolumbus.com

God Is Not Aimless

aimlessOne of the things my wife and I are committed to is continuing to date each other. Every week, usually on Friday evenings, we make it a point to spend time away from the “to do” list and away from others.  As self-avowed amateur foodies, we like to try different types of cuisine and Austin has a wide variety to choose from.  Some dates are more formal and some are casual, even including Austin’s famous food truck culture. With all of these choices, we’ve often found ourselves indecisive about what we want to eat and I’ve been known to drive without knowing where we’re going. Logic finally kicks in and I usually stop driving aimlessly and pull over in a parking lot so we can finalize our decision.

Aimlessness is costly because it is wasteful and counter-productive resulting in fruitlessness.  I think all of us can agree with that because we intuitively know that life is to be lived with purpose and usually when one loses that sense of purpose apathy, depression or despair kicks in.  I think we intuitively know this because we were created by God who is purposeful in all that He does.  If we truly believe that God is committed to carrying out His purpose in the world, we can be confident, despite what happens, that all things are working together for good in our lives.

A Case of Aim from the Beginning

Recently, I began re-reading the Bible, starting in Genesis, and immediately I was struck by the order in which He created creation.  Genesis 1 details God’s creative activity in six days.  However, what’s intriguing about this account is the order or structure of creation. There is a pattern of form and filling in Genesis 1. Here is what I mean:

  •  Day 1 corresponds with Day 4 | Creation of day and night on Day 1 and then the creation of the sun and moon to fill the day and night skies on Day 4.
  • Day 2 corresponds with Day 5 | Creation of sky and sea on Day 2 and then the creation of birds to fill the sky and fish to fill the sea on Day 5.
  • Day 3 corresponds with Day 6 | Creation of dry land, plants, and sea and then the creation of animals and man to fill these places on Day 6.

creation

In the very first chapter of the Bible, we learn that God is not aimless, but purposeful in His sovereign activity of creation. This truth should begin to shape our understanding of the character of God.  In fact, the rest of the Bible continues to reveal that God is purposeful.  

God’s Aim in Our Pain

However, I strongly suspect that isn’t where we struggle to believe and understand that God is purposeful.  We struggle to understand God’s purposefulness when we see the painful effects of sin in the world and how it painfully affects our own lives.  When we experience or hear of tragedies abroad or closer to home, we often question their purposes which, at times, causes us to question the sovereignty and the goodness of God.  Our theology seems to come unraveled when pain or disappointment invades our lives.  But why don’t we struggle to believe that all exists to glorify Him when all is going well? Is it impossible to believe that God even uses sin and its painful effects to glorify Himself?  Why do we commend God in times of pleasure and condemn Him in times of pain? We do this when we interpret life from our vantage point and not from God’s. That’s idolatry, not theology.  

James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:6-7 reminds us that the trials we experience are given to us by God to prove, strengthen and perfect our faith.  God’s ultimate goal for us is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and the process of being conformed or sanctification sometimes happens by experiencing trials and pain.  Trials and pain provide the occasion for us to remind ourselves of truth and respond accordingly as children of God. Oftentimes, these trials expose just how unholy we naturally are. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil and let us see what we are made of”.  

In seeing our unholiness, we ought to desire to be more holy. In that way, God’s aim in our pain and trials is that we would continually turn to Him for sanctifying and sustaining grace. When we turn to Him, we are declaring that He is sufficient to remove our pain or sustain us in it and in that He is glorified! God’s aim in our pain is not only our sanctification, but ultimately our joy and His glory as we are driven to Him (Psalm 16:11).   Do you believe that pain is God’s tool for your joy and His glory in your life? We must continually fight to believe in the goodness of God (Psalm 106:1), the sovereignty of God over all things – good and bad (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 115:3), and the good promises of God for His children (2 Corinthians 1:20).

God’s Aim in Our Pleasure

If pain is a tool that drives us to God for joy, what about pleasure?  What is God’s aim in our pleasure? Are the pleasures we experience meant to drive us to God?  Resoundingly, “yes!”  All of the legitimate pleasures we experience emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, materially and physically are pointers.   James 1:17 reminds us of the source of every good gift (material and immaterial) and 1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us that He aims for us to derive joy from what He’s given. Earthly pleasures are meant to be pointers to an eternally pleasing God!  The gift reflects the heart of the Giver. However,  sin prevents us from seeing the greater value of the Giver over His gifts. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is given that we might see rightly!  Psalm 16:11 says –

You make known to me the path of life;

   in your presence there is fullness of joy;

   at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Psalmist tells us that  lasting pleasure and the fullness of joy are ultimately found in God. If earthly pleasures are pleasurable, yet fading, how much more should we seek to experience ultimate unfading pleasure by being with Christ?!  

God’s Aim in His Pleasure

Have you ever wondered what brings God the most pleasure? It’s Him! Dr. John Piper writes: “God’s own glory is uppermost in his own affections. In everything he does, his purpose is to preserve and display that glory. To say his glory is uppermost in his own affections means that he puts a greater value on it than on anything else. He delights in his glory above all things” (Desiring God, p. 43).  For God to find joy or pleasure in anything above Himself, He would be an idolator giving glory to something or someone lesser.  Since nothing greater exists than God, He finds ultimate delight and pleasure in Himself because He is the sum of all perfection and glory!  If God finds ultimate delight in Himself, how much more should we do the same?  

God’s aim in all that He does is that He be glorified by, in and through His creation, which is the whole aim of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  God’s aim is His own glory, and rightly so!

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Gospel & Ethnic Reconciliation

Concerning the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and likely several hundred other unreported cases surrounding the sinful treatment of black males, many of us wonder if ethnicity was the motivating factor for police brutality or the overuse of their authority or the lack of justice at the court level. Given the history of systemic racism, which truly is a product of personal racism, it’s hard not to think this way when we look at the disproportionate number of the arrests and imprisonments between young white males and young black males for relatively the same crimes. While I am all for punitive requirements being met for all criminals, it does seem like the scales unjustly lean a little lower on “our” side. Print So what are we to do? How do we, as Christians, deal with the issue of personal prejudice or racism and dare I say ethnocentricity? We all know that no law passed at the city, state and national levels will ever rid man of the sin in the unseen recesses of his heart. Since racism is a sin, the only remedy for it, as with all sin, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. First, I encourage my white brothers and sisters to take a humble posture of heart and listen to the minority narrative. I guarantee it will be worth your time. Secondly, I urge my black brothers and sisters continue to deepen your roots in the sweet soil of the gospel of grace to prevent responding to sin sinfully. For we all are not without sin ourselves.

From the first book of the Bible, but certainly not the only place, we understand that mankind (man & woman) was created in the image of God (imago dei) and therefore has inherent dignity. This very truth was the truth that under-girded the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Slogans like “Ain’t I a Man?” and “I Am a Man!” were birthed in these movements respectively.

Genesis 1:27 says –

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Iamaman

However, when biblical truth is silenced, even hated, in the public square, what can Christians do? What ought Christians to do regarding racial reconciliation?

Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) held a leadership summit in Nashville to address the topic of racial reconciliation, primarily in the church. Now if you’re familiar with the SBC, this might seem like a shocker. If you’re not familiar with the SBC, let me give you a quick historical overview. The SBC was started due to its desire that slavery be a lasting institution in America. Baptists in the south disagreed with and split from Baptists in the north for this very reason and formed the SBC. Even though the SBC issued a public apology and a confession of sin in 1995, many still look at the SBC with disdain. Some may wonder why any African American would join an SBC church. In fact, many black Baptist denominations were founded and formed because of this very reason and still exist today.

Perhaps you’re wondering how professing white Christians during these times could maintain such a low view of  the black man in light of the Bible’s teaching on the dignity of all mankind. I wonder the same thing too. But the pull of sin and the pressures of our culture have us all unfaithful at times, right? However, in an effort to sincerely glorify the wisdom of God in the gospel, the SBC is seeking to make strides to show forth the fruit of the gospel regarding this issue because only the church has the ultimate lasting cure for racism.

Since the church is the only institution that has the ultimate lasting cure, it should be the leader reflecting unity in diversity where there is a collection of ethnicities in a concentrated area.  Imagine the effect the church would have on the surrounding culture if it lived out the implications of the gospel in this way.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul details how the gospel has united Jew and Gentile to be one new man – the Christian (Ephesians 2:11-22). While their God given ethnicities were not done away with, their ultimate identities were now Christian. The same is true for believers of every hue. In light of this truth, how are we seeking to show forth the fruit of the gospel regarding racial reconciliation? What are some practical implications of the gospel concerning racial reconciliation? I can think of a few. Consider these.

1. What does our closest circle of friends look like?

2. Are we seeking to build relationships with Christians of different ethnicities?

3. Are we sharing the gospel with people who are ethnically different than we are?

4. When was the last time we had a person of a different ethnicity in our home?

5. How do we really feel about white people? Or any non-African American?

6. Do our churches reflect the diversity of the community it’s in? Or is it a mono-ethnic church?

7. If my church isn’t multi-ethnic, is it making strides to become one, if possible?

Consider this passage from Revelation 7-

9 After this I (John) looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Who is standing before the throne of God and the Lamb? God’s people from every nation, tribe, people and languages!  God’s eternal covenant community is multi-ethnic! This future reality is to be displayed here on earth in local churches when possible.

church-segregation

If you have some time, consider looking at the talks given by several members of the SBC addressing how the gospel cures racism and why Sunday at 11am should not be the most segregated hour in America.

The Gospel and Ethnic Reconciliation

For His glory,

d.

Brand New | New Kingdom & King (pt. 1)

In my previous article of this series, I stated that one of the biblical implications of having a new life is being part of a new kingdom, namely the Kingdom of God. Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,…”. Throughout the New Testament there are many mentions of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. These terms mean the same thing as well as the expression the kingdom of his beloved Son.

What is the Kingdom?

A close read of the Gospels, which mentions the kingdom over 85 times, reveals that the kingdom of God is not a geographical location or a matter of political rule. Two key texts that convey this are John 3:5 and John 18:36. In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus that entrance into the kingdom is a spiritual matter – being born of water and the Spirit. In other words, one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. In John 18:36, Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that His kingdom is not of/from this world. By ruling out a geo-political kingdom, we naturally must ask ourselves what the Kingdom of God is. The Kingdom of God refers to the rule and reign of God in the hearts of man and over all creation and is entered into by faith in Christ.

Has the kingdom come already or will it come later?

Yes. In one sense, the kingdom has already come and in another sense it is coming and has not yet been fully consummated. Theologians call this the “already, but not yet” aspect of the kingdom. There is a present and a future aspect of the kingdom. The Scriptures make mention of this nature of the kingdom in many places.

The Present Kingdom
• Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7, 12:28
• Mark 1:15
• Luke 10:9,11; 11:20; 17:20-21

kingdom of GodThe Future Kingdom
• Daniel 2:44
• Mark 9:1; 14:25
• Luke 9:27; 13:29; 14:15; 19:11; 21:31; 22:18
• 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50
• Galatians 5:21
• Hebrews 12:28
• James 2:5
• Revelation 12:20

Seeing that Jesus said the kingdom was at hand (Matthew 4:17; 10:7) and had come upon (Matthew 12:28) His generation, how do we know that the kingdom had arrived? What marks the signs of the kingdom? To answer this we must go back to the definition of the kingdom. It is the rule and reign of God in the hearts of man and over all creation. To fully understand this we also must consider that another kingdom exists with another ruler. As previously stated, Colossians 1:13 tells us that once a person becomes a believer, that they are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Beloved Son. This kingdom of darkness (the rule of Satan) entered the world through sin (Genesis 3), which brought the fall of man and everything that was subject to him. When the fall happened, the effects of rebellion went viral, if you will. This was the beginning of the kingdom of darkness. Now, all of humanity and creation are under the effects of sin and its implications. Sickness, disease, decay, death, environmental and natural disasters, relational strife, etc. all have their foundation in man’s rebellion against his Creator (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:19-21). When Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command, they ushered in the kingdom of darkness.

However, in the first coming of Christ and His ministry, we see that Christ ceased demonic activity, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, raised the dead, and forgave sins. All of these miracles were works that reversed the effects of sin. Sickness was eradicated, ailments were healed and life returned from the dead. One of the glorious promises for believers is that, in eternity, there will not be the presence of or the effects of sin. We can count on this because when Christ offered himself on the cross and resurrected from the grave, Scriptures tell us that Satan, sin and death were defeated forever (Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15). Jesus’ miracles were a demonstration of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus was demonstrating glimpses of the reign of God over Satan and the effects of sin in particular instances which pointed to the future total reign of God in the new heavens and new earth.

What does all of this mean for Christians?

Every believer is already in the kingdom of God, even though the kingdom has not yet been fully consummated. Until that day, we are called to faithfully live on earth as citizens of His kingdom under the orders of our King awaiting His return (Philippians 3:20).

Grace & Peace,

d.

Brand New | New Life

As I stated in the introduction of this series of articles, I believe there are six foundational truths that new Christians should be familiar with very early on in their Christian life.  The first, which this article will focus on, is the reality of the believer’s new life. Let’s examine two texts:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:1-6)

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,… (Colossians 2:13)

The Apostle Paul uses very vivid language concerning the former state of the Ephesian and Colossian believers.  In both texts, Paul says they were dead in trespasses and sins. The death that he is speaking of is spiritual death, which is due to the sinful nature every human is born with because of Adam’s sin.  Every human being born since Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command has been born with a sinful nature and is spiritually dead.  To be spiritually dead or dead in trespasses and sins is to be without spiritual life and separated from God.  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that no one can see the kingdom of God (or be in the kingdom of God) unless one is born again.

regenerationHowever, once new life is granted to unbelievers, they are in union with Christ and are spiritually alive. This is known as regeneration and the Holy Spirit is responsible for it (Titus 3:5;  John 6:63). Some of the terms the Bible uses to convey this reality are to have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27), to be alive in Christ, born again or born from above (John 3:3), raised from the dead (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12, 3:1), new life (Romans 6:4) and a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). This new life exists because the Holy Spirit not only causes spiritual life, but also because He indwells every believer (Ephesians 1:13) as a promise of future salvation. This new life also transfers us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13).

Going from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive is no small matter. In fact, it is miraculous! Regeneration and conversion are miraculous gifts from God that change who we fundamentally are. Was that something you were taught early on in your Christian life? Imagine a new believer being taught this early in his Christian life.

Now that we’ve considered the new life and how that makes us subjects of the Kingdom of God, next we will consider the Kingdom, the King of the Kingdom and our relationship to Him.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Brand New

“Hello.”

“Hey, Aunt Kim!”

“Hey, Dave! How are you?”

“I’m good! I know I don’t call you often, but I was wondering if I could go to church with you next Sunday?”

“Sure! Why?”

“Well, I’ve become a Christian and I have a desire to be in church.”

About two days prior to that conversation back in September 1998, I found myself on my knees in my bedroom crying out to the Lord confessing my sins and receiving, by faith in Christ, the pardon for my sins. My conversion is what some would call a “Damascus Road” (see Acts 9) experience.  I was confronted by the Lord and drastically changed almost instantly.  The knowledge of sin and righteousness seemed to be crystal clear and I was overjoyed at the reality of my salvation.  Maybe you didn’t have that experience, but what I began to realize soon after my conversion is something that every Christian experiences.  I began to feel a tension between what I knew was right and what I was surrounded by, and the war within me.  I knew my life had to change.  I no longer had the desire to do the things that I once enjoyed doing and I had new desires and new affections for God and the things of God.  I knew there would be a risk of losing my girlfriend and some of my closest friends due to my new found love.  I needed someone to talk to.  I needed guidance. I needed to know how to live the Christian life and none of my peers were believers.  Thankfully, my aunt was there and she helped me as much as she could understand what it meant to live as a Christian.

discipleshipOver the course of my life as a Christian, it has been a joy to see the faith and excitement of new believers.  There is such a brokenness and a raw love for Christ and for others that it puts many seasoned believers to shame.  As great as that excitement is, it needs to be tempered with wisdom and discernment.  If you are a mature believer, one of the greatest joys you can experience is the joy of discipling a new believer. Aside from the gospel, there are some fundamental truths that need to run deep in the lives of new believers.  I’m sure you agree.

This became very clear to me due to a situation close to me.  As I began listening to particular conversations and questions more intently, six ideas came to mind as I thought about future conversations with this particular person. These six ideas were:

* New Life
* New King & Kingdompart 1 & part 2
* New Identity
* New Community
* New Goals
* New Destination

I am aware there could be many more categories and that there is some overlap between these, but I think these help lay a solid foundation.

In future posts, Lord willing, I will explain in detail what these are from Scripture and why they are important.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Preparing for Sunday

gotochurchWhat do Saturdays look like for you?  If you’re like me, you probably think of Saturday as a day of rest or a day to do something relaxing or enjoyable.  There’s nothing wrong with that and after a long productive work week, we should enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Rest and leisure are good gifts that we should appropriately enjoy.  But should Saturday only be thought of as a reward to a long work week? Or should we also think of Saturday as a day of preparation for our Sunday worship gathering?

I wonder how much thought is given to preparing for Sunday morning on Saturday. Sure we give some thought to preparation by getting our clothes ready, putting the children down to sleep, or deciding what to eat for breakfast, etc. But how do we and how should we prepare our hearts to commune with the living God and our brothers and sisters in a corporate worship gathering?

If we understand the gravity of that last sentence, we’ll give more thought and consideration to how we prepare our hearts for Sunday.  If we have an unhealthy view of our Sunday gathering, our preparation will reflect that.  Historically, the church met on the first day of the week to commemorate the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).  So every time we gather, we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Not only that, but we also are coming together to be instructed how to live as sons and daughters of the kingdom, confessing our sins, making intercession for others, offering supplication, praising in song and pleading for the salvation of the lost.  Those things are not to be taken lightly, especially since the church is God’s means of displaying His glory in a unique way and is also the main institution for our growth.  Since all of this is true, how might we better prepare for the Sunday gathering? Here are a few simple suggestions that my wife and I are implementing, but by no means have perfected.

  1. Don’t make Saturday night a late night, whether you go out or stay home.
  2. Plan to designate a time to discuss the order of service or sermon text with your spouse or a fellow church member, if possible.
  3. Think about how you can be praying the point of the sermon text for yourself and for others.
  4.  Pray for every aspect of the Sunday service (praying, singing, preaching, and giving) and for your heart to be receptive to God’s Word.
  5. Consider whether or not if you have any unresolved conflict with anyone and seek to reconcile before attending the worship service.

As God’s graciously chosen ones, may we demonstrate the privilege and joy of being His children by being responsible church members who purposely prepare for Sunday.

Related Recommended Reading

Healthy Church Member What is A Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Actual Factual

Christians are a people of truth. Our faith is based on the truth of God. One of the most important and characteristic truths about Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity. Though you won’t find the word “trinity” in the Scriptures, you will see the attributes of deity ascribed and described of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is one, but exists in three persons. Much controversy has come as a result of  this teaching, but the Scriptures are clear in its proclamation of the deity of all three members of the Godhead.

Perhaps the most controversial teaching of the Godhead is the teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ. In the Scriptures, we find that Jesus was an actual human being 100% and that He was also 100% God. This is known as the doctrine of the hypostatic union.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:5-11 & Colossians 1:15-19

  • 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11) 
  • 15 He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… (Colossians 1:15-19)

This is hugely significant as we consider the work of the gospel. For anyone to be saved, they must have the righteousness required by God that comes from obedience to the law. However, the Bible teaches that no one can perfectly obey the law of God because of his sinful nature. We’re all born rebels incapable of obeying the Lord, nor do we naturally have the desire to. This is why the doctrine of Christ or Christology is an essential doctrine.

As a man, Jesus perfectly obeyed the will/law of the Father (Matthew 5:17 & John 4:34). The law requires perfect obedience and it also demands death for disobedience.  Jesus lived as a human being, with its limitations, for 33 years perfectly submitted to the will of the Father, including dying on a cross as a ransom and a substitution for sinners. (Isaiah 53)

As God, Jesus exhibited the attributes of deity – authority over creation, received worship, immortality, His titles as Lord, and His claim to being I AM (John 8:58). What’s key is that only God can fulfill His own law and in this Jesus proved His deity as well.

The rejection of the nature and work of Jesus Christ is the birth of false religions. (i.e. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, etc.)

The nature and work of Jesus is one we must get right if we will fully appreciate the uniqueness, grace and mercy of the gospel and its security.

Check out the song, Hypostatic Union, by shai linne from his forthcoming album, Lyrical Theology Volume 1.

(see if you can decipher what the logo says)

Grace & Peace,

d.

 

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die |intro|

Last night, my wife and I started going through John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.  The main reason why I thought this book was worth reading, thinking about and discussing is that it focuses on the implications of the gospel.  When we hear the word “gospel” we probably tend to think of the good news that God has graciously, mercifully and lovingly reconciled sinners to Himself through Jesus Christ sparing us from His eternal wrath. We are right to think and rejoice over these truths. However, there is much more to the death of Christ than our justification. In other words, there is more to our salvation than our positional standing before God. There are practical results that flow from the Cross of Christ that are meant to be demonstrated in the life of each believer. In other words, the gospel is not only the power for salvation, but also for sanctification.  There is much more involved in the death of Christ than we often think of and Piper’s desire is to help us grasp that in these 2-3 page chapters. In his own words, Piper said,

“I have gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes. Infinitely more important than who killed Jesus is the question: What did God achieve for sinners like us in sending his Son to die?” (17).

That last sentence is the focus of the book.

I also think this book is fitting to read considering that the holiday season is near, which always poses the temptation to get us caught up into its commercialization and materialism traps.  It’s battle reading.  It’s also reading designed to increase our affections for our Savior as we consider the bounty of His work.

My aim is to provide thoughts about each chapter as they’re read.

Desiring God currently offers this book as a free downloadable PDFFree Book

Grace & Peace,

d.