Friday, June 29, 2012

lingering at the cross


“The concept of substitution may be said . . . to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accept penalties which belong to man alone.”  --John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 1986)


“All our obedience, every resolve to do good, and every work of faith is ‘by his power’ and so that the Lord Jesus would be glorified because of the grace he gives. Yes, we must pursue obedience, but that obedience must always be cruciform, formed by Christ’s cross. We must seek to obey because of the cross, find the grace to obey because of the cross, and live free from condemnation whether we succeed or fail in the light of the cross. The cross must be our only story, as Paul boldly proclaimed: ‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2).”  -- Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, Counsel from the Cross (Crossway Books, 2009)

“It is the cross that gives God his credibility. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche (the nineteenth-century German philosopher) ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  In the course of my travels I have entered a number of Buddhist temples in different Asian countries. I have stood respectfully before a statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth, serene and silent, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. 


“But each time, after a while, I have had to turn away. And in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.


“The crucified One is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us, dying in our place in order that we might be forgiven. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering.”   -- John Stott, Why I Am a Christian


"Let the thoughts of a crucified Christ be never out of your mind. Let them be meat and drink to you. Let them be your sweetness and consolation, your honey and your desire, your reading and your meditation, your life, death, and resurrection."  -- Thomas Brooks, from Smooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks







When I go don't cry for me 
In my fathers arms I'll be 
The wounds this world left on my soul 
Will all be healed and I'll be whole 


Sun and moon will be replaced 
With the light of Jesus' face 
And I will not be ashamed 
For my savior knows my name 


It don't matter where you bury me 
I'll be home and I'll be free 
It don't matter where I lay 
All my tears be washed away 


Gold and silver blind the eye 
Temporary riches lie 
Come and eat from heaven's store 
Come and drink and thirst no more 


So weep not for me my friend 
When my time below does end 
For my life belongs to him 
Who will raise the dead again 


It don't matter where you bury me 
I'll be home and I'll be free 
It don't matter where I lay 
All my tears be washed away

Friday, June 15, 2012

anything too difficult?


And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?' Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son."  (Genesis 18:13-14 NASB)


"Faith looks beyond all the contrary circumstances to rest upon the character of the one who promised. Do not be misled by the popular delusion that faith stands by itself, that it is simply believing—anything! Faith must have a promise to rest upon. Anything else is presumption, gullibility, and folly. But when God has given a word, it is the Word of God, and it can be trusted, despite circumstance, feelings, or anything else. For is anything too difficult for the Lord?


"Does it seem hard to you to be what God wants you to be? Is it hard to keep your evil nature in the place of death? It is not too hard for the Lord! Does it seem hard to you to be made sweet and gracious and forgiving and loving when down inside you know how nasty and devious and unpleasant and perverse you can be? It is hard for you, but it is not too hard for the Lord! Does it seem hard that the friend for whom you are praying should ever be converted, or the one that is now rebelling against grace can ever be changed? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Does some task that God is now asking of you seem impossible to perform? It may be hard for you, but it is not too hard for the Lord."


Taken from The Power of His Presence: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman, ©2007 by Elaine Stedman.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

a window on spiritual reality (notes)


Here is Chris Faith's outline from Sunday's message, "A Window on Spiritual Reality", from John 17:1-5.  Sermon MP3 and PDF is here.  


Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."  (John 17:1-5)


A window on spiritual reality


I. Spiritual reality is all about relationships. 
II. The persons of God are caught up in glorifying one another.
III. Eternal life is experiencing relationship with the “other-glorifying” persons of the Triune God.


I. Spiritual reality is all about relationships.


Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world began. (John 17:5)


...baptizing them in the NAME of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 28:19)


Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  (I Corinthians 12:4-7)


“The doctrine of the Trinity is the central dogma of Christian theology, the fundamental grammar of our knowledge of God.” 


“The doctrine of the Trinity gives expression to the fact… that God has opened Himself to us.” 


“God draws near to us in such a way as to draw us near to Himself within the circle of His knowing Himself.” 


(Thomas Torrance, Trinitarian Perspectives)


So we see…
1. the community at the center of the universe draws near to us. 
2. in such a way as to draw us near to Himself (the US God)
3. within the circle of His knowing Himself.
(Thomas Torrance, Trinitarian Perspectives)


This is the nature of spiritual reality…Hence we become lovers of God, lovers with God, and lovers in God.


Implications:
1. As disciples of Christ we are co-lovers with God of God. (the very heart of the Christian life and the only source of true 
love, joy and peace. Anything else is merely idolatry.)
2. As disciples of Christ we are co-lovers with God of one another.
3. As disciples of Christ we are co-lovers with God of the world. (Darrell Johnson, Experiencing the Trinity)


Conclusions:
1. The most important thing in life is not managing my existence, but learning to love as God loves within the Trinity.
2. God invites us to learn to love our primary relationships. 
3. We am not natural born lovers. Selfless love only comes by God working in us through the gospel. 
4. Since LOVE is the greatest commandment, my lack of love is my worst sin.


II. The persons of God are caught up in glorifying one another.


Jesus prays: "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, … Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."


...for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (John 16:13-14)


"Our problem is operating out of our glory-void, where we seek to use others for our own filling. This is the very essence of 'ungodliness.'”


"Our joy comes by turning to Christ where we get caught up in glorifying Him along with the other persons of the Trinity." 


III. Eternal life is experiencing relationship with the “other-glorifying” persons of the Triune God.


"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)


Misconceptions: eternal life is NOT…
1. an eternal extension of the natural life.
2. a reward for good behavior.
3. pie in the sky by and by.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

spirituality more than mysticism


I'm working may way through the letters of Francis Schaeffer.  The rich advice in these letters is given with such warm (and very human) concern. This volume is very helpful in bringing Schaeffer's spiritual life principles to bear upon real people with real problems.   


In one letter he responds to a friend who placed a lot of emphasis on mystical feeling as an essential part of reality in the Christian life.  Scheaffer says, 


"Reality does not just come as a mystical feeling.  It comes rather in the whole man knowing the objective truth of what is, [and knowing this] to be the existence of God and his character of holiness and love. Then, knowing that this is truth and having accepted Christ as Savior once for all, it is necessary to practice the meaning of the work of Christ as a present reality in our daily lives.  This means two things: first of all, claiming the work of Christ for forgiveness for those specific sins we know we have committed; and then--through faith, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit--looking to Christ, moment by moment, to bear His fruit through us."  (Letters, p. 98)