The Flourishing Life

Puritan

It was a delight to climb back into the pulpit at OGC this morning after our sabbatical. To get to preach again, particularly on a passage in Psalm 92 that so thoroughly expresses my desires for this next season in my life and ministry, gave me great pleasure. If you care to, you can access the audio here.

I blew through the the eight takeaways at the conclusion of the message. Someone in the body asked me for them. Decided it would make for an easy blog post. Here they are:

  1. One, offer praise to God as the tenor of your life.
  2. Two, gather with God’s people on the “Sabbath” and more. Be a fixture in God’s church. No fellowshipping, no flourishing. Be a churchman and churchwoman.
  3. Three, reject the lie of our materialistic culture and its flourishing-only-for-a-brief-while ways and invest in life-long flourishing commitments that will serve you well to the end of your days.
  4. Four, beware the American retirement dream in terms of having earned endless days in front of the TV or on the golf course. Have a robust theology of leisure to be sure but believe in “rehirement” not retirement. My thanks to David Sims for that play on words.
  5. Five, treasure a church body with multiple generations not just a bunch of folks your own age.
  6. Six, if you are young, badger some old saint until they own you in a mentoring, discipling kind of way. If you are old like me, give yourself away. Invest in the next generation. Declare that he is your Rock to all who come.
  7. Seven, speak up and announce the praise of God when given the chance. Regularly testify to His faithfulness.
  8. Eight, pray this text for me and the rest of our elders as long as you are a part of OGC. I beg of you.

Sappy and Green

I am fond of several sayings. One of them is this: “Getting old is overrated.” I quoted it again just before writing this post. I talked with my mom after an outpatient surgery she underwent the other day. We both agreed. Getting old is overrated.

At least it is physically. I didn’t have surgery this week, but I feel the effects of aging after turning sixty-one the other day. I won’t bore you with the anatomical details. I take solace in the fact that getting old spiritually is definitely NOT overrated. I say that because of two passages of Scripture, one New Testament and the other Old Testament.

Consider 2 Cor. 4:16 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Wasting away. Couldn’t have said it better about the physical body. But this text is decidedly good news for someone who, by God’s grace, has walked with Jesus for nearly forty-one years now. My inner self, the immaterial side of my being, is being renewed day by day. That means I have come a long way, baby.  I am not the man I was and I am not the man I will be. Thanks be to God. Let the transformation continue.

But the news gets better. Consider Psalm 92:12-15.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Living in Florida, I get the imagery. Palm trees endure through absolutely everything. They shoot relentlessly to the sky sprouting their luxurious fronds. Cedars of Lebanon I am not so familiar with. Wish I were. Had to do some research:

These giant, beautiful, evergreen trees grow in mountainous regions, at altitudes of 3,300-6,500 feet (1,000-2,000 m). They can be found in Lebanon, south-central Turkey, and Cyprus. They produce cones which grow on top of the branch. The trees can attain a height of 100 feet (30 m) and the trunk may reach 6 feet (2 m) in diameter. Compared with the trees of Israel, the cedar is indeed a mighty tree, and it is highly praised in Scripture.

When I think about the reality of becoming an increasingly older man, righteous in God’s sight by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone, I am thrilled to consider this not as something overrated but highly desirable. The promise of God for those planted in the house of the Lord, at home in the courts of the living God, is that such will flourish, grow, and still bear fruit even in old age. The last thing I want to be is some grumpy old codger making everyone miserable in a self-centered, morose, miserable endgame. Full of sap and green. That’s for me. Let me live out my days doing exactly what v. 15 says, declaring that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Sappy and green. Sappier than ever, brighter green every day. Let the aging continue. Definitely not overrated.

Matthew Henry said it well:

In God’s trees the strength of grace does not fail with the strength of nature. The last days of the saints are sometimes their best days, and their last work their best work.
Lord, may my last days be my best days, my last work my best work.
I promise. I’ll give you all the glory.

Something Else for Which Jesus Cares Greatly (Part 2)

Today’s message from John 15:1-11 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is the quote from Boice and Ryken’s The Doctrines of Grace I gave at the conclusion:

In the natural world there are animals that eat nothing but meat. They are called carnivores, from caro, carnis, which means “meat.” There are other animals that eat nothing but grass or plants. They are called herbivores, from herba, which means vegetation. Imagine taking a lion, who is a carnivore, and placing a bundle of hay or a trough of oats before him. He will not eat the hay or oats. Why not? It is not because he is physically or naturally unable to eat them. Physically, he could munch on the oats and swallow them. But he does not and will not, because it is not in his nature to eat this kind of food. Moreover, if we were to ask why he will not eat the herbivore’s meal, and if the lion could answer, he would say, “I can’t eat this food, because I hate it. I will only eat meat.” Now think of the verse that says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8), or of Jesus saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). Why won’t a sinful person “taste and see that the Lord is good” or feed upon Jesus as “the living bread”? To use the lion’s words, it is because he “hates” such food. The sinner will not come to Christ because he does not want to. Deep in his heart he hates Christ and what he stands for. It is not because he cannot come naturally or physically (pp. 85-86).

Apart from Him we can do nothing.

This is the first and most important secret of fruitfulness in partnering with Jesus in His greater works mission of the gospel.