Toughest School Ever (2)

In my first post on the virtue of content, I likened it to schooling that takes place over one’s lifetime under the providence of God.

In this post and those to come, I wish to continue working the same metaphor describing various aspects of the curriculum from the Scriptures.

The place to begin, I believe, is with the nature of this discipline as a compulsory subject. Anyone who has done any higher education grasps the difference between required courses and electives. I loved electives in college. I got to pick and choose what I liked. Motivation wasn’t an issue. When it came to the required stuff, I had no choice. I either took the class or faced dropping out.

Certain texts make it clear that we can’t do an end-around on the school of contentment. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” There’s no denying it. God commands that we stay clear of the desire for more stuff and find satisfaction in whatever He has given us, big or small, or in between.

Then we have Paul’s words in First Timothy 6:8. “But if we have food and clothing, with these will be content.”  Really? Talk about setting the bar low when it comes to your possessions. He doesn’t even include shelter in his short list. Grub in the belly and clothes on the back. Enough for me. Satisfied. No problemo. Yikes!

But here’s the kicker in that same context. If you back up to verse 6 you read this: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” You can’t miss the duty in v. 8, nor back in Heb. 13:5. We have an obligation to pursue contentment. It’s a gospel necessity. We can’t skip this course. We can’t clep out of it. We’ve got to take the class, if we belong to King Jesus.

But don’t miss the glory of it, as my new-found friend Jeremiah Burroughs would say. For that we go back to First Timothy 6:6 where Paul touches on what makes for great gain. Anybody NOT interested in great gain? I didn’t think so.

He doesn’t say that godliness in-and-of-itself amounts to great gain; he contends that godliness with contentment is great gain. Here’s how I read that. Without contentment, whatever gain belongs to godliness isn’t as great as it is with contentment. As for me and my house, not settling for less than great gain!

Of course, all this begs the question “What is contentment?” I can’t improve on the old Puritan’s definition. I’ll end with it:

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

Have you enrolled? The course is not optional for followers of Jesus. It is decidedly compulsory.

Submit to the duty, but go for the glory.

Prelude to a Dying Savior’s Last Words

Sunday’s message from John 13:31-38 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I summarized things:

Because of Jesus’ great care in preparing His own for His departure, we should believe in Him as the Messiah, God’s Son – His pointing to glory both of the Father and the Son, His providing for grief in the New Commandment to love one another, and His protecting from guilt in the predicting and praying through betrayal. Have you put your faith in Jesus as the Messiah? His miraculous works commend Him to you. His astonishing claims do the same. And His compassionate care for His own beckons you to trust Him. No one will ever care for you as thoroughly, lovingly, and completely as Jesus. Believe Him today!

A Greek Guide to Getting Close to Jesus (Part Two)

Today’s message from John 20:20-26 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I summed things up:

Following the Greeks’ lead will bring us closer to Jesus and faith in Him – similar focused intentions, personal connections, and altered perceptions – He came for the world, Jew and Gentile alike, and He saved us through His sacrificial death for its sins and that only. Satan didn’t win the battle with Christ’s death; God did by raising and glorifying His Son.

May the Lord give us grace to seek Jesus and draw close to Him with rightly framed perceptions about Himself as the Messiah!

When the Light of the World Will Really Be Marveled At


Last night in my Christmas Eve message on John 8:12 I spoke of Jesus as “being so full of Himself.” I continue to imagine what it would have been like to have heard Him say sentences like “I am the light of the world.” The Jews listening to His words beneath the menorahs in the temple that day would have connected the historical dots. Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of everything the Feast of Booths typified, including the shekinah glory of God that led the Israelites faithfully through their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 13:21-22). When He said, “I am the light of the world,” He was claiming to be the splendid radiance of God’s glory on display in a human body. Full of Himself, indeed, and rightly so.

As bright as that glory did shine in our Lord’s earthly ministry, it was a glory veiled by the humiliation of His incarnation. We celebrate this mystery, Immanuel, God with us, each Christmas, beholding the glory of the only begotten, full of grace and truth (John 1:17-18). Each Christmas Eve when I preach I try to strip back something of the curtain of our fleshly existence that dims that glory before our eyes that we might see it more clearly with eyes of faith. We marvel, but as those who look through a glass darkly.

It shall not always be so. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 speaks of a day when Christ shall come again “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”

Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664), the Presbyterian minister known for his exceptionally holy life, described the day of Christ’s coming this way:

When the saints shall but look upon Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, they exceedingly admire Him. . . . All that believe shall break out into admiration of Jesus Christ. At the first sight, they shall observe such excellence in Jesus Christ that they shall be infinitely taken with it. Here [on earth] we speak of Christ, and in speaking, we admire. But how they will admire [Him] when they shall not only speak or hear, but also see and behold Him, Who is the express image of God, and the brightness of His Father’s glory (Heb. 1:3)! O the luster that He casts forth each way! Is not His very body more sparkling than the diamond before the sun? Yea, more than the sun itself now shining at noonday? How should the saints but wonder at this sight? Oh! There is more beauty and glory in Jesus Christ than ever their thoughts and imaginations could possibly reach! There is more weight of sweetness, joy, and delight in Jesus Christ than either the seeing eye, hearing ear, or the vast understanding heart (which can multiply and add still to any former thoughts) can possibly conceive (1Co 2:9)! Every soul will cry out then, “I believed [I would] see much glory in Jesus Christ when I saw Him.  I had some twilight or moonlight glances of Christ on earth: but—O blind I! O narrow I!—[I] could never have faith, opinion, thought, or imagination to fathom the thousand thousandth part of the worth and incomparable excellence that I now see in Him!”

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!