Life’s Ultimate “What If?”

Today’s Easter message from 1 Cor. 15:12-20 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is how I summarized the argument in this portion of the epistle:

But here’s the good news. Paul has trafficked in the hypothetical for the purposes of his logical argument in these last eight verses. He has made his point. Denying the reality bodily resurrection results in logically necessary consequences of the most catastrophic kinds – false gospel, futile preaching and faith, fraudulent witness, flourishing sin, forever death, and forlorn-to-the-utmost believers. But none of that is the case! Look at v. 20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. So we may rightly, and I am indebted to John Piper for this insight, reverse the implications of all six of Paul’s logically necessary consequences. We have no false gospel but a true one with Christ raised from the dead. We have no futile preaching and faith it produces, but full and worthwhile-to-the-max preaching and faith with Christ raised from the dead. We have no fraudulent witness but truthful witness with Christ raised from the dead. We have no flourishing sin but rather fully forgiven sin before God and resurrection power to fight its remaining influences until one day we are completely delivered from this flesh with Christ risen from the dead. We have no forever death but everlasting life and hope of being reunited with all those who have fallen asleep before us with Christ risen from the dead. And we have no forlorn, misplaced, pitiable hope but rather an enviable, blessed-above-all-others kind of hope, even if it costs us our lives, with Christ risen from the dead.

Blessed Easter to all.

We are anything but forlorn! He is risen. He is risen indeed!

One Cure for My Justification By Ministry Syndrome

Truth is I need multiple cures for this disease. Most if not all pastors struggle with it. It evidences itself in a tendency to validate one’s existence by perceived success in the gospel work.

It shows up a lot on Sunday mornings. We can measure it by how we feel about attendance at our services. High numbers in the house, doing OK. Low numbers, not so OK. Strong offering, sweet. Weak offering, bitter. Lots of sermon compliments out the door, flying high. Little to no “at ta boys,” or worse yet, critical comments, laid low.

In the Lord’s faithfulness to contribute further to the eradication of this affliction, He has added a new wrinkle to my life. It’s called your-new-building-won’t-be-ready-for-Easter-opening disappointment. A number of folks have asked me how I am handling the setback of the revised timetable.

My answer remains the same. It’s not wise to complain about answers to prayer. What I mean is this. I/we have prayed since the outset of the project that we wouldn’t allow the building which is a good thing to become a god thing which would make it a bad thing. In other words, we don’t want to turn the whole deal into an idol.

In my experience the most effective way God tests my heart for revealing something I delight in more than Him is to take it away from me or keep me from it. I figure having to wait for this blessing and especially not capitalizing on Easter for outreach purposes that might result in a full building (maybe even two services) and the perception of success are just, among other things, another way that Jesus wants to keep me far afield of the justification by ministry syndrome. He has answered my prayer in not letting the building become an idol. Best not to complain.

So, I am content. I think. Yes, I am pretty sure, it’s OK. God is in control. We’ll get the CO when we are supposed to get it and we’ll open the building when we are supposed to open it. Then I will have a whole bunch of other temptations no doubt to justification by ministry syndrome. Lord, have mercy.

Fortunately I know the one Physician with healing power and His prescription for keeping the perilous condition at bay, the gospel. There is hope even for me and my perpetual idol-making factory of a heart.

Tim Keller, in an interview addressing idolatry in pastors, said it well:

When you find yourself unusually discouraged because things aren’t growing or people aren’t listening to you — you have to catch yourself. You have to realize ‘This is an inordinate amount of discouragement, which reveals the idolatry of justification by ministry.’ Meaning, you say you believe in justification by grace, but you feel like and are acting like you believe in justification by ministry. You have to recognize you are making something of an idol out of ministry. When you do experience inordinate discouragement because things aren’t going well, you need to say, ‘It’s okay to be discouraged but not to be this discouraged. This is discouragement that leads to idolatry,’ and you repent.

To read the rest of what he had to say click here.

Are you trusting in anything or anyone other than Jesus for your justification?

You can bet your life as a child of God He will find ways to pry your fingers loose from whatever it is so that you more thoroughly cling to Jesus for His glory and your joy.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Seeing & Savoring the Savior’s Superior Sacrifice

Today’s Good Friday message from Hebrews 10:11-14 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s how I summarized the theme and aim of the sermon:

In vv. 11-14 he puts the capstone on this argument. He drives it home with full force. Let me put it into the form of a theme: Because Jesus made a superior sacrifice for sins in every way we should not return to our old ways but persevere in holding fast the confession of our hope in the gospel of Jesus. I want to show you from the text four things that make the sacrifice of Jesus superior in every way, especially to Old Covenant Judaism, but essentially to every other religion or system of dealing with the human dilemma. My aim is that we will do anything but shrink back from our faith in the face of trouble rather even joyfully accept the plunder of our property (10:34) if necessary because of these things – His power in the sacrifice, His place after the sacrifice, His plan since the sacrifice, and His perfection by the sacrifice.

All hail to King Jesus who gave His body an offering for sin once for all and who now waits until all His enemies are brought under the footstool of His feet.

No More "Nike" Christianity

After the picnic on Sunday I crashed in front of the tube to watch the final round of the Masters golf tournament.

Have to admit, I was curious to see if Tiger would rise from the ashes and win his first major since his crash and burn.

As always he sported the Nike insignia on his person, a living billboard for the sportswear giant. Who doesn’t know the motto that goes with the logo?

I wonder how many Christians approach their spiritual lives with the same mentality. I just need to do it. I’ll just try harder. I’ll spend more time in the Bible, pray more, memorize more Scriptures, etc, etc, etc. Just do it. That’s the ticket to God’s being pleased with me.

Don’t get me wrong. These means OF grace matter. But when they become means FOR grace we’ve missed the boat altogether. Means of grace serve to connect us to the One who died for us to wipe the slate clean of the guilt of our sin AND to apply the 100% righteousness of Christ to our spiritual accounts. This is huge. It means that God looks on us and deals with us as if we had perfectly obeyed the law because Jesus obeyed it for us. He is our righteousness and we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). They do nothing in the way of meriting acceptance before God. There is nothing more we can do in that regard. Jesus did it all for us.

This is why we must not live a “Nike” form of Christianity, but rather a Cross-centered form of Christianity.

Lane and Tripp explain in How People Change:

Do you know what it means to live a Cross-centered life on a daily basis? Some Christians think that the Cross is what you need to become a Christian and get to heaven. They think, I need my sins forgiven so that I escape God’s judgment when I die. But once that is taken care of, what matters is that I follow Christ’s example. I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work! The tricky thing about this perspective is that it is partially correct. You do actively pursue the obedience that comes from faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; Gal. 5:6). You do engage in spiritual warfare! However, you are never to minimize your continuing need for the mercy and power of Christ in the process of becoming like him (emphasis added, p. 183).

This means that we need daily to keep coming back to verses like Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. The mercies of God make us holy and acceptable in His sight. That’s why we can present our bodies to Him for His use.

We need daily to keep coming back to verses like Hebrews 10:14 – For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Jesus’ death accomplished our perfecting in God’s sight. The tense of the verb communicates a past action with ongoing consequences. This status never changes regardless of our goof ups! It’s on that basis that we experience the ongoing transformation that is our sanctification, being made holy as He is holy.

We need daily to keep coming back to verses like Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But PC, I just lost my temper for the umpteenth time. I just took another look at that website I had no business clicking on. I just turned yet another time to my idol of choice for comfort in the face of temptation. What do you mean there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus? Just what I said. Paul’s words not mine. This deal is not about our performance; it’s about His provision.

Forget about “Nike” Christianity. Just do it gets you no where. Why not rather adopt the Cross-centered Christianity motto?

Just believe it.

I’d like somebody to make a logo for that. I’d put it on my sport shirt in a heartbeat.

Day Off Good Word

Today’s good word on PC’s day off comes from Octavius Winslow and his devotional entitled Morning Thoughts.

God never appears so like Himself as when He sits in judgment upon the person of a sinner, and determines his standing before Him upon the ground of that satisfaction to His law rendered by the Son of God in the room and stead of the guilty. Then does He appear infinitely holy, yet infinitely gracious; infinitely just, yet infinitely merciful. Love, as if it had long been panting for an outlet, now leaps forth and embraces the sinner; while justice, holiness, and truth gaze upon the wondrous spectacle with infinite complacence and delight. And shall we not pause and bestow a thought of admiration and gratitude upon Him, who was constrained to stand in our place of degradation and woe, that we might stand in His place of righteousness and glory? What wondrous love! what stupendous grace! that He should have been willing to have taken upon Him our sin, and curse, and woe! The exchange to Him how humiliating! He could only raise us by Himself stooping. He could only emancipate us by wearing our chain. He could only deliver us from death by Himself dying. He could only invest us with the spotless robe of His pure righteousness by wrapping around Himself the leprous mantle of our sin and curse. Oh, how precious ought He to be to every believing heart! What affection, what service, what sacrifice, what devotion, He deserves at our hands! Lord, incline my heart to yield itself supremely to You!

Tomorrow we build bridges into our community through the gift wrap outreach.

For some reason I am all the more motivated to get out there with the good news in word and deed.

Will you pray for our favor with the community?