The God Who Acts Despite Our Faithlessness

Exodus 6:6-9

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

Have you ever heard something that you thought was to good to be true?  Are there things that on the surface seem so fanciful or impossible in light of your own personal circumstances?  I can imagine that this was true for Israel.  Moses had come to them to speak encouraging words from the Lord, that He would deliver them, yet they did not listen to Moses because their spirits were broken.  The reality is that this seemed to good to be true.

Yet, by God’s grace we see in these verses that God says through Moses, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians…”  These words are important because it gives us the image of a God who is making the fulfilment of His promises dependent upon Himself and not His people.  God does not say, “if you do this I will bring you out…” He clearly is saying that He will bring them out of Egypt by His power, and of His own initiative.  This is a God dependent salvation not a people dependent one.

God’s purposes are sure, and He knew that the plans He had for His people would not be thwarted.  God knew that He would win and that He would redeem His people from the slavery that was upon them.  In the same way Christ is the one who frees us from the burden of our slavery to sin.  He has redeemed His people with outstretched arms as He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  He has bought us with a high price so that we would be His forever, and if we are His, we will never be lost out of His hands.

This action on our behalf is fully a work of God through Christ, and is not of man.  However, in our weakness we doubt the goodness and truthfulness of these actions on our behalf.  We lose sight of the magnificence of our Savior, and our sight grows dim to all the ways in which He has fought for us and delivered us.  We lose sight of the goodness, power, and beauty of our God, and become complacent to the feat of everlasting power it took to even redeem one sinner, let alone, millions from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Yes, we often are like Israel in Egypt, forgetful of the goodness, faithfulness, and might of our God.  But God, because of His great love (Eph. 2:4) made salvation fully dependent upon Himself through Christ, so that we as lowly sinners who are prone to brokenness, despair, and faithlessness could be redeemed.  We were like Israel in Egypt, under the yoke of slavery, unable to save ourselves, yet Christ came to powerfully free us from captivity and deliver us to a life and hope that is far greater than anything that this world can offer us.

Praise God for His everlasting faithfulness to Israel and to us.  May our everlasting joy be found in the one who redeemed us by His power and not our own, and may we stand in awe of the one who has done mighty works on our behalf.

Oh God, let our faith be evermore in Your unfailing power, love, and goodness toward us.  Let your goodness always be evident to us, and may we never wander from the one who has bought us and redeemed us.  All glory, honor and praise be Yours forevermore. Amen.

A Gospel Which Does Not Produce Good Works Cannot Save Us

Luke 6:46

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Anyone who is a parent has experienced the frustration of telling a child to do something only to have them either not do it or do the complete opposite.  This is truly a maddening affair that can happen multiple times a day.  All the while our continual thought is, “why can’t you just do what I am asking you to do?”

Now, I am not here to discuss the specifics of why children have a hard time obeying apart from the grace of God upon their lives, but I want to point out that this is exactly what Jesus is asking the disciples and us in Luke 6:46.  Luke 6 is filled with imperative to love our enemies, to not judge or condemn, to forgive, and to bear fruit.  This culminates with Jesus talking about building a house on a solid foundation that will not wash away.  But before He talks about building a solid foundation He asks a very important question, He says, “why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”  If I were to put this in parent language it would sound like this, “why don’t you listen to me?”

Jesus is getting at the heart of an issue that was not just a problem for the disciples, and the crowds of people that followed Him, but is a huge problem for us today.  We say that we believe Jesus is Lord, meaning that we believe that He is the ruler of our lives, yet we are so often unwilling to do what He says.  It’s as if we want Him to be Lord with out the Law.

I realize that using the word Law can rub some people the wrong way.  Especially when you fall into the gospel-centered camp like I do.  However, I think we miss that Jesus came as the fulfillment of the law, and as that fulfillment He has laws and imperatives that He wants us to live by.  Do I believe that this can only happen by God’s grace, yes?  Do I believe that as we rightly understand the grace of the gospel it will become the fuel for our obedience, yes?  But I also believe that it is important to hold the imperatives, the instructions, out to people that they would live by them.

We cannot say that we understand the grace of God in Christ if we don’t live out the instructions that He has given us.  This is exactly what Jesus I saying in Luke 6:46.  You can’t call me Lord if you are unwilling to do what I am telling you to do.  This isn’t some form of legalism, it is the good fruit of the gospel (Luke 6:45).

So we must always be willing to ask ourselves, “what kind of fruit are we bearing?”  What does that fruit say about what we believe to be true about Jesus?  Do we want to call Him Lord without actually following Him?  Because Jesus not only desires faith, but He also desires the fruit of that which is obedience.

If the gospel within us does not produce obedience, then it also, by the same token, cannot save us.

Book Review: Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper

cosper_rhythms_of_grace

I recently just finished the book, “Rhythms of Grace” by Mike Cosper.  Though there are other worship books like it I believe that this is book does something unique that I have yet to find in other books.  Most worship books that are any good talk about how our liturgy is a reflection of the gospel, which is true, but Cosper does a good job of connecting our worship with the whole story of the Bible.

He shows how our worship is a reflection of Genesis 1-3 with the idea of creation, the fall of Adam and eve, and the need for pardon and covering as God covered Adam and Eve with animal skins.  It is also a reflection of temple worship or the worship that Israel did in the wilderness that all build to their final consummation in the person and work of Christ.  This type of thinking not only connects our worship to Christ, but it also helps us to see how are worship and songs are a reflection of the whole Bible and it’s metanarrative or over-arching them; the song of Christ that echoes through every page of scripture.

Cosper points to the reality that our gathering is a continual rehearsal of this gospel message and it serves as spiritual formation to teach us the gospel and the story of scripture over and over again (because we need that).  He even talks about what a formal or informal liturgy should contain in order to communicate this message every Sunday (This has less to do with specific songs or reading but more with themes: adoration, confession, assurance, pardon, instruction, etc…).

There are also some great philosophical ideas that this book presents.  The reality that we are both a church gathered and scattered and that our gathered worship is supposed to propel our scattered worship.  The reality that we need to think about the people we have coming, the people who are apart of our church’s history, and the people who are not yet in our church when planning a service and music.  Also, the benefit of musical diversity for our congregation and how that can make our people less dependent upon a specific style.

Finally, He ends the book with some practical appendices that walk through service orders of other churches in order to show how they are communicating the message of Christ and to show how that message is contextualized within their setting.  Also, there is a resource section for further reading and websites to use that I have found very helpful over the past several weeks.  All I all I think that  this is a very helpful worship book that gets us thinking about how to be intentional in our worship service and it helps us to understand how our liturgy (the songs, readings, prayers, scriptures, etc…) within our service are meant to teach our people and point them either directly or indirectly to the main theme of all of scripture, Christ.

I would recommend this book to any worship leader or pastor at any stage of development.  He writes in a style that is both compelling and easy to read and I believe that anyone can benefit from a book like this, even the lay churchman. 

Gospel Connection: The Story That Was Always There

Genesis 49:10

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Luke 2:29-32

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

How long must we hear people say the same thing before we believe that it is true?  How many people need to make the same point before we say that they are right?  How many years must go by, with generations and scores of people all pointing to the same reality, before we are willing to acknowledge the reality that is plainly in front of us?

The reality that I am talking about is the reality of Jesus Christ.  It is so amazing to think that the Bible is a compilation of 66 books with many different authors that span thousands of years yet the message from Genesis to revelation is consistent.  We need a Savior, that Savior is coming, He is from the root of Jesse, the line of David, and He will bring salvation to His people and will be the ruler of all peoples.

This is the wonderful truth that was fulfilled through Christ.  Though He came in a way that many did not expect and He died a death that many were not ready for; the scriptures are pretty clear that this suffering servant, from the line of Judah, was to be a light to the gentiles, would bring glory to Israel, and would ultimately bring salvation to all those who put their trust in Him.

A message like this that is so consistent, one that runs directly through the pages of a book that spans so many years points to only one reality.  This gospel is real and we need to spend our lives in worship of the true God who has shined the light of life into the ever present darkness that exists in this world.  We need to set our hearts toward Christ, the one who holds the scepter in His hands and who has prepared salvation for those who believe in Him.

Truly this is the consistent message of the Bible and my hope I that we will read it with this reality in mind.  Jesus is the central figure in it, and men and women for thousands of years through hundreds of pages of scripture have all said the same thing.  The Messiah is coming and is now here, and we are supposed to live our lives in honor and submission to Him, our King.  May God open your eyes anew to this reality within His Word, and may it bring to you a solid confidence that trusts Christ as your Savior, and may you read the Bible with new eyes as Jesus becomes the central figure and fulfillment of all that it says.

Colossians 1:19-20

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Magnify The Messiah Who HAS Come

Luke 1:46-47

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

“My soul magnifies the Lord” is the heartfelt response of Mary as she ponders the reality of what the angel has told her would happen to her.  She is going to have a baby and He shall be called the “Son of the Most High God.”  This is a heartfelt response of worship in the face of such glorious and wonderful news.  The Savior is coming and He is coming through this little peasant girl Mary.

What a wonderful response from a woman who was not only awaiting the Messiah like the rest of Israel, but now was living in the reality that this Messiah was going to come through her.  Yet, we are living in a time and place where the Messiah HAS come.  He has a name and we can read about Him in the pages of scripture.  All that He did and accomplished was penned for us by faithful saints long gone and is now available for us to read, memorize, and live by.

We live in a time where, as believers, we know that His Holy Spirit dwells in us to bring to remembrance all of His words and to lead us in the way that our Savior would desire us to go.  But do our hearts truly magnify Jesus the way Mary’s did?  Do we stand in awe of the one who lives and dwells with us as the new temple?  Are we overcome with humility and joy at the truth that we are sons and daughters of the most High God, and as redeemed sinners we are secure in Him forever?

My prayer is that we will pray for God to return to us the joy of our salvation.  That our souls truly will magnify and glorify the God who has brought salvation for us.  That our hearts will make joyous melody to the one who has bought us with a high price and who loves us with a perfect and everlasting love.  May we rejoice and stand in awe of the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ, the One who dwells with us, has made our eternity secure, and will never leave us nor forsake us. Amen.

Genesis 47: The Gospel I Almost Missed

Genesis 47:27

Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.

I don’t know about you, but often it is easy for me to read the narratives of Genesis and treat them as nice stories, but that is about it.  I often forget that they have a meaning behind them and that there is something that God wants to communicate to us as we read it today.  As I read Genesis 47 this morning I was about to do my usual, read the chapter and close my Bible without really thinking about what God wanted to communicate through that narrative.

But then it hit me.  A midst all of the famine that existed in the land of Egypt; people giving all of their money, livestock, land, and themselves to buy food, Israel settled in the land of Goshen and they were fruitful.  This may not seem important right away, but when you realize that we are dealing with God’s chosen people it starts to become clearer.  Here is a land that is decimated by famine in such a way that people have to give up everything just to eat; yet, God in His mercy, through Joseph, not only gives Israel and his sons the best of the land, but he also provides food for them.

They did not have to be sold into slavery (though slavery would come later) and it seems as if they were sparred the hardships of the famine once they settled in Goshen.  And the Bible tells us that they were fruitful and multiplied.  God was blessing His chosen people in a way where their fruitfulness was standing in contrast to that of the world around them.  They were clearly set apart by God.

This was a blessing that they did not deserve and it serves as a great picture of the gospel.  Just as God, through Joseph, provided land, food, life, and sustainment to Israel and his family, God has provided eternal life and sustainment to us through Christ.  Instead of being enslaved to sin, we have been set free by the blood of Christ to be fruitful for the kingdom of God.

What a great reminder that we serve a God who has always provides freely for His people.  Also, we see that God’s plan of salvation has been foreshadowed through His people Israel, and is evident all over the pages of scripture. In this way everything in scripture points to and is fulfilled in Christ.  This provides us with the confidence to trust that God has a plan for us that has existed from the foundation of the world, and we can trust Him and walk, knowing that as He provided for Israel He will provide for us as well.

What a wondrous, powerful, and merciful God we serve.  May all glory, honor and praise be His forever and ever. Amen.

Relax, We Are All A Den Of Robbers

Mark 11:15-19

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

How many of us love movies where the hero or quasi-hero worked for an organization that became corrupt only to be the one who in the end brought that same organization to its knees.  The Bourne series is kind of like this; Jason Bourne becomes a rogue operative who realizes that he was programmed against his will into becoming a killing machine.  He tries to run from the organization only to see the woman he loves killed.  This forces him to come back and confront and take down the very organization that created him in the first place.

These movies speak to us because they hit a place within us that desires justice for the wronged parties and it gives us a sense of satisfaction as we see this corrupt organization being taken down.  Though this story does not fit perfectly, it is similar to what was happening when Jesus cleansed the temple in Mark 11.  God, working through Solomon, had established the worship of the temple, but over time His people had corrupted it.  It became a den of robbers and thieves where people would cheat one another instead of a place of prayer and worship.  And Jesus, being God, is seeing this temple worship defiled by those that are supposed to be His people.

As a result, Jesus overturns tables and kicks people out of the temple so that they would stop dishonoring God in this way.  He went in and cleaned house.  He saw the corruption of the people and how they were blaspheming God’s name and He took action.  Jesus became jealous for the glory of God, His glory, and cleaned house so that the name of the triune God would not continued to be defiled by a people whose hearts were so far from Him.

This is a story that brings a righteous anger to my heart as I read it.  I find myself siding with Jesus thinking, “those horrible people were defiling God’s house, how could they.”  Just like the Borne series, the organization (God’s people) has become corrupt and Jesus has come to clean house.  Yet, this story is but a reflection of what Jesus through the Holy Spirit is doing in the new temple, His people, me.

We all have defiled the temples that God has given us because we are all full of sin, yet Jesus, in love, is working in us to throw out the money changers within us that dishonor God.  He is jealous for His glory being made manifest in us and He is working to refine us and change us so that we will once again reflect His image as God.  However, it is also a work that we continually fight against.

As Jesus changes our lives we are so prone to let the money changers and robbers move back in and it’s only by the unmerited favor and grace of God that growth in godliness is even sustainable.  So Jesus cleaning the temple is a radical picture of a God who is jealous for His glory, and is a picture of what He is doing in us His people.  We are the robbers, robbing our souls daily of the glory that should rightly be His; yet, by His grace, we are becoming more like Him and are being changed from one degree of glory to another.  As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

So take heart and remember that we are all like those robbers in the temple, but we serve a God who is jealous for His glory and is daily doing a work to kick out the thieves of our heats that would cause us to defile and tarnish His holy name.  We are being transformed into the image of God as we daily behold His glory.  All glory, honor, and praise be to our God, forever, and ever. Amen!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers