I am the problem

Once upon a time, a newspaper posed a probing question, “What’s wrong with the world?”
A theologian of that day is reported to have penned the following response:

“Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G.K. Chesterton.

I agree with author Tim Keller, this is the attitude of a man who has grasped the message and power of the gospel. We are the problem. I am the problem. Pride must be swallowed, for the world needs a church who humbly understands that it is thoroughly in need of a Savior.

O for a heart

From the pen of Charles Wesley comes a heartfelt plea:

O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that’s sprinkled with the blood,
So freely shed for me.

O for such a heart. We must deal with the affects of the fall each day, but we must also be thankful for the blood which washes us clean. The precious blood which was willingly shed for you and me.

On being salt and light

If you haven’t read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:13-16 lately, I encourage you to do so now. I’m working through in my mind what it should look like for me to be salt and light in my community. Through my study I just found this statement by John MacArthur. It is from a 1979 sermon and I think it provides a great window into the necessary interaction we must have with the world in order to properly influence it, but it succinctly reminds us that we are still distinct from the world, having been set apart as children of God.

Salt, in order to be effective, has to be mingled with the substance it’s affecting, and yet salt is distinct from that substance. Light, in order to dispel darkness, must shine upon the darkness, yet is distinct from the darkness.

Jesus loves us because he loves us

This is the gospel truth. Amen.

“Christ did not love you for your good works. They were not the cause of His beginning to love you. So, He does not love you for your good works even now. They are not the cause of His continuing to love you. He loves you because He loves you.”

Derek W. H. Thomas, How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home

Endurance – a must for the Christian

Frustration is normal, disappointment is normal, sickness is normal. Conflict, persecution, danger, stress – they are all normal. The mind-set that moves away from these will move away from reality and away from Christ. Golgotha was not a suburb of Jerusalem.

John Piper, The Roots of Endurance, 19

Jesus to the church in Philadelphia, “I know you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Rev 3:8b)

They had endurance. Whatever frustration, danger, conflict, or persecution they experienced, it did not derail their faith or walk with Christ. The result? God was glorified and they were blessed with this word of praise.

No matter your present situation, it would be wise to pray for endurance, for Satan prowls constantly.

Patiently waiting through suffering

It was 1831 and Charles Simeon had been the pastor of Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for forty-nine years.  He was seventy-one years old and one of his friends, a man by the name of Joseph Gurney, had come to him and inquired as to how he had been able to withstand the persecution he had experienced in his nearly fifty years of ministry.  This was certainly a fair question, for Simeon had genuinely suffered.

The first twelve years of his pastorate at Trinity Church would have broken many a great man.  It is said that some within the church disliked him so much that they locked the pews and physically prevented anyone from sitting down.  Simeon was forced to preach to a standing crowd that packed into the church as best they could.

In response to his friend, Simeon confessed:

“My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake.  When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs.  Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death.  Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.”

What I love about Simeon’s response to suffering is how he rooted his strength in Christ.  He knew that his victory was only possible because of the greater victory of Christ.  In fact, I believe Simeon would agree that apart from Christ’s ultimate victory over death there would have been no victory for Simeon, for his strength was built upon the truth of God’s sovereignty.

His faith and endurance rested upon the fact that God was not only willing to carry him through the hedge, but was physically able to accomplish what he had promised.  Simeon lived and died convinced that Christ had defeated death and would one day establish his eternal kingdom.

I meet a lot of people who are suffering in various ways.  We have all suffered to some degree.  My prayer for each of us is that regardless of what vehicle suffering utilizes to barge into our lives, we will seek to model the faith of Simeon and “follow [Christ] patiently”, looking forward to the day when every tear is wiped away.

The Jesus ornament

In his paraphrase of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, Ray Ortlund captures a truth about our lives in Christ that I fear too many of us forget or simply don’t understand – in Christ, we have died to sin.

“We must understand that our old self, our natural bent so congenial with sin – that old self has been crucified with Christ.  That is, when we came by faith to the cross, we renounced our past and left it hanging up there on the cross, where Christ our Head bore its guilt for us.” – Romans 6:6

Commenting on this text, Ortlund speaks the truth plainly:

“O God, we your church are losing our radical edge, because we have forgotten this aspect of the gospel.  Our discipleship is so flimsy, so unconvincing, because we do not understand this basic doctrine of death to sin, followed by new life, in union with our crucified, buried and risen Lord.  We do not see our conversion to Christ as a death to our old life.  We see it as a pleasant ornament on our old life – a little religion added in.”

So when I look in the mirror do I see a man who lives as one who has died to sin? When I look at my students do I see young men and women who have simply added a little religion or placed Jesus as an ornament upon their foreheads?  Or have these students died to sin and been united with the risen Lord?

I might just be crazy, but I believe this is one of our most pressing problems – we don’t want Jesus to change our lives, we want him to bless and approve what we’re already doing or plan to do.  The problem is, however, that the gospel simply doesn’t support such a desire.

He didn’t die so that a little of His goodness could be sprinkled over us, leaving us largely untouched, but somehow “better”.  He died to make us new.  He died to reconcile us to the Father.  He died so that we could live free, no longer bound by slavery to sin.

This is so much more than a mere ornament.