Only One Hero

Every kid hero worships. I did. Zorro was my man. Dressed in black. Magnificent with the blade. Astride “Tornado” his steed. Champion of the oppressed. I never missed a Zorro movie or TV show growing up.

Christians can tend to do the same with characters in the Bible. Most of us have our favorites. Abraham for his faith. Moses for his humility. Joshua for his leadership. David for his courage. Paul for his missionary zeal. Just to name a few.

I have been reminded recently by Dr. Bryan Chapell in some messages I’ve been listening to that most of our Bible heroes suffer from some pretty ugly blemishes on their resumes. In fact almost all of them do apart from the rare exceptions like Enoch, Caleb and maybe one or two others.

Our heroes didn’t always act so heroic. Abraham gave away his wife, not just once but twice for fear and cowardice. Moses murdered an Egyptian and lost his temper (that kept him out of the promise land). Joshua got duped by the Gibeonites. David committed adultery and arranged for a man’s murder. Paul seemed to have gotten testy over John Mark in a dispute with Barnabas. On and on I could go.

What’s the point? The Bible doesn’t whitewash the faults of its characters. Some are downright scandalous. There are no human heroes. God is the only hero. What makes Him heroic is that by His grace He can and does use the likes of us, weaknesses, sins, et al, to accomplish His purposes.

Feeling like you don’t measure up. Guess what? You’re in good company. You don’t, any more than the litany of characters in the Word of God. Wondering if God can use you in spite of what you’ve done, where you’ve been, how your resume reads? No question about it. He can, He does, and He will.

Whether we’re Rahabs or Mary Magdalenes, Samsons or Peters, we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Look relentlessly to the only Hero in the book and the God-Man He sent to rescue us from our resumes.

How To Be Certain Your Faith Is Not Fatally Flawed (Part 2)

This morning I concluded my message in John 8:31-38 with six practical applications by which we can measure our assurance of salvation in terms of the third evidence of a genuine faith – liberation from one’s sin. You can listen to the entire message here.

I blew through these applications fairly quickly. I offer them here on the blog for further consideration.  These things will be true of us in this area, if we truly belong to the One who sets free indeed.

  1. We will not habitually commit sin. – Rom. 6:2 – How can we who died to sin still live in it? We will experience over the course of time, sometimes painfully slow, the progressive, gradual, transforming power of grace from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
  2. We will deliberately rely on grace and the power of the Gospel for transformation not our own moral effort. 2 Cor. 3:18 begins And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord (emphasis added). It’s not about trying harder; it’s about becoming transfixed, gloriously mesmerized by the beauty and grace of Jesus who sets free by the power of the gospel appropriated by faith.
  3. We will consistently confess and repent of our sins when we do fall in this life and pursue accountability so as not to deceive ourselves. If you battle an addiction, you may battle for years. Don’t give up. As long as you have accountability, practice James 5:16, see others signs of God’s grace at work in your lives, you may legitimately have assurance of salvation. Claim promises like John 8:32 & 36 and host of other grace-empowering, sin-liberating promises of God’s word until you prevail. Get out of compromising situations and patterns that set you up. Don’t tell me you’re serious about your faith and overcoming lust if you continue to put yourself  in the wrong place at the wrong time with your boyfriend/girl friend. Tell somebody what’s going on and pick someone with guts who will get in your face when you get out of line.
  4. We will seek to live a holy life as an overall pattern by obeying God’s words and doing good works. Eph. 2:10 says we are created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared before hand in which we should walk. Good works are conspicuous and even those that aren’t can’t remain hidden according to 1 Tim. 5:25. Does anybody anywhere see anything of this nature going on in your life?
  5. We will practice love for all, but especially for our brothers and sisters in the faith. 1 John 3:14 – We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. Tremble, shake in your boots, if you profess to follow Christ but anger, bitterness, malice, wrath, and resentment consume you. Genuine believers give off the aroma of kindness/grace/love. They practice forgiveness. They are peacemakers.
  6. We will seek to set our affections more upon the things above as opposed to worldly things below. Col. 3:1-2 – Seek the things above, set your minds on things above not things below. If your delights and affections get more traction downtown in the bar and club scene on Saturday nights as a rule than they do in a God-centered, Christ-honoring, joy-giving church scene on Sunday morning, and I’ll grant you not all churches fit that description, you should ask yourself some very hard questions. Your faith may be fatally flawed.

If these things are true of us and growing, we may draw hope and strength from the assurance that our faith is genuine. All glory to Him who saves and keeps His own to the very end.

When You Can't Get Beyond the Remorse

Of all the components of pastor’s conferences these days, I enjoy among the most the Q & A sessions that normally come in the mix. On Wednesday of this week in Minneapolis, Pastor Clay, Kevin, and I listened to all the speakers at the Desiring God conference answer a series of questions related to the topic of the pastor and his role of promoting the joy of his people in God. You may listen to the entire session here.

One of the questions had to do with suffering that results from your own sins. What do you do when you can’t get beyond your own remorse for sins that have hard consequences?

John Piper seized the opportunity to relate how he always goes to Psalm 107:10-16 in such situations.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Clearly these suffered due to their own rebellion. God bowed their hearts with hard labor as a result. What did they do? They cried to the Lord in their trouble. And imagine this! He delivered them from their distress.

So the counsel of God’s word when our own folly leads to grievous consequences is pray. Our gracious and compassionate God specializes in deliverances, even from our own sinfulness. And when he does deliver, give thanks for his steadfast love and his wondrous works to the children of men!

This morning’s Oxford Club study in chapter twenty one, These Inward Trials, of J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, dovetailed so nicely.

God can bring good out of the extremes of our own folly; God can restore the years that the locust has eaten. It is said that those who never make mistakes never make anything; certianly, these men made mistakes, but through their mistakes God taught them to know his grace and to cleave to him in a way that would never have happened otherwise. Is your trouble a sense of failure? The knowledge of having made some ghastly mistake? Go back to God; his restoring grace waits for you (IVP, 1993, p. 251).

Who of us can say that we have never erred in such a way so as to bring suffering upon our own heads? Perhaps even now you feel the sting of mistakes made that seems so gripping you can’t find a way out. Cry out to the Lord. Seek his restoring grace. And give thanks for his steadfast love and his wondrous works when the deliverance comes.

A Good Day for Tiger Woods

Signature

After reading this morning’s headline about the golfer’s exit from golf for now and his statement confessing infidelity in his marriage, I clicked on his website. His signature (pictured above), attached to his statement, is the only image in the main window. You can read what he has to say here.

While this news may not make for a good day for the PGA tour and golf lovers everywhere, Tiger Woods may end up regarding it one of the best days of his life.

I say that because of a verse from Scripture like Proverbs 28:13.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Woods’ confession may well possess all the components of what Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, calls the Seven A’s of Confession.

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)  – he has made this statement for all the world to see.
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs) – there appear to be no such clauses in his confession.
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions) – he names his actions infidelity and rightly so.
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone) – he begins the statement, “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt.”
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution) – stepping away from golf indefinitely certainly qualifies for this.
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions) – the attitude appears altered, but only time will tell if actions change as well.
  7. Ask for forgiveness – he says the very words in his statement, “I ask forgiveness.”

Ken Sande often adds an eighth A under the seventh, namely, allow for time. It will take perhaps a very long while for Tiger to win back his wife’s trust. May we wish him well in that endeavor. Reconciliation/restoration of marriages honors God, the ultimate peacemaker.

Only one more thing could turn this good day into a very, very good day for Tiger Woods. If it turns out somewhere along the line that Psalm 32:1-5 applies to him as a result of this fall from grace, he will learn to call this his best of days.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

The biggest thing missing from Tiger Woods’ statement is any reference to God and the offense his sin makes before the Most High.

Oh that he, that we, might know the supreme blessedness of “you forgave the iniquity of my sin” through the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ stood in his, our place, for things like infidelity and every other sin that condemns us and puts us rightly under His wrath.

The day we obtain mercy, not just from our wives, or children, or the public, but from God, that indeed is the best of all days in our life.

Somebody Please Say Something Redemptive about the Tiger Woods Scandal

TigerSomeone has. C. J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries put things in biblical perspective this week.

Among other things he said this:

Tiger is being hunted by something more menacing than journalists. Tiger’s real enemy is his sin, and that’s an enemy much more difficult to discern and one that can’t be managed in our own strength. It’s an enemy that never sleeps.

And this:

This story should humble and sober us. It should make us ask: Are there any so-called “secret sins” in my life? Is there anything I have done that I hope nobody discovers? Is there anything right now in my life that I should confess to God and the appropriate individuals? And this should leave us more amazed by grace because there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Read the entire post here.

What Shall We Do to Be Thankful?

WatsonThe day before Thanksgiving seems to make such a question advisable.

The Puritan Thomas Watson contended in his book, The Godly Man’s Picture, that, among other things, the goldy man is indeed a thankful man.

Toward the close of his chapter on that notion, he raises the practical question as to what shall godly men, and women for that matter, do to be thankful. His answers are two:

Answer 1: If you wish to be thankful, get a heart deeply humbled with the sense of your own vileness. A broken heart is the best pipe to sound forth God’s praise. He who studies his sins wonders that he has anything and that God should shine on such a dunghill: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, but I was shown mercy” (1 Tim. 1:13). How thankful Paul was! How he trumpeted forth free grace! A proud man will never be thankful. He looks on all his mercies as either of his own procuring or deserving. If he has an estate, this he has got by his wits and industry, not considering that scripture, “Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich” (Deut. 8:18). Pride stops the current of gratitude. O Christian, think of your unworthiness; see yourself as the least of saints, and the chief of sinners—and then you will be thankful.

Answer 2: Strive for sound evidences of God’s love to you. Read God’s love in the impress of holiness upon your hearts. God’s love poured in will make the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness: “Unto him that loved us, be glory and dominion forever!” (Rev. 1:5,6). The deepest springs yield the sweetest water. Hearts deeply aware of God’s love yield the sweetest praises.

What will work in us a spirit of gospel thanksgiving this holiday and beyond? Lord, grant us a sober perspective on our sinful condition AND a deep awareness of your stunning love.

Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me!

Nothing Matters More in the Battle Against Sin that Enslaves

Among the things I give thanks to God for this Thanksgiving week is the grace He has given in delivering me over the years from enslaving sin.

How does that happen? We find a significant key in Peter’s second epistle.

Second Peter addresses a threat to the church of Jesus Christ in Peter’s day in the form of heresy, false teaching. Chapter 2:1 says – there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them. Their error was libertinism. They promoted license. They preached a perverse understanding of freedom and grace that entice by sensual passions of the flesh (2:18). Anything goes was the name of the game for this bunch. Grace covers.

Peter aims in this book to take such foolishness to task and arm the church with weapons of warfare to counteract the attack. He begins this letter with the indicative before ever stressing any imperatives. He talks of what is before what should be. He lays out a grand description of what God has done in saving His people. He bases his prescriptions for godly behavior on an eloquent description of what God has done. 

In so doing he tips his hand at what makes for the key idea in the entire book. We see it in 1:2 – Grace and peace be multiplied to you. That’s not an unusual opening to any epistle. We find it often. The writer expresses a profound wish or hope that the letter to unfold in their hearing will prove to channel rivers of grace and oceans of peace to their lives – that such blessing be multiplied, be ever increasing in their lives. Where? Look at the rest of the verse – in (or through) the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t want the favor of God in his life? Who doesn’t want the peace of God in her life? Who doesn’t covet ever increasing doses of grace and peace? Such can be found in only one source – the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Don’t miss the connection in v. 2. You have no true knowledge of God if you do not claim Jesus as Lord. Jesus Christ is God. He is divine. In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col. 2:9). John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. There is no true knowledge of the Father apart from an intimate knowledge of the Son. 

Grace, peace, life, godliness, all the things that truly matter, the ultimate treasures, come from the knowledge of God in Christ. So we don’t miss it he says it again in v. 3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (emphasis added). The words know and knowledge appear some sixteen times throughout the three chapters of this little book. Peter is trying to tell us something! It matters what you know. Perhaps it would be better to say it matters Whom you know.

There is nothing that matters more in our battle against sin than a passionately personal, thorough going, ever increasing knowledge of God and His Son the Lord Jesus. 

Do you want to win the battle over sin and its grip in your life? Give yourself to the vigorous pursuit of the growth of your knowledge of Him.