Merry Wednesday Dear Church,
I hope and pray you are doing well! I am excited because tonight at Bible Study we are reading through one of the richest parts of the Bible, Romans 3:21-31. However, one of the problems we often have in understanding that passage is that some of the vocabulary is a little bit, well, dense. In particular, there are three words which are often difficult to understand. Yet, I think when we do come to understand them, we will see that they are some of the precious words in the whole Bible.
The first one is justification. Justification is a term that simply means someone is "declared" just. Nobody can be in God's presence unless they get this justification. The trouble is none of us are just. In fact, all of us are under the righteous condemnation of God. Here is the good news: Christ was condemned so we might be justified. We give him our condemnation, and we get his justification. We only get this by believing and trusting in him.
The second word is redemption. Redemption is actually a financial word. It means to "buy" something. Of course, before Christ, you and I are all slaves under sin. We could not get our way out. The price to redeem us was simply too high. But Jesus redeemed us by his own blood. The price for our freedom was the cost of his death. He was sold so we might be freed.
The third word is propitiation. Now, the Bible teaches that all of us are under God's wrath because of our sin. In the Bible, only a sacrifice could pay the penalty for our sins. Then, the wrath of God would be "propitiated" and the sinner would have peace with God. The problem was, of course, as Hebrews 8-10 teaches us, the sacrifices of animals could never pay for the sins of man. Here is the good news: Jesus Christ gives himself up as our sacrifice. Jesus Christ bore our wrath, and we get his peace. He is our propitiation, our sacrifice, our atonement.
You are probably noticing a common theme, what we might call "substitutionary atonement." This is just the idea that what happened on the cross was an exchange, a glorious exchange in fact! Jesus took our guilt, our estrangement, our sin, our wrath, our condemnation, our slavery, our death. In exchange, we get his relief, his reconciliation, his holiness, his peace, his justification, his freedom, his life. In other words, we give him our sin and we get his salvation. We give him our guilt we get his grace. All that these words, these precious words, are trying to tell us is this: Jesus is our substitute, our sacrifice, our salvation. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Merry Christmas Happy Church,
We'll be taking a slight break from our study of Romans, and we'll be discussing Psalm 51. I love Psalm 51. The author was King David. Now King David was a bit of a wild card. He had an affair, killed the woman's husband, and lied to cover the whole thing up. And yes, this is the same King David who had killed the villain Goliath, had been persecuted by Saul, and had to fight a brutal civil war to be the king that God had called him to be. But it wasn't long before getting on the throne, he started to drift. To some of our perspectives, David was a bit of disappointment. Here is someone literally handpicked by God who crashes and burns so spectacularly.
Nevertheless, when David is caught for the whole disaster about his affair, he has the audacity to ask God to "Have mercy on me" (Ps 51:1).
Why does he think that God will possibly give him mercy? Why does he think that God could possibly forgive him?
He tells us why, "According to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy" (Ps 51:1).
The reason that David thinks he can find forgiveness from God is because God has "steadfast love" and "abundant mercy." David thinks he can find forgiveness and mercy because God is a merciful and forgiving God. In other words, God forgives because God is forgiving. God loves because God is loving. God shows mercy because God is merciful. It is who he is. This is good news. Because if I ask God to be forgiving and he is not fundamentally a forgiving God, then I am in trouble. But if I ask God to forgive and he is forgiving, then I have a sure and steady place to put my feet, a shelter and sanctuary from the storm. It is good news, because it means that when I mess up and I need a place to turn, there is someone who is disposed to hear me, to welcome me, and to be gracious and kindhearted to me. I have someone who loves me and brings me home from the heat.
The question is, do we have the audacity to, like King David ask, "Have mercy on me, O God!"? I pray we do.
Happy Advent Dear Saints,
I hope and pray that you have been having a wonderful week. This week I have been preparing for our next Advent sermon with which we will light the candle of "Joy." I have to say it's been a strange Sunday morning to prepare for. For one thing, as a pastor, I know Christmas conjures up many mixed emotions. While it is a time of joy, it can also be a time of loneliness, heartbreak, and bitterness. For another, if you read our passage for Sunday, Isaiah 8, you can see that Isaiah must have felt bittersweet when receiving the Immanuel prophecy. We can see in this passage that great suffering is in store for the people of God. It is in the midst of this that we have a truly remarkable verse,
"I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him." (Is 8:17)
Isn't that so different than the way our world approaches suffering? Sometimes, our culture tends to obsess on suffering, to sit in pow-wows and to reminisce about misfortune, to revel in darkness. But sometimes, it papers over pain. It squeezes out a smile over the brokenness, it puts a mask over lament, it pretends that all is well.
Yet, the Bible gives Christians a different way. On the one hand, we are able to acknowledge our pain, our deep pain and suffering, our loneliness and heart break. Isaiah acknowledges God's discipline of his wayward people. Yet, on the other, we are given a "peace that surpasses all understanding" (Phil 4:7), "though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Cor 4:16). In other words we have in the midst of despair, hope. In the midst of darkness, light. In the midst of sorrow, joy. This is Isaiah's only hope.
As Job defiantly says, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 3:15)
So Christian, though slain, stand strong in him.
As always, we will continue to meet tonight to study God's Word, our hope and refuge, and we would LOVE to have YOU! We meet at 6 PM at the church. All are welcome!
Good Afternoon Dear Saints!
Christmas time has many wonderful things! One of those is that we have many opportunities to reach the lost that we might not have otherwise. This past Sunday in my sermon, I preached something to the effect that we need to be faithful in sharing the good news and let the Lord worry about the results. I believe that (otherwise I would not have said it). But one thing I was not able to address in my sermon was how to do that in wisely. Luckily, Jude 22-23, gives us some advice.
Jude 22-23 gives us three types of people we evangelize to. 1) First there are "those who are doubting". Those people need our mercy. Thus, we should be firm, but gentle. Convicted, but kind. In other words, some people need to hear the mercy of Christ and not only his holiness. That when they mentally doubt the faith, the love of Christ can compel them to trusting in the gospel. 2) Second, he tells us to "save others by snatching them out of the fire." These people are virtually the opposite of the first group. They are more prone to presume upon the kindness and patience of God. They not only need to know about God's love, but also about his hatred of sin. They need to smell the sulphur. 3) Then there is the third group. We are told that we should "show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh." In a way, we might think of these as somewhere between the other two. On the one hand, they need to know about God's mercy. On the other, we dare not partake of, nor ignore, their sin. For this group, we must be careful with our words. We should speak, but we must back up our talk with our walk. In some ways, this third group requires the most wisdom, because these people lack the discernment to distinguish between God's love for them and his holiness. In his unending goodness, God has given us to them to be an example of and tell them about both his love and holiness.
What strikes me about all this is that God has given us the great privilege of joining Christ as he shakes the gates of Hell wide open (cf. Matt 16:18). In fact, we get to join Christ as he frees our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and enemies, neighbors and strangers from the grip of the Evil One. What greater calling could God put on our lives than this? Yet, it also strikes me about what is perhaps one of the greatest truths of Advent, that God meets us where we're at. He came to us not lording himself over us, but as one of us. In the same way, God sends us not to browbeat our loved ones into conversion, but to compellingly, earnestly, faithfully, obediently, share the good news in the way they need to hear.
So come all ye faithful, there is work to do, the harvests are ripe and the fields are well-prepared for our feet!
Good Afternoon Dear Saints,
This past Sunday, I had a nice long, dry, post-thanksgiving, coma-inducing turkey. I mean sermon... all prepared for you all on how God's Word prepares us for eternity. Then disaster struck! Well, actually, I was struck down by an annoying-some fever and cold early Sunday morning. So I got on the bat-phone and called my trusty right hand Doug and I asked him if he'd be willing to preach a 15-20 minute sermon that morning, just something simple to prepare the hearts of God's people for communion.
Instead, he delivered this excellent and powerful message on Psalm 95 (with only an hour of warning, mind you!). I was so proud of and thankful for him. Even though I was sick, God put the right words in the right mouth of the right man for the right people on the right morning at the right time. In other words, even though we were all caught off guard, God wasn't. And though I may have been ready with a sermon, God wanted another sermon heard on Sunday. And it was a good one. That's Providence.
I think sometimes we think that God's Providence is how he gets away with playing mean tricks on us. Or how God teaches us a lesson. Or how he shows us how powerful he is and how pathetic we are. And while those might all have some truth to them, the Bible actually tells us God's providence is for our own good.
Romans 8:28 says: "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
In other words, when James 1:17 tells us that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" that includes a fever that comes in the middle of the night and just won't leave you alone. In other words, the Father who has adopted us in Christ by the Spirit never gives us anything less than what is good for us. It might be sickness, it might be trial, it might be annoyance, but it is always for our good. God is never anything but good to us. And that is something worth celebrating!
In other news, I am feeling much better! I sincerely appreciate everyone's prayers for us. We will resume our weekly Wed. Bible study tonight at 6 PM. Can't wait to see you all there!
Southern Heights Christian Church
Come here for thoughts on how to follow Jesus in our every day life!