Friday, October 30, 2015

a time is coming...



I firmly believe that a time is coming when the church in America will seriously regret a decision it made to turn away from something.

And it turned away from it precisely when American Christians were becoming less and less familiar with their Bibles than ever before.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were becoming more and more shamelessly comfortable with the idea of honoring sport commitments over worship commitments.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were seeing more and more intense pressure to conform to the world's agenda and ways of thinking rather than being transformed to the mind of Christ.

It turned away from it precisely when more and more vocations were requiring American Christians to work rather than worship on Sunday mornings.

It turned away from it precisely when the battles of spiritual warfare were becoming more and more fierce and furious for American Christians than they had ever been in living memory.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were living in a society in which personal relationships and a thriving sense of community were becoming and more and more threatened by isolating tendencies and detachment.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were seeing their own children apostatize in ever increasing numbers.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were more in need of devoting themselves to prayer for one another and for their country and for their world than any other time in their lives.

It turned away from it precisely when the culture in which American Christians live desperately needed a more and more spiritually vigorous and healthy church in its midst.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians needed to see the institution of the family more centered on God and not less so.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians needed more discipleship and instruction in the glorious wonders of Christian theology and the holy calling of Christian living.

It turned away from it precisely when the faddish trend in American Christianity was to celebrate a deformed version of the doctrine of "grace" that practically eliminated any call to ever, ever die to self.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were being more deceived and rendered more spiritually powerless by the idols of ease and comfort and amusement than they had ever been.

It turned away from it precisely when American Christians were ignoring the 4th commandment with a strangely bold pride in this "freedom" and with a frightening indifference to what the Scriptures actually say to a people who neglect the holiness of the Lord's Day of worship and rest and mercy.

It turned away from it precisely when the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were receiving less and less public honor and reverence in this nation than American Christians of this generation had ever witnessed.

I firmly believe that a time is coming when the church in American will seriously regret this.

Mark Jones writes a brief article in favor of the thing from which we've turned away HERE.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Cone of Shame



What do we do with our shame?

What do we do with our painful and humiliating sense of sinfulness?

Shame is awful.  It's a trap from which there is no good escape... except one thing: full-blooded redemption.

Genesis chapters 1, 2, & 3 are absolutely foundational to our understanding of absolutely everything—God, our very own selves, our relationships with others, and this whole wide world.  Here's the story, applied to this discomforting consciousness of wrong within ourselves...

In the beginning (Genesis 1&2) everything was "good."  Even "very good."

This sheer goodness is memorably described this way: "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (2.25).

But then in Genesis 3 something horrible happens.  It's something that we (humanity) did, and we did it intentionally, and now there's categorically nothing we can do to "undo" it.

And from this terrible thing that we did proceeds everything that is corrupt in this world: sin, devastation, disease, alienation, disaster, ruination, sorrow, death, suffering, fear, guilt, shame, etc.

Consequently, the man and his wife mentioned above quickly transition from naked and unashamed to naked and ashamed.  They blame the other person, they hide from God, they make futile efforts to cover up their sin and shame, they deny all responsibility... it's all the same weak-sauce stuff we still do today.  We are their children, after all.

But then something as unexpected as it is amazing happens.

God covers up their shame.

After making the first announcement (in Genesis 3.15) of the One who would one day appear to redeem them from this huge mess they've made, we read that "the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (3.21).

Think about that.  God Himself covered their shame.  And he did so through the death of the animals that provided those skins.

...the death of another to cover human shame...

That is the foundation of the whole Old Testament sacrificial system.  That is the seed of the substitutionary atonement that we read about in the New Testament.  That is the Bible's first hint of how God would ultimately free us from our sin and shame by taking it all upon Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.  

Jesus is the Ultimate Substitute whose death covers our shame.  "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5.21).

Got shame?

I do.  So do you.  Take it all to Christ, that you might find refuge in him.

We'll never, ever be good enough to cover over our shame.  We'll never, ever be successful enough to cover over our shame.  We'll never, ever be disciplined enough to cover over our shame.  We'll never, ever be sorry enough or spiritual enough or knowledgeable enough or committed enough.

Only God can cover the shame of sin.

And he does so through Jesus Christ.

"To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame."  Psalm 22




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Church



“The Christian gospel continues to find new victories among the non-Western, premodern cultures of the world, but in the face of this modern Western culture the Church is everywhere in retreat.”

Lesslie Newbigin
missionary, theologian, author

Does the state of the American church concern you?  

Join us on Sundays as we continue our sermon series, seeking to understand God's intentions for his church more deeply.  

"You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill..."

The Lord Jesus
Conquer of Death,
Risen King of the Universe



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sins Blotted Out



There are times when every honest sinner seems to have a difficult time fully grasping the profound reality of a full, complete, entire, absolute, itemized, exhaustive, perfect, whole, extensive, utter, particularized, unabridged, comprehensive, all-inclusive, outright, sheer, pure forgiveness.

"But you don't know what I've done!"

I sometimes respond, "Well... you don't know what I've done either!"

But look at Acts 3.14 & 15.  The people addressed there did this:

"You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life."

And yet, they are told this:

"Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago."

And do you know who told them this?...

Peter.

The same Peter who, just a few weeks before, denied Jesus three times in one night.

And yet, he was forgiven.  By Jesus.

Forgiven, restored, consoled, made new.  (See John 21.15-29.)

In the Acts 3 passage quoted above Peter—himself a product of Jesus' grace—is now offering Jesus' grace to people just like him.

That's exactly what the church is called to do, in Jesus' name.

"Repent... turn back... that your sins may be blotted out... that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."  

This is the unspeakable beauty of the kingdom of God, offered by the King Who Forgives... even though he bears the scars of our sins forever.

And precisely because he bears the scars of our sins forever.