Month: June 2010

Gospel Ministry

Paul gives the most concise defnition of New Covenant gospel ministry in 2nd Corinthians 4:5-

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

What this means is that:

1} Life is not about us, it’s about Jesus. Share the gospel. Live the gospel.

2} Life is not about us, it’s about serving others. If you’re sharing Jesus, then the normal outflow will be a life of serving others, just like Jesus.

3} Life is not about us, it’s about glorifying God. If you’re sharing the gospel and serving others, Jesus is mightily glorified.

“But what about me?” you ask? Don’t I get something out of this? The answer is: yes. When you share the gospel that Jesus is Lord and serve others so that Jesus is glorified, then you’ll get JOY. True joy and happiness in the Lord comes when we follow this pattern of gospel ministry laid out by Paul.

So go share the gospel today and serve others and glorify Jesus…and experience the joy of the Lord!

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Draw Near

Sometimes {more often than not!} I feel like I can’t approach God because of my sin. I struggle with the idea that He sees me as blameless in His eyes because of Jesus. Ever feel this way? There’s hope! Gospel hope!

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
(Hebrews 10:19-23 ESV)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:8 ESV)

Go ahead. Draw near today. And He will draw near to you…

Today

What are you going to do today? The writer of Hebrews has an exhortation:

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:7-13 ESV)

Today,

1} If you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.
2} Encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ so that neither of you will be hardened in your hearts by the deceitfulness of sin.

Happiness in Heaven?

The Desiring God blog has recently posted {1 and 2} on Jonathan Edwards’ view of rewards/happiness in Heaven. I’ve blogged about it here before {see, “Jonathan Edwards, or, How A Skinny Man Who Wore A Wig is Radically Changing My World“}. If you’re unfamiliar with his view, he believed that there are levels of happiness in Heaven. Allow me to let him speak here:

“We are very apt to conceive that those that are more holy and more happy than others in heaven will be elated and lifted up above them, whereas their being superior in holiness implies their being superior in humility, or having the greatest humility. […]

And besides, those that are highest in holiness, and so necessarily highest in happiness (for holiness and happiness are all one in heaven), instead of anything like despising those that are less holy and happy, will love those that are inferior to them more than they would do if they had not so much holiness and happiness, more than if they were but equal with them, and more than those do that are equal with them.

This is certain: for the foundation of the saints’ love to each other will be their love to the image of God which they see in them. Now most certainly the holier a man is, the more he loves the same degree of the image, so that the holiest in heaven will love that image of God they see in the least holy more than those do that are less holy, and that which makes it beyond any doubt that this superior happiness will be no damp to them is this: that their superior happiness consists in their great humility, and in their greater love to them, and to God, and Christ, whom the saints look upon as themselves.”

The thrust of what Edwards is saying is that “rewards” in Heaven will not be what modern evangelicals propose: a mansion with our own driveway of gold. Rather, according to Edwards, and I fully agree with him here, our reward in Heaven will be “more of God.” In other words, there will be degrees of happiness in Heaven. That is the reward, not some mansion! I don’t want a mansion! That doesn’t appeal to me. I want God! I want to be happy in God forever…and I want it to be increasing for eternity. That is Heaven for me. Joyful communion with my God which increases daily.

The Westminster Confession begins here: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

If this idea is new to you, I recommend the Desiring God post #2 where John Piper explains this further. But Sam Storms’ message, “Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven,” from the 2003 DG National Conference is the best sermon I have ever heard on Heaven and radically and drastically changed my life and still does today.

If you’re not familiar with Jonathan Edwards or increasing joy in God as the reward of Heaven, I highly recommend:

1} Reading Edwards’ sermons on this {Heaven, Many Mansions}

2} Listening to this sermon by Sam Storms {read, listen, download}: “Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven.”

I promise, it will change your world, both now…and THEN!

Christian Love- Part 3

Here’s a quick exposition of the last part of Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church in Philippians 1:9-11…

Verse 10 gives us our next truth-
INCREASING LOVE, KNOWLEDGE AND INSIGHT ENABLE BELIEVERS TO MAKE WISE CHOICES AND LIVE LIVES OF PURITY WHILE WE AWAIT JESUS’ RETURN.

LOOK AT VERSE 10…

“…so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the Day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ…”

The purpose of this love increasing in knowledge and practical insight was so that they might be able to distinguish the really important issues in their lives together and to act on the basis of such distinctions.

The word “approve” has the idea of “putting to the test and approving of.” It was used of testing metals and coins and candidates who were taking tests to approve of their knowledge in school. What Paul means here is that we should have the ability to sift and test certain things, recognize its worth and put our stamp of approval on it.

Now this is very practical: we should mature to the point that we can approve of certain things and know that they will not lead to sanctification and godliness. We should know that certain T.V. shows will not be good for us; or certain foods; or certain relationships—now we’re getting real practical. God wants us to be able to know and discern what will be beneficial for us.

We can discern what is “excellent”— {or “best”} what is vital, important for moral decisions [especially in light of the Day of Christ]—I know that that or this will not be good for me, that I will not progress spiritually if I continue this way.

If we are ever to “test {approve} of what is best” we must be increasing in love. Unless we are abounding in love, we will never be able to discern and approve what is best. For instance, if you aren’t loving God and others, if you aren’t spending time with God through His Word and through prayer, you can’t expect to be able to discern what is best in your life. Your mind will be clogged. Got a big decision to make? Examine yourself. How much time are you spending in prayer and the Word and fellowship with God. Are you being a loving person? Loving your wife and kids and neighbors? You can never “test what is best” unless you are increasing in love.

May God grant us love which enables us to make the right decisions in each circumstance and to make judgments day by day in the decisions that we face. What do we do when we face tough decisions? Our love for God and one another can help us when facing pressing issues.

Paul’s prayer is not just that we have knowledge, insight and discernment. He has more purpose: that we become pure and blameless. “Pure” means “genuine,” and may have originally meant “tested by sunlight.” In the ancient world, dishonest pottery dealers filled cracks in their inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them, making worthless pots difficult to distinguish from expensive ones. The only way to avoid being defrauded was to hold the pot to the sun, making the wax-filled cracks obvious. Dealers marked their fine pottery that could withstand “sun testing” as ‘sine cera’—”without wax.”

“Blameless” refers to relational integrity. Christians are to live lives of true integrity that do not cause others to sin. Not causing others to stumble. Hey, that’s very important to have in community! And the driving force behind living pure lives is the day of Jesus Christ. He’s coming again. We will stand before Him and give account of everything done in the body {2nd Corinthians 5:10}.

How does your life look? What if it was held up against the light of the Son? Surely we are all sinful, but God is concerned about how we live. Let’s be the kind of community that can be held up to scrutiny and come out being genuine. Sincere. Real. Are you real? Are you real on Sunday morning? Or do you come wearing masks?

Our lives are also to be filled with the “fruit of righteousness.” Essentially these are the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. And these are contrasted by Paul in Galatians with the works of the flesh {5:19-21}. These qualities will come from Jesus Christ, through the Scriptures.

INCREASING LOVE, KNOWLEDGE AND INSIGHT ENABLE BELIEVERS TO MAKE WISE CHOICES AND LIVE LIVES OF PURITY WHILE WE AWAIT JESUS’ RETURN.

And so how does Paul end his prayer? LOOK AT VERSE 11…

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

That’s the overarching reason why Paul prays the way he does. Our lives are to be lived for God’s glory, not ours. Ephesians 3:10 states that the church is the primary vehicle through which God displays his glory and wisdom to the physical and spiritual world.

We are to be about Gods glory.

May we become a people who overstep the boundaries we have set up and may our love increase. As our love for God and others increases, may we increase in our knowledge and discernment so that we can find out the things that are best for our spiritual walk. May we be a pure and blameless bride for our Savior as we await His return. May we be overflowing with the fruits of righteousness for His glory!