Thursday, December 24, 2020

Why Christmas?

 "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." - I John 3:8

Why the Incarnation? Why the Word become flesh? Why Christmas? John tells us why the Son of God appeared: to destroy the works of the devil. The invading Messiah King promised of the house of David came at Christmas and live as our righteousness for Triumphal Entry, Good Friday, Easter, and Ascension to destroy the works of the devil

Jesus destroys the works of the devil by taking away our sin (I John 3:5). This is why John writes this letter, that the readers, "little children," do not sin. John delights knowing the children walk in the truth (III John 4). Jesus took the sins of those who believe in Him to the cross. He is our righteousness, making propitiation by His blood (I John 2:2, 4:10). Jesus destroys the works of the devil that we, as little children, would not sin or make a practice of sinning. And, when we do sin, Jesus advocates for us against the devil's work as accuser.

Jesus destroys the works of the devil by forgiveness as well as the power of sin for us. Why Christmas? The Son of God became human like us "that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery" (Hebrews 2:14-15). The Son of God came "to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray."

As the angel told the Bethlehem shepherds, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." A Savior! This good news of great joy that Christ the Lord and Savior has come to destroy the works of the devil lent the shepherds to return to their fields "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen" (Luke 2:20).

Dear reader, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. This is good news of great joy! Rest your sinful heart upon Christ who is the righteous King. The power of the devil's works in the hearts of the sons of disobedience is no match for Christ who takes those dead in sins and trespasses into new life (Ephesians 2:1-2). Born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Sweet, Precious Words of Jesus

“More to be desired are [the words of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” -Psalm 19:10

Some handle the Bible as simply a book of facts. The stories are real and there are moral nuggets to extrapolate, but the Bible’s worth ends there. Others handle the Bible as only a book of life application. Its only value being found in how I am to live…or want to live. Both of these blurry lenses to view God’s Word are removed in this one verse in the Psalms.

For the worshiper of God, the Word of God is desirable. The law, testimony, precepts, commandments, fear of the Lord, and rules found in the Bible as described in the previous verses are more precious and valuable than pure gold, sweeter than fresh drippings of honey from a honeycomb. This Psalm isn’t sung by someone simply wanting cold, hard facts from God or simply wanting a life application and motivational speech from God. This is sung by someone who read the Bible as God revealing Himself to be utterly glorious as well as a God to be delighted in.

Sin and affliction do not make my heart glad. No matter how much I invest in myself from either of these two human experiences, no matter how much I praise or justify sinfulness, my heart is not glad. Gladness of heart comes from the reality of this Psalm. To deeply desire God’s voice, the voice of our Good Shepherd upon the narrow road, the lamp unto our feet. To find God’s Word as sweet and enjoyable. 

This is enjoyed by a sinner forgiven, yes. Deeper still, this is enjoyed by a prodigal son welcomed home by the father and into a celebration (Luke 15:11-32). This is enjoyed by the principled self-righteous persecutor Saul of Tarsus when the resurrected Jesus knocked him down (Acts 9). In this I enjoy God’s Word, as a prideful, ugly sinner who once thought I could out-think Christianity and exceed in truth and morality greater than the teachings of Christ and His followers.

How did Jesus’ words become so sweet and so precious to me? Jesus Himself became sweet and precious to me. The Bible didn’t simply show me facts or how to live. The Bible shows me Christ.

How sweet and precious Jesus is to me. Even when following the voice of my Good Shepherd leads to pain, my heart confesses Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Sweet, precious words of eternal life. In my foolishness, I am prone to wander. His Word restores my life (Psalm 119:107). In my sadness and terrors of the night, His Word leads me to the Rock of my salvation (Psalm 62:1-2). In my fears, His Word reminds me He is beside me and I may sleep and wake again (Psalm 3:5-6).

His Word no longer condemns me as a criminal of His law, for I, even a sinner as I, belong to Christ (Romans 8:1). The pure law of God with its perfect precepts and rules I have broken was faithfully and perfectly obeyed by Christ (Philippians 2:8). My precious, sweet Savior is my righteousness before God. My blind eyes are opened, my deaf ears can hear, but my Lord who speaks the words of eternal life.

I plead with you to hear the precious, sweet words of the Lord Jesus Christ, these words of eternal life, and follow the Good Shepherd. You are not too great a sinner, too disheartened, or too self-righteous and intelligent for the only wise King Jesus to rescue from the wrath of God. Hear His precious, sweet words of eternal life and follow Him.

Heavenly Father, my prayer to You is for the readers to know You, to hear Your perfect law and discover the preciousness and sweetness of the words of our Lord! Open their ears to hear Christ’s words of eternal life and follow. You are altogether lovely and glorious, a God of great works worthy of eternal praise. Hallelujah to our great God and Savior! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Teaching Transgressors the Ways of God


“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.” -Psalm 51:13

How many transgressors do you know? It’s not a word we tend to use anymore. Yet, the Bible uses this term for those not following God: criminals, transgressors of God’s law. What do you want to say to transgressors?

In Psalm 51, David had been caught in a great evil. He had slept with a married woman and arranged her husband’s death to cover up his crime, but the Lord sent His prophet Nathan to call David out. David cried out to the Lord, “hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (10-11). What kind of renewed spirit? “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit” (12). This all comes from knowledge of God in His Word, and a delight in this knowledge (6).

David was forgiven by God for such a grievous transgression. David prayed for God’s wisdom in his heart, forgiveness of sin, a joy of God’s saving power, and a new spirit to walk in the ways of God. With God’s salvation and the return of David, David now says “I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.”

Do you consider yourself before God as David did, aware of your transgressions and sins against God (3-4)? Has the Lord forgiven you, a criminal? Has the Lord restored the joy of His salvation to you, giving you a new spirit to obey Him? Are you walking in God’s ways? If you are, it is all grace. In the song we as a church family sing together, “All I Have is Christ,” there is a line that grips my heart each time we sing it: “Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone and live so all might see the strength to follow Your commands could never come from me.” You are not righteous, good, doing good things, being an upright person because you worked hard, learned more, make better life decisions than the transgressors around you.

Now I return to my opening questions: how many transgressors do you know? What do you want to say to transgressors? As I reflect upon Psalm 51, I am aware of the stunning amount of sin I am guilty of before God. I am a transgressor. I have no moral strength nor right standing to accuse my transgressing neighbor. I want them to know the ways of my gracious, compassionate, holy Lord who forgave me and put a new spirit within me.

This idea of “teaching transgressors Your ways” is discipleship. It isn’t a one-time thing, but an ongoing thing. I want my neighbors to know the ways of the Lord, so I teach them the wisdom of His Word in casual conversations with a genuine care for their souls. I befriend my transgressor neighbors as a fellow transgressor, yet forgiven. If I teach transgressors the ways of the Lord, to follow Christ, sinners will return to Him.

This is the desire of my heart, and I pray this is the desire of your heart: to know transgressors, compelled by the love of Christ teaching them His ways that sinners may return to the Lord. God is glorified in His grace in Christ toward such transgressors of His law as you and me. God has made a new creature of our old selves. Let us teach transgressors the ways of the Lord that sinners may return to the Lord.

Heavenly Father, how my heart rejoices with thankful praise that Your grace for me in Christ who washes me clean and gives me a clean heart and a new spirit within me! I thank You, Lord, for Your compassion and patience with such a transgressor as me. Lord, grant me wisdom to teach my transgressing neighbors Your ways that sinners may return to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Unity by Divine Supply


“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” -Ephesians 4:2

I have been meditating Psalm 27, praying to be made useful as an instrument in the Lord’s hands in the surroundings He has sovereignly placed me. It seems people have been increasingly angry and anxious recently. Factor in COVID-19 and a presidential election year, the problems in the human hearts around me have simply escalated.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to meet the problems of the human hearts head on with the good news of Jesus Christ. We work and toil in this very same angry and anxious world, which affects us far more than we truly realize. We grow wearing in doing good. Our humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance have limits in the flesh.

We need to hear of Christ’s mercies. We need reminding of Christ’s mercies. We need to receive Christ’s mercies. We each have need of Christ’s mercies in His beloved church to handle us with humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with us in love from a heart eager to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Christ’s given peace.

These characteristics do not come naturally; rather, they must be supernaturally given. Do not fall into the temptation that these attributes well up from sheer willpower or misused to accuse others in the church of falling short of our expectations. Christ who loves His bride gifts us with a heart to gently bear in love those in fellowship weakened and wounded by an increasingly angry and anxious world. Within the safety of fellowship, free to confess where we have failed obedience, pray for strength to persevere, and encourage one another to be Christ-like in view of an evil, dark world.

Our love and care for one another will not and cannot depend simply on our love for one another, but upon our love for Christ. I can only be humbly gentle, forbearing with patience with the supply I receive from Christ. Jesus said, “I will build My church.” The church’s membership and giftings are from Christ lovingly fulfilling this promise.

Church unity, as a consequence, is more than mere tolerance of each other. Rather, we share a united effort to battle ungodly desires in our hearts and strive together to conform to Christ, being a light in a dark world, fighting together for one another’s repentance and joy in spiritual healthiness.

We need a place, a people, safe to enter in with our troubled hearts to be reminded of Christ’s mercies. You and your neighbor are in need of Christ’s mercies in His church. Church family, let us prioritize one another’s spiritual health by obeying Ephesians 4:2 and invite others into such fellowship with His good news. All to the glory of our gracious, merciful God.

Heavenly Father, how I am in constant need of Your mercies. My restless heart is affected by an angry, anxious world. I am in need of Your peace. Those I love in this church family are in need of Your peace. Grant me Your peace that surpasses understanding that I may be humble, gently patient, to bear the burdens of Your church in Your holy and steadfast love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.